Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Why the New Version of Google Images Stinks

I was going to write a post on the first anime feature films to be released in the United States (it is probably earlier than you think), but yesterday Google introduced a revamped version of Google Images. Sadly, this afternoon, I became one of the many users (perhaps I should say "victims") who was switched to this revamped version of Google's image search. To say it is greatly inferior to the old version of Google Images would be an understatement.

This new version of Google Images has a wholly new layout, with solid rows images lined up, row upon row on the page. It also loads many more images, divided into pages. On the surface this layout might not seem problematic for users, but in fact I suspect it is (I know it is for three of my friends and myself). First, there is not much white space between the images, which can easily create strain on one's eyes if one searches for images often. Second, even with a cable connection, the sheer number of pages the new Google Images loads can slow the loading down time considerably. Consider this, I searched for "Beatles" and it loaded 29 pages of images at once!

What may be a more serious problem is that no information is provided beneath the images as with the old version of Google Images. One is neither told the size of the image or the website it is from. To find this out one has to scroll over the images themselves. For us who would like to know the size of an image before downloading it and have a healthy distrust of certain websites, this is exceedingly inconvenient. The old version of Google Images provided information about the image right below the image.

To give you an idea of the new version of Google Images, here is a screenshot of; my search on "Beatles:"

And here is a screenshot of the old version:

Now Google does provide a link to "Switch to Basic Version (which is the old version--that's how I was able to create the above screen shot), but it is at the bottom of the page. That means one will have to wait until the page loads (which loads slower than it used to because of the sheer number of images it is loading) or hit the "Stop" button on his or her browser to hit the link to the "Basic," yet superior version (that is, the old version).

So far I know of a at least four people who dislike the new Google Images. I know that there are many more. I paid a visit to the Google Images Help Forum and there were already many people asking how they could switch to the old version of Google Images or simply complaining about the new version. Given this, I rather suspect that if Google does not either provide users a way to permanently switch to the old version or simply reinstate the old version entirely, they might be losing users to Yahoo Image Search. As much as I like Google, I might well be one of them.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The 41st Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

I had planned to finish up the eulogy I had begun last night for James Gammon today, but I am on my fourth day of insomnia and not up to a full entry. Since today is the anniversary of the first time Man sat foot on the moon, then, I will leave you with the video of Walter Cronkite's coverage of that historic event and a link to the article I wrote for the 40th anniversary last year.

The 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

Monday, July 19, 2010

Actor James Gammon Passes On

Actor James Gammon, who appeared in many movies and TV shows, passed on July 16, 2010 at the age of 70. The cause was cancer of the liver and adrenal glands.

James Gammon was born on April 20, 1940 in Newman, Illinois. With his mother and his siblings he would later move to Florida to go to college. He had a career as a television cameraman, then moved to Los Angeles where he started acting in local theatre. There he began acting in local theatre. He made his television debut as a guest star in The Wild Wild West episode "Night of the Freebooters" in 1966. For the rest of the Sixties he appeared frequently on television, in such shows as Captain Nice, Bonanza, The Invaders, Batman, Felony Squad, The Virginian, and The High Chaparral. He made his movie debut in Cool Hand Luke in 1967 and for the rest of the Sixties appeared in such movies as Journey to Shiloh (1968), The Thousand Palne Raid (1969), and A Man Called Horse (1970).

In the Seventies James Gammon frequently appeared on various television shows, including The F.B.I., Dusty's Trail, Kung Fu, The Streets of San Francisco, Barnaby Jones, Cannon, Charlie's Angels, and Lou Grant. He played the recurring role of  Zack Rosswell on The Waltons. He also appeared in several movies, including Cry for Me, Billy (1972), Zandy's Bride (1974), Macon County Line (1974), The Wild McCulloughs (1975), Bobby Jo and the Outlaw (1976), The Pom Pom Girls (1976),  Black Oak Conspiracy (1977), and Urban Cowboy (1980). In 1972 Mr. Gammon founed the MET Theatre in Los Angeles with several fellow actors. Over the years he would both act in several plays and direct several plays there.

In the Eighties James Gammon guest starred on such shows as Crime Story, The Master, Cagney & Lacey, Murder She Wrote, In the Heat of the Night, and Midnight Caller. He was a regular on the series Baghdad Cafe from 1990 to 1991 and appeared in the mini-series Streets of Laredo. He appeared in such films as Vision Quest (1985), Sylvester (1985), Silver Bullet (1985), Stacking (1987), Made in Heaven (1987), and The Milagro Beanfield War (1988),  Two of Mr. Gammon's best known roles were from the Eighties: Arnie Westrum in Silver Bullet (1985), and Cleveland Indians manager Lou Brown in Major League (1989).

In the Nineties James Gammon guest starred on The Young Riders, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, L. A. Law, and Tracey Takes On. He was a regular on both the TV series Homefront and Nash Bridges. Mr. Gammon appeared in such movies as Leaving Normal (1992), The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993), Major League II (1994), Wyatt Earp (1994), Wild Bill (1995), Point Blank (1998), and The Iron Giant (1999). He made his only appearance on Broadway in Buried Child. He was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance.

In the Naughts James Gammon guest starred on Filmore, Crossing Jordan, and Monk. He also appeared in the telefilm Jesse Stone: Sea Change. He appeared in such films as Life or Something Like It (2002), Cold Mountain (2002), Silver City (2003), Don't Come Knocking (2005), and Appaloosa (2007).

While most of the roles James Gammon played to tended to be of the grizzled type, from cowboys to Lou Brown from Major League, he actually had a good deal of range. Gammon could be the good natured, honourable, and heroic cowpoke or he could be a base villain. Indeed, many might be surprised to know that it was Mr. Gammon who provided the voice of the overbearing, fanatical Gneral Sudokoff Indeed, playwright and friend Sam Shepard said of James Gammon in a recent article in The Los Angeles Times, "The guy was a whole atmosphere unto himself, and I always tried to find a place for him. He was very versatile, and could do just about anything." Mr. Shepard could have spoken no truer words bout the great James Gammon.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Peter Fernandez, the Voice of Speed Racer, Passes On

Peter Fernadez, who provided the voice for Speed Racer in the anime of the same name. passed on July 15, 2010, at the age of 83. The cause was cancer.

Peter Fernandez was born on January 2, 1927 in New York City. From ages 7 to 11 he worked as a model for the John Robert Powers Agency. He made his debut on Broadway when he was only 11 in the play Whiteoaks in 1938. Over the next few years he would appear on Broadway in such plays as Love's Old Sweet Song (1940), The Damask Cheek (1942), and Listen Professor (1943). He also worked on radio shows, including children's shows. He would also work on such radio shows as The Adventures of Superman, Suspense, Gangbusters, and Mr. District Attorney. In 1945 Mr. Fernandez was drafted in the United States Army, but World War II ended before he could seen any action.

In 1945 Peter Fernandez started writing Western and adventure stories for pulp magazines.In 1949 he made his feature film debut in the movie City Across the River. He also started working ion television, in such shows as Captain Video and His Video Rangers, Suspense, Kraft Theatre, Armstrong Circle Theatre, and The Hallmark Hall of Fame. He was a regular on the series Leave It to Papa in 1950. In 1955 he appeared one last time on Broadway, in the play Once Upon a Tailor. It was in 1960 that Mr. Fernandez first provided voice work on the English version of an anime. He was the voice of Alakazam in Alakazam the Great, the English language version of the anime Saiyuki.

Mr, Fernandez found steady work providing his voice for both live action foreign films and animated TV series. He did dubbing work on Mothra (1961) and  Buddha (1961). He provided additional voices for the first episode of Astroboy, the American version of the anime Tetsuwan Atomu. He also provided voice work for Gigantor, the American versio nof the anime Tetsujin 28-go. During this period Mr. Fernandez also worked as a voice or dialogue director on films ranging from Buddha (1961) to Godzilla versus the Sea Monster (1966). He also wrote scripts for the Americanised episodes of Astroboy and Gignator, as well as scripts for The Alley Cats (1966) and The Space Giants (1967).

It was in 1967 that Peter Fernandez would provide the voice for his most famous character, the lead in the show Speed Racer, the Engish version of the anime Mach Go Go Go. He also provided the voice of the mysterious Racer X and Speed's brother James, as well as writing scripts for the series and acting as its voice director. Mr. Fernadez would also be the voice of Dr. Mariner on Marine Boy, the English version of the anime Kaitei Shōnen Marin. Mr. Fernandez also wrote scripts for Marine Boy and served as its voice director.

Peter Fernadez provided voice work for the American version of Ultraman in 1972, as well as providing scripts for the American version of the show. He was the voice of Mark Venture on Star Blazers, the American version of the anime Uchū Senkan Yamato. Over the years Mr. Fenandez would provide voice work for  The Enchanted Journey (1984), Castle in the Sky (Tenkû no shiro Rapyuta, 1986), What's Been Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), the animated series Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, the animated series Kenny the Shark, and the TV series Obie and Bengie. He played additional voice on the show Courage the Cowardly Dog. Mr. Fernadez also appeared in the documentary Otaku Unite. He would also return to Speed Racer after a fashion. He provided the voice of the announcer in the 2008 film adaptation of Speed Racer and the voice of Spritle in Speed Racer: The Next Generation.

Peter Fernandez was giant in anime fandom, and there is little reason to wonder why. As a voice actor he was exceedingly versatile. Indeed, one only need watch Speed Racer to know this. As Speed his voice sounds like that of a very young man. As Racer X his voice is not only lower, but rather more ominous. Speed and Racer X's voices sound as if they come from two different people, both both were done by Peter Fernandez. Aside from his versatility, it must be pointed out that as a voice actor he had one of the longest careers of any actor who dubbed anime. Alakazam the Great was only the third anime feature film to be released in the United States (Tale of the White Serpent was released in March, Magic Boy in June, and Alakazam the Great in July, all during 1961). He also worked on Astroboy, the first anime TV series released in the United States. Indeed, it must be pointed out that Peter Fernandez is one of the few individuals who worked on four of the early anime series released in the United States in the Sixties, and four of the most important at that (Astroboy, Gigantor, Speed Racer, and Marine Boy). Mr. Fernandez was a great voice actor and certainly important to the history of anime in the United States.