Archive for September, 2012

I am a Cybear now…

September 27th, 2012


The above teddy bear recently appeared on Clarion Alley. Red and blue like a 3D comic, his speech bubble reads “I am a cybear now…” The poor teddy bear. Someone needs to sew his little button eye back on.

Across the way on the pavement there’s a simplified version of the full painting:


White iPhone spotted in 1987 film RoboCop

September 22nd, 2012

In a previous post, I pointed out what appears to be a white iPhone 4 or 4S model in a 1993 Star Trek episode.

Turns out the white iPhone design dates back even earlier.

Here’s a frame of the 1987 film RoboCop, approximately 30 minutes in to the film.

It’s described as a handheld mapping device. While it may not look much like an iPhone at first glance, notice the dimensions and how it’s held with a portrait orientation.

But there’s more to it than that. Much more:

In the above frame, approximately 1:08 into the film, we see Dick Jones (played by Ronny Cox) holding a different version of the RoboCop tracking device.

Immediately after, we see a POV shot of this second model:

Notice anything iPhone-like about this?

No, not the crappy iOS 6 maps. I meant the rectangular portrait shape and rounded corners.

Thankfully, Apple’s patent on physical shapes was invalidated, ensuring the future of Omni Consumer Product’s line of cyborg police officers won’t involve patent infringement.

A better way to fix our gadgets

September 18th, 2012

Until now, the process for solving technical problems involved Googling around for advice on forum posts and help pages.

The advice is always the same, isn’t it?

  1. Follow an obscure sequence of commands.
  2. Now try again.
  3. If there’s comments on the page, at least a dozen will have conflicting reports about the outcome of these steps.
  4. If it doesn’t work, go back to Google and look around some more.

Of course the tech geeks could be messing with you. By following the advice your TV won’t turn off and your wedding photos are permanently deleted. Who knows.

Fortunately there’s now a better way to solve basic technical problems; devices that STFU when you smack them. Microsoft has invented the first phone you can physically abuse when you need it to just shut up for a minute so you can think for once, goddamn it.

I’d suspect that if this feature seems intuitive, you shouldn’t have kids. But then again people have been smacking their TVs for decades so the gesture is already in our collective consciousness. And who wouldn’t want a TV that stops breaking when you hit it?

Besides, not all emotionally responsive technology needs to involve violence. How about a flashlight that turns up the brightness when you’re shaking in terror? Or cars that soothe anxious drivers with relaxing music to prevent road rage? Or a bathroom scale that subtracts some weight if the user is crying?

There’s all kinds of ways our gadgets could be made fixable that don’t involve following the advice of strangers online. Get with it, tech companies.

And let me know when you have a computer that works better when I start cursing under my breath and slamming on the keyboard. I’ll be first in line to buy it.

New iPhone 5 “Lightning” connector predicted in 1999

September 15th, 2012

If you follow tech news at all, you know that Apple is replacing their large iPod connector with a new smaller connector for the iPhone 5 called “Lightning.”

Most folks who follow Apple would assume that the name Lightning is a reference to Apple’s new Mac connector port called “Thunderbolt.” But is it?

The above screenshot is from the 1999 film Fight Club, which depicts the Apple logo in a store window next to the word “Lightning.” Coincidence? Sure, it probably is. But still, it’s odd to see the connection in a thirteen year old film.

Unfortunate pun in fortune cookie

September 14th, 2012


This is an actual fortune from a fortune cookie at Big Lantern on 16th. You can’t make shit like this up:

Are your legs tired? You been running through someone’s mind ALL day long.

Either Confucius was highly overrated, or this is inauthentic Chinese wisdom even by fortune cookie standards.

Sadly, not one patron at my table had tired legs.

Truck nuts

September 11th, 2012

Truck nuts

To me, truck nuts always seemed both unecessarily vulgar and not vulgar enough — it’s a vile gesture to give your vehicle balls, and yet testicles without a penis is clearly an anatomical abnormality.

So I was delighted to see a local’s take on the “truck nuts” fad that dispenses with the vulgar aspect altogether, replacing it with clever wordplay. Alternately, one could argue that hex nuts are more anatomically correct on a metal vehicle. Either way.

As my co-worker (who pointed these nuts out to me) said: “Truck nuts; you’re doing it right.”

(Spotted at 17th and South Van Ness.)

Fruit of an ATX tree

September 10th, 2012

Fruit of an ATX tree

Oh these heavenly late-summer days, when the ATX tree’s tender blossoms mature into beautiful power fruit. Children climb the branches, looking for the ripest one they can find for their gaming PCs.

On a lucky day in early September, a lucky child could even find a 750 watt ATX power supply. But alas, many fruits, such as the one pictured above, will not even have SATA power connectors. Such is the way of mother nature.

(Spotted at Dolores and 15th)

White iPhone spotted in 1993

September 5th, 2012

Oh and speaking of Star Trek: TNG, here’s something you might not have noticed from Season 6 episode “The Chase” when it first aired in 1993. I want to stress that the following image is not photoshopped or altered in any way:

Through a modern lens it’s hard not to look back and see anything but a white iPhone 4/4S model in Data’s hand. The rounded corners, the size, the color, the metal edges, and the way he’s using the device all seem indicative of an iPhone.

I hope he has a good Data plan!

…sorry, couldn’t help myself.

Of course it wasn’t really an iPhone, and we only see a few shots of the device, always partially obscured by the hands of actor Brent Spiner. But if we’re willing to look at the episode with the benefit of hindsight it leads to some intriguing questions:

  • Could this count as “prior art” in the Apple vs. Samsung case?
  • Did Apple’s designers get inspiration from this episode, consciously or subconsciously?
  • Is cell phone service better in the mid 2300’s?

We could also ponder which alien races use which mobile operating systems (the Vulcans clearly run Android and the Klingons must run some frustrating shit like Symbian) but let’s not go there. I don’t want to start an intergalactic flame war.

UPDATE: It also appears they have iPads. Here’s Picard with one, with a speech bubble for illustrative purposes.

UPDATE 2: Looks like RoboCop had iPhones before Star Trek.

Did Captain Picard have sex with Q?

September 4th, 2012

There’s a funny scene in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Tapestry” where Captain Picard wakes up in bed next to Q.

The characters have the following dialog (copied from here):

			Good morning, darling.

	Picard jerks back in shock. Q smiles as Picard grabs
	his uniform and begins to dress.

			A little jumpy this morning, are
			we? Feeling guilty perhaps?

			I don't have anything to feel
			guilty about, Q.

			"We were friends, Q. Nothing

			You're the one who gave me the
			opportunity to change things...

			So what happens next?

	Picard thinks for a beat.

			I don't know. But I do know that
			things will be different.

	Q looks at him for a beat.

			I'm sure.

What’s important to understand here is the context of the scene. It’s implied that Picard just had sex with Marta, a female friend he’d fallen out of touch with years ago.

Or did they really have sex? It’s not clear any of what’s happening here is entirely real.

The backstory is that Picard died, and while on the operating table he wakes up in an all-white room. Who should be standing there but Q, an annoying man who has god-like powers but spends his time tormenting people.

Q gives Picard a choice: stay here and you’ll probably die, or I’ll take you back in time so that you can change the past to avoid death.

Picard’s choice is obvious, despite the fact that he doesn’t believe anything Q has to say; after finding Q standing over him in the afterlife, Picard quips that Q can’t be here because “The universe is not that badly designed.”

In spite of his initial misgivings Picard relives his past and makes new choices to allegedly prevent his death. One of those choices is having a relationship with Marta.

But is Picard’s initial instinct correct? Is Q messing with him?

A.V. Club’s Zack Handlen points out three ways to interpret Q’s offer:

[1] Q insists to Picard that what we’re seeing is the actual past, instead of a construct […]
[2] [T]he easiest being that nothing that happens here is really “real” at all, that all of it is created by Q to teach Picard to accept that the man he was is responsible for the man he is,
[3] or else it’s just Picard having a death-bed hallucination.

Handlen finds the second option most likely. While the setup is reminiscent of the Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol,” throwing Q into the mix complicates the scenario. I agree with Handlen’s reasoning — rather than pure Dickens-style fantasy, this seems to be all Q’s doing. It’s entirely in character for Q to mess with Picard’s mind by creating meaningless choices like this, and the episode seems to bear this theory out.

So if Picard had a sexual encounter in Q’s recreation of the past then who did Picard have sex with? Marta couldn’t have been there, so did he have sex with some kind of recreation of her? Or did Picard essentially have sex with Q?

Now look, I’m not saying Picard is gay. And as far as I can tell Q is asexual (though he gets off on tormenting people.) But that doesn’t mean Q can’t summon sex partners from his own mind. Presumably Q would have to animate the people he creates in some way. In the context of Q replacing his facsimile of Marta with himself when Picard woke up, Q’s dialog (as above) seems intentionally flirtatious. The question is then of whether Q was the one behind Marta’s mask or whether it was Picard’s vision of her that brought her to life.

If we go with the theory that Picard fell into Q’s trap, then what does that say about Q’s actions? Did Q rape Picard physically (rather than mentally) this time? Or by finally buying into Q’s world, did Picard effectively submit to Q’s advances?

As with any fiction the story’s questions are ultimately up to the audience. A show like TNG gives the audience plenty of questions, but few seem so directly targeted at those writing slash fiction.