58. Dave

The Japanese are sending a man into space. There’s nothing unusual about this; he’s just going up to man the international space station for a while. What is unusual is that they are sending a robot up with him. This is Kirobo.

Now also available from Toys'R'Us.

Now also available from Toys’R’Us.

One day, the Japanese designers of Kirobo hope that they can design robots to actually perform useful tasks up in space, but that’s not what Kirobo’s going for. Kirobo is going up into space to chat to the astronaut. That’s it. He is programmed to have conversations. And take pictures.

I’m not sure that Japan has thought this one through. I just spent the afternoon stripping rising damp off the walls of my bedroom. This was not my plan for the day. This was Mrs 23thorn’s plan for the day. I merely stepped in out of a healthy sense of self-preservation. Mrs 23thorns is an intelligent and multi-talented woman, but her approach to DIY has much in common with Ghengis Khan’s approach to diplomacy.

We also have to re-grout the tiles in the bathroom and pave the driveway with the skulls of our enemies.

We also have to re-grout the tiles in the bathroom and pave the driveway with the skulls of our enemies.

We were not alone. We too had a small companion to keep us company as we worked. Our four-year old daughter was there. We managed to talk her out of helping by carefully explaining that paint scrapers got very, very hot, and sandpaper was poisonous, but she stuck around to chat;

“Are you scraping the walls, Daddy?”

“Yes.”

“Are you?”

“Yes.”

“Oh.”

“….. Why are you scraping the walls, Daddy?”

“Because there’s water in them.”

“Oh. …. Why is there water in the walls, Daddy?

“Shoddy workmanship. Why don’t you go and see what your brother is doing?”

“No. Can I see the water, Daddy?”

“No. It’s dried now. But it made bubbles in the paint. I’m scraping the bubbles away so we can paint it again.”

“Oh. Can I have some bubbles, Daddy?”

“No.”

“But why?”

“Because I said so. Where is your brother?”

“Can he have some bubbles, Daddy?”

“No. This paint has lead in it. It makes children blind.”

But Mommy lets me eat lead paint all the time!

But Mommy lets me eat lead paint all the time!

“Oh. …. Are you going to go blind, Daddy?”

“No.”

“Oh.

“Are you scraping the walls, Daddy?”

It was a long afternoon. But I survived. I survived by dashing off to the hardware shop to buy another paint scraper. My one was looking a little old, and I like a shiny paint scraper. I might have got some wine, too.

That Japanese astronaut has nowhere to go. He is stuck there, in a tiny tin can miles above the Earth. With Kirobo. Who is this big.

You can be damn sure he'll get his own TV show.

You can be damn sure he’ll get his own TV show.

I hope he doesn’t have a squeaky little voice. But it doesn’t make much of a difference. The Japanese are very clever, but I doubt this little guy is on a conversational par with Wittgenstein. It’s probably on a par with a four-year-old. And it wants to take pictures. Let’s just pretend the astronaut is called Dave, to keep the sci-fi buffs out there happy. Dave is going to have some long afternoons;

“Hello, Dave, how are you today?”

“I’m fine. How are you?”

“Fine. Can I take a picture?”

“Sure. Can you just give me a moment here? There seems to be a problem with the oxygen recycling unit. I need to fix it.”

“Oh. … Can I take a picture?”

“Sure.”

“Are you fixing the oxygen recycling unit?”

“Yes.”

“Are you fixing it?”

“Yes.”

“Is the oxygen recycling unit broken?”

“Look. There’s a problem here. The damn thing is broken. I need to fix it. I need to concentrate. Can you please just leave me the hell alone for ten minutes.”

“Oh. OK.”

“___”

“___”

“Dave?”

“WHAT?”

“Are you fixing the oxygen recycling unit?”

“YES! FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, WILL YOU JUST LEAVE ME ALONE. I’M GOING TO DIE IF IT DOESN’T COME BACK ON LINE! JUST SHUT UP AND GO AND STAND BEHIND THAT BOX THERE!”

“Oh. Do you want me to stand behind that box there?”

“YES.”

“OK. Can I take a picture?”

“AAAAAAAAARGH. BE QUIET! I’M BEGGING YOU TO JUST STOP TALKING. I CAN’T DO THIS IF YOU WON’T STOP TALKING!”

“OK.”

“____”

“_____”

“_____”

“_____”

“Are you fixing the oxygen recycling unit?”

Sooner or later, the conversation is going to become a little one-sided;

“Dave?”

“Dave?”

“Dave?”

I took a picture, Dave.

I took a picture, Dave.

And so it will go on for hundreds of years. The Earth will abandon the space station due to the terrifying nature of Dave’s last call to Earth. Civilisations will rise and fall. But eventually, someone is going to go up to investigate that mysterious chunk of metal in the sky. Dave will be there. Mummified by the oxygen-free environment.

He won’t be alone. Next to him will be a perky little robot with big yellow eyes.

“Hello.” He will say. “Are you here to fix the oxygen recycling unit?”

Met with blank stares for a moment or too, he will feel compelled to break the silence.

“Can I take a picture?”

Kirobo2

*****

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46 thoughts on “58. Dave

  1. That was great! Made my evening. 🙂

  2. Marcia says:

    Oh, I was so sure you would know “chapbook.” I didn’t, of course, but I was certainyou would. Apparently, it’s an almost archaic term for very small book of poems that is becoming popular again, with the resurgence of modern poetry. What? You didn’t know modern poetry was resurging? Me, either. But it seems to be, and I thought a short book of poems would be a good trial run to get a handle on the mechanics of publishing a Kindle book. You know . . . before launching into my much larger book, and blundering around in ignorance. And there you have it. Chapbook.

    BTW, do you know how to make mint juleps? I gather it has something to do with mint. And juleps. What exactly are juleps, anyway? Okay, I’d better quit before someone decides I’m really not a southern gal after all. I will say, though, that there are no rocking chairs calling my name yet. Maybe in 20 or 30 years?
    😀

  3. albertine says:

    I think your readers are increasing in number. Meanwhile, I wonder whether your children’s comments and replies are somehow (how?) related to the blog-plus-comment-plus-reply mode.

  4. mariekeates says:

    Grandchildren are great, you can buy them lots of noisy toys and send them home to Mummy and Daddy to repay them for all the times they asked you if you were scraping the walls! You have a lot to look forward to 🙂

    • 23thorns says:

      yep. Whenever they come around we’ll tank them up on energy drinks and send them home with vuvuzelas. I can’t wait!

      • mariekeates says:

        Just remember that every time your kids are driving you mad. Then you can smile to yourself a d thing hiw sweet revenge will be 🙂

  5. As a young child in the late 60’s, I came across a book by a man called Isaac Asimov. I hadn’t a clue who he was at that time, but he wrote about robots and, as a child of those times, the idea of robots fascinated me. His books got me totally hooked onto the sci-fi scene, and I have to admit that I’ve still got a soft spot for robots even now 🙂
    But, where Japanese ingenuity is concerned, I can’t see poor little Kirobo having enough nous to learn the Three Laws of Robotics anytime soon, so I guess I’ll have to agree with your scenario, and hope the poor astronaut manages to take a wrench with him when he goes 🙂

  6. Great, now I have Cheech and Chong stuck in my head. “Dave’s not here, man.” Come to think of it, trying to have a reasonable conversation with my four-year-old is similar to dealing with a very small stoned person. “Put on your pants” is a favorite phrase of mine. Great post!

  7. jennymiller62 says:

    lol love the post. children are hilarious sometimes. And thanks for liking mine (blog, not children. Don’t have any yet.)

  8. Nylabluesmum says:

    Once again another stellar post!!! I think Kirobi is cute…I in theory like robots…..I have never hung out with one…yet….
    When I saw 2001 back in the Stone Age I actually had a crush on *Dave*,,,my family sent to me to counselling….ROFWL!!! I kid you not!!
    Thank you for a FAB blog!!!
    Sherri-Ellen (sweltering in sunny humid Canada)

  9. sisteranan says:

    open the pod bay doors, Kirobo
    I’m afraid i can’t do that, Dave…
    I’m taking a picture.

    i thot of that before you, captainemo!

  10. narf77 says:

    Is it just me or does Kirobo look a whole lot like Astroboy? To anyone under the age of 13, Astroboy was an ancient Japanese anime created last century for old people. Not only do the Japanese have a terrible desire to bring about the mass extinction of all whales on the planet (look out sky whale!), they are apparently lazy as well. That Canadian astronaut was able to amuse himself and millions of others with his witty online banter and his quavering rendition of Space Odyssey and the Japanese, knowing that nothing that they could do would be quite up to the eccentric charm of Mr Chris Hadfield, have decided not to bother and just shove plastic Astroboy in front of the camera while they track whales from above for their fishing flotilla’s below.

    By the way Mr23 Thorns, attempting to attract the intelligencia by dumping a heavyweight like Wittgenstein lightly into the conversation is probably going to backfire. I had to check out who the heck Mr Wittgenstein actually was. Not only did I have to check, I thought he was that Canadian astronaut. I am now officially to be drummed out of the news reading confraternity. I am not upset mind you; I am drummed out of confraternities on a regular basis. I don’t “frat” well with others.

    The hobbit appears to have developed a facial tic by the way, might be a good time to multitask and get it seen to whilst dealing with that obvious lead problem…

  11. Ashana M says:

    Agreed. Robots should not talk. It is problematic enough that people do.

  12. Jocelyn Hers says:

    Robots have an advantage over a human four year old. If you call your child something unspeakable in the heat of the moment, there will be Consequences. And, if you are going to be alone with a robot for any length of time you can insist on an Off switch.

    • 23thorns says:

      This is a conversation robot- it must have some sort of learning function. I like the idea of him coming back down to earth speaking like a longshoreman.

  13. open the pod bay doors Kirobo
    “I’m sorry Dave, I’m not tall enough to reach the handle!”

  14. Marcia says:

    I hate robots! Going into a space capsule with one for company would be a definite non-starter for me. And this explains why, to perfection. Only, when they discovered my shriveled and mummified body later, there would be a pile of robot guts and wiring right next to me. I would have spent my last breath dismantling my tormentor.

    Great one, 23. I hope to catch up soon, though my days are not my own right now. I’ve missed my morning laugh more than you can imagine!

    • 23thorns says:

      Good to see you back! I hope everything is OK and you’ve just been bullied or bribed into babysitting.

      • Marcia says:

        I pleaded to be allowed to babysit for four days this weekend, so I could take a break from the computer. I have discovered that editing a book is just as slow a process as writing one, only now I’ve given myself a deadline, and feel compelled to work all day, every day toward that goal. Plus I have a chapbook of poems I want to get out by August. Ack. I have become a glutton for punishment in my old age.

        BUT! I have saved every notice of every post from my favorite bloggers, including you, and I will NOT be denied the pleasure of catching up for much longer. I may just fix a gallon of Earl Grey tea and take two days or so to wallow in blog reading ecstasy! I can’t tell you how difficult it has been to see these notices come in from you with these oh-so-intriguing titles, and have to file them away, unread. Ack! But my resolve is firm (unlike the rest of me). First things first, and then . . . stand back and watch me read like the wind! (Huh?)

      • 23thorns says:

        Goodness, woman! Aren’t you supposed to be sitting round on your porch and drinking mint juleps?
        Good luck with the poetry. What, asked the bookseller, is a chapbook?

  15. Mary Southon says:

    Check out the movie “Robot and Frank” with Frank Langella. It takes place in the near future, where robots are employed as caregivers. Excellent film. And yes, I became emotionally attached to the robot.

  16. I laughed , really laughed, but it maybe hysteria.I am on The Next Generation with this,(grandchildren).God help my sanity; I don’t need a robot .

    • 23thorns says:

      I look forward to the day I can send them back when I’ve had enough.

      • I have mine a LOT! One practically lives with me….they aren’t that easy to ‘get rid of”! But I’ll tell you, an extra chamber opens in your heart when grandchildren are born.You’ll never see it coming and won’t know hat hit you!

  17. Hi! My name is Arsen. I am a designer from Spain. Your blog seems pretty interesting to me, hence I’d like to befriend with you.

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