Joe Flower (bbear) Wed 30 Apr 03 21:01
I loved Woodie. But the thing that really about this really interesting book was Plotnicki. How a man can be so unaware of his effect on others -- and the way in which he was destroying his own business by being so belligerent. And it could have been a great business.
Brad Stone (bradstone) Thu 1 May 03 16:37
Thats pretty much the feeling around another Plotnicki property too - the rap group Run-DMC. Many think their popularity could have been prolonged if it weren't for the extensive legal warfare between Plotnicki and Russell Simmons. And yet there are two sides to all stories. I tried to convey Plotnicki's view on all these disputes in the book. And some readers I talk to are actually more receptive to Plotnicki's arguments than Thorpe's. They think Thorpe signed a legal agreement and - even if it was a bad contract - he was compelled to live up to his responsibilities... brad
David Nunez (davidnunez) Thu 1 May 03 21:42
It's hard to dismiss that Plotnicki's initial investments were critical in getting Robot Wars off the ground. Building the robots and producing and promoting shows are all very expensive endeavors and there's no denying that the businessmen are as critical as the visionaries and artists for getting shows sponsorship and widespread coverage. It was interesting to read that once Plotnicki crossed the robot builder community (by warring with and suing Thorpe et al.), the builders basically said, "Screw it... we'll just do it ourselves." Hence, Battlebots. The roll-up-the-sleves and build-something-amazing-from-junk attitude that these engineers live daily prevailed. I also thought it was revealing to learn how the television companies swarmed around "Robot-related properties." I noticed on the gearheadsthebook.com site, Plotnicki's picture was missing in action... how cooperative was he in your researching the book? Now that Battlebots is off Comedy Central, what's the future of Aggressive Robotic Competition on Television? Here's the roster of robot competition shows, as I know it... - Robot Wars - replaying on Tech TV - Techno Games - robots competing in olympiad style sports: swim, climb ropes, solar powered stamina contest (Tech TV) - Robot Rivals - DIY Network show featuring teams of college students building bots to complete specific and non-predictable tasks. Design and build happens in a limited timeframe with limited parts (a la Junkyard Wars) Which ones am I missing?
one man's astrolabe is another man's sextant (airman) Fri 2 May 03 08:58
Plotnicki clearly had a written contract and Thorpe didn't understand what he signed but he did sign it, perhaps on bad counsel. Another fascintating area is the entertainment industry accounting practices. Are there books which go into the accounting practices for the entertainment folks?
Brad Stone (bradstone) Fri 2 May 03 15:50
Hi guys, sorry for the disappearing act. I got wrapped up in Newsweek deadlines. Steve was cooperative during my research. Although he wouldn't meet me in person, we had many long talks and e-mail exchanges. When I asked to use his photograph though, he consulted his wife - a lawyer - and she advised him not to let me. When the book came out, his thinking on the project may have shifted a bit because he declined my invitation to send him a copy. I haven't really spoken to him since. Regarding the future of robot TV shows, you named the three that are alive and kicking in the U.S. right now as far as I know. Unless you want to include other mechanical entertainment like Junkyard Wars, Monster Garage et al. (I tend to see those more as game shows than real competitions though.) I'm in pretty good touch with the guys at BattleBots and they insist they have irons in the fire and some promising projects underway. They have built a pretty good brand so I doubt they will just disappear. Then you have all the other types of robotic sports, from FIRST to the Grand Challenge to RoboCup... I don't think this sport is anywhere near its golden age yet. We are just getting started.
David Nunez (davidnunez) Fri 2 May 03 20:12
Is there room, in this yet-to-be-reached Golden Age of Robotic Entertainment, for more "cultural" or "traditional" robotic performers? In other words, will the general public be as interested in entertainment and performance of the poets, ballerinas, musicians, and Shakespearian actor bots that people are or will be building?
Brad Stone (bradstone) Mon 5 May 03 11:59
David, I certainly hope so! I wrote a story in Newsweek on one such effort, the Stupid Fun Club of "Simcity" creator Will Wright. Here's the piece: http://www.msnbc.com/news/836164.asp Wright and his crew say they are fielding much Hollywood interest in their various robot projects, including the one I wrote about. Thanks for the great questions! This was fun. Cheers, Brad
Clare Eder (ceder) Mon 5 May 03 14:50
<scribbled by ceder Tue 6 May 03 14:09>
David Nunez (davidnunez) Mon 5 May 03 18:54
Brad, your book bio says you've been experimenting with robot building yourself... how's it going?
Brad Stone (bradstone) Tue 6 May 03 14:49
um, I didn't get too far. 'nuff said.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 6 May 03 17:53
Brad, I just have to ask: what's your favorite cinema robot? I'm into Robby, myself...
David Nunez (davidnunez) Thu 8 May 03 20:55
Thanks for all your insight, Brad! I, for one, appreciated your time talking with us here! We didn't get around to talking about some of the latest stuff you've been writing about (particularly the Bezos Space Program ;)), but I encourage everyone to go to newsweek.com and search for Brad's articles in the past couple of weeks. Also, he had a piece in the latest issue of Wired about Palm moving into the wireless space. Thanks again and everyone, please feel free to continue the discussion!
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 9 May 03 19:24
Thanks, David! This one's been great, hope you guys keep rocking on!
&manbeast.hooved (satyr) Tue 13 May 03 12:07
If any of those of you here on the Well don't get enough of talk about robots, you might be interested to know that I host a humble little independent conference called <augbot.ind.>, which focuses on augmentation and robotics. Come on by.
Members: Enter the conference to participate