Who’s Copying Me Now?: Robot Edition

I scooped Colbert:

Never forget.

Next time: a blog post that has nothing to do with sex robots. Hopefully.

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ur doin it wrong: Robot Edition

There’s a lot wrong with this story in Sunday’s edition of the Baltimore Sun about sex robots. I mean other than the fact that it’s inexplicably filed under the “Michael Jackson” subcategory in the Entertainment section, or that one of the entries in the topic list for the story is “children”.

No, the real WTF starts with the very first sentence:

A New Jersey company says it has developed “the world’s first sex robot,” a life-size rubber doll that’s designed to engage the owner with conversation rather than lifelike movement.

I don’t think the developer understands the concept of a “sex robot”.

It has touch sensors at strategic locations and can sense when it’s being moved. But it can’t move on its own, not even to turn its head or move its lips. The sound comes out of an internal loudspeaker.

Correction: I don’t think the developer understands the concept of a “robot”. It can’t even move? I know Wikipedia’s discussion of the defining characteristics of a robot doesn’t require the ability to move, but that just demonstrates how Wikipedia makes no guarantee of validity. Touch sensors and speakers in a squick-inducing chassis do not a robot make. This just sounds like a creepy computer peripheral. Surely there must be more to it than–

[...] there’s a laptop connected to cables coming out of its back.

Or you could just not bother trying to hide it. That works too, I guess.

“Sex only goes so far — then you want to be able to talk to the person,” Hines said.

So that’s the order, then. I’ve been doing it wrong this whole time.

A Japanese company, Honey Dolls, makes life-size sex dolls that can play recorded sounds, but Roxxxy’s sensors and speech capabilities appear to be more sophisticated.

I never had any idea the U.S. was beating Japan in both robotics and perversion.

CAUTION: Do not imbibe a beverage while reading the following excerpt, unless you feel like doing a spit take on your keyboard.

An engineer, Hines said he was inspired to create the robot after a friend died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Didn’t see that one coming, did you? I love how the article’s author throws in the appositive to justify the thought process involved. “Why would 9/11 inspire him to make a sex robot?” “He’s an engineer.” “Oh, that makes sense.”

That got him thinking about preserving his friend’s personality, to give his children a chance to interact with him as they’re growing up. Looking around for commercial applications for artificial personalities, he initially thought he might create a home health care aide for the elderly.

“But there was tremendous regulatory and bureaucratic paperwork to get through. We were stuck,” Hines said. “So I looked at other markets.”

In other words, 9/11 + bureaucracy = sex robots.

Come to think of it, however, we should make an effort to distribute this article wherever Al Qaeda is operating. Once they understand that one of the effects of terror attacks against the U.S. is increased innovation in sex robots, they’re bound to give up. U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Zoda’s Revenge

Zoda's Revenge title screen

I recently purchased and played through Zoda’s Revenge, the sequel to StarTropics, on Virtual Console. Having played the game before back in the day, I knew I was in for a control scheme with weird jumping mechanics (but not nearly as weird as those of its predecessor, of course). However, I had forgotten just how awful the game’s storyline is. None of it makes any sense if you make the mistake of stopping to think about it.

Well, prepare to join me in making that mistake. I’ve taken the liberty of stripping out all the entertaining parts of the game and distilling what’s left.

Chapter 1

Mike Jones’s uncle, Dr. Steve “Dr. J” Jones, is struggling to decipher something that he had presumably found in the wreckage of the Argonian escape pod in the previous game. Of course, in that game he had had no trouble translating the ship’s log he somehow extracted from the melted wreckage, so why this last code is giving him such a difficult time is a mystery, especially when we discover the secret behind it.

A very tough cipher, apparently.  He apparently never tried reading it backwards before.

And as anyone who’s ever read something backwards knows, it automatically turns whatever book you happen to have lying around into a portal through time.

Oxford Wonder World  Time travel is stripey.

Chapter 2

Mike winds up in the stone age, where luckily for him, not only does everyone speak English, but they also happen to have a prophesy about him saving their children from a monster. The prophesy may or may not also be phrased in terms of baseball.

Reliever from the south  Southpaw reliever

For all I know Mike is indeed a pitcher, which would explain why he throws every weapon he eventually acquires in the game. (Throwing axe! Throwing dagger! Throwing kitana?!) However, much like Inigo Montoya and the Man In Black, Mike is not left-handed!

Right  Handed

Either stone age psychics are just as accurate as modern-day psychics, or the stone age villagers were really hoping for Link.

On the plus side, though, it turns out Argonian telepathic powers still work even if one of the parties involved is thousands of years in the past. Because if there’s one message that someone who suddenly appears in the stone age needs to hear, it’s that they traveled back in time.

Chronotelepathy!  Yeah, I got that from the stone age village.

Chapter 3

Mike time travels to Ancient Egypt, wherein he helps deliver a pizza to Cleopatra. I can only imagine the delay was because some fat plumber kept stomping the delivery turtle.

Yes, that is indeed pizza.  Delivery turtle?!

Mike then makes his way through a hedge maze to learn psychokinesis from a monkey.

Or a reed maze.  Whatever.  Apparently, monkeys evolved telepathy.

Mike then explores the Great Pyramid, which for some reason has conveyor belts in it. I assume this is because the StarTropics universe takes place in the alternate timeline where Ra took the Stargate with him when he abandoned Earth, but forgot all about the conveyor belts in his landing pad.

Ancient Egyptian conveyor belt loop.

Chapter 4

Mike next travels to nineteenth-century London, wherein he teams up with Sherlock Holmes to stop Zoda from stealing a particular artifact from a museum (which I can only assume, like all artifacts in British museums, was itself originally in Ancient Egypt).

Hey, aren't you fictional?  I was wondering when you were going to start revenging.

Now, you might think that not even time travel can let you meet Sherlock Holmes, since he’s a fictional character and all. That just shows how little you know about time travel.

Also worth pointing out: yes, Mike is on a fetch quest for tetrads. Except in the Virtual Console version of the game, where Nintendo was apparently worried about trademark issues or something and replaced all instances of “tetrad” with “block”, even though the graphics didn’t change at all, and come on, everyone knows what those are.

Chapter 5

Mike’s next stop is the Gold Rush. Words cannot do justice to the one-two punch of blatant anachronism and painful attempt to be what-they-though-was-cool-in-the-90s: The Cactus Dance:

Mike then has the option of using explosives to mine for gold. And remember kids, if you ever find a chicken nugget buried in a mountain while mining for gold, just go ahead and eat it.

How did the chicken nugget get there?  Oh yeah, I always eat meat found lying in caves.

Then Mike gets new psychokinetic powers from a talking donkey. Or maybe they’re magic powers. Whatever. In a post-Cactus Dance world, does it really matter?

Psychic donkey.  Magic donkey

Chapter 6

Mike finds himself in Renaissance Italy. You can tell this because all the people on the streets of the village are such extreme ethnic stereotypes you might think you were playing Punch-Out!!.

Capturing the Italian experience.  All Italians carry an emergency supply of pasta.

Also, the pizza delivery guy from Chapter 3 recognizes you on the street. Why this makes sense: Mike is in Italy now, and the pizza was delivered from Italy. Why this makes no sense: Cleopatra lived in the first century BCE, whereas the Renaissance took place over a thousand years later. Mike can travel through time by shouting gibberish at a book. What’s the pizza guy’s excuse?

Maybe the pizza guy is just really old.

Anyway, Mike saves Leonardo da Vinci from Zoda-Y’s plaster-breath by fetching the hammer and chisel from his workshop’s basement. Why Leonardo has a dungeon full of deadly traps between the first floor and the basement is a mystery, as one might think an old man would have difficulty navigating the series of well-timed jumps needed to get through. Even more inexplicable is how the villagers are fully aware of his personal dungeon and don’t seem to find it odd.

Never babysit my kids.  Everyone should have a dungeon in their basement.

Once Mike chisels Leonardo free, he then gives him some advice on a painting he’s working on, in another painful attempt by the game to seem 90s-cool at the cost of damaging the space-time continuum. Also of note: in Leonardo’s two-frame animation where he changes the painting, at no time does the brush actually touch anything but her face.

Well, Mike, you are several hundred years in the past.  What Dan Brown doesn't want you to know.

In return, Leonardo lends Mike his flying machine so he can reach an old castle with the next tetrad. En route, Mika telepathically warns Mike from the future about how the evil aliens are also traveling through time in search of the tetrads. This might’ve been useful information, had Mike not fought Zoda-X back in London nor already been aware Zoda-Y is in Italy.

Looks safe to me.  Useless information.

In the old castle, Mike fights a bipedal triceratops who spits energy spheres, in case things hadn’t been anachronistic enough. Also, Zoda-Y ambushes him at the end, and refers to Zoda-X as his henchman. This is despite that fact that they’re both clones of the original Zoda (whom Mike killed at the end of StarTropics), and despite the fact that there’s also a Zoda-Z you fight at the end, so if any of the three clones would be the leader, Zoda-Z would be it, not Zoda-Y. No wonder the evil aliens are losing: they have no clear chain of command.

The elusive bipedal Renaissance triceratops, now with energy breath!  Unaware he's also a henchman, apparently.

Chapter 7

There’s not much to say about this one, actually. Zoda-Y sends Mike to a Transylvanian castle where he fights a bunch of undead monsters and, ultimately, Zoda-Y as well, scoring yet another tetrad in the process. Maybe the creators of the game finally gave up on trying to put a plot on this game?

Chapter 8

Never mind. Mike arrives in Arthurian England for the last tetrad. Apparently everything the creators of this game know about England comes from fictional works. It doesn’t help that even the knights in Monty Python and the Holy Grail look daring and heroic by comparison.

Thanks, Lancelot.  Heroism: ur doin it rong.

King Arthur seems OK with the whole thing and decides to knight Mike and order him to fight the obligatory dragon. Along the way, Mike encounters Merlin, who had been disguising himself as animals throughout history in order to give Mike psychic/magic/whatever abilities. Everyone needs a hobby, I guess.

Who could forget a talking psychic monkey?  So... you're into donkeys, huh?

Side note: it seems that the fact that Merlin has been helping Mike along his journey was supposed to be a sudden reveal in Chapter 8. Unfortunately, the Game Over screen has Merlin encouraging Mike to give it another try. Whoops.

Anyway, turns out Merlin is best friends with Hirocon, the ruler of the Argonians, notable for having had their butts kicked by Zoda in the previous game. Hirocon hid the tetrads across time and space for a hero to someday find them. Hirocon nailed the “across time” part, but one would think a spacefaring alien would consider “across space” to include “places other than Earth”. No wonder they got conquered by Zoda.

Hirocon is all about English mythology.  It would've been easier had they been colocated.

Merlin upgrades Mike’s psychic power enough that it’s finally actually useful to use as the main weapon. Mike presses on, slays the dragon, gets the final tetrad, and discovers via time-traveling alien telepathy that Zoda-Z is attacking C-Island in the present. Since Mike’s understanding of time travel comes from a totally excellent movie, he doesn’t quite get that “urgency” and “ability to travel through time at will” are mutually exclusive. So he turns to the last page of the book that for some reason lets him travel through time by shouting gibberish….

That's not the last page.

Chapter 9

Mike arrives at C-Island, just as he did in the first chapter of the original StarTropics. The island has received a graphical upgrade since then; I blame the seven Argonian children Mike saved from Zoda at the end of that game. Anyway, Mike walks to Coralcola and discovers that everyone’s contracted swine flu.

Oink! Oink! Snort!  How convenient.

OK, it might’ve been Zoda-Z’s doing. Reabducting the Argonian children — the last survivors of their race — wasn’t enough of a dick move, so he also swinified a bunch of defenseless villagers. (In StarTropics, the chief game Mike the village’s only weapon: a yo-yo. And Mike never gave it back.) On the plus side, the final dungeon turns out to be the first dungeon of the original StarTropics, remixed a bit for the sequel’s control scheme.

You didn't get double quad hearts in the first room in StarTropics, though.  Fighting the reanimated skeleton of StarTropics's first boss?  Yes, please.

Well, it’s not quite that easy, since after fighting the C-Serpent’s skeleton, Mike gets one last chance to stock up on potions before going through a boss rush culminating in the final showdown with Zoda-Z and his swinification gun. (Luckily, the effects on Mike are only temporary.)

SWINE FLU GUN!  Wild boars can't use weapons.

Mike emerges victorious, rescues the Argonian children (for the second time), and the villagers have inexplicably reverted to their human form. As luck would have it, Chief Coralcola, despite living on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific, is a pro at Tetris, and can figure out how to reassemble the tetrads to form…

With your tetrads combined...  ... I am Captain Planet!  Wait.

As shocking as this may be, I am not going to mock the fact that Argonians have seal-people-in-blocks technology, since StarTropics already established that. In the final two chapters of that game, Mike collects the three “magic cubes” from Zoda’s spaceship, and when they’re recombined, they turn into the seven Argonian children. What I am going to mock is how apparently seven children can be sealed in three cubes, but they used twenty-eight cubes (7 tetrads x 4 cubes/tetrad) to seal Hirocon by himself. It seems to me if the cube plan was your survival-of-the-species Plan B, you’d want to cram as many people as you can in there to maximize genetic diversity once you start rebuilding your population.

There’s also the little problem of how Hirocon hid the tetrads throughout Earth’s history before having himself sealed inside them.

You mean the tetrads on a different planet?  That plan seems dubious.

It gets worse. Apparently their plan is now to go back to Argonia and rebuild their society. Never mind that Argonia is presumably crawling with Zoda’s yellow and green stormtroopers now, and probably being ruled by Zodas A through W with 23 iron fists. You know, the invasion force that destroyed their military and nearly exterminated their race. And then traveled all the way to Earth on two separate occasions just to wipe out the last few survivors. No, I’m sure going back with a total force of one man and seven children will be enough to liberate the planet.

Plus, there’s the whole issue of not having a spaceship. The Argonian escape pod melted into an unusable wreck in the Lost Ruins in the original game, and Mike blew up Zoda’s ship in orbit around Earth shortly thereafter. (Mike escaped in an, um, escape pod right before the big boom.) Earth doesn’t have ships capable of interstellar travel. Plus, they’re on a small island in the middle of the Pacific ocean, so even if Earth did have such vessels, they aren’t going to be anywhere readily accessible.

What’s that, you say? You can just turn yourselves into pure energy and fly back to Argonia like that?

WHISKEY TANGO  FOXTROT

WHAT?!?!?! If the Argonians have an innate ability teleport themselves across interstellar space, why didn’t they just do that in the first place? Why didn’t the entire population of Argonia just teleport themselves to some uninhabited planet when Zoda attacked? Sure it’d take a little advance planning, but so does scattering tetrads throughout Earth’s history so you can be resurrected should your planet be conquered. Actually, the latter would be harder, what with the time travel and everything. Plus, the Argonians would have had a casualty rate of zero instead of billions.

Boy, it’s sure a good thing Mike saved the leader who came up with that plan, so he can continue ruling over the tattered remnant of his civilization as they return to a planet no doubt occupied with the same invading force that nearly killed them once already. Had Mike not traveled through time collecting tetrads, the Argonian children would have lived long and happy lives in an island paradise. Sure, Zoda-Z would have come after them, but as long as Mike had saved the Super Nova weapon from the end of StarTropics, he wouldn’t have been any more difficult to defeat. (I assume the only reason Mike didn’t have it in this game was because he justifiably wasn’t expecting to have to fight aliens that day.)

Congratulations, Mike, you just doomed the Argonians.

Lobbying group FAIL

If I were a lobbyist working on behalf of the tobacco industry, I’d probably wouldn’t pick a name that suggests we’re trying to sell cigarettes to children.

Apparently that makes me overqualified:

Bruce Bereano, a lobbyist representing the Maryland Association of Tobacco and Candy Distributors, called the measure an “anti-smoking” bill and said he finds it “very troublesome.” [emphasis added]

Really?

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Even Stephen Colbert thinks it’s over the top

Is it possible that the most patriotic video game ever created was developed and released exclusively in Japan? I am talking, of course, about Metal Wolf Chaos.

The TV Tropes page for it describes it thusly:

Michael Wilson, veteran of the Arizona Conflict and 47th President of the United States has been deposed in a military coup by his running mate, RICHAAAAAAARD! Hawk. Now, he must take up the guise of Metal Wolf and take back America city by city, armed only with his Humongous Mecha and the power of BURNING AMERICAN FREEDOM.

This game could only have been made in Japan.

Metal Wolf Chaos is an original Xbox game made by From Software, unfortunately never released in America. The game is a Humongous Mecha title focused around the highly American pursuit of blowing stuff up, with a plot and dialog that would be the epitome of American Patriotic Fervor (or the most over-the-top satire of it ever made) were it not coming from a different country altogether. Weaponry includes machine guns, rocket launchers, and a shark gun – Yes, a shark gun – while the plot takes you to shootouts in the southwest, bomb threats in Beverly Hills, battles against giant robots in Manhattan, redecorating the White House with missiles, a showdown with Richard in Vegas, and space, assisted along the way by a resistance force skilled only in blocking tank cannons with their helicopters and the President’s slightly psychotic secretary, Jody Crawford.

Naturally, YouTube has videos of this game in action. Note in particular the sequence where the President (and his giant robot), after battling a heavily armored White House, hitches a ride on the side of the space shuttle, blows up a space station, and then surfs the debris back to the surface. Seriously.

I don’t know what else to say. I don’t know what else can be said, aside from wondering whether this sort of post is going to become a yearly tradition.

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ur doin it wrong

Pew Foundation on Religion and Public Life: 8% of atheists \"absolutely certain\" God exists.

Source: Study by the Pew Foundation on Religion and Public Life, as pointed out by Improbable Research