Op-Ed

Op-Ed
AGDC 2007: Inside Garriott's Playground

Russ Pitts | 6 Sep 2007 17:00
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"The Power of the Mind"

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The next part of the evening revolved around a tour of Brittania Manor. We were shown the room above his garage (three-car) containing all manner of automatons - marionette-like toys activated by hand cranks and reduction gears. Most were made of wood, and some were hundreds of years old.

There was the flying fish, the woman giving birth, at least a few execution scenes, a dog eating something or another, a giant bird and countless others. We were set loose on them but there were too many to keep track of - the toy room of a millionaire with a taste for antiquities. After we were through playing, we met Max the magician.

Max explained the theory of ley lines; invisible lines of force spanning the globe. He explained that in the presence of a ley line, strange things were possible. He gave a demonstration of the mind's ability to unconsciously act against your own will by giving us each a washer on a string and asking us to merely think about moving them. He demonstrated the use of dowsing rods. It was fascinating. It was also a highly staged farce.

Max and several other people we met at Brittania Manor were posing as "experts" in various fields of parapsychology. The overarching theme was that during the construction of his third home, half a mile away, Garriott unearthed several alien artifacts exhibiting strange mystical powers. The "official" story is that these artifacts inspired his design of Tabula Rasa. As marketing schemes go, it's inventive. Each "Logos Instructor" we met that night was to impart some clue that would correspond to the story of the game. At the end of the night, we were promised, there would be a demonstration of the power of the unearthed artifacts. At the construction site. With the blasting caps.

The next expert was posing as Garriott's wine buyer. He was witty and bent spoons with his mind. Then he picked a shill out of the audience and taught him how to do it. His performance was conducted in Garriott's living room. I kept getting distracted by the suits of armor in the corners and the crossbows and swords hung along the walls.

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Just off Garriott's living room is his private astronomical observatory. It's fully functional and supported by a giant superstructure of steel beams. Richard is, apparently, very proud of this. We were not allowed inside. We were, however, allowed into his dining room and showed the Rube Goldberg-esque contraption he constructed to grind pepper. It involves ratchets, gears, springs and a catapult. It was exceptionally messy, violent and wonderful.

The third and last Logos Instructor was an Indian swami, who threatened to make rings hot and slow his pulse until it was undetectable, merely with the power of his mind. He summoned guests from the audience to bear witness to these feats. Unfortunately they were not nearly liquored up enough to comply.

The rings did not get hot, and the pulse did not quite disappear. The unwilling participants, after arguing with the man for several minutes, both acquiesced to his demands that he had achieved the desired result and withdrew. It was the most lame of the three performances.

Next Page: "Can Someone Please Find Richard?"

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