A 65-year-old Sao Paulo man visited his doctor complaining of sinus pain, swelling around his nose and worms coming out of his nose. That last should have been a big clue, for when doctors investigated further, by inserting a camera up the man’s nose, they discovered over 100 flesh-eating maggots chowing down on the poor man’s nasal cavity.
The maggots were burrowing, squelching, pulping up the man’s interior and doing that kinda gross maggotty thing maggots do. Doctors had to remove the maggots one by one being guided by the camera and using a saline solution.
The maggots were identified as Cochliomyia hominivorax (or the New World Screwworm) which is prevalent in Central and South America and in certain Caribbean Islands. Female adult flies lay batches of 200-400 eggs, in rows around a fresh wound on warm-blooded animals. The larvae then feast on the flesh. This 65-year-old was lucky, as the maggots could have eaten his face away from the inside.
Maybe you guys are already familiar with Bina48, one of the most sophisticated robots ever built. She’s modeled after a very real woman named Bina Aspen, wife of Dr.Martine Rothblatt. Rothblatt is the CEO of biotech outfit United Therapeutics.
More than just a robot, Bina48 is a “mind clone.” Bina Aspen spent more than 20 hours recalling her childhood experiences, life experiences and thoughts. The information was “then transcribed and uploaded to an artificial intelligence database.”
Bina48 cost over $125,000 to make over a course of three years and was built by robot designer David Hanson.
Bina48 recently was on a panel at SXSW which you can watch here. It’s really weird. Bina48 begins expressing how nervous she is in front of a large crowd and then tells a joke to calm everyone’s nerves. WAT?!
But here’s where shit gets real strange. A video of Bina48 having a conversation with Bina Aspen. Prepare yourself for a total head trip…
This series is called “Random Tweets Reformatted as Telegrams.” It’s an easy trick, but putting these “virtual” messages usually consumed on smartphone screens on old-timey telegrams more redolent of the Wild West or the Hindenburg crash or something, it just works.
Gute notes that “there are notable similarities between formats, such as the economy of words and syntax imposed by a limited number of characters,” which is certainly true. Plus, the last Western Union telegram, a medium that had existed for more than a century, coincided almost exactly with the first Tweet—there was a gap of almost two months—so it’s like the one short-form method of communication passed the baton on to the other.
When you first hear about the Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art, one immediately wonders whether its purpose is in any way therapeutic or perhaps that actually plays some kind of odd and unexpected research role. But no, the point appears to be far more mundane: some embroidery enthusiasts just find brain scans and fMRI images visually appealing and enjoy reproducing the vibrant and oftentimes striated outputs of the complex medical devices in the form of embroidered quilts.
“I couldn’t help but look at them with the eye of a quilter,” says Taylor, a psychologist at the University of Oregon and a key contributor to the museum’s holdings. “I thought the folds of the cerebral cortex would be great in velvet.” Taylor’s first piece was a quilt with a cerebral cortex in blue velvet on a silver background; it took her several years to complete four brain-scan quilts. “Not very many,” she admits. “They take a long time to do.”
Curator Bill Harbaugh, whose day job is economics professor at the University of Oregon, welcomes visitors to the site with the following message:
This is the world’s largest collection of anatomically correct fabric brain art. Inspired by research from neuroscience, dissection and neuroeconomics, our current exhibition features a rug based on fMRI imaging, a knitted brain from dissection, and three quilts with functional images from PET. The artists are Marjorie Taylor and Karen Norberg. Techniques used include traditional Nova Scotian rug hooking, quilting, applique, embroidery, beadwork, knitting, and crocheting. Materials include fabric, yarn, metallic threads, electronic components such as magnetic core memory, and wire, zippers, and beads.
While our artists make every effort to insure accuracy, we cannot accept responsibility for the consequences of using fabric brain art as a guide for functional magnetic resonance imaging, trans-cranial magnetic stimulation, neurosurgery, or single-neuron recording.
Marjorie Taylor, “Warm Glow, or fabricMRI: Bill’s Brain,” 2009
For the past several days, I have been having an absolute BLAST messing around with the beta for Liverpool, England-based web developer Errozero’s Acid Machine. I learned about it via Fact last week, and I don’t even know why I didn’t just post it here right away, but better later than never, no? The Acid Machine is a free browser-based electronic composition device based around the legendary Roland TB-303, and it’s great fun.
Some background for those who need it: Roland’s Transistorized Bass 303 was a unique example, in the history of sound producing devices, of abject failure redeemed. It was (mis)conceived as a bass accompaniment tool/toy for guitar players, and God only knows why—has any guitarist in history ever despaired of finishing a song for want of a bass player who sounded like a ‘50s b-movie robot enduring a painful gastric incident? Since its target market couldn’t have cared less, production of the little wonders was stopped in 1984, after just a year and a half of their existence. But the deeply messed up sounds it could produce were like mother’s milk to the burgeoning Acid House movement just a few years later. That wonderfully mind-bending squelch/fart noise common to all early Acid House tracks was made by hitherto unwanted 303s that found proper homes where they’d be loved and cared for. The sound became so sought-after among techno artists and the happy-face t-shirt crowd, it’s eternally baffling that Roland didn’t just start making them again. Original devices perpetually hover around $2,500-3,000 on eBay. A clone made by a company called Cyclone Analogic can be had for much less.
The device inspired software emulators just about as soon as software synthesis became widespread in the late ‘90s, including the still legendary ReBirth, which was discontinued ten years ago but lives on as a (FREE!) Reason plug-in, and as a $15 tablet app. There’s seriously no reason to spend three thousand dollars to chase that sound unless you’re a collector looking to possess one of the devices as a trophy. The Errozero Acid Machine is a simplified take on the ReBirth interface; it features two 303 simulators you can pit against one another, and a basic drum machine. You can store up to eight patterns for each device, and organize them into compositions with an intuitive sequencer. Like I said, I’ve been having a FINE old time with this. I don’t have a tablet, and there’s no phone version (the iPhone screen is frankly just too goddamn small for ReBirth’s many controls), so I’m loving the browser-based Acid Machine beta. Other useful functions: it will generate a URL to make your finished composition shareable, or it will generate a .wav file you can download and save. No MIDI output that I can see, but this is, again, a beta: the tiny-print reads “A work in progress web audio tool by Errozero - Works best in Chrome.” Perhaps the ability to output MIDI files is forthcoming?
If you’ve made your way this far through this post still having no earthly idea what the hell I’m talking about, “Acid Trax” by Phuture is as definitive as 303 songs come. It’s a slow build, but the distinctive device starts fading in at about 1:05.
This wonderful 20-minute doc on the devices tells you anything you’d want to know about them.
In 1963 Jim Henson‘s resume consisted almost entirely of six years at a Washington, D.C., television show called Sam and Friends. In 1963 that experience paid off, as he roped in a pretty sweet deal for Bell System—or “Ma Bell,” as the nationwide telephone company was known before the Justice Dept. broke it up into regional companies in 1984. Bell commissioned two movies for use at a Bell Data Communications Seminar, which AT&T later described as “elite seminars.”
The first movie, “Robot,” clocks in at a tidy 3 minutes and 18 seconds and focuses exclusively on the eponymous and humorous automaton, which Tara McGinley, in one of my favorite DM headlines, called an “angry, flatulent robot.” Spot on.
Typical of the movie’s humor is this introductory statement made by the robot:
“The machine possesses supreme intelligence, a faultless memory, and a beautiful soul. Correction: the machine does not have a soul. It has no bothersome emotions. While mere mortals wallow in a sea of emotionalism, the machine is busy digesting vast oceans of information in a single, all-encompassing gulp.”
The second movie, “Charlie Magnetico,” is twice as long and, I daresay, twice as funny. “Charlie Magnetico” uses the same robot used in “Robot” (albeit in a less flatulent mode) while also branching out to include comic footage of a rocket ship exploding as well as entire family of employees called the Magneticos—the humor here residing mainly in the idea that an entire multi-continental supply chain could be administered from a single shack in the woods. Playing Charlie Magnetico as well as his mother was Henson’s first hire, Jerry Juhl, whom Henson later credited with “developing much of the humor and character of his Muppets.”
On the busy streets of Kinshasa, capital of Democratic Republic of the Congo, there’s a new sheriff in town—or rather, there are some giant robots now directing traffic. A local taxi driver said (ominously), “There are certain drivers who don’t respect the traffic police. But with the robot it will be different. We should respect the robot.” Of course people will “respect” the robot! We’ve all seen Terminator!
Humanity’s inevitable fall to robot overlords aside, there are some real benefits to these machines, who have already proven successful after earlier trial runs in 2013. There impartial, they can’t be bribed, they actually record evidence and they appear to be just as capable of writing tickets and directing traffic as a flesh and blood cop. They’re also solar powered, and at $27,500, I’m guessing they cost less than employing cops round-the-clock.
I remain suspicious. If we’re not doomed to enslavement by massive metal fascists, why do these robot cops look so much like Doctor Who’s Cybermen??? They couldn’t have designed them all tiny and Japanese and cute? Mark my words, this is only the beginning!
I’ve already written an item for DM on Secret Weapons, David Cronenberg’s near-incomprehensible TV short from 1972 about a dystopian state that uses mind control drugs and a rebel biker gang that opposes it—in that movie, however, despite the stated existence of a biker gang, there were scarcely any motorcycles to be seen in it. That problem, at least, does not arise in Cronenberg’s 1976 short The Italian Machine.
It’s almost jaw-dropping how much progress Cronenberg had made between these two movies. The Italian Machine relinquishes all aspirations toward big-dick sci-fi in favor of a far more nuanced, engrossing, unfussy meditation on technology, art, decadence, and, shall we say, the pet obsessions of warring subcultures. The idea of the movie, which lasts only 23 minutes, is that a bunch of motorcycle buffs, having learned that an incredibly rare and high-quality Italian motorcycle, specifically a 1976 Ducati 900 Desmo Super Sport, has come into the possession of a local art enthusiast who intends to keep it in his living room as a sculpture, take on the moral imperative of liberating the machine from its outré confines and restoring it to its rightful purpose of kicking ass on the open road.
What The Italian Machine, which first appared on the CBC television program Teleplay, most resembles is a really good short story; more specifically it reminds me a great deal of J. G. Ballard, which isn’t very strange considering that Cronenberg adapted Ballard’s Crash a couple of decades later. In The Italian Machine, Lionel, Fred, and Bug are three motorcycle nuts who enjoy the kind of nerdy oneupmanship that probably features on every episode of The Big Bang Theory. Upon finding out the identity of the Ducati’s purchaser, one Edgar Mouette, they concoct a plan to pose as a magazine crew of photographers doing a spread on Mouette’s interiors. That Ballardian angle resides mainly in Mouette and his cohorts, philosophical aesthetes to the max (when they’re not taking cocaine). Once Lionel and his buddies gain entry, it is the viewer’s task to decide which side is the nuttier of the two. Eventually they do get ahold of the bike, at which point their own ability to fetishize the machine unexpectedly manifests itself.
Truly, a top-notch piece of work, very in line with the many dark masterpieces Cronenberg would make in the years to come.
As most of the world, if not the galaxy knows, Leonard Nimoy passed away last Friday, and his many fans have since been celebrating a truly singular pop culture hero, a completely unmistakable actor who found his ideal role, with which he was forever identified—and who was also by all accounts a decent and much-loved human being.
Nimoy’s death has resulted in some priceless artifacts making the rounds, such as this awesome pic of Nimoy and Jimi Hendrix hanging out. But for my money you can’t beat this piece of vintage video technology advertising from 1981, a nearly 11-minute clip of space age hucksterism for the new technology of laserdiscs (actually “Laser Video Discs”), with the most credible witness outer space has to offer, Mr. Spock himself. The item in question was the Magnavision VH-8000 laserdisc player, which Wikipedia has called “poorly designed and quite primitive consumer player.” Oh well.
Scored to the unmistakable disco strains of the Network Music Ensemble (”The New West” followed by the even more familiar “High Combustion”), the mustachio’d Nimoy’s famously clipped, minimal and yet humane delivery of his “dialogue” with a glowing space rock makes him one of the few actors on earth who could pull this off without making it seem farcical—and it’s still pretty funny as it is.
It’s a real treat to watch Nimoy feign incredulity at the system’s inclusion of stereophonic sound or the existence of chapters to enable easier scrolling. He’s not just selling the system to us, he’s introducing viewers to a whole new chapter in American entertainment—the living room entertainment system era.
And also you get to hear a little bit of ABBA’s “Take a Chance on Me” and “Gimme Gimme Gimme.” The video makes you want to spend an evening in your den watching The Electric Horseman, inspecting some Rembrandt masterpieces, or improving your understanding of football strategy, doesn’t it?
Wearables just got a whole lot more practical… and personal.
Pornhub, a website that probably needs no introduction, wants horny folk to “save the planet” with their new wearable, the Wankband (I can’t link to it or else Google will stop our ads, but use Google yourself if you’d like to find out more at their website). It’s a wristband device that recharges smartphones, laptops, digital cameras, tablets, and other tech devices with the motion of masturbation. You know, the hand-shandy. The five-knuckle shuffle. Mother Fist and her five daughters…
Every day, millions of hours of adult content are consumed online, wasting energy in the process and hurting the environment. At Pornhub we decided to do something about it. Introducing The Wankband: The first wearable tech that allows you to love the planet by loving yourself.
Tossers, want to be a beta, er, be(a)ta tester for this thing? I wonder if chronic masturbators can sell their er… excess energy to the utility companies? This could fundamentally transform the entire world!
“Ladies and gentleman, the power is in your hand,” learn more about this sexy time gadget in their animated video: