Tag Archives: technology

Self-Checkout

It feels like forever while I wait for the guy buying three different kinds of organic peppers and one vine tomato to figure out how to punch in the produce code into the keypad and realize that he’s not supposed to weigh all four fucking fruits together at the same time and then I still have to watch him struggle with swiping his god damn credit card and screwing up the system that I start to consider running for office entirely on a political platform that pledges to require  all potential Self-Checkout users at the grocery store to be licensed before they can be let loose in the lines.

When he’s finally finished fucking up my evening, I step up to the machine and swipe my savings card on the score. “He-lloThome.Well-comeback.,” intones a clunky mechanical voice that vaguely resembles some concept of femininity. “How-was-the__Elli-osPiz-za__that.You.pur-chasedAt__two. Twenty-Seven. Aye-Em___To-Day?”

“Uh, fine. Thanks. Yeah.” I say. I glance around quickly to make sure no one in the line is listening to this dumb machine reminding me of last night’s regrettable drunken purchase. Although perhaps it’s not fair to say that it’s “regrettable” being that, well, I don’t actually have much recollection of it.

I scan my carton of coconut milk across the machine and wait while the dumb thing prompts me to, “Please.place-your__Coconut. Milk.___on-the-belt.” like it does every time, as if I hadn’t figured it out myself by now.

But this time, it keeps talking. “I-see.That.You.have-purchased__Coconut. Milk.__My_records.show.that-you-like.to-buy____Garelick-Farms_Whole.Milk.__Is-this.cor-rect? Please-press__*Yes*-or__*No*.” I press the little green button on the touchscreen and I can hear the people in line behind me shift their weight and sigh.

“Are-you.Di-e-ting_Thome?” the machine asks.

“No!” I say, perhaps a bit louder and more emphatic than I should have when speaking to a machine in public. I laugh nervously then turn to the little old woman behind me and say, “I’m actually just, I’m making sorbet at home tonight, for my girlfriend, so, ya know, the, um, the coconut milk is — ”

“¿Que?” she says, which is how I know she hates me.

The machine interrupts again. “Please-press__*Enter*__if.You-would.like-this.Ma-chine-to.keep-track-of-your.di-et-and-off-er-sug.Ges-tions. Press__*Exit*__if-this-is-a.one-time-pur.chase.” I poke my finger at the red button on the touch screen, then keep stabbing with my finger in angry little bursts like a drunken wasp.

“Thank-you.For.cancel-ing-your.Or-der.Please-have.A-good-day.Thome.” the machine says. I can feel the angry eyes behind me burning holes into my neck. I glance around to see if any of the staff is nearby. It turns out the coast is clear, and my coconut milk is already sitting at the other end of the conveyor belt. I smile at the little old Hispanic lady behind me, then dart down the aisle, grab my milk and make a run for it.

What Your Favorite #Instagram #Filter Says About You

Normal — You’re an actual photographer. Just kidding. You actual have #NoFilter, brah.

Amaro — Your nostalgia is European, a supercool pretentiousness that’s incomparably aloof, just like that great regard you hold for places that you’ve never been.

Mayfair — You like it when people consider you an artist, and lucky for you, you’re smart enough to realize that a little added shadow and saturation looks dramatic enough to half-do the job for you.

Rise — You refuse to believe that any good music has been released since 1978, even though you yourself weren’t born until 1987.

Hudson — You’re self-conscious because you’re worried that your friends are going to figure out that all you do is use the Mayfair filter, so you feel the need to switch it up.

Valencia — You own a different flannel shirt for ever hair in your beard, which is one for every song ever written by the Decemberists.

X-Pro II — You listened to more rap metal growing up than you’re comfortable admitting, which is why you’re still a sucker for anything with a totally awesome “X-” in front of it.

Sierra — You have a dog, or some other pet that you won’t stop taking photos of.

Willow — You feel like you’re supposed to be using Instagram for things but you’re too self-conscious and afraid that you’re not doing something right simply because you don’t “get it,” so you default to black-and-white so you feel like you’re doing something (even though you’re not).

Lo-Fi — Garage rock bands and the Elephant Six Collective were just as good to you in art school as they are today.

Earlybird — You’ve lived your entire life basking in sun-soaked sepia, and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sutro — You care less about pictures and more about telling the world about the totally cool concert / restaurant / tourist trap vacation spot you’re currently at.

Toaster — You’re a Cylon.

Brannan — You’re a challenge-seeker, always looking for something new, so congratulations, you got this far in the filter list, instead of settling for the moderately-less-shadowed Mayfair. So maybe you’re a little darker, too.

Inkwell — You’re trying even harder than that Willow guy to figure what the hell this whole Instagram thing is supposed to be about, so you dig deeper into the filter list, hoping that later filters are cool like deep album cuts.

Walden — You still quote Transcendentalists in your Facebook profile.

Hefe — You’re the boss. Of Instagram, anyway.

Nashville — You’ve never been down South, and you’ve never owned a Polaroid camera, but you think it’s cool when other people have.

1977 — You don’t even care that punk’s not dead, you just want find a filter that no one else is gonna use ’cause you don’t wanna be like all them other poseurs.

Kelvin — You’re rough around the edges, enough that you probably do things like write lists of What Your Favorite Instagram Filter Says About You when you’re not already busy bitching about Thought Catalog.

Reflection Echo

If there’s no such thing as a vacuum
What then cleaned my carpets?
Hyperdrive a blink away

These Pyramid builder’s children
Space age thoughts ablaze
Are claiming well-spaced particles
Will drive the new space age

Secret wars of micro teams
Particles that appear to beam
Away the need for fuel

Leave it to the desert
Rich in sands of oil
To cleanse our thirsty habit

 Of drinking from the soil
Reflections of reflections bounce
These particles to action

If you think you’ve got the gist
Rethink! You know
But a refraction.

Sound The Song of Nature

Today I listened
As a musician’s
Turntable played
A disc of wood

It played with
No needle
Hiss
Pop or click

Technology
Indistinguishable
From
Magic

 Is this what
Clarke understood?
Music from
A laser as

Tree rings made
Piano strings
Sound the song
Of nature.

And Now You Half-Read This And Write A Song About It

“Wanna come see my band on Thursday?”

Sure, I say. Because I legitimately want to support, but also because I can’t think of a valid story for why I can’t. So I make my way over to the dingy little club, the lobby of a once and future theater of productions both avant garde and mediocre, at 10:30 on a school night to see you and your buddies strut your stuff. You didn’t tell me there would be a cover. It’s fine — I’ll pay, and glad tell them I’m hear to see you (that was a homonym typo I don’t want to correct, because it might sell as cunning wordplay). I’m just glad I picked up cash earlier in the day.

The floor of the club is dark, the better to focus our attention on the makeshift stage. Unfortunately, the just-as-makeshift lights set up on the side and from the ceiling don’t seem to function as intended. Your wide figure stayed swathed in a deep ochre, a bordello bouncer hunched over a droning guitar. Every part of the bassist besides his knees remained in deep shadows. The singer jumped in and out of the lone bright spotlight, her tambourine’s jingles lacing it back out through the crowd.

And that crowd…they all showed up, which is nice of them. The band wrings out its songs, the ones you guys slaved over. Chords that were agonizing over chords, lyrics ripped out of the heart. How many band members walked out of the practice space, convinced they would never come back again? And here is your showcase — playing to a half-full room, fifty or sixty people, 90 percent of whom know the first name of at least one of you. None of them connecting to your craft.  Half of them don’t stop their conversations to applaud, and the other half never look up from their phones, just giving a short “woo” at the end of each song.

And I lean against the back wall, firmly ensconced in the second half of that group, my one sign of respect is turning my phone down to the most dimmed setting. I half listen and focus on taking notes as your keyboard player wails on a trumpet, continuing the pointless ouroboros of creativity looping between you and me.

The Cyborg Head of Stan Lee

An outtake from my new play, True Believers.


The Cyborg Head of Stan Lee is the ultimate weapon of the future, the final outpost for the salvaged prophecies of the greatest human mind, enhanced by futuretech created as a part of PROJECT: A.L.P.H.A.MECH for the technological improvement of mankind. The head retains a shred of Stan Lee’s consciousness — specifically that portion of his brain governing strategic extrapolations. While much of Stan’s face was destroyed in battle with the cancerous rays of the Los Angeles sun, his flesh was virtually reconstructed with an adamantium alloy to replace the pulverized skin. The scientists were also able to establish a basis for the integration of miniaturized relay-circuits, protected by a steel plate implanted in the skull. This plate is further equipped with a pneumatic lens for enhanced 4D vision, as well as an audio receiver and a voice box electronically amplified to approximate human speech. Pope Sylvester II was known to confer with a similar artifact during the 10th century, one that spoke to him of God’s Will. The Cyborg Head of Stan Lee was sent back as a beacon from the end of time, imbued with the Voice of Stane Lee, the new God, according to the gospel of Jack Kirby. It is my mission as its guardian to right the future and change the timeline for the sake of mankind, beginning with Alan Moore’s coming magical war.

How to Make Love to a Robot

(or Other Synthetic Object with Simulated Intelligence and Emotional Response)

a.

Always carry extra lubricants,
oil to keep the pistons pumping,
pulsating properly, gears grinding hard
while the parts glide smooth like rivers,
streams, greased chains helping you
maintain a steady flow, mechanical rhythm.

Squeaking parts are fine, often preferred.

b.

When establishing a safe word,
try to program it in as a verbal
command function, a voice-activated
off-switch just in case.

Alternatively, keep your robot on a cord plugged into
a nearby wall and give it a hard tug when you think it’s time.

c.

Always give your robot time to warm up.

g.

Despite claims to the contrary,
you will find a nerve cluster or
pleasure center present on most
machines that functions as a
central Gravity Spot.

Apply pressure as needed.

j.

If 01101001001 — 10010110100010101101
10001010001110, 10000101100010 0110110
0101111. 000110101 010 1010001110 101110
011001, 01101 110 0101011110101001 111001;
1010001, but never in the shower or the rain.

Lifetime warranties do not cover water damage

k.

Do not cross wires.

m.

Always position yourself on top of
or horizontal to your robot.

Unless you are seeking auto-asphyxiation
pleasure from being crushed, in which case,
please refer to safeword rule b. above.

p.

Be both gentle and rough; use discretion to determine
the sensitivity level appropriate for each situation.

q.

Keep your robot’s batteries fresh at all times
(Duracell recommended); do not allow your robot’s
energy cells to run dry mid-function or you risk
a hazardous crash, without option for reboot.

t.

Always use protection. Latex or Rubber
boots are recommended to establish proper
grounding and allow residual or excessive
electrical current to flow through your feet
into the ground.

Chainmail is not an acceptable form of protection
and should only be used in roleplaying (see rule b.).

y.

Above all else,
do not remove the screw.