Monday, November 27, 2006

U218 ... the sellout arrives?

Throughout U2's career, charges of "selling out" have been leveled. Just about every album they released after 1984's The Unforgettable Fire has been called a sell-out by someone. And since concerts grow more expensive ever year, every succeeding tour they put on is followed by complaints that they're just trying to get rich, etc. I've never agreed with any of those previous charges because the albums and the tours always contained new music, regardless of your personal opinion of its greatness. And they've never cashed in on their past successes by re-releasing old albums in anniversary editions. They even resisted making a Greatest Hits album until 1998's The Best Of 1980-1990.

The Best Of 1980-1990 was a smart choice for two reasons: 1) Limiting the timeline of the songs meant that the album would stand alone and never need to be revised or re-released with any changes. 2) 'The Best Of' is different than 'Greatest Hits,' and it allowed them to include songs that were never really big hits but are certainly considered some of their best songs ("All I Want Is You," "The Unforgettable Fire," "I Will Follow").

Of course, most 'Best Of' albums include one or two new songs in order to give longtime fans more incentive to buy the album. Again, U2 took the clever route and re-recorded "Sweetest Thing," one of their b-sides from that time period, keeping the title almost entirely accurate. And making it even more compelling was a two-disc version with 15 b-sides from that time period. All in all, the two-disc set was great for hardcore U2 fans and the single disc was great for the more casual or cost-conscious. The only real problem was that a few notable tracks were left off ("Gloria," "40") and "Where The Streets Have No Name" was shortened by a minute. But a CD has a limited total length, so some compromises were necessary.

It was only natural, then, that in 2002 they released The Best Of 1990-2000. They matched the format and the design of the first Best Of. But there were some problems. The word 'best' is subjective, and unlike the first decade of their career, it is more difficult to definitively say which songs were the best of their second. Songs like "Elevation," "Walk On," "Lemon" and "The Fly" (a Number 1 in the UK) were left off in place of remixed versions of songs from Pop ("Staring At The Sun," "Gone" and "Discothéque"). And while the two new tracks were good, they weren't really from 1990-2000. (Ironically, although 1990 is covered on both albums, there are no songs from that year on either album.) And the b-sides disc focused more on remixes than original tracks.

So the announcement of U218 ("The definitive best of") this year was odd. They have only released one new album since The Best Of 1990-2000, so it can't cover much new ground. And they're already in the studio working on their next album, to be released in 2007, so it will quickly become non-definitive.

But it's not even "definitive" in the first place. states that U218 "is the first single disc collection to span the band’s career from Boy (1980) to How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb (2004)." Yet it doesn't actually have any songs from Boy, nor its followup, October (1981). The oldest tracks on it are from War (1983). So how can it span from 1980-2004? Imagine if you bought a book of the best Shakespeare quotes and the claim was that it had "his greatest iambic pentameter from Romeo and Juliet to Julius Caesar!" and it turned out not have anything from Romeo and Juliet? The claim is misleading at best and deceptive at worst.

The reality is that it is not a "definitive" Best Of but instead a Greatest U.S. Hits. Gone are "Even Better Than The Real Thing," "Bad" and everything from Zooropa and Pop. The 27 tracks from the previous discs are condensed down to 16 crowd-pleasers.

The benefit of U218 is that a casual U2 fan who wants U2's Greatest Hits can buy this one disc that intermingles all the songs instead of both the previous discs that are separated by time. But it's not 1998 anymore, and the abundance of computers and CD burners means that most anyone can burn their own single-disc Greatest Hits without the need to spend another $10-$14 on a CD with dubious choices. And if those people don't own many U2 albums, they can download the single tracks from the iTunes Store without spending much. So the importance of releasing a single-disc Greatest Hits is hardly necessary anymore.

Maybe the goal is just to sell this CD to casual U2 fans who don't have CD burners. I can accept and understand that; fine, I'm not the target market. But they want it both ways. They've included two new tracks on the album that any U2 completist would surely want to have in their collection. Hmmm, purchasing an entire album to get two songs? That's roughly $5 per song at the cheapest price. The simple answer would be to purchase those tracks separately from the iTunes Store, as Entertainment Weekly recommended. But apparently EW didn't bother to see if that was possible, because it's not. Those tracks aren't available for individual purchase and you must purchase the entire album. How quaint.

There's no good reason for this album's creation other than a quick, Christmas-time money grab. Shame on U2.

Here's my 'of length' article for this month.

10 Classic Features to ‘Bring Back’ to OS X

When Apple created Mac OS X, they didn’t build on the creaky foundation of the Classic Mac operating system. So when OS X was first released, there were a number of features that long-term Mac users considered missing. Over the course of four major upgrades, Apple added a number of those features to OS X and trumpeted their return: Spring-Loaded Folders, Labels, Desktop Printers, USB Printer Sharing, Software Base Station (Internet Sharing). However, there are still a number of features from Mac OS 9, 8 and even System 7 and 6 that deserve to be resurrected for OS X. Here are my Top 10 (in no particular order)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Soul Of A New Microsoft

The soul of the new Microsoft, though--its Geek 2.0--may just be J Allard, the vice-president for design and development at its Entertainment & Devices unit. Allard looks and acts nothing like the prototypical Microsofty. Over the years he's swapped his plaid shirt and khakis--something of a Microsoft uniform--for edgy jackets made by Mark Ecko and other designer wear. He loads up his nine iPods, and now his Zune, with songs from hardcore bands like A.R.E. Weapons. And he's a downhill mountain biking maniac who has broken several bones after flying off his bike.

A Wii Workout:
When Videogames Hurt

The Wall Street Journal

A videogame maker has finally succeeded in getting kids off the couch and moving around. But the new approach is turning out to be more exercise than some players bargained for.
Parents used to complain that kids playing videogames didn't get enough exercise. Will they now complain that they're getting too much?

The folks at JibJab put together a music video for "Weird Al" Yankovic's Taylor Hicks parody: Do I Creep You Out

Noah & Eddie's Podcast: Episode 6

Episode 6 of The Lame Show is now available.

Noah & Eddie discuss the new XBox Live Marketplace featuring movie & TV downloads. Eddie relates a conversation he overheard in San Francisco regarding the Zune and a possible video editor from Google. And the effectiveness and smugness of the 'I'm a PC, I'm a Mac' ads are debated.
In order to reduce the lag time of the conversations we'd had with Gene Steinberg, we didn't have any guests this week. Unfortunately, the lag persisted, so even though our total recording time was over an hour, once all the silence was cut out, the final show ended up at only 49 minutes -- our shortest ever!

Also different about this episode is that Noah's audio should sound a lot better due to a different method of recording. Unfortunately we were beset by all sorts of problems this time, and I had to "cheat" to get the final product out. If you can figure out what I did ... well, no one will probably figure it out, so I don't have to offer a prize....

Episode 6: Smug Joe Black (49:10)
The Lame Show on iTunes

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Edward Scissorhands the ... wordless musical

'Edward Scissorhands'This show made its North American premiere at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco on the same weekend that Megan and I visited for our seventh anniversary. We were able to attend the Sunday matinee performance and our tickets were half-price because it was considered the preview weekend.

It is a very interesting show that is hard to categorize. It's not a play, because there's no speaking. It's not a musical, because there's no singing. It's not really a ballet, either, because the dancing is modern. I agree very much with the following review in Variety, especially regarding the story changes (confusing and not really for the better) the music (good, but poor audio reproduction) and the visual effects (both impressive and amusing).

Edward Scissorhands - Reviews

"Edward Scissorhands" may be the first exported Matthew Bourne evening whose inspiration seems more commercial than re-interpretive. That may disappoint some dance fans, but this handsome stage translation of the 1990 Tim Burton movie is -- by virtue of the film's enduring appeal to a wide age range -- likely to reach a larger, more diverse audience on its North American tour than even Bourne's "Swan Lake" managed.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

New Photo Galleries

I was previously using Apple's .Mac service to create and host my online photo galleries. But since I didn't renew my .Mac account this September, I've been looking for a replacement. I've found Picasa, which was bought by Google a while ago. They offer 250MB of photo-hosting space, an iPhoto plug-in, auto-rss feeds, and customizable photo galleries that I've found generally easy to use. Oh, and it's free. So I've recreated a few galleries from my old HomePage (Alcatraz, Urinetown The Musical, Monterey) and added a couple of new galleries of recent photos:

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Return to Sacramento & Co.

Lisa Cooperman and I appeared again on Sacramento & Co. to promote The Haggin Museum's J.C. Leyendecker exhibition and Illustration & Book Arts Family Festival. Thanks to the EyeTV 250 I reviewed for macCompanion, I was able to create a QuickTime movie of our 6-1/2 minute segment.

November 6 - Illustration & Book Arts Family Festival (29.6MB)

On the subject of web sites not known for their accuracy... I found my name in Wikipedia recently. No, there's not a full-on bio page, just a reference in the following section:

Mac OS X v10.5 - Compatibility

While it is known that Leopard will support PowerPC G4 and PowerPC G5 processors, it is unknown whether Leopard will support the PowerPC G3 processor.

My first digg success

It's rare that I visit But after my post on regarding the insane iTunes spender, I thought I might head over, search around and see if anyone "dugg" it. To my complete surprise, it was on the home page. As of this writing, 10-1/2 hours after it was submitted, it has 1,237 diggs and 160 comments. Based on those comments, site was unavailable at some point today, presumably because of The Digg Effect.

A couple of other funny and/or interesting comments I read were:

  • The new attack on marriage is now iTunes and not gays.
  • Pirating saves marriages!
  • I think for that she should be allowed to keep the ring cause the guy is obviously a moron.
  • With the guy spending 8k a month on iTunes, I am surprised Steve Jobs hasn't proposed to him.
Of course, it just couldn't be submitted to digg without writing a new, less-factual headline: $8000 worth of iTunes songs per month costs…1 Fiancée; Wedding Called Off

The original information stated only that the fiancé "had charged more than 8,000 iTunes at 99 cents each," not that he had charged $8,000 worth of iTunes. If he purchased 8,050 iTunes songs (which meets the criteria of more than 8,000) it would actually only equal $7,969.50. He would've had to charge a minimum of 8,081 songs in order to rack up an $8,000 bill. It's quite possible that the digger's headline is true, but neither he nor I know that for certain. But headlines on digg submissions range from the slightly inaccurate to wildly untruthful, so this one wasn't too bad, just unnecessary.

Hopefully all this traffic will result in Dalton Ross getting more people reading his blog, since that's where this information came from in the first place.

$8000 worth of iTunes songs per month costs…1 Fiancée; Wedding Called Off
In looking at his last bill (for one month) he had charged more than 8,000 iTunes at 99 cents each and had charges at places that sell music and movies, too. This guy made $45,000 a year. Called off the wedding.

iTunes iMix: Best U2 B-Sides

In January 2005, I created an iMix on the iTunes Music Store of the Best U2 B-Sides (12 original U2 compositions likely overlooked by most). Apple has now made it possible to "publish to web" these iMixes, so I'm doing so here. Sadly, they have released no original b-sides in the 22 months since I made this list.

8,000 iTunes songs per month costs…1 fiancée

At the 2004 Macworld San Francisco keynote, while recounting the success of the iTunes Music Store since its inception nine months ago, Steve Jobs noted that the top spender on iTunes had spent $29,500.
When writing for TheAppleBlog, there are a number of categories you can file a post under (Reviews, Hardware, Tips) but I found it difficult to categorize this post.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sometimes mixing Star Wars with something wholly unrelated can be a good thing (see: Lego Star Wars The Videogame)

But sometimes it can be a very, very bad thing (see: The Star Wars Holiday Special ... actually, don't)

Cinemax recently aired all six Star Wars movies in HD and in story order (how butt-numbing would that be? And, NO, I don't know). To promote it, they created the following commercial. It's not as bad as the Holiday Special, but it's clearly no Lego Star Wars, either.

Gas Prices
Hank Shaw | Stockton Record Capitol Bureau Chief

OK, am I the only one out there who noticed gas prices went up on Election Day? Now I am normally not a conspiracy theorist, but I had been a little surprised at how low prices dropped during the leadup to the election ($2.17 was the lowest I saw) Now prices have jumped a dime per gallon in the 48 hours since the Democrats took Congress. Sure looks fishy to me...
Who couldn't help but notice how low (relatively-speaking, of course) gas prices got in the months just prior to the midterm election? Here in California, they reached a seven-month low in October. Something that everyone complained about for the last two years suddenly became a non-issue. Of course, I was prepared for them to rise again after the election because I read an article a couple of weeks ago that said they would. But according to Gas prices in Northern California sneaking up
"It's unclear why gas prices have inched upward when everything appeared to signal prices dropping at the pump," said Michael Geeser, AAA of Northern California spokesman.
Well, if it was a politically-motivated ploy, I don't think it worked.

Blake Timm '98 authors sports column

Blake Timm '98, authored his first sports column titled Sidelines in a June issue of the Forest Grove News-Times.

The Mac ReviewCast Episode 81
Host Tim Verpoorten had me on The Mac ReviewCast again to talk about my November 2006 macCompanion reviews of FastMac's Slimline SuperDrive Upgrade and equinux's CoverScout.

If you do not have an application that subscribes to podcasts (like iTunes 4.9 and higher), the easiest way to listen to the episode is to click the following link to download the mp3: MacReviewCast81.mp3 (1:00:41, 41.7MB)

New Site Dedicated To Ruined Songs

Bono, The Killers' Brandon Flowers and Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears reveal songs they can't stand to hear anymore

Like a lot of dot-com success stories, the idea for Ruined Music came over a casual lunch. Only, this was not businessmen or even buddies, but a couple discussing their relationship.

"We were talking about all the songs that we would not be able to listen to anymore if we were to break up," co-founder Mary Phillips-Sandy recalled. "Bryan [Bruchman, boyfriend and co-founder] is a musician. I love music. We made mixtapes for each other in the beginning. So there's a lot of music that we share and have shared as our relationship grew. And the list of songs that would be ruined would be a very long one."

The Tech Night Owl LIVE

If you listened to the end of Episode 5 of The Lame Show, you heard special guest Gene Steinberg invite Noah and I onto his Internet radio show - The Tech Night Owl LIVE.

The good news is that we were both able to do so. The bad news is that we had audio quality and delay issues that made it a difficult session. And when I was asked what things are lame, I somehow blanked. Regardless, it will air on tomorrow's episode.

The Tech Night Owl LIVE with Gene Steinberg
Thursday, 8:00-10:00 PM Central Time
(6:00-8:00 PM Pacific, 9:00-11:00 PM Eastern, and Friday at 0200 UTC)

This week Gene talks about the PlayStation 3, the Microsoft Zune player and lots of other stuff with Special Correspondent David Biedny in "The David Biedny Zone." You'll also hear from multimedia expert Jim Heid, author of "The Macintosh iLife '06." And, prepare to meet Eddie Hargreaves and Noah Brimhall, the outspoken hosts of a new and different Podcast, known as "The Lame Show."

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Noah & Eddie's Podcast: Episode 5

The fifth episode of The Lame Show is now available, and as you can see from the artwork we had a special guest: Gene Steinberg of The Tech Night Owl LIVE.

Gene visited to discuss Windows Vista, Internet Explorer 7 and Movie Downloads. He also gave us a variety of TV and movie picks, including a 'super' box set and a 'killer' TV show.

This show was recorded last Sunday, so if I seem surprised at week-old news, that's because it was breaking news at the time. This was actually a very difficult show for us because Noah was receiving the audio about four seconds behind Gene and I. I've edited all the gaps out, but if you think this episode doesn't have enough Noah in it, it's not his fault. Apparently his network packets were being detained at the border.

Episode 5: Kibitz with the Night Owl (55:47)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

macCompanion November 2006 reviews

The November 2006 issue of macCompanion is now online and it has two reviews written by me:

  • Slimline 8x Dual Layer SuperDrive Upgrade
    DVDs can hold six times as much data as a CD, but slow burning speeds mean it takes even longer to create them. FastMac's new internal slimline 8x Dual Layer SuperDrive upgrade enables users of Macs with slot-loading drives the ability to both burn DVDs faster and use the larger-capacity dual layer DVDs.
  • CoverScout 2.2
    Prior to iTunes 7, it was possible to add images to songs in your iTunes Music Library, it just wasn't easy. And equinux's CoverScout application helped make it easier. Now that automatically downloading missing album artwork is built into iTunes, equinux has had to make a few changes to CoverScout to keep it relevant and useful.