Training a computer to write like Tommy Wiseau

A nightmarish image of Tommy Wiseau as a half-digital being

Tommy AI-seau

In the past year or so there have been some very funny attempts to use neural networks (roughly, programs that try to learn to identify patterns in data) to produce text. From the RoboRosewater bot that creates new Magic: The Gathering cards, to the new episodes of Friends, to the attempt to beat G.R.R. Martin to the next A Song of Ice and Fire book, they’re everywhere.

The trouble is, they don’t feel natural. The grammar is always slightly off, characters simply appear without introduction, and no-one behaves like a human.

In most genres, this would be a disadvantage. For trying to create a script in the style of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room though, it’s a positive bonus.

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Apparent expertise and “the smartest man alive”

A stupid person’s idea of a clever person.

That title has been applied to many people – Newt Gingrich, Stephen Fry, Aldous Huxley. Now there’s a new contender.

In this video went viral yesterday, titled “Fox may have just interviewed the smartest man alive“, an unsuspecting Fox News journalist asks a man on Miami Beach if he’s worried about Hurricane Irma. The man then responds with a long, technical answer that leaves the reporter stunned and debunks all the fearmongering about the hurricane.

TV gold. The replies to the tweet are full of people laughing at the cocky reporter being shown up by “a professor of meteorology”.

Except almost everything he says is nonsense.

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Thoughts: The Casual Vacancy, by J. K. Rowling

I think this is what the cool kids call “late to the party”. We’ve had this on the shelf for a while and ever since we got it I’ve been meaning to read it. And as Spuggy got to the end of the book he was reading on the Kindle, I thought I may as well end my off-list detour with a bang. Crazy spoilers lie within. I’m warning you, if you want to read this book, don’t read my aimless ramblings on it.

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Thoughts: The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Almost caught up now. It took me this long to realise that while Spuggy was borrowing the Kindle, we actually have a book that’s on my TBR list! So I read it. Spoiler warning etc.

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Thoughts: Intelligence, by Stuart Ritchie

Well. I’ve been all very smug about my posh non-fiction reading, and when I read Intelligence something happened that had been going to happen right from the start, sooner or later:

I read something that disagreed with something I’d earlier read.

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Thoughts: The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Truth about Healthy Eating, by Anthony Warner

I’ve managed to get through a good few of our physical bookshelf books while Spuggy’s been borrowing my Kindle! This one was personally recommended by him.

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Other thoughts: “Every Valley”, by Public Service Broadcasting

What’s this? An opinion about something that’s not a book? Yep! Every Valley is the new album by the found-sound ensemble Public Service Broadcasting, and it’s the best album I’ve heard this year.

If you’re not familiar with them, PSB build progressive post-rock songs around mostly spoken-word clips taken from old information films. It’s not that this is an original idea – a lot of rock acts have played with samples to spice up long instrumentals, from Maybeshewill to 65daysofstatic to The Books – but PSB try to do more than just go for cheap jokes or coast on the quaintness of the past. As they joke, PSB’s mission is to “teach the lessons of the past through the music of the future”.

With each album, they’ve become deeper and richer – starting with The War Room EP, which uses old Blitz Spirit propaganda films from WWII, through the mishmash of newsreels and educational films from Inform Educate Entertain, to The Race for Space, which turns real radio transmissions from the Space Race into gripping songsEvery Valley is certainly their worthiest project yet, covering the fall of the South Welsh mining industry in the latter half of the twentieth century.

God, that sounds grim, doesn’t it?

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Short story: Wei Lai and Mazu

The moment of Wei Lai’s conception was streamed live in schools across China. As the microscopic glass needle punctured the egg, Commander Xue answered carefully rehearsed questions from pupils back on Earth.

No, the baby would not be going on the colony ship to Sirius. This was just an experiment.

Yes, it would have a mummy. He or she (the gender neutrality of Mandarin pronouns is a godsend) would be implanted back in the mother on returning to Earth. Tests of the artificial wombs would come later, once the viability of IVF in space had been proven.

No, a child conceived in space should be no different to one conceived on Earth. Continue reading

Thoughts: Nomad, by Alan Partridge

I’m so behind on these. Argh.

Anyway, let me open by saying that if you come from an Alan Partridgeless existence, then may I recommend you remedying that asap.

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Thoughts: Fictions, by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Andrew Hurley

Well, I keep doing it to myself. I keep reading universally beloved books and then having to give my useless opinions on them. Do you need me to tell you that Borges is great? Because he is great. Now you know.

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