Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Few Good Chapters

Chapter 4: Stay out of the Inflow

George Washington 2.0, UTS's approximation of the first President, becomes a firefighter in a small rural town.  His masterscript, bestowed with a generous amount of folklore, impels the robot to perform fantastically heroic acts.  The firefighter, trademark hatchet in hand, goes to work when his community is threatened by a tornado and does all but ride the tornado out of town.  

Chapter 6: Recognizing the Danger of Blade Contact 

After buying his first home on the outskirts of an ecological reserve,   Toby Winslow is caught uneasily between the dwindling old world of nature - armadillos, bugs and brush - and the revolutionary world of suburban machines - hedge trimmers, chainsaws and rotary tillers.  His fears inspire him to create a lawn mower that he can operate by remote control from the safety of his home.  Design advice comes from Thomas Randolph (née Thomas Jefferson), a quaint and childlike neighbor whose gadget-cluttered home resembles Pee Wee's Playhouse.  Highlighted through the episode are Jefferson's views on subjects ranging from individualism to poinsettias.   

 Chapter 9: An Eye for an Eye, A Tire for a Tire 

Fred Reule visits an Alzheimer ward looking for his long-lost father.  Reule, who never met his father or even saw a picture of him, ends up mistaking the faux Andrew Jackson for his father.  He is so moved by the meeting that he invites the old gentleman to come to live with him and his wife.  It doesn't take long for Jackson, with his lack of discipline and violent code of honor, to disrupt Fred's quiet domestic life.  The robot goes on destructive benders, brings home a gamecock, and draws a sword on a shifty tire salesman.  

Chapter 16: Sparks 

Eva develops a close relationship with Chester Arthur.  She hardly knows this man and yet her heart jumps whenever he appears.  Her failed marriage resulted from a similar excitement and that, for sure, is a mistake she's determined not to make again.  In case love is only animal magnetism, she's prepared to ditch the whole irrational process and take a vow of celibacy.  Love should never be this thing – this hormonal proclamation exploded across the sky to confirm two lovers' chemical compatibility.  Eva may get her way, after all, for little does she know that, when she hugs Arthur, the bloated belly pressing up against her has silicone packages mimicking human fat and those tears welling up in his sympathetic eyes are much like wiper fluid.  In truth, the survival of this affair depends on love not being essentially a biological process.

Chapter 18: Blunt Trauma

Grover Cleveland, a lawyer specializing in aquatic injuries, goes against a sophisticated computer which can estimate with great accuracy how a jury will react to different evidence and presentations.  Its comprehensive data includes everything from attitude surveys of local residents to analyses of jurors' handwriting.  It can even mingle with other computers to probe a juror's financial and medical records.  The computer's inauguration falls to a big-budget defense team preparing to make the case that a water park kept its Dragon Slide in a reasonably safe condition and warned patrons of all foreseeable risk. 

Cleveland understands that, to a jury, the character of his client will be as important, if not more important, than the character of the water slide.  His client, Doug Cain, is not likely to earn the jurors' sympathies.  Cain, a horny coot, dragged his young grandson through the park while he scoped out young women in bikinis.  It was while showing off for a bathing beauty - howling, mugging, chest-beating - that he sallied down the slide improperly and managed to bust his neck.  Cleveland works hard to depict Cain as a playful grandfather whose behavior encouraged his grandson to go down the slide as opposed to dirty old man whose reckless behavior may have contributed to the accident.  The outcome of the trial depends on which machine can better comprehend and exploit the intricacies of human sentiment.

Chapter 21: Small Streams Can Be Deceiving  

William Howard Taft has a carefree job of reading children's stories in the city park.  He shares his vast legal knowledge by slipping basic points of law into "Rumpelstilzkin" (verbal contracts) and "Humpty Dumpty" (personal injury).  The calm is disturbed by Teddy Roosevelt, who arrives on the scene looking for his old friend to join him on a bear hunt.  Taft, whose model had never pursued game larger than a duck, is hesitant at first, but he soon sets aside his doubts and agrees to come along.  A rigorous, mishap-filled trek across wild terrain taxes the novice.  No matter how hard he tries, he is barely able to keep pace with his fearless, tenacious companion.  Teddy, infatuated with the big game stalk, barrels through every obstacle and turns a deaf ear to Taft's pleas for caution.  Taft grows terrified as his friend's increasingly reckless, gung-ho methods threaten to get them killed.  The partnership faces its greatest test when the pair encounter a legendary grizzly known as Old Champ.  

Chapter 22: The Labors of an Undertaker 

The late Mildred Stinson stipulated in her will that she wanted the glamorous send-off usually reserved for movie stars.  Calvin Coolidge, a high-priced undertaker, becomes responsible for mounting the Hollywood-style funeral.  Trouble arises when a student embalmer disfigures the cadaver's face.  With the aide of a special effects wizard, the undertaker relies on a true Hollywood illusion to save the day.

Chapter 23: The Saga of the Creaky Runners

Harry Truman, a scrappy cab driver, participates in the Senior Citizens Olympics.  The event draws media attention when former action star Doug Arnold joins the competition.  The actor, flamboyant and egotistical, becomes a constant irritant to Truman.  Old Harry’s bitter rivalry with Dwight Eisenhower hadn’t been half as bad as this. 

Chapter 25: The Dilapidated Highway

In the Lone Star State, the LBJ robot embarks on a joyride on his model's namesake freeway.  This unnerves a young trooper, who assumes the unruly driver is none other than the ghost of the Texas legend.

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