Friday, July 20, 2012

The Rising of the Knight in Everyone

I really wanted to find an image of Batman being the living crap out of someone. I really wanted to give my rage and heartache a representative graphic illustrating the 12 people killed and over 50 people hurt by a gunman at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado last night.

But I couldn't find something that captured my "imagination."

Instead, I found what you see posted at the top of this blog post. Maybe it's more fitting. Yeah, in "real life," Batman (if he existed in real life), would pound the bastard that shot up the movie audience into something that looks like chunky salsa, but afterward, rage would turn to grief. After all, it was the death of two innocent people, his parents, who were shot by a criminal, that created the Dark Knight in the first place. Every time some hood or madman guns down people just because they're there, it diminishes all of us. It creates, temporarily for most people, a collective drive toward justice, the need to protect the victims, the desire to punish the guilty.

But, news items being what they are and people being who we are, most of us tend to forget. We remember for weeks, months, years, what our favorite scenes are and lines of dialog from films such as TDKR, but we'll forget about the shootings in Aurora, Colorado in a few days. Something else will come along and drive it out of our memories and fractured attention spans.

For most of us, that is.

Bruce Wayne didn't forget. He never forgot. Of course, he was a kid and the people murdered right before his eyes were his parents, so you'd figure he'd never forget. But he did something more than remember. He took his anger, his guilt, and his fear, and turned it into a weapon; and incredibly powerful weapon. He turned it into Batman.

That doesn't do the rest of us much good. Batman is a fictional character. He only exists in the world of imagination. He is a symbol of our desire for dark justice and the need to not only punish the predators, but to brutalize them. He is the shadow to our light, the power to our powerlessness, the avenger to our victimhood.

He is the Dark Knight to our oppression.

We can't put on a costume and roam the night. We can't summon the heroes of fantasy into the real world of blood, and tear gas, and torn flesh, and dead bodies. But we can do something; we should do something.

All I can do is write, so that's what I'm doing. Probably a lot of people will have something to say about all this in the hours and days to come. This is me saying what I need to say right now.

As much as I'd like to take a baseball bat and beat the shooter's head like an overripe melon, that's not what needs to be done the most (I still think I'd like to do it, though, because I'm really angry right now).

No, what needs to be done more than pulling revenge and this guy's bloody colon out of his ass, is to remember the victims, to have compassion. To not give in to anger and rage, but to instead, nurture kindness and if you believe in that sort of thing, to pray for the wounded and the dying.

Anger, violence, and revenge may make us feel better in the short run, but it's justice, mercy, and compassion that heals the world in the long run. Don your metaphorical "Dark Knight" armor if you must and scream how much you'd like to hurt the guy that did all the hurting, but remember. Remember that afterward, you have to take the mask off and be who you are, to help, to rebuild broken lives.

That's the part about being a hero you don't see at the end of the movie. That's the hero in real life and I hope...I hope it's the hero you can find in yourself. I hope I can find him in me, too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Virtual Reality, Virtual Hatsune

Technophile shut-ins, rejoice. The era of shimmery, for-your-eyes-only virtual girlfriends has arrived, says this video, uploaded to You Tube by user Alsionesvx. The film showcases an augmented reality system that allows users to project the pixilated Japanese pop star Hatsune Miku into their day-to-day lives. Using video goggles and an Xtion Pro motion sensor, Alsionesvx can take Hatsune, a wide-eyed, pigtail-wearing wraith who, significantly, has no mouth (and somewhat less significantly, has no nose), to the park. It’s sort of romantic. Then he, um, plunks her in his kitchen and paws at her tie: less romantic.
So begins the article at panning what actually turns out to be a really cool piece of technology. OK, so maybe virtual girlfriends aren't your thing (unless you're into porn...then admit it, they're virtual and they're girls), but suspend judgment for a minute and consider.

Let's say you can wear a device over your eyes that allows you (but only you) see a simulated image of anime character Hatsune Miku accompanying you wherever you go. This isn't a static image and in fact, looking at the video demo, it's really impressive. You can see "her" walking toward you making eye contact. When you look away, the image doesn't suddenly move keeping her in your line of sight. If you "saw" her walking toward you on a sidewalk, you can look away and not see her, then look back and she's still walking on the sidewalk getting closer to you, just as if she were an actual moving object in the world around you.

If you can see her at a distance and a real object gets in the way, she is hidden from view by that object (lets say a passerby or a tree) and then comes into view again when the object is no longer blocking your line of sight...just as if she were a real part of your environment. It's kind of impressive.

Even though she's virtual and you can't actually touch her (you can't even see her without the hardware), when you reach out and pat her on the head for example, she will "react" by showing signs of pleasure (no, not that kind of pleasure). She wears a tie and you can touch and move the tie (the demo doesn't involve touching or doing anything to any other part of her clothing). You can actually smack her on the head (as shown in the video) and she reacts as if she's afraid or in pain (which is the creepy part).

Why would you want this?

I don't think I would. I'd have to live in my head a lot more than I actually do and really, what's the point? I suppose if the software were developed to its logical conclusion, then it would make an incredible masturbation aid, but do guys really need that much help? There's already a plethora of porn on the web including Japanese hentai, so a cute, vaguely interactive anime girl isn't as necessary as you might imagine.

It does move the concept of virtual reality and the Star Trek holodeck one step closer to actuality (if the words "actuality" and "virtual" can be used together like this). If you combined the digital Hatsune Miku with something like Google's Project Glass, the possibilities are mind boggling. Toss the iPhone into the mix and then imagine Siri is "real". What about being able to see and interact with Tony Stark's "Jarvis"? How would 3D gaming be enhanced if the virtual person were an opponent?

You may not want a virtual anime girlfriend, but projecting the technology forward, there are a lot of applications besides the obvious "porn star" aspects.

What do you think? Is this creepy or cool?

Oh, here's the video: