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Predictions about the year 2000 by Arthur C. Clarke from 1964 (and the Stanley Kubrick connection)

Clarke Kubrick
 
In his 1972 book The Lost Worlds of 2001, Arthur C. Clarke says that he met Stanley Kubrick in a Trader Vic’s on April 22, 1964. The two formed a fast partnership. In May of that year, Clarke and Kubrick began hammering out the basic ideas that would eventually become 2001: A Space Odyssey. They would use Clarke’s short story, “The Sentinel” as a jumping off point and, in order to generate a rich background for the film, they took the somewhat unusual approach of attempting to collaborate on the creation of a new novel “with an eye on the screen” before writing the screenplay (although, in reality, the process became much more blurred).

Right around the same time, Clarke appeared on the BBC series Horizon in September of 1964 where he discussed some of his predictions for the year 2000 and beyond. You can watch the fascinating appearance in the two clips below. Horizon, now its 50th year, had just aired its first episode on Buckminster Fuller in May of 1964. Clarke’s appearance was part of the 6th episode of the series entitled The Knowledge Explosion and it provides us with some interesting insight into his vision of the future and some of the concepts that he and Kubrick were likely contemplating. 

Clarke was keeping a detailed log of his work with Kubrick during this time period. To give the Horizon clips some context, here are a few of Clarke’s journal entries from 1964 as he and Kubrick went back and forth about their ideas for the novel and film. From The Lost Worlds of 2001:

May 31. One hilarious idea we won’t use. Seventeen aliens – featureless black pyramids – riding in open cars down Fifth Avenue, surrounded by Irish cops.

June 20. Finished the opening chapter, “View from the Year 2000,” and started on the robot sequence.

August 6. Stanley suggests that we make the computer female and call her Athena.

August 19. Writing all day. Two thousand words exploring Jupiter’s satellites. Dull work.

September 7. Stanley quite happy: “We’re in fantastic shape.” He has made up a 100-word questionnaire about our astronauts, e.g. do they sleep in their pajamas, what do they eat for breakfast, etc.

September 8. Upset stomach last night. Dreamed I was a robot, being rebuilt. In a great burst of energy managed to redo two chapters. Took them to Stanley, who was very pleased and cooked me a fine steak, remarking “Joe Levine doesn’t do this for his writers.”

September 29. Dreamed that shooting had started. Lots of actors standing around, but I still didn’t know the story line.

 

On Horizon, Clarke accurately predicts instantaneous communication via satellite between people across the globe and talks about putting space travelers in suspended animation to traverse long distances over huge periods of time just as the astronauts do in 2001. He also throws out some bizarre concepts like replacing human servants with bioengineered apes and dolphins, but as he says early in the first clip “If what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I’ll have failed completely.”

 

 
Part II after the jump…

Posted by Jason Schafer | Discussion
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John Cleese: FOX News viewers are too stupid to realize that they are stupid


Be afraid, be very afraid…

For some years now, I have been fascinated with the Dunning-Kruger effect. I believe it was some Internet writings by Errol Morris that first turned me on to the idea around 2007. It’s incredibly useful, I feel like I find a use for it almost every day. If nothing else, it’s a spur to humility, because we’re all susceptible to it. Some, ahem, far more than others.

In a 1999 article called “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments,” David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University came to the conclusion that the qualified are often more skeptical about their own abilities in a given realm than the unqualfied are. People who are unqualified or unintelligent are more likely to rate their own abilities favorably than people who are qualified or intelligent. In the paper, the authors wrote, “Across four studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd.”

However, people with actual ability tended to underrate their relative competence. Participants who found tasks to be fairly easy mistakenly assumed that the tasks must also be easy for others as well. As Dunning and Kruger conclude: “The miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.”
 

 
Charles Darwin put it most pithily in The Descent of Man when he wrote, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” As W.B. Yeats put it in The Second Coming: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” Apparently there is a scientific grounding for that line.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is unusually suitable in describing the many frustrating positions and rhetoric of the Republican Party. My favorite (if depressing) example of the Dunning-Kruger effect comes from the mouth of George W. Bush in the days before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. As Bob Woodward wrote in Plan of Attack:
 

The president said he had made up his mind on war. The U.S. should go to war.

“You’re sure?” Powell asked.

Yes. It was the assured Bush. His tight, forward-leaning, muscular body language verified his words. It was the Bush of the days following 9/11.

“You understand the consequences,” Powell said in a half-question. …

Yeah, I do, the president answered.

 
Yeah, I do, the president answered. What on earth could that utterance by Bush possibly mean? Could it not be clearer that what was in Bush’s head at that moment and what was in Powell’s head at that moment had very little to do with each other? In effect Powell was taking Bush’s word that Bush had seriously considered the consequences of invasion, when to be frank, all available evidence, both at the time and later on, suggests that Bush was foolhardy about what the actual consequences of invasion might be.
 

 
Earlier this year, the research of Dunning and Kruger was referenced by a relatively unlikely source: John Cleese, the brilliant comedian who famously portrayed one of the single most obtuse and supercilious characters in TV history, Basil Fawlty. Cleese believes FOX’s viewership is too unintelligent to put the proper brakes on their own thought processes: “The problem with people like this is that they are so stupid that they have no idea how stupid they are. You see, if you’re very, very stupid, how can you possibly realize that you’re very, very stupid, you’d have to be relatively intelligent to realize how stupid you are.”

Apparently Cleese and Dunning are pals—he says so in the video, anyway. Here, have a look:
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Real-life ‘Rosie the Maid’ robot actually existed in England in 1966
09.23.2014
11:54 am

Topics:
Science/Tech
Television

Tags:
robots
The Jetsons


 
An entire generation of kids was brainwashed by the creative folks at Hanna-Barbera into thinking that the future would consist of treadmill sidewalks, levitating high schools in the clouds, and family-sized flying saucers for the commute. It’s hard to watch The Jetsons today and not think, “Boy, they really thought about resources differently in the 1960s.” (Actually, this radio program from the Canadian Broadcast Company argues that The Jetsons got more right than you’d suspect…. can you say Roomba?)

One of the prime objects of techno-fetishization was the Jetsons’ maid, called Rosie, who (per Wikipedia) was an outdated model but so beloved by the family that they would never think to replace her. I also didn’t realize until researching it today that most of the Jetsons episodes were made in the 1980s—in fact, Rosie appeared in only two episodes in the original 1962-1963 run and was a more frequent premise in the 1980s episodes.

Anyway, we think of that kind of robot as existing purely in the future, but a man named Dennis Weston who lived in Leeds, England, created a reasonable—and working—facsimile of Rosie almost at the same time as those original Jetsons episodes. As early as 1966, Weston created “Tinker,” a remote-controlled robot that could wash the car, weed the garden, take the baby for a stroll down the road, and go shopping. The catch was that Tinker couldn’t travel more than 200 yards of David’s garage, where he controlled Tinker through a control panel. Due to lack of space at David’s home the robot was eventually passed on to a family friend in 1974. Tinker was activated by 430 motors, and a TV camera in the robot’s head transmitted an image to the operator.

Weston died in 1995 at the age of 71. The Cybernetic Zoo blog received a message from Weston’s son Martin in 2012, according to which “Tinker was given to his Dad’s friend, Brian, in 1974 as Dennis no longer had the space available to keep it. Brian owned a shop called Leeds Radio during the 60s and 70s; he sold army surplus radio equipment. Most of the gear that went through Brian’s shop was eventually stripped down and sold off as spare parts. Unfortunately, the same thing probably happened to Tinker. ... Percy was just another one of Martin’s Dad’s 10,000 unfinished projects. It never got completed and the hand just accumulated dust under a pile of junk in Dennis’ cellar/workshop. It probably ended up being melted down for scrap.”

One of the images below states that Tinker “can be programmed to perform ‘any reasonable task.’” Given the apparent importance of user control during those tasks, it’s a little unclear what “programmed” could really mean here…...
 

 

 

 

 
Here’s Weston working on his follow-up to Tinker, named Percy:
 

 

 
Here’s an early Jetsons sampler from 1963:
 

 
via Voices of East Anglia

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘The Diatomist’: Explore the creation of microscopic kaleidoscopic Victorian-era artforms


 
The Diatomist is a short documentary about Klaus Kemp, master of the Victorian art of diatom arrangement.

Diatoms are single cell algae that can be found virtually anywhere where there is standing water. Drains, ponds, bird baths, that’s where they live, invisible to the naked eye until the discovery of the microscope. For protection, the tiny organisms create a glass-like shell around themselves, almost like they are living jewels. During the Victorian era, microscopists would arrange diatoms into elaborate and kaleidoscopic patterns—think of it as a rough equivalent of building a ship in a bottle, but with some of the tiniest microorganism to be found on Earth. Their meticulous works, marrying art and science could only be viewed under a microscope.

Since he was a teenager, Mr. Kemp has devoted his career to creating stunning diatom arrangements and is acknowledged as the last great practitioner of this artform. Matthew Killip’s exquisitely beautiful short film The Diatomist showcases his incredible work.
 

 
Director’s Statement:

I’m really interested in the way people interact with the natural world (I’ve previously made a series of short documentaries for UK TV about working relationships with monkeys and apes. I’m also a huge admirer of the Victorian naturalists ... So I was very excited when I recently saw my first Diatom arrangements, by the German master JD Möller (1844 - 1907).  The arrangements really embody that beautiful combination of art and science one can find in the period, and I loved seeing the hand of man display the work of nature so beautifully. The overwhelming variety and intricacy of diatoms can’t help but recall Darwin: “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

I was very curious to see if anyone still practiced diatom arrangement and also to find out how it was done. I managed to track down Klaus Kemp in the UK—he’s really the only person doing this to a professional level (he’s able to make a living from a small base of collectors) - and filmed with him for one afternoon in December 2013. During the filming Klaus told me all the Victorian diatomists took their secrets to the grave, so there was no accurate information on the practice when he first started, aged sixteen. It has taken him years to be able to create these stunning microscopic slides of arranged diatoms, and although The Diatomist is a modest short film I hope it does some justice to what really is Klaus’ life’s work.

 

 
All diatom arrangements and photographs by Klaus Kemp. Soundtrack by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Bernard Herrmann and Cults Percussion Ensemble.

Matthew Killip is an English filmmaker living in New York. His documentaries have been broadcast on UK television and exhibited in festivals around the world including Sundance and True/False.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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If everyone wore this mask, Big Brother’s facial recognition software won’t work


 
As with so much else, William Gibson got there before just about everyone else. In his 1984 novel Neuromancer, which despite its deservedly huge rep probably still doesn’t get name-checked as often as it should, Gibson foresaw the utility of citizen camouflage, the political necessity to stay anonymous, to hide in plain sight. Here are a couple of quotations from Neuromancer:
 

The Panther Modern leader, who introduced himself as Lupus Yonderboy, wore a polycarbon suit with a recording feature that allowed him to replay backgrounds at will. Perched on the edge of Case’s worktable like some sort of state of the art gargoyle, he regarded Case and Armitage with hooded eyes.

-snip-

The precis began with a long hold on a color still that Case at first assumed was a collage of some kind, a boy’s face snipped from another image and glued to a photograph of a paint-scrawled wall. Dark eyes, epicanthic folds obviously the result of surgery, an angry dusting of acne across pale narrow cheeks. The Hosaka released the freeze; the boy moved, flowing with the sinister grace of a mime pretending to be a jungle predator. His body was nearly invisible, an abstract pattern approximating the scribbled brickwork sliding smoothly across his tight one piece. Mimetic polycarbon.

 
Those things were written thirty years ago. It’s now 2014, and we’ve all seen Facebook find the faces in our pictures with alarming alacrity.

Leo Selvaggio wants to do something about it, and he wants to use the logic of crowdsourcing to do it. Using 3D printing technology, Selvaggio has developed a simple, hard resin mask based on his own face, and he would like as many people as possible to use it in public settings, to confound the cameras that are always watching us and tracking our movements. It’s called the URME Personal Surveillance Identity Prosthetic. The mask is an abstraction, but a highly effective one. If you saw someone with this face on the street, you wouldn’t stop to take notice—which is part of the point. It faithfully reproduces Selvaggio’s own pasty skin tone and understated stubble in a way that blends in. The mask costs $200 but you can also procure a paper version if that is too pricey for you. The whole idea is radical enough that some countries have anti-mask laws.
 

 
You aren’t the only who benefits when you wear an URME mask in public—you’re also helping Leo himself hide. “What is actually happening is that you’re creating disinformation,” he says. “What happens when there’s a hundred Leos walking in public spaces, all from different parts of the country? What is an automated system going to say about me then?” But it doesn’t—can’t—stop with Leo’s face. Responding to a questioner who volunteered to be his “black face” on the video for his Indiegogo project (see below), which was successfully funded, Leo wrote back, “Actually the next phase of the project involves asking others to donate their faces so that there is a variety of prosthetics and masks available.”

Selvaggio hails from Chicago, which he asserts is “the most surveilled city” in the U.S.—it’s home to Operational Virtual Field, a system of 24,000 cameras all networked into a single hub that enables users—the police—to find a specific individual and then bring up any other relevant records in the system. The ACLU has called Operation Virtual Field, “a pervasive and unregulated threat to our privacy,” even as Richard M. Daley, Chicago’s last mayor, gleefully predicted that by 2016, there will be a camera on “almost every block.”

As always, it’s virtually impossible to navigate the Scylla of the right to privacy and autonomy and the Charybdis of public safety. Will the URME mask enable bank robbers and bombers of the Boston Marathon type to do their business? Will the teenagers who tagged your local high school use it to perpetrate their harmless mayhem? Very likely, yes. We’re all worried about that. But the flip side is, do we let the authorities monitor our every movement at all times? Do we do so without weighing in on the process?
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Adorable/creepy child converts his dead rat into into an adorable/creepy ‘ratcopter’
09.12.2014
03:09 pm

Topics:
Animals
Science/Tech

Tags:
rats


 
We all mourn the loss of a loved one in our own time and in our own way, but rarely does the death of a pet inspire such… aerial commemorations. After his pet rat, Ratjetoe was diagnosed with cancer and put to sleep, 13-year-old Pepijn Bruins was absolutely devastated. Then he remembered a tribute that he thought might befit his varmit friend. In 2012, an artist named Bart Jansen collaborated with radio control helicopter flyer Arjen Beltman to turn Jansen’s taxidermied cat Orville into an Orvillecopter.

Pepijn consulted his father and reached out to the duo, who were more than happy to oblige, with Beltman saying, “when I heard how upset he was, I just knew I had to help.” The technical difference between a lightweight ratcopter and a more wind-resistant catcopter proved a challenge of design, but with dedication and innovation, Ratjetoe was reborn and now soars like a glorious bird, a fitting memorial for a dear departed friend. Check out the Ratjetoe copter below, and try not to think of the terror a flying rat could inspire in an unsuspecting passer-by.
 

 
Via artnet

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Even the Westboro Baptist Church wants the new iPhone, despite picketing Steve Jobs funeral
09.11.2014
08:07 am

Topics:
Belief
Science/Tech

Tags:
Westboro Baptist Church
Apple


 
I tend to avoid writing anything about the Westboro Baptist Church, simply because they’re just not that funny anymore. The futile comedy of right-wing fringe always eventually wears thin, as hateful (yet largely impotent) antics eventually become repetitive and predictable. Sarah Palin said something vicious, yet totally ignorant? Of course she did. Glenn Beck deluded himself into another xenophobic conspiracy theory? Wow. Really?

Since the ole’ WBC has protested the funerals of everyone from dead marines to Matthew Shepard to Ronnie James Dio, it’s hard to imagine a context where they won’t rally, brandishing their trademark “God Hates Fags” signage in a grotesque, redundant performance. It’s ugly, but it’s a cliché, and an increasingly dull one.

However, recently the Westboro Baptist Church took a visit to New York City, and I’ll-be-damned-to-gay-hell if the kooks didn’t surprise me! The lovely folks at Animal New York reached out to them as they picketed…I dunno, cronuts or something, only to learn that the parishioners are avid Apple fans! (Perhaps they sensed the disinterest of famously unflappable New Yorkers—we often see weirder shit than the WBC in the freaking Financial District.) Cult leader Steve Drain, emailed Animal this ringing endorsement:
 

The iPhone 6 will allow us to preach to this sinful nation more effectively than the 5s! Bigger screen to see our signs more clearly—like ‘Repent or Perish’ or ‘Fag Marriage Dooms Nations’! More people will mock our using of the phone, citing (incorrectly) a hypocrisy in using a device designed and marketed by a man whose funeral we picketed for his idolatry, then atheism, and adultery (Steve Jobs). Which device do you think our ‘Why Did God Destroy Sodom?’ will display best on? iPhone6, Galaxy 5, or HTC? I bet the preaching will be effective, by God’s hand, as viewed in all of them—don’t you think?

 
Yeah, you read that right, but Grindr looks better on the new iPhone, too. Instead of picketing the Chelsea Apple Store with signs that say “iPhone 666,” or “Fag iPhone Enabler,” the Westboro Baptist Church has decided their use of this chic new tech will spread their unholy message—and they’ve come to this conclusion despite having protested Steve Jobs’ funeral in 2011. Incidentally, they announced their plans to do so over Twitter… on their iPhones. I know very few of us can presently escape the clutches of global capitalism and all, but isn’t there some biblical reference to a bad tree being unable to bear good fruit?

Then again, the Westboro Baptist Church has never been very big on fruits…
 

 ;
Via Animal New York

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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‘Tampon Run’: Teenage coders make a video game about menstruation at summer camp
09.11.2014
07:38 am

Topics:
Games
Science/Tech
Sex

Tags:
video games
menstruation
tampons


 
While Anita Sarkeesian receives death threats and rape threats for the crime of generating thoughtful, detailed critiques of the sexism in video games, as happened just a couple of weeks ago, then you know that the world of gaming sorely needs a lengthy session of sensitivity training—if its problems with women aren’t so deep-seated as to resist any improvement, that is.
 

 
Enter Andy Gonzales and Sophie Houser and their charming Flash game Tampon Run, which they designed this summer at a camp called Girls Who Code. Gonzales and Houser are both high school students in New York who wanted to attack the sexism in the gaming industry.

As Gonzales says:

“We were brainstorming what our potential feminist game would look like, and Sophie jokingly suggested a game where you could throw tampons at people. The moment she said it, we realized it was a game we could make. We did some research about the menstrual taboo and realized it was a real problem that we could legitimately address with our game.”

The game is preceded by a few splash screens in which the creators explain their purpose in designing Tampon Run:

“Although the concept of the video game may be strange, it’s stranger that our society has accepted and normalized guns and violence through video games, yet we still find tampons and menstruation unspeakable. Hopefully one day menstruation will be as normal, if not more so, than guns and violence have become in our society.”

The game itself is very simple—it emulates Mario Bros. by having a character run in a rightward direction, shooting projectiles to kill an endless succession of oncoming marauders, except the projectiles in this case are tampons. Even removing the tampons from the equation, just having the protagonist be a woman is a relative rarity in video games. You shoot the tampons at the “enemies” until you run out of ammo, but every now and then a fresh box of tampons hovers near you, and when you jump you can refresh your supply. If an enemies reaches you, you lose two tampons. The game ends when you run out of tampons. The game doesn’t exactly reward hours of playing time, but I enjoyed it well enough—in my third game I achieved a high score of 129!
 

 
via Internet Magic

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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The hymnal of the brainwashed worker: IBM’s 1937 corporate songbook
09.03.2014
10:08 am

Topics:
Science/Tech

Tags:
IBM
songbook


This fellow appears to be doubting the greatness of Big Blue’s “supreme leader.” We can’t have subversives here at IBM!
 
Nowadays tech is pretty discreet about indoctrinating their labor force into a corporate cult. You have Google, of course, who lets you bring your dog to work while providing free food, community gardens, massages and sleep pods—but how did they keep your ass happily at your work desk without such “perks” in ye olden tymes? Well, IBM decided to use rhythmic, melodic chanting—some might even call them “songs,” but I think the propaganda is explicit enough to make note of the North Korea-type brainwashing techniques therein.

The 1937 booklet, Songs of the IBM starts out with some rote patriotism—“The Star-Spangled Banner” and “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” though only the first of the 13 verses of the latter. Then there are five songs dedicated to IBM President, Thomas J. Watson, some with multiples verses and a chorus. That is to say three more songs than employees were expected to sing about America!

Here’s an example from “To Thomas J. Watson, President, I.B.M. Our Inspiration:”

Thomas Watson is our inspiration,
Head and soul of our splendid I.B.M.
We are pledged to him in every nation,
Our President and most beloved man.
His wisdom has guided each division
In service to all humanity
We have grown and broadened with his vision,
None can match him or our great company.
T. J. Watson, we all honor you,
You’re so big and so square and so true,
We will follow and serve with you forever,
All the world must know what I. B. M. can do.


Then, there are two songs for the Vice-President (though one has six verses), five verses for the Vice President and General Manager, one for the Vice President in Charge of Manufacturing, and so on and so forth, down the masthead, until they get to what I assume is middle management, before finally just singing the praises of the company itself. Here’s part of a sweet little IBM loyalty oath!

We don’t pretend we’re gay.
We always feel that way,
Because we’re filling the world with sunshine.
With I.B.M. machines,
We’ve got the finest means,
For brightly painting the clouds with sunshine.

 
Don’t you feel more dedicated already? All of these were sung to the tunes of well-known songs, like “My Old Kentucky Home,” or “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.” The former ode to Thomas Watson used the melody of “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean,” and the latter simply a rewrite of “Painting the Clouds with Sunshine.” Don’t know it? Well listen below and try singing along! Or aren’t you a team player? Check out the rest of the songbook here, but don’t drink the Kool-Aid.
 

 
Via Ars Technica

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Bizarre, expensive porcelain stereo speakers in the form of political dictators


 
Russian artist Petro Wodkins is behind the design, manufacture, and sale of these hand-made porcelain “Sound of Power” speakers in the shape of five powerful heads of state. The group consists of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, Kim Jong-Un of North Korea, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Barack Obama of the United States. I find it almost refreshing that Obama could make this list, it smacks of a certain contrarian je ne sais quoi.

The craftsmanship on these beauties is purported to be impressive: as the PR materials brag, “The figurines are crafted by artists and we put a lot of attention to the authentic details, like the small stars on the buttons on the shirt of Kim Jong-Un.” I have to admit that when I do shop for international dictator audio equipment, I do look for that sort of attention to detail.

The speakers come in three sizes. The 10-inch model costs about $1,200 and is appropriate for use with a desktop computer. The largest is the 43-inch model, which runs roughly $39,000 and will instantly become the most attention-getting object of almost any room in which it is present, as depicted below. As you can see, the speakers are also useful for providing a surface upon which the spoiled children of plutocrats can lean comfortably.
 

 
If you don’t like speakers in the shape of meanie dictators, you can opt to get speakers custom-made of your own head or anyone whose head you can subject to a 3D scanner. The custom model is available in “white or gold” and “prices start” at around $165,000.
 
Mugabe
 
Putin
 
Kim Jong-Un
 
Obama
 
Gaddafi
 
via The World’s Best Ever
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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