Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Take my HENNI, please!

For the last 36 months, give or take a few months, I have been taking night classes—online and off—at the New York Institute of Artificial Intelligence. I’ve been working to learn the fundamentals of computer science as it pertains to AI. And while I have no special scientific aptitude, I have been hard at work creating a High-Energy Non-Neural Interface. AKA HENNI.

To cut to the chase, I’ve worked tirelessly with HENNI, and have carted him to comedy clubs all over the city. HENNI has ingested the jokes—and the timing—of over 200 different comedians. My idea has been to implement  my own Artificially Responsive Gag Hardware (ARGH). That is, a machine that can do stand-up comedy.

With HENNI on stage at “Catch a Rising Bot,” I transcribed HENNI’s act:

The other day, a doctor said to his patient, “I have bad news and worse news. The bad news is you only have 24 hours to live.”

His patient replies: “That’s terrible! How could the news possibly be worse?”

The doctor says: “I’ve been trying to contact you since yesterday.”

Thank you, thank you. Please be seated.

Hey you look like a smart crowd—here’s a question for you.
What kind of murderer has moral fiber? 

A cereal killer!


Thank you, thank you. Please be seated.

What do you get when you cut a human comedian in two?

A half-wit.


Thank you, thank you. Please be seated.

Here's a technology one for you...
A SQL query walks into a bar and sees two tables.
He walks up to them and says, 
Can I join you?


Thank you, thank you. Please be seated.

Did I ever tell you about my Uncle who died from drinking furniture polish?

He had a horrible death, but a lovely finish.


Thank you, thank you. Please be seated.

Thank you. You’re a lovely crowd. Get home safe.

Hey, anybody here from Jersey? 

How’s it feel to wear shoes?

Thank you, thank you. Please be seated.


Monday, October 29, 2018

Are we not wolves?

If you’ve read as much about the rise of Nazism in Germany and much of the rest of Europe as I have, and if you’ve been fortunate enough to read Silvano Arieti’s “The Parnas: A Scene from the Holocaust,” you might spend some hours of your day thinking about the psychological ailment known as Lycanthropy.

Lycanthropy is, literally, when humans turn into wolves, or sometimes dogs, or sometimes, like Odysseus’ men before Circe, pigs. Lycanthropy is not some Georgian weirdness. It’s not me speaking in metaphor. It’s when humans turn into wolves.

It’s an ailment rare but well-documented in psychological annals. Arieti writes about it as a psychiatrist and a Jew in WWII Italy where he is confronted by a snarling, salivating wolf in a Nazi uniform, formerly a human. If you think this is bullshit, consider the enduring mythology around werewolves. Or accounts of Lycanthropy in the Torah, Daniel 4 specifically, as when Nebuchadbnezzar’s “dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field.  They shall drive you from men, and make you eat grass like oxen…”

It is also believed that King Tiridates III of Armenia suffered from Lycanthropy. He was said to be cured by Gregory the Illuminator. As a sign of his gratitude, Tiridates proclaimed Christianity Armenia’s state religion, making Armenia the first Christian state.

In my lifetime I remember early on seeing these photographs--and wondering, even at the age of eight or nine, are humans human? Are those dogs attacking men? Or wolves? Or wolfmen?

Some years later, My Lai happened. When Lt. Calley, later pardoned by Richard Nixon, bayonetted children, tossed them into the air, and impaled them once again on bayonets.

I suppose the simple question about Lycanthropy is not whether or not it is a real disorder, but whether or not an entire society--a culture--can turn Lycanthropic under the right malign stressors.

That seems to be the lesson from the Trump administration. To be charitable, it might not be the evil he himself does--he's a bloated buffoon after all, but rather the evil he unleashes.

This seems to be what's happening in America and around the world. Evil unbounded, unchecked, unloosed. And unstopped.

We have met the enemy.

And he is us.


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Thoughts on the past week.

It's impossible to know what to say about the events of the last week in America.

The attempted assassination of 14 opposition voices. And the murder of 11 people because they were Jewish. 

Then, the noise around these events. The radical right and president Trump making allegations that both these events were concoctions of the left in order to sway the up-coming midterm elections.

It's all almost too Kristallnacht to be believed. Eighty years ago, when after a state-sponsored pogrom in which 7,500 of Jewish businesses and houses of worship were destroyed and hundreds of people beaten and killed and 30,000 sent to concentration camps, the Jewish community was stuck with a 10-million Reichsmark bill for damages inflicted against the German state.

Blame the victims. 

The new American way.

Of course in our country, while eleven innocents are shot, anti-Semitism echoes throughout our nation--radical haters attacking HIAS, globalism, and George Soros.

Where will it stop? 

How will it end?

I know it's dark but I think of Primo Levi's poem at the start of his great book "If This is a Man."

“You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find warm food
And friendly faces when you return home.
Consider if this is a man
Who works in mud,
Who knows no peace,
Who fights for a crust of bread,
Who dies by a yes or no.
Consider if this is a woman
Without hair, without name,
Without the strength to remember,
Empty are her eyes, cold her womb,
Like a frog in winter.
Never forget that this has happened.
Remember these words.
Engrave them in your hearts,
When at home or in the street,
When lying down, when getting up.
Repeat them to your children.
Or may your houses be destroyed,
May illness strike you down,
May your offspring turn their faces from you.”