Sunday, November 18, 2007

Celebrating those who have gone ahead on All Souls Day

All Souls Day went past a couple of weeks back.

In just the last 2 years, I've said goodbye to 4 male relatives on both sides of the family.

Two songs came to mind during this time of remembering.

In the brilliant Robert Altman film (his last), "A Prairie Home Companion", Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin, playing the role of sisters from a musical family, sing a song of farewell to their mom, uncles and aunts. It's called "Goodbye to my Mama", and it's really worth a listen.

The second song is by Venice, a group of men whose blood relations were the Lennon Sisters. They come from a very large family, and have a song on their album "Spin Art" called "The Family Tree". It speaks also of uncles and aunts, family members who have gone before them. There is another version from a live concert they did - this version is the better of the two, but I've not tracked down the album yet.

You can get the Merly Streep/Lily Tomlin Song from Amazon as an MP3. Or just go for the whole album, which is brilliant overall, and it you loved the film, it's a sure thing that you'll like the soundtrack. The Venice song does not seem available as a standalone MP3 for purchase from Amazon. I did a search, and was surprised to find out how many songs are titled "Family Tree". You'd need to buy the album "Spin Art" to get the Venice version.

The Joys of Cover Art

Been spending a LOT of time finding and attaching cover art to my MP3s. It's painstaking work, but with about 65% done by this afternoon, and viewing the results in iTunes' coverflow window, I have to say it's well worth it.

I'm using MediaMonkey for the job. This application does way more than just do cover art - but that's all I need it for as iTunes is still my music manager of choice.

There are two methods provided by MediaMonkey, and neither is foolproof. The "auto" method draws content from Amazon - but the search often does not return results, or returns results that are quite inappropriate. Certainly, the tags on the file can play a big part in this, but even when the tags are fine, the results can still be poor. Which leads to the "manual" method - in which one finds coverart on one's own, and manually attaches the images to the MP3s using Media Monkey. I find these album cover files on Google Image Search, Amazon, and The strange thing is that even after apparently successfully updating art to the MP3, it disappears the next time I go back to look at it. Reattaching the album art often works. Then, there's also the problem of art that's attached, can be seenin Windows Explorer and Media Monkey, but not in iTunes.

So it's not foolproof, it's a hassle and lots of work....but still very worth it in the end. Apple has a way of making small, not wonderful quality album cover images look great in the coverflow window. Now, if only I had a new iPod that had coverflow built in........


Sunday, November 04, 2007


Was on the KLIA express, speeding from KLIA to KL Sentral on Sunday evening. Among the ads that cycled across the LCD monitors for the captive passengers to view, was the trailer for Stardust. I remember reading that this was a film project that had gone well, from Gaiman's point of view. Memories of the 4 part series compelled me to dig out the same 4 issues from my comics cupboard to flip through, and marvel all over again at how the pairing of Gaiman and Vess was simply so suitable for this project.

There's a formal englishness in the way Gaiman writes. Reading this evokes memories of the writing he did in the 3rd part (I think) of Books of Magic, which explored the magical characters of the DC Universe that had connections with the Realms of Faerie. That section was ALSO drawn by Vess. In Sandman, the chapters would typically begin with a title, followed by "In Which and so .....does such and such...." The Sandman story in which Will Shakespeare and company perform "A Midsummer Night's Dream" for Oberon, Titania and the "real" faeries on whom the plot for the play was based also comes to mind. That was another really brilliant tale, and probably my all time favourite Sandman issue.

The most fascinating character in Stardust is, for me, the Witch. One of Three. Which brings to mind the fates, the furies...who begin the Sandman story arc called "The Kindly Ones". This story arc begins and ends with what seems like a really mundane set of conversations between the virgin, the middle aged lady and the crone. They natter on about what to have for tea, in a very english way and a single line, a prophecy from a fortune cookie sets the stage for the drama to come: " A King will forsake his kingdom; Life and Death will clash and fray; The Oldest Battle begins once more." After the momentous events of the story and it's multiple plot threads that weaved back and forth within the story arc, and reaching back to the earlier stories of the series, it ends with just 2 pages of 6 panels each, featuring again the 3 fates, again talking casually about their work and ...... tea. Which cannot help but leave this reader in a state of breathlessness.

Back to Vess. I first encountered his work in Epic Illustrated. What I remember most of his work is the way he's able to draw huge, ancient, mysterious trees, full of twisted roots and branches. He also worked on the last of the Sandman stories, the second appearance of Will Shakespeare, in which he completes "the Tempest", his last obligation to Morpheus.

I glanced at the Stardust paperback in a bookshop while waiting for Laura at Tampines Mall this evening. It had stills from the film. But not the illustrations by Vess. Give me the original comics anyday.