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…the Simpsons-obsessive sprite builders at the M.U.G.E.N. database:

Evil_homer8ygd5gburnsKang_ninja

 

 

This guy right here on Tumblr:
discoccult

 

 

…and everything else getting me through the workday before Thanksgiving. More mawkish thanks will come tomorrow (family, love – the usual), and there will be ample time for a year’s worth of regrets come Black Friday.

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whos more boring

 

Sweet Valley High and its world of model-perfect teens with boring romantic intrigues never interested me, but unfortunately I was an omnivorous reader and the books were often around. It’s much the same way I ended up reading a lot of V.C. Andrews at the supermarket.

The general plot of the books was ‘vanilla kids pout and date, with occasional forays into mild drug use’ (seriously, try reading these character descriptions – you’ll start seeing pastels and mayo float before your eyes), and yet I can barely remember any specifics. Those that I do probably say a lot more about me than the books:

1) Elisabeth and Jessica go off to college. Elisabeth experiences actual human emotions and starts snacking on cookies when she feels lonely. Jessica’s trashing it up like one assumed she’d always do when the leash was loosened. Cut to – Halloween. Elisabeth tries putting on the same costume she’s always worn, because she and her sister have always been a perfect size 6 (actually written repeatedly like it was a character trait). But OH NO, she’s too chubby to zip it up! She immediately dumps her cookies into the trash and resolves to be more actively social and not snack anymore. And with that all her problems related to crippling self-doubt and loneliness vanish, and presumably she returns to her perfect size 6 after three workouts.

2) Elisabeth takes a ride with her ‘bad boy’ boyfriend (he has a motorcycle – again, this should not be a character trait but in the bland softness that is Sweet Valley, it counts). They take a spill and Elisabeth, not wearing a helmet, lands in a coma. When she comes out of it, she acts just like Jessica! This creeps everyone out, because the twins’ behavior is diametrically opposed! You can’t have two ‘bad’ girls, you need a ‘good’ one for this entire thing to work! I do not even remember what happened but assume another well-timed bonk on the noggin restored Elisabeth to her dull, perfect, bookish state.

3) There was some spinoff series of Sweet Valley Kidz books where they solved crimes and reality took a holiday. This one had a foot in dull normality as it started with a class trip to the zoo, but quickly took a left turn when Elisabeth got bonked on the head (again) and the rest was a blatant, self-referential rip-off of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’. There was a magic rainbow bridge, talking mice, and direct quotations about doing impossible things before breakfast. I was reading this in a dollar store, and my parent offered to buy it for me. I said nah, speed-read to the end, and instead got a desk doodad filled with red sand where you turned it upside down and as it fell the sand formed a pattern. It was so rad*.

*It was actually a piece of crap, basically one of these but with a star pattern, and yet even now I stand by my youthful decision as that hunk of plastic was far less crappy than the book.

Where it is revealed Marge is actually a rabbit.
marge-skeleton

Just the skeleton:
lisaskeleton

And some coporeality:
lisaskeletonimproved

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The word ‘robot’ may have first been coined in a 1921 Czechoslovakian play, but robot history’s been dominated by a battle between the U.S. and Japan for robo-supremacy.

The first humanoid robots (and humanoid’s the only ones that count here – no automata or remote-control bunk) were built within two years of each other – Herbert Televox in 1927 by Westinghouse Electric Company, and Gakutensoku by biologist Makoto Nishimura in 1929.

Herbert Televox (it’s adorable they gave it such a square first name) operated by sound and could buzz, wave its arms around, and accept phone calls, but not answer them until given a two-sentence speech function several years later. Televox was wildly popular and toured all over the country, leading Westinghouse to create other robots, one of which would end up at the World’s Fair (more on that in a moment).

Here’s Herbert’s earliest iteration before speech was added:
early televox

…and a later version playing bridge with the girls at the club:
televox bridge

(both pictures came from here, along with lots of other amazing promo articles and photos of America’s first Robo Pal.)

 

from cyberneticzoo.com

Gakutensoku, whose name means ‘learning from the laws of nature’, was closer to an automaton in that it wasn’t mobile and operated from a square base hiding function. Gakutensoku had arm and facial mobility, and came with a lamp named Reikant? (‘inspiration light) by which Gakutensoku wrote using an arrow symbolic of human potential, and robot bird Kokuky?ch? (‘bird informing dawn’) who perched on his shoulder and cried, because Japan kicks America’s ass in expressing poetic philosophy via physical objects.

It toured extensively as well, but was lost while touring Germany in the 1930s, a sentence fragment I take to mean ‘was stolen for diabolical use by the Third Reich’ (you’re welcome, alternative historians).

Gakutensoku was rebuilt and installed permanently at the Osaka Science Museum in 2008:

The background New-Age music isn’t just part of this video – also heard in several home movies, that’s apparently Gakutensoku’s ‘thinking music’ when he composes light verse.

Not to be outdone, Westinghouse created a series of robots with better technology and goofier names – Mr. Telelux, a light-sensitive robot in 1931, Katrina Von Televox, Mechanical Wonder Maiden, Rastus Robot and Willie, Jr. (not quite as racist as you’d expect, though Willie’s only functionality was ‘blowing things up at a distance using light triggers’ which…why would you even need a robot for that?), and their most successful public ambassador Elektro the Moto-Man, built in 1937 and displayed at the 1939 World’s Fair.

While we can’t beat Japan at thoughtful meditation, we can definitely out-cool the world (it’s why France hates/loves us)! That’s right, America debuted the world’s first smoking robot:

As Elektro’s ‘voice’ seems to come from prerecorded transcriptions, there is NO REASON it needs to talk like that save it’s being a total stereotype, fulfilling people’s expectations of what a robot should sound like.

Even in death our countries compete – Japan claims the world’s first death by robot in 1981, when Kenji Urada was pushed into a grinding machine by the hydraulic arm of an incorrectly shut-down robot at Kawasaki Heavy Industries plant. However, American Robert Williams was killed two years earlier in 1979 at Ford Motor Co. Plant when the arm of a one-ton factory robot hit him in the head. We may win historically here, but Japan wins on style – that is some serious Maximum Overdrive-style revenge shit right there.

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blue angel

It’s garbage day here in Brooklyn, a fact inescapable even locked three doors in. The full swelter of summer is upon us (and the garbage piles), and what better way to cool down than an icy beverage? That’s right! Cooling down with an icy beverage containing alcoholic spirits to numb you to your fetid city surroundings!

Today’s beverage is a variant on the Marlene Dietrich, a rye-and-citrus concoction whose color evokes the Teutonic bombshell’s hair. Lacking the dignity of regular orange curaçao, I had to make do with that Spring Break of a liquid, blue curaçao. The color now looked like a gorgeous tropical Pacific ocean, or if you’re more practical, like the chemical glow of 1000 Flushes.  In honor of the namesake original, I’ve christened this The Blue Angel. Two or more of this heady mix will leave your voice as husky as Lola-Lola’s singing.

 

THE BLUE ANGEL

2 oz. rye whiskey (preferably Old Overholt)

1/2 oz. blue curaçao

3 drops Bitterman’s Tiki Bitters (or good ol’ Angostura, if you’re in a pinch)

1 slice lemon

1 slice orange

 

Pour the whiskey, curaçao and bitters over cracked ice.Shake well, and strain into a chilled tumbler (or one with a few ice cubes in, if you don’t mind the drink watering down a bit as you drink). Squeeze the slice of lemon and orange into the glass, discarding the rinds; stir gently. Add a slice of lemon as garnish*.

 

blue angel 2
*Both drinks have a lemon slice accompaniment as a nod to Dietritch’s claim she sucked lemon wedges between shots to keep her mouth and cheekbones sharp. Worked for her!

 

the blue angel

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