I was sitting with friends at the pub last week, celebrating someone’s 30th birthday with a few quiet, contemplative ales. But just as I was queuing at the bar, somebody drew a gun. Fortunately, though, was made out of pink plastic, and attached to a video game machine, Time Crisis III. It’s a fantastic game, actually – it lets you arbitrarily shoot a lot of terrorists dead, while accidentally slaying a few civilians along the waay. John Howard would like it. Continue Reading →
My column for The Glebe (a local newspaper in Sydney), 2005 to 2008
At the time of going to press, rumours were flying furiously around about the iTunes Music Store finally making it to Australia on Tuesday of next week. If the rumours are true, by the time you read this, the Inner West’s phalanx of white headphone-toting iPodders will finally be able to legally download music through the software that comes with their stainless steel status symbols. This is momentous news for both the inner-city trendies and the computer nerd community. How momentous? Well, it’s almost as good as if your computer could make you a latte and play Red Dwarf trivia with you at the same time.
If you’re neither one of the Coke-bottle-glasses brigade nor a black skivvy-wearing iPoseur who hangs tough at the Glebe Pt Rd AppleCentre, though, you could be forgiven for wondering what the fuss is about. The iTunes Music Store is the world’s most popular way of legally buying music for your computer. In America, songs cost 99c, and over 500 million of them have been purchased since the service started two and a half years ago. Albums cost only $9.99, which, at current exchange rates, is less than half the $30 we pay for CDs. The songs are automatically copied to your iPod, and can be burnt onto blank CDs. In short, it’s the best way to prevent stealing music. Or at least it would have been if those telltale white headphones didn’t make it so easy for would-be music thieves to just mug iPod owners instead.
It’s been a long time coming, and fans have been disappointed before. There were apparently plans to launch it midyear, and Sony/BMG’s disagreement with Apple was cited as the reason for the delay. I think they should have pressed on regardless – the store’s potential lack of Shannon Noll and Anthony Callea songs is actually a feature.
Why’s it taken so long? Sweden, Austria, Japan and even Luxembourg now have their own iTunes stores. So I can’t understand why Australian record companies have been so narky about all this. On the one hand they constantly complain about how piracy’s hit CD sales, and on the other they make things impossible for the company that’s doing most to promote legal downloading. Sure, Sony’s got its own far more unpopular range of music players, and is probably trying to lock its music into them. But they need to look at the big picture. Because piracy is absolutely rife. It doesn’t just happen through the high-profile offenders like Napster and Kazaa. These days, you can borrow a CD off a mate and burn a perfect copy in a couple of minutes – or just let software like iTunes digitise it for you. Entire TV series can now be downloaded from the internet, and while it’s mostly smut and Star Trek for now, it can’t be long before this starts eating into DVD sales of good programmes.
But the iTunes store is priced so low that it may just save the industry – and not just the music industry. The American store now sells TV shows for a mere $2 shortly after they go to air. And while it seems more humane to force Desperate Housewives addicts to go cold turkey than to allow them to download their fix the next day, the bottom line is that people are paying for content that, whether by downloading or swapping videotapes, they previously got for free. Selling downloadable feature films – the most popular content for illegal downloads as people get faster internet connections – is surely not far away.
Even after years of the industry lecturing us on how it’s wrong to copy things, it’s safe to say that most Australians aren’t too fussed if it’s “just for a mate.” So another way must be found of extracting value from this content. The answer lies in making it more pleasant and convenient to buy legal content. Which is exactly what the iTunes music store does. So when it finally arrives, let’s applaud a victory for common sense. It will lead to the spread of legal, paid-for content in place of the pirated. It may also lead to the dangerous proliferation of Desperate Housewives video clips. But that’s a price I’m prepared to pay.
In case you’ve been avoiding all news sources for weeks because of the clear and present danger of reading about Australian Princess, and have somehow missed the 18,492 other references to it elsewhere in recent editions of The Glebe, the Wests Tigers – or as they are more correctly known, the Balmain Tigers – overcame odds of 150 to 1 to win their first premiership since 1969. Or 1952 if you’re from the wrong half of the joint venture. So it was quite a big deal, with the game on the big screen at Leichhardt Oval a party at the leagues club on Victoria Rd raging on until well into the night – and hangovers raging on for far longer than that. Continue Reading →
Sydney’s film community has taken a body blow in the past month, with two of the already small number of inner-city independent cinemas closing their doors. The owners of Glebe’s Valhalla cinema and the Chauvel in Paddington have found that the challenges of DVD and an ever-increasing number of multiplex screens have made things too difficult. And with DVD-quality pay-per-view movies now available on Foxtel Digital, and even higher-quality home viewing options like HD-DVD and BluRay on the way, you can see why they’ve decided that the odds for smaller cinemas managing to bring in audiences would be roughly the same for a new Police Academy sequel. Continue Reading →
A few weeks ago, the Office of Film and Literature Classification took the extreme step of refusing the classification of a videogame, forcing it to be withdrawn from sale. And not just any videogame – they banned Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, a best-seller which is widely viewed as the greatest game ever made, with the possible exception of Hungry Hungry Hippos. Continue Reading →
This newspaper has recently reported on the decline of the live music scene in the Inner West. Dwindling crowds and increased council regulation have made it hard for local venues to survive. This is a blow not only to the area’s residents, but also to the entire Australian music scene, because the Inner West has always fostered new talent. Strange as it may seem, Woollahra and Bellevue Hill haven’t made quite as distinguished a contribution to the history of Australian music. Continue Reading →
This year’s Big Brother housemates have become infamous for not wearing clothes much. But as The Glebe recently reported, housemate Tim has been wearing a Newtown Jets t-shirt. Channel 10 refused to say whether Tim lived locally when The Glebe’s reporter called, but because I know him personally, I can reveal that he is indeed is a proud Chippendale resident. It’ll soon become obvious, anyway – he’ll no doubt make guest appearances at every RSL bingo night in the area. Continue Reading →
Last Monday’s 20-over international between Australia and South Africa, the first to be held in this country, was nothing short of magnificent. The largest-ever cricket crowd at the Gabba was thrilled by the batting pyrotechnics, and so were the punters in the pub I watched it in. The excitement level was so high that, for the first time ever, the bar staff actually turned down the crappy dance music so we could hear the commentary. Continue Reading →