40 years ago this year, Mt. Saint Helens erupted, and I give my thoughts on the eruption from my perspective – as growing up with the aftermath.

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Histories of the computer industry tend to have a focus on the West Coast in general and California and Silicon Valley in particular. It’s where Apple and Microsoft came from, along with Atari. Occasionally, histories will head to Texas (because Texas Instruments) or New Mexico (because Microsoft was based there in a while, and that’s where MITS operated). However, the Midwest tends to get brushed over. So, when a book about the PLATO system, which came out of the University of Illinois, came up on my radar, touting about how much of modern cyber-culture came about on the system, I decided to check it out.

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Chronicle of the Chinese EmperorsMovies set in historical periods or otherwise based around historical events will never go away. We will always have Victorian tales of class-based angst. Same with tales of valorious (or conniving) knights in medieval Europe. For Eastern cinema, we’ll probably always have samurai films of various stripes, and the same with various Wuxia films, discussing various martial artists and their exploits in Imperial China.

To get try and some background on wuxia films and their I recently read The Chronicles of the Chinese Emperors by Ann Paludan. The book gives an overview of the reign of approximately every emperor in Chinese history that is considered to be “officially” an emperor. Officially is in air-quotes because the book appears to defer heavily to the official Imperial histories. (more…)

Cover art for "Game Over" by David Sheff - 1st Edition
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As I’ve mentioned in my review of The Soul of a New Machine, I enjoy reading about the history of the computer industry. As you’ve probably gather from all my magazine recaps, I also enjoy learning about the history of the video game industry. Consequently, I enjoy books that fall in the category where the two Venn diagrams overlap. They do so with the book I’m reviewing this week, Game Over: How Nintendo Zapped an American Industry, Captured Your Dollars, and Enslaved your Children. (more…)

Wisconsin Death Trip DVD Art
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I’m back from my little vacation from blogging, and I’m returning with a review of another documentary – and not one from Frontline or another episode of a PBS program (not that there’s anything wrong with that). With historical documentaries these days, film-makers tend to go either the History Channel route (scenes with reenactors inter-cut with talking heads), or the Ken Burns route (narration and readings of writings from the time with possible scenes of reenactors).  This film takes the Ken Burns route, but with different subject matter than the type of material Burns covers.

The Premise:

The documentary covers 1 year in Jackson County, Wisconsin in the 1890s. During which much of the county, particularly the area around the town of Black River Falls, goes more than a little bit mad. The documentary is told through articles in alocal paper in the county, read by Ian Holm. (more…)