inkwell.vue.181 : Brad Stone, _Gearheads_
permalink #26 of 39: Joe Flower (bbear) Wed 30 Apr 03 21:01
I loved Woodie. But the thing that really about this really
interesting book was Plotnicki. How a man can be so unaware of his
effect on others -- and the way in which he was destroying his own
business by being so belligerent. And it could have been a great
inkwell.vue.181 : Brad Stone, _Gearheads_
permalink #27 of 39: Brad Stone (bradstone) Thu 1 May 03 16:37
Thats pretty much the feeling around another Plotnicki property too -
the rap group Run-DMC. Many think their popularity could have been
prolonged if it weren't for the extensive legal warfare between
Plotnicki and Russell Simmons.

And yet there are two sides to all stories. I tried to convey
Plotnicki's view on all these disputes in the book. And some readers I
talk to are actually more receptive to Plotnicki's arguments than
Thorpe's. They think Thorpe signed a legal agreement and - even if it
was a bad contract - he was compelled to live up to his

inkwell.vue.181 : Brad Stone, _Gearheads_
permalink #28 of 39: David Nunez (davidnunez) Thu 1 May 03 21:42
It's hard to dismiss that Plotnicki's initial investments were
critical in getting Robot Wars off the ground.  

Building the robots and producing and promoting shows are all very
expensive endeavors and there's no denying that the businessmen are as
critical as the visionaries and artists for getting shows sponsorship
and widespread coverage.

It was interesting to read that once Plotnicki crossed the robot
builder community (by warring with and suing Thorpe et al.), the
builders basically said, "Screw it... we'll just do it ourselves." 
Hence, Battlebots.  The roll-up-the-sleves and
build-something-amazing-from-junk attitude that these engineers live
daily prevailed.

I also thought it was revealing to learn how the television companies
swarmed around "Robot-related properties."  

I noticed on the site, Plotnicki's picture was
missing in action... how cooperative was he in your researching the

Now that Battlebots is off Comedy Central, what's the future of
Aggressive Robotic Competition on Television?  

Here's the roster of robot competition shows, as I know it...
- Robot Wars - replaying on Tech TV
- Techno Games - robots competing in olympiad style sports: swim,
climb ropes, solar powered stamina contest (Tech TV)
- Robot Rivals - DIY Network show featuring teams of college students
building bots to complete specific and non-predictable tasks. Design
and build happens in a limited timeframe with limited parts (a la
Junkyard Wars)

Which ones am I missing?
inkwell.vue.181 : Brad Stone, _Gearheads_
permalink #29 of 39: one man's astrolabe is another man's sextant (airman) Fri 2 May 03 08:58
Plotnicki clearly had a written contract and Thorpe didn't understand
what he signed but he did sign it, perhaps on bad counsel.

Another fascintating area is the entertainment industry accounting
practices. Are there books which go into the accounting practices for
the entertainment folks?
inkwell.vue.181 : Brad Stone, _Gearheads_
permalink #30 of 39: Brad Stone (bradstone) Fri 2 May 03 15:50
Hi guys, sorry for the disappearing act. I got wrapped up in Newsweek

Steve was cooperative during my research. Although he wouldn't meet me
in person, we had many long talks and e-mail exchanges. When I asked
to use his photograph though, he consulted his wife - a lawyer - and
she advised him not to let me. When the book came out, his thinking on
the project may have shifted a bit because he declined my invitation to
send him a copy. I haven't really spoken to him since.

Regarding the future of robot TV shows, you named the three that are
alive and kicking in the U.S. right now as far as I know. Unless you
want to include other mechanical entertainment like Junkyard Wars,
Monster Garage et al. (I tend to see those more as game shows than real
competitions though.) I'm in pretty good touch with the guys at
BattleBots and they insist they have irons in the fire and some
promising projects underway. They have built a pretty good brand so I
doubt they will just disappear. Then you have all the other types of
robotic sports, from FIRST to the Grand Challenge to RoboCup... I don't
think this sport is anywhere near its golden age yet. We are just
getting started.
inkwell.vue.181 : Brad Stone, _Gearheads_
permalink #31 of 39: David Nunez (davidnunez) Fri 2 May 03 20:12
Is there room, in this yet-to-be-reached Golden Age of Robotic
Entertainment, for more "cultural" or "traditional" robotic performers?

In other words, will the general public be as interested in
entertainment and performance of the poets, ballerinas, musicians, and
Shakespearian actor bots that people are or will be building? 
inkwell.vue.181 : Brad Stone, _Gearheads_
permalink #32 of 39: Brad Stone (bradstone) Mon 5 May 03 11:59
David, I certainly hope so! I wrote a story in Newsweek on one such
effort, the Stupid Fun Club of "Simcity" creator Will Wright. Here's
the piece:

Wright and his crew say they are fielding much Hollywood interest in
their various robot projects, including the one I wrote about.

Thanks for the great questions! This was fun.

inkwell.vue.181 : Brad Stone, _Gearheads_
permalink #33 of 39: Clare Eder (ceder) Mon 5 May 03 14:50
    <scribbled by ceder Tue 6 May 03 14:09>
inkwell.vue.181 : Brad Stone, _Gearheads_
permalink #34 of 39: David Nunez (davidnunez) Mon 5 May 03 18:54
Brad, your book bio says you've been experimenting with robot building
yourself... how's it going?
inkwell.vue.181 : Brad Stone, _Gearheads_
permalink #35 of 39: Brad Stone (bradstone) Tue 6 May 03 14:49
um, I didn't get too far. 'nuff said.
inkwell.vue.181 : Brad Stone, _Gearheads_
permalink #36 of 39: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 6 May 03 17:53
Brad, I just have to ask: what's your favorite cinema robot? I'm into 
Robby, myself... 
inkwell.vue.181 : Brad Stone, _Gearheads_
permalink #37 of 39: David Nunez (davidnunez) Thu 8 May 03 20:55
Thanks for all your insight, Brad!  I, for one, appreciated your time
talking with us here!  

We didn't get around to talking about some of the latest stuff you've
been writing about (particularly the Bezos Space Program ;)), but I
encourage everyone to go to and search for Brad's articles
in the past couple of weeks.

Also, he had a piece in the latest issue of Wired about Palm moving
into the wireless space.

Thanks again and everyone, please feel free to continue the
inkwell.vue.181 : Brad Stone, _Gearheads_
permalink #38 of 39: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 9 May 03 19:24
Thanks, David! This one's been great, hope you guys keep rocking on!
inkwell.vue.181 : Brad Stone, _Gearheads_
permalink #39 of 39: &manbeast.hooved (satyr) Tue 13 May 03 12:07
If any of those of you here on the Well don't get enough of talk about
robots, you might be interested to know that I host a humble little
independent conference called <augbot.ind.>, which focuses on augmentation
and robotics.  Come on by.

Members: Enter the conference to participate. All posts made in this conference are world-readable.

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