November, 2005

Why I Hate Music Download Sites #31

Some of these places just drive me mad. Earlier this year I got loads of free credit from Mycokemusic, the music download site. As a rule, I hate downloads. You’re effectively leasing rather than owning the music and with DRM it’s just a total pain.
However I accrued a bit of virtual money and got a couple of downloads – why not? Today I pick up last weekend’s Observer Music Magazine and fancy listening to Rapture Riders, the mix of Blondie’s Rapture and The Doors’ Riders on the Storm. A good way to use my credit surely?
Nope.
The site does list the single, and the four tracks on it. I can even listen to a thirty second clip of each track on the CD single. But I can neither stream nor download the full track! So why’s it even there? A complete waste of time.
No doubt it’s very downloadable from iTunes, but I’ve not got an iPod so would lose fidelity by burning it onto CD and then re-ripping it, and in any case I’ve got credit with another site. This isn’t even an obscure title (Mycokemusic’s pretty terrible about anything that’s not in the top 40 – basically you can forget it. Consequently, I haven’t exactly been burning through my credit.).
And the music industry wants to know whay it’s doing wrong? It can’t even get a major player like Coke’s site fully working. I don’t know who’s problem this really is, but I don’t care. All I know is that I can’t download the music I want. I know of another way to get it, but the artists and performers don’t get paid if I go down that route.
Useless.

Pub Opening Hours

Isn’t Associated Newspapers taking an interesting line over the new pub opening hours that have just started?
Today’s Mail has “Thanks Tessa” accompanied by a series of pictures of young people pissed on the streets of Britain. In actual fact, this has happened every day of the week for years and years. In fact, I’m mightily impressed that the Mail managed to get fresh post 11pm last night photos for the front of today’s paper. They were taken last night weren’t they? And in any case, I’m sure that there are no Knightsbridge wateringholes that have ever seen inebriated Mail reporters. Oh no.
Compare and contrast with yesterday’s Standard which helpfully published a 12 page listings supplement detailing pubs in London that have extended their hours. Probably so we know where to avoid or something.

ITV4 Breaks

And while we’re on the subject of breaks, are the ones on ITV4 actually being planned by a human being? I really to appreciate the mix of shows from ITC fare through to Homicide: Life on the Streets. But I was just watching Senator John McCain on David Letterman (obviously I was staying up late waiting for Carla Gugino), and the break came mid-sentence! This show has breaks built in. There’s no need not to use them.

Lost Scheduling

A couple of months ago, I noted that Channel 4 are running Lost in a timeslot that lasts 65 minutes. What I didn’t know was how many ads they were squeezing into the slot. Today, Ofcom upheld complaints about the way the ads were scheduled within it.
The problem seems to be twofold:
1) C4, recognising that they’ve got a hit on their hands, are stuffing the show full of the maximum advertising and promotional spots within it.
2) There are Ofcom rules about how far apart breaks should be. The trouble is that US series, with break patterns built into them from the script stage, are based on the premise that there are breaks fairly soon after the start and before the end, since programmes run seamlessly in the states without breaks between them. UK broadcasters won’t use these “early” spots, so using the built in breaks leaves central sections too close together. This can mean that UK broadcasters have to find their own breakpoints.
Despite (2), the real problem in my view is that a 42 minute show without ads should never run 65 minutes when they’re added. You just annoy the viewer.
You’d think it was in C4’s interest to get people to import the rather fine region 1 box set rather than watch C4’s broadcasts. It doesn’t cost much more than the half-series they’re selling in the UK just now.

New Version Of “The Prisoner”

I really don’t know what to make of this.
Granada are said, by today’s Broadcast website (no direct free link I’m afraid, although the story’s possibly in the paper version), to be making a new version of the all time classic TV show – The Prisoner.
I don’t know anything else about it for the moment, but as soon as I do, it’ll appear here.
[UPDATE] I now have my printed copy of Broadcast which has the story on the front page. It seems that the new eight part series is being written by Bill Gallagher, writer of “Conviction”, episode(s) of “Clocking Off” and “Dalziel & Pascoe” amongst others.
It seems that Granada is in talks with Sky One, and that the new version won’t be shot in Portmeirion and will be “aimed at fans of 24 and Spooks.”
“Although it will be a radical reinvention, it will still be a heightened show with themes such as paranoia, conspiracy and identity crisis,” says one of the programme’s executive producers Damien Timmer (“Marple”, “Poirot”, “Jericho”).
I suppose I’ll be disappointed that it’s going on Sky and not on ITV. Surely ITV would love a show like Spooks? And if it’s eight episodes, does that mean it’s all wrapped up in that time, or is likely to be a returning series? I’m guessing the latter, since that’s more of a proposition for Sky. I’ll just have to withhold judgement until I’ve seen it.

Alanis Morrisette

Madonna wasn’t the only artist playing a “secret” gig last night. Alanis Morrisette was playing the intimate confines of the Kings College London Student Union in a one-off gig to promote the recently released “Best Of” (or rather “Collection”).
All good fun with all your favourites, although the annoying idiot near me who kept shouting out “Ironic” every time she didn’t play it, really did begin to annoy me after a while.
But I didn’t let that get me down for what was an ebullient concert. I got the idea that the audience was 50:50 die-hard fans and liggers like myself. That probably doesn’t make the greatest concert audience ever, but it was still a good crowd all told. I’m probably just getting more ratty in my old age.
As an aside, it’s somewhat disconcerting when you see mobile phone pictures coming out better than your own digital camera photos. I can console myself that was looks good on a phone screen is usually at the extreme end of a digital zoom. I’d never lower myself to use such pointless technology.
Must dust off some of my Alanis collection, although having had a proper listen to Gillian Welch last night I think my tastes in music are ‘a changin’. I must admit that I got mildly interested when I read in the paper that it’s the Country Music Awards tonight live on Radio 2 (oh there’s some terrible music in that genre undoubtedly, but there’s also some good stuff.

Golden Dagger Ban

Just after Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason won the Golden Dagger from the British Crimewriters’ Association, they ban foreign language titles. The rumour, according to The Guardian’s Bookseller diary, it’s down to the award’s sponsor next year not wanting to promote obscure Scandinavian authors when there are lots of British and American authors to plug. The fact that these authors get more shelf space and promotion seems to be neither here nor there. The one great thing about prizes is their ability to help you find out about authors you might not have previously read, rather than just another Dan Brown. (Speaking of which, this is a completely brilliant initiative!)

Airline Style Security Checks At Stations

The Heathrow Express is both a good and a bad thing. Bad, simply because it’s expensive. Good, because it gets you very rapidly from central London (well Paddington) to Heathrow.
But with security checks in place it’s going to take a bit longer to reach Heathrow, and some of the speed advantage of the system over the tube is going to be lost. I assume we won’t have to arrive two hours early.
But really, what’s the point of this? The transport secretary himself has admitted that full scale checks on the rail network are impossible, with many (most?) stations not even having staff at barriers to check your tickets, never mind go through your baggage.
I’m guessing, and this is just a hunch mind, that any terrorist planning a public transport atrocity, would simply switch plans to another line which didn’t have high-profile security checks, and is likelier to be carrying more people than the average Heathrow Express.
The only terrorists we know who’ve caught trains recently, used a commuter line from Luton, a train which was packed with people going to work, and exactly the kind of line these checks couldn’t be enforced on.
[UPDATE]

The Standard had this seriously over the top headline at the tube station on the way home this evening. Commuters are expected to feel really scared and buy a copy.

Messy Shops

I know that there has been an economic downturn, and high street chains are finding it hard to maintain profits and growth, but is that really an excuse for how busy and messy all these stores now look.
WH Smith has had some notable problems of late, and for a while was torn over exactly what kind of products the shop should be carrying. It seems to have settled wisely on a broad range of best selling books, CDs and DVDs, and is keeping on its magazine range (it would have been fatal to drop its one USP). But does any of that excuse the mess that is instore in this chain these days?
And then look at Boots. To many people, still an “essential” store despite the growth of the healthcare and pharmaceutical sections in the large supermarkets. But you can barely squeeze through the aisles instore now.
The problem in both cases, and others besides, is the introduction of section ends, free-standing dumpbins, special offer stands and many more. The aisles are now completely cluttered, and what stand-out these sections once had is completely lost in a mess of stands that your average village corner shop (there are a few left that haven’t become Tesco Expresses I believe) look like a minimalist Bond Street designer store.
There’s a very easy rule of thumb to employ in clothes shops – the more free space there is, the greater the prices are. So those chains that have aisle space akin to the average cattle class airline seat’s legroom, charge pennies for their Chinese made clothes. While those stores that could easily accommodate a regulation five-a-side pitch between the rails probably has price tags of the “if you need to ask, you’re not going to be buying” sort.
It’s a straight equation based around revenue earned per square foot of shop-floor space, and the location’s rent.
But if you’re a parent who has to wheel their pram around these cluttered aisles, or even someone who aspires to live in a minimalist manner that the ads always show us, why would you want to navigate box after box of “Gift Wrap” (it’s “Wrapping paper” you morons)? The average out of town Tesco actually has enormously wide aisles, with barely a single obstacle. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t be able to wheel around your gargantuan trolley, loaded with everything from a Christmas tree and underwear, to a new DVD recorder and three months’ worth of disposable contact lenses. Oh, and maybe some food too.
Shopping is a necessity, but wouldn’t it be nice to keep it vaguely pleasureable too?

Great Big Bid

So exactly who’s idea was it to essentially put on national television, the kind of charity auction that normally happens at expensive balls? Is it really entertaining to watch people who evidently have far too much money spending the equivalent of several salaries on various prizes?
There’s something obscene about seeing these disinterested people sitting around in dinner jackets quaffing champagne – they make a poor audience and Googling their various names reveals people from the Sunday Times rich list who non-Hello readers like myself have never heard of.
It may well be a good way to get the very rich to contribute to charity, but it’s not entertainment. Far better to keep these things in the function rooms in hotels around Park Lane and Grosvenor Square. Don’t involve the public at large.
There is a “Bid A Quid” series of prizes for us normal people, where it only costs a pound to bid. I note that one of the prizes is a trip to Paramount Studios where we’ll supposedly see where they shot Forrest Gump and War of the Worlds. This trip is illustrated with clips – very timely given that War of the Worlds is released on DVD tomorrow, and Forrest Gump DVD and CD set was released a couple of weeks ago. The value of this prize will come directly from Paramount Home Video’s marketing budget for those two releases.
This was nothing compared to the Tiger Woods video game prize which sees someone incorporated into the next release of the video games series. Helpfully this arrives at the same time as the release of the 2006 edition of the game. Indeed the prize was illustrated with clips from the game’s TV ad.
These really are both examples of commercial sponsorship on the BBC. For a worthy cause (Children in Need) undoubtedly. But don’t kid yourself that it commercial sponsorship of the Beeb doesn’t happen.