Alan W. Pollack's 'Notes on...' series →

Alan W. Pollack's exhaustive analysis of the music of The Beatles. He wrote these over the course of 11 years, starting in 1989, in weekly posts to the usenet group. For example, in his 'Notes on "Hey Jude"', he says "The bridge features a Bach-like walking bassline which, by the way, is a key source of the perceived contrast between the bridge section and its surrounding verses; the bassline of the verse, after all, simply follows the roots of the chord changes." Fascinating and edifying. Bonus.

Horrorthon 2010

We're five days into October and I haven't watched a single fucking horror movie. Which makes me wish I was back in Ireland because I could set all that right over the course of a weekend, because it's time for Horrorthon 2010Of course, I could set that right over the course of a weekend myself, but watching 29 horror films in five days on your own is pretty tough going.. Here's this year's programme and some useful links:

Thursday October 21st

20.45 Paranormal Activity 2 imdb trailer

22.45 The Pack (La Meute) imdb trailer

Friday October 22nd

14.00 Carrie imdb trailer

15.50 The Night of the Hunter imdb trailer

17.30 Shadow imdb trailer

19.00 Island of Death imdb video review

21.25 Primal imdb trailer

23.00 The Apple imdb trailer

00.30 Finale imdb trailer

Saturday October 23rd

13.00 The Amityville Horror imdb trailer

15.10 Altitude imdb trailer

16.50 Phenomena imdb trailer

19.20 Spiderhole imdb trailer

21.00 I Spit on Your Grave imdb trailer

23.00 Birdemic: Shock and Terror imdb trailer

00.30 Siege of the Dead (Rammbock) imdb trailer

Sunday October 24th

13.00 Hershell Gordon Lewis: the Godfather of Gore imdb trailer

15.00 Ed Wood imdb trailer

17.30 The Reef imdb trailer

19.15 Surprise Film

21.10 Amer imdb trailer

23.00 Plan 9 from Outer Space imdb trailer

00.15 Loose Screws: Screwballs 2 imdb trailer

01.30 Blood info

Monday October 25th

12.30 Horrorthon Short Film Showcase

14.15 Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape info trailer

15.45 Killer Klowns from Outer Space imdb trailer

17.25 Red Hill imdb trailer

19.10 Gremlins 2: The New Batch imdb trailer

21.10 Monsters imdb trailer

There's a lot of good stuff on there (and a lot of cheese too). Best of all, it looks like the organisers have done a better job this year of balancing each day so there is at least some semblance of logic behind the programme. So, well done to them on thatBut seriously, Screwballs 2?! Are you just openly mocking your audience now?.

Obviously, being a few thousand miles away and having not timed my trip back to Ireland properly, I'm not going to be able to go to any of these movies (and believe me, I'd love to be going -- this is the first time in years I've felt sad about missing the Horrorthon). But if I were going, the three films I'd be most psyched to check out Shadow, Amer and Monsters. Having said that, there's at least three films each day that I'd be very happy to check out.

As for the surprise film... well, now's the time to start guessing. Given their history of going for Irish premieres and the sub-115 minute runtime, my guess is it will either be Let Me In, Burke and Hare or Saw 3D.

Please, God, don't let it be Saw 3D.

Stephen J. Cannell

I realise this blog is increasingly in danger of just becoming a list of celebrities whose deaths I'm sad about, but Stephen J. Cannell is one that really hit me hard.

When I was 10, my poor little brain couldn't handle any celebrity or character with more than one name. For example, like most kids then, I loved The A-Team. And as fanatical as I was about that show, I still couldn't manage their surnames. They were Murdock, Hannibal, Face and BA. No more, no less. I tried to remember BA's surname, but I think I kept calling him "Balackus" or something. Maybe I was a little racist as a kid. I also used to think "Darth Vader" was called "Dark Vader". You see, because he wore all blackSince I'm already in this hole of self-shame, I may as well dig a little deeper and say that I also used to think the "Standing strong forever" line in "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" was "Santa's gone forever" because, y'know, Santa being gone means you're all grown up. I had awesome logic..

Point is, you give me a celebrity or a character with two names, I was boned. In Knight Rider, I just knew the guy as "Michael". I never once twigged that his surname was in the title. Durr.

But as much trouble as I had with names, I knew who the fuck Stephen J. Cannell was. With this one guy, I not only remembered his first name and his last name, but I fucking remembered his middle initial and everything. Know why? Because his logo came at the end of some of my favourite shows. And when I hear the jingle from his logo, I get a sort of pavlovian response. I feel happy. I feel like I'm 10 years old again. And I don't just mean that in some hyperbolic way. I mean I literally feel 10 years old again. If I close my eyes and listen to that jingle, I feel like I'm sitting in front of our dodgy TV on a Saturday afternoon and now I'm going outside to recreate everything I just saw on TV.

Bagsy being BA.

Thanks, Stephen.

Bonus: Stephen J. Cannell also did a show called Tenspeed and Brownshoe starring Jeff Goldblum. This was less good. I bought the pilot on VHS for 50p a few years ago.

Digital Convenience

The New Yorker iPad app is out now. The app itself costs nothing, but the actual issues you buy through the app are $4.99 each. This is reasonable enough. I have a feeling we'll see more magazines move to a similar model in the next year or so. From a publisher point of view, there are no more worries about printing and distribution costs. From an end-user point of view, there are no more worries about availability. Edge magazine, for example, is a right royal pain in the dick to get a hold of if you're not living in the UK. With an iPad app, you're getting all the content, in much the same format, with (potential) access to the entire back-catalogue at the touch of a button, with virtually no footprint for either the publisher or readermy collection of Edge magazine -- going back 16 years or so -- takes up an enormous amount of space. Win-win.

Except for people who are already subscribers, that is. As Kottke points out:

Current magazine subscribers appear to have no option but to buy a completely separate issue if they wish to read the magazine on the iPad. As a subscriber, what exactly am I paying for if I already have the content in magazine form? Is the $4.99 simply a convenience fee?

One of the things I really liked about David Wellington's Monster Island was that it was also available online. When I was in work and didn't have the book with me, I could just go to Wellington's website and take up where I left off. I suppose the same could be said of any of Cory Doctorow's books as well. Although I haven't gotten around to reading it yet, I have a physical copy of Makers on my bookshelf and a digital copy of on my e-reader.

As things like smart phones and e-readers become more and more a part of our everyday life, I would love to see us get to stage where buying a physical copy of a thing -- movies, magazines, films -- entitles you to a digital copy of the thing as well. We're sort of seeing this with blu-ray, where a lot of discs come bundled with a digital copy of the film as wellThen again, in most cases, that's being implemented in such a half-assed, braindead way (where the 'digital edition' it comes bundled with is just an access key to download a copy once) it makes you wonder if the movie studios aren't deliberately sabotaging this effort so they can say "look! There's no demand for the digital edition!".

Free Time is a Myth

When I was younger, I remember looking at my grown-up relatives and dreaming about when I'd finally be finished with school and start working a 9 to 5 job. I figured that, coming home from work and not having any homework to do, I'd have buckets of free time to play videogames and watch kick-ass movies.

Well, life? I'm waiting.

32 Days of Mass Effect

In an interview with IGN, BioWare revealed some of the stats they've collected about people's Mass Effect 2 habits. Interestingly, half of the players imported their game from the first Mass Effect and only half of the players actually finished Mass Effect 2. Much more interestingly is the revelation that four Xbox players completed the game 23 times.

Considering they also say that the average time to complete a game of Mass Effect 2 is 33 hours, that means these four people spent roughly 32 solid days of their life playing this game. That's almost five weeks. Solid.


(For context, the average American spends two weeks of their entire life kissing)

iWatch →

When Apple demoed the new iPod nano last week, I mentioned on twitter about how much I liked the look of its clock. It's more thoughtfully designed and better crafted than most watches.

Well, some wags have taken the obvious step by throwing a strap on the Nano and making it into a proper watch.

One thing Apple left off the new Nano with the redesign is the previous iteration's video camera. Is it so strange to imagine that a future redesign of the new Nano will re-add this feature? A front-facing camera with FaceTime? Suddenly we're wearing video phones on our wrists.

Oh shit! We're in the future.

Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette - Cakes

I have no idea why I was so reluctant to check out Marie Antoinette. I guess it was something to do with Sophia Coppola's track record. I loved Lost in Translation but hated The Virgin Suicides. Kirsten Dunst completely put me off that movie. I always thought she was really over-rated as an actress and never really saw why people thought she was attractive. I guess it was the impending release of Somewhere that made me want grab the DVD of Marie Antoinette off the shelf and finally sit down and watch it (although, I have to be honest, if Zodiac had been 40 minutes shorter, I probably would have ended up watching that instead).

I loved it.

Now, I realise that Sophia Coppola isn't the world's greatest writer. I can overlook this. (I mean, I said I loved Lost in Translation, right?) And I realise this film isn't meant to be an accurate historical document, but she manages to paint Marie as a genuinely sympathetic figure. And how did she do this? Do we get two hours of philosophising masquerading as character development? Hell no. In fact, I'd be shocked if Kirsten Dunst had more than 100 lines in this movie. It takes a rare skill to do so much with so little.

And yes, I finally see what all the fuss is about Kirsten Dunst. She is terrific in this film. A perfect fit - I can't think of another actress that could have pulled it off quite so well. Completely changed my opinion of her.

But I also think an awful lot of the success had to do with the way Coppola uses music in her films. The new-wave soundtrack cute, and a great way of hammering home the idea that these kids really were the punks of their time. But it goes beyond cute juxtaposition. Aphex Twin's 'Avril 14th' is an incredibly powerful and evocative piece of music and was perfect for the tone of this film. (Only one other film I've seen has used this song at all, and that was Chris Morris' equally amazing Four Lions.) That Coppola manaaged to create such amazing visuals and find the music to match the mood of the scene so perfectly speaks volumes about her success and skill as a director.

Speaking of cute juxtapositon, I loved, loved the pair of chucks in the background of the spending-spree scene. Something about this is absolutely perfect. It tells us everything we need to know about the character through one tiny, incidental anachronism.

Marie Antoinette - Chucks

Tank Park Salute

All things considered, it probably wasn't a great idea to listen to this song right now. Billy Bragg writes some beautiful songs, but this is really something special. One of maybe 5 songs that I can't get through without crying like a child.