Archive for October, 2005

Oldest usenet post?

Saturday, October 29th, 2005

I don’t know if it’s a new thing, or if I just noticed it, but several folks have posted items noting their oldest Usenet posting, as garnered from Google Groups.

I don’t remember ever getting involved with Usenet as such. Bitnet, on the other hand…

The oldest one with my name attached locatable via Google Groups is here from March 18, 1992–and it’s an odd post. From the right list, though, PACS-L; possibly not where I did my earliest Bitnet posts, but close enough.

Thing is, PACS-L started a long time before 1992. The list started some time in the late 1980s (Charles W. Bailey, Jr. knows for sure); the associated journal, The Public-Access Computer Systems Review, was founded in July 1989 and began publishing in 1990. I was associated with the journal (to some extent) throughout its life, and was reasonably active on PACS-L from early days. So there’s a bunch of missing Bitnet history at Google Groups; maybe it wasn’t echoed on Usenet until the 1990s.

(The oldest Google Groups post containing “Walt Crawford” is here, and is an announcement of an issue of PACS Review volume 2; given my feelings about Stevan Harnad these days, it’s odd to have a Psycoloquy post be the earliest. Such is “history.”)

Organizing principles

Thursday, October 27th, 2005

Despite the overwhelming response to this post, or in the wan hope that both of you actually read it but couldn’t come up with any guesses as to the organizing principle at work, I’m going to use [waste] another post.

Here’s another CD-R playlist, made using exactly the same general organizing principle as in the other post–but in this case, the specifics are such that the organizing principle could have been used to make a mix cassette back in LP days. Actually, I believe I used the same principle and this particular instance of the principle to do so, but of course the results were much different.

So here’s the playlist. I’ll take guesses (or lack thereof) until November 6 or so, then finally break down and tell a breathlessly waiting nobody what the principle is:

  • Jump Up Behind Me – James Taylor
  • Girl from the North Country – Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan
  • I Need to Be in Love – The Carpenters
  • Avalon – Randy Newman
  • Steel Rail Blues – Gordon Lightfoot
  • Red Sails in the Sunset – Fats Domino
  • Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway) – Billy Joel
  • Better Class of Losers – Randy Travis
  • Miracle of Miracles – Fiddler on the Roof
  • Blue Mountain Road – Tom Paxton
  • Embrace Me, You Child – Carly Simon
  • Joe Knows How to Live – Eddy Raven
  • Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning – Willie Nelson
  • Nikita – Elton John
  • Power and the Glory – Phil Ochs
  • Cool Cool Water – The Beach Boys
  • The Duke (live mono version) – Dave Brubeck
  • Desire – Boz Scaggs
  • Kodachrome – Paul Simon
  • Maid of Constant Sorrow – Judy Collins
  • New York’s Not My Home – Jim Croce

Any guesses? (There’s actually a second CD-R, with precisely the same organizing principle but 22 different songs, including “Circus” by Eric Clapton, “Best of Friends” by Joan Baez, “Seamless Life” by Vance Gilbert, and “Joshua Gone Barbados” by Tom Rush, if that helps.)

SciFi Classics 50-movie Pack, Disc 5

Wednesday, October 26th, 2005

So all the cool kids were in Monterey, apparently all of them speaking as well as blogging. Ah well, I was never one of the cool kids. (And if I heard Abram claiming DVDs are going to disappear in some near-term future, I’d probably laugh loud enough to interrupt the keynote, so it’s just as well…)

Meanwhile, I’ve been walking my way through Thebes and nearby locations, somehow always uphill at a 4 to 5.5 degree grade, accompanied by four different hunks all claiming to be Hercules.

[Yes, I deviated from the Sci-Fi/TV-Movie alternation: I didn’t want to finish the first half of each 50-pack in the same month for what may or may not be good reasons. Fortunately, these were actually pretty well made flicks…if not in any way science fiction.]

So here’s what I’ve written for a future issue of Cites & Insights:

There’s a theme to this disc: Hercules! Legendary strong man, son of Zeus, beefcake for the ages, played by a different mortal in each of these movies—four from some 40 Italian and Italian-French productions with titles including “Ercole” or “Maciste” (son of Hercules?) or “Sanson” (Samson, but who’s counting?), not including all the TV movies and the Disney cartoon. (Some of the “Maciste” are actually son or sons of Hercules, and I see a couple of those coming up in later discs.)

These movies have a lot in common besides Hercules as protagonist. They’re all color. They’re all Italian. They all feature evil or at least semi-evil (and sometimes deranged) women rulers or co-rulers who swoon over Hercules (and in at least two cases try to keep him around through drugs). They all have lots of young women in short “Hellene”/Theban/whatever outfits to match the lightly-clad Hercules and sometimes groups of other hunks.

Oh, and they’re all fairly well made movies. Sure, they’re fodder for MST3K (at least two of these four were on that show). Sure, the plots make as much sense as most mythical tales, even less than some. But they have good production values—sometimes remarkably good production values—and good cinematography, staging, and the rest. These are legitimate B flicks. Hear that snap and crunch? The snap is the thread of connection to “Sci-Fi” at least breaking completely free. The crunch is Hercules tossing huge statues into groups of attackers or otherwise showing his superhuman strength. (Well, why not? He’s born of gods. What do you expect?)

All in all, decent flicks—but they’re not science fiction by any stretch.

Hercules Against the Moon Men, 1964, color, Giacomo Gentilomo (dir.), Sergio Cianti (“Alan Steel”) as Hercules, original title Maciste e la regina di Samar (Italian-French production). 1:30 [1:27]

Here’s an oddity: From the opening titles, you might think this was black and white. It’s not, although the color’s a little faded. More damage than in the other three films, but still a watchable print. The plot involves the city of Samar, where children are being sacrificed to some mountain—which is where the moon men live, and they have an alliance with the evil queen. Too much plot, and for some reason the U.S. agents felt it necessary to have an “American” star, thus “Alan Steel” for the actor Sergio Cianti. I give it $0.75, mostly because the print’s damaged.

Hercules and the Captive Women, 1961, color, Vittorio Cottafavi (dir.), Reg Park as Hercules, original title Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide (Italian production). 1:41 (original), 1:33 (U.S.). [1:34]

Too bad they didn’t translate the Italian title, since this is really about Atlantis—and now we know how that island disappeared! You see, Hercules, setting from Thebes for some reason, kills a demon/demigod, thus freeing a captive woman (singular: there’s only one) who’s been partly trapped inside rock, and they go back to Atlantis, where…oh, never mind. The immortal race of Atlantis folk all look the same (at least the men), they want to be shrouded in fog, they mistreat regular folks, and thanks to Hercules, the whole island gets blown up and deep-sixed. Good color, some print damage, certainly watchable. $1.

Hercules and the Tyrants of Babylon, 1964, color, Domenico Paolella (dir.), Peter Lupus (“Rock Stevens”) as Hercules, original title Ercole contro I tiranni di Babilonia (Italian production). 1:30 (orig.), 1:26 (U.S.) [1:25]

He’s been hanging out, preventing Babylonian troops from capturing even more slaves to take back to their empire, ruled by two brothers and a sister (all of them a bit deranged). He finds that the queen of the Hellenes has been captured, so off he goes to the rescue. The tyrants don’t know she’s one of the slaves; lots of stuff ensues; the climax involves the highly probable historic scenario that the female ruler has had all the big buildings in downtown Babylon attached by chains to a huge underground winch, so that, at her command, a hundred slaves can turn the winch, thus destroying Babylon so she can rule from the other major city. Need I say that Hercules has the strength of a hundred? Peter Lupus is probably the best actor of the four Hercules, and this episode may be the least over-the-top in acting in general. $1.25.

Hercules Unchained, 1959, color, Pietro Francisci (dir.), Steve Reeves as Hercules, Primo Carnera, original title Ercole e la regina di Lidia (Italian-French production). 1:34 (original), 1:45 (U.S.) [1:36]

This seems like the biggest production of the four, and the print’s in the best shape. This time, Thebes has problems because King Oedipus is blind and in exile and his sons, who are supposed to alternate on the throne, have problems: The first on the throne is crazy as a loon and won’t yield power. Somehow, Hercules ends up on a diplomatic mission, then drinks from the well of forgetfulness and is seduced by Queen Omphale—who is wearing a catsuit in the opening sequence, remarkable for a film set in ancient times. Lots of plot, and this time Hercules is married and his new wife is in danger. (Primo Carnera? Heavyweight champion, and even bigger than Steve Reeves; he’s in the movie for maybe two minutes, but it was his last hurrah.) Spectacular. $1.

ALA in New Orleans for Annual 2006

Friday, October 21st, 2005

I was delighted to see this announcement: New Orleans will continue to be the site for the 2006 ALA Annual Conference, June 22-29.

Not some supposed “virtual conference” with us all promising to send our registration money to relief efforts, leaving ALA $2 million in the hole, 20,000-odd librarians without the networking and learning opportunities of a real-world conference, and a chunk of money in (whose?) hands that will be a drop in the bucket compared to likely federal aid. Meanwhile abandoning the chunk of New Orleans that depends on tourism (otherwise known as “New Orleans”) without much help, since aid money tends to go in odd directions…

A real conference. With loads of Cajun and Creole cuisine, the nightlife of the French Quarter (which never did drown), and all the stuff that makes ALA Annual worthwhile.

Good for ALA. Good for New Orleans. I certainly plan to be there (I won’t say anything about “come hell or high water,” given disbelief in the one and all-too-much belief in the other). Maybe it’s time to try another C&I “in person” gathering?

Some other venue might be the place for folks to discuss what should happen with the massive reconstruction of New Orleans. My father’s a civil engineer; his thoughts about rebuilding in flood plains are clear and not too kindly. In NO’s case, I suspect there are parts of the city that should be turned into wetlands, with the people resettled in other areas that are above sea level. I also suspect, given who live(d)(s) in those areas, that the results would be for the poor to get even poorer, which makes things tricky.

But that’s a different set of issues. If I have a “favorite city” for ALA Annual, it’s probably New Orleans; too hot, too muggy, but–well, you’re in New Orleans. (I do, in fact, have a favorite for Midwinter, at least so far, and ALA’s there in January 2006.)

Make an effort to be there. It shouldn’t be a somber event. If Habitat for Humanity and others are (still?) building houses, sure, some of you may want to come early or leave late and contribute some labor. But just by being there–by spending your money in the local restaurants (and New Orleans food is mostly local restaurants, not national chains), by staying at hotels full of local workers–you’ll helping to make New Orleans back into the Big Easy.

[LibrarianInBlack blogged this before I did. I’m always happy to give her credit. I’d already seen the item, but hadn’t thought about blogging it.]

vPod: The real use!

Friday, October 21st, 2005

Truly an odd juxtaposition in the Datebook (entertainment) section of today’s San Francisco Chronicle, in the top and bottom portions of the leftmost column:

In the bottom half, Mark Morford (who I can only describe as an extreme opposite of Rush Limbaugh, and that’s not a compliment) reveals his “great idea for the iPod”–and thinks he’s the first to come up with it.

But in the top half, Tim Goodman, the Chronicle‘s TV reviewer, includes as a secondary item the same idea (about halfway down the column).

To wit, in both cases, porn on the go.

I would never have thought of that (OK, I lead a sheltered life), but they both make good points. (I’m not that fond of Goodman’s writing, but compared to Morford, he’s a master of prose. You can dig Morford’s points out of his unfortunate style, I think.) Namely, what else would people really pay good money to watch on a postage-stamp screen?

Ah, it’s Friday.

Boycotting pseudo-CDs

Thursday, October 20th, 2005

This one surprised the heck out of me, particularly because it uses one particular word, “boycott,” that I’d never expect to see in this particular venue, the Wall Street Journal.

Here’s the link, directly to a Freedom to tinker post, directly to Walter Mossberg’s column.

Lest you think Edward Felten is distorting Mossberg’s view, here’s the column itself.

What Mossberg is advocating, at least in this area, is what I’d consider a reasonably balanced view of copyright. I tend to agree with Felten (who, after all, spends much of his professional life studying this stuff) that the kind of “benevolent DRM” Mossberg wants isn’t feasible, but that’s another issue.

My own feelings on this are pretty clear, and posted recently, in C&I: There’s no music that I need so badly that I’d buy a pseudo-CD. I never lend CDs; I never sell a CD and retain ripped copies; I never rip CDs that I borrow from the library. But I reject efforts to control how I produce mix CD-Rs for my own use.

deYoung: Another economic curiosity

Wednesday, October 19th, 2005

I suspect many of you think of San Francisco as so far left as to be nearer the socialist than the liberal camp (for those of you who make a distinction between “socialist” and “liberal,” that is).

I don’t live there, to be sure, or even go there much; I live in the Silicon Valley, one of California’s many areas that “paradoxically” has relatively high-income families who are, by and large, Democrats. (Much of this is the difference between social politics and economic politics, but that’s another post–one that I won’t be writing.)

Anyway, I was struck by some semi-related news reports when the rebuilt deYoung Museum was getting ready to reopen–both about the deYoung and other city museums, and about ball parks. There’s a connection.

Here’s the situation:

Two bond measures that would have, in part, paid for most of the costs of rebuilding the deYoung (badly damaged in the 1989 earthquake–and no, the Feds didn’t jump in and pay for all, or even much, of the damages), failed–for various reasons.

So a wealthy local “socialite”, Dede Wilsey, basically said “the heck with this” and decided to raise the money privately. Roughly $200 million. People who didn’t know Ms. Wilsey scoffed. My guess is that nobody who did know her scoffed…

She did it, and the result is a stunning new museum, owned by the city but pretty much entirely paid for with private funds.

Then there’s the lovely ballpark that the San Francisco Giants play in. I suppose the proper name is “SBC Park” but it’s “PacBell Park” to most folks around here. (The Giants used to play in Candlestick Park, which also has some corporate name like Monster Park; the SF 49ers football team still does.)

Guess what? The new[ish] baseball park (it opened in 2000) was paid for entirely with private funds.

If you know anything about major-league sports stadia or city museums, you know how unusual both of these examples are, particularly in an era where you’re talking nine digits to do the job. (For ballparks, it’s the first privately-financed major-league case since 1962.)

Cosmic significance? None, really.

Music: Guess the connection

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005

Time for another game of sorts.

Here’s the playlist for a CD-R I made just over a year ago. All of the cuts are connected by a single clear connection.

Your task: Guess the connection. Prizes: Limited glory, no fame. If we ever have another C&I “in person” get-together, you’ll get a handsome 8.5×11 print from one of my wife’s travel photos. (So will everyone else there, but you’ll get first choice.)

Two clues–one of them a red herring:

1. One cut features an instrument that’s not heard all that often, played by the creator of a particular playing technique for that instrument. The only time I was ever on the radio (other than a “Talk of the Nation” hour a few years back in which I probably said 200 words total), I was singing and playing that instrument using that technique.

2. It would not have been possible to make this particular CD-R in the days of LPs (not for technological reasons; a mix tape wouldn’t have worked either)–but the connection would have made even more sense, in a somewhat different instance.

  • “Wildwood Flower”–the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Mother Maybelle Carter and others
  • “Golliwog’s Cakewalk”–Julian Bream & John Williams
  • “Jesse James”–Ry Cooder
  • “Marie Christine”–Gordon Lightfoot
  • “You Can Leave Your Hat On”–Randy Newman
  • “Mendocino County Line”–Willie Nelson & Lee Ann Womack
  • “It’s Worth Believin'”–Gordon Lightfoot
  • “Invention in C Minor”–Billy Joel
  • “When Irish Girls Grow Up”–Tom Russell
  • “Amazing Grace”–Judy Collins
  • “(They Long to Be) Close to You”–The Carpenters
  • “Crossroads”–Gordon Lightfoot
  • “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”–Randy Newman
  • “If You Could Touch Her At All”–Willie Nelson
  • “Old Dan’s Records”–Gordon Lightfoot
  • “Aladdin’s Word”–Aladdin soundtrack
  • “April Come She Will”–Simon & Garfunkel
  • “All of Me”–Willie Nelson
  • “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters”–Elton John
  • “Our Prayer”–the Beach Boys
  • “El Testamen de Amelia”–John Williams
  • “Ragtime”–Randy Newman, solo piano version

First correct answer within the next week wins. Otherwise, I’ll annotate this entry with the answer, on or after October 26.

The forces against conversation

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005

Just a quick note: I’ve had to add a few more words that will automatically block comments. Obviously I can’t list the words; one of them could (remotely) apply to libraries, but not to anything I’ve been talking about.

I’ve seen an estimate that half of all weblogs are actually splogs, blogs that exist only to manipulate search-engine rankings. I’m inclined to believe it.

Sigh. Guess it’s time to do more research into a “key in the letters you see on the screen” plugin, and ask Blake to add it…

I love the conversations that take place here, even if (especially when?) they make me uncomfortable. I really don’t want to shut them down or turn them into blog-to-blog-to-blog “see if you can follow the links” repartee.

And I will not allow this blog to be used for spamming. My resentment for the cretins that persist in this behavior is growing.
Their attempts to destroy a promising conversational medium for their own temporary gain are destructive, nothing more.

ACRLog: Blogging about academic librarianship

Monday, October 17th, 2005

Or, “Another ALA division takes the plunge.”

Those of you who got involved in the brouhaha over whether there were a significant number of academic librarians blogging about academic librarianship (or issues of academic libraries), and Steven Bell’s role in that question, should be particularly interested in the new ACRLog, which Bell is heavily involved with.

Unfortunately, the URL for the blog is–which, if I hadn’t already used a weak Hamlet parody a few days ago, would immediately raise the question, “to b or not to b?”–but never mind.

Take a look.