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Martine Rothblatt, biopharmaceuticals CEO and Sirius radio founder, believes mind clones, digital reproductions of human brains that exist outside the body, are merely one to two decades away. They will exist as avatars on screens, she says, and will make us immortal. Nothing theoretically impossible about eventually understanding the “code” behind a human mind and recreating it externally, but I remain extremely skeptical of her timeline. Watch a Bloomberg report here.


Japan’s graying, thinning population knows a scarcity of labor, a problem likely to grow worse. A solution: Open up what’s a very homogenous country to immigrants. But Japan’s chosen not to staff up with foreign humans but with foreigners to the species, setting up hologram desk clerks and robot bank tellers. If this AI, the Weak kind but impressive nonetheless, works there, wouldn’t such machines also be employed in places where humans are still readily looking to land a position? From Julian Ryall at the Telegraph:

Standing less than 23 inches tall and with only three digits on hands that are too big for his body, Nao is an unusual appointment at Japan’s biggest bank.

Officials of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc believe, however, that this humanoid robot is likely to be an important addition to its operations.

Unveiling Nao in Tokyo on Monday, officials at the bank pointed out that the android is able to speak no fewer than 19 languages and can determine customers’ emotions from their facial expressions.

Nao is still undergoing some minor adjustments, officials said, but the bank anticipates that several of the robots will be meeting and greeting customers in branches from April.

Designed by Aldebaran Robotics SA, a Paris-based subsidiary of SoftBank Corp, Nao gave a demonstration of his skills, greeting a customer with a breezy “Hello and welcome” in fluent English.

“I can tell you about money exchange, ATMs, opening a bank account or overseas remittance,” the android added. “Which one would you like?”

Japanese companies are investing heavily in robots, both as a solution to the nation’s ageing and shrinking population and as a growing business opportunity.•


The future of computerized banking, as envisioned in 1969:


William S. Burroughs reading in 1981 from Naked Lunch on Saturday Night Live, the rare pleasing moment during the the show’s most arid patch, those years when Tony Rosato could be a cast member and Robert Urich a host. Lauren Hutton intros him.

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The image of the retrofuture Roomba I used for this post reminded me of the 1957 Whirlpool “Miracle Kitchen” video. The vacuum of tomorrow is on display at 11:50.

David Graeber in a recent British TV appearance explaining why pointless jobs–bullshit jobs, to be more frank–persist in a much more automated world. What happened to the Keynesian dream of a leisure-driven life? The anthropologist’s answer is that not only are many jobs busywork but so are whole industries (telemarketing, lobbying, etc.) His prescription: the basic-income solution.


Fifty years after Stanley Milgram’s “Obedience” study at Yale shocked the world, there’s dispute as to whether the Milgram experiment actually proved casual inhumanity is our default mode. Technologists like Jonah Peretti swear by Milgram, whereas others have begun to swear at him. From Cari Romm at the Atlantic:

To mark the 50th anniversary of the experiments’ publication (or, technically, the 51st), the Journal of Social Issues released a themed edition in September 2014 dedicated to all things Milgram. “There is a compelling and timely case for reexamining Milgram’s legacy,” the editors wrote in the introduction, noting that they were in good company: In 1964, the year after the experiments were published, fewer than 10 published studies referenced Milgram’s work; in 2012, that number was more than 60.

It’s a trend that surely would have pleased Milgram, who crafted his work with an audience in mind from the beginning. “Milgram was a fantastic dramaturg. His studies are fantastic little pieces of theater. They’re beautifully scripted,” said Stephen Reicher, a professor of psychology at the University of St. Andrews and a co-editor of the Journal of Social Issues’ special edition. Capitalizing on the fame his 1963 publication earned him, Milgram went on to publish a book on his experiments in 1974 and a documentary, Obedience, with footage from the original experiments.

But for a man determined to leave a lasting legacy, Milgram also made it remarkably easy for people to pick it apart. The Yale University archives contain boxes upon boxes of papers, videos, and audio recordings, an entire career carefully documented for posterity. Though Milgram’s widow Alexandra donated the materials after his death in 1984, they remained largely untouched for years, until Yale’s library staff began to digitize all the materials in the early 2000s. Able to easily access troves of material for the first time, the researchers came flocking.

“There’s a lot of dirty laundry in those archives,” said Arthur Miller, a professor emeritus of psychology at Miami University and another co-editor of the Journal of Social Issues. “Critics of Milgram seem to want to—and do find—material in these archives that makes Milgram look bad or unethical or, in some cases, a liar.”•


“Oh, I’m not going to kill that man.”

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And what a difference twenty years has made in the proliferation and development of mobile phones, from the time of this 1995 British TV report about the robustness of the nascent market till now. The most prescient statement in the video comes from telecommunication analyst Doug Hawkins: “I think one of the big areas of growth is going to be in handling information. We all need information, whether it’s just taking a decision about buying a washing machine or what hotel to stay in if we happen to be traveling. I think those sorts of services are going to become very easy via our telephone lines.”


Dr. Frederic Wertham did some wonderful things in his career, but his anti-comic book crusade was not among them. In 1954, when the fear of panels had gone worldwide, he squared off in Washington at congressional hearings with Mad magazine publisher William Gaines, who did not yet resemble a plate of spaghetti that had fallen to the floor.

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In Peter Aspden’s Financial Times profile of clock-watcher and turntablist Christian Marclay, the talk turns to how digital technology has refocused our attention from product to production, the process itself now a large part of the show. An excerpt:

When did the medium become more important than the message? Philosopher Marshall McLuhan theorised about the relationship between the two half a century ago — but it is only today that we seem to be truly fascinated by the processes involved in the creation of contemporary art and music, rather than their end result. Nor is this just some philosophical conceit; it extends to the lowest level of popular culture: what are the TV talent shows The X Factor and The Voice if not obsessed by the starmaker machinery of pop, rather than the music itself?

There are two reasons for this shift in emphasis. The first is technology. When something moves as fast and as all-consumingly as the digital revolution, it leaves us in its thrall. Our mobile devices sparkle more seductively than what they are transmitting. The speed of information has more of a rush than the most breakneck Ramones single.

Digital tools also enable the past to be appropriated in thrilling new forms — “The Clock” would not have been possible in an analogue age. Marclay has said he developed calluses on his fingers from his work in the editing suite, echoing the injuries once suffered by the hoariest blues guitarists. “The Clock” is a reassemblage of found objects: that is not a new phenomenon in artistic practice, but never has it been taken to such popular and imaginative heights.

It is the art of the beginnings of the digital age: not something entirely new, but a reordering of great, integral works of the past. “A record is so tangible,” says Marclay when I ask him about his vinyl fixation. “A sound file is nothing.” Sometimes, I say, it feels as if he has taken all the passions of my youth — records, movies, comic books — and thrown them all in the air, fitting them back together with technical bravura and, in so doing, investing them with new, hidden meanings. I ask if his art is essentially nostalgic. “I don’t think it is,” he replies firmly. “But there is a sense of comfort there. These are things we grew up with. They are familiar. And that is literally the right word: they are family.”

The second, less palatable, reason for the medium to overshadow the message is because of a loss of cultural confidence. We are not sure that the end result of whatever it is we are producing with such spectacular technological support can ever get much better than Pet Sounds, or Casablanca, or early Spider-Man. This does lead to nostalgia; not just for the old messages but for the old media, too. Marclay tells me there is a cultish following for audio cassettes, as if the alchemy of that far-from-perfect technology will help reproduce the magic of its age.


Marclay re-making music in 1989. 

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Two videos about Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 masterwork The Conversation, a movie about the consequences, intended and unintended, of the clever devices we create and how the tools of security can make us insecure.

The first clip is an interview with the director conducted at the time of the film, in which he recognizes his influences. In the second, Coppola wordlessly receives the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, to some applause and a few catcalls. Tony Curtis walks him off stage.

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Al Goldstein, currently masturbating in a casket, interviewing Gilbert Gottfried on Midnight Blue in the early ’90s. Definitely NSFW, unless you work in a blowjob store.

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Along with the progress being made with driverless cars and 3D bio-printers, the thing that has amazed me the most–alarmed me also–since I’ve been doing this blog has been the efforts of Boston Dynamics, the robotics company now owned by Google. The creations are so stunning that I hope the creators will remember that the applications of their machines are at least as important as the accomplishment of realizing the designs. At any rate, the Atlas robot is now untethered, liberated from its safety cord, operating freely via batteries.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, we have been told, and I believe, with some exceptions, that this is so. Did the infamous 1950s Ford flop, the Edsel, really fail because it was named for Henry’s son, or was it because the design was disappointing to mid-century Americans (even though it looks pretty good to me)? I think a car with a style that resonated with the public would have made “Edsel” synonymous with cherries rather than lemons. But branding has long been a field and namer an actual profession. In a New York Times Magazine article, the always-smart Neal Gabler takes us on a jaunt to find just the right name for a new virtual-reality product. An excerpt:

For decades, corporations have turned to creative people for their naming needs, with varying results. In 1955, a Ford Motor marketing executive recruited the modernist poet Marianne Moore to name the company’s new car. The marketing department had already created a list of 300 candidates, all of which, the executive confessed, were “characterized by an embarrassing pedestrianism.” Could the poet help? In a series of letters, Moore proposed dozens of notably nonpedestrian names — Intelligent Whale, Pastelogram, Mongoose Civique, Utopian Turtletop, Varsity Stroke — but the marketing team rejected them all, instead naming the new car (in one of the great disasters, naming and otherwise, in corporate history) after Henry Ford’s son, Edsel.

Today roughly 500,000 businesses open each month in the United States, and every one needs a name. From Dickens with his bitter Gradgrind to J. K. Rowling with her sour Voldemort, authors have long understood that names help establish character. Politicians know that calling a bill the USA Patriot Act makes it a little harder to vote against. The effects of strategic naming are all around us, once we begin to look for them. “You go to a restaurant, and you don’t order ‘dolphin fish,’ ” Shore points out. “You order ‘mahi-mahi.’ You don’t order ‘Patagonian toothfish.’ You order ‘Chilean sea bass.’ You don’t buy ‘prunes’ anymore; they’re now called ‘dried plums.’ ” Maria Cypher, the founder and director of the naming agency Catchword, which named the McDonald’s McBistro sandwich line, will tell you that names “give us a shared understanding of what something is.” Paola Norambuena, the executive director of verbal identity at Interbrand, says they give us a “shortcut to a good decision.”

Most people assume that companies name themselves and their products. True, Steve Jobs came up with the name for Apple and stuck with it despite the threat of a lawsuit from the Beatles, who had already claimed the name for their record label. Likewise, Richard Branson chose the name Virgin, and namers venerate him for it. “Virgin gets a reaction,” says Eli Altman, the head of A Hundred Monkeys, a naming agency. There is no “way that would get through a boardroom.” Most executives aren’t as imaginative as Jobs or Branson. And that’s where namers come in. Some work within larger branding agencies, like Landor or Interbrand. Others work within boutiques, like Catchword, A Hundred Monkeys (put 100 monkeys at 100 typewriters, and eventually they’ll write a Shakespearean tragedy, or a name), Namebase and Zinzin (French for “whatchama­callit”). Some, like Shore, are lone operators.

For the process that leads to a single name, companies can pay anywhere from $3,000 to $75,000.•


The 1957 primetime TV show which introduced the Edsel, featuring Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Rosemary Clooney.

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Well, you can’t get a much more top-shelf Oscars moment than this passage from the 1977 ceremony, as Jane Fonda introduces Norman Mailer who in turn presents the Best Original Screenplay award to Paddy Chayefsky for Network. Mailer sets up the announcing of the nominees with the famous anecdote about Voltaire visiting a gay bordello. Despite what Aquarius says, it was more way more difficult for Chayefsky to write a great novel than a great screenplay.

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Walter Winchell died twice, and there was plenty of room at the second funeral.

The first demise was the radio and newspaper gossip’s public persona, which all but vanished in his later life, when he remarkably outlived what had been an outsize fame, unrivaled in thirties and forties American media. A figure of immense power in his heyday, Winchell was vicious and vindictive, often feared and seldom loved, the inspiration for the seedy and cynical J.J. Hunsecker in Sweet Smell of Success. When journalism matured in the 1960s, when college-educated industry professionals began saying “ellipsis” rather than “dot dot dot,” and Winchell had no power left, people were finally able to turn away from him, and turn they did. By the time he passed away in the corporeal sense in 1972, he was already buried

From his anachronistic fedora to his inky black heart, Matt Drudge dreamed of being another Winchell, one for a new media age, and for a few years he pulled off a very lower-case approximation. But the idea that Drudge or O’Reilly or anyone has ever again had anything near Winchell’s sway would be akin to suggesting that Mayor Bill de Blasio can part New York City any way he wishes, the way Robert Moses did. Such concentrated power in metropolitan affairs and media is a thing of the past, and we’re the better for it. 

Prior to writing about Frank SerpicoJoseph Valachi and Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, journalist Peter Maas profiled the gossip in the early stages of his decline phase for Collier’s with the 1956 article “Prowling the Night Beat with Walter Winchell.” The opening follows.


In all the kaleidoscopic years from bootleg liquor to the hydrogen bomb, few figures have been more consistently or controversially both creator and chronicler of news than a fifty-nine-year-old former song-and-dance man named Walter Winchell. Winchell, whose schooling terminated in the sixth grade, has seen his contributions to the language (infanticipating, Chicagorilla) duly noted by H. L. Mencken and included in freshman English textbooks. As the originator of the modem gossip column, he upended journalistic technique. His syndicated commentaries built him a huge national audience, later multiplied by his staccato Sunday-night (215 words a minute) newscasts. This fall he has added another dimension to a phenomenal career as the star of his own TV variety show over NBC.

Winchell’s waking hours, once merely frantic, now approach final chaos. His nightly prowlings about Manhattan are punctuated by the conversational delivery of an animated typewriter. Shortly after seven one recent evening, he strode briskly up Broadway (“the Sappian Way”) to Lindy’s Restaurant, fortified himself against the hours ahead with a chocolate soda, poetically signed a little girl’s menu (“Bread is food / Water is drink / An autograph is just some ink”), described to early dinner arrivals a five-alarm fire (“Oh, did you miss the action!”), acknowledged (“Hello”) the greeting of a former member of Murder, Inc., and an hour later abruptly left with a dozen people yet vying for his ear.

Backstage at a nearby theater, he asked Sammy Davis, Jr., to appear on his TV show, commented on his recent split with Stork Club owner Sherman Billingsley (“I think I’ll open Winchell’s Bar and Grill across the
street”), dropped into a Broadway music shop as he regularly does to listen to both sides of a Roberta Sherwood record (“She doesn’t want to open an engagement without me”), paused outside to talk to an elderly lady (“1 know you, you’re Mrs. America!”) and then said, as he invariably does at some point in the night, “Let’s go chase the burglars.”

Thus, at ten o’clock, he rolled forth in his car (complete with short-wave receiver) to answer all police and fire calls within striking distance. Along with the mambo, this is his principal mode of relaxation. Most police officers know him by sight now and, if not, his standard introduction, “My name’s Winchell; I’m a reporter,” usually suffices.

At a Signal 30 (crime of violence) this night he arrived simultaneously with the police and pistol in hand (“What am I doing this for? I’m fiftynine years old”) gave chase to a hoodlum—who eventually escaped. Soon thereafter, he attended a political reception where he lectured Tammany bigwig Carmine De Sapio on the shortcomings of the Truman administration. He then left to go to a night club, El Morocco, hastily munched a steak sandwich, whirled through several mambos with Elizabeth Taylor (when she said it was her first dance in five years, he told her, “That’s why marriages break up” ) and invited Deborah Kerr and a 20th Century-Fox executive to ride in the car. Upon depositing Miss Kerr at her hotel at 4:00 A.M., he invited her to appear on his TV show. When 20th Century demurred on the grounds of conflicting films, he later noted, “Now I’ll
have to give raves to her next three pictures, good or bad. Because they’ll be saying, watch him pan us.”

Winchell resumed the chase of further police calls until, at dawn, he found himself present at an emergency birth in a tenement house. It was the first he had ever seen and he was moved to report it as a society item: “A
bundle of Boy (her 2d) for Mrs. Arcario Otero of W. 22d St. Happy Baby!”

Afterward, he stopped for a cup of cafeteria hot chocolate (“It gives me energy”) and returned to his St. Morilz Hotel duplex apartment. He went directly to his offlce on the second floor, equipped with a bed, an ancient
table-model typewriter and heavy beige curtains, ever drawn against the sun. There, he began his next day’s column. He finished the column at 9:0 0 A.M. Then he fell asleep.

WINCHELL APPLIES HIMSELF with equal vehemence to the fate of a Broadway play or the state of the nation. Following a recent newscast, he pointed to a soapbox orator on the street and cracked, “I’m just like him. I’m a rabble rouser too. But I’ve got syndication and a mike.” 

He sees himself first as a reporter. His critics insist (hat he is irresponsible, and refer to him as “Little Boy Peep.” When he hears such charges. he usually reacts with the disdain of a man who has just heard the cry.
“Break up the Yankees!” Although Winchell’s temper flares easily and he is continually on edge, rival columnists, except Ed Sullivan, leave him relatively unruffled and he says of them, “They print it; / make it public.”

He has no leg men as such but a number of contacts supply material they know is of specific interest to him. Otherwise, he collects his items in person or culls them from his immense daily mail. His column is currently carried by 165 papers with an audience estimated at 25,000,000. When the editors of a news weekly asked Winchell hovs’ he arrived at this figure, he told them, “I read it in your magazine.” 

Winchell first got the idea for his column when, still a vaudevillian. he produced a gossipy mimeographed sheet about backstage goings on and pinned it to bulletin boards under the heading, “Daily Newsense.” Several years later on the New York Evening Graphic (a tabloid which on a dull day would have a reporter shoot up the editor’s office, call the cops and headline: “Gangland Tries to Intimidate Graphic”), he included a series of his tips, turned down by the city desk, in his regular drama column. By morning, he was the talk of the town. In 1929, Winchell was hired by Hearst’s New York Daily Mirror and immediately syndicated. The first of his regular Sunday-night newscasts began in 1932. They continue today over Mutual and are still preceded by tremendous personal tension. Winchell constantly, although futilely, admonishes himself: “Calm down!”

He is acutely conscious of his power. He is also privy to the enormous draw of gossip and often uses it as a lure to advance his own highly opinionated views on affairs of state and the world. In the 19.30s he shelved his previous disinterest in politics to, as he says, “help a man named F.D.R. win.” Soon after, he plunged with equal force into the international arena “because of two guys named Hitler and Mussolini.” Winchell currently regards himself in the forefront of the fight against Communism and, after a break in diplomatic relations with President Truman, is again a favored White House visitor. Politically, he regards himself as an Independent. “There aren’t any liberals left,” he says. “If there are, I’m one.” Scoffers deny this and charge Winchell is in over his head. They single out his violent defense of Senator Joseph McCarthy as a case in point. He angrily answers, “Who else was fighting the Commies? Name me one!”

Winchell’s volatile nature demands outlets. His cops-and-robbers exploits serve this end as well as giving him some notable scoops. His first such coup took place in 1932 when nightclub hostess Texas Guinan tipped him off that Vincent Coll, the then infamous Mad Dog Killer, was about to get his from rival mobsters. Winchell printed the item forthwith. Per prediction, Coll was mowed down some five hours later.

His most sensational exploit unfolded in 1939 after he had become a friend of FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover. Louis (Lepke) Buchaltcr, gangland’s high executioner, had been hunted for two years. He was America’s most wanted criminal and carried a $50,000 tag dead or alive. After a decision to surrender to the FBI, Buchalter’s problem was to get to Hoover alive. Winchell was chosen as go-between. For 20 frustrating days during August, he carried on blind negotiations that apparently led nowhere. Finally, Hoover taunted Winchell to his face (“Here he is, the biggest hotair artist in town”). But the next Sunday night on a deserted Fifth Avenue, Winchell was able to make a memorable introduction: “Mr. Hoover, Mr. Buchalter; Mr. Buchalter, Mr. Hoover.” As it turned out, Winchell lost his scoop; when he breathlessly telephoned his city desk he was brushed off with, “So what, Hitler’s just invaded Danzig.”

Winchell is a man of intense personal loyalties. His association with police and firemen during his nocturnal prowling led him to discover the inadequate death benefits provided their dependents. He promptly crusaded for the Bravest and Finest Fund to provide financial assistance (“The check gets there before the undertaker”). His closest friend was the late Damon Runyon, who rode with him nightly. Just before Runyon died from cancer of the throat, he told Winchell he hoped that one friend would remember him “once a year.” Four nights later, on Winchell’s newscast, he announced the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund. “I didn’t know what we’d get,” Winchell recalls. “Maybe fifty thousand, seventy-five tops.” To date, largely through his efforts, $11,500,000 has been raised, with no deducted expenses.

His feuds are equally violent. Although he once championed the Stork Club, he has soured on owner Sherman Billingsley (“I built the place up and III tear it down”). Winchell and Ed Sullivan are long-time foes. The bitterness was renewed when Sullivan publicly announced that Winchell was a “dead duck” after he lost his TV and radio newscasts with the American Broadcasting Company. One of Winchell’s prize possessions is an early letter from Sullivan expressing the hope he could return a Winchell favor with “something equally nice.” “I put it with all my other thank-you notes,” Winchell snaps, “in the ingrate file.”

Of show business, Winchell says, “I never left it.” He is almost universally regarded in the trade as a man whose nod of approbation will lift a hitherto obscure entertainer to stardom. Winchell’s willingness to do battle for a favored cause has produced some spectacular results. Several years ago, he took a unanimous critical flop, Hellzapoppin, under his wing and it wound up one of the eight musicals in Broadway history to run more than 1,000 performances. More recently, he has been plugging forty-three-year-old singer Roberta Sherwood, lifting her from $50 to $5,000 a week in six months.”•


Winchell in 1953, mocking Dorothy Parker among others.

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At the BBC, Stephen Dowling argues that the Brownie by Eastman Kodak is the most important camera ever manufactured. Widely affordable (priced originally at just a buck) and easy enough for a child to use, the boxy machine brought photography to the masses, making the art portable and quotidian. The opening:

“Before it appeared in 1900, cameras were distinctly unwieldy, if not downright cumbersome. Early cameras tended to be made of a great deal of brass and mahogany and took pictures on to large glass or metal plates, often requiring exposure times measured in minutes.

To photograph far-flung places, porters and pack animals were often needed to carry the equipment. Photography was an activity involving patience, toxic chemicals, and brute strength. It was not something the ordinary people indulged in.

US inventor George Eastman took an important step forward in the 1880s, when he popularised a flexible film that did away with the need for weighty plates. His first ‘Kodak Camera’ went on sale in 1888, pre-loaded with enough film to take 100 photographs. When the last picture was taken, the entire camera was sent back to Kodak to be developed.

It was an uncomplicated box but it cost $25 – a significant amount of money. It was still a device for the wealthy.

The revolution came 12 years later. The Kodak Brownie, designed by Edward Brownell, looked similar to the original Kodak, but the film could be taken out of the camera after shooting and developed via Kodak stockists, chemists or even at home.

And Kodak sold the camera for the princely sum of $1 – you could buy the camera, a film and have that film processed for just $2. Photography had suddenly become not only portable but affordable, too, and the Brownie was easy to use.”


The Brownie in 1958:

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There are endless channels and more stuff right now than ever before, and I always think that while there’s more bad stuff, there’s also more good. The math says it must be the richest time ever. But then I watch this one-hour 1972 NYC studio concert by Stevie Wonder and try to think of any pop music today that knocks me out this way. The final 14-minute jam beginning with “Superstition” is complete tour de force. Of course, I may be partial since the first record I ever owned as a child was a Wonder greatest-hits compilation.


You get the feeling sometimes that people with money aren’t necessarily very good at economics, or perhaps their politics are more informed by ego and privilege than reality. The U.S. economy does not have to be a zero-sum game as some seem to think.

From death panels to massive layoffs to runaway inflation, many threats have been leveled at President Obama’s policies, particularly during the 2012 election, by the Romneys, Palins, Trumps, Fiorinas, Wynns and Welchs of the world. From a Hamilton Nolan Gawker post about Westgate Resorts CEO David Siegel, who said he’d be forced to fire all his employees if Obama was reelected:

“Siegel—also known for being the subject of the documentary The Queen of Versailles about his doomed attempt to build himself and his wife America’s largest house—did not end up firing everyone directly after Obama won the election. But what about now, two years later? The pernicious effects of Obama’s socialistic policies have had ample time to take hold. What horrible fate has now been visited upon Siegel’s employees after the Obama administration has see to it that he is thoroughly ‘taxed to death,’ as Siegel warned in his letter?

In October, Siegel raised his company’s minimum pay to $10 an hour. ‘We’re experiencing the best year in our history,’ Siegel said.”

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A switch to electric cars which get energy from solar sources is seen by some conservatives as a vast left-wing conspiracy, but California’s Governor Ronald Reagan, still the GOP standard-bearer, was completely on board with subsidizing EVs when he first witnessed the Enfield 8000 in 1969. An excerpt follows from a 2013 BBC article.


“In November 1969, the Enfield 8000 was shown off at the first ever international symposium on electric vehicles, held in Phoenix, Arizona, where it caught the eye of Ronald Reagan, then Governor of California.

“We took a truck across America with two Enfields on the back,” says Sir John Samuel, who was leading the delegation. “Some people just looked at them and laughed, but Ronnie Reagan was astounded, and he said, ‘Why can’t we do this here?'”

Governor Reagan offered to find a factory site in California, promising healthy subsidies and guaranteed orders. He even suggested giving the cars to all home-buyers on the island of Santa Catalina off the California coast, where the use of petrol-driven vehicles was – and still is – heavily restricted.

But Enfield Automotive’s owner John Goulandris, who was from a wealthy Greek shipping family, turned down Reagan’s offer and chose to continue production in Cowes on the Isle of Wight.•


The original BBC report about the Enfield 8000 at the 1:15 mark:


Before Barnes & Noble added couches and coffee and before those amenities were disappeared brick by brick and mortar by mortar by Amazon, there was a vast and very unwieldy version of the store near Rockefeller Center which sold remainder copies of Evergreen and Grove Press paperback plays for a buck. That’s how I came to Eugene Ionesco, Harold Pinter, Edward Albee, Bertolt Brecht and Samuel Beckett, the latter of whom was an absurdist as well as chauffeur to a pre-wrestling Andre the Giant. I can’t imagine a more trying dramatist to act for than Beckett, but Billie Whitelaw tried and succeeded. The go-to thespian for the Godot author just passed away. Here’s an excerpt from her Economist obituary:

“For 25 years she was the chosen conduit for the 20th century’s most challenging playwright, the author of Waiting for Godot She played Winnie in Happy Days, buried up to her waist in sand, carefully turning out her bag as she babbled away; the Second Woman in Play, the role in which Beckett first saw her at the Old Vic in 1964, enveloped in an urn with her face slathered with oatmeal and glue; May in Footfalls, communing with her absent mother while endlessly pacing a thin strip of carpet; and, in Rockaby, an ancient woman listening to her own voice as she slowly rocked herself to death.

She never pretended to understand these plays. She just thought of them as a state of mind, something she could recognise in herself. That was what Sam wanted: no interpretation, just perfection. If, almost unwittingly—for she wasn’t good at words, couldn’t spell and seldom read books—she replaced an ‘Oh’ with an ‘Ah,’ or paused minutely too long, upsetting the rhythm of his music, she would hear his murmured ‘Oh Lord!’ from the stalls, and see his head fall to his hands. He was always her best, gentlest and most exacting friend. In a way they were like lovers, walking arm in arm when she visited him in Paris, and rehearsing in her kitchen close up, she speaking directly into his pale, pale, powder-blue eyes, as he whispered the lines along with her. When he died, in 1989, she felt that part of her had been cut away.

Stutterer, chatterbox

It seemed unbelievable that it was her voice in Beckett’s mind when he wrote. It was nothing special to her. She had a Yorkshire accent, reflecting her Bradford childhood, but after a run of early TV typecasting in ‘trouble at t’mill’ dramas it had become residual, like her fondness for meat pies and Ilkley Moor. Her northern roots showed mostly in her liking for blunt, straight talk. At 11, after her father died, she had developed a stutter, which her mother thought might be cured by taking up acting. The cure worked so well that she became a staple on BBC radio’s Children’s Hour playing rough-voiced boys at ten shillings a time, and at 14 started to act for Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop. Any challenge or crisis, though, could bring the stutter back, together with paralysing stage-fright. When she played Desdemona to Laurence Olivier’s Othello at the National Theatre, in 1963, she could hardly stop her voice trembling.

Small wonder she was nervous. She had never read Shakespeare then, and had had no classical training. Her years in rep had mostly consisted of playing dizzy blondes, busty typists and maids.”


Whitelaw as “Winnie” in Happy Days:

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A person isn’t merely a “satchel full of dung” as Bishop John Fisher argued in 1535, the year he was beheaded by King Henry VIII, but a surfeit of pride is just as bad as one of shame, maybe worse. In the middle of last century, psychiatry began trying to convince us we weren’t sinners but winners, as the “self-esteem movement” kickstarted with good intentions by Dr. Abraham Manslow began to take hold, even if there wasn’t much hard data to support its efficacy. Dissent eventually came from controversial research psychologist Roy Baumeister, son to a father driven by immense self-importance. The opening of Will Storr’s Matter piece,The Man Who Destroyed America’s Ego“:

“FOR MUCH OF HUMAN HISTORY, our beliefs have been based on the assumption that people are fundamentally bad. Strip away a person’s smile and you’ll find a grotesque, writhing animal-thing. Human instincts have to be controlled, and religions have often been guides for containing the demons. Sigmund Freud held a similar view: Psychotherapy was his method of making the unconscious conscious, helping people restrain their bestial desires and accord with the moral laws of civilization.

In the middle of the 20th century, an alternative school of thought appeared. It was popularized by Carl Rogers, an influential psychotherapist at the University of Chicago, and it reversed the presumption of original sin. Rogers argued that people are innately decent. Children, he believed, should be raised in an environment of ‘unconditional positive regard.’ They should be liberated from the inhibitions and restraints that prevented them from attaining their full potential.

It was a characteristically American idea—perhaps even the American idea. Underneath it all, people are good, and to get the best out of themselves, they just need to be free.

Economic change gave Rogers’s theory traction. It was the 1950s, and a nation of workmen was turning into a nation of salesmen. To make good in life, interpersonal sunniness was becoming essential. Meanwhile, rising divorce rates and the surge of women into the workplace were triggering anxieties about the lives of children born into the baby boom. Parents wanted to counteract the stresses of modern family life, and boosting their children’s self-esteem seemed like the solution.

By the early 1960s, wild thinkers in California were pushing Rogers’s idea even further. The ‘human potential movement’ argued that most people were using just 10 percent of their intellectual capacity. It leaned on the work of Abraham Maslow, who studied exceptional people such as Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt and said there were five human needs, the most important of which was self-actualization—the realization of one’s maximum potential. Number two on the list was esteem.

At the close of the decade, the idea that self-esteem was the key to psychological riches finally exploded. The trigger was Nathaniel Branden, a handsome Canadian psychotherapist who had moved to Los Angeles as a disciple of the philosopher Ayn Rand. One of Rand’s big ideas was that moral good would arise when humans ruthlessly pursued their own self-interest. She and Branden began a tortuous love affair, and her theories had an intense impact on the young psychotherapist. In The Psychology of Self-Esteem, published in 1969, Branden argued that self-esteem ‘has profound effects on a man’s thinking processes, emotions, desires, values and goals. It is the single most significant key to his behavior.’ It was an international bestseller, and it propelled the self-esteem movement out of the counterculture and into the mainstream.”


A 30-minute 1971 film about Maslow’s philosophical descendants.

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Louise Bourgeois, whose sculptures were often both biological and extraterrestrial, would have turned 103 on Christmas. Here she peels a tangerine, which is far healthier than Andy Warhol eating a burger.


As the Washington Post enters its Jeff Bezos era, which hopefully will be better and can’t be much worse than what preceded it, here’s a 1976 making-of featurette for Alan J.Pakula’s excellent adaptation of All the President’s Men, which recalls a whole different eon in American journalism. It’s not a media infrastructure that should be artificially preserved–nor could it–but its contributions were vital.

In the short film, Bob Woodward guesses that eventually the identity of Deep Throat would become known. Surprisingly, even though this was the nation’s burning question for years, its 2005 reveal had almost no traction. Ask people walking down any U.S. street to come up with the name W. Mark Felt, and they probably wouldn’t be able to. It’s like that part of our history has mysteriously returned to the shadows. 

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Buzz Aldrin hasn’t had the easiest life of all the American astronauts, but he’s probably had the most interesting one, from the exhilarating highs of, yes, the moon, to his metaphorical crash landing back on Earth. In her new GQ profile of the spaceman in his dotage, Jeanne Marie Laskas probably leans a little heavily on the idea that Aldrin has been so tortured because he was only the second man on the moon–maybe he focuses too much on that supposed cosmic slight himself?–but it’s still a really good piece about towering figure who had nowhere to go but down. An excerpt:

“‘The melancholy of all things done’ is the way Buzz once described his complete mental breakdown after returning from the moon. Booze. A couple of divorces. A psych ward. Broke. At one point he was selling cars.

Neither Neil Armstrong nor Michael Collins had a mental breakdown after returning from the moon. The public pressure was never as great on Mike; he was up orbiting the moon in the command module while Neil and Buzz puttered off in the Eagle and then gently touched down on the Sea of Tranquillity. Neil was of course the first to open the hatch, the first man to walk on the moon. He would go on to retire from space with dignity, people said. He turned into a buttoned-up academic, and then a businessman, honorably testifying before Congress about space exploration when called, and turning down just about every media request coming his way, turning down biography offers from people like James Michener. He sued Hallmark Cards for using his name and a recording of his ‘one small step’ quote for a Christmas ornament.

Buzz was of course the second man to walk on the moon.

Buzz made a rap video, ‘Rocket Experience,’ with Snoop Dogg. He did the cha-cha and the fox-trot and was eliminated in the second round of season ten of Dancing with the Stars. He has appeared on WWE Monday Night Raw, The Price Is Right, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, 30 Rock, The Big Bang Theory, The Simpsons, Futurama, Top Chef, and many dozens of other shows and movies as himself. He has written eight books, mostly about his own exploits in space, including four memoirs, two science fiction books, and a children’s book. He sells get your ass to mars T-shirts on his website, along with $600 Buzz Aldrin ‘First Step’ autographed lithographs.

The second man to walk on the moon. Number two.

When Neil died in 2012, the White House issued a statement saying he was ‘among the greatest of American heroes—not just of his time, but of all time.’

Recently Buzz had a hard time getting anyone at the White House to answer his calls about maybe doing a ceremony or something to commemorate the forty-fifth anniversary of his moon walk. (Eventually they pulled a little something together.)”•


“Moonwalkin’ is a trip / It’s so fine”:


Fidel Castro visited by Ed Sullivan in 1959 after the triumphant revolution, promising a democratic Cuba that never materialized, though perhaps he was just pacing himself.

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