======================================================================== Cybernetics in the 3rd Millennium (C3M) -- Volume 8 Number 3, Dec. 2009 Alan B. Scrivener --- www.well.com/~abs --- mailto:abs@well.com ========================================================================

If It's Just a Virtual Actor,
Then Why Am I Feeling Real Emotions?

(Part One)

As always, it was good to see some the actors I know [at the Adventurer's Club], who I once cajoled into speaking on a 1994 SIGGRAPH panel on interactive entertainment and "virtual actor" (VActor) technology, called "The VActor and the Human Factor." (One day I will tell this tale in detail.) -- C3M v. 2 n. 11 "War Games, Money Games, New Games and Meta Games" ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/c3m_0211.txt ) Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion; Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything. -- William Shakespeare's "As You Like It" ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_the_world%27s_a_stage ) O gentle readers, thank your for your patience as I sporadically produce this eZine. This issue deals with a subject I have strong feelings about: the technology of computer-generated human-operated personalities, electronic puppets in effect, sometimes called Performance Cartoons, Real-Time Characters, and Virtual Actors,or VActors(TM) for short.


"Accept loss forever." -- Jack Kerouac ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Kerouac ) In preparing for this 'zine I began to accumulate a list of this decade's "losses," people and things I thought were wonderful that went away, on a small piece of paper. Alas, I seem to have lost the list -- just another loss, it seems -- and so must reconstruct it from memory. Here is the reconstructed list: * Since 2000 my daughter has lost two grandparents. * Wildfires in San Diego in 2003 and 2007, especially the earlier ones, destroyed (at least for half a generation) some of my favorite places to hike and camp, and burned down a historic cabin in a wildlife preserve we frequented. * One of my best friends, Bob S., moved away, to the Indianapolis area, a few years ago. * Bob's wife Ann, who he was in the middle of divorcing, died of cancer this year. * This year Bob's brother Thaddeus also lost his wife, Sandhabeth who he was very attached to. * This year my friend P.S. found out her cancer has returned, and her prospects are not great. * This certainly seems trivial by comparison, but last summer I probably saw the last new "Star Wars" movie I will ever see in a theater, "The Clone Wars" (2008), ending a 31-year run of endless sequels and prequels. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B001GQSY5K/hip-20 ) * Last year for the first time the SIGGRAPH conference did not hold their traditional "Electronic Theater" which began as a "really big show" which nearly all the conference attendees saw, and was eventually split into multiple evenings, before being re-invented in a format more like a film festival in 2008. * Recently the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) closed their visitor's center and gift shop in Baker, California, next to the World's Tallest Thermometer. I used to like to buy books and maps there when driving to Las Vegas. * In 2008 the Star Trek Experience Las Vegas closed. It was a mini-theme park based on the Star Trek universe with two excellent rides and a great retail/restaurant/bar complex that looked just like the space station in "Deep Space Nine." I especially enjoyed interacting with actors who played aliens: fierce Klingon warriors and their sexy/scary women, aloof Vulcans, and sly Ferengi. ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_trek_experience ) * When we visited Star Trek Experience for the last time last year, we dropped by the Luxor Egyptian-theme casino and resort, and reflected on all the great entertainments it had when it opened in 1993, that are now gone: the Swan Boats that took you on the "Nile River" past the fake Egyptian monuments while touring the casino's perimeter, a three part show called "Secrets of the Luxor Pyramid" about ancient levitating aliens that used motion base, 3D, and IMAX, the cocktail waitresses that dressed like Cleopatra in toga, gold sandals, wig and asp headpiece, and a SEGA-sponsored video arcade full of cutting-edge games, and featuring a multi-player 3D rendered Point of View (POV) game with realistic racecar cockpits called "SEGA Virtua Racing." ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luxor_Las_Vegas ) ( www.komotion.com/Portfolio/Right/Thril%20LuXor.htm ) ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtua_Racing ) * This summer, 2009, the Museum of Neon Art in Los Angeles closed its doors. I had been a fan since shortly after they opened in 1981, ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museum_of_Neon_Art ) and in 1986 had taken a group of friends there for an exhibition by light and kinetic sculptor Larry Albright, who helped create the "lightning" plasma ball found today in Spencer Gifts in every mall in America. So when I read on their website that they were closing and going into storage after a final show of Larry Albright through September 27, I hurried up there, but when we arrived on August 8 they'd already completely cleared out. * In our neighborhood it seems like restaurants have been dropping like flies. A cute little Hawaiian place called "Da Kine," with authentic saimin and loco moco, and occasional ukulele concerts was open for about a year. ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saimin ) ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loco_Moco ) * Another that survived less than a year was KB's Memphis Style BBQ here in Santee, ( maps.google.com/places/us/santee/carlton-hills-blvd/9225/-kb%27s-memphis-style-bbq ) which had the comfort food of my youth from visits with relatives in Memphis, ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regional_variations_of_barbecue#Memphis ) and posters of Elvis, ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvis_Presley ) who my great aunt taught in high school, and of W. C. Handy, ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W_C_Handy ) who used to bring his band to perform at parties at my great grandfather's house on Spottswood Ave. ( maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=spottswood+ave,+memphis+tn&sll=35.113554,-89.949642&sspn=0.008689,0.013561&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Spottswood+Ave,+Memphis,+Tennessee&z=13 ) * In nearby Lakeside, Annie Oakley's Cowboy Cafe was a long-time favorite family restaurant owned by former PSA stewardess Lee Perry, famous around these parts for its vast collection of cowboy memorabilia, including souvenirs from Lee's horse competition days as well as the most Sheriff Woody figures I've ever seen in one place. It closed last year. I wrote about it briefly in C3m v. 2 n. 8, Aug. 2003, "Remembrance of Things Proust (Part Two)." ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/c3m_0208.txt ) * A small chain of restaurants in San Diego county called "Boll Weevil" went bankrupt last year, after 42 years. I remember them from my boyhood, how they began as a hamburger joint next to the Cotton Patch restaurant, which my father the PSA pilot told me was a popular watering hole for off-duty pilots in San Diego, a few miles from the airport. ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boll_Weevil_%28restaurant%29 ) * It's been a lousy run for bookstores for a generation, and it keeps getting worse. I hadn't been there in years (my bad) but in 2008 the venerable old huge used bookstore Acres of Books in Long Beach closed. ( www.acresofbooks.com ) ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acres_of_Books ) Author and rare book dealer Larry McMurtry, winner of the best screenplay Oscar and the Pulitzer Prize, ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_McMurtry ) has raved about this place. * Here in San Diego I was stunned this summer when our own Wahrenbrock's Book House shut down. It was a three story downtown walk-up chocked full of wonderful books, with excellent literature, architecture and local history sections. After 74 years the familiar economic pressures had been closing in for a while, and a recent fire was the final blow. ( www.yelp.com/biz/wahrenbrocks-book-house-san-diego ) ( www.sdnn.com/sandiego/2009-08-07/lifestyle/book-end-wahrenbrock’s-book-store-closes-after-74-years ) * We bought our last two vehicles at Saturn of El Cajon; it was the best vehicle-buying experiences we'd ever had. As I write this it has been announced that GM's talks with Penske broke down, and the Saturn brand is being retired. * With all these other losses it still came as a shock over the summer when California's "governator" Arnold Schwarznegger announced that -- due to a budget impasse with the state legislature -- all of the state parks would be closed, including our beloved Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, where my daughter and I have both won the annual Pegleg Smith Liar's Contest. ( www.desertusa.com/mag00/jun/stories/pegleg.html ) (The shutdown was averted for now.) * A lot of things I feel like I've lost recently have to do with Disney. Slowly, since at least 2004, they've been shutting down my favorite pavilion at the EPCOT theme park in Florida, "The Wonders of Life," with it's innovative motion-based "fantastic voyage" through the human body, "Body Wars," and its whimsical tour of the mind, "Cranium Command." ( www.yesterland.com/erasing.html ) ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMFJKjGBgOs ) * In 2005 the Walt Disney Company ceased publication of their magazine, which began as the "Disney News" in 1965, and changed to "Disney Magazine" in 1994, which I had been fairly faithfully reading for over 40 years. ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disney_News ) * There was a Disney fan magazine I was fond of called "The E Ticket" which was slowly dying for a while and finally perished in the summer of 2009. It was the only periodical I knew to publish Imagineer interviews and engineering drawings of theme park rides. ( www.the-e-ticket.com/ ) * In 2008 Disney closed the small attraction "Seasons of the Vine" at the Disney's California Adventure (DCA) theme park in Anaheim, CA, a film about the California wine industry. I hear it was "like watching grapes grow" but I always wanted to see it and just never managed to. ( www.yesterland.com/seasons.html ) * After reading the sci-fi novel "Down and Out In the Magic Kingdom" (2003) by Cory Doctorow, ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/076530953X/hip-20 ) I had a renewed interest in "Liberty Square" where most of the action takes place -- about 500 years in the future. It is the only "Land" in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida which is not found at Disneyland in California. Last summer I began reading on-line about character dining at the Liberty Tree Tavern. It sounded like a blast. I saw YouTube videos of diners meeting Mickey and Minnie Mouse dressed in Colonial outfits. It was adorable. I wanted to experience it. Character dining at the Liberty Tree Tavern ceased in January 2009. ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=65dejAi16gE ) * Since Disneyland opened (I think) there has been a checkerboard next to the pot-bellied stove in the Market House on Main Street, where you could sit and play a game of checkers. This year they got a bigger stove and got rid of the checkerboard. * It used to be my favorite place to chill at Disneyland was the Disney Gallery, a museum and store that drew upon The Walt Disney Company's vast collection of original artwork, from cartoons, concept art from movies, and mostly concept art and models from its theme parks. ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Disney_Gallery ) The space was designed to be a private apartment for Disney family members above the Pirates ride, much like Walt's apartment above the firehouse. It had a New Orleans style courtyard and fountain. I could often be found there, reading a $40 book I'd just bought, while my friends and family rode rides. It closed in 2008. * In 1995, as part of celebrating Disneyland's 50th birthday, Disney began experimenting with an massively multiplayer on-line game (MMOG) called Virtual Magic Kingdom (VMK). My daughter and some of her friends loved this game, and my wife enjoyed it as well. You could play on-line or at a pavilion in the Innoventions building in Tomorrowland at Disneyland. If you created a character at Disneyland and then continued playing at home you got a special Virtual Pin. If you bought a real hat at the Mad Hatter shop at Disneyland you got a code number good for a special Virtual Hat (gold mouse ears) in VMK. You could play games in VMK and win points with which to RENT ROOMS AT A VIRTUAL DISNEYLAND. You could decorate the rooms with magic furniture: waterfalls, teleporters, enchanted props of various types. You could share your rooms with others. My daughter built a Hogwarts-like schoolroom, a tiki room, and lots of other cool stuff in the game. It all went away in 2008, when Disney pulled the plug. I realize it was free, and supposed to be temporary, but WE WOULD'VE PAID MONEY TO KEEP PLAYING. HELLO?. ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_Magic_Kingdom ) * Of course the greatest losses have been the people, and we fear for those at risk. My daughter has two living grandparents, about to turn 80 and 90. But after the people, the biggest recent loss to me was the Adventurer's Club, a so-called "nightclub" at Pleasure Island, Walt Disney World, Florida. I had called it "my favorite place on the planet." It offered a unique form of interactive, semi-improvisational theater with actors, props, costumes, special effects and puppets creating a British explorer's club of the 1930s. It closed in 2008. What tore me up about it was that we -- the "members" of this club -- lost a real community, even though that community included imaginary characters. ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adventurers_Club ) [I should add that while working on this 'Zine I lost my job, which was pretty darned inconvenient. I am now consulting but am looking for another full time position. My resume is on my web site at: ( www.well.com/~abs/home.html ) Scroll down to "Professional Interests." Any leads will be appreciated.]


"All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values." -- Marshall McLuhan ( www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/marshall_mcluhan.html ) Must of been about, oh, nigh onto fifteen years ago that I decided to write -- or more accurately design -- a book based on Marshall McLuhan's "Culture Is Our Business" (1970), ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0028GM0Z2/hip-20 ) which I entitled "The Media Is the Masses" -- ironically, having both a grammatical and an epistemological error. As I worked on it I decided that the events of April through October 1994 belonged in the book as a sort of "braid" of material, along with McLuhanesque polemic and obscure cultural references. (There was this mad push for interactive technology that was going on during that time interval, involving movie companies, phone companies, cable companies, and computer companies in a feeding frenzy of investment in "new media.") Perhaps one day I will complete the book. But as I reviewed the "losses" above, especially the more vacation-related, I was struck with how many of these closed-down entertainments came out of that innovative, optimistic era.


More than one person has reminded me, while I was prattling on about the patterns in pop culture, that many of them derive from the old Renaissance "pantomime" shows, usually called La Commedia dell Arte. ( www.delpiano.com/carnival/html/commedia.html ) Here is how I map these characters onto the "Gilligan's Island" men's parts: ------------------------------------------------------------- Harlequin = Gilligan (the fool who makes fools of them all) Pulcinella = Skipper (the sad clown) Pantalone = Thurston Howell III (the miser) I Dottori = Professor (the self-inflated academic) ------------------------------------------------------------- -- C3M v. 4. n. 3. "Skeleton Key to Pop Culture" ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/c3m_0403.txt ) The Commedia dell Arte gave the Anglicized puppet characters of Punch and Judy. Of course, there is nothing new under the sun. The problem of the real community with imaginary members is as old as the puppet show. In my historical studies, looking for a context for Virtual Actor technologies, I was amazed by how often the pantomimes and puppet shows got shut down for making fun of the royalty and/or the priests. I remember several times seeing George Bernard Shaw's hilarious play "Caesar & Cleopatra" (1901) ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1434451259/hip-20 ) which begins with a mask addressing the audience, as Wikipedia ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesar_and_Cleopatra_%28play%29 ) explains: The play has a prologue and an "Alternative to the Prologue". The prologue consists of the Egyptian God Ra addressing the audience directly, as if he could see them in the theater. The god is immortal, though imaginary, and pities the real, mortal humans. Somehow I'm reminded of a scene in a Jerry Lewis movie, where he gets advice from a mute bunny puppet, without ever seeming to wonder who the puppeteer is. (Gina Davis, star of "Stewart Little" opposite a Computer-Generated mouse, said the hardest question to field on the press tour was "What's it like working with Stewart?") Norbert Weiner, founder of cybernetics, in "God and Golem, Inc.: A Comment on Certain Points where Cybernetics Impinges on Religion " (1966) ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0262730111/hip-20 ) raises the specter of the religious parable of "golem" to address anxieties about the new computer technology and its role as a possible intelligence among humans. Again Wikipedia ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golem ) explains: In Jewish folklore, a golem is an animated being created entirely from inanimate matter. * * * * * * Depending on the version of the legend, under Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor, the Jews in Prague were to be either expelled or killed (pogrom). To protect the Jewish community, the rabbi constructed the Golem out of clay from the banks of the Vltava river, and brought it to life through rituals and Hebrew incantations. As this golem grew, it became increasingly violent, killing gentiles and spreading fear. A different story tells of a golem falling in love, and when rejected, he became the violent monster as seen in most accounts. Some versions have the golem eventually turning on its creator and perhaps even attacking other Jews. * * * * * * The Hubris Theme ...In its earliest known modern form the story has Rabbi Eliyahu of Chem creating a golem that became enormous and uncooperative. In one version of this the rabbi had to resort to trickery to deactivate it, whereupon it crumbled upon its creator and crushed him. There is a similar hubris theme in "Frankenstein," "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and some golem-derived stories in popular culture. The theme also manifests itself in "R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots)," Karel Kapek's 1921 play which coined the term robot; the novel was written in Prague and while Capek denied that he modeled the robot after the golem, there are many similarities in the plot.


"[Pastor Josef] Mohr decided those words would make a good carol for his congregation the following evening at their Christmas eve service. However, he didn't have any music to which that poem could be sung. So, the next day Mohr went to see the church organist, Franz Xaver Gruber. Gruber only had a few hours to come up with a melody which could be sung with a guitar. However, by that evening, Gruber had managed to compose a musical setting for the poem. It no longer mattered that their church organ was broken. They now had a Christmas carol they could sing without it." -- The story behind "Silent Night" ( home.snu.edu/~hculbert/silent.htm ) Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and at my in-laws we sang the old hymn "For the Beauty of the Earth" before dinner accompanied by organ, and after dinner played "Beatles Rock band," and I was reminded of the shift from organ to guitar in our societies dominant stories, from: "For Thy Church, that evermore Lifteth holy hands above, Offering up on every shore Her pure sacrifice of love." to: "There's nothing you can know that isn't known. Nothing you can see that isn't shown. Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be. It's easy. All you need is love, all you need is love, All you need is love, love, love is all you need." It also got me thinking again about theater organists, and how they used to interact with their audiences. Until Edison gave us the phonograph and the motion picture, virtually all entertainment -- outside of reading, music boxes and player pianos -- was interactive. Even a congregation chanting the the Lord's Prayer or the Nicene Creed together is subtly interacting. But there was something very interesting going on in the Nickelodeons and their "silent" movies. The Walt Disney Studios attempted to re-create the theater organ experience as a segment in "The Story Of The Animated Drawing" (TV Episode, 1955), now available on DVD as part of "Walt Disney Treasures - Behind the Scenes at the Walt Disney Studio" (1941). ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00006II6P/hip-20 ) What I realized while watching it was that the movies came and went but the same organist and the same audience, pretty much, would come back week after week. This meant that the organist could play little games, such as playing a creepy "riff" when the villain appeared in a melodrama, and then later playing the same riff when a mother-in-law appears in a domestic comedy. Only the "regulars" would get the joke. Bless them, the Walt Disney has brought back the theater organist, though only for the pre-show, for its special movie screenings at the 1926 art deco El Capitan Theater in Hollywood. ( disney.go.com/DisneyPictures/el_capitan )


"Why would you want to build an amusement park?" {Lillian] asked [Walt]. "Amusement parks are dirty. They don't make any money." His reply didn't make her feel better. "That's the whole point. I want a clean one that will." But she was at Disneyland the night before it opened with a broom, sweeping up the dust off the Mark Twain Steamer. -- "Mrs. Disney" by Stephen Schoceht ( www.streetdirectory.com/travel_guide/10341/women/mrs_disney.html ) We used to have a "fun house" here in San Diego, as part of the Belmont Park amusement park. ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belmont_Park_%28San_Diego%29 ) It had many of the elements identified by Wikipedia ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fun_house ) as found in a fun house: * A large spinning disk. While the disk was stationary patrons would get on and sit in the center, then the operator would start the disk spinning, and people would be thrown off by centrifugal force, ending up against a padded wall. * A horizontal revolving cylinder or "barrel" to try to walk through without falling down. * Sections of floor that undulated up and down, tipped from side to side or moved forward and back, either motorized or activated by the person's weight. Stairs that moved up and down, tipped from side to side, or slid side-to-side alternating directions between steps. The industry refers to these and similar devices as "floor tricks." * Compressed air jets shooting up from the floor, originally designed to blow up women's skirts, but effective at startling almost anyone and making them jump and scream. * An array of distorting mirrors. When I was a boy in the early 1960s the big crowd pleaser was the air jets. There were bleachers set up so the folks who'd just exited the fun house through the air jet could sit and watch other "victims." By the mid-1970s most of the women were wearing miniskirts of stiff material -- or just jeans -- and the prank didn't work much any more.


On one occasion, [Einstein] interrupted a high-level conference by announcing, "You will have to excuse me, gentlemen. It's Time for Beany." -- Stan Freburg, 1988 "It Only Hurts When I Laugh" ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0812912977/hip-20 ) My family was inspired by "Time For Beany," ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_for_Beany ) "Kukla, Fran and Ollie," ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kukla ) and later Jim Henson's Muppets(TM), ( muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Muppet_Wiki ) and we produced puppet shows of our own from my early childhood, at first for our own amusement, then for school shows, and finally for church fundraisers. One of the most hilarious was done by my parents after I left for college, to the soundtrack of Mal Waldron's "Up Popped the Devil," with a Sheriff hand puppet and a Devil marionette. Of course, the most modern incarnation of the puppet show is the ventriloquist with a "dummy" on their knee. The human inevitably apologizes while the dummy insults the audience.


The vanguard audio comedy quartet The Firesign Theatre were exposed to a minicomputer (PDP-8?) running the popular psychiatrist simulator "Eliza" over an acoustic modem connected to a teletype at a campus gathering. People would type words into the teletype and Eliza would respond with vaguely encouraging questions. It was a big hit at parties. -- C3M v. 8 n. 2 "Top Tech ~ or ~ Architecture in Buildings and Software (Part Three)" ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/c3m_0802.txt ) Recently my daughter was flipping through the comedy book "Science Made Stupid" (1985), ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0395366461/hip-20 ) and came to a checklist for the kids to fill out, of when future predictions come true, like: flat screen TV you can hang on a wall flying car domestic robot computer that can pass the Turing test "What's a Turing test?" she asked, ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_test ) This triggered a conversation about Turing's observing a party game: trying to guess someone's gender over a teletype (or by passing notes), and how he repurposed it to be the famous test of machine intelligence. And then I was reminded of the great old BASIC-language computer program Eliza, ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ELIZA ) that fascinated students and partygoers for decades, first on minicomputers in university labs, and later on personal computers all over the place. One of the creepy things about Eliza is that people sometimes asked to be "alone with the doctor," and claimed they could talk to Eliza about things they couldn't talk to anyone else about. And this is a 30-page BASIC program! ( www.atariarchives.org/bigcomputergames/showpage.php?page=22 ) (It's worth noting that it didn't save its input, and so preserved patient privacy.) After a little looking around we found a web-accessible Eliza written in Javascript. ( www.manifestation.com/neurotoys/eliza.php3 ) There's also an iPhone version. ( www.textually.org/textually/archives/2009/03/022907.htm ) My daughter finds it hilarious, capable of entertaining her for a half-hour at a time, just like a "Futurama" episode. "She doesn't know I'm insulting her!" she exclaims. "She?" I reply.


Fun Facts About [Walt Disney's Enchanted] Tiki Room The Enchanted Tiki Room opened 1963. The title song was written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, who also wrote the scores for the films "Mary Poppins" and "The Jungle Book." Jose the Macaw once sat over the entrance to Adventureland, but the crowds who stopped to watch created so much congestion that they had to remove him. -- About.com California Travel ( gocalifornia.about.com/od/toppicturegallery/ig/Disneyland-Rides-Adventureland/Enchanted-Tiki-Room.htm ) It's been a long time since an animatronic bird could draw a crowd at Disneyland. People are inured to the pre-recorded at this point. (They also aren't frightened by people in masks. I remember when the tram tour at Universal Studios Hollywood used to stop at the Eastern European Village and Frankenstein's monster would come out and make people shriek. That stopped about 1974, when people stopped shrieking.) As he was getting ready for the 1964 World's Fair, when Walt used to demo his new technology of "audio-animatronics" to visitors, he always wanted comedian Wally Boag to operate the bird. Wally was a veteran comedian who probably began in vaudeville, and was recently honored in a "Roast" near Disneyland, for his decades of great work at the Golden Horseshoe Cafe in Frontierland, doing teeth-spitting schtick, physical gags, and pioneering work in balloon animals. He mentored a young Steve Martin on that stage. ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=634SzojF0Q4 ) ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-YfnKA476o&feature=related ) Wally would take a stupid joke, "When they operated on father they opened mother's male," and he would riff on it like a jazz musician, stretching his face and pulling up his belt too high as his voice rose in pitch, while saying, "Must-a been, ah, OOOH, must-a been, ah, OOOH, must-a been about, ooh, nigh onto ten year ago that they operated on father," until he brought down the house with his bug-eyes. At one point he pulls off his toupee, and while the audience howls asks, "What were you expecting, feathers?" which is actually the punchline to a DIRTY JOKE! ( www.ianswers.com/question/20070302092630AALHgr7.html ) He pulled this on national TV! (Chuckling to self.) Yes indeed, what was I talking about? Wally Boag, and how Walt always made him drive up from Disneyland in Anaheim to Imagineering in Glendale to operate the audio-aniomatronic bird for visitors. ( maps.google.com/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=1313+S+Harbor+Blvd+Anaheim,+CA+92802&daddr=1401+Flower+Street.+Glendale,+CA+91221&hl=en&geocode=&mra=ls&sll=33.975975,-118.0958&sspn=0.563714,0.86792&ie=UTF8&ll=33.98778,-118.104401&spn=0.563638,0.86792&t=p&z=10 ) The reason Walt wanted Wally was that he was a skilled entertainer using the limited medium of what was essentially a telerobotic puppet. It wasn't the same as the recorded Tiki show the public can still see in Adventureland. It was INTERACTIVE. Wally's bird would hassle Walt while he tried to explain the technology, and Walt -- who was usually a control freak -- loved it. (It was like the insulting ventriloquist's dummy all over again.) But Walt never made the connection that THIS could be a new entertainment medium. He was so enamored of recording the performance that he missed the fact that he had a special experience for only his VIP visitors.


"Karla printed out the following letters and posted them all on her cubicle. They're HAL 9000's letters from 2001: ATM HIS MEM LIF FLX CNT COM NUC VEH" -- "Microserfs" (novel, 1996) by Douglas Coupland ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060987049/hip-20 ) ( textfiles.meulie.net/russian/cyberlib.narod.ru/lib/cin/coupla01.html ) Animation pioneer Windsor McCay ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winsor_McCay ) used to perform his famous "Gertie the Dinosaur" illusion around 1914, ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OWt1HkCQns&feature=related ) ( www.toonopedia.com/gertie.htm ) on Vaudeville, interacting with an animated character with carefully timed movements and dialog to make it LOOK interactive. The art of animation was unknown to the public then. Audiences were mystified. In the Disney theme parks animatrons are routinely introduced by human cast members, who time their responses to make their introductions look interactive, for example, when the pretty lady in the Enchanted Tiki Room awakens Jose by tapping on his perch. In Stanley Kubrick's film masterpiece "2001 - A Space Odyssey (1968) ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001_%28film%29 ) audiences were treated to a vision of a future with ultra-modern industrial design and awesome (sometimes fearsome) computers. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000UJ48SG/hip-20 ) The sophisticated-looking interactive computer graphics that appear throughout the film were rear projections of hand animations; again the illusion of interactivity was painstakingly created in advance and "played back." (Some maniacal 2001 fans have created a modern display simulating HAL 9000 that you can run on your home computer.) ( www.halproject.com/hal/ ) When the ground-breaking TV show "Max Headroom" (1987) appeared, ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Headroom_%28TV_series%29 ) based on the Cinemax made-for-cable movie, people asked how the computer-generated title character was produced: what hardware and software? The answer was: it was a foam rubber mask on actor Matt Frewer. A charming attraction in Orlando, FL, at the Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park, ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islands_of_Adventure ) was the Triceratops encounter. As Wikipedia describes: Triceratops Encounter/Triceratops Discovery Trail (1999-2005) (name changed in 2003), where guests could get up close and interact with a full-scale animated replica of a Triceratops, while a "veterinary technician" performed a semi-annual exam on the Trike. The attraction actually featured three different Trikes -- Topper, Chris, and Cera. All 3 were female. Chris was named after a member of the team that created the dinosaurs who died before the attraction opened. The attraction is now permanently closed. What the article doesn't explain is that the "Trike" is an animatron following a pre-recorded sequence, and the humans rehearse until they can make it look interactive, just like Gertie & Mccay before them. A recent You-Tube sensation uses this trick again, purporting to show a technical demo from hell in which everything imaginable goes wrong. ( www.lumalin.com/lumalin_films/last_lecture.php )


John Hammond: All major theme parks have had delays. When they opened Disneyland in 1956 [sic], nothing worked! Dr. Ian Malcolm: But, John. If the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don't eat the tourists. -- "Jurassic Park" (movie, 1993) ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00003CXAT/hip-20 ) When I worked at Walt Disney World in 1976, all of the entertainment was pre-recorded except for: the Jungle Cruise, some animals on what was then called "Treasure Island," ( www.wdwradio.com/Ask-Lou/Treasure-Island-a.k.a-Discovery-Island-a.k.a.-Riles-Island-a.k.a-Blackbeards-Island...a.k.a.html ) and the famous Disney characters, like Mickey Mouse -- who was mute -- and Snow White -- who could actually talk. (Oh, and there was a Luau show at the Polynesian Resort.) We frequently would see advertising planes flying over with signs that said "Follow me to Rosie O'Grady's." This was a Victorian-era themed night club near downtown Orlando, on Church Street, which featured a high degree of audience participation. Every evening the Disney parks would close down, usually around 9 or 10 PM, and a line of cars would carry tourists up I-95 to Church Street. Since my main squeeze was under 21, and we didn't have a car, we never made it out there. Of course I could get into the Magic Kingdom for free and, over the course of my 10 weeks of employment, I saw it all several times, including the worst dark ride ever made, "If You Had Wings" (at least there was never a line). ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If_You_Had_Wings ) So, to amuse myself, I looked for unusual scenarios. One particularly bogus ride copied from Disneyland was "The Country Bears Jamboree," which was apparently based on an off-hand remark Walt Disney made shortly before he died. ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Country_Bear_Jamboree ) Three of its animatronic characters are animal heads mounted on the wall: Buff the buffalo, Max the stag and Melvin the moose. They introduce the show -- after a human "wakes" them of course. Singing bears ensue. At the end of the show, everybody, the 3 heads included, sings the grand finale as doors bursts open and the audience exits the theater ... into a Pepsi-Frito-Lay-sponsored restaurant where you can buy sodas and Fritos, and there on the wall above the queue were copies of Buff, Max and Melvin, singing away. I got to thinking, those 3 heads aren't ALWAYS singing, and when the audience exits the theater they are ALREADY singing, so they must START singing BEFORE the doors open. Hmmm, I wonder what that looks like, I thought. Having plenty of time to study the situation, I waited in Pepsiland for the show to end. Sure enough, Buff, Max and Melvin "woke up" on their own, did a little schtick, and started singing. I figured sooner or later this event would surprise someone. I watched about weekly. Sure enough, one day, and with a witness (now my wife) I saw a very interactive and entertaining sight. A couple was waiting in line for their Fritos, standing under Buff the buffalo (who was motionless at this point), and she looked up at Buff's brown beard and asked her companion, "Is it real?" "Why don't you touch it and find out?" he answered. (Come to think of it, I got the same answers when I was a kid and asked my dad if the crocodiles on the Jungle Cruise were real.) She reached up and pulled Buff's beard. As fate would have it, at that moment Buff's eyes popped open, and he began his "bit" with the boys before they start to sing. Well, that lady shrieked like you wouldn't believe, and literally JUMPED INTO HER DATE'S ARMS. It was definitely worth all the times I waited.


"YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO THIS WAY, IF YOU GET WET IT'S YER OWN FAULT!" -- sign on Pontoon Bridge, Tom Swayer's Island, 1958 ( www.flickr.com/photos/imagineeringmyway/518923387 ) The story goes that when Walt Disney was having union troubles in the 1940s his brother Roy O. Disney packed him and his family off to Europe to get out of the way so they could negotiate. It was here Walt saw places like the castles of Mad King Ludwig ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_II_of_Bavaria ) which helped inspire Disneyland. One such folly was Hellbrunn Palace in Salzburg, Austria, famous for its water pranks. ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellbrunn_Palace ) As Wikipedia describes it: Hellbrunn Palace (German: Schloss Hellbrunn) is an early Baroque villa of palatial size, near Morzg, a southern district of the city of Salzburg, Austria. It was built in 1613-19 by Markus Sittikus von Hohenems, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, and named for the "clear spring" that supplied it... The schloss is also famous for its jeux d'eau ("watergames") in the grounds, which are a popular tourist attraction in the summer months. These games were conceived by Markus Sittikus, a man with a keen sense of humor, as a series of practical jokes to be performed on guests. Notable features include stone seats around a stone dining table through which a water conduit sprays water into the seat of the guests when the mechanism is activated. However, one seat lacks a conduit: that of the Archbishop. Other features are a mechanical, water-operated and music-playing theatre built in 1750 showing various professions at work, a grotto and a crown being pushed up and down by a jet of water, symbolizing the rise and fall of power. It should be noted that at all of these games there is always a spot which is never wet: that where the Archbishop stood or sat, which is today occupied by the tour guide. And so in Walt's Disneyland he delighted with water, and threats of water, all over the place. The Jungle Cruise boat almost goes under a waterfall, and elephants almost squirt passengers. Matterhorn Mountain, the first steel roller coaster, includes a splash -- though mostly simulated, there is a risk of getting wet and it's happened to me -- and was followed by Thunder Mountain with a fake splash, and Splash Mountain with the real thing and sometimes buckets of water in your lap, which can sure get your attention. In fact, all the mountains but but Space Mountain involve water. (The newest Disneyland coaster, Gadget's Go-Coaster in Toontown, has frogs spit on you!) I remember especially enjoying the pre-show for the Enchanted Tiki Room. Out in the tiki garden, where you can buy Dole pineapple whips, you are surrounded by a seemingly static collection of tikis representing Polynesian gods. One by one the speak and make drumming noises, but sometimes also added elements such as motion, wind, fire, and the finale of newborn babies falling like blossoms from the great tree into the crowd from above. But the tiki with the biggest potential for reaction is the one that squirts water, Hina Kuluua. ( photosfromtheparks.blogspot.com/2007/12/wind-and-rain.html ) I've seen a cast member repeatedly try to warn a guest who was too busy talking to her friend to heed, and then she shrieked when the water mist hit her. (Of course, for decades Sea World has had a problem with keeping people out of the splash zone in the Shamu "killer whale" shows among others. The front rows are soaking wet, and marked with paint, and announcers over loudspeakers warn people in English and Spanish, and they show giant hi-def videos of people getting soaking wet with BRINE, and then they send employees to escort the people with small children out, and still somebody is ASTONISHED to covered from head to toe in cold salt water.) I remember in the 1980s attending midnight showings of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (1975), ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00004U8P9/hip-20 ) ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocky_Horror_Picture_Show ) which were filled with audience interaction. An exciting moment came when on-screen rain was accompanied by folks with spray bottles spraying the audience. As the on-screen characters used a newspaper to keep off the rain, the more prepared audience members would also don newspapers as protection. In the late 1990s some theme parks began advertising "4D movies" such as Sea World's "Pirates 4D," Universal Studio's "Shrek 4D," and Disney's "Honey I Shrunk the Audience." I asked my 5-year-old daughter what "4D" means, and she said "it's like 3D but then they spray you with water." ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4-D_film )


Chester ran up the dune, slid down a step and finished the scramble with the assistance of his hands. He stood, dusting off his pants, and Alex was gratified to note that the Lore Master was a shocked as he was. Awe, surprise, disbelief, a growing hint of laughter -- "He's kidding! There never was anything like that!" Less than a hundred yards out from shore floated a tremendous seaplane. It looked as big as any flying thing had ever been, short of a dirigible or a spacecraft. There were four lean- looking propeller-tipped motors on each huge wing. The hull was a nearly blank wall with a tiny afterthought of a windscreen on top, and a tiny door open in the flank, with lines trailing out into the water. Margie was sitting spraddle-legged, helpless with laughter. "There was. There was," she giggled. -- Larry Niven, 1981, describing a virtual version of the "Spruce Goose" ( www.sprucegoose.org ) in the sci-fi novel "Dream Park" ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0765326671/hip-20 ) Early in my career I made several stabs at getting involved with the video game industry. In the late 1970s, when I was an arcade floorman in the 1907 Casino at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Cruz_Boardwalk ) ( www.beachboardwalk.com ) I saw the original video arcade games from Atari wheeled in: first Spacewar (a single-player bore), then Pong )a two-player crowd pleaser), and I knew I was seeing a revolution. So: * In 1982 I was invited to manage a team of programmers producing the first 3D arcade video game, but funding stalled. * Around the same time R.B. invited me to be involved with a loose confederation of dreamers who wanted to create an "Adventure Parlor" where you could go play interactive 3D adventure games. We called this the "Adventure Project" and we had a lot of fun but didn't come up with anything salable. One problem was we found that computers at our price point didn't have the horsepower to do what we wanted. Another problem was we had no customer, funding, or deadline. Later R.B. declared that his original vision had been achieved by the "Dragon' Lair" laser disc game ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon%27s_Lair ) -- whose development team included an Adventure Project alumnis -- and the "Virtual World" 3D game parlors. ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_World_Entertainment ) * In 1985 I was invited to manage a team of programmers producing a computer game based on a "Blade Runner" sort of dystopia, under the code name "Team Banzai," but the funding stalled.


"Sometimes you want to go Where everybody knows your name, And they're always glad you came; You want to be where you can see, Our troubles are all the same; You want to be where everybody knows your name." -- "Cheers" theme song ( home.online.no/~espenas/cheers/theme.html ) "Catch me a flight to St. Somewhere and get out of this cold weather. Go somewhere where no body knows my name. Gotta keep my mouth shut. Try to go to confession at least once a week..." -- Jimmy Buffett, 1994, in epilog to a cover of the Kinks' "Sunny Afternoon" ( www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Sunny-Afternoon-lyrics-Jimmy-Buffett/3AE1946FC3F10AA8482569A100286B25 ) ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000002OS8/hip-20 ) In C3M v. 4 n. 8, "DV For Me, C? (Part Two)" ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/c3m_0408.txt ) I wrote about low-tech interactive entertainment, including: "Sad Eyed Joe" in the Ghost Town Jail at Knott's Berry Farm, a dummy who could talk and knew kids' names! (While kids waited in line parents were accosted by a Knott's employee who used a wireless mike to pass on names to the voice of Joe.) When I worked as a ride operator at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk I came up with the idea for "YOUR NAME IN LIGHTS 25 CENTS" hooked up to a big Times Square-style scrolling news sign. When I did demos of a pioneering 3D computer graphics system called the "POLY 2000" in 1984, I found that everyone's favorite demo was what I called the "YOUR NAME HERE" demo, which allowed me to rotate their name made of 3D polygonal letters, ( www.well.com/~abs/Graphics/CGBAS.gif ) sort of like the old "Entertainment Tonight" flying logo. ( www.okino.com/customer_case_study_a.htm )


"The VCR is to the American film producer ... as the Boston Strangler is to the woman home alone." -- Jack Velanti, 1982 ( bpdg.blogs.eff.org/archives/000037.html ) Yes, the folks over in Big Entertainment have been trying to hold back the technological tsunami for some time. ( arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/10/100-years-of-big-content-fearing-technologyin-its-own-words.ars ) But one of the biggest Charlie Foxtrots (Google it) of lost opportunity I remember was the "Rollercoaster" Laserdisc game fiasco in the early 1980s. I haven't been able to find the whole story on-line the way I remember it all unfolding at the time, but Wikipedia ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interactive_movie ) tells how it began. Shortly after the new LaserDisc format ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laserdisc ) came out, computer hobbyists realized they had all the "pieces of the puzzle to crate an interactive game with random-access video sequences. An early attempt to combine random access video with computer games was "Rollercoaster," written in BASIC for the Apple II by David Lubar for David H. Ahl, editor of "Creative Computing" [magazine]. This was a text adventure that could trigger a laserdisc player to play portions of the feature film Rollercoaster (1977). The program was conceived and written in 1981, and published in the January 1982 issue of Creative Computing, along with an article by Lubar detailing its creation, an article by Ahl claiming that Rollercoaster is the first video/computer game hybrid and proposing a theory of video/computer interactivity, and other articles reviewing hardware necessary to run the game and do further experiments. When the movie studios got wind of this they got freaked out, realizing that somebody could make a game out of one of their movies and they wouldn't get paid extra. The hobbyists were just concerned with a technical proof- of-concept, and they had a very small choice of LaserDiscs, and so picked the B movie "Rollercoaster" (1977), ( www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1017815-rollercoaster/# ) which they repurposed into a simple text-plus-video-clips game. But the people who owned the rights to "Rollercoaster" realized this would allow people to hook up the hardware like the hobbyists had, type in some BASIC code, and then proceed to have EXTRA UNAUTHORIZED FUN THEY WEREN'T BEING CHARGED FOR. But did they sue Creative Computing? No, they went after the LasrerDisc player manufacturers, and pressured them into TAKING OUT THE ABILITY TO DO INTERACTIVE STUFF. Paradise lost.


"First you have to put the rabbit into the hat." -- banner on the wall of man-in-the-loop testing lab at Rockwell International, Downey, CA, 1984 Between 1983 and 1985 I worked for a company in San Diego called GTI producing the aforementioned POLY 2000 computer graphics system. I designed the C language Application Program Interface (API) for the system, and later ended up programming using it, which had a kind of poetic justice. One of our customers was Rockwell International in Downey which started out with the Space Systems Division (SSD) making space shuttles and bidding on the new space station, and then split into the Space Transportation Systems Division (STSD) and Space Station Systems Division (SSSD). We initially sold one POLY 2000 to each division. My main customer contact at SSSD was Steve Tice, rumored to be the youngest manager at Rockwell, and without a doubt a technical visionary. We had to animate a computer model of the shuttle orbiter in real time to convince these guys to buy; luckily they gave us the coordinates of the model. After that the shuttle became our favorite demo. In 1985 I left GTI prematurely to participate in a computer game effort that didn't pan out, and then my friend Phil M. and I put together a six month consulting gig with Rockwell, programming a key frame animation package for Steve Tice's group to run on their POLY 2000. As that wound down in March of 1986 I found myself calling up Steve Tice and asking for a job at Rockwell. "Why didn't you tell me you were available?" he said, and all the rest was formalities. He got me in. This began my 12 years in the L.A. basin, and I had stars in my eyes. Working in the same building where the space shuttle orbiter was built! Shortly afterwards Tice left Rockwell to start Simgraphics, a high-tech computer graphics research company that was looking for new markets in aerospace and entertainment. More on them later. (He offered me a chance to join him, but I'd just started getting a regular paycheck and wanted to enjoy my relative security for at least a while if I could. That "while" lasted one more year when Rockwell lost the space station main structure contract to McDonnell Douglas.) ( www.nytimes.com/1987/12/02/us/4-companies-win-nasa-s-contracts-for-space-station.html?pagewanted=all ) The following year I was hired by a startup called Stellar Computer. My new boss said he wouldn't have hired me if I'd been at Rockwell much longer, because it would've ruined me.


Here, then, is the explanation of why Paul Revere's midnight ride started a word-of-mouth [chain reaction] and William Dawes's ride did not. Paul Revere was ... a Connector. He was, for example, gregarious and intensely social. When he died, his funeral was attended, in the words of one contemporary newspaper account, by "troops of people." He was a fisherman and a hunter, a cardplayer and a theater-lover, a frequenter of pubs and a successful businessman. He was active in the local Masonic Lodge and was a member of several select social clubs. ... Nor is it surprising that when Revere set out for Lexington that night, he would have known just how to spread the news as as far and wide as possible. When he saw people on the roads, he he was so naturally and irrepressibly social he would have stopped and told them. When he came upon a town, he would have known exactly whose door to knock on, who the militia leader was, who the key players in town were. He had met most of them before. And they knew and respected him as well. But William Dawes? ...he had none of the social gifts of Revere, because there is almost no record of anyone who remembers him that night. ... Dawes did not awaken the town fathers or militia commanders in the towns of Roxbury, Brookline, Watertown and Waltham ... Once he left [Boston] he probably wouldn't have known whose door to knock on. -- Malcolm Gladwell, 2002 "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference" ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0316346624/hip-20 ) explaining why Paul Revere, who was arrested en route, made a bigger difference than Billy Dawes, who rode all the way to Concord It seems like throughout the computer graphics phase of my career I always knew a guy named Greg Panos, who came out to SoCal from Manhattan after a stint at the famous Computer Graphics Lab (CGL) at the New York Institute of Technology (NYT), ( www.cs.cmu.edu/~ph/nyit/masson/nyit.html ) seeking the CG promised land. I first knew him as a coworker at GTI, working on the POLY 2000, and then he went to GTI customer Rockwell Space Division, working for Steve Tice, about a year before I did. Greg wore multiple hats: producer, animator and editor, in the creating of CG videos of space station construction. He was extremely helpful to me when I consulted for Rockwell and later when I joined the company. I especially remember Greg was always a "hustler" (I mean that in a good way), seeking new projects, expediting new equipment acquisitions, and later after he left Rockwell very active in promoting CG and VR (he even ran "1-900-VIRTUAL" at one point), and a relentless cheerleader for the industry in SIGGRAPH and other organizations. Also remember that he was a supernode (in network theory jargon): he knew everybody. When I'd first moved to L.A. county he took me to a party on the west side, probably in Santa Monica, at the apartment of Maxine Brown ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maxine_D._Brown ) ( www.evl.uic.edu/core.php?mod=5&type=4&indi=206&rel=5 ) a CG pioneer who had moved to L.A. recently from Illinois, where she had been doing good work at the National Center for Supercomputing Application. This was at the beginning of her L.A. career phase, which culminated at Digital Productions. (She has since moved back to Illinois, and is doing good work at the University of Chicago.) But I wasn't quite sure who she was. I remember complimenting her black blouse and leotard with neon highlights (this was 1986 after all), and she said, "Well, it's L.A. ..." I spent most of the party reading a book ("Cosmic Trigger" ?) and eventually ended up in the kitchen, where an animated conversation was going on, mostly just listening. I completely failed to recognize what an awesome networking opportunity this was, and also was too shy to capitalize on it. Soon I would resolve to work on this defficiency, and Greg was a big inspiration to me.


"The once-bustling harbor community became a ghost town. But in 1987, Disney Imagineers discovered the island among the acres of Walt Disney World resort property. Some buildings were renovated and some were reopened. Pleasure Island became a nighttime hot spot with seven nightclubs, 12 shops, and a 10-screen movie theater." -- Pleasure Island back story (as reported at Mickey Xtreme) ( www.mickeyxtreme.com/PITribute.htm ) In the summer of 1989 my wife and I went on a road trip with our friends R.B. and P.S., starting at Boston and the 1989 SIGGRAPH conference held there, ( www.informatik.uni-trier.de/~ley/db/conf/siggraph/siggraph1989.html ) and ended up in Titusville, FL, by happy coincidence, watching the launch of the space shuttle Columbia with a classified payload (STS-128). ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STS-28 ) followed by a trip to Walt Disney World that included our first visit to the new EPCOT Center. ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epcot ) (That entire trip was full of happy coincidences; some day I should write about it, using my notes from a Waffle House placemat). We left a day earlier than our friends, to attend a family reunion in North Carolina, and later they told us they'd visited Disney's new night club complex, "Pleasure Island," after we left. ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleasure_Island_%28Walt_Disney_World_Resort%29 ) By this time old Rosie O'Grady's in downtown Orlando had expanded into a complex of nightclubs called Church Street Station, and they were linked together with elevated walkways and you could get into to all of them by paying one cover price. ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_Street_Station_%28Orlando%29 ) Apparently the Disney folks had tired of watching all that spending money drive off of their property every night, and so the Pleasure Island (P.I.) complex was basically a rip-off of Church Street Station. Our friends described how the comics at comedy club at P.I. made jokes about the trials and tribulations of a trip to Walt Disney World (which apparently was a big hit with the tourists but provoked hostility from some of the Florida-based Disney employees!), The next bit will only make sense with some context: I had once told my friend R. S. how inspired I was by Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, and how I had an idea to one day put a tiki bar in my house, with a remote- controlled talking tiki which could be operated by someone behind a one-way mirror. The idea would be to wait until someone was quite drunk, and have the tiki begin talking to them. But then, when they fetched others to witness this, it would remain mute and immobile. Hilarity ensues. (This is kind of like the famous 1955 Warner Brothers cartoon of the singing frog, "One Froggy Evening.") ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singing_frog ) R.S. told me, "Alan, there's a club there you'd really like. It's called the Adventurer's Club, and they have a gag that's very similar to your talking tiki idea."


"We climb the highest mountain Just to get a better view; We swim the deepest ocean Because we're daring through and through; We cross the scorching desert Martinis in our hand; We ski the polar ice cap In tuxedo looking grand; We are reckless, brave and loyal And valiant 'till the end; If you come in here a stranger You will exit as a friend." -- Adventurers Club Creed ( keithbarrett.com/blog/adventurers-club-final-hoopla ) In May of 1990 I made another trip to Orlando, FL, this time to attend a conference on "chaos theory" and related topics sponsored by the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematicians (SIAM). ( www.siam.org ) The actual name was "The SIAM Conference on Dynamical Systems" ( www.netlib.org/na-digest-html/89/v89n42.html#7 ) at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, 8001 International Drive at Sand Lake Rd. (now the Wyndham Orlando Resort). It was a fascinating event which I took vacation time to attend and self-funded. It's where I first met Yorke, who with Li coined the term "chaos" in mathematics. ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_A._Yorke ) I made an extensive record of the trip with camcorder and dictaphone. Some day I will chronicle it in detail, perhaps even in this 'Zine. But what is relevant to this story is what I did with my evenings. I spent them at the Adventurer's Club, which I later came to describe as "the coolest place on the planet." I was obsessed with the chaos theory concept of "attractors" that week. I made made a mix tape for the trip which I called "The Wind Just Kind of Pushed Me This Way," ( i164.photobucket.com/albums/u12/c3m_2007/TheWind.jpg ) a line from the song/word jazz piece "Somewhere Down the Crazy River" by Robbie Robertson. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00191LXIM/hip-20 ) The spoken intro goes: Yea, I can see it now The distant red neon shivered in the heat I was feeling like a stranger in a strange land You know where people play games with the night God, it was too hot to sleep I followed the sound of a jukebox coming from a levee All of a sudden I could hear somebody whistling From right behind me I turned around and she said "Why do you always end up down at Nick's Cafe?" I said "I don't know, the wind just kind of pushed me this way." On the tape cover I put a picture of a dynamical systems attractor from Electro-Encephalography (EEG) data, from a paper that showed that brainwaves during a seizure have a lower fractal dimension than healthy brainwaves. (I'm pretty sure it was "The Fractal Dimension of EEG As a Physical Measure of Conscious Human Brain Activities" by Xu Nan and Xu Jinghua, Academia Sinica, Shanghai, China, "Bulletin of Mathematical Biology" 50:3 1988 pp. 559-565.) ( www.springerlink.com/content/1t1u4w868560m10q/ ) Some of the songs on the tape were songs I had played over and over. I'd just bought a boom box with a programmable CD player, and so when I heard a song that intrigued me I'd put it on auto-repeat. I did this with Alannah Myles' "Black Velvet" ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000002IO1/hip-20 ) as I drove over and over around and through the Cal-110 tunnels in L.A.'s Elysian Park ( www.losangelesforvisitors.com/photos/elysian-park-freeway.htm ) (which were the inspiration for the entrance to Toontown in the 1988 live action/animated movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?") ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00007AJGH/hip-20 ) until I finally realized the song "Black Velvet" was not about the whiskey, but paintings of Elvis on black velvet. ( images.google.com/images?rls=en&q=black+velvet+elvis&oe=UTF-8 ) So that song went on the mix. And so on. So while playing this mix tape in my rental in Florida (they were having a special on red Cadillacs) I did some random driving there. One evening after the chaos conference I came back to my motel and my favorite parking space right in front of my room was taken. So I didn't park. I exited the lot and continued north on South Orange Blossom Trail until I got to Colonial Drive, which I remembered from 1976 and a bicycle journey. I turned right, East, and continued as the road became Florida state highway 50 and took me straight out to the space coast. In Titusville I happened upon a motel near the Kennedy Space Center where we'd stayed the year before with our friends R.B. and P.S., with its signature motortrike shaped like a space shuttle parked out front. I turned right, South, on U.S. A1A, the Atlantic coast highway, and headed down to Patrick Air Force Base and the huge launch pads there. Finally I vectored back to Orlando as the mix tape finally began to repeat. "The wind just kind of pushed me this way..." Two hours after not parking at my hotel I returned to find my favorite space now free, and I parked in it. But the most attractive attractor of my journey was the Adventurer's Club. I returned to it every night, and finally bought a one-week pass to save money. It seemed like the ideal home-away-from-home, it helped me overcome my shyness, and it changed my life.


"The whimsical, corny, but thoroughly entertaining Adventurers Club forms a conceptual bridge between the world of empire in Adventureland and that of international commerce at World Showcase." -- Stephen M. Fjellman, 1992 "Vinyl Leaves: Walt Disney World And America" ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0813314720/hip-20 ) Dear readers, I must confess to have reached a point of "writers block" in this project. I had intended to describe in detail what a "first visit" to the Adventurers Club is typically like, with something like this: You enter the ornate, Edwardian building on the second floor, oblivious to the inscriptions, banners, warnings and a crashed airplane outside. You are in the Zebra Mezzanine of a 1930s club for world-traveling adventurers. All around you the walls are covered with bizarre -- but compulsively documented -- artifacts from the members' travels. You can see down into the Main Salon, where a statue of Zeus casting a fishing rod dominates the room... and so on. But I find it is too painful, like trying to write erotic poetry about a dead lover. So instead I will point you to others who have bravely recorder their impressions. A woman named Julie, age 30, from Nashville, TN, who goes by the handle "USRoadTripper" on themeparkreview.com, ( www.themeparkreview.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=20945&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=50 ) has posted detail descriptions and photos. I recommend you take a look, but here is the summary: ...I [want] to introduce everyone to one of my favorite places in Disney World, the Adventurer's Club. I've barely heard it mentioned on this website, which is a shame since it's crazy, funny, kooky and extremely unique. I've never found any other place like it. When I first started on [RADP, the rec.arts.disney.parks newsgroup], all the evening meets were held in the Adventurer's Club, so I got to know it when I was only 19. I've had a tough time getting friends my age to appreciate the club since sometimes you can walk in, and nothing is going on at that second. It might look like a place to get a martini and have quiet chat, but it's not! So most of my non-RADP friends give it 30 seconds and decide they don't like it! Generally, the club is improv comedy, though the structure of the night is all scripted. Certain things happen at certain times, but they incorporate the audience and you never know what may come out of it. There have been nights when I have laughed so hard in this club that my stomach was sore the next day. I think that everyone who has Pleasure Island admission should give the Adventurer's Club at least an hour of your time. There is almost always something going on, be it characters wandering around chatting with guests, or shows in the Main Salon, Library, Mask Room, or Treasure Room. The club is geared to older teens and adults, but even kids as young as 9 or 10 should really enjoy it, and it doesn't get so risque that mom and dad would have to worry. TO BE CONTINUED... ======================================================================== newsletter archives: www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047 ======================================================================== Privacy Promise: Your email address will never be sold or given to others. You will receive only the e-Zine C3M from me, Alan Scrivener, at most once per month. It may contain commercial offers from me. To cancel the e-Zine send the subject line "unsubscribe" to me. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I receive a commission on everything you purchase from Amazon.com after following one of my links, which helps to support my research. ======================================================================== Copyright 2009 by Alan B. Scrivener