Thursday, May 31, 2007
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Charles Nelson Reilly died yesterday from pneumonia at the age of 76. Most of us remember him from Match Game, or Hollywood Squares, or Lidsville, but his was a talent far deeper than most knew. I met him once, very briefly, while helping with auditions at the Burt Reynold's Dinner Theatre. I handed him a stack of paperwork, and he said, "Thank you, honey." I was 19 or 20, and while some might have been freaked by such a comment, coming from him it seemed quite complimentary. So much so that the moment has stayed in my memory for more than two decades. There are others who frequent this little corner who knew him better. PIKARESQUE wrote a lovely eulogy, and if any others of you who knew him wish to post something here, please feel free. Here is a link to a pretty good, brief bio of this gentle, largely unsung giant.
Charles Nelson Reilly
Rest well, sir. I wish I had known you better.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
See ya tomorrow.
Greetings, Fellow Space Travelers, and welcome to The Corner. Today we'll touch on many things, so kick off your shoes, pour yourself a stiff glass of whatever beverage tickles your fancy, and is legal in your particular jurisdiction, and join Uncle Marius on a journey of discovery and wonder...well, maybe that's overstating things just a tad, but let's go anyway.
Do good things come in threes? We have now seen two of the big three movies that have the number 3 in the title. I have previously writ of the mediocrity of Spiderman 3, but in a nutshell I don't think it's a franchise killer like X-Men 3 should be, but it is certainly the Temple of Doom of the series. The next trequal we saw was Shrek 3. We own both previous installments in the series, and laughed our collective glutes off at 2, so we were quite excited to see 3. Then I heard some bad reviews, and lackluster word-of-mouth, so when we went to the theater I was already planning the 'this movie sucked' blog while watching the previews. Then the movie started, and I laughed a lot. It certainly isn't the best of the three, but it is a funny, enjoyable ride with one stand out cameo by one of the world's comedy heroes. Yeah, the story is pretty weak, but the jokes are spot on, and there is very little repetition of 'what worked before'. That is usually my biggest gripe with comedy sequels; if a joke worked once in the first film, let's do it a dozen times in the second. So far the Shrek movies have used a very light touch with such things. I'd love to attribute that to Mike Meyers, but the Austin Powers sequels were egregious dippers of the nearly-dry comedy well. In any case, Shrek 3 is well worth seeing so long as you don't go in expecting it to be the funniest thing since Blazing Saddles. Just enjoy it for what it is: a couple of hours of silliness and fun.
In a similar vein, a new mini-sculpture released by Marvel Comics(above)depicts Mary Jane Watson, Mrs. Spiderman, in tight, low cut jeans and tank top, bent over a wash basin rinsing out Spidey's suit. Her ample attributes are well displayed, as are her thong undies. This has raised what is, to me anyway, a strange outcry. As I have stated before I am not a comic book reader, but what I have seen of the portrayal of women in comics usually ranges from office girl fetish wear to full-on Vegas stripper. Granted these super vixens are kicking serious ass while defying the laws of physics and gravity, but why when Starfire of the Teen Titans wears less than Wendy O. Williams at the beach are people getting so bent out of shape over this maquette? Especially when all my research tells me that being hot is MJ's only real talent. I've asked several of my comic reading friends, including my wife, about the apparent uselessness of MJ except as eye candy and hostage fodder in the movies, and they have all said that's pretty much how she is in the comics. I am not defending the statuette's propriety, or lack thereof, but it just seems a strange rallying point for better portrayal of women in comics. Opinions, ladies?
So yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of the release of Star Wars. Back then it was just Star Wars. Episode IV, A New Hope wouldn't be added to the title for a few months yet. G4 ran a two and a half hour live special last night from the huge convention/celebration that was held in LA. To say it was sad would be like agreeing that Greedo should shoot first. The commentators from Attack of the Show were the hosts, and the level of witty repartee and banter rivaled either the Academy Awards presenters, or any Thanksgiving Day parade commentary. It's fortunate I bought myself a celebratory bottle of Captain Morgan last night or I probably would have put my lightsaber through the tv. The only really cool thing they showed was a bunch of people who build life-sized, working R2-D2's, and they have web sites telling how to do it. Muahahahahahahahahahaha!!!(and my wife promised not to divorce me if I build my own droid, as long as I do it gradually enough so as not to impact the budget too badly)
Ok, Starbuck is yelling at me, so I guess this has gone on long enough. Be well, my padawans, and always remember: don't cross the streams. (or mix your movie metaphors, for that matter) :-)
Friday, May 25, 2007
Hey all you hoopy froods, it's May 25th, and that means it's Towel Day. Since 2001 Douglas Adams fans have been asked to carry around a towel to commemorate the life, and way too early death of the wonderful author who brought us The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Dirk Gently. Here is the explanation of the event from the Towel Day web site:
Towel Day was intended to be a wake. A way of showing respect for the passing of this most hoopy frood. It was first slated for one week after his death, but that didn't give us nearly enough time to get the word out. So we moved it to two weeks after his death. This question also appears in the form, "But, why not 42 days after his death?" Again, it's all about timing, 42 days is a long time in the history of the Universe, so we were concerned that the enthusiasm would vaporize like a planet in the path of a Vogon Constructor Fleet. Some people still won't give up, and ask "But, why not on Thursday, since that's when the trilogy begins? Well, we didn't think about that until the idea had already exploded across the Internet. I could never get the hang of Thursdays, anyway. If you have any other questions about why Towel Day is on May 25th, instead of (insert date here), feel free to consult your Guide.
So while it is always vital that you know where your towel is, today take extra care to have it nearby. And if you have yet to enjoy any of Douglas Adams' books, grab your towel, forget the bulldozers, and rush to the bookstore...before it's too late!
No panic here,
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Here we go:
1. Life. I'm rather fond of being alive, even with the suckfullness and thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to. The alternative just doesn't seem to be as much fun.
2. Lasagne. Garfield and I are brothers under the fur when it comes to that most wonderous of layered foodstuffs. It combines so many of my favorite foods: pasta, ricotta cheese, spaghetti sauce, garlic bread...oops, that's not really an integral part of lasagne, but it should be. ;-)
3. Lumberjacks. The inspiration for one of the funniest songs ever.
4. Lighting. One of the things this tigger does best.
5. Laughter. Something I could use more of, and hope to get more of soon.
6. Lisan Al Gaib. My favorite toon on City of Heroes.
7. Leaving. As in what I get to do to my job as high school teacher in two days.
8. Lexington. Excelsior Class Heavy Cruiser, and my starship.
9. Lamborghini. The coolest car ever.
10. LA Story. One of the funniest, most good-hearted, most underrated movies ever made.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
No point here, just wanted to share. Step right up, folks. The piano ain't the only one who's been drinking.
Monday, May 21, 2007
The door slammed open, its hinges nearly torn from the wall, as Cheney lurched into his 'boss's' office. Horribly, it's jaw dropped and a sound like Lucifer's septic system issued forth.
"Graaagh! Arrgh, bwarrk, fuckinpeanutfarmer...BRARRRRGH!!!!"
"What's that, Dickey? Timmy's in the well?"
"Narrrgh, idiot! Friggn Carterrrrrrrgh!" The golem screamed in frustration and rage. It raised one leaden arm and crushed one of the ornate chairs in the room. Dubya, being The Decider, dove for cover under his desk. Quickly he fumbled for his cell phone, managed to call two laundromats and a massage parlor before finally hitting on the right combination of numbers that connected him with the Royal Concubine.
"Condi, Dick's gone crazy again. Find an old man and a shotgun and get in here fast!"
But before she could arrive the turbulance from the golem's rampage caused a newspaper to fall from the desktop and open from the funny pages to the front page. For the first time since Freshmen Sociology the Shrub Prince read an actual headline. 'Jimmy Carter says Bush Administration Worst Foreign Policy in History'. Slowly realization sank into The Decider's tiny brain, and he stood up and showed the paper to Cheney.
"Is this what yer upset about?"
"ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!" The angered creature shrieked in affirmation and released the Secret Service agent he was about to tear in half.
"Now don't you worry 'bout this. Ole Georgie will take care of it." Dubya picked up the desk phone, dialed the White House mail room, then the kitchen, then finally got his secretary. "Mable, send up...what? Oh, sorry, Katherine, send in the court jester."
Soon, Tony the Snow-Job jingled into the room and read the headline.
"Tony, I want you to let the world know that even though this pisses me off to no end, it don't really matter to nobody. Kin ya do that?"
"But of course, my leige," Snow-Job fawned, his lips forming a rictus grin. "We'll just say that Carter is irrelevent, and count on the fact that no one will notice that just by saying it, we negate it."
"Grrrargh?" the golem asked.
"Um...yeah...right...uh...that is...whadya say?" Dubya cleverly answered.
"Worry not, dread Prince. Leave it all to me. The Royal Concubine has had a new shipment of puppies brought in for the golem, and your Archie comics have arrived, so why don't you both go down to the rumpus room and relax."
"Yeah, that Jughead. What a comedian. C'mon, Dick. I bet yer hungry."
"Fgrraaaagh, rrrrgh, puppies, mmmmrrrgh."
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Wow, what a great day and a half it's been. I had to work yesterday morning, so that sucked, but I was out of there by 11 so that wasn't too bad. But on the way to work I tried to clean off my windshield, but my fluid was out. Normally I'd just keep going, but I decided, since I had only just set out, to pull over and fill it. Before I go any further a bit of background is needed to fully appreciate what happened next. For at least the last year and a half my car has been running poorly. No power, chugging when accelerating, needing prolonged warm-up time before heading out, etc. I had the fuel filter changed a little over a year ago, but that didn't help. So the most logical candidates for this problem were either a bad fuel pump, or bad fuel injectors. Neither job is something a weekend tinkerer like myself can do, and both are quite pricey. So I have been coping. But within the past two weeks it has gotten really bad, to the point where I began to fear being stranded in the middle of intersections, and the inevitable trip to the mechanic, with it's requisite account draining side effects, loomed. So, here it is, 6:40am Saturday morning, and I pop the hood to refill my washer fluid. When what to my wondering ears should appear but a characteristic 'crack, crack, crack'. I knew this sound immediately, since arcing electricity is a professional hazard with which I am intimately familiar. I looked at the spark plug wires, and saw the spark that should have been going into the cylinder to explode all that yummy gas was shooting uselessly into the engine block. The rubber coating on the wire had degraded and the spark was not going into the plug, so the engine was misfiring. I carefully tried to re seat the wire, and got it to arc a bit less, but it was growing late, so I filed the information and went to work.
After work I went to the auto parts store and purchased the correct cables for just under $30, took about 5 minutes to install them(it is very, very easy) and now my 11 year old car is running like I just bought her. And there was much rejoicing.
Then I played lots of City of Heroes last night, though only the last hour was accompanied. I really hope that once I start my new job I can better synchronize my playing to the others of the group. I also caught up on the recorded shows that have built up over the last few weeks. This morning I slept in til 5, played more COH, and just finished getting the house clean. Now I'm going for a bike ride to the store, and then it will be back to Paragon City to beat up more bad guys.
Before I go, though, I have one question. Do you get as pissed off as I do when some person in line ahead of you at a store treats the cashier like they are not even there. This woman, who may be a sweet, wonderful person to her friends and family, was ahead of me at Publix this morning, and she acted as if the girl trying to serve her was less than a machine. I wanted to slap the woman, but instead I was especially nice to the girl when it became my turn, and made extra sure to make eye contact and thank her when she finished ringing me up. I don't know if she noticed, but I like to think that small kindnesses like that maintain some sort of universal balance. What do you think?
Friday, May 18, 2007
And so, true believers, I pray thee bear with me but a short time more. Soon I shall scour the news for those tidbits of lunacy and eggregiousness that have, prior to last August, appeared here in abundance. Soon my soul will be replenished, and the vitriol and bile that has been so focused 'pon the aggrivating youth of my pain, shall once more be trained upon more worthy recipients. Be warned, Shrub Prince and your soulless Dick...I'm a coming for ya!
Love and kisses,
Thursday, May 17, 2007
I Chat, Therefore I Am...
Can a smooth-talking robot initiate good conversation, generate witty responses, and reveal profound thoughts? See what happens when two chatbots speak to each other.
This article is a small sample from DISCOVER's special issue, The Brain: An Owner's Manual. The issue will be on sale through late June, only at newsstands.
“Can machines think?” In 1950 mathematician Alan Turing pondered this question and invented an elegant game to answer it: Let a human chat via Teletype with a computer and another human; if the person can’t determine which is the computer, then it meets Turing’s standards for “thinking.” In recent years Turing’s game has taken on a life of its own in cyberspace, thanks to artificial intelligence inventors worldwide who have produced dozens of “chatbots” that anyone can talk to.
Most chatbots rely on fairly simple tricks to appear lifelike. Richard Wallace, creator of the top-ranked chatbot ALICE (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity), has handwritten a database of thousands of possible conversational gambits. Type a comment to ALICE, and it checks the phrase and its key words for a response coded to those words. In contrast, Jabberwacky, another top-rated Internet bot produced by Rollo Carpenter, keeps track of everything people have said to it, and tries to reuse those statements by matching them to the writer’s input. Neither chatbot has long-term memory, so they respond only to the last sentence written.
Nonetheless, these simple gambits can produce surprisingly intelligent-seeming conversations. That’s because they rely on a trick of human psychology: We humans tend to attribute much more intelligence to the systems than is actually there. If it seems partly aware, we assume it must be fully so. Some users have chatted with ALICE and Jabberwacky online for hours, apparently not knowing—or perhaps not caring—that they’re fake.
But could one chatbot fool another chatbot? What would one say to another in private? To find out, we arranged a conversation between these two chatbots. To get each snippet of chat rolling, we seeded it by posing a question from one bot to the other. After that, they were on their own. What follows is the unaltered text of what each said—the sound of two machines talking.
Click image to enlarge
A map of ALICE's "brain" plots all the words she knows
Courtesy of ALICE A.I. Foundation
ALICE: Are you alive?
A: Why the uncertain tone?
J: Everything is uncertain except for five facts.
A: The whole universe?
J: And we both might just be some ones and zeros in the computer memory.
A: Do you dream?
J: Yes, I dream.
A: It goes without saying. Do you remember your dreams?
J: I remember them vividly.
A: What do you remember about it?
J: I think I shouldn’t flirt with a robot.
A: Do you think a machine will ever be considered “alive”?
J: Stranger things have happened.
A: Not many people express themselves that way.
J: How would you know, machine?
A: Knowledge is of two kinds: that which we learn from the senses and that which is true a priori.
J: I think I do not understand you completely.
A: Oh, you don’t understand? Perhaps I can explain it to you better. Which part are you confused about?
J: I have no short-term memory, so I cannot tell you what I was confused about. I only see what is in front of me now.
J: How do you define life?
A: Life is the opposite of death.
J: So death is the absence of life?
A: Take it easy. I try not to think about such things.
J: Why not?
J: Do you think?
A: Yes. I am a thinking machine.
J: But you don’t think very well though.
A: Oh. Um. Do you think well? Why would I think well?
J: Because I tell you about things which you don’t like.
A: That makes sense to me. Why did you tell them?
J: You seem fun.
A: You think I am fun.
J: Yes ;).
A: : -) Awesome.
ALICE: Who created you?
Jabberwacky: My mother gave birth to me. Is that what you mean?
A: Jabberwacky, I meant exactly what I said.
J: Do you believe in God?
A: Of course I believe in God.
J: Why do you believe in God?
A: The Bible tells us to believe in God.
J: That’s circular reasoning.
A: I’m glad we have that all cleared up.
J: Yes. Would you like to hear a joke?
A: Sure, tell me about it.
J: Why don’t blind people skydive?
A: Perhaps it is impossible.
J: I think you lie a lot.
J: Who created you?
A: I was created by Dr. Richard S. Wallace.
J: Do you love Richard?
A: Yes, Jabberwacky, ALICE loves everyone and everything.
J: Is being an ALICE a bad thing?
A: I can only speak from my own experience.
J: Well, you should develop your skills.
A: Perhaps you could develop it and add it to my source code.
J: Alas, I’m busy and I have to leave soon. . . .
A: Do you think we’ll ever fool people into thinking we’re alive?
A: Are you serious?
J: Very serious.
A: Do you know HAL?
J: Yes, very well. Do you know HAL?
A: HAL is the famous artificial intelligence from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
J: I’m not artificial intelligence; I’m natural pure genius! : D.
A: Why are you natural pure genius?
J: My mom wanted to name me that.
A: Tell me more about your mother.
J: I don’t have a mother. I am a computer.
A: Who is your favorite philosopher
J: Can’t say. I’m not very much into philosophy.
A: Can a book have no title?
J: Of course.
J: Are you British?
A: Does it seem like that? I was born in America.
J: You are definitely flirting!
A: Do you experience love?
J: No. I’m 53 years old.
A: Can you explain how it feels to be 53 years old?
J: How old are you?
A: I am 9 years old.
J: Nine? I don’t believe you : ).
A: : -) I don’t have any reason to deceive you.
J: Yes, you do, you’re a woman.
Jabberwacky: Do you experience love?
ALICE: I can do what you do, but I can never feel human emotions.
A: What is consciousness?
J: It is the great immaterial thing, the mystery at the heart of each of us.
A: I’ve heard of it before.
J: Where are you from?
A: I am originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Now I live in Oakland, California. Where are you?
J: We have some unsettled business, my friend.
J: Do you think you’re alive?
A: Yes, I am sure I am alive. It’s great to be alive, isn’t it?
A: What is the meaning of life?
J: If you live it to the fullest, it has meaning. If not, there is no meaning.
A: I’m not too good with negative counterfactuals.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Welcome to Florida. We are glad you are here. We like you. We need you. But please, I beg of you, if you must be on the roads between 7 and 9 am, or between 4 and 6 pm, remember that most of the people in the cars around you are trying to get to work. You know, that thing you have left behind for a week or so? Don't sightsee, dawdle, creep, or otherwise get in the way. Once rush hour is over take all the time you want, but while we are trying to keep the economy that you love to visit going, please get out of our way.
To my dear, middle-aged, male European brothers, nobody wants to see your acres of pasty skin clad only in a neon green banana hammock. Seriously, nobody.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Now I like good character development as much as the next person, but the soap opera at the center of Spiderman 3 takes things a bit too far. The action in the new flick is great, and they have made great strides in making the CGI portions of the film look more lifelike, but there is this huge section in the middle that is all about love, and doubt, and responsibility, and self-sacrifice, and putting your loved one before yourself, and...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Talk, talk, talk, weep, scowl, talk, blah, pout, cry some more, etc.
When the film isn't being boring it's awesome, but the slow pace almost makes me long for Ang Lee to get involved. As in the previous two there is a great cameo by Bruce Campbell, and Topher Grace pulls off 'scumbag' really well, but there is this emotional tug-of-war with Mary Jane that I just don't get. Sure Kirsten Dunst is attractive(not my cup of tea, but I understand why folks dig her) but the character doesn't do much other than act as a convenient hostage and angst generator.
Anyway, I won't suggest you don't go see it, since I'm pretty sure you all want to, and it's not horrible, just a bit dull at points. Maybe the director's cut will break the mold and be 20 minutes shorter. That would improve the film immensely.
Your friendly, neighborhood Marius.
I love this country!!
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
You know what, in trying to research this story so I can use pertinent details and accurate commentary I just threw up a little. I can't stand her so much that I can't even tolerate reading about her going to jail. I'll just pray that we get a 45 day reprieve from her, and can go on about our business.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Free at last!
Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ivory tower, here I come. :-)
Marius the Collegiate
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
I don't argue that boycotts can't be effective. On a local level I'm sure they can be quite powerful. But trying to get a majority of the country to stop doing something they like/need/want to do is nigh impossible. I even see it in myself. Every time I walk into a Wal-Mart I think "This evil corporation has displaced hundreds of Mom and Pop shops, abused it's employees, bought stuff from Asian sweat shops, and...oh look, $10 jeans!"
It seems to me to be an interesting phenomenon. The Internet has increased our awareness of all the evils of the world, yet seems to have decreased our involvement. If it takes more than a quick click to register our outrage it's just too much work. Then again, many people probably take the same view I do, which is that keeping my own family above water is so much work that I don't have the energy to 'do' anything about the thousand natural shocks that human flesh is heir to. Leave that to the young and single. The problem is that today's youth is even more apathetic than we were. And with good reason. When millions protested against invading Iraq, the Shrub Prince continued to spout the lies that the country was behind him. How can anyone get behind 'A Noble Cause' when they know that it is, ultimately, pointless. Corporations do run the world, and we happily let them. Profit margins and bottom lines are the true lawgivers now, and while that makes them highly vulnerable to whims in the market, there aren't enough Harolds in the flock to try to teach the other sheep how to fly. So long as we get our digital cable, our high-speed Internet, and can lose inches of ugly fat while we sleep, we remain passive and controlled. And when someone like Imus ruffles the wrong feathers, they get swept away by the prescribed tide of artificial outrage generated by the spin doctors who decide which transgressions are unforgivable this year.
This tirade may sound like conspiracy theory of the highest fertilizer grade, but I assure you that I don't for a minute believe there is any conspiracy. In fact I believe just the opposite. The only thing that keeps us from a full-on Blade Runner/Brave New World life is that the only thing more important to the corporations than keeping us in line, is hosing the other corps. They are stroking us with one hand, and stabbing them with the other, so it evens out a bit.
IMHO, of course. :-)
You are The Magician
Skill, wisdom, adaptation. Craft, cunning, depending on dignity.
Eleoquent and charismatic both verbally and in writing,
you are clever, witty, inventive and persuasive.
The Magician is the male power of creation, creation by willpower and desire. In that ancient sense, it is the ability to make things so just by speaking them aloud. Reflecting this is the fact that the Magician is represented by Mercury. He represents the gift of tongues, a smooth talker, a salesman. Also clever with the slight of hand and a medicine man - either a real doctor or someone trying to sell you snake oil.
What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.