DIY Coms

DIY Coms

So let me get this straight. Now I get to watch…

  • Shitty commercials
  • Shitty commercials that look like they were made by amateurs
  • Shitty commercials that were made by amateurs

Notes on the Matewan “Massacre”

From a description in Christopher M. Finan’s “From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act: A History of the Fight for Free Speech in America”

The Matewan “Massacre” would make an interesting, if challenging film. Starts out with a classic Western-style showdown. Escalates to open warfare.

“Passengers on the Norfolk and Western trains went through the battle zone crouching on the floors of the cars while glass crashed overhead.”

  • Sid Hattfield (28). Police chief, former miner. Shot Albert C. & Lee Felts. Gunned down on courthouse steps.
  • Albert C. Felts. Shot mayor Cabbell Testerman. PI for Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency, deputized in neighboring town. Hired to evict fired miners.
  • Cabbell Testerman. Mayor & town druggist. Authorized the arrest of the detectives for carrying arms within town limits.
  • Miners. Payed in company scripp. Fired when they joined unions.
  • Baldwin-Felts Agency Detectives. Seven killed by miners in initial gunfight, rest fled across river.
  • President Warren G. Harding. Sent in Federal Troops.

OUTSIDE

  • Rev. John Haynes Holmes. Eloquently denounced the violence on both sides.
  • The ACLU. Only a few years old. Spoke out against the underlying causes.
  • The courts. Widely abused injunctions to suppress meaningful picketing. Used sedition laws unevenly to ban violent pro-union publications while allowing employer publications to advocate violence openly.

A Chart of the Pressures Facing an Essentially Straight Modern Woman

Concept: An attempt to understand said topic, rendered in the form of a nautical chart.

Software: Inkscape

Download:

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This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License.

See Also: My previous infographic of the second Lancet study of Iraqi War Deaths at one per pixel, and photos of “the island” near my home town in Maine.

Plugins

The following are the plugins in use on the Space Toast Pages, in the order in which they were installed. Note that plugins should be saved into Blosxom’s plugins folder with no file extension: do not add .cgi or .txt, for example, or they will not run.

Excludez

Available here. Prevents Blosxom from reading designated directories. Necessary to keep certain text files in the old pages directory from appearing as Space Toast Pages. Minimal setup, no headaches.

Blox

Available here. Automatically inserts paragraph tags and line breaks. Big time saver. Minimal setup. Has an optional “wiki-like” markup system, on by default, which was disabled after it mangled a Creative Commons license. Grinds JavaScript to a bloody pulp. (Would do well to disable itself inside comment tags.)

File

Available here. Allows the contents of text files to be inserted dynamically into templates and stories. Used to add the “Current Addiction” to the sidebar. Minimal setup, no headaches.

MoreEntries

Available here. Creates the “Next” and “Previous” links that appear at the bottom of the page when needed. Smart about when to add the links and when not to. Basic setup minimal, but changing the default wording and styling of the links requires digging through Perl code.

Meta

Available here. Required by the Entries_Cache_Meta plugin below. No setup, pain-free.

Entries_Cache_Meta

Available here. Allows a story to specify its posting date. Needed to backdate the old weekly issue Space Toast Pages and to keep Blosxom from treating edits as brand new postings. Poorly organized variable configuration slows setup.

WritebackPlus

Available here. Invites readers to post their comments about Space Toast Pages. (Hint: Dig through the >Run Fight Heal Magic line.) Complicated setup, but not out of line with total functionality. May need to be rethought if comment spam ever becomes a problem. Update: Was rethought when Comment Spam became a problem.

The problem of Comment Spam will receive its own posting shortly.

Letter to CNN

Dear CNN:

If you want to show your class, next time a Presidential debate ends, don’t talk. Don’t say anything. Just give us an hour of lovely American music — Sousa, Copeland, Gershwin — and allow us to think, discuss, and form an opinion. Is consideration no longer encouraged by the people of CNN? Every person you cut to after the debate walked into your studios with an opinion they wanted to deliver before the American people on prime time tv. That’s the candidates’ job.

“Need” in Screenwriting

A device I find useful when facing screenwriter’s block is to focus on what each character needs in a scene.

There is a school of screenwriting that would have us believe that all scenes are defined by what the characters want, but I disagree. I’ve spent many enjoyable moments with friends not particularly needing or wanting anything, and that’s what screenwriting basically is — voyeurism. Overemphasis on need-driven scenemaking destroys spontaneity and overloads the script with tension.

Compare the following problem scene from the first and second draft of “Windy City.”

First draft:

EXT. ESTER'S FLAT - NIGHT

DAN

Why didn't you stop?

NINEVE

Well it's not that I didn't like

dance, it was just the girls there.

But, being a senator's daughter,

you've got to have a certain amount

of...

She pauses at the doorknob, folds her arm formally behind her.

NINEVE

(cont.)

Poise. Charm. And most

importantly --

They enter.

INT. ESTER'S FLAT, CONT.

PAUL

...There's just NO WAY!

Nineve and Dan are startled. The adults stands around the kitchen table. Sherrib and Tigres look bitter, Ester and Gyllian defiant. Paul is angry. We've never seen Paul angry.

SAUL

(from the corner)

I can stay, whatever good THAT'LL

do...

TIGRES

Saul...

PAUL

(to Dan and Nineve)

They cut off our funding this

afternoon, the senate. We can't

afford to stay.

DAN

They can... just... do that?

SHERRIB

(to Nineve)

They cut room and board stipends.

Most of us don't use them, but the

valley delegates need them.

NINEVE

...Because they live at the hotel?

SHERRIB

Right.

PAUL

They called a special session this

afternoon. While we were out

watching the airship with everyone

else.

GYLLIAN

Little sneaks.

SAUL

All this money, you'd think I could

buy some brains...

TIGRES

(quietly)

Stop it.

PAUL

Mrs. Hadden has agreed to let us

stay here. Saul's staying on

at the hotel. Hana, Hale and

Tudaya have already made plans to

go back.

ESTER

You'll have to sweep up the dust

and flower petals, but it'll be

nice to have someone living in

the spare rooms again.

DAN

We don't have to go home?

PAUL

(surprised)

No, not yet. Not us anyway.

Second draft:

INT. SENATE - HIGH HALLWAY, CONT.

DAN

Then why didn't you stop?

NINEVE

Well it's not that I didn't like

dance, it was just the girls there.

But, being a senator's daughter,

you've got to have a certain amount

of . . .

Nineve stops at the end of the hallway, folding her arm formally behind her.

NINEVE

(cont.)

Poise. Charm. And most

importantly --

INT. SENATE - LIGHT TOWER, CONT.

PAUL

(angrily)

Well I DIDN'T!

Nineve and Dan start. Paul looks ANGRY -- we've never seen Paul angry. Sherrib, Saul and Tigres are with him, along with the other three valley delegates -- HANA, HALE and TUDIYA -- surrounded by telegraphs and windows.

TUDIYA

You're taking this far too

personally, Assurbani. No one was

expecting us to succeed.

SAUL

I'm sorry, Paul. I ran down there

as soon as I heard about it, but

there wasn't much I could do.

PAUL

You could've done something! Talk,

waste time. . . ANYTHING!

SAUL

When pop's money doesn't solve the

problem, I'm pretty useless. You

know that.

TIGRES

Stop it.

PAUL

Why didn't you at least -- ?

TIGRES

Stop it both of you! Ester?

ESTER

Paul and Dan can stay as long as

they need to with me. I have more

than enough room. We need to put

this in the proper frame of mind.

It's a setback, surely, but only

that.

ASSURBANI

Ester's right. Ester's always

right. We're still operative.

We've got to look for a way ahead.

HALE

You're wasting your time! Honestly,

I appreciate all that you've done

for us, Senator Sherrib. . .

PAUL

We still have funds for the hotel

through Friday. You can at least

help out until then.

HANA

Paul, let it go. It's done.

TUDIYA

No one was expecting us to succeed.

PAUL

Well I was! Dan, Nineve, come in.

They are still standing in the doorway.

PAUL

(cont.)

They voted to cut off our funding,

the Senate. The money they give us

for the hotel. Saul can afford to

stay. Dan, you and I are invited to

stay with Ester. Hana and Hale want

to go back tomorrow. Tudiya, you

can stay for a couple weeks, can't

you?

TUDIYA

I'm afraid I'll be going back as

well.

PAUL

(to Dan)

So our party is somewhat diminished.

DAN

But we don't have to go back?

PAUL

No. Not yet.

SHERRIB

They very quietly called a special

session this afternoon to vote on it.

NINEVE

How did they get enough people?

SHERRIB

Don't know. Everyone who's a

reliable vote for Chairman Khorsa

was there. I think they've been

planning this for a while.

PAUL

We were out watching the airship

with everyone else.

Is the scene better? Who knows, but I’m happier with it. It satisfies my need.

(In case you’re interested, I’m of the Jim Cameron school of screenwriting: “Just describe the movie.”)

Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

This seems to be the summer of grand refutation for the “more is better” blockbuster. Spiderman 3, Shrek the Third, and the upcoming Live Free or Die Hard and The Bourne Ultimatum all seem designed to provide more of everything, but less of what we want. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is no exception.

Pirates 3 is a huge, clattering, whirring, blurring, shooting, smashing mashup of everything from the first two. Everything is bigger, everything is more. Every character is back. You’ve seen boarding scenes, but not like these — never this huge, never this chaotic. You’ve seen naval combat, but you’ve never seen a ship literally chewed apart by cannon fire. It’s fun while it lasts, and it lasts a long time, so why does it all boil down to a grand feeling of huh, well, all right then?

Pirates 3 is intensely all right, which alone makes it much more worth our moviegoing dollar than most of the summer blockbusters we’ve sat through. Most attempts at the kind of guiltless, unapologetic fun of Bruckheimer and Verbinski’s Pirates series fail. It turns out that popcorn movies aren’t easy. Pirates 3 has an extraordinary level of craftsmanship and amazing stats, but it also has a great deal of control — the most frequently missed ingredient of such blockbusters. What it does miss are two apparently contradictory elements: focus and chaos.

Picture a movie as a two-dimensional graph, on which anything can be placed; the only rule is the x-axis, which is time. Where the movie deviates toward the bottom of the graph, it moves toward focus. The movie knows what it’s doing, why it’s doing it, and how it’s certain to accomplish it. This is focus, in movie terms. Gosford Park is the most focused film you will ever see. It’s also one of the most boring experiences you will ever sit through.

At the top of the graph is chaos; here lies invention, awe, the subconscious. The non-narrative films of Matthew Barney lie entirely at the top of the graph. Even the apparent dips toward structure — the bike race in Cremaster 4, or the opera in Cremaster 5 — are just feints. Whatever internal logic or focus the filmmaker may have in mind, it’s not presented in the film.

At the bottom of the graph, Pirates 3 suffers, generally on the burdens of being the third of a largely unplanned trilogy. There are so many characters, so many plotlines. Betrayals happen so quickly and frequently from all sides that their resonances seems to cancel each other out, like plucking a guitar string from both ends at random. Who are the most important characters, what do they need to accomplish, and how? The movie jerks all too frequently toward the bottom of the graph, but never takes the time to make a solid, meaningful drive.

At the top of the graph, only one thing needs to be said: The characters take a trip to the afterlife. What makes the afterlife unique? Not very much, really — same sea and sky, same cinematography. The best we ever get is Captain Jack Sparrow’s private purgatory as a salt flat and a series of heat hallucinations. The mythical Far East is a series of generic nighttime sets which blow up predictably. Intangible sexual tension, which obeys its own unknown rules in the movies as it does in real life, is almost entirely absent. The movie wrongly believes that it’s in too much of a hurry to ever just stop, take a breath, and look around.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End lies almost entirely in the middle of our imaginary graph, delivering with verve and finesse all of the audience’s desires, except for the desire to dream.

Podcast: “The Music of Erich Zann” by H. P. Lovecraft

The Space Toast Pages present a free audiobook of H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Music of Erich Zann.” In his impoverished days as a student, a young American makes the acquaintance of an old musician whose singular genius draws him ever closer to the mysteries beyond the wall atop the Rue d’Auseil. This short story was originally published March 1922 in The National Amateur, 44, No. 4, pages 38-40. Rasmussen hates his voice, and hopes you will too.

Listen to podcast: TheMusicOfErichZann.mp3

[17 minutes, 52 second – 8.2 MB mp3]

Creative Commons License
This
work is licensed under a Creative Commons Public Domain License.

Mid-Coast Preschool Services Development Screening Interview

Child's Name: Matthew Rasmussen Age 4yrs 4 mo. Date Dec 6, 1984

Four Years

Social:

1. How much does your child do for himself in dressing and washing up?

[X] Unbuttons and buttons clothing

[X] Washes hands and face

[X] Toilet trained day and night

[X] Cares for self at toilet mostly

2. How much does your child do for himself in eating?

[X] Spreads with knife soft things

3. Describe how he/she plays with children. gets upset w/ younger children interfering

[X] Understands taking turns/sharing

[X] Group play (2-3 children)

Gross Motor:

1. What does your child do when playing outside? Pretend play – Boats, Little puppy or Sandbox

[ ] Bounces and catches large ball -no

[ ] Pedals tricycle turning corners no – big wheel too large – snow on ground now

[X] Runs and climbs

[X] Hops on one foot

Fine Motor:

1. What does your child do with paper and pencil?

[X] Copies +

[X] Copies []

2. What kinds of toys does your child play with?

[X] Imitates bridge

[ ] Completes 6 piece puzzle

[X] Builds tower of 10 blocks

[X] Cuts with scissors

Mid-Coast Preschool Services

Developmental Screening Interview

Four years

Page 2

Language/Concepts:

1. How much does your child talk? very verbal

2. Can you give me an example of the kind of sentence he/she uses? Noah and Ethan are my very best friends

3. How well is he understood by others? very well

[X] Relates experiences, describes activities

[X] Names 3 Primary colors

[X] Says most sounds except r s th and l

[X] Repeats nursery rhyme or song for others

[X] Understood by strangers

Carolyn Rasmussen

Interviewer

Cloaking Blosxom

The correct form of a URL is where/what, as a web address exists to organize content. By default, Blosxom serves pages from www.spacetoast.net/cgi-bin/blosxom.cgi, a machine-centric where/how address which breaks the above guideline. A method was needed to disguise the address of the cgi script.

Blosxom’s main site includes instructions for hiding the …cgi-bin/blosxom.cgi address on an Apache server by means of an .htaccess file — a local preferences file. Unfortunately, the instructions did not work for this site.

The first method given for cloaking Blosxom (bullet three, step two) redirected requests for any address in the STP directory to Blosxom, including images, media files and old pages. For this site, it would have been written thusly:

RewriteEngine on

RewriteRule ^STP/?(.*)$ /cgi-bin/blosxom.cgi/$1

The second given method (bullet three) invoked Blosxom only if a real file could not be found. It had problems with directories. Since STP/web/blosxom/ is a real directory, Blosxom did not attempt to create a page there, defaulting to either listing the files in the directory or producing a missing/forbidden error. Here is how it would have appeared:

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d

RewriteRule ^STP/?(.*)$ blosxom.cgi/$1 [L,QSA]

Venerable Apache Server’s developers are a strange, thundering race who produce suitably impenetrable documentation, but after some levelling up the following was arrived at:

Options +Indexes

RewriteEngine on

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f

RewriteRule ^STP(.*) http://www.spacetoast.net/cgi-bin/blosxom.cgi$1

Here is a breakdown. The first line overrides Laughing Squid’s default error when trying to browse a directory without an index file. The second turns the URL rewriting engine on. The third tells it when to work — in this case, when a file can not be found. (Notice that the missing directory line is now gone.) The fourth line tells Apache to remove “STP” and send the remainder of the address to the blosxom.cgi script.

This portion of the Blosxom installation took far more geekery than it should have. Strictly speaking though, it is optional.

Why Blosxom?

I’d been meaning to add blog software to my site for some time, and of all the content management systems I looked into, Blosxom seemed to best suite my prejudices:

  • Free and open source
  • Small and easy on the server
  • No annoying .php pages, as discussed in this rant
  • No database — nothing to yell at me if I make changes with FTP
  • Plugins to add missing features

With Blosxom now up and running, I can report that it delivers all of the above, at the cost of the following:

  • Missing, out of date and incomplete documentation
  • Missing, out of date and incomplete plugins

Blosxom is ancient in web terms, buoyed along by its simplicity of design. The original site is no longer updated, and while the current developers have mirrored the site to SourceForge, they appear to have done little to update it. Newer plugins can be found offsite, without documentation or generally even descriptions of what they do. Plugins listed on the conserved original site are often dead links; mirrors of the plugin code can usually be googled, but any documentation not included in the code itself is often gone. Blosxom has only basic functionality without plugins.

It is (apparently) possible for an artist with only a modest technical background to install, configure and use Blosxom. The core blosxom.cgi script is bulletproof, and the original installation instructions are quite good. Setup is minimal, and there are no dependancies. An understanding of Perl is not required.

Plugins can be another matter. Many of the plugin problems fall under a recurrent fallacy of open source: “It’s free, so I can be lazy.” Certain plugins expect the user to be a Perl hacker, which is counter to the philosophy behind the software. Others omit documentation, or are abandoned with features incomplete. Blosxom’s stop-and-go development over the years has not helped the problem. More on the plugins used on the Space Toast Pages will follow, after some notes on basic installation and the problem of “cloaking” the cgi-bin URLs.

Notes on Installing Blosxom

Blosxom’s official installation instructions are concise and straightforward. Installation required only a standard FTP client and a text editor. (I used JEdit with the FTP plugin installed.) The blosxom.cgi script ran as soon as it was installed; SpaceToast.net’s ISP, Laughing Squid, did not require it to be “blessed” first.

Configuration was straightforward. The settings are stored in the script itself. Many settings can be left at the defaults.

Fitting the Space Toast Pages’ existing layout into the Blosxom engine was equally straightforward. An old Space Toast Page was sliced into three “flavor” files, the head.html, story.html and foot.html files, with Blosxom markup tags added where dynamic content should be placed. (An additional date.html flavor file is required. On the Space Toast Pages it is an empty file, as date stamps are part of the story template.)

Blosxom stores posts as plain text files in the “data directory” and serves them as html files or rss feeds from the “blog directory.” The Space Toast Pages keep everything in SpaceToast.net/stp. Surprisingly, this doesn’t cause a problem. Any of the posts on the Space Toast Pages can be accessed as raw text files by simply substituting .txt for .html in the address bar. The text file is a real file sitting on SpaceToast.net; the html file is a fake created by Blosxom when it’s requested. An .htaccess file makes the ephemeral page look real — more on that in the next post on cgi cloaking.

STP Relaunched

The Space Toast Page has become the Space Toast Pages, a “journal of journals” on Rasmussen’s various obsessions and experiments. The weekly issue format has been discarded in favor of a categorized, feed-friendly, commentable series of blogs and sub-blogs running on the free and open source Blosxom content management system. Thank you as always for reading, and welcome back!