The personal website of Paul James

Month: January 2008

[Mary’s View] Emmerdale, and soaps in general

I have started to watch Emmerdale recently. The frustrating wait in the evening for Coronation Street to begin was becoming too much to bear and something had to give. I have been aware of it forever (it seems) of course, but I have never actually dedicated myself to even an entire episode. And I began to question why. I have watched every soap, ever, at some point and have always been willing to give them a chance. I loved Eldorado and still miss the characters’ weekly outing to Los Lobos gigs, something which must only seem like entertainment if you are a working class ex pat in a wheelchair (you have to have seen it). Remember Revelations? Thought not. It was a British late night “adult” soap (bare bums and bisexuals, the odd “shit” or “bastard”) on some ITV regions many moons ago. And I loved it. I gave up on Neighbours and Home and Away when I began to realise I was older than the combined age of most of the characters, but not before I had spent may hours deeply involved in the lives of perky antipodean eye candy.

Big hair, shoulders and jewellery can make a person weak at the knees, and American soaps have a quality all of their own. But our soaps are the best because they seem more real. At least the ones about poor people do. Hands up who loved Families? The BBC’s brave attempt to launch a middle class soap was a terrific flop. People don’t want to watch the bourgeoisie. Who cares about the problems of the comfortably off? They’re less likely to become involved in fisticuffs over a love rat or money, and they don’t wear cheap clothes which rip and make-up which runs with bitter, snotty tears. They probably sit down and discuss the affair and the missing skiing holiday money (it would hardly be Christmas Club money) with a bottle of Chianti or a latte. The working class soap offers the elements of danger and excitement we hope for in a really good episode of Jeremy Kyle. Sex and fighting.

So, back to the point. The only soap I currently watch is Corrie. Or was Corrie. Because it turns out Emmerdale is actually not that bad at all. I became interested after I noticed that it had gone head to head with EastEnders (boring as sin, southerners are surly and depressive, the north is poor but chirpy). Surely, I thought, this must be a confident soap if it is willing to break the unwritten rule of never making the soap fans choose. Can it really be that good? Can this absurd gamble ever pay off? Michael Grade seems to think so and that made me curious. So I began to watch.

Its a soap after all, so picking up the characters and storylines was a matter of switching on the box and opening my eyes. I’ve been briefed about some characters and their foibles. I knew Emmerdale is a village somewhere near Leeds with few inhabitants and a lot going on. And I knew that there was a story involving Madge Bishop from Neighbours and a cannabis factory thanks to watching This Morning and reading the tabloids. Madge (who had changed her name to Lily, I probably missed the episode where that was explained) had been bullied into growing the pot in a poly tunnel by a Dingle, which it turns out is not a nasty kind of growth but a particularly feckless and lawless family who seem widespread throughout the village, probably due to interbreeding as most of them seem to have at least some degree of retardation. Sam Dingle seems the most retarded and was persuaded to drive the cannabis to a customer, stopping along the way to pick up a police officer he happened to know. Now Social Services, the soap equivalent of the Wicked Witch of the West, want to take his son Samson and put him in care (I think the mother is dead. Or in prison. Or a prostitute). Elsewhere a young lad in prison with enormous biceps wants to marry a brunette girl. Another brunette girl is a police officer married to a Dingle, determined to prove the name is not a curse. And a further brunette girl runs a taxi firm, borrowed some money and was going out with the grass-growing Dingle until he grew the grass and got Sam Dingle into trouble. The brunette girls are currently causing me a little trouble as I can only tell them apart occasionally and have to rely on clues like the police uniform and whether they are on the phone to a prison inmate with huge arms. And now thanks to all the doobie shenanigans, Madge/Lily has disappeared after falling out with her bald sister, Edna. Edna threw her out for giving her cannabis tea to drink without her knowledge and for giving her an illegitimate son to bring up whilst she emigrated to another country (or something). Edna always wears a hat, so at least you aren’t confronted by the terrifying sight of a totally bald elderly woman. At least I assume she’s bald anyway. No-one has mentioned it but it’s not the sort of thing one mentions, is it? Lily was a great big pot head, and I hope she’s coming back. I hear that Marilyn from Home and Away is going to be back in it soon so that will be another familiar face.

I’m going to persevere with Emmerdale, I’ve been quite impressed so far. It doesn’t have the superior writing and acting of Coronation Street, or its sophisticated comedy, but it is still well written and acted so its happily filling a gap. I’ll keep you posted.

Move over P2P, here comes Songbeat

I’ve been trailing freeware application Songbeat for a couple of days now. Songbeat, works by scouring music streaming service Seeqpod for tunes, then streams or downloads the music directly to your desktop.

To get it up and running, just install the app, it does ask for your email address but you do not need to enter anything, fire it up, and start searching.

You can choose to either stream or download any of the search results, but downloading will automatically save the MP3 to your default music folder or to any other folder of your choice.

I found the best way to use the service, was to stream the song through the program, if the quality is OK, hit the download button.

You can play back any of the downloaded files in the My Music section of the player, or in your media player of choice.

Songbeat works by grabbing results from Seeqpod, and downloads are generally very quick.

Songbeat is freeware, Windows only (a “Pro” version is available and a Mac version is coming in 2-4 weeks). Put this one at the top of the ever-growing list of ways you can download and listen to free music from the web.

The software, isn’t peer-to-peer like WinMX / Napster / Limewire are, and it works by pulling MP3s from the web. The variety of songs available isn’t as good as a P2P application, however when I played with the service I found the vast majority

Of course Limewire’s and WinMX are still out there, but Songbeat just does one thing—music — and from “downloading a virus” point of view, you’re not likely to inadvertently download anything nasty from Songbeat.

Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)

Apple to lower the cost of music in the UK

Fellow British customers of iTunes will soon be charged up to 10 per cent less for their downloads, after pressure by the European Commission forced Apple into a change of policy.

The price per song, which is currently £0.79 will be lowered to about £0.74 pence, and the cost of albums will lower from £7.99 to about £7.48.

The change comes after the European Commission found that neighbour states of Britain were being changes up to 10 per cent less.

More on this story can be found here.

I would like for someone to now look into why people in the EU and Britain, pay up to 100% more than our American cousins, for example I can find music for sale via amazon’s music download service for $0.79, which going by the current exchange rates is about half the price that is currently paid in the UK for music on iTunes.

Perhaps in years to come, the music industry will stop punishing the UK and EU and charge a standard price across the globe, as the barriers of the world are brought down by the internet, large industries such as the TV and Music industry will have to adopt global strategies, as appose to local / regional strategies – I personally feel, that such a move to standardise the cost of music globally will help move people away from illegal music downloads, and start to rebuild trust in an industry for that for a lot of people is not very trustworthy.

The Music Industry / Music Downloads.

I read an article from the Times today, that made me giggle.

Music downloads sales soared by almost 50 per cent last year, boosted by a Christmas rush, but the recording industry failed to counter a CD slump, new figures showed.

Sales of single track downloads increased from 52.5 million in 2006 to 77.6 million, according to the British Phonographic Industry.

Despite the 47.7 per cent increase in tracks sales, music fans are still reluctant to purchase legally an entire album from digital stores such as iTunes.

CDs still dominate with 95 per cent of all album sales on physical formats. However the total CD market contracted by around 10 per cent, in line with a global sales slump.

The part that made me giggle was when it states that music fans are still reluctant to purchase legally an entire album.

Why is this the record companies will be asking themselves.

Well, I gave up owning physical music back in the early 90’s, opting for a small music collection that is presently about 20,000 tracks. Given the collection of music I had, I never used P2P sharing sites, always fearing I would be targeted by the music authority’s!

Oops – lost my train of though there! So back to the article, I think there are a couple of reasons why people en-mass wont purchase a whole album from sites such as iTunes:-

  1. People will download what they know and like. Let me elaborate, I like Stevie Wonder, but I don’t own a whole album of his, opting instead to listen to the couple of tracks I know and love. Although I may be missing out on something, I am not the kind of person to want to “risk” paying £1 per song, for something that I may only listen to once.
  2. The artists, only put a few good songs on each album. OK this is a generalisation, and I am prepared to take critism on this one, some artists I accept will put there all into an album, and each track will be brilliant. However, take most albums on your shelf, it will either be a “best of” or will have been released by an artist. So starting with the album that has been released, I read stories of record companies sending artists to far away climbs to help them put pen to paper, is this how music is made? Under pressure of a contract? Well, I don’t think it is, you’ll always end up with a couple of good tracks that have been written well, the rest just end up being tosh – the record company’s know this, or why else would they release a best of album? As such, why would I want to spend my £1 to download a rubbish song? The record companies push and push the “decent” songs on the album, they get released, the get airplay, they get videos… There is a reason the others don’t.

I think for any record company to work in a digital age, is to scrap all the CD singles, and CD albums, and once this has been done, get the artists to work at releasing one song per month, or 10 per year… whatever they want to contract the artist to. These would then be released onto the digital world, available for all to try and download, if we like it, we download it, if we don’t, the record companies have to learn to acknowledge that fact, and be safe in the knowledge that they can work with the artist, and help them release something better. If the artist then goes on to release 10 really good pieces of work, this could then be packaged up in a “best of” album for people to buy and own.

This would also allow more freedom for the artists, a record company could take a punt on any artist, sign them to release one or two songs without any of the risk of pushing 100,000 albums to make it viable, as all it would require is the usual promo shots, and studio time. If the artist is successful, then they would be able to negotiate a new contract, and in all hopes, make a good go of it – if your going to criticise me for this, I ask you to look at the idea of X-Factor, Simon Cowell (made me chuckle, I ran the spell check and Cowell came up as Cowbell) in this show, takes a £1,000,000 punt on someone the public has chosen, why not sign someone up for a smaller contract, let them get there work out there, the public decide by downloading, and then the artist makes or breaks it.

I believe that the record companies should stop ploughing millions into stopping illegal downloads, and take back the reins of the industry that they are so loosing sight of, with the dawn of the digital age, people will become more savvy about what they own and download, people will not want to waste their money.

I also think, that given we no longer pay for the production, distribution, “in store” promotion, etc, etc, that the cost of downloading an MP3 should be lowered, iTunes currently charges 79pence ($1.60) per download, which means an album costs about £10 ($20)… However in the US consumers are paying as little as 40pence ($0.8)… Does it cost more to make this content available to us in the UK?

On a final note, I think all studios should put their whole music catalogue online – its all well and good having 1,000,000 available, but they would increase their sales by having the more obscure stuff, stuff people have not heard of.

Drugs.. Legal in 10 Years

The Chief Constable of North Wales, Richard Brunstrom has claimed that all drugs such as cocaine will be made legal, and decriminalised within 10 years.

I can’t say I agree that it will be decriminalised in 10 years, given the narrow minded people we have running this country, but I do believe it should be decriminalised, a lot of crime and poverty is caused through illegal drugs, and if control of these substances was under some form of control, all the better I say!

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