ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Wherein June 19th Gives You Tidings —

Greetings and hello. As you’ve no doubt recognized, with these summer months have come a slowdown of weblog entries. While I had time, scant time, to write some helpful and/or entertaining entries on a daily or near-daily basis, I really am just too busy to do that right now, and I absolutely refuse to fall in with the “list of links with pithy one-liners” crowd, choosing instead to just focus on the weblog’s style of essays and considerations. A few short items have come to my attention, so I’ll combine them all today.

Benjamin’s Hot Button

A very large “Buzz” was generated recently by The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which is a movie retelling of an F. Scott Fitzgerald tale. The story is simple; a man is born at 70 years old and slowly grows younger as time passes, experiencing life in reverse. From this, all sorts of insights into the human condition are yielded. I am delighted to experience from this that there are people after my own heart, who are inspired to do things above and beyond with the original material. The trailer for the movie is in high definition and sadly way too revealing of things that will be of relative interest to someone expecting dramatic reveal. But that aside, there’s a more meta-interesting issue with this whole situation:

The movie is to be released at Christmas.

It’s the middle of June. This means that the movie is being promoted a full six months before release. Six months is a very long time; Yahoo may not still be an independent company by then; a lot of celebrities will have died; we may be in financial problems as a nation; we will know who the next president is. This is, in other words, a rather long time. If the item in question were a game or product of that ilk, then one could see months of ramped-up anticipation. But it seems like, more and more, it borders on ludicrous to announce and provide material for a 2 hour production a full half-year before anyone can purchase it, and months beyond that (though not many) to acquire a home version.

I am aware of, and probably coherent of, more than many of how Hollywood works and especially how marketing works within the Hollywood machine, and especially how a lot of what you encounter via Hollywood is elaborate in both execution and planning. Nothing is left to chance, truly and honestly. Not a jot or a tittle. So some set of folks, who do some amount of decisions for people who have an awful lot of money and wish to make it grow, believe that six months of anticipation or announcement is necessary for the film. These are not dumb people and they are certainly not inflexible in game plan; if you’ve ever walked into a video store and seen a movie you’ve never heard of starring people you have, and it’s just come out, that was on purpose. Similarly, it is probable that you know there was a new Indiana Jones movie that came out this year and very unlikely you didn’t know. So why think that six months of warning is needed?

One possibility might be the salary of Brad Pitt, the star and currently, like it or not, on the top of the A list for recognition, “brand awareness” and bankability. His asking price is often quoted in the $20 million to $30 million dollar range, according to various sources. So perhaps this is to ensure there’s a general “ah yes, that movie” feeling to its release on Christmas. I could see the warp occurring for that.

I have a memory of seeing a teaser trailer for “The Flintstones” that was a full year in advance. But that film had obviously not even begun production and they showed the star, John Goodman, in front of a generic background. I have no doubt this was done in that way to immediately see focus and general audience reaction to an idea, with budget and production then to be geared based on that reaction. But in this case, it appears the movie is quite finished and shot. It makes very little sense to me.

But another possibility, unlikely but worth considering, is a non-awareness that things really have changed in the contemporary media-consuming world. Some of these marketing situations are decades old, being proven time and time again: Get a girl on the poster no matter what, big name stars are more important than a good script, build buzz when a movie is hard to explain in a line or two, encourage censorship where you can so that more people will see it, and so on. There’s an entire world of marketing that dates back to the 20s that’s just wonderful, including the publicity stunts of yore involving manipulating the press and public to think something horrible had happened that coincided with the title of a picture coming out. It’s very heartwarming, in a way. But those old chestnuts, while often a real firecracker, don’t always pan out. It is very hard for me to imagine that a nice introspective film based off of an easily accessible story from 80 years ago requires such build-up. Maybe in the future these films will be sprung on us unawares, a mere week or two before opening. Maybe, and this is also possible, I have not the slightest idea of what I’m talking about.

Lit Wit

My man Flack asked me to repair a little-touched directory of my site, which contains what were called “Litpacks”. I do not expect you to know what these are. What they were (they’re not really made any more) were compilations of fiction and poetry made by the artscene, that set of kids who did artwork that were the feature of one of the episodes of my documentary. Whereas the “artpacks” of the time contained many different drawings, these pure prose “litpacks” would be available as well.

It turned out, upon my going in to repair this directory, that it was in a horrible state. An index.html file had been dropped in that was completely misleading, and the films were inaccessible. I quickly removed this index.html and found additional onion layers of repair to be done.

The result is a greatly improved directory, which has not just an introduction to the litpack scene but over 120 examples, all of them culled not just from what was already there, but from my suddenly scouring various contributed collections for additional missing sets of files. I had previously only offered parts 1, 3 and 7, for example, and now have shoved in parts 2, 4, 5, and 6 where possible. It is more complete, better arranged, and imminently more browsable.

I mention this because it’s such a core of what I am. Once I was alerted that my own collection, my own collection was in a sub-par state, I could think of nothing else. Several hours of work resulted in the current state. I found out, for example, that I had multiple copies of the files but the sizes were different. It turned out that some of the versions of the files had passed through a number of bulletin board systems that had repackaged them with BBS ads. I made these slightly different filenames and described them as such. This minor situation was greater than I had previously understood, and was one of those situations where I had set aside some collections because of the lack of coherency to the collections. Now I have made some nice inroads, and the archive will grow as an example.

I do not pretend these files are overly important or earth-shattering. I certainly do not implore you to download them, unpack them, acquire the right viewer to see them properly (ACiDView is a good one) and mull over the writings, thinking you will great insights. That’s not my job, really. I don’t play judgment games with the files I am given. I just get them up for people to be able to reference, like Flack had intended to do with his friend and which he can do properly now. I have no doubt there are gems among this pile, but today is not the day that I found them or ask you to. It’s just nice to know that, at the end of the effort, things ended up a little nicer and a little more complete than how I found them. That’s the pleasure of archiving.

Strictly the Numbers

Like a surveyor assigned by his customer to demarcate the property lines, or perhaps some sort of explorer entrusted by his royal to understand the nature of the realm, I spent some time trying to get a grip on exactly how big is and what is where. Here is what I have sort of come back with. and, the collections of BBS era (and BBS-era-like) textfiles that are the core of my archive, is 2 gigabytes in size.

Ancillary collections such as etext, digest and the like, are another 3 gigabytes., which is all those crazy artscene-related files I just mentioned, weighs in at 77 gigabytes., the “sound of online”, which has video as well as tons of sound stuff, is a portly 176 gigabytes., containing PDFs, is just 25 gigabytes large.

Mirrors of sites I think are important that lurk about with the brand but aren’t really “mine” in the sense of me curating them (like the collection) adds another 30-40 gigabytes., finally, is bloating up the world at over 300 gigabytes.

So the question that comes to mind, to the cascades of letters I get that boil down to “give this entire thing to me right now via whatever means necessary” is what do they mean when they say that? Do they mean’s proper text collection, which is less than one half of one percent of all my data? Or do they mean they want it all, a process that will require a 1 terabyte drive and a few days of copying? Either way, it’s nice to have some harder numbers as I go into tenth anniversary celebrations.

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  1. Jim Leonard says:

    On the 10th anniversary, I would love to see a .torrent of the 2G textfile collection, which’d will most likely come down to 800MB. You can host this anywhere because you can throttle the bandwidth and connections to your liking. Sure, it will take about a week to seed, but once someone else has it, the seeding floodgates will open.

  2. zpinzane says:

    1. I’d had yet to hear of this movie, so maybe 6 months of pre-release buzz really is needed. What’s kind of odd is that, it looks, sounds and smells like your typical Hollywood drama, and as far as I know it’s unusual to market them so far in advance. It’s a different case with something like Cloverfield, which was basically created because of prerelease hype. I guess maybe the powers that be are trying to recapture a similiar spark in a jar.
    2. Funny you mention the BBS ads changing the file sizes. I’d have never thought of something like that affecting a collection in that way, but there you go. Your choice to include different versions of the file with different ads in them is interesting. On one hand, is it even necessary? Seeing as how the untouched pack is the original deal. But on the other, BBS ads were a pretty important part of pre-web file transmission in “the scene”.
    I’d have to say I agree with hosting as many iterations as you find, however you could really be opening yourself up to an almost limitless supply of slightly different, yet same packs. In theory of course; who knows how much of this actually exists.

    On a side note, a small project of mine is collecting these BBS ads which morphed into FTP “ads” refered to as “spread.nfo”s. The practice kind of died out awhile ago, for what one would assume are security reasons within that scene. It’s still interesting to find them in unlikely places though.

    Nice post!

  3. Flack says:

    Thanks for the quick fix on the litfiles directory. While I’m sure you like knowing about such problems so you can fix them, I always feel a little bad about mentioning them. It’s like showing up on free hot dog day and then complaining about the hot dogs. Maybe the hot dog guy is grateful for having his hog dog service critiqued, especially then the dogs are free — and maybe hot dog guy doesn’t like his free services picked on. Either way, thanks for the fix and thanks for the hot dogs … er, files.

    The lit scene was definitely birthed from the art scene. When The Stranger and I founded Soulz at Zero, we modelled everything we did on the art scene. As a result, a lot of art scene people found our little litpacks and complained that the art sucked (kind of missing the point). I was a writer, not a coder or a graphic artist. It wasn’t until we finally got a real viewer that people began to take us seriously. Like many of our shared hobbies, the Internet killed us. When goth kids could post their shitty poems on Geocities for free, there was no market for our monthly collection of shitty poems.

    I knew Soulz at Zero had made it when we turned up on the Elite Acronym Lists. (