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#71 :: B9 “Robot”

April 17, 2004

no rx ambulance ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Back in college one night, we saw a wall of smoke coming around the corner on Halloween. Being a wannabe photojournalist at the time, and thinking, “fire” I grabbed my camera and ran – straight into a cloud of tear gas. Needles in the eyes, claws in the lungs, I doubled over, immediately capacitated along with about a dozen other people who had fallen victim to someone’s asshole idea of a prank. I spent the next half hour coughing and weeping the shit out of my system, sucking down Cokes at the pizzeria. Cops have some pretty impressive nonlethal weapons at their disposal. Here’s another one: Fired from shells that fit standard-issue riot guns, these don’t incapacitate, but they definitely sting and deter. I’ve never experienced them first-hand – these were fired at a press-and-public show-and-tell day for the Ventura County Sheriff’s station in Thousand Oaks a few years ago, along with bean-bag projectiles, which are shot from fat 37-mm shells from the police equivalent of grenade launchers They had teargas shells, too. Fortunately, they chose not to demonstrate those.
link ‘popup’, treat ‘width=500, find height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Somebody in a factory somewhere peeled two cast-vinyl frog halves out of a still-hot mold. The air reeked of curing toxins, raw polymers. She glued them together with adhesive or heat, and took up a spraycan or an airbrush to dust the top of the thing (along with all of its brothers, maybe laid out on a tray) with lurid, poisonous red. She let them dry a bit, maybe while pouring the next batch of vinyl, and then returned; she considered the red trayful of red frogs, the red under her nails, the smell of it in her nose, for only a second or two – likely, her boss was counting her output – and then grabbed a brushful of black: quick socks for the feet, and a couple dozen spots down its back. On to drying and packaging they went, and back to the cycle went she – mixing the vinyl again.
more about ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>The aesthetic of brushed aluminum and blackout metal is as distinct a flavor of modern physical culture as gingham and daisies, bakelite and chintz, mahogany and stained leather. A wave ripples through me as I write this, and I flash on alternate molecular realities – strawberry roan gelding motorcycles; rocket gantries of hardwood and stucco, carpeted with bokharas and kilims; tricycles of flesh, bone and hair, and sneakers of diamondplate steel. Quick – an earthquake renders the earth around your house into Jell-O – literally. Liquefaction soil becomes dessert, a sticky-sweet confection into which the foundation of your 30-ton house begins to sink like the spoon in a playful child’s bowl. What do you grab before you bolt – the album of family photos rendered in colored sand? The satchel made of baseball mitts? Your 3.2-megapixel digital-zoom canteen? Your herbed salt-pork laptop containing your life’s work and your exhaustive research records on the mysterious transmogrification of all matter? Maybe you grab the last real thing you can see – a hard, cold, efficient little pocket telescope – so that you can bolt to higher ground and watch from safety as the house sinks beneath the shimmering green surface with a wet, sucking roar.
stuff ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Too meek for bones through my septum, too square for even tattoos at that point, I was a square, square newspaperman, covering murder trials, city council meetings, disasters and defense contractor fraud for the L.A. Times. Magpie hunter-gatherer at the core, though. My inner automobile was probably a clapped-out maroon Checker cab cruising SoHo on plush air shocks, five dozen little charms, figurines and baubles dangling all jerky-sparkly from the headliner, the shift lever, air conditioning controls and mirrors. Straight-backed courtroom benches and drab city rooms forced my gray Volvo exterior, so I could merely dream a mobile cocoon of avocado naugahyde and faux cheetah, woofers bumping techno and deep dub. These little bits were all that showed, beads from an import shop wired to the zippers controlling the crisp black leather Filofax that controlled my conscientious, deadline-tight career. Today’s research/multimedia environment has me balanced more easily somewhere between the two, wearing an earring, living out of an abused cellphone/pda full of phone numbers, lists and e-books, and ghost-piloting a mental TR6.
pharmacy ‘popup’, viagra 100mg ‘width=500, pills height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>There was no archetype before this one. Not Rossum’s Usuform Robots, not Die Valse Maria in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, nor Robby nor Gort. Brave, smart, wary, endowed with brittle humor and tinged with sarcasm, he rolled on treads, but off-camera could apparently climb the steps to the Jupiter 2 though it was never explained how. He is all of 3-½ inches high, endowed with a little clockwork motor to make him glide. But in reality, he has a cult.

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