September 4, 2012

"Robot & Frank"

From my movie review in Taki's Magazine:
Robot & Frank is a clever little sci-fi dramedy about a semi-senile old coot (played by Frank Langella) whose concerned son buys him a robot as a valet and minder. The film is well crafted and timely because robophobia is once again in fashion. Americans, faced with a rapidly growing population, fear robots will arrive soon and take what jobs are left. 
In contrast, the Japanese, faced with a shrinking population, fear that robots won’t get here fast enough to spare them from finally having to let in poor foreigners to care for their elderly. While Westerners traditionally fear that robots are plotting to take over (e.g., Terminator), the Japanese, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.

Read the whole thing there.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

"While Westerners traditionally fear that robots are plotting to take over (e.g., Terminator), the Japanese welcome our new robot overlords."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhAGPAxzbTw

Not in BUBBLEGUM CRASH episode #2. Priss hates boomers. (BUBBLEGUM CRASH isn't half as good as the original BUBBLEGUM CRSIS.)

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOXxsLt4vHM

Now this is 'robophobic'.

Aaron in Israel said...

Maybe your best-written movie review ever. Keep the gags coming!

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlwzrAXqqxU

AD POLICE mostly sucks, but episode #3 isn't bad.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Japanese really look forward to becoming like cartoon characters. They are now more into kawaii culture than mecha culture.

Anonymous said...

"Back in 1931-1945, the Japanese attempted to get around their empathy excess by defining all non-Japanese as subhuman, but that didn’t end well for them. Ever since, they’ve been looking forward to robots as their ideal non-Japanese servants."

ROTFL.

Anonymous said...

Funniest movie review yet, Steve. Bravo!

Steve Sailer said...

"Actually, Japanese really look forward to becoming like cartoon characters. They are now more into kawaii culture than mecha culture."

Thanks.

This is pretty funny for a Wikipedia article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kawaii

Ex Submarine Officer said...


This is pretty funny for a Wikipedia article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kawaii


Thanks for that, because this explains something that has bugged me a little about Japanese:

The original definition of kawaii came from Lady Murasaki's The Tale of Genji where it referred to pitiable qualities.

Japanese adjectives that end in "i" get transformed by dropping the "i" and replacing it with "so" to indicate "looks like" or "appears like" whatever the original adjective was.

oishii = tasty, delicious
oishiso = looks tasty, delicious.

But kawaiso doesn't mean "looks cute", but, as in the original meaning of the word, it is more like "poor thing".

thanks, that has cleared up a little mystery w/Japanese that has been one of my minor nits.

And, yeah, kawaii is pure crack to Japanese. Even my hafu eight year old son is always referring to things as kawaii. I don't remember thinking of anything of cute when I was 8. If you had asked me then what cute was, I probably would have hemmed and hawed for a while and finally come up w/it being some barfy girl concept.

Anonymous said...

The Japanese objection isn't to letting in poor foreigners per se.

The Japanese object to letting in tens of thousands of fertile young non-Japanese women and then dealing with the inevitable pop in half-half children.

Anonymous said...

http://www.nytimes.com/1990/04/05/books/books-of-the-times-when-an-illness-binds-and-defines.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

One of the funniest books i've read.

Anonymous said...

http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/Gore-Vidal--1925-2012-7443

Anonymous said...

I'n like the Japanese, waiting for the robost arrival to save us all.

Georgia Resident said...

"Actually, Japanese really look forward to becoming like cartoon characters. They are now more into kawaii culture than mecha culture."

Or bringing them into the 3D world:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTXO7KGHtjI

If it's possible to develop Star Trek-style holodecks, it will probably be done by the Japanese.

Anonymous said...

http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/The-human-element-7442

Anonymous said...

I'd say that kawaii culture isn't something that would ever take off in the US...then I remembered the Bronies.

http://www.wired.com/underwire/2011/06/bronies-my-little-ponys/

Ex Submarine Officer said...

The Japanese objection isn't to letting in poor foreigners per se.

The Japanese object to letting in tens of thousands of fertile young non-Japanese women and then dealing with the inevitable pop in half-half children.


This is not a particularly Japanese thing; it is what everyone really would want out of immigration.

From what I've observed, most Japanese have little objection to one Japanese or mixed family on the block provided:

1) The non-Japanese contingent is perceived as being up to their standards as a nation. They tend to use white, esp. NW European white as a proxy for this.

2) Again, just a little, a bit of spice in the dish, which is how immigration is sold in the U.S. rather than the overwhelming flood that is the reality of the situation.

3) Said non-Japanese are not making waves in the day to day social fabric for the people around them. This isn't always very easy in Japan, it takes a real effort on the part of the foreigner and is never 100% successful. But Japanese culture gives tons of points for honest, wholehearted effort (ganbaru).

So basically, they have a sane immigration formal and informal policy, one that doesn't disrupt their society but allows them some benefit from exoticism.

I've been at this for a while, I help out w/events at our local hideously Japanese school for instance, other stuff that is very "deep Japan" in a modern, non-touristy way. I made my "park debut" successfully a long time ago, have a lot of cheerful friendly relations w/the local moms, this sort of thing.

I don't get any hostility and my kid, who is fluent in the local dialect, is quite popular w/his mates.

I don't kid myself in any way that I'm every going to be accepted as Japanese like some foreigners do, but there is a happy niche for the handful of foreigners who can and are willing to go along with the program.

First thing to know about Japan is it is a place where everyone, and I mean everyone, gets the memo. This even includes people like the hobos, who are the neatest, most polite and organized bag people you could ever wish to encounter.

pat said...

The problem is that people conflate robot with antropomorphic or humanoid robot.

If you're worried about the robots taking over (the plot of not only the Terminator films, but also about half of all the original Star Trek episodes) then the current Sony AIBO humanoid robot isn't too scary. But if you consider non-humanoid robots it's too late. They've taken over. They've destroyed human cities and killed thousands of people.

I'm speking of course of Detroit.

The blacks who had traveled from the fields of Mississippi in "The Great Migration" got to the factories of Detroit and prospered. But in the sixties and seventies the robots came. American car companies in those days were challenged by the quality of cars built by Japanese robots. So we got our own robots. And we got rid of the excess humans.

White people and East Asians when displaced have some alternatives. They can go back to school and learn something else. Balcks are much less good at this. So it came to pass that that the robots put the blacks out of work and the blacks destroyed their city and they killed one another.

People are not very much like robots. People are generalists. The robots in Terminator are too. But generalist robots are hard to build and to program. Most industrial jobs done by humans requires the person to act like a machine not a person. It's not surprising then that in the long run the machines are better at those sorts of things.

Watch the Science Channel reality show "How Its Made". They show modern Canadian factories churning out products with no human is sight. They have to film in slow motion because the industrial robots move so fast. Many of these factories probably run in total darkness whenever the TV cameras aren't present.

The "Robots are taking over" script has already run. The robots have already attacked and decimated our most vulnerable population segment the African-Americans. They're coming next for you.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

The other way for the Japanese to do it without losing their home to the evil globalists is import only post-menopausal women on 3-year guest worker contracts.

However on balance labor shortages are much better for technological innovation (as shown in reverse in the West over the last few decades) so if i was them i wouldn't take any risks and keep going down the robot route.

In the end chasing technology rather than cheap labor should pay off better both financially and in not losing your homeland, your culture and your history just so a handful of globalist billionaires can get even richer.

Anonymous said...

"The Japanese objection isn't to letting in poor foreigners per se."

Then they must be the only nation on the planet like that e.g. the recent race riots in Israel over African immigrants.

No sane population has a majority that wants to give their living space away to mass quantities of foreigners poor or otherwise because it makes absolutely no sense for the majority.

A few immigrants, strongly filtered for cost-benefit, is probably beneficial but millions is insane and only results from a ruling class betraying the rest of the population.

Anonymous said...

Is C-3PO gay too?

Anonymous said...

"Or bringing them into the 3D world:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTXO7KGHtjI "


That is the most pathetic thing I ever did see.

C. Van Carter said...

RI-MAN.

Anonymous said...

God, Japan sounds like heaven!

Ex Submarine Officer said...

God, Japan sounds like heaven!

Well, by western standards, several aspects of Japan are very utopian.

The first is public safety. There isn't almost anywhere in Japan that has unsafe streets.

The idea that there is a significant aggrieved underclass that would just as soon kill you as look at you is utterly alien.

This is pretty true even of the biggest cities, although I hear that there are is a tiny beachhead of Nigerians and sundry other foreigners in Roppongi, other environs in Tokyo up the their usual tricks.

Public restrooms are all over the place in parks, train stations, and are generally clean and stocked w/tp and whatnot. This alone is a pretty good indicator of a civil society.

OTOH, the anomie a long term foreigner can feel here is not insignificant. Forums like gaijinpot are full of what I call "long term prisoners of the Japanese" who are pretty bitter about their lives after spending 15 years or so in Japan.

FWIW, I also play in some musical groups in Japan as well as various black and white ones in the USA.

Playing in Japan w/Japanese, despite the generally amazing level of technical proficiency, is my least favorite, although I can say it is better than it used to be.

Anyhow, it is a mixed bag. There are some things I really love about the U.S., some about Japan. If I had to pick, I'd probably opt for Japan, not because it is objectively better, but because of the stability and continuity - I'll bet Japan is going to be fairly similar 20 years from now to what it is today. Can't say that with any confidence about the USA considering how much it has changed in just the past 20-30 years.

Anonymous said...

Is C-3PO gay too?

Reminds me of the MAD magazine parody of Star Wars ... where R2-D2 suspected in a thought balloon that C-3PO was gay.

Anonymous said...

"Bad guy and Tom" - very well set up.

Anonymous said...

Kibernetika napisal:

Cool, I want to see this movie. Sounds well done and thought provoking.

Hey, I studied the Japanese language (privately w/tutors, ~ 2 yrs.) and have some understanding/appreciation of their culture. Wasn't a primary language for me so I'm very limited. But got a little insight into the culture. And I've been hands-on caring for an elderly family member, so I can really understand the tasks that could be handled with "robots." Gently lifting, turning, bathing, etc.

Now I pay a person from an historically hindered group to support an elderly family member, and I'd much prefer a competently programmed robot. More than once I've muttered "trust but verify" when correcting some simple task. Many clearly defined tasks are simply done incorrectly, poorly, or without sympathy, empathy, and it's difficult to grok.

And at my own home, I do employ Roomba vacuum cleaners, and they are wonderful! They work unselfishly and well. Anthropomorphism or assignation of pet-like qualities to robots. Normally I crank up my Roomba when leaving for several days. To me, they are like turtles. If I get home and see one "stuck" or passed out (battery exhausted) on some floor anomaly (vents, ridges, etc.), I immediately go to it and bring it back to its base. I get the sensation of moving a live turtle ;) Same as when I stop while driving to save a natural turtle who's trying to cross a busy road. More than once I've said ,"Come on, little fellow, back to your base."

Does animism apply to machines?

Mda, to4no.