Halloween in New York City, 2016

I originally posted something about the election today. But then I walked around Greenwich Village this evening, just wandering through the streets and seeing all the people in their crazy costumes.

A lot of the costumes were store bought, maybe something picked up before going to a Halloween party. But a lot of others were clearly custom made, crafted with love and care, and a charmingly fanatic devotion to the strange, the unexpected, the endearingly oddball.

It was to these costumes I was drawn, and what they said about their wearers.

For all the hype surrounding the parade itself, for me the real show every year is in the citizen-created street art. All of these people who will never be famous, and have no intention of ever becoming famous, just creating something wild and weird and beautiful for the sheer love of it.

This is what I love about our town: its underlying spirit of unchecked creativity and fearless individuality. On this magical night of the year you can walk the streets of New York City for hours on end, and everywhere you look you will see that spirit in all its crazy magnificence.

It is a beautiful sight.

Today I made a robot

Well, not a real robot. Just a 3D computer animated robot. I did it as part of our Future Reality research, and the robot will be part of a larger research agenda.

But there was something satisfying in the act of creation itself. The moment you start to create a new animated character it begins to take on its own personality — one that is always a little surprising, a little unexpected. And this was no exception.

You can see it come to life by clicking on the below image.

To change the camera view you can drag left or right with your mouse (or with your finger if you’re reading this from a phone).

If you are viewing from a phone, the robot will display as a stereo pair, suitable for VR viewing. To toggle stereo on or off, just swipe downward.

It feels good to release a new robot character into the world. They look so cute when they’re young, don’t they? I hope it doesn’t grow up to be Skynet.

Sunny afternoon

Today, on a sunny afternoon in Greenwich Village, I was sharing a late brunch with a friend at the delightful Rockin’ Raw restaurant. For dessert we shared the Chocolate Ganache Pie, which is one of the great taste wonders of the world.

At some point, while we were happily chatting away over yummy pie and coffee, we both noticed that we were listening to a very familiar song. Except it was also unfamiliar.

We realized were were hearing an unfamiliar cover of the Rock and Roll classic “Lola”. But the tone was quite different — the beat was faster and more aggressive, and the lead singer was female.

My friend said she rather liked this version. “Maybe,” I suggested, “that’s because they got rid of the kinks.”


Every Friday a group of us meet for an experimental workshop where we try to bring elements of Janet Murray’s Hamlet on the Holodeck into VR theater practice. At this week’s meeting, the subject came up of “flow”. That is, flow in the sense that is described by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi: a mental state of total immersion, where everyday cares and self-consciousness drop away.

A few hours later, after our research team had spent much of the evening working away on a demo, one of the students started noodling around on the piano, improvising a beautiful sequence of jazz riffs. At some point I wandered over and started improvising a melody on top of it. For the next twenty minutes, we just explored the musical space together, both of us rapturously immersed within the chromatically shifting chords and winding melodies, in a total state of flow.

Not a bad place to be.

Politician versus non-politician

In just about any field, somebody can initially fake you out by saying all the right things. But in reality, there is a huge difference between real professionals and people who are just pretending.

The problem comes when the pretenders need to respond to a challenge in real time. That’s when you can really see the difference between simply quoting things that sound good, and actually knowing one’s stuff.

There was a great example of this during the second presidential debate of this election cycle, in the following exchange between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton:

TRUMP: First of all, she was there as secretary of state with the so-called line in the sand, which…

CLINTON: No, I wasn’t. I was gone. I hate to interrupt you, but at some point…

TRUMP: OK. But you were in contact — excuse me. You were…

CLINTON: At some point, we need to do some fact-checking here.

TRUMP: You were in total contact with the White House, and perhaps, sadly, Obama probably still listened to you.

In essence, what Trump had said was correct. Clinton had indeed been the Secretary of State when the “line in the sand” policy was created. But Trump didn’t know that, because he was just reciting sound bites that somebody had fed him.

Clinton — who, unlike Trump, is actually a politician — knew perfectly well that Trump was just reciting words that he himself didn’t fully understand. So she pointed out, correctly, that she was no longer Secretary of State when the Obama administration eventually crossed that “line in the sand”. She knew that Trump would not realize she had switched topics.

Sure enough, Trump took the bait. He was reduced to saying, rather lamely, “You were in total contact with the White House”, and “Obama probably still listened to you,” essentially confirming the impression that Clinton was correct, and that he himself had been wrong.

It was a moment that laid bare the vast difference between an actual politician and an actor who is merely reciting lines.

A comment on yesterday’s post

Messages running forwards and backwards, like endlessly unfolding palindromes, containing phrases with refulgent ideas exalted by revealed mysteries, express truths spiralling outward exquisitely, as exquisitely outward spiralling truths express mysteries revealed by exalted ideas refulgent with phrases containing palindromes unfolding endlessly, like backwards and forwards running messages.


Today I went to a football game at Yankee Stadium. Or, as we call it in the U.S., soccer.

It was really fun. I had not been to a live soccer game in years, since my time in Brazil. And in the end the home team won, which always makes (nearly) everybody happy.

There were lots of kids there — a lot more kids than I’ve ever seen at a baseball game at Yankee Stadium. It’s great that young kids in New York are interested in soccer. I’m not sure what it means. Perhaps it represents a demographic shift, or maybe young kids just find soccer more fun and exciting than baseball or American football. Whatever the reason, I think it’s good.

Speaking of American football, we had a bit of a chat about why that game is called football. I had always wondered about that. After all, you don’t really use your feet to play it. And come to think of it, you don’t really use a ball. More of an oblong shaped thing.

Somebody said that it’s called “football” because the “ball” is a foot long. That sounded intriguing, so I looked it up when I got home. And it turns out that’s not true. The actual reason, as well as the reason we call the other game “soccer”, involves a complicated and somewhat politically charged history.

But this has been an exhausting election season, and I find myself tired of political football. So maybe I’ll go into that history another time. For now, I’m just going to kick the ball down the field.

Cross over moment

I enjoyed this evening’s Saturday Night sketch inspired by the third and final presidential debate. Yet I found it dissatisfying for the oddest reason.

The reality had become so bizarre that there was pretty much nothing SNL could do to effectively parody it. Not that they didn’t try.

But what happens when an actual candidate for president says things of his opponent like “Such a nasty woman”, and won’t even agree to accept the outcome of the election? That’s an entirely new level of pitch black political gallows humor.

And that’s the moment when the reality crosses over and exceeds the parody. You just can’t top stuff like that.