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Gearheads : The Turbulent Rise of Robotic Sports
by Brad Stone
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743229517, Paperback)Newsweek reporter Brad Stone set out to chronicle the brief history of robotic sports, a genre peopled by a disparate range of mechanical compulsives spanning the education-driven idealism of Segway Human Transporter inventor Dean Kamen to the willfully enigmatic Mark Pauline's anarchic Survival Research Laboratories. But Stone's straightforward reporting quickly focuses on the tormented tale of Parkinson's afflicted, former ILM animator Marc Thorpe and his struggles to transform his obsession with battling machines into bona fide sport, efforts we learn have directly spawned such cult cable TV fare as Robot Wars, Battle Bots, and Robotica and made unlikely pop-culture heroes of its motley, proud band of mechanized warrior engineers. Thorpe's effusive mix of enthusiasm and naivete are at once his salvation and downfall, especially after he finds himself yoked financially with Priority Records founder Steve Plotnicki, an executive the author portrays as never meeting a business partner he didn't like to sue, and repeatedly.
Thus framed, what emerges is as much cautionary tale about the seemingly limitless bounds of human pettiness and the nettlesome business of copyrighting, branding, and marketing mass-media entertainment as it is hagiography of the gearheads and their beloved gladiators. Lawyers and lawsuits seem to dominate every third page, often overshadowing the exploits of legendary 'bots such as Biohazard and Blendo, and increasingly making the aloofness of gearhead godfathers Pauline and Kamen seem like so much common sense. --Jerry McCulley
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:18 -0400)
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