You are currently browsing the archive for the Videos category.

It’s difficult to believe that airports, in one way or another, won’t always be a boondoggle, but Scott McCartney of the WSJ envisions a high-tech tomorrow in which commercial fliers will be doted on and waved through by sensors and robots, welcomed and directed via their smart phones and watches. It is likely that airports, like hotels, will have less use for human workers, with holograms perhaps in the intervening period, before the process is barely noticeable

McCartney’s opening:

Like a good maître d’, the airport of the future will recognize you, greet you by name and know exactly where to put you.

Airports around the world are beginning to move in this direction. At London’s Gatwick Airport, beacons identify you by your smartphone and give GPS-like directions to your gate, pointing out food or shopping along the way. In Germany, robots at Düsseldorf’s airport park your car and return it curbside after you land, linking your itinerary to your license plate. Researchers are developing robots that will be able to check your bags and deliver them within minutes of landing.

Facial-recognition systems speed you through passport control in places including Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. Some airports use facial-recognition systems to track your movements around terminals. Gates in some airports are automated with doors that flash open like a subway turnstile when you scan your boarding pass or flash your smartwatch.

At the airport of the future, directional signs will be only for backup. Check-in kiosks will be tucked in a corner. Human agents may be even more unnecessary.•


Braniff’s airport of the future, 1975.


Profusion CEO Mike Weston has written a WSJ article which tries to think ahead of the problems that will arrive when cities have been smartened up. The main issue he examines is marketers purchasing information to target citizens with products. Weston suggests we can tackle the issue with stringent legislation and/or business ethics, but I wonder if those tactics will work. The legislative approach will, at best, be a leaky boat, as it’s likely that this type of information wants to be free–as in liberated. Laws will always likely trail the technology. Expecting businesses to be constrained by a code that runs counter to the bottom line seems unlikely. But it’s good people devoted to data science like Weston are thinking in advance of these developments, and his piece is well worth reading. An excerpt:

By analyzing this information using data-science techniques, a company could learn not only the day-to-day routine of an individual but also his preferences, behavior and emotional state. Private companies could know more about people than they know about themselves.

For marketers, this is a dream come true. Imagine the scenario: A beverage company knows a particular individual’s Friday or Saturday night routine. The company knows what he drinks, when he drinks, who he drinks with and where he goes. It also knows how the weather affects what beverage the individual chooses and how changes in work patterns influence how much alcohol he consumes. By combining this information with the individual’s social-media profile, the company could send marketing messages to the person when he is most susceptible to the suggestion to buy a drink.

Businesses could market divorce services to couples who, through data analysis, are shown to exhibit behavior that indicates that their relationship could be in trouble—things like unusual travel patterns, and changes in work-life balance, such as a rapid increase in the amount of time both individuals spend at work or in separate bars. Individuals who are shown to lead very unhealthy lifestyles could be deliberately targeted by brands selling fatty foods.

The scenarios are endless, ranging from the genuinely useful to the potentially terrifying. But what will moderate how a smart city works and how brands can use data?


A pre-Internet attempt at a smart city, The Woodlands, 1977.


The old dream of driverless cars is now close enough to realization for design students to be rethinking the very meaning of vehicles, the form and function. The BBC has a video report of proposed autonomous cars by Royal College of Art students.

In 1974, the mad geniuses at K-Tel tried to convince consumers they should take tennis lessons, via LP record, from three-time Wimbledon champ John Newcombe.

Like hookworm and rubella, the surreal, sophomoric comedy of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim can’t be completely understood until it has infected you, though by then you’ll be very distracted by how much you’re vomiting. So much vomit.

Two doughy dipshits from Pennsylvania who’ve slurped up every last bit of crap offered to Americans in lieu of something good, Tim & Eric wait for just the right moment and then regurgitate the nonsense, revealing the sordidness of the whole enterprise. And then they do it again and again and again and again and again. Because for the Adult Swim duo, the joke almost isn’t the point–the persistence of the joke is what matters. It’s like a contest among children to see which doofus can maintain a stupid expression the longest. In today’s comedy world, Tim & Eric consistently make the dumbest faces. God bless them.




In their own little cloistered TV world, this mindset allows them to wring endless material from antic scenes of shirtless guys with stunned expressions who may or may not be about to have heart attacks. Probably even better, though, are those occasions when their funhouse mirror of American idiocy comes up against the real thing, as when they answer questions from clueless TV interviewers with non sequiturs from the Howard Stern Show or express their enthusiasm for racist Birther buffoon Donald Trump while on a promotional tour. They don’t modify their act for the benefit of their hosts, making for some wonderfully disquieting scenes.

Their latest broadside is a book called Tim & Eric’s Zone Theory: 7 Easy Steps to Achieve a Perfect Life, a hardcover mockery of the entire grab bag of the modern American medicine show: quasi-religions, life coaches, self-help programs, diet tips, exercise shortcuts, relationship advice, etc. All the things we choose because we’re too dumb or too lazy to do the right thing, which would require an effort. In the pages of their handsome volume, they lay out a cult-like wellness regimen that will cause you multiple-organ failure if you adhere to its demands.

My favorite passage is the one that encourages readers to pull the many yards of “unnecessary tubes” out of their bodies to lose weight and gain quickness.

But perhaps you’ll be more interested in the “Diarrhea Dipstick.” Your soupy bowel movements are in for a good auditing!

I’m not receiving a dime if you buy this book. All proceeds will be used to help the boys purchase fake blood or doo-doo or something to smear on their faces. What a couple of dickbags.•


“I was instantly able to access my enthusiasm for nude horseplay.”

Tags: ,

Today is a special day when Americans eat too much, drink too much and blow stuff up. That’s right, it’s Saturday.

Oh, and it’s also July 4th, the anniversary of when we began waxing those British father-rapers who were taxing us and then using that money to supply us with basic services we desperately needed. I mean, we would have died. Yes, it’s the birthday of the U.S.A., the greatest nation in the history of the world. If you forget that America is the best country ever, don’t worry, we’ll remind you. That’s because we’re large and wealthy yet deeply insecure, much like Alec Baldwin. Luckily, other countries are far worse than we are, so they can’t say shit. Yes, Turkmenistan, I’m looking at you. Suck it! And if you do talk trash about us, we’ll know right away because we’re listening in on all your private conversations. We can’t help it: Spying on you, sexy world, sends blood rushing to our boners.

Anyhow, enjoy a safe and happy holiday!


“America the Beautiful,” by Meat Loaf and Mitt Romney.


In the 1970s, AMF, the sporting-goods manufacturer, sold the DataMagic Bowling Data Computer, a system that would tabulate rankings of bowling leagues with the push of a button. It seems a stunning waste of computing power and coincided with the company going into a decline, so I doubt it was a big seller. But as this commercial makes clear, it was a declaration of war on the pencil.

Despite what some narratives say, Bill Gates was completely right about the Internet and mobile. That doesn’t mean he’ll be correct about every seismic shift, but I think his intuition about autonomous cars is almost definitely accurate: Driverless functions will be useful if partially completed and a societal game-changer if completely perfected. Just helpful or a total avalanche. In an interview conducted by Financial Times Deputy Editor John Thornhill, Gates discussed these matters, among many others. An excerpt from Shane Ferro’s article at Business Insider (which relies on Izabella Kaminska tweets from the event):

With regards to robots, the economy, and logistics, the takeaway seems to be that Gates thinks we’re in the fastest period of innovation ever, and it’s still unclear how that will affect the economy.

But there’s still quite a way to go. Robots “will be benign for quite some time,” Gates said. The future of work is not in immediate danger — although the outlook is not good for those who have a high school degree or less. 

Gates was also asked about Uber. He seems to think the real disruption to the driving and logistics industry is not going to come until we have fully driverless cars. That’s the “rubicon,” he says.

Kaminska relays that currently, Gates thinks that Uber “is just a reorganization of labour into a more dynamic form.” However, and this is big, Uber does have the biggest research and development budget out there on the driverless vehicle front. And that’s to its advantage.•

Tags: , ,


Softbank’s Pepper looks like a child killed by a lightning strike who returned as a ghost to make you pay for handing him a watering can during an electrical storm.

He’s described as an “emotional robot,” which makes me take an immediate disliking to him. Manufactured to express feelings based on stimuli in his surroundings, Pepper is supposed to be shaped by his environment, but I wonder if his behavior will shape those who own him. We may get an answer since the robot sold out in Japan in under a minute and will soon be available for sale internationally.

From Marilyn Malara at UPI:

The humanoid robot is described as one that can feel emotion in a way humans do naturally through a system similar to a human’s hormonal response to stimuli. The robot can generate its own emotions by gathering information from its cameras and various sensors. Softbank says that Pepper is a “he” and can read human facial expressions, words and surroundings to make decisions. He can sigh or even raise his voice; he can get scared from dimming lights and happy when praised.

Along with the product’s launch, 200 applications are available to download into the robot including one that can record everyday life in the form of a robotic scrapbook.

Last year, Nestle Japan used Pepper to sell Nescafe coffee machines in appliance stores all over the country. “Pepper will be able to explain Nescafe products and services and engage in conversation with consumers,” Nestle Japan CEO Kohzoh Takaoka said in October before its roll-out.•


“Can you lend me a $100?”


Prior to 1975, the summer was a dead season for movies, but Jaws changed all that. Released in the warm months to capitalize on its beach theme, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Peter Benchley’s bestseller remade the film business, and not only for the better, as the chase for the next blockbuster, the trusty tent pole, began in earnest. (It also had a bad effect on sharks, which have much more to fear from us than we do from them.)

Four days before the film’s momentous release, Benchley, who wrote the screenplay, and star Roy Scheider, guested on Good Night America hosted by Geraldo Rivera, who describes the picture as “the chilling story of a prehistoric eating machine.” At the very last moment, his production team talked Rivera out of wearing a only Speedo and a mustache during the interview, though he really, really wanted to.

Geraldo begins the program with allegations about the Rockefeller Commission further clouding the Kennedy Assassination. There are also filmed interviews in Louisiana with Mick and Bianca Jagger and an exposé on psychic and faith healers, including Rev. Bernard Zovluck of Times Square. The guest announcer is Don Imus, who once killed a shark he suspected of stealing his cocaine. Watch here.•

Tags: , , , , , , ,

I would guess that most people know Jay J. Armes as an action figure that has removable upper limbs which can be replaced with all sorts of tools and weapons. But he’s a real man, one who lost his arms in a childhood accident and went on to become a successful American detective with an amazing publicist. The private eye was the main guest on a 1975 installment of Geraldo Rivera’s talk show, Good Night America. Only the classy Geraldo would point out how ironic it was that a guy whose surname was “Armes” had his arms blown off. Jerry Fucking Rivers! 

Footage of a Central Park concert organized by John Lennon is among the other highlights. Watch it here.

The opening of Anthony K. Roberts’ 1975 People article about Armes, which described him as “recently divorced,” which apparently was not true:

Barnaby Jones is a little long in the tooth and Cannon has that belly to contend with. But when it comes to overcoming handicaps, they are pikers compared to a real-life private detective from El Paso who, despite the lack of both arms, commands million-dollar fees, owns and pilots two jet helicopters, is a black belt karate expert, tools around in a Rolls-Royce, and has built into his artificial right arm a revolver that fires a .22 magnum shell. His wildly improbable name: Jay J. Armes.

Not surprisingly, a pilot is being made for a possible CBS series based on the remarkable Mr. Armes (yes, his name is pronounced “arms”). The scriptwriter should have no trouble finding material. Maintaining offices around the world which employ 2,400 people, Armes has a list of clients that includes politicians, royalty and show business celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley, Marlon Brando and Yoko Ono. They come to Armes, 42, he unabashedly claims, because he is “the best.” And his handicap? “I never think about it,” he shrugs. “Limits are only put on people by themselves.”

Armes has been living by that philosophy since a friend brought him a package one summer when he was 12. Unknown to Armes, the box contained railroad dynamite charges that exploded when Armes broke the seal. The friend escaped injury. But when Jay picked himself up 20 feet away, there was only torn flesh and bits of bone hanging from the stumps of his arms.

Jay was told by doctors that he would have to remain in the hospital six months before he could begin to learn how to use his two hook-like artificial limbs. Instead of waiting, Armes insisted on the limbs immediately. He was released after 22 days.

Armes taught himself to write all over again—”I had no excuse to be sloppy”—and returned to public school in the fall. Although students and teachers went out of their way to help “with pity in their eyes,” Armes insisted on doing everything himself. At one point he dripped a pool of blood on the floor while trying to write on the blackboard with his new arms. In high school he competed in sports and won letters in track, football and baseball.•


Tags: , , ,

Before it became apparent that Geraldo Rivera really just wanted to give the whole world a free mustache ride, he was a respected, muckraking journalist who filmed a sensational and righteous report about abuses at Willowbrook. He instantly became a national name and soon had other opportunities, including a really good if sporadic 1973-75 late-night talk show, Good Night America.

In a summer 1974 episode, he spoke to someone I’m fascinated with in Clifford Irving, who’d written a 1969 book about art forger Elmyr De Hory before bringing out another volume in 1972, one in which he pretended that the reclusive Howard Hughes had collaborated with him on an autobiography. McGraw-Hill took the bait and gave him a boatload of cash for the “exclusive,” but the Hughes ruse was soon exposed. Irving was operating in an era when people still distinguished between fact and fiction, so his career went into a Dumpster for awhile.

Orson Welles, an infamous hoaxer himself, made a brilliant, serendipitous cine-essay, F Is for Fake, about the scandal as it unfolded, and Irving was grilled at the time by everyone from Mike Wallace to Abbie Hoffman. In a marriage-themed show, Geraldo speaks to Irving and his wife Edith about the toll on their relationship caused by the fraud’s fallout, which included prison sentences for them both. (They had just been released on parole when this program was filmed.)

The host also speaks to Sly and Kathy Stone about their wedding ceremony in front of more than 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden and shows footage of the event. The final segment is with comedian Robert Klein and his then-spouse, the opera singer Brenda Boozer. Loathsome Henny Youngman is the guest announcer, serving up Zsa Zsa Gabor jokes. Holy Mother of God! Watch it here.•

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Another Jesus H. Christ! edition of Geraldo Rivera’s 1970s talk show, Good Night America, is this one from ’75 which focused on the FBI’s aggressive attempts to capture at-large Symbionese Liberation Army hostage/soldier Patty Hearst, the newspaper heiress getting more ink than anyone in the country. What’s most interesting to me is that hippie-ish basketball player Bill Walton, then playing with the Portland Trail Blazers, was hassled by the Feds who believed he knew where “Tania” was hiding. He certainly would have if she had been lodged inside Jerry Garcia’s colon. The host taped an interview in San Francisco with the NBA star and speaks in studio to sportswriters Jack and Micki Scott and attorney William Kunstler.

Unrelated to the SLA madness, Rita Moreno visits the studio, there’s a report on male go-go dancers and the guest announcer is Don Imus, the rodeo clown who spent all morning looking for Hearst in a bowl of cocaine. Watch here.•

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Well, I hit the mother lode when I stumbled across 32 episodes of Good Night America, the 1973-75 ABC evening talk show (or “second-generation TV news magazine”) hosted by none other than Geraldo Rivera before the whole world knew he was yikes! It’s amazing in that it’s booked similarly to the classic Dick Cavett chat show with eclectic and often button-pushing guests. 

In this 1974 episode I’m linking to (can’t embed), Rivera’s then–father-in-law Kurt Vonnegut acts as the guest announcer at the show’s open and is interviewed at the 56-minute mark. He also reads from a work-in-progress called “Relatives,” which eventually became the god-awful Slapstick (the author’s least favorite of his novels). Additionally, Rivera visits Evel Knievel at Snake River Canyon prior to the daredevil’s ridonkulous stunt there, Bill Withers performs and Seals & Crofts sing their controversial anti-abortion song, “Unborn Child,” and discuss their belief in the Bahá’í Faith. Sweet Baby Jesus! Watch here.

Tags: , , , ,

While it shocks me that test subjects in psychologist Solomon Asch’s experiments on conformity were at all swayed to ridiculous conclusions by groupthink, economist Tim Harford finds a silver lining in the cloud in his latest Financial Times column: Participants were independent more often than influenced. That’s true, but if a few minutes of suggestion can alter beliefs to a significant degree, what can longer term and more subtle social pressures do?

From Harford:

Asch gave his subjects the following task: identify which of three different lines, A, B or C, was the same length as a “standard” line. The task was easy in its own right but there was a twist. Each individual was in a group of seven to nine people, and everyone else in the group was a confederate of Asch’s. For 12 out of 18 questions they had been told to choose, unanimously, a specific incorrect answer. Would the experimental subject respond by fitting in with the group or by contradicting them? Many of us know the answer: we are swayed by group pressure. Offered a choice between speaking the truth and saying something socially convenient, we opt for social convenience every time.

But wait — “every time”? In popular accounts of Asch’s work, conformity tends to be taken for granted. I often describe his research myself in speeches as an example of how easily groupthink can set in and silence dissent. And this is what students of psychology are themselves told by their own textbooks. A survey of these textbooks by three psychologists, Ronald Friend, Yvonne Rafferty and Dana Bramel, found that the texts typically emphasised Asch’s findings of conformity. That was in 1990 but when Friend recently updated his work, he found that today’s textbooks stressed conformity more than ever.

This is odd, because the experiments found something more subtle. It is true that most experimental subjects were somewhat swayed by the group. Fewer than a quarter of experimental subjects resolutely chose the correct line every time. (In a control group, unaffected by social pressure, errors were rare.) However, the experiment found that total conformity was scarcer than total independence. Only six out of 123 subjects conformed on all 12 occasions. More than half of the experimental subjects defied the group and gave the correct answer at least nine times out of 12. A conformity effect certainly existed but it was partial.•


An iteration of the Asch Experiment:

Tags: ,

I’ve mentioned this story before, but when I was a small child, I was taking a bus trip with my parents from the Port Authority early one morning, and we saw Truman Capote seated on the benches, wearing a big straw hat, wasted out of his mind. He was trying to get a homeless woman to talk to him. “Come over here, dear,” he kept urging her. She had no interest.

Here’s a half-hour portrait of Capote at the height of his career, as In Cold Blood was published.

The opening of a 1994 New Scientist interview with sociological salesman Alvin Toffler, which, among other things, reflects on his incredibly popular 1970 book, Future Shock:


What led you to write Future Shock? 

Alvin Toffler:

While covering Congress, it occurred to us that big technological and social changes were occurring in the United States, but that the political system seemed totally blind to their existence. Between 1955 and 1960, the birth control pill was introduced, television became universalized [sic], commercial jet travel came into being and a whole raft of other technological events occurred. Having spent several years watching the political process, we came away feeling that 99 per cent of what politicians do is keep systems running that were laid in place by previous generations of politicians.

Our ideas came together in 1965 in an article called ‘The future as a way of life,’ which argued that change was going to accelerate and that the speed of change could induce disorientation in lots of people. We coined the phrase ‘future shock’ as an analogy to the concept of culture shock. With future shock you stay in one place but your own culture changes so rapidly that it has the same disorienting effect as going to another culture.


Were you surprised by the reaction to the book? 

Alvin Toffler:

I think that it touched a nerve. Remember we were coming out of the Sixties, countries were being torn apart, change was almost out of control for a period. It touched a nerve, it gave a language, it introduced a metaphor that people could use to describe their own experience.


Looking back to 1970 when the book came out, how would you have done it differently? 

Alvin Toffler:

The great weakness was the book wasn’t radical enough, although everybody said it was a very radical book. The reason for that is that we introduced the concept of the general crisis of industrialism. Marx had talked about the general crisis of capitalism and the argument of the left was always that capitalism would collapse upon itself and socialism would triumph. We argued that both capitalism and socialism would collapse eventually because both were the offspring of industrial civilization, and that we were on the edge of a new way of life, a new civilization. Had we understood more deeply the consequences of that idea we would not have accepted as naively as we did the forecasts of the economists. If you think that economists are arrogant now, in the Sixties they were really riding high. They claimed we would never have another recession, and the reason was that we understand how the economy works, and ‘all we have to do is fine-tune it” as one economist told us. We were young and naive and we bought that notion. We should have anticipated that the revolution we were talking about would have hit the economy in a much deeper way.•


Orson Welles narrated the 1972 documentary McGraw-Hill produced about Toffler‘s bestsellerThe movie is odd and paranoid and overheated and fun.

Paul Ehrlich was not subtle, as people seldom are when throwing around the word “bomb.”

The Stanford insect biologist spent the ’60s and ’70s scaring the bejeezus out of people, predicting imminent societal collapse due to overpopulation, with hundreds of millions starving to death. In the big picture, he was right that environmental damage would prove challenging to the survival of the human species, but the devil was in the details, and his presumptions about the short-term ramifications of overpopulation were way off the mark.

Justin Fox of Bloomberg Review reflects on Ehrlich’s 1968 book The Population Bomb, a Malthusian message so chillingly effective that he did a solid hour one evening on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. The opinion writer finds the philippic a mixed blessing. He points out the scientist’s wrong-mindedness about overcrowding while acknowledging that today’s widely held anti-Ehrlich belief that population will level off naturally could also be incorrect.

One note: Embedded below the Bloomberg excerpt is a new NYT documentary about the ominous prognostication that never came to pass. In it, a comment Ehrlich makes reveals the misanthropy that has always seemed to be lurking behind his views. It’s this: “The idea that every woman should have as many babies as she wants is, to me, exactly the same kind of idea as everybody ought to be permitted to throw as much of their garbage into their neighbor’s backyard as they want.” Wow.

From Fox:

In a just-released New York Times mini-documentary on the book and its aftermath, the now-83-year-old Stanford biologist says insufferable things like, “One of the things that people don’t understand is that timing to an ecologist is very, very different from timing to an average person.” Uh, then why did you write a book clearly aimed at average people that confidently predicted that in the 1970s hundreds of millions would die of famine? “I expressed more certainty because I was trying to bring people to get something done.” (In that vein he also co-founded the activist group Zero Population Growth, rechristened in 2002 as Population Connection.)

Still, I figured I’d give the book itself a chance. I’ve had a copy for years, and thanks to a recentbook-sorting projectI was able to find it in a matter of seconds this morning. Because it’s not very long, I was able to read it in an hour or two. And I have to say it surprised me.

First of all, half of Ehrlich’s prediction came true. He forecast in the book that global population, about 3.5 billion at the time, would double by 2005. He was only six years off on that — world population hit 7 billion in 2011 — which I figure counts as getting it right.

What Ehrlich famously got wrong was the planet’s carrying capacity. Sure, global population doubled. But thanks to theGreen Revolution, per-acre grain yields went up much faster than that. The inflection point in global agricultural productivity, in fact, came just as Ehrlich was finishing his book.

Here’s the interesting thing, though — Ehrlich was well aware that this was a possibility.•


“Sometime in the next 15 years, the end will come.”

Tags: ,

Of all the great things robotics have brought to our lives, Der Boxroboter is responsible for none of them. The aforementioned fighting machine was a German-manufactured 1980s sparring partner promised to be an alloy Ali. Watch it jab in the video below at the 20:35 mark. From a 1987 Sports Illustrated piece:

The German Democratic Republic is very advanced in the use of scientific training methods for its athletes. Now the East Germans have beaten the world to the punch in the sport of boxing. Meet Der Boxroboter, a GDR-designed-and-built computerized robot that can hang in there with the best of fighters for hours on end. ”It’s tough to find good sparring partners, especially for heavyweights,” says Dieter Seala of the GDR trade mission, which plans to market DBs internationally for a little more than $33,000 apiece. ”Human sparring partners get tired after a few rounds. They get punched too many times and lose their consistency.”

DB is not just a Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robot. It can be programmed to assume any fighting style — attack the upper body, go for the belly, back an opponent into a corner — and is allegedly quicker across the ring than any human boxer. DB is equally adept at throwing rights and lefts and has great wheels (literally).•

In 1973, the former child preacher Marjoe Gortner was hired by OUI, a middling vagina periodical of the Magazine Age, to write a deservedly mocking article about the American visit of another youthful religious performer, the 16-year-old Maharaj Ji, an adolescent Indian guru who promised to levitate the Houston Astrodome, a plot that never got off the ground. Two excerpts from the resulting report published the following May, which revealed a tech-friendly and futuristic cult leader, who would have been right at home in today’s Silicon Valley.


The guru’s people do the same thing the Pentecostal Church does. They say you can believe in guru Maharaj Ji and that’s fantastic and good, but if you receive light and get it all within, if you become a real devotee-that is the ultimate. In the Pentecostal Church you can be saved from your sins and have Jesus Christ as your Saviour, but the ultimate is the baptism of the Holy Ghost. This is where you get four or five people around and they begin to talk and more or less chant in tongues until sooner or later the person wanting the baptismal experience so much-well, it’s like joining a country club: once you’re in, you’ll be like everyone – else in the club.

The people who’ve been chanting say, “Speak it out, speak it out,” and everything becomes so frenzied that the baptismalee will finally speak a few words in tongues himself, and the people around him say, “Oh, you’ve got it.” And the joy that comes over everybody’s faces! It’s incredible. It’s beautiful. They feel they have got the Holy Spirit like all their friends, and once they’ve got it, it’s forever. It’s quite an experience.

So essentially they’re the same thing pressing on your eyes while your ears are corked, and standing around the altar speaking in tongues. They’re both illuminating experiences. The guru’s path is interesting, though. Once you’ve seen the light and decided you want to join his movement, you give over everything you have–all material possessions. Sometimes you even give your job. Now, depending on what your job is, you may be told to leave it or to stay. If you stay, generally you turn your pay checks over to the Divine Light Mission, and they see that you are housed and clothed and fed. They have their U. S. headquarters in Denver. You don’t have to worry about anything. That’s their hook. They take care of it all. They have houses all over the country for which they supposedly paid cash on the line. First class. Some of them are quite plush. At least Maharaj Ji’s quarters are. Some of the followers live in those houses, too, but in the dormitory-type atmosphere with straw mats for beds. It’s a large operation. It seems to be a lot like the organization Father Divine had back in the Thirties. He did it with the black people at the Peace Mission in Philadelphia. He took care of his people-mostly domestics and other low-wage earners–and put them up in his own hotel with three meals a day.

The guru is much more technologically oriented, though. He spreads a lot of word and keeps tabs on who needs what through a very sophisticated Telex system that reaches out to all the communes or ashrams around the country. He can keep count of who needs how many T-shirts, pairs of socks–stuff like that. And his own people run this system; it’s free labor for the corporation.


The morning of the third day I was feeling blessed and refreshed, and I was looking forward to the guru’s plans for the Divine City, which was soon going to be built somewhere in the U. S. I wanted to hear what that was all about.

It was unbelievable. The city was to consist of ‘modular units adaptable to any desired shape.’ The structures would have waste-recycling devices so that water could be drunk over and over. They even planned to have toothbrushes with handles you could squeeze to have the proper amount of paste pop up (the crowd was agog at this). There would be a computer in each communal house so that with just a touch of the hand you could check to see if a book you wanted was available, and if it was, it would be hand-messengered to you. A complete modern city of robots. I was thinking: whatever happened to mountains and waterfalls and streams and fresh air? This was going to be a technological, computerized nightmare! It repulsed me. Computer cards to buy essentials at a central storeroom! And no cheating, of course. If you flashed your card for an item you already had, the computer would reject it. The perfect turn-off. The spokesman for this city announced that the blueprints had already been drawn up and actual construction would be the next step. Controlled rain, light, and space. Bubble power! It was all beginning to be very frightening.•


“The Houston Astrodome will physically separate itself from the planet which we call Earth and will fly.”

In 1972, when this variety special was recorded, Bob Hope had already turned into a terrible comedian, but Bobby Fischer was not yet behaving like a terrible person. The chess champ had just “won the Cold War,” besting his Russian counterpart Boris Spassky before the world in a bravura if sometimes bewildering performance. Long before Watson, Fischer was a supercomputer with his wires crossed, unable to conquer just one opponent: himself. While sharing a stage with Hope, he believed he knew what his future held, but he didn’t even know what was lurking inside of himself. Things were going to get strange and stranger.

Tags: ,

Sir Hubert Wilkins, polar explorer, was familiar with investigating uncharted swatches of the globe by air, but in 1931 his aim was lower, as he commanded the Nautilus expedition whose goal was be the first to explore the North Pole by submarine. The voyage, which began in New York Harbor, was a grueling, troubled one, and after casualty and numerous engine failures, his benefactor, William Randolph Hearst, begged the adventurer, via wireless, to end the mission. Eventually Wilkins acquiesced, but not before proving a submarine could operate underneath the polar ice cap. Prior to the journey, Wilkins was thought to be batty for even trying, being seriously doubted in an article in the May 2, 1929 Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Below the piece is Wilkins’ 1958 What’s My Line? appearance.


“It was thought to be fantasy”:


I loved video games as a child and have no interest in them as an adult, and I wonder sometimes if that’s because it seems like we live inside one 24/7 now. Our heads are in the cloud, our lives held in devices, and that experiment in anarchy we encounter on the Internet is going to increasingly career back into the physical world, as real and virtual forge a new partnership. What a game it will be.

Even to a non-gamer like myself, No Man’s Sky, a video game universe being built by a small team of designers and coders and artists outside London, sounds amazing. The interplanetary game has an essentially infinite playing field and a butterfly effect of interdependence so profound that even the creators are surprised by the causes and effects. Raffi Khatchadourian of the New Yorker visited the Hello Games offices and brings a remarkable clarity to a runaway ambition that’s not yet fully realized. One example: He lucidly explains how “procedural generation”–producing content algorithmically rather than manually–allows a small independent company to turn out a blockbuster-sized vision. 

As for what I said above about feeling like we’re becoming players inside of a game, Khatchadourian said this in a Reddit AMA tied to his piece: “Your character won’t be defined as it is in many other games. In other words, you won’t have an avatar that you can build. You will be you.” And at the same time, you will not be you, not exactly. In that sense, the game seems appropriate to the moment.

An excerpt from “World Without End“:

We were in a lounge on the second floor of the renovated studio; concept art hung beside a whiteboard covered with Post-its. The furniture was bright, simple, IKEA. Sitting in front of a flat-screen TV the size of a Hummer windshield, [Sean] Murray loaded up a demo of the game that he had created for E3: a solar system of six planets. Hoping to preserve a sense of discovery in the game, he has been elusive about how it will play, but he has shared some details. Every player will begin on a randomly chosen planet at the outer perimeter of a galaxy. The goal is to head toward the center, to uncover a fundamental mystery, but how players do that, or even whether they choose to do so, is open to them. People can mine, trade, fight, or merely explore. As planets are discovered, information about them (including the names of their discoverers) is loaded onto a galactic map that is updated through the Internet. But, because of the game’s near-limitless proportions, players will rarely encounter one another by chance. As they move toward the center, the game will get harder, and the worlds—the terrain, the fauna and flora—will become more alien, more surreal.

Sitting in the lounge, we began on a Pez-colored planet called Oria V. Murray is known for nervously hovering during demos. “I’ll walk around a little, then I’ll let you have the controller for a bit,” he said. I watched as he traversed a field of orange grass, passing cyan ferns and indigo shrubs, down to a lagoon inhabited by dinosaurs and antelope. After three planets and five minutes, he handed me the controller, leaving me in a brilliantly colored dreamscape, with crystal formations, viridescent and sapphire, scattered in clusters on arid earth. Single-leaf flora the height of redwoods swayed like seaweed. I wandered over hills and came to a sea the color of lava and waded in. The sea was devoid of life. With the press of a button, I activated a jet pack and popped into the air. Fog hung across the sea, and Murray pointed to the hazy outline of distant cliffs. “There are some sort of caves over there,” he said, and I headed for them. The No Man’s Sky cosmos was shaped by an ideal form of wildness—mathematical noise—and the caves were as uncharted as any material caves. I climbed into one of them. “Let’s see how big it is,” Murray said.•

Tags: ,

This very melodramatic postmortem of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin in the March 9, 1917 Brooklyn Daily Eagle asserts that the dirigible builder passed away a broken man because his airships were deemed no longer worthy of bombing missions meant to reduce humans to piles of limbs. Interesting to note Zeppelin was a young German military officer when he encountered his first transport balloons while traveling in America during the Civil War, meeting aeronauts Thaddeus Lowe and John Steiner. (In the top photo, taken in 1863, the German visitor is the second from the right, an embed with a Union unit.) It wasn’t until he was past 50 that Zeppelin was able to completely devote himself to his long-deferred dream of popularizing dirigibles, and his successes with the ships, among many failures, helped make mass air travel seem like destiny.


1912: “Zeppelin’s first cruise over Germany.”


One revelation from the Reddit AMA conducted by Philip Zimbardo, still best known for the infamous 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, a dress rehearsal more or less for Abu Ghraib, was that the psychologist was high school classmates with Stanley Milgram, author of the equally controversial “Obedience to Authority” study. That must have been some high school! Zimbardo was joined by writer Nikita Coulombe, to discuss their new book Man (Dis)connected. A few exchanges follow about the notorious test at Stanford.



If you had a chance to do the Stanford Prison Experiment again, what would you do differently?

Philip Zimbardo:

Yes I would, I would have only played the role of researcher and there would be someone above me, who would be the superintendent of the prison and when things got out of hand I would have been in a better position to terminate the study earlier and more appropriately.



In context of the famous prison experiment, when you were first organizing it, what were some of the specific dangers you tried to avoid?

Philip Zimbardo:

We selected young men who were physically healthy and psychologically normal, we had prior arrangements with student health if that was necessary. Each student was given informed consent, so they knew that there would likely be some levels of stress, so they had some sense of what was to come. Physical violence by the guards, especially if there was a revolt, solitary confinement beyond the established one hour limit, but primarily trying to minimise acts of sexual degradation.



Being particularly interested in social psychology, I’m a big fan of what you have accomplished through your research. I was wondering what really got you interested in social psychology, and your research is connected to that of Stanley Milgram, another favourite psychologist of mine – so what I’m asking is what initially got you into this field of psychology, and what did you think of Milgram’s research when you first came across it?

Philip Zimbardo:

Thank you. I was interested in psychology from a young age: I grew up in the Bronx in the 1930s and started wondering why some people would go down certain paths, like joining a gang, while others didn’t. I was also high school classmates with Stanley Milgram; we were both asking the same questions.



If there was a film adaptation dramatizing the events of the Stanford Prison Experiment, who would you want to play you?

Philip Zimbardo:

Glad you asked the question, amazingly there is a new Hollywood movie that just premiered at the Sundance film festival to great reviews winning lots of prizes titled The Stanford Prison Experiment. It will have national showings in America starting in July and hopefully in Europe in the Fall. I was hoping that the actor who would play me would be either Johnny Depp or Andy Garcia but they were not available so instead a wonderful young actor, Billy Crudup is Dr Z. You may be aware of his great acting in Almost Famous and Dr Manhattan in Watchmen.•


“Jesus Christ, I’m burning up inside–don’t you know?”:

Tags: , ,

« Older entries § Newer entries »