Archived entries for stray thoughts

The go-kart race. What did you think I was talking about?

The other night I had this amazing dream:

It was election night, and it was too-close-to-call. But, there was some obscure clause in the Constitution that allowed for too-close-to-call elections to be decided by a literal race between the candidates. And, for some unknown dream-brain reason, the person who was polling last got to pick the method of the race. And, for another unknown dream-brain reason, that person was Newt Gingrich.

Who picked go-karts.

So it was Obama, Biden (I don’t know either), Romney and Gingrich. On go-karts. To decide the fate of the free world.

Obama and Biden screeched out into an early lead, with Romney tepidly following them up and Gingrich’s kart showing a lot of sound and fury, but really signifying nothing.

At this point I’m expecting Obama and Biden to easily take it. But, suddenly, Gingrich starts clawing his way up the field. Apparently he’s like Bowser from Mario Kart: really slow to accelerate, but with an insane top speed. He blows past Romney like a blistering wind. Biden tries to fight him off, but is clearly outmatched. For a minute I think Obama’s going to hold him off, but something’s wrong – the President isn’t using his top gear! He doesn’t even know it is there! Without that extra power, Gingrich-Bowser easily takes the race. And the presidency.

For a few moments, everyone is freaking out. How are they going to tell the American people this is how the election was decided – with a go-kart race that the least liked candidate won!?

It was all ok, though, because I kicked Gingrich in the balls before the Secret Service protection officially transferred over to him.

Oh, brain. What will you think of next?

Oh, Twenty Twelve, what a sort of year you were. It was the year the Mayans may or may not have tried to kill all of us with our own media. It was the year I watched not, once, but twice, as our elected officials decided that talking points were more important than the world economy. It was the year that I turned thirty. It was the year that my birthday dinner turned into monthly culinary explorations. It was the year that I did pretty much nothing creatively. It was the year that I went to Disney World and rediscovered what creativity was and why I need it. It was the year that I closed one door and opened another.

But, more importantly than anything else, it was the year that I got married to the love of my life.

And, for that alone, I’ll always look back on it favorably.

Before we go, here are some leftover bits of recommended consumption from the end of the year.

Three Comics You Should Read

SagaBrian K. Vaughn + Fiona Staples - This is BKV’s first large scope book since the end of Y: The Last Man, and Staples’ first book to get her the attention she’s been deserving for years. It is a space-opera about star-crossed lovers that is charming, frightening, exhilarating, small and huge all at the same time.

FataleEd Brubaker + Sean Phillips - The team that brought us Sleeper, Criminal, and Incognito is doing an “ongoing with an end” that’s pretty much Lovecraft meets noir gangster fiction. So, simply put, peanut butter and chocolate in horror comic form.

The Manhattan ProjectsJonathan Hickman + Nick Pitarra -Hickman is taking apart 20th century’s super scientists and sticking them back together into something that it too complicated to explain, but completely approachable and completely him. It doesn’t hurt that Nick Pitarra’s art is utterly gorgeous and reminds me of a less restrained Frank Quitely.

Sidenote: Three books, all on-goings, all with top-level talent, all creator-owned, and all published at Image and not the Big Two. Expect more of this as time wears on.

Three Video Games You Should Play

DishonoredThe third outing from France’s Arkane Studios, and their first internally created IP. Dishonored is what happens when Deus Ex: Human Revolution, BioShock, anything Steampunk and the Combine from Half-Life 2 are put in a blender. What comes out is absolutely delicious, if just a little flat on the back-end.

XCOM: Enemy UnknownFiraxis’s re-do of the classic PC strategy game is an awkward masterpiece. Masterpiece because the unflinching brutality of the original hold firm to the new sleek, modern bones of the update, but awkward because you can tell that somewhere along the line this got upgraded from being a direct-to-download title to a AAA holiday contender. Some of the edges could use a bit more time to be smoothed off.

Borderlands 2The sequel to Gearbox’s smash-hit that no one saw coming is honestly a little less fun than the original, but an absolute improvement on the formula. The game manages to hit emotional highs and lows that should’ve been impossible, but pulls them off with aplomb. And Handsome Jack may go down in history as one of my most hated villains ever, which might also make him one of the most successful.

Three Albums You Should Listen To

Murder by Death – Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon - This year’s release from one my favorite bands is their most polished entry yet, which is both good and bad. On songs like Lost River and I Came Around it lets them tell more affecting stories, but when they double track the main vocal on certain other tracks, the result is less compelling.

The Protomen – Present: A Night of Queen - The Protomen took a break from making records about video game people to show the world just how good they are by covering Queen better than anyone ever has.

Make-Up and Vanity Set – 88:88 - An album written for an experimental film that MAVS also did the score for. Wonderful and simplistic yet deeply atmospheric, provided you are into that kind of thing.

And for this year? The Twenty Thirteen? What of it?

No resolutions, because as my wife pointed out on New Year’s Eve, they are simply set-ups for failure. Or, they are limp-wristed, inconsequential things that you probably didn’t need to make in the first place.

Instead, we have goals. Things to achieve and do that will result in objects of substance. For I declare this year to be the Year of the Concrete, the Year of the Tangible, the Year of the Existent.

I have four goals. All simple, yet still tricky.

  • Cook a meal that I’ll never forget.
  • Write a story I am proud to share.
  • Take a picture that came out exactly as I wanted.
  • Then do all of them better.

Oh, and I’ve got one hell of an announcement about where I’ll be spending most of my time, but you’ll have to stay tuned for that one.

twentythirteen

It is the near future, in an aging urban corridor where congestion brought on by antiquated city planning and high gas prices has destroyed the 20th century notion of the car as the great liberator of the modern American.

The city has become a near impenetrable bivouac of occupied human spaces. Residential mated to commercial, with storage and food spaces hanging off them like lampreys.

Between those spaces, there is a noise: the ceaseless thrum of plastic and metal rotor blades pushing against the air.

This is the noise of the drone swarm. Of a million wirelessly controlled delivery and service machines moving products for us. All on modular frames with solar panels and high density battery packs, and nary a carbon toeprint amongst them.

For they are the servant class of the digital age; ferrying our take-out food, our Amazon purchases, our dry cleaning, all of the consumptive bits of our lives, to and fro so we don’t have to. All of it controlled and maintained by a joint commercial and government cooperative to ensure that economic stimulation is as easy as it could possibly be.

But, there is something else in the skies, too. Something newer than the drones in the swarm…something malevolent.

Drone predators.

Instead of being simple pack mules, these drones prey upon their pacifist kin, seeking the profitable treasures held within their cargo nets. iDevices, physical media, designer clothing, anything that can be sold quickly and easily over the local Internet grey market is what the hunters are after, but, in a pinch, the prey drones themselves can be torn down and sold for parts.

Their method of capture varies wildly, from nets to signal scramblers to firewall-penetrating viruses. Some drone predators are even large enough to simply scoop up their prey whole and deliver them back to their criminal handlers, the smaller drone struggling the whole way.

Local and federal security agencies have fielded drone-hunting counter measures, with mixed success. Larger attack drones are able to eliminate the drone predators, but are hard to maneuver in tight urban spaces and destroying drones doesn’t generate leads toward finding the drone’s handler. Interdiction and tracking operations can score individual successes, but tactics used by the security agencies are quickly countered by the handlers and how-tos spread like wildfire through the darknets. Evasion is the most low-tech solution, but it remains the most effective countermeasure. Drone delivery paths can be randomized, destination data encrypted, and redundant protective systems installed.

It is still a numbers game, though. And some percentage is always going to get caught.

Which is why for a small service fee, most retail outlets will gladly insure your package against drone-theft.

This is the shape of the future, and  of the new ecosystems forming in its cracks.

In the future, to cope with the impossible torrent of data cascading down upon us, each person over a certain income level will be fitted with a social media simulacra. One part digital assistant, one part overly aggressive behavioral pattern algorithm, the simulacra will ensure proper filtering of the data stream so only relevant bits reach their users. Each simulacra will have a name, set by the user, and will react only to voice commands from that user. The simulacra will make up for the biological failings that keep a normal human from comprehending the data overload. Overtime, the simulacra will become closer to the users than real humans, possibly even supplanting their need for interaction.

All of this will be ad-supported, contractually bound, and requiring an early termination fee, of course.

Pity the alchemists of old couldn’t wait around another thousand years for us to make homunculi out of ones and zeroes.

And low the maw of heaven open, and the hot rains became sweet. The skin of holy men turned to fondant and sloughed off, to be licked at by mongrel dogs. Men beat their chests and women tore at their hair, weeping rivulets of liquid chocolate.

The children did not know if they should cry or cheer in gluttonous jubilation.

Somewhere in the distance, a white-whiskered prophet whispered, “It is as foretold, the sugary elder god has arrived…”

“Behold Diabeetus! And weep at the doom of icing come to your world!”

(That really is some kind of Lovecraftian vagina-dentata made entirely out of cake frosting)

You’ve heard the name in passing, friends or coworkers talking about the curious new artist with the disastrous performance on Saturday Night Live, so you look her up on YouTube.

This is what you find.

A beautiful young girl with a sultry voice that evokes the best moments of Tori Amos from the 90s.

But, there’s something wrong.

The beauty is artificial. Sculpted with a surgeon’s knife and approaching the alienating expanse of the uncanny valley.

The music is crafted so she won’t have to push out of her vocal range, organized into easily editable phrases that can be cut together from multiple takes and written by song writers that know just what strings to tug in their audience.

The video is just like a few others she put out, a mix of public domain footage and moments of her mouthing the words at the camera, head askew in an awkward attempt at demure sexuality.

If everything about Lana Del Ray smacks of artificial, untenable perfection because that’s just what it is.

Her real name is Elizabeth Grant, and she’s a millionaire’s daughter. Her father made his money by jumping on thousands of domains in the early days of the internet and charging people to lease them from him. Which meant that he had the capital to indulge his daughter when she wanted to become a star. He’s hired managers, producers, song writers, stylists and god knows what else to turn his daughter into this impossible thing.

Elizabeth’s been at this for years, trying to find the right combination of things to fit her unique style of might-be talent. It took them five years and who knows how many marketing reps to settle on the Lana Del Rey name

She released her first EP in 2008, then a full album in 2011 – neither of which are publicly available any more because a decision was made by her “team” to pull them so they’d have a clean field for the newest iteration of the Lana Del Rey construct.

Which about catches us up to the slow motion car wreck that was her on SNL.

Normally, I’d be at head of the pack, racing into savage a pop star for their hubris and lack of talent. But, there’s something different here. To me the story isn’t about how she can’t perform live, the story is about how she was made.

With digital recording technology we can already create singing computer programs to power virtual pop idols. With Lana Del Rey, though, we’re now coming at it from the infinite-number-of-monkeys-with-type-writers direction. Provided a person hits every note in a song just once while be recorded, the song can be sutured together with ones and zeroes into something that sounds like it was done in a single take.

And when a creation like Lana Del Rey steps out onto a live stage, how can you expect such a meticulously crafted illusion to hold up? It would be akin to asking Peter Jackson to do The Lord of the Rings live…in one take.

Lana Del Rey does give me a bit of hope, though. Hope that the same technology that was used to build her will be used by more interesting people to do more interesting things, and they’ll be the ones that push the horizon out just a bit more.

(I will admit I’ve found myself humming the hook to Video Games without realizing it.)

“Now, Zach,” you might say to me, “you talk a lot of shit. You say a lot of bad things about people in the public eye. Things that would be incredibly rude if said to their faces.”

“Yes, yes, I do.” I’ll admit. “But,” I’ll say, “I only do it after they’ve said something first.”

Do you know the old adage “It is better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than open it and remove all doubt”?

The same goes with political speech, especially hateful speech.

Today on the way home to pick up lunch, I stopped my radio on a talk radio station, foolishly assuming it was some kind non-biased news summary, I left the dial where it was. (Remember when that was the sort of thing you could take for granted?) Over the next few minutes, I was bombarded with pure, uncut, unmitigated hate speech.

“Homosexuals are a disease vector. Their illness is a sign of their unholy lifestyle. They are all on drugs.”

These were all things that the pundit on the radio was sending out over the public airwaves, and there was no one stopping him. He was free to say completely untruthful and inflammatory things on airwaves that you and I own.

And I utterly lost it. I screamed bloody murder there at the stoplight. Screamed so loud the lady next to me rolled up her window thinking I was probably some kind of mental case.

But, no, I wasn’t the mental case. The fucking morally-righteous-but-really-moral-bankrupt asshole on the radio was the mental case.

Those are the sort of people I talk shit about.

Because they fucking deserve it, and because they did it first.

The first hundred days are done. More than done, actually. I think I’m about to be into the hundred-teens of it.

While I’ve got you, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I barely remember writing any of them. Like, if you talk to me and mention a key point, I’ll be able to tell you what it was about and what I was thinking, but I’ll be damned if I can name the story I wrote last night or what it was about.

And that’s probably the weirdest thing about the project. I’m learning tons about Memphis, especially the weird in-the-crack bits that fascinate me so much, and I’m learning to be a better writer , BUT, I’m not remembering the stories that I’m learning for and from. They’re like sketches in an artist’s notebook.

Oh, I did hear that the project came up at some kind of official Memphis cultural/business meeting thing. They talked about it as an example of how Memphis isn’t a standard city/market, and we find our own ways to do things.

Yes, I think I would agree that me absolutely losing my mind is my own way of doing things.

NBC is doing a new Wonder Woman tv show for the hipster generation. Something along the lines of Smallville meets Gossip Girl, I imagine.

They’ve picked Adrianne Palicki previous from Friday Night Lights and a few spots on Smallville.

She’s been blonde in FNL, but here’s her with Wonder Woman’s traditional brunette coloring.

Best guesses is she’ll be playing the recently rebooted Wonder Woman. Who grew up in our world and is a lot younger than previous iterations of the character. Here’s what the new character design looks like:

Which I’ll let you come to your own conclusions about. But, I figured this was as good a time as any to remind you about that crazy little idea I had for doing a Wonder Woman book.

My Blood-Thirsty, One-Titted Queen of the Amazons. Here’s a snippet.

My Wonder Woman would be a real Amazon. Muscular, scarred, dirty. Her hair would be caked with mud and matted into dreadlocks. Her right breast would be entirely gone. In its place, a huge, ugly cauterized scar. The left breast would still be there, but it would be strapped down with leather bands and bronze armor. Her remaining breast would be a utility organ, for the feeding of a child, not an object of fantasy or pleasure.

The scar would be a sign of pride for her. For her people, becoming a warrior is something they choose to do after puberty has had its way with their body. They would stand in front of a fire, pull out their sword and lop off their right breast. The breast would go into the fire along with the sword. When hot enough, the sword would be removed and the wound would be cauterized with the red-hot metal. From that point on, the scar would never be covered. It was a sign to the rest of the world that this woman had mutilated her own body in order to be able to kill you easier. This is not something that would be done lightly, and certainly not without intent. If one of her people went through this, then they would become a killer.

She would carry a short gladius sword, a bronze-headed spear and a wooden recurve bow. No silly golden lasso of truth. If she wants the truth out of you, she’ll just torture you. No bullet blocking wrist guards. Her skin is magically as hard as diamond, why would she worry about bullets? No patent leather boots, a huntress always moves silently in her bare feet.

Starting to see where I’m going here?

Basically the complete fucking opposite of what DC has going on with this new Wonder Woman.

Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Challenger Shuttle disaster.

The mission designation was STS-51-L. It was to be the tenth mission for Challenger, and the twenty fifth mission the Space Shuttle Program.

It was one of the greatest failings in American space exploration, and a memory I’ll never forget.

Challenger disintegrated seventy-three seconds after liftoff. A simple seal failed, venting super-hot pressurized gas into the outside of the ship, causing the right solid rocket booster to sheer itself off from the vessel, rupturing the main external fuel tank.

Twenty-five years ago today, at roughly the time I’m writing this, seven brave men and women gave their lives in pursuit of something greater than any of us.

And as child, I watched it all happen.

I was young, very young. But I remember being in a classroom with other teachers and students, probably preschool. I remember being very excited to watch the shuttle launch. Even at that age, I understood the magic and the importance of what I was seeing. At the preschool, we watched all of the launches. It meant a disruption in the normal day’s activities, and added bonus for me.

I remember them calling all of us in. I remember the countdown. I remember the liftoff. Then I remember not understanding what had happened, and being perturbed by what happened next. One of the teachers immediately turned off the television, and ushered us all back to whatever it was we were supposed to be doing. Then I remember them talking in the hall, some of them crying.

I didn’t see another space shuttle launch until first grade. They were unsure about even letting us watch that one. You could feel the apprehension coming off the adults. They stunk of it. I guess they were afraid that seeing two launches turning into shooting stars would do horrible and irreversible things to our young minds. Me? I was just happy to get to see another shuttle launch.

And for a while in elementary school, we watched every shuttle go up. Then, gradually, it started to happen less and less. The shuttles would still going up every few months, but for some reason the teachers and students around me stopped caring.

Which I think speaks a huge volume about where the world took a misstep.

We slowly stopped caring about the bigger possibilities in life as we turned inward to cellphones and video games and the trappings of the digital age.

We started looking at space as place to hang communications satellites that would let us order more cheap things from China.

We stopped looking at it like those seven lost souls saw it. As a place to explore, to discover not just new things out in the black, but new things about ourselves and what we are capable of.

I firmly believe that space is our salvation. If we can get out of this gravity well, get up there, and see what’s out there, we have a shot at it.

But then, when I look back down at the Earth, I shake my head knowing that we’ll probably never make it there.

So, I look to you, as the child in that classroom twenty-five years ago. Don’t turn off the TV, don’t forget it is happening. Don’t let them tell you it is too expensive, or unnecessary or dangerous. Because it is the most important thing we as humans can possibly do.

Don’t let those seven have died in vain. Don’t forget about what it all means, means for us, and meant to them.

Crew of STS-51-L Challenger

Commander Francis “Dick” Scobee
Pilot Michael J. Smitd
Mission Specialist 1 Ellison Onizuka
Mission Specialist 2 Juditd Resnik
Mission Specialist 3 Ronald McNair
Payload Specialist 1 Sharon Christa McAuliffe
Payload Specialist 2 Gregory Jarvis
   

Requiescat in Pace.

When I get hitched, you can be damn sure this will be the image on the Save the Date cards.

From Dark Roasted Blend.

EDIT: Damn, I’m bad at the Internet today. It’s a Photoshop. He did it, but he wasn’t wearing the bikini top.

Time to do this again.

How it works: I post the images I’ve collected during my amblings around the Internet until I run out of them or get bored. In most cases, I don’t have any idea where they came from or who made them. Just sit back and let the Imagegeist roll over you.

New images are after the cut.

Hindenburg over NYC

LSD - Start of something wonderful

Santa has a present for you

Optimist Prime

Hugs?

Continue reading…

I’m sure by this point, you’ve all heard of the Cthulhu dildos. Boing Boing had them, and people were tweeting about them even before that.

I’m not sure what more you need to know beyond the phrase “Cthulhu dildo”, but here’s what I’m talking about if you are (luckily) in the dark.

That bit of eldritch sex toy plastic got me thinking about all the weird mass market tie-in sex toys that have come out lately.

Take the Hustler/Fleshlight alien-vagina-in-a-flashlight-case. It was part of a partnership between the two companies to promote Hustler’s porn parody of Avatar. Think of it this way – if Avatar took 3D filmmaking to a new heights of technology, the Avatar porno was going to take masturbation to new heights of technology as well. Which I guess is great for people that fantasize about watching adult film stars dressed like Thundersmurfs go at it while sticking their bits into the triangular orifice of a piece of molded plastic.

If you ask me, the real technical achievement of the Avatar porn parody was that they managed find body make-up that wouldn’t smear all over everything once the bow-chica-wow-wow started.

But, I digress.

Twilight fans of both sexes can also have their plastic genital needs seen to, as well.

Chief amongst them is what L and I laughingly refer to as the “sparklecock“. (We’ve named a band in ROCK! after it.) It’s a pretty standard dildo, except for the infusion of sparkle glitter to make it match the sparkle that Twilight’s vampires have. Yes, I know, vampires aren’t supposed to sparkle, but whatever, they do in Stephanie Meyers’ head. The other key feature of these things is their temperature retention properties. See, the vampires in Twilight are dead – their bodies are cold. And this plastic was designed to stay cold if you stuck it in the fridge for a while. For the “authentic experience”, as the seller promises.

For those with their genitals on the outside, there’s also the Fleshlight-esque “Succu Dry“, a plastic woman’s fanged mouth. It’s pretty much your standard plastic cavity, except this time the mold is of a mouth and not of lady parts. Branding-wise, the manufacturers are leaning more toward the True Blood angle than the Twilight kids. Probably a smart idea, since most of the male Twi-hards probably wouldn’t want a blowjob anyway, at least not from a girl. But, it is still a sex toy cash-in on the popularities of vampires right now.

It does make me wonder, though. I mean, teeth are a perpetual worry during the specific sex act the Succu Dry is designed to replicate. What sort of laissez-faire attitude must you take toward your sexual well being when you decide that not only are teeth OK, but that bigger more, dangerous teeth are BETTER. It makes me feel that the world is probably better off with that person sticking their penis into plastic that some one else, you know?

Not to be out done by American perverts, the Japanese also have their own versions of a Fleshlight. They call it the “ona-hole”. Yeah. Can’t make this shit up. Anyway. The “ona-holes” get branded just like Fleshlights do here. Except sometimes they go a bit…awry. Like when instead of making the internal part into something that would seem to fit what you’re putting into it, you instead make it into a negative space molding of a famous anime character. An underage, marginally pubescent anime character, at that. I can only assume that the Japanese are training their men to use their penises as lock picks. Because nothing else really makes sense.

“Ona-hole”.

Jesus fucking Christ.

EDIT: Oh god, my friend Katie just sent me a link to the sparklecock in full effect. It’s a plastic dong flying in mid-air, up to you how safe for work it is.

…where some one gets into a fight and their face is slammed into a telephone pole covered in rusty staples.

Something like this:

Staples embedded in telephone pole, The Marigny, New Orleans, by Clayton Cubitt.

It seems like such a brutal and painful thing to do to some one. Along the lines of “biting the curb”.

Even if it was accidental, it would leave an incredible scar. Dozens of tiny lines, criss-crossing a face.

The perfect thing for a villain or anti-hero.

And I have mapped your brain.

Source.

Now that we’ve been over the “What” of Hatsune Miku, let’s go over the “Why”. As in, why she’s important.

Pat commented yesterday that on stage Hatsune’s not that different from The Gorillaz live shows, and that her voice is still based on a real person’s voice. And he’s right about both of those things. The Gorillaz project animated performers onto a screen that masks human musicians, and Hatsune’s voice is built up from the phoneme recordings of a real person.

But her key difference from previous, similar things is that her plasticity, her artificiality, is COMPLETE. Absolutely nothing about her is real.

First, let’s think about her as an animated character.

Animated characters are tied to visuals and to voices. It can be argued that Mel Blanc was more key to popularizing most of the Warner Bros characters than their visual representations. The problem here is that Mel Blanc is a human, and humans, well not to spoil the end of your life for you, die. And when Blanc finally did expire, Warner had several years where they had to convince people that Bugs Bunny really sounded like this new guy, and not at all like that old, dead guy. Same thing with Kermit the Frog, or Tony the Tiger, or any character that’s deeply engrained in the social consciousness and voiced by a real human with an expiration date. Hatsune Miko has no expiration dates. Because her voice is created in a computer by the clever application of a few billions ones and zeroes, she’ll never get die. She’ll never get old, go through puberty, or ruin her voice with smoking and whiskey. A thousand years from now, she’ll sound the exact same as she does right now. She is the first voice of the future, because in the future she’ll sound exactly the same.

Now, let’s think about her as a commercial character.

Ultimately, Hatsune Miko was created as a bit of stunt by Crypton Future Media. They’re sound technology people. So, they made the apex of current sound technology. She was meant to raise awareness of the company that created her, and I’m sure her records sales are a nice bonus. Like Pandora and her box, Crypton’s unwittingly unleashed something on the world. There is no question that most Disney pop stars are trained and groomed from a young age to become billion dollar industries. There is also no question that Disney would probably love to not have said pop stars taking a chunk of their revenue and then spend it on things that get them plastered all over the front of grocery store tabloids. Making a pop star out of ray tracing and vocal synthesizers is one way to do that. And it doesn’t have to be Disney doing it, either. If a relatively small company like Crypton can do it, anyone can. Every new product or initiative could have a fake pop star attached to it, filling the air waves and fiber optic cables. And speaking as a guy in advertising who could pitch that to a client, this is fantastic and frightening

Lastly, let’s think about her as a musical character.

Touched on this a bit in the first one, but Hatsune and the future things like her, are fixed point in space. The point can be fixed as a 16 year old pop idol, or a 60 year old torch singer, or a 20 something folk-rocker. And since they are artificial, and built up by a team of people, they’ll never go off on some bizarre introspective tangent and make a record like Pet Sounds. Their music will be consistent, uniform across all of their releases. And if the people behind them ever get bored or want to try something different? They’ll just whip up a new vocaloid and create a new artist.

Hatsune Miko is important because of the simplicity of what she represents: The idea of an unchanging, easily replaceable commercial entity that you owe nothing to and will never do anything to embarrass or betray you.

While I could put money on their never being an indie-rock vocaloid success (ONLY because the hipsters won’t allow it, not because it couldn’t be good), I can’t put that same money on idorus like Hatsune Miko carving out a niche for themselves in pop music.

I give you Hatsune Miku.

A teal-green haired Japanese school girl that’s apparently holding a leek or onion or something in this picture.

She’s fake. Completely not real. She’s the intellectual property of Japan’s Crypton Future Media. And probably the most crystal clear vision of the future that I’ve ever seen.

Crypton Future Media makes sound…things. Mainly digital libraries of sounds or programs to generate those libraries. They’ve sold their products to video game companies, software developers, and even Japanese government agencies. After looking over the list of companies they’ve done work for, I’d be willing to put money that everyone with a toe in the digital world has probably heard their stuff.

So what is a glorified MIDI card of a company doing whipping up an anime character with an apparent obsession with vegetables of the Alliaceae family?

The answer lies in a translation of her name.

Hatsune Miku can be loosely translated to mean “First Sound of the Future”.

And that’s exactly what Hatsune Miku is. She’s a completely artificial anime-esque pop sensation. In a world where pop stars are more often than not manufactured people with equally fake personalities and musical talents, Crypton Future Media has taken a visionary step and gone ahead and cut out the fleshy animal medium entirely.

Here’s the result, performing live in concert:

Hatsune Miku’s voice is created through the use of Yamaha’s Vocaloid voice synthesizer technology. Crypton took the vocal patterns of a young female anime voice actor, Saki Fujita, and through some technical wizardry and the Vocaloid synthesizer, created their most important product yet – a pop star.

God, I can’t tell you how surreal typing that line was. Anyway.

When she…err…it preforms, it’s a pre-rendered holographic projects done against a semi-permeable screen that lets you see the band behind her (featuring some of the crew from Crypton Future Media) and gives an illusion of depth.

Check out this longer video:

William Gibson, the Father of Cyberpunk, was speculating about creatures like Hatsune over a decade ago in his novel Idoru. But some how, I don’t think this is what he had in mind. While she’s not the first, she’s the biggest and most popular digital synthetic artificial whatever pop idol created yet. Hatsune Miku really is the first voice of the future.

Albeit a very, annoying, grating, saccharine future.

More on this tomorrow.

A Mexican street religion born from a crucible of violence and desperation. The guy at the end sums it all up perfectly.

“The way I see it is…no one’s eternal in this life. I don’t ask her for eternal life, I ask her for a happy death. Because I don’t think anyone wants to die in a bad way. And we’re all on the list and the day that she decides to come for me I’m going to receive her. I’m going to welcome her.”

After all, why would you want eternal life when all your life has been is struggle and suffering?

And today, appropriately enough, is Santa Muerte’s holiday. I offer my last FastFiction as a gift to her.

From the always incredible Coilhouse.net.

I’m just going to leave this here.

A Jacksonville mother charged with shaking her baby to death has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Alexandra V. Tobias, 22, was arrested after the January death of 3-month-old Dylan Lee Edmondson. She told investigators she became angry because the baby was crying while she was playing a computer game called FarmVille on the Facebook social-networking website.

Tobias entered her plea Wednesday before Circuit Judge Adrian G. Soud. A second-degree murder charge is punishable by up to life in prison.

And then I’m going to point out that games are built using a combination of math, art, storytelling and psychiatry. The last one is especially true of persistent world games. We use systems like B.F. Skinner’s schedules of reinforcement to find the exact number of times a player will perform a tast – say watering their crops in Farmville – before you have to give them a reward. Encouraging the “Well, I’ll do just one more X before I quit” behavior the designer wants. And when we’ve done our jobs correctly, that last time is the time that gives you a reward, causing the player to either continue playing, or look forward to their next play experience. We give them cravings, essentially.

Persistent world games are built to give people a good feeling, and then make them want more of that feeling.

It is an intentionally, deliberately created method of addiction.

So, when you see things like the news story above, think about it in the same way you would when a crack addict burns her house down and kills her infant child.

Because they’re both the same story, of some one who succumbed to an addiction.

Only difference is one of them happens to be available at Best Buy and Walmart and on your kid’s Christmas list.



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