Video Killed The iPod Star

The fun thing about Apple product announcements is that even when most of the rumours turn out to be true, you’ll normally get something completely unexpected. So it was a surprise to finally see a video iPod, after years of Steve Jobs saying ‘no, we won’t do that’, and every rumour site insisting at every Apple Event that this time, oh this time, they’ll launch it. It’s finally here, and it’s pretty much what everybody expected it to be; 320x240 video, capable of connecting to NTSC and PAL televisions, and coming in 30Gb and 60Gb versions. While I still can’t see the appeal of the system to the majority (if you work in a city and take mass transit into work, then yes, this is great), it seems to have made many people happy.

The iMac G5 is lovely. The inbuilt webcam shows that Apple is serious about all this videoconferencing malarky with iChat (it’d be nice if Microsoft and Yahoo could get their act together and add video support to their applications, though). Possibly another reason why Mr. Ellis has decided to go back into the messageboard business.

The best part of the iMac is probably Front Row, which, from what I can tell, is what resulted after Apple finished laughing at Microsoft’s Media Center applications. It’s a TIVO module away from achieving everything you’ve ever dreamed about a media hub, and on the first attempt, too.

But, as all the coverage of the event indicates, the big news was the deal with ABC/Disney, allowing you to download ABC TV shows direct from iTunes (as long as you’re American, of course). Again, 320x240, locked to five computers with FairPlay digital rights technology, and costing $1.99 per episode. Oh, and music videos too (UK conversion for the music videos and Pixar shorts is £1.89, which seems a trifle high). Buying a complete series this way is something of a rip-off ($44 versus a DVD set for about $10 extra, at a much higher resolution, bonus features, and hey, if you really want to, you can encode it for iPod viewing as well), but for the occasional purchase, it’s not bad. iTunes 6 is a vast improvement over iTunes 5, in that it didn’t junk my music library on the upgrade like the latter did, and now you can have video playlists! Even in fullscreen! This feature excites me, even if it’s not exactly groundbreaking.

So, lots of shiny new stuff that looks great and I can’t afford. Yay Apple!

currently playing: Saint Etienne – He’s On The Phone

URAQT

The new Iraq constitution is now likely to pass, as the Sunnis have been offered a deal to support this weekend’s vote. Admittedly, the deal is along the lines of “vote for it now, and we’ll change it next year. Honest!”, but I guess it’s better than nothing. While Article 7 (which says that no law shall contradict ‘universally agreed tenets of Islam’) strikes me as a worrying loophole that could be used Weimar Republic-style, I suppose agreement is better than none,

Meanwhile, in the new home of women's rights that is Afghanistan!

Last week Baloch was in the news for jailing the editor of an Afghan women's magazine. The editor had questioned the harshness of sentences handed out under Shariah law. He also said that Muslims who reject their faith should not be punished.

Back at the Supreme Court:

As the White House seeks to rally senators behind the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet E. Miers, lawyers for the Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee are expressing dissatisfaction with the choice and pushing back against her, aides to 6 of the 10 Republican committee members said yesterday.

Ouch. It's amusing to watch the Republicans tear themselves apart over this, but you have to wonder who they'll get if Miers doesn't make it through the confirmation hearings.

On the other, hand, this is just funny.

currently playing: New Order – Bizarre Love Triangle

Big In Japan

Paradise Kiss is on the cutting edge of sequential art with high-quality pop-art illustrations that stretch the limits of traditional manga stereotypes. With characters who run the gamut of fashion, from the chic to the bizarre, Paradise Kiss is a coming of age story rooted in high comedy and one girl's awakening to her own beauty.

And for the anime, why, it’s backed by Franz Ferdinand’s Do You Want To!

(A companion piece, of sorts, to Sweeping The Nation’s Japan watch. And beware, there is a high possibility of J-Pop MP3s by the end of the week)

currently playing: New Order — Ceremony

Wanted: For Suspected Arson

WANTED!

currently playing: The Pixies Three – 442 Glenwood Avenue

DIE SMURF DIE!

This is…just…someone in Belgium BitTorrent this! PLEASE!

currently playing: Sugababes – Hole In The Head

Annie, Robyn, M.I.A. and…

Rachel Stevens — Come And Get It

It’s quite a sad reflection on the music industry today that this album is already been written off as a commercial failure, and it isn’t even out until the 17th. Now, it’s a fine enough album, with a few great tracks, some ones that are quite good, and a few that are, well, a trifle dull. The problem is that it all sounds so anonymous; by the time the CD finishes, you get the feeling that pretty much any pop starlet could have been responsible for the past hour (with the exception of Some Girls, which Polydor have added to this album seemingly in a fit of desperation). I’m not one who insists that pop has to be about something, or have a message, but I would like to feel that the singer brings something to the project, as opposed to being just a simple cog in the producer’s machine. People say that Stevens is a return to the sophisticated “New Pop” of the 1980s, but I think music critics have put too much emphasis on the role of the producer in that era. Sure, without Trevor Horn, Relax would be forgettable, but it’s a Frankie Goes To Hollywood song, unmistakably. There’s nothing here that suggests Ms. Stevens is capable of doing the same.

(Part of the commercial failure of this album, though, has to be placed at the foot of Polydor and 19 Entertainment, who released two of the weakest tracks from the album as singles. Plus, Negotiate With Love came out at the end of March, meaning that it’s been over six months since the first single and the album’s release, which seems awfully silly. A preferred release strategy, if I might be so bold, would have been to release I Said Never Again as the first single back in April, followed six weeks later with the Cure-sampling It’s All About Me (I’m sure some interest could have been made out of that, even if pop sampling isn’t all that notable these days). Followthat with the album a week or so later, and then release two more singles at six weeks intervals (probably the Eighth Wonder-aping Funny How and I Will Be There). Then, in October, cynically re-issue the album with a DVD containing the videos for all four singles (and Some Girls). Oh, and hire Michel Gondry to make one of them)

Also, I feel vindicated in my earlier Mud comments after finding out that Rob Davis co-wrote I Said Never Again

Girls Aloud — Biology

Meanwhile, back at Camp Xenomania, they’ve come up with a cunning strategy: a detenté, if you will of the two main movements of British music in the 1990s. Which is to say that they’ve taken a Britpop song via The Kinks and ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky, and stapled it to the Spice Girls’ Spice Up Your Life. It really is better than it sounds, trust me, even if only the start seems to stick in the memory on the first ten listens.

currently playing: De La Soul – A Rollerskating Jam Called Saturday

Dear Joss Whedon…

…we love you. But if we ever meet you, we’re going to hurt you.

currently playing: Air – Alone In Kyoto

Credit In The Straight World

Well, the Popjustice thread on Miss Stevens is now full of people dismissing the “it’s the fault of downloaders!” stance that I was talking about on Monday, so hurrah. (Number 10 in the midweeks, though, which has got to be a big problem for her record company).

And… in other happy news, the UN and the USA have lent on Iraq to reverse last Sunday’s changes to the upcoming referendum.

EDIT: But Ms. Stevens is now #11 in the midweeks. Oops.

currently playing: New Order – Sub-Culture

Iraq Iraq Baby

Well, the news is in - Iraq has chosen its new model for democracy. Unfortunately, its model is Florida:

Some Sunni leaders who have been organizing a campaign to vote down the document said today that they might now boycott the Oct. 15 referendum, because the rule change made their efforts futile. Other political leaders also reacted angrily, saying the change would seriously damage the vote’s credibility in Iraq and abroad.

Under the new rules, the constitution will fail only if two-thirds of all registered voters - rather than two-thirds of all those actually casting ballots - reject it in at least 3 of Iraq’s 18 provinces.

The change, adopted during an unannounced vote in Parliament on Sunday afternoon, effectively raises the bar for those who oppose the constitution. Given that fewer than 60 percent of registered Iraqis voted in the January elections, the chances that two-thirds would both show up at the polls and vote against the document in three provinces would appear to be close to nil.

Still, we can be happier about the rumblings of a Republican filibuster of Harriet Miers (yes, their own candidate), and Mr. DeLay’s latest indictment (which also appears to involve one Mrs. Thatcher, just to make it even more amusing):

If convicted, the money laundering charge carries a penalty of up to life in prison. The charge of conspiracy to launder money is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The initial conspiracy charge carries a punishment of up to two years.

We can only hope…and if they want to extradite Mrs. T, well, funnily enough, our new treaty with America means that they don’t have to give us any solid evidence…

currently playing: Martha & The Muffins – Women Around The World At Work

Have You Ever Had It So Blue?

I am amused by the constant complaining on Popjustice that the reason that pop acts aren’t doing well on the album chart is that the kids are downloading the leaked version in advance of the actual release date. It’s like they’ve swallowed the music industry’s PR whole.

And I’ll like to see their explanation for Franz Ferdinand’s almost-certain number one this weekend, despite the album being widely available via ARRR! methods for a month beforehand…

currently playing: The Cardigans – I Need Some Fine Wine And You, You Need To Be Nicer