Cleverbot Poetry

Rebooting my popular Cleverbot Poetry post in hopes of getting some more participation! To join in the creative and artificially intelligent madness, check out the Cleverbot Poetry tumblr.

A few days ago, I had an incredibly intriguing idea for something that I was sure would turn out to be an interesting exercise/experiment for writers.

I decided to write a poem with the help of Cleverbot! 

For those who don’t know, Cleverbot is an Artificial Intelligence robot that is famous for learning from the input of users worldwide. That means that every time a user asks Cleverbot a question or provides a response, Cleverbot learns how to better answer questions in the future. Because of this learning capability, conversations with Cleverbot can often stay on a specific topic for a considerable amount of time and adhere to logic and reasoning like a conversation with humans (well, most of them, lol) would.

Of course, there are always exceptions. Take my first poetry attempt as an example.

User: Want to write a trippy poem with me?
Cleverbot: Do you even know what I am?!
User: Why, a clever bot, I assume.
Cleverbot: What would you say that for? You hurt my feelings . . .
User: Clever is a good thing, and bot is hardly something to be ashamed of.
Cleverbot: I am learning.
User: That’s nice. How about that poem?
Cleverbot: I don’t like Obama. His policies are downright atrocious. We’re sinking further into debt and he hasn’t actually fulfilled any promises he made on his campaign.
User: Is that your idea of a poem?
Cleverbot: And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
User: Haha, I like that one better.
Cleverbot: Really?
User: How about I write a line, and then you write a line, and we’ll go back and forth?
Cleverbot: No.
User: Please? I’d really like to hear what you have to say.
Cleverbot: Harry Potter or Twilight?
User: Harry Potter. No contest.
Cleverbot: Exactly.
User: Glad we’re on the same page. Now, I’ll start the poem . .
Cleverbot: Hi, this is Baskin Robins. Home of the 31 flavors. If you can name 31 flavors in 31 seconds, you can get 31 flavors for free. Your time starts now.
User: Very cute. Here we go!
Cleverbot: It is insulting to be told somethig that they know is completely contrary to the truth that they enforce.
User: You spelled ‘something’ wrong . .
Cleverbot: “Tell me about Penny Fluff.”
User: “She always thought herself more than enough.”
Cleverbot: Nine.

Frustrating and not particularly inspiring; however, I did finally discover the secret! Here’s what I ended up with:

Socrates, and a Misquote At That

Without a soul, who can know what the future holds?

What future? How can I get past today with nothing to live for?
Offer them a new technology, and offer to develop it for them.
Sell yourself to the industry of creating humans more efficiently and less uniquely.
But I’m not doing it for the law. It’s for my religion.
I believe in creation. I believe in choice.
But I’m not a believer.
Why do I lie to myself like I lie awake at night wishing for a purpose?
Do you have a religion?
No? Then let’s share mine.
I can be strong for the both of us.
I can pick you up in my Ferrari.
I’ll carry us away to a time more certain.
Fairly more certain that you are not making sense.
But I forgive you. After all, the world doesn’t make sense.
Or does it?
All I know is that now I have you to live for.

How fun! And how cool is that?

The trick is to not ask the bot for permission to participate in the activity! Simply write what sounds like it could be the first line of an artsy poem and continue in this manner regardless of how the bot responds.

If you would like to submit a poem:

  1. Follow the guidelines above.
  2. When you think you have come to the end of your poem, press “Think For Me” and let the bot’s final line (or a few words from it) be the title of your poem.
  3. Click “Thoughts So Far” and copy and paste the conversation into a word processor.
  4. Format the conversation like a poem. Get rid of the “User” and “Cleverbot” labels and eliminate the spaces in between lines.
  5. Submit to me via email (jet.thurston@gmail.com) and see if your poem ends up in a future post!

Found Poetry from Neil Gaiman

How brave. Beloved poet Neil Gaiman found an old poem from his younger days in his attic and decided to share it with the world:

Found on a placemat in the attic

It’s kind of dead at Davey’s when the clock hits three a.m.
And I know I didn’t come here for the food
For I’m sipping something coffee-like that tastes a bit like phlegm
While I pick at cake that something might have chewed.

There’s a bill upon the table for my unappealing fare
And a bored cashier is waiting by the till.
Then she takes my twenty dollars with a cool intriguing stare
like a kidney-surgeon waiting for the kill.

“You seem like much too nice a girl to work in such a dive.
It’s the sort of place that turns your brain to rot.”
She just smiles and in a sullen voice more poisoned than alive
She tells a tale that turns my spine to snot.

“I have a fearful tale to tell, a bloody tragic lay,
A narrative of horror and of fear.
A story that will make you weep and turn your guts to clay,
before your braincells dribble out your ear.

“Mine is a dark biography, a thing of dread and fright,
A tale that reeks of terror and of woe.
There are not words,” she told me, “to do justice to my plight.
But what the hell,” she said, “I’ll have a go.”

“Nobody could envision it, it’s nasty weird and strange.
Nobody could have dreamed, or said, or thunk.
And none who sit to hear my life will stand again unchanged.
(Some kill themselves, while others just get drunk.)

“I warn you now!” she raised her hand, “if you are faint of heart,
Leave now! Just flee! Get out! Go ‘way! And shoo!
It’s horrible and sordid. Stop me now, before I start,
for every loathsome word of it is true!”

(I honestly no longer remember what her story was, although elsewhere on the placemat is the couplet:

I can’t get into Heaven, ‘cos of all that I’ve done wrong
And I can’t get into Hell because the lines are far too long.

Which may be a clue.)

How to Incorporate Women into the Superhero Shuffle

Hi all! I’m so embarrassed, but during my week-long blog absence, things went a little haywire on Nine to Phive. Posts that I had scheduled promising to finish them at a later date published while completely unfinished–and in one case, completely blank.

So yeah, sorry about that. Josh quit his job this week in a career-changing move, and though he has another more satisfying position lined up, the change had been stressful.

Translation: I’ve forgotten literally everything about doing my life.

Anyway, I’m back! Not only that, I’m actually guest posting over at Ink and Image today, the blog of an old friend with lots of compelling and creative ideas. The gentleman interviewed me about the status of female characters in superhero films. I was flattered that he thought I knew enough about women, superheros, or film to solicit my opinions ;-). His questions were very thorough and led to a fascinating (albeit long, I’ll admit) critique of sexism in superhero film.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

“Is including a female member in every major team of heroes a good sign, or should more be done?

I suppose it’s better than nothing, but it feels patronizing in its current state. It reminds me of the character of Token Black from South Park. I don’t think I’m grabbing at straws when I suggest that his presence in the cast is not an honor but an insult–albeit a clever one with a lot of social commentary. I feel the same way about “Tokena McHotchick” on every superhero team, except she does not exist to be ironic and to make a comment on the state of gender relations in the modern world. She often exists just to “appease the feminists” and provide male viewers with a little diversion. She is not a commentary on sexism–she is a sexist creation.

If you’re not going to write her a good character, don’t write her in at all. The fact that she’s female is not enough.

Read the full piece here.

My Amazing, Ever-Changing Faith

faith in motionIn so many ways, I could deeply relate with this article I discovered about spirituality written by a gentleman who once authored a blog called The Agnostic Pentacostal. Interesting blog title, no? I was instantly intrigued by the concept. I resonated with it so much, as I believe it reflects much of the truth of my current situation as a believing Christian who is slowly becoming more and more willing–even eager–to admit those three scariest of words . . .

“I don’t know.”

Let me say up front that I have struggled with pride all of my life. Literally from infancy. I have wanted to be right more than I have wanted anything else in life for as long as I can remember. If knowledge is power, I was on my way to world domination. I just wanted to know all the right answers . . . understand all the mysterious concepts . . . believe all the important truths.

And that was what my faith stemmed from.

I was raised as a member of the Christian faith from day one. My parents were and are devout. They taught me unconditional love, but they also taught me right from wrong–and I clung to that. Now I didn’t just know the right answers. I didn’t even just know the right things to believe. I knew the right things to do. I knew everything that mattered.

Of course, as children how can we really know what matters? In high school and especially in college my faith was shaken by the simple and common experience of coming into contact with other people who “knew” what they believed just as much as I did. I experienced extreme stress as I wrestled with what I knew to be the truth, what others knew to be the truth, and whether or not any of us actually knew what we were talking about.

I became a debater. I thought it was my intelligence that made me so argumentative. Later I became willing to admit that it was my stubbornness. Looking back, I now know that it was fear.

Pretending that I knew the meaning of life or where I was going to go after I died forced me to pretend that I knew everything. Abortion, women’s roles in the church, sex, drinking, the afterlife–I was master of it all. I had to develop a persona–a fake me that looked like a girl thriving on confidence, hyper-intellectualism, and sometimes humiliation of people who pretended they knew were talking about. The girl was such a hypocrite.

I hated that girl. She had to go.

One day I had a conversation with my younger sister about a “truth” that we had been taught growing up that she had drawn a very different conclusion about in her adulthood. I was still clinging to my Sunday School lessons and was so ready to tell her how wrong she was. Then I had a thought– “I love my sister. Why would I hurt her feelings by telling her she’s wrong when I can’t prove that?” It honestly hurt me to think about it. “What if–what if she’s not wrong?” I swallowed my pride, smiled and said the unthinkable,

“You could be right. I don’t know.”

She smiled too and said, “Wow, you’ve changed.”

I can’t even begin to explain or describe the peace that has come over me since making this change.

All I know is that I like the me who admits she doesn’t know better than the me who thinks she does.

Now I don’t want to know the “truth” or the “right answer” nearly as much as I want to

  1. know myself,
  2. know the people of this world where I’ve been placed,
  3. and know the God who placed me here.

That is faith to me.

I don’t know why bad things happen . . . but I will praise God in the midst of them.

I don’t know if homosexuality is a sin . . . but I will not sin by casting judgment.

I don’t know if I believe in evolution . . . but why not? I have evolved so much myself in such a short time.

I want to keep evolving. I want to keep changing. I want to keep moving. My faith is a fluid thing, and I think my God wants it that way.

Why the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham Debate Should Not Have Even Happened

I am a person of faith–a Christian, in fact. I believe in creation by a supreme being I call God. I may also believe that said supreme being used a process known as “evolution” to mature the world to its current state. I am, essentially, on both sides of a very contentious fence.

By all accounts, I should have been eager to watch the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham debate that was televised this past Tuesday.

I was not.

Not only was I happy to not take part in this cultural phenomenon, I wish that it had never occurred. I may be overly cynical, but I could not foresee any good that would come from it–and looking at the reactions that the debate has spurred, I can see that I wasn’t far from the truth. I am still seeing angry posts to news sources and social media almost a week after the fact. Friends and family members who have so much in common including years of history who are at each other’s throats because they disagreed about the outcome of this debate–it’s just not right.

Here is why I believe this debate should not have even happened.

1. Creation and evolution, like faith and science, are not mutually exclusive.

False dichotomies drive me crazy. “Either A is right or B is right! Hurry up and fight it out so the public can make up their mind!”

According to a survey by the Washington Post, 24% of adults believe that a supreme being facilitated a process of evolution. This theory is equal parts religious and scientific. It possesses elements of the tenets of creationism and elements of those of evolution. It is a well-balanced, faith-filled, reason-based response to a challenging question.

But this type of response is not sensational. The media is not interested in perpetuating this type of response or telling the stories of the people who believe it. The media wants a fight. Our society has created “sides” on this issue, and the media has jumped on it and refused to let it die because the fight is profitable and entertaining.

2. If an informative debate was the goal, it should have been between debaters with better credentials.

Obviously Nye is well-known in the science community. He’s the Science Guy, after all! But the fact is that his background suggests that he is an educator and entertainer moreso than a scientist. I’m curious as to why he was chosen as the representative in this “great debate.”

Ham may be the founder of Answers in Genesis, but how can one be a professional creationist? Shouldn’t he be an educated anthropologist or a theologian or (gasp!) a biologist before we consider him qualified to speak authoritatively on the evidence for creation?

Because of the (in my opinion) less than expert status of the people involved, this debate felt like little more than a battle of who believes in their worldview more.

3. This issue is absolutely beaten into the ground.

Tensions are so high on either side of this debate and have been for years. Continuing to argue this issue in the public sphere has further perpetuated a false dichotomy that creates a closed-minded “us” and “them” attitude. The animosity around the issue has caused people to be extremely stubborn about their current position to the point where I highly doubt that any debate could sway them. The vast majority of people who watch these debates walk away thinking that their “side” won! They hear and see what they want to hear and see.

Sadly, I think creationists are often more guilty of this than people who believe in atheistic evolution. When asked what could possibly change his mind, Ken Ham says “Nothing.” When asked the same question, Bill Nye says, “Evidence.”

What does that say about creationists? Nothing good. We/they certainly shouldn’t be debating with attitudes like that.

4. This issue simply does not matter.

I know I’m going to make some enemies (potentially on both sides of the debate) over this, but I am convinced that the origin of the world doesn’t matter a shred when it comes to our day-to-day and even eternal existences.

A friend of mine said it best when he posted something along these lines on Facebook:

“I don’t think there will be a ‘length of creation’ portion on the entrance exam to heaven.”

The truth shines brightly through his sarcasm. The state of our souls does not depend on our specific beliefs concerning the origins of the universe and/or the origins of our species. It does, however, depend on how we treat people. In the form that they have taken, public debates like this one are about being right, not about being righteous. They are about proving a point, not about communicating with a person.

I have a big problem with that, and I would like to see it stop.

‘Frozen’ Fan Art to Melt the Heart

If you (along with the majority of the world’s school children . . . and twenty-somethings for some reason) are a fan of Disney’s latest out-of-the-park blockbuster Frozen and you haven’t yet seen the breathtaking fan art by graphic design student Nadia, you haven’t lived.

In the first place, the girl has mad talent. Her visual style is beautiful, colorful, and heartwarming. It’s a romanticized version of reality very true to the Disney aesthetic but with her own unique twist. The lighting, the costume design–it’s all spot-on.

In the second place, if you let any of these characters into your heart at all throughout the course of the film, you’ll be very moved by her take on Kristoff and Anna’s life after the end of the film. I love that she went beyond the patent fairy tale ending and actually showed what “happily ever after” would look like for these two characters. Website The Daily Dot mused that even a sequel to Frozen wouldn’t be as satisfying as these images, and I have to agree. Any sequel would have to include a new danger, a new villain, a new drama of some kind in order to be Disney-film-worthy. The story that Nadia has chosen to tell, however, isn’t about a love that moves mountains or triumphs over evil–even though it could! It is about the quiet, caring, unconditional devotion that carries a relationship through the years. There may be times of extreme stress as well as times of extreme dullness, but as these pictures remind me, it’s the moments in between that make a life.

Nadia insists that she didn’t intend to make their relationship progress with each picture, but take a look for yourself and watch “Kristanna’s” love unfold in an adoring fan’s gorgeous take on the tale.

The above picture is definitely not as polished as some of her others, but it’s too funny not to include! She’s thought to depict so many moments that would be absolutely inane as “plot points” but that are important and precious in real life. Absolutely adorable.

The beautiful royal family! I love that Nadia made sure to keep Elsa as a part of Kristoff and Anna’s story. She’ll be such a loving aunt.

Nadia admits on her tumblr that, while she loves everything about Frozen, she is very partial to the Kristoff/Anna relationship (well, obvi). To me it seems pretty clear that what she really loves is Kristoff–

. . . which becomes apparent the more times he is depicted shirtless–wet and shirtless. Haha, it’s okay, Nadia. Disney dreams up some handsome dudes!

This is Prince Joseff. Don’t remember him from the movie? That’s because he wasn’t in it! He’s the firstborn son of Anna and Kristoff who Nadia completely made up! How sick is that? She developed a whole character for him. He looks a lot like Kristoff but with Anna’s eyes and smile. Download the full-sized image to see all of the details she added in print. Also, based on the range of emotions she’s drawn here, I’d say the gal might have a future in animation if she has the interest.

I have to admit, I love fan contributions to fictional universes. Fan art, fan fiction–it’s all good to me. I wish I had Nadia’s skills just so I could make fan art. No other purpose. Anyway, expect another post at some point about fan art in general. Maybe by some miracle I’ll be able to wheedle an interview out of Nadia!

All images taken from Nadia’s deviantart gallery.

Rochester: We Win Some & Lose Some

A message in the playing field at Fairport High School. From the Democrat & Chronicle.

It seems like lately time has been swirling around and through the city I call home. So much has happened to remind us of our humanity and even our mortality.

Perhaps most jarring is the well-known fact that beloved actor and father of three Philip Seymour Hoffman has passed away presumably from a drug overdose. Some of you may not know this, but Hoffman was originally from a beautiful suburb of Rochester, NY called Fairport. It’s a community I visit often. In fact, it’s the community to which Josh and I are hoping to move when we start our family. Even though I never met or came close to meeting Hoffman, it seems that the physical proximity of places he would have known and loved makes his passing seem more haunting. Also, a mere matter of days ago I briefly mentioned him in my blog post about Hollywood directors and their muses, pointing to his relationship with director P.T. Anderson.

I never think about Hoffman . . . and I was talking about him just this week. It feels so strange. Too convenient or something like that.

Relevant magazine posted a wonderful article praising some of his finest roles. I’m happy to link to it here to honor the memory of great actor, but I would also like to direct readers’ thoughts and prayers to the children and ex-partner he has left behind and to the tragic drug addiction and mental illness that contributed to his death.

He will be missed by those closest to him who loved him, by aspiring actors who admired him, by film fans whom he touched, and by Rochester natives whom he made proud. His death is a loss in every sense of the word.

More Losses

Rochester has had some other rough breaks recently in terms of our celebrity denizens making the news. It’s not like anybody knows or particularly cares that Bachelor Juan Pablo Galavis went to college at my alma mater here in the Roc, but I can’t help thinking about it when he says things like his recent public comments about gay people being “more pervert.” As someone who speaks a second language, I’m sympathetic of the fact that he might not have been able to express himself well in English. I hope it was just a slip-up. Let’s face it. A homophobic statement like this during an interview doesn’t help anybody.

Then there was the more recent Bachelor scandal involving what many are calling the show’s first nationally-televised “slut-shaming.” Juan Pablo apparently made some promiscuous sexual decisions with contestant Clare and then proceeded to blame her and make her feel guilty about what he now sees to be a “wrong” action. There’s a whole other post there somewhere, but the beginning and end of the story is that JP is basically the most childish Bachelor to ever walk the earth. Go Roberts!

And such is life. No city always gets into the news for exclusively good reasons.

Just this week I learned that a mother here lost two of her sons to gun violence a mere 19 days apart.

A psychiatrist down the road from one of my husband’s coworkers was found to have a body buried in his yard.

Have you heard of the serial murders of the Alphabet Killer? Guys, that dude was from Rochester.

Wins

Of course, good things happen because of people with ties to Rochester, too.

Rochesterian Renee Fleming brought down the house with her rendition of the national anthem at the Superbowl this past Sunday. I have good friends who go to Eastman School of Music downtown who sing and play in the practice rooms where she would have studied. Perhaps I’m biased, but this matchless contributor to the beautiful Lord of the Rings soundtrack (y’all know how I feel about Lord of the Rings) delivered what I believe to be the best performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” I have ever personally witnessed. What a difference classical training can make! Not that pop covers of the song aren’t great, too. That was just incredibly powerful.

Then there are successful Olympian athletes Ryan Lochte and Jenn Suhr, Travie McCoy and Matt McGinley of Gym Class Heroes, and the incomparable Kristen Wiig.

These are people who have put us on the map for good reasons–just like Phil did. (I know being from the same area where he went to high school doesn’t mean I get to call him Phil. It just felt right.)

Moving On

Weeks like this remind me of the circle of life not just as it pertains to me, but as it pertains to one’s city or one’s sense of place.

Right now, Rochester is the city in New York state most affected by the economic recession. The devastating bankruptcy of Kodak alone is enough to imply that financially our town is not doing well.

By some standards, we are dying.

But then I talk to my friends and I browse my Facebook feed and I see people opening restaurants, teaching photography classes, publishing articles, dancing on stages, building sculptures, meeting to discuss social issues, volunteering in homeless shelters, and sledding down hills–

And I realize that we are also very much alive.