Comic Book Recommendation – Soulfire

Wanting to surprise me at Christmas, but apprehensive that she’d get something I already had or didn’t like, my wife took some advice from the owner of a relatively new comic book shop in a neighbouring town. She told him titles I like, highlighting Fables as my favourite, and he made a recommendation and even went as far as to say that if I had it already or didn’t like it, he would exchange it, no questions asked.

Fast forward to Christmas Day and I have said comic book, wrapped and in my hands. Thinking she may also have mentioned my like of Preacher I was half expecting the first Sandman trade paperback – a title I’ve often been tempted by but never enough to actually buy volume 1. What I actually got when I opened the present was a hardcover edition of a title I’d never heard of; Soulfire.

I recognised one of the writers, Jeph Loeb, as one of the guys behind some of the greatest Batman stories ever such as Batman: Long Halloween and Batman: Haunted Knight. I flicked through and was straight away drawn to the artwork, which is absolutely stunning – rich in detail and beautifully coloured. The story is one of fantasy, featuring dragons and magic. I really enjoyed it and am now looking forward to April when the issues 6-10 are collected in volume 2. It’s only a 10 issue story arc, but there may be more to come in the future if I’m reading correctly.

Soulfire (Picture courtsey of aspencomics.com)

So my wife took a leap of faith that paid off, the comic book shop owner was spot on, and I’ve discovered a great new comic book series that otherwise I probably never would have.

The comic book shop is Limited Edition Comix, in Stevenage, Hertfordshire – visit it if you’re ever in the area – I hear the guy who runs it knows his stuff.

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The Camera Saga Continues – Fujifilm Finepix F72EXR

First off, this is the first blog I’m writing with the iPhone application so URLs and photos (there is a photo function so I will try!) will be added at a later date if I can’t add them via the iPhone application – please excuse all inevitable typos!

So, it started in August when I had decided that my Panasonic TZ1 was no longer good enough. While the 10x optical zoom us great, having that coupled with a measley 5MP sensor is not going to give the best results. The obvious upgrade was to the much talked about Panasonic Lumix TZ7
– 12x optical zoom and 10MP. I had this for about a week before I sold it – at the time I’d decided I wanted to get into photography properly, and that for that I’d need a Sony DSLR-A200K
.

There’s no denying the Sony DSLR-A200K gave great results, but it’s too big a camera to carry around on a day to day basis. It also needs a lot of time to progress and learn how to use the camera to it’s best ability. Add in the extra investment of lenses and I soon came to realise that the world of DSLR photography was not for me – maybe in the future when I don’t travel 3 hours a day to and from work and when our little boy is less demanding of our time.

So now we are in December and I’m back looking at the Panasonic TZ7 again, although now I’ve been Reading about people having issues with cracked LCD screens and Panasonic not doing anything about the problem. There us also the limited low light performance of the Panasonic TZ7 and add in the almost £250 price tag and I’m looking elsewhere.

After turning away the Canon PowerShot SX200
due to the flash popping up with every photo, whether it’s needed or not, and no optical zoom in video mode, I was seriously considering the Fujifilm Finepix F70EXR. It seemed to tick all the boxes – 10x optical zoom, 10MP, wide angle 27mm lens and these clever EXR settings giving enhanced performance in low light, to name but one benefit. Thanks to Hot UK Deals I became aware of the Fujifilm Finepix F72EXR, which is the Jessops exclusive version of the Fujifilm Finepix F70EXR, for a great price thanks to a £30 cashback offer from Fuji.

I’ve had this latest new camera for just 2 days and am yet to upload any photos to my laptop. Results on the camera’s LCD screen look good, and all have been low light photos so far. I’m looking forward to seeing the actual photos and to giving the camera a good road test outside at some point. The price of the Fujifilm Finepix F72EXR came to £125 with the cashback, a fantastic deal in comparison to the expensive and flawed Panasonic Lumix TZ7.

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Bon Jovi – The Circle, The Leak and the O2!

Promotion has thus far been minimal so you’d be forgiven for not knowing that Bon Jovi have a new album out on Monday The Circle. It’s their 11th studio album and comes 2 years after their 10th Country tinged album Lost Highway. I have the deluxe version on order from Amazon which for the bargain price of just £12.98 includes a DVD of the documentary When we Were Beautiful.

wax-circle

The Circle

I got very excited yesterday when I got an email from Amazon telling me that it had been dispatched. Even though Royal Mail were on strike, I could still get the album before the Monday release date thanks to Amazon ditching Royal Mail when the strikes were announced. Alas, my excitement was quashed when I read the email in a bit more detail and saw it was being sent out by Indigostarfish, Amazon’s preferred merchant and still with Royal Mail – denied.

On a big Bon Jovi forum many people have already heard the album thanks to it being leaked and available on download websites. I have resisted temptation and will wait until I have the CD in my hands before I play it. On the plus side the reports coming back from those that have heard is universally great. People are saying it’s the best album since These Days, which Bon Jovi fans the world over see as the zenith of Bon Jovi music.

With the Royal Mail strike in mind I’ll probably buy a vanilla version from a supermarket on the way to work on Monday, such is my impatience!

Now, onto matters of outrage – the prices of the tickets for the shows at the O2 in London, which started off as 5 shows but has since risen to 8. For more information on the fan response and prices I suggest you go here: BonJovi-Live.com where fan comments have been and continue to be documented.

When I went to see Bon Jovi at the very first show at The O2 in 2007 I paid £60+ for each ticket, this past Saturday I paid £45 for each ticket and the seats are far better so from my personal perspective I’m doing ok. If people are moaning that they don’t want to pay high prices to be at the front then don’t, buy a cheaper ticket and sit further back – that’s life. Oh yeah, I’m going to see Bon Jovi, for the 5th time, on June 13th 2010 – good times!

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Steve Vai Blu-ray – is it worth it?

I’ve always been a big Steve Vai fan, in my eyes (should that be ears?) he’s the greatest guitarist in the world. Seeing him live on stage with Whitesnake at Donnington Monsters of Rock in 1990 was one of the musical highlights of my life. Vai’s latest album, Where the Wild Things Are is also available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Vai on Blu-ray

Vai on Blu-ray

I’m now left with the decision of what format, or formats, I should buy? My immediate instinct is to go with the CD and nothing else, but as I have a Blu-ray player (PS3) and a full surround audio set-up at home, am I missing out on a fantastic audio/visual experience by ignoring the Blu-ray? What most people probably either don’t know, or forget, is that Blu-ray not only offers a better quality high picture but also a far better sound. For a budding (wanabee?) guitarist and Steve Vai fan I’d no doubt enjoy watching the master at work, but with my son only being 18 months old, am I ever going to get an opportunity to get the most out of this Blu-ray – the volume would surely have to be set at 11?

Has anyone out in there experienced a concert on Blu-ray, was it worth it?

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Jenson Button wins Formula 1 Championship & Lewis Hamilton races to 3rd in Brazil

I’ve been quite critical of Jenson Button over this season, as have a lot of others. As a Lewis Hamilton fan it was hard to watch Jenson race to victory after victory at the start of the season while Lewis struggled to get into the second part of qualifying with his underperforming McLaren MP4-24.

Button has the advantage of driving a car that had a lot of money and time pumped into it by virtue of Honda forgoing success in the 2008 season to concentrate on the 2009 season. Of course that didn’t quite go to plan when late last year Honda announced they wouldn’t be taking part in the 2009 season – at this point Jenson Button, and team mate Rubens Barrichello, were without a ride for the 2009 season. The rest of the Brawn GP story, as they say, is history and perhaps both drivers were deserving of such a superior car for sticking with the team.

There’s no doubting that for the first 7 races the Brawn GP were far superior to any others on the grid, with the Red Bulls being the closest in terms of performance. Even though the likes of McLaren and Ferrari have turned up year after with superior cars, this felt different, and I almost resented the Brawn’s performance and Jenson’s success. As the season progressed and other cars got better, specifically the McLaren, the playing field evened out. The only problem, if you can call it that, is that Button had built up such a lead that only his team mate had any chance of catching him, with an outside chance going to either Sebastian Vettel or Mark Weber at Red Bull. This meant that even though Button was under-performing he was still going to be the champion and for me that spoiled the season a little bit.

Moving on to the Brazilian Grand Prix and I was firmly behind Barrichello and wanted him to take both the victory at Interlagos and then the Championship from Button at the very first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix two weeks later. As Vettel had qualified 14th there was no chance he was going to challenge Jenson. Hamilton qualified in 17th which was pretty poor but as always I’d be behind in, hoping he’d be able get past a few people and get some points, maybe even enough to match or get past Kimi Raikkonen on the leader board.

What I witnessed on Sunday was Button having the race of his life and putting on a performance worthy of a champion. With his lead having been eroded over the weeks and there being a strong chance of Barrichello winning after starting from pole position, Button was obviously fighting for his championship and for the first time this season felt very much under pressure. I just wish he’d raced like that for the previous 8 races rather than relying on his cushion of points amassed earlier in the season. Because of his fantastic performance I was pleased for him when he became champion, though at the same time extremely gutted for Barrichello who once again had no luck during his home race.

Congratulations Jenson Button, the 2009 Formula 1 Drivers World Champion, and to Brawn GP, the 2009 Formula 1 Constructors Champions.

2009 World Champion (Photo Credit: ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP/Getty Images)

2009 World Champion (Photo Credit ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP/Getty Images)

After qualifying in 17th, Hamilton also had an amazing race and thanks to a great tactical decision of pitting and changing tyres while the safety car was out early in the race, along with some great driving, he managed to overtake Barrichello with a few laps left and come home in 3rd, another podium finish. Importantly, this meant he overtook Raikkonen and has a 1 point lead going into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – hopefully he can keep the 5th place while helping McLaren remain in 3rd in the Constructors Championship.

Lewis leads the way (Photo Credit: Mauricio Lima/AFP/Getty Images)

Lewis leads the way (Photo Copyright: Mauricio Lima/AFP/Getty Images)

While there a few lesser places still to be decided, like Vettel and Barrichello’s fight for second place, we go into the first ever Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with both the Drivers and Constructors Champions already crowned. Still, next season should be fantastic, as long as the FIA don’t throw too many spanners into the works!

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In search of Manga, found One Piece!

For a few weeks I’ve been wanting to get into Manga comic (are they classed as comics?) books and have been researching what would be the best title to start with. I’m a keen comic book reader and collector and also love Japan and it’s culture, so it’s a good fit really! Just a pity I didn’t have this epiphany when I was in Japan 8 years ago!

I was in Waterstones just this afternoon and came across a series which I think would be perfect for me: One Piece – it’s a Manga series about pirates, another big interest of mine!

Avast there!

Avast there!

On further investigation it seems that this is a mega popular series which has been running for over a decade and has been released in 55 volumes, so far. It’s longevity is another very attractive quality as I love a long series that I can get my teeth into and look forward to continuing volumes. I’ve ordered volume 1 from the awesomely cheap Book Depository who take Paypal Payments and as I had some funds in there from an eBay sale a few months ago it’s like I didn’t have to use actual money! If I like it then I have a few volumes to buy before I’m up to date, luckily Christmas is upon us in 2 months and I’ve requested Amazon vouchers from relatives who’ve asked what I want!

Sticking with Manga, if anyone is a fan themselves, please recommend me some other series’ I might like. Not so keen on horror or anything too violent – fun, fantasy and even some vampire action, as long as it’s not OTT!

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2nd November – Disney Blu-ray / DVD Combi Re-release day!

First came the DVD, then the extended version, then the Blu-ray and now Disney are re-releasing some of their catalogue in Blu-ray/DVD Combi Packs, presumably to keep them in line with their recent releases…oh, and to make a heap of money as well!

Blu-ray / DVD Combi Pack

Blu-ray / DVD Combi Pack

The titles being released as Blu-ray / DVD Combi packs on November 2nd are as follow:

Pirates Of The Caribbean – The Curse Of The Black Pearl Combi Pack (Blu-ray + DVD)
Enchanted Combi Pack (Blu-ray + DVD)
The Nightmare Before Christmas Combi Pack (Blu-ray + DVD)
The Chronicles Of Narnia – The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe Combi Pack (Blu-ray + DVD)
The Chronicles Of Narnia – Prince Caspian Combi Pack (Blu-ray + DVD)
Cars Combi Pack (Blu-ray + DVD)
Tinker Bell Combi Pack (Blu-ray + DVD)
High School Musical Combi Pack (Blu-ray + DVD)
Ratatouille Combi Pack (Blu-ray + DVD)

Of those we have Pirates of the Caribbean on both DVD and Blu-ray, Enchanted on Blu-ray, The Nightmare Before Christmas on DVD, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe on DVD, Cars on Blu-ray and DVD, High School Musical on DVD and Ratatouille on Blu-ray. These Combi Packs are all priced at £12.98 ($20.87) which is a pretty damn good price and less than I paid for any of the Blu-rays, and probably the DVDs at the time. As an avid Disney collector, am I tempted to re-buy any of those that I have? In a word, no. That said I’m probably not the target consumer for these deals, more likely they are for people who don’t already have these titles. I don’t have Prince Caspian and am very tempted to get this Combi Pack at just £12.98 as I like to play Blu-ray in the lounge and DVDs elsewhere in the house.

It’ll be interesting to see if other companies follow suit, but as usual Disney are the front runners in the way Blu-rays are released.

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