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By Scrymarch (Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 06:15:23 AM EST) WFC, WFC 9, Clayderman (all tags)
Bling post-mortem. Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so. Clayderman vertigo.


So, Dian Bling. I had fun writing this, and watching the reaction, especially the famed Blixco - Was Murdered debates. I can see they are already destined a page in the history of Husian oratory. If that metaphor makes my story the Dredd Scott decision of WFC entries, well, so be it.

There is a concept put forth by industrial designers, including by Bruce Sterling, that to move to a sustainable but still high tech economy, manufactured objects should have a life story. This SIGGRAPH keynote from four years ago gives an intro. He calls such a creation a Spime - either this jargon hasn't caught on or I haven't been paying enough attention. The concept is still pulsing though.

So for whatever reason when I started thinking about man made objects telling a story, I thought about their industrial backstory. But I'd never thought of industrial backstory as a narrative as such until CRWM put this contest forward, and then the fridge light went on.

I've previously had an interest in AI, and as most people who've studied it would know, it's crap. My laptop is really no closer to HAL than the Enigma codebreaker Turing made. On the other hand, a lot of human communication consists not so much of detailed examination but reliably faking it. One thing that has brought this home to me is failing to learn another language. Another might have been johnny's 2003 Salon article.

So anyway, will a computer be smart enough to pass the Turing test any time soon? Very unlikely. Will a computer be smart enough to simulate the average myspace page? Yeah, probably. My initial thought was actually to build a facebook page for the appliance in question ... this would have broken the upload site though and be a bit too far outside the conventions.

Dian Bling is a lousy pun on the Chinese name for fridge, dian bing xiang, or "electric ice box". Dian can also mean little, with a different tone and character, in which case you can read the title as "a little bling". I thought he should have a bit of a food court gangsta vibe, though that wasn't really needed in the end.

I wanted most of the characters in this setting to be other appliances. Indeed I had hoped that all the drama could come from this, but in the end they serve the hand of man, and I ended up with the cannibal element.

Once I'd decided the format and the general arc I figured I decided to write it in date order, blog style. I was hoping this would shake up the tone in a good way and also kill a problem I sometimes have of taking hours to put out 200 words, or needing momentum because I want to throw away whatever I've written when I come back to it. The sentences as a result are pretty light, but I figured that change of style wouldn't hurt.

Token attempt at community participation follows


There's a guy at work who used to be a nuclear physicist in one of the Soviet republics. We got into an argument about the nature of time. Space is fundamental but time is simply the mind projecting a dimension onto cyclic behaviour. Except his English isn't that great, and I don't speak any Russian, so even though he's ten times smarter than I'll ever be the actual conversation takes a lot longer to have. It also introduces ambiguity so that for a while he was convinced he just wasn't articulating it very well. I pretty sure I understand what he's saying. I just think he's wrong.


Malay (maybe) guy on the train today was carefully examining a newly purchased Richard Clayderman record. Vinyl. I didn't realise Clayderman was still around let alone stamping out LPs. It gave me a moment of reverse cross cultural vertigo; I think I emanate this sometimes.

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I thought your story by blixco (4.00 / 2) #1 Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 07:20:54 AM EST
was pitch perfect, and never went overboard...I was looking for the moments where you'd step off the horizon into unlikely machine characteristics or trite pseudo-code, but you never did.  It's a gem of a story, told in just the right number of words.

Very well done.  Thanks for writing it!
"You bring the weasel, I'll bring the whiskey." - kellnerin

so your coworker ... by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #2 Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 07:32:17 AM EST
thinks that he's not wrong, he's just misunderstood?

I thought "Bling" was better than the keynote that inspired it, although I was caught by the line,

A Gizmo is like a Product that has swallowed a big chunk of the previous society, and contains that within the help center and the instruction manual.
mainly because I wonder what it says about tech writers. If spimes will write their own doc, I'm not sure how I feel about that, either. I don't know if they could be reasoned with or take editorial feedback.

One of the reviews mentioned being disappointed that the links went nowhere. While that was true, I think it was also indicative of the how the tone was so successful that you bought into an appliance blog and expected the links to expand on that world. Submitting a full facebook page would have been a bit too much, although I've been tempted in the past to break the format and use images (I can't remember any specific ideas though -- I must have found workarounds or abandoned the concept). Maybe we should have a free-form Multimedia Fun Challenge some day ...

"Late to the party" is the new "ahead of the curve" -- CRwM

Doesn't everyone by Scrymarch (2.00 / 0) #4 Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 08:07:53 PM EST
Coworker: yeah. Actually to be honest it's evolved a little beyond that; our positions haven't changed but it's more of a joke between us by now.

I think the idea, at least as I imagine it, is that the gizmo will write the maintenance doc that doesn't get written at the moment. Or it gets written in a million little bits of paper which all get thrown away. And so on.

To be honest the facebook thing was always a bit hopeful, not so much in and of itself as because I have a lousy graphic design sense.

The Political Science Department of the University of Woolloomooloo

[ Parent ]
same goes for by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #7 Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 05:31:25 AM EST
my ambition to write an entry in Flash. Everyone at work is starting to use Flex so we're all about the Flash these days, but that didn't mean I had an idea suited for it or the wherewithal to execute it. I suppose I could have modeled the iPhone "Notes" application in Flash so that you'd have to grab and scroll the text, but that would have detracted at least as much as it added, and honestly, I was fooling myself that I'd have time.

"Late to the party" is the new "ahead of the curve" -- CRwM
[ Parent ]
Food Court Gangstas by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #3 Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 11:01:15 AM EST
That's rendered funnier by the fact that Gabe and Tycho hang out at the same* NW malls that I do.

* Not that malls are existentially different from one another, mind you.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Malls by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #5 Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 08:22:24 PM EST
Mostly I agree. The Japanese do some weird things with malls though. Like a completely indoor two storey courtyard made up to be some sort of Tuscan villa cafe thing. The question is, is that actually different, or merely an intesification of the inherent mall-ness of a mall?

Also one of the malls here has a museum in it. It's a museum about the history of the shopping centre and the cinema that lives in it. It's small and better than such a thing has any right to be.

The Political Science Department of the University of Woolloomooloo

[ Parent ]
inherent mall-ness of a mall by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #6 Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 05:27:10 AM EST
reminds me of one of my favorite Stephen Colbert bits, when he was still on the Daily Show.

"Late to the party" is the new "ahead of the curve" -- CRwM
[ Parent ]
"ensandwichment" by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #8 Wed Apr 16, 2008 at 06:11:36 AM EST

The Political Science Department of the University of Woolloomooloo

[ Parent ]
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