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A Conversation with AOL’s Santabot

December 24, 2010

Hey, everybody! Happy holidays! Pegleg Spinners may not be the most active of blogs these days, but I’m briefly coming out of retirement to bring you a special, gift-wrapped post guaranteed to send your thoughts back to the olden days, those happy golden days of yore–the days of AOL Instant Messenger.

Facebook and text messages may have usurped instant messages’ societal niche, but IMing offered at least one service that its younger descendants have yet to provide: The opportunity to have conversations with anthropomorphized computer programs. These programs were called “bots,” and although their screennames would show up in your Buddy List (feeling nostalgic yet?), their messages would be generated not by flesh-and-blood users but, rather, automatically, in response to messages sent to them by actual humans. The sophistication of each bot’s programming would determine how much sense those responses made.

The most well-known bot was probably SmarterChild, but my favorite was SantaClaus, which, as you might imagine, was designed to simulate what St. Nick would be like if he were real and for some reason spent all his time on AOL. SantaClaus wasn’t the smartest of bots; most of the time he clearly had no idea what you were talking about, which was great because, as these examples show, you could get him to admit to some pretty heinous shit if you were clever enough and had a sufficiently dark sense of humor. Keep Spinning…


“Kennan & Kel”: Scenes From a Failed Nickelodeon Pilot

May 10, 2010

Photo by Daniel Arnold

As I’m sure you’re aware, today is Kenan Thompson‘s 32nd birthday.  Thompson is a current Saturday Night Live cast member and has appeared in such films as Fat Albert and Snakes on a Plane, but he’ll always be remembered by my generation for his role in the 1990s Nickelodeon sitcom Kenan & Kel.  I am not exaggerating when I say that Nickelodeon programming was the definitive cultural product of the ’90s (unless you count Clinton getting a blowjob as a “cultural product”), and Kenan & Kel was quintessential Nick.  Don’t believe me?  Go back and rewatch the theme song, sung by none other than Coolio himself.

So you can imagine my surprise when I hacked into Nickelodeon’s database archives and found out that the show’s original concept was very, very different from how the final product turned out. Keep Spinning…

Something That Bugged Me About “Shutter Island” (BIG-ASS SPOILERS After the Jump)

February 25, 2010

As I’m sure all my loyal readers already know, I just published a review of Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island on the independent Boston University e-zine The Quad. (First I wrote for Pegleg Spinners, now I write for The Quad… The humor of that pairing is only now occurring to me.) You can read the review if you want to know my general opinion of the film, but there was one specific aspect of the movie’s ending that I wanted to criticize but couldn’t because I would have had to give away major plot points to do so. So, instead of mentioning this complaint in my Quad article, I’m devoting this blog post to it.

Again, the thing I am going to discuss in this post will completely spoil major plot points that come very late in the movie, so don’t continue reading unless you’ve already seen Shutter Island or don’t care if you find out how it ends. Keep Spinning…

An Open Letter to Lil Wayne

February 2, 2010

Dear Mr. Wayne,

You disappoint me, Weezy. I had such fuckin’ hopes for us.

I know what you’re thinking: “Whoa, a new PLS post? I totally thought those dudes were down for the count! Now, where’d I put my bong?” And it’s true–this blog has been quiet for a long time, and it may be quiet well into the future. Today, though, PLS is back, because today is a special occasion: The official release of your “rock” album, Rebirth.

I’ve been waiting for this day to come, Wayne. I’ve been waiting for a very long time. Keep Spinning…

This List Needs Fixin’

January 3, 2010
So, who 'docks' into who?

So, who 'docks' into who?

Everyone loves Top 10 Lists. Only about 3% of people like Top 10 Lists for the advice or suggestions that they provide. The other 97% enjoy Top 10 Lists because they think it’s an open invitation to shout their half-cocked opinions in small rectangular comment boxes buried at the bottom of popular websites. It’s no surprise that around the 48th comment, the discussion of a list has become a battle between 3 people over who is the biggest “fag.” Answer: It is always the guy who needlessly references cats eating cheeseburgers. The point is that nobody ever really addresses the damage to society that these lists cause. Or maybe they do, but those who do so aren’t sophisticated enough to own a blog (that they aren’t willing to play $9.99/year for). Enter “The Best Movies of the Decade” by the show At The Movies, the grandchild of what once was the best movie critic show on television. For anyone who cares, “At the Movies with Siskel & Ebert” begot “At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper” and then eventually transformed into the Man-Bear-Pig of movie critic shows, “At The Movies” featuring A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips. So these two cockdockers get together and figure they are each going to put together a list of the best films from this past year. Well, they didn’t go off the deep end like Ebert who put “Knowing” on his Top 10 of 2009 List, but I can’t say they put together a stellar list either. Keep spinning…

Greetings from the Netherworld: A PLS Halloween Roundup

October 31, 2009

halloween_jackolanternThat’s right, everyone, it’s Halloween–the one day of the year when the ghosts of dead blogs rise from their graves to haunt the internets.

Those of you who read PLS regularly know how fond I am of the horror genre, and, as you might guess, that affection extends to the holiday of Halloween. I don’t have any new content to offer you today, but I thought I’d direct you to all of the spooky articles I’ve written in the past, both here and at my old blog, Super Tuesdays. Keep spinning, if you dare…

PLS Is a Barren, Desolate Wasteland

October 2, 2009

desert2Kinda quiet around here, isn’t it? Yes, ever since autumn rolled around the blog seems to have fallen into a dark, stagnant malaise, a funk which is reflected not only in its content (he said, as though he was not himself partially responsible for the blog’s content) but also, somehow, in the search engine terms which lead readers to this site. Remember the good old days, when people found PLS by looking for all types of crazy, morally reprehensible things? These days our search engine terms just seem to show the same stuff, over and over. Keep Spinning…