Robo-Rubio Upgrade Too Late?

Faust Company Issue 203

Lisa Ipswich @lipswich

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Robo-Rubio has proven that he is ready for the big leagues.

But is it already too late?

An aide close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed that the original design team at Reblican Establishment Enterprises had been fired after the android suffered an apparent breakdown during the crucial February debate.

The writing was on the wall: it was time to call in the big guns.

Olaf Erickson, of Lund, Sweden, remembers that he was watching the National Hurling Championship when he received the call:

“It was Mitch [McConnell]. He’d just pulled the plug on the American programmers and was looking abroad. Somehow he got wind of my team.”

Erickson, the world’s leading expert on simulacrum design, wasn’t surprised to hear that Robo-Rubio had broken down during the debate.

“Trumps nonsequiturs, his logical fallacies and boorish manner would distress the protocols of even the most sophisticated robots,” Erickson explained. “Only my design team can write the proper algorithms to weather the hot air of a gasbag like Donald Trump.”

Anit Chowdhury, of Lahore, Pakistan, the team’s lead algorithm designer chimed in: “Robo-Rubio required a whole new level of sophistication. Gone are the days of the the ‘aw shucks’ congeniality protocols, for example, of the Ronald Reagan model, which, quite frankly, a chimpanzee could have written.”

Lead behavioralist, Yuri Gregorovich, or Kiev, explained that he had inculcated 110 communicative gestures of a male Silverback gorilla into the Robo-Rubio’s motherboard to help the android interpret Trump’s bizarre body language.

Gregorovich was pleased that after extensive coaching Robo-Rubio now behaved: “…like an anal retentive prick with severe Aspergers. You’ll also notice that when Robo-Rubio gets caught in a feedback loop, he repeatedly accuses Donald Trump of repeating himself until he can reboot.”

Though Robo-Rubio’s performance has improved thanks to the hard work of these H1-B visa holders, there is worry at Republican Establishment Enterprises that it may be too late.

“We turned up his vitriol and basically obliterated his common sense protocols,” Gregorovich said. “But the average Republican voter still perceives Robo-Rubio as aloof and over-educated.”

“Mitch wanted me to turn his rhetoric down to Third Grade level,” Erikson said. “But we couldn’t get any lower. Mitch worries that Robo-Rubio is still more articulate than Trump, but there’s nothing we can do about it now.”

The truth is a hard pill to swallow:

Despite Robo-Rubio’s upgrades, after Super Tuesday’s disaster the Republican Establishment android may be destined for the scrap pile.

This post is SATIRE.

Thanks to Bill Draheim for providing the photography. You can find more of his visual art at billdraheim.com

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Where I’ve Been Hiding: Pu`uhonua

It often seems that universally writers talk about two conflicting aspects of the work.

1) Writing is work. No amount of fantasizing will get you to the finish line. Te-Nahisi Coates describes writing as an act of physical courage, and the ultimate product of your labor? Passable at best.

2) The lengthy periods of writer’s block.

Out of one side of the mouth comes the old admonishment: “There is nothing to writing! All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” From the other side, the admission that lack of inspiration or confidence can take a writer’s voice for days, sometimes even years.

For three months, I have not posted anything to this blog. But fortunately this is not because of writer’s block. I have been writing. And the project that took all my efforts in the months of May and June and that kept me silent in this medium was a screenplay, the conception and execution of which, like most spates of honest work, took up far more time and energy than I had initially provided for.

A few years ago I wrote, co-produced and worked as script supervisor on a short film shot here in Honolulu entitled John E. Dirt. It was a great month. An absolute hoot.

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In order to accomplish the project, we called upon friends, acquaintances and family members. We also had the good fortune to work with industry professionals that the director, Bill Draheim, had met working on movies and in television here in Hawaii.

I plan to tell more about this ambitious vanity project in the future, but the reason I bring it up now is because one of Bill’s friend from Hawaii 50, electrician and photographer Hesham Metwally, showed up towards the end to help out. He happened to be looking for a writer.

In the final shot, Hesham lit a spliff and waved it in the dusty air of the third-story floor we had built our set on, its smoke mingling that coming from the prop cigarettes that a villainous roadie, played by J.T. Rowland, blows into the face of our suffering rock star, John E. Dirt. Bill let the spliff-waving stand. We were ready for a party.

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I didn’t hear from Hesham for two years. Then one day, while slogging through another day at my permanent-adjunct teaching position at Hawaii Tokai International College, I got a call out of the blue. It was Hesham. He wanted to discuss a project.

When we met for a coffee, Hesham right away went through the endless frustration of self-styled writers who “loved the project” and were “very excited about it” but invariably evaporated when pressed. Perhaps they were all of that most common genus of writer: the one who doesn’t actually write. But there were other reasons he encountered affable dismissal, which I will go into later.

“Everyone thinks they’re a writer until they face the blank page,” I must have told him, or something along those lines. My way of cluing him into the reality of how difficult it is to write. “So what is the story,” I asked him.

He lowered his voice conspiratorially: “Have you heard of the ‘The City of Refuge’?”

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Here a little backstory is required. I’ve lived in Hawaii for close to twenty years. I arrived in late 1997 hot on the heels of my college sweetheart, a girl I could not live without–at least for the next ten years. Her family sat squarely at the overlap of various progressive political movements: her mother was a self-proclaimed Communist, her father, a Hawaiian nationalist. I was deeply in love and still reeling from the existential shellacking my studies as a political scientist undergrad at a small liberal arts college had. My white middle class upbringing seemed paltry and shallow compared to the indigenous valley community she came from.

I have since matured a bit and have a less sanguine view of where she comes from and a more generous view of where I come from, but at the time, callow youth being what it is, I leapt into the struggle hook line and sinker.

In sum, I became involved in activism. I met many brilliant people and more than a few eccentrics. The occasional cracked pot hardly stuck out among the whistle blowers; sometimes, they are one and the same!

My twenties unfolded, mystically and haphazardly, a harrowing and psychological decade. I disappeared from my old life, sinking into a sort of stuporous political zealotry, reminders of which still flare up in my writing, my Facebook posts, and the occasional bar stool debate like malaria or a cold sore.

At the end, I was a single, unemployed father. As Kurt Vonnegut would say: “So it goes.”

In any case, the upshot was that of course I had heard of the ‘City of Refuge’, or Pu`uhonua as it is called in the Hawaiian language. This is a place, usually fairly remote from other communities, where a person can take refuge if they had had the bad luck of being accused of breaking one of the strict laws, or kapu, that regimented life in ancient Hawaii.

Hesham had heard of the place (really many places, as each island was said to have one or more of the refuges) years ago and come up with an adventure idea so obvious that on hearing it, I couldn’t help but wonder why no one had thought of it before.

A young man and woman fall in love. A jealous rival frames the young man who is then accused of breaking the kapu. His only recourse is to flee to the City of Refuge!

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Now, the idea is admittedly brilliant in its simplicity and I have high hopes for the project, but just allow me one quick quibble as a writer who has been approached with ideas before.

So after Hesham has told me the skeleton of the plot, I ask him: “Well, what happens on the way to the Pu`uhonua?

“He escapes.”

“Yeah, but what happens in his escape? That’s the movie, bro.” I tell him.

In cinema-speak, what Hesham hadn’t thought about yet was what is known as Act II. Act II It is the longest part of the movie, doubly so. It is the part when the movie fizzles or sizzles. It is the part where you actualize the brilliant concept you’ve established in Act I, also known as the introduction, and work up to the climax that wraps everything up in Act III.

For those of you who don’t write, please keep it in mind that success lies in the execution.

Act II, that’s the movie, bro.

Artist Collaboration: Jamie Noble

 

 

Inspired by the work of Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, as a kid, I suggested an artistic collaboration of image with a prose vignette to photographer, Bill Draheim.

He and I have since collaborated on two such projects. Here is a third, done in tandem with the very talented and imaginative artist, Jamie Noble.

 

Hope you enjoy the story!

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Algrimm should have known there was more to the job than Blind Delphus had let on. That was the problem with getting the skinny from an oracle: there was always more to it than met the eye.

There was treasure involved. With Delphus there always was. But the ease with which Algrim had gotten the map should have given him pause.

A thief of no small ability, Algrimm had easily infiltrated the small estate Delphus had described, eluding wards which were in his estimation no more dangerous than those that might protect a haberdashery or alchemist’s still. The guards were likewise less than vigilant. Algrimm left them to sleep, dreams sweetened by the narcotic powder known affectionately as “Deep Sleep” in the Old Quarters. Despite the sometimes dubious requirements of his trade, Algrimm was not a violent man.

When finally he found the room in which the fat noble slept, wheezing as fat men do in their sleep, Algrimm discovered the map exactly where Delphus had said it would be, hidden in plain sight on the mantle above a fireplace from which ruddy light eked into the room. Algrimm had taken the map from its place in silence. Still, the stertorous breathing had stopped.

He had turned, long knife in hand, to find the nobleman propped up on one elbow, staring at him in the dark.

“There are eyes. Hundreds of them.” The Baron had said, just before Algrimm blew the black dust in his face.

After his escape, Algrimm had not returned to the fetid room he called home. He had paid handsomely for the map’s whereabouts for a reason, and if the nobleman did have the means to penetrate the glamour obscuring Algrimm’s features, then that was all the more reason for him to do the job and get out of town.

If he did this right, this would be the last time he would have to abscond in the dead of night. He had tired of this brutish existence, the endless sleepless nights when he was out plying his trade, the long days imprisoned in some grotty bolt hole to hide from the constabulary or jealous rivals. He knew that it was a matter of time before he would become just another body added to the necrotic offal that piled up in the back alleys.

But such were the dreams of men like he, easily dashed, easily subverted.

Now he knew the meaning of the words the sweating, snoring man had said. Not a warning, but a reason why the map was not hidden, why it was so easily purloined. He had thought he had meant eyes in a colloquial sense: sentries, a warren of goblins or a den of dire rats that would grow larger as he descended. These things could be evaded by the use of his simple cantrips.

But not this.

If he survived, he would have remember this lesson: in the world Algrimm belonged to, anything that came easily was always and invariably a trap.

 

Jamie’s art can be found at www.thenobleartist.com 

Facebook account www.facebook.com/jamienobleartist

Twitter @thenobleartist. 

I look forward to more collaborations with this very talented artist!