follow us in feedly
I was a 15-year-old Billy Corgan impersonator
12.14.2016
02:53 pm

Topics:
Games
Science/Tech

Tags:


 
Before the “World Wide Web” became a thing and only AOL and CompuServe existed for games and chat rooms, Sierra On-line (the software company responsible for such classic adventure games as King’s Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest, and Leisure Suit Larry) developed a highly imaginative and groundbreaking environment known as The ImagiNation Network. Initially launched on May 6th, 1991 as “The Sierra Network,” this friendly, graphics-heavy interface was so simple, advertising promised that even your grandmother would find it easy to “play games, make friends and have fun.” As a teenage computer geek I was instantly hooked after being introduced by my friend Brad Warner and spent hundreds of hours using the service: running up my parents credit card bill, holding up my families landline for several hours at a time, and experimenting with fake profiles when the internet was so new that you could effortlessly fool just about anybody.
 
Before entering ImagiNation you’d use the FaceMaker to create your appearance choosing your skin color, facial features, glasses, clothes, and hairstyle. There were enough variables built in to create over 84 million unique personas. Then you’d walk through the virtual gates and let the fun begin: Red Baron, Mini Golf, Paintball, or Boogers in SierraLand. Gambling at the casino and exchanging lewd late night talk in LarryLand (for adults only), or slaying dragons with strangers in MedievaLand. Before anybody had heard of an email address there was a post office where you could purchase “Sierra Stamps” and send messages to other users.

Through a alternative music chatroom, I befriended a cool 13-year-old Korean girl from Houston named Judy Suh who had purple hair and owned an electric guitar. We both had tickets to see the Smashing Pumpkins headline Lollapalooza ‘94 in our respective cities that summer and agreed to share our photos from the concert. Technology had yet to find a way to share photos on the internet so we made photocopies at Kinko’s and snail mailed them to each other.
 

 
In 1995 Judy suddenly disappeared from the ImagiNation Network without a trace, a few weeks later I found out that her parents banned her from using the service after running up their credit card bill. At that time the pricing structure was incredibly expensive: $9.95 per month for only 4 hours plus $3.50 for each additional hour, or $120 a month for unlimited time. Shortly after that my parents also banned me from the service because I was using their dial-up modem and holding up our six person household landline. Friends and family members complained that they received a busy signal over and over for hours and were furious when they couldn’t get through.
 
Heartbroken, and not yet ready to give up my addiction I took to desperate measures to get back on-line. I went over to Brad Warner’s house with a floppy disc, found the directory where his password file was stored and successfully copied it into the same directory on my computer enabling me to sign onto ImagiNation with Brad’s account. This illegal and back-stabbing act gave me so much confidence that soon I wanted to know what else I could get away with. I began secretly signing on late at night after my parents went to bed. Using the FaceMaker to create a new persona, I started posing as Smashing Pumpkins frontman, Billy Corgan. I had read every Alternative Press, SPIN, and Melody Maker interview that had been published up until that point and felt strongly that I knew enough about Billy Corgan that I could convince people that I was him. The April 1994 Rolling Stone cover story I purchased at Sam Goody proved to be a particularly detailed profile and helped me understand Billy’s troubled childhood and upbringing in a time before background information on celebrities was easily accessible on websites like Wikipedia. I was successful in fooling dozens of fans: answering questions from growing up in Glendale Heights, Illinois, to D’arcy Wretzky’s sisters photography on Smashing Pumpkins single covers, to dispelling rumors that I played the little brother on the TV show Small Wonder. After about a week I was called out for falsely claiming that the Mike Mills who played piano on the song “Soma” off the album Siamese Dream was not the same guy as the bassist from R.E.M. My cover was blown.
 

 
Soon after I was outed as an imposter by the ImagiNation community I received a call from Brad who wanted to know why there was a message from Chris Williams in his virtual Post Office box. I had forgotten that I reached out to Sierra On-Line founders Ken & Roberta Williams’ son Chris (also 15-years-old) on the network, totally not expecting him to reply. I confessed to Brad that I had stolen his password and I had been signing on under his account. That was the end of our friendship and the last time I ever used the service. In 1996 ImagiNation was purchased and then ultimately shut down forever by America Online. In 2007 there was a brief attempt to revive ImagiNation through reverse engineering and use of DOSBox, but there wasn’t enough interest in the emulator for it to take off. One fan on the “Return of Talking Time” message board, however, fondly remembered his experience on ImagiNation over 20 years later:
 

“I had a ridiculous experience with ImagiNation Network when I was 14. I was spending the night at my friend’s house, and I brought the free ImagiNation install disk with me. After his parents went to bed, we got his mom’s credit card from her purse and used it to create an account. (IIRC, you were given a certain number of free hours to try it out, but you had to provide credit card info to get started). We tooled around for a bit, and eventually ended up in one of the chat areas. Somehow or another we started chatting with a guy who had us 100% convinced that he was Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins. Seriously. We weren’t dumb kids, but holy crap does that sound profoundly moronic in hindsight. Anyhow, we stayed up all night talking to Billy C, and ended up surpassing our free trial. When the credit card bill came later that month, my friend had to fess up to his mom. She wasn’t buying the Billy Corgan story, and I was never allowed to spend the night at his house again.”

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Doug Jones | Leave a comment
Fake Nintendo movie tie-in games that would be super fun to play
12.12.2016
02:08 pm

Topics:
Games
Movies
Science/Tech

Tags:


 
Video games in the late 1980s and early 1990s were dominated by the Nintendo Entertainment System, also known as NES. In addition to Donkey Kong, which morphed into the iconic and incredibly addictive Super Mario Bros. franchise, NES also had its share of satisfying movie tie-ins, including Batman, Back to the Future, Total Recall, The Karate Kid, and Home Alone. For a slightly later generation of gamers, the best reason to remember the James Bond movie GoldenEye from the Pierce Brosnan era was the top-notch Nintendo 64 game GoldenEye 007. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Conan is best not mentioned at all, though…..

A few years back, the outstanding vintage video games blog VG Junk dedicated three posts to meticulously crafted and completely fictional “wouldn’t it have been great” NES title screens for movie and TV tie-in games that I for one would love to have played.

It’s amusing to contemplate NES games that are juuuust a bit too adult (or possibly WAY too adult) like A Clockwork Orange and Jacob’s Ladder and Videodrome, but I also dig the games where the only conceivable gameplay would consist of talking, à la making sarcastic remarks about Blueshammer in Ghost World or defending the virtues of “propane and propane accessories” in King of the Hill.

Some of the movies mentioned here actually did have console game tie-ins. For example VG Junk doesn’t think very much of the 1997 video game for the PC that Westwood Studios made for Blade Runner. In any case, these are super detailed and witty.

Feast your eyes below—and keep a careful eye on that They Live title screen….
 

 

 
More great title screens after the jump…...
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Dead at 17: ‘The Fatal Consequences of Masturbation’—a handy guide from 1830
12.06.2016
09:52 am

Topics:
Amusing
Belief
Books
Science/Tech

Tags:

001livsanst.jpg
‘He was young and handsome…his mother’s hope.’
 
He was young and handsome, his mother’s pride and joy—but he died in torment, blind, sick and paralyzed—at the age of seventeen. If only he’d known the perils of masturbation, then he might have lived a better life.

This, in a nutshell, was the warning to young French men as published in Le livre sans titre (“The Book With No Title”) in 1830. At that time, masturbation was considered by moralists and physicians as a malady which lead to early death.

In 1716, Dr. Balthazar Bekker published a pamphlet on this “heinous sin” of “self-pollution” entitled Onania, which cautioned the reader self-abuse would lead to:

Disturbances of the stomach and digestion, loss of appetite or ravenous hunger, vomiting, nausea, weakening of the organs of breathing, coughing, hoarseness, paralysis, weakening of the organ of generation to the point of impotence, lack of libido, back pain, disorders of the eye and ear, total diminution of bodily powers, paleness, thinness, pimples on the face, decline of intellectual powers, loss of memory, attacks of rage, madness, idiocy, epilepsy, fever and finally suicide.

Yeah, but still…

Then in A Medicinal Dictionary of 1745, Dr. Robert James stated that onanism was responsible for “the most deplorable and generally incurable disorders.”

Another medical book L’Onanisme by physician Samuel-Auguste Tissot claimed semen was an essential body oil—which when wasted through masturbation caused:

....a perceptible reduction of strength, of memory and even of reason; blurred vision, all the nervous disorders, all types of gout and rheumatism, weakening of the organs of generation, blood in the urine, disturbance of the appetite, headaches and a great number of other disorders.

These men weren’t quacks, either—they were highly eminent and respectable scientists working in the Age of Enlightenment. It is hardly surprising that these seemingly informed and scientific views should become so ubiquitous in the 19th century that they could end up as the cautionary tale of Le livre sans titre.

This edition of the book was the find of Jim Edmondson who scanned the pages and posted them on his blog.
 
002livsanst.jpg
‘He became corrupted! Soon his crime makes him old before his time. His back becomes hunched.’
 
003Alivsanst.jpg
‘A devouring fire burns up his entrails; he suffers from horrible stomach pains.’
 
More cautionary tales of jerkin’ the gherkin, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Blood and Guts in High School: Beautiful and surreal illustrations for science text books
11.14.2016
12:03 pm

Topics:
Art
Books
Science/Tech

Tags:

002Etude-des-mouvements-de-loeil.jpg
 
From what I can gather Le Livre de la Sante or The Book of Health or the Encyclopedia of Mind, Body and Health by Joseph Handler was a multi-volume series of text books on science, anatomy, biology, psychology and health intended for use in the classroom. Reading these text books must have been a blast as page after page is filled with the most beautiful day-glo colored illustrations by an incredibly diverse range of artists and graphic designers.

Published in Monte Carlo between 1967 and 1969, Le Livre de la Sante was also made available in an Iranian edition—which kinda shows how hip Iran was back then. Handler’s educational books are still available to buy—and 50 Watts has uploaded a whole library of pages from these books which can be viewed here.
 
001Lhomme-tableau-tableau-de-Pinoncelli-photo-Ito-Josue.jpg
‘L’homme tableau de Pinoncelli’ by Josue.
 
016Le_repartition_des_cancers_Osterwalder.jpg
‘Le repartition des cancers’ (the distribution of cancers) by Osterwalder.
 
More exquisite illustrations from ‘Le Livre de la Sante,’ after the jump….
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Where the City Can’t See’: Creepy, dystopic movie shot entirely using laser scanner technology
11.03.2016
12:36 pm

Topics:
Movies
Science/Tech

Tags:


 
Director Liam Young has dropped the trailer for “the first narrative fiction film shot entirely with laser scanners.” The movie, which is not feature-length, is some kind of a dystopic vision of the near future.

When you see the word scanners you might think of your supermarket’s checkout line but that’s not the most helpful example. If you have seen a blockbuster film in the past several years, then you have seen a movie that used laser scanners to create the effects. The technology, which commonly goes by the acronym LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), is in many ways analogous to radar; it is a remote sensing method that uses a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances). It is one of the building blocks of visual effects production.

Set in the Chinese-owned and -controlled “Detroit Economic Zone,” Where the City Can’t See is about an assembly-line worker who hacks a driverless taxi to find a place that’s not shown on its map. The evocative score for the clip comes from “Deep Breathing” by Shigeto.

Where the City Can’t See is set to premiere at Heart of Glass on November 12, where it will be played before a showing of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window.
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Korg’s new synthesizer comes with presets by Aphex Twin
11.01.2016
10:29 am

Topics:
Music
Science/Tech

Tags:


 
The renowned Japanese company Korg has announced a new analog synthesizer called the Monologue that features presets designed by Richard D. James, a.k.a. Aphex Twin.

Korg has described the model as a “next-generation” monophonic synthesizer that “shares the spirit” of the similarly named and pricier Minilogue model, which was released in January.

As well as being available in five colors, the Monologue features a built-in step sequencer that allows users to record up to four knob movements for creating “motion sequences.” The item can run on six AA batteries, which Billy Steele of Engadget interpreted as a shout-out to a prior era when DJs cut their teeth on equipment from Radio Shack. Engadget has reported that the Monologue costs a mere $300, but you’ll have to wait until January 2017 to buy it.
 

 
The Monologue also supports microtuning, which means that users can generate their own tuning outside of standard scales. To assist owners in understanding the system, Korg has hired Aphex Twin as an advisor on the feature; additionally, he has created preset scales, sounds, and sequences.

The Monologue comes with an OLED oscilloscope so that DJs can visualize their beats, as well as filter, modulation, drive, and LFO controls capable of generating “powerful basses and sharp leads” and 100 preset locations.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Solar system string lights
10.25.2016
11:18 am

Topics:
Science/Tech

Tags:


 
I’m always looking for cool indoor string lights and I think I’ve found them. These awesome solar system string lights are by ThinkGeek. There are 10 glowing glass orbs which includes the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.

Again, the orbs are glass, so if you accidentally break one (apparently they’re somewhat fragile) you can purchase replacements. I’ve included images of them lit and not lit. Obviously they don’t look as nifty without the power, but it gives you an idea of what they look like closer up and the quality of the craftsmanship.

A string of solar system lights will cost you $29.99. If you want replacement bulbs too, that’s another $19.99. These are indoor only.


 

 

 

 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Aliens Among Us: Almost psychedelic microscopic photography of beetles, mites, spiders and moths
10.21.2016
10:45 am

Topics:
Animals
Art
Science/Tech

Tags:

001igorsiwanowicz.jpg
Jumping spider (Phidippus otiosus).
 
Igor Siwanowicz’s interest in the natural world came from poring over brightly colored photographs and illustrations in biology and zoology textbooks as a child. Born in Krakow, Poland in 1976, Siwanowicz is the son of two biologists who he claims reinforced and rewarded his early interest in biology.

Certain amount of the fascination in natural sciences might be encoded in the genes, and that was definitely passed on me from my parents, along with some artistic skills that just pop up in my family generation after generation.

Siwanowicz studied for a Masters in biotechnology at Krakow and then Aarhus, Denmark, before going on to complete a PhD in structural biochemistry in Germany.

His artistic talents came to the fore during a hiatus from post-doctoral studies when Siwanowicz traveled the world as a freelance nature photographer. He “conned some people into organizing” exhibitions of his work which led to the publication of two books of his photographs.

He then returned to his career in science as a “lowly technical assistant in behavioural genetics at the Max-Planck Institute for Neurobiology in Munich.” Today, Siwanowicz works as a neurobiologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus in Virginia.

Siwanowicz believes his photographic work keeps him “(relatively) sane.”

...it’s a sort of occupational therapy, a way to cope with the blues. I think I am slightly bipolar (as in manic-depressive), far from raving mad but still having those seasonal swings of mood and warped self-perception. Taking photos, among other things, gives me satisfaction and keeps my mind off of obsessing too much. I use my accomplishments to re-build my self-esteem and move a small step towards self-actualisation.

Siwanowicz’s photographic work includes beautiful macro “mug shots” of insects:

They are foreign, otherworldly looking creatures – the closer you get to them, the stronger the effect. See, insects have those totally alien, Gigeresque forms that I find somehow fascinating.

His incredibly trippy psychedelic extreme close-up photographs of insects—beetles, spiders, moths, mites—are made with a confocal laser-scanning microscope, which captures these beautiful creatures in greater clarity and detail than other lens-based imaging.

See more of Igor Siwanowicz’s glorious microscopy.
 
002igorsiwanowicz.jpg
Jumping spider.
 
005igorsiwanowicz.jpg
Jumping spider eyes.
 
More of these stunning photographs, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
France Gall Sings About ‘Computer Dating’ In 1968
10.18.2016
09:12 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music
Science/Tech

Tags:

Der Computer Nr.3 45 on Decca Records
 
In 1968, Serge Gainsbourg protégé France Gall participated in the televised song contest Deutscher Schlager-Wettbewerb (“The German Schlager Competition”) where hundreds of composers and lyricists from all over Europe were called upon to write a brand new hit song. A total of 495 titles were submitted, and only twelve songs were selected for the finals which were broadcast live on channel ZDF. Although she was French-born and famously known as a yé-yé singer, Gall did enjoy a successful career in Germany in the late ‘60s. With a little help from Werner Müller and Giorgio Moroder, she published 42 songs in German language between 1966 and 1972.

On July 4th, 1968, 21-year-old France Gall took the stage at the Berliner Philharmonie concert hall and performed a song titled “Der Computer Nr.3” live with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra leaving 300 people and a panel of judges dramatically baffled over what in the world she was singing about: “Computer #3 searches the right boy for me. The computer knows the perfect woman for every man and happiness is drawn instantly from its files.” The song then suddenly takes an unexpected turn when it switches over to a vocoder German computer voice which pre-dates the formation of Kraftwerk “22 Jahre, schwarze Haare, von Beruf Vertreter, Kennzeichen: Geld wie Heu” (Age: 22 years, black hair, professional representative, features: money galore)

The song (credited to the biggest hit-making duo in Germany at the time: music producer Christian Bruhn and lyricist Georg Buschor) then takes yet another completely unexpected turn as it dips into a Beatles cover for a brief moment before diving right back into the subject matter at hand. “Lange war ich einsam, heut’ bin ich verliebt, und nur darum ist das so, weil es die Technik und die Wissenschaft und Elektronengehirne gibbet.” Translated into English, France Gall is singing perfectly to the “Eight Days A Week” melody “Ohh I need your love babe, yes you know it’s true, that’s only because the technology and science and electrons are there.”

Cut to the audience to see hundreds of upper-class post-war Germans staring blankly, emotionless, and reactionless at the very first song ever written about computer dating. While personal computers and the internet were still years away, computer dating was an actual trend in the late ‘60s being targeted to lonely hearts all over the world by way of magazine advertorials. Participants would submit their vital stats, a punchcard-plotted questionnaire, and a personal check in the amount of $3-5 in an old-fashioned stamp-licked envelope. Then they waited patiently (usually several weeks or months) while an IBM mainframe the size of an entire room crunched the numbers on their personalities, intelligence, and preferences (no photos were involved).

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Doug Jones | Leave a comment
DEVO shills for Pioneer’s futuristic new LaserDisc format, 1984
10.10.2016
02:16 pm

Topics:
Advertising
Music
Science/Tech
Television

Tags:


 
The early 1980s were such a heady time for personal entertainment technology. The Sony Walkman was introduced in the U.S. in 1980, the same time that VHS and Betamax found themselves embroiled in the canonical “format war” to determine control of the videotape market. Meanwhile, CDs were giving a geneation of Boomers a reason to buy Electric Ladyland a second time, and laserdiscs represented that slightly unwieldy and expensive format that was a “cut above” to signal the affluence and distinction of the serious cinephile.

Pioneer Electronics, having purchased a majority stake in the format, had ample reason to push the devices as well as the brand name LaserDisc. To that end, in 1984 Pioneer hired Ohio’s staunchest believers in “devolution,” known to all of course as DEVO, to appear in a 12-minute in-store demo disc touting the innumerable advantages of the laserdisc format.

The band appears wearing tuxedos in a variety of colors and matching fright wigs, each creatively adorned with a single large googly eye and painted eyebrows guaranteeing a quizzical expression. (Surely DEVO is in the Fright Wig Hall of Fame by now?) After introducing themselves, DEVO quickly cedes the floor to Ray Charles, who testifies that the format certainly sounds good and (so he is assured) looks good as well. Blind pianist George Shearing joins him to double down on the gag.
 

Ray Charles, video entertainment expert
 
It’s a little depressing to hear, after Ray Charles delivers his spiel, Mark Mothersbaugh (of all people) intone the following copy: “Was that just advertising hype? Listen a minute, and let your own ears decide.” Sigh. Let’s hope they were all paid well for this.

The rest of the video consists mainly of clips pimping Pioneer’s laserdisc catalogue of that moment, including WarGames, Tootsie, Flashdance, Sophie’s Choice, The Wiz, Carlin at Carnegie, and so forth. Pioneer was proud of laserdisc’s improved audio playback, so popular music artists were a big part of the pitch—it’s a little funny to hear DEVO touting the virtues of Duran Duran and Sheena Easton, but am I imagining it or does Mothersbaugh give the phrase “the heat of Fleetwood Mac” extra ironic oomph?

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Page 2 of 71  < 1 2 3 4 >  Last ›