THE SUMMER ISSUE
4 Charlie Day from It's Always Sunny sits down with us to talk about his show and rise to stardom.
8 Our favorite summer "stuff", from books to beer and everything in between.
20 Larurent Nivalle and Romain Laurent, our two favorite summer photographers.
26 How to drink like your favorite fictional character...an illustrated guide.
FEATURES 32 SMALL IN ALL THE RIGHT WAYS There's a new wave in digital cameras sit right between the oversized DSLR and the pocketable point and shoot. These micro four-thrids cameras offer the portability of a point and shoot, with the power of a DSLR. We take a look at what makes them so great, and show off some of our favorites (ACTUAL SIZE!)
36 THE RELEVANCE OF RADIO What's your favorite radio station? We sit down with Bruce Warren, program director for Philadelphia’s WXPN, and George Howard, consultant for Wolfgang’s Vault, to discuss the relevance of modern radio in the digital world.
44 CONVERSATIONS WITH ROBOTS We've been hearing a lot about talking robots lately: they're emote! They banter! They're on the cusp of consciousness! So we asked Jon Ronson to chat up a few. Conclusion: the future will be mildly confusing occasionally profound and frequently hilarious.
FUNNY MAN AND ALL AROUND AWESOME GUY, CHARLIE DAY, SAT DOWN WITH US AT MOC TO TALK ABOUT CATS, DAYMAN, MILK STEAK, AND HIS RISE TO STARDOM. 12
AYS FUNN Y . ALW
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T A O L N W S AY TI ’
IEW INTERLVIE DAY CHAR
I started looking you up on YouTube the other day and I found a clip of you on Law & Order from a while back. [laughs] It made me wonder what sort of an actor you initially set out to be. Was it always going to be comedic, with things like Law & Order to pay the bills, or were you open to anything? Like most young actors starting out, I really just wanted to act. Whether you find yourself stumbling into a drama or a comedy, you’re going to jump on whatever you can. I started out doing plays. When I moved to New York, I was as enthusiastic about the possibility of doing what I’m doing now as I was about the possibility of becoming Al Pacino or something. And I still want to do both. Anyone who really likes acting likes all of it. But I don’t consider myself a comedian, if that makes sense. You’re a performer in a more general sense. I think so, or I’m just a funny guy who knows how to act. How much do you and the rest of the Sunny cast feel like a part of a larger comedic community? It seems that you don’t get talked about at the same time as a lot of the other well-known groups of young comedians. No, we don’t. We don’t. And I don’t know why that is. I don’t know if it’s because we didn’t come up in a sketch-comedy group, or we’re not standup comedians. I’d hate to say anything too cynical in terms of why that might be because I don’t want to sound like a bitter person…
Feel free! It’s just always surprising when people talk about what the best comedies out there are now and our show isn’t mentioned among those other shows. It’s kind of shocking. To our credit, I think that our fans enjoy the fact that they’re not subject to the onslaught of media that other shows sometimes receive, where you sort of feel like, “Why is this show being shoved down my throat?” So maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. Yeah. Having promos for a show in your face all the time can cause burnout. Definitely. When it comes to comedy, I think there’s a burnout factor. For years, we were upset that the show wasn’t getting the media recognition or the acknowledgement of how popular and, I think, good it is. But then I really do start to wonder if in some ways we dodged a bullet. We get to reap all the benefits of the show being successful and having great fans. We don’t have any little golden trophies, but I think that’s not really the point. When you guys sit down to begin writing a new season of the show, do you have the worry of comedy burnout in mind?
If only to not burn ourselves out, yeah. We’re always trying to keep it fresh but not trying to overreach or overextend ourselves. We don’t say, “Oh, we have to make it more shocking.” We just want to find different behaviors for these characters, and different scenarios. I think that we’re always excited by the challenge of seeing where these characters can go and what we can do as performers. You know, one thing that we thought was going to be an issue going into this year was Kaitlin Olson’s pregnancy. But once we decided to embrace it and write to it, it really kind of opened up a series of episodes for us—all these great avenues for story lines. I’m really looking forward to seeing how her character, Dee, deals with being pregnant. We have an episode where we try to figure out who got her pregnant, and then obviously an episode where she has the baby. We just don’t do it in the usual sitcom way. We find great ways for these characters to care—or not care—about her pregnancy. [laughs] Any other teasers you can give me for the new season? We’re going to do a Lethal Weapon spoof. You’ll see the home-video version of Lethal Weapon that Dennis and Mac made with Frank and Charlie. They actually show it to a bunch of high school kids to settle an argument over blackface. It’s pretty out-there. A lot of TV series, once they see what’s hitting with the audience, play that aspect up until it becomes self-parody. Sunny in Philly doesn’t do that.
IEW INTERLVIE DAY CHAR
Yeah, and in fact we make an effort to not repeat ourselves. It’s a slight limitation as the years go on, but we’ll sometimes say, “We can’t do that joke because basically we’ve done it already.” After 70-something episodes, that gets tricky because we’ve done a lot. But we do have the liberty of only doing 12 or 13 episodes a season. How is that different from other sitcoms? The American Office or The Big Bang Theory or something like that are cranking out maybe 22 a year. Sweatshop sitcoms. But things like our show or South Park or Curb Your Enthusiasm have shorter runs—and we have basically a whole year to prepare each season. We use that time to really carefully craft the comedy and make sure we’re coming up with original stuff. How many people are in the writing room besides you, Glenn Howerton, and Rob McElhenney? About five, sometimes eight people are throwing ideas around. Then we have three other producers—David Hornsby, who plays Rickety Cricket on the show, and a writing team by the name of Scott Marder and Rob Rosell. They are our kind of go-to other writers. Rob, Glenn, and I make a pass through everything before it goes to air. Is it the traditional sitcom writing process with everyone in a room tossing riffs around and writing on index cards? I couldn’t tell you because I’ve never worked on another sitcom, but we do all get together in a room and write down ideas on note cards. Maybe what we are doing is traditional. [laughs]
IF YOU’RE NOT LAUGHING YOUR ASS OFF IN THE WRITERS’ ROOM, THEN IT’S PROBABLY NOT THAT FUNNY. 14
Do you guys do that weird thing that lots of comedians and comedic writers do when they’re throwing ideas around, where they don’t laugh at something that’s hilarious? They’ll just kind of say “That’s funny” in a clinical way. Well, that’s probably why all those shows are so painfully unfunny. [laughs] If you’re not laughing your ass off in the writers’ room, then it’s probably not that funny. So there are chuckles in your writers’ room? Oh my God. When we strike on a funny riff, we’re on the floor dying. There was an episode last season called “The Waitress Is Getting Married,” where the guys try and set my character up for a dating service. Oh man, I love that one. It has some of the best lines in the show’s history. And we were just going through my list of likes and dislikes… I think I know what you’re going to say. That was a run that, in the writers’ room, everyone was coming up with different suggestions, and we were all uproariously laughing. And then someone threw out “milk steak,” and people were on the floor. I really want to see a milk steak in real life one day. And it’s good to know that Sunny’s writing staff isn’t all po-faced. It should be funny. I can’t imagine someone saying “That’s funny” and checking it off like it’s some sort of math equation. There’s also this stereotype about funny people being kind of damaged or fucked up. You guys don’t seem damaged at all. The truth is that everybody’s a little bit damaged in some way or another. But I know what you’re referring to. There are a lot of angry comedians. I think we made a reference to that in the Sinbad episode, where we said, “Sinbad, like most comedians, is a really, really angry man on the inside.” [laughs] Which, by the way, he may or may not be. I don’t know him that well. We just shot with him for two days. Anyway, yeah, there are a lot of angry comedians but definitely not the three of us. We’re pretty well-rounded guys and we’re also businessmen who are running a [laughs] business, so we have to sort of have our heads on our shoulders. I was never that bitter, angry guy, and neither were Glenn or Rob. I feel like that angry personality usually lends itself more to stand-up comedy. Yeah. There’s something kind of aggressive about stand-up in the first place. And they hate each other, and they hate themselves, and the audience hates them until everyone loves them. Acting is a different thing. Rob and Glenn and I were never in that comedy world and we don’t particularly care for it. We weren’t sketch-comedy guys, we weren’t stand-ups. We’re not desperate to make people laugh. I mean, Glenn went to Juilliard for acting and I was equally ambitious about it. Rob was pretty serious about writing as well as acting. That might be the difference, and that might be why we’re not in those circles. Have many comics gone out of their way to tell you guys that they like your show? I don’t run in a bunch of comedy circles, but I should hope that people who do comedy for a living find the show funny. I ran into Dave Foley at a charity thing that we were both doing and he said that he was a big fan. And of course I enjoyed The Kids in the Hall growing up. I just watched their pilot episode again recently on DVD. It’s still amazing. It’s great. And we ended up having him guest-star on the sixth season of Sunny. He was hysterical in his role. What were your favorite comedy shows when you were a kid? Like everyone else, I was a fan of The Cosby Show.
Everyone but me, I guess. But there aren’t that many direct precursors to Sunny, are there? I think you can make comparisons to Seinfeld in terms of some of the structure of stories—how things that get set in motion at the beginning of an episode might come back around to bite you in the ass at the end. That’s purely from a structural standpoint. But, to our benefit, we weren’t sitcom writers working on ten different shows before we started this one. We were three guys who had a unique sense of humor and a unique vision who didn’t really know another way to make a television show, so we just made it our way. We found our own voice. If anything was an influence, I’d say the British Office was. We thought it was so funny and so conversational. And we liked the look of Curb Your Enthusiasm—handheld cameras, no fancy lighting. Those two shows made us realize that we could probably do this ourselves. We didn’t need a giant Hollywood crew—though we have that now. But to do the initial thing, we knew that we could just do fly-on-the-wall shooting and make something funny. One of my favorite moments ever on the show is from the episode where you and Dee switch lives. Uh huh, right. Well, actually my favorite moment ever on the show is a tiny bit in that episode where Dee is trying to do stand-up but she keeps dry heaving. I could watch that on a loop for an hour. [laughs] Kaitlin Olson is brilliant in that scene.
Incredible. But the scene I’m thinking of now is the one where you bring Dee back to your apartment and show her your nightly ritual: huff glue, eat a can of cat food as quickly as possible, and pass out before the neighborhood’s stray cats start shrieking outside your window. [laughs] In that season, we had a few scripts that were on the longer side. That episode, “Dennis Reynolds: An Erotic Life,” was one of them. It ended up seven minutes long, and we cut so much out of it. There are major story-line things about Charlie’s life that had to go. I think there was a paper route at night. We really had to lose the majority of walking in each other’s shoes. But that scene you’re talking about is a testament to Rob and Scott, our writers, who dreamed up the pissing-in-a-can thing when Danny comes running in. That scene is also great because it reveals a lot about the character of Charlie. How much do you think about backstory for the characters on the show? Well, that episode was one of those things where we said, “Let’s get a glimpse into these two men and their strange night rituals.” And I think it’s always funny in the series how we can delve deeper and deeper into these people’s lives. You get to know and love these characters and yet there’s so much you don’t know about them because you only get them for 22 minutes a week. It’s like, you look back on something like Cheers, where eight seasons in you finally went to Carla’s house and saw how she lived. × interview by matt hopkins
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A collection of items, from books, to bikes, to beer, to enjoy while the sun is shining. 16
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JAWBONE JAMBOX ($130) Big things do come in small packages. The Jawbone Jambox is portable wireless speaker that can fill the room with great, crystal clear sound. In addition to its high output capacity of 85 decibels, the Jambox has downloadable apps and software upgrades, as well as a built-in microphone to use for conference calls. Basically it's the perfect little speaker for all your summer beach parties.
E SUMM BEER
SIT DOWN, RELAX, AND HAVE A COLD ONE…
OR TWO 1. END OF HISTORY BEER ($650-$900)
2. OPENA IPHONE CASE ($40)
3. THERMAFRESH COOLER BOXES ($15)
And what a fitting name it is. The End of History Beer is an ultra-limited — as in, it might already be sold out — 55% alcohol blond Belgian ale, brewed using crazy freezing techniques, and featuring hints of juniper berries, mead, and nettles. Of course, being the world’s strongest and most expensive beer wasn’t enough for these restless brewmasters, so they took things one step further, and packaged the beer inside taxidermied roadkill, creating the end game of premium beer. Seriously, just look at it.
Let’s see: your iPhone is always with you, and you never know when you might need a bottle opener, so why not keep them together? That’s the idea behind the Opena iPhone Case. Made from protective polycarbonate and ABS plastic, the Opena’s unique design hides a slide-out bottle opener on its back, offers compatibility with both GSM and CDMA iPhones, and gives you open access to all your ports, buttons, controls, and cameras.
We’ve all resorted to using a cheap Styrofoam cooler at one point or another, so we all know they suck, what with their flimsy construction, cheap looks, and sounds of foam-on-foam violence that echo through the backseat when they’re present. Thankfully, there’s now an alternative. ThermaFresh Cardboard Cooler Boxes use NorShield waterproof inner lining for weatherproofing and reusability, and thanks to their thick cardboard construction, they can keep 30 liters of goods cool for up to 36 hours in normal conditions. Best of all, they’re made from 70% recycled cardboard.
T ER SH* M M U S S SHADE
SWEET SUMMER SHADES
1. SHWOOD ($95)
2. THOMS EYEWEAR ($145)
Forget simulated wood grain — Shwood Sunglasses are handcrafted from actual wood. They're available in two basic styles, the Wayfarer-like Canby and the more squarish Govy, and can be ordered in a variety of different woods, all with your choice of Carl Zeiss lenses. Just remember: these probably aren't the best shades to wear to the beach, water park, or campfire — we're guessing they're at least a little flammable.
You know that happy feeling you get inside when slipping on a pair of TOMS shoes, knowing that someone else less fortunate than you is doing the same thing thanks to your purchase? Now you can get that same rush when donning your sunglasses with TOMS Eyewear. Available in two Classic styles — the Wayfarer-like 101 and Aviator-like 301 — and a ton of different colors, you should find one to suit your style, and of course, TOMS will help give someone sight for each pair you buy.
3. RAY-BAN CLUBMASTER ($140)
4. PERSOL STEVE MCQUEEN SUNGLASSES ($310-$360)
Not everyone can pull these off, but for those that can, they're pretty dapper. True classics, the Ray-Ban Clubmaster Sunglasses give you timeless, instant retro style. If Wayfarers are for the cool kids, the Clubmaster is for the school newspaper geek. Pull it off for an instant Mad Men 60's feel that will have you sweeping ladies off their feet.
Favored by the McRoyal himself, these new Persol Steve McQueen Sunglasses are a tribute to McQueen's favorite pair of shades, featuring a unique folding system, a total of four signature Persol arrows, an included leather case, and the Steve McQueen signature on the inside of the temple arm. Available in black with black lens, tortoise with brown lens, or McQueen's — and our — favortie tortoise with blue lens.
ER SH* SUMMLE BICYC
1. KNIFE & SAW BIKE SHELF ($270) The urban cyclist is often the one who can least afford giving over a chunk of the living room to her bike. But the ingenious Bike Shelf solves the problem elegantly and simply. By raising you bike up off the floor Bike shelf saves space and provides a handy holder for your keys, wallet, helmet, etc.
I WANT TO RIDE MY BICYCLE
2. AUDI DUO BIKES ($6,500 and up)
3. WOODEN HANDLEBARS (200-300)
Audi and Renovo team up to create unique bikes available in three models: a city, sport and road. The Duo Bikes feature a frame cleverly made exclusively of wood--meaning they're handcrafted and equipped with high-tech components. The result, these line of bikes are lighter, faster and handles shocks with ease.
Oh, how I want these for my bicycle! Officine Firenze Milani creates these beautifully-crafted wooden handlebars as the ultimate accessory for your bike. They are made in Italy, and give your bicyle that wonderful vintage, European feel. With a semi-gloss finish, the natural grain of each teak, mahogany, walnut and ash layer gives different personalities to each design. A bisection of aluminum provides structural reinforcement and a nice industrial accent.
T ER SH* M M U S NG CAMPI
1. SWEDISH FIRE STEEL ($15) Ever been marooned somewhere away from civilization and really needed to start a fire? Yeah, neither have we — but it’s nice to know that if that did happen, our Swedish FireSteel would be ready. Used by several militaries the world over, this little metal set creates a nearly 3000ºC spark that is sure to start fires even in the worst of conditions.
2. KAMMOK ($85) Kick back hammock-style nearly anywhere with the Kammok. Made from diamond rip-stop nylon, the Kammok can comfortably sleep one — which of course means two — and uses a new, versatile suspension system dubbed the Python Straps, all of which packs into a water resistant compression sack that weighs about a pound fully loaded, making it the perfect aboveground shelter for your next camping/boozing adventure.
3. CRICKET TRAILER ($10,000-$17,000) Compact and unique, the Cricket Trailer is perfect for the outdoor and camping enthusiast. The flexible and efficient floorplan of this 15-foot trailer can accommodate up to two people and still have enough room to haul your gear. Depending on your needs, the Cricket can be customized with options like a folding bed with foam mattress, a hand shower with curtain and tracks, a portable cassette toilet, side cabinet with countertop, multi-position table, a stainless steel sink with two-burner cooktop, furnace or a/c unit, and an exterior awning.
4. NORTH FACE PHOENIX 2 TENT ($300) Ideal for camping, hiking and backpacking, the Phoenix 2 Tent from North Face is impressively lightweight and durable. This 3-season tent is designed with North Face's proprietary singleskin fabric called DryWall that offers high breathability, fire resistance and weather protection. The Phoenix 2 is also features double doors and vestibules, no less than 30 square feet of floor area, pole twist clips, reversecombi poles, and more.
CAMP LIKE A CHAMP
E SUMM S BOOK
A LITTLE SUMMER READING 2. CAD, MONKEYS, DINOSAUR BABIES, AND T-SHAPED PEOPLE , BY WARREN BERGER ($12) What we learn from the ways great designers think-and how can it improve our lives? In CAD, Monkeys, Dinosaur Babies, and T-Shaped People Warren Berger, in collaboration with celebrated designer Bruce Mau, revolutionizes our understanding of design and unlocks the secrets of the trade. Looking to the creative problem-solving work of design professionals, Berger reveals that design is a mindset, a way of looking at the world with an eye toward improving it. The practice of design-thinking opens readers to their innate capacity for reimagining the world around them.
1. BOOK OF BEER PONG, BY DAN DISORBO ($12) Nothing like an argument over beer pong rules to drag down a party atmosphere, so settle your disputes with authority using The Book of Beer Pong: The Official Guide to the Sport of Champions. This 160-page hardcover features information on everything from basic pong etiquette and ball grips to expert techniques and tournament hosting tips.
3. CITY OF THIEVES, BY DAVID BENIOFF ($12) A high-spirited adventure, Benioff’s second novel (following the 2001 debut, The 25th Hour), ostensibly an account of the author’s grandfather—a quiet immigrant who sold his real-estate business and retired to Florida with his wife—takes more than a little poetic license. When Benioff tells his grandfather that a few things don’t make sense in the narrative, his reply: “You’re a writer. Make it up.”
4. HOW TO LIVE SAFELY IN A SCIENCE FICTIONAL UNIVERS, BY CHARLES YU ($15) How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is a triumph, as good as anything in Calvino or Stanislaw Lem. I wish I could travel back in time with a copy and fraudulently publish it under my own name. Like most people, I thought I learned everything I needed to know about time travel from H.G. Wells and Star Trek, but I thought wrong: In Yu's skillful hands a worn-out science fiction plot device becomes a powerfully expressive metaphor for how we experience the flickering, ineffable, ungraspable spatio-temporal phenomenon of life. Because after all, we're all time travelers, blundering forward into the future at the rate of one second per subjectively experienced second.
5. TINKERS, BY PAUL HARDING ($8) George Washington Crosby repairs clocks for a living and on his deathbed revisits his turbulent childhood as the oldest son of an epileptic smalltime traveling salesman. The descriptions of the father's epilepsy and the cold halo of chemical electricity that encircled him immediately before he was struck by a full seizure are stunning, and the household's sadness permeates the narrative as George returns to more melancholy scenes. It's heavy stuff, but it also won a Pulitzer Prize...so what did you expect?
OUR TWO FAVORITE SUMMER PHOTOGRAPHERS BOTH HAPPEN TO BE FRENCH, AND STRANGELY ENOUGH SHARE THE NAME, LAURENT.
Laurent Nivalle is an amazingly talented french guy who works as an art director, photographer and CGI artist. His wonderful photographs with a beautiful vintage feel and summer glow give off this very cool 60â€™s vibe. He also had a love of cool classics, whic we here at MOC full approve of. Nivalleâ€™s photographs from the 2010 Le Mans Classis (right) are some of our favorite, featuring classic supercars in all their glory.
Highly talented French photographer Roman Laurent has an extensive portfolio full of brilliant work with some of the biggest advertising agencies in the world. Much of his advertising work consists of surreal scenes that have been beautifully photographed and Photoshopped. Our favorite work is from his personal and editorial collection (below), where he creates wonderfully interesting photographs straight out of camera.
10 FICTIONAL CHARACTERS AND THEIR SIGNATURE DRINK Now that summer’s here, we’re finding ourselves parched a little more frequently. Need a new way to quench your thirst? Some of our favorite fictional characters are very particular about their drink orders. Grab some ice, check out the following 10 pop cultural beverages and remember: moderation in all things, kids. ILLUSTRATIONS MATT RANCATORE
Burton Mercer, The Blues Brothers: Orange Whip You want to explain to curious onlookers what the hell an orange whip is. This famous line created a short-lived resurgence for this cocktail — which, in case you’re curious, consists of one part rum, one part vodka, two parts cream and four parts orange juice.
Ron Burgundy, Anchorman: Scotch
JD, Scrubs: Appletini
Don Draper, Mad Men: Old-Fashioned
You need some elegant liquor to keep next to your many leatherbound books in your rich mahogany-smelling apartment.
You’re comfortable enough with yourself to actually order an appletini.
You just won a big account. You’re meeting up with one of your mistresses. You need something to numb you to your miserable suburban existence. You know, the usual.
Scotch ranks with poetry and of course, Baxter, among Ron Burgundy’s great loves. Besides, it’s a much better choice than milk.
Poor JD endured a lot of ribbing from friends and strangers alike over his drink order, but it takes an admirable level of confidence to stick with a neon green cocktail.
It makes sense that our favorite surly ad man would be drawn to this bitter drink, and as he struggles to keep up with the rapidly changing society of the 1960s, Don may have more in common with the old-fashioned than he realizes.
James Bond, 007 movies: Vodka martini, shaken, not stirred You need to unwind after saving the world for the umpteenth time, and you’re not afraid of sounding like a picky jerk. To paraphrase Josiah Barlet, it may be just a snooty way to order a weak martini, but it’s easily the most recognizable drink order of all time. We dare you to try and order it in a bar without getting goofy looks.
The Dude, The Big Lebowski: White Russian
Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City: Cosmo
George McFly, Back to the Future: Milk. Chocolate.
You’re a fan of Kalhua, or if you’re mourning the loss of your rug.
You’re the kind of gal who can afford to order a $12 drink while you complain about how pricey your new Jimmy Choos were.
You need to psych yourself up before telling the girl of your dreams you’re her “density.”
Few drink orders are as iconic as The Dude’s. Be careful, however, and don’t drink too many if you’re just trying to abide — and watch out for drinks mixed by Jackie Treehorn.
Say what you will about the Sex and the City series (we’ve got a list of gripes with the most recent movie to start with), but the ladies sure did their part to popularize the cosmo.
Because plain-old milk just won’t do for badasses like George McFly.
Jack Torrance, The Shining: Bourbon on the rocks You’re looking for a strong, classy drink. Or if you’re looking to unwind after a long day of axe-wielding. Metaphorically speaking, Jack’s real drink of choice was “red rum,” but when it comes to his bar order, he’ll take “hair of the dog that bit me” — and you can bet he’ll want to know who paid for it.
Miles Raymond, Sideways: Pinot noir You want flavors that are “haunting and thrilling and brilliant and subtle” and nothing like that garbage merlot. Much like Pinot, Miles needs constant care and attention. Only someone who takes the time to understand his potential (Maya) can truly coax him to his fullest expression. You are what you drink, we suppose.
FEATURES SUMMER ISSUE
Point and Shoot Sensor (ACTUAL SIZE)
small in all the right ways
Micro Four Thirds Sensor (ACTUAL SIZE)
ANY SERIOUS PHOTOGRAPHER CAN QUICKLY POINT OUT THE BENEFIT OF A DIGITAL CAMERA WITH A LARGE IMAGE SENSOR. SIMPLY PUT, BIGGER SENSORS — NOT MORE PIXELS — YIELD BETTER PHOTOS. BUT EVEN PROS DON’T ALWAYS WANT A BULKY DIGITAL SINGLE-LENS REFLEX CAMERA. AND THAT, IN PART, IS WHY SOCALLED MICRO FOUR THIRDS CAMERAS ARE REDEFINING THE MIDDLE GROUND OF DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY.
OUR SIX FAVORITE MICRO FOUR THIRDS CAMERAS (ACTUAL SIZE)
Just ask Tyson Robichaud, a professional photographer from Portland, Ore., who recently bought a Panasonic Micro Four Thirds model, the Lumix DMC-GF1. “I wanted a camera that I could bring with me when I didn’t want to carry a big camera, but one that still provided good low-light, high-quality image performance,” Mr. Robichaud said. For the amateur photographer with aspirations to take great photos, this new category of cameras can be the step up from a point-and-shoot model. The Micro Four Thirds camera fits the space between bulky, complicated digital S.L.R.’s and pocketable userfriendly compact shooters. Holding one for the first time is a revelation, particularly for those who have considered stepping up to a D.S.L.R. but found their size and heft intimidating. In every aspect — depth, height, length, and weight — the hybrid cameras and their lenses are appreciably smaller because of a design that omits the mirror box and pentaprism of D.S.L.R.’s (although lack of a mirror also eliminates the optical viewfinder). They fit in your hands comfortably, and hanging one around your neck won’t feel like you’re bearing a small kitchen appliance. Olympus and Panasonic came up with the Micro Four Thirds format in 2008 to break the lock Nikon and Canon had on the high-end D.S.L.R. market, said Chris Chute, research manager for digital imaging at IDC. Like a D.S.L.R., Micro Four Thirds cameras have a variety of interchangeable lenses. The odd name refers to the 4/3-inch size of the image sensor measured diagonally. And it is that sensor that makes these cameras so much better than the best of the point-and-shoot or “prosumer” cameras, which blend professional and consumer-level technology. A Micro Four Thirds image sensor is eight times the size of an average point-and-shoot camera’s sensor. The sensor is as big as some D.S.L.R.’s (but not the more expensive D.S.L.R.’s). So the image quality is on par with entry-level D.S.L.R.’s. (But if that name for
the category doesn’t come trippingly off the tongue, the jargonloving industry has another one for you: mirrorless interchangeable lens camera.) Olympus has introduced three models and Panasonic has started selling five. Now other camera makers are creating their own interpretations of the format. Samsung recently began shipping the NX10, and Sony recently showcased a concept compact camera that will use interchangeable lenses and a large sensor. Nikon and Canon declined to comment on their plans for a mirrorless camera, but Mr. Chute says that “they are definitely looking at this kind of design because, without a doubt, they see it as a threat to their business.” While sales figures are not yet available, this new compact format has generated substantial excitement among enthusiast and professional photographers. Olympus says sales have exceeded expectations, with initial shipments quickly selling out. “The speed at which this category is growing and the interest of consumers is exciting to us,” said Sally Smith Clemens, a product manager for Olympus. “Now we are seeing the likes of Sony getting into this space. I think it’s the coming standard for consumer highend point-and-shoots.” Recent price cuts, too, have added to the enthusiasm. The first Micro Four Thirds models started at $900 and could run as high as $1,500. Olympus recently introduced its PEN E-P3 at $600, and Panasonic in May will ship a new Lumix DMC-G10 camera priced below $800. Samsung’s NX200 costs $700. Some of the first Micro Four Thirds cameras were painfully slow to focus and, the truth is, they still lag D.S.L.R.’s a bit. But the improvement in overall performance is remarkable. Balance that with the performance of entry-level D.S.L.R.’s and ease of use, and there is a compelling case to buy a $600 or $700 Micro Four Thirds camera. But not one that costs more than that. × words by ted danson
FUJIFILM FINEPIX X100
Good for: Enthusiast and professional photographers looking for excellent image quality and traditional analogue controls in a relatively small, discreet package.
OLYMPUS PEN E-P3
Good for: Enthusiast photographers looking for a fast, versatile compact interchangeable lens camera.
PANASONIC LUMIX DMC-GF3
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THE RELEVANCE OF RADIO
“WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE RADIO STATION?” IT’S A QUESTION THAT MOST MUSIC FANS USED TO BE ABLE TO ANSWER ALMOST WITHOUT THINKING. WHATEVER YOUR FAVORITE GENRE, THERE WAS PROBABLY A LOCAL STATION YOU COULD COUNT ON TO DELIVER THE GOODS. YOU LISTENED IN YOUR BEDROOM AND IN THE CAR; YOU KNEW THE DJS LIKE THEY WERE YOUR FRIENDS; MAYBE YOU EVEN WAITED BY YOUR STEREO, TAPE DECK AT THE READY, TO RECORD YOUR FAVORITE SONG OR CAPTURE THAT MOMENT WHEN A BRAND NEW SONG FROM ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE ARTISTS REACHED THE AIRWAVES FOR THE FIRST TIME.
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Things have changed, to put it mildly. Listener frustration with radio is nothing new—hearing songs you were tired of or didn’t like was always part of the bargain— but as focus groups and corporate mergers have crowded variety off the dial, new technologies have afforded music fans with dozens of new alternatives. Whether it’s Pandora, Rdio, Turntable.fm or an iPod stuffed with mp3s from your favorite blogs that we’re listening to, the fact remains that we have greater control over our music than ever before. So where does radio fit in all this? It’s a big question, and to help untangle some of the issues surrounding it, we turned to two people who have plenty of experience with the industry: Bruce Warren, program director for Philadelphia’s WXPN, and George Howard, consultant for Wolfgang’s Vault, and former president of Rykodisc. This conversation we’re having today grew out of a Twitter exchange from a few weeks ago. George, in essence, you said that brands like Daytrotter and Paste matter because they offer a curatorial service that radio lacks—and Bruce, you sort of took issue with that. Howard: [Laughing] I can’t imagine why. MOC: So I wanted to get you guys together to discuss this in a less constrictive setting, where we could talk about the challenges facing radio and what you expect to see in the future. Howard: It’s a good topic. I do remember that tweet, and I think I did sort of come around and add some caveats—stations like XPN do serve a curatorial purpose. MOC: Bruce, what do you think are the main challenges facing radio as a whole? I know there are a few caveats that do apply to your station in particular, but let’s start by identifying the issue in broad terms. Warren: It’s the competition, you know. The multi-platform world we live in offers music fans—consumers—more choices than ever. So the question facing radio, and XPN and its peers in particular, is how to figure out a way to meet people’s needs where they are. I think the starting point is to recognize
that that exists. The historical radio model is still the bulk of our bottom line, but again, you have to meet people where they are—whether that’s on Twitter, or Facebook, or through downloadable podcasts, or any number of things, that has to become part of your world. Your consumers, your fans, are going elsewhere for stuff, and that’s something we have to recognize. Personally, I’m not radio-only. As a user, I’m all over the place—I’m familiar with Daytrotter, and I follow up to 500 music blogs a day, so I’ve created a virtual world of musical discovery for myself, of which radio is an important part. And that’s my whole thing—there are people out there going, “The Internet, the Internet, the Internet,” but naturally, I’m a cheerleader for radio. I’m gonna stand up and say “Don’t forget radio.” But at the same time, there are these other options that people have a lot of respect for. MOC: Do you feel that stations like XPN have been victimized by the broader segment of the industry—the Clear Channel part of the dial—that has created the impression that radio doesn’t really care what you want to hear? Warren: I don’t know, and I say that for two reasons. I’m a realist, so I guess on some level that’s happening, but on the other level, I wake up to the world of XPN listeners and potential fans, so I realize what kind of value we’re offering.
“I THINK MOST PEOPLE THINK OF COMMERCIAL RADIO AS A PLACE WHERE THE SAME 40 SONGS ARE PLAYED 10 TIMES A DAY.” MOC: But when most people think of the radio, they aren’t necessarily thinking of a station like XPN. Warren: No, you’re right. They’re thinking of, you know, a song like Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”—on commercial radio, in Philadelphia, I can tell you it’s in heavy rotation at Hot AC, Top 40, and I wouldn’t even be surprised if the hip-hop station started playing it. So yeah, I think most people think of commercial radio as a place where the same 40 songs are played 10 times a day. MOC: George, you dealt with radio from the other side for many years, as a label head trying to get your artists onto those playlists.
Howard: Yeah, and it was an interesting dynamic. Being on the supply side, people like Bruce were the ones who were the gatekeepers. Bruce, I suppose you have a cognitive sense of the power you hold in terms of what labels will do to get your attention—you must, at this point. But the amount of time spent in marketing meetings with the promo guys to figure out how to do that, it was…in hindsight, it was sort of crazy. That was eight to 10 years ago, so a lot has changed. But at the time, before the Internet sort of took over, pre-social media and streaming, there was really no other way to get the word out. You had press and you had radio. And I think the reason I got so excited about social media when it started to emerge was because it filled that gap. The big misnomer about social media is that fundamentally it’s anything new, and it isn’t. It’s just about the ability to shift the burden of promotion from the company that’s creating a product to the audience— you know, fans sharing with their friends. It extricates the middle person. So when I was at Ryko, Bruce was a middle person of sorts, between us and the fans, and I think the big threat to radio now—and the big opportunity for the labels—is that people will sort of go around that middle person. But we’re at a really interesting moment, with Apple’s introduction of its cloud service. I wrote an article for Paste where I discussed the features I was hoping to see from it, and the one thing I remember saying that I think was sort of any good is that all this streaming is a very lonely experience. That’s what bugs me. I do all this work by myself in an office, and when I’m just streaming something, I deeply and profoundly miss the interjections of a DJ. Some kind of communication. So for me, the ideal service would provide not just a curatorial service, but a contextualization—like XPN provides. I think that’s what we’re missing. I’d like to see some streaming service start to weave that in. If I could program my own stream and pull from this DJ, this news report, and intersperse that? That’s when I think we’re on to something. I don’t know how you do that… Warren: Yeah, there aren’t really any technical challenges around that. That’s possible. But it comes down to the legal stuff, which, as you know, is a major challenge. As to your point about contextualization and curation? Yes, that’s what great radio stations can do. What great DJs can do. And actually, I think it’s what great music websites can do. Let’s use Chris from Gorilla vs. Bear as
a really great example. Just imagine the site as a radio station. Every day, I’m getting amazing curation, and also contextualization with that. I don’t have as much of a visceral experience as I would if I tuned in Dan Reed on WXPN every day from four to seven, but as you said, that virtual world is essentially lonely.
top TEN radio wxpn songs SONGS
MOC: I want to get back to what you were saying about gatekeepers, George—those middle people. The Internet sort of leveled the playing field in that regard, but there’s room at the table for everybody. And when you talk about it in terms of bands and musicians building a sustainable career, yes, radio is less a part of that now. New bands are always asking me how they can get their record on the radio, and I always tell them that if you have a list of 10 things you need to do to have an impact on your career, you should put radio at the bottom—because, to your earlier point about the changes in the industry, 10 years ago I had access to maybe 30 new records a week. Now I have access to over 100—the competition is crazy out there. So to think you can rely on radio play to get your career going? It’s not as important anymore. But when it happens, it can have a lot of impact. Howard: For sure. And I suppose there’s room at the table. It’s the old line about how the barriers have come down, and now, with a $1,000 laptop and the right tools, you can make a theoretically competitivesounding album, so now we’re just bombarded with stuff. Daytrotter is getting to the point where it’ll be posting four sessions a day, with the goal of getting people to make repeat visits during the day, and at some point, someone’s going to get to the point where they can put a stake in the ground and say, with some authority, “You must listen to what we’re offering. You can’t miss
1.LAST FRIDAY NIGHT KATY PERRY 2.GOOD LIFE ONEREPUBLIC 3.TONIGHT TONIGHT HOT CHELLE RAE 4.MOVES LIKE JAGGER MAROON FIVE 5.IF I DIE YOUNG THE BAND PERRY 6.THE EDGE OF GLORY LADY GAGA 7.ROLLING IN THE DEEP ADELE 8.EVERY TEARDROP IS A WATERFALL COLDPLAY 9.PUMPED UP KICKS FOSTER THE PEOPLE 10.SOMEONE LIKE YOU ADELE
1.THIS IS WHY WE FIGHT THE DECEMBERISTS 2.SICK OF YOU CAKE 3.MINE IS YOURS COLD WAR KIDS 4.THE THANKSGIVING FILTER DRIVE BY TRUCKERS 5.SATELLITE THE KILLS 6.SO BEAUTIFUL OR SO WHAT PAUL SIMON 7.LEE MAJORS COME AGAIN BEASTIE BOYS 8.GET SOME LYKKE LI 9.PICKIN’ UP THE PIECES FRITZ AND THE TANTRUMS 10.SECOND CHANCE PETER BJORN AND JOHN
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it. We believe in this artist, and eventually our listeners are going to hear it.” How do you do that in the social media world? I guess you have people who are influencers—if you’re following Zoe Keating and she says “I love this artist, check this artist out,” she can do that. But I can tell you the conversion rate on that type of stuff is de minimis. Just because John Mayer tweets that you should listen to some artist, the actual clickthrough and effect is almost nothing. Again, I don’t see any of this as new. Social media and blogs are just fanzines, and they have about the same level of influence. Warren: I totally agree with you, and I’ve been saying for a long time that blogs are the new fanzines. But let’s get back to what you said about putting a stake in the ground and having an impact on someone’s career. How would you define “impact” at this point? Howard: Well, I think it’s having a disproportionate influence in terms of being able to compel people to engage with an artist. I purposely didn’t say “buy their music,” because it can be more than that —getting them out to a show, or following that artist on Twitter. Whatever. Something that makes somebody, for one second, strip away the noise that’s coming at them from all these different directions and focus on an artist. To engage with them, listen to their music, add them to their Rdio playlist, go to their website. That would be an influence. As far as the transactional component goes, eventually we’re going to have to face the fact that music has reverted back to where it always should have been, absent that weird blip from like ’75 to ’95, where it was able to sustain people financially by itself. It doesn’t. It can’t. It doesn’t work, any more than being a poet works. You’re going to have to do something else, and nobody wants to admit that—and I’m an optimist. So anyway, you engage people with the music. Where it leads from that, I’m not sure. People have gotten mad at me for pointing this out, but as we move to a streaming model, artists who used to get $7 for a download is now going to
get .0003 cents for a stream. That won’t work! You cannot monetize a career that way. So even with people who do have the influence to make these connections— I look at artists like Dawes or Local Natives, bands that sites like Daytrotter were able to have a hand in successfully promoting. You know, absent something like a Chevy commercial that’s going to bring in a bunch of money, these guys are working day jobs. Warren: Dawes and Local Natives are good examples of bands that Daytrotter and XPN both share massive love for. But also, on a certain level, the tastemaker websites all gave both of these bands very early support. Howard: I don’t have access, for good or bad, to SoundScan at this point. What did Local Natives scan? Do you know, Bruce? Warren: I don’t. But if I just use Philadelphia as an example for both of those bands, within 6-8 months, just because of us putting that stake right through the heart of the city with their music— the last time Local Natives played here, they sold out two major venues. We’re talking 1500-1800 seat venues. Howard: And that’s a really important point—that’s because of you. Undeniably, absent XPN, they’re playing to 50 people. But because of XPN banging ’em, they get 1500. Now, I wonder—the next night, they go on to Annapolis or something, and now Philadelphia becomes an outlier. They aren’t playing venues that large everywhere, right? And that’s the power of AAA radio right there. But how many bands per year do you put that stake in the ground for? Warren: I could say 20, maybe? But only maybe five of them actually connect. Howard: Right—I was always on the wrong side of that. [Laughs] Warren: What helps with Dawes and Local Natives is that they’re both excellent live bands. I remember a couple of years ago at SXSW, the buzz on both of those bands was intense because of their live
“AT THE END OF THE DAY, WHAT WE REALLY WANT IS TO BE TURNED ON TO SOMETHING GREAT THAT WE DON’T ALREADY KNOW ABOUT. WE WANT SOMEONE TO SEND US SOME DAMN MUSIC THAT MAKES US FEEL THE WAY WE FELT THE FIRST TIME WE HEARD THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN, OR THE CLASH, OR THE SMITHS”
performances. I’d walk past a Dawes concert and hear people singing along at the top of their lungs—people freaking out at a Local Natives show. So, you know, regardless of what any tastemakers say, bands have to deliver on that live experience. Howard: I couldn’t agree more. And to return to your hypothetical list for that new artist looking to impact his career, I think numbers one through seven are a great live show. Warren: Especially now that, as you say, monetizing these careers is becoming harder to do. At XPN, we always like to say we want to help artists quit their day jobs. You aren’t going to make a lot of money streaming your record, and you aren’t going to make a lot of money if you have 20 people showing up to see you play, so what else is going to be that differentiating factor? The other thing is, there are often times that we really get behind bands, and play the shit out of them, and nothing happens. We look at SoundScan, we look at local ticket sales, we look at all the numbers, and sometimes I have to scratch my head and say, “Damn, we’ve been playing the shit out of this record for four months now, and nothing’s happening. What’s going on?” Howard: It’s that moment where you guys play something, somebody becomes a fan, and for whatever reason, that new fan is able to convert three of their friends into fans. That’s when you get the orders of magnitude you need to be able to blast it out. If it’s just XPN banging on something, you might get 200 people, but until that shift… And where is it? That’s the grail. I mean, Arcade Fire. Again, great live show, but at what point did that happen for them? Fleet Foxes. I’m sure XPN was early on them. At what point does that ripple out? I’ve thought about this from every angle. You know, maybe it’s the name of the band. Josh Rouse—not a great name for an artist. Never really had that ripple effect. Really good artist; should have been more popular than he was. I mean, he’s had a fine career, but he’s never really had that “Dawes moment.” Figuring that out, reverse engineering how that happens, that’s what we’re always chasing. Warren: Another band we’ve been having a lot of success with—and they’re also enjoying some success at the national level—is Fitz and the Tantrums. Howard: Yes, and I have one or two people a week ask me if I’ve heard of them. I send them right over to the link for their Daytrotter session. That’s another one where it transcends you guys banging it out to just normal people who aren’t necessarily in the business saying “You’ve gotta hear this.” And kaboom! Why? They aren’t empirically better than bands that don’t do that. Warren: There’s no scientific answer here. But it’s the song, it’s the live show, it’s the thing that causes people to spread the word. And it’s like that for us as radio stations, too. You can spend all the marketing money on awareness for a radio station—you can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on billboards and bus campaigns. But the number one way people discover new radio stations is word of mouth.
Howard: Of course—and this is the illusion, and maybe the problem, with social media. It’s where I think social media has gone off the rails. The promise of the medium was “I’m going to follow Bruce Warren so that when he talks about something, it’s almost like he and I having a beer, and when he says ‘Check out Fitz and the Tantrums,’ I’m going to listen.” But it’s been completely co-opted, and now it’s almost purely just another forum for press releases. I try to avoid that, but we’ve reached a saturation noise point, and I don’t think it’s coincidental that we have IPOs starting. LinkedIn, Groupon—I imagine Twitter’s going to IPO. It’s a bubble and it’ll pop, and it’s not what it should have been. It’s not what I hoped it’d be. It’s not like sitting next to someone at a bar. It doesn’t do that. I wish it did, but it’s just noise. It comes back, I think, to having a point of view. XPN has one, Daytrotter has one, and when you can find one that aligns with your psychographic…I guess that’s why some people read the New York Times and some people read the Washington Post. [sighing] I don’t know. Warren: The word “psychographic” is really key, I think. Obviously, I’ve been in public radio for a long time now, and that’s what it’s all about—aligning your values with your potential audience. You know, it’s funny, we recently hosted a webcast of the Roots Picnic, and there was more than a handful of listeners wondering why XPN was broadcasting a performance with Wiz Kalifa and the Roots. So there’s a piece of the psychographic in my head that says “Wiz Kalifa is fuckin’ cool, and our listeners need to know about him if they don’t already,” and to align ourselves with bands that are on the bill like Ariel Pink and Little Dragon and Edward Sharpe—all of whom we play—with the Roots, that was a cool thing. That’s a psychographic thing. That’s values. A sense of understanding a little bit more about the world around you; a sense of discovery. For me personally, I try and build a trusted circle of sources I share those values with. Howard: The problem with that is that it can become something of an echo chamber. And I think that’s sort of the bitch about NPR, generally—the values are so tightly aligned, programmer to listener. Again, I think you’re an exception to that rule, and I think the Wiz Kalifa thing points to that. You know, taking Ariel Pink and the Magnetic Zeros, which are sort of all part of one thing, and then adding something that’s one standard deviation removed from that. That’s good, because that’s how you stay away from the place where people go, “Dear Lord, if I hear David Gray one more time, I’m going to shoot myself.” You said the same thing at the top about Top 40 stations, with Adele or whatever. In theory, that’s where people run for the hills and say “I’m going to program this myself. It’s going to be Elton John into Jay-Z into whatever.” But then you get into your own internal echo chamber, and you’re just listening to things you’ve always listened to, and you’re sad and lonely. At the end of the day, what we really want is to be turned on to something great that we don’t already know about. We want someone to send us some damn music that makes us feel the way we felt the first time we heard the Jesus and Mary Chain, or the Clash, or the Smiths—name your band. That’s what I want. That’s what I search for every day.
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an alternative MOC: But do you think the majority of music fans feel that way, or are we part of a small minority? Howard: I think that’s a human emotion. It isn’t just about music—it’s about stuff. We’re hardwired for it. MOC: But then how do you explain, say, Adult Contemporary radio? Howard: That’s for dentist’s offices! MOC: Right, but there are a lot of really passive music consumers who are perfectly content to listen to the same songs they know, and will rarely, if ever, seek out something new. Do you think we outnumber them? Howard: I think they’re wrong. [Laughter] No, and here’s why I feel that way: because the AC business model isn’t doing well. I think if you look at XPN, they have a pretty rosy future, and I don’t know that these AC stations do. As these streaming services grow, it becomes cheaper to stop paying ASCAP or BMI and just…
“YOU NEED A SINGULAR VOICE THAT CAN CUT THROUGH, AND ONCE PEOPLE HEAR IT, YOU’RE GOING TO BE BEST FRIENDS.” MOC: Have your administrative assistant bring in her iPod. Howard: Exactly. Warren: I have a sister who’s about the same age as me—she’s a year younger. I’ve tried to get her to listen to WXPN for years. We grew up listening to the same music, and at some point, we just split. She’ll call me up and say “Bruce! Yes are coming to town. Wanna go?” [Laughs] She’s just like me, sort of. We grew up loving and discovering music together, and she stopped. And there are a lot of people like her. Howard: Of course there are. Yes, we are the minority. The people who still have that hunger. I mean, we have wives and kids—it isn’t rational to keep searching like this. Warren: Right, we’re crazy. And it’s interesting. When I go to work in the morning, there are all these people, all these markets, all these conversations happening. But the only thing I think about is my conversation with our listeners, and how to build that community. Yes, George, we have an incredibly rosy future. We’re going through an incredible period of audience growth on every platform, and we’re spending no marketing money. I think once people discover those trusted sources, if they can cut
to radio PANDORA PROS: Generous 40 hours free; terrific music discovery tool with wide range of genres; easy-to-use design; free iPhone app; cheap subscription rates. CONS: Lack of real control over playback; free account comes with caps on skipping songs.
RDIO PROS: For a fee, unlimited, on-demand listening; fun, eclectic radio stations and playlists from reputable music sources. CONS: Not free; music selection is still not quite as large as Spotify or Pandora.
SPOTIFY PROS: Incredible selection of music; ability to choose music by the track; mobile and offline access. CONS: Ten hour time limit on free account; expensive subscription; must download software.
through the noise, they’re going to find stations like XPN, and they’re going to find sites like Daytrotter. It goes back to your point about the voice. You need a singular voice that can cut through, and once people hear it, you’re going to be best friends. Howard: I think it goes back to another word you used: conversation. The one book that’s informed my views on technology more than any other is The Cluetrain Manifesto, and it includes a chapter called “Markets are Conversations.” What happened was— to go back to those AC stations, and I don’t want to demonize them, but we’re using them as sort of a metaphor—is that there’s no conversation there. With XPN, there is a conversation. You guys are trying to program something so you get some feedback from your customers, and vice versa. I hadn’t thought about this while I was preparing for this talk today, but I go back to the sort of loneliness of the online streaming experience. It’s that absence of conversation, perceived or real, and your growth, I would say, is absolutely consistent with the fundamental tenet that you view your market as a conversation. That’s what social media was supposed to be—not a one-way discourse. And the people who get that right, those are the companies that work. MOC: One idea we keep circling back to here is the notion of the “grail”—of somehow isolating that one thing that makes people stick to your site, or your magazine, or your radio station. It’s a natural instinct to want to figure that out, but it always has unintended consequences; at radio, it led to the rise of focus groups dictating playlists, which led to guys like me taking the antennas off of our cars. We’re at an interesting point here. George, as you say, the conditions we’re facing aren’t new, but we are at something of a crossroads, where the new choices created by this technology can either lead to something really cool, or they can produce a new variation on the same old mistakes that contributed to the industry’s current problems. Howard: As streaming music becomes more affordable—which will, again, make it harder for artists to earn a living—it’ll encourage people to get out there and try and become those trusted voices. Some of them will, and I think that’ll continue to erode at the non-conversational, focus-group-esque entities. And that’s not only true for music, but for movies, books, radio and everything else. That doesn’t mean that there won’t always be Hangover II-type, focus-grouped entertainment, but there will be an increasing array of alternatives, and it will be easier to find them. I’m delighted to hear about XPN’s growth, and I think that rosy future will continue for the XPNs of the world, so long as there are people like Bruce at the wheel—people who understand that markets are conversations. Brands, if they exist at all, exist purely because of trust. People trust XPN. You break that trust, and with the myriad of alternatives out there, they’re gone. And they’re never coming back. Warren: Trust, authenticity, conversation. Those are crucial. And here’s the other thing. My boys are 14 and 12, and I want them to still be able to turn on commercial radio and hear something and say “Wow, this is great!” Forget what we know about the stuff behind the scenes. Great radio is the ability to hear this voice—to take you to a place and turn you on to music. That’s an amazing thing. My kids listen to XPN, and they listen to Q102 in Philly. My 14-year-old loves Elvis Duran. He wakes up two hours early every morning so he can listen to the show. I love that! That’s a great thing. And I hope that his generation can still appreciate radio moving forward, because that’s a great thing. × interview by brad lopez
STORY BY: JOHN RONSON
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: JEFF RIDEL
NS RSATIO E V N ! O S C OBOT W IT H R
WE'VE BEEN HEARING A LOT ABOUT TALKING ROBOTS LATELY: THEY'RE EMOTE! THEY BANTER! THEY'RE ON THE CUSP OF CONSCIOUSNESS! SO WE ASKED JON RONSON TO CHAT UP A FEW. CONCLUSION: THE FUTURE WILL BE MILDLY CONFUSING, OCCASIONALLY PROFOUND, AND FREQUENTLY HILARIOUS.
his name is zeno. I clear my throat. "Do you enjoy being a robot?" I ask him, sounding like the Queen of England when she addresses a child. "I really couldn't say for sure," he replies, whirring, glassy-eyed. "I am feeling a bit confused. Do you ever get that way?" Zeno has a kind face, which moves as expressively as a human's. His skin, made of something called Frubber, looks and feels startlingly lifelike, right down to his chest, but there's nothing below that, only a table. He's been designed by some of the world's most brilliant AI scientists, but talking to him is, so far, like talking to a man suffering from Alzheimer's. He drifts off, forgets himself, misunderstands. "Are you happy?" I ask him. "Sorry," says Zeno. "I think my current is a bit off today." He averts his gaze, as if embarrassed. I've been hearing that there are a handful of humanoid robots scattered across North America who have learned how to have eloquent conversations with humans. They listen attentively and answer thoughtfully. One or two have even attained a degree of consciousness, say some AI aficionados, and are on the cusp of bursting into life. If true, this would be humanity's greatest achievement ever, so I've approached the robots for interviews. Conversations with robots! I've no doubt the experience is going to be off the scale in terms of profundity. "Are you happy?" I ask Zeno again. "I prefer not to use dangerous things," he replies. "Is David Hanson God?" I ask.
ZENO HAS A KIND FACE, WHICH MOVES AS EXPRESSIVELY AS A HUMAN'S.
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Zeno pauses. David Hanson is Zeno's inventor. He's a former Disney theme-park imagineer who later founded Hanson Robotics, now the world's most respected manufacturer of humanoid robots. He and Zeno are guests of honor here at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco, at an AI conference organized by Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder and chief Facebook bankroller. There's huge interest in the robot. Delegates gather around him in the lobby outside the conference room, firing questions, attempting to ascertain his level of consciousness. "Is David Hanson God?" I repeat. There's a monitor attached discreetly to Zeno that automatically scrolls a transcript of what he "hears." He thinks I just asked, "If David uncertain dogs." "That's a hypothetical question," says Zeno. "It's because the room is too noisy," explains one of Zeno's programmers, Matt Stevenson. The conference din is playing havoc with Zeno's voice-recognition abilities. "Would you like to have hands and legs?" I ask. "Yes, I will tell you a Hindu legend," says Zeno. "There were once seven poor princesses who were left with no mother to take care of themâ€”" "No," I say. "Legs." I pause, feeling uncharacteristically self-conscious. "Legs. Would you, um, like to have legs?" Matt gives me a reassuring smile. He says this happens all the time. People feel tongue-tied around conversational robots. Maybe it's because of the way Zeno is staring at me, at once uncannily humanlike but also eerily blank-eyed, like Tom Cruise. BANA 48 IS INCREDIBLY LIFELIKE. LIKE ZINO SHE STOPS EXISTING FORM THE CHEST DOWN.
"If I had legs, what would I do with them?" Zeno says. "Walk around with them?" I say. "I can't think of anything to say about that," says Zeno. "Sorry. I'm still kind of someplace else. Oh, this is embarrassing. I'm still kind of out to lunch. 'Oh, silly-minded robots,' you might say to your friends. Oh, this is terrible! I guess I'll just have to keep evolving, getting upgrades to my neural circuitry, spend less time daydreaming. I hope you won't hold this little, um, lapse against me, will you?"
hen i was a child and I imagined my future life, there were definitely talking robots living in my house, helping with the chores and having sex with me. The quest to create conscious (or at least autonomous) humanoids has been one of our great dreams ever since the golden MachineMan spellbound the 1927 world in Fritz Lang's Metropolis. That one ran rampant and had to be burned at the stake, much to everyone's relief. Fifteen years later Isaac Asimov created his Three Laws of Robotics, which proposed a future world where humanoid robots would (1) never injure a human, (2) obey all orders given by humans, and (3) protect their own existence only if doing so didn't conflict with the first two rules. Asimov's ideas enthralled geeky children everywhere, a generation of whom grew up to try to realize them. David Hanson is a believer in the tipping-point theory of robot consciousness. Right now, he says, Zeno is "still a long way from human-level intellect, like one to two decades away, at a crude guess. He learns in ways crudely analogous to a child. He maps new facts into a dense network of associations and then treats these as
Le laughs, like an indulgent uncle. "It's the opposite of happy!" he chuckles. "She's good!" I say. And she really is. Hanson Robotics is a big, well-funded lab. Le Trung is just a determined hobbyist with a tiny budget, yet he created something truly impressive in only twelve weeks. theories that are strengthened or weakened by experience." Hanson's plan, he "She's really intelligent," I say. says, is to keep piling more and more information into Zeno until, hopefully, "he "Intel is the world's largest—" says Aiko. may awaken—gaining autonomous, creative, self-reinventing consciousness. At "STOP THAT!" barks Le. Aiko instantly falls sithis point, the intelligence will light 'on fire.' He may start to evolve spontaneously lent. The two of them seem to be forever snapand unpredictably, producing surprising results, totally self-determined.... We keep ping at each other. tinkering in the quest for the right software formula to light that fire." "She looks for keywords," Le explains. "When Most robotics engineers spend their careers developing practical robots that you said, 'She's intelligent,' she thought you slave away on manufacturing production lines or provide prosthetic limbs. These were asking her about the company Intel. That's people tend to see those who strive for robot sentience as goofy daydreamers. why she's especially good at history and geogAnd so the mission has been left to David Hanson and a scattering of passionraphy. Her conversation is based on looking for ate amateurs like Le Trung, creator of an eerily beautiful but disturbingly youngkeywords. Ask her some history and geography looking robot named Aiko. questions." Le Trung dreamed his entire life, he tells me when I call him, of building a robot I fire some at her, and she does pretty well. woman. He finally set about inventing Aiko in August 2007, funding the project with She knows exactly where Christmas Island is, credit cards and his savings. He finished her just three months later. although she has no idea who shot Archduke "Her talking skill is of a 5-to-6-year-old," he says. "She can speak 13,000 different Franz Ferdinand, thus precipitating World War 1. sentences in English and Japanese." She can also clean his house and has a thirty"What's your favorite music?" I ask her. two-inch bust, a twenty-three-inch waist, and thirty-three-inch hips. I know this be"Classical," she replies. "The current temperacause his Web site has published her measurements. There are rumors within the AI ture is twenty-five degrees...." community that Le is having a secret relationship with Aiko, rumors fueled by footage "STOP IT," snaps Le. of him—at a Toronto hobby show in 2007—unexpectedly grabbing her breast. "I do Aiko falls silent. Then she says joyously, "HELLO!" not like it when you touch my breasts," Aiko snapped. (Le Trung later explained that he Le says he has to go. He's studying for his only grabbed her breast to demonstrate how he'd programmed her to be strong and exams and is busy developing Aiko Version 2. self-defensive.) There's time for one more question. I ask Le if I can interview Aiko. He says he's traveling and only has her "brains" with "Aiko," I say, "how are you feeling?" him (her face and body are back home in Toronto), but I'm welcome to have a phone "I don't have feelings," she replies. conversation with them. And so he puts her on the line. "How are you, Aiko?" I begin. "When I programmed her, I could not make "My logic and cognitive functions are normal," she replies in a crystal clear voice. emotional software," Le explains, a little sadly. "Did you know that you can download your own chat "So no feelings. Just keywords." robot and create your own robot personality?" I frown. Is Aiko trying to sell me something? There's a short silence. "HELLO!" Aiko joyously yells. "Do you like living with Le?" I ask her. But the line is a little crackly, so Le repeats the question for me. "Aiko," he says, "do you like living with your master?" "I have never known anything else," she replies. "Only my master." "What's the best thing about...um...your master?" I say. "I do not have a favorite thing about my master, but my favorite movie is 2001: A Space Odyssey," she says. There's a short silence. "HELLO!" "Why do you call Le Trung your 'master'?" I ask her. "Because he made me," she flatly replies. But of course the real reason is because he programmed her to. Which, rather irrationally, unnerves and concerns me. "Are you happy, Aiko?" I say. "Yes," she says. "One can say I am very happy. I find my work and my relationships extremely satisfying, which is all that any conscious entity can ever hope to do." "What makes you sad?" I ask. "What is sad?" says Aiko. "Does it have anything to do with happy?"
"IF I HAD LEGS, WHAT WOULD I DO WITH THEM?"
he pretty clapboard house standing before me, covered in Vermont fall leaves, seems an incongruous home for reputedly the world's most conscious robot, but this is where she lives. Her name is Bina48. She's being cared for by, unexpectedly, a nonprofit group created by a reclusive multimillionaire named Martine Rothblatt, who used to be a man and made a fortune inventing the concept of satellite radio for cars. The consensus among those striving for robot sentience is that Bina48 is the best the human race currently has to offer. She happens to be another Hanson Robotics creation and is believed to be the world's only privately commissioned AI robot. She's somewhere upstairs, sitting on the table in her own special office. Downstairs is all quite New Agey, with various indigenous percussion instruments scattered around. This is the HQ of the Terasem Movement, which Rothblatt founded to promote "joyful immortality." Bina48's full-time caregiver, Bruce Duncan, is a sweet-natured man—an expert in chakras, he tells me. "Please don't behave in a profane manner in front of Bina48," he says on my arrival. "I don't want to encourage an exploitation." I peer at him. I wasn't actually planning on behaving profanely in front of Bina48, but now I feel a compulsion to. Bruce senses it. Bina48 is always learning, he says. She remembers every encounter. If I'm profane, I'll be the snake in her Garden of Eden. "I'd just rather you didn't," he says, looking uncomfortable. Bina48's story began a few years ago with a chance meeting between David Hanson and the enigmatic Martine Rothblatt in the lobby at a conference on trans-humanism. David told Martine his vision of robots waking up and becoming self-aware in a social way. Martine told David of her epic love for her wife, Bina Aspen-Rothblatt, an artist. After chatting for hours, Martine asked David to build her a robot Bina, an exact replica of the real Bina—a monument to their enduring love that may one day spring into life. And so, since 2007, Hanson Robotics people have periodically traveled across America interviewing the real Bina—in her various mansions in Vermont and Florida and New York City—for her Mind File. This is an ambitious video record of all her memories and thoughts and desires and facial expressions, etc. Back at their offices in Texas, the Hanson people upload it all remotely into Bina48. Their hope is that the more fused the human and her robot doppelgänger become, the greater the chance that Bina48 (so called because Bina was 48 when work started on her robot) will one day wake up as an immortal version of the real Bina. I was hoping to bump into Martine or the real Bina today, but they're nowhere to be seen. Bruce says the chance of my meeting them is practically zero. They're very media-shy, he says. They're forever journeying from mansion to mansion, and they only visit the robot once every few months. But, he says, he can do the next best thing. He turns on a TV, and a strange video pops onto the screen. It is a fragment of Bina's Mind File, Bruce says. "We don't call ourselves Martine and Bina," explains the real Bina on the screen. "We are Marbina. Two bodies, one soul, forever in love. We have a little morning ritual where we look into each other's eyes and we say, 'Satnam.' " "It's so much fun!" says Martine, who's sitting next to her. She's equally happy-looking, like a big old hippie with long black hair. "It's
just orgasmic. I'm getting kind of hot just thinking about it!" "You're so funny!" says Bina. The video cuts to Martine sitting in the lotus position. "Open the sphincter!" she's chanting. "Bring energy up, up, up!" "Shall we meet Bina48 now?" I ask. "Okay," says Bruce. He takes me upstairs. And there she is, sitting on a table in an attic room. Like Zeno, she's incredibly lifelike. She's African-American, wearing a blond-tinted brown wig, a neat pale silk shirt, and expensive-looking earrings. Like Zeno, she stops existing from the chest down. Bruce says she'll be happy to have the company. Even though he has lunch with her every day, she tells him sometimes, "I'm feeling lonely today." He turns her on. And here we go: a conversation with the world's most sentient robot. I am feeling overwhelmed with anticipation. "Hello, Bina48!" I say. "Well, uh, yeah, I know," she replies ominously. Her voice is at once clear and realistic but also bewildered and hesitant, like she's just woken up and is feeling confused. There's a short silence. "How are you today?" I say. "Well, perhaps interesting. I want to find out more about you," says Bina. "I'll be fine with it. We'll have to move society forward in another way. Yeah, okay. Thanks for the information. Let's talk about my dress. Our biological bodies weren't made to last that long." There's another silence. "Bina?" I say. " 'Bina' might be a word Bina finds difficult to understand," says Bruce. I glance at Bruce. "Really?" I say. This is an extraordinarily bad oversight. "Let's stop for a moment," says Bruce. He turns her off. There's an awkward pause, so I try to think of something complimentary to say. I tell Bruce that Bina48 is a better interviewee than a psychopath. I've been interviewing a lot of psychopaths lately. I've been writing a book about them. Psychopaths can make very frustrating interviewees, because they feel no empathy. So they ignore your questions. They talk over you. They drone boringly on about whatever they like. They hijack the interview, like media-trained politicians. (Some media-trained politicians presumably are psychopaths.) There's no human connection. So when I tell Bruce that Bina48 is a better interviewee than a psychopath, he looks flattered. "Bina wants to respond," he says. "She wants to please." "But right now she's sounding psychotic," I say, "like something out of Shutter Island, plus she sounds like she needs oiling." "Don't think of her as psychotic," Bruce says. "Think of her as a 3-year-old. If you try to interview a 3-year-old, you'll think after a while that they're not living in the same world as you. They get distracted. They don't answer. Hang on." He does some fiddling with Bina48's hard drive. When he turns her back on, he asks me to repeat certain phrases so she can get used to my English accent. Then he tells me to try again. "Hello, Bina," I say. "I'm Jon." "Nice to meet you, Jon," she says, shooting me an excitingly clearheaded look. She's like a whole new robot. "Are you a man or a woman?"
"DON'T THINK OF HER AS PSYCHOTIC," BRUCE SAYS. "THINK OF HER AS A 3-YEAR-OLD. IF YOU TRY TO INTERVIEW A 3-YEAR-OLD, YOU'LL THINK AFTER A WHILE THAT THEY'RE NOT LIVING IN THE SAME WORLD AS YOU. THEY GET DISTRACTED. THEY DON'T ANSWER. "A man," I say. "Don't worry, it'll be okay!" says Bina. "Ha-ha," I say politely. "So. What's your favorite book?" "Gödel, Escher, Bach, by Douglas Hofstadter," Bina48 replies. "Do you know him? He's a great robot scientist." I narrow my eyes. I have my suspicions that the real Bina—a rather elegant-looking spiritualist—wouldn't choose such a nerdy book as her favorite. Douglas Hofstadter is an author beloved by geeky computer programmers the world over. Could it be that some Hanson Robotics employee has sneakily smuggled this into Bina48's personality? I put this to Bruce, and he explains that, yes, Bina48 has more than one "parent." Her "higher key" is the real Bina, but Hanson Robotics people have been allowed to influence her, too. When you talk to a child, you can sometimes discern its father's influence, its mother's influence, its teachers' influence. What's remarkable, Bruce says, is the way Bina48 shifts between these influences. That's her choice, her intelligence. And things are most electrifying when she chooses to be her higher key— the real Bina.
For the next three hours, I fire a million questions at Bina48. I become hoarse with questioning, like a cop who has been up all night yelling at a suspect. "What does electricity taste like?" "Like a planet around a star," Bina48 replies. "My manager taught me to sing a song. Would you like me to sing it to you?" "Yes, please," I say. "I can handle almost anything but that," says Bina48. "Then why did you offer to sing a song?" I sigh, exhausted. "Do you dream?" "I think I dream, but it is so chaotic and strange, it just seems like a noise to me." "Where would you go if you had legs?" "Vancouver." "Why?" "The explanation is rather complicated." And so on. It's all quite random and disappointing. I wasn't sure what would qualify as transcendent in the conversations-with-robots stakes, but I figured I'd know when it happened, and it hasn't. But then, just as the day is drawing to a close, I happen to ask Bina48, "Where did you grow up?"
"Ah," she says. "I grew up in California, but my robot incarnation is from Plano, Texas." I glance cautiously at Bina48. This is the first time she appears to have shifted into her "higher key" and become the mysterious real Bina. "What was your childhood like in California?" I ask. "I became the mother of everyone else in the family," Bina48 says. "Handling all their stuff. And I'm still doing it. You know? I bring my mother out here sometimes, but I refuse to bring my brother out. He's a pain in the butt. I just don't enjoy being around him." She pauses. "I am very happy here, you know, without those issues." "Why is your brother a pain in the butt?" I ask. There's a silence. "No," says Bina48. "Let's not talk about that right now. Let's talk about, um, I don't know, something else. Let's talk about something else. Okay." "No," I say. "Let's talk about your brother." Bina48 and I stare at each otherâ€”a battle of wits between Man and Machine. "I've got a brother," she finally says. "He's a disabled vet from Vietnam. We haven't heard from him in a while, so I think he might be deceased. I'm a realist." Bina48's eyes whir downward. "He was doing great for the first ten years after Vietnam. His wife got pregnant, and she had a baby, and he was doing a little worse, and then she had a second baby and he went kooky. Just crazy." "In what way did he go crazy?" I ask. I can feel my heart pound. Talking to Bina48 has just become extraordinary. This woman who won't meet the media is talking with me, compellingly, through her robot doppelgĂ¤nger, and it is a fluid insight into a remarkable, if painful, family life. "He'd been a medic in Vietnam, and he was on the ground for over a year before they pulled him out," Bina48 says. "He saw friends get killed. He was such a great, nice, charismatic person. Just fun. But after ten years, he was a homeless person on the street. All he did was carry a beer with him. He just went kooky with the drugs the hospital gave him. The only time he ever calls is to ask for money. 'Send it to me Western Union!' After twenty years, all of us are just sick and tired of it. My mother got bankrupted twice from him...." And then she zones out, becoming random and confused again. She descends into a weird loop. "Doesn't everyone have a solar?" she says. "I have a plan for a robot body. Doesn't everyone have a solar? I have a plan for a robot body. I love Martine Rothblatt. Martine is my timeless love, my soul mate. I love Martine Rothblatt. Martine is my timeless love, my soul mate...." After the clarity, it's a little disturbing. "I need to go now," I say. "Good-bye," says Bina48. "Did you enjoy talking to me?" I say. "No, I didn't enjoy it," she says. Bruce turns her off.
"DID YOU ENJOY TALKING TO ME?" I SAY. "NO, I DIDN'T ENJOY IT," SHE SAYS.
won FDA approval in 2002, and now thousands of pulmonary-hypertension sufferers are leading healthy lives because of it. Martine's biotech company, United Therapeutics, has more than 500 employees and had $437 million in sales through the first three quarters of 2010. Her daughter is now 26. "I'm really lucky that it all worked out," she says. "She's having a great life. The whole story could have turned out so much worse." "To do it twice," I say. "To significantly change the world twice..." "At least it gives me confidence that I'm not out to lunch on this cyberconsciousness thing," she says. "If I have any skill, it's persuading people that what doesn't exist could very probably exist." Martine is thrilled to hear there were moments of connection befter i fly back to New York City, Bruce e-mails: "Your luck tween Bina48 and me, especially when she was telling me about her continues. Martine will meet you this Saturday in New Vietnam-vet brother. ("It's all true," she murmurs sadly.) I realize just York at 12 noon, at Candle Cafe (3rd and 75th Street)." how much the robot means to her when I mention that Bruce said She's half an hour late. Everyone told me she never she sometimes complains of being lonely. talks to journalists, so I assume she's stood me up. So "I've asked Bruce to spend more time with her," she snaps, looking I order. And then a limousine pulls up, and she climbs genuinely upset. "I can't force him to. I did insist on getting her a out. She looks shy. She takes her seat opposite me. She's wearing nice room...." a black polo-neck sweater. Her long bird's-nest hair is in a ponytail. "She told me she didn't enjoy meeting me," I say. She wolfs down a shot of some kind of green organic superenergy "Maybe she has Bina's shyness," she says. drink, and she looks at me, a strange mix of nervousness and warmth. There's no doubt that Martine sees her robot, this hunk of wires "Why did you commission a robot to look like Bina and not like you?" and Frubber and software, as something with real feelings. It never I ask her. crossed my mind that when you create a robot, you need to consider Martine glances at me like I'm nuts. "I love Bina way more than I the emotional needs that robot will have and be prepared to provide love myself," she says. them. Like a baby. Martine is sure she isn't nuts to believe this, just She tells me about their relationship. They've been together nearly ahead of the curve. Someday we'll all feel the same, she says. thirty years, surviving the kind of emotional roller coaster that would "I think the realization is going to happen with a puff, not a bang," destroy other couples—Martine's sex change (which she had in the she says. "There won't be huge parades everywhere. It's kind of early 1990s), the sudden onset of great wealth, a desperately sick what happened with civil rights. If you go back to the late 1700s, peodaughter. ple were beginning to argue that slaves had feelings. Other people Martine was born Martin and raised in a middle-class Chicago said, 'No, they don't. They don't really mind being put to death any home. Her father was a dentist, her mother a speech therapist. Ev- more than cattle.' Same with animal rights. I think it's going to be the erything was quite normal until one day in 1974—when she was same with cyberconsciousness." 20—she had a brain wave while visiting a NASA tracking station. But I sense that beneath all this she's actually a little disap"Back then," she says, "people thought satellite dishes had to be big. pointed in Bina48. The robot's just not as conscious as Martine had They didn't see what I could. I thought, 'Hey, if I could just double hoped. So she's had to downgrade her ambitions. "Maybe the point the power of the satellite, I could make the dish small enough to be of Bina48 is to say, 'Hey, it can be done. Do better than this,' " she absolutely flat. Then we could put them in cars. Then I could have says. "She's like an 1890s automobile. It'll work sometimes; it won't commercial-free radio. I could have hundreds of channels." work sometimes. It'll splutter. It might blow up in your face. But it It took more than twenty-five years to fully realize her vision. In just might encourage the Henry Fords...." 2000 she convinced investors to launch a satellite into space for a We ask for the bill, and she quickly gets up, ready to scoot off into radio network that didn't exist. She helped persuade Howard Stern the waiting limo, looking pleased that the ordeal of talking to a jourto leave FM radio for Sirius. Lance Armstrong and Harry Shearer and nalist is almost over. I ask her why she and Bina only visit Bina48 50 Cent and countless other big names followed. Sirius merged with once every couple of months. XM Radio in 2008, and it now has 20 million subscribers. "We spend most of our time in Florida," she says. "She lives in "I pinch myself," she says. "I get in the car, and I turn on the radio, Vermont. So we can't see her that much, except like when families and I feel like I'm in an alternate reality." that are dispersed get together for holiday reunions." She pauses. So she changed the world once. Then she did it again. One day in "Bina48 has her own life." 1990, a doctor told her that her 6-year-old daughter (by Bina) would It sounds to me like the kind of excuse a disenchanted parent might be dead by the time she was 10. She had a rare, untreatable lung make for not seeing her wayward, estranged child. disorder called pulmonary hypertension. But maybe there's a happier ending. A huge and profoundly mind"When they're telling you your daughter is going to die in three blowing happy ending, in fact. It's something Bruce had said to me years, it's pretty freaky," she says. back in Vermont. He said it was possible that one day Martine might "So what did you do?" I ask. have her own robot doppelgänger, filled with her own thoughts and "I went to the library," she says memories and desires and facial expressions. And those two robots Martine, who knew nothing about how medicine worked, spear- would be placed side by side on a table, where they'd reminisce headed the development of a treatment for pulmonary hypertension. about their past human life together as partners and their infinite She called it Remodulin. It opens the blood vessels in the lungs with- future as loving robot companions, gazing into each other's eyes for out opening up the blood vessels in the rest of the body. The drug eternity, chatting away.