Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chevy Volt Review

From Salon.com:
An hour's drive north of Warren, in Flint, is an abandoned GM auto plant called Buick City. In the 1970s, Buick City employed 28,000 autoworkers. Today, it's America's biggest brownfield, anchoring a neighborhood that also features a boarded-up tavern, a defunct United Auto Workers hall and an out-of-business party store. The land around Buick City is so worthless that a patriotic couple bought several corner lots, for $200 apiece, and built a memorial to American soldiers killed on 9/11.

Buick City and so many other factories are industrial waste sites because General Motors hasn't had an original idea since it put a V-8 engine in the Oldsmobile. In the 1970s, when the Arab Oil Embargo began a small-car craze, Honda was already building the Civic. Toyota was building the Corolla. GM responded with -- the Chevette. Named one of the 50 Worst Cars of All Time by Time magazine, the Chevette turned an entire generation of Americans onto Japanese cars. It was the first car I ever owned. My mechanic diagnosed the hole under the pedals as "Chevette Floor Cancer." He pounded a sheet of tin over the opening, but my shoes still got wet whenever I drove through a puddle.

And then, in the 2000s, there was GM Chairman Robert Lutz's reaction to the Prius: "Hybrids are an interesting curiosity and we will do some, but do they make sense at $1.50 a gallon? No, they do not." They do make sense at $4 a gallon, but Toyota dominates the market now.

That's why I was so excited about the Volt. Like any Michigander who grew up seeing "Assholes Buy Jap Cars" spray-painted on overpasses, I've been conditioned to root for the home team. Now, for once in my life, stodgy old Papa Jimmy was going to be first at something. As Toyota was the hybrid company, Chevy would be the electric company.

"I want that brand right here on top of my forehead," Farah said, pointing at the space above his safety glasses.

Farah worked on GM's first, failed attempt: the EV1, subject of the documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?" Its problem: the battery weighed 1,200 pounds. To wring 40 miles out of a single charge, the EV1 was a two-seater, with no trunk.

"You had to build the car around the battery," he said.

The lithium-ion battery pack weighs a third of that. The Volt is an "extended-range" vehicle. Once the charge runs down, a gasoline engine takes over. But it doesn't power a drive train, as on a traditional vehicle. It powers the electrical system that runs the car.

The energy required to drive 40 miles on battery power is equivalent to "well under a gallon" of gasoline, Farah told me, because running an electrical system is 50 percent more efficient than running a drive train. Fueling the Volt costs 2 cents a mile. At $4 a gallon, a gasoline-powered car costs 13 cents a mile.

On electric power, the Volt emits no exhaust. Drawing electricity from a coal-powered grid may produce more greenhouse gases than a gasoline-powered car. But coal produces only half America's energy, and that percentage is declining as utilities switch to cleaner fuels. The Volt can draw power "from the wind, from the sun," Farah said. "You don't have to burn fossil fuels." As a plug-in hybrid, the Volt would be a compromise between the Prius, which has a 4-cylinder gasoline engine, and the all-electric Nissan Leaf.

The Volt is finally out this year. It was named 2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year. When I heard that the Volt rides were the No. 1 attraction at last month's Chicago Auto Show, I was more excited than the moment I first laid eyes on the Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point. I'd been waiting years to sit inside the salvation of the American auto industry.

When I got to the Auto Show, little pod-shaped cars were circling a go-kart-sized track, landscaped with real grass and real shrubs. The foliage would die indoors, but from lack of sunlight, not air pollution. When a Volt finally stopped, I climbed into the passenger seat. My first reaction?

"Wow, this is even more cramped than my old Dodge Neon." The engine was silent, but I couldn't tell whether that was because we were only going five miles an hour.

"How much is this going to cost?" I asked the driver.

"They start at $41,000," he said, "although there is a $7,500 tax credit for buying an electric car."

I looked at the back seat. Two American-sized people could squeeze in there. The driver tried to focus my attention on a computer screen displaying the remaining charge.

"Are they ever going to make a bigger version?" I asked.

"There's going to be a family-sized SUV, eventually."

Eventually. I stepped outside and watched the silent rodeo of cars. The Volt is a $20,000 car, for twice the money. Even if I could afford to replace my Ford Focus hatchback with a Volt, I wouldn't do it. It's too small for my cross-country skis and my camping equipment.

Then I got an e-mail from a retired Chevy dealer named Chuck Frank. He forwarded me an article from Automotive & Assembly Practice, which predicted that "plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery-only electric vehicles could account for 16 percent of overall new-car sales in New York, 9 percent in Paris and 5 percent in Shanghai by 2015."

"Are you buying a Volt?" I e-mailed back.

"I have one on order and a Leaf as well," he wrote. "I drove one recently and liked it."

Frank is the Volt's target customer: a well-to-do environmentalist. As a boy, Frank wanted to be a forest ranger. Instead, he inherited the world's largest Chevrolet dealership from his father. But Frank's love of the outdoors and his wife's struggles with asthma led him to join the Sierra Club, and he became the group's inside connection to the auto industry. As a Chevy dealer, he could talk to executives who wouldn't take an environmentalist's phone calls. For years, Frank lobbied GM to build an electric car. In 2005, frustrated that he couldn't offer his customers an alternative to the Prius, he approached Chairman Rick Wagoner at a cocktail reception.

"Why isn't GM doing anything about a hybrid?" Frank inquired.

"Hybrids don't make sense to the public," Wagoner told him. "Economically, they don't make sense."

Three months later, GM announced plans for the Volt.

Frank doesn't care that the Volt is cramped and overpriced. He has bigger Chevys in his garage, and he sold enough Corvettes to understand that when it comes to choosing a car, practicality is less important than looking badass. Otherwise, everyone would be driving an Aveo...

General Motors just announced it earned $4.7 billion last year, its first profit since 2004. It's not because of the Volt, obviously, but the Volt is another sign that GM has finally learned to do business like a 21st century auto company. It's too late to save Flint, but the Volt is coming off the assembly line in the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck.

Even though the Volt is a tiny, expensive toy, GM did the right thing by rushing it into showrooms before guys like me are ready to buy one. Eventually, lithium-ion batteries will be cheaper. Eventually, apartment buildings will install charging stations. Eventually, gas will cost $5 a gallon. When all that happens, a lot us will buy electric cars. I want to own a Volt someday. GM hopes that brand on its forehead is big enough to make you to want one of its electric cars, too.

Can an electric car save the American dream?
Edward McClellan
Saturday, Mar 12, 2011

Futuristic car designs from the past

March 18, 2011

When the car designers of yesteryear sat down to envision the vehicles of today, their imaginations were clearly in overdrive. Or fourth gear. Whatever. These exotic car designs from the 1940s, 50s and 60s unfortunately never quite caught on. But it’s not too late is it, Mr Ford?

James Shelby Downard's Mystical War

Adam Gorightly
April 19th, 2009

Says the author in his forward to this one, “Downard. to some, is seen as too vague, derelict about providing attribution, and unwilling to credit plain old synchronicity as the source of many of the connections he has made.” James Shelby Downard (1913-1998), implicated Masonic alchemy as the true force behind John F. Kennedy’s assassination. He questioned apparent reality at least as much as the official version of what occured, stating, “The eternal pagan psychodrama is escalated under . . .‘modern’ conditions precisely because sorcery is not what ‘twentieth century man’ can accept as real.” I first read his famous essay, “King-Kill/33: Masonic Symbolism in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy” in the first edition of a book called Apocalypse Culture (Feral House). After reading it, I decided that, while I didn’t believe him completely, the amount of symbolism he amassed therein (for example, Dealey Plaza, which lies on the 33rd latitudinal parallel, was the site of the first Masonic temple in Texas, and Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson, was himself a high-ranking Mason as were future president Gerald Ford, CIA director William Casey, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and most of the Warren Commission) was every bit as credible as the official “lone assassin” theory.

In that book’s second edition, “King-Kill/33” was replaced with another Downard essay, “The Call to Chaos,” and Apocalypse Culture II contains another Downard essay entitled “America, The Possessed Corpse.” Feral House, a publishing group dedicated to promoting counterclockwise ideation, has been very good to Downard, who likely would have been dismissed out of hand and gone unnoticed without its support. Another Feral House book, Cult Rapture, curently out of print, contains “Riding the Downardian Nightmare,” a piece written by Parfrey about visiting Downard in Memphis, Tennessee. Adam Gorightly neatly summarizes Downard’s life and thought in this brief, engaging work, in the course of which he adds many details of conspiracy lore and hidden history. One goal of the CIA’s MK-ULTRA mind control program was the creation of programmed assassins—Sirhan Sirhan may have been one of these, also John Lennon’s assassin, Mark David Chapman, besides which, John Hinckley, Jr. who tried and failed to shoot Reagan, was a Bush family friend.

According to Downard, part of the Masonic conspiracy’s evil genius lies in the gradual revelation of its workings so nothing is ever completely hidden from the victims. Downard died in 1988, but managed to impact conspiracy thinkers with this brand of speculation. Accordingly, Gorightly devotes one chapter of Mystical War to the revelations of U.S. torture at Abu Ghraib as potentially a recent example of “revelation of the method,” and another to analysis of occult and mind-control symbolism in Stanley Kubrick’s film, "Eyes Wide Shut."

First Annual Central Texas Paranormal Convention in Austin

First Annual Central Texas Paranormal Convention in Austin – October 8th/9th, 2011
March 15th, 2011
SMiles Lewis
Coming up later this year here in Austin, Texas:

October 8th and 9th, 2011.

The First Annual Central Tx Paranormal Convention will host guest speakers Fiona Broome, Dustin Pari, Brad and Barry Klinge, Andy Coppock, Jeff Belanger and ohters.

The event website is ctparacon.com.

TSA Radiation Level 10 Times Higher than Expected

From USAToday.com:
The Transportation Security Administration announced Friday that it would retest every full-body X-ray scanner that emits ionizing radiation — 247 machines at 38 airports — after maintenance records on some of the devices showed radiation levels 10 times higher than expected.

The TSA says that the records reflect math mistakes and that all the machines are safe. Indeed, even the highest readings listed on some of the records — the numbers that the TSA says were mistakes — appear to be many times less than what the agency says a person absorbs through one day of natural background radiation.

Even so, the TSA has ordered the new tests out of "an abundance of caution to reassure the public," spokesman Nicholas Kimball says. The tests will be finished by the end of the month, and the results will be released "as they are completed," the agency said on its website.

TSA officials have repeatedly assured the public and lawmakers that the machines have passed all inspections. The agency's review of maintenance reports, launched Dec. 10, came only after USA TODAY and lawmakers called for the release of the records late last year.

The agency posted reports Friday from 127 X-ray-emitting devices on its website and said it would continue to release results from maintenance tests for the approximately 4,500 X-ray devices at airports nationwide. Those devices include machines that examine checked luggage. Of the reports posted, about a third showed some sort of error, Kimball said.

The TSA announced steps to require its maintenance contractors to "retrain personnel involved in conducting and overseeing the radiation survey process."

Some lawmakers remain concerned, however.

The TSA "has repeatedly assured me that the machines that emit radiation do not pose a health risk," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a written statement Friday. "Nonetheless, if TSA contractors reporting on the radiation levels have done such a poor job, how can airline passengers and crew have confidence in the data used by the TSA to reassure the public?"

She said the records released Friday "included gross errors about radiation emissions. That is completely unacceptable when it comes to monitoring radiation."

U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz also was troubled by the information posted by the TSA. Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairs a House oversight subcommittee on national security and has sponsored legislation to limit the use of full-body scans. He has been pushing the TSA to release the maintenance records.

At best, Chaffetz said, the radiation reports generated by TSA contractors reveal haphazard oversight and record-keeping in the critical inspection system the agency relies upon to ensure millions of travelers aren't subjected to excessive doses of radiation.

"It is totally unacceptable to be bumbling such critical tasks," Chaffetz said. "These people are supposed to be protecting us against terrorists."

In the past, the TSA has failed to properly monitor and ensure the safety of X-ray devices used on luggage. A 2008 report by the worker safety arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the TSA and its maintenance contractors had failed to detect when baggage X-ray machines emitted radiation beyond what regulations allowed. They also failed to take action when some machines had missing or disabled safety features, the report shows.

Chaffetz said the TSA's characterization of the maintenance mistakes "sounds like an excuse rather than the real facts."

"I'm tired of excuses," Chaffetz said. "The public has a right and deserves to know. It begs the question, 'What are they still not sharing with us?' These are things you cannot make mistakes with." Chaffetz said he expects to address some of his concerns during a hearing Wednesday.

The full-body scanners, called backscatter devices, are supposed to deliver only a tiny amount of radiation — about as much as an airplane passenger gets during two minutes of a typical flight.

Peter Rez, a physics professor at Arizona State University, said Friday he wanted to scrutinize the 2,000 pages of reports the TSA posted. He has expressed concerns about the potential for the scanners to break and the importance of proper maintenance and monitoring.

"Mechanical things break down," Rez told USA TODAY in December. Rez also has voiced fears about the potential for a passenger to get an excessive dose of radiation or even a radiation burn if the X-ray scanning beam were to malfunction and stop on one part of a person's body for an extended period of time...

TSA to retest airport body scanners for radiation
Alison Young and Blake Morrison

Lost city of Atlantis, swamped by tsunami, may be found

Sat Mar 12, 2011
Zach Howard

NORTHAMPTON, Mass (Reuters) - A U.S.-led research team may have finally located the lost city of Atlantis, the legendary metropolis believed swamped by a tsunami thousands of years ago in mud flats in southern Spain.

"This is the power of tsunamis," head researcher Richard Freund told Reuters.

"It is just so hard to understand that it can wipe out 60 miles inland, and that's pretty much what we're talking about," said Freund, a University of Hartford, Connecticut, professor who lead an international team searching for the true site of Atlantis.

To solve the age-old mystery, the team used a satellite photo of a suspected submerged city to find the site just north of Cadiz, Spain. There, buried in the vast marshlands of the Dona Ana Park, they believe that they pinpointed the ancient, multi-ringed dominion known as Atlantis.

The team of archeologists and geologists in 2009 and 2010 used a combination of deep-ground radar, digital mapping, and underwater technology to survey the site.

Freund's discovery in central Spain of a strange series of "memorial cities," built in Atlantis' image by its refugees after the city's likely destruction by a tsunami, gave researchers added proof and confidence, he said.

Atlantis residents who did not perish in the tsunami fled inland and built new cities there, he added.

The team's findings will be unveiled on Sunday in "Finding Atlantis," a new National Geographic Channel special.

While it is hard to know with certainty that the site in Spain in Atlantis, Freund said the "twist" of finding the memorial cities makes him confident Atlantis was buried in the mud flats on Spain's southern coast.

"We found something that no one else has ever seen before, which gives it a layer of credibility, especially for archeology, that makes a lot more sense," Freund said.

Greek philosopher Plato wrote about Atlantis some 2,600 years ago, describing it as "an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Hercules," as the Straits of Gibraltar were known in antiquity. Using Plato's detailed account of Atlantis as a map, searches have focused on the Mediterranean and Atlantic as the best possible sites for the city.

Tsunamis in the region have been documented for centuries, Freund says. One of the largest was a reported 10-story tidal wave that slammed Lisbon in November, 1755.

Debate about whether Atlantis truly existed has lasted for thousands of years. Plato's "dialogues" from around 360 B.C. are the only known historical sources of information about the iconic city. Plato said the island he called Atlantis "in a single day and night... disappeared into the depths of the sea."

Experts plan further excavations are planned at the site where they believe Atlantis is located and at the mysterious "cities" in central Spain 150 miles away to more closely study geological formations and to date artifacts.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)

Space Brother, Where Art Thou?

March 15th, 2011
Skylaire Alfvegren

With vaguely optimistic recollections of UFO sightings around Chernobyl at the time of its meltdown, I recalled that some people in the area swore that strange craft appeared, directed beams at the site, and somehow prevented further catastrophe. While our hearts and sympathies are all with the Japanese people, those on the West Coast can’t help but worry about radiated repercussions beyond that country’s borders.

There is no doubt that whatever radiation released will be downgraded and covered up, that whether or not prevailing winds will carry it to the west coast of the United States, remains to be seen. But to give an idea of how much Californians trust their government and their media, army surplus stores in Los Angeles were already sold out of potassium iodine by Saturday afternoon.

“I lived through seven years with the Marines, three years in Vietnam, I got sprayed with Agent Orange,” barked Mr. Ramirez, proprietor of the Surplus Value Center in Silverlake, when I called to see what he might have on hand. “I’m still here. People are over-reacting.” That may be so, but when was the last time anyone remembers watching video of a nuclear reactor exploding?

I recalled, also, reading about a UFO Museum in Japan, located in some out of the way place. Wouldn’t you know, it was in Fukushima. Maybe I’m deranged for getting teary-eyed looking at some tourist’s photos of the quaint museum this morning… but the naive optimist in me hopes, somehow, that the beings so lovingly recreated inside the octogonal building might shine their beams on what’s left of Fukushima.

After being inundated with images of destruction so horrific as to not be believable, these photos from the museum made me break down completely.

Maybe, just maybe… the Fukushima UFO Museum was located on higher ground. Stupid, I know, to be pining for something so insignificant in the wake of such destruction. But it’s not about the museum. It’s about the people who created it. Am I so desensitized? The horrors of Haiti, of Indonesia, are still with us, but their images are of people and places far away… as are these. But somehow, for me, this little museum puts a much more personal face on things.

I have to go cry now… these photos and more can be found here:


Physics of the Future

Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100

Michio Kaku

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kaku (Physics of the Impossible), a professor of physics at the CUNY Graduate Center, gathers ideas from more than 300 experts, scientists, and researchers at the cutting edge of their fields, to offer a glimpse of what the next 100 years may bring. The predictions all conform to certain ground rules (e.g., "Prototypes of all technologies mentioned... already exist"), and some seem obvious (computer chips will continue to get faster and smaller). Others seem less far-fetched than they might have a decade ago: for instance, space tourism will be popular, especially once a permanent base is established on the moon. Other predictions may come true—downloading the Internet right into a pair of contact lenses—but whether they're desirable is another matter. Some of the predictions are familiar but still startling: robots will develop emotions by mid-century, and we will start merging mind and body with them. Despite the familiarity of many of the predictions to readers of popular science and science fiction, Kaku's book should capture the imagination of everyday readers.

From Booklist

Following in the footsteps of Leonardo da Vinci and Jules Verne, Kaku, author of a handful of books about science, looks into the not-so-distant future and envisions what the world will look like. It should be an exciting place, with driverless cars, Internet glasses, universal translators, robot surgeons, the resurrection of extinct life forms, designer children, space tourism, a manned mission to Mars, none of which turn out to be as science-fictiony as they sound. In fact, the most exciting thing about the book is the fact that most of the developments Kaku discusses can be directly extrapolated from existing technologies. Robot surgeons and driverless cars, for example, already exist in rudimentary forms. Kaku, a physics professor and one of the originators of the string field theory (an offshoot of the more general string theory), draws on current research to show how, in a very real sense, our future has already been written. The book?s lively, user-friendly style should appeal equally to fans of science fiction and popular science. --David Pitt
See all Editorial Reviews

Praise for MICHIO KAKU

“Mesmerizing . . . the reader exits dizzy, elated, and looking at the world in a literally revolutionary way.”
— Washington Post Book World

“With his lucid and wry style, his knack for bringing the most ethereal ideas down to earth, and his willingness to indulge in a little scientifically informed futurology now and then . . . Michio Kaku has written one of the best popular accounts of higher physics.”
— Wall Street Journal

“What a wonderful adventure it is, trying to think the unthinkable.”
— New York Times Book Review

“An erudite, compelling, insider’s look into the most mind-bending potential of science research.”
— Chicago Tribune

“Accessible, entertaining, and inspiring”
— New Scientist

“Mesmerizing information breathtakingly presented . . . thoroughly engaging . . . magnificent!”
— Philadelphia Inquirer

“An invigorating experience”
— Christian Science Monitor

“Kaku covers a tremendous amount of material . . . in a clear and lively way.”
— Los Angeles Times Book Review

Product Description

Imagine, if you can, the world in the year 2100.

In Physics of the Future, Michio Kaku—the New York Times bestselling author of Physics of the Impossible—gives us a stunning, provocative, and exhilarating vision of the coming century based on interviews with over three hundred of the world’s top scientists who are already inventing the future in their labs. The result is the most authoritative and scientifically accurate description of the revolutionary developments taking place in medicine, computers, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, energy production, and astronautics.

In all likelihood, by 2100 we will control computers via tiny brain sensors and, like magicians, move objects around with the power of our minds. Artificial intelligence will be dispersed throughout the environment, and Internet-enabled contact lenses will allow us to access the world's information base or conjure up any image we desire in the blink of an eye.

Meanwhile, cars will drive themselves using GPS, and if room-temperature superconductors are discovered, vehicles will effortlessly fly on a cushion of air, coasting on powerful magnetic fields and ushering in the age of magnetism.

Using molecular medicine, scientists will be able to grow almost every organ of the body and cure genetic diseases. Millions of tiny DNA sensors and nanoparticles patrolling our blood cells will silently scan our bodies for the first sign of illness, while rapid advances in genetic research will enable us to slow down or maybe even reverse the aging process, allowing human life spans to increase dramatically.

In space, radically new ships—needle-sized vessels using laser propulsion—could replace the expensive chemical rockets of today and perhaps visit nearby stars. Advances in nanotechnology may lead to the fabled space elevator, which would propel humans hundreds of miles above the earth’s atmosphere at the push of a button.

But these astonishing revelations are only the tip of the iceberg. Kaku also discusses emotional robots, antimatter rockets, X-ray vision, and the ability to create new life-forms, and he considers the development of the world economy. He addresses the key questions: Who are the winner and losers of the future? Who will have jobs, and which nations will prosper?

All the while, Kaku illuminates the rigorous scientific principles, examining the rate at which certain technologies are likely to mature, how far they can advance, and what their ultimate limitations and hazards are. Synthesizing a vast amount of information to construct an exciting look at the years leading up to 2100, Physics of the Future is a thrilling, wondrous ride through the next 100 years of breathtaking scientific revolution.

MICHIO KAKU is a professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, cofounder of string field theory, and the bestselling author of several widely acclaimed science books, including Hyperspace and Physics of the Impossible—the basis for his Science Channel TV show Sci Fi Science—and two radio programs, Explorations and Science Fantastic, broadcasting to over 140 radio stations.

Product Details
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Doubleday (March 15, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9780385530804
ISBN-13: 978-0385530804
ASIN: 0385530803

Hardcover: http://www.amazon.com/Physics-Future-Science-Shape-Destiny/dp/0385530803/thekonformist
Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Physics-Future-Science-Destiny-ebook/dp/B004FGLX2Y/thekonformist

What happens when computers stop shrinking?

By around 2020, the age of the ever-smaller chip will come to an end -- and we'd better prepare for it
Michio Kaku
Saturday, Mar 19, 2011

This article is a condensed excerpt from Michio Kaku's new book, "The Physics of the Future."

I remember vividly sitting in Mark Weiser's office in Silicon Valley almost twenty years ago as he explained to me his vision of the future. Gesturing with his hands, he excitedly told me a new revolution was about to happen that would change the world. Weiser was part of the computer elite, working at Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center, which was the first to pioneer the personal computer, the laser printer, and Windows-type architecture with graphical user interface), but he was a maverick, an iconoclast who was shattering conventional wisdom, and also a member of a wild rock band.

Back then (it seems like a lifetime ago), personal computers were new, just beginning to penetrate people's lives, as they slowly warmed up to the idea of buying large, bulky desktop computers in order to do spreadsheet analysis and a little bit of word processing. The Internet was still largely the isolated province of scientists like me, cranking out equations to fellow scientists in an arcane language.

There were raging debates about whether this box sitting on your desk would dehumanize civilization with its cold, unforgiving stare. Even political analyst William F. Buckley had to defend the word processor against intellectuals who railed against it and refused to ever touch a computer, calling it an instrument of the philistines.

It was in this era of controversy that Weiser coined the expression "ubiquitous computing." Seeing far past the personal computer, he predicted that the chips would one day become so cheap and plentiful that they would be scattered throughout the environment -- in our clothing, our furniture, the walls, even our bodies. And they would all be connected to the Internet, sharing data, making our lives more pleasant, monitoring all our wishes. Everywhere we moved, chips would be there to silently carry out our desires. The environment would be alive.

For its time, Weiser's dream was outlandish, even preposterous. Most personal computers were still expensive and not even connected to the Internet. The idea that billions of tiny chips would one day be as cheap as running water was considered lunacy.

And then I asked him why he felt so sure about this revolution. He calmly replied that computer power was growing exponentially, with no end in sight. Do the math, he implied. It was only a matter of time. (Sadly, Weiser did not live long enough to see his revolution come true, dying of cancer in 1999.)

The driving source behind Weiser's prophetic dreams is something called Moore's law, a rule of thumb that has driven the computer industry for fifty or more years, setting the pace for modern civilization like clockwork. Moore's law simply says that computer power doubles about every eighteen months. According to Moore's law, every Christmas your new computer games are almost twice as powerful (in terms of the number of transistors) as those from the previous year. Furthermore, as the years pass, this incremental gain becomes monumental. For example, when you receive a birthday card in the mail, it often has a chip that sings "Happy Birthday" to you. Remarkably, that chip has more computer power than all the Allied forces of 1945. Hitler, Churchill, or Roosevelt might have killed to get that chip. But what do we do with it? After the birthday, we throw the card and chip away. Today, your cell phone has more computer power than all of NASA back in 1969, when it placed two astronauts on the moon. Video games, which consume enormous amounts of computer power to simulate 3-D situations, use more computer power than mainframe computers of the previous decade. The Sony PlayStation of today, which costs $300, has the power of a military supercomputer of 1997, which cost millions of dollars.

So the old paradigm (a single chip inside a desktop computer or laptop connected to a computer) is being replaced by a new paradigm (thousands of chips scattered inside every artifact, such as furniture, appliances, pictures, walls, cars, and clothes, all talking to one another and connected to the Internet).

When these chips are inserted into an appliance, it is miraculously transformed. When chips were inserted into typewriters, they became word processors. When inserted into telephones, they became cell phones. When inserted into cameras, they became digital cameras. Pinball machines became video games. Phonographs became iPods. Airplanes became deadly Predator drones. Each time, an industry was revolutionized and was reborn. Eventually, almost everything around us will become intelligent. Chips will be so cheap they will even cost less than the plastic wrapper and will replace the bar code. Companies that do not make their products intelligent may find themselves driven out of business by their competitors that do.

Of course, we will still be surrounded by computer monitors, but they will resemble wallpaper, picture frames, or family photographs, rather than computers. Imagine all the pictures and photographs that decorate our homes today; now imagine each one being animated, moving, and connected to the Internet. When we walk outside, we will see pictures move, since moving pictures will cost as little as static ones.

The destiny of computers -- like other mass technologies like electricity, paper, and running water -- is to become invisible, that is, to disappear into the fabric of our lives, to be everywhere and nowhere, silently and seamlessly carrying out our wishes.

Today, when we enter a room, we automatically look for the light switch, since we assume that the walls are electrified. In the future, the first thing we will do on entering a room is to look for the Internet portal, because we will assume the room is intelligent. As novelist Max Frisch once said, "Technology [is] the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it."

We have to ask: How long can this computer revolution last? If Moore's law holds true for another fifty years, it is conceivable that computers will rapidly exceed the computational power of the human brain. By midcentury, a new dynamic will occur. As George Harrison once said, "All things must pass." Even Moore's law must end, and with it the spectacular rise of computer power that has fueled economic growth for the past half-century.

Today, we take it for granted, and in fact believe it is our birthright, to have computer products of ever-increasing power and complexity. This is why we buy new computer products every year, knowing that they are almost twice as powerful as last year's model. But if Moore's law collapses -- and every generation of computer products has roughly the same power and speed of the previous generation -- then why bother to buy new computers?

Since chips are placed in a wide variety of products, this could have disastrous effects on the entire economy. As entire industries grind to a halt, millions could lose their jobs, and the economy could be thrown into turmoil.

Years ago, when we physicists pointed out the inevitable collapse of Moore's law, traditionally the industry pooh-poohed our claims, implying that we were crying wolf. The end of Moore's law was predicted so many times, they said, that they simply did not believe it.

But not anymore.

Two years ago, I keynoted a major conference for Microsoft at their main headquarters in Seattle, Washington. Three thousand of the top engineers at Microsoft were in the audience, waiting to hear what I had to say about the future of computers and telecommunications. Staring out at the huge crowd, I could see the faces of the young, enthusiastic engineers who would be creating the programs that will run the computers sitting on our desks and laps. I was blunt about Moore's law, and said that the industry has to prepare for this collapse. A decade earlier, I might have been met with laughter or a few snickers. But this time I only saw people nodding their heads.

So the collapse of Moore's law is a matter of international importance, with trillions of dollars at stake. But precisely how it will end, and what will replace it, depends on the laws of physics. The answers to these physics questions will eventually rock the economic structure of capitalism.

To understand this situation, it is important to realize that the remarkable success of the computer revolution rests on several principles of physics. First, computers have dazzling speed because electrical signals travel at near the speed of light, which is the ultimate speed in the universe. In one second, a light beam can travel around the world seven times or reach the moon. Electrons are also easily moved around and loosely bound to the atom (and can be scraped off just by combing your hair, walking across a carpet, or by doing your laundry -- that's why we have static cling). The combination of loosely bound electrons and their enormous speed allows us to send electrical signals at a blinding pace, which has created the electric revolution of the past century.

Second, there is virtually no limit to the amount of information you can place on a laser beam. Light waves, because they vibrate much faster than sound waves, can carry vastly more information than sound. (For example, think of stretching a long piece of rope and then vibrating one end rapidly. The faster you wiggle one end, the more signals you can send along the rope. Hence, the amount of information you can cram onto a wave increases the faster you vibrate it, that is, by increasing its frequency.) Light is a wave that vibrates at roughly 1014 cycles per second (that is 1 with 14 zeros after it). It takes many cycles to convey one bit of information (a 1 or a 0). This means that a fiber-optic cable can carry roughly 1011 bits of information on a single frequency. And this number can be increased by cramming many signals into a single optical fiber and then bundling these fibers into a cable. This means that, by increasing the number of channels in a cable and then increasing the number of cables, one can transmit information almost without limit.

Third, and most important, the computer revolution is driven by miniaturizing transistors. A transistor is a gate, or switch, that controls the flow of electricity. If an electric circuit is compared to plumbing, then a transistor is like a valve controlling the flow of water. In the same way that the simple twist of a valve can control a huge volume of water, the transistor allows a tiny flow of electricity to control a much larger flow, thereby amplifying its power.

At the heart of this revolution is the computer chip, which can contain hundreds of millions of transistors on a silicon wafer the size of your fingernail. Inside your laptop there is a chip whose transistors can be seen only under a microscope. These incredibly tiny transistors are created the same way that designs on T-shirts are made.

Designs on T-shirts are mass-produced by first creating a stencil with the outline of the pattern one wishes to create. Then the stencil is placed over the cloth, and spray paint is applied. Only where there are gaps in the stencil does the paint penetrate to the cloth. Once the stencil is removed, one has a perfect copy of the pattern on the T-shirt.

Likewise, a stencil is made containing the intricate outlines of millions of transistors. This is placed over a wafer containing many layers of silicon, which is sensitive to light. Ultraviolet light is then focused on the stencil, which then penetrates through the gaps of the stencil and exposes the silicon wafer.

Then the wafer is bathed in acid, carving the outlines of the circuits and creating the intricate design of millions of transistors. Since the wafer consists of many conducting and semiconducting layers, the acid cuts into the wafer at different depths and patterns, so one can create circuits of enormous complexity.

One reason why Moore's law has relentlessly increased the power of chips is because UV light can be tuned so that its wavelength is smaller and smaller, making it possible to etch increasingly tiny transistors onto silicon wafers. Since UV light has a wavelength as small as 10 nanometers (a nanometer is a billionth of a meter), this means that the smallest transistor that you can etch is about thirty atoms across.

But this process cannot go on forever. At some point, it will be physically impossible to etch transistors in this way that are the size of atoms. You can even calculate roughly when Moore's law will finally collapse: when you finally hit transistors the size of individual atoms.

Around 2020 or soon afterward, Moore's law will gradually cease to hold true and Silicon Valley may slowly turn into a rust belt unless a replacement technology is found. Transistors will be so small that quantum theory or atomic physics takes over and electrons leak out of the wires. For example, the thinnest layer inside your computer will be about five atoms across. At that point, according to the laws of physics, the quantum theory takes over. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle states that you cannot know both the position and velocity of any particle. This may sound counterintuitive, but at the atomic level you simply cannot know where the electron is, so it can never be confined precisely in an ultrathin wire or layer and it necessarily leaks out, causing the circuit to short-circuit. According to the laws of physics, eventually the Age of Silicon will come to a close, as we enter the Post-Silicon Era.

Excerpted from Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku Copyright (c) 2011 by Michio Kaku.

Michio Kaku is a professor of physics at the CUNY Graduate Center, a co-founder of string field theory and the author of several science books. His new book is "Physics of the Future."

iOrgasms 4 iPad 2

Easily the greatest change in computers and internet over the last year is the rise in popularity of cheaper portable netbook laptops and tablets over the once dominating force in computing of desktop PCs. Leading this movement has been the iPad, and credit again must go to Steve Jobs for seeing a consumer desire before others could.
But the original iPad is yesterday's news, and the iPad 2 is out. Sequels usually suck: does it in this case?

Nope. It's getting rave reviews, including one from ComputerWorld.com:

"I said a year ago that the iPad was computing's Next Leap Forward. After a year of using that device, and speaking to other iPad owners -- especially those who aren't techies -- I have to say that the iPad may really be the closest thing to a perfect computer. I don't say that lightly, either.

If we were to define the Holy Grail of computing, I bet the definition would be something like this: an easy-to-operate device with built-in environmentally aware sensors, cameras and wireless access to data and communications with other devices; a device that features intuitive app installation and deletion and the ability to add capabilities not originally included; a device that can operate for long periods of time with no wires, yet still has access to endless libraries of videos, books, music and data; a mobile device with a screen that adapts to how it's held; a device that can be used by doctors to help patients, mechanics to diagnose cars, and by pre-schoolers and seniors to learn; something that can be used by the hearing- and sight-disabled, by musician, lawyers and athletes.

In short, it would be a device that can be pretty much anything to anyone -- at home or at work -- turn on instantly and operate day in and day out, without maintenance, fear of malware, or the need to troubleshoot. And it has to be portable, preferably held in a single hand.

That, to me, is the Holy Grail of computing: a device not based around a checklist of hardware specs, but one that actually gets out of the way of doing stuff. Until the iPad arrived last year, such a device existed only in science fiction. The updated iPad 2, in concert with the App Store and a growing ecosystem of peripherals, completes the evolution. Compared to other tablets, it remains without rival.

Let me explain that last point. Given the definition of the word rivals -- 'a competition for over-all superiority' -- I would say that without major software refinements the current competition in the tablet space is no more a rival to the iPad 2 than I am a rival to Michael Jordan. Just because we both play basketball, doesn't put us in the same league.

If you need or want a tablet, get an iPad 2."

Apple's iPad 2 is the 'Holy Grail' of computing
Michael deAgonia
March 13, 2011

For the First Time, More People Get News Online Than From Newspapers

Jolie O'Dell

As of the end of 2010, more people get their news from the Internet than from newspapers — and more ad dollars went to online outlets than to newspapers, too.

In surveys conducted by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, 34% of respondents said they read news online within the past 24 hours (as opposed to 31% who favored newspapers); and a full 41% said they get most of their news online, 10% more than those who said they got most of their news from a newspaper.

Of course, the 18-to-29-year-old group overwhelmingly cast their vote with the web; 65% said the Internet was their main news source.

Poynter’s annual State of the Media report showed that the web was the second most popular source of news; local television news is still the number one source for the majority of people. Local TV also led in revenues, with digital media coming in second.

Also, online news media was the only medium that saw growth year-over-year; from radio to television to newspapers and magazines, every other medium saw a decline in audience.

In general, it can be said that text-based news audiences are dwindling. Only 40% of people in the study said they read the news in an online or print newspaper, a 12% drop from five years ago.

Last year marks the first time online advertising outpaced newspaper advertising. The sector grew 13.9% between 2009 and 2010 to reach a $25.8 billion total. Not all of that ad spend went to online news publications; in fact, search advertising continues to dominate the online ad spend landscape.

We’ve been watching the web’s impact on journalism for quite some time — both how the Internet is affecting newsrooms and newspapers and how it’s changing the way viewers and readers get news. With many outlets beefing up their online and mobile strategies even as print sales decline, the figures from Poynter’s research are nostalgia-inducing and predictable at the same time.

After all, once The New York Times admits print’s days are numbered, it’s pretty much a long, slow and painful downward spiral to the point that the newspaper, like the vinyl record, is a relic for collectors and anachronists.

For now, though, we continue to look forward. The Pew Project’s research showed that almost half of Americans in a survey said they got at least some of their news on a mobile device or tablet. And as tablet makers, app makers and news outlets continue to perfect the news consumption experience on that form factor, we’ll have a whole new breed to analyze and fret over this time next year.

Publishers V Libraries on E-Books

From NYTimes.com:
Imagine the perfect library book. Its pages don’t tear. Its spine is unbreakable. It can be checked out from home. And it can never get lost.

The value of this magically convenient library book — otherwise known as an e-book — is the subject of a fresh and furious debate in the publishing world. For years, public libraries building their e-book collections have typically done so with the agreement from publishers that once a library buys an e-book, it can lend it out, one reader at a time, an unlimited number of times.

Last week, that agreement was upended by HarperCollins Publishers when it began enforcing new restrictions on its e-books, requiring that books be checked out only 26 times before they expire. Assuming a two-week checkout period, that is long enough for a book to last at least one year.

What could have been a simple, barely noticed change in policy has galvanized librarians across the country, many of whom called the new rule unfair and vowed to boycott e-books from HarperCollins, the publisher of Doris Lessing, Sarah Palin and Joyce Carol Oates.

“People just felt gobsmacked,” said Anne Silvers Lee, the chief of the materials management division of the Free Library of Philadelphia, which has temporarily stopped buying HarperCollins e-books. “We want e-books in our collections, our customers are telling us they want e-books, so I want to be able to get e-books from all the publishers. I also need to do it in a way that is not going to be exorbitantly expensive.”

But some librarians said the change, however unwelcome, had ignited a public conversation about e-books in libraries that was long overdue. While librarians are pushing for more e-books to satisfy demand from patrons, publishers, with an eye to their bottom lines, are reconsidering how much the access to their e-books should be worth.

“People are agitated for very good reasons,” said Roberta Stevens, the president of the American Library Association. “Library budgets are, at best, stagnant. E-book usage has been surging. And the other part of it is that there is grave concern that this model would be used by other publishers.”

Even in the retail marketplace, the question of how much an e-book can cost is far from settled. Publishers resisted the standard $9.99 price that Amazon once set on many e-books, and last spring, several major publishers moved to a model that allows them set their own prices.

This month, Random House, the lone holdout among the six biggest trade publishers, finally joined in switching to the agency model. Now many newly released books are priced from $12.99 to $14.99, while discounted titles are regularly as low as $2.99.

HarperCollins, in its defense, pointed out that its policy for libraries was a decade old, made long before e-books were as popular as they are today. The new policy applies to newly acquired books. “We have serious concerns that our previous e-book policy, selling e-books to libraries in perpetuity, if left unchanged, would undermine the emerging e-book ecosystem, hurt the growing e-book channel, place additional pressure on physical bookstores, and in the end lead to a decrease in book sales and royalties paid to authors,” the company said in a statement.

It is still a surprise to many consumers that e-books are available in libraries at all. Particularly in the last several years, libraries have been expanding their e-book collections, often through OverDrive, a large provider of e-books to public libraries and schools. Nationwide, some 66 percent of public libraries offer free e-books to their patrons, according to the American Library Association.

For many libraries, interest from patrons who want to check out e-books has been skyrocketing. At the New York Public Library, e-book use is 36 percent higher than it was only one year ago. Demand has been especially strong since December, several librarians said, because e-readers were popular holiday gifts.

“As our readership goes online, our materials dollars are going online,” said Christopher Platt, the director of collections and circulating operations for the New York Public Library.

In borrowing terms, e-books have been treated much like print books. They are typically available to one user at a time, often for a seven- or 14-day period. But unlike print books, library users don’t have to show up at the library to pick them up — e-books can be downloaded from home, onto mobile devices, personal computers and e-readers, including Nooks, Sony Readers, laptops and smartphones. (Library e-books cannot be read on Amazon’s Kindle e-reader.) After the designated checkout period, the e-book automatically expires from the borrower’s account.

The ease with which e-books can be borrowed from libraries — potentially turning e-book buyers into e-book borrowers — makes some publishers uncomfortable. Simon & Schuster and Macmillan, two of the largest trade publishers in the United States, do not make their e-books available to libraries at all.

“We are working diligently to try to find terms that satisfy the needs of the libraries and protect the value of our intellectual property,” John Sargent, the chief executive of Macmillan, said in an e-mail. “When we determine those terms, we will sell e-books to libraries. At present we do not.”

And those publishers that do make their e-books available in libraries said that the current pricing agreements might need to be updated...

Publisher Limits Shelf Life for Library E-Books
March 14, 2011

Al Franken: ‘They're coming after the Internet’

MIKE ZAPLER | 3/14/11

AUSTIN, Texas — Sen. Al Franken claimed Monday that big corporations are "hoping to destroy" the Internet and issued a call to arms to several hundred tech-savvy South by Southwest attendees to preserve net neutrality.

"I came here to warn you, the party may be over," Franken said. "They're coming after the Internet hoping to destroy the very thing that makes it such an important [medium] for independent artists and entrepreneurs: its openness and freedom.”

Net neutrality, he added, is "the First Amendment issue of our time."

Receiving a hero's welcome from the liberal crowd, Franken took repeated shots at big telecoms, singling out Comcast.

He said Comcast is looking to change the basic architecture of the Web by implementing a pricing scheme that allows moneyed interests to pay for faster speeds, leaving everyone else behind. That would be a particularly bad development for the independent musicians and artists gathered here, he said.

"The real end for Comcast is to put Netflix out of business entirely," Franken said, because of the threat that Netflix's streaming video business could pose to Comcast's cable franchise. "In the end, the American people will end up paying a lot more for worse service."

Comcast is now embroiled in a dispute with Level 3, a networking company that carries online video feeds for Netflix, over fees Comcast wants to charge to carry the high-bandwidth content.

In response to Franken’s comments, a Comcast spokeswoman said Monday that the dispute with Level 3 isn’t about net neutrality but is “a peering issue.” “Under the FCC order for the Comcast NBCU transaction, Comcast is required to comply with the FCC’s recent open Internet rules even if they are overturned in court. Our customers can access all Netflix content,” said Sena Fitzmaurice, Comcast’s vice president of government communications.

Franken, who was an aggressive opponent of the Comcast acquisition of NBC Universal, implored SXSW attendees to fight the political influence of the big telecom firms.

"Unfortunately one thing these big corporations have that we don't is the ability to purchase favorable political outcomes," he said. "Big telecoms have lots of [lobbyists], and good ones, too. ... The end of net neutrality would benefit no one but these corporate giants."

Franken said talk of a "government takeover" of the Internet by net neutrality critics has as much credibility as claims of "death panels" in the health care legislation and claims that "Obama's a Muslim," calling them a "pantheon of lies."

Franken finished up his half-hour speech by imploring the crowd to preserve net neutrality to avoid a future in which they're "stuck listening to the Black Eyed Peas and reminiscing about the days before you had to sell out to make it.”

“Let's not let the government sell us out,” he said. “Let's fight for net neutrality. Let's keep Austin weird. Let's keep the Internet weird. Let's keep the Internet free."

Man Up!: 367 Classic Skills for the Modern Guy

A nice counterpoint to Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys, the shrill new book by Kay Hymowitz...

From Amazon:

Man Up!: 367 Classic Skills for the Modern Guy
Paul O'Donnell (Author)
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From career to relationships and grooming to gaming and more, the guys’ ultimate man-ual for living.

For every guy too intimidated to ask a question for fear of seeming inexperienced and unworldly, here’s a book to answer all (or most!) of life’s pressing quandaries: How do you break off a friendship when it’s not working any longer? What should you cook when a date is coming over for dinner? How do you buy a used car and not get totally taken for a ride? How do you stop a charging dog?

In Man Up!, journalist Paul O’Donnell and his team of knowledgable experts tackle 367 of these tough questions, imparting their advice in short to-the-point answers. Organized thematically, Man Up! is packed with essential advice delivered in prose that is as entertaining to read as it is helpful and clever. The tips run the gamut—from how to mix up a killer punch for a party to how to throw a punch when there is no other way out. Hip, engaging line drawings help to illustrate the advice, providing more than just sight gags. For every young man newly embarking on his independent adult life and for a guy at any age wanting to brush up on his skills, Man Up! is like having a trusted friend helping you along the way—except this friend has all the right answers!

About the Author

Paul O'Donnell started his journalism career answering letters from disgruntled readers at Newsweek magazine, where he went on to cover all aspects of American life, from baseball strikes to Christian rock. He was a senior features editor at House & Garden magazine. Paul blogs on pop culture for Beliefnet.com, and his writing has appeared in Wired, New York magazine, Slate, and Commonweal among other publications. He lives on Long Island with his wife and three children.
Product Details
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Artisan (April 28, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 157965391X
ISBN-13: 978-1579653910




David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams teamed up in 1980 to direct the spoof to end, or rather, start all spoofs. Airplane! took the disaster movie genre and wrung every hilarious contrivance from it, distilled the essence and presented audiences with pure comedy gold. With jokes and sight gags fired at a machine-gun pace, there is nary a minute of this film that isn’t funny, even after years of multiple viewings. Let’s take a look back.

Basing the story on movies like Zero Hour!, Airport and Airport 1975, the Zucker/Abrahams comedy machine showed us what happens during an ill-fated flight across country. The lead character, Ted Striker–played by Robert Hays–is a troubled ex-military pilot who has developed a fear of flying and a drinking problem (the problem being that he can’t accurately aim liquids into his mouth). Hopelessly in love, he boards a plane at the last minute to win back his long-lost sweetheart, stewardess Elaine.

The trouble begins when several of the passengers and the entire flight crew become incapacitated by food poisoning, causing Ted to reluctantly face his fears and take the plane’s controls. Ted must overcome his own troubled past, his issues with Elaine, a hostile air traffic controller and panicking passengers if he is to save the day.

That’s the plot in a nutshell (but that’s not important right now). There are hundreds of visual and verbal gags running throughout the movie, complimented by a plethora of notable cameos. NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a pilot named Roger, Peter Graves as the Captain of the aircraft (named Oveur), Barbara Billingsley (aka June Cleaver) as an old lady who speaks jive, Robert Stack as the hard-hitting Captain Kramer, Lloyd Bridges as the chief air traffic controller and Leslie Nielsen as the deadpan Dr. Rumack (who speaks the movie’s most famous line, “…and don’t call me Shirley”).

The inflatable autopilot, Otto, shares a tender moment with Elaine, Ted and Elaine’s first meeting is shown in flashback as a disco-infused spoof of Casablanca and Ethel Merman plays a shell-shocked veteran who thinks he’s Ethel Merman.

The Paramount-produced movie did serious business at the box office, prompting a sequel two years later with most of the cast returning for a sci-fi spoof (though the creators of the original opted out). The success of the Airplane! also inspired literally dozens of similar spoofs over the years, many of them quite good, but none that quite has the same charm as this iconic comedy.

Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century, the soundtrack

Richard Metzger

If I had to sit down and compile a list of my top favorite books—which would be difficult for me to do—there would most assuredly be a spot in the top fifty for Greil Marcus’s sprawling, idiosyncratic and essential, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century.

This book is about a single serpentine fact: late in 1976 a record called Anarchy in the U.K. was issued in London, and this event launched a transformation of pop music all over the world. Made by a four-man rock ‘n’ roll band called the Sex Pistols, and written by singer Johnny Rotten, the song distilled, in crudely poetic form, a critique of modern society once set out by a small group of Paris-based intellectuals.

Lipstick Traces, well, traces the critique of capitalism from the Dada art movement through the Situationist International and the May 1968 uprisings in Paris, through to the Sex Pistols and the punk rock explosion. In other words, it is the hidden history of the artistic opposition to capitalist society. It was heavily influenced by the revolutionary avant-garde punk zine “Vague” (a parody of Vogue, if that’s not obvious). I was reading “Vague” from my late teens—I still have most issues—and it had a great deal to do with shaping how I see the world. Marcus cribbed a lot from Tom Vague for Lipstick Traces, which is not to take anything away from Greil Marcus at all, but to simply give credit where its due.

Although I can recall a lot of criticism that was leveled at Lipstick Traces by reviewers when it first came out, the book’s thesis was, in my opinion, on pretty firm ground. It has certainly stood the test of time and has remained in print to this day. I’m told that it’s often used in college courses, which is unsurprising. A twentieth anniversary edition of Lipstick Traces was published by Harvard Press in 2009

But what many ardent admirers of the book don’t know, it that Rough Trade released a companion “soundtrack” CD to Lipstick Traces that came out in 1993. Like the book, it’s always had pride of place in my vast collection of “stuff.” The CD was rarely encountered in a world prior to Amazon.com (there’s not even a listing for it on Amazon today, either) but now, thanks to the fine folks at Ubuweb, these rare audio documents, lovingly assembled by Marcus, can be heard again. The selection runs the gamut of weird old hillbilly folk, doo-wop, to punk rock from the Slits, Buzzcocks. Gang of Four, The Adverts, Kleenex/Liliput, The Raincoats, The Mekons, a recording of the audience at a Clash gig, and best of all, the blistering mutant be-bop of Essential Logic’s “Wake Up.” Interspersed between the music is spoken word material from French philosopher Guy Debord, Triatan Tzara, Richard Huelsenbeck and even Marie Osmond reciting a brain-damaged version of Hugo Ball’s nonsense poem “Karawane” that must be heard to be believed.

Official SMiLE announcement from Capitol/EMI Records

March 14th, 2011
David Beard

This is the official press release from Capitol/EMI:


Never-Before-Released Original 1966-’67 Album Sessions Compiled for 2CD and Digital Packages and Deluxe, Limited Edition Box Set

Hollywood, California - March 14, 2011 – Between the summer of 1966 and early 1967, The Beach Boys recorded, in several sessions, a bounty of songs and drafts for an album, SMiLE, that was intended to follow the band’s 1966 masterpiece, Pet Sounds. The sessions were ultimately shelved, and The Beach Boys’ SMiLE has never been released. With the full participation of original Beach Boys Al Jardine, Mike Love, and Brian Wilson, Capitol/EMI has collected and compiled the definitive collection, ‘The SMiLE Sessions,’ for worldwide release this year in multiple physical and digital configurations.

The SMiLE Sessions presents an in-depth overview of The Beach Boys' recording sessions for the enigmatic album, which has achieved legendary, mythical status for music fans around the world. The SMiLE Sessions will be released in 2CD and digital album packages and a deluxe, limited edition box set.

Co-produced by Mark Linett and Alan Boyd, all of The SMiLE Sessions’ physical and digital configurations will include an assembled album of core tracks, while the box set delves much deeper into the sessions, adding early song drafts, alternate takes, instrumental and vocals-only mixes, and studio chatter. The SMiLE Sessions invites the listener into the studio to experience the album's creation, with producer, singer and bassist Brian Wilson's vision leading the way as he guides his fellow Beach Boys, singer Mike Love, drummer Dennis Wilson, lead guitarist Carl Wilson, rhythm guitarist Al Jardine, and newest member Bruce Johnston (who'd replaced Brian Wilson in the touring group during 1965), through the legendary sessions.

"I'm thrilled that The Beach Boys' original studio sessions for SMiLE will be released for the first time, after all these years,” says Brian Wilson. “I'm looking forward to this collection of the original recordings and having fans hear the beautiful angelic voices of the boys in a proper studio release.”

“One of my favorite songs from the SMiLE sessions is ‘Wonderful’,” says Mike Love. “The song truly lives up to its title, as do many of the tracks on SMiLE. Cousin Brian was at his creative peak during those sessions. I’m unaware of anything that comes close in pop music.”

“I recently played some of my personal acetates from the SMiLE sessions and they held up really well,” says Al Jardine. “We would come home from touring and go straight into the studio to record. Brian couldn't wait to show us his latest ideas. We were recording SMiLE and Pet Sounds material simultaneously, so the tracks and vocals all have the same great quality. Most of the vocals were done at Columbia Studios in Hollywood, across the street from Western Studios, where most of the tracking was done.”

“For me, it's always been about the way Brian Wilson brilliantly composed and 'voiced' his amazing chord progressions and melodies,” says Bruce Johnston. “SMiLE really made me smile!”

“Personally, I loved it,” the late Carl Wilson said in 1994 of the SMiLE sessions (from the Don Was-directed documentary, Brian Wilson: I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times).

“In my opinion it makes Pet Sounds stink - that's how good it is,” the late Dennis Wilson told a journalist in 1966 of the planned SMiLE album.

What Brian Wilson brought to the table, in his effort to maintain The Beach Boys' position among the top rock 'n' roll bands of the day, was beyond what anyone could have expected. Beginning with “Good Vibrations,” then into SMiLE, Wilson had begun to construct songs in a modular form, crafting individual sections that would later be edited together to form a coherent whole. In several intense bursts of creative energy, Wilson, drawing on the talents of the finest studio musicians in Los Angeles and utilizing the best studio facilities available on any given day, laid down dozens and dozens of musical fragments, all designed to fit together in any number of possible combinations. No one had done this in pop music, and Wilson had just created “Good Vibrations,” The Beach Boys’ best-selling record in a long string of hits, by using this method. His next endeavor would be an album-length version of this unique and luxurious songwriting parlance: SMiLE.

In 1965, Brian Wilson had met an up-and-coming session keyboard player and songwriter, Van Dyke Parks. Noticing Parks' conversational eloquence, Wilsonfelt that he could help to volley The Beach Boys’ songwriting into the wave of broader-messaged and socially-conscious rock 'n' roll that would come to define the '60s. They were soon collaborating on keynote songs for SMiLE, including “Heroes and Villains,” the band’s follow-up single to “Good Vibrations.” Wilson and Parks would also co-write “Surf's Up,” “Vegetables,” “Cabin Essence,” “Do You Like Worms,” “Wonderful,” “Wind Chimes,” and other bits and pieces of theSMiLE tapestry. Parks also introduced Beat-Pop artist Frank Holmes to create album sleeve art and a booklet interpreting the album’s James Joyce-mode lyrics.

The reason SMiLE did not see a release in early 1967 had more to do with back room business that obscured the creative side of the program than anything else. In late 1966, The Beach Boys formed Brother Records, initially to produce outside artists. Soon, however, The Beach Boys would become embroiled in a court action with Capitol Records with the goal to become the top-selling artists on their self-owned, independent label. The group withheld “Heroes and Villains” and announced they would instead release “Vegetables” – recorded with the band’s own money in April of '67 – on Brother Records. By July of 1967, Capitol Records and The Beach Boys had come to terms, with Capitol agreeing to distribute the band’s Brother Records, and it was agreed that SMiLE was no longer to be the band’s next album.

The SMiLE Sessions’ global release date, complete track lists, and artwork will be unveiled soon.

“Surf's up, aboard a tidal wave, come about hard and join the young and often spring you gave. I heard the word, wonderful thing... a children's song... ”

- from “Surf's Up” (Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks)


RIP Owsley "Bear" Stanley

From Reuters:
Owsley "Bear" Stanley, a 1960s counterculture figure who flooded the flower power scene with LSD and was an early benefactor of the Grateful Dead, died in a car crash in his adopted home country of Australia on Sunday, his family said. He was 76.

The renegade grandson of a former governor of Kentucky, Stanley helped lay the foundation for the psychedelic era by producing more than a million doses of LSD at his labs in San Francisco's Bay Area.

"He made acid so pure and wonderful that people like Jimi Hendrix wrote hit songs about it and others named their band in its honor," former rock 'n' roll tour manager Sam Cutler wrote in his 2008 memoirs "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

Hendrix's song "Purple Haze" was reputedly inspired by a batch of Stanley's product, though the guitarist denied any drug link. The ear-splitting psychedelic-blues combo Blue Cheer took its named from another batch.

Stanley briefly managed the Grateful Dead, and oversaw every aspect of their live sound at a time when little thought was given to amplification in public venues. His tape recordings of Dead concerts were turned into live albums, providing him with a healthy income in later life.

"When it came to technology, the Bear was one of the most far-out and interesting guys on the planet," Cutler wrote. "The first FM live simulcast could be, in part, attributed to his vision, as could the first quadraphonic simulcast on radio."

The Dead, a fabled rock band formed in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1965 known for its improvisational live concerts, wrote about him in their song "Alice D. Millionaire" after a 1967 arrest prompted a newspaper to describe Stanley as an "LSD millionaire."

Steely Dan's 1976 single "Kid Charlemagne" was loosely inspired by Stanley's exploits...

Psychedelic icon Owsley Stanley dies in Australia
Sun Mar 13, 2011

Farewell to the Sahara

One of the Las Vegas Strips oldest and most famous casinos, the Sahara Hotel, will be closing on May 16. As the Las Vegas Review-Journal notes:
"The Sahara opened in 1952 and was considered one of the last remaining haunts for the Rat Pack. The Sands, Dunes, Stardust, New Frontier and other historic Strip hotel-casinos have been imploded since the 1990s.

The Sahara was the setting for the original 'Ocean's Eleven' movie and the famous Congo Showroom hosted performers such as Johnny Carson, Tina Turner, Connie Francis, Pat Boone, Don Rickles, Dean Martin and the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. The Beatles also performed at the Sahara."

Today the Sahara is best known for its great steakhouse House of Lords and the NASCAR Cafe, which include the roller coaster Speed. The NASCAR Cafe also has the infamous six-pound B3 Burrito, which is free if you can finish it in 90 minutes. Konformist editor-in-chief Robert Sterling is planning to conquer it on May 1st: stay tuned for the battle...

Workers react to closing of Sahara
Howard Stutz
Mar. 11, 2011

Two and a Half Men Is Better Than None

Alec Baldwin
March 11, 2011

I read in the paper today that Conan O'Brien's documentary is out this weekend. The one that chronicles the purportedly healing journey/concert tour he went on after his messy divorce from NBC. I also read that Charlie Sheen is suing Warner Brothers for $100 million and the two of these things reminded me of one of the more character-building experiences that I had in my career, many years ago.

People often ask me why I never continued in the role of Jack Ryan in the movies based on Tom Clancy's great novels. Usually, I have given a half truth as an answer, something about scheduling conflicts and so forth. But the truth is the studio cut my throat. Or, more specifically, an executive at the studio named David Kirkpatrick who was, as studio executives are on their way both up and down the ladder, eager to prove he had that special quality that studio executives are eager to display. That quality is an utter lack of sentimentality while transacting deals around a business built on sentimentality.

The run of events in 1991 went like this. John McTiernan, who directed The Hunt For Red October, called me repeatedly over a period of a few days and that got my attention because John was not someone who did that. I knew it must be something important. I had been traveling to Syracuse to see my mother who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I had lost my dad in 1983 to lung cancer when he was fifty-five and the idea of being an orphan, technically speaking, at the age of 33 weighed heavily on me. It took a few rounds before John and I connected.

On the phone, John told me that during the period of the previous few months, he had been negotiating to do a film with a very famous movie star who had dropped out of his film days before so that he could go star in the sequels to The Hunt For Red October. John further told me that Paramount owed the actor a large sum of money for a greenlit film that fell apart prior to this, and pushing me aside would help to alleviate that debt and put someone with much greater strength at the box office than mine in the role. I sat there mildly stunned because not only was I in an active negotiation with Paramount, but for them to negotiate simultaneously with another actor was against the law. My mother was about to have a double mastectomy. I asked John if he was sure about all of this and he said yes, he had talked with the famous actor directly who confirmed the story. All of this served to explain why the studio would not close my deal over what I thought were some relatively arbitrary issues surrounding the dates of production.

I got a call from Mace Neufeld, the film's producer who I had worked with on Hunt. The call resembled that final scene in Sorry, Wrong Number (great film), where Burt Lancaster exhorts Barbara Stanwyck to get out of bed and scream for help lest she be killed by emissaries of Lancaster himself. Neufeld told me to sign whatever deal they were offering and "the rest would take care of itself."

I flew from Syracuse to Long Island to attend to some business. I drove to a friend's home where I was to have dinner and was informed by my assistant that I should call David Kirkpatrick right away. Kirkpatrick was a beady-eyed, untalented tool who had seemed like he was up to something throughout my sequel negotiation. Now, he became vividly clear. I had to decide if I would agree to an open-ended clause relating to dates for the first sequel and thus completely give up the chance to do one of the greatest dramas in the American theatre, or he would rescind my offer. They had the other guy all lined up, and they were looking for a way to gut me. I thought he wasn't serious at first. Then, when I realized he was, I chose A Streetcar Named Desire.

A lot changed in my life with that decision. And I do not regret it. The movie and television business are filled with some of the most wonderful and talented people you could ever know. It is also the rock under which you find the biggest, lyingest, thievingest scumbags on Earth. (They tend to be the ones that are not in any craft or union related to actually making a movie.) However, one of the great oddities in show business is how someone you respect can have a good experience with someone you loathe. Conan had a tough time reconciling Jeff Zucker's decisions. Maybe I would have too. Meanwhile, Jeff has only been supportive of me during my recent years at NBC. Go figure.

Conan has moved on and his great talent is undiminished by his difficult experiences. I had wanted to say to him back then what I will now offer to Charlie. You can't win. Really. You can't. When executives at studios and networks move up to the highest ranks, they are given a book. The book is called How to Handle Actors. And one principle held dear in that book is that no actor is greater than the show itself when the show is a hit. And, in that regard, they are often right. Add to that the fact that the actor who is torturing their diseased egos is a drug-addled, porn star-squiring, near-Joycean Internet ranter, and they really want you to go.

Granted, it didn't get real until you insulted them. And your suit may have real grounds.

But you know what you should do? Take a nap. Get a shower. Call Chuck. Go on Letterman and make an apology. Write a huge check to the B'Nai Brith. And then beg for your job back. Your fans demand it. You will never win because when you are as big a douchebag as some of these guys are, they have no choice but to snuff you. (Do you secretly want to get snuffed? So you can go back and make movies?)

Sober up, Charlie. And get back on TV, if it's not too late. This is America. You want to really piss off Chuck and Warner Brothers and CBS? Beg for America's forgiveness. They will give it to you. And then go back. You are a great television star. And you've got the gig. As I learned from closely observing Tony Bennett so I could impersonate him on SNL, this is supposed to be fun.

P.S.... buy Cryer a really nice car.

NFL Labor Pains and the Press Release that Redefined Chutzpah

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In struggle and sports,
Dave Zirin

Beyond all the self-pity and spin coming from the offices of National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell, here is the naked truth. We face the prospect of no football in 2011 because the players made a three word demand that would not have cost the owners a dime: open your books.

DeMaurice Smith and the NFL Players Association wanted 10 years of financial audits so they could see why the most successful sports league on earth was claiming to be financially embattled. They wanted to see how the owners could feel justified to ask for a rookie pay scale and 18% cuts in player compensation. They wanted to see how, despite all we now know about the brutal hazards of the sport, the owners could insist on adding two more regular season games. But the owners refused to open the books, offering instead “a single sheet of paper with two numbers on it.” This single sheet would only be available to the union after being vetted by an independent third-party.

It’s unclear why the owners have made a deal-breaking fetish of financial secrecy. We can only assume that the "books" would not be flattered by the light of day. We don't know whether their private ledgers would provoke the IRS to give the NFL something slightly less pleasant than a body cavity search. We don’t know if the audits would demonstrate that owners leveraged their franchises and then took a bath in the 2008 economic crash. We don’t know if individual NFL owners - like their MLB counterparts - lied to local governments so they could get more taxpayer cash for stadiums. Given the financial state of baseball’s New York Mets, whose owners flushed their liquidity by partnering up with a guy by the name of Bernie Madoff, you’d forgive us for fearing the worst.

The NFLPA also offered to consider all cuts in return for an ownership stake in the teams. The owners responding like the players arrived at negotiations wearing white after Labor Day. NFL lead counsel Bob Batterman reportedly responded, "My clients aren't interested in being partners with your guys." It’s this kind of plutocratic noblesse contempt that’s poisoned the well.

The NFL Players Association, feeling derided and disrespected has now decertified so they can sue the league and forestall the owners from shutting down the sport. Litigation isn't pretty, but going to the courts means that the NFLPA can get an injunction and prevent a lockout. An injunction means we will have football this fall.

The owners have responded by confusingly calling for a return to the bargaining table, while stating their intent to move forward with the lockout. This is like claiming to care about concussions while calling for two extra games a season.

After negotiations broke off, NFLPA leader DeMaurice Smith said, “As businessmen, we asked the owners two years ago to consider two basic tenets to getting a fair deal: financial transparency and the health and safety of our players. Financial transparency would help us reach a compromise. Even until the last moment, we were rebutted. And as for health and safety, that’s a non-negotiable issue. To our players, I will not ever yield on this point. There is no price tag for your arms, legs, backs, necks, shoulders and brains.”

Then the owners released a statement that took the chutzpah scale to new, unimagined heights. They wrote, "At a time when thousands of employees are fighting for their collective bargaining rights, this union has chosen to abandon collective bargaining in favor of a sham 'decertification' and antitrust litigation."

Gobsmacked does not begin to describe my reaction. NFL owners are people who in their personal politics, respect unions about as much as Peter King respects Ramadan (that's congressional Islamaphobic goon Peter King, not Starbucks-swilling NFL writer, Peter King.)

It would be nice to think their press release is simply a respectful tribute to the heroic struggles of the public sector unions. It would be nice to think that even NFL owners have been moved by the plight of Wisconsin's teachers, nurses, and ambulance drivers, but let's be real. The owners are trying to drive a wedge between working class fans and players by portraying the members of the union as greedy, entitled and out-of-touch.

Professional football players average three and a half years in the league. They severely injure their bodies, and die 22 years before the typical American male. Yet the owners would like us to see them as ungrateful, cloistered, creatures of privilege. If the owners really want to see people who match that description, they'd be better off investing in a mirror.

Dave Zirin is the author of “Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love” (Scribner) and just made the new documentary “Not Just a Game.” Receive his column every week by emailing dave@edgeofsports.com. Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com.