GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Short film about Maria and Micheal Start of The House of Automata

Visit their site at The House of Automata.

Or here.

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Mini doc over Brittany Nicole Cox, antiquarian horologist

Read it for free on Goodreads:

Download it for free on Goodreads.

#TBT – Automaton Documentary

That time the BBC made a documentary on automata. Circa 1976.

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

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Elizabeth King on Automata

‘An automaton is defined as a machine that contains its own principle of motion. Strictly speaking, a clock is an automaton. The notion of an artificial human figure—an “android” as it has come to be called—derives in part from the tradition of the striking jack in the great medieval town clocks, in which the hour would be sounded by a mechanical figure springing into motion with a hammer and gong. That this employment once fell to a living person, the town watchman suggests that here were our first labor-saving robots. But the animated figure, or moving sculpture, can be traced back to ancient Egypt. “At Thebes accordingly, there were statues that spoke and made gestures. The priests made the heads and arms move by devices not as yet clearly explained” we are told by Egyptologist Alexandre Moret, invoking the same combination of mystery, divine intervention, human ingenuity, and mechanics of deception our own monk exhibits. Theater has always been the partner of religion.

The sixteenth century was a period of tremendous mechanical sophistication: the dawning of the scientific revolution. Clockmaking was to become a profession in its own right, separate from its origin in the blacksmith’s art, and its former association with gun- and locksmithing. Precision timekeeping in centuries to come would become crucial to the world shipping trade for its use in determining navigational longitude. [50] But in its early form, clockmaking was driven less by the problem of measuring time, and more by the astronomer’s efforts to model the locations and motions of “the fixed and moving stars,” that is, to capture the animating principle of the universe.

A significant development—perhaps the significant development—from the medieval town clock, driven by enormous systems of weights, was the emergence of the spiral spring combined with the fusee. A fusee is an ingenious device for making the driving force of a spring constant. Once attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, earlier examples of the fusee have now been found. When wound, a mainspring could now deliver a steady application of tension, rather than a stronger and then progressively weaker force as it ran down.  An early fusee, made of wood, is found in the mechanism of the monk .

The other important development in the mechanical arts was the cam. An ancient device attributed to Archimedes,  the cam reached broad use in the fifteenth century in the striking trains of clocks. A cam is simply a barrel or disk of metal rotated by the gear train. Its outer edge is either studded with short pins, or cut to a calculated profile, and as it turns, one end of a lever, riding against that uneven edge, is set in motion. Called a following arm, the lever translates the cam’s calculated profile into reciprocating movements that can be highly precise and carefully timed. Numbers of such levers can operate for example the spring-tensioned linkages to the monk’s arms, legs, head, eyes. The cam is thus the memory of the machine, and its profile is the analog information base for generating the exact movements of a given part.”

-Elizabeth King,  “A Short History of the Relations Between Machines and Divinity (Deus ex Machina).”

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Elizabeth King’s “Clockwork Prayer”

“In the history of European clock technology, the monk is an early and very rare example of a self-acting automaton, one whose mechanism is wholly contained and hidden within its body. Its uncanny presence separates it immediately from later automata: it is not charming, it is not a toy, it is “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and it engages even the twentieth-century viewer in a complicated and urgent way. It has duende, the dark spirit Federico García Lorca described. Myself a sculptor, negotiating competing ways of representing human substance and spirit, I wanted to know more about this hypnotic object, and the legend connected to it…

How was the monk used once it was made, who operated it and who would have seen it? Above all, how was it seen, and what beliefs might have been crucial to its effect on spectators? This essay narrates the chronology of my search for answers to these questions. I am not a historian, and I have preferred to let the search itself be visible as a part of my subject. Driven as much by the physical presence of the monk as by the legend of the bedside promise, this work is ultimately an artist’s homage to the human attempt to model an act of the spirit…

The monk is, like all automata, a recording, a kind of artificial memory. What can he tell us?

…In 1980, the Smithsonian changed the name of its National Museum of History and Technology. It would now be called the National Museum of American History. And some changes started to take place, subtle ones at first, but in recent years there have been shifts in institutional priority that have alarmed many historians and scholars. For one thing, the monk, as of December 1997, is now removed from view. The old instrument and timekeeping displays have been redesigned with a new theme in mind: the meaning of time to Americans and its influence on American life. But it isn’t just politics as usual: not only is the monk unAmerican, he slips through all kinds of identification parameters. He isn’t a clock, he isn’t a calculator, he isn’t a sculpture, he isn’t an icon, he isn’t a plaything: he doesn’t fit anywhere! We still don’t know how to look at him. And he troubles us.”

Read the rest.

#TBT – On Automatons

That time we explained the Automatons in THE AUTOMATION, 2014.

“In ancient mythology, Hephaestus/Vulcan created robotic helpmates of animal, human, and monster form. Daedalus created some too, but they were never as dope-ass divine, probably. Probably.

Anyways, there were a few – about ten – of such god-forged creations that didn’t make it into classical mythology (they’re old, but not THAT old). That’s why there’s a new modern epic devoted to them here“.

Tweets of the Week: Clip your wings

#TBT Feline Automata

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

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#BLAThoughtOfTheDay Clown automata are the creepiest automata

This one looks like he’s hanging to death:

Wait for the lizard tongue on this one:

Also lizard:

Demon clown dances to lullaby:

Creepy af:

This one’s not really that scary, I guess:

 

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

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Tweets of the Week: Magpies, I throw sticks at them

“Some of the most beautiful prose I’ve ever read hinges on characters about whom it’s very difficult to give a flying walnut” -Natasha Pulley

How do you pick books to read? What are the features that attract you?

Good characters matter much more to me than good plotting or good prose. Some of the most beautiful prose I’ve ever read hinges on characters about whom it’s very difficult to give a flying walnut. It’s hard to plough on with that sort of thing for fun, for all it is linguistically improving. If I want improving, I read nonfiction. In fiction, what I want is somebody whom I care about terribly.

Read the rest.

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

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“Homer’s description of these metallic ladies as accomplished, smart, and strong has surprisingly modern ring: they are…”

“In ancient Greece and Rome, small female figures made of clay, ivory, and even bone had articulated hands and legs fastened using pins or wire so that they could look animated when shaken or moved. In Greece, the figures were often too fragile to be toys; instead, they were used as votives or offerings to the gods placed in household shrines, temples, burial sites, and graves where they could also be protective devices or prized possessions of the deceased. Young girls offered the doll figures to Apollo, Artemis, and Aphrodite before their marriages to ensure that they would attain a healthy, functioning female body that produced and nourished children, the ideal of ancient Greek femininity.

The Idea of automatons – self-moving female and male figures – had been around since ancient times. The ancient Egyptians produced animated, hot air-driven statues used for religious and political purposes, and in Greece some of the oldest female figures were described in Homer’s epic poem The Iliad where Hephaestus, the blacksmith of the gods (later called Vulcan by the Romans) is helped by two maidservants as he goes about making a shield for Achilles. In Homer’s ancient Greece, women (apart from the great goddesses like Aphrodite and Athena) were largely consigned to loom and family, but Homer’s description of these metallic ladies as accomplished, smart, and strong has surprisingly modern ring: they are

all cast in was gold but a match for living breathing girls / Intelligence fills their hearts, voice, and strength their frames, / From the deathless gods they’ve learned their works of hand. “

From My Fair Ladies by Julie Wosk.

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

Tweets of the Week: Lovely weather for ducks

Our best tweets:

Woman, Automaton:

 

‘But just why are automatons so attractive? And just what is this “perfect woman” anyway? Rounding up a veritable sorority of artificial Eves, Julie Wosk delves into the issues in her latest book My Fair Ladies, casting an analytical eye over female depictions, both physical and fictitious, to explore the history and the future of Woman 2.0.

The fantasy is far from a modern phenomenon. Even in Ancient Rome, poets were toying with the notion of crafting their ideal partner. “In Ovid’s myth of Pygmalion [he’s] dissatisfied with real women so he creates a beautiful sculpture,” explains Wosk. Since then the “perfect woman” has found herself depicted in myriad forms, from physical automatons to slick celluloid creations. But whatever their form, the underlying traits are often strikingly similar. “I think the notion of perfection has long been imbibed with this idea of a woman who is docile and easily controlled, compliant and unthreatening and that she is somehow superior to real women because of that,” says Wosk. “And almost always they love to cook, are sexually available and they share men’s interests.” Silence, it would seem, is also perceived as golden: “In a lot of [the films] the woman doesn’t talk,” says Wosk.’

Read the rest.

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellow B&N | Amazon | Etc.

Tweets of the Week: It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane!

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

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On automatons and AI:

“Humans have been experimenting with automatons for centuries, but it is only we moderns who have worried about the consequences. The Greeks saw nothing to fear from artificial life. In their mythology, the god Hephaestus was responsible for the creation of mechanized beings—from the golden slaves he designed for his personal use to the bronze giant Talos, who guarded the island of Crete. Stopping one of these machines was as simple as removing the plug and letting the ichor (immortal blood) run out.” – Amanda Foreman.

Read the rest on the WSJ.

We tend to like the idea of Automata and cyborgs. For no reason in particular.

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

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Crimson Peak Trailer Features an Automaton

And this makes us happy.

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

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“Topsy Curvy” Automaton by Thomas Kuntz

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

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Automata Harpist [video]

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, and goodreads.]

The Silver Swan Automaton [video]:

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, and goodreads.]