Thursday, November 18, 2010

Japanese Hologram Singer

Japan has seemingly jumped into the future -- as people are going to concerts of a Computer Generated Singer/Hologram! Hatsune Miku, a blue haired anime girl is actually a computer generated singing program called Vocaloid. Her Avatar, though, was able to be projected onto a concert stage using an updated version of an old method, something called Pepper's Ghost Illusion. Even from a youtube video, it looks like a pretty darn good illusion. You can see concert goers on either side of the stage, with Miku moving in-between them - so it wasn't something just projected onto a screen.

Miku has apparently been rising in popularity in Japan with a cult following. The Vocaloid Technology isn't exactly catching on over here in the US, but maybe exposure like this might peek some company's interest.

It looks like a really fun experience for concert goers - and you can see the song on this video here. It's actually very good and catchy. Not bad for a piece of software.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Comic Review: Amazing Spider-Man #648

Spider-Man has been swinging high these past few years. Ever since "Brand New Day" the series has changed into a thrice-monthly title, with a rotating collection of writers and artists. Usually that might spell complete disaster, but it become one of those rare collaborative moments where, if you didn't look at the writer listed, you might not immediately know who was writing. It was all one seamless voice, with an explosion of new ideas being tossed into the Spidey-Mythos every month. It was, pun intended, Amazing! The writing, art, - the whole general direction of Spider-Man seemed to be back on course, after so many long years trying to find it's way back. Brand New Day began after Marvel finally decided to make Peter Parker single again. The Devil arranged the divorce, magically making it as if Spider-Man and Mary Jane where never married. It was a very painful decision on Marvel's part - and it riled up a huge hornets nest worth of readers utterly critical of the decision. My take on the whole affair? I think they did the right thing. When he was married to Mary Jane, Spider-Man's cast of characters instantly shrunk! I can't speak from experience, but it does seem like married people tend to focus more inward on building their family. You can't go galavanting around bars, or be in the hip social scene, when you're trying to actually work on your marriage. Spider-Man's world simply shrunk, to the point where his entire supporting cast where MJ, Aunt May, and Tony Stark. (His employer, at the time) For a series that thrived so much on the soap-opera life of all of Spider-Man's many supporting characters - it was just death to the series.

I only delve into this to help explain how utterly refreshing it was when Brand New Day began - that Spider-Man's world was suddenly populated by more friends and acquaintances than we ever knew could exist in a Spider-Man comic. That, plus the superb writing and art, simply made for some of the best Spider-Man stories since the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko Days.

Now the era of Brand New Day has come to and end, and the formula is changing a bit. The series is now going to be twice a month ($4, extra-sized issues) with Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos as the creative team. I've always considered Dan Slott to be the leader of the group of Spider-Writers, so he made sense to be sole voice of Peter Parker from now on. Humberto Ramos is a good artist, but his extreme stylized art may be off-putting to many. (I have the sneaking suspicion he might have been picked as artist because he can produce art quicker. Though I may be totally wrong. I do believe other artists are due to come on the book later on)

Anyway, this first issue under Slott and Humberto's stewardship is simply a fantastic first start. Everything good from Brand New Day is still here - the continuing plot-lines, like Mayor J. Jonah Jameson and he reconsiliation with his wife Marla. Since May Parker married into the Jameson family (she married Jonah's father, making him and Peter hilariously related!), so she wants to make sure there is no bad blood between them and help Peter get a new job. (He was unceremoniously fired for doctoring a photo, which was revealed by Mayor Jameson, black-balling Peter in NYC.) Peter is introduced to a Google-like bussiness, which offers Peter the dream job of a life-time. No set work hours, plenty of perks, and he's able to use his genius brain and mess around with super science. It's always a nice change of pace to see the Parker luck change in Peter's favor every once in awhile. And Dan Slott does an excellent job of making you feel just as elated for Peter as he does for himself.

This is a perfect jumping on-point for readers, as this is pretty much a whirl-wind tour of Peter's current life. You get to see him in action with the Avengers, you get to see Doctor Octopus planning his exquisite revenge - you get to see Peter look for a place to crash after loosing his apartment. (His new job takes care of that later on) There are some truly great character beats along the way, like when Peter shows up at Mary Jane's door pretty much asking "can I live here for a while". They both fall into hysterics, poignantly referencing all the hard work that's been done to split them up to begin with. Such a scene, I can only imagine, must be very hard to make work in a comic book. Humor is a very difficult talent to master, and even harder to ensure it comes off effectively in a medium where you neither hear the laughter or control the timing of how a person is reading it. That's why I was so impressed by it - because these two characters both bawling in laughter also made me laugh. That has to be hard thing to pull off, both in writing and art.

While a stupendous first issue, where I definitely felt like I got my money's worth, it wasn't over just yet. An original story, to preview for the new Spider-Girl series, is presented to show us what the new Spider-Girl is all about. It's a fairly decent story, showing Spider-Girl meeting and getting approval from Spider-Man. Nothing too special, but a nice look to see what the Spider-Girl writer and artist can do.

Anyway - I simply can't recommend the current Spider-Man series enough to you. In fact - I recommend you go back and get the last few years worth of issues, all 102 of them! They where that good - and this looks to be just as impressive a run as the last one!

Oh, also, here's a trailer Marvel made to advertise the new run. I'm really beginning to like these little mini-movies. The voice acting has been better, and it's always cool to see comic art come alive.