Some Dubious Things To Do With Robots


The area library got He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe: Minicomic Collection. This is a heck of a book, compiling all of the minicomics that were originally included with toy figures back in the day. It’s a lot of book, something like 24,864 pages and more reading than I had to do to earn my Master’s in Mathematics. The books start out weird, but soon settle in to a comfortable routine. Most of them, at least once the cartoon had got started and they had a specific continuity to pay attention to, are about He-Man talking with his New Friend, Whatever This Current Toy Is. New Friend worries that he’s not as good as the rest of the Masters of the Universe, and then Skeletor does some nonsense or other and New Friend’s unique abilities turn out to save the day, even if his power is that he’s made of rock. Or it’s a new villain who uses his powers to be the greatest possible menace ever to He-Man who still foils the villain, even if it turns out his power is that he’s got more than one eye. But sometimes there’s a variation. Like in this one.

Man-At-Arms: 'Hello, Adam, this is Roboto!' Robot: 'I-Am-Roboto.' Adam: 'I'm impressed! What can he do?' Man-At-Arms: 'In addition to his mechanical claw, he can use this laser ax or laser gun! And Iv'e given him the power to be invincible!' Roboto: 'I-Am-Invincible'. Adam: 'Excuse me, Man-At-Arms, but do you think it's wise to give so much power to a robot?' Man-At-Arms: 'You're right to ask. But I've taken a precaution! I'm giving Roboto this 'heart', which will give him the human emotions and compassion he needs to be a true warrior of Eternia!'
I know what you’re thinking and don’t worry. Man-At-Arms also gave Roboto the power to make more interesting conversation. I apologize for the deep fold in the center but the book is thicker than my Scion tC and there’s just no way to hold it flat on the scanner or the color copier to get a page clean and un-distorted.

So here Man-At-Arms is able to make a robot which, sure, that’s fair enough. He’s a guy with a helmet and green leggings, of course he can make robots. What I’m dubious about: he can make a robot be invincible? Should that really be in Man-At-Arms’s power set? At the least shouldn’t he get someone higher-ranked to sign off on this? Another dubious thing: he can give robots hearts? I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, just, again, should he be doing this without Institutional Review Board approval?

The Internet and Pumpernickel


You know how the Internet has changed things? Suppose that you like pumpernickel. In the pre-Internet days you’d probably just go along liking pumpernickel, eating it in appropriate amounts and wondering if you’re maybe the youngest English-speaking soul who still eats it on purpose. Certainly nobody you ever meet except your grandparents eats pumpernickel. This might be because you switched to a supermarket, away from the bakery that’s in the midst of downtown’s bustling Customers Pronking Into Traffic district because it closes fifteen minutes after you get out of work and there was that time you asked about what eight similar-looking loaves were and got into a painfully awkward conversation with them not understanding what it was you didn’t understand, and don’t ever have to talk with anyone to buy actual bread anymore.

Now and then something called pumpernickel turns up in the sandwiches Arby’s tucks into the weird subdivided parts of its menu board like they don’t want to have them but also can’t take them off without hurting somebody’s feelings. But mostly, you just like pumpernickel, the taste and the way saying “pumpernickel” over and over again makes you feel, and the store usually has sufficient pumpernickel for your immediate heavy-breaded needs, and the worst that ever happens is occasionally your brain is haunted by the idea that ABC’s classic “The Chomper” public service announcement supporting dental health might have shouted out to pumpernickel and carrot sticks as good things to eat, please hopefully not together. How pumpernickel can be all that good for teeth was still mysterious, what with it just being bread, but at least you could take in the message.

With the Internet, that’s changed. You can find all kinds of people who also like pumpernickel, which right away is a big change in your bread-based social interaction. Before any pumpernickel-based socialization you had was of a strictly practical kind: buying pumpernickel, eating pumpernickel, maybe answering the awe-struck questions of children who don’t understand why you’d go eating a kind of bread that’s the color and pattern of the decorative walkways in the garden paths in back of the boring restaurant their parents dragged them to once and swore never again.

Now there’s a theoretical aspect to the whole thing, having bread-themed social interactions in a setting that’s far removed from any actual bread, or possibly any other actual people. Certainly real people can’t be writing this much about pumpernickel, or as they spell it “pumpernickle” or worse, and why whatever it is you like about it is the wrong thing to like about it. Where would they find time to do the necessary things of daily life, like driving to the hardware store or being hissed at by squirrels?

And yet what they write is compelling, because it all leaves you miserable. You’ll learn, for instance, that your favorite brand of pumpernickel was created by a white supremacist, Euell M Pumpermeyer or whatever, who figured that by improving the yeast or rye or whatever used to make his bread products he’d be able to inspire wider eugenicist movements. He sold out decades ago to a big multinational conglomerate, and he’s been dead for literally a couple years now anyway, and at least he was an incompetent white supremacist who never noticed that yeast is just not among the top hundred things suppressing people. But still.

Worse, you’ll discover that the multinational conglomerate that makes that pumpernickel, only with not so much overt racism and more high-fructose corn syrup, is still a horrible, horrible company. Some in the pumpernickel forums try to argue about this, pointing out the company’s placement as one of the Top Ten Ethical Multinational Conglomerate Bread Manufacturers, but that mostly means they’re responsible for fewer than average maimings of low-level employees and there’s room to plausibly dispute their links to the Blood Caraway trade. And the supermarket isn’t any great shakes either because it’s sustained mostly by the profits derived from smacking cinder blocks with kittens. This earned the store a certificate for being in the top twenty percent of ethical supermarket chains before the ethics panel went into the shoe closet and started weeping and hasn’t stopped yet.

All these things were going on before, but you never had to know because you never learned anything about the pumpernickel trade beyond that you could buy and, if you chose, eat some. Now the Internet can reassure you that, yes, “The Chopper” does tell you pumpernickel is somehow important for your teeth.