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Effectively killed by porn in the early 80s, Sony vows to discontinue Betamax format in… 2016
08:33 am



Sony announced it is finally discontinuing popular recording format… uh… BETAMAX next year.

Sony recently issued a press release stating that they will be discontinuing production of Betamax videocassettes in March 2016. According to the same release, the company ceased production of Betamax players in 2002 and Betamax camcorders in 2005.

Look at this ancient artifact.
Upon hearing the announcement, many were shocked to learn that Beta had been in production at all since VHS won the “format wars” in the early ‘80s with Sony conceding that loss in 1988 with the production of their first VHS videocassette recorders.

The Betamax format was introduced by Sony in 1975 and went up against rival JVC’s VHS (or Video Home System) format. Despite the perceived higher quality of images on Beta cassettes, the format floundered against VHS in the United States due to the lower price of VHS players and the longer recording time available on the VHS tapes. The original Betamax tapes could only record one hour of programming—a fatal flaw.

It has been argued that the porn industry’s decision to become an early adopter of the VHS format was a deciding factor in that format’s dominance, as home-viewing of pornography was one of the primary drivers of the early videocassette industry.

Ad from back cover of a 1979 issue of Hustler magazine. Call the porn professionals to ask if you should choose VHS or Beta. Hint: They’re going to tell you VHS.
Betamax hung around past its perceived expiration date due to its continued use (as a superior tape format) in local television production, particularly ENG (electronic news gathering) purposes. As Sony’s superior professional BetaCam format and then digital video became the standard for television production, Betamax became obsolete—still its surprising to learn it has continuously been in production for 40 years past the advent of VHS, past the advent of DVD, past the advent of Blu-ray, and past the advent of hard-drive recorders and digital streaming.

RIP Betamax. We hardly knew ye.
Here’s a 1978 commercial when Beta was some hot shit:

H/T: The Guardian

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Rumblr: The Tinder-style brawling app that lets you set up fist-fight ‘dates’
07:29 am



OK, so this post is probably breaking the first two rules of something or other, but check this out:

A new app is currently in development that will allow users to find and set up fist-fight “dates” much in the same way users of Tinder or Grindr find other interested parties to set up potential fuck sessions.

“I’d hit it.”
The app, called Rumblr, includes a chat tool and a map function to locate nearby fights and fighters. Users can upload their stats to see how they measure up against competitors. Unlike a certain other “club,” users aren’t required to fight—they can use the app’s “explore” function to find nearby fights to attend as spectators.


The app has yet to have an official release (is it even legal? How much liability can be attributed to the app or its platform when someone ends up murdered?), but the developers have a waiting list going for potential users to be notified when and if it becomes available.

Let’s file this one under “Apex of Western Civilization” or “What could possibly go wrong?”

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
MiVape: Meet the iPhone of weed
10:14 am



I’m a fellow with an awful lot of experience burning the leaves of the cannabis plant and inhaling it deeply into my lungs. I’ve been a wake-n-bake smoker for over 35 years, which surely should qualify me for some sort of Ph.D. in weed. For most of the past eight years, at least when partaking at home, I’ve used a Storz + Bickel Volcano vaporizer, generally considered the Rolls Royce of vaporizers, and for good reason. After you’ve used practically any vaporizer, though, it’s a bit difficult to go back to the burning leaves method. I hate smoking herb out of a pipe. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not so snobby about it that I’ll turn it down when it’s passed my way, but it hurts my throat. Not my preference.

A couple years ago I got hipped to “dabbing” or specifically in my case, smoking via a Heath Stone, which is basically a small black disc of the same inert rocky material used in a chemistry class bunsen burner. Using what resembles a dental tool, you take a teeny, tiny amount of hash oil, wax, “budder” or whatever else you want to call your approx 70% pure THC by weight concentrated tipple and “dab” it onto this disc, which is stuck in the end of a regular glass bong via a special bowl. You then torch the wax with a three-flame lighter—a BIC lighter would just melt it—and with one quick hit, you’ve consumed about the same amount of THC as you would have had you smoked three joints of extremely strong pot by yourself. It’s back to incineration, true, but it’s also a fairly brief interaction with anything that’s going to irritate your throat or lungs. Also I prefer the high from wax, I ain’t gonna lie. For a long-time head like m’self, well, once you go wax, you never go back.

My point being that I effectively mothballed the Volcano within a matter of days (if not day) once I started using the Health Stone set-up. And for the most part I’ve been very cold on the pre-loaded cartridges for vapor pens. Portable and handy, sure. And clean, too. But most of them—and I find this to be a critical flaw—just don’t get you high. And all the flavors and shit. I don’t really want hash oil that’s Key Lime Pie-flavored. This is the kind of thing I want to get away from.

So the fact is, when the fine folks at Vapornation contacted me to ask if I wanted to review a new portable vaporizer that they were very enthusiastic about, I was initially kind of blasé about it until I realized that it wasn’t just for herb, it was also for concentrates. Once I knew that, yes, this thing is for wax, too, you know, I was kinda interested for a review model to be sent my way after all…

First off, just let me say that whoever thinks they can separate me from my portable MiVape vaporizer will have to pry it from my cold, dead hands. This is a portable vaporizer done right!

As you take the MiVape out of the packaging, you feel like you’re unwrapping an iPhone. This isn’t unintentional, I would imagine, and the notion that “If Apple made a portable vaporizer, it would be just like the MiVape” probably occurred to more than just me. It feels like an Apple product in a lot of ways. it really does.

Beyond that, it’s also pretty simple to use: set the temp once with digital plus/minus controls, turn it on, turn it off. The material, either loose ground herb or a dab wiped off on a piece of cotton gauze, goes into a thimble-sized test tube-like chamber and then snaps into place. It’s all glass on glass and it’s also a pure convection system, meaning that the “burnt popcorn” taste of cached weed from the Volcano is a thing of the past. It can’t burn.

Overall, the new MiVape, made by Vaporfection, is the best vaporizer that I’ve ever used, whether a big ol’ “desktop” version like the Volcano, or a cigarette packet-sized MiVape. Size does matter! A Volcano seems very clunky and old-fashioned when side-by-side with the slicker, hitech MiVape. The Volcano that sat on my desk for years has now been replaced with a tiny box and when I leave home, I can just scoop it up and put it into my pocket, something you can’t do with the Volcano.

After the jump, a video that explains how the MiVape works…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The art of ‘EWWW’: Artwork created using bacteria as its medium
12:21 pm



“Superheroes” bacteria art made with Streptomycetes (bacteria spores that live in the dirt)
All “ewww’s” aside, I must say that the first (and I’m sure not the last) “Agar Art” contest held by The American Society for Microbiology (whose guidelines specified that entrants create art using only bacteria), has yielded some incredible results.
NYC Biome Map made with bacteria
A segment of the massive “NYC Biome Map” made with bacterial microbes (by microbiologist, Christine Marizzi)
According to the rules, all creations must be made using only microbes instead of paint (or other materials) and agar as their canvas. There were 85 entries submitted by various microbiologists across the country for this art meets biology mashup. Of the ones I’ve seen so far, I was blown away (and a bit grossed out I must admit) by the NYC Biome Map submitted by Christine Marizzi of New York City’s Community Biolab (above). Just read the description of the piece and you’ll likely feel the same way:

Microorganisms reside everywhere, yet they are too small to be seen with the human eye. New York City is a melting pot of cultures - both human and microbial - and every citizen has a personalized microbiome. Collectively, we shape NYC’s microbiome by our lifestyle choices, and this unseen microbial world significantly impacts us

I say grossed out because probably like many of you, I’ve ridden the NY subway system (as well as the equally skanky Boston “T”) hundreds of times before and learned pretty quickly to never touch ANYTHING with your hands. That said, Marizzi’s piece is nothing short of a marvel to look at considering how it was created.
Divine Pop Art made with bacteria
Pop bacteria art in the image of Divine!
More strange and trippy looking biological pieces of art from the contest (that might also bring out the obsessive/compulsive hand-washer in you) can be seen after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Evidence from 1895 that alien ‘Greys’ walked among us and practiced gynecology?
09:21 am



Grey Aliens are commonly described by ufological, paranormal, and New Age communities as slender, sexless, large-eyed, grey-colored beings who routinely visit Earth from extra-terrestrial worlds. Greys are known to sometimes abduct human beings to perform medical experiments and probe their bodies.

The idea of of these creatures is most commonly traced to the 1947 Roswell UFO incident and the alleged 1961 alien abduction of Betty and Barney Hill. Ufologists believe there are at least two different types of Greys. Some claim that “taller Greys, with their reported increased authority and apparently more complex psychology, may be the only Grey type to be biologically alive and that the shorter form could be their artificially constructed robot or cyborg servants.”

A half a century before Greys came into popular consciousness, a series of remarkable illustrations were published in Die Heilgymnastik in der Gynaekologie: Und die Mechanische Behandlung von Erkrankungen des Uterus und Seiner Adnexe nach Thure Brandt  (1895).  The title, translated from German, as “The physiotherapy in gynecology and the mechanical treatment of diseases of the uterus and its appendages by Thure Brandt” is a gynecological exercise manual authored by Swedish obstetrician and gynecologist, Thure Brandt.

The illustrations in this text bear a striking resemblance to Greys described by countless UFO close encounter and abductee claimants. Is it merely a coincidence? Do aliens really exist? Are they, as some theorize, actually a form of sleep paralysis? Did an 1800s Swedish gynecologist know something about visitors to our planet? Has Giorgio A. Tsoukalos weighed in on this yet?

We don’t have the answers here, but nevertheless, these illustrations of freakazoid Grey Alien type humanoids practicing some sort of gynecological yoga are pretty creepy:


More Grey gynecology after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Curious depictions of syphilis, measles, gonorrhea & other diseases from 19th-century Japan
02:29 pm



“Ten realms within the body,” by Utagawa Kuniteru III, c. 1885
The University of California at San Francisco has an incredible collection of 400 health-themed woodblock prints from 19th-century Japan. The collection includes advertisements for medicines and treatments, illustrated guidelines for the treatment and prevention of various contagious diseases (first and foremost measles but also syphilis and gonorrhea), and visual guides to the human body from the late Edo and early Meiji periods.

According to the UCSF website,

Although the medical-theme prints typically deal with current, not past events, they often feature famous warriors, invoked to help stave off illness, or they render preventive measures in anthropomorphic terms—as in images of bucket-, bean-, or wheat-headed figures attacking a demon (the disease) — both elements linking them to Kuniyoshi’s artistic practices.


Despite all this labor, the finished prints were relatively inexpensive items, cheaply sold from the publisher’s shop or distributed by itinerant vendors to ordinary townspeople: merchants, artisans, and other tradesmen. Although published in multiples of a hundred copies for the more popular editions, the prints were ephemeral, tossed away once fashions, celebrities—or illnesses—changed.

A few of these would make bitchin’ posters!

“Chasing measles away,” by Utagawa Yoshimori, 1862

“Ad for Kinder-Puwder, King of Pediatric Drugs,” by Morikawa Chikashige, 1880

“Pills to cure toxic illnesses such as syphilis and gonorrhea,” artist unknown, late 19th century
More medical posters from 19th century Japan, after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Bust-a-gut funny ‘Computer Show’ mercilessly skewers the hapless tech idiots of 1983
10:53 am



“Computer Show” is the latest in a lengthy recent tradition of brilliantly conceived cringe comedy making fun of the hidebound conventions of the recent past, and it is blazingly enjoyable.

It’s a satire of PBS tech shows from the 1980s such as Computer Chronicles, the bland, gee-whiz, slightly vacant affect of which it nails righteously. The host of the show is one “Gary Fabert,” and I would argue that Rob Baedeker in 20 scant minutes has earned himself an honorable place in Richard Metzger’s Pantheon of Clueless White Guys with yards to spare, alongside such heroes as “Jerry Hubbard” (Fred Willard) from Fernwood 2Night and Andy Daly from Review with Forrest MacNeil. He’s that good.

The ingenious idea of “Computer Show” is to send Internet entrepreneurs from our moment back in time to 1983 and see what the people from 30-odd years ago make of it. In the first two installments of “Computer Show,” the hosts welcome reddit’s Alexis Ohanian and Lumi’s Jesse Genet and Stephan Ango; in both cases the guests’ every utterance is met with blank stares and abrupt changes of subject. Not knowing what else to say, Fabert invariably responds with smarm and unearned condescension. (Sample line: “So, users at home, a vector is any place you would go to use a computer.”)

The ostensible subject of the show is the unbridgeable gulf that separates those who have experienced the Internet and those who have not, for it renders communication utterly impossible—when words like website or link instantly baffle and lose whatever party you’re speaking with, how on earth can you explain such essential parts of our lives as Rule 34 or Godwin’s Law? You can’t, is the answer.

The humor that most seems of our era often takes the form of convincingly stiff or chintzy imitations or “versions” of helplessly clueless artifacts from the recent past (often the 1980s or 1990s but sometimes the 1970s). In our sleek and pixel-perfect age, we are apparently fascinated, enthralled, horrified, what-have-you by the imperfections inherent in, say, any long-playing album or VHS recording. The examples are too numerous to name, but I’ll list a few obvious touchstones:
Anything involving Tim and Eric
Wet Hot American Summer
The two Hot Tub Time Machine movies
Look Around You
Scarfolk Council
Alex Varanese’s brilliant “ALT/1977” ads
The VHS Camcorder app
Between Two Ferns
Too Many Cooks
The “House of the Future” sketch from Mr. Show
That Braniff TV logo
Another one that fits is the fake ad with Rob Huebel and Colin Hanks from a recent installment of Last Week Tonight (jump to the 14:40 mark). We punish our forebears mercilessly for being so impossibly credulous and cute, but there’s a moral element too: “Computer Show” punishes Fabert for his sexism, and also sorely wants to draw attention to how nauseatingly corporate PBS became after the 1970s (the show is brought to you by “The McGarblin Group” and “Ludlow Ventures,” among others).

“Computer Show” comes from Sandwich Video, the founder of which, Adam David Lisagor, pops up at the end of each episode to give a poorly lit and poorly mic’d, overly earnest op-ed style speech in what looks like an uncomfortable swivel chair reminiscent of David Suskind or Tom Snyder.

The actors are uniformly excellent. In episode 1 Diona Reasonover does a great job playing vintage high school nerd “Angela Dancy,” while in the follow-up Jas Sams is splendid as “Sherri Longhorne.” But the comedic weight falls most heavily on Rob Baedeker as Fabert, and he is jaw-droppingly good—it’s hard to imagine the show without him. Bravo!

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
When the Pentagon tried to make bombs that screamed like people to freak out our enemies
08:22 am



In an effort to weaponize the psychological effect of terrifying sounds to break the morale of our enemies, the Air Force began work, in 1964, on “Pyrotechnic Harassment Devices,” or PHDs.

It has been scientifically proven that human screams contain unique acoustic properties that are highly effective in triggering the brain’s fear center, and the Pentagon wanted some of that ju-ju.

Essentially the PHDs were bombs that would create the sound of horrific human screams in an effort to scare the hell out of our foes. The idea being that if you can break the mind of your enemy, you can break him in battle. One imagines the unnerving effect of hundreds of screams on the front-lines would be similar to that of the infamous Aztec Death Whistle.

Joseph Trevithick, writing at the fantastic military blog, War is Boring, details the the idea behind the weapon:

“This device is an air deliverable unit that generates noise over a six hour period to harass, by generally upsetting enemy troops and thus lowering their efficiency for fighting,” technicians at the Air Force Armament Laboratory explained in their final report. “By dropping a number of units around an enemy group under attack, the PHD may cause general confusion.”

The Air Force hired a company called Special Devices, Inc. to build the prototypes. At first, the flying branch hoped that the pods would boom, bellow and shriek out gunshots, human and animal screeching sounds and the clanging of industrial machinery. Engineers recorded a host of specific samples to analyze, such as people firing .30- and .45-caliber guns and male and female screams.

The recordings also included a “neutral scream” consisting of a mix of the male and female versions and the cries of elephants and panthers, according to the official report. But after experimenting with a variety of mechanisms, Special Devices could only build pods that spewed out shots, whistles, whines and other white noise.

Ultimately the devices were not deemed practical: “There appears to be no way to make a pyrotechnic scream simulator with satisfactory characteristics for the PHD unit,” lamented the engineers. The idea of a “scream bomb” was looking less and less plausible.

Unable to come up with a practical scream generator, speaker boxes were built that could broadcast any recorded sound. Cargo planes were to drop these “screeming meemies” into enemy territory as a sonic disruption.

The box-shaped Screaming Meemie consisted of five major components. The primary element was the siren, which generated what was described as a “warbling tone,” plus four loudspeakers—one for each side of the box.

The siren could be set to function continuously or intermittently. The battery could keep it running for 12 hours.

There was a self-destruct and booby-trap function. The 25-pound high-explosive charge would detonate if someone pushed the device over or tried to open it, or if the battery dropped below a certain level.


The guts of the Screeming Meemie. Visible is (1) the audio system, (2) the dummy high explosive charge, (3) the battery pack, and (4) aluminum cushion. Air Force photo
It seems the military had switched gears from scaring the enemy to death with blood-curdling screams, to annoying them to death with a “warbling tone.” Ultimately, these tests were also ineffective, and the Screaming Meemie project was abandoned in 1967 when the Air Force cancelled its requirement for a “noise-making weapon for psychological warfare.”

A Screaming Meemie in position to be dropped from a C-47. The black arrow points to where the static line connects to the aircraft. Air Force photo
Still, the idea of using noise to disrupt the enemy had not been totally abandoned. Military troops have famously used blasts of loud noise and music against Manuel Noriega and David Koresh. Recently the band Skinny Puppy made headlines with a lawsuit against the US Government for using its music as psychological warfare “torture music” against the detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Perhaps there’s still room for research and development on a bomb that screams at the enemy…

or perhaps one that blasts dubstep…

Just wait for the drop.

Via: War Is Boring 

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
‘Love Letters From Craig’ serves up ‘casual encounters’ as read by a robot
12:57 pm



Love Letters From Craig” is the delicious brainchild of an Amsterdam-based company called Cartelle that appropriates and recontextualizes posts from the “casual encounters” section of Craigslist, certainly one of the steamiest (and frequently, most X-rated) sections of the well-known free personals website.

Those Craigslist posts basically consist of people spelling out the exact kinky thing they’re looking to do with a stranger, using a curiously encoded manner of communication—most messages feature at least 1 or 2 acronyms whose meanings aren’t immediately obvious. On “Love Letters From Craig” those messages are read aloud by a robotic voice of the type you might hear emanating from your GPS, while images of items signifying sex and/or oral stimulation (disembodied boobs, a lipstick, a glazed donut, a lollipop, cherries, bananas, pills, etc.) blandly float by. The formal register lends even such attention-getting phrases as “love making out, mutual oral, rimming, toys, spanking, w/s, shower play” an odd kind of dignity.

Cartelle is calling this strange exercise in voyeurism “a romantic exploration into the perversions of modern-day digital hookups.” According to Cartelle, “The contents are not moderated and completely automated, only enhanced by sensual porno beats and tasty, sexy visuals.” “Love Letters From Craig” scrapes new content from the Craigslist servers on an hourly basis.

I don’t know what it all means, but I find watching it strangely mesmerizing.

via Kill Screen

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Bizarre paintings of mecha robots attacking East European peasants of the early 20th century
11:36 am



The Polish artist Jakub Rozalski, who goes by the sobriquet “Mr. Werewolf,” has produced an amusing series of steampunk-ish canvases in which serene and idyllic rustic landscapes of what seem to be Eastern Europe (Rozalski’s very back yard, you might say) in the early decades of the 20th century feature the prominent and inexplicable existence of completely fictitious giant mecha robots.

Various iconographies are jammed together, the imagery of peasant life in the early years of collectivization, the imagery of science fiction, the imagery of modern warfare…. add it all up and you might find yourself calling to mind, ohhh, the first few scenes of The Empire Strikes Back, set on the icy terrain of Hoth, perhaps?

Rozalski’s intent is “to commemorate this sad and tragic period in history, in my own way, to light on this parts of history that usually remain in the shadows of other events… remember and honor the history, but live in the present.” He adds, “I like to mix historical facts and situations with my own motives, ideas and visions. ... I attach great importance to the details, the equipment, the costumes, because it allows you to embed painting within a specified period of time.” 

Clck on any image to get a larger view.








via Hi-Fructose

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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