Friday in Berkeley, CA: Pop-Up Magazine and NoisePop's live stories and sound extravaganza

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Right now, The Voyager Golden Record, containing a message from Earth for any extraterrestrials that might encounter it, is traveling on two spacecraft through the cosmic ocean at almost 40,000 miles per hour. But as we approach the 40th anniversary of Voyager, that beautiful gold phonograph record is also barreling through popular consciousness! Last week, I launched a Kickstarter with two friends, Timothy Daly and Lawrence Azerrad, to release the Voyager Golden Record on vinyl for the first time. We are blown away and humbled by the support our project has received!

While we were secretly developing our project, the good people at Pop-Up Magazine, California Sunday Magazine, and NoisePop were also quietly orchestrating their own homage to that magnificent golden artifact! The Golden State Record, taking place this Friday (9/30) at Berkeley's Greek Theater is an exquisitely-curated performance of "stories and sounds of California and the West from some of our favorite musicians, writers, filmmakers, radio producers, and artists." (We only found out about each others' efforts in July!)

The, well, stellar Golden State Record lineup include musicians like Lil B, Thao Nguyen, Mark Kozelek, and Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino, the Center for Investigative Reporting's Al Letson, music critic and "MacArthur Genius" Josh Kun, Jace Clayton aka DJ/rupture, and so many more.

I'll be there enjoying the scene under the stars.

Attend the Golden State Record at Berkeley's Greek Theater

Support the "Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition" on Kickstarter

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Understanding Musk's plan for colonizing Mars

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Over at National Geographic, Nadia Drake's feature on Elon Musk's plan for millions of people to live on Mars is the best explanation (and contextualization) of this far out vision that I've read. From Nat Geo:

The rocket would deliver the crew capsule to orbit around Earth, then the booster would steer itself toward a soft landing back at the launch pad, a feat that SpaceX rocket boosters have been doing for almost a year now. Next, the booster would pick up a fuel tanker and carry that into orbit, where it would fuel the spaceship for its journey to Mars.

Once en route, that spaceship would deploy solar panels to harvest energy from the sun and conserve valuable propellant for what promises to be an exciting landing on the Red Planet.

As Musk envisions it, fleets of these crew-carrying capsules will remain in Earth orbit until a favorable planetary alignment brings the two planets close together—something that happens every 26 months. “We’d ultimately have upward of a thousand or more spaceships waiting in orbit. And so the Mars colonial fleet would depart en masse,” Musk says.

The key to his plan is reusing the various spaceships as much as possible. “I just don’t think there’s any way to have a self-sustaining Mars base without reusability. I think this is really fundamental,” Musk says. “If wooden sailing ships in the old days were not reusable, I don’t think the United States would exist.”

"Elon Musk: A Million Humans Could Live on Mars By the 2060s" by Nadia Drake (National Geographic, thanks Tom Andres for the video tip!)

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Hypnotic breast enlargement

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In the early 1990s, former professional wrestler and police officer Michael Stivers launched a career as a hypnotist, but with the unusual specialty of "breast enlargement hypnotism."

According to his pitch, "The larger-breast style of self-hypnosis relaxes the subject, then allows her to will an increased blood flow into the fatty tissues of the breast, much like that during menstruation or pregnancy. Daily conditioning through self-hypnosis allows what amounts to a permanent enhancement."

As George Constanza once said, "It's not a lie if you believe it."

It may comes as a surprise then that according to an article from the Des Moines Register posted by Weird Universe, not all of Stivers' customers were satisfied.

"A 58-year-old Tampa woman who wouldn't give her name said her bust measurement grew 3 inches through hypnosis in April, but then shrank 1 ½ inches," reads the article.

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Adam Savage's portable movie theater

This summer, BB pal Adam Savage of MythBusters and Tested modified a pick-up truck into a mobile movie theater!

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Horses can communicate with people using symbols

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Researchers from the Norwegian Veterinary Institute developed and tested a system for horses and people to communicate using a symbolic language. From the Daily Grail:

...Twenty three horses learned to tell trainers if they wanted to wear a blanket or not. Subjects were shown three symbols: a horizontal bar to say "I want a blanket", a blank square for "No change", and a vertical bar for "I don't need a blanket". They learned the meanings in a day or two and using them to convey if they were too warm or too cold, building the case for self-awareness...

(In the scientific paper, the researchers write that,) "When horses realized that they were able to communicate with the trainers, i.e. to signal their wishes regarding blanketing, many became very eager in the training or testing situation. Some even tried to attract the attention of the trainers prior to the test sit- uation, by vocalizing and running towards the trainers, and follow their movements. On a number of such occasions the horses were taken out and allowed to make a choice before its regular turn, and signalled that they wanted the blanket to be removed. It turned out that the horses were sweaty underneath the blanket."

"Horses can learn to use symbols to communicate their preferences" (Applied Animal Behaviour Science)

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Thomas Jefferson, the great importer of mac 'n cheese

Thank you to the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, for recognizing the greatness of French food and imported macaroni and cheese where it has (d)evolved into its own food group.

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Watch Batman documentary "Holy Batmania"

A 1989 documentary covering the birth of Batman through to the best on-screen Batman ever, Mr. Adam West.

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Please support the "Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition" on Kickstarter

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Today, I’ve launched a very special Kickstarter with two friends, Timothy Daly and Lawrence Azerrad. A year in the making (and many more years on our minds), the Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition is the first vinyl release of the stunning golden phonograph record launched by NASA in 1977 aboard the Voyager spacecraft, one of which is now traveling through interstellar space.

The original Golden Record was a gift from humanity, an introduction to our civilization for any extraterrestrials who might encounter the spacecraft, perhaps billions of years in the future. But it was also a gift to humanity. And if we meet our goal, you’ll be able to experience it the way it was meant to be played.

The Voyager Golden Record contains the story of Earth expressed in sounds, images, and science: Earth's greatest music from myriad cultures and eras, from Bach and Beethoven to Blind Willie Johnson and Chuck Berry, Senegalese percussion to Solomon Island panpipes. Dozens of natural sounds of our planet -- birds, a train, a baby's cry, a kiss -- are collaged into a lovely sound poem. There are spoken greetings in 55 human languages, and one whale language, and more than one hundred images encoded in analog that depict who, and what, we are. Etched on the record’s gold-plated aluminum jacket is a diagram explaining where it came from, and how to play it.

Astronomer and science educator Carl Sagan chaired the visionary committee that created the original Voyager Golden Record forty years ago. Read the rest

Designing the future of work

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Over at Democracy Journal, my Institute for the Future colleagues Marina Gorbis and Devin Fidler explore the "digital coordination economy" (aka the on-demand economy) and how "it may take deliberate design choices in platform architecture, business models, new civic services, and public policy to prevent this increasingly seamless “coordination economy” from becoming highly inequitable as well." From Democracy Journal:

As software takes an increasing role on both sides of transactions—ordering and producing—it promises to bring vastly more efficient coordination to these kinds of basic economic functions. This emerging digital coordination economy, with its efficient matching and fulfillment of both human and nonhuman needs, has the potential to generate tremendous economic growth.

However, as software engineers essentially author a growing segment of our economic operating system, it may take deliberate design choices in platform architecture, business models, new civic services, and public policy to prevent this increasingly seamless “coordination economy” from becoming highly inequitable as well. Already the growth of on-demand work has allowed investors and owners in some industrialized regions to reap substantial financial returns while many of the people using platforms to generate income streams are struggling to maintain their standard of living. Uber drivers, for example, have seen a drop in earnings in the United States over the last couple of years, even as the company continues to grow at a dramatic pace.

It is clear that the fundamental technologies driving the coordination economy are neither “good” nor “bad,” but rather offer a heady combination of opportunities and challenges.

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Great works of 16th-20th century art painted with ground-up mummies

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The lovely brown hues in Eugene Delacroix's 1830 painting above, titled "Liberty Leading the People," were actually pigments made from ground-up mummies from Egypt. From National Geographic:

The use of mummy as a pigment most likely stemmed from an even more unusual use—as medicine. From the early medieval period, Europeans were ingesting and applying preparations of mummy to cure everything from epilepsy to stomach ailments. It's unclear whether Egyptian mummies were prized for the mistaken belief that they contained bitumen (the Arabic word for the sticky organic substance, which was also believed to have medicinal value, is mumiya), or whether Europeans believed that the preserved remains contained otherworldly powers.

What is clear to researchers is that early artist pigments were derived from medicines at the time, and were commonly sold alongside them in European apothecaries. And just as mummy was waning in popularity as a medical treatment, Napoleon's invasion of Egypt at the end of the 18th century unleashed a new wave of Egyptomania across the Continent.

Tourists brought entire mummies home to display in their living rooms, and mummy unwrapping parties became popular. Despite prohibitions against their removal, boatloads of mummies—both human and animal—were brought over from Egypt to serve as fuel for steam engines and fertilizer for crops, and as art supplies.

By the beginning of the 20th century, however, the supply of quality mummies for pigment appears to have dried up. A 1904 ad in the Daily Mail requests one "at a suitable price," adding: "Surely a 2,000-year-old mummy of an Egyptian monarch may be used for adorning a noble fresco in Westminster Hall…without giving offence to the ghost of the departed gentlemen or his descendants."

"Was This Masterpiece Painted With Ground Mummy? Read the rest

Wonderful video of New Wave dance club in the 1980s

Much of this wonderful video could have been shot at Cincinnati's Metro/Clubhaus where I spent the late 1980s, but it's actually from Stratus in San Diego, California. This is the first in a series of vintage Stratus videos that you can watch here.

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A historian of "Positive Thinking" surrenders (almost)

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Over at Medium, BB pal Mitch Horowitz, author of the excellent Occult America and One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life, writes about how "if America loses its smiley-faced coffee mugs and ethic of better tomorrows — themes extolled by presidents ranging from Ronald Reagan ('nothing is impossible') to Barack Obama ('yes, we can') — we also risk losing a basic part of what makes our nation work." From Medium:

Consider online banter. The level of invective is bottomless on Twitter, comments sections, and virtually everywhere in the perpetual open-mic night of digital culture. Americans once turned to books like Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936) to learn how to behave appropriately in professional environments and get things done inside large organizations. (Key insight: agreeable people win.) Yet our generation is almost hostile to the lessons of civility held by the previous one.

The original positive thinkers were actually a cohort of mystics, freethinkers, proto-psychologists, and religious seekers in New England in the mid-to-late 19th century. Their movement was often called New Thought, and they believed that thoughts, in some greater or lesser measure, affected health, happiness, fortunes, and relationships.

Remember the oft-mocked mantra “Day by day, in every way, I am getting better and better”? It was a confidence-boosting formula popularized in the early 1920s by French hypnotherapist Emile Coué. Although Coué won thousands of followers, critics mocked his method for its singsong simplicity. Today he is forgotten. But placebo researchers at Harvard Medical School recently validated one of the mind theorist’s most important insights.

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This woman is allergic to water

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Rachel Warwick suffers from aquagenic urticaria, an immune reaction to contact with water. According to the BBC, it "is like being stung by a bush of particularly pernicious nettles, combined with the malaise of hay fever, every single day." From the BBC:

It’s a world where relaxing baths are the stuff of nightmares and snorkelling in tropical seas is as appealing as rubbing yourself with bleach. “Those things are my idea of hell,” she says.

Any contact with water whatsoever – even her own sweat – leaves Rachel with a painful, swollen and intensely itchy rash which can last for several hours. “The reaction makes me feel as if I’ve run a marathon. I feel really tired afterwards so I have to go and sit down for quite a while,” she says. “It’s horrible, but if I cry my face swells up”...

Right from the beginning, aquagenic urticaria was as baffling to scientists as it is to the rest of us. Technically, the condition isn’t actually an allergy at all, since it’s likely caused by an immune reaction to something within the body, rather than an over-reaction to something foreign, such as pollen or peanuts. The earliest theory to explain how it works is that water is interacting with the outermost layer of skin, which consists mostly of dead skin cells, or the oily substance which keeps skin moist. Contact with water may cause these components to release toxic compounds, which in turn leads to an immune reaction.

Others have suggested that water may simply dissolve chemicals in the layer of dead skin, allowing them to penetrate deeper where they can cause an immune reaction.

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Kenneth Anger and Brian Butler occult theatrical extravaganza in L.A. on Sunday

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On Sunday, pioneering underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger and occultist/artist/musician Brian Butler are staging their performance piece Technicolor Skull at The Regent in Los Angeles. From the event announcement:

Unleashing a 60,000 watt sound system and several tons of equipment for this special hometown performance, the duo are at the pinnacle of their powers and look forward to reestablishing dominion over these and other united states.

Artistic contemporaries and longtime friends, Kenneth Anger and Brian Butler work in a wide variety of mediums, though none perhaps more visibly than light and sound. The Regent is proud to host these two visionary artists in person to perform the newest installment of their radical project Kenneth Anger & Brian Butler’s Technicolor Skull. Both artists are continually pushing the limits of their aesthetic and creative capacities towards exceeding characteristically human capabilities. To witness this in a live setting is to experience one of the most important discoveries of the twentieth century.

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What's going on in the brains of people who don't need much sleep?

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Many people claim that they don't need much sleep, insisting that even five hours a night is enough shuteye for them to feel rested. According to new scientific research, "habitual short sleepers" may actually be handling the brain tasks that most of us deal with during the night, like memory consolidation. From Medical Xpress:

Both groups of short sleepers exhibited connectivity patterns more typical of sleep than wakefulness while in the MRI scanner. (University of Utah radiologist Jeff) Anderson says that although people are instructed to stay awake while in the scanner, some short sleepers may have briefly drifted off, even those who denied dysfunction. "People are notoriously poor at knowing whether they've fallen asleep for a minute or two," he says. For the short sleepers who deny dysfunction, one hypothesis is that their wake-up brain systems are perpetually in over-drive. "This leaves open the possibility that, in a boring fMRI scanner they have nothing to do to keep them awake and thus fall asleep," says (Utah neurologist Chirstopher) Jones. This hypothesis has public safety implications, according to Curtis. "Other boring situations, like driving an automobile at night without adequate visual or auditory stimulation, may also put short sleepers at risk of drowsiness or even falling asleep behind the wheel," he says.

Looking specifically at differences in connectivity between brain regions, the researchers found that short sleepers who denied dysfunction showed enhanced connectivity between sensory cortices, which process external sensory information, and the hippocampus, a region associated with memory. "That's tantalizing because it suggests that maybe one of the things the short sleepers are doing in the scanner is performing memory consolidation more efficiently than non-short sleepers," Anderson says.

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Watch the new Radiohead video by Paul Thomas Anderson

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Radiohead debuted their latest music video, for the track "Present Tense" from Moon Shaped Pool. Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood, Radiohead's "Daydreaming") directed the clip that features Thom Yorke, Johnny Greenwood, and the classic Roland CR-78 drum machine from 1978.

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Giant moon rolls through Chinese city streets

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A giant model moon, part of the Mid-Autumn Festival decorations in Fuzhou, China was blown from its display by Super Typhoon Meranti winds and rolled through traffic today.

(Shanghaiist) Read the rest

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