The Marvel-ous Collection: A Beginning

I’m a pretty big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it felt a bit ridiculous when I was given Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 for Christmas. To be clear, the gift wasn’t ridiculous; it’s a fantastic film and one I’ve been excited to rewatch since seeing it in the cinema. The ridiculous part was that this officially marked the start of my Marvel Bluray collection. That’s right, I might be a huge fan of the franchise and own a fairly sizeable solid-media movie collection, but I’m almost entirely absent the MCU!

I say almost, because in truth I do own both Guardians of the Galaxy (now Volume 1, I guess) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier on DVD, but for a 17 film franchise (at time of writing) that’s pretty meagre. Part of that reason is the Bluray dilemma: ultimately, I don’t care that much about the increased resolution for most films, but I definitely care about the extra features. As Bluray has become the de facto release location for collector’s editions and special features, I was increasingly left behind, waiting for both an excuse to buy a Bluray player and then, later, for prices to drop back to the realms of sanity.

Luckily, 2017 saw both goals achieved. Whilst Blurays remain expensive (Marvel’s particularly so), they’re now at an acceptable premium above the respective DVD release, so with bonus featurettes, content and a better picture quality they feel somehow more worthwhile. At the same time, Marvel finally released a collected set for both Phase One and Phase Two, something I find bizarre has taken half a decade. I mean, what other purpose does the marking of “phases” serve then to artificially create film sets? At any rate, the result was a sudden galvanisation to fill in the blanks and finally own some of my favourite superhero films.

Unfortunately, a quick look at the contents of the collected sets left me a little cold. Yes, there are new bonus scenes, animatics and fun Agent Coulson introductions for each of the films, but they also lack a number of key special features from previous releases, especially the big documentaries. As a result, I’ve thrown in the towel! If Marvel/Disney can’t get their act together and release a definitive edition of the MCU then I’ll just create one myself.

The first hurdle was finding out what variations existed, what the actual differences were and then weighing up the pros and cons. Luckily, Reddit came to my aid (after Google summarily failed) with a raft of suggestions for comparison websites geared towards just this kind of task.

Since then, I’ve been slowly going through the films, one by one, narrowing down my options until I’ve found the exact version that most intrigues me. So far, the few I have settled on have been “out of print”, but luckily a robust second hand market appears to exist, keeping resell prices low. It’s slow going, but honestly I’m finding it quite fun. I’m also tracking my decisions and aim to release a full list, and break down of why I chose each film’s specific version, once I’m done.

For now, I figured it would be worth a quick round-up of the websites I’ve found most useful, so without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my top five film hunting locations:

1. DVD Double Dip
Not the prettiest site, nor the most complete in terms of information, but what it does have is extremely easy to read, compare and review. Probably the best starting point I’ve found but take the accuracy with a pinch of salt.

2. DVD Compare
Very accurate, particularly when it comes to extra features, and great for comparing regional differences in films. Take particular note of the “Cuts” and “Overall” sections at the bottom of a search page to see if the film is actively censored anywhere in the world. I wish you could compare films side-by-side, but still easily my favourite comparison site.

3. Blu-Ray.com
Probably the most complete database of film releases on this list but a bit of a pig to search accurately. There’s no way to easily compare film versions without opening multiple tabs, but you can filter by country directly on the search bar and the user reviews are solid, often clearing up any confusion over oddly phrased features.

4. Filmogs
Another very complete database without easy comparison methods. Easier to navigate than Blu-Ray.com but the search is less intelligent (e.g. “Avengers” fails to pull back any collected sets). Again, useful for getting more information, plus acts as a competitively priced marketplace.

5. /r/DVDCollection
If all else fails, ask here and someone will probably either know the answer or own the film and be able to tell you. Really helpful bunch!

Of course, once you’ve narrowed down your options and decided which version is just right, you still need to buy the darn thing. Obviously if you’re looking at buying new then all the normal locations apply, but for second hand movies I’m having most success at the following:

1. Music Magpie – though be wary, several times I’ve spent a while looking at a film, come back later and found the price has shot up. Leave it a few days and it seems to drop back down again.
2. eBay
3. CEX
4. Amazon Marketplace

Happy hunting!

CSV Albums: A Database

For the most part, using the Universal Scrobbler is as simple as searching for the artist/album you want and hitting Scrobble. There are a couple of albums I have, however, which don’t seem to be searchable on the relevant databases. Luckily there is a CSV entry option which makes scrobbling whole albums super easy. I figured I might as well leave the converted CSV files online, just in case they come in handy for anyone else (plus, it acts as a backup/easy access for me as well). I’ll add to/update this post whenever I find some new ones.

UPDATE: (06/04/17) I’ve converted all of the CSV lists to use quote-mark column delimiters. By doing so, I can have track titles that contain commas without worrying about odd results – hooray!

The Atrocity Exhibition – Lazy Habits

“Lazy Habits”,”Kicking The Clouds”,”The Atrocity Exhibition”
“Lazy Habits”,”Feed the Brass”,”The Atrocity Exhibition”
“Lazy Habits”,”Left 2 (Ruins)”,”The Atrocity Exhibition”
“Lazy Habits”,”Crossing”,”The Atrocity Exhibition”
“Lazy Habits”,”The Breach”,”The Atrocity Exhibition”
“Lazy Habits”,”Answer With Quiestions”,”The Atrocity Exhibition”
“Lazy Habits”,”Hindsight Bias”,”The Atrocity Exhibition”
“Lazy Habits”,”Cold Shoulder Freestyle”,”The Atrocity Exhibition”
“Lazy Habits”,”The Terminal Beach”,”The Atrocity Exhibition”
“Lazy Habits”,”Give It Up”,”The Atrocity Exhibition”
“Lazy Habits”,”Sanity For Sanctuary”,”The Atrocity Exhibition”
“Lazy Habits”,”Never Did”,”The Atrocity Exhibition”
“Lazy Habits”,”Waiting Around – Bonus Track”,”The Atrocity Exhibition”

Lazy Habits – Lazy Habits

“Lazy Habits”,”Processional”,”Lazy Habits”
“Lazy Habits”,”Ashes”,”Lazy Habits”
“Lazy Habits”,”Surface Dirt”,”Lazy Habits”
“Lazy Habits”,”Even Out”,”Lazy Habits”
“Lazy Habits”,””Perfect Sentence””,”Lazy Habits”
“Lazy Habits”,”Ghosts (Fallen)”,”Lazy Habits”
“Lazy Habits”,”Memory Banks (feat. Baby Sol)”,”Lazy Habits”
“Lazy Habits”,”Starting Fires”,”Lazy Habits”
“Lazy Habits”,”Fades”,”Lazy Habits”
“Lazy Habits”,”The Road”,”Lazy Habits”
“Lazy Habits”,”An Interlude”,”Lazy Habits”
“Lazy Habits”,”Bulletin”,”Lazy Habits”
“Lazy Habits”,”The Drowned World”,”Lazy Habits”
“Lazy Habits”,”Please People”,”Lazy Habits”
“Lazy Habits”,”Recessional”,”Lazy Habits”
“Lazy Habits”,”Ghosts (Screen and Fallen)”,”Lazy Habits”

Sun – Cat Power

“Cat Power”,”Cherokee”,”Sun”
“Cat Power”,”Sun”,”Sun”
“Cat Power”,”Ruin”,”Sun”
“Cat Power”,”3,6,9″,”Sun”
“Cat Power”,”Always on My Own”,”Sun”
“Cat Power”,”Real Life”,”Sun”
“Cat Power”,”Human Being”,”Sun”
“Cat Power”,”Manhattan”,”Sun”
“Cat Power”,”Silent Machine”,”Sun”
“Cat Power”,”Nothin’ But Time”,”Sun”
“Cat Power”,”Peace and Love”,”Sun”

Cold Fact – Rodriguez

“Rodriguez”,”Sugar Man”,”Cold Fact”
“Rodriguez”,”Only Good for Conversation”,”Cold Fact”
“Rodriguez”,”Crucify Your Mind”,”Cold Fact”
“Rodriguez”,”This Is Not a Song, It’s an Outburst: Or, the Establishment Blues”,”Cold Fact”
“Rodriguez”,”Hate Street Dialogue”,”Cold Fact”
“Rodriguez”,”Forget It”,”Cold Fact”
“Rodriguez”,”Inner City Blues”,”Cold Fact”
“Rodriguez”,”I Wonder”,”Cold Fact”
“Rodriguez”,”Like Janis”,”Cold Fact”
“Rodriguez”,”Gommorah (A Nursery Rhyme)”,”Cold Fact”
“Rodriguez”,”Rich Folks Hoax”,”Cold Fact”
“Rodriguez”,”Jane S. Piddy”,”Cold Fact”

Palookaville – Fatboy Slim

“Fatboy Slim”,”Don’t Let the Man Get You Down”,”Palookaville”
“Fatboy Slim”,”Slash Dot Dash”,”Palookaville”
“Fatboy Slim”,”Wonderful Night”,”Palookaville”
“Fatboy Slim”,”Long Way from Home”,”Palookaville”
“Fatboy Slim”,”Put It Back Together”,”Palookaville”
“Fatboy Slim”,”Mi Bebé Masoquista”,”Palookaville”
“Fatboy Slim”,”Push & Shove”,”Palookaville”
“Fatboy Slim”,”North West Three”,”Palookaville”
“Fatboy Slim”,”The Journey”,”Palookaville”
“Fatboy Slim”,”Jin Go Lo Ba”,”Palookaville”
“Fatboy Slim”,”Song for Chesh”,”Palookaville”
“Fatboy Slim”,”The Joker”,”Palookaville”

Interneting is (Apparently) Hard [#7]

Visual representation of the HTML DOM model

Visual respresentation of the DOM

Reddit has once again directed me towards a very interesting online resource: Interneting is Hard!

The website is beautifully illustrated and boasts a very elegant design structure. There are a couple of cross-platform inconsistencies but the quality of the content and layout is excellent. A quick overview of some of the sections has highlighted the knowledge on display is equally well thought through. Overall, a very impressive find that I look forward to diving deeper into in the future and a great introduction to web design.

Lightroom Resource List

Humurous graph outlining relative skill level of photographer compared to self worth
I’m definitely still in the first quartile…

My new PC is up and running and starting to be “just right” (we’ll get to further details later, I promise), so one of the big “new” things I’ve got for the new year is a subscription to Adobe CC – specifically the “Photographer” plan. I have previously mentioned worries regarding this plan; the insecurities of relying so much on software that you never truly own, but only “rent” for a given period. Ultimately though, I caved. Adobe still produces the best image editing software in the world, as far as I’m concerned, and although it’s been many years since I last truly used Lightroom I remain impressed by its suite of features.

That said, referring to myself as “rusty” is probably so overly-polite it’s borderline fictional when it comes to using both Lightroom and Photoshop. Not only have I taken a several-year absence, I haven’t had an “up-to-date” version of either program since CS3, so there are a lot of new features and “enhanced” (read: totally different) navigation options. As a result, I’m regarding myself as a total beginner and slowly compiling an Adobe 101. I’m also continuing my war against the easily forgotten, losable “bookmark”, so I figured I would just keep a rolling list going on here. With that said, here’s some links to tips/advice I’ve found useful so far:

7 Steps to Getting Organised in Lightroom ~ Layers Magazine
Understanding the Histogram (Basics) ~ Lynda.com
JPEG Export Comparisons ~ Jeffrey Friedl
Virtual Copies ~ Laura Shoe
Focus Stacking ~ Phlearn
Noise Reduction ~ Daniel Laan (seriously awesome and includes other, non-LR tools for comparison)
Custom Metadata for Importing Photos ~ Digital Photography School
Local Adjustment Brush Settings ~ MCPactions
Colour Balancing Tips ~ Adobe Tutorials
Lightroom -> Photoshop -> Lightroom ~ Adobe Tutorials
10 Ways to Speed Up Lightroom ~ Lightroom Zen

And of course Adobe’s own tutorials page, which is really very impressive in both scope and detail: Official Lightroom Details (especially combined with their Coffee Break Tips series)


I’ve decided to add a couple of links for straight up photography as well:

Depth of Field Quick Guide ~ Aperture Tours
Composition Study ~ compositionstudy.com
UK Image Copyright Laws ~ gov.uk
Photo metadata/IPTC explained ~ IPTC
Astrophotography Tutorials & Tips ~ sympathink

Gouty-Stem Trees For All

19th Century pencil illustration of an Australian Baobab tree, titled Gouty-Stem Tree

Ah, the good old “Gouty-Stem Tree” of Australia! Actually, I honestly had no idea that Baobab’s had reached the Great Land of Oz; I have (mistakenly) always assumed they were endemic to Africa, but apparently not. But, apologies tree-lovers, this is not a post about these wondrous, bulbous monsters of the savannah but rather how I came to learn about them in the first place and, importantly, why I can share the above image without any worries of reprisal.

The “Gouty-Stem Tree” (the image, not the plant) is an illustration taken from John Stoke’s book “Discoveries in Australia; with an account of the coasts and rivers explored and surveyed during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, in the years 1837-43“*. Not a book I’ve ever read (or actually seen), sadly, but one of hundreds that have been archived and “digitised” by the British Library to help preserve and catalogue their huge collection, which is all available to the public. Better still, this particular image, alongside hundreds of similar engravings, etchings, drawings, maps etc., has been released as part of a side project of copyright free pictures (due to the age of the books), all made accessible and shareable via Flickr. You can check out the full, ever expanding collection over here (its definitely worth it).

A friend pointed this out to me, largely for use in world-building, writing and LARPing exercises (more her forte, sadly) but personally I can also see a very valuable resource for designers, with some fantastic wildlife imagery that I’m itching to incorporate into some future projects. Happy hunting!


* I have no idea if this refers to the H.M.S. Beagle, of Darwinian fame.