Paul Heinz

Original Fiction, Music and Essays

The Internet is (apparently) Not Forever

We’ve been led to believe that the internet is forever, but the recent disappearance of two treasure troves of worthless data have convinced me otherwise.  Diamonds may be forever.  Some say God’s love is forever.  An old photo of you puking your guts out at a party in 1988?  That’s probably forever too, which is exactly what’s prompted parents worldwide to have The Discussion with their college-bound offspring. 

But cool websites that offer hour after hour of procrastination opportunities for those avoiding their responsibilities?  Those are ephemeral fantasies, subject to the whims of corporate stupidity and pimple-faced techno geeks who, rather than postponing sleep into the wee hours by perusing trivial websites, stay up late destroying them, leaving guys like me wondering what the hell to do when insomnia strikes.

In 2007, a brilliant archive of Siskel and Ebert’s movie reviews was made available for cinema lovers.   Although the database didn’t include the early PBS years prior to Disney’s purchase of the show, every review from 1986 to the present was viewable in all its digital glory, searchable by movie title, actor or director.  Also available were special programs on the Oscars, top-ten best movies of the year and worst movies of the year.  What more could a film aficionado desire?

After an illness stole Ebert’s ability to speak, Disney attempted to revive the show, but in 2010 it was cancelled after 24 years of national syndication and a full 35 years after Siskel and Ebert began reviewing movies on PBS.

Bummer, right?  But oh well, at least fans still had access to a great database of movie reviews.

Not so.  Disney/ABC pulled the plug on the database, further corroborating the assumption that corporations are run by numbskulls.  Since the database had already been created, and since no new movies were being added, keeping the website fully functional would have required minimal resources, and I’ll bet that enough movie lovers would have paid a small annual fee to keep the archive not only operational, but profitable.  I know would have.

In the end, The People shall prevail.  In lieu of a corporate-sponsored archive, two movie lovers have started the website siskelandebert.org, whose mission is to grow an on-line collection of complete Siskel and Ebert programs that viewers themselves donate.  The database continues to grow, and unlike the original Disney-sponsored site, this one includes shows that pre-date the nationally syndicated shows that started in 1986.  It’ll probably never be as complete as what was offered on the original archive (as of this writing, 1986 only has 9 episodes), but it’ll at least be a viable option for those of us who like to piss away our lives living in the past. 

Now for the not-so-happy ending to another tragic loss of worthless data.  Fans of prog-rock will likely remember the amazing forgottenyesterdays.com, an extensive tour log of the group Yes, detailing every performance since their inception in the late 60s.  Set lists, transcriptions of what was said between songs, fan reviews and remembrances of the shows, ticket stubs  – it was all there.  So if you wanted to, for example, learn details about the show you attended during Yes’s Relayer tour in 1974, jogging your memory was only a click away.  A more meaningless yet fun-filled hour of perusing a website there has never been.

And perhaps, never will be again.  The site is down, and has been for over a year, apparently due to a virus that rendered the database useless.   There’s no word on when it’ll be back up, if ever.

Note to hackers everywhere: if you must hack, can’t you hack something we can all agree on, like...I don’t know...how about neo Nazi or Al Qaeda websites?  You’d finally get some support for your efforts – applause, even.  But a site dedicated to the best prog-rock group ever?  Come on!

All this just goes to show that nothing in life is as permanent as we’d like to believe, or at least not the stuff worth saving.  Sure, that time you got canned for flipping off your boss (note: this is not a personal anecdote) might haunt you to your grave, but our attempts to record our histories – both personal and societal – are open to destruction.  What’s cool is that very often, they can be built back up again.  Like Aaron Lansky’s  efforts to save and revive a dying language (if you haven’t checked out the book Outwitting History, it’s a great read), sometimes people prevail over incredible odds.

You hear that, Yes fans?

Copyright, 2015, Paul Heinz, All Right Reserved