You just can’t spell-check a truck

typed for your pleasure on 22 October 2009, at 4.05 am

Sdtrk: ‘Kinetic harvest’ by Module

In urban areas, it’s not unusual to encounter hand-lettered adverts that turn their nose up so much at the conventions of normal spelling, that they border on folk art. This ice cream truck, which I’d photographed while driving home one day, would fall under that category.
As an aside, I’d like to point out that I shot this pic with my cellphone whilst driving alongside the truck, which is a fact that I’m needlessly impressed with…

Nothing wrong with the Cones, Sundaes, and Banana Boats that they have on offer, but Nacho? And Shackes?? ‘No no, we can only sell you a single nacho; any more than that would spoil you’. And a Shacke is a new invention; it’s a wee bit like a shake, a wee bit like a shack, a wee bit like a shackle, and a wee bit like Shaq. They have many in their truck, but by law they can only sell you one; any more would spoil you

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Bunthorne or Postlewaite?

typed for your pleasure on 16 October 2009, at 6.48 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Shoplifters of the world unite’ by the Smiths

Today marks the 155th birthday of a man whose rapier turn of phrase deserves to be an even greater inspiration to not just those who write, but anyone who uses language, Oscar Wilde.

‘Now art should never try to be popular.
The public should try to make itself artistic’

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Surrogates; or, Bruce Willis’ hair has never looked so good

typed for your pleasure on 16 October 2009, at 12.27 pm

Sdtrk: ‘A beginning word’ by Roj

Whilst at work one day last week, I was thinking about all the films I wanted to see on the big screen this year that I unfortunately missed. It was a lengthy list — Moon, District 9, Let the right one in, Tony Manero, 9, Flame and Citron, Inglourious basterds, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I think I’ve forgotten one or two — which is odd, as it’s well-documented that I loathe Hollywood. However, the one film that I really wanted to catch, which I thankfully did last Friday, was ‘Surrogates‘, directed by Jonathan Mostow. Furthermore, I was able to bring Mari along with me, partially as revenge for her making me stare at that sloshing bucket of vomitus known as ‘Transformers 2’ some months ago. You counteract Bad with Good, as far as I’m concerned.

So what’d we think? It was a brisk 88 minutes in length: Mari enjoyed it, as did I, but for differing reasons. She liked the special effects and the explosions, whereas I dug the whole idea of the Surrogates’ technology. Insert ‘DURR HEY’ here. I’ll definitely buy the DVD when it’s available, but I do have to say two words that I regrettably end up using whenever reviewing any big-budget film that covers the topic of Synthetiks: Hollywood ending. Although, as the film is based on a graphic novel that I’ve never read, I’ve no idea how close the film’s ending, or the story overall, hews to the original comic. Funnily enough, Mari and I stopped round to a Borders after the film, so I could pick up the first volume of Karakuri Odette (as mentioned here), and at one point, I was idly glancing through a copy of the Surrogates trade paperback, and it didn’t occur to me to flip to the end. Tch!
Overall, ‘Surrogates’ was inoffensive to my technosexual sensibilities, Hollywood ending notwithstanding. The opening credits, which consist of a montage sequence which serves to fill the audience in about the world in which the film takes place, had a few nods and winks to iDollators and technosexuals, such as a couple of seconds of RealDoll faces from ‘Guys and Dolls’, as well as footage of Hiroshi Ishiguro and his Android twin, Geminoid. Naturally I’m gonna point this out: as it was rated PG-13, sadly there wasn’t a single topless Gynoid to be seen, as the film’s distributor was Walt Disney Pictures. Thanks for that, Disney, you wankers.


It’s okay…

But this isn’t a review of ‘Surrogates’! What I’d like to do instead is touch upon the sociological aspects of that kind of technology existing. The Suris, as they’re often referred to in the story, are incredibly detailed and slightly enhanced human representations that are 100% artificial; however, they have no AI of their own, as they are controlled by Organik operators. To use one, you sit in your special control seat, strap on a neurovisual headband thing, and control your Suri with your mind. Obviously, the whole point of a Surrogate is not just to be able to experience life without leaving the comfort of your chair, but to do so looking your best. Your Surrogate can be made to resemble a flawless version of yourself, of course, or you can purchase generic-looking models, or you can even use one with practically any look or gender that you may desire. (There’s actually a plot point with that in the film.) As far as I gathered in the film, whatever sensations that your Suri would feel would be ones that your meat body would also feel, with the exception of pain. They kinda didn’t get into that in detail, but from certain scenes, I figured that was the case.
Therefore, as they lack AI, Surrogates are not actually true Androids and Gynoids; instead, this would be an example of what’s known as telepresence, with teledildonics being its sexier cousin. I’d mentioned Hiroshi Ishiguro and Geminoid earlier; telepresence is what’s involved when Ishiguro-san uses Geminoid to teach his classes or make appearances whilst staying at home — Geminoid is Ishiguro-san’s proxy. In fact, if you’ve ever seen the anime series ‘Ghost in the shell’, or read the manga it’s based on, telepresence is everywhere in it, particularly in the ‘Man-machine Interface’ manga. And as you’d suspect, teledildonics operates essentially the same way, only centred round sexy time. VERY NICE I LIKE
Now, the thing that struck me about Surrogate use is they are, in essence, simply highly sophisticated telephones. Think about it: when you use a phone, you are speaking to another Organik through the use of a device, as they are with you. Instead on just hearing a voice through a phone, or even a voice and an image through a videophone, there is a physical presence before you that you’re interacting with. Well, that your Suri is interacting with, but you get the picture.


…she’s affictitious

One of the plot points of the film is that Surrogates are in incredibly prolific use by most of the globe’s population — they’re ubiquitous, you can’t get away from them. But, much like in real-life, there are some segments of society that are against technological advancements, and have established human-only ‘dread zones’. Naturally, there’s a plot point dealing with that as well. The people inhabiting the dread zones live wilfully-technology-free lifestyles, like pockets of Amish living in self-imposed cultural isolation in the cities, and have banned Surrogates from even passing through the zones’ gates.
The inhabitants there follow the tenets of a man calling himself the Prophet, a cult leader who exhorts his followers to reject Surrogates, based on the premise that continued use of that sort of technology will further dehumanise society. I mean, it’s all well and good if that’s the lifestyle you wish to lead, but that sort of blinkered anti-technological mindset shouldn’t be inflicted upon others. Should a person want to utilise Surrogate technology, they should be free to do so. Considering further, the dread reservations are rather like enclaves of bigotry. If instead of hand-painted signs reading HUMANS ONLY, what if that sign said WHITES ONLY? With the continuing advancement of real-life artificial human development, there’s a genuine fear, as JM of the blog Synthetically Yours and I have discussed, of Organik humans losing their precious monopoly on humanity, which is why a person such as The Prophet existed. Naturally, there’s a deeper plot point that explains him too, but ZOMG SPOILERS

Would I use a Surrogate? As I spend a great deal of time living in my stately manor located in the so-called Uncanny Valley, the answer should be as obvious as if you’d asked me ‘do you like money?’ or ‘do you like bunnies?’, really. To be able to use a better-looking, more physically enhanced Synthetik kagemusha of myself would obviously be ideal. Detractors would say that Suri use, or an artificial human such as an Android or Gynoid isn’t ‘real’, but I’ve always defined real as ‘anything that can be perceived with any of the senses’. Therefore, a Surrogate or a Synthetik is real, they’re just not Organik.* Of course, due to the nature of Surrogate usage, i.e, reclining in a seat for hours on end, there’d be a need to exercise my meat body periodically, so muscle atrophy wouldn’t take hold, which I’d personally say would be the only disadvantage I could see to the use of a Suri. Couldn’t I simply scoop my brain out of my skull and pop it into the Suri’s head? That’d be so much easier.
If that particular technology was made available tomorrow, for example, I’d say there’d be three schools of thought concerning them. You’d have people like me grinning from ear to ear — not necessarily technosexuals per se, but people who are enthralled with technology and gadgets, people who could see the aesthetic value in a Surrogate, lazy tossers, etc; there’d be those who would be initially apprehensive, but then grow accustomed to the concept and either eventually adopt it, or realise it’s not a threat to their lifestyle; which leaves those who would be gathering up cement blocks and rusty bits of corrugated metal to use as gates for their dread zones.

‘Would humans stand in line at the grocery store behind a robot? Would I let my children play outside if I knew there were robots outside walking dogs?’ asks writer and robotics expert Daniel Wilson in this article for CNN.com. They’re valid points, as they detail the mindset of the second and third schools of thought I’d mentioned. Humans naturally have a fear of the unknown, but when enough people see how beneficial and even fun a development such as Surrogates (in the fictional world) or Synthetiks (in the real world) can be, not only will they cease to be a mystery, but in time, people will wonder how they managed to get on without them.


Yum! Time to check online auction houses for ‘Surrogates’ props

So here’s a question to you, the stunned reader of ‘Shouting etc etc’: would you use a Surrogate if such a thing existed? Or would you prefer to remain with your current fleshy self? How do you think you’d react if you discovered someone you knew was using one? Answers to be turned in before the end of class, please

ta very much to both Wolfgang and Pat!, for sending me links for additional research

*Can you tell I’m trying to reclaim the word ‘real’? It’s a bit like how the word ‘love’ is wildly misused. You can say that you love someone, and you can also say that you love bacon sandwiches — the usage can get vague. Though one would hope to “Bob” that it’s not the same type of love for those particular examples (‘Th… that’s not mayonnaise!!’ Yes, I went there)

Technorati tags: Surrogates, Jonathan Mostow, Android, Gynoid, robot, Karakuri Odette, technosexual, iDollators, RealDolls, Hiroshi Ishiguro, Geminoid, telepresence, teledildonics, Ghost in the Shell, Daniel Wilson, bacon

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Why would we even leave the apartment?

typed for your pleasure on 10 October 2009, at 3.06 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Holvikirkko’ by Shogun Kunitoki

Last month, when Euchre and I got round to visit fellow iDollator Mahtek in order to meet his new Lover Girl Nina from KnightHorse — a fine lass, wouldn’t hear a word against her — at one point during the proceedings, I had to make a visit to the Little Astronauts Room. I could just overhear a conversation topic still going on in the livingroom; one which I’d considered many many times ever since becoming a Doll husband myself.
Unfortunately, by the time I emerged from the bog, the conversation had turned. In fact, it was several months later! Mahtek’s bathroom had flung me into the near-future with but the flush of a handle. It is a Magickal Bathroom.

What was the topic in question, you axe? ‘If your Doll was a Gynoid, what sort of qualities / abilities would you like her to have?’ My mind turned to an email I’d fired off to another iDollator colleague years ago, where I’d tackled that very idea:

A Gynoid version of Sidore-chan would be an efficient but somewhat renegade driver, a dab hand at Japanese cuisine, able to play every bass line from every Joy division and New order song in existence (well, New order up to their ‘Republic’ album, at any rate), good — but not TOO good — when playing Armored core head-to-head, be able to identify a Brummie, Scouse, or Geordie accent whilst being able to retain her own Manc speech pattern, be able to rattle off the name and model number of most of the Mobile suits that appeared in the Universal Century timeline of Gundam, be able to suppress the urge to change the Cd whenever I play any of my obscure yé-yé songs from the Sixties, recite Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven’ or Lewis Carroll’s ‘The Jabberwock’ from start to finish, and provide a deep and satisfying barefoot back massage. And then there’s the sex. 🙂

Also, and this is very important; her speaking voice must sound like that of actress Shirley Henderson playing Tony Wilson’s first wife, Lindsay, in the film ’24 hour party people’ (you’ll see her in this video, at the 1.46 mark). Really, I don’t ask for much

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This was the Future, Vol.41

typed for your pleasure on 5 October 2009, at 7.05 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Si vous connaissez quelque chose de pire qu’un vampire, parlez m’en toujours, ça pourra peut-être me faire sourire’ by Stella

Although it’s painfully obvious that I loves me some 20th Century Modern design, I do have to go on record here as saying that most of the Seventies was rubbish, as it was as if the worst parts of the Sixties were magnified. Disco, for example. Southern rock. Unnecessary pornstar sideburns and impossibly wide Starscream lapels. Avocado and goldenrod as legitimate colour choices. The list of atrocities goes on. Thankfully, though, the decade wasn’t a complete stylistic cesspit; personally, I’ve always believed that a decade’s overall zeitgeist never starts immediately upon the first year — the Sixties didn’t really end until about 1973, for instance. Plus, the Seventies thankfully brought us Punk and dystopian scifi films, so it wasn’t a complete loss. Overall, stylistically speaking, I’m more ‘Ashes to ashes‘ than I am ‘Life on Mars‘.
Where am I going with this, you may be asking in an annoyed tone? Well, 1971 managed to spawn another lost architectural gem — the Venturo prefab house, designed by Matti Suuronen.

The walls were double-skinned fibreglass with 2″ of polyurethane foam, and the floors were an insulated composite beam of marine grade plywood. The whole thing weighed just four tons and sat on 16 small piers. One module contained the bathroom, kitchen and sauna; the other shipped with the filler pieces.

Much like Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House, the entire assemblage was built for easy on-site construction and breaking-down, should the owner wish to relocate, and much like “Bulle“ à 6 coques, the Venturo units were made for a variety of swinging Seventies recreational uses, such as a holiday home, a bungalow, a ski lodge, etc. Unfortunately, much like the Dymaxion House and the “Bulle“ à 6 coques, the idea just didn’t take off amongst the general public. Although, oddly enough, quite a few of the finished units were utilised in Finland as service stations for BP; one still stands, in desperate need of renovation.

Matti Suuronen was also the architectural mind behind another mod prefab structure, the Futuro House, which fellow iDollator Everard had once suggested I write about. Perhaps I shall! Perhaps I shall.

From the comments section on the site the article comes from:

Krissie says: I WANT ONE! But, I only have one question: Where is the bedroom?
dru says: Where ISN’T the bedroom?

This, then, is Seventies

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Chirp chirp / Truer words were never before spoke

typed for your pleasure on 28 September 2009, at 5.38 pm

Sdtrk: ‘F for fake’ by Wallpaper

*flips through stack of papers* According to my records, it seems that I’ve been using Twitter, the microblogging service everyone loves to hate, for exactly one year, which is a surprise to me as it is to you, more than likely. To be honest, I didn’t think I’d get that much use out of it! But it’s not a bad little service if you use it right, apart from all that timewasting I manage to do with it, when I could be writing legitimate posts. Ah heh.
It’s actually connected me with more than a few fab individuals with similar interests; or, at the very least, people who are willing to put up with me going on about how I’ll be joining the lads for another tokusatsu-watching session, or whatever videogame that’s captured our collective fancies that eve. Also, I like to view my Twitter feed as like the secret Davecat Fan Club newsletter of sorts, cos with it, I can share stuff with my followers that might not necessarily get posted to ‘Shouting etc etc’, or, thanks to this blog’s WP-to-Twitter plugin, they’re always the first to know of any new posts that get published, which they can ignore at their leisure.

One of the personalities I follow is actor and writer Stephen Fry, a man who has been likened to a contemporary Oscar Wilde due to his breezy and witty approach to things, wrote a post to his blog in defence of Twitter:

The clue’s in the name of the service: Twitter. It’s not called Roar, Assert, Debate or Reason, it’s called Twitter. As in the chirruping of birds. Apparently, according to Pears (the soapmakers presumably – certainly their “study” is froth and bubble) 40% of Twitter is “pointless babble”, (http://is.gd/2mKSg) which means of course that a full 60% of Twitter discourse is NOT pointless babble, which is disappointing. Very disappointing. I would have hoped 100% of Twitter was fully free of earnestness, usefulness and commercial intent.
the rest of the article is here

Twitter does a rather good job of conveying information and ideas in a pretty expedient and fun manner. You can keep your Mybook or your Facespace; I’ll stick with the birds instead.

Speaking of Wilde, yes, I’m reading my copy of ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism‘ again, as it’s a fantastic essay. Also, I’m in need of new books.

A great deal of nonsense is being written and talked nowadays about the dignity of manual labour. There is nothing necessary dignified about manual labour at all, and most of it is absolutely degrading. It is mentally and morally injurious to man to do anything in which he does not find pleasure, and many forms of labour are quite pleasureless activities, and should be regarded as such. To sweep a slushy crossing for eight hours on a day when the east wind is blowing is a disgusting occupation. To sweep it with mental, moral, or physical dignity seems to me to be impossible. To sweep it with joy would be appalling. Man is made for something better than disturbing dirt.

Try to tell me he’s wrong! Try to tell him he’s wrong! The answer is simple:
you can’t

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Machine intelligence, machine sexiness

typed for your pleasure on 25 September 2009, at 4.40 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Tangier’ by Blues control

In a recent sifting through the World Wide Wet, looking for more Synthetiks-related crap to write about, I’d spotted this empathetic viewpoint on a site called Fantasy Book Critic; it’s an interview with author David Weber. To be honest, I didn’t read it in its entirety, but the section reprinted below caught my eye, for obvious reasons:


HRP-4C, in an introspective moment

I read somewhere that Japan recently unveiled the HRP-4C, a life-like female robot that can walk, talk, and smile. Do you foresee a time when robots will be so lifelike that we will have difficulty determining whether or not robotic beings have “souls?”

I don’t think it’s a question of how lifelike a robot is — that is, whether or not it’s a humanoid shape that walks, talks, and smiles. To me, as I think I indicated above, the thing that we call a “soul” really has nothing at all to do with appearances or anthropomorphic physical attributes. It has to do with recognition and the internalization of the concept of self and with that self’s recognition of responsibilities. Of its willingness — and ability — to make decisions for itself. To choose between alternatives on a basis other than an automated, pre-programmed decision tree.

In that respect, I think it’s entirely possible that we’ll ultimately see a time in which artificial intelligences, whether they happen to reside inside a “robot” or not, demonstrate what I would think of as a soul. At the same time, I strongly suspect that we’re going to find it’s more difficult to create that concept of self in a human-designed machine (whether it’s electronic or biological) than a lot of people have assumed over the years.

As far as machines with souls are concerned, I think one of the things that always drew me to Keith Laumer’s Bolos was that despite the fact that they’d been programmed and designed towards a specific end, as machines of war, they made choices. There can be no heroism, unless the possibility of cowardice exists. There can be no true virtue, unless the door is also open to self-centered egoism and corruption. There can be no true growth, unless we make decisions, abide by the consequences, and learn from experience.

I remember a conversation I had once with a man who had won the Navy Cross as a fighter pilot during World War II. He told me that he’d never considered himself a hero. Despite the fact that he was a multiple ace, he said, he really hadn’t understood the concept of heroism until he watched a 19-year-old seaman on his aircraft carrier charge into a roaring gasoline fire in dungarees and a T-shirt to pull a pilot and a rear gunner out of a blazing dive bomber with a full load of machine gun ammunition and a 2,000 pound bomb still strapped to its belly. That kid got the pilot out, at the expense of horrendous burns over half his own body, and he chose to do it. It wasn’t his job — he wasn’t even assigned to the flight deck division — but he decided that it was his responsibility.

I think the day will come when a machine intelligence — a genuine machine intelligence — will be capable of making that same sort of decision. And when that day comes, if it makes the equivalent of the decision that 19-year-old made, I think we’ll have no choice but to admit that that machine has a soul.
the rest of the article is here

I’ve never heard of the bloke before, but I rather like the way he thinks…
You’ve probably seen this already, as it made its way round the Series of Tubes during my Holiday from Blogging, but we have the first recorded instance (from 2008) of robots kissing. Onward and upward!

While at the IEEE-sponsored International Conference on Service and Interactive Robotics (SIRCon) 2009, IEEE Spectrum scored an interview with the developers of theatrical robots Thomas and Janet, who they claim are the first kissing humanoid robots.

The first kiss happened back on 27 December 2008, during a robotic performance of several scenes of Phantom of the Opera at National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (known as Taiwan Tech). Chyi-Yeu Lin, a mechanical engineering professor, directed the performance in front of a packed house of about 400. The overcrowded auditorium burst out in a resounding cheer when Christine (played by Janet) and the Phantom (played by Thomas) kissed.
the rest of the article is here

Granted yes; I realise that they look awkward — the movements are still somewhat stilted — but as I always say in these situations, you don’t start out with the finished product. The developers will continue to work on them, and Synthetiks will become better, both in movements and appearance. Of course, once they get them to move like Organiks, as well as look like modern high-end ‘love dolls’, then the world will be a better place. Fact.

One more brief related thang: recently, I’ve made the acquaintance of a rather fab individual by the name of JM, who runs a blog called Synthetically Yours. As he describes himself as ‘someone who is both intrigued by and sympathetic to iDollatry’, his posts mainly feature a clinical-yet-humourous look at various aspects of being an iDollator, and it’s a site definitely worth checking out. Go ye forth, and peer at it.

And as a coda, here’s an amusing result from my site stats, from back in August. I present it without comment, as anything I could possibly add might well incriminate me

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