September 22, 2003

Around The WELL

I've been using The WELL conferencing service since the mid-1980s (it's still the closest thing to the PLATO notesfile community of the 1970s and early 80s), and from time to time I jot down reasons why The WELL continues to be interesting and worth the monthly fee.

Some current reasons:

  • Background information from people who personally have known various notorious media personalities, including Michael Weiner and Ann Coulter. For instance, what Weiner was like years ago at the University of Hawaii, and Coulter's days as a Deadhead, as documented by someone who used to date her.

  • WIRED writer Patrick di Justo's hilarious recent encounter in a Kinko's. di Justo is one of the regulars who contributes to WIRED magazine's "Infoporn" section -- an unfortunate name that simply describes the section of the magazine that attempts to explain complex technology and social trends and statistics through visually stunning graphics, charts, and illustrations. di Justo had gone to Kinkos to make color prints out of PDFs of old Infoporn articles he'd done. The Kinko's clerk politely declined to print them. di Justo couldn't understand why. The manager was called, and explained that Kinko's doesn't print pornography. di Justo laughed, but that only made things worse. Hoping to explain how this was all a simple mistake, he opened up one of the PDFs and the lowest layer of the multilayered graphics displayed first. This article was on biotechnology and the selling of human organs. (I remember seeing this in a past issue of WIRED.) Well, the Kinko's employees flipped out when they saw what was par for the course in WIRED, but onscreen slowly plotted with first the background image of a cadaver and only seconds later all of the callouts and graphs and explanatory text on top. A Kinko's guard escorted him out of the store.

  • The Daily Threat Report started soon after 9/11 --- it's a mostly lighthearted but occasionally alarming report from some WELL users who happen to live and work in the Washington, D.C. area and pass by the Pentagon each day. How many Humvees out today? Are guns drawn? Are they wearing helmets? any heavy artillery? Sometimes they're all over the place like war is imminent; sometimes they're barely there at all. It's a tidbit of news you won't hear on CNN.

  • Then there's the American soldier based in Iraq who recently started a new topic called the "Bagdhad DVD Festival", wherein he sought suggestions on DVDs he should rent from Netflix while stationed in Bagdhad --- "anything escapist", he indicated, was especially welcome. He even provided his address for people who wanted to send him DVDs, and some folks did just that. Every few days he would report back, talking about what he'd watched and what he thought of it. Coma and LA Story were keepers. Often he reported that the battery on his portable DVD player had died halfway into the movie. Just a week ago, he reported he had been promoted and was being given a command of his own. Then, today, he reported that one of the soldiers under his newly-created command was killed on Saturday night and two other of his soldiers were critically wounded. Today he had to call the dead soldier's wife, who just recently gave birth to a baby daughter who will never know her father.

  • Johnny Cash dies, and suddenly there's a debate in the "I Don't NEED to Know Now, But I'm (Still) Curious" topic regarding his famous "Folsom Prison" song lyrics: "I shot a man in Reno, just to see him die." The question was, if he shot a man in Reno, why wasn't he sent to a prison in Nevada?

Posted by brian at September 22, 2003 04:41 PM

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