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'Simon' by Wonkette Operative 'Calliecallie'

If it's Sunday, then it must be time for some of those Nice Things we need to keep us going! Have another cup of coffee, turn off the damn news, and relax for a little while, won't you? Honest, the jerkwads and evil will be waiting when we get back, and you need a little time to recharge. Today: The Robot FUNpocalypse -- and other stuff!


The Uncanny Derby

We've featured computer researcher Janelle Shane's wonderful AI Weirdness blog previously; if you don't subscribe to her newsletter, you should! Shane has entirely too much fun in her spare time programming neural networks to consume tons of information and then spit out their own versions of stuff like bizarro ice cream flavors, titles for burlesque shows, and of course (the post that roped me in) fantastical messages on candy Valentine's hearts.

This week, Shane celebrated the Kentucky Derby by feeding two machine learning programs a recently-released list of 42,000 thoroughbred racehorse names. She notes that some very real racehorses already sound like they were named by a rogue AI, like "Three Little Birds, Spider Magic, Fierce Pajamas, and even a prizewinning horse called Cloud Computing." (Nota bene: "Fierce Pajamas" is the title of an E.B. White essay and an eponymous New Yorker humor anthology.)

As ever, the neural networks came up with some very plausible names for horsies:

  • She's a Babe
  • North Storm
  • Magic Creek
  • Desert Cat
  • Mary's Blade
  • Fabulous Charm
  • Frisky Joe
  • Velvet One

Of course, the plausible results aren't nearly as much fun as the wildly implausible ones:

  • Farthand
  • Pond Wind
  • Orcha Shuffleston
  • Pick's Lilver
  • Ginky's Rental
  • Culf Q's Wart

And of course, the best are those that aren't perfectly normal or completely nuts, but fall into that strange Uncanny Valley where you begin to suspect your friend Ford Prefect might not actually be an out-of-work actor from Guildford after all.

  • Party Can
  • Devil Tina
  • Exclusive Bear
  • Unbridled Dave
  • Secret Sand
  • Killer the Butterfly
  • Pickle J Gator
  • Evilish Kelly [OK, that fits just FINE -- Dok]
  • Snuckles
  • Zegafish Pete
  • Bad King Tiger
  • Pat's Quick Hat
  • Mr Fact
  • Cowgitter Stark

That last one is what happens when Devin Nunes writes Game of Thrones fanfic. As an extra special bonus, Shane used an AI image generator to come up with some horse pics; unfortunately, she explains, she was limited by the program's dataset:

"horse" is not a category of image it can do, so I decided to go with "horse cart". There was an attempt.

To make things interesting, she also tried combining "horse cart" with other categories, like "flamingo," "anenome fish," and, what the hell -- from the newsletter (gotta subscribe to see the whole thing) -- why not "zebra," "cheetah," and "race car"? Shane notes that "'Dog' crept in there because BigGAN saw a LOT of dogs during training."

Also too, we had somehow missed Shane's post from last year in which she trained an AI text generator to come up with names for My Little Pony characters. We have to agree with her assessment of actual MLP character Twilight Sparkle: "My favorite because she's totally a grad student pony."

Some names would fit right into the show ("Glowberry, "Amethyst Mist"), but the fun, of course comes from the weirdass output:

  • Dunder Dort
  • Lilie Lice Billy Boon
  • Flunderlane
  • Mitten Splash
  • Silvermice
  • Butter Flash
  • Clotter
  • Raspberry Turd
  • Blueberry Pants
  • Trowel Pony
  • Smanky Hank
  • Princess Sweat

Finally, there were the PG-13 ponies available only to newsletter subscribers. Shane may insist on keeping HER blog decorous, but Yr Wonkette has no such silly scruples!

Barely-printable My Little Ponies created by neural network
This is not my fault; the neural network made these up.

Star Shitter
Apple Blower
Belly Wadder
Perfect Pee
Nug Pony
Parpy Pain
Lickette
Starting Fuk
Cloudy Dicker
Blue Bulls
Golden Hash
Cummra
Screw Dream

The slashfics practically write themselves, huh? Now do Steven Universe, OK?


When Robots Take Over, It Will Sound Like This

OK, this stuff sounds nothing like Daft Punk, but we like the picture, OK?

Why yes, it is MORE AI strangeness, albeit this time not from AI Weirdness. Or at least not entirely -- I found the story because Janelle Shane tweeted about it. Seems there's an AI generated "band" called Dadabots that runs a 24-7 YouTube stream of Death Metal music. Sez Vice's Motherboard blog,

Dadabots—a fake band powered by deep learning software—was developed by CJ Carr and Zack Zukowski, two musicians and technologists who met while they were going to Berklee College of Music in Boston they told The Outline. It's based on a recurrent neural network—computing architecture that "learns" patterns in a large amount of input data (in this case, death metal) in order to predict what musical elements and sequences are most common and recreates them. [...]

They broke down their process in a 2017 paper posted to the arXiv preprint server. They start by feeding the AI model short segments of music, a few seconds at a time. As this training goes on, the AI learns the identifying features and starts to produce more and more detailed samples, including riffs and sectional transitions.

The results are surprisingly similar to actual death metal, at least at times. Here's the stream, which will of course sound a little different every time you visit:

RELENTLESS DOPPELGANGER \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ youtu.be

Does Dadabots have an album? No. It has TEN of 'em, all available free for nothing on Bandcamp. Each is based on inputting different bands' discography. There's "Coditany of Timeness," the album profiled at The Outline; it's constructed from music by a New York black metal band Krallice. Again, it's not simply a matter of dumping a whole album into a computer and reshuffling it. The program first chopped the music into short audio segments, and then Carr and Zukowski had the algorithm

guess what the waveform of the next individual sample of audio would be. If the guess was right, the network would strengthen the paths of the neural network that led to the correct answer, similar to the way electrical connections between neurons in our brain strengthen as we learn new skills.

At first the network just produced washes of textured noise. "Early in its training, the kinds of sounds it produces are very noisy and grotesque and textural," [said Carr...] But as it moved through guesses — as many as five million over the course of three days — the network started to sound a lot like Krallice. "As it improves its training, you start hearing elements of the original music it was trained on come through more and more."

Another album, "Bot Prownies," is Dadabots' riff on NOFX's "Punk in Drublic." The albums still include rely on some human intervention with the AI's output:

The machine listened to Punk in Drublic 26 times over several days. The machine generated 900 minutes of audio. A human listened to the machine audio, chose sections from varied evolution points, and taped them together into a 20 minute album. Song titles were generated by a Markov chain. The album cover and album title were human designed.

And for fun, Dadabots has couple of music videos. The "vocal" output is of course nonsense, but parts of it sound enough like words that human editors added subtitles, and even combined the music with NOFX concert footage:

Dadabots - Bot Prownies (misheard lyrics) www.youtube.com


NOFX - Shreds - Their Worst Performance Ever www.youtube.com

The Dadabots YouTube stream, on the other hand, is the raw, unmediated, continuously-evolving output of the AI's noodling around based on music by Vancouver band Archspire (Motherboard helpfully notes Archspire performs in the "technical death metal" genre. Categories are fun!) Those samples resulted in a nice little surprise:

"Most nets we trained made shitty music. Music soup. The songs would destabilize and fall apart. This one was special though," CJ Carr told Motherboard. The Archspire Dadabots created much more consistent, stable music. Carr's guess is that because Archspire's music is played at such a high tempo, it stabilizes what the bot puts out. "It's autonomous, running on a linux server somewhere in South Carolina," he said. "You're hearing everything it makes."

If you're beginning to suspect today's Nice Things was actually generated by an AI that has read a lot of Wonkette, well that's just your opinion, man. Devin Nunes's Cow canned clams! Wonkette does not allow comments, also too Butterstick. This is what happens whe you find a stranger in the Alps and the Stupidest Man on the Internet doesn't expect the Spanish inquisition. Help him! Help the bombardier delete comments! Bow before Donna Rose and SEND MONEY!

Also, we feel compelled to share with you Kid Zoom's favorite t-shirt design:


Check Your Junk Before You Sell It. How True This Is.

Image: Goodwin & Co.

This next story is 100 percent about analog tech, even if you're reading it on a 'puter. Atlas Obscura reminds us that if you're cleaning out your the attic or running an estate sale, check every box, scrapbook, and piano for stuff that might be worth a small fortune. Like maybe Aunt Nora's old upright piano, which sounded awful for some reason. Probably the huge vintage baseball card collection stuffed in there, most likely by Ellen Kelly's dad or uncle some 80 years ago. When Kelly bought the piano for $25 at a family estate sale and had a friend come over to see if it could be tuned, she found

over 110 vintage baseball cards hidden inside of it, including one from Babe Ruth's rookie season as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Last week, that card sold for more than $130,000 at Goodwin & Co., an auction house specializing in athletic cards. The other 110 cards sold together in one lot, for about $4,400.

Note to Kid Zoom in case godforbidanythinghappens: My Hot Wheels collection must be worth dozens, maybe even scores of dollars! The best stuff is stashed under the bed. Also, attn. burglars: my renters insurance is paid up, fuck you.

Not Exactly A Branch Library

Facebook photo

As a reminder that most folks in Northern Idaho are NOT goddamned Nazis, this feel-good story from Couer D'Alene, Yes Also Idaho, where librarian, artist, and bookbinder Sharalee Armitage had a 110-year-old cottonwood tree that had to be removed. But hey, why not make the final cut to the stump a bit higher than ground level, then get to crafting one of those Little Free Library things where neighbors can take a book and leave a book? Awesomeness resulted!

Coeur d'Alene artist turns decaying tree into little library youtu.be

The frame above the door of the "Little Tree Library" features little handmade wooden "books," too, including titles like "The Hobbit," "Little Women," and "Call of the Wild."

Considering this is a little shelter made by hollowing out a tree trunk, we sure hope My Side of the Mountain is up there, too.

Now what we really need is a live-in tree libarry with a lavender unicorn librarian, yes?


Short Stuff!

In Los Angeles, a four-mile stretch of "Rodeo Road" has been renamed "Obama Blvd." Barack Obama held his first Los Angeles presidential campaign rally February 20, 2007, at Rancho Cienega Park, on that very now-renamed stretch of Rodeo Road. Yay! Rep. Karen Bass, the congressmember for the area, was Happy on Twitter about the whole thing:

In other Cali Congresswomen news, Rep. Barbara Lee posted video of her and her staff dancing to Beyonce, as one does:

Please remember, hu-mons, cats are capable of sorcery:

And dogs can bring unique skills to your D&D; party

And hedghogs really are speedy, in their own non-CG way:

No one has added the sound of rings being acquired? WHY NOT?

Now go enjoy your Sunday, you!

[AI Weirdness / AI Weirdness / Motherboard / The Outline / Dadabots on YouTube / Atlas Obscura / Little Free Libraries / Spokesman-Review / CNN]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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