Monday, November 29, 2004

The Complete U2 - A Review

Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm a big U2 fan. And that I'm a big Apple Computer fan. So the combination of the two lately has been pretty exciting. But I was a little suspicious about The Complete U2, since it was advertised as having more than 400 songs - 25 of which would be rare and unreleased tracks. *Only* 25?

I've been collecting U2 singles since I first got ahold of the One single, which had three excellent b-sides. Believe me, I've checked the U2 bin at every single music store I've ever visited. It is not easy to find them all, and many are only available on vinyl. So I was happy to see that not only are all the U2 singles included in this set, but also the original cover art of each one.

Of course, songs that were released as singles are also included on their respective albums, and on one of the two greatest hits albums. So almost every song that was released as a single is duplicated three times in the collection.

A unique part of this collection is the included digital booklet. It's a PDF file that appears as a track in iTunes and opens in your default PDF-viewing application when double-clicked. It includes liner notes on all of U2's albums by Bill Flanagan and commentary by The Edge on the unreleased tracks.

The unreleased tracks are from the recording sessions for All That You Can't Leave Behind and How To Disable An Atomic Bomb, including alternate (and sometimes superior) versions of songs from the latter album. There are also three early demo tracks from 1978.

There are also three complete live shows included:a March 1981 club show in Boston; the final Love Town concert in Dublin on Dec. 31, 1989, before they went away and "dream(ed) it all up again;" and a Popmart concert from Mexico City in December 1997. The latter show was released as a fan-club-only CD, but the first two have never been officially released. Bootlegs of those shows are considered great.

I've had difficulty locating the other fan club CD – Melon – which is composed entirely of Achtung Baby and Zooropa remixes. It is included in the collection ... mostly. The liner notes mention that it contained 9 remixes, yet only 7 tracks are included. There are a number of inconsistencies like that: two of the remixes listed in the Unreleased & Rare section were actually released a few years ago on The Best of 1990-2000's B-Sides disc; the Perfecto mix of Lemon appears twice but is only two minutes long (the original song is nearly six minutes); a live version of New York is said to have been performed in 1997, even though the song didn't exist until 2000.

And every single track is dated 2004. That's a problem with the iTunes Music Store in general - albums are dated by their latest release (or addition to the store) rather than their original release date. I don't mind hand-editing ID3 tags, but 446 tracks is a lot of work.

Although the collection is very large, it is not 100% complete. But I noticed that most of the missing tracks are covers: Dancing Barefoot, Don't Take Your Guns To Town, Everlasting Love, Fortunate Son, Happiness Is A Warm Gun, Neon Lights, Night And Day, Paint It Black, Pop Muzik, Satellite Of Love, and Unchained Melody. I imagine there are legal issues involved, but it's certainly disappointing because some of them are really great recordings (some really aren't) and I don't have a couple.

It also would have been great if the songs from the Rattle and Hum film that couldn't fit on the original album were included. The film version of "Sunday Bloody Sunday," performed after the 1987 Eniskillin bombing, is considered one of their greatest live performances ("#&^$ the Revolution!").

All in all, "The Complete U2" is not 100 percent complete. But it's a massive and far-reaching collection, nonetheless. It's difficult and expensive to find all of the b-sides and remixes since some exist only on vinyl and some are only on European imports which tend to cost $10 for approximately two songs.

I was happily surprised to find that most of the tracks can be purchased individually for $0.99 a piece, so if you don't want to spend $150 for the 400+ collection, you can pick and choose your favorites.

It's only worth the full price if you can count up at least 150 or more tracks in the collection that you don't have (this can now be easily done with iTunes 4.7 by dragging the songs from the Music Store into a playlist). Of course, if you've bought the Special Edition U2 iPod, you've got a $50 instant rebate, so it only took 100 songs to make it worth my while. ;)

I'll try and post an iMix of my favorite U2 b-sides at the iTMS soon. And, of course, I'll post a review of the new album. It's been a good week for this U2 fan.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

When I was looking for an old publicity photo of Alan Rickman as Snape (for this post), I came across the Teaser One-Sheet for July 2005's "Charlie Chocolate & The Chocolate Factory." Although it's now up on the official Web site, I haven't seen it in any theaters yet, so I thought you all might enjoy it and this brief, official synopsis:

    Acclaimed director Tim Burton brings his vividly imaginative style to the beloved Roald Dahl classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, about eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp) and Charlie, a good-hearted boy from a poor family who lives in the shadow of Wonka's extraordinary factory. Long isolated from his own family, Wonka launches a worldwide contest to select an heir to his candy empire. Five lucky children, including Charlie, draw golden tickets from Wonka chocolate bars and win a guided tour of the legendary candy-making facility that no outsider has seen in 15 years. Dazzled by one amazing sight after another, Charlie is drawn into Wonka's fantastic world in this astonishing and enduring story.

I liked Burton's Planet of the Apes "re-imagining" more than most, but still consider the original film superior. However, as a fan of Roald Dahl's book, I found the original Charlie & The Chocolate Factory film disappointing (Gene Wilder's performance notwithstanding). So I'm looking forward to seeing what will surely be an improvement.

e-Column #106

Refine your searches with these tips
Search engines have been essential tools for finding information on the World Wide Web since its earliest days. And although search engine usage is at its highest rate ever, not everyone has learned the tricks to performing great searches.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

On the weekend before Halloween, The Haggin Museum was host to An Evening At "Haggwarts" – its inaugural Harry Potter-themed event. Despite my adding the extra 'g' and putting it in quotes, many people still complained that Hogwarts was misspelled. Sigh.

I ran the potions bar as Prof. Severus Snape, who is deliciously played in the films by the talented Alan Rickman. I had a lot of fun being even more snarky and bitter than normal and scaring young children (no tears, though). And it may have been the first time I wasn't pale enough for the part.

In October, Megan and I visited the Museum of Pez Memorabilia in Burlingame, since it's only about 90 miles away from Stockton.

It's a very small museum, but Pez dispensers don't need a lot of space. Besides telling the interesting history of Pez, there are many unique dispensers on display as well as other antique/collectible Pez-related merchandise. There are even some plaques built for classic Star Wars characters dispensers that have been signed by the actors (Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse).

One of the more interesting aspects is that there are a number of Pez dispensers made every year in other countries that are not sold in the United States. Hello Kitty and Mr. Bean are Japanese- and British-only, despite having made a name for themselves in America. But even The Lion King and Shrek & Friends are European imports that are not available in the States. What's with the licensing issues, there?

Earlier this year they added a Classic Toy Museum, which is also small (shares the space, actually) but is still a lot of fun and informative. I didn't realize Mr. Potato Head had a number of other vegetable friends, including an onion, cucumber and sweet potato.

One of the old View-Masters on display there (circa the 1940s, I think) is also on display at the Nov. 28-Jan. 16 "Toys & Games: 1880-1980" exhibition at The Haggin Museum.

Little Help?

Blogger (somewhat) recently added the NavBar that you see at the top of this page. I find the Search feature quite useful and imagine it could also be useful for visitors. Unfortunately, it hasn't been working for a little while. Searching for the word "eddie" gives the following error:

Your search - eddie - did not match any documents. 

No pages were found containing ""
It looks like there's a problem with the underlying code, since the actual URL of this site is but I have no idea how to fix that since the only control I seem to have over it is to turn it on or off. And a search of Blogger's Help section hasn't turned anything up. Anybody out there using Blogger's SiteSearch NavBar with success? Anyone know how to solve my problem?

macCompanion Oct.-Nov. 2004 reviews

Although I've had some reviews published by macCompanion in the last two issues, I haven't linked to them here because I was waiting for them to be posted on the macCompanion Web site. But apparently a Web editor has not been found to replace the last one that resigned (yet someone is still editing the reviews incorrectly). Thus, you can only read them by downloading the PDF editions. Here are links to the last two issues and the page numbers of my reviews.

October 2004 - 2.3MB PDF

  • iPod 2100mAh Replacement Battery – Page 60
  • Audio Hijack Pro 2.0 - Page 66
  • Data Backup 2.0 - Page 68

November 2004 - 2MB PDF
  • 1.8GHz G5 iMac 17-inch widescreen computer - Page 60

I'm Not Dead Yet!

If you visit this blog regularly, I'm sorry ... for not having updated it much since early October.

See, my former manager at The Sacramento Observer had a baby, so the paper's president asked me to keep updated while she's out on maternity leave.

I'm glad to be able to help out, but it does take up most of my evening. And seeing how I work at my full-time job at The Haggin Museum during the day, write my column for the East Oregonian on a bi-weekly basis, and write the occasional monthly review(s) for macCompanion, that leaves me very little time to blog, iChat, e-mail, or basically communicate at all with friends, family, pets, etc.

But that doesn't mean Megan and I haven't been trying to make the most of our weekends. So I've got plenty of backlogged items due to hit soon. Hopefully by the time you read this there will be one or two posts already above it.

Monday, November 15, 2004

e-Column #105

Firefox next browser to challenge Explorer's online dominance:
After Microsoft's Internet Explorer gained 95 percent share of the Web browser market against nearest competitor Netscape, the product stopped being updated. But now it faces a challenge from the newly-released 1.0 version of Firefox.