I am at the unfortunate age at which this is a part of my history I can still remember. Hopefully I will grow out of that. Molded food haunts my dreams. That is food that has been pressed into molds, but food that is covered with mold comes in occassionally as well. I have spent most of my life as a thin person.
Michael Taeckens of Algonquin Books wants me to point out that Wendy will be reading from and signing her book in Durham at The Regulator on Friday, july 8th, at 7:00pm.
The Philip K Dick Android had a few things to say when Sally and I spoke with him last week at NextFest.
First, Dick uses some deep structure parsing to get the sense of what he is being asked (thanks Noam Chomsky for inventing this).
From that, Dick can choose from some canned answers. Sample: What is your favorite color? PKDA: Green.
Or he can, drawing on the old ELIZA software, enter into a Rogerian interview. Example: What do you think about the President? PKDA: Which President do you have in mind?
But third, Dick can draw on a large database constructed from the entire corpus of his work. Using latent syntactic analysis, PKDA can create entirely new and unique phrases and answers that sound very very Philip K Dick.
Example: Phil, Where are we now? PKDA: [looking around the room] We appear to be my living room. [pause] It could be a simulacrum though. [pause] But why would the authorities bother?
Now that is the real Dick!
I was trying to imagine the kind of place that could hold these three men at three very different times in their lives almost contemporaniously. What would the child, Ernie, think of his odd neighbor up the street, Mr Wright. Did he read the stories that Mr Burroughs was beginning to publish as his Trazan series?
I was trying to think of all that as we moved around the small town on yesterday in one of the hotter heatwaves to hit Illinois in a while. We visited the Wright house and studio and saw a number of his houses. We even took in the Gay Pride Day service at the Unity Temple (designed by Wright and considered one of his great works). The original prayer for the day which called us to be thankful for the warming days of summer was wisely dropped and another prayer about inclusiveness was added.
Later that night we had drinks back in Chicago in the John Hancock Building’s Signature Lounge (96th floor) with Adam Galinsky, the son of our neighbors.
Next we were up at 4 am (CDT) to go catch our flight back to the much cooler North Carolina.
There are other differences. Hubo took only 2 years to complete while Asimo took nearly 15. Hubo cost about $1 million (US$) to build while Asimo cost over $15 million. The Hubo team was a small quick team of only about 5 developers (says Oh).
When we were at the NextFest preview, Hubo was locked up in customs in Anchorage. So we went back specifically to see him in “person” Hubo has very fluid movements and does an amusing version of Korean Tai Chi. He does have trouble walking on soft surfaces tho.
The most promising and delightful development at NextFest was the interchange between David Hanson and Dr. Oh. David is already conspiring with Oh to add a Philip K Dick like pliable face and AI to Hubo. Since, according to Hanson, the PKDA (Philip K Dick Andriod) only requires some AA batteries to power it, the face and brain could drop right on Hubo with not too much reengineering.
Staying in the Cosmos Club during our trip to DC for the Computerworld Awards was a kind of special (and perhaps out-of-time) experience for us. But it was something else for Republican conman Jack Abramoff. During the Senate hearings into his defrauding of various Indian tribes (and others), email between Abramoff and a conservative religious leader turned to awards and to the Cosmos Club as the Washington Post reports:
“I hate to ask you for your help with something so silly but I’ve been nominated for membership in the Cosmos Club, which is a very distinguished club in Washington, DC, comprised of Nobel Prize winners, etc.,” Abramoff wrote. “Problem for me is that most prospective members have received awards and I have received none. I was wondering if you thought it possible that I could put that I have received an award from Toward Tradition with a sufficiently academic title, perhaps something like Scholar of Talmudic Studies?”
There were titters in the audience as Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) read aloud the e-mail, then outright laughter as he continued reading: “Indeed, it would be even better if it were possible that I received these in years past, if you know what I mean.”
The rabbi, conservative radio host Daniel Lapin, gave his blessing. “I just need to know what needs to be produced,” he wrote. “Letters? Plaques?”
“The point of all of this,” Dorgan said, “is there’s a lot of deception going on.”
Sadly Abramoff sounds like the three friends — lion, scarecrow and tinman — who visit the Wizard of Oz and leave changed forever by their awards — medal, certificate and heart. The difference is of course that the three friends had shown that they were brave, intelligent and compassionate during their trials and adventures. Abramoff does not.
The next day, Abramoff to Lapin: “Probably just a few clever titles of awards, dates and that’s it. As long as you can be the person to verify them (or we can have someone else verify one and you the other), we should be set. Do you have any creative titles or should I dip into my bag of tricks?”
No one has reported whether Abramoff was admitted to the Cosmos Club or not.
Last night we took in a great Second City etc show “From Fear to Eternity” (thanks for the great suggestion Fred). This and the note from WillR on the post below reminded me of some of the oddities that I saw on Navy Pier on Thursday.
The early Second City folks did a diner skit about a Chicago eatery called the Billy Goat Tavern (or locally BGT). The BGT still exists was WillR describes it, but there is also a BGT out on Navy Pier that is tamed down and living off its notoriety. The awning reads “cheezeborger. cheezeborger. chips … no fries” It’s hardly the greasy burger burner that Belushi and Aykroyd visited while working at Second City. There are now two other BGTs in Chicagi besides the original and the Navy Pier versions.
A similar fate has struck what was once Chicago’s best jazz club. I heard Dizzy Gillespie play Joe Segal’s in the Blackstone Hotel some years back. A few years later, I made it a point to stay at the Blackstone and to go to Joe’s smokey and authentic and acousticly wonderful room again. Since then the Blackstone was bought by the Transcendental Meditation folks who kicked out smoking, drinking and jazz as they remodeled the hotel. Joe went looking for a home and found one up on Rush Ave (a name that would surely have been appreciated by some of the talent that played the original Joe’s). But there is also a tamed Joe’s called Joe’s Bebop Cafe and Jazz Emporium — out on Navy Pier.
But the domestication of the Hog Butcher to the World is even more easily seen when you take a walk down the Miracle Mile. Yes, it’s a friendly shopping district full of the best stores — the best stores found in any upscale mall. Try looking for something unique to Chicago and you’ll see what I mean. The restaurants are even parts of chains. We did find some local places tucked away and with the help of you folks who gave us some great suggestions — like last night’s late dinner at Vong’s Thai Kitchen (thanks for that suggestion Scott).
Chicago knows how to put on good faces. I’ve been impressed about how faces are used by art and technology working together at least three times in the past 24 hours.
First, the great and somewhat eerie Philip K Dick robot whose facial movements were incredibly real. But wait there’s more. Dick also scanned to room for faces and locked in on each one until he could recognize the person speaking to him.
Second, the two 50 foot Crown Fountains (and on a day like today the Crown Wading Pool and Shower). These are constructed of glass blocks with a metal structure inside. Water runs down the blocks on three sides (most of the time). The side of the towers that face each other are screens for internally projected videos. These videos are the faces of various Chicagoans who cast their 50 foot tall visage toward each other across the small splashing bathers. They blink occassionally. The move their lips a bit. Then they both suck in a little and suddenly a stream of water sprays out of their mouths on to the waders. Suddenly the blocks go blank and water cascades down from the top of the towers.
Third, at the Art Institute of Chicago down in the Children’s section near the wonderful miniature the Thorne Rooms (thanks to telling us about them Max). Adobe Aftereffects are put to good use. They run a series of morphs across over 100+ images of faces in all styles from the Art Institutes collection. You see a Mayan head morph into an early American portrait into a Cubist face study into an African mask into a Walker Evans photograph into … What a great way to see who the various visions of artists related to the subject of the human face! The entire run is about 15 minutes
Last night Sally and I sat down for a chat with Philip K Dick. Whilst it was no a seance, it was closer to that than to say Mark Twain Tonight. The Philip K Dick robot from Hanson Robotics (and others) features a very flexible and eeriely realistic face which seeks out people in the room (using facial recognition) to establish eye contact with them. He shutters and blinks as he thinks about how to answer your questions. Behind that blinking and shuttering is a program using latent symantic analysis (and indexing) to mine the entire works of Dick. [more after I get back]
We’ve been in Chicago since about 10 am CDT. So far we checked in sorta — our room wasn’t ready yet. We checked out the neighborhood which is the begining of Michigan Ave and the Miracle Mile as well as State Street going down to the Chicago River. Sally and folks who care deeply about architecture have strong opinions about most of this area often building by building. I wasn’t that upset that the Disney Store hails back to a time that doesn’t really exist so I’ll stay out of that one.
We did have deep dish Chicago pizza for our first meal here at lunch at Pizza Due which is still using the airconditioning installed by Bret’s grandfather (thanks for the suggestion, Bret).
We took the bus down to the Museum of Science and Industry, the building there are from the World Columbian Exposition of the 1890s. From there we strolled through the park and through the University of Chicago area until we reached the Robie House, a Frank Lloyd Wright house in the midst of restoration. We took the tour and learned how every family that tried to live there met with some misfortune — bankruptcy and divorce, sudden unexpected death, premature death — until the house ended up in the hands of the University of Chicago who is leasing it to the National Preservation Trust while a Frank Lloyd Wright group restores it.
We have tickets for Second City tomorrow night (thanks Fred for that suggestion) and tonight we’ll be off to a reception for Wired’s NextFest.
The show will run at 6 pm and at 10 pm (tonight?). WCHL is 1360 AM and not streamed on the internet so unless DG adds it to his archive, you’ll have to catch it as it’s aired (so will I).
When I walked in the building, I was met by a placard saying “Welcome to VilCom Center – Paul Jones” That was a nice surprise. Then in leaving, I ran into my old friend, Jane Tyndall, and at coffee before the interview into Melva Okun who works with NC Prevention Partners in the same building.