Friday, January 29, 2010

I Am Become Ouroboros, Devourer Of Tails

To the left, my only joke about the iPad's name; the toilet-related ones strike me as a bit weak, really.

Anyway, what of the new Apple device ? I don't know, I haven't seen one or tried one or whatever, and anyway we all know that later models will be faster and cheaper and do extra things and so on.

What I do think is interesting, though, is much of the media coverage of the product's launch; after a fair amount of speculation about its possible existence (and of possible capacities), there's a lot of coverage of the iPad's launch, both in traditional media and online (such as in posts like this one).

And I think the reason why the media coverage has probably been disproportionate to the genuine level of interest (aside from the usual thing about filling airtime or column inches or what have you) is less because of what it does, but because of what it could potentially do in the future; because if the capabilities of it were developed to their full extent, this sort of device could have a serious impact on a lot of jobs relating to the media. Because it could, at the far extremes of possibility, replace books and magazines and newspapers in the same way that, for many people, the iPod and iTunes have replaced CDs and music shops.

Print media have been struggling in recent times with falling sales and/or ad revenues, and one of the main expenses for print media is, well, you've got to print the thing; if, on the other hand, you can just edit your copy of The Daily Blah and send it wirelessly or what have you to your subscribers, that saves you a sizey chunk of dosh on printing and distribution costs. And of course you could correct or update stuff as the day goes on, add in video stuff, make your ads link directly to the advertiser's sites, and so on. All of which will involve very different 'skill sets' (as the cool kids in HR say nowadays) for people working in print media.

So, for that reason, I rather suspect the press coverage (whether it's manifesting as Apple Acolyte behaviour or sneery dismissal, or something in between) is, in a large part, born of an awareness that this device, and others with similar capabilities, could have a serious effect on the press, who may need - as the music industry has done - to find themselves a new (or parallel) business model pretty sharpish.

Whilst the unveiling of the iPad is, for the vast majority of people, an item of only marginal concern as they may not be inclined (financially or in terms of interest) to buy one, for anyone working in the print media, it could have a serious effect on their livelihood in their not-necessarily-distant-future.

It's probably not the greatest innovation since the invention of movable type; but the high-profile launch of a device which enables words which have been typed to be moved through the air and presented in a form akin to print media has to send waves of concern through the fourth estate.

And that, I would suggest, is motivating a lot of the coverage. And in covering the coverage, I am drawn to quote Robert Oppenheimer (allegedly) quoting the Bhagavad Gita. But that's the kind of pretentious idiot I am.

Or, perhaps, I am become.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Slightly Further To Yesterday's Post, But Not Entirely

A new word for your dictionary...

Jedward [Jed'wood]

1. portmanteau n. Contestants John and Edward in ITV talent contest The X-Factor in 2009. Their elimination sparked a very short-lived campaign of complaints.

2. n. Slang term for any item which excites a great deal of interest for a brief spell and is then forgotten as though it had never existed. Often applied to workplace tasks whose lasting impact is inversely proportionate to the importance placed upon their timely creation at short notice, as in:
"Dave, I need a full report on the last six years' sales figures for the MD, by tomorrow morning."
"If I bust my guts to deliver it on time, will he actually read it, or is this another bloody Jedward?"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Never-Ending Story

Unlike many, many people, I haven't yet watched the Doctor Who episodes The End Of Time, though I've got them through iPlayer, and they're sitting on my computer awaiting my eyeballs.

In a similar fashion, I haven't read the final volume in Stephen King's Dark Tower series, though I really like the books, and the finale is on my 'to read' bookshelf.

I don't watch Heroes any more, though I cheerfully followed the first series all the way until the penultimate episode, and only missed the finale because I mis-set the recorder; granted, most people I know are suggesting that I didn't miss much (either in that finale or what has followed), but I was oddly content with leaving it where it was.

I've written before about how mysteries and questions can be as satisfying as resolutions and answers, and it's certainly a feeling that seems to be increasing in my thinking; which is odd, given that one thing that I find deeply satisfying if it's present (and frankly irritating if it's not) is a story in which it's clear that the creator knows where they're going and what they're doing.

And yet, like a reunion of a much-missed band or sequel to a much-loved tale, the anticipation can overwhelm the reality, and your excited imaginings can far outstrip what's actually delivered.

In part, this is an inevitable result of items being exaggerated in their importance; there's a story which I love (especially if it's true) that when a group of journalists were attending the official release of the 'reunited Beatles' song Free As A Bird, they were asked to turn away as the boxes of the single were carried onstage. One of them, apparently (and rightly) said 'oh, for god's sake, it's only a record!', and refused to turn away, at which point all the others did the same. Don't get me wrong, I think the Beatles are far and away the most important band ... well, probably ever, but a new song from them is, when all's said and done, a song, and it's unlikely that its four minutes or so of music and lyrics is going to actually, literally, knock the world off its axis or otherwise change absolutely everything forever and ever and ever.

I think there's a similar hyperbole applied to many things, be they books or films or albums or comics or whatever, much of which seems to be intended to get people all giddy and excited and convinced that this thing really, really matters just long enough that they slap down money for it, and after that, well, so long and thanks for all the dosh. In a way, it's pretty much evident from, say, the promotion for films - there are trailers and posters and interviews on chat shows and press releases dressed up as news reports (I'm looking at you, free newspapers), but within a day or two of the film's opening, it's almost as if the massed media has forgotten about what it was so recently talking about, and is trying to pretend its fleeting obsession never happened.

Seemingly the most obvious version of this, though it doesn't quite follow the theory, is the way that winners of The X-Factor tend to vanish without trace for the best part of a year until they bob back up to the surface of public consciousness in late autumn, to ride the wave of pubic interest generated by the new series of the show. There's a very real danger in this instance that the public - who are, after all, encouraged to pretend that this really matters as the series goes on, and to forget about people whose standing in the show they were terrifically excited about the previous week - will forget all about these newly-born 'stars' in the intervening months, though I guess it takes a few months of being strapped into Simon Cowell's Strip-Away-Any-Vestige-Of-Personality-And-Ensure-We-Can-Flog-Them-To-The-US-O-Tron before they can be presented safely to the public. But I digress.

I guess one has to be realistic about the level of expectation involved - and when I say 'one', I mean you. And me. The final Harry Potter book or a newly-discovered full version of The Magnificent Ambersons or [insert your Holy Grail here] may be a terrifically exciting prospect, but as so many people felt about the Star Wars prequels or Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, the finished article may not live up to your expectations (which may themselves have been stoked by blanket coverage and exaggeration of the item's properties and importance). Don't get me wrong, I still retain a frankly child-like ability to get excitable about things which - in the long run, and often in other people's estimation - aren't really that important, but I'm trying to keep a sense of perspective, and realise that a comic which finally and definitively settles the fanboy question of whether Captain America could beat Batman in a fight* is, five years down the line, less likely to be quite so important to me, and may well in fact be a bit of a disappointment.

And of course, holding off on the climax has its own rewards (oh, stop that, you filth; you know what I mean): as far as I'm concerned, the story's still taking place - David Tennant is still The Doctor (though I'm optimistic about the Moffat/Smith era), and Roland Deschain is still en route to the Tower, and neither story's end has come as a disappointment.

Unlike - very probably for many of you - this lengthy and rambling post, whose end probably comes as a blessed relief.

*Of course he couldn't - Batman would win hands-down.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

By Way Of Antidote To My Usual Mockery And Pedantry...

... have a look at this; the song's pedestrian at best, but I genuinely love the way the woman signing it in the lower right corner gets into it (you may want to skip to a minute or so in):

I suspect she's just paid to sign the words, but she goes well beyond the call of duty, and, frankly, gets on down. And it looks like she's rather enjoying her job.

Good for her, I say.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Pedantry Aside, I Really Like The Cover

I genuinely like the design of this cover, but on the basis that covers of books tend to feature the main character (and I applaud the way the artwork doesn't show the man full face, meaning that you won't have your mental image of the character barged aside), I guess that this cover shows Reilly's recurring character Jack West Jr.

But, um, doesn't he have a bionic arm made of titanium steel? It doesn't look that way from the cover picture.

Unless, of course, he got his arm back in the previous book, but I haven't read that one yet.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Second Edition (Should That Be 'Opinion'?)

Many moons ago, I referred - albeit fleetingly - to the book The Writer's Tale by Russell T Davies.

As you might imagine from the title, it's an account of his experiences working on Doctor Who, incorporating scripts as well as featuring nicely candid e-mails between RTD and the journalist Benjamin Cook. It came out in a nice hardback form in 2008, and as you can see from the picture to the left, the paperback has come out - with, cripes, a big chunk of new material, covering the episodes which were broadcast in 2009. In the absence of a 'supplement' being issued for hardback-owners, I think that 300 pages of new material is a pretty good lure to buy it again, really.

Anyway, I wanted to draw your attention to the updated Writer's Tale website, which now features downloadable PDFs of the scripts for the 2009 Specials, including The End Of Time. And, unlike the book I sound suspiciously like I'm hawking above, the scripts can be had for the always-nice sum of nought pence.

I always think it's interesting to have a look at how these things are done (even if the depth of my insight is limited to thoughts like "Hmm, these episodes are numbered as an extension of the previous series"). A peek behind the curtain, as it were.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Juvenilia (Or: Er, Dracula Is Public Domain, Right? Please Don't Sue My Child Self)

As if deliberately plumbing the depths of self-indulgence, and seeking to alienate you good people, I thought I'd share the following early example of my writing, which I found yesterday when clearing out some boxes of stuff.

The dates on the back suggest it's from when I was five or six years old, so please excuse the mangled conjugation of the verb 'to eat':

I think we can all see what young me was aiming at with that picture, but I think I owe an apology to the estates of both Bram Stoker and Bob Kane.

And, very probably, Freddie Mercury.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Channel Surfing

My current reading material is the second volume of Michael Palin's Diaries, a very thoughtful Christmas pressie from Mrs S. It covers the 1980s, when Mr P was featuring in an impressive array of films (Time Bandits, The Meaning Of Life, and Brazil, for example).

However, for sheer unexpectedness, one of my favourite onscreen Palin moments is the following from 2006:

All things considered, I think he underplays it rather nicely; good to see an extra not trying to scene-steal in any way whatsoever. Ahem.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Perhaps I Should Just Re-jig This Blog To Make It About Pointing Out Similarities And Be Done With It

On the left, an image from a current Marvel comic, relating to their latest cross-over story, Siege.

On the right, the cover for a DVD of a performance of The Wall which took place in Berlin, with a logo dating back to when the concert took place in 1990.


I rather hope it's a pre-established icon or image which is being re-used here, so do let me know if you know better.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

First 'Book Twins' Of 2010...

... though I doubt they'll be the last.

For the record, I have no objection to Brad Meltzer's work - I really enjoyed The Tenth Justice - it's the derivative book design I have a beef with. Though judging from his comics work, Brad and I clearly differ in our fondness for Red Tornado. Ah well, tis but a small matter.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Silliness, Like Diarrhoea, Runs In The Genes

Almost a guest post, this one; my father's been interested in astronomy for most of his life, even building a Dobsonian telescope from scratch (well, he had the mirror blank, he didn't glue together millions of individual glass particles, but you know what I mean).

And so it was with genuine amusement in his voice that he suggested that I have a look at this site about some photos allegedly taken by the Hubble Telescope.

Despite what Mr Dawkins says, it's the foolish gene which is dominant in the Soanes family.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

By The Time I Hit 'Publish', This Could Prove To Be Invalid

But nonetheless, it's worth a try.

A short film written and directed by Neil Gaiman, and starring Bill Nighy, which was shown on Sky TV a night or two ago, and which has somehow made its way online:

Is the item above not working? I can only assume the link's invalid because Sky have issued a cease-and-desist-and-go-to-your-room order. Ah well, it was fun while it lasted.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Brake Time

Gah, this is going to be horribly self-referential and indulgent, but then again that's not really anything new to the blog, so...

A quick glance at the column on the right shows that in 2009 I posted at least once a day here on't blog, and though I don't think I said as much at the time, this was a challenge (albeit a fairly pathetic one) I set myself back at the start of the year.

I think that it went pretty well overall - there were probably a few too many posts wherein I pointed out some minor point of similarity between two items, or picked on some frankly pedantic point and scratched away at it in an attempt to mine some amusement, but on the other hand I was pretty chuffed to have said something to you, my faithful and frankly pert audience, every day. Whether or not you felt the same way is an entirely different matter, but heck, that's what the Comment function's for, right?

Anyway, all of the rambling nonsense above is by way of alerting you to the fact that the blog may see something of a decrease in frequency of posting - or, at least, a decrease in comparison with the past year; that's not to say I won't still be making facile remarks on a regular basis, but it may be more like a working week's worth of comments as opposed to a daily thing. Still, we'll see - and hopefully you'll feel that the shift in frequency is matched by an upswing in quality of content, as I find myself feeling less that I have to post something, and more that I have something to post (an important distinction, I think you'll agree).

But don't fret (or, depending on how you feel about my still being here, do fret), there'll still be the same stupid mix of personal opinions on matters I know next to nothing about, links to items of possible interest, and - oh yes - more pictures of books and films with similar covers or posters; I appreciate knowing you good folks are out there as I post all my nonsense, and I hope you'll stick around for more.

Because there is more. Oh yes.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Welcome To The Future

According to the tagline for the frankly underrated film 2010, it's "the year we make contact".

That would, of course, be terrific, but in the absence of Dave Bowman returning, I just hope that, for all of you who are kind enough to read this blog, it's the year we make progress, howsoever you choose to define it.

It may be that you want things to feel they're moving forward on a personal, professional, creative, mental, physical or even spiritual level, and so I hope that, when we reach the end of 2010, you can look back at the year and - whether it's because of things you've done or events conspiring in your favour (or, perhaps best of all, both of those) - that you can look back and think yep, that was a very good year.

But enough of my hoping, a new year (and a new decade? Or is that mathematically inaccurate?) awaits! Let's get using the time productively, eh ?

So, let's take a moment to gather ourselves, and ... onwards!