Thursday, September 14, 2006

Inside The Electric Circus

Somehow it's been a long day already. It's 11am. The new Burn (12) hasn't even gone to print yet and I'm already planning and working on stuff for the next one (yes, 13, well done). I always thought with a monthly publication there'd at least be a week off between completing one issue and starting on the next, but that's becoming less and less realistic the bigger we get.

The work proper begins tonight. Swedish power metallers Hammerfall need talking to on Saturday afternoon, so questions need writing. "What the hell is with the outfits?" isn't going to fly, so what do you ask a band that's done nothing more remarkable than make their next album? I might open with that. "What should I ask you about?" That'd throw 'em.

I might ask them why everyone's so bothered about the new iPod range that's just been announced. The big one's got a little bigger and now you can download movies and games for it. The small ones have gotten physically smaller, but expanded in capacity. That's it. Hang on a second. Back the monopoly truck up. Downloadable movies? Yes indeed. Apple have struck a deal with Miramax, Disney, Pixar and Touchstone to sell download versions of their DVD releases for playback on computers (in iTunes, presumably), the new iPod and ultimately the iTV box they're bringing out.

The big question is, what in God's underwhelmingly short name is the point? The films are set to be priced at $12.99 when pre-ordered and $14.99 thereafter. They come out on the same day as the DVD equivalent, are unlikely to include all the DVD special features, and you can watch them on a device already capable of playing DVDs (computer), a device that is essentially a set-top box that plays through a TV (like a DVD player) or a 2.5" screen with earphones. If anyone can spot an advantage in any of this, please do let me know. Can you say "gimmick"?

There are too many gimmicks around now. They're squeezing out anything of genuine worth, and it's happening in pretty much every facet of life. There are no decent TV shows anymore because all the studios are too preoccupied with the reality TV thing. Finding decent music is getting harder and harder as well. We're alright because labels are only too keen to send the stuff that won't sell. But for your average consumer it's getting near enough impossible to find out about the good stuff. We're drowning in a deluge of shite and there's very little we seem to be able to do about it.

Of course, if the act of actually looking for things wasn't such a challenge to most people it might be possible to overcome all of this. But who goes looking for a new band these days, picks up a new mag or goes to see a new film that's not been trumpeted by the mass media? Or even tries different mp3 players? No one. The one that's been pushed down our throats must be the best. We're far too content to wait for these things to drop into our laps, or allow people on the TV and radio to force their way upon us. When TV Evangelists do it we get annoyed. How is this different?

There must be a solution. And Hammerfall will know what it is. After that much conversing with wizards and kings, some of the wisdom of the ages must have rubbed off.

"I only wanted you to see things for yourself"