Escape Artists

Escape Pod => Episode Comments => Topic started by: Russell Nash on August 16, 2008, 10:43:34 AM



Title: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Russell Nash on August 16, 2008, 10:43:34 AM
EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth (http://escapepod.org/2008/08/15/ep171-fennemans-mouth/)

By Andy Duncan (http://www.angelfire.com/al/andyduncan/).
Read by Jared Axelrod (of The Voice of Free Planet X (http://freeplanetx.com/)).

“Fenneman?”

The studio audience laughed loudly, as it always did when Groucho turned, in mock desperation or annoyance, to his long-suffering, hopelessly square announcer. Groucho’s voice slightly increased in pitch whenever he said Fenneman’s name, as if he were just at the edge of losing his celebrated cool. This half-squawk had been funny in the stateroom scene of A Night at the Opera (”Steward! Steward!”), and it was still funny on You Bet Your Life twenty-five years later. He was a pro, Groucho was, and I did right by him; I modulated that pitch myself.


Rated R. Contains profanity, and real and simulated persons behaving badly.


Featured Site:
Playing for Keeps (http://www.playingforkeepsnovel.com/)


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Listen to this week’s Escape Pod! (http://media.rawvoice.com/escapepod/media.libsyn.com/media/escapepod/EP171_FennemansMouth.mp3)


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: ScottC on August 16, 2008, 11:20:15 AM
Human memory is fallible.  Audio/video materials can be altered.  Artifacts can be reproduced. 

So is anything truly real?


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: eytanz on August 16, 2008, 11:36:30 AM
So, as a story about the effect of technology on our society, this was an interesting take, and I liked that it was given from the POV of the people faking records, rather than the far more cliched intrepid investigator finding out the truth.

As a story about human relationships, though, it did not escape cliche, in this case, the regular trope of "the instant you realize your old relationship/crush is over, you'll find someone new just sitting besides you". I just found the ending irksome, rather than satisfying. This was somewhat accentuated by the story's pacing, which dragged out stuff - both the beginning, where the story took a very detailed foray through the video editing, and through the relationship drama, which was really stretched thin.

Oh, and I found some aspects a bit confusing for a while - I thought in the beginning that Alex *was* the senator; the fact that it's a gender-neutral name meant that even once I heard the senator was female it didn't register that it wasn't the same person. Only at the end was it clear I was wrong.

So, overall, a mixed reaction from me - interesting theme, meh execution.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: deflective on August 16, 2008, 03:55:50 PM
i misheard the title as Feynman's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Feynman) mouth, even spent an entertaining minute trying to figure out a connection to Groucho Marx.

So, as a story about the effect of technology on our society, this was an interesting take, and I liked that it was given from the POV of the people faking records, rather than the far more cliched intrepid investigator finding out the truth.

what you mean by 'faking' is a little unclear but it didn't seem like these characters were trying to pass off their work as real. more like producing a dramatic recreation box set of famous moments that never happened. i think i remember a reference to snopes (http://www.snopes.com/) (or the equivalent) saying that they weren't going to do a scene because it had actually happened.

Alex, on the other hand, was rewriting history.

the actual story was clichéd but i enjoyed the flirting scene. it was exactly the sort of thing that would first be charming and then become annoying, "don't put words into my mouth."


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: eytanz on August 16, 2008, 04:08:13 PM
i misheard the title as Feynman's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Feynman) mouth, even spent an entertaining minute trying to figure out a connection to Groucho Marx.

So, as a story about the effect of technology on our society, this was an interesting take, and I liked that it was given from the POV of the people faking records, rather than the far more cliched intrepid investigator finding out the truth.

what you mean by 'faking' is a little unclear but it didn't seem like these characters were trying to pass off their work as real. more like producing a dramatic recreation box set of famous moments that never happened. i think i remember a reference to snopes (http://www.snopes.com/) (or the equivalent) saying that they weren't going to do a scene because it had actually happened.

Oh, I definitely got the impression that they were trying to pass these off as real. Though I guess the story didn't really say one way or another how the compliation would be presented.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Schreiber on August 16, 2008, 07:16:13 PM
I liked this story.  I enjoyed this story.  But I guess I wasn't all that horrified by this story.  I wish I was, but there's just nothing that unprecedented about manufacturing false collective memories.  I think George Orwell kind of jumped the ichthyosaur on that one.  Truth is that if the worst things that happens because of this technology are that a gaffe about the Pope gets covered up and some heart-warming television footage of events that never happened comes into existence, we're getting off pretty light.

Of course the implication here is that these aren't the worst things that could happen.  Suppose the characters of this story had used their masterful film editing skills to simulate an incriminating conversation between Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein?  Why, we might have ended up invading Iraq without just cause!

And now that I think about it, this kind of technology might not only be used to convince people that something that didn't happen happened, it could achieve the opposite goal as well.  In fact, I think it already has.  I'm referring of course to a certain R&B singer who managed to beat the charge of child pornography (and wasn't even charged with statutory rape) despite compelling video evidence.  As it stands, the idea that someone videotaped two different people having sex and then digitally inserted the likeness of R.Kelly -the "Little Man Defense," as Joshua Levine called it- is fairly absurd.  But let's pretend for a second that it isn't.  Let's pretend that any amateur with a PowerBook could have done it in under an hour.  What kind of precedent would that set?  Video evidence would be completely useless in a court of law.  You could mug a little old lady in front of a security camera and then claim that Industrial Light and Magic has it in for you.  You could commit crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing right in front of CNN, then say it never happened.  Long story short, I'm less horrified by what the media will tell us has happened than I am by an easy and automatic excuse not to believe it.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: deflective on August 16, 2008, 07:57:38 PM
...it didn't seem like these characters were trying to pass off their work as real... i think i remember a reference to snopes (http://www.snopes.com/) (or the equivalent) saying that they weren't going to do a scene because it had actually happened.
Oh, I definitely got the impression that they were trying to pass these off as real. Though I guess the story didn't really say one way or another how the compliation would be presented.

it feels like some weird meta-joke but i apparently inserted a scene into the story that never happened. i distinctly remember a reference to fact checking when they were talking to the security guard: the Groucho footage couldn't exist because it had to be radio only.

this story just went from a bit of whimsy to slightly creepy for me.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: alllie on August 16, 2008, 09:18:23 PM
It didn't seem like science fiction to me. There are already programs that claim they can imitate anyone's voice once given a sample of their speech. Video isn't quite at that point yet but we've already seen fake video of Elvis and a few others promoting products so we know the video technology is out there too, if still clumsy and difficult to use.

The part I found most interesting is how flexible memories are, how some people think they can remember things they never saw, imagining having seen them. False memories indistinguishable from reality. (Not that that ever happened to me! My memory is perfect! Now if I could just find my car.) Zell not only fakes TV memories but his own memories of Pam and Lea seem so malleable that I began to wonder if someone had adjusted him. Both Pam and Lea remember things differently than he does, like someone has been in his head, or theirs, faking memories or they are rewriting their own memories from moment to moment.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: eytanz on August 17, 2008, 02:44:31 AM
...it didn't seem like these characters were trying to pass off their work as real... i think i remember a reference to snopes (http://www.snopes.com/) (or the equivalent) saying that they weren't going to do a scene because it had actually happened.
Oh, I definitely got the impression that they were trying to pass these off as real. Though I guess the story didn't really say one way or another how the compliation would be presented.

it feels like some weird meta-joke but i apparently inserted a scene into the story that never happened. i distinctly remember a reference to fact checking when they were talking to the security guard: the Groucho footage couldn't exist because it had to be radio only.

I'm a bit confused here; there was a reference to that fact, but I don't think it could be interpreted the way you imply above. The narrator tells *us* that the Groucho footage couldn't (and didn't) exist, but he didn't tell the security guard. And note that the security guard is a actually a computer program himself, so even if he knew the truth he didn't represent the general public. Though note that there's also no explicit mentioin that they *won't* be honest about the clips' sources.

On further reflection, by the way, the fact that the guard is an AI doesn't contribute anything to the story, and seriously reduces its credibility. I can buy that within a few years our video manipulation technology will catch up with the story. Neither voice recognition, or more importantly, the ability of computers to chitchat, is anywhere near what is required for the guard. I think the author overreached here, and would have been better off not adding this detail.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: deflective on August 17, 2008, 04:14:48 AM
see... it's a story about creating footage for false memories, right? and i have this clear memory of a conversation between Pam, the narrator, and the security guard where they say that there could only be a radio recording of Groucho, right? only it turns out that this is must be my subconscious' idea of a joke because that definitely never happened.

except this isn't even remotely funny cause now i'm going to be second guessing my memory for weeks.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: stePH on August 17, 2008, 02:12:40 PM
The part I found most interesting is how flexible memories are, how some people think they can remember things they never saw, imagining having seen them. False memories indistinguishable from reality. (Not that that ever happened to me! My memory is perfect! Now if I could just find my car.) Zell not only fakes TV memories but his own memories of Pam and Lea seem so malleable that I began to wonder if someone had adjusted him. Both Pam and Lea remember things differently than he does, like someone has been in his head, or theirs, faking memories or they are rewriting their own memories from moment to moment.


I was unclear as to exactly what was going on.  At the beginning it was obvious that they were using technology to falsify video records (by the way, I understand that photographic evidence is already inadmissible in court and has been for years).  But Zell talking first with Lea and then with Pam seemed to be attempting to alter their memories on the fly, and they were using the same techniques right back at him, which seems to imply that they can just do it without video editing software or whatever ... "Get out of my head" Lea told him as she was leaving.  And if they interned under him and learned how to do it, is this ability available to anybody who cares to learn how?

And how was Lea "making the world a better place" by falsifying events or people's memories of them?  Seems like she's just helping weaselly politicians continue to be more effectively weaselly.  I prefer a world where I can believe the evidence of my senses most of the time.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: slic on August 17, 2008, 02:41:05 PM
I echo eytanz - the take on the "fakers" just doing their job interested me, the human-side of the story was cliche.  Further the guard being a robot-type AI of some sort confused me completely.  Was it a canned conversation that it made or were they false memories inserted (the slight difference being that the AI could assess what to say versus following a script) or did it come up with the idea of the ball-kissing wife story all on it's own?

And ya, I kept thinking Richard Feynman for about half the story too  ;)

I think some of the posters took the sci-fi of the story too far.  I don't think the characters had the ability to re-write memories otherwise Zell would just convince Lea that she loved him deeply, that they never had a fight, etc etc.  I've done that myself where I've read a particularly descriptive/poetic line as fact versus description.

It felt to me that the banter at the end between Zell and Pam was more like teasing than it was their inability to remember it the same, but I liked the uncertainty of it.

As for the conversation btwn Lea and Zell, I think this was the author saying how in relationships we often edit our own memories to give us the answers we want.  To justify/reinforce how we feel.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Nobilis on August 17, 2008, 11:28:00 PM
I liked the outer mirror of the inner life in this story.  The main character is only doing to media what we do with our lives all the time.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: wintermute on August 18, 2008, 07:26:02 AM
I thought the Lea / Zell scene at the end was them just playing around, inventing a shared history. Of course, they might end up believing this, if they keep it up, but they seem to just be playing with what they do for a living.


Let's pretend that any amateur with a PowerBook could have done it in under an hour.  What kind of precedent would that set?  Video evidence would be completely useless in a court of law.  You could mug a little old lady in front of a security camera and then claim that Industrial Light and Magic has it in for you.  You could commit crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing right in front of CNN, then say it never happened.  Long story short, I'm less horrified by what the media will tell us has happened than I am by an easy and automatic excuse not to believe it.
Chain of evidence. In the first example you give, the government agencies involved in managing, keeping and reviewing the video tapes would have to have procedures in place to ensure that they can be trusted not to have been altered. With CNN footage, yes, it gets a bit more thorny, but it's been a long time since video or photographic evidence has been accepted without suspicion or challenge. Expert witnesses have made a lot of money by arguing about whether or not an image has been manipulated. The manipulations are getting more subtle, which makes detection more difficult, but not (yet) impossible.

And in the R. Kelly case, I have to admit I've not been following the case, but I understand that either his likeness as superimposed on footage of someone else, or moles were digitally removed from his back. Either seems possible, so I default to assuming that the jury probably got it right.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Listener on August 18, 2008, 07:28:12 AM
I appreciated the point the author was trying to make.  But it was clumsily told, in my opinion, and he ended poorly, despite how I saw the technique in changing people's memory by Zell and Pamela telling each other things.  It just didn't work for me.

Also, I didn't care for the narrator.  He sounded far too young and a little too mushmouthed for me to really appreciate the story the way it was told.  He sounded a little too "gee whiz, I'm reading for Escape Pod" for me.

Overall...

(http://www.roflcat.com/images/cats/pleh.jpg) (http://"http://www.roflcat.com")


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: OsamaBinLondon on August 18, 2008, 07:57:25 AM
Hated it!


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: MacArthurBug on August 18, 2008, 08:36:23 AM
I really liked the feel of this story it was smooth and rolled out nicely. Mr. Axlerod read very well, and his Groucho Marx impressions wern't too bad. I, personally, have heard better- but I hang out with real weird people. I liked the exchange at the end, but I agree it's the sort of flirting that'd be adorable at first and turn into something that'd get stale quick. Overall, not my new favorite story- but solid and quite good.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: cuddlebug on August 18, 2008, 08:42:39 AM
Hated it!

Hated it!  II


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Void Munashii on August 18, 2008, 10:07:27 AM
  I feel pretty 'meh' about this story, I really enjoyed all the references to old tv urban legends,  but the story they were wrapped in really did not do anything for me. It felt sad, and the ending was unsatisfying (the outro on the other hand was very good). The conversation at the end felt like there should have been more to it, like it wanted to be sad and hopeful at the same time, but just did not have the time to be.

  I do like the premise behind the story, and there is no doubt in my mind that they intended to pass off these fabricated bloopers as the real thing, in the same way those records referenced in the story did.

  On a final note, I do not think that this use of technology is actually necessary for politicians. People who support one candidate or another are already quite willing to accept that someone did not say something that they are on record as saying once they say that they never said it. As an example, let me clarify my opnion of this story: "I never said I didn't like this story, in fact I think it is one of the best EPs ever, that's what I said, and I stand by it."


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: stePH on August 18, 2008, 10:13:26 AM
  On a final note, I do not think that this use of technology is actually necessary for politicians. People who support one candidate or another are already quite willing to accept that someone did not say something that they are on record as saying once they say that they never said it.

"We've never been 'stay the course'." -- George W. Bush in 2006, contrary to multiple documented prior utterances of said phrase.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Rain on August 18, 2008, 10:24:42 AM
I understand the point of the story but i found it was really poorly told and i had to resist the urge to shut off the story, probably didnt help that i find groucho marx to be one of the unfunniest things to come out of the US


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Lionman on August 18, 2008, 10:49:23 AM
Having actually been old enough to see black and white reruns of Groutcho, I'm afraid...I didn't like the impression.  But, I also admit it could have been that the inflection wasn't signifigantely different than the rest of the spoken lines.

The story, overall, was interesting, but certainly not something I put in the top 5 or even 10.  The mutability of memory was well pointed out here, and I thought it did a decent job of making it an obvious topic of discussion.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: stePH on August 18, 2008, 10:50:11 AM
... probably didnt help that i find groucho marx to be one of the unfunniest things to come out of the US

Blasphemy.  ;)


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Void Munashii on August 18, 2008, 12:09:05 PM
  On a final note, I do not think that this use of technology is actually necessary for politicians. People who support one candidate or another are already quite willing to accept that someone did not say something that they are on record as saying once they say that they never said it.

"We've never been 'stay the course'." -- George W. Bush in 2006, contrary to multiple documented prior utterances of said phrase.

  Ah, you have read my mind.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Ocicat on August 18, 2008, 03:06:51 PM
As others have said: good theme, poor execution. 

Digital manipulation of images and video is obviously a current fact.  Using that to reflect on the mercurial nature of memory was a good idea.  It certainly made me think about the subject, but my thoughts diverged radically from the story.

My father has a real problem with editing his own memories.  Anything from the past that shows him in an unfavorable light he tends to forget, or remember with totally different, manufactured details.  He'll only admit he's wrong if presented with hard, physical evidence.  I don't have a great relationship with my father - there are conflicts in our past, and when those conflicts are only remembered on one side it's hard to move past them. 

Anyway, the story didn't really seem to touch on this kind of past rewriting, which I think is far more common and interesting than "you said you'd take me out to dinner".


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: kid_entropy on August 18, 2008, 09:58:58 PM
This brought to mind a recent post on Engadget about research on a new video editing technology. Video combined with high res still images allows enhancement as well as the editing out and in of three dimensional objects. While i knew that the technology existed to do so, it was the apparent ease with witch it was done with that made it creepy to me. It's one thing when media can beat the masses over the head with a message, it's another when they have video "proof" to back up that image. Long after the video is "proven" to be fake the impact of the images continue. What if there was video of Al Gore saying he invented the internet...or Dick Cheney eating a live baby?

http://www.engadget.com/2008/08/16/video-tech-uses-photos-to-enhance-alter-shots-its-the-photosh/ (http://www.engadget.com/2008/08/16/video-tech-uses-photos-to-enhance-alter-shots-its-the-photosh/)

I also listened to this one twice, like other i got the characters mixed up as well as a sense that i had missed the Rod Serling "punchline" of this story. While i did get the characters straight i still didn't gain any insight that i didn't have before, though I think there's a clue in the details the protagonist notices. The new tattoo, belly button piercing. Perhaps i am reading to much into it?

~eriC


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Talia on August 19, 2008, 09:32:39 AM
Seems to me this is the type of story that could benefit from a second listen. I too feel I missed something somewhere, not so much that the story was incomplete but that something went over my head. I suspect it will be more clear the second time through.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Hatton on August 19, 2008, 10:11:06 AM
It didn't seem like science fiction to me. There are already programs that claim they can imitate anyone's voice once given a sample of their speech. Video isn't quite at that point yet but we've already seen fake video of Elvis and a few others promoting products so we know the video technology is out there too, if still clumsy and difficult to use.

In the intro, the phrase "near-future SF" and the labeling as "far too plausible" category by Steve at the end explains away the question of "is it science fiction or science future?"  I honestly felt that the security guard was added in just to push it more into Sci-Fi.

Doesn't mean I liked it - I think it scores just above PE 170: Pervert.  So, that would be a "meh+"

On a different note - if you didn't listen to Playing for Keeps (and I doubt anyone that's been in this forum for a long time has not), DO IT NOW!


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: wakela on August 19, 2008, 07:37:47 PM
Why were they editing old black and white TV shows?  Is there such a demand in the future that the existing supply won't be enough?  There is more money to be made inserting jokes into You Bet Your Life than making Angelia Jolie porn?

And I didn't find it all that chilling.  Once we developed the ability to alter photographs people stopped trusting them.  Same will happen/is happening with video. 


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: stePH on August 19, 2008, 10:16:07 PM
Why were they editing old black and white TV shows?  Is there such a demand in the future that the existing supply won't be enough?  There is more money to be made inserting jokes into You Bet Your Life than making Angelia Jolie porn?

Long-dead people are less likely to sue.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: jrderego on August 20, 2008, 12:48:23 AM
On a different note - if you didn't listen to Playing for Keeps (and I doubt anyone that's been in this forum for a long time has not), DO IT NOW!

No


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: wintermute on August 20, 2008, 06:46:26 AM
Why were they editing old black and white TV shows?  Is there such a demand in the future that the existing supply won't be enough?  There is more money to be made inserting jokes into You Bet Your Life than making Angelia Jolie porn?
There's more money to be made in Internet porn than there is in science-fiction podcasting, and yet this site exists.

There just needs to be enough money for one person to decide it's better to eke out a niche than to compete with thousands of others for a slice of the big pie.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Void Munashii on August 20, 2008, 04:06:31 PM
There's more money to be made in Internet porn than there is in science-fiction podcasting, and yet this site exists.

  So are you saying we get the occasional sex story as an attempt to boost revenue?  ;)


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Animite on August 20, 2008, 04:17:21 PM
I found this story quite disturbing. An individual becomes what they use and the chilling message I found in this story is that if left uncontrolled, the same alterations and lies we insert into our imaginary works of art will eventually find their way into real events and personal relationships. If you make a plausible suggestion a few times about an idea or occurrence people can only speculate on, you can steer them in a completely different direction.  A web of lies and deception based on planting ideas that were never there has that kind power for its ability to corrupt by inches instead of miles at a time.

This story should be considered as a cautionary tale rather than an attempt to mess with classic television shows.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: slic on August 20, 2008, 04:55:48 PM
...An individual becomes what they use and the chilling message I found in this story is that if left uncontrolled, the same alterations and lies we insert into our imaginary works of art will eventually find their way into real events and personal relationships...This story should be considered as a cautionary tale rather than an attempt to mess with classic television shows. 
I'm sorry to say, Animite, that this is more pervasive today than you realize.  In politcs it's called "staying on message".  Spin doctors make a very good living doing just this for whatever well-heeled athlete, actor, etc needs it.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: ieDaddy on August 20, 2008, 04:58:53 PM
I thought the premise was good,  the relationship portion just fell flat.  In the end I couldn't tell if the video editor had gone back and edited actual CC footage from his office to fit how he thought things should have gone or was self-editing his memories somehow.

It also took me a while to figure out who Alex was and then the lightbulb went off about him being the video editor's intern at one point, and was now a spin doctor/video editor for the senator.  So in my mind's eye, this character's place in the story sort of jumped all over the place.

The story was chunky, and I found myself having to go back and rethink what I thought was going on at the time as I listened in order to get the story straight, which was very confusing.  If this was intentional, it was genius.  A story about altering the truth, which makes the reader go back and re-think what it was they thought they read.  I think I have 4 or 5 versions of what I thought the story was about in my head at the moment.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Roney on August 20, 2008, 05:21:12 PM
I feel pretty 'meh' about this story, I really enjoyed all the references to old tv urban legends

What Void Munashii said, less the bit about enjoying the references to US TV urban legends.

Elements of the story threatened to work for me at times but it never came together.  The subject matter got too parochial or the characters got too thin or the exposition got too heavy-handed.  Jared's reading made the best of the material and the last couple of minutes were definitely more interesting but my overall impression was still "meh".


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: DKT on August 20, 2008, 05:46:25 PM
I liked Axelrod's reading. A lot. 

The story itself I mostly enjoyed, although I was surprised when it ended -- I thought there was going to be more to it.  I liked that it was basically a story about faking a gag reel instead of faking something political, yet how the politics thing was a sub plot.  I really dig the idea that another poster brought up about Zell and Pam engineering/faking their own history.  There were some things that threw me off that others have brought up but overall it was a good listen.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Ersatz Coffee on August 21, 2008, 10:21:59 AM
I'm interested by people's response to the relationship angle. I may be wrong, but I thought the story was trying to make the point that relationships become cliche-ridden, vacuous affairs when reality has been effectively abolished by selective editing. So what others found a weakness I thought was actually an intentional rhetorical device.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: eytanz on August 21, 2008, 11:06:43 AM
I'm interested by people's response to the relationship angle. I may be wrong, but I thought the story was trying to make the point that relationships become cliche-ridden, vacuous affairs when reality has been effectively abolished by selective editing. So what others found a weakness I thought was actually an intentional rhetorical device.

Being intentional and being a weakness are not mutually exclusive - I admit it hadn't occured to me to analyze it at the level you propose, but the fact that it hadn't occured to me (or most of the posters here) seems to indicate it wasn't done entirely successfully.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Void Munashii on August 21, 2008, 12:11:02 PM
I'm interested by people's response to the relationship angle. I may be wrong, but I thought the story was trying to make the point that relationships become cliche-ridden, vacuous affairs when reality has been effectively abolished by selective editing. So what others found a weakness I thought was actually an intentional rhetorical device.

  I'll admit that a lot of the relationship stuff went over my head when first listening, but that was mostly because I thought it was going to go somewhere, I thought it was part of the journey, not the destination. I'm not sure my missing this is entirely due to my own lack of awareness/intelligence though, as a number of people who seem a bit more with it than me seemed to miss it as well.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Darwinist on August 21, 2008, 03:29:52 PM

Hated it! III

I thought the narration was good, but that was about it.  The story fell flat for me, maybe not enough of a stretch of reality, I don't know.  Like the nice meow-meow kitty said - "PLEH". 


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Schreiber on August 21, 2008, 08:43:20 PM
I thought the Lea / Zell scene at the end was them just playing around, inventing a shared history. Of course, they might end up believing this, if they keep it up, but they seem to just be playing with what they do for a living.


Let's pretend that any amateur with a PowerBook could have done it in under an hour.  What kind of precedent would that set?  Video evidence would be completely useless in a court of law.  You could mug a little old lady in front of a security camera and then claim that Industrial Light and Magic has it in for you.  You could commit crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing right in front of CNN, then say it never happened.  Long story short, I'm less horrified by what the media will tell us has happened than I am by an easy and automatic excuse not to believe it.
Chain of evidence. In the first example you give, the government agencies involved in managing, keeping and reviewing the video tapes would have to have procedures in place to ensure that they can be trusted not to have been altered. With CNN footage, yes, it gets a bit more thorny, but it's been a long time since video or photographic evidence has been accepted without suspicion or challenge. Expert witnesses have made a lot of money by arguing about whether or not an image has been manipulated. The manipulations are getting more subtle, which makes detection more difficult, but not (yet) impossible.

And in the R. Kelly case, I have to admit I've not been following the case, but I understand that either his likeness as superimposed on footage of someone else, or moles were digitally removed from his back. Either seems possible, so I default to assuming that the jury probably got it right.

Yeah, the chain of evidence issue did cross my mind.  But the point is that if anyone can edit the footage, who's to say the tape wasn't tampered with by the security guard, or the security guard's cousin.  I mean seriously, how can you prove no one had access to a surveillance tape?  More surveillance tapes?

As for the R.Kelly case, the disappearing mole probably had a lot more to do with the crappy resolution of the camcorder than it did with any ingenious morphing techniques.  Don't really want to get into that debate.  I feel that you could (conceivably) make the case that we should not be criminalizing sex that is ostensibly consensual.  Or the argument that courts should not go celebrity pelt hunting.  But the idea that what looks like a low-budget home video was digitally created to smear the reputation of R. Kelly slips well past Occam's Razor.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Personman on August 22, 2008, 03:42:21 PM
I liked it fine. I'm surprised how many people are reading way more into it than I did (and than I think the author intended them to). What I took from it was that everything, not just video, is malleable, not because the story took place in some crazy science fiction world, but because that's how it is, and has been. The sfnal elements in the story highlighted the fact that our culture is moving further in that direction, and becoming more accustomed to it as technology makes the apparent line between the real and the fictional more and more blurry.

I'm not sure how well supported this is by the story, or if the author would agree, but my own take on it is that this blurrification, rather than indicating that it has in fact gotten easier to move between fiction and reality, indicates only that now we're more aware of it, since we are losing are (always false) perception of media as authoritative. Certainly it is becoming easier for anyone to deceive the gullible, but the numbers of the gullible are shrinking as those same techniques that enable deception become available to (or enter the consciousnesses of) those who used to be gullible. So rather than chilling, I found this story to just be a pretty well-done and fun bit of insight into an important fact of modern society, one that can and will be used over and over for both good and evil.
 


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: nojoda on August 22, 2008, 05:14:49 PM
The end justifies the means. its ok to lie, cheat, steal and kill if you are going to make the world a better place.

By the way the punch line that Johnny Carson used when Arnold Palmer's wife said she kissed his balls before a tournament, was "I bet that makes his putter stand on end".


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: JoeFitz on August 23, 2008, 02:20:06 PM
This story just didn't work for me. I didn't like the "let's make fake videos for money" story; I didn't like "let's make fake videos for politics"; and, I didn't like the "let's make a fake relationship replace my last fake relationship" story. And the fake security guard was just silly.

In part, I don't think the "fake video" story works is that I cannot imagine anyone today, let alone "in the future" paying any great deal of money to see those types of television "bloopers" - real ones or fake ones. We're supposed to believe that a studio - on the bleeding edge of technology (if the skills are so in demand that only _one_ political campaign has stumbled upon its power to persuade) - would pay for the time to edit a few seconds of fake video footage for 13 hours using 3 people and a studio in a high-security building with an android security guard?


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: zZzacha on August 24, 2008, 06:36:52 AM
I'm interested by people's response to the relationship angle. I may be wrong, but I thought the story was trying to make the point that relationships become cliche-ridden, vacuous affairs when reality has been effectively abolished by selective editing. So what others found a weakness I thought was actually an intentional rhetorical device.

Yes, I got that from the story too. The story left me with a creepy feeling, trying to think if someone close to me is doing that to me, someone leaving me with certain memories. When well used, this must be a very powerful tool to help you 'shape the world' for people around you.
Especially for me, because my memories and thoughts are very very chaotic and fragmented. It is so easy to give me different memories, if you talk with enough zeal, you can make me believe almost anything.

Yeah, that's my paranoia speaking for me now... I may have to start recording everything I do and think. For future reference.

The story itself didn't leave a big impression. But I may have completely different memories of this event when you ask me about it in a few months!


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: thomasowenm on August 24, 2008, 07:12:01 PM
This story at least made me think about my own recollections.  (Are they real events or just dreams seeming real?)  So i guess,  :-\ it was successful at least on some level.  Overall the story however was poorly crafted.   I could not keep the characters straight  (Maybe I wasn't supposed to).  The AI guard was just disjointed from the rest of the story.  It felt like it was put in to give it a Sci-Fi credential.  Overall, meh!!!


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: WillMoo on August 25, 2008, 02:12:39 PM
Seems to me this is the type of story that could benefit from a second listen. I too feel I missed something somewhere, not so much that the story was incomplete but that something went over my head. I suspect it will be more clear the second time through.
I too thought that I had missed something so I listened again and it didn't help. I hate to sound like this but to me the story wasn't even good enough to register in the "hated it" column.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: ratbastid on August 25, 2008, 09:29:33 PM
Hi, y'all. Long-time listener, first-time poster.

I'm interested by people's response to the relationship angle. I may be wrong, but I thought the story was trying to make the point that relationships become cliche-ridden, vacuous affairs when reality has been effectively abolished by selective editing. So what others found a weakness I thought was actually an intentional rhetorical device.

I differ with most understandings of the "relationship story" in this story. I assert most posters here have missed the boat on that. The video editing--alarming and arresting though it is--sets the backdrop for what's really happening, which is a trope as old as storytelling itself: our narrator learns something.

The clue comes out of the ex-girlfriend's mouth: "It was always your version." Remember, this is a guy whose whole craft is the building of versions of things. It's what he does.

And it's a nice analogy for what we're all doing at every moment of the day. To think that what we see around us is the "real world", and that we see it as it truly is--without any interpretation or filtering--is the height of arrogance and blindness. And yet every last single one of us is guilty of it practically every moment of our lives. We actually really think that "our version" is The Truth. We know better, most of us, but that knowledge makes no difference in how we actually live. We know that we have a point of view. It's just that my point of view actually really is the right one, and everyone else's is wrong unless it agree with mine. And that, friends, is the death knell for relationships. We all know somebody like that; the bad news is, it's each of us, too.

As our narrator is escorting his new friend out to dinner, he's realizing this. He's willing to set down the alleged-rightness of his version of their history, to let her have it her way. He's learning to give up having to be right. Which is a huge thing for any human being.

The execution may have been inelegant (and I'm not saying it wasn't) but the theme touches on nothing short of the basic paradox of human beings.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Loz on September 10, 2008, 05:10:28 AM
This story did nothing for me and I struggled to assume the point. It ended just as I assumed it was going to spin off into a Philip K. Dick world where 'reality' was being edited just like the 'tv show'. Without that I couldn't understand what made this a science-fiction story


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Unblinking on March 30, 2010, 12:15:26 PM
Another of several in a row without real endings.

For the first 7/8 of the story I thought that Groucho and Fenneman and the security guard and others were androids.  I seem to be the only one who thought that, so I guess I just missed some cues.

I kept thinking throughout the story how much cooler uses one could get out of being able to simulate existing actors from any time period.  Jean-Luc Picard meets Groucho Marx.  A young David Bowie meets an older David Bowie.  Lawrence Welk introducing Flight of the Conchords.  Johnny Cash commenting on current events.  To use it only to recreate scenes of old TV shows that everyone thought they remembered anyway is just unimaginative.

If/when this video editing technology becomes available to consumers, the point that would bother me the most is that no video would ever be believable again as evidence.  Even if it's a corporations security cameras, all the defending attorney has to say is "Do you truly believe that it would be absolutely impossible for this video to have been tampered with?  Isn't there the slightest possibility that it could've been done?"  And if one single person says "yes" then the video is worthless as evidence.

And after all that the resolution of the story is him hooking up with the girl he works with, after criticizing his recent ex for hooking up with guys she works with, and then it ends.  I'm glad I stopped by the forums or I wouldn't have gotten the aspect that they were constantly reinventing their relationship just like they were editing the video, but even with that there's just not that much there to the story.

And the AI security guard was just pointless and had nothing to do with anything.  The actors in the videos didn't need to be AIs because they had a script to work from, and the editors could tweak their facial expression--if all they do is read a canned script, I'd be reluctant to call that real intelligence.  So tacking on the security guard as if he fits in with the rest was just weird.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Scattercat on March 30, 2010, 08:40:06 PM
I don't think the security guard was an AI.  The implication I got was that he was just a collection of canned responses and lines with a simple algorithm to choose between them.  Like the voice that talks to you at an ATM machine.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: eytanz on March 31, 2010, 03:07:53 AM
I don't think the security guard was an AI.  The implication I got was that he was just a collection of canned responses and lines with a simple algorithm to choose between them.  Like the voice that talks to you at an ATM machine.

It's been a while since I heard this story, but even if the guard's own responses are canned, it must be smart enough to be able to choose the appropriate response to free-form speech. That still requires AI (not a self-aware AI, I'm using the term in the broad sense to mean "a machine that can respond intelligently to its environment").

In any case, though, I think whether or not the guard is proper AI or not still weakens the story. The whole thrust of the story is a cautionary tale about video manipulation software, and it gains its power by the fact that this software is really very close to being available - heck, I don't know when the story was first written, but out current CG movies are more or less there, all that needs to happen is that the cost/amount of manpower necessary needs to come down. So one of the things that make this an effective conspiracy story is the fact that for all we know, this may already be happening behind closed doors.

So adding the security guard - a piece of technology that is supposed to be public, and is clearly not actually existant, and not going to exist for a few years, if ever (it is a silly piece of technology at best; what's the point of having a security system that seems human? Either pay a human or use a system that feels like a computer). I think that dilutes the story, regardless of how advanced the AI necessary is.

It's as if in the end of Wag the Dog Robert de Niro would have driven off in a flying car. Not necessary for the film and it would have killed it as satire about the late 1990s.


Title: Re: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth
Post by: Unblinking on April 01, 2010, 11:46:07 AM
I agree with eytanz, whether or not it was intelligent or canned it drew away from the story.

And if it was really canned, it really tells every single person coming through about johnny carson story?  Weird, and not a very effective security guard.  And in any case, I didn't get the point of programming a fake security guard to give idle chitchat, unless the driver's response to canned questions acts as a password, but I didn't get that impression.