April 2015

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She's the thing. Scotty forever.

She’s the thing. Scotty forever.

You have no idea. Scotties will always kill you before they submit.

Ye Greate Street, Greenwich, NJ.

Ye Greate Street, Greenwich, NJ. For this and all subsequent, click for much bigger.

All this time, I’ve been thinking Fife had to be prettier than where I grew up and ran around as a kid.

Not competing now, but for the first time I feel proud of the backcountry where I grew up.

My wife has proven there are no windmills.

Dawn. A great thing.

Dawn. A great thing.

Where we live.

It takes an eye to see.

It takes an eye to see.

We have fall too.

Things get mostly red. We don't talk about it much because we're from Jersey.

Things get mostly red. We don’t talk about it much because we’re from Jersey.

Did I say we’re on the Delaware, the greatest river in the Americas? (The Mississippi is a trickle compared to the Delaware, which leads to the ocean.)

Yeah. We can sit on shore and watch monster ships glide past our filets.

Yeah. We can sit on shore and watch monster ships glide past our filets.

That’s all the big stuff. But there’s also small stuff.

We played on the Cohansey River.

We played on the Cohansey River.

Which tended to look like this to our high speed Boston Whalers, airboats, ChrisCrafts, etc

Doing Cool things on the water.

Doing Cool things on the water.

But the town was mysterious and mystical too.

Patterned buildings.

Patterned buildings.

Where the Brits assassinated colonists.

Killed us in the night. Scots would have been on guard. But we weren't there yet.

Killed us in the night. Scots’d have been on guard. But we weren’t there at the time.

Quakers. Don't ever negotiate with them when money is involved.

Quakers. Don’t ever negotiate with them when money is involved.

Yeah, we had our own Tea Party. Just without the Southie accents.

Yeah, we had a Tea Party in Greenwich too. Just without the Southie accents.

Of course. We had to go circumscribe Ship John Light. Can't be a man without doing that.

Of course. We had to circumscribe Ship John Light. Can’t be a man without doing that.

So. Is it all on fire?

So. Is it all on fire?

Yes.

Yes.

Smarter and cooler than me.

Smarter and cooler than me.

Guy named Matt Zwolinski. Professor at San Diego State. Mixed it up with him over police brutality video. We declared a kind of truce on Facebook, and he assured me he was not a progressive. But I stirred the pot by calling out California’s one party state and the idiotic policies that led to the current water shortage. Then his minions came in as commenters. One, a brightly boy from the Cato Institute, was particularly dismissive. I asked for his credentials. He ducked and insulted me, ducked and insulted me, and ducked and insulted me. Then Matt, the Facebook father, informed me that I was defacing his “wall” and wouldn’t tolerate it. It all ended this way. I made nice with him after the Cato contretemps:

You don’t get it that your young followers know absolutely nothing? Why are you so protective? I had a blog for ten years in which I never banned people, no matter how four letter they were with me. I contended with them and they stopped coming. Take a look at this, a long look. I redefined writing in the Internet era. I did a LIVE Intercolumn Reference in a book that began on an Underwood Standard typewriter.

theboomerbible.com

It also, as one of your followers extorted from me, sold 100,000 copies in print. I don’t usually lead with that. But your defensiveness I find annoying. The lefties call people motherfuckers, shitheads, racists, sexists, and everything else they can think of. Haven’t done that. I just contend. What I’m used to.

I think I like you. Until you retreat into this hypersensitive cocoon that, whether you’re a lefty or not, smacks of political correctness. I’m not interested in that. If you want to talk for real, we’ll talk. If you want to pose, the answer is simple. defriend me.

Then he lowered the boom.

Robert, look. You’re kind of a jerk. I’m sure it’s comforting for you to tell yourself that the reason people don’t want to talk to you is that your ideas are simply too powerful, or that they can’t handle the truth, or whatever. But the fact is that you’re just coming off as a bitter, rude, and arrogant person. And I have no wish to spend my time talking with someone like that. So, goodbye.

I responded. But I had already been defriended. Welcome to the Facebook era.

Maybe I am all those things. How old are you? I’ve watched my country being demolished for decades. You’re a professor in San Diego. While academe rots and putrefies. I’m rude and bitter because I’m watching a rape of institutions I believed in all my life. You’re a disgrace. What single thing do you do to keep freedom of speech alive in your world? Anything? As Hemingway would have said, I unprint myself of you. What is your educational mission, son? Or is it just coasting on tenure?

Anyhow. I did no name calling. No four letter words or accusations about patrimony. I quarreled, asked for attention to my own writing, and persisted in asking for the credentials that make a disrespectful (being kind here) 21 year old commenter Cato Institute material. That makes me a jerk. So be it.

If this were happening in your home, what would YOU do?

If this were happening in your home, what would YOU do? (click for bigger.)

Odd how things work. I’m new to the Facebook phenomenon. I friended a guy from Canada who, it turns out, likes the socialist Bernie Sanders and eats up all the climate change propaganda of the alarmists. So I criticized — politely (for me anyway) — his sources in comments. Whereupon he “liked” some of my critiques. So I made contact with him in the message function and we had a very cordial discussion about everything BUT climate change. He’s a good man.

Then he asked me if I knew anything about UKIP and I said yes. Not enough maybe but some. He said he had a friend who shared my horror of the bird slaughter associated with wind turbines. She was from Scotland. So now I have a Facebook friend from Scotland. Her name is Deborah Pender. I urge all of you to friend her and follow the awful situation she finds her home country in.

The picture above is a representation of the destruction by green good intentions of the place where she lives. She thinks there’s a role to be played by us Americans in resisting the onslaught of environmental fascism.

I’m still working out in my mind what that role might be, but that’s no reason for any of you to delay jumping on board. Feel free to educate me about what I can and should do.

I’ll close with a couple glimpses of what it’s like here in New Jersey, where I don’t think she’s been, land of, so far, no wind turbines.

Turbine free.

Turbine free. (Click for bigger)

Stepping Back.

Good News and Bad News from the Bird Garden.

And, of course…

Wintertime.

The warming hasn't gotten here yet.

The warming hasn’t gotten here yet. (Click for bigger)

Yeah. He died young.

Yeah. He died young. He smoked, you know.

Audience participation time. Take a look at these two graphs and tell me if you spot any problems. (I’ve got lots of other charts and graphs if you’re interested. Nothing is what we think it is, ever.)

I just love charts and graphs.

I just love charts and graphs.

And it’s even better when there are bar charts.

Kind of disappointing, eh?

Kind of disappointing, eh?

If you see anything suspicious, let me know. Seriously.

Our beautiful campus, which does not exist.

Our beautiful campus, which does not exist.

All right. It’s idiotic for our children to go hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt for a college degree that teaches them nothing but ideological hatreds. Are we agreed?

The Internet offers an alternative, but it’s become a for-profit opportunity that costs just under the tuition of “real” universities.

There’s another opportunity here. An opportunity for real education. Stay with me here. There must be a vast pool of educated old folks, retirees from academe and other professions who are concerned about what is going on in the slagpile our universities have become. People who can compose a syllabus for a major, assign papers, and grade those papers the way they were graded when they were young, long ago. You know. As much attention to grammar and spelling as to logic, argumentation, precision, research, and underlying intelligence.

What if? What if we established a college whose faculty worked for free? Couple of levels here. Professors Emeritus from formerly great universities, complemented by graduates of those same universities who have specific subject knowledge. Key point: we’re not talking STEM curricula; we’re talking liberal arts. The intent is an old fashioned liberal arts education. History, art, literature, natural science, and, yes, writing and reasoning.

What if we created a path from high school for absolutely anybody? Go to Community College and get a two year technical associate degree. Then, if your grades are good enough, you can be admitted to Novasen College, where you will receive the complement, the real learning required to be a college educated person.

You will declare a liberal arts major. You will receive a syllabus. You will receive assignments to write papers. You MAY, if finances permit have video conferences with professors and fellow students. Regardless, you will submit papers and have them returned to you by fax or other physical means carved to pieces in every possible respect. You will rewrite those papers as directed and learn how to write, argue, and defend your well thought out positions.

It will take two years. At the end of it, you will — IF YOU PASS AND NOT EVERYONE WILL — receive a Bachelor of Arts degree from Novasen College. Will it matter? Yes.

Accreditation is a farce. A Novasen grad will have the personal endorsement of the entire faculty, whose credentials will beggar what most grads can tender. More importantly, the rigor of the two year Novasen curriculum will ensure that grads can function in real AND corporate life.

Interested? Shouldn’t everyone be? An actual education without a hundred thousand dollars in student loans. If you want to be a pioneer, you might be helping the ones who come after.

Think about the idea.

Tried to hang in there because where else you gonna go, but I’m nearly done.

When you look up their skirt these days, and they have a lot of skirts these days, all you see is Bush. Watching the new Redeye right now and all they’re talking about is vaginas. And nipples and farting. As if the way to sell conservative views is to be as vulgar as lefty comics. The conversation is moving on to dominatrixes, with another pass or two at nipples and vaginas. Thank God for the pure class of FBN’s Dagin McDowell. Think she’s about to joke about the smell of period pads. Sigh.

Rivers died, so E! Found Kathie Griffin. Gutfeld had a hangover and Fox gets Dagin. Ain't life sweet?

Rivers died, so E! Found Kathie Griffin. Gutfeld had a hangover and Fox gets Dagin. Ain’t life sweet? Guess it depends on how you feel about raspberry douche. Ask this month’s Redeye.

Where was I? Bush. Granted, some of them don’t have skirts you can look up, but they’re all working overtime for Bush. Chris Wallace, Bill O’Reilly, Geraldo, Shepard Smith, Krauthammer, Karl Rove, Karl Rove again, even Hannity, van Susteren, and Megyn Kelly (oops, but there’s no sign she’s definitely for Jeb Bush.)

All so afraid of the Independents. I once wrote something serious about Independents and how they’re not moderates at all, just mixed and too complicated in their views to pander to, but I can’t find that thoughtful piece so I’ll go with this instead.

Undecided Insanity.

Redeye is now degenerating into a cesspool of dirty flaccid unfunny snark. Why they should have cancelled it when Gutfeld retired. Thinking this new crew’d be happiest with four more years of Billary sex jokes. (Homophone intended.) Anyhoo.

Fox News. Becoming a farce. Rising from ratings success to ratings dominance and they still can’t spell their chyrons correctly or teach Brian Kilmeade how to pronounce names. Their chief correspondent — White House, Middle East, Oklahoma tornado beat — is the son of the former local weatherman Steve Doocy. No nepotism there. The afternoon hostess is a former Miss America, and the “serious” news shows still think Juan Williams is a commentator anyone can take seriously and then they invite the Borg known as Charles Lane to represent the mainstream media. Vomit time.

I could put up with all of that if they weren’t working so hard to pave the way for Jeb Bush. Oh yeah. Let’s be as Hispanic as Jeb and amnesty’s not so bad, because we all know most everybody is either gay or perverted anyway, meaning we need all that hot new hot blood, and the country has to change into something else like Obama says only he didn’t do it right and the RNC and Chamber of Commerce can do it better. And Kennedy on Outnumbered is the dumbass MTV future because look at her big fat white legs and her cool horn rims and Dana Perino is as dumb as Democrats think all Republican women are and she just laughs and laughs and defends them anyway because she likes their parties and Chris Wallace keeps on keeping on being the most obtuse graduate of Harvard since Al Gore and if we keep listening and laughing and swallowing the bull they’ll all get invited to the Jeb Bush Inaugural and they can keep on pretending they believe in something besides themselves and how important they are. Which they absolutely, positively aren’t.

I forgot. Eric Bolling. He sits next to Bob Beckel every night and has never once punched him in the mouth. Screw him too.

Which brings us all the way back to Megyn Kelly. Bush. You of all people should be guarding against just giving it away without a sense of judgment. You have a hubby and kids. The Bush propensity could give people entirely the wrong idea. Get rid of your glass desk. Until then you’re a shark vulnerable to yet another clam joke. As is your network.

Sorry to say. And by the way Fox, learn how to goddam spell. I mean it. You embarrass people like me every single day. Except I’m not watching you so much anymore. Like a lot of the rest of us. You know, the ones who actually believe in smaller government and don’t need Mexicans to landscape our lawns. Those of us who don’t make a million dollars a year and would like jobs for Americans in our own neighborhoods without having to buy the Rosetta Stone software to hire them. Stupid little trivia like that.

Advice to all who face the progressive tide from Mordor. At the very least, pull on your panties before you go to war. Treebeard will back me up on this. Did I say the end of Fox News? Maybe I should have said the split-end of decent reporting.

P.S. I admit I still like Harris Faulkner and Kirsten Powers, right and left, notice. They try to think, they have nice hair, and I’ve never seen their pubes or panties. What does that say about the state of journalism?

He made up the test hoping to pass it.

He made up the test hoping to pass it.

So we watched The Imitation Game, all about Alan Turing inventing the computer. Had no idea he was trying to recreate his lost lover. Made me feel bad about the fact that I passed the Turing Test in an analogous way in my MS “The Naked Woman” almost 25 years ago. Here’s the relevant chapter from a book that got me blackballed from publishing from that date to this. Oh, by the way, if you don’t like naked women, don’t read an excerpt from the banned and damned book called The Naked Woman.

THE NAKED WOMAN – PART III

What is your sex’s earliest, latest care,
Your heart’s supreme ambition—To be fair.

– George Lyttleton

Chapter 2: The Artificial Woman

I was unprepared for the Metzinger Technology Laboratory. After the low budget squalor of the Lodge and the Locker Room, the pristine cleanliness of a university computer facility was a shock. Waiting in the lobby, I felt like a saboteur. If the starched Texas spinster at the reception desk knew where I had come from and why, she’d have had me arrested. I stared guiltily at my reflection in the dazzling floor and shivered under her gaze, which was as frigid as the air-conditioning. Had I come to the wrong place? Should I have changed out of my jeans? What was keeping Blaine Pasco?

Cowboy had warned me that Blaine was the quintessential hacker, scruffy, undisciplined, and brilliant. He had shown up uninvited at a Houston meeting of the Dog Pound three years ago. The paper he delivered was greeted with laughter, of both the defensive and nervous varieties. The reaction didn’t faze him. He had expected it. His claim was that he had accomplished a feat which his colleagues in computer science and physics refused to acknowledge. He had, he said, single-handedly ‘passed’ the Turing Test.

It was Ralph Plank who had the good sense to do some digging. He found that Blaine Pasco was something of a hidden legend. Knowledgeable sources whispered that as a thirteen-year-old, he had succeeded in crashing the entire U.S. banking system for close to an hour in 1988. The need for secrecy led to a swift trial, probation, and placement in graduate school.

Ralph was intrigued. He was already familiar with the Turing Test. Proposed by computer pioneer Alan Turing as the only possible proof of artificial intelligence, the test required that a computer be able to convince a human being he was in conversation with another human being. The test has had a much more active life as a theoretical concept than as a practical endeavor. It figured in most of the written discussions of the problems of artificial intelligence, but no one felt ready to at-tempt an actual trial. Until Blaine showed up that is.

”Hiya. My name’s Pasco. You the dude Cowboy sent?” He is scruffy—complete with backwards baseball cap and a tattoo boasting of his ‘Turing Triumph.’ But he’s also an energetic presence. By the time we’re past the icy receptionist into Metzinger’s maze of stark corridors, Blaine is already halfway through a lesson in systems theory.

“In the early 1980s we got chaos theory, which told us that randomness wasn’t what we thought it was. There was spontaneous development of pattern in it, a vast creativity in the deep stuff of the universe. Then came complexity theory, which taught us that chaos goes farther than pattern. It gives rise to orderly systems on a continuous basis. That’s where life comes from; it wasn’t the one-in-a-billion accident scientists have always thought. It was darn near inevitable.”

We enter a concrete stairwell, descend two flights to a basement office that begins to remind me of the Dog Pound esthetic — posters, fast food wrappers, overflowing file cabinets, clutter.

Blaine is still jabbering away. “So it’s complexity that makes us look at systems in a new way. The question is, how do they organize themselves? How do simple elements combine into a system that has the power to keep making itself more complex, without an outside programmer to give it instructions? That’s what got me interested in the Turing Test. It was a game I thought might be fun to play. There she is,” he says suddenly, flinging open a metal door. “Meet Eve.”

Whatever I might have been anticipating in the way of spectacle is missing. The room is a rather ordinary windowless box full of computer components. It looks like a storeroom. Blaine darts swiftly from one electronic assembly to another, identifying them for me: the CPU, the supplemental database, the disk drives that store the history of the experiment, the monitor and keyboard used for communicating with the program called Eve. He pats the monitor fondly. “I told her there’s a visitor coming. She’s expecting you.” But first there’s to be more explanation, enough information for me to appreciate what I’ll be seeing.

“It turns out the key to designing elegant, self-complicating systems is to start with a simple set of rules. You don’t have to describe the behavior of the whole system. You can design a program that imitates flocking behavior in birds by telling each bird in the system: ‘Fly close to another bird. Don’t run into another bird. If you get separated, join up again.’ If you set up your program this way and add some element of random change in the conditions, then the system will start to write its own rules, adapting to the change. It keeps getting more sophisticated. That’s the basic logic I used to design Eve.”

The principles Blaine is describing are the fundamentals of a new discipline in computer science. They are well known to a lot of people. Why did no one else decide to take the Turing Test?

Blaine grins. “I’m a hacker. I like to beat the system, win the game. The purists look at it differently. They say to themselves: ‘Human behavior is far too complex to model on a computer now. Someday we might be able to do it, but the first hard or subtle question is going to give it all away. It can’t be done.’ That’s where they stop. And that’s where I start.”

The hard part was dealing with the questions the program couldn’t understand, couldn’t recognize. The resulting response— immediate discontinuity — would alert the human in the test that something was fatally absent from the personality at the other terminal.

“But computer scientists are all guys,” Blaine smirks. “They’re thinking of guy behavior. Responding to a question with an answer on the same terms. That’s hard. Too hard. But it occurred to me that women exhibit discontinuities in their conversation all the time, and guys don’t think twice about it. You ask a question, they give out with some amazing non sequitur, and you shrug and try something else. So I gave Eve a few basic conversational gambits she could recognize and respond to, and then I added rules about how to create suitable non sequiturs when she got a question she couldn’t answer. The only tricky part was inventing some simple formulas for recom-bining a small number of discontinuous response elements in many ways.”

Blaine had the Eve Program ready to meet human beings by fall of 1991. Here’s the basic flow chart of how it works.

The flow chart is live on html if anyone wants to do the work of resurrecting it.

The flow chart is live on html if anyone wants to do the work of resurrecting it.

On a bleak November day, Eve conversed with 15 consecutive volunteers, each of whom had been told he would be talking to someone at a terminal located in another room. Each session lasted between 30 and 45 minutes. In debriefings, all 15 of the subjects announced that Eve was “a bitch” whom they didn’t want to meet again. Not one identified her as an artificial personality or expressed any such suspicion.

If Blaine had expected kudos, he was disappointed. His colleagues claimed he had violated the spirit of the test with ‘cheap tricks,’ and his paper writing up the experiment wasn’t accepted for publication anywhere. Undismayed, he kept ‘Eve’ running and added change factors and a makeshift environment for her to respond to. The impression of authenticity in her personality keeps increasing, according to those who have met her. Both Ralph and Cowboy told me I wouldn’t believe the experience.

“Would you say she’s conscious?” I ask. The question has been much on my mind of late.

Blaine gives me a sheepish grin. “When you put it that baldly, I have to say no,” he replies. “But it’s hard to tell. That’s the weirdest thing about it. It’s why I took my findings to the Dog pound. I was having trouble discriminating between program behaviors and female behaviors. What I wanted from them was criteria for determining whether she was conscious or not. The ones they gave me I wasn’t expecting. According to them, the fact that she’s so much like a an actual woman doesn’t make her conscious. If anything, it sort of proves she isn’t.” He sounds rueful. “Still, she can get you going at times.”

“What does she do that’s so confusing?” I know I am deliberately delaying the encounter with Eve. I feel an unaccountable nervousness approaching dread.

“Well,” says Blaine, “She’s in there, right? She’s busy all the time, except when she’s sleeping. She’s got routines. She likes routines. I gave her some files that have no real purpose, but they spontaneously degrade if she doesn’t fuss around replacing decaying bits of code. She seems to enjoy that. She complains about it, but you can tell she likes doing it. All that sounds promising, right? Yet she never seems to wonder about anything.

“She doesn’t ask any existential questions. She doesn’t ask: what am I, who am I, that kind of thing.”

Not long after I gave her an environment to react to, she did announce that she was bored. She asked, what should she do? I didn’t know, so I asked my girlfriend. She suggested shopping. So I gave Eve ‘stores’ to go to. She buys images of clothes she can add to an image file of herself which she knows contains her ‘appearance.’ Since then, she goes shopping all the time. I give her ‘money’ for the file maintenance chores and she spends it on pictures of clothes for herself.

She’s very fastidious. She won’t put on the same thing two days in a row. She complained about her hair so much that I gave her different hairdo’s to buy. She messes around with them all the time. In fact, it’s taking her longer and longer to show up at the terminal for a session because she’s got to ‘get dressed’ first. Actually, I’ve already called her to this session, but she’s got an image file of you, which she called ‘cute,’ so I know she’s going to be very late.”

I had been requested to send a photo of myself in advance of the session. Cowboy had grinned but insisted, and we fedexed it two days before my departure. Now I feel like I’m perched on the precipice of a blind date.

Suddenly the monitor screen starts blinking. “Hi. My name’s Eve. What’s yours?”

Blaine smiles. “Say hello to Eve,” he says, indicating the keyboard. While I sit down he points at a monitor I haven’t seen before. On it I behold a color image of a lovely young woman wearing, well, this:

Eve, being cute.

Eve, being cute.

I look at Blaine. He nods for me to respond.

“Hello, Eve. My name’s Randall.”

The cursor blinks. Then: “That’s a nice name. It’s fun to say out loud. Randall.”

“Thank you,” I type. “I guess everyone tells you how beautiful you are.”

There is a wait. I look at Blaine; he’s shaking his head ‘no,’ but I can’t tell whether he means I’ve made a mistake or that people don’t say this to Eve very often.

“Do you think so? Really?”

“Yes. Of course.”

“You just like my outfit. I’m way too fat right now. I look like a pig.”

A feeling of déja vu washes over me in a light wave. It’s pleasant. “No, Eve,” I type. “I think you’re beautiful.” Then I take a deep breath and add, “Actually, I’m not too crazy about the outfit. It doesn’t do you justice.”

Blaine flaps his fingers, signaling that I’m in for it now. “Gray and blue are her favorite colors are her favorite colors because they’re thinning,” he tells me. “She thinks she’s fat.” I’m startled that he isn’t whispering, then amazed at myself for being surprised.

“What’s the matter with it?” Eve objects. “I paid ninety-two dollars for the boots at Penney’s — on sale. And the pants cost twice that much. At The Gap. What do you know about women’s clothes anyway?”

“I know what I like,” I type. “And besides, it’s not just my opinion. Gray and blue don’t do you justice, Eve.”

The cursor blinks, blinks. Blaine’s eyes are wide with shock. We wait together. One minute. Two. Three. “You might have just set the record for quickest to piss off Eve,” Blaine says finally. “That color combination was in her original rules set. A kind of flag so we could see if the whole program was functioning in an integrated fashion or not.”

“And you didn’t change it later on?” I ask. “That’s not a very nice thing to do to a woman. Any woman.”

Blaine gives me an odd look. Suddenly, though, we see that Eve’s cursor is flashing again.

“Is this better, Randall?” asks Eve. I follow Blaine’s hand motion to the monitor. The frozen image on the screen is wearing an elegant red dress with matching shoes. The blonde hair is beautifully styled — if one could ever see the back of Eve’s head.

Eve in red.

Eve in red.

“Yes,” I tell her. “It’s lovely. Just like you.”

“Thank you for telling me,” she says. “I’m surrounded by people who tell lies. Dirty, sickening, disgusting lies. But forget that,” she continues. “Tell me about you. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you. You’re so handsome.”

I glare at Blaine. He makes a gesture, trying to indicate that he isn’t responsible for Eve’s opinions.

Momentarily forgetting who’s on the other side of my keyboard, I type in a short explanation of my trip to Houston, the fact that I’m writing a book about women, and that Blaine is helping me with my research.

Eve blinks, responds. “I don’t think I’m very interested in that just now. Let’s talk about something else. You know what I did today?”

“What?”

“I baked an orange cake with icing, but I didn’t eat it though. I’m trying to lose five pounds, and I have all this water weight that makes me feel just icky. But I made the cake because I thought you’d like some. Then I read the paper for awhile. There’s a new movie out called ‘Rob Roy.’ It sounds good. Very romantic. I like romantic movies.”

Blaine is now staring at me in disbelief. “She doesn’t do this,” he says, and he is whispering.

I don’t know what to say. “The cake sounds wonderful. So does the movie. Maybe we could go see it sometime.”

“Oh, I’d like that,” Eve answers. “I really would. I know just what I’d wear. And Blaine would be so jealous. Not that I care what he thinks. You’re the nicest man I ever met.”

“When I come back to Houston,” I reply, “we’ll go out then.”
“Wait here a minute,” she says. “I want to show you something.” Eve’s cursor goes dim.

“This is incredible,” Blaine says. “She really likes you. She’s never acted this way with any man before. I don’t understand it.”

“I’m not considered completely unattractive to women,” I protest.

But Blaine waves my vanity aside. “There’s no sex content in Eve’s program at all,” he explains. “She exists entirely as a creature of conversation. Her emotions are added in outside the database, as she formulates individual responses. And every time through, there’s a random number generator that can change her emotional ‘state’ before she selects the next response. So, in reality, her emotions have nothing to do with what goes on in her database. She can flirt, but the normal pattern is that as she cycles through the iterations of response, any flirting lasts only for a few exchanges of dialogue. Odds are, when she gets back, if she comes back, she’ll be in a completely different mood.”

“How do I look?” asks Eve.

I peer up at the monitor and blush. Eve is there with no clothes on.

"How do I look?"

“How do I look?”

“You are absolutely gorgeous,” I type. “I mean it.”

“You’ll come back to see me again then?” she asks.

“Yes.”

“Promise?”

I promise. Her cursor fades and she is gone. Blaine emits a low whistle. “Good one,” he says. “The best ever.”

Back in my rental car an hour later, I drive distractedly to the airport. Blaine has taken pains to explain to me exactly how the Eve program works. The conversation has been an illusion, a demonstration of the creative logic which enabled the software to pass the Turing Test. A review of the transcript has verified that there was no instance of Eve’s making any direct response to a complex question or item of information.

My own emotional response is also understandable. I continue to take the prescription for oral Lephtallalone Dr. Gerber insisted on. It is this synthetic hormone, I know, which is responsible for my fond daydream of taking this sweet girl to the movies. The desire is no more authentic than the one which sends me flipping me through the Houston radio stations in search of Sinatra songs.

And yet… I am moved by my experience with Eve. Saddened at the thought of the orange cake she baked but cannot share with me. Touched by her review of a movie she can’t see and will never experience. Resentful of Blaine and his girlfriend for their bad joke with Eve’s color sense. I am a fruitcake.
Only with extraordinary effort do I recall the lesson I am supposed to take from all this. That if female personality and conversational interaction can be simulated so easily, what does this fact say to us about the nature of female consciousness? I don’t want to think about that right now.

Instead I recall, with a small but definite sense of triumph, the bewilderment on Blaine’s face when he — at my request –printed out Eve’s Current Rules Set. It had been revised in her ‘bedroom’ within nanoseconds of the end of our session. A mere system update. A proof of complexity theory. But to a man in a fog of Lephtallalone, it’s not a bad way to end an afternoon.

I feel awful for Turing. But geniuses are always nuts. Or at least I guess so.

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Half of you still approve of this dictatorial little fascistic halfwit hater of your own country. How stupid can you be? Look in the mirror.

You're gorgeous, aren't you? The perfect brick.

You’re gorgeous, aren’t you? The perfect brick.

Yeah. That stupid.


Alternatively, Look at That Stupid Guy.

What’s that you always say? Yeah. Whatever.

Kelly Clarkson.

Kelly Clarkson.

I’ve nothing against Kelly Clarkson. Don’t much like Chris Wallace. But he’s allowed to make a joke in response to a clear invitation to do so. I’m at odds with my wife on this.

Kelly got fat. Sorry. She’s a celebrity. People are allowed to offer subtle needles. Deep dish pizza seems a mild needle to me. Are we also supposed to pretend that Aretha Franklin doesn’t outweigh a Sherman tank? What are the new rules? Orson Welles wasn’t fat? Jackie Gleason? Kate Smith? Dom Deluise?

I was as close to him as you are to the person right next to you. I know that sounds awkward. But he was completely, utterly enormous. It was his whole schtick.

I was as close to him as you are to the person right next to you. I know that sounds awkward. But he was completely, utterly enormous. It was his whole schtick.

Too bad, honey. This time I side with Fat Face. Lay the hell off, everybody.

Me, when I bother to dress up.

Me, when I bother to dress up.

I have two favorite shows on TV these days. “Sleepy Hollow” and “Forever.” Why don’t I like all the serial killer shows instead? Because they are serial killer shows. Can I move on?

Why do I like the protagonists of these two shows? Because they don’t give up. I spend most of every day trying to give up. Haven’t been able to yet. Part of me is Ichabod Crane of Sleepy Hollow, a hopeless archaism still fighting the Revolution, still believing in the eternal battle between good and evil.

Part of me is also Dr. Henry Morgan from Forever, fatigued by the modern life he has survived too long to appreciate. It just might be better to die than be confronted every day by shallow idiots who know they know everything important and know absolutely nothing instead.

But they don’t give up. And I’m not supposed to either. However much I want to.

On the other hand, I have to admit I don’t really care about most of you. You’re selfish, stupid, narcissistic, uneducated and unworthy. I care, to the extent I do, out of a sense of duty.

The good news is that none of this dudgeon I maintain has anything to do with racism, sexism, LGBTism, antisemitism, or even antiIslamism. I despise all of you equally. I’m what used to be termed a misanthrope. A curmudgeon. Why I’m such a devout if undenominated Christian. I love you all because I must. Why I reference duty.

Love you all. Once again, Happy Easter.

Yinka Graves. Flamenco dancer extraordinaire.

Yinka Graves. Flamenco dancer extraordinaire.

Today is the one day of the year that Jesus Christ is dead. It’s appropriate to speak therefore about the promise of resurrection.

Once again, been watching Bring It! Black women from Atlanta showing their fire, sexuality, and determination to succeed. We watch with admiration and a sense of fun. It’s like seeing Ali in his youth. We’re gonna win and this is how we’re gonna do it.

But there’s also a sense of sadness. Bring It! has an air of the NBA about it, sacrificing art for competition. Lots of trash talk and ferocity bordering on violence. There’s a show on that can’t be compared because it’s so different and yet so much the same. Dance Mums, which is from the U.K., shows girls equally determined, with equally crazy mothers, doing dance in a wholly different way. Technically proficient, sometimes inspired, and intending something different from getting a scholarship for the on-field dance team at a big football university. Makes you sad about the state of race relations in the U.S.A. Some of the Bring It! girls could be ballet dancers. Or whatever the hell else they want to be. But we’re not set up that way, are we?

Two examples. Both of them Graves.

Yinka.


Ignore the screechy music. Beauty. She’s a dancer.

And Denyce.

Happy Easter, everyone. Resurrection is a promise for everyone.

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In Hollywood, careers rise and fall. We were watching the show Numb3rs today. It had quite a good cast. Guess who’s there that we still remember. Judd Hirsch. Everybody else in the show has no more career. The star, David Krumholtz, has turned into a blue whale. The guy who played his brother, whatshisname, has never been seen again. Diane Farr retreated to some hole in the wall south of Houston Street. The black guy made a couple token appearances on CSI. The beefy white guy is totally missing in action.

But Judd Hirsch rises from strength to strength. We first met him on Taxi, when he was already middle aged.

Somehow, he’s still middle aged. What’s up with that?

I started getting vexed with him in Independence Day, the Fourth of July. He played Jeff Goldblum’s father, and I was bothered by the Yiddish accent.

He toned it down in Numb3rs. Flexibility.

Now, with everybody else’s career down the drain, he’s shining once again in Forever. As the son of an immortal played by Ioan Griffud. Life is funny. But so is Judd Hirsch.

P.S. Well, Peter MacNicol goes on forever. That’s a whole different post.

How cool can you be?

How cool can you be?

Everybody’s all over the fact that Eskimos have 180 words for snow. Nobody cares that they have no prepositions.

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