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I have a DVD called "Basic Football" that explains the rules of football. I think the intention of the DVD is for husbands to buy it for their football-illiterate wives. But it works on football-illiterate male programmers too.

I bought it as a curiosity, but now that the Cardinals are in the Super Bowl, it's now vital information.

I'm pretty sure everyone on my friends list already knows more about football than I do. But is there anyone who doesn't, and wants to take a look at the DVD?
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OK, Azumanga Daioh is in [livejournal.com profile] miwasatoshi's top-∞, so I added it to my Netflix queue, and I watched episode 1 today.

I pressed "play" without looking and ended up playing it dubbed.  I remember hearing about the Southern Osaka Voice, but I'll get used to it.  I don't want to have to watch the whole episode again in Japanese.  More annoying is how all the English has to be un-Englished when it comes up.  So I might switch in a few episodes.

We'll see what else.
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DOUGLAS ADAMS!  Now that I have your attention:

First of all, the Royal Institute Christmas Lecture for Children, in 1991, was delivered by Richard Dawkins, at the point where people were over the controversy of "The Selfish Gene", and he hadn't become cranky enough to write "The God Delusion" yet.
Oxford professor Richard Dawkins presents a series of lectures on life, the universe, and our place in it. With brilliance and clarity, Dawkins unravels an educational gem that will mesmerize young and old alike.  Illuminating demonstrations, wildlife, virtual reality, and special guests (including Douglas Adams) all combine to make this collection atimeless classic.
  You can watch it here, and Episode 4 fis where Adams appears, in case you don't notice his giant face dominating the thumbnail for that episode.  I find the title of that segment even more tempting: "The Ultraviolet Garden".

BTW, I also just sent "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" back to Netflix today.  When I saw it in theaters, I called it a three-star movie.  The commentaries make it clear that I just didn't catch enough of the Douglas Adams spirit that was infused throughout the film.  I still think the love story was stapled on.

Also, I had no idea the "radio theme" was an Eagles song.
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Never Been Thawed is now available from Netflix.
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I just rented the DVD of "The Aristocrats".

It didn't occur to me until tonight that many of these acts described within the joke are unrepeatable, in that they involve deaths, births, or the despoiling of pristine body parts such that might impair future performances.  It's probably the only aspect of the joke that wasn't explored.

They glossed over the reason there are no black comics telling the joke -- Chris Rock explains that black comics worked blue throughout the 20th century, seeing as it was nigh impossible for them to get on TV anyway.  As such, the joke held no fascination to them.

The biggest gap I noticed was that there were certain other classes of comics that didn't appear.  I saw nobody from the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, for example, and nobody similar.  Nor did I see anyone who appeared regularly on Mr. Show, except for Sarah Silverman, even though most of those people went on to tour nationally and sell CD's by the truckload.  On the other hand, if they'd been that exhaustive, the movie would be nine hours long, and would have been released as an incomplete work upon the death of both producers.

This makes a great rental, but don't watch it alone.  It's definitely meant to be watched in a group, or even a theater.  I wish I'd had the sense to get a group together while it was still playing at Harkins Valley Art.
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The commentary seems to complete the story in the case of the first CD. Such as, why was the sysop of CBBS/NW doing his interview in a bowling alley?

The sysop of CBBS/NW was upset when they closed down his favorite bowling alley in Oregon. So he bought his own bowling alley, on eBay, in Kansas, and moved there to run it. So that's where he interviewed.

Another evil thing I thought of when considering the Creative Commons license: one could make a version of this documentary that's exactly the same, but all scene changes are star-wipes.
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The documentary episode that chronicles the end of the BBS tells us about the BBSes that are still up and running, some on phone lines, and others hacked together to run on the Internet.

There's a RetroBBS mailing list to which I'm subscribed, but don't participate, because mailing lists are hard to participate in for me.... too much wading through quoted text, etc. That's the one thing I miss about BBSes: no quoted test. You'd just hit 'P' and the previous message would appear if you got confused.

I also remembered, for some reason, the most fun I ever had on a nearly-empty BBS.

It was called Catalyst, and ran on TBBS, a program designed for multi-line BBSes. But the only active participants included me, author Diane Duane, and a 15-year-old probably named Scott who had a zit so big he named it. We all called at least once every two days. I had my computer rigged to read the output aloud with a program called SAM, but I not only forget how, I also forget whether I did it on an Atari or a Commodore 64.

Diane Duane wrote "Spock's World", in which we learn that the Enterprise has a BBS that the crew uses.
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There was an extra features blurb on disc 3 about a DJ that called a BBS.

In Phoenix, I heard there was a BBS run by KUPD, the local rock station, for a little while. It may have been before my time.

Also, a local anchorman, Roger Downey, used to be a regular on the Atari user group's BBS, and even ran their meetings for a while. I think he still works for Channel 5.

Who's the most famous, media-connected, or powerful person to call your local BBS? Has a state governor ever called one?
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The story of this part is also outside my realm of experience. For one, I was never a sysop, so I never had to purchase BBS software. And second, pay BBSes were rare in Phoenix.

There were four pay BBSes of note in the Phoenix area that I can remember vividly.

The first was APECS, a multi-line BBS that cost $2 an hour in the late 80's. I only got to enjoy about $20 worth, outside a "free week" where they opened up access to all the features for everyone.

The second was D-Base V, which was a homebrew BBS, and you paid for access to special features, such as "nukes" which you could add a message that would kick a particular user off the BBS for the rest of the day. People used those on me constantly. It had a profanity filter that would prevent you from typing swear words. And when you selected "Chat with Sysop" from the main menu, it would start up an Eliza-like program.

In the 90's, that's when multi-line came into its own. There were three boards of note: Sho-Tron (aka the Rock Garden), at 20 lines and 60¢/hr, Smorgas Board at 8 lines and 35¢/hr.

I have vague memories of a board called Crossroads that seemed to vaguely invoke the Internet, and a few others that may have been more business-based than I could comprehend at my young age. I think that I trained myself to just forget about any BBS that asked for money, as I was too young to earn my own money until well into my Internet years, and my computer was usually a few years out of date anyway.
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I think I know why ANSI art was singled out above ATASCII, PETSCII, etc. -- it was definitely more hardcore than anything I'd experienced doing menus for Commodore boards. But then again, I worked mostly for local Monty Python themed boards. Nobody formed groups. It was hardcore not only in the scope of the organizations, but in the sense of the art they produced.

iCE and ACiD, the two large ANSI groups featured in the episode, both have a web presence now. ACiD has a radio show on their site, which stopped producing episodes just a few months before podcasting really started to take off. And while ANSI looks great on dumb terminals, it doesn't work on Usenet or in HTML, which is why you see more ASCII art these days. I used to follow Joan Stark back when she released something every month, but all this time has passed and she's still on Geocities. In the meantime, the top Google hit for the "ascii art" search is Chris Johnson's ASCII Art Collection.

I never followed ANSI, because it never looked right on a Commodore 64, or even an Amiga 500. By the time I got a PC, I was already on the Internet. So I didn't realize that people would create gigantic scrolling murals, 80 columns wide but infinitely tall. Nor did I realize that it continued well into the 90's. This gave a strange quality to the stories, as it made things like conference calls and multi-line BBSes more common.

One thing that I always found attractive about ANSI art, ASCII art, and other character-based art forms, is the idea of constraints. In ASCII, what can you do with 95 tiles and no choice of color? That's why I'm not so fond of ASCII that cheats with computer-generated HTML color tables and tiny font sizes -- the tiles become irrelevant. Give me cats in a dozen lines or less. My favorite is the 4-line sleeping cat with the 4 for a nose, the perfect size for a Usenet signature.
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Episode 2, being less of a technical/historical nature, and more of a sociological focus, is the one I might be more likely to show people unfamiliar with BBSes.

I wonder if they'd ask how that was different from the way the Internet is used today, but it became more apparent as it progressed that BBSes were more locally defined than anything on the Internet.

Even local groups on the Internet don't seem to bind so tightly. I think about the story of the woman who had the affair online, where the husband found out and they got into a fight, and dozens of people showed up to break up the fight and help her move out. Am I cynical, or would that never happen if, for example, the same thing happened to someone in [livejournal.com profile] t_h_e_m, or on Friendster?

The consequence of being a woman on a BBS never occurred to me. It differs from being a woman on the Internet, in that the SysOp could break into chat as soon as you typed a female name into the new user form. That totally baffles me, as it's so incredibly obviously anti-cool that it sounds like the first thing an old SysOp would tell a prospective SysOp never to do.

As an extra added bonus thrown in, title cards are only used for their intended purpose -- titles, not narrative. Splendid.
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I just watched the first episode of The BBS Documentary.

I found it kind of interesting, but only because I lived it. If you've never heard of a BBS before, it will put you to sleep.

Far be it for me to blame lazy directing, since this thing took over three years to film. But, there's too many title cards explaining all the fundamentals, not enough demonstration. In fact, we don't see what it looked like to use a BBS anywhere, except in one Computer Chronicles clip. We get to see Ward Christensen's CBBS machine posed next to the couch, but we don't see them powering it up, or trying to. We hear about people leaving messages, and we see a few printouts of them that are too close-up to read, but apparently none of them were worth reading aloud. The result: lots of talking heads, with a few photos and video clips. I wonder they tried to put more action in, but the result ended up even more boring than the title cards. Text interfaces aren't very exciting, but they're an integral part of the story. Taking ten seconds to go over a typical menu and explaining Read, Post, and Chat with SysOp, would have gone a long way, and this episode seemed like the right place to do it.

The only time we see a computer actually doing anything, is during the closing credits when an Atari 8-bit was booting from disk and making lots of happy noises. If you're going to show a computer booting up, make it an Atari.

But it occurs to me that this thing has a Creative Commons license, so, in theory, I could remix the whole thing and improve on it. The prospect boggles me, because as much at it would help, I don't think it would be polite. But it would allow the rest of the work to shine through as it was intended to. I know these stories are more interesting than they're presented in the documentary.

There was an interesting juxtaposition when a bunch of interviewees started talking about their preferred brand of 8-bit machine, and then were depicted talking about how all the other brands sucked. That gave a good idea of the rivalry, and that little table from the computer ad, paired with the guy calling them "Ford vs Chevy" arguments, really summed up the arbitrary nature of it.

Perhaps the other episodes will have more style; I'll post reviews if they are.
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Know what else I need to buy? The Hunt for Red October on DVD. TiVo was kind enough to spot it in the TV listings and record it for me. It is truly my favorite movie.

TiVo is also tapping its foot and wondering when I'm going to watch Das Boot already, as it's been sitting on the hard drive for six months.


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