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?

An Open Letter To, Really, Every Social Media Ever


Dear Twitter Master Command,

Hi there. I wasn’t away. That’s the first thing. Also, you keep promising you’re going to show me fewer tweets like that. You need to shore up that wording. Do you mean you’re going to show me fewer tweets that way, as in that form? Where it’s four days after the original post and even the guy who wrote it can’t remember what he was making a sly, snarky comment about? Or do you mean fewer tweets like “the stuff my friends wrote”? I get the feeling you’re promising me that.

Because that’s the hip thing with social media. You all start out with a simple model: you have friends. Your friends post stuff. You read it. Sometimes you post back. Sometimes they post back. Their friends post back. The friends of your friends post. They’re whack jobs. Your friends’ friends keep posting. You come to like people less. You infer that your friend honestly sees no difference in morality or intellect or human decency between these people and you. The fight takes on a new intimacy. After enough of this you go outside, resolved instead to roll down a hill all day. You see a squirrel. That fact reminds you. You go back to answering your friend’s friend. Finally you stumble across an interesting discussion about whether Cringer remembers the experience of being Battle Cat, and vice-versa, and if so how. It has an exhausting pile of citations from the ramshackle He-Man canon. You come away feeling staggered but forgetting what you were angry about. Then you see it again. It’s a simple model and one that might work forever.

Except that’s never enough. If the social media works then it gets famous. And like Ian Shoales explained, once you’re famous for doing something you don’t want to do that anymore. So the media gets fussing around with algorithms and rearrangements of timelines. Instead of showing people what they said they wanted to see, you go and show them something they didn’t say they wanted to see. Maybe something they said they didn’t want to see. It’s a weird business model. Imagine if you were flying to Albany, New York, because you had urgent business there. You had to go to Huck Finn’s Playland and yell at the amusement park for it not still being Hoffmann’s Playland, even though Hoffmann didn’t want the Playland anymore and he was just going to toss it out.

But then the pilot announces that, you know, we’re going to instead fly to Columbus, the world-renowned “Albany, New York, of Ohio”. Would you feel well-served? I guess it depends whether you could find something to berate in the Columbus area. I’m sure there are. There’s at least two creepy houses in the suburb of Worthington, for example. I seem to be making a case for this. Maybe it’s other businesses that are missing out by just giving people what they wanted. (Do not berate the Worthington creepy house the guy lives in. He’s taken enough abuse.)

But what we expect to see, or expect to not see, or who we expect not to get in bitter quarrels with, is beside the point. None of this is what we really want from social media, not even the stuff we know we want to see, like the Animals Wearing Glasses Daily Picture.

What we want is to find something that’s profound and breezy. We want to experience something insightful and whimsical. It should be eye-opening without ever entering unfamiliar intellectual and emotional territory. We want something epic while still being intimate. More, we want to be the sole true confidant of an enormous crowd. We want to say something un-improvable yet tossed off in a heartbeat. We want to go viral while being that single candle that alleviates some one person’s darkness. We want universal truths that still fit snug where we are in life. We want to do something that’s going to get put on millions of t-shirts, and we want to get a cut of each sale. We want to be reblogged by people we watched on TV when we were kids. We want transcendence with a glace at our cell phones. And then we want to hit reload and get another transcendent moment at least as good. Give us that and we’ll hit ‘like’ or ‘fave’ or whatever silly thing you want. We’ll even pretend to look at your advertisements for stuff we’ve never even known anyone who would ever want interspersed with ads for the thing we bought last week on Amazon.

And that’s what social media is all about, Twitter Master Command.

Hoping you will see to and remedy this problem swiftly I remain,

Yours truly,

Sincerely,

I mean it,

@Nebusj

PS: Do it right and we’ll even forgive you suggesting Every. Single. Day. that we follow a person we wouldn’t run over with a forklift exclusively for fear of getting repugnant-person-guts in the forklift’s machinery.

PPS: Obviously Cringer remembers the experiences he has as Battle Cat. The interesting question is whether he remembers it as a thing he, Cringer, does while affecting a character, or whether he remembers Battle Cat as a distinct entity using what is sort-of his body. Please see enclosed citations, omitted for clarity.

Popeye: Crystal Ball Brawl


Previously:


And to wrap up my tour of the 1960s King Features mass-produced Popeye cartoons, here’s one made by Larry Harmon Pictures, Crystal Ball Brawl. I concede it’s not a very good cartoon, although it does capture an aspect of the original comic strips pretty well: a triggering incident offers the chance for riches and the characters besides Popeye start scheming to use it. The scheming doesn’t get very far — only Wimpy and Bluto get in on the villainy — but it does at least evoke how in the comic strip pretty much all the humans except Popeye have huge swaths of rotten in them.

If the name “Larry Harmon” nags at your mind it’s because you’re just about to place him as Bozo The Clown. Larry Harmon Pictures, or Larry Harmon Studios, was formed to animate Bozo the Clown, and the studio did work for Popeye, like everyone did, as well as animation for Dick Tracy and Mister Magoo. I can’t find much more information about it; the studio didn’t last long. The animation, featuring a pretty static set of poses with long camera pans in place of motion and a soundtrack that wanders in indifferent parallel to the action, doesn’t really commend itself like the work of some of the studios here.

And yet … look at that action and at the credited artists, particularly Hal Sutherland and Lou Scheimer. They would, after the closing of Larry Harmon pictures, create Filmation, which brought to the screen a lot of cartoons with pretty static animation, long camera pans, and a wandering and endlessly repeated soundtrack. Charitably, that seems to be because they rarely had the time or budget to do cartoons well: when given the chance, as on Star Trek or Fat Albert or Flash Gordon they created things that were quite solid, at least for television cartoons of the era. So this little cartoon is part of a thread that brings us to He-Man, if nothing else.

Statistics Saturday: Perils Of Modern Childhood, Based On What I See In Comic Strips


Mostly, it's participation trophies.
“There are things called apps” was omitted because this is presented more in the comics as a sign of the death of civilization than a particular threat to childhood per se.
“Not keeping score” was, on review, considered to be a subclass of participation trophies.
We are still investigating why “droopy pants” did not make the list.

I remember my childhood, when the major problem was “He-Man is a cartoon”. We would have been doomed if it were animated.