Thursday, 24 January 2008

The Shadow: Crime, Insured and The Golden Vulture

Nostalgia Ventures have been reprinting various pulp novels recently and I was lucky enough to get a couple of Christmas. My first was The Shadow volume 1 including Crime, Insured and The Golden Vulture. These are paperback reprints of the original novels with some original artwork and a couple of small new accounts regarding the authors and tales included.

As these are reprints of original 1930's works the style may not be to everyone's taste but to me it is so evocative of a period I am very interested in (and also inspiration for my main hobby - see The Wargame Shed) that I found the two tales enthralling. Of course neither story bears too close inspection in a number of areas as there are some clear credibility issues but then The Shadow is entirely larger than life and in the context of the genre any such issues are to be ignored - just immerse yourself in the language and the two-fisted action!

The range also includes reprints of Doc Savage stories too. I'm off to carry on reading volume 2 of The Shadow: The Chinese Disks and Malmordo...

Sunday, 20 January 2008

I Am Legend (Movie)

We managed to catch I Am Legend with Will Smith last night. Inspired by the 1954 book of the same name by Richard Matheson, the film recounts the tale of Robert Neville who is apparently the sole survivor of a pandemic. The film moves the location from LA to New York, has Neville as an Army doctor who may have contributed to the pandemic and, disappointingly revises the ending to a more Hollywood one.

The scenes of Neville traveling around a deserted New York are very effective and the interspersing of flashbacks to explain the situation helps break the potential repetitiveness of the "last man alive" story. Will Smith is good as Neville, slowly breaking down as he fails to find anyone else alive or a cure for the victims of the pandemic who didn't die.
The film certainly succeeds in providing some tense moments but fails to provide the depth of the book's story (often a problem with book/film conversions). My wife enjoyed it but hasn't yet read the original story (something I am recommending she does).
Obviously comparisons are bound to be made with The Omega Man starring Charleton Heston which is also inspired by the same book. Both films have their merits but clearly the advantages of modern CGI do help with the creation of the atmosphere in the later movie.
I Am Legend was entertaining and, whilst I understand why they may not have wanted to film the book ending, it did affect my overall opinion of the movie. Worth a watch.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Macworld Keynote: Disappointed?

Having switched to Mac I was eagerly anticipating the Macworld Keynote to see what Steve was going to announce. I had put my purchases on hold in case he announced something new and I wanted to avoid having to kick myself for buying too early. Whilst previous keynotes have had me pretty excited I was slightly underwhelmed by this year's.

First off, there weren't any surprises, pretty much everything had been pegged by various rumour sites and pundits - even if the mock up shots of the ultra portable machine had been way off.

Secondly, and probably most significantly, there wasn't too much that really floated my boat. Of course the new MacBook Air is cool (who am I to dispute that?) but it's not a device that would do anything for me.

Of course the iPod Touch software was of interest but having to pay for it? Accounting issues apparently - who are they trying to kid?

Movie rentals is a great idea but who knows when us poor relations in the UK will see it - after all we still only have a pretty paltry collection of TV Shows to buy and no movies at all! And we don't seem to have benefited from the AppleTV price drop (given the lack of content for it here I would have thought that might have been worth doing?)

Time capsule might have been interesting if I had Leopard (sorry still on Tiger) and my Mac Mini had 802.11n. (That reminds me is Apple being a little inconsistent with their line up? The Mac Mini has no 802.11n but does have gigabit ethernet and the AppleTV has 802.11n but no gigabit ethernet - you explain it!)

At least I know that I can go off any buy the next stages of my media infrastructure in the safe knowledge that there's nothing new coming out for at least another couple of months (or until 5 minutes after I've bought something!)

Saturday, 12 January 2008


I've just finished Blink by Malcolm Gladwell sub-titled The Power of Thinking without Thinking. It's a fascinating exploration of thin slicing, first impressions and snap judgements and really got me thinking. Using a series of real examples the author looks at the power of the subconscious mind to reach a conclusion in a fraction of the time the conscious mind would take. He also examines what external factors can influence those conclusions.

Not only does it make you think about the pure power of the human mind to process data but it also gives you pause when you consider the various ways in which that process can be manipulated.

It's a fascinating read.

iPod Content

Having had a chance to play with the iPod for a couple of weeks now I'm still really impressed. Of course it would be nice if it had a To Do list function and obviously web apps are limited to WiFi hot spots but in terms of the core functionality it works very well. So what have I been doing for content?

Obviously the interface between iTune and the iPod is the main reason most people (me included) plump for an iPod over over portable media players. I've got the iPod syncing with my Mac Mini media centre which has our music library on it. I'm also a big fan of various podcasts (you can see some of them in the links section on the right of the blog) and I have those syncing too. The podcasts I follow are both audio and video and the latter work really well on the Touch's display (although I've had to swap from the highest quality version of GeekBrief as it wouldn't sync). I can heartily recommend all the shows from Channel Flip which has a nice balance of three shows all with excellent presenters and interesting content.

I've already mentioned streaming shows from eyeTV to the iPod over WiFi; however, whilst great in the house it is somewhat limited when I'm out and about. Fortunately eyeTV allows you to automatically export recordings to iPod format and imports them into iTunes after the recording finishes. It's great to come down in the morning, sync the iPod and get the recorded shows from the previous night to watch on the train. The picture quality is very good too.

For other audio sources I was wondering about audio books but hesitated to take the plunge and buy some until I'd worked out whether it was something I'd be keen on. Fortunately I found which offers free audiobooks and audio dramas for download including via an iTunes subscription. They have a pretty broad selection of material too.

Friday, 11 January 2008

The Red Star

I managed to pick up a copy of the collected edition of The Red Star from eBay last week. A friend of mine introduced me to the series and was kind enough to point out the item when it was listed.

If you haven't come across The Red Star it's a comic book series set in an alternate reality with parallels to our own. The story clearly draws from history and folklore. It presents a United Republics of the Red Star which is clearly based on Russia/Soviet Union but adds alternative technology and magic to the mix creating a mythic feel.

The main story follows the war between the URRS and Al'istaan which is told in retrospective by a Warkaster (sorceress) whose husband is killed. The story clearly draws on the Soviet conflict in Afghanistan for it's initial inspiration but moves beyond the mundane with some truly inspired imagery of mile long skyfurnaces (flying warships), militarised magic, technology and mythical entities.

The visuals are fantastic and the story involving. If you get a chance I'd recommend checking it out.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

XtremeMac Verona Flip iPod Case

I wasn't entirely happy with the pdo TopSkin case for my iPod Touch so I looked around for something a little more robust. I hit upon the Verona Flip case from XtremeMac. It's much sturdier than the TopSkin but considerably bulkier; however, it does provide more protection for the device and it can be set up to act as a stand for watching video (something that is a real boon on my commute). Obviously it's more expensive than the TopSkin and the leather section around the face can interfere with easy typing but overall it fits my needs best of all the ones I looked at.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Happy New Year!

So it's the first day of 2008 (how scary is that?) and it's a chance to start over. I know New Year resolutions are usually a bit of a joke but this year I intend to make a few changes. For starters, I intend to de-clutter and get a bit more organised (BTW if you're interested check out for a few tips).

So let me wish you a happy and prosperous 2008!