The future of Blu-Ray

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 9, 2008 09:05pm | Post a Comment

This town needs an enema
The Dark Knight was released today (December 9th) on DVD and Blu-Ray. It will, no doubt, be yet another enormously popular title on DVD -- but for Blu-Ray, it's being viewed by some as a make-it-or-break-it title. You may've noticed Blu-Ray commercials are beginning to sparingly pop up on TV. This is part of a curiously cautious, last ditch effort to boost the troubled format's fortunes. Last Christmas, sluggish sales of HD DVD resulted in that format's extinction the following spring. Some thought that Blu-Ray, as the victor of the so-called format war, would benefit from a sales boost from cautious buyers who'd been waiting to see what format triumphed. But instead Blu-Ray player sales dropped 40% in the first month of the year, then plateaued before dropping to less than half their peak sales not long after. Like LaserDiscs before them, Blu-Rays offer superior quality at a higher price but appeal only to a niche market. It remains to be seen if this market can grow sufficiently to keep Blu-Rays viable.

What’s the problem, officer?
While hordes of consumers have turned to low cost, low quality mp3s over CDs, the idea that those same people would shell out more money for a higher quaity optical format was never a likely scenario. I personally don’t like the way everything looks in HD. I caught a bit of Bachelor Party in HD and it looked like one of those cheap, BBC costume dramas from the '70s, All of the shoddiness was exposed in a harsh, unflattering light that I found disconcerting and distracting. I also like Conan O'Brien more when I can't see the edge of his foundation. Is clearer picture always a good thing? Would you pay three times as much for a Renoir or Cézanne if it was photorealistic? Have you ever felt that the main issue with a bad movie was that the resolution wasn't high enough? So many supposed innovations are actually vastly inferior to what they're supposed to improve. If it sounds like I'm talking about more than detachable collars, it's because I am.

Another problem with Blu-Ray is the selection. The selection is primarily limited to whatever new Hollywood films are coming out and titles that, on DVD, gather dust in the world’s bargain bins. Who is the person out there that’s going to buy S.W.A.T. or Dinosaur in 2008? I feel like people are over merely building their libraries at this point. About the only classic titles released on Blu-Ray, thus far, are the early Bond films… which are on five different channels at any point of every day, sometimes in HD.
Yet another of Blu-Ray’s problems is that a lot of people still haven’t even heard of it. Whereas those who ask what a DVD is and if it will play “in the regular machine” (i.e. VCR) were all pretty much born before the Great Depression, many people, of all backgrounds, regularly express complete, disinterested ignorance about Blu-Rays. With commercials advertising Blu-Ray's supposed advantages just beginning to air, it seems like a typically dunderheaded Sony move, to waiting till they’re at death's door to give their product a push.

There are a lot of discussions and mischaracterizations of the Blu-Ray market that don’t hold up against the facts, which certainly isn't helping. It’s often claimed that Blu-Ray players and discs are just too high priced. In fact, two years into their existence, Blu-Ray players are only about $200. On the other hand, two years into their existence, DVD players cost $300 and the discs were about the same price as Blu-Rays are today. At Amoeba, we sell Hannah Montana and Alvin & the Chipmunks for $12.99. We’ve got Dan in Real Life, Ultraviolet, The Great Raid, King Arthur, Premonition, The Santa Clause 3 for only $9.99. Clearly, price isn't the only obstacle these films face. For films to be released on Blu-Ray, there are fees of around $40,000 which is why you're unlikely to see indie, foreign, music, documentaries, silents, animes or classic films any time soon.

The real difference isn’t cost, it’s that Blu-Rays hardly present the monumental improvement over DVDs that DVDs did over VHS. A better analogy is to DVD-audio and Super Audio CDs, which failed to dislodge CDs as the format of choice. And those aforementioned titles aren’t exactly the kind of fare that would warrant the Hi-Def treatment (nor repeated viewings) in the first place. Nor are they the sort of titles that appeal to the Blu-Ray market. Blu-ray discs peaked at 7.5% of the disc market in March, following HD DVD death. Then they dropped down to 4%. Since then, the NPD won't release sales figures of Blu-ray standalone players because they’re so low that it might convince people not to purchase players, fearing they’ll stop producing discs for them next spring. The figure is believed to hover around a measly 3%, lower even than Bush's approval rating by a large margin.
While Blu-Rays appear to be struggling to get off the ground, DVDs continue to hold more appeal for both cineastes and the money-minded alike. Amazingly, it's been reported that a lot of people can’t tell the difference between DVDs and Blu-Rays. Because of that, it’s unlikely that most people would be willing to shell out any amount of extra money for benefits they can’t recognize.
Meanwhile, especially in emerging economies, like Africa, China, India, Indonesia, Russia and South America, DVD sales are actually growing. As DVD prices drop and approach those of VCDs, they’re beginning to approach the sales of the third-world-beloved, low cost, low quality optical format. And for film collectors looking to own copies of hard to find titles, there are a lot more interesting titles on the import market than Blu-Ray.

It’s not all bad…
At 3% of the video market, Blu-Rays are obviously a niche market. Although many articles portray Blu-Ray consumers as “Tech Geeks,” it seems to me that it’s much more a market for conspicuous consumers. Tech Geeks don’t want disc clutter. They have high bandwidths and stream HD, seeing little reason to own media. Even if they did, computer storage space normally falls in cost between 40%-50% a year, making downloads still more attractive. No, the conspicuous consumer, the guy who wants to drop jaws with the size of his TV, who wants to rattle the earth with his audio, seems to be the real market. Whereas LaserDiscs similarly offered pictures a thousand times better than VHS (but for a higher price), that format attempted to appeal to cineastes. Blu-Ray's successes are all big, bright, loud, shiny blockbusters -- usually about superheroes. And those seem to actually be selling pretty briskly (well, except for the unsellable Daredevil). But it's going to take a legion of superheroes to win this fight.
Just compare the Amoeba's post HD DVD top sellers on Blu-Ray and DVD:
Top 20 Blu-Rays

Iron Man
There Will Be Blood
Dark City
Batman Begins
L.A. Confidential
Blade Runner
Nightmare Before Christmas
Mad Men - Season 1
Incredible Hulk
2001 - A Space Odyssey
Batman Begins
Sleeping Beauty
Speed Racer
Clockwork Orange
The Shining

Top 20 DVDs

Mad Men - Season 1
Joy Division
Flight of the Conchords - Season 1
Le Ballon rouge
Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma
Spaced - The Complete Series
Joe Stummer - The Future Is Unwritten
I Got the Feelin' - James Brown in the '60s
Love - Love Story
Yo Gabba Gabba - Dancey Dance Bunch
Ladies & Gentlemen the Fabulous Stains
Dexter - Season 2
Sigur Ros - Heima
Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas
Weeds - Season 3
City of God
Sex & the City - The Movie

Guitar Hero World Tour & video game timeline

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 21, 2008 06:48pm | Post a Comment
Guitar Games

The first installment in the Guitar Hero series was released in 2005. The developers at Harmonix were obviously inspired by 1998’s Konami’s GuitarFreaks, in which players also use a guitar-shaped controller with colored fret buttons on the neck and a pick lever to score points playing along to rock music. That game never took off on the level of Guitar Hero though, partly because GuitarFreaks required players to shred along to the likes of Mutsuhiko Izumi, 桜井 敏郎,  小野秀幸, 前田尚紀 and Jimmy Weckl (né ジミー・ウェックル), who composed songs especially for the game. Guitar Hero's innovation was including 47 AOR songs by the likes of the Ramones, Deep Purple, umlaut-abusers Blue Öyster Cult and Motörhead -- songs that, whatever you think of them, are seared into your brain if you've ever drank a Mountain Dew, rode in a Z-28, watched a television commercial or shopped at Amoeba. That means even if you've heard "More Than a Feeling" 603,501 times more than you ever wanted, you'll have no problem playing along.

In 2006, RedOctane (the manufacturers of the guitar controllers) was purchased by Activision and Harmonix was bought by MTV. In 2007 Harmonix released, through Electronic Arts, Rock Band -- basically an expanded version of Guitar Hero which added other instruments, another innovation inspired by Konami’s games of the previous decade which followed up GuitarFreaks with DrumFreaks and KeyboardFreaks.

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Titan in Fact and Fiction

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 3, 2008 11:58pm | Post a Comment


Titan was discovered in 1655 by Dutchman Christiaan Huygens. It orbits Saturn. Huygens named it Luna Saturni. When more moons were discovered, it was re-named Saturn II, then IV, then VI, which stuck as the official title, even though there are at least 19 moons in closer orbit of Saturn. It's also been referred to as "Saturn's ordinary satellite," but Titan is anything but ordinary.


Titan is the only body in the solar system, aside from Earth, with stable liquid bodies at its surface* and a dense atmosphere. Its landscape is relatively smooth, although there are mountains. As on Earth, the air is primarily composed of Nitrogen. Methane and Ethane clouds produce rain, wind and weather that give it seasons. It also has subsurface oceans*.

Embedded video from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology


The name Titan was chosen by John Herschel in 1847. The Titans, according to the Greek Religion and its adherents, were the former rulers of Greece during the Golden Age. The leader, Kronos, feared that his offspring would attempt to overthrow him, just as he had his father. To prevent this, he ate his children, except Zeus, who was saved and ultimately did overthrow the Titans and banish them to Tartarus.

Huygens's landing site on Titan

With such a mysterious, aesthetically Earth-like world hidden by a hazy atmosphere, Titan has attracted its fair share of speculation about its possible nature. Many films, television series and video games have been set there and are available at Amoeba for your own investigations...


Doctor Who - "The Invisible Enemy"

Transformers G1 - "The God Gambit"

Space Patrol (UK) - "The Glowing Eggs of Titan"

Creature (The Titan Find)

The Puppet Masters

Star Trek: The Next Generation
- "Chain of Command"



Star Trek

(season 3 and 4 opening)








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The Korean Wave - 한류 - Hallyu - The explosion of Korean TV, movies, food and culture

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 28, 2008 01:50pm | Post a Comment
korean actors and actresses

's recent global rise in profile is sometimes referred to as "The Korean Wave" or Hallyu. Back in the early 1990s, Korean Drama underwent an explosive growth in popularity around East and Southeast Asia as well as in cities like Los Angeles, with large immigrant populations from these regions. Soon, Korean movies (beginning with Shiri) gained an audience among American critics who'd previously (with close-minded, snobbish prejudice) limited their viewings of Asian films to critically-canonized Japanese and/or (1980s) Chinese productions. And Hollywood has taken notice too, remaking numerous K-Horror films, the romcom My Sassy Girl, and the magic-mailbox drama The Lake House.

I'm told Korean music grew in popularity too. I guess I know a couple of non-Koreans who listen to K-Pop. Whilst flipping through the unparalleled multiculturalism of Los Angeles' AM radio band, I've occasionally stumbled across Radio Seoul (AM 1650) and Radio Korea (AM 1230). Just judging from the cadence and character of AM radio in general, I'd guess that the majority is Christian in nature, but they do occasionally play Korean pop music. Last year at the Hollywood Bowl, K-Pop was showcased in a program featuring BoA, Epik High, Fly to the Sky, Ivy and Super Junior.

Probably the most visible (and olfactory) evidence of Korea's rising profile is in the large number of Korean restaurants and the non-Koreans' resultant discussions of where "the best" Korean food is found. Everyone now knows about kimchi and where they stand on that popular dish. Jajangmyeon, various banchan, anju & beer and bulgogi are also fairly well-known among culinary tourists who've gone to shikdangs or a pongjanmacha at an area farmer's market.

If you're like me, and you don't have cable TV, you may've (in curiosity or desperation) flipped through the Southland's scores of local stations past the shopping networks, megachurch sermons, narco movies, and used car commercials and stumbled across K-Dramas being shown on KSCI or KXLA. They usually have subtitles and I've, on occasion, watched partial episodes of unknown series. After a few scenes on a few dramas, it becomes evident that the popularity of K-Dramas owes to their ability to transcend their cultural and geographic origins by dealing with universally popular issues of love, work, loving a co-worker, difficult in-laws and love triangles, all told without the raciness of their also-popular counterparts, American Soap Operas and Latino telenovelas. The conventions of Korean Dramas (sensitive guys with improbable hair, repressed love, etc) have, since their rise in popularity, even become the subject of parody. Look for former Amoeba employee Steve Lee in his brother (Bobby Lee)'s satirical K-Drama, Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive.

The popularity of Korean dramas first spread across Asia. In Iran, there's currently a Korean Drama showcase on their state-operated network Channel 2 called Korean Wave. On China's government-run station, Korean dramas account for the majority of the programing and China is consequently considering imposing restrictions on the amount of airtime devoted to them. Taiwan and Vietnam's governments are also weighing the idea of banning Korean Dramas since they've taken over the airwaves at the expense of homegrown shows.

More recently, Korean Dramas have invaded the airwaves of  Brazil, Chile and Mexico. At Amoeba, a completely unscientific poll has revealed that most of our K-Drama fans are young Latinas.

Here at Amoeba, our top selling K-Dramas are (in alphabetical order):
All About Eve
Love to Kill
My Lovely Sam-Soon
Palace Princess Hours
Peppermint Candy
Prince's First Love
Sad Love Story


In the face of Korea's meteoric ascendancy on the world stage, some Japanese have instigated a backlash against the Korean Wave. Manga Kenkanryū (which translates to Manga-The Anti Korean) is part of the so-called "Hate Korea Wave" which some cultural theorists have suggested stems from bitterness over the perception that Japan has slipped from the position they had in the 1980s of East Asia's dominant exporter of culture. The manga in question depicts the Japanese as more diverse, fun, Bambi-eyed free spirits who are contrasted to the Koreans, who are depicted as tiny-eyed, loud, arrogant elitists who owe their success to Japan's superior culture, which they borrow from.

Whilst today Ice Cube is primarily known as a star of unwatchable children's films, he was once at the vanguard of the Hate Korea Wave.

As a response, some in Korea have responded with the "Hate Japan Wave" or Hyeomillyu. Two artists, Yang Byeong-seol and Kim Sung Mo have each produced Manhwas both under the same name (Hyeomillyu). I'm no expert in funny pages but it seems a queer place to settle your scores.


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Hot Boy Ronald -- toot it up!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 25, 2008 01:34pm | Post a Comment
I was watching the Argentina vs Nigeria game the other night and started fiending for some N.O. Bounce. Before long I was searching for some Hot Boy Ronald and I stumbled on this fan video that made me lose it.

But let me back up a little bit first. Hot Boy Ronald is a 9th Ward Bounce artist who's collaborated with Choppa, Juvenile and others. Some of his certified bangers have included "Shake it like a oink" and "Walk like Ronald." The latter is on Bounce Back (2005 - King's Ent.). Looks like he's got a new record called Bottom of the Map. I tried to do a little background on him but Wikipedia's got nothing. Allmusic's got nothing. His own myspace doesn't have a bio (although it's got more bells and whistles than the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics). At that point it becomes a cold case.

As with any Bounce hit, popularity isn't measured in terms of CD sales, but how many youtube videos people post of themselves dancing to your song.

First up you've got Ashley in San Antonio sort of lethargically doing the "Walk like Ronald" with some enormous slippers on.

And then you've got Christina and friends. Um... still a little rough.

Mark, Nick and Stacy are a bit better. But the image quality will screw with your eyes.

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