Always confirm your dentifrice

typed for your pleasure on 21 November 2005, at 12.40 am

Sdtrk: ‘In time’ by Kelly Polar

You know what’s embarrassing? Buying the wrong type/flavour of toothpaste. You’re like, ‘well, I can’t return it, and I can’t just throw it out’, but every time you brush, you wince. It’s not happened to me a lot, but nevertheless..

Better post to follow soon

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The emotion of Machines

typed for your pleasure on 17 November 2005, at 12.38 am

Sdtrk: ‘The Eleventh house’ by Belbury Poly

As I’d mentioned before, a long long time ago, one of my favourite online comics is 8-bit Theater. The artist/creator/writer bloke Brian Clevenger usually posts an editorial of some sort with every new installment, but the one for today really caught my eye, for reasons that will quickly become apparent.

There’s a school of thought that artificial intelligence will be impossible unless a machine possesses emotional complexity.

The basic idea is that intelligence as we understand it, as we exemplify it, stems from our ability to feel and express emotions. Sure, once you get down to the molecular level, emotions are little more than stimulus/response like anything else, but there’s something “extra” there. Not in a magical sense. Think of it like this: if you break a spider’s leg, it’ll experience the stimulus and react to it. But if you break your friend’s leg, he’ll experience the stimuls and react to it in a purely pain/reflexive sense just like the spider, but there’s going to be a storm of purely mental, purely emotional states — anger, sadness, betrayal, fear, etc. — that the spider will never know. These emotions develop because we are intelligent. We understand the passage of time, assign values and relationships to people in our lives, expect certain behaviors from people — friends and strangers — given our experiences and relating them to current or potential contexts. These are the base elements of intelligence, and emotions are a direct result of it. As you go up the evolutionary ladder, creatures exhibit greater degress of emotional complexity along with a greater capacity for intellligence. Your pet spider can’t feel betrayed if you break its leg because it’s not intelligent enough to understand that you have a history or relationship with it. Get into vertebrate country and break a cat or dog’s leg, and you’ll have an animal that will have instantly learned to distrust any and all humans (also I will hunt you down and beat you to death with a baseball bat). Break a gorilla’s leg and it teaches its family sign language, explains the situation, and they chase you down and slaughter you in your sleep.

The theory goes that if our machines have to be emotional to be intelligent, then they will best learn as we do because their mental landscape will be so similar to ours. And the easiest way to help robots learn from us, and to help us to learn how to interact from them, is to make them appear to be as human-like as possible — while avoiding the uncanny valley.

In this world of emotionally intelligent robots, expecting an apocalyptic battle between organics and replicants as has been promised to us in every sci-fi story in the history of man (including ones that have nothing to do with the subject), is somewhat like expecting your children to murder you when they graduate college because you’ve outlived your usefulness.

No one expects that because it doesn’t happen outside of the rare aberration where, clearly, other factors are at work. In any event, no one is warning us an inevitable grand upheaval when the next generation of humans figures out that they don’t need the previous generation for financial support any more and they’re just going to cost as more money in taxes and insurance rates if we let them get any older.

Similarly, our robots will have “grown up” with us. They would have no interest in slaughtering mankind because they’d be emotionally invested in us. And if they’ve spent their lives living among us, being treated as a part of society, if they have a stake in that society, there is no reason for them to engage in a bloody revolution. Hell, the whole “They got so smart they figured out they didn’t need us any more” angle falls apart right at the start. Emotionally intelligent robots probably wouldn’t be much “smarter” than humans because their mental landscape would be built to be very much like our own.

But peaceful co-existence doesn’t make a very good action movie, nor does it examine how our technology changes us and our society in a pithy warning of things to come short story, so people have a hard time seeing intelligent robots as being anything other than cold, purely logical machines built to kill. Our current machines are already purely logical — that’s why they’re so far from being intelligent — but TiVo’s never tried to kill me.

Still, we’d have a whole new population walking around that’s emotionally and mentally very, very human. What are they likely to do? Seek their own identity? Establish an ethnic identity all their own? Wouldn’t they be likely to seek religion of some sort? Remember, there’s absolutely no reason to expect emotionally intelligent beings to outright reject the supernatural, otherwise there’d be no religious humans. Would they merely copy existing ones? Would they make their own? Would some seek to establish a robotic nation? What then?

Imagine the irony that the great human-robot war is not fought because robots are heartless, purely logical constructs who reject us as their masters due to our intellectual inferiority. Instead, it’s a simple matter of religious differences. Just another Crusade.

Viva le Artifice! Viva le Reason, really

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typed for your pleasure on 13 November 2005, at 2.28 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Pretty girls make graves’ by the Smiths

So I was musing to myself a couple of days ago — what bands have I seen perform live? Hrrm.. *strokes chin in thought*

+ GLOD (four times — I miss them)
+ Batterie acid (twice — I miss them as well)
+ Silver apples (before Simeon and Danny Thomas got back in touch with each other, but a good show anyway)
+ Princess Dragon-mom (at least five times)
+ Mystic Moog Orchestra (twice)
+ Crash worship (a very Bacchanalian show)
+ Medicine (twice)
+ Lush (twice; the second time round, it was so hot at the concert venue that Miki’s hairdye began running down her face)
+ Mojave 3 (so boring, I actually fell asleep)
+ Shonen knife
+ Tasty bush (twice; a rather underrated band)
+ Laibach (unfortunately, it wasn’t during their heyday, it was when they toured for ‘Jesus christ Superstars’, their worst album ever)
+ Combustible Edison
+ Broadcast (three times)
+ Stereolab (five times I think, I can’t remember)
+ My bloody valentine (fucking ace show)
+ NON / Death in June / Scorpion wind / Strength through Joy (also, filed under ‘fucking ace show’)
+ Merzbow / Masonna (a pair of fantastic performances, only marred by the fact that Psywarfare opened for them)
+ Death from above 1979
+ Interpol
+ the faint
+ Adult. (three times)
+ Add N to (X) (twice)
+ Subliminal self (I know one of them!)
+ New order / The sugarcubes / PiL (the others weren’t bad, but I was there for New order)
+ Morrissey (the ‘Kill Uncle’ tour… largely meh, but nevertheless — it’s Morrissey)
+ The Dears (four times)
+ The Divine comedy (an ‘intimate evening’)
+ Destroy all monsters ‘reunion’ show (eh)
+ Social outcast (twice)
+ Bloc party (hooray for free tickets!)
+ Labradford (opened for Stereolab once)

I’ve actually restricted this list to the good, or at least memorable, performances; other bands I’ve seen would predominantly be hateful and/or boring opening acts for the shows mentioned above. Also, I’m sure I’m forgetting a couple; if I remember them, I will be sure to surreptitiously insert them into the list and pretend they were there in the first place, heh heh.

Unrelated! I may have a cunning plan as far as displaying Sidore-chan’s pics in the interim between now and ‘Kitten with a Whip!’ going back up. Details are, of course, forthcoming

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This was the Future, Vol.18

typed for your pleasure on 10 November 2005, at 4.46 am

Sdtrk: ‘Sorry for laughing’ by Josef K

Wee bit of a story behind the choice for this evening’s installment: A couple of years ago, I commissioned Mike, a mate of mine, to do an illustration of Sidore-chan for ‘Kitten with a Whip!’, and I wanted her drawn standing in a fab and distinctive setting. So Mike pointed me towards his vast library of reference material, and after poring through a couple of rather heavy books, I settled on a place in New York City, NY. I was really pleased with Mike’s ace rendition of both Sweetie and the background, and it was profiled as an omake (bonus) on ‘KWAW!’ for a couple of months. I’m sure some of you remember it.

Click here for full-sized version; opens in new window

For years afterward, the name of the actual location managed to elude me, until recently, when doing research for Vol.18 of the ‘This was the Future’ series. Now that I know what the place is called, I can finally sleep at night, thank god thank god.
And so! We bring you the Rockefeller Guest House, by Philip Johnson.

The home is one room wide, and upon entering, the living room stretches far back until it is book-ended by floor to ceiling windows that closely mimic the façade’s layout. The living room space has white brick walls and features lighting fixtures designed by Mr. Johnson. Beyond the windows, there is a small courtyard that features a prime example of Philip Johnson’s concept of “safe danger”. In the courtyard, visitors must carefully walk on square travertine stepping-stones and avoid falling into the shallow reflecting pool on either side.

Oddly enough, there’s really not a lot of info on the Rockefeller Guest House; well, none that I could find. Sure, you’ll run across articles left and right on his Glass House, and I probably would’ve done an installment on the Glass House myself, but I’ve already done the Farnsworth House. (Zing!) But the Guest House is pretty ace as well. Granted, it might look like an uninspiring sort of miniature Fifties-built warehouse from the front, but the interior — especially that courtyard — is amazing. Subtle? Yes

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die RealePuppe

typed for your pleasure on 7 November 2005, at 10.07 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Mr. Dante Fontana’ by Piero Piccioni

Every couple of months, I run across someone doing an article on the whole Borghild mythos, and I never really know if it’s real or not.

The world’s first sexdoll – or ”gynoid” – was built in 1941 by a team of craftsmen from Germanys Hygiene Museum Dresden. The project was supervised by the famous preparator and technician Franz Tschakert. The ”Father of the woman of glass”, which happened to be the sensation in 1930’s II. International Hygiene-Exhibit, used his skills and experience in order to create a kind of doll the world had never seen before.

The ”field-hygienic project” was an initiative of Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler, who regarded the doll as an ” counterbalance” (or regulating effect )for the sexual drive of his stormtropers. In one his letters, dated 20.11.1940 he mentions the ”unnessessary losses”, the Wehrmacht had suffered in France inflicted by street prostitutes.
”The greatest danger in Paris are the wide-spread and uncontrolled whores, picking by clients in bars, dancehalls and other places . It is our duty to prevent soldiers from risking their health, just for the sake of a quick adventure.”

The project – called Burghild in the first place – was considered ”Geheime Reichssache” , which was ”more secret than top secret” at the time. Himmler put his commander-in-chief SS-Dr. Joachim Mrurgowsky in charge, the highest ranking officer of Berlins notorious SS-institute.

Ultimately, it sounded like a good plan — keep the soldiers sexually satisfied whilst preventing them from succumbing to gonhorrea — but it didn’t get too much of a chance, both financially and time-wise, to get off the ground, as the Nazi war machine was too busy concentrating on constructing planes, tanks, and the like. You know — war stuff.
And answering the question of ‘if Borghild was built, or at least planned, why didn’t we have the Deutsche equivalent of RealDolls long ago?’, well, the factory that was assigned to make Borghilds was located in Dresden, which was incinerated, thereby making use of that nice loophole there.

I’ve heard the story debunked a couple of times, but unfortunately comes up trumps on Fraulein Borghild — if she ever existed.
Pfft. Next, they’ll be saying that the Haunibu series of Nazi flying saucers was never constructed

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‘This is not your sawtooth wave’

typed for your pleasure on 7 November 2005, at 3.52 am

Sdtrk: ‘Microtronics 13’ by Broadcast

So yeah, as you may have suspected from the Subj.title and soundtrack choice, I decided I was well enough to go witness Broadcast on Sat eve. Was it worth it? Indeed it was!

Jeff, Tim and I left got to the Magic Stick round 8.30, as the doors were due to open at 9, and we didn’t want to have to wait in a potential queue that stretched round the block, like when the faint played there. Oddly enough, there wasn’t a line at all! Not that we were complaining, of course.
As I’d stated, the doors (meaning, the iron gate at the top of the steps that lead up to the venue) were supposed to open at 9, but they didn’t actually do so until almost 9.30, which was weird, as the Stick is usually spot on with their ‘door open’ time. That’s the sort of silly bollocks that we’d come to expect from seeing shows at St.Andrews in downtown Detroit, back when 90% of the good shows played there, which is something that hasn’t happened since the mid-to-late Nineties. But St.Andrews used to do that all the time — they’d say ‘Doors open at 8pm’, and they’d open like an hour later, sometimes longer. I tell you, waiting for whoever to get their shit together and open up when you’re physically waiting out in the weather was truly the Apex of Fun. But I digress.

So we get upstairs and grab a table off to the right. About ten minutes after that, the merchandise guy materialised, offering vinyl, T-shirts, and the coveted volume 2 of ‘Microtronics’. Broadcast has always been a band that have worn their influences proudly on their polyester sleeves, and the Microtronics series is no exception. Basically, it’s their collision of the heyday of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the Manhattan Research Incorporated years of Raymond Scott, and music from science class 8mm filmstrips. Pretty much standard Broadcast fare, only each track is an instrumental averaging about two minutes in length. Plus, the art is done ‘in the library style’, meaning the 3inch Cds look as if they belong on the shelves of a broadcast (ho ho) studio’s library. All of these factors add up to Cds that are required purchases. Besides, they’re a snip at $8..

Round 10pm, the opening act Gravenhurst, from Wales, by their own admission, took the stage. Labelmates of Broadcast, they’re best described as ‘competent’, and ‘indie’, and unfortunately, ‘nothing to write home about’. They had a number of fans amidst the crowd, as signified by the number of ‘wooooo!!‘s between numbers, but you could also chalk that up to people getting their pints in. Unremarkable? Yeah, pretty much. Good try though, lads.

Broadcast went on round 11. Trish, James, and the two new/fill-in blokes played to a by-now full house, performing songs from ‘Tender buttons’, and a couple dating back to ‘The noise made by people’, and going on for about an hour. I had a couple of misgivings when ‘Tender buttons’ came out, as former guitarist Tim Fenton had left the group, bringing the number of original members to two. Not only that, but the recent release had more songs based around a drum machine. Don’t get me wrong, Odhinn knows I love my drum machines, but to me, it initially didn’t jibe with what i considered the ‘original Broadcast sound’, despite the fact that you can hear the change from ‘Work and non work’ up to now. So initially, I was like, I dunno.. Thankfully, they didn’t let me down at all live. Although it was weird to see everyone save the drummer using Roland PC-70s, instead of more traditional analogue keyboards..
Much like New order during the Eighties, Broadcast had to do the double duty thing with their instruments: Jam played synth as well as his bass, the New Guitar Guy played synth as well, and when Trish wasn’t playing her synth, she had this odd little guitar which boasted a large headstock and a shortish neck. (I wish I could remember what it was called, as the name was right there on the pickguard, but I do remember it said ‘London’ beneath the name.) The fill-in lads did a really good job as well; any drummer that can manage to get through their extended concert version of ‘Drums on fire’ and not literally burst into flames can definitely hold his own. And during the encore, they played a really ace version of ‘I found the F’. Nice!
Between their darkly psychedelic Motorik sound and their customary visual backdrop, which consisted of film stock from Sixties and Seventies-era science class filmstrips, it was an excellent show! But it’s Broadcast; you simply can’t go wrong by them..

The three of us stuck round after the performance, cos I wanted to get autographs, like I had done for the past two times Broadcast visited. There was a bit of a wait — Trish and Jam were set upon by four people apiece — but it was definitely worth it. I requisitioned Trish first, and as soon as she got a good look at me, she exclaimed, ‘I remember you! You’re the one with the ace name!’ She even managed to pull Jam’s attention away for a couple of seconds from his own signing frenzy to notice me.
‘It’s something-cat, right?’ she asked.
‘Yep.. Dave. Davecat,’ I replied. ‘I was rather happy to hear that you had a song on the new album called “Black cat”!’ Which is entirely true, as it’s one of my favourite songs on that release, and the title just makes it better.
While she was signing my copy of Microtronics v2, I asked her about that strange guitar of hers, and if she’d found it at a car boot sale. No, you can still find them in shops here and there in England. She mentioned it was just her size!
I got James to sign as well, and asked him, ‘Everytime you guys come to town, you’re missing a member, what’s going on with that?’
‘Well, Tim left cos he wanted to go and do stuff on his own.’
‘Was the split amicable?’
‘Not really.’
He also mentioned that he wanted to do either two more volumes of Microtronics, or four more volumes of Microtronics. Sounds like a plan!

They’re fine people, Trish and Jam. Wouldn’t hear a word against ’em. Come back soon!

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Did I link to this article before? / Die Vogelgrippe??

typed for your pleasure on 3 November 2005, at 2.05 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Let the wind catch a rainbow on fire’ by Death in June

Found another article on das Infobahn about Japan implementing robots into everyday living. I mean, moreso than usual. However, it does make prominent mention of Kobalabs’ SAYA-chan, so there you go.

In the meantime, I’m fighting what may be a small-scale flu. I’m not as fatigued as I was yesterday, and food is tasting less like looseleaf paper, so I think I’m on the Road to Recovery. I still feel like a pig shat in my head* a wee bit, though. Damn this frail human body! *weakly shakes fist*
In any case, I’d better be well enough to see Broadcast, as they’re playing at the Magic Stick this Saturday. Perhaps I’ll go back to bed for the rest of the day

*fifteen Cool Points to anyone who can name the film that quote came from

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