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November 10, 2011


One of my favorite quips from the late, great "Mystery Science Theater 3000" came during an episode featuring a Japanese sci-fi or giant monster movie. Over an establishing shot of a busy laboratory full of people, Mike Nelson remarked, "Scientists work feverishly to discover just what the hell is the deal with Japan." Every time I see something like this, I think of that joke and laugh.

I'm always intrigued by the impulse to make anthropomorphic robots.

We don't make anthropomorphic lawn mowers, or toasters, or cars. No anthropomorphic dishwashers, or blenders.

But we seem to have an impulse to make robots resemble us.

Why is that?

It occurs to me that if we had robots handle our threads about abortion, it would give us quite a bit of time.

No kidding.

But we seem to have an impulse to make robots resemble us.

Why is that?

I don't know for sure, but the impulse goes back to antiquity -- Jewish golem stories in the Talmud occur as far back as the third century CE -- so it's an ingrained part of our storytelling and of human culture. God complex, I guess.

Why is that?

They shall be created in our image. :)

Actually, we mostly make robots (at least, what I would consider robots) that are single putpose robots where form follows function.

It's just that we also work at making a general purpose machine/robot. And since the most flexible and generalized machine we are aware of is us, that's the model we start from.

There is actually some utility to that approach. There are lots of things about how our bodies function where we don't understand why that particular approach is used. Using us as a starting point, and then experimenting with alternatives, can give us some insights into why a particular design "decision" works better (or worse) than the alternatives.

"But we seem to have an impulse to make robots resemble us."

I worry more about robots that are programmed to connive a resemblance to lizard/reptiles.

Two words: Mitt Romney

One wonders if robots will ever be advanced enough to order robotically-correct blow-up dolls through the mail.

How would we feel about the cross-breeding and the constitutional conundrums raised thereof?

But what about alien reptiles in the guise of robot morons playing to robot moron constituencies -- will we eventually require a robotic Margaret Sanger to nip that in the bud?

So much for this year's Republican Primary debates.

I picture a sort of Woody Allenish Planned Robothood wherein 52 million robot morons are "decommissioned" and have their heads separated from their bodies by a guy wielding a gigantic pair of vice-grips.

Rick Perry's brain freeze (going robotically, limply immobile, lights gone dark, the lizard within thrashing about) raises the following possibility (well, besides nuclear holocaust) should he be elected President with a full Republican takeover of Congress following on his molded titanium robotic dovetails.

The full text of his first State of The Union Address would consist only of "I ask Congress to abolish the Department of Commerce, The Department of Education, and the, uh .... um (at this point, perhaps a final "oops" droning electronically to a slowing basso profundo as the tape loop grinds to a halt and then a flop to the ground behind the podium like a robotic combination of C3PO and Howard Beale) .... and that's it.

The assembled Republican Congress, now since the election having shed their robotic skins and slithering about the floor of the Senate, hissing and tongues darting as they death roll each other competing for raw meat, like the reptile house at the zoo, will dispatch with the first two agencies by unanimous voice vote and then work their way through abolishing EVERY other agency in a bid to guess the third.

Oops, there goes the Department of Labor.

Oops, no more Department of the Interior.

Oops, see you later Department of State.

Those weren't what he meant? Oops, too late.

Someone, the last uneaten moderate in America, will raise his hand wanly from the gallery and suggest the Department of Defense as the next to go, at which point the catatonic President's lights will flash briefly and a wavering robotic voice will whine like a fascist having his prostate palpated .. "NO, that's not it."

I am gratified, I must submit, that the political correctness forced upon this great country of ours by liberals these many years has seen two defeats this week ---- the first being the surge of money being showered on Herman Cain, not IN SPITE of groping at least four women in the past (remember, there are hundreds of millions of women he hasn't gripped by the neck and tried to force in the direction of his crotch; Charles Pierce of Esquire notes that there are thousands of young men walking the streets in Jeffrey Dahmer's hometown who remain uneaten too, much to Dahmer's credit), but because he did.

And let's not forget the sharp advance this marks in race relations in the political Party that thought up the Southern Strategy --- don't tell me there is still a shred of racism in this country when a black man can attempt a finger-f*ck of a conservative white woman and actually have money thrown at him instead of a noose by white, god-fearing salt of the earth types sporting Confederate Flag pins.

I fully expect Michelle Bachmann to raise this point soon in a bid to abolish all affirmative action programs at the Federal level, while simultaneously attempting to force a male Democrat to perform c*nni*ingus on her in the back of a limousine to prove the equality of the sexes observed by the Party of Lincoln.

I also find the rioting by Penn State students FAVORING collegiate football over punishing those guilty of covering up child molestation to be another death-blow to the noxious plague of political correctness.

It's about we lightened up, as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, among others, have been insisting.

Maybe all Penn State administrators, the entire faculty, all of the coaches of all Penn State sports, the entire facilities staff, The Board of Regents, all of the alumni, and the entire 44,000 student body won't have to be fired, expelled, and prosecuted for knowing about the crimes, since apparently EVERYONE knew.

What a relief!

I predict we're going to find out that some of these young boys were forced to service very wealthy football-fan alumni in exchange for donations to the Penn State endowment.

"Endowment". EVERYTHING sounds dirty now.


In the immortal words of Stanislaw Lem: Sometimes men create robots and sometimes robots create men. He spilled much ink on the topic. There is also his story about washing machines taking over the world. You know, more and more features were added to the washing mashines culminating in the anthropomorphic (gynoid) models that were designed to serve as intelligent sex dolls (laundry capacity had to be reduced though; one cannot have everything). Those went to court to demand to be accepted as human beings. Their legal defeat started the chain of events that led to their (silent*) takeover.

*even some congresscritters of the anti-human-rights-for-washing-mashines side of the aisle turned out to be of them. Actually it turned out that ALL members of congress were disguised washing machines at that point in the story.

I worry more about robots that are programmed to connive a resemblance to lizard/reptiles.

Two words: Mitt Romney

The best explanation of Perry's fumbling at the debate earlier this week runs like this.
If you've actually thought about a subject, you may be subject to "brain freeze;" happens to all of us now and again, and stress (like in a debate) ups the odds. But if you know what you are talking about, you can quickly work around the problem. You know generally what you want to say, even if a specific word or phrase eludes you momentarily.

On the other hand, if you are merely reeling off talking points, you have nowhere to go. You "can't remember the last bullet item on the slide," but don't have any context to fall back on. What reduces to that the Perry doesn't really have any attachment to what he was saying. He doesn't personally care about the issue; he just knows (sort of) what words to repeat in pursuit of his ambition.

If you want to tie that back to the robotics theme, what it says is that Perry's programming was sub-standard. And Mitt's is better -- possibly because, having been running for several years now, there has been enough time to debug the code. ;-)

I posted a link on Facebook to this NY Times blog post on brain freeze, wj.

This isn't the sort of thing I hold against Perry; there are far too many other things I hold against Perry for this to be on my priority list.

In general I think we hold politicians, and almost any extemporaneous speaker or writer, to an unreasonably high standard; I may be over-sensitive to this because in person I frequently lose words and my train of thought.

It occurs to me that if we had robots handle our threads about abortion, it would give us quite a bit of time.

how dare you? This is an egregious insult to robots. Two CD players would do.

Two CD players would do.

old school...

I posted a link on Facebook to this NY Times blog post on brain freeze, wj.

I saw that, but I, as usual, zipped through the information overload that is facebook, so I only scanned over your post while making sure nothing really major happened to anyone I'm facebook friends with. I assumed it was about blood vessels constricting in your head when you eat ice cream too fast.

I'd call Perry's situation a brain fart, myself. It's likely a more interesting phenomenon, though.

old school...

I was cleaning my office and had some cassette tapes I brought home and my 8 year old said 'oh, are those video tapes?"


The youth of today know not how you had to stick a matchbook under the tape in your car player, sometimes, to get the right sound out of it.

Similarly, the phrase "Dolby C Noise Reduction" would just draw blank stares. Ditto "Shibata stylus".

Eleven sounds your kids have probably never heard.

Sound number 10 is a film projector.

This is sad:


This is criminal:


But since corporations are people and we're no longer fetuses, actual movie-going human beings of little worth like us are caught in a f*ck you never-never land.

old school...

Really, really old school: way back in the day, 1981 to be exact, when I was young and ran with other young lawyers, a group of us were having drinks and one of our group, a female, expressed dismay at that we were getting old: she was at Sound Warehouse (anyone remember that?) and two teeny boppers were checking out in front of her. One said to the other "Did you know Paul McCartney was with another band before he was with Wings?"

Countme's head's going to explode if McKinney's 9:24 AM isn't deleted!

I liked this:

The hapless theaters still depend on concession sales to such a degree that a modern American theater can be described as a value-added popcorn stand.


Incidentally, I saw Puss & Boots with my kids this past weekend. We opted for 2D even though 3D was also available at the same theatre.

I can understand wanting to see something like Avatar in 3D, but I don't think it adds much to the experience of seeing most films. Just viewing a film on the big screen plays enough of a trick on the mind to provide something reasonably like a 3D effect.

My wife and I discussed this and reminisced about the thrill-ride theatres that used to be found on the boardwalk at the Jersey shore when we were kids. You'd watch a POV film shot from, say, a roller coaster and feel the sensations of the movements of the ride. I can remember watching one while standing up and losing my balance.

3D schmee-D...

I think John Lennon called that other band "The Performing Fleas".

Paul, when asked in 1964 how that other earlier band (whose name escapes me at the moment) came by its name, gave the "a little man came to John on a flaming pie ..." stock answer and then looked at the reporter who asked the question and added "we could have been called "The Shoes" for all you know."

Decades later, when asked what he thought of "New Wave" music, Paul said he liked it fine, but it wasn't as good as that other band's music, which he called the permanent wave.

Few remember The Quarrymen because they never recorded anything. Also because they were thousands of hours of performing time before The Beatles came to be.

Maybe "never recorded anything" should have read "never pressed vinyl". But kids these days don't have any idea what that meant.

Yes, the Quarrymen and then the Silver Whatchamacallits, which then became the once famous but now forgotten intermediary band, Herman's Rolling Kinks, it could have been called for all that I can remember from the Sixties, in which Paul played a fairly big part until Wings came along.

What is that other band MckT's 1981 teeny boppers were referring to? It had one word in its name which referred to two things, but it still escapes me -- .......

I have an incredible urge to start a Skiffle band for some reason.

What is that other band MckT's 1981 teeny boppers were referring to? It had one word in its name which referred to two things, but it still escapes me -- .......

Yeah, the whole conversation blew right by me. Who the flock is Paul McCartney?

I love the permanent wave line. I found something interesting this weekend though, I have days worth of music in about 4 playlists that I just put on while I am working around the house.

That band is not represented in any of them, except the one that is all them.

Purely unintentionally.

I was wondering to myself why.

"Brown Eyed Girl" still gives me goose bumps....it would seem there are a bunch of you who still "do remember when".

Good on you.

hey man I'm still digging on "The Monkey Time".

http://www.facebook.com/thepermanentwave>Permanent Wave? Not Glen Breck?

"Brown Eyed Girl" still gives me goose bumps....it would seem there are a bunch of you who still "do remember when".

Two things here: (1) BobbyP and I find common ground, so look for a star in the east and, (2) for some reason, I would have had BP being younger than that.

After a miserable band experience between 2001-2003, I made myself one single promise as a bass player -- From that point on, I would never, ever again be in a band that played any of the following:

Brown-Eyed Girl
Mustang Sally
Get Off My Cloud
Feel Like Makin' Love

I would play the album cut of "Abacab" (bass part: C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C . . .) before playing any of those songs again.

Sorry, guys. :(

I was reminded of a story I heard Henry Rollins tell at a spoken-word event some 15 or so years ago about his trying to get to a gig on time and having to hire a small prop plane out of Tulsa.

This guy saunters in wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. He say "I'm looking for a guy called Henry". Fnck. Henry says what's your name, and he goes "Eric". Eric The Pilot. Not Captain P. Carstairs. Fnck. Henry notices that Eric the pilot is wearing a cap with Zildgian (drum manufacturers) written on it. He says "Are you a musician?" Eric the pilot responds "I'm a drummer in a cover band." At this point Henry took a huge step back on the stage and had a look of abject mock horror plastered across his face, and went on to fill us in on his hatred of all talentless cover bands and the terrible memories of school dances that they conjured up as he used to stand plastered to a wall in mortal terror of the young girls standing bored out of their minds across the hall, whilst the band were playing "Hit's of the Sixties Medley". You knew that when thos melancholy notes of Stairway to Heaven came on that this was your last ditch chance to dance with a girl.

Ok, Eric The Pilot is Eric the drummer in a cover band. However, Eric then explains that he also sings in this cover band whilst drumming. Henry is about to entrust his life to a person who can sing and drum 'Play that funky music white boy'. Fnck.

I met Wavy Gravy last Friday.

Not to go totally off topic, but isn't someone going to do something on Penn State?

Not me.

If I were to do a post about events on a campus, I'd do one about the helicopter currently clattering overhead, the same same last Wednesday, how non-violence is claimed to be violence, and other events I literally can't avoid. (The helicopters are very very loud.)

"The individuals who linked arms and actively resisted, that in itself is an act of violence," UC police Capt. Margo Bennett said. "I understand that many students may not think that, but linking arms in a human chain when ordered to step aside is not a nonviolent protest."
At this moment there's a general strike.

Obviously this isn't violence, and is how peacefully standing should be greeted by police.

And I'd talk about the lack of accountability of campus police.

If I were doing a post.

Followup on Niall Ferguson: Kakutani didn't love his new book.

[...] But his book as a whole has a hurried, haphazard feel to it that underscores its genesis as a companion volume to a British television series called “Civilization: Is the West History?” Not only do the book’s more cogent arguments owe a decided debt to ones made by the New York Times Op-Ed columnist Thomas L. Friedman and the CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria, but its more original hypotheses also tend to devolve into questionable generalizations (“Europeans today are the idlers of the world”), contradictory assertions and silly Power Point schemas that strain painfully to be relevant and hip.
Also calls it "tendentious."

But it's not a complete slam; neither do I think Ferguson is in any way beyond the pale of reading; he can, I grant, definitely be interesting.

Sorry, guys. :(

Phil, I feel your pain. As a HS grad in '67 it just stuck in my head (hormonal?) and won't go away. The other 3 are long gone in the fog of 10,000 Budweisers (apologies Belgian beer drinkers).

McTx: Penn State--go over to Crooked Timber to see the long thread about Ross Douthat's latest exegesis on evil and the greater man serving the greater good excuse. Sebastian is holding off the liberal hords by waving the ever magical wand of crypto commie liberal guilt, the ghost of Walter Duranty, and the always vibrant "the Clenis did it too" trope.

I'm going to pass on the Penn State post opportunity, though I'll point out a weird bit of foreshadowing to this for me. I often do presentations for classes and talks and such, and have pretty much switched to the Mac app Keynote and finally settled on my go to theme, which featured the font Gill Sans. Then, as I started to head into the second term here, this piece pops up, which points out the problems of the designer of the font and how the person writing is going to boycott the use of that font.

This is not to say I think that someone is morally wrong for using the font, it just gave me pause and had me reconsidering my go to theme (though I'm sure I would have found some other reason to waste a huge amount of time rethinking this as a way of avoiding actually working on the presentation. That's just how I roll.)

And I'm sure most of you are aware of this, but a discussion is going on at this Crooked Timber thread, though it seems to have wound up and reading gives me the impression that this is a topic that a blog discussion is designed for, if the purpose of the design is to create an apparatus that comes screaming thru the earth's atmosphere and detonates to create a zone where no life form can survive. Add to that the fact that Berubé is at CT and he's the Paterno Family Professor in Literature at Penn State, and the dish is complete.

OT from that, concerning Gary's last comment, though Kakutani probably meant it to be a sincere compliment, I'm trying to think how being told that your 'most cogent arguments' are a retreads from Thom Friedman is something anyone would want to aspire to.

Dave Zirin pretty much wrote what I'd partially write as a post on Penn State and Berkeley.

Without having read (yet, at least) the threads LJ points to, I merely wish to state that in general I heart Michael Berube. Who is also a hell of a funny correspondent. (Big surprise, eh?)

I also heart Belle Waring.

Sorry, guys. :(

Back in the day my local was a great bar that had live music 7 nights, no cover, and often had *extremely good* folks playing.

Plus, they always had pints of something for a buck or a buck and a half. Newcastle draft, PBR pint can, something. You could hang, listen to music, catch up with folks, and get out of the place for $5, if that's all you had.

If you were playing, you drank for free.


The house policy was:

1. You cannot play Brown Eyed Girl
2. You cannot play Mustang Sally

isn't someone going to do something on Penn State?

Not me either. Not that it isn't a topic that resonates with a lot of folks, I just don't think I have anything useful to say about it.

But this here *is* an open thread McK! Step on up to the microphone.

I see bobbyp was ahead of me.

Also, seeing Gary's comment, I think I should make clear that I'm not taking a swipe at Berube nor at Belle Waring, who are both folks I love to read. It just seemed to me that the confluence of factors there was quite remarkable.

I'm trying to think how being told that your 'most cogent arguments' are a retreads from Thom Friedman is something anyone would want to aspire to

Ouch. Cut, then pack the wound with alum and sea salt, with a sprinkling of vinegar.

Regarding Abacab, the best I can say is that it is, in my opinion, far from Genesis' best work even when only considering the Collins/Rutherford/Banks configuration.

I don't know how much of Abacab's badness can be attributed to Phil Collins; given his solo work near the same time I'd be inclined to give him much of the blame.

I do like Collins as a drummer. I just don't like where he went as a composer, and his singing grates on me these days. I lost interest in them as a band after Duke, which I thought was pretty cool.

I liked much of Genesis' work when Peter Gabriel was with them, and I like much of Gabriel's work as a solo artist.

Regarding Abacab, the best I can say is that it is, in my opinion, far from Genesis' best work even when only considering the Collins/Rutherford/Banks configuration.

I'll second that, although "No Reply At All" may be Mike Rutherford's crowning moment of glory as the guitarist/bassist for the 3-man lineup.

It's amazing to me that Collins was able to do a pretty passable Gabriel on "Follow You, Follow Me," then quickly got more and more grating and unlistenable. Not that you should be required to just be a manque of the previous guy, but still.

So, Crooked Timber it is. Sorry that is BP and me against the world on Brown Eyed Girl. I like Mustang Sally too. Damn.

I like BEG too, McKTx, but I haven't been forced to play it hundreds of times.

Actually, not holding off any hordes. Douthat's piece is meandering and non-great, but it just does not say what many of the crookedtimber people think it says.

And for what it is worth, I'd say that when I compare Paterno to Duranty, or Mao apologists, or feminist Clinton defenders, or conservative torture apologists, as examples of people who do/defend bad things in defense of institutions that they think are doing good, up to and including bad things that they specifically say they don't think are right, *is not defending Paterno*.

Like, at all.

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