Friday, October 29, 2004

Jonathan Ive / Apple Design

Jonathan Ive PhotoIf you're curious as to who's behind a lot of the current industrial designs (hardware) at Apple, then you'll want to check out this interview.

From the iMac, to the G4 Cube, to the iPod, and PowerBook, Ive's efforts combined with those of the Apple Design Team have provided us with some of the sleekest, and sexiest Apple products yet. His use of color cases in the iMacs and iBooks drew in the creative crowd; and his absence of it in the G5 and current PowerBook lines, keeps the products looking clean, appealing to professionals.

For his efforts, and in addition to the numerous awards he's already received, Jonathan Ive was chosen as the 2003 winner of Design Museum's Inaugural Designer of the Year award.

Star Wars Episode III Teaser Poster

Star Wars Episode 3 Revenge of the Sith Teaser Poster Image As is the case with Teaser Trailers, which get the audience excited for an upcoming film, Teaser Posters are also meant to do the same thing; bring a wandering eye over to the poster to generate interest in the movie. Often different in style and composition from Release Posters, the Teaser versions give us a chance to get a first look at the tone of the film.

The Star Wars and Indiana Jones sagas have always provided the movie-going public with interesting Teaser material. Like the unmasking of Darth Vader in Return Of The Jedi, the Teaser Poster for Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith has been revealed on the official Star Wars site.

As a whisp of dark smoke or an ominous cloud could, Anakin Skywalker's billowing cape suggests the helmet of The Dark Lord of The Sith he is to become. The poster is similar in tone to the Episode I Teaser Poster which showed a young Anakin Skywalker's shadow as the form of Darth Vader.

Halloween Star Wars Style

Star Wars Return of the Jedi Admiral Ackbar Halloween Mask ImageHere's an early Halloween 'treat' for all you Star Wars fans. In 1983, Random House Publishing produced The Star Wars Book of Masks. If you grew up with these films as I did, then you probably remember this book well. Amazing how when we were kids, it didn't take more than simple paper products like these to keep us entertained. And who can forget those great plastic costumes that provided a more 'immersive' feel to the Star Wars characters? Today, you're likely to see fully-robed Jedi, complete with replica Lightsabers, using 'The Force' to get their goodies!

Star Wars Kids keeps up the great work by featuring yet another cool little update. If you're looking for a last-minute Halloween costume for the young ones, or even want a nostalgic mask for yourself - the kid at heart, Check out Trick or Treat Star Wars Style for printable color masks of Original Trilogy characters. Featuring such memorable heroes and villains as: Rebel Leader Princess Leia, faithful Chewbacca, talkative C-3PO, lovable Wicket the Ewok, menacing Darth Vader, ancient Jedi Master Yoda, a Gamorrean Guard, Bib Fortuna, and the ever-cool Mon Calamarian, Admiral Ackbar. Remember kids: get your parents help on these! Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Apple - iPod Photo

iPod Photo Image
When MP3 players started appearing on the market, I looked at many and didn't find one that met all the requirements I had in mind. If Apple made one, I knew they would do it right. It's been 3 years since the introduction of the Apple iPod and if you've got one, you know how wonderful they are. My wife purchased one for me as a Christmas gift and I've used it almost every day. It feels great to hang on to, not awkwardly shaped like others. It possesses a clean interface - reminiscent of Apple's early Mac experience, and most importantly, it holds A LOT of songs.

I'm on my third one now, and though the iPod isn't perfect (darn close though), any flaws they've had have been addressed promptly and Apple has only kept making it better. Along with the U2 Special Edition iPod, today Apple introduced the iPod Photo. For those who can afford to purchase the color iPod, you'll not only have a great portable digital jukebox, but also a vivid portable digital photo album. Canadians can drool here.

Amazon.com purchase link (shipped to US only):
Buy an iPod Photo
Buy an iPod or iPod Mini

Apple - iPod U2 Special Edition

U2 Special Edition iPod Image
It's a 'beautiful day' for Apple and U2 junkies! Today Apple released the U2 Special Edition iPod. Americans can check it out here.

Apple also announced that the iTunes Music Store will be open for business to Canadians in November and that a version for European Union members launches today.

If you're not a U2 fan, but you're looking for a more colorful iPod, a company called ColorWare has been offering a service in which they will paint your iPod from a pre-chosen list of unique colors. They also offer custom coloring and can paint PowerBooks, iBooks, and other laptops. The quality of their work looks fantastic!

Amazon.com purchase link (shipped to US only):
Buy an iPod U2 Special Edition
Buy an iPod or iPod Mini

Star Wars Trilogy: The Changes

Ken pointed me to a great link with visual and audio comparisons of changes to the Star Wars Trilogy. From the standard Widescreen VHS versions to the Special Editions and recent DVD releases, the list is pretty comprehensive. What DVDAnswers did miss, readers note other changes in the comments sections.

I tend to agree with most of the comparison thoughts, although I do think the new Jabba in the DVD version of A New Hope is closer to the Jabba in the Return Of The Jedi. The Hutt may appear more plastic-like, but his overall look, as evidenced by his facial features and body shape, is closer - even if he is a bit younger.

The site is also experiencing heavy traffic and there's a lot of images, so be patient.
Star Wars: The Changes - Part One - A New Hope
Star Wars: The Changes - Part Two - The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars: The Changes - Part Three - Return Of The Jedi

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Restoring A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Star Wars A New Hope Screenshot - R2-D2 and C-3PO land on Tatooine
Now that the wait is over for the most requested DVDs by fans, movie buffs, and consumers, Apple.com has posted an article about Lowry Digital Images and the restoration of The Star Wars Trilogy for DVD. Using an astonishing 600 Power Mac G5 computers, 378 terabytes of storage, and 3 months of work, the films were given more than a fresh coat of digital paint. Lowry's efforts must be seen to be believed. Of all the versions of The Star Wars Trilogy I own, these are the absolute sharpest looking versions yet. Check out the article here. Also be sure to take a look at the QuickTime VR movie of the computing horsepower used to restore a galaxy far, far away.

More from Lowry on the Star Wars restoration can be found here at BBC News / Click Online.

With about 35,000 frames of scratches to correct due to the age of the films, The Indiana Jones Trilogy also required an enormous amount of cleansing in order to provide the best presentation on DVD. Read more here.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

The Return Of The King: Kong

KongisKing.net Screenshot - Includes Headshot of King KongKing Kong is among my top favorite films. It still provides me with inspiration today as it has done for so many other filmmakers, animators, and paleontologists. Before Peter Jackson directed the spectacular Lord Of The Rings trilogy, he was attempting a remake of King Kong. He even had some incredible sculptures produced to help sell the movie with Kong battling a few Tyrannosaurs. The studios weren't ready to produce the film yet, so he moved on to the Tolkien epic. The rest is history.

With the success of the Lord Of The Rings films, Peter has now been able to revisit his King Kong concept and get back into making it happen. If you want to follow the production you can visit KongIsKing.net and keep track of the giant ape.

Like TheOneRing.net and LordOfTheRings.net, where periodic updates were provided on the production, Peter Jackson provides video updates every few days in the form of Peter Jackson's Production Diary for 'King Kong'- currently on Day 33. It helps provide a little more insight into filmmaking in New Zealand from PJ and crew.

I'm anxious to see what he does with Skull Island and the dinosaurs!
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Amazon.com purchase links:


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Amazon.ca purchase links:

Boston Red Sox Make History

So a baseball team with a $128 Million US payroll beat one with a $186 Million US bankroll. What a swell planet. :-( At least they broke an 86-year-old 'curse.'

CNN.com - Boston Red Sox make history - Oct 21, 2004

Secret City Thrives Beneath Paris

An underground metropolis complete with its own 'Police Chief in charge of Subterranean Paris.' Sounds like a perfect setting for a movie.

MSNBC - A secret city thrives beneath Paris

Keep Music Coming Campaign

I'm on a big Jazz music kick lately. I've been rediscovering a bunch of good Swing material but I'm also enjoying the sultry, lounge type of stuff that keeps you in a relaxing, stress-free mood. Last week I purchased the new Norah Jones album 'Feels Like Home'. Her music continues to showcase her wonderful talent and soothing voice. Always inviting, 'Come Away With Me' and 'Feels Like Home' have both been receiving quite a bit of play on my Mac, iPod, and CD player.

When I opened the CD I discovered something surprising instead of what is usually a throwaway ad or catalog of music - a small green paper with the following words:

"THANK YOU!" On behalf of the creators of this recording, we thank you for making this investment and hope you enjoy this music for years to come!"

"Your decision to buy this recording is appreciated by more than 40,000 Canadians who work hard producing and supporting music. Many people - including ARTISTS, writers, musicians, producers, and engineers were involved in the creation of this recording. Music creators are supported by retailers and music distributors, music publishers, manufacturing, record companies, video producers, promoters, and concert touring groups - ALL have a passion for music and a desire to continue to create and deliver the music that you'll want to hear and love tomorrow...Thanks again!"

"keepmusiccoming.com"

I don't know if these notes are included in American CD's as well or if they're relegated to record labels like EMI, but I say 'keep it coming.' It's less harsh than the 'stop stealing music' stance and various litigations that seem to abound in the news. I consider this approach to be rather respectful and applaud the record companies for choosing this method.

Of course I've heard Jones' albums before I bought them, so I was making an informed purchase. This wasn't a case of buying an album because you've enjoyed a musician's previous release only to find you like one or two songs on the new CD. And that's where part of the frustration on the consumer's part comes in.

Prices are another irritation. When a CD is priced above $15 Canadian, it's tough for many to pay more than that if you happen to only like a few songs. In turn, many resort to downloading music which, for the moment, is considered legal in Canada. This is due to a court decision and the levy that is tacked onto the purchase of blank media including CD-R's, DVD-R's, MP3 players, and tapes.

There are a few benefits to downloading music. One can find almost any song on many peer-to-peer networks, including whole albums, bootleg recordings, and rarities. For many, it's also free - aside from your Internet Service Provider charges. All you basically need is an Internet connection and enough hard drive space to store the music. If you're online chatting with a friend, and you want them to hear a song you're enjoying, you can send them a relatively small MP3 file rather than transfer a large-sized AIFF file - the standard used on Audio CD's. Certainly online file transferring is more immediate than having to wait and personally give them the CD. For undiscovered or developing musicians, online music file posting is a way to expose more listeners to their music, when they have yet to be given a chance by a production label. For established musicians, it's a little more money in their pocket directly rather than a record company - who may not be giving the artists the marketing or support they feel they deserve.

There's also a few drawbacks to downloading music - most of which can be overcome if you're knowledgeable about the technology and process. If you don't own an iPod or other Portable Music Player, you're stuck with the music files on the computer unless you know how to convert the files for a CD to play on a standard CD player. Although, this too is becoming much easier and many are using their computers as 'digital jukeboxes'. Another negative is that sometimes you may receive corrupt files that won't play properly. Still other times, the song won't even be the one you wanted, having been mislabeled. And if you're a fan of the artwork and having something tangible, then you probably won't receive those.

Companies like Apple are making it easier for people to legally download music in the US and UK with the iTunes Music Store. You can purchase individual songs, or whole albums for very reasonable prices. You'll often receive artwork to go with it, should you want to print the cover and have a hard copy of your music. Apple (and others) are able to do all of this because they have incorporated FairPlay Digital Rights Management into their system. As the downloader from the iTunes Music Store, you must authorize your computer to allow it to play the purchased music. The songs aren't transferable to somebody else's computer unless they have been allowed to play on those computers and even then, only up to a certain numbers of computers. Hackers have found ways to bypass these and other copyright technologies but Apple seems to have a pretty good model that others are trying to follow and music lovers are willing to pay for.

I've purchased a large amount of CD's in the past, many of them soundtracks costing over $15 and I still like to have originals over copies, so I'll continue to buy CD's that I'll enjoy - as long as they're reasonably priced. I know it takes money to produce works of art, and the musicians - like the rest of us in creative fields - earn their living by creating and getting paid. They don't get paid for illegal downloads. But if the prices of CDs skyrocket again, more purchasers will turn right back to downloading. To also keep us purchasing hard copies of the music, the CD must also have the ability to be 'ripped' or digitized and placed on my computer and iPod without problems. If there is some kind of copyright technology that won't allow me the right to choose how I want to play the music, it will go right back to the store. I know others who have returned CDs for that very reason and the record companies have subsequently lost another sale.

As legal music downloading grows and more incentives to purchase music online are introduced, a greater number of people will make the switch. However, many listeners will still want 'something tangible' to hold and so there will always be CD (or other media) sales of some kind - whether it is pre-recorded or recordable. As consumers we'll still purchase music - online or in CD form as long as we're being respected as both a listener and a purchaser. If we're treated or made to feel like criminals by corporate bullies, record sales will drop again and it will only ending up further hurting the recording industry.

For the record: I had no problem ripping both Norah Jones albums onto my Mac.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Giant Sunfish

Thanks to Dean for these links. I bet you didn't know Sunfish could grow this large!

Monster washes up near Farewell Spit
More photos of an Ocean Sunfish

Korean Dinosaur Discovery

More Dinosaur news for you. Like some that once roamed Alberta, the remains are believed to be that of a Hadrosaur and possibly even a new species.

Dinosaur Remains Found In Korea

Arctic Dinosaur Fossils

That's right. Dinosaurs were in the Canadian High Arctic.

CBC News: Dinosaur fossils shows Arctic's Jurassic age

The original press release can be found here. There's also a link in the press release with more about the discoverer, Hans Larsson.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Apple - iTunes - U2 Vertigo

Screenshot of Bono from U2 in Apple iTunes AdThe new U2 song 'Vertigo' from the upcoming album 'How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb' can be heard (or seen) here.

If you've got iTunes for your Mac or PC, you'll be able to watch a 2-minute video of the song - in the iTunes/iPod style of things. Also, if you live the US or UK, or have a US or UK billing address, then you can download the new single from the iTunes Music Store. The rest of the album will likely be available in November.

Some people are calling U2 'sellouts' for doing this with Apple, but U2 frontman Bono has always had a thing for technology. He's been a champion of Apple products for many years and you've probably seen him in Apple Trade Show videos or on television speaking enthusiastically about iTunes, iPods, or PowerBooks. And if you've witnessed a U2 tour like Zooropa, you know he's no stranger to using technology.

One of the driving factors as to why 'Vertigo' is available through the iTunes Music Store is because of a 'music leak' that occurred a few months ago. While doing a cover photo shoot for the forthcoming album, the best-selling music group had a copy of the new record playing in a nearby CD player. After the shoot, the band found the CD had disappeared. Whether it was stolen or simply forgotten remains a mystery, but the band was noticeably upset. In an effort to thwart illegal downloads on file sharing and peer-to-peer networks, U2 - and probably their record company - decided to partner with Apple and get the song up on the iTunes Music Store.

There's also more news today that Apple and U2 will team up to possibly provide the new album preloaded on new iPods.

luxo - A blog dedicated to Pixar Animation Studios

Screenshot of Pixar Animation Studio Movie Posters from Pixar Website
If you're as amped about The Incredibles as I am, then you're probably a loyal Pixar fanatic. The upcoming film from Director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant) will hopefully continue Pixar's reign as the undisputed champion of animated storytelling. And if you're also craving your fix of Pixar information, then you'll most definitely want to make Luxo a daily visit on your website rounds. Updated frequently, there is no other one-stop source for all things Pixar-related.

luxo - A blog dedicated to Pixar Animation Studios

Update: I'd like to let readers know that I've been asked to collaborate on the blog with my good friend Ken Bautista. Even though I thought about doing a Pixar tribute website a few years ago, my time has been spent on other projects. I'm glad Ken picked up the ball, ran with it, and scored a touchdown with a truly great blog! I'm honored to have been asked to be a part of it and look forward to bringing excited Pixar stories to all of you.

Temptress of A Thousand Faces: EIFF

Temptress of a Thousand Faces Screenshot
We've been having some nasty weather here the last few days, but if you're looking for something to do in Edmonton on October 19 and you'd like to see an inspiration for Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, then take in one of the films on the last day of the 2004 Edmonton International Film Festival. With 'Temptress' you'll see a fun martial arts film and show your support for Edmonton's Film Community.

Temptress of A Thousand Faces: Edmonton International Film Festival

Monday, October 18, 2004

The Archaeology of Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark Screenshot - Indiana Jones silhouetted against the sun at the Well of Souls
If you have a passion for movies, ancient cultures, and 'rare antiquities', then like myself, there's a good chance you're a fan of Indiana Jones.

As was the case with Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man, Indy was a hero I would pretend to be as a young boy - grabbing a pocket-filled jacket, my mom's old handbag, some adventurous-looking boots, and an old rope for a whip - and set off on quests to lost jungle temples and Egyptian tombs, hoping to find the next big archaeological wonder. In reality, the 'temples' and 'tombs' were only my basement, or the local forest, but my imagination knew no boundaries. Only when supper time came, would I have to relinquish my imaginary adventures to the reality of nourishment provided by mom and dad.

What some of you daring readers may not know, is that much of the Indiana Jones lore is rooted in reality. Creator George Lucas, Director Steven Spielberg, and writer Lawrence Kasdan, would combine stories of ancient civilizations, mythology, and their own adventures and nightmares, and bring Dr. Henry 'Indiana' Jones, Jr. to the silver screen.

Through my continuing career as a creative specialist, I have had the good fortune to meet real-life adventurers. From palaeontologists like Dr. Philip Currie and Dr. Michael J. Ryan - who have discovered new Dinosaur species in the infinite southern Badlands of Alberta and remoteness of Argentina, to Dr. David West Reynolds, an archaeologist who turned his love of science and movies into a career as a scientific consultant for Lucasfilm and recently as Director of The Phaeton Group, a multi-disciplinary team of individuals dedicated to bringing field science, history, and exploration to a wider audience.

With their careers, both Dr. Ryan and Dr. Reynolds have had opportunities to travel to foreign countries, unearthing new dinosaurs or excavating lost cities. They've also helped discover lost filming locations of both the Star Wars and Indiana Jones film sagas, long before the many tours that exist now. Had it not been for the dedication to their work and love of the films, it would probably have been a while, before these locations were rediscovered.

What makes all this relevant, is that with their scientific backgrounds and international travel, they are able to compare reality to fiction and make that knowledge available to us, the fans of Indiana Jones and Star Wars. Many of us will never have the chance to see a real dinosaur dig, or the interior of an Egyptian tomb, so we can only rely on the information in books and the Internet, and the images in movies and television.

In Dr. Reynolds' latest series of writings for IndyGear.com, we get to discover a little more of what grounds the Indiana Jones stories in reality and where some of the locations in the films - or inspirations for them - can be seen. In 2000, I was able to visit the island of Kauai, Hawaii with my wife, and armed with local maps and The Kaua'i Movie Book, we were able to track down locations of some of our favorite films including Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park. It was like being that young boy again, venturing through the 'jungles' looking for the Golden Fertility Idol seen at the beginning of Raiders. I can only imagine how much more fun we would have had in Kaua'i with somebody like David West Reynolds, helping us discover the filming locations and painting a more detailed picture about the reality behind the mythology of Indiana Jones.

Head on over to IndyGear with the link below!

IndyGear.com Presents David West Reynolds' The Archaeology of Indiana Jones

Friday, October 15, 2004

In Memory of Christopher Reeve - Political Cartoons

Some touching political cartoons about the death of a 'super' man.

Christopher Reeve

Note: Some of the numbered page links appear to be incorrect. To see the rest of the images, change the number before the ".asp" in the website URL to the page you wish to view.

The Death of a Superman

Christopher Reeve as Superman Photo - Superman in the BadlandsThis isn't the death of the Superman in the DC comic books or Warner Brothers movies, killed by villians, only to come back to life stronger than before. Christopher Reeve won't be coming back. There is no real Fortress of Solitude for him to regain his strength. But he's left a legacy that will hopefully endure, long after people remember that 'he was in a few Superman movies'.

I've had the 2-CD Superman score by John Williams playing the last couple of hours. I'm sad to hear about the passing of Chris but I'm smiling at moments of the film, playing over in my head. From the few notes in 'Leaving Home' that remind me of when Clark finds a remnant shard of Krypton in the Kent family barn to the rousing theme when Clark rescues Lois and the falling helicopter in 'The Big Rescue'. I'm getting chills up my spine just listening to the soundtrack again.

There are few DVD box sets that I will pick up the day they come out. The Superman Collection was one I didn't hesitate with. Sure the other 3 aren't up to the standard of the first one, but it's magic to see Superman in film, translated from static comic book imagery to gravity-defying motion. From Christopher Reeve's nearly flawless role as The Man of Steel to John Williams uplifting and adventurous score, Superman: The Movie is a film that should be remembered for the way it propelled our imaginations and made us all want to be superheroes. How many of us came out of the theater flying? Or put on a Superman shirt or bedsheet at home and pretended to save Lois Lane and the citizens of Metropolis? Christopher Reeve got to live that dream. It has been suggested by many that Superman: The Movie is the epitome of Comic Book Films, and others pale in comparison. Bryan Singer, Director of X-Men, and X2: X-Men United acknowledges that the Richard Donner Superman film was a big influence. If we had a DVD Commentary in the film, we could only imagine how Mr. Reeve would look back on his role now and wish to fly again. He certainly made me 'believe a man can fly.'

Superman wasn't just an American hero. He had some Canadian connections. From the earlier influences of one of his creators, Joe Shuster, to the filming locations in the movies themselves. I cannot drive through Southern Alberta without thinking of the Superman production filming there. Wondering if the cast and crew realized what magic they were creating. Seeing the wheatfields that stood in for Kansas, the town that stood in for Smallville, or Calgary, which doubled as Metropolis. And the Badlands where Lois was rescued from the Earthquake. It makes me wonder if we'll ever see another Superman inspire others as Reeve's portrayal inspired us. Just passing through a montonous, but beautiful prairie conjures images of a young Clark Kent discovering his new abilities.

Others have said it, and I have to agree - Christopher Reeve was a Superman in more ways than one. He was not an alien to our planet like Kal-El, but human like the rest of us. He wasn't impervious to pain and he was just as succeptible to injuries as any. It was reported that he fell into a depression after his accident and questioned life itself, but he rebounded with new found strength - like Superman ridding himself of the crippling Kryptonite - and began to fight new battles. To increase awareness of the disabled, to educate on stem cell research - dispelling the myths, and to mark a return to acting, magically playing a small guiding role to Clark Kent in TV's Smallville. The episode itself featuring a few nods to his character in the film.

Living up to the character he played was probably a difficult situation for Chris. As an actor, it's just another role, a job perhaps, but having played the character during a time when movies were the most important part of any of our lives, he portrayed a hero who did what he could for others, forsaking his own history - and even powers - in the process. Reeve probably knew, like others, that he might be labeled with the role of Superman for life, but he couldn't have chosen a better one to be associated with. He'll leave a few legacies with us though. Not only as Superman, the role we best know him for, but also his family who will carry on his legacy, and The Christopher Reeve Foundation. If his untimely death helps in one way, it will be the publicity for his causes and the Foundation itself, and the good it will do for others with disabilities.

I'm hoping Warner Brothers takes the opportunity with the new Superman feature film and dedicates it to Reeves. Or at least an 'In Memory Of' tag at the end of the film. Bryan Singer can do this with class, and it would be another fitting tribute to the one who will always be 'Clark Kent' and 'Superman:The Man of Steel'.

May he be flying again among the clouds and stars. He'll be missed by all.

The Christopher Reeve Foundation