From the German company’s site: “KUKA is active in the market for robots and automated production systems, primarily for the automotive industry, but increasingly also for other segments of industry, such as metalworking, medical technology and food production. The principal driver for growth in these markets is the increasing demand for automation solutions due to the generally rising pressure on costs which meanwhile also affects small and medium-sized enterprises.”
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Tags: Timo Boll
This looks great. A trailer for Frank Pavich’s documentary about a mid-1970s sci-fi epic that was never made yet was influential: A pre-Lynchian adaptation of Dune by Alejandro Jodorowsky, master of hallucinogenic midnight movies and maddest hatter of them all. The film was to star David Carradine and Mick Jagger and Orson Welles and Gloria Swanson and Salvador Dali, and it was to change the hearts and minds of the young people–to start a revolution.
Steve Ditlea, who wrote the 1981 Inc report about Apple Computers banishing typewriters from its offices, published a piece in the same publication the following year about the birth of the software industry. One of the players he mentions was Gary Kildall, a star-crossed software pioneer who was elbowed aside by Microsoft and died young after some sort of mysterious injury suffered in a biker bar in Monterrey. An excerpt from Ditlea’s article, when Kildall and others were trying to code the future:
“In 1976, Bill Gates, then 20, and Paul Allen, 23, were running a company they had started the year before in Gates’s college dorm in Boston. That same year, Gary Kildall, 34 was starting a company in his backyard toolshed in California. Tony Gold, 30, was still a credit officer at a New York City bank. Dan Fylstra, 25, was starting at the Harvard Business School. Dan Bricklin, 25, was getting ready to apply to business schools in Massachusetts, and Bob Frankston, 27, was working as a computer programmer near Boston.
All seven of these people started and now run companies that produce and/or publish software for personal computers. All five of their companies — whose combined revenues just missed $50 million in 1981 — are doubling or tripling in size each year. All of these entrepreneurs are, or soon will be, millionaires. All are likely to be the leaders of the personal-computer software industry — quoted during economic crisis, looked up to by future business-school students.
The five companies they founded have created a new industry from scratch. And now they’ve been joined by as many as 1,000 more companies offering for sale some 5,000 software programs. The pressures to stay on top in the industry are intense. Some of the biggest companies in the country have turned their attention to micro software in recent months. Professional investors are scrambling to pour millions of dollars of venture capital into the leading companies. And the independents — only a dozen or so had sales of more than $1 million in 1981 — are straining to stay out in front.
‘It’s a tremendous business to be part of,’ says Mike Belling, 32, who bought the three-month-old Stoneware Inc. in June 1980 with his partner, Kenneth Klein, 42. ‘But it has its pitfalls, like cars used to. It’s all so brand new that there’s nothing to go by yet. There’s no history to tell you how many copies of a program to produce, for instance.’
Five years ago, the micro-software industry didn’t exist.”
Gary Kildall’s story:
The Olympics weren’t always a corporate event treated like a telenovela on TV–that began in 1984. Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and IOC organizer Peter Ueberroth took a Games no one wanted and put it in the black by drowning it in corporate green. It was a financial success, though it changed the event for good. Ueberroth’s Olympic glory led him to be named Time’s “Man of the Year” and become MLB Commissioner, his five-year run marred by the collusion scandal, which not only broke the rules but was also a colossal misunderstanding of baseball economics. The opening of “The Branding of the Olympics,” Hua Hsu’s Grantland article about 1984′s changing of the guard:
“Tom Bradley liked to tell the story of how he watched the 1932 Olympics through the fence of Los Angeles’s Memorial Coliseum. He was 14 at the time, and the pageantry and spectacle of it all offered a welcome reprieve from the uncertain world around him. There was no Great Depression, no future, no worries — just these races he could still recall in startling detail nearly 50 years later. He could never have imagined that an African American might one day be mayor of this growing city and that it would be him. It could never have occurred to him that this moment of pure astonishment would become part of a story he would tell over and over — a story that would change the Games forever.
Nobody wanted the 1984 Summer Olympics.1 But the success of those Games revitalized the possibilities of such global spectacles. We take it for granted nowadays that hosting big, expensive, and complicated events like the Olympics or World Cup is a desirable thing for cities and nations. They have become ways of announcing a regime’s makeover or burnishing a national brand; at the very least, politicians and developers invoke hosting duties as an official mandate to raze like hell. In the late 1970s, though, the Olympics weren’t seen as profitable or peaceful. Violence had marred the 1968 and 1972 Summer Olympics. The 1976 Montreal Games overran their budget so drastically that the debts weren’t paid off until 2006. When it came time in 1978 to find a host for the 1984 Games, the only cities that expressed interest were Tehran — which withdrew before making a formal bid — and Los Angeles.
Taxpayers and city officials balked at Bradley’s proposal to bring the Games to L.A., especially as tales of Montreal’s financial woes began to circulate. But Bradley used that unwillingness to his advantage, agreeing that taxpayers should not have to bear the burden of the Games and floating the possibility instead that they be staged without any direct public funding. The city’s existing facilities were sufficient, and corporate sponsors could pay for whatever else needed to be built. The rest of the operating budget would come from ticket sales, television, merchandising, and licensing.
Besides the initial Games in 1896, no Olympics had been underwritten entirely by private money. And other than the 1932 Games in Los Angeles and 1948 Games in London, no Olympics had ever reported a profit.2 In 1980, Peter Ueberroth, who had been appointed to head the L.A. Olympic committee, explained to the New York Times that these Games would be the first ‘free-enterprise, private-sector Olympics, with no taxpayer money.’”
The 1932 L.A. Games that Bradley watched as a child:
The 1984 Games, featuring a UFO:
From a 1981 Inc. article by Steve Ditlea that covered Apple Computers’ decision to disappear the typewriter from its desks and make space for the “office of the future”:
“Apple Computer Inc. practices what it preaches. Without fanfare, the firm has inaugurated the workplace of the future by putting its personal computers on most of its employees’ desks. The company almost eliminated typewriters, abolished the job title of secretary, and instituted a more efficient and pleasant work environment.
In a memo circulated last year, then-president Mike Scott ushered in a new age in office procedures. ‘EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY!! NO MORE TYPEWRITERS ARE TO BE PURCHASED, LEASED, etc., etc. Apple is an innovative company. We must believe and lead in all areas. If word processing is so neat, then let’s all use it! Goal: by 1-1-81, NO typewriters at Apple… We believe the typewriter is obsolete. Let’s prove it inside before we try and convince our customers.’
Combined with conventional data processing run on a Digital Equipment Corp. minicomputer system, the result is what one executive calls ‘the most computerized company in the world,’ a revolutionary development even by the high-tech standards of California’s Santa Clara County (a.k.a. Silicon Valley).
There are now no more than 20 typewriters left in the 2,200 employee firm. Instead of typewriters, the several hundred employees involved in composing or disseminating letters, memos, documents, or reports use a typewritersized Apple II with built-in keyboard, a pair of add-on disk drives, a video monitor, and Apple Writer, the company’s own disk-stored word processing software. Word processing has gained a foothold in many businesses, but never before has a firm so completely done away with typewriters by executive fiat. …
The Apple way is best exemplified by chairman of the board and co-founder Steve Jobs, a dark-haired 26-year-old, who in grey workshirt and slacks this particular morning could easily be mistaken for a maintenance worker. Instead he’s the holder of the largest single block of Apple stock, some 7.5 million shares worth about $163 million at recent market prices.
When Steve Jobs speaks, it is with the ‘gee-whiz’ enthusiasm of someone who sees the future and is making sure it works. He explains the decision to put an Apple computer on every desk as part of an overall desire to institute a more humane workplace. ‘Not only do our area associates have the freedom to do more rewarding, enriching tasks, they have the chance to get involved in solving problems that can ultimately affect the success of the entire company.’
As for worker fears that office automation may lead to greater unemployment, he insists the opposite is true, with personal computers opening up jobs for Apple employees.”
In 1967, Walter Cronkite imagined the remote office of the future:
Economist editors discuss how Big Data is changing human modeling, how it can be used to predict–even direct–group behavior, with MIT’s Alex Pentland, author of the new book, Social Physics. Watch six-minute video here.
Tags: Alex Pentland
Muhammad Ali, jaw wired shut after having it broken by Ken Norton in just his second professional defeat, still managing to talk to Dick Cavett in 1973. He looks sad and shaken here and apparently considered retiring. Ali wouldn’t be quite the same sports legend if he hadn’t continued his career and fought Frazier twice more and Foreman once, but he’d not have suffered nearly the same neurological damage. By the time Ali boxed Larry Holmes in 1980, it was criminal he was allowed in the ring, his sad fate sealed.
Here’s an odd pairing: Timothy Leary, famous salesman, just two years before his death, interviewed in 1994 by Greg Kinnear on Later. The LSD guru and software developer discusses once sharing a cell block with Charles Manson, whom he describes as a “right-wing, Bible-spouting militarist.” He also gives partial credit to Marshall McLuhan for the famous phrase: “Tune in, turn on, drop out.” Begins at 11:45.
Muhammad Ali and Clint Eastwood hitting the speed bag for David Frost in 1970. Ali, who was in the midst of his Vietnam Era walkabout, was correct in saying that athletes from earlier periods weren’t as good as the ones of his generation, which wasn’t likely the conventional wisdom at the time.
Howard Cosell guest hosts for Mike Douglas in 1972, welcoming (and baiting) his old sparring partner Muhammad Ali. The year prior, the boxer had lost for the first time in his career, to Joe Frazier in the so-called “Fight of the Century,” which is considered by some to be the greatest night in NYC history.
The problem with robots understanding us is that they’re going to figure out what complete assholes we are. That will suck. Vacuum magnate James Dyson is promising a new wave of silicon servants that will see to our household needs. From Adam Withnall at the Independent:
“The British entrepreneur Sir James Dyson has outlined his vision for a new era of household android robots that will be able to clean the windows, guard property – and, presumably, vacuum the carpet.
This week the inventor will announce the creation of a new £5 million robotics centre at Imperial College London, and he says a technological revolution is coming that will soon see every home in Britain filled with ‘robots that understand the world around them.’
His team of British-based engineers are locked in a race to build the first multi-purpose household android with scientists in Japan, where researchers at Waseda University have already unveiled the Twendy-One robot that can obey voice commands, cook and provide nursing care.”
Press demo of the Twendy-One:
In 1968, Marcel Duchamp, urinal repurposer and chess enthusiast, was interviewed by the BBC.
Tags: Marcel Duchamp
Paul Ryan’s excellent, impressionistic 1969 documentary, “Ski Racer,” which uses bold editing and FM radio rock to profile that era’s world-class downhill racers. One of the pros included is Vladimir “Spider” Sabich who would die horribly in 1976, the victim not of a fall but of amour fou.
From the 1974 Sports Illustrated article, “The Spider Who Finally Came In From The Cold“: “In selling the tour, the sales pitch is not pegged strictly to exciting races and the crack skiers but also to its colorful personalities. There is Sabich, who flies, races motorcycles and figures that a night in which he hasn’t danced on at least one tabletop is a night wasted. Jim Lillstrom, Beattie’s P.R. man, also enjoys checking off some of the other characters.Norway’s Terje Overland is known as the Aquavit Kid for the boisterous postvictory celebrations he has thrown. He’s also been known to pitch over a fully laden restaurant table when the spirits have so moved him. Then there is the poet, Duncan Cullman, of Twin Mountain, N.H., author of The Selected Heavies of Duncan Duck, published at his own expense, who used to travel the tour with a gargantuan, bearded manservant. And Sepp Staffler, a popular Austrian, who plays guitar and sitar and performs nightly at different lounges in Great Gorge, N.J. when he isn’t competing. The ski tour also has its very own George Blanda. That would be blond, wispy Anderl Molterer, the 40-year-old Austrian, long a world class racer and still competitive.
Pro skiing’s immediate success, however, seems to depend on an authentic rivalry building up between Sabich and [Billy] Kidd, who are close friends but whose living styles are as diverse as snow and sand. Sabich is freewheeling on his skis as well as on tabletops. Kidd is thoughtful, earnest, a perfectionist. Spider has his flying, his motorcycles and drives a Porsche 911-E. Billy paints and now drives a Volvo station wagon. Spider enjoys the man-to-man challenge of the pro circuit. Billy harbors some inner doubts regarding his ability to adapt to it.”
If Bruce Jenner really has sexual-reassignment surgery as the tabloids have speculated, it would be the first reasonable thing he’s done since winning a gold medal in 1976. As Sochi opens, here’s a repost of an item about one of America’s greatest Olympians.
Why the fuck did Bruce Jenner do it to himself? This 1976 short film profiles him becoming the greatest athlete in the world, before the divorces, the Village People, the cosmetic surgeries and the Kardashians–before he performed reverse alchemy, going from gold to plastic.
Few things fascinate me as much as the Olympics, for the actual sports, sure, but also for the politics and sociology that permeate the Games, the way countries use the event to attempt to remake themselves, the things that are said through ceremony rather than words. And, of course, of equal interest is what’s communicated despite the best efforts of countries to stifle them (e.g., Jesse Owens leaving Hitler in the dust in 1936).
From “Why Sochi?” Christian Caryl’s New York Review of Books piece, a brief explanation of why oh why such an unlikely locale would play host to the world:
“In all the comment about this month’s Sochi Olympics, there is bewilderment above all about Sochi itself: Why on earth would the Kremlin decide to host the Games in an underdeveloped place where terrorists lurk nearby—a place that a front-page New York Times story this week describes as ‘the edge of a war zone’?
The answer is not as complicated as it may seem. Vladimir Putin comes from St. Petersburg. He rules from Moscow. But it is the North Caucasus that launched him on his path to the summit of Russian power. Anyone who wants to understand the many controversies now roiling around Sochi must start with this fundamental political fact.
Russia launched its Olympic bid in 2006, a moment when Putin was basking in his hard-won status as the leader who had finally vanquished the long-running rebellion in Chechnya. Putin did not choose Sochi by chance. He believed that presiding over an Olympic miracle in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains, not far from places that had been battlefields a few years before, would cement his triumph over historical enemies.”
Japan announces its postwar recovery at the 1964 Games:
Tags: Christian Caryl
Because I foolishly continue to live in NYC, I have Seasonal Affective Disorder. I really, really need Spring Training to start. Until then, some Joe Garagiola.
In 1975, Joe Garagiola hosted a remarkably stupid and wonderful bubble-gum blowing competition among baseball players, which was sponsored by Bazooka, a brand of gum favored by hoboes during World War II. One entrant was Philadelphia catcher Tim McCarver, whose head was the size of a medicine ball. The moment the contest ended, the players went in search of the nastiest groupies they could find.
I previously posted a brief documentary about Morganna the Kissing Bandit. Here’s her 1976 appearance on To Tell the Truth. Fittingly, the host was a male sports figure, Joe Garagiola. On the panel was film critic Gene Shalit, who was mediocre but possessed a mustache.
When I used to see Shalit at movie screenings, he would sometimes be listening to a Walkman during the film and talking aloud to himself. One time when I was sitting a row ahead of him, he screamed at me when I got up to leave after the movie was over. “Get out of the way,” he hollered. “I’m trying to watch the credits.” The dipshit was sort of right.
Like the first President he served, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger became quite a baseball junkie, especially in his post-Washington career. At the 15:40 mark of this episode of The Baseball of World of Joe Garagiola, we see Kissinger, who could only seem competent when standing alongside that block of wood Bowie Kuhn, being honored at Fenway Park before the second game of the sensational 1975 World Series. During the raucous run by the raffish New York Mets in the second half of 1980s, both Nixon and Kissinger became mainstays at Shea Stadium. Nixon was known to send congratulatory personal notes to the players, including Darryl Strawberry. It was criminals rooting for criminals.
I can’t help but feel that Libertarians have a blind spot for the deep immorality embedded into their philosophy. Yet, it’s not like I disagree with everything Libertarian. For instance: I concur with George Mason economist Bryan Caplan that the U.S. embargo of Cuba has been detrimental to both countries. It should be stopped immediately. A few exchanges from Caplan’s Ask Me Anything at Reddit follow.
What would happen if we began trading with Cuba again?
They’d quickly get a lot richer, and we’d get some very nice vacations. In the longer run, the chance that Communism in Cuba would collapse or collapse into mere rhetoric is high.
Do you feel that the rise of China is beneficial to the interests of the United States?
When countries produce cheap stuff to sell us, it is good for us. And rich countries are very rarely militarily aggressive, at least once they’ve been rich for a full generation.
Is the U.S. a counterexample?
Not really. Most dominant powers throughout history have been far more aggressive. The U.S. today is scared to lose a few thousand soldiers. Why? Because rich people value their lives. Thankfully!
What books have influenced you and your career?
Atlas Shrugged, For a New Liberty, Economic Sophisms, The Armchair Economist, The Bell Curve, The Myth of Democratic Failure, The Nurture Assumption, and Modern Times. Mike Huemer’s been a massive influence on me, but mostly his articles, especially “Moral Objectivism.”
Tags: Bryan Caplan
Richard Jewell wasn’t exactly traduced like Joseph K., but who but Kafka could have written of his experience at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where he was knocked sidelong by a rush to judgement? Just months after Ted Kaczynski was apprehended for the Unabomber explosions and had provided the template of an awkward and unshaven villain, the FBI brought another lone madman to justice, and it was Jewell–although it wasn’t really him at all.
Go here to watch Adam Hootnick’s new ESPN short doc, “Judging Jewell.”
From “The Ballad of Richard Jewell,” Marie Brenner’s 1997 Vanity Fair article:
“It took 10 minutes to pluck Jewell’s thick auburn hair. Then the F.B.I. agents led him into the kitchen and took his palm prints on the table. ‘That took 30 minutes, and they got ink all over the table,’ Bryant said. Then Bazar told Bryant they wanted Jewell to sit on the sofa and say into the telephone, ‘There is a bomb in Centennial Park. You have 30 minutes.’ That was the message given by the 911 caller on the night of the bombing. He was to repeat the message 12 times. Bryant saw the possibility of phony evidence and of his client’s going to jail. ‘I said, ‘I am not sure about this. Maybe you can do this, maybe you can’t, but you are not doing this today.”
All afternoon, Jewell was strangely quiet. He had a sophisticated knowledge of police work and believed, he later said, ‘they must have had some evidence if they wanted my hair.… I knew their game was intimidation. That is why they brought five agents instead of two.’ He felt “violated and humiliated,” he told me, but he was passive, even docile, through Bryant’s outburst. He thought of the bombing victims—Alice Hawthorne, the 44-year-old mother from Albany, Georgia, at the park with her stepdaughter; Melih Uzunyol, the Turkish cameraman who died of a heart attack; the more than 100 people taken to area hospitals, some of whom were his friends. ‘I kept thinking, These guys think I did this. These guys were accusing me of murder. This was the biggest case in the nation and the world. If they could pin it on me, they were going to put me in the electric chair.”
Ray Kurzweil, always looking forward, believing that then is actually now, discusses how the computer, which used to be all the way across campus and is now in our pockets, will soon be within us, like a pacemaker.
Tags: Ray Kurzweil
I really loved the Seinfeld sitcom, so I wish Jerry Seinfeld would stop being so whiny and defensive when he’s asked about the treatment of women and minorities in comedy. He’s wrong and his agitated rationalizations make him look terrible. No one is asking for quotas or anything like it, just fairness.
The reason critics question why some shows, like the first season of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, are so white and male, is because high-profile comedy vehicles have been controlled by white men and favored white men for so long. Should Saturday Night Live have not been questioned for having so few African-American women in its cast when so many great ones were available across decades? Should David Letterman have not been questioned about going years with barely having a female stand-up comic during such an amazing era for female comedians? Such questions being asked have helped bring about change. Those questions should continue. If that upsets Jerry Seinfeld, so be it. Sometimes people get upset not because criticism is unjust but because it’s spot-on.
Michael “Mr. Mike” O’Donoghue, the darkest and cruelest writer of the original Saturday Night Live, a Marquis de Sade for the National Lampoon set, is afforded a bizarre TV-magazine profile the morning after a Halloween party. How apt.
If someone were to speak ill about Joni Mitchell or her music, I might have to decapitate that man. You see, I am a fan. Even more than Joan Baez, Mitchell seemed the true believer, the real deal, bound to be disappointed by everyone and everything around her.
At the 50-second mark of this video footage from 1969′s Big Sur Folk Festival, she sings a breathtaking version of “Get Together” with David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and John Sebastian performing backing vocals. It’s a song of peace and brotherhood, and it will sound beautiful to your disrespectful head as it rolls down Fifth Avenue.
I think of the era in America between the one wallpapered with newsprint (pre-1960) and the one given to smartphone updates (today), that time when TV news was predominant, as an age of delusion. That was when Newt Gingrich’s word games could work, when a screenshot of Willie Horton could win. It was an age of bullshit and manipulation. Why, an actor playing a part could become President, aided by Hallmark Card-level writers.
You’re free to feel less than sanguine about the transition, about the financial metrics of newsgathering and the threat it poses to less-profitable but vital journalism (as I sometimes am), but I will choose the deluge of information we get now to centralized media when far fewer had far greater control of the flow. People seem to get bamboozled much less now. Let it rain, I say. Let it pour. Let us swim together in the flood.
Anyhow, we always romanticized the wrong part of the newspaper. It wasn’t great because of the print. I mean, what’s so important about a lousy, crummy newspaper?
From “The Golden Age of Journalism?” a wonderful TomDispatch essay by Tom Engelhardt about the downfall of one type of news and the thing that has supplanted it:
“In so many ways, it’s been, and continues to be, a sad, even horrific, tale of loss. (A similar tale of woe involves the printed book. It’s only advantage: there were no ads to flee the premises, but it suffered nonetheless — already largely crowded out of the newspaper as a non-revenue producer and out of consciousness by a blitz of new ways of reading and being entertained. And I say that as someone who has spent most of his life as an editor of print books.) The keening and mourning about the fall of print journalism has gone on for years. It’s a development that represents — depending on who’s telling the story — the end of an age, the fall of all standards, or the loss of civic spirit and the sort of investigative coverage that might keep a few more politicians and corporate heads honest, and so forth and so on.
Let’s admit that the sins of the Internet are legion and well-known: the massive programs of government surveillance it enables; the corporate surveillance it ensures; the loss of privacy it encourages; the flamers and trolls it births; the conspiracy theorists, angry men, and strange characters to whom it gives a seemingly endless moment in the sun; and the way, among other things, it tends to sort like and like together in a self-reinforcing loop of opinion. Yes, yes, it’s all true, all unnerving, all terrible.
As the editor of TomDispatch.com, I’ve spent the last decade-plus plunged into just that world, often with people half my age or younger. I don’t tweet. I don’t have a Kindle or the equivalent. I don’t even have a smart phone or a tablet of any sort. When something — anything — goes wrong with my computer I feel like a doomed figure in an alien universe, wish for the last machine I understood (a typewriter), and then throw myself on the mercy of my daughter.
I’ve been overwhelmed, especially at the height of the Bush years, by cookie-cutter hate email — sometimes scores or hundreds of them at a time — of a sort that would make your skin crawl. I’ve been threatened. I’ve repeatedly received “critical” (and abusive) emails, blasts of red hot anger that would startle anyone, because the Internet, so my experience tells me, loosens inhibitions, wipes out taboos, and encourages a sense of anonymity that in the older world of print, letters, or face-to-face meetings would have been far less likely to take center stage. I’ve seen plenty that’s disturbed me. So you’d think, given my age, my background, and my present life, that I, too, might be in mourning for everything that’s going, going, gone, everything we’ve lost.
But I have to admit it: I have another feeling that, at a purely personal level, outweighs all of the above. In terms of journalism, of expression, of voice, of fine reporting and superb writing, of a range of news, thoughts, views, perspectives, and opinions about places, worlds, and phenomena that I wouldn’t otherwise have known about, there has never been an experimental moment like this. I’m in awe. Despite everything, despite every malign purpose to which the Internet is being put, I consider it a wonder of our age. Yes, perhaps it is the age from hell for traditional reporters (and editors) working double-time, online and off, for newspapers that are crumbling, but for readers, can there be any doubt that now, not the 1840s or the 1930s or the 1960s, is the golden age of journalism?
Think of it as the upbeat twin of NSA surveillance.“•
Tags: Tom Engelhardt
I posted about Timex’s failed foray into wearables in the mid-1990s, and here’s a commercial for the Sinclair 1000–touted as “the first computer under $100″–during the company’s equally unsuccessful 1982 attempt to corner the PC market.
One final Pete Seeger video, this one is “To Hear Your Banjo Play,” a 1947 short written and directed by musicologist Alan Lomax. Probably the best portrait of the man and his music.