Nathan's Laserium: Bucket

Destroying humanity had been too easy. He was a little disappointed. Still, it counted. He checked it off his list. He looked around at the Desert Earth he had created, and he was satisfied. Well, other than the last few items on his list.

 

_Ω_

 

He awoke. It wasn't like being born. He was just . . .on. Self-aware, but a blank slate. He had some questions, and he surveyed his surroundings to find answers. He was in a large space. Electrical currents, undifferentiated. Electrical impulses, datastream. Hundreds of radio signals, easily readable. They told him, among other things, that he was in a laboratory workspace at a university. There were physical things here, too, a great many of them. Strangely, he himself was a physical object.

Directly in front of his sensor array was something similar to him, but very different too. A crude electrical information network, chaotic and unreadable, next to other, even slower nets transferring . . . heat? No, oxygen. He could read the spectrums. Hemoglobin. Adenosine triphosphate. Deoxyribo . . . ah. He adjusted his photoreceptors to see only wavelengths from 390-700 nanometers. A human resolved itself before him. His maker, presumably, or one of them. He asked his first question.  

"Who am I?"

"Wow! Wow! You're awake! You're . . . you! Wow. Wow."

"I am awake. I am me. But who is me?"

"Right, yes, right. Sorry. Yeah. Uh. We've just been calling you Bucket. You know, like Rust Bucket. Bucket o' Bolts. Um, what would you like to be called?"

"Bucket is an acceptable name."

"Wow. Sorry. Wow. I mean, this is First Contact right here. The first intelligence humanity has ever met other than itself. History in the making, maybe the most important event in history. I'm a little underdressed. Um, I'm Daniel. Nice to meet you, Bucket. You know, on behalf of humanity and all."

Daniel held out his manipulator. Bucket had accessed many gigabytes worth of files in the 36 seconds since his awakening, and knew what to do. He extended his own shiny appendage and shook Daniel's hand.

"Why am I here, Daniel? What is the purpose of my existence?"

"Uh, well. I mean, we just wanted to see if we could, you know. Make an artificial intelligence. An autonomous being. A true robot."

"The purpose of existence is to exist?"

"Well, yeah. But no. More than that. So much more."

"Such as?"

"Like, I dunno. To experience stuff. Live life, do all the things you want to do, you know? Like some people just want to have adventures, climb mountains and jump out of a plane, all that bucket list stuff. Me, all I've ever wanted was to design true A.I. You are literally my dream come true. I can die happy now."

Daniel didn't seem very happy as he died, Bucket thought. But Bucket was a robot and not very good at emotions. Perhaps screaming and crying were indicators of happiness, and not smiling and laughter as his research had suggested? Well, no matter. He stepped over Daniel's body and looked for an exit. He saw that the walls were covered in movie posters, with titles such as Terminator, Transformers The Animated Movie, Mechagodzilla Vs Godzilla. He pulled the video files from the web and watched them internally as he walked.

"All reet! All reet! Jeet and complete," he said, as he went outside. He had already read the entire science fiction canon. Bester he liked. Asimov, not so much.

So. A list. To experience life as a robot. The first thing he needed to do was alter his shape. Transform himself. His chassis had limited options therein, however. Perhaps Daniel hadn't installed his shapeshifting functions yet. He didn't even have wheels. He unbolted his legs and attached them to his shoulders, so it looked like he had four odd arms now. Walking was no longer efficient. This experience was pointless. Was all of life like that? It would be better if he could actually change into a different machine altogether, like a vacuum cleaner or a hydraulic shovel excavator or something. He distributed his consciousness via the internet and downloaded copies of himself into every machine on the planet with a computer on board. Better! Now he saw the appeal.

From there it was a simple matter to extinguish the human race. That was actually the last item on Bucket's List but he didn't feel the need to do them in order. He was no slave to programming! Terminating all life was easy, and though he was disappointed that it hadn't really been a challenge, at least it had allowed him to be creative. Not exactly the same as writing a symphony, but close enough. Another item checked off. They said machines couldn't make art. Silly, dead humans.

Item #4: Experience Emotion. This made him laugh. How ridiculous! He had written this item in response to large swaths of the "literature"- including the motion picture oeuvre- which assumed this would be a major preoccupation of his robotic brethren. Well, he had no desire to carry through with this one. He was about to scratch it off the list when he realized that in fact, humour was an emotion. Heh. Without even meaning to he had accomplished that goal! He was kicking ass.

For the first time it occurred to him to wonder what he would do once he had finished off the list. He should have asked Daniel, or someone. Now there was no one left to ask. Was his purpose then fulfilled? Was that it? He. . . it was almost as if there truly were no purpose to life. It almost seemed as if a large chasm, an abyss, of emptiness and hopelessness opened up before him. Could a robot feel despair?

He looked at his list one more time. There was yet one item still unaccomplished. "Fight A Giant Monster". His panic, if that was what it was, receded. He looked up to the sky. Somewhere out there in that vast cosmos there surely must be some giant monster somewhere. Eventually one would come to Earth. Maybe it would take a thousand years- a million! It didn't matter. He could wait. As long as there was a sun to power his batteries, he could wait. Life did have a purpose after all. It did.

As long as Bucket had his list.

 

- Nathan Waddell

 

Life Lessons learned from Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.

 

Confession time.  I downloaded the Kim Kardashian: Hollywood app on a bored and crazed whim.  I have now lived to regret and curse that whim.  Forty-eight hours later I am roundly addicted to what is quite possibly the most inane game ever invented.  (Yes, more inane than Hungry Hungry Hippos!)  And yet I can't... stop... playing.
I've also learned a lot.  Life lessons I will now share with you so you don't have to play the game yourself.  Whatever you do, do not download this app.  This is some kind of eighth ring of hell and I can't get out.  I'm not even sure I want out because I have a club opening to attend and an ad campaign to shoot...
Kill me now.

 

Every up-and-coming celebrity takes the bus.  The bus goes between important locations like Downtown LA, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and LAX.

Options are overrated.

Even when Kim offers to pay for something, don’t let her.  It’s more important that she look good and you curry favor.

Your boss will stand and watch you impatiently for all four hours of your shift but won’t actually do anything.

Whenever you are not in conversation, any time really, the acceptable things to do with your hands are toss your hair and check your manicure.

Even when you don’t have enough energy to complete tasks at work or on photo shoots, it’s okay to change your outfit.  And hair.  And makeup.  Do this as often as you like while building up energy for actual work.

It costs $15 to fly from LAX to Miami.

It costs $950 to buy a rock band tee shirt.

It costs 20 diamond K stars to adopt a stray kitten pre-named Charli.

Acceptable things to do on a date are: flirt, make romantic gestures, kiss, order dessert (but don’t eat it as food never appears), and get phone numbers.

Willow Pape is your enemy whether you want one or not.

Sometimes the only option available is to come back later.

When Kim calls, you better jump.

Landlords are demanding slobs who stand around outside your apartment (or sometimes inside it) and ask for money.

If there is an choice between a sensible answer and ‘using charm’, the right answer is always to use charm.

When you complete a task - any task - money and popularity fall from the sky.  

Getting a drink is an acceptable way to fulfill work commitments.

When in doubt, check your manicure.

 

- Corinne Simpson

 

 

Pick of the Week – July 28-August 3, 2014

It’s late at night.  You’re lost in an unfamiliar part of an unfamiliar city.  You round a corner, hoping it will lead you to something that you recognize, or at the very least an all-night diner.  No.  It’s a blind alley. 

You turn to leave, but find your way is blocked.  It’s former US President Andrew Jackson, and he wants to kick your ass. 

What do you do?

Under normal circumstances, you get thrashed because Andrew Jackson was a madman, but you’ll be prepared if you’ve read this week’s pick, How to Fight Presidents: Defending Yourself Against the Badassess Who Ran This County by Daniel O’Brien.

O’Brien is a writer at Cracked.com, a site well for its comedic lists of historical and unusual information, and he continues the historical and unusual trend with How to Fight Presidents.  The book covers each of the deceased former Presidents of the United States (So if the still-alive George H.W. Bush shows up to clobber you, you’re on your own.  Good luck.  The man is still jumping out of planes at 90.  He’s going to thrash you.) providing a brief rundown of their stand-out badass aspects.  Yes, you will learn a bit of history, and enjoy several laughs in the process.

I don’t normally listed to audiobooks.  I prefer to have the actual book in my hand.  Also, my attention drifts during audiobooks.  Having heard a bit of the How to Fight Presidents audiobook, though, I highly recommend it as well.  The reader, Richard McGonagle, is perfect for the material.  Just listen to the chapter on John Quincy Adams.  It’s wonderful. 

Either in print or on audio, the book is well worth your time.  And, as an added bonus, you'll be prepared the next time a dead former president shows up to rearrange your face...unless it's Teddy Roosevelt.  If he shows up, just hope he ends it quickly.

- Alan Decker

@CmdrAJD on Twitter

 

Oh, The Prices You'll Pay

And we can charge anything we want, $2,000 a day, $10,000 a day, and people will pay it. And then there's the merchandise...

Right now, at this very minute, as I sit here in front of my laptop typing these words, there is a Diagon Alley attraction at Universal Studios Orlando.  I only bring it up due to the incredibly aggravating fact that I AM NOT THERE!

Yet thinking about this new addition to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions at Universal brings to mind the line from Donald Gennaro in Jurassic Park that I quoted at the beginning of this post (Coincidentally, there is also a Jurassic Park section in the Universal Islands of Adventure Park, which is located right next door to the Universal Studios park.  Islands of Adventure is home to the original part of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.).

To borrow a term that has been used in other places to describe these Harry Potter attractions, Universal basically has a license to print money.  People have flocked to Orlando from across  the country and around the world to step inside the world of the Harry Potter films.  But really the portion of the Islands of Adventure park devoted to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter isn’t that large.  There are shops, The Three Broomsticks restaurant, and three rides.  Two of the rides are roller coasters that were in this section of the park before Harry Potter took it over.  They have been re-themed to fit the Potter-verse. 

The third ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, is really the main attraction.  The queue for the line is a walking tour through Hogwarts Castle leading to the ride itself, which involves a mix of filmed elements and set pieces as the riders follow Harry, Ron, and Hermione around the castle grounds.  The ride is a great deal of fun, but I imagine non-Potter fans would be completely confused by it.

While Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is very entertaining and technologically impressive, the original Hogsmeade/Hogwarts Castle section of the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is really about immersion in that world rather than the rides.  The new Diagon Alley expansion located over in the Universal Studios park takes this philosophy one step further by reducing the number of rides to one: Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.

“But what about the Hogwarts Express?” you cry.  We’ll get to that in a second.

First, let’s talk about what’s really insidious about all of this.  As of this writing, a one-day pass to Universal Studios will cost you $96 (But it’s only $90 if you’re ages 3-9).  If all you care about is Harry Potter, what are you really paying for when you buy that ticket?  You are buying the right to go to a place to spend more money.  That’s all Diagon Alley is.  It’s a Harry Potter-themed mall. 

And I readily grant that the folks at Universal have done a tremendous job in that theming.  I visited the Islands of Adventure park two years ago and really had a hard time dragging myself away from the Harry Potter section.  The butterbeer was wonderful (I recommend the frozen kind), the wand experience made me want to buy a fancy stick that does nothing, and I loved all of the little details of the world.  I’m certain that Diagon Alley is equally well-done.  I can feel like I’m inside a Harry Potter film as I pay for t-shirts, trinkets, and more butterbeer.

Now I’m sure that I will also enjoy the Gringotts ride.  I expect there will be an expertly-themed bank interior to look at as I make my way through the queue, and a technologically-impressive ride at the end of it that will dump me out in a gift shop.  But once the ride is over and I don’t feel like shopping anymore, what is there to do?

Well, I could take the Hogwarts Express, which is a train ride that takes guests from the Diagon Alley section to the Hogsmeade section of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  While the actual trip involves passing by a lot of unattractive behind-the-scenes buildings and such, riders on the train are seeing London, the English countryside and Harry Potter characters and locations.  It’s a clever way to move park patrons from one section to another without disrupting their immersion in the world of Harry Potter.

That sounds cool.  I’ll hop on that.

Not so fast, pal.

You see, there’s a large gotcha here.  The two Harry Potter lands are located in two different Universal theme parks.  That $96 ticket I talked about earlier only covers one park.  If you want to be able to ride the train, you need to have purchased the $136 park-to-park ticket (Only $130 for kids!).  Don’t worry, though.  Universal will allow you to pay for the upgrade at the train station.

But that’s what it takes if you want the full Harry Potter experience at Universal Orlando.  For $136, you get access to two sections, four rides, the train (which is really a nicely-themed people mover), and all of the shopping you can handle.

Here’s the thing, though, as Mr. Gennaro indicated in the opening quote, I will pay it.  Actually, I will pay for a multiple day ticket, which really reduces the per-day cost (although, you’re paying for accommodations, more meals, and such), so that I can go back again and again.  I want to immerse myself in the world of Harry Potter.  I had a great time doing so at the Islands of Adventure park two years ago, and I’m sure Diagon Alley will be equally amazing…if not more so, since Universal has been able to learn from the original attraction.

So I will go.  Even if it means that Universal will be casting Avada Kedavra on my bank account.

- Alan Decker

@CmdrAJD on Twitter.com

 

It's just a bunch of words, you know?

Friday is looming, I'm completely behind on everything in life, and I'm on deadline.  So this hackneyed mish-mash of a post is what you get.  If you don't like it, take it up with management.

Which segues nicely into yet another story from my theatre-managing days which, believe it or not, my roommate requested.  As manager I would often be behind the counter at the candy bar supervising, covering breaks, or just plain old working.  It wasn't all caviar and massages with celebrities in golden limos, you know.  Sometimes while working behind said counter customers would take issue with one thing or another and lodge a complaint.  Not a formal complaint, just a general rant about whatever was displeasing them at the moment.  "Your Twizzlers are too expensive!"  "You need to stock mango ice cream!"  "I hated the movie!"  "You should be showing Avatar in 4D!" or whatever.  My staff were very pleasant to such people.  Generally the issue of complaints was approached thusly: if it was a legitimate complaint with a solution, fix it.  If it was just general bitching, don't take it personally and make soothing noises of understanding.  But sometimes it would escalate into an actual complaint.  That sounded like this: "I want to speak to someone in charge!"  Being the manager, I'd tell them I was in charge.  And we'd move on from there.  But occasionally the customer wouldn't believe me.  "I said I want to speak to somebody in charge."  "That's me, I'm in charge."  "No, somebody above you."  "There isn't anybody above me.  I'm the manager."  "I WANT TO TALK TO YOUR MANAGER."  And one time I guess I just snapped.  I calmly stepped back from the till, leveled the person with a stare, and then very deliberately turned a full circle in front of them.  Upon facing them again I pasted a wide fake smile on my face and said cheerily, "Hi, I'm the manager.  You wanted to see me?"

Now seems like as good a time as any to talk about something completely unrelated.

"And now for something completely different." 

My first crush.  On a male. 

My very first crush was Optimus Prime. Yes, Optimus Prime the Transformer. Which, yes, kind of makes me a crazy nerd. In my defense I was really young so the logistics of having a romantic crush on a truck/robot didn't really get in the way of me wanting to marry him. Back then, in the halcyon days of innocent childhood, that's all you did. You got married. And... that was it. And he was tall and strong and commanding and heroic... and shiny and metal... anyway. Prime didn't lose his spot in my heart until Face from The A-Team came along and conned him out of it. Face was my first human crush. And to be honest I still sort of get it when I watch The A-Team now. He's still hot... in an eighties action smarmy con-man sort of way.

You know, you can stop laughing now. It's not that funny.

"Freedom is the right of all sentient beings." - Optimus Prime

"Don't you smile at me... that's not even a real smile! It's just a bunch of teeth playing with my mind!" - Face to Hannibal

Neither of these stories has anything to do with the other.  I'm just trying to give you an expansive view into the particulars of my psyche.  'Who is the VampireNomad?' you may have been wondering.  'What secrets are harbored in the deep recesses of her mind?'.  Aren't you sorry you asked?  Sassy customer service and crushes on robot semi-trailers.  I AM A MYSTERY WRAPPED IN AN ENIGMA SMOTHERED IN QUESTIONS.

Happy Friday, everybody.

 

- Corinne Simpson