Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Man Eating Bookworm Blog

I thank Peter Andrew Leonard for allowing me to be a guest blogger on the Man Eating Bookworm blog.  This was a great opportunity to plug Life, Liberty. . . and all the rest and express my views on humanoid robots.  My article can be found at http://themaneatingbookworm.blogspot.com/2011/06/guest-blog-post-anthony-balducci.html.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hail to the. . . beep!!!

A robot president might be an improvement over the current assortment of losers vying for high political office.  At least a robot wouldn't tweet its junk to a young woman or curl up in bed with the maid.

 I could easily accept AI (Artificial Intelligence) over NI (No Intelligence).

When someone wrongs you, it is your duty as a self-respecting, God-fearing man to demand satisfaction.  And we don't mean going down to the courthouse and wasting time filing papers.  Complaints.   Petitions.  Motions.  Leave it to the old ladies to handle their quarrels in that manner.  It is unmanly to dawdle when your pride and good name is at stake.  Men are morally obligated to dispatch a villain at first light.  They need to get him out on an open field and send him straight to his maker.  God is, after all, the ultimate judge and he should be the one to reckon with that sorry soul.

Our experienced instructors will teach you the appropriate shot for every offense.  A man insults your wife and you want his death to be long and painful.  You need to shoot him in a particular area of the stomach so that you don't destroy a vital organ but you assure the man will bleed to death before he can be  taken to a hospital.  A lesser offense, such as a man allowing his dog to shit on your lawn, calls for a clean head wound.  It would be gross and sadistic to have the man suffer long for such a minor transgression.

The Original Brochure for the White House 2 Exhibit

Make Your Own LBJ Articulated Paper Doll

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.

Robot Quiz

Is a book about robots for you?  You can test your appreciation of robots by answering the following ten questions.

What is the name of this robot?

A. Mechagodzilla

B. G-9000

C. Megalon

D. Gigan

Which movie featured an evil Keanu Reeves robot?

A. Sweet November

B. Johnny Mnemonic

C. Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey

D. Hardball

In which movie is Robin Williams a robot who just wants to be accepted as a human?

A. A.I.

B. Bicentennial Man

C. Good Will Hunting

D. Being Human

What movie is subtitled "The Rise of the Machines"?

A. Terminator 3

B. Star Wars: Episode II

C. I, Robot

D. Transformers 2

What did "D.A.R.Y.L" stand for in the 1985 kid flick?

A. Digital Automated Replicant Yielding Laser

B. Durable Android Retriever from Yaskawa Limited

C. Data Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform

D. Download-Aided Remote with Yttrium Lining

Which movie featured an evil robot cowboy?

A. Westworld

B. Farscape

C. Logan's Run

D. Last of the Gunslingers

What movie introduced Robby the Robot?

A. The Day the Earth Stood Still

B. Lost in Space

C. Forbidden Planet

D. Flash Gordon

What happened to the robot Maria at the end of the 1926 film Metropolis?

A. She became human

B. She was burned on a stake

C. She was deactivated by her creator

D. She manned a rocket ship into outer space

In the movie Blade Runner (1982), the replicants were equipped with which of the following traits?

A. A four-year lifespan

B. The ability to reproduce

C. Laser-beam eyes

D. A built-in lie detector

What was HAL 9000's response to the following request: "Open the pod bay doors please, Hal."

A. "As you command."

B. "I've just picked up a fault in the AE35 unit."

C. "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that."

D. "Where is Frank?"

Patriotism and Capitalism and Robots

Life, Liberty. . .  and all the rest presents a series of satirical episodes in which newcomers to America struggle to assimilate into the local culture.  Adopting the way of life in their new country is especially difficult because the newcomers are robots.

The story opens at a futuristic amusement park, where robotic clones of the U.S. Presidents room together in a glossy mock-up of the White House.  The robot roomies are less interested in educating the public on the history of the presidency than they are in quarreling among themselves about old grudges.  The exhibit, contrary to the expectations of visitors, has more in common with Real World than Westworld.

The robots, their identities evolving and their ambitions growing, conspire to defect from the exhibit's controlled confines to explore diverse places across the United States.  It is an adventurous and humorous struggle that emerges as the robots establish themselves in the flawed, troubled nation their venerable prototypes helped to create.  Revealed during the course of the story are fascinating facts about the actual presidents - their quirks, their triumphs, their scandals, their loves.  The book plumbs the depths of the presidents for comic possibilities and also seeks out their moral core.  It is America, itself, that is ultimately examined through its most compelling leaders.

My first book, Lloyd Hamilton: Poor Boy Comedian of Silent Cinema, was published by McFarland in 2009.  My second book, The Funny Parts, was sold to McFarland last year and is due to be published in the near future.

The book is recommended to readers who enjoy offbeat, mixed-genre novels and should particularly appeal to fans of the satirical science fiction and fantasy stories of Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, John F. Moore, Jasper Fforde, Robert Asprin or Rudy Rucker.

Westworld Meets West Wing

Robots on the loose!  Amusement park officials have had to deal with the escape of the occasional gorilla or tiger, but never before did they have to take action against the mass exodus of thirty-five robots.  The public is by now aware of the facts of this strange crisis.  When the story broke, it was hard for anyone to believe it.  It sounded like a joke or a publicity stunt.  But neither laughs nor profits were ever to be gained from the story.

The incident came as a shock even to those people closest to the exhibit.  It had been exciting news when the UTS amusement park, famed for introducing breakthrough technologies to the entertainment field, first announced plans to showcase robotic clones of the United States presidents.  Jack Gelbert, the director of the exhibit, boasted that his programmers had succeeded in distilling the essence of these legendary statesmen.  The programs were carefully arranged to convey the Presidents' backgrounds, ideological patterns and character traits.   Engineers toiled to capture the quiet strength of George Washington, the joviality of William Howard Taft, the outspokenness of Harry Truman, the fearlessness of Teddy Roosevelt, the charm of John F. Kennedy, the caution of Calvin Coolidge, and the slyness of Martin Van Buren.  It was noted in a brochure that the president models, besides providing an attractive theme for the exhibit, presented "minds molded by vast experience and personalities bonded with great history."

The enterprise started out well as families streamed into the exhibit to meet with the robots.  Playful children bounced on the knee of grandfatherly Chester Arthur and tugged on the whiskers of dour Rutherford B. Hayes.  Men listened eagerly to Dwight Eisenhower's golfing tips while their wives were amused by Harry Truman playing Gershwin on the piano.  But that ended when, after two years of entertaining guests, the robots conspired to slip in among the tourists and exit the park on a series of shuttles.

Staff members said that they had noticed the robots displaying a sense of independence and a growing dissatisfaction with their living situation.  They were plagued by increasing "walkaways," a term used to describe robots engaged in unauthorized outings, and, only weeks before the robots' escape, the Teddy Roosevelt robot coaxed a visiting marine into a boxing match and nearly shattered the man’s jaw.

Inevitably, a controversy arose in regards to the lack of security at the exhibit.  A security camera could alert guards to a 350-pound tiger escaping from its enclosure, but the camera had little effect in this exhibit when the robots were looked so much like real men that they were indistinguishable from park guests.  The exhibit had never been designed to be escape-proof.  Safeguards were designed to only assure that no one could not break into the exhibit as none of the designers ever imagined that the robots would try to break out.  Zoo animals receive a great deal of attention to assure they became well-adjusted to their habitat, but these very human-like robots received little attention or consideration from the staff that maintained the facility.

Glenn Arlington, head of the Barry Corporation's parks and resorts, was quick to reassure the public that the escape of the robots presented no threat to the public.  Still, the news created its own unique brand of hysteria that only worsened in time.

The story of the robots' escape and the daring hunt to recapture them is now the subject of a new book, Life, Liberty. . . and all the rest.