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Thursday
Feb082007

Astuter Computer Revue


I don't remember much about Communicore at EPCOT in Walt Disney World. It closed in 1993 and was converted into the half-rate Innoventions Pavillion. However, I did find a little gem of a song that was featured in the Communicore exhibit for just a few short years. The song is called The Computer Song and was composed by the Sherman Brothers, best known for their work on the Mary Poppins and Parent Trap films as well as classic Disney rides like the Enchanted Tiki Room, Carousel of Progress and Journey Into Imagination. The song played at the Astuter Computer Revue attraction.

The song praises the computer for "making life easier" as well as "saving time and headaches." When was the last time you thought of your personal computer that way? The computer noises are priceless. Ah, the beautiful paleo-future. Don't forget to click on "Astuter Computer Revue" to listen to the song in its entirety.

Monday
Feb052007

The Most Well-Documented Lives in History

Today we have two men that are either geniuses or completely crazy. While that fine line is usually difficult to discern in any worthwhile endeavor it is especially difficult in the context of futurism.

We begin with Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983), perhaps most famous for inventing the geodesic dome. What may be most compelling about the man was his fascination with documenting his own life. Stanford University Libraries acquired Fuller's archives in 1999. In what is called the Dymaxion Chronofile, Fuller was obsessive about documenting everything that happened to him.

Started in 1917, the Chronofile was "a massive scrapbook that included copies of all his incoming and outgoing correspondence, newspaper clippings, notes and sketches and even dry cleaning bills." Fuller continued the Chronofile until his death in 1983 at which time he had created/accumulated 270 linear feet of documentation.

Our next madman/genius does not measure his life in linear feet, but rather gigabytes. 72-year old Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell uses the custom-designed software MyLifeBits to document every piece of his life. He has a camera that hangs from his neck which takes a picture every 60 seconds, a scanner which digitizes all his paper documents, a modified phone tap for phone calls, and a digital audio recorder for constant everyday conversational recording.

The November, 2006 issue of Fast Company even had him on the cover and did a pretty incredible piece on his crazy endeavor. At the end of the day I tend to side with skeptics in the article that argue, "forgetting is how we make sense of life."

There needs to be some kind of balance. I value my photographs above all my other possessions on earth. It scares me that a single fire could wipe out all of my negatives from 1998-2002 and a couple hard drive malfunctions could erase all of my digital photos I haven't stored on Flickr. The fragility of memory makes these things valuable to me. If I had a massive database that cataloged every image I saw in 60 second intervals I would probably lose attatchment to the images that document my life on a far less frequent basis.

Where does that leave the lives of others and the documents we cherish? I value the single photograph I have of my great-great grandparents from Slovenia but I would love to see what their day-to-day lives were like. Again, I truly believe balance is the key. Balanced or not, Fuller and Bell may give us a sneak peek into the future of memory.

-Matt

If you're looking for more information on Buckminster Fuller:
To my amazement, Stanford University has an audio-visual collection online about Fuller as well. You will have to register (for free) but I would suggest checking it out if you get a chance.

Wednesday
Jan312007

Chicago's Grant Park: Fighting for the Future

I finally finished the PBS American Experience documentary, "Chicago - City of the Century" and found plenty to talk about in the paleo-future department. One particularly interesting element of the doc was the creation of Grant Park. Apparently plans were set in place to use the park for commercial purposes after the Great Fire of 1871. That is, until Montgomery Ward, (yes, that Montgomery Ward), took it upon himself to fight and attempt to preserve Grant Park for future generations.

According to the documentary, "Ward led a 13 year campaign to enforce the decision made in 1836 that the lakefront remain forever open, free of any buildings or obstruction. He even opposed Marshall Field for wanting to build a museum in the park. 'I fought for the poor people,' he said, 'not the millionaires.'"

With the Chicago Tribune against him as well as the other owners along Michigan Avenue he had "very little support" which seems evident given his 13 year campaign.

Grant Park has an interesting history in the 20th century as well. It was a scene of clashes between Chicago Police and protesters during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. It is also the home of many music festivals most recently becoming the semi-permanent home of Lolapalooza.

Sunday
Jan282007

The Future was Built on Steel


Apparently U.S. Steel never saw Dustin Hoffman in 1967's The Graduate. According to this U.S. Steel commercial from the 1970s, the future will be built on steel rather than plastic. The future will also be built piece by piece in beige factories to make beige buildings.

Disney's Contemporary Resort in Walt Disney World, Orlando is a testament to the forgotten future. The Mary Blair designed mosaic is by far her ugliest creation, reminiscent of a 1970s kitchen that threw up brown acid on itself. The hotel stands as a reminder of misplaced creativity for Disney and Mary Blair and arguably the dying breath of the steel industry.

Monday
Jan222007

Hello and Welcome


I first came across the word "Paleo-Future" in a Flickr group of the same name. However, the topic first sparked my interest when I visited Walt Disney World's EPCOT Center, (now Epcot), and realized that Disney's version of the future was based upon what they thought the future would look like in the 1980s. As is important when depicting the future, your opinions must change with the times, unless you happen to be omnipotent, which means you have no need to revise your vision of the future and have probably used your powers for such noble endeavors as guessing my weight at the local carnival or writing horoscopes that tell me, "you should find time for yourself tonight."

While I might poke fun at the outlandish ideas of 1950s America, corporate puffery, or Jules Verne I do it with an admiration for the idealism we seem to be losing in our post-modern society. The belief that technology has the potential to improve the lives of everyone on Earth seems rare. Just remember that an optimism for the future and the attempt to better the world for all humanity is hidden somewhere within each sarcastic comment about flying cars and space farms. In that same vein, I will always remember that the dystopian societies depicted by George Orwell or Alan Moore are just as plausible if we surrender freedom in the name of security. Here's to a "great big beautiful tomorrow."

Thanks for reading,
Matt

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