Tumblring Ever Downward

Six years after it was sold to Yahoo for over a billion dollars, Tumblr’s been sold to Automattic by Verizon for a rumored three million. In relative terms, that’s buying a used car for a grand and being offered a cup of drip coffee one and a half Presidential election cycles later. It really drives home the point that when the internet’s fundamental economics run on advertising, even a property Alexa ranks within the top 100 sites visited on the web isn’t worth much if it can’t be monetized. Finally, perhaps most egregiously, the porn ban remains in effect. Time will tell if Automattic bothers to enforce that beyond token gestures after Verizon/Oath’s disastrous attempt to sanitize the platform late last year.

Zing!

I’m working on bigger things. Stay tuned.

Ladyhawke – The Unseen Review

RIP to Rutger Hauer, an actor with a colorful filmography and genuine, heartfelt talent. I’ll confess that there are a lot of his films I’ve yet to see, but there’s never been a better time to experience his body of work than the era of streaming video. May he rest in peace, and may his work live on.

In light of his death, I was reminded of a very silly article I wrote a long time ago. The premise for that would-be series is that I’d write a review of what I thought an unseen movie might be like based on the shortest summary of its story at IMDb, then watch it and write a real review. The publication never got off the ground, and I’m no longer in contact with those who commissioned it. It may as well find a home here.

Continue reading “Ladyhawke – The Unseen Review”

The Woes of DOS in Modern Times

As Microsoft will tell you, there’s brisk traffic in computing nostalgia right now. But don’t forget: Windows 1.0 was reliant on MS-DOS. And for years, DOS was the only real solution for technically demanding games on the PC platform.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to play DOS games in 2019, even if they’re old enough to hang out in dive bars. Phil’s Computer Lab has a lot of interesting resources and a useful YouTube page. Vogons is an informative forum and fun to lurk in, too.

But there are a lot of caveats to installing DOS on new hardware. It’s possible that getting everything just right won’t even be possible now. The reasons… aren’t simple.

Continue reading “The Woes of DOS in Modern Times”

News of the World and the Self, 06/27/19

“It’s a strange world, isn’t it?”

Kino Lorber is a video and film distributor who’s done a lot of great work. This week they released a Blu-ray of David Lynch’s LOST HIGHWAY, a 1997 thriller-cum-mindbender that’s one of my favorite films. I’m thrilled, and the release sports strong audio and video. For a film with dark, demanding cinematography and which has had a very bumpy history in that regard, it’s great news.

Unfortunately it seems David Lynch was unhappy that Kino got the rights instead of Criterion, and issued the following statement, reproduced verbatim from its source:

Continue reading “News of the World and the Self, 06/27/19”

Death-Scort Service: A Film Review

Science fiction can tell you a lot about a society’s aspirations and anxieties; horror is an inside look at what a culture dreads and holds dear in equal measure. That extends to b-movies and low budget affairs too: don’t let anyone tell you THE EVIL DEAD isn’t art. Because I think film’s worth is democratic, I keep my selections eclectic and don’t stand on ceremony about propriety or provenance. My willingness to experience films from all corners means that friends periodically send me stuff to watch. And while I’m always grateful to get DVDs and Blu-rays in the mail, my criteria for enjoyment don’t always align with someone else’s idea of a good time off the cinematic grid. And so, we come to DEATH-SCORT SERVICE.

Continue reading “Death-Scort Service: A Film Review”

Late October Grab Bag

  • After a decade using Twitter, I’ve thrown in the towel. I met a lot of great people and some of my best friends on the service, and didn’t take leaving lightly. But in the past few years it’s become a poisoned well of misinformation, bad actors, and bottomless outrage. That hasn’t been enough to scare advertisers away, as negative engagement is still very active there. User involvement driven by anxiety, rage, and fear is at least as valid as positive participation by the people looking to sell ads to frantic eyes. But the the service has become a dysphoric compulsion for most of its users instead of a healthy social medium, and that’s impossible for me to overlook or support.

Nobody is beholden to use a free service when it stops being fun. And don’t forget: all of the companies in the business of providing social media platforms monetize your distraction, selling the data you give them to organizations committed to using it. Going forward, I think Cambridge Analytica is going to be a fumbling baby step. I won’t speak for you, but I’m gonna find something else to do.

Advertising shot of a Silicon Graphics O2, with ’90s lighting that really pops. Found at http://questier.com/computers.html.

  • VICE has an entertaining piece about the cohort of computer hobbyists keeping Silicon Graphics machines alive in the 21st century. Like the community that’s playing the Atari Jaguar and making new games for it 25 years out, the community’s a sliver of what it once was. In the SGI users’ case there’s also justified grief and protectiveness over how eager PC builders are to snap up the dwindling quantities of this gorgeous, expensive hardware just to yank out everything that makes it distinctive and plop in standard PC bits. That’s a testament to how iconic the case designs are, and you’d think the company nominally holding SGI’s assets – first Rackable Systems, now apparently Hewlett Packard Enterprise – would partner with someone to make a limited edition run of PC cases. But the article leaves an important question unasked: how are these systems being used now?

The SGI Onyx, used for many purposes but most notably as development kits for the Nintendo 64. Picture courtesy Wikipedia.

A decade ago my hydrogeology professor had an old SGI workstation on his desk… but even then he almost exclusively used it as an X terminal connected to the Linux machine he kept in his laboratory. Do people in 2018 still incorporate them into 3D rendering jobs? Is anyone using them for production work? Are developers maintaining software for IRIX, the SGI Unix implementation that has been abandoned for the past decade? Without that perspective it’s a little like an article about people who love seventies folk music, and how these people go to concerts, run fan sites, build communities, and trade merchandise without ever talking about what the music is or why people love it.

Though at the very least I can confirm: they run Doom.

Damn It, Jaden

The son of Will and Jada-Pinkett Smith, Jaden Smith has been foisted into the public eye to decidedly mixed results. But his brand was arguably established by his Twitter feed, a soupy mixture of faux philosophy and surely-he’s-stoned non sequiturs. And yesterday, the Huffington Post published an article where he’s asked to explain a selection of his most famous thoughts.

It’s not good, guys. I’m bolding the quote in question and italicizing his commentary, and then I’ve got a couple of things to say. Continue reading “Damn It, Jaden”