Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Whole Town's Talking

Wow! This movie is an undiscovered gem! Edward G. Robinson in 1935 -- people normally think of him as a kind of cartoon gangster, but this movie helps show his range, because he plays two roles -- a cartoon gangster, and a mild-mannered clerk who happens to look exactly like him. A comedy of errors ensues, with a lot of snarky Jean Arthur in the mix for nerd fantasy purposes. The movie is fun and funny with great directing and acting, and a lot of sharp turns and surprises, not to mention some very well crafted split screen shots with Robinson talking to himself -- quite remarkable for so early in film history.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics

When I was about nine years old, my father received this book as a Christmas gift. I was a big reader of newspaper comics, and spent endless hours poring over the collections of Peanuts comics, Feiffer, and Pogo my parents were thoughtful enough to put on a low shelf in our home library. So, when this massive hardcover book showed up, so big I could only read it by splaying it out on the living room floor, I was fascinated. I initially made a bold attempt to read it front to back, but the older comics (Yellow Kid, Buster Brown, etc.) were so baffling, I couldn't persevere. But this book gave me an exposure to things like Gasoline Alley, Little Nemo in Slumberland, Krazy Kat, Seegar's Popeye, the Mickey Mouse comics, the Katzenjammer Kids, the early days of Blondie, when all the gags were what an airhead she was, and much more. Today I'm a board member of the Pittsburgh Toonseum -- it's safe to say that never would have happened had I not found this book in 1979.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Robot and Frank

I haven't posted on this blog for ages, though I have finished a lot of things. I think it is partly because I feel pressure to say thoughtful things, and my head isn't always in a place where I'm ready to say anything thoughtful. So, I'll do some experimenting with more stream of consciousness writing, because the goal of this blog is more to be a record, and less to strive mightily for deep insights.

I enjoyed this movie, but not as much as I wanted to. It has, by far, what I think is the most realistic depiction I have ever seen of our likely interactions with AI in the year 2035. It was clever, and amusing, but at the same time the characters were mostly kind of flat and cardboard -- mostly like caricatures. Perhaps this was the intention? But as I stared down the movie, I wasn't at all sure how to fix this problem without turning the movie into something it didn't want to be.

I was most impressed with the actor who was inside the robot. That had to be a very uncomfortable job, requiring a lot of discipline. I started my Computer Science career very focused on AI. I must say this movie got me thinking about picking it up again.