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Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Taking on modern technology

You know, for someone who has been the subject of every "miserable failure" search on Google since 2003, I almost feel sorry for George W. Bush after his latest admission to not being that technologically savvy -- check out this interview with him about his use of Google maps. But then again, this is George we're talking about.

Time was, I thought it was quite fun to see the President of the US featured in a Marvel Comic (several appeared in Fantastic Four as well as the Beatles, I recall), but not these days.

HammerWeb Lives Again!

The official Hammer Films web site which I was involved in re-designing some years back is starting to be updated after a long period of hibernation -- welcome news for Hammer Film fans. In the last few days though, it's moved most of its activities over to pages on MySpace.

The company also seems to be getting a bit more proactive in promoting its catalogue and merchandise. Just in case you missed it, Hammer's officially licensed HammerShop
will have a stall at Memorabilia this weeend at the NEC (Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th November 2006) - "a true celebration of the popular culture genre".

The company says its a chance to see and purchase the new Hammer lines, as well as chat with fans and to meet the stars of tv and film (the guest lineup is on the Memorabilia website).

The official Hammer Films Online Shop will be bringing to Memorabilia the most extensive choice of Hammer Horror movies on DVDs as individual titles or in boxsets.On display will be some fantastic never before seen T-shirts such as
the best-selling Dracula - Taste the Blood, Drink a Pint of Blood a Day! and Vampress the bride of Dracula.

There will also be a wide range of collectables such as Stamps and Film Cells on sale. "And for the man who thinks he has everything," says Hammerweb's webmaster, "well think again - as we have some fabulous gifts designed by Gresham Blake of Brighton, Tailor to the Stars with an amazing selection of silver plated cufflinks, designer cloaks and silk ties."

The Hammerweb Shop is at tand H27-H29 at the fair. Book your tickets online at:

Monday, 20 November 2006

See this band at your peril...

Compering the local Spotlight Club's Gong Night -- 18 excellent contestants offering performances mix of stand up, poetry and song in a bid to win a £50 first prize -- was great fun on Friday night, but I have to admit complete bafflement at the decision to round the night off with a performance from Cogna, an avant-garde duo that left me completely cold and the room virtually empty within about 30 minutes - no mean feat considering how crowded it was.

Perhaps as a warning to others, some kind soul has posted a segment of one of their earlier gigs on MySpace. I noticed a couple of people mobcasting this latest performance, so you might find that on the web at some point, too. There are a number of videos of them on YouTube. (The band also has its own web site and happily informs visitors the filmed gig above was described by one local reviewer as "weird s***", which they took as a compliment).

Nygel Harriot won the £50, a man with huge comic talent (he's written jokes for Ken Dodd in the past, among other scripting work).

Yes, Lancaster is oozing talent of all kinds these days, and not just comics artists like Paul Harrison Davis and Ant Mercer. But not, I feel, from every quarter...

(I'm reliably informed by cartoonist Nick Miller that although Cogna may not be everyone's cup of tea, they do not deserve the description of "possibly Lancaster's worst band ever". That moniker surely belogs to a a bunch of University students calling themselves Rhino back in the 1990s.

"They always turned up at their gigs so drunk they were incapable of playing their instruments, or doing much more than giggling and falling about," Nick recalls. "People were paying good money to see this. Anyway, they managed to do a couple of gigs and then disappeared, by popular request. Our Off the Beat reviewer covered what turned out to be their last gig, and we published the review under the title RHINO PLASTERED.

"So far as I know, no demo tapes of this band exist, anywhere. Thank God. If Myspace had existed back in those days, no doubt they would have made a tape of themselves throwing up (it would have been slightly more musical)..."

Keeping comics in newspapers

Interesting piece in The Baltimore Sun over the weekend on the future of newspapers -- well, US newspapers, although the issues they're facing as new media gains in popularity across all age bands is affecting all print media.

Howard Weaver, the head of news for the McClatchy chain -- which bought the Knight Ridder chain of US newspapers and then sold off about half of them -- argues "There will be lots of audio and video" on future newspaper sites. "It should not be the mirror image of the newspaper. Newspaper content is a tremendous starting place, but it is only a starting place."

There's a clear recognition of the way the Internet is developing 'niche' audiences in the article, and recognizing that the newspaper audience of the future will be a specialized one means giving up the department-store, something-for-everyone approach. I think that's possibly true, and as an editor of various 'niche' magazines down the years, if you can get the economics right, then you're on a winner.

As part of that 'niche' marketing Peter M. Zollman, a former journalist, now a newspaper industry consultant, says he would keep the comics -- "You can't blow up your entire core audience" -- but, for instance, jettison stock tables as up-to-the-minute prices are available on the Web.

This is one of those rare occasions where comics have been recognised as a piece of 'unique content' that helps retain readers that I've read in a while, and it's a welcome argument on these pages...

Sunday, 19 November 2006

Wikipedia Illustrated

Here's a good one. Greg Williams, a designer and illustrator for The Tampa Tribune in Florida has begun providing comic-styled versions of Wikipedia articles. His contributions to the Doctor Seuss entry spark it up nicely, but I enjoyed his "pet skunk" illustration immensely!

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