This Is Futurama

excerpted from wired.com:

1939: The New York World’s Fair opens in Flushing Meadow Park. It will give visitors a glimpse of “the world of tomorrow” and shape industrial design, pop culture and the way the future would envision the future.

The fair ran two seasons, from 1939 to 1940. The most memorable exhibit was the General Motors Pavilion, and the most memorable feature in the General Motors Pavilion was a ride called the Futurama. People stood in line for hours to ride it and experience the exciting possibilities of life in the distant future — the year 1960.

The Futurama ride carried fair visitors past tiny, realistic landscapes while a narrator described the world of tomorrow. The effect was like catching a glimpse of the future from the window of an airplane. As you might expect from a ride sponsored by GM, the focus was on what roadways and transportation might look like in 20 years.

The 1939 Futurama had two other factors that compounded the fascination: first, a promise of personal car ownership (and after the Great Depression that sounded pretty good), and second, a grand vision of the future. Up until the Futurama, manufacturers had exhibited at fairs to show how they made their products. Then the Futurama came along and said, Here is how the future will feel. The 1939 audience wasn’t used to having a company selling optimism, and it made their hearts sing.

The Futurama wasn’t so much about the cars GM intended to build. Visitors were told about certain features these future cars might have — such as radio controls that help them maintain proper distance from each other — but the vehicles themselves were so tiny that they could barely be distinguished.

What the Futurama ride was really selling was a highway system — a taxpayer-funded highway system. In E. L. Doctorow’s World’s Fair, a family exits the ride, and the father says, ‘General Motors is telling us what they expect from us: We must build them the highways so they can sell us the cars.’”

At the end of the first Futurama exhibit, fair visitors were given a pin. At the end of the second, it was a pocket tab, but the simple message was the same: I HAVE SEEN THE FUTURE.

The Futurama returned for the 1964 World's Fair, also in Flushing Meadows. It didn't have the same sociological impact, but the space colonization-themed motorized dioramas were truly wondrous:



front 242 - 'Take One'

Throbbing Gristle - '20 Jazz Funk Greats'

DAF - 'Greif nach den Sternen'

ClockDVA - 'Final Program'

Zombie Castle

Based upon video evidence, I declare this to be the greatest dark ride in America:

Clearly there have been some revisions, but this ride dates back to the 30's! Read all about it at the always-superb laffinthedark.com.

As you might expect, you can experience this at the Jersey shore. Specifically at Rye Playland, where I haven't been. But I've visited the boardwalk at nearby Wildwood, which has several operating dark rides as well. I swear, I have to take a vacation out to Jersey this summer to check them out. What else should I do, wait until our prospective kid is old enough? They'll all be torn down by then!

I've been corrected by a commenter: Rye Playland is in upstate New York, nearly 200 miles north of the Jersey Shore.


And now, a scene from 'Stunt Rock'

I'm on a hectic schedule at work, and in my spare time I'm packing all my juvenalia to prepare for moving into our new house in a few days. I'm too preoccupied to provide the quality you expect from futurechimp.com on a daily basis.

So, uh... here's a scene from Stunt Rock.


Teenage Plague

Referred by boingboing.net, check out this series of photographs based on the endpaper illustrations from Charles Burns' Black Hole, my favorite graphic novel of all time. These were all created with prosthetics, not photoshop. Visit HERE.


Weekend Project: Dreamachine

from wikipedia:

A dreamachine is made from a cylinder with slits cut in the sides. The cylinder is placed on a record turntable and rotated at 78 revolutions per minute. A light bulb is suspended in the center of the cylinder and the rotation speed allows the light to come out from the holes at a constant frequency of between 8 and 13 pulses per second. This frequency range corresponds to alpha waves, electrical oscillations normally present in the human brain while relaxing.

A dreamachine is "viewed" with the eyes closed: the pulsating light stimulates the optical nerve and alters the brain's electrical oscillations. The "viewer" experiences increasingly bright, complex patterns of color behind their closed eyelids. The patterns become shapes and symbols, swirling around, until the "viewer" feels surrounded by colors. It is claimed that viewing a dreamachine allows one to enter a hypnagogic state. This experience may sometimes be quite intense, but to escape from it, one needs only to open one's eyes.

A feature documentary on the dreamachine is on netflix.

Ready to build your own? You will need:

a hanging lightbulb
a 78 rpm turntable
a large piece of cardboard

Get started here.

If you don't own an old phonograph, or you're just too lazy to make something, then you can watch a youtube approximation. They say it works. Be sure to read the instructional / disclaimer video here first, then take the plunge here.