November 2nd, 2008


Pre-Election Jitters

I get annoyed when people claim that race isn't going to be a factor in the presidential election. I KNOW race is a factor, because I've heard people say, sometimes explicitly and other times in thinly veiled code, that they don't like and/or trust Obama simply because he's black. It certainly SHOULDN'T be a factor, and I'm sure it isn't for many people, but claiming that it won't be at all is demonstrating ignorance (and probably willful ignorance) that racism is still alive and well in this country. I really hope that people can overcome their racism enough to elect Obama, but I don't think it's a guarantee.

One thing I have to wonder is how many people actually fall for the weird campaign techniques that the media keep talking about. I mean, I've heard that there really wasn't a significant movement of Hillary Clinton supporters to Palin, but you certainly wouldn't have thought that from watching television around that time. And now there's McCain telling people at his rallies that they're ALL Joe the Plumber, and having them define themselves as "[Name] the [Occupation]." But is this actually a big movement in the country, or is it really only the people who attend McCain rallies who buy into it? I know I don't want to be compared to Joe the Plumber. And what also gets me is how the McCain campaign is trying to sell being ordinary as a positive thing. You know, that's not the world I live in. It's always been my thought that everyone wants to be EXTRAordinary, and we all consider ourselves to be better and smarter than average. But now it's apparently a great thing to be average, and "Joe Six-Pack" and "hockey mom" are compliments. Come on, the middle of the road is not where anyone WANTS to be. It's where they end up when they've given up all hope, and don't really mind if they get flattened by a gas-guzzling SUV. I'm a notorious pessimist, and I haven't resigned myself to a life of ordinary obscurity, so I have to wonder just how bleak things are for the people who have. The funny thing is that McCain's poster boy for ordinariness ISN'T settling for an average life, but rather hiring a publicist, trying to get a recording contract, and even contemplating a run for Congress. And if McCain is still trying to sell Joe the Plumber as a typical hard-working American, well, I doubt the guy is fixing all that many sinks while on the campaign trail with Johnny B. Goode and Sally Six-Pack. I'm just saying, is all.

Incidentally, Joe's actual last name is Wurzelbacher, which I assume means that he's from a proud line of manufacturers of circus organs.

Another election I'm concerned about is one in which I can't vote, because it's in California. After the judiciary system decided that gay marriage was legal, some genius decided to let the public vote on it. I say there are some issues too important to be decided by the masses. I learned in my high school government class that our system isn't supposed to be based simply on majority rule, but rather on majority rule WITH a focus on minority rights. I mean, do you think slavery or segregation would have ended if it had all been up to the voters? So why should the majority be able to choose whether or not certain people can get married?

Robot Parade

I guess I've never really been the biggest robot fan. I grew up in the era of Transformers and Voltron, and while I learned about these things from the other kids (and I did enjoy the original animated Transformers movie; I've never seen the live-action one), I didn't have any of my own. But there are some robots I quite like. I remember Tik-Tok being one of my favorite parts of Return to Oz, and I went on to enjoy his roles in the Oz books. I've seen references to him as the first robot in literature, don't I believe it. Even if you don't count my examples of primitive robots from mythology, I know I've seen pictures from the nineteenth century of mechanical people powered by clockwork or steam. In fact, I don't think Tik-Tok can even be considered the first robot in L. Frank Baum's work. No, I don't count the Tin Woodman, as some people apparently do (more on that later), but I do count the giant cast-iron man from The Magical Monarch of Mo. This monstrosity was built by the greedy King Scowleyow to crush his socialist neighbors in Mo, but was turned away with a feather and a pin, and smashed Scowleyow instead.

Tik-Tok is still an important figure, though. Created by the firm of Smith and Tinker in the Land of Ev (who were also responsible for the iron giant with the hammer that guards the Nome Kingdom, and the talking Hundred-Year Alarm Clock possessed by the Wicked Witch Singra), he has three different wind-up mechanisms, one each for thought, speech, and action. He originally belonged to King Evoldo, who locked him in a cave before committing suicide. Dorothy found him there, and brought him to Oz, where he still lives today. Well, except he doesn't really live, because Baum makes a clear distinction between the automated Tik-Tok and created beings who are magically brought to life, like the Scarecrow, the Patchwork Girl, and the Glass Cat. It's not entirely clear how Tik-Tok differs from these other beings, but maybe it has something to do with free will. Tik-Tok does have a certain level of free will and independent thought, but he was constructed to be a servant, and seems to stick to that role. The other three characters I mentioned were also created for servile functions, but all of them walked out on those duties to seek better lives. Also, Tik-Tok doesn't seem to have the same depth of emotion. That said, I'm not sure he's ENTIRELY emotionless, since he does have the occasional independent opinion. Indeed, Ruth Plumly Thompson and John R. Neill show Tik-Tok feeling and expressing enjoyment, but I kind of think they didn't really understand the character as Baum wrote him.

There's an article arguing that Tik-Tok obeyed Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics long before Asimov thought them up. While interesting, it contains some major stretches, such as the implication that the people of Ev and Oogaboo are not human, but Smith and Tinker somehow are. One fictional universe other than Asimov's own that DOES incorporate the Three Laws, however, is that of the Mega Man games. At the end of Mega Man 7, Dr. Wily reminds the hero that no robot can harm a human being, to which Mega Man replies that he is "more than a robot," but he never gets the chance to do any harm. These laws apparently also apply to Wily's own robots, even though I don't think a villain like him would have any problem with them hurting people. And as far as I can remember, it's true that the fighting in the series is always machine against machine. So, to get stereotypically geeky for a minute, would Mega Man or Tik-Tok win in a fight? I think it would have to be Mega Man, especially with all of his weapon attachments. On the other hand, Rock does seem to be a bit clumsily made, and is immediately destroyed when he hits spikes, which I don't believe would be the case with Tik-Tok. And the Evian robot isn't devoid of fighting skills. He knocks out Wheelers with a dinner pail in Ozma of Oz, handles a gun in Tik-Tok of Oz (although I don't think he ever actually fires it), and is said to be practicing swordplay at the beginning of The Yellow Knight of Oz (maybe he had a new software cartridge installed).

Of course, I can't really write a post about fictional robots without mentioning Futurama's Bender Bending Rodriguez, who would probably beat either Tik-Tok or Mega Man, since he would fight dirty. I'll probably be seeing more of Bender pretty soon, since Bender's Game comes out this week, and I have it at the top of my Netflix queue. Yeah, I know a TRUE Futurama fan would buy a copy, but I'm still holding out hope for a four-pack once these movies are all released.