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March of the Robots in the Uncanny Valley

Although the armatures and servo-controlled eyeballs beneath the skin may be fascinating, Beware the Ides of March, and robot teachers with scary rubber lips! With all the press surrounding the schoolteacher robot named Saya (developed by Hiroshi Kobayashi), you would think that the Singularity is upon us, but upon closer examination it looks like we will be loping along in the Uncanny Valley for a long time to come. In the photo series that appeared in the Boston Globe recently, it was apparent to me that loose rubber lips do not a rose make.

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Galileo vs. the Church: arent we past the Inquisition, yet?

Sophia and I were lucky last night because our friend, MaryAnn, scored some great tickets to the Preview show of “Two Men of Florence,” the first play by Richard Goodwin. We ended up in the first row center orchestra seats, actually, right in front of the author. Thanks, MaryAnn! It’s an intriguing play, which pits the scientific passion of Galileo against the vainglorious pursuits of Pope Urban VIII, who attempts at first to bring a “dialog” of ideas into the Church — owing to his magnanimous benificence — but later realizes that he has accidentally opened the gates of Reason which threaten the very foundations of a Church built on absolutist devotion. The sets of the play are remarkable, including a latticework of walls full of candles, and circular center stage upon which revolve the desks, chairs, and armatures of Galileo’s inventions. A semi-transparent curtain is occasionally whisked around this center of action, sometimes serving as a projection screen, or an effective scene changing device. The staging and movements are delightfully paced, with nary a figure making absurd entries and exits on wires or wheeled pavilions. The performances were excellent as well, not only the two lead actors, but also the supporting cast. The Pope’s friend and confident , and Galileo’s daughter, were especially standouts, in particular the moments when the daughter sings in Latin. Jay Sanders’ Galileo is fiery and sensitive, managing to convey his love of philosophy and the natural order of things without sounding snobbish or boorish. The rich language provided by Goodwin really shines through here, giving Sanders a line like this: ‘The moon. Full-bottomed Eve. Crafted by God as comfort to the fugitive earth. Let me see if I can peek beneath the hem of your borrowed radiance.’

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Clever German Amazon

Despite the corny Nazi theme, I couldn’t resist this Fred Gaurdineer panel of Fraulein Halunke, the clever German Amazon! Sort of sums up the heartless femme fatale, along with the usual dialog. Y

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Bamboo Temple, Kunming, 1990

Another great temple visited on my first trip to Kunming, was the famous Bamboo Temple, located in the hills due West of Kunming. The original gate ticket is shown on the right. This temple featues s

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Rabbit Siji captures the cuteness

In the post-Hello Kitty Universe, the bizarre blank-faced character known as Tu Siji (Rabbit Siji) is both ubiquitous and actually making money. Creator Wang Maomao said she couldn’t believe that

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Philip Jose Farmer and the Weird Beard

Philip Jose Farmer, one of the great SF minds of our times, passed away in his Peoria, Illinois home. The tributes and obits are flowing in from all corners of society. SF Site has posted a great 1975 interview conducted in Minneaopolis by Dave Truesdale, (editor of Tangent fanzine), which primarily deals with the identity of Kilgore Trout.

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R. Crumb Ink At Mass Art

Ran over to Mass Art Paine Gallery (how apropos!) to see the R. Crumb Underground exhibit, which was written up recently in the Phoenix and the Globe. This exhibit kicked off two years ago at the Yerba Buena Center of the Arts, and has been making the rounds from city to city, and finally seems to have drifted into Boston on a Greyhound bus, clutching an old leather bag of 78s and sinsemilla buds.

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Yuantong Si, Kunming, 1990

On my first trip to China, in October of 1990, I entered from Hong Kong by rail to Guangzhou Station, then bought a ticket on a flight to Kunming for the following morning. I was staying at the Camelia Hotel , then a backpacker’s paradise, with a huge co-ed dormitory and easy access to various transportation routes. At that time, the entire Hong Kong women’s volleyball team was staying there, after having competed in the 1990 Asian Games. What a deliriously stimulating dorm room that was!

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It Smells A Rat - Americas Collapsing Cities

Attending Antonio Di Mambro‘s lecture last night at Boston Public Library, it was amazing to see the giant crowd that packed Rabb Lecture Hall. Who would have thought that an urban planning talk — stoked with dire warnings and gloomy facts — would bring out such a vibrant cross-section of the city? It is almost as if, after thirty years of vapid hand-wringing and self-gratifying acts of “green” living, the mass of architects, planners, designers, and technocrats are beginning to realize that if they do not actually change the way America is built starting immediately, that our cities are literally going to fall apart. Cities can only take so much pillaging by the greed heads, then they go belly up.