Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mert Lawwill's Harley-Davidson Streettracker Special

Mert Lawwill was a sensation in the glory days of AMA dirt track racing as a member of Harley-Davidson's racing team. He won the AMA Number One plate in 1969. In those days the championship spanned oval dirt track (mile, half-mile, and shorttrack), TT events, and roadracing... to take the Number One plate a rider had to be versatile and win races in all those disciplines. Mert even starred in Bruce Brown's epic On Any Sunday motorcycling documentary of 1971, along with motorcycling enthusiast, Steve McQueen. 

In addition to being a great rider, Mert is an outstanding mechanic and designer who tuned and maintained his own dirttrack race machines. Since his retirement from racing, he has designed and marketed his own line of high-performance mountain bikes; in fact his Lawwill Pro Cruiser, released in 1978, was the first production mountain bike on the market. When his friend and Harley teammate, Chris Draayer, the "Stormin' Mormon", lost a hand in a racing accident, Mert designed and fabricated a prosthetic riding hand that allowed Draayer to continue riding and even racing. Mert has since refined the design and continues to manufacture it to this day.

A few years back, Cycle World did a feature piece on Mert's plan to bring a limited production run of Sportster-based streettrackers to market (unfortunately, I can't find it online at the magazine's website). Doing the post below about Mule Motorcycles brought that back to mind, so I thought I'd go see what I could find to share here with you. I found this very good video below where one of his streettracker customers shows off the bike, and Mert describes its design and construction in quite a bit of detail. Note his unique rear suspension design, and the XR-750 like cylinder heads.

By the way, some new things that I learned doing the research for this post: Mert is the only person who is in both the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame and the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. I also learned that his son Joe Lawwill is a major mountain biking figure in his own right, as a racer, designer, and instructor.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Yamaha XS650 Twin Lives On

Mule Motorcycles Yamaha XS650 Streettracker
Doing some background research for the streettrackers post below got me to rethinking the Yamaha XS650 twin this weekend... I wasn't really much impressed with it back in the Seventies, when it was Yamaha's answer to the Triumph 650 and 750 Twins, but I am looking at it now in a different light.

Back in those days I loved Triumph Bonnies and, even more so, was obsessed with Norton Commandos --- I've owned three --- so I didn't have the time of day for what I viewed then as just a soulless, mass-produced knockoff of one of the most-beloved Britbikes. Now I have to say that the XS650 has had real staying power, there are still thousands of them on the road, here and all around the globe.

One of the primary reasons, besides their quality, reliability, and low cost is, I think, the fact that they are so versatile, that they readily lend themselves to customizing in different styles: streettrackers, bobbers, cafe racers, and choppers. Quite a thriving aftermarket has grown up around them and is going great guns to this day --- see, for example, the popular streettracker conversion kits from Omar's Dirt Track Racing.

The folks at have an entire website devoted to the XS650, with huge galleries of XS650s in every kind of style mentioned above.  If you've got one ---  stock, custom, whatever --- you can post pics of your own there.

Update: I just found this site called, totally dedicated to the XS650. A lot of good info on accessories for the Yamaha.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mule Motorcycles Streettrackers

Mule Street Tracker Based on Modern Triumph
Richard Pollack of Mule Motorcycles is one of America's most talented custom bike designers and builders. He is a highly skilled craftsman. His bikes have often been featured in Cycle World and Barnett's magazines. Street Trackers are his self-declared specialty.

 He's versatile, building bikes based on Harley Sportster engines, the new Triumph, and vintage Yamaha XS650s (for all you Kenny Roberts fans). If you've got the inclination and the dough, Richard will build you a bike to order.

UPDATE: We've got a new post about the new Mule "Brighton" Triumph Cafe Racer

Here's a Cycle World video that features Richard's XR1660 street tracker, "The Punisher." 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Captured By Porches Microbrews

I was shopping at our local Orenco Station New Seasons Market a couple of months back, and, as always, made a pass through the beer cooler aisle... A couple of beers in big stoppered bottles caught my eye. Actually, what really got my attention was the brandname: Captured by Porches Brewing Company. "Captured by Porches?" What could that mean? The label had these funky graphics depicting what looked like a starling... is this bird being held in captivity on the brewer's porch, or something? Well, I didn't know, but I thought it was cool and different, so I grabbed a bottle to try it out, and am glad I did.

The Captured by Porches Brewing Company is located in St. Helens, OR, just up the road aways north of Portland on the Columbia River. Or, from Hillsboro, north over Cornelius Pass Road to Hwy. 30.

The first brew I tried was their "Invasive Species" IPA, which you see in the picture here, the bottle with the yellow label with starling, which is, of course, an invasive species.  Back at New Seasons again a week or so later, I bought a bottle of their "Rebecca's Divine Wit" wheat beer. If you look closely at the picture here, you may be able to see that the bird is holding a pair of handcuffs in its beak... some side text on the label says that the beer is "dedicated to our Aunt Becky, who has since been acquitted and released." Sounds like there's more to that story... but anyway, I really enjoyed both brews and will be back as a regular customer.

The company's website tells us that Captured by Porches started out as a for-fun community brewing project that morphed into a company that supports the founders' family now. The website is very good. 

Here's something really cool they do: They've got a "Mobile Public Haus" brew bus, which serves up beer at various venues around Portland, even at the Kruger Farm Market out on the awesomely beautiful Sauvie Island. You can even bring your own bucket or mason jar and get it filled up. Also, note that the stoppered bottles may be returned to the place of purchase for a $1 deposit refund... Captured by Porches washes the bottles and refills them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Theo Jansen's Wind-Driven Strandbeests

One of my coworkers brought in to work today this really strange looking little plastic contraption with a propeller on it. It was a rather complicated, skeletal structure, never seen anything like it. Hit the propeller with a fan and the thing would walk across his desk. About a half dozen of us gathered around and said, That's geeky cool! It was too good to not do a post about it... (I'll try to remember to take my camera into work tomorrow and get a pic of it.) So, I asked, where do they come from, and where do I get one? He said he built it from a kit, and if I looked up "strandbeest" on YouTube I'd see the real thing in action... Here's what I found about the Strandbeests and their creator:

Theo Jansen of The Netherlands designs these awesome kinetic sculptures, these works of art that he calls "Strandbeests." In English, that is "Beach Beasts." They are entirely powered by the wind on the beach. He has been evolving their designs over a period of twenty years. Someday, he hopes to have evolved them to the point where they can roam the beaches of Holland autonomously, like living creatures.

Check out Theo's Strandbeest website. It features Strandbeest design details, videos, event dates, a webcam and more... You can even purchase and assemble your own Strandbeest from kits that he sells there. Note that the component pieces are fabricated by the Shapeways 3D printing service, a very high-tech concept in itself!
I've included a link below where you can purchase the kit that my coworker built. Also, I've included a link to Theo's book about his work, which includes a DVD.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Portland Ketchup

Portland Ketchup
So we were out for a late lunch after working up an appetite while hiking around Portland's beautiful Japanese Gardens a couple of weeks ago. We took the scenic route back towards Hillsboro, going west and north on Skyline Blvd. to one of our very favorite venues, the McMenamin's Rock Creek Tavern on Old Cornelius Pass Road in the lovely Helvetia district north of town.

 I had the fish and chips, so they brought out ketchup... instead of the usual Heinz 57 glop that they and everyone else have been serving since time immemorial, the waiter brought to the table this new local product, Portland Ketchup from Portlandia Foods. It's all organic, gluten-free, no high-fructose corn syrup, either. It was very tasty, and it pours well. Their bottles and the packing cases they are shipped in feature artwork and phots of local scenes and landmarks.

The website is very nicely designed. There's a map of the local stores that stock Portland Ketchup and the restaurants that serve it. You can also purchase it online there.

P.S. We will do a followup post here later about the Rock Creek Tavern...
P.P.S. The Japanese Gardens also deserves a post of its own, so we'll do that, too...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Analog Motorcycles

Analog Motorcycles KZ750 Streettracker
I saw an article yesterday about a very elegant Yamaha RD350 custom cafe racer at BIKEEXIF, and jumped from there to the builder's website, Analog Motorcycles.

Analog Motorcycles, which is based in Illinois, is the passionate pursuit of owner/bike-builder Tony Prust. The KZ750 streetracker pictured here is one his creations. A very nice touch here is the inclusion of a gallery that documents the build process, starting with a photo of the original, stock Kawi.

Looks like Tony has an eclectic and versatile style: streettrackers, cafe racers and a 1978 CB550 with sidecar(!).

Creepy Doll

Johnathon Coulton's Creepy Doll... it's like a Twilight Zone episode in song.

My daughter and son-in-law played this for me last week... Thanks, kids, it's cool!

One Guitar, Five Guitarists!

Here's an amazing musical feat.... five people simultaneously playing ONE acoustical guitar, and doing it beautifully!

Sarah Blackwood and the members of Walk Off the Earth cover Gotye's Somebody That I Used to Know.

One of my L.A.-based cousins sent me this, saying, "This is interesting, and then gets more interesting, until it is ultimately very interesting, and thus, cool." Thanks for the tip, Pat!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Pocket Radar

Here's a low-cost radar (under $200!) from Pocket Radar that you can use in all sorts of sporting applications... baseball pitching speed, tennis service, speed, motorsports... Why spend thousands of dollars on an big and bulky old-tech radar gun? And this baby is aptly named, it will literally fit in your shirt pocket.

An old college friend is an engineer with the company that developed this high-tech gadget.

So, if you want to measure just how much smoke your star pitcher is hurling, grab one of these.

Crime Scene Choppers

We mentioned Crime Scene Choppers in the post about Duckman below, so we thought we'd followup with a post about them.

They've got a line of beautifully crafted and artistic motorcycle accessories. To the right you can see the "First Offense" air cleaner, and the "Hard Time" oil tank, which contains an internal Harley cartridge style oil filter (I believe this tank was designed by Duckman). If you are into Old Skool bobbers especially take a look at their offerings.

They've also got an Adobe Acrobat formatted drawing of plans for a frame jig that you can download for free, with the only stipulation being that you cannot rehost or sell them. That's a very generous serving, in my opinion. This jig design was used in the "Building a Chopper Chassis" video from master metalworker Ron Covell.

Toward the Gleam

I read this book over the Christmas holiday and really enjoyed. This is a great one for you Lord of the Rings Tolkien fans. I will try to avoid any spoilers here...

In 1916, an English philologist out for a hike through the countryside is forced to take shelter from a summer tempest beneath a rock outcropping... The outcropping conceals a fissure that opens into a cave. He pushes inside and in the darkness there finds an apparently ancient artifact of an unknown, advanced civilization that flourished tens of thousands of years ago, a civilization lost in the last great Pleistocene glaciation that buried Europe under hundreds of feet of ice. Knowledge of this thing, and the knowledge it contains, could turn the world upside down: He instinctively knows from the moment he's found it that he must keep it secret and hidden from the world, even as he spends years decrypting its secrets... Unfortunately for him, a very sinister man, one who's been conducting his own parallel researches into this ancient civilization for years, somehow learns that the good and gentle philologist has this thing, and moves to take it for his own. What he could with the knowledge gleaned from this artifact would threaten all mankind.


Duckman Old Skool CAD Bikes

Mark "Duckman" van der Kwaak is a CAD designer from the Netherlands who creates custom bikes that are simultaneously retro-vintage stylish and high-tech cool. All his work is first modeled and then rendered life-like in 3D CAD. He's an artist, too, with a 50's Lo-Brow style that sometimes recalls Big Daddy Roth. And, man, is he ever prolific... Check out his website and blog at Duckman Old Skool Choppers from Europe where he has thoroughly displayed his work.

Krugger & DBBP Veon, a World Beater at AMD Championship
The main attraction is a huge gallery of his "CADbikes" created in the Pro/E 3D modeling software and rendered in full color. A number of his CADbikes have been built and are on the street today. He just published CADbike #51. Duckman also generously features CADbikes created by his readers.

In addition to bikes, Duckman designs custom bike parts for motorcycle accessories companies around the world. For example this "Rapide" headlight for Crime Scene Choppers. The "Honey Pot Oil Filter" he created for L.A. County Chop Rods is a work of art.

Duckman recently partnered with world champion bike-builder Fred Krugger on the design and construction of the "Veon,", a Harley V-Rod based custom that won the 2010 AMD Custom Bike Building championship.

His website also features extensive galleries of reader's bikes, Harley, British, and Japanese... check it out, I can hardly do him and his work justice here in just a few words.

Burt Rutan

Burt Rutan is an aerospace engineer of extraordinary genius and accomplishments. He announced his retirement last year, which was the occasion for this cover story in the latest Smithsonian Air & Space magazine.

He founded his own aircraft company, Scaled Composites, in 1982 to bring advanced, innovative aircrafts designed to be built with high-tech composite materials. He's teamed up with Richard Branson of Virgin and Microsoft founder Paul Allen to build private enterprise spacecraft.

Rutan's designs are more than just innovative, they are also works of art... that fly, and fly beautifully.

His website includes a slideshow of aircraft and spacecraft he's designed. Check it out.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Normandy Guitars... Aluminum!

We love great design and technology here at Cool Stuff... we really love the results we see when innovative technology meets great design and vice-versa.

That brings us to Normandy Guitars, which is just down the road from Portland in our capitol city, Salem, OR. These guys engineered a whole line of guitars from sheet metal, good old element number 13, aluminum. There's even an archtop! I haven't had the opportunity to play one yet, though I did see one on display at Five Star Guitars in Hillsboro, which is an official Normandy dealer.

You can read about some of the technical and engineering aspects here in this article at Machine Design magazine's website. Since that article was written, Normandy has brought out a whole raft of new models, even the four-stringed kind for you bass players.

Here's a pic of a gorgeous Normandy Alumicaster that's been engraved.

Normandy Alumicaster Engraved

The Difference Engine, a Novel of the Steampunk Computer Age

So, what would the world of the late 19th-Century be like if William Babbage had succeeded in bringing his mechanical computer, the Difference Engine, into widespread usage?

Cyberpunk great William Gibson teams up with another sci-fi superstar, Bruce Sterling, to envision an answer that question in The Difference Engine, a novel of alternative-history that imagines a world where Babbage did succeed, and the Computer Revolution came to be a century before it happened in our world.

We've got links here below to both the Kindle download and the paperback.

The Kneeslider Motorcycle Website

I discovered The Kneeslider a few years back. It's one of the best private, unaffiliated motorcycle sites to be found on the Web.

One of the coolest things about it is the way they constantly feature very innovative, custom-engineered, handbuilt bikes of all makes. They are very good at doing these as a continuing series that chronicles the builder's triumphs and tribulations along the path to a finished work of mechanical art. For example, they've been following the story of the Musket V-Twin that we posted below.

Two thumbs way up for The Kneeslider.

The Musket: A Custom Royal Enfield V-Twin

Aniket Vardhan is this month's DIY hero, without question.

The vintage Royal Enfield Bullet, a classic Brit bike single, went out of production in Jolly Olde England long ago, but is still being manufactured today in Aniket's native India. In fact, there's a network of dealerships in the USA... there's even one right here in Portland, Classic Scooter & Cycle.

Aniket ostensibly came to America in 1999 to earn a degree in Industrial Design (ID)... He did earn that degree, but he says the real truth is, one day in his hometown of Delhi he encountered some guy on a Harley-Davidson, and was captivated by that patented H-D 45-degree V-twin exhaust note. He vowed then and there that he would one day visit their homeland to see them running free in their native wilds.

But in his heart he still cherished a certain significant piece of his native culture: the Royal Enfield Bullet. Only problem is, the Bullet is a single, not a V-twin! Aniket resolved to fix that defect*. He vowed to himself that he would design and build a true V-twin based on the 350cc top end, and plug it into a modified Bullet chassis. He pulled it off through years of patient work and study, hours of flogging the mouse in his Rhino 3D CAD system, and even learning to run a milling machine to create the mold patterns.

You can go to the Musket V-Twin website and get the full story in his own words. It's a great, well-designed site, complete with blog, and an entire section on the process he employed to create and build his first prototype (which really appealed to the engineer in me). Yes, I said "prototype" as he, having gotten a big response from motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world, is going to put engine kits into production for fitment into modified Bullet chassis... and a 1000cc model based on the 500cc Bullet components is forthcoming, also. Meanwhile, check out his video of the bike in action here.

*Just kidding about the single cylinder as defect part... I love thumpers, and my first bike was a Triumph 250cc single, which I miss.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Canon Rock

Pachabel's Canon, punked, shredded, metal-plated, and minor-keyed...

My daughter played this for us today.

The Korg Kaossilator

The daughter and I popped into the Beaverton Guitar Center store the other day just so I could go poke around in the synthesizer showroom. I spent twenty minutes or so playing around with one of these Korg Kaossilators... what a blast. Even a quasi-musician like me can make music with one of these babies. And only 129 bucks... that's a lot of high-tech, gadget-y fun for relatively few dollars. It's amazing what you can do with modern semiconductor technology, eh.

I have a birthday coming up soon... maybe somebody in the family is looking for gift ideas for dear old Dad...?

The Ballad of Mona Lisa

Today just seems like a kind of day for steampunk stuff, so we'll just go with it... Here's something really cool in that genre...

Panic at the Disco and the League of S.T.E.A.M. in teamed up for The Ballad of Mona Lisa. A steampunk ghost story, a tale of betrayal, murder, and vengeance... Tag line: "there's nothing wrong with a taste of what you've paid for..."

Along the way we also learn a little about Victorian era funeral customs... stop all clocks, cover the mirrors, open a window... fascinating.

The League of S.T.E.A.M.

We like this very cool and stylish Steampunk theater performance group from Southern California. S.T.E.A.M. stands for "Supernatural and Troublesome Ectoplasmic Apparition Management" which is why they are also known as "the Steampunk Ghostbusters." They design and make their own costumes and props... they've got the Steampunk aesthetic down perfect. I can't do better than provide this little excerpt from their own description of their mission:

"Our talented group of inventors and actors take the audience back to a time of scientific adventure; a common ground between the paranormal and the Pythagorean. We are monster hunters from the Victorian era. From up on the stage to mingling the crowd, our members engage the audience with proton packs capable of firing blasts of “steam,” zombie manservants on chain-leads, net guns and titillating electro-shock packs and ethereal glowing ghosts. Every piece of machinery is meticulously designed, detailed, and fully functional, from the steam cannon to the extendable “Punchy Fist”..."

League of S.T.E.A.M. Official Website

Their Ghostbusters parody is hilarious... "Whom Shall You Telegram?"

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Cycle World Magazine

I love Cycle World magazine. I just renewed my subscription after negligently letting it lapse for a year. I've picked up a copy off the magazine rack at the supermarket a time or two recently, but got a great subscription offer from them a couple of months ago and got motivated to sign up again.

Cycle World has high editorial standards, great art direction, and the incredibly talented photographer, Brian Blades. The writing is top-notch.

A recent issue featured this awesome Ducati dirttracker custom by Roland Sands:

The Dirty Duc, Coming in Hot

For my money, this is the best bike mag in the world.

Roadside Picnic

This is the creepy-coolest sci-fi story I have ever read... you read it, too, and I think you'll agree with me that no matter how much sci-fi you've read, you've never encountered anything else quite like it.

Roadside Picnic was written behind the Iron Curtain in 1971 by two Russian brothers, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, legends of Soviet-era sci-fi. It's set in Canada, some years after an alien visitation. Strangely enough, the aliens paid humanity no mind at all... they came down in six sites called "Zones" that are distributed around the globe, then left, as if they had merely stopped for a roadside picnic while on their way to some unknown destination. In the Zones, they left behind many artifacts, some useful, many that are dangerous to humans, and virtually all of which are utterly mysterious and inexplicable. The Zones also feature strange and scary physical phenomena, that seemingly defy or distort the laws of physics, such as spots of concentrated gravity capable of crushing a man who stumbles into one. In other places, shadows are twisted and distorted in such a way that they point in directions contrary to the light. The aliens also appear to have left behind extraterrestrial plants, such as the lethal Devil's Spitting Cabbage, and the Black Brambles that mark the boundaries of the Zones.

Outside the Zones, there are strange happenings, too, such as the appearance of Replicas of people buried in the cemetery adjacent to the Zone, beings that exist in a zombie-like state... One of the scientists chalks this up to some sort of local reversal of entropy... very creepy.

The human response to all of this is fascinating... How do we react to things that are totally inexplicable, that we simply cannot explain, yet are undeniably real? Well, the scientists want more or less exclusive access to study the Zones, while others want to mine them for valuable artifacts, and the police and military authorities wish it would all just go away. For those of a sinister bent, certain artifacts might have applications as weapons, others have some valuable property that can be commercially exploited, such as the battery-like cylinders called "So-So's", which generate electricity, seemingly without exhaustion.

The authorities have sealed-off the Zones to protect the public from the dangers, and to keep control of the artifacts. But they just can't keep everyone out when there is so much at stake, and so much of value hidden behind the barriers and military patrols... a whole criminal subculture of smugglers called "Stalkers" creep into the Zones under cover of darkness to steal artifacts and sell them on a black market that's sprung up around them. Between the military and police patrols with shoot-to-kill authority, and the dangers within the Zones, the life expectancy of a Stalker is rather short.

The protagonist of this story is Redrick "Red" Schuhart, an assistant at the International Institute for Extraterrestrial Culture by day, and a Stalker by night. He's a living legend among Stalkers, chiefly by virtue of just having stayed alive despite years of hair-raising trips in and out of the Zone. He seeks to find the greatest of artifacts, the rumored "Golden Ball," hidden deep within the Canadian Zone, which is said to grant wishes. But to get to it, one has to make it past the "Meat Grinder," a kind of turbulent phenomenon that ambushes anyone who approaches the site...

There have been rumors that John Travolta is making a Roadside Picnic movie, but my searches on that subject seem to indicate that's not getting anywhere. Too bad...

Gamers: The popular S.T.A.L.K.E.R. video games were inspired by Roadside Picnic.

The book is still in print, I've embedded an Amazon link below. But, a complete Adobe Acrobat pdf version is in the public domain: click here.

The Triumph Motorcycles Steve McQueen Special Edition

Steven McQueen was a big fan of Triumph motorcycles back in the day. The new, reborn Triumph Motorcycles has teamed up with the McQueen estate to bring this limited edition special to the marketplace this year. Only 1,100 bikes will be made.

MIB & Gray Barker: Engineering an Urban Legend

Where did this whole notion of the "Men in Black" come from? Well, the answer to that question is, according to journalist John C. Sherwood, a fascinating story of deception and social engineering, or cultural engineering, perpetrated by a man named Gray Barker.

Gray Barker wrote about UFOs and paranormal phenomena in the Fifties and Sixties. In 1956 he published a book called They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, which introduced the Men in Black into the folklore of UFOs. Somehow, this concept of shadowy, mysterious agents in black suits, white dress shirts, pork-pie hats, and skinny ties, tooling around the countryside in black Lincoln Continental convertibles (with those cool suicide doors!) to intimidate witnesses to UFOs and Mothmen sightings just caught fire with the public imagination.

A year or so after the first MIB movie hit the theaters, a prominent journalist by the name of John C. Sherwood wrote a piece for Skeptical Inquirer magazine confessing his own role in the wholesale invention of the Men in Black. He was only seventeen when he got involved with Gray Barker's myth-making exercise, writing under the pseudonym of Dr. Richard H. Pratt. Here's the link:

Gray Barker: My Friend the Myth Maker

Somewhere I read a related article, it may have been by Sherwood, also, in which the author describes how Barker hired actors to play the role of Men in Black and actually go intimidate (purported) witnesses to strange phenomena, such as UFO and the Mothman. He'd get them dressed up in the classic MIB apparel, put 'em in a black Lincoln, and send them off to hassle the witness, or witnesses. They'd roll into some little town in the boondocks where the witness lived, flash phony credentials, and drop dark hints and threats designed to scare the witness into clamming up. People would talk about it, of course, and so the rumors of the scary Men in Black from some cryptic Federal agency would be spread. If I can track that down, I will post it here.

Here's what I find really hilarious about the whole deal: Remember how Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones would scour the tabloids for stories of alien sightings in the MIB movies, then go pay a visit to the witness? Well, according to the guy that wrote that article I am trying to find, that was precisely Barker's modus operandi: He'd find his victims in tabloid stories.

In 2008, a documentary about Barker called Shades of Gray was released, and is available on Amazon.

Men in Black 3

Well, well, well... speaking of Will Smith, I see there's a new Men in Black sequel coming to a theater near you and me, opening for the Memorial Day weekend this year. Sony Pictures has released a trailer and I serve it up to you below via YouTube. Or, you can go to the official Sony website,

OK, now I gotta followup with a post about the genesis of the whole Men in Black urban legend... It's a fascinating story of the creation and manufacturing of a cultural phenomenon by one the key conspirators who's come clean about his role in it as a mere boy of seventeen... His name is John C. Sherwood. Stay tuned...

Update, April 15: We have the new MIB3 trailer here.

Speaking of Stanley Jaki & AI

It looks like Jaki's book that I mentioned in my I, Robot post has gone out of print, but you can still find copies available on Amazon from other sellers. I've got to warn you, though, it's not light reading.

I, Robot

I immediately fell in love with this movie when it was released back in 2004. I'm a big Will Smith fan, and his performance in this is my favorite (Independence Day is a close second).

I have a long-standing interest in the field and concepts of Artificial Intelligence (AI), though to date I admit it is an amateurish one. Is it possible for a machine to achieve true consciousness? I don't know, but I pretty much doubt it... I am skeptical of Ray Kurzweil's visions of advanced machine intelligences that will arrive with "The Singularity. " Back in the Eighties I was pretty well-convinced by Stanley Jaki's arguments in Brain, Mind, and Computers, which are essentially an application of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem to the problem.

So, all of that aside, I merrily indulge in a "willing suspension of disbelief" and enjoy it. You want to watch it, too? Well here's a link to the Amazon Instant Video download...

Cool Stuff We Like

This blog is all about sharing cool stuff we like, stuff you want to share with friends, family, the world... music, movies, TV shows, books, magazines, cars, motorcycles, gadgets, DIY projects, and more. If it's cool, tell us about it.

We do want to avoid unpleasant things, like politicians, however... Sure, it's an election year, but let's leave that subject alone.

So, tell us what's cool... I've got a bunch of stuff in mind, gonna get started now.
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