Sign of the times?

Over the years we’ve seen the life and death of many beloved music formats – the vinyl (although these still sort of exist in specialist stores I suppose) and the cassette tape. The same can be said for video formats, the video cassette finally kicking the bucket a few years back, paving the way for the gloriously superior DVD. The entertainment market has always been about survival of the fittest, but in a report featured on the BBC website today, another format could be about to leave us forever. But this time I don’t think it’s quite ready to go…

Niche company Linn Products, based in East Renfrewshire, will next year halt production of CD players altogether in favour of digital streaming equipment. This decision has come after the company realising that this equipment is outselling CD players.

Gilad Tiefenbrun, managing director of Linn Products, said “Our customers have fast recognised the limitations of CD players and in the age of home networking, people now want better control of their music and the ability to enjoy it in any room of their home. CD players no longer belong in the specialist domain.”

He certainly has a point. BPI, who represent the British recorded music industry, revealed last month that 2009 had already broken last year’s record number of legally downloaded single and individual track sales. Of 117 million sales, nearly 99% were digital downloads. While the market for albums is that much higher, even that is in a decline.

Yes, this may be only a niche market giving up on a seeminly obsolete format, but is it a sign of things to come? I certainly hope not, because I can’t say I’m too keen on the idea of downloading albums. When buying a CD you get so much more than just an album – you get a CD featuring that features around 7-15 songs (sometimes even more), a booklet with pictures of the band/artist and occasionally the lyrics of the songs included, a nice case to keep it all in and sometimes even a bonus CD/DVD with features that you couldn’t get from a digital download. They may take up alot of space but boy do they look pretty (and impressive) neatly stacked in a CD rack. I have a collection of atleast 200+ CD’s, and I want to keep seeing that grow, and not have to use an mp3 player to play my music.

My personal stance on mp3s has always been that I’ll download one or two songs by an artist, and if I like those perhaps listen to a few more via online streaming, and if I’m still liking them go out and buy an album. That method has always worked for me, but I realise it isn’t for everyone. Fair enough that some people would rather download their music to their ipod or Zen or whatever the hip kids are using these days, but please, for the sake of those who like the CD….don’t let it die just yet.

The full BBC article can be found here.

Published in: on November 24, 2009 at 10:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Hungry Hungry Hippos

Well…I suppose that’s somewhat of an exaggeration given the hippo in question wasn’t actually hungry, but you’ll see where I’m going with this very soon. There was an article in on The Times website today concerning a very rare clash in nature between a crocodile and a hippo on the Nile river bank in Serengheti National Park, Tanzania. The fight was particuarly one-sided. And judging by the title I’ve given this post I think you can tell which way the fight went.

Czech Wildlife photographer Vaclav Silha set his camera up not expecting to see a scene quite like this, as he told The Times “Mutual respect between these animals means fights occur very rarely.” He went on to explain that when hippos feel their young are threatened they will fight. And that’s exactly what happened to poor old Mr Crocodile. Seems he got to close to a mother, resulting in the whole group forming a whole circle around it in defense.

What’s even more incredible is the crocodile’s chosen escape route – across the backs of the hippos! Mr Silha told the Times that this “was the worst choice the reptile could ever have made and it was definitely its last.” Again, all photographed, one of the hippos proceeded to catch the crocodile in its mouth and crush it to death. Now crocodiles have some pretty hard skin, but even that isn’t a match for the powerful jaws of a hippopotumus.

I can’t honestly say I’m a huge nature lover, but things like this fascinate me. I went to San Diego zoo over the summer and saw both these animals (not in the same area obviously!) and to think hippos are capable of this is quite extraordinary.  Looking at a hippo up close it seems that, while admittedly EXTREMELY big, they are among the most docile of animals. However the crocodiles at the same zoo were the most sinister looking things I’ve ever seen. However a little bit of research online has shown me that in fact hippos are one of the most aggresive and dangerous animals in Africa and frequently attack humans and boats. How wrong was I? Still, these photographs are rare documentation of hippos fighting crocodiles, and given the croc’s amusing but futile escape plan make them even more special.

So next time you’re at the zoo and looking at hippos, just remember, they aren’t as docile as you may think.

The article and the pictures documenting this incredible event can be found here.

Published in: on November 16, 2009 at 8:29 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Calm down, it’s only a game.

The BBC have reported today that gamers are being asked to join a Facebook group in order to defend their hobby from critics following an argument between two MPs over violent videos games, particularly “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2”, due for release tomorrow. The game, set in a near future scenario, sees The West engaged in fight for survival against Russian ultra-nationalists.

MP Tom Watson, who set up the Facebook group, wants to defend the game from comments from Labour MP Keith Vaz, who said he was “absolutely shocked” by the violence portrayed in the game.

Now I’ve been playing video games almost all my life, and while I’m not particularly a fan of war games as such (give me Sonic the Hedgehog or Pokemon over Halo any day), I’ve played my fair share of violent video games, and not once have I felt the need to go out and imitate them. When I played Metal Gear Solid did I want to go sneak around other people’s houses, breaking the neck of anyone I may pass? No. When I played Grand Theft Auto did I feel the need to steal a car, shoot some civilians and perhaps pick up a prostitute along the way? I don’t think so. These games are given certificates for a reason, much like films. I don’t see why films can portray violence and have nothing said about them while video games with an 18 rating NOT MEANT FOR CHILDREN get such a fuss made over them. Blame the adults who buy the games for their children, or the shops that don’t enforce and I.D. policy properly. But not the games themselves.

But in the end the game won’t need defending from me or anyone else. Amazon have reported that their sales are already 50% higher than Grand Theft Auto 4, the former most successful release ever, and Play are apparently getting over 150 pre-orders per minute. If anything this campaign is only going to attract more attention to the game, resulting in more sales. I wish both Watson’s Facebook group and Activision, Call of Duty’s publisher, the best of luck.

The full BBC article can be read here.

Published in: on November 9, 2009 at 4:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

This Is It?

So here we have it, four months after Michael Jackson’s tragic death a feature length film chronicling the dress rehearsal footage in preparation for his string of shows that were meant to played in the London O2 arena from the end of July onward. But as the very last performance footage of the late King of Pop, is Michael Jackson’s This is It a fitting swansong to his legacy? In short, the answer is yes.

To be perfectly honest I was initially sceptical of watching the film as I had become sick of the media attention surrounding Jackson’s death. I felt it was about time his family were left alone and he was allowed to rest in peace. It was the least he deserved given the impact he brought to pop music. But a few of my friends highly recommended that I see the film and, since I had a ticket to see one of these shows myself at one stage, I decided that it may be a good idea to see what the world has missed out on. So this morning I treated myself to two whole hours of the legend that is…Michael Jackson.

Putting his personal life aside for the purposes of this blog entry and focusing only on him for his musical talents the man certainly still had it and gave it 110% even at the rehearsals. From Thriller to Black and White, Beat It to Man in the Mirror, you could see that Jackson had lost none of his talent in both singing and dancing and that the show he was going to bring to London would be a sensation to both the eyes and the ears. His show was going to be a spectacle filled with extravagant set pieces and videos (particularly Smooth Criminal, Thriller and The Earth Song), amazing dance sequences and, above all, pop songs that were second to none. After a few setbacks in attempts to comeback into the music scene these shows would have without a doubt thrust the singer back into stardom.

Not just focusing on Michael Jackson himself, the film features interviews with some of the backing vocalists, dancers and stage crew working on the “This Is It” shows. All of them share their enthusiasm for the musician, exclaiming how they wouldn’t be where they are today if not for the King of Pop. And in one of the film’s more touching moments, we see Jackson address all of these people personally telling them that “they are like a family to him”. If you are a Michael Jackson fan, go and see it this film. As unfortunate as the circumstances may be, this film is more than worthy of closing the final chapter in the book that is Michael Jackson.

So is this truly it? I don’t think so. Michael Jackson may be gone, but what he brought music fans all over the world will never be forgotten, and I think musicians and dancers will continued to be inspired by and remember him for many years to come.

But you don’t have to take my opinion on it, there are various other reviews that are worth checking out.

R.I.P. Michael Jackson – 1958 to 2009.

Published in: on November 1, 2009 at 11:11 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , ,