This week in the Phoenix: Techno-monks, wonder drugs, and trippy pixels

Image from our "Stan VanDerBeek: The Culture Intercom" slideshow.

Turns out, you don't have to look very hard to find the geeky bits of any given issue of the Phoenix. Here are a few choice morsels for your lazy-Sunday perusal.


[tech] Peace, love and QR codes: South by Southwest Interactive plots a course to a better world
What happens when hordes of hackers, hacks, entrepreneurs, and consumers converge upon Austin for SXSWi (the birthplace of Twitter and Foursquare)? As Chris Faraone reports, it involves lots of digital soul-searching: "Capitalist avarice is not the elephant in any interactive room, but rather the bloody, bludgeoned beast who gets dragged out by the tusks after each session."

[film] Review: Limitless
Oh, if only we could unlock that unused 80% of our brains. Just imagine the astounding mental feats we could perform! Well, no need to actually ponder that (wouldn't want you to sprain anything), because Hollywood has done a pretty slick job of it for you already. Behold, Bradley Cooper transformed from disheveled writer to god-man, thanks to a steady regimen of Thinker's Little Helper, NZT-48. Brett Michel gives us the rundown.

[film] Review: Orgasm Inc.
Our "Things We Can Never Unsee" list has plenty of stiff competition, but topping the leaderboard has got to be the image of Kim Airs -- the former proprietor of Coolidge Corner's Grand Opening sex shop -- giving some faceless fellow a handjob with a Lamb Chop puppet. This was the pièce de résistance from Airs's terrifying annual amateur-porn film series "You Oughta Be in Pictures." A few years ago, Airs high-tailed it to L.A., and Boston just hasn't been the same without her. (Amanda Palmer might agree with us on that.) So we're pretty chuffed to see her show up as a talking head in this Gerry Peary-approved doc about big pharma's quest to develop Viagra for women.

[art] The proto-web utopian consciousness of Stan VanDerBeek
Techie media experiments with trippy pixelated words and kaleidoscopic computer-animated psychedelia? Sounds like something that would be right at home at SXSWi ... and yet Stan VanDerBeek (an acolyte of LSD guru Timothy Leary) was doing this stuff back in in the ‘60s. Greg Cook reviews "The Culture Intercom," the new exhibit of Stan VanDerBeek's work at the MIT List gallery.

[books] Review: Sarah Vowell's Unfamiliar Fishes
In her newest book, NPR darling and history nerd extraordinaire Sarah Vowell unravels the history of Hawaii -- the tale of how "a small group of Protestant missionaries sailed from Boston Harbor in 1819 intending to save the souls of the brown people Captain James Cook had encountered." Our reviewer Amy Finch fills us in on the details.

[music] The Big Hurt: This month's inessential press releases
Come for the spiritual pontifications on whether Techno-Monk is giving up Facebook for Lent (the answer may surprise you); stay for the hilarious shitfight between David Thorpe and Batter Blaster HQ.

[classical] Review: Death and the Powers: The Robots' Opera
Last week, Chris Dahlen gave you the behind-the-scenes peek at Tod Machover's high-tech production. This week, our critic Lloyd Schwartz autopsies the operabot opus. 

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