101 Ways to Save Apple

In honour of today's Macworld keynote (hoping for: iTV, Leopard release date), here's a blast from the past: Wired's 1997 article "101 Ways to Save Apple".

Some of these are deliberately off the wall, but some of them have been adopted by 'new' Apple. For example:

**98. Testimonials.** Create commercials featuring real-life people in situations where buying a Mac (or switching to a Mac) saved the day.

So Wired is indirectly responsible for Ellen Feiss?

Radio controlled R2D2 ... with built-in DVD player and projector? →

starwars-projector.jpg

So let me get this straight... it's shaped like R2D2. It's radio controlled. It's got a DVD Player. It's got a Projector. It's got an iPod dock. It's got a radio. It's got USB inputs. It will play MP4 files. And its remote control is shaped like the Millenium Falcon?

I'm totally hard right now.

(via gizmodo)

What would Eddie Hobbs do?

Ten Thousand Euro, Shredded

Ten Thousand Euro, Shredded

This is ten thousand euros, in tens, twenties and fifties, completely shredded. Seamus gave it to me on Saturday at Rock and Roll Motherfucker in Voodoo.

And now I don't know what to do. With enough effort, I could probably crack this open and sellotape all this back together. But is there more than EUR10,000 worth of effort involved? Either way, it's still one of the most unique and depressing birthday presents anyone has given me.

Colours of the Incredibles

Pixar make some stunning movies. You could complain that their stories are pretty basic but from a visual standpoint, there's no disputing their beauty.

One thing I love about these movies is the amount of effort that goes into choosing the colour palette for the movie. Yet, because of the speed of the action, this work barely even get noticed.

So what would it look like if we strip out the 'image' from these images, and leave only the colour information?

I used the Incredibles for this experiment because it's my favourite Pixar movie so far. Incidentally, there's an "Art of the Incredibles"-sized space on my bookshelf, in case anyone feels like filling it for me.

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Star Wars: Original Version vs Special Edition

I know it's Star Wars, but... oh look, I just had to, okay?

With movies laid flat like this, it's very easy to see how movies are structured. Much easier than actually watching them as movies. Now, this lead to a question: how are different versions of the same movie constructed? For example, how is Apocalypse Now structured compared to Apocalypse Now Redux? How does the American release of The Shining compare to the European version? Or, better still, just exactly how "shot for shot" was Gus Van Sant's remake of Psycho?

Let's start on an easy one: Star Wars.

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Strangely, for all his fucking about, Lucas has kept the structure remarkably intact. For most of the run-time, the two movies track each other pretty well, being only a few seconds out of sync. It's not until the second half when they really start to diverge. But even still, the Special Edition is only a couple of minutes longer than the original version. Which is odd, because the Special Edition felt like it was a lot longer.

I also like the colours in the special edition. The faded pastel colours of the original are nice and all, but are definitely improved with a bit of spit and polish.

Not sure about the change of colour in the scene with Luke looking at the two suns though.

Koyaanisqatsi

When movies are torn apart and stitched back together like this, it lets you see the movie with a completely different perspective. Presenting them as one flat image, rather than a fast-moving sequence of images essentially allows one to, uh... 'see through time', so to speak. The editing is torn apart and the pacing of the movie is laid bare, for all to see.

Koyaanisqatsi (an old favourite here at lowbrowculture) is a movie stripped to its fewest components. It is a movie that is all about the image and the editing. So that's probably a pretty good place to start.

(click on image for higher-res version - 960 * 972 px, 416KB)

What I love about this movie and this set of images is just how perfect each shot is - each frame above could easily exist outside of the movie, like a perfectly-composed photograph.

New Project: Cinema Verite

I'm working on a new project: Cinema Verite.

Using processing (a powerful programming language with a lot of media capabilities), I'm ripping apart some of my favourite movies and putting them back together again. By taking screenshots at every second of the movie and laying them out flat - one image per second, sixty images per row - you get a completely different view of the movie.

So yeah, check it out, if you like that kind of thing.

Charlie Kaufman I'm not

I have been itching to do a screenwriting course for ages now. I've got a bunch of movie ideas that I don't really... I don't know, I don't necessarily expect to do anything with them, but I want to get them out of my head, just so my brain isn't cluttered with half-started/half-finished projects. The problem with the way I write, as you probably noticed, is that I find it hard to stay on one track for any length of time. Whenever I would start a screenplay, I would write the ideas I had in a half-assed way and then just hit a wall. I guess this stems from the way I come up with ideas for movies. For example, I want to write something called "JOHN STEELE DOESN'T KNOW HOW TO DIE", but where the fuck do I begin?

So, after putting it off for months, I finally signed up for the filmbase course - "Screenwriting for Beginners", which finished a couple of weeks ago.

I found the whole thing very useful. I learned all the sorts of useful 'cheats' to get you past the various stumbling blocks you're likely to run into. Like how to flesh out your characters before you ever put pen to paper (or uh... fingers to keyboard) - useful because you know exactly how your characters will react in any situation you put them in. Or the other cheat of buying a book of baby names for when you find yourself struggling to find a decent name for your characters. (Which led to an interesting moment when I went into Waterstones to buy a book of baby names and got served by a friend of mine - so that's what gobsmacked looks like).

And the tutor, Lindsay Sedgewick was friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. Whenever I gave her ideas for her to look over, she seemed to know exactly which bits I was unhappy with and always gave me useful suggestions for how to improve them. Although she did poo-poo one of my favourite ideas (involving a lost commune of hippies who have to re-join society after their crop of weed fails), but never mind.

So after finishing it, I started reading a few books on the subject: Joseph Campbell, Robert McKee, etc. So far, doing a good job of avoiding Syd Field. One of the books has really stood out for me: Blake Snyder's "Save the Cat". This one stands out because it doesn't shy away from the 'high concept' side of screenwriting. In fact, for this book, the higher the concept, the better, as long as it sells. Which is just fine by us here on lowbrowculture.com. Unfortunately, his IMDB credits make it a little hard to take the whole thing seriously... would you take advice from the guy who wrote "Blank Check" and uh... "Stop, or my Mom will Shoot!"?

Ugh.

But seriously, any other potential would-be-but-not-really screenwriters out there on the interpod could do a lot worse than to check it out. Especially if you would rather be the next Shane Black than the next Wes Anderson.

Oh, and while you're at it, you should check out Celtx, a free (as in 'speech') screenplay editor that is replacing Final Draft for a lot of people.

Thank Christ that's over

And so that's another Christmas done and dusted. I hope everyone got what they wanted from Santa.

Except you fuckers who keep asking for "world peace." Give it up. Quit deluding yourselves, it's never going to happen. Just ask for a nice 42" Sony Bravia LCD TV instead.

Small Claims Court accepting on-line applications now →

Sweet! I'm going to automate the procedure on my phone so I can send in an application while I'm arguing with the people in the shop. "Hang on a second... wait... that's it, I've got your fucking number, pal."

Halo 3 Trailer

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The new CGI/live-action trailer for Halo 3 that ran during Monday Night Football in the USA hit the interpod yesterday. You can check out the crappy-quality Youtube version or download the high quality version from Xboxyde.

There's something important to note about this trailer. This is less a trailer for "Halo 3" than it is for "Halo" as a brand. And there's a real simple reason for this: it's a dual purpose trailer. First, it's meant to remind people of Halo's (and Microsoft's) relevance in a post-PlayStation 3 environment. And secondly, it's meant to "sell" Halo to the movie studios after Universal and Fox got cold feet and pulled the plug on the Halo Movie. Before, they were being asked to put up $135m on a first-time director based on Peter Jackson's word and they said "no". Now they're being asked to put up $135m based on a well-received, highly-polished trailer.

Let's see if they'll change their minds.

Update: I thought this trailer was directed by Neill Blomkamp, who was lined up as the director of the Halo movie before the plug got pulled. It was, in fact, directed by Joseph Kosinski, who previously directed the awesome, beautiful "Mad Love" trailer for Gears of War.

Wired News: Say Hello to the Goodbye Weapon →

'The beam produces what experimenters call the "Goodbye effect," or "prompt and highly motivated escape behavior."' - because the "OH SHIT MY FACE IS MELTING! YOU HEAR ME? MY FUCKING FACE IS MELTING effect" would have been a much tougher sell

Embracing change

Over at thoughtwax, Emmet throws out a few ideas regarding emulation and how this fits with the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console functionality, which will allow you to download old NES, SNES, N64, Megadrive and PC Engine games from Nintendo's online marketplace. He suggests that the return to simplicity shows that games are "maturing".

Here's what I think.

The Nintendo Wii is a console borne out of necessity. Compared to huge corporations like Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo just didn't have the cash reserves necessary to compete properly in the 'next generation' of game consoles. The console arms race had escalated to the point where failure for Nintendo could mean the end of the company. So what do they do? They bow out, go a completely different direction. Chase an entirely different market.

The point I'm trying to make here is that the Nintendo Wii is, by design, a 'disruptive' console, so it's easy to interpret this as a sign of many things. But is it a sign that the industry is maturing?

Well, it means Nintendo is maturing as a business. With the weight of the failures of its last three (non-handheld) consoles straining the company's relevance, it seems to be learning from its mistakes. But until we see how well the Wii is accepted by both the consumers and developers, it's hard to say if this is any sign that the industry is maturing.

But what about the return to simplistic games? Does the kind of thoughtful reduction offered by the games from the Virtual Console mean that Nintendo is also maturing, drawing us into a new era of videogames? Are games entering their minimalist period?

Maybe not. Nintendo has fantastic first-party titles. In fact, it has traditionally had trouble securing third-party games because of the quality of its first-party titles. This means that the really quality games for Nintendo consoles come from Nintendo themselves and, given the length of time it takes to develop games, there could be months between 'quality' releases. Looking forward, and given the unusual nature of the Wii's control system, there's a definite possibility that there will not be a steady stream of games for the Wii for some time. We can see how the drought of games throughout the year affected the Xbox 360 sales. So Nintendo did the only smart thing they could: they plundered their back-catalogue for their Virtual Console. This does two things - one, it gives them an instantly available source of games for their new machine and two, it gives them a way to constantly release 'new' games to their customers.

But the games that you play on the Virtual Console will be pixel-perfect versions of the games you played on your NES, SNES, N64, Megadrive or PC Engine. As the man says: Nothing added, nothing taken away. This shows no more maturity than the PlayStation 3's ability to play games from PlayStation 1. Or the Xbox 360's ability to play Xbox games. The only difference here is that PlayStation and Xbox's disk-based formats have made it easy to provide backward compatibility to their last consoles whereas Nintendo's ever-changing cartridge-based formats means people will have little choice but to buy up all their old games.

But think about Xbox Live Arcade. Like the Wii's Virtual Console, it enables a player to download old arcade games and play them on their brand-new consoles. Except although nothing has been taken away, plenty has been added. For example, download Street Fighter 2 and you can play online against someone a thousand miles away from you. This, to me, is innovation. This, to me, is maturity. Accepting the on-line world and the way that games are more fun when they're social (for an example of this, compare the experience of the two-player Live co-op version of Gears of War to the solo one-player version) shows more maturity than Nintedo's apprach.

But I do think Nintendo are following the right path. I was completely wrong about the DS because I didn't think its stylus control would be used. I couldn't imagine the kind of innovation it brought about because I was thinking too small. Nintendo have capitalised on this. But will it succeed?

Perhaps Nintendo's smartest move to date has been to make the Wii as underpowered as they needed. The low cost of manufacturing means that, should the Wii be a complete disaster, Nintendo can easily scrap the entire thing and start work on a new console. Compare this to Sony's position - losing money, hand over fist, and based on a recent shake-up of key personnel in Sony Computer Entertainment, analysts predict there may be no PlayStation 4.

Consoles have always been a risky business (just ask Atari or Sega). And one thing is for certain: the games industry must mature or die. But this is easier said than done.

This was a very difficult Thanksgiving - The Awful Forums →

Dude is dropped a double-bombshell. First, he has a half-sister he knew nothing about. Then she turns out to be a porn star he's jerked off about. Then she turns up at thanksgiving dinner. Miramax is optioning this story for a Owen Wilson rom-com.

NES Buckle →

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This is like something from a demented personal ad. "I enjoy long walks on the beach, fine wine, and HAVING A GIANT NINTENDO CONTROLLER ON MY COCK."

I wish I could say it was a joke, but it's not. Buy yours at nesbuckle.com.

Speaking of Mike Patton...

People often come up to me and say "So John, what's the deal with Mike Patton?" and after I get done smacking the mouth off them for asking stupid questions, I'll tell them to check youtube for Mike Patton videos. Specifically the one of Tomahawk playing 'God Hates a Coward'.

To save you a couple of clicks, here's that video:

And as an extra video treat, an interview with Mike Patton Dyke Faggon