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From Somewhere: Dragons on a Main


Welcome to From Somewhere, a semi-weekly digest of interesting nuggets strewn about the information highway. Be they about technology, pop culture, or just random odd items, I’ll attempt to make sense of them…

Time for a little Hollywood Math (patent pending): Return of the King took in over a billion at the box office, and Pirates 2 just crossed the billion mark a few weeks back. So what if you could find a franchise that crossed the Pirates action with the Lord of the Rings mythology, with a dash of actual history thrown in?

Never mind; Peter Jackson already did.

The director used his own fundage to secure the film rights to first time (!) author Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series. The historical fantasy series does a “What if..” on the Napoleonic Wars, adding dragons and their pilots to the mix of high seas warfare. Jackson has hinted at helming the first film in the series himself.

So it’s a safe bet Naomi’s having a mighty good week.

Now you’d think this would be a good week to be Lukas Rossi–the latest winner of CBS’ Rockstar. Ah, but with newfound fame, trouble finds you.

First–some of Rossi’s fellow contestants (and many viewers) cried foul based on published reports that Tommy Lee, Jason Newstead, and Gilby Clarke had chosen their future frontman way back during auditions and set out to manufacture Rossi’s win in the contest.

Producers were quick to restate the actual rules (!) of the series: while audience voting served to provide rankings, the band members–not the viewing audience–had the final say on the winner. So there.

Then, there is the matter of Lukas and his new bandmates coming up with another name for their group–as the Orange County Supernova gets to keep their name as a result of an injunction granted on the day of the Rockstar finale.

Saw the first couple of episodes of Aaron Sorkin’s new series, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and it looks to be a good series if the writer/producer can stay interested (and yes, we are talking about the fifth season of West Wing!).

This week’s Sucks to be You Award goes to Universal Music Group head Doug Morris–who (at great length) recently blasted YouTube for its use (by its users) of UMG material without permission or compensation. The comment drew a lot rapid responses from the blog nation. And as usual in such cases, the suit in question had no idea what he was commenting on. As the comments came as part of a keynote adress at the Merrill Lynch Media and Entertainment Conference, one would assume that the suit in question would check for any relevant details or developments that might that might impact such comments.

You know-something like the promotional, content, and advertising agreement NBC Universal made with You Tube back in June. Way to make inflammatory comments about the company you’re doing legitimate business with!

Meanwhile, Steve Jobs (who knows how to do a keynote even when he has nothing to say) rolled out the latest version of iTunes. Within the update’s clunky menus and weird organizational schemes, one might find the long suspected Movie Store added to the menu.

The new service boasts “near DVD Quality resolution,” and its intial offerings from the Disney studios (read: Pirates, Lindsay Lohan flicks, and those awkward Nick Cage action vehicles) range in price from $9.99 for catalog releases to $14.99 for new releases. Additionally, users can take two dollars off new releases if they get it on presale or buy it during its first week of release. Also new to iTunes is a series of video games made for the iPod–ranging from classics to puzzle games–and carry a $4.99 pricetag per download.

On the hardware side of the fence–Jobs announced the Nano will now be available in the old Mini’s color schemes, along with a 1 gig Shuffle nearly the size of a shirt button, and and an 80 gig iPod with enhanced video capablity.

The Apple chief also showed off what appears to be an iTV: Apple’s attempt at set top streaming media box which would handle content from your TV, Satellite, Cable Box, DVR, and your computer. No word if the iTV will have any Slingbox-ish features (which would allow the user to view the same content remotely via the web), but trust that it may not be too long before you can give that dogged copy of High School: the Musical a good rest.

Finally, Jobs announced a price drop on the 30 gig iPod–to the tune of a $249 retail pricepoint. The price drop seem to be a first strike move against some other player that might be coming out soon…

And since we’re talking about the Zune (although Apple will swear that they weren’t), Microsoft has dropped a few more details on the player’s capabilities and its accompanying Zune Marketplace software. As previously announced, the player is a 30 gig unit that’ll handle music, video, and picture files. The player also comes with an FM tuner and a out port for TV/Audio connection. And, lest we forget–that WiFi card.

Initially,the WiFi card will allow users to share those music, picture, and video files with other Zune players. The playlist files can be shared on a limited basis with each connected user–after which the user will be prompted if they would like to purchase the playlist tracks via the Zune Marketplace. Shortly after the player’s release, you’ll be able to connect the Zune wirelessly to your PC or XBox 360 (and yes–you will be able to use Microsoft Live points to make purchases from the Marketplace). Battery life averages at about twelve hours of audio with the WiFi turned off (eight if you leave it running) and around four hours of video.

No word yet if Zune will be compatable with Macs, though we can imagine folks in Redmond snickering at that question. Last week, Wal Mart leaked its price for the Zune ($284), but we’d imagine the final retail will be adjusted in light of the Apple price drop. Both the Zune and Marketplace will launch on Novemeber 14th.

And you may have noticed, November 14th is quite a curious release week already, with both Nintendo’s Wii and Sony’s PS3 jockeying for your attention. Hmm….

And finally from the “desperate for attention” department, Jay Z recently announced his un-retirement and a new album due out in November. You know, he did say he was going to raise Def Jam’s sales numbers–even if he had to do it himself. So maybe he does….