Sunday, December 25, 2011

Coming in 2012: Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls 1981

UPDATE: This was a teaser entry for my pop cultural thesis, The Dolls Less Taken.

Happy late 2011 holiday celebrating season to all! Here's a teaser for an upcoming 2012 entry.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sharing Out-of-Print Content Through File Hosting

This article assumes anyone following this procedure is sharing ONLY out-of-print content that can NOT be bought in your local mom-and-pop retail store or online vendor. Neither the article nor its writer advocates the downloading of copyrighted, in print media of any type because, simply, it is illegal and you can go to jail.

If you aren't able to find the out-of-print media you want after reading Sharing Out-of-Print Content Using BitTorrent, a file hosting server or cyberlocker might be the answer. (Wikipedia goes so far as to call them one-click hosting servers but I click way more than once to get through the process.) Those who upload files to a cyberlocker for storage usually pay for an account; you may upload files for free but it is removed from the server after a short period of time - usually thirty days. Those who download files from a cyberlocker may or may not pay for an account; you are allowed slow downloads without an account but the best downloading features are available only after paying. The following sections have more information.

What is File Hosting?

A file hosting server is hard drive space, connected to the internet, on which users can store files, and from which users can download said files. Individuals and corporations use these cyberlockers for personal or business backup that offers international file access and file distribution. Users can upload files to a cyberlocker and share them publicly or privately by assigning a password to the file. The following list is not exhaustive but contains the names of many cyberlocker companies.

Finding Downloads

Lots of people use cyberlockers for lots of things so it is somewhat of an art to find what you want on them, especially if searching for out-of-print media. Following is a list of shared file search engines. These search engines specialize in crawling large file hosting servers for links.
The unfortunate thing about using a shared file search engine is that often the files are named ambiguously or mysteriously. I recently downloaded files that were named numerically from 1awr.rar until 8hwr.rar. The art of the search enters when you want to find the original posting to which these ambiguous file names belong. The owner of the out-of-print media has often discussed it in a blog or disseminated the links in a forum posting.

Searching for content written up on a blog is often just entering your search terms appended with a popular blog platform name. For example, enter ritchie family all night all right 1983 blogspot if seeking a digital rip of The Ritchie Family's 1983 LP. With this particular search, the first result is a link to a FilesTube page with a download link for the All Night, All Right 12 inch rip. The third and the fourth results are links to entries on Blogspot that had links to a digitized version of this out-of-print disco album and probably a little information about the artist.

You can also register and join forums (bulletin boards) where downloading is discussed and links disseminated. Often within the threads of links to illegal (read copyrighted) downloads there is a lowly thread for out-of-print media or VHSrips (where much of the content is out-of-print). Sometimes you might be able to find forum pages (with download links) without registering as a member of the forum using Google's cache option or just clicking through a returned link; it is easier though to register and have full access by virtue of a profile. Registration is free. These download forums include:

The End

The end of the article anyway. The beginning of a search for the treasures that remain unbelievably and hopelessly out-of-print. Ask if there are any questions. I assume people have their own search tips and tricks.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Remembering Morgan (And It's Not M*A*S*H)

With the news of Harry Morgan's passing, I remembered the first time I saw him act; it was in a 1951 potboiler-type film and his name was Henry. In fact, years later when Mr. Morgan popped up on M*A*S*H I thought Harry? That's Henry, the guy from The Well!"

What a smile!

I was 8 or 9 years young when I saw The Well in the late 1960s on WPIX-TV New York. The film is a racially charged drama that pits white against black amidst the investigation into the disappearance of a black female child. From gossip-mongering townsfolk to prejudicial police officers, violence and beatings erupt as the evidence points to Mr. Morgan as the kidnapper. (The line ...a thing like this could ruin me... and the age of the protagonists imply sexual molestation but in 1951 that's all they could do.)

The Well is uncompromising in its depiction of mob violence, crowd mentality, and the prejudice from which they are incited. Although the idiocy of the white racist characters comes off the worst, the film does not pander by putting the black characters on a pedestal. In fact, The Well puts everyone's warts out there - excepting Mr. Morgan.

Maidie Norman is heartbreaking

The film's actors are uniformly excellent with Morgan and Maidie Norman standouts as the suspect and the missing girl's mother, respectively. (Ms. Norman may have had her greatest success as the housekeeper in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane but she'll always be Dorothy, Olivia de Havilland's assistant, in Airport '77 to me.)

The best thing about The Well is it brings to life Anne Frank's famous quote, Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart. Yes, you've seen this type of thing before; life imitated art a little over a decade ago. But The Well still never ceases to make me well up - with anger and with joy.

RIP, Mr. Morgan.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Andrea True Re-Connection

A few years back I wrote about the Andrea True Connection and my search for the Connection leader's final (solo) LP, War Machine. The gist of the article though was how I managed to obtain the Connection's second LP, White Witch digitally.

  1. Buy the Andrea True Connection import compilation CD called More, More, More. There are many with this title but it must be this specific one.
  2. Import tracks 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 13 into iTunes.
  3. Resequence a play list so 13 comes before 3.
  4. (Optional) Buy the Right Stuff compilation CD More More More. (I told you.)
  5. (Optional) Import tracks 8 and 10.
  6. (Optional) Add the single versions of What's Your Name, What's Your Number and N.Y. You Got Me Dancing to the play list as bonus tracks 8 and 9.
  7. Burn the play list and you have White Witch (plus bonus tracks) on CD.

This, of course, was written before you could download a rip of the White Witch LP. To date I have yet to find War Machine, True's foray into rock and new wave that was only released in Italy, in any of the usual or non-usual avenues.*

Tracklisting link
Anonymous review link

Following this third release, True had surgery on her vocal cords and was never to sing again. War Machine is the holy grail of record finders (notwithstanding my assertion a few years back that Buckingham Nicks is the holy grail or that Heart's Magazine is the holy grail.)

This month comes the news that Andrea True has passed. 68 years young and she lived in Kingston, NY! I lived in Tillson for a spell but I never met Andrea True (as I had Viola Wills). I always respected True's career though; with a thin voice that didn't exhibit power, Andrea True wrote the rule book on how to capitalize on a sex tape.

Get the cameras rollin'
Get the action goin'

True was a working actress in many pornographic films before a non-pornographic job in Jamaica stranded her with no way to export her compensation. (The island country was going through a period of political upheaval at the time and cash was not allowed to be taken out.) She called her friend Gregg Diamond (of Bionic Boogie disco group) and asked him to come down and help her to record a song. She would pay for it with the cash and could leave the country with the demo. Aren't we all friends with big time disco producers?

More More More on TOTP

More More More was the fruit of their labors (and True's cash). The track was credited to the Andrea True Connection, licensed to Buddah Records, remixed by Tom Moulton, and the rest, as they say, is disco history. Or at least can be read about at Andrea True's entry on Wikipedia. Here is a list of things that aren't on Wikipedia.

  • This video for the single War Machine from the elusive War Machine LP has surfaced on my YouTube account.

    Sounding like Grace Slick in a 70s rock setting

  • Here is a SFW edit of one of Ms. True's 70s flicks called The Seduction Of Lyn Carter.

    This is part 1. Part 2 is here.

    The VHS cover is misspelled.

  • Here is a NSFW JPG of Andrea True performing in Dance Of Love, her 1974 opus.

  • A musical entity named Magna sampled True's Party Line (from the More More More LP) in a song called Power Supply.

    Sampled? It's a remix.

  • Contrary to urban legend, the Andrea True Connection is not a one hit wonder. NY, You Got Me Dancing was released before, but included on, White Witch, the second LP; it hit the top thirty.

    Andrea name-checked the most famous gay discos in New York
    (Barefoot Boy, 12 West and the suspect, Regine's)
    in this dance club smash

  • Andy P samples What's Your Name, What's Your Number on Name & Number. True's original track was also released before, but included on, White Witch, the second LP; it hit the top sixty.

    Sampled? Just another remix

  • True appeared in the 2005 documentary Inside Deep Throat about the infamous porn flick. She appears in its 1974 sequel Deep Throat Part II.


  • Of course, there's the rightly ubiquitous More More More-sampled top 10 smash Steal My Sunshine.

    Loved hearing this rediscovered in 1999

RIP White Witch. You are remembered as someone who gave pleasure - with your music.

Dabblin' in reggae

Looking fetching!

*Now, you too can have a digital version of War Machine. Email me for a link to this rarity - if none of the options in the comments below are available anymore.

More More More has been covered by many artists over the ensuing years including Rachel Stevens and Bananarama. Babes In Toyland took the song in a rockin' direction. Take a listen.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bootlegging Broadway

The links in this entry lead to a treasure trove of recordings that preserve Broadway performances for posterity. For example, a complete performance of Raisin, the 1973 Tony Award winner for Best Musical, is preserved on an audio recording taped by a member of the audience. How do I know? The person sitting next to the person recording the show had a persistent cough. I was listening to the recording on a particularly long drive and after a half hour I turned to the empty passenger seat in my car and said There's got to be a lozenge or cough syrup. Something..

The downloadable recordings (free via one-click hosting servers like Rapidshare) vary in quality. Some are theatrical soundboard recordings of excellent quality; some (as noted) are listenable with caveats. It is worth searching through the lists if you're a fan of Broadway and musicals.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Shooting With Pink Pistols

I found a group online called the San Jose Pink Pistols. I know San Jose. I know pink. It was time to know pistols.

San Jose Pink Pistols is a fellowship that welcomes the LGBTQ community and inclusive-straights to meet at the San Jose Municipal Firing Range and bone up on the art of brandishing a weapon. Our Fearless Leader brings a couple of gym bags filled with rifles, handguns and bullets and allows everyone to share.

After hearing some scary shit via an orientation by our Fearless Leader and one of the range's volunteer safety instructors, I put on my eye and ear protection and chose a 9 MM Browning. (Elizabeth Barrett Browning manufactured guns? Who knew?) The Browning had a wood handle and was made for the Belgium army. My Leader walked me through the processes of assembling the handgun then handed me the disparate parts.

Browning Bulls-eye
Red circle first shots; Green circle final shots

I loaded five shells in the magazine (which loads just like a PEZ dispenser), slammed the clip up that mofo, racked the slide ... ready ... aim ... and slowly pulled back on the trigger five times.

Glock Bulls-eye
Red circle first shots; Green circle final shots

I reloaded the Browning and shot it again. I tried a .40-caliber and felt recoil but stood my ground. Next a .38 Special. (I didn't have the nerve to roll the bullet-filled barrel like a cowboy.) Finally, I reached for a .45-caliber Glock pistol. I looked at this movie star gun and knew that - as long as there was nothing IN the gun, I couldn't make a mistake. So I obsessed on making sure I knew how many bullets were in the gun, in the chamber, and how many I had spent AT ALL TIMES. My Leader checked back from time to time (as a responsible Leader would) and I shot a bunch more rounds. Definitely felt the most recoil with the .45-caliber.

Analyze your shoot based on
where the bullet hits the bulls-eye

I was told I had good grouping. According to Wikipedia, accuracy in aim and a steady hand are required to make your shots hit the target very close to each other in a grouping. You need only look at the circles on the bulls-eyes provided to know that this writer is a marksman with good grouping.

And I'm glad for this talent because we gotta keep ourselves armed and ready for the zombie apocalypse.

Shooting stall;
target is about 20 - 30 feet back

  • Wash your hands before you leave the range.
  • Use both wax earplugs and protective ear phones.
  • It is loud.
  • Always know how many bullets are in the magazine and the chamber, and how many have been spent.


Shooting stall; second view

Thanks to Will for the pictures
of the San Jose Municipal Firing Range.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Go For The Gold, Chaz!

I was called out for being condescending. I wasn't though. I was merely correcting some facts a fellow Huffington Post commenter had gotten wrong concerning the career of Ms. Cherilyn Sarkisian Bono Allman - or as she is known on Twitter, Cher. Concurrently, I was pointing out the difference between the words artist, celebrity and star which the commenter was consistently confusing.

The cloud was abuzz with the news that Chaz Bono was a contestant on Dancing With The Stars; pro and con opinions as to whether the poster child for transgenderality (if I might use that word) deserved a place on the competition show were being defined in so many bytes. Cher, Lynnette Southwood opined, is a celebrity. How does that make Chaz one?

According to Merriam-We­bster, celebrity is a noun defined as the state of being celebrated­. Merriam-We­bster then defines celebrated as widely known and often referred to. Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, and the real housewives are celebritie­s - widely known and often referred to. Bristol Palin. like the Teen Moms on MTV, are celebrities. Widely known and often referred to.

Cher is also widely known and often referred to but that is fallout from a career of artistic accomplish­ments spanning 50 years. Cher is an actress and a singer as well as a TV performer. Cher has an Oscar for Moonstruck­. She has many hit records and two television shows under her belt. Cher has acted on Broadway and been directed by Robert Altman. Cher is an artist - whether you like her art or not, Miss HP commenter - and because of that she is a also celebrity. SO far we agree.

Now, a star is a term manufactur­ed in the early days of Hollywood for use by Hollywood. MGM - More Stars Than There Are In Heaven. Today star is synonymous with celebrity. Thus, industry movers and shakers can change the definition of star because they set the bar. And the producers of Dancing With The Stars do just that. The Real housewives of Bravo have never been asked to compete but the aforementioned Palin and Bono have. So Hollywood has expanded the definition of star to include, well, pretty much everybody (except the housewives). Kim and Rob Kardashian, Tom DeLay, Shannen Doherty, Joey Fatone, Drew Lachey, Nancy Grace and Kelly Osbourne are all celebrity stars in this cock-eyed caravan of dance.

As for Cher's son Chaz, he is no different from the others. Chaz is widely known and often referred to - a celebrity. He is a celebrity based on his lineage and activism although he might also be considered an artist, wannabe that is. To recap Chaz's history as an artist he, as Chastity, was in a failed rock band (Ceremony) and wrote a book (which I didn't read). He was the subject of a documentar­y (although the artist in the film's case is the filmmaker, not the subject, who gets the celebrity). Ultimately, Chaz manufactured his celebrity as a way to put a face on transgenderality (if I might use that word again). And he's now a star because of it.

Stardom is always manufactured. Years ago, it was the Hollywood studios who chose someone to whom they would give their backing. Today, it's television producers of shows like Dancing With The Stars and media, like TMZ and the Huffington Post, that chose to whom they give the backing of the star-making machinery.

So, as a star in every 21st century sense of the word, Chaz was chosen for Dancing With The Stars. I applaud the producers. Oodles of publicité. I've never seen the show but I might crank out the 99 cents to vote for Chaz. I still won't watch it but I will try and vote. (Is that how this show works?)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Lady Caca and Her Poop Purse

It started with a softball game. And of course Lady Gaga. But then doesn't everything start with a softball game and Lady Gaga?

As a volunteer barkeep for the San Jose Gay Pride Festival, I participated in the kick-off event, a game of softball. Considering I hadn't played softball since I was 10, I wasn't quite sure I should; considering that you must dress as a movie star or music star of the opposite gender, I wasn't quite sure I shouldn't. I was told that it would be an expedition game so, after I looked up exhibition game on Wikipedia, I decided to go for it.


Yes, I had my old go-to drag but did I really want to be a flat-chested guy in a fifty year old cocktail dress, wearing a moth-eaten mink stole and a ratty wig? Nah.

That night, during a bout of insomnia, I started rhyming words with Lady Gaga. Aga. Baba. CaCa. Dada. Eaea. Fafa. Wait. Caca? (ka.ka) I could be Lady Caca. And carry a Poop Purse.


  1. Buy a bra and girdle combination thing.

    I went to Marshall's to buy a bra and panty set. I couldn't figure out how the bra sizes worked so I asked the saleslady. She explained that the size is for the circumference of your back and that if I put the bra on backwards, snapped the catches in front, turned it around, and slipped my arms through the straps I could see if it fit. This worked and I was able to try on a few bras right there in the store!

    Then I found this white bra/girdle combination thing that snapped under the crotch. I had no idea what it is called but I thought it might be more slimming so I asked the saleslady if I could try it on. Please do. she said. My fitting room girl will have something to talk about all day. The bra/girdle combination thing fit as good as I needed although I did buy a pair of white men's briefs; there was no way I was going to snap this contraption and have to run the bases in a softball game with my junk shrunk.
  2. Buy poop bags and poop jewelry.

    I chose hot pink poop bags to go with my pink-tinged wig. They came with a pink poop bag holder that most would put on their belts or dog's leash. I did put it on my dog's leash but then I put the leash around my neck for a poop necklace. I filled the pink poop necklace with blue poop bags for a pop of color.
  3. Make a poop skirt.

    Much like Josephine Baker did with bananas, I made a skirt of poop bags. I started with a blue bungee cord that was just the right size - and the pop of color matched the pop of color in the poop necklace. I put safety pins every three inches, down the length of the cord, filled hot pink poop bags with frozen blueberries (that will defrost as the heat of the day wears on) and attached one tied bag to each safety pin.
  4. Create a poop purse.

    This was easy enough. Fill an extra hot pink poop bag with blueberries and hold it in your hand. A poop purse.
  5. Add a pink wig, rose-colored glasses, sneakers to run the bases and voila!


I went to Savers, our local thrift store, and found two mitts: one for a child, the other a bit bigger. The big question I had was why were both for the left hand? I mean what are the odds that the two baseball gloves in a thrift store would BOTH be for the left hand? I figured what the hell; I hadn't played since I was 10 years old anyway and I am an ambidextrous mouser so I bought the bigger one.

When I got to the game, I told the coach about my skill level. She brought me out in the field for practice. As we walked, I told her about the left-handed glove. Well, she said. Most gloves are left-handed because most people throw with their right hand. Ohhhhhhhhh, now I get it. Surprisingly enough, I managed to catch every ball she lobbed in my direction.

I came up to bat before I even went into the outfield. My first time at bat (and much like Lady Gaga did with Cher at the MTV Video Music Awards) I asked the umpire if he might hold my poop purse. He graciously did. Or was it she?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lucy and the Retro Lawnchair

I bought a fabulous retro lawn chair at a garage sale, schlepped it home, dragged it out of the car, set it up in the backyard, went inside to make a mint julep and came back out to find - I still had to use the rickety old wood bench.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Why I Covered Lady Gaga's Hair (With A Heart On)

After ten years of partnership, George and I separated. George went to Missoula, Montana to attend university and I went on my first visit to a bar in (way over) ten years. I walked in and almost immediately the thoughts of an under-confident and physically insecure youngster came surfing back into my mind.

I'm not like these guys.
I'm unapproachable.
I'm not cute.
I'm too old.
I've got a gut.
My body is too hairy.
I'm a freak.

Holy shit! Who can weather that type of bullying? Without even ordering a drink I left the bar a shattered man.

This happened the same week that Lady Gaga's record Born This Way was released so, of course, I was listening to it on the way home. As track six was playing I came to a more personal understanding of the lyrics; it was my Gaga could've had a V8 moment.

In that moment of understanding, I decided to help this under-confident and physically insecure youngster inside me to embrace his perceived faults and realize that his differences are what make him special. The best way to do this, I surmised, was to cover track six, Hair, in a very public forum - with all these perceived faults on display. To make the video accessible in the public forum, I put a heart on.

  • JesseLCue for the Hair backing track.
  • Max, my Jack Russell Terrier, for making four unannounced yet pivotal appearances.
  • My Vietnamese lady barber who collected the hair she cut off my head the morning I filmed the video so I could throw it to the wind.
  • Mother Monster - for your inspiration, your honesty and your temerity. There are still many people (young and less young) who need to stand up and say to the naysayers (including those in our own minds), I was Born This Way, baby...and through your work, they are (and I am still) learning how.

UPDATE Fall 2012: I've lost almost 30 pounds since the filming of that video and look and feel great. What do you think of my Prince Harry salute?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

[title of show] @ Mountain View Center for Performing Arts

Watching [title of show], the musical by two guys about two guys writing a musical, can be compared to looking at reflections in a hall of mirrors. Because a hall of mirrors also contains panes of glass, you never know if you are seeing something that is real or something that is a reflection. This concept of reality versus reflection initially confuses the storyline but, as the 90 minute show (with no intermission) moves along, meatier themes and more memorable songs are introduced that ultimately make for a sweet but mostly benign evening.

The Mountain View Center for Performing Arts (MVCFPA) production opened on June 1, 2011, following (by years) its premiere at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2004, and subsequent runs off-Broadway and on. It is this journey that is performed by a first rate cast including New York based actors Jamison Stern, Laura Jordan and Farah Alvin and the Bay Area's Ian Leonard. The ladies, Jordan and Alvin, come off best - probably because there characters are written with more depth and they have the most memorable songs. What Kind Of Girl Is She? is a wonderfully funny duet placed in the middle of the show which on reflection (yea, pun intended) seems the turning point to real. Jordan's Die Vampire, Die!, even with its somewhat forced lyrical metaphors, is a clever number, universal in its theme of defeating the doubts in our own heads. Alvin's solo A Way Back To Then is a triumph of simplicity and power, arguably the best song in the show.

Stern and Leonard are good enough despite their characters seeming as cartoons rather then flesh and blood. They also get saddled with inferior songs like Untitled Opening Number, Two Nobodies In New York and An Original Musical - unfortunately, the first three songs in the show. All four actors perform the nicely staged Monkeys and Playbills (with its roll out of classic Playbill covers), the rhythmic Change It, Don't Change It/Awkward Photo Shoot, and Nine People's Favorite Things, the final song that closes out the evening on a high note. Also, worth his weight in gold is William Lieberatore, MVCFPA's Musical Director, who accompanies the cast on stage and actually has a few small yet pivotal lines!

The set, with its backdrop of brick and plaster emulating a New York studio apartment, is bare bones and fits the scenario. Each character is given their own chair (shades of Miss Marmelstein in I Can Get It For You Wholesale?) and most of the numbers are staged using them. (I thought seeing Jordan's character, the only one with a full time job, rolling around in her $800 Herman Miller desk chair a nice touch.) Director Meredith McDonough has managed to create the whole of New York in this small apartment.

[title of show] is not a musical in the grand Broadway tradition. It does not use a full orchestra, there is no dancing and it has references that only theatre queens would recognize (the program includes a glossary for the uninformed). And, as directly quoted from the script, it often seems like obvious pandering and too self-indulgent. Still though composer Jeff Bowen and writer Hunter Bell have managed to do something that many other artists have not - get their work seen; that, in itself, makes [title of show] a triumph.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sharing Out-of-Print Content Using BitTorrent

This article assumes anyone following this procedure is sharing ONLY out-of-print content that can NOT be bought in your local mom-and-pop retail store or online vendor. Neither the article nor its writer advocates the downloading of copyrighted, in print media of any type because, simply, it is illegal and you can go to jail.
There's been a lot of outcry regarding the sharing community. It's illegal. Corporations are losing money. Artists aren't paid for their work. Now all may be true in regards to downloading current, in print works of art (term used loosely) but there is a side to the community that isn't often referred to: the side that shares older, out-of-print works of art to keep them alive. How many films have been made that are not available on DVD? How many vinyl records have never been digitized? How many books can no longer be found in vanishing libraries and book stores? Were it not for the sharing community, these works of art might become as extinct as the dodo bird.

Towards this end, I have been asked recently by a number of friends how to get some of these rare, out-of-print items. After spending two hours explaining how to use BitTorrent trackers to one friend, I decided to write this simple guide for the others - and anyone else that might be interested. This article contains the following sections.

What is BitTorrent?

BitTorrent Tracker Networks are peer-to-peer (computers like yours connected to computers like mine) networks that use the BitTorrent protocol to connect. In a nutshell, when you decide on content you want to share, you search for a small text file associated with the share called a torrent. A torrent file has the .torrent extension and allows for sharing, and tracking the multiple (and worldwide) locations of the specific content.

Because of its tracking feature, I will use the term tracker in this article (rather than torrent) to differentiate this small text file from any other uses of the word torrent.

When (and if) you find a tracker for content that is out-of-print, you open it in a BitTorrent application which then finds other computers (peers) that have this particular content, connects to them, and begins to share. The tracker essentially creates a network of personal computers solely dedicated to sharing this specific content. The BitTorrent Sharing Procedure delves into the details.

The BitTorrent Sharing Procedure

  1. Download and install a BitTorrent application.

    On the Mac, this application might be Transmission; on Windows, it might be uTorrent. There are many other BitTorrent applications and you may not find one you like until you've downloaded it, installed it and used it. I happened on Transmission after first trying something called Tomato Torrent. I will be using screen shots from Transmission. You can right-click on any of these screen shots to view the larger image.
  2. Ensure that the peer listening port set in your BitTorrent application preferences (or options) is open in your home network.

    I can't help with this as I don't know your internet service provider (ISP) or how your home network is configured or which application you have installed. You might not need to do anything. After installing the BitTorrent application, you can start sharing and see how fast the bits are transferred. If you want to investigate this step, try an internet search using terms that map to open port ISP application. For example, I searched open port uVerse transmission. Tweak the search terms based on your choices or add torrent or listening port to them and see what results are returned. It took a bit of work to find information on how to open my port but don't be discouraged - it's out there somewhere.
  3. Create a directory on your computer called Torrents.

    This is the directory in which you should put your downloaded trackers - assuming they are downloaded to a Downloads directory configured in your browser's settings.
  4. Set this Torrents directory in your BitTorrent application.

    I have set Transmission to download files into the same directory from which I will open the tracker. With this option, it does not require a specific directory but it does require that I (being the organized person that I am) move all my trackers into this one directory. I don't advise using more than one directory because you are allowing external access to whatever directory is defined. I'd rather my BitTorrent application only know about the one directory.
  5. Download a tracker and move it into your Torrents directory.

    This should take no time because the tracker, as mentioned, is just a small text file. Here is a link to a tracker page on btjunkie for Second Serve, a television film starring Vanessa Redgrave that was only released on Video Home System (yep, it's an acronym: VHS) tape in the United Kingdom.

    Be careful that you are clicking the correct download link. Tracker search engines make their money when people click on the ads not when they download a tracker. Even an inadvertent click is money so, of course, the tracker download button is usually the smallest on the page. Read everything before you click. In this screen shot, you can see the word DOWNLOAD four times. I use the first Download Torrent with the green icon next to it. Be sure to read everything and choose carefully before you click.

    NOTE: This screen shot I used is benign but be aware that many tracker search engines have pornographic advertisers with pee-pees and (mostly) va-jay-jays screaming hello. My suggestion is NOT to follow this procedure on a work computer or in a room where your mother might be sitting.

    Also, be aware that different tracker search engines might have different trackers for the same file or different trackers associated with different files for the same content. It is all dependent upon which search engine the person who is sharing the file has decided to use to disseminate the tracker.
  6. Start your BitTorrent application and open the tracker file from within it.

    In this screen shot, File -> Open Torrent File opens a dialog box from which you will search for your Torrents directory, select the tracker you downloaded (and moved to the directory) and click Open. Note the Second Serve tracker name selected in the screen shot - including the year, movie name, additional text and the .torrent extension - is somewhat atypical for a tracker name; often you might just see the name with (seemingly) random numbers and letters and the .torrent extension. An Add dialog will pop-up and display the name of the file being shared.
  7. Click Add to begin sharing this tracker.

    A dialogue is displayed in which we are finally seeing the actual name of the files: Second Serve.avi and a small text file inside a folder named Second Serve will be shared.

    Sometimes the file being shared will be a sole AVI file or content compressed into a ZIP or .rar archive. In the case of compressed files, you will need the proper software to decompress them.

    Once added to the queue, the interface for your application might look something like this:

    The slim blue line confirms that sharing has begun. You see other terms like All, Active, Downloading, Seeding, and Paused. These terms allow you to customize what you see. Do you want to see all trackers you have added whether they are currently being shared or not? Or do you want to see only those that are still in the queue but might be paused for one reason or another? Also note the terms Ratio and Seeding; these are very important terms which I will explain in a moment.

    As sharing continues, I opened the information panel (on your left) so you can see from which IP addresses (with last numbers removed) this file is being shared. The BitTorrent application being used is also listed. Note the blue line on the right has gotten longer as sharing continues. (You can follow progress with the Time Remaining and % properties above the blue line as well.)

    As sharing continues to continue, I opened the activity panel (on your left) so you can see how much of the file has already been shared. You see Downloaded, Uploaded and Ratio (again). Definitions coming up.

    When the file is complete, this same Downloading screen will be empty but when you click the Seeding link and the Seeding screen is displayed, you see that the line is green and other computers are still sharing from your directory. You will soon be able to close the tracker file from within the BitTorrent application. See Seeding and Leeching and Ratios, Oh My for information on when this should happen.

Seeding and Leeching and Ratios, Oh My

More important than this procedure is the sharing community itself and how your actions relate to it. Let's first define two terms you need to know.
  • A seeder is a computer that contains the file you want. The seeder may have 100% of the file or 1% of the file; the percentage of the file on the computer does not matter because someone somewhere will be able to share whatever portion is present. When you open a tracker in your BitTorrent application and you have some (or all) bits from the associated file, you are seeding. You will always be considered a seeder until you close the tracker file and are no longer tracked as part of the network for that specific file.
  • A leecher is a computer that wants the file you have. The leecher may have 99% of the file or 0% of the file. When you open a tracker in your BitTorrent application to share a file, you are a leecher UNTIL you have completely downloaded 100% of the file. Once you have obtained 100% of the file, you are no longer leeching. But you may not be ready to close the tracker file yet.
The concepts that keep the community alive are generosity and fair sharing. People who digitize out-of-print content and begin to seed it by creating a tracker are generously donating their time and bandwidth so others may enjoy. There is an expectation among those who create content that those who leech content will also donate their time and bandwidth so others may enjoy. That's where your personal ratio comes into play. It is expected, as a model member of the sharing community, that you will give, at the very least, what you take.

For example, Second Serve is a 789 MB file so when you complete your leech you have downloaded 789 MB. It is expected that over time you will keep that tracker alive until you have seeded to others a minimum of 789 MB. This would give you a personal ratio of 1:1 for the Second Serve tracker. Thus, as you can enjoy this content others who have leeched from you may enjoy it as well. These leechers will, in turn, seed to others and so on and so on and so on. Now you can imagine what would happen if everyone who leeched immediately removed the Second Serve tracker and did not seed - the tracker will die and with it the ability for others to see this out-of-print content.

When you open a tracker and begin to leech a file, you almost immediately become a seeder as well. (Remember a seeder may have 1% or 100% of a file.) You will continue to seed as long as the tracker is active in your BitTorrent application. You can seed at the same time as you leech but, most probably, the bulk of your seeding will occur AFTER you have downloaded 100% of your file and have stopped leeching. That's because we are discussing files that not many people want or are even aware exists. I would venture a guess that 99% of those who are reading this article have never even heard of the movie Second Serve, the true story of a transgender tennis player.

It is expected that you will continue to seed until you have reached a positive upload:download ratio. 1:1 (as in our example) is the minimum positive ratio. The higher the ratio, the more you have contributed. If you have a good ratio, you will be more appreciated by the torrent community. When I learned about the community, I decided to keep my personal ratio at (a minimum of) 2:1. This means that three people will enjoy this content because of me: first (and certainly foremost) myself and then the two others alluded to by my upload number.

NOTE: Seeding and the ratio number are not as cut and dried as the previous sentence leads you to believe. Your BitTorrent application keeps track of your seeding total and ratio. Somewhere in your application's window you will see this ratio; in the Transmission screen shots it is in the top left corner. Thus you can technically be seeding to eight people but all is good as long as you keep a positive ratio.

If you have a personal ratio below 1:1 (meaning you leech 789 MB but only seed 100 MB) you are JUST leeching and not interested in helping others complete their download. In this case, you are cheating the community and we don't like leechers. A positive personal ratio indicates that you have sent more data to other users than you have received. People like seeders so please seed at least as much as you leech for each specific tracker. If you have a negative ratio there are other consequences (besides karmic) as discussed in Sharing Speeds.

Sharing Speeds

The speed of your share is dependent on a number of things.
  1. Your personal ratio (see!)
  2. Seeders THAT ARE ONLINE
  3. Settings you have chosen for your BitTorrent application
  4. Settings others have chosen for their BitTorrent application
  5. Your personal network speed
#1 - Trackers keep track of your personal ratio as well as your BitTorrent application and will denigrate speed based on it. You want to download faster? Pump up your ratio. There are many seeders who keep to 4:1 or even 10:1 ratios. Even after completing a share with a personal ratio of (minimum) 2:1, I generally keep the tracker file and will open the tracker file to re-seed if I notice via comments in the tracker search engines that leechers are stalled at a certain percentage. It's karma, baby.

#2 - Now why did I capitalize THAT ARE ONLINE? Because many people shut down their computers when they are finished using it for the day. (I know I do.) So even though a tracker might know about a computer seeder, the owner might have shut the computer down for the evening. When that happens, the file ON THAT COMPUTER will only be available again when the owner turns the computer back on and starts their BitTorrent application. Because many out-of-print files might only have two or three seeders, the leech will undoubtedly take some time before the complete file has been downloaded to your computer. As you seed and turn your own computer off and back on, the leechers will find you again and the downloads can continue. This is expected by members of the community.

#3 - BitTorrent applications have options that you can set to limit downloads and uploads to specific numbers in KBs. These are your decisions to make. They are modified per specific tracker and I find I often change these options depending on how much desire I have to see something NOW.

#4 - Just as you can set download and upload limits so can everyone else.

#5 - This is a no-brainer - you can't get speeds faster than your ISP allows.

The End

Well, it's the end of this article anyway. There are more aspects of sharing out-of-print content using the BitTorrent protocol than I have documented but this should get you started. If you are interested in delving more deeply into other details, you can start with the BitTorrent entry at Wikipedia.

Now if you'll excuse me I am going to watch Second Serve and maybe after that I'll watch Isadora, both starring Vanessa Redgrave and both, at the time of this writing, hopelessly out-of-print.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Tin Roof Rusted - Or Snow in San Jose

I was awoken at 1 AM by a loud, continuous, rat-tat-a-tat-tat. I knew it had something to do with the tin roof that covers the backyard patio. And for sure it was raining tapioca-sized hail.

With all the animals shivering around, we fell back asleep. When we awoke later that morning, there was snow on the grass and on the roof of the house. In San Jose, California. In mid-April.

It might not be a lot but my neighbor had a snowball he was saving! And it's something I've never experienced.

I hope my potato bush is okay.