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Author Topic: EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth  (Read 12364 times)
Russell Nash
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« on: August 16, 2008, 10:43:34 AM »

EP171: Fenneman’s Mouth

By Andy Duncan.
Read by Jared Axelrod (of The Voice of Free Planet X).

“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.


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ScottC
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« Reply #1 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?
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eytanz
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« Reply #2 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.
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deflective
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« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2008, 03:55:50 PM »

i misheard the title as Feynman's 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 (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."
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eytanz
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« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2008, 04:08:13 PM »

i misheard the title as Feynman's 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 (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.
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Schreiber
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« Reply #5 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.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2008, 07:46:21 PM by Schreiber » Logged
deflective
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« Reply #6 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 (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.
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alllie
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« Reply #7 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.
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eytanz
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« Reply #8 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 (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.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2008, 02:46:02 AM by eytanz » Logged
deflective
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« Reply #9 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.
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stePH
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Cool story, bro!


« Reply #10 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.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2008, 03:59:28 PM by stePH » Logged

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« Reply #11 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  Wink

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.
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Nobilis
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« Reply #12 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.
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wintermute
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« Reply #13 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.
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« Reply #14 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...

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« Reply #15 on: August 18, 2008, 07:57:25 AM »

Hated it!
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MacArthurBug
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« Reply #16 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.
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« Reply #17 on: August 18, 2008, 08:42:39 AM »

Hated it!

Hated it!  II
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« Reply #18 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."
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stePH
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Cool story, bro!


« Reply #19 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.
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