Sunday, 21 December 2008

Winter break

It looks like I may have been unsuccessful in my attempt to defeat the Cowell. Cohen must be making a bit of cash this Christmas though.

There won't be any posts around here until the middle of January as I'm getting married in a few hours and off n my honeymoon tomorrow. Have a nice Christmas and New Year all of y'all

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Don't let Simon Cowell steal Christmas...

.. with the cynical cover of the Leonard Cohen classic 'Hallelujah'. As of Monday the 17th, the winner of the ITV karaoke show X-Factor will release a cover of the aforementioned song as part of the annual strategy to convert the success of the show into the sale of musical units. Now, I'm sure Cohen isn't too bothered about his song being transformed into a highly polished and compressed equivalent of a musical turd by this year's winner, Alexandra Burke, after all there are royalties at stake here. However, there already exists a quintessential cover of the track by the deceased legend, Jeff Buckley - listen to it in full here.

I suggest that if you are going to buy the Hallelujah track this Christmas, you buy the Buckley version, which is sublime. Cohen will get the royalties from this track too so it's a win-win situation for him (and he needs it after his ex-manager stole about £5 million from him - good job he converted to Buddhism to transcend the confines of the material world).

There's a live version of the Buckley version here. Sony won't let the official video be embeddable over on YouTube:

I know I'm not alone in deploring the cynical attempt to bag the Christmas number 1 as there have been numerous Facebook groups setup. It's a fairly standard marketing ploy used by the show's creators over the past 5 years. Some feature petitions against the stunt which are going to achieve little. One group has decided to help do something affirmative by linking to a few online shops where you can purchase the Buckley version, which I will attempt to improve upon here:

7digital - £0.89 for the 4 min 15 sec abridged version in high quality 320kbps mp3 format

Tunetribe - £0.49 for the 6 min 52 sec full album version in WMA format, loaded with DRM (no good for iPod/iPhone owners)

iTunes - £0.79 for the 6 min 52 sec full album version in AAC format, also protected with DRM (but iPod friendly-ish), encoded at 128 kbps.

Amazon - £0.79 for the 6 min 52 sec full album version in 256 kbps mp3 format with no DRM restrictions.

Play - £0.65 for the 6 min 52 sec full album version in high quality 320 kbps mp3 format

HMV - £0.69 for the 6 min 52 sec full album version in high quality 320 kbps mp3 format

Go on, do yourself a favour and discover a wonderful version of the song. Don't forget to wait until Monday the 15th to buy it in order for it to be chart eligible.

I'm sure Alexandra Burke can sing and I wish her all the best for the future, I just object to the Cowell machine doing this kind of thing year after year. Stop Cowell being the Grinch this year!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

New Terminator: Salvation trailer

From the look of the new longer trailer it seems like the future world predicted in the first two Terminator movies (I have blanked the travesty of the third from my mind) has been altered.

I was hoping there would be some kind of cross-over or interplay with the excellent TV show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I thought I spied Stephaine Jacobsen who plays the suspicious human agent, Jesse, sent back from the future in the trailer (around 1 min 30 secs in) but imdb doesn't corroborate that idea. The fact that Season 2 of the television series is full of potential double-crossing and suspicion of John Connor's motives led me to think that the future the previous films promised had been changed significantly following the time traveling antics of the humans.

There could be lots of scope to explain the roles of Riley and Jesse in the movie but I guess the producers will ring-fence the two franchises and keep them relatively independent of each other. Shame, as Summer Glau makes a good Terminator

Oh yeah, there's also a video game tie-in dropping in May 2009

Saturday, 6 December 2008

MAC301 essay question 3

For any of the students interested in tackling the third essay question (the one with the McLuhan quote about the media being put out before it is thought out), I just want to recommend the Guardian Tech Weekly podcast. This week the team look at the problems facing new media start-ups in light of the economic downturn and they have an interview with the man behind micro-blogging service Twitter, Biz Stone. This comes on the back of the failed potentail acquistion of Twitter by Facebook.

Get the podcast from here

The Guardian are not the only media platform discussing the role of Twitter this week. Over on the BBC's Digital Planet, they were looking at the role Twitter played in keeping people informed during the recent Mumbai terror attacks. You can catch that show here, or at least until the iPlayer 7 day rule kicks in. Radio 4's The Media Show also has a feature on it - get it here (same rules apply, I think)

The use of social media tools during the Mumbai incident has caused a stir. The Guardian's PDA blog talks about the use of unsubstantiated claims from the general public here. The Independent's Tom Sutcliffe has been very critical in his opinion piece here.

Torturous sci-fi (MAC387)

One of the main themes I'm going to be exploring in next week's lecture on MAC387, the Science-Fiction Television module, is the necessity of human suffering. More specifically, I'm going to be looking at the use of torture as a plot device in the recent re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica.

It seems to me that the human suffering, or at least the very threat of human suffering plays an active role in those US television shows which are affiliated with the fantasy and science-fiction genres. Of course, human suffering is not restricted to these genres - after all the Fox show 24, has long used the device as an essential plot point. Jack Bauer both tortures and is tortured throughout the 6 series that have aired to date. I'll never forget the impact that Season 1 Episode 11 (10:00am) had on me, when Jack threatens the business man Ted Coffell with the Gulag technique - pulling the acid from the stomach up the windpipe using little more than a cloth. It was the idea or the threat of violence which was more affective rather than later episodes which 'showed' rather than 'told'.

Anyway, this post is mainly a listing exercise. I thought I'd put a few memorable torture sequences from fantasy/sci-fi series up here just in case I forget them during next week's sessions. Also, as the essay question I set deals with this issue I thought it would be a good place for students to find relevant examples. I've already lost a set of ideas/episodes that I had written down on a post-it note so the digital version might fare a little better

Battlestar Galactica Season 1 Episode 8 'Flesh and Blood'

Battlestar Galactica Season 2 Episode 10 'Pegasus'

Battlestar Galactica Season 3 Episode 13 'Taking A Break Form All Your Worries'
Video below

Firefly Season 1 Epsiode 10 'War Stories'

Lost Season 1 Episode 8 'Confidence Man'

Video below

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Season 2 Episode 4 'Allison From Palmdale'

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Season 2 Episode 9 ' Complications'

Stargate SG1 Season 7 Episode 11/12 'Evolution 1 + 2'

Heroes Season 2 Episode 2 'Lizards'

Heroes Season 2 Episode 9 'Cautionary Tales'
Video below

Heroes Season 3 Episode 10 'It's Coming'

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 6 'Chain of Command Part 1 + 2'

If you can think of any more stand out sci-fi/fantasy shows with scenes of torture be sure to let me know.