Monday, August 26, 2013

the Ghost in the Machine

If I remember correctly, the first time that I saw the phrase “Ghost in the Machine” it was on the TV in my flat, being the name of one of the episodes in the Inspector Morse TV series which I liked rather a lot...

But then I have always loved BritFic Detective stories - don't get me started because I have a long list of shows that I positively enjoy, starting with A Touch of Frost, which is of course based upon the Frost novels by R.D. Wingfield, and I tell you getting David Jason to play Detective Inspector William Edward "Jack" Frost was bloody brill!

Second on my list of all-time greatest BritFic Detective Shows would be the Midsomer Murders series, which are based on the books by Caroline Graham. I have to admit though that I was very unhappy when Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) was replaced by his so-called cousin DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) the wanker...

Third would be Cracker, which is set in Manchester, and tells the story of Dr Edward "Fitz" Fitzgerald (Robbie Coltrane), and its focus in addition to the crime in each episode is centered on the very human foibles of Eddie Fitz - who is both a criminal psychologist (or "cracker") and a flawed human being - but hey, I cannot watch that show without the little voice in my head jumping up and down and screaming IT'S HAGRID! THAT'S HAGRID! HAGRID!

I can't help thinking - IT's HAGRID!

Coming in at Number Four (but a close tie with No. 3) is Van der Valk -- whose protagonist is Dutch Detective Commissaris "Piet" (real name Simon) van der Valk totally reminds me of my father-in-law who is also named Piet and is Dutch but hey, he was not a detective...

The Inspector Morse shows are next, and Morse is of course based upon the series of novels by Colin Dexter.   The often visceral story of Detective Inspector -- later Chief Inspector -- Morse (John Thaw) always unfolds with intense mystery which you have to like.  Plus there are over 30 episodes and they are more like movie-of-the-week than a TV show as every episode involves a new murder investigation featuring several guest stars, and are 2-hours long...

Let me tell you the one thing that I learned from watching these shows - the region of England that is called “The Midlands” is a dangerous place! You want to avoid that part of the UK like the plague, stay away! People DIE there! A lot!

But this is not about BritFix Detective shows, is it?  No...  Where was I?  Oh yeah!

So later I learned that the person widely credited with coining the phrase is British philosopher Gilbert Ryle (19 August 1900 – 6 October 1976) - and he was quoted by Arthur Koestler, who used it as the title to his 1967 book “The Ghost in the Machine.” 

That book was assigned as required reading by the professor who taught one of the philosophy courses that I took at uni - bearing in mind that the book turned out to be about philosophical psychology and not, as I initially hoped, about a haunted car.

But still I learned a lot from it, which is probably why when I got an email last Friday from one of the gamers who it turns out is a fan of the video game guides and walkthroughs that I write for SuperCheats - who sincerely asked me how it was that I got my Xbox 360 to write its own blog?

It had to be said...

A real Whaaaaaaaa? Moment

So yeah, I confess, reading that email the first time was a real Whaaaaaaa?! moment for me...  I can usually hit the ground running on the first try - figuratively speaking that is - but I actually had to pause, deer-in-headlights - and think about what I was being asked for a moment.  And if there really had been headlights, well, I paused good and long, so we are talking SPLAT! here.

But I eventually connected the dots and realized that he was referring to the "Recnef's Xbox 360 Blog" which I have a link to off of my home page in the Blog Section and which, I extrapolate, the young man found there, followed, and read -- and went away from the experience somehow convinced that it was a real blog written by my game console(?!).

Recnef's Xbox 360 Blog

 While this blog states that it is in fact written by my Xbox 360, in reality it is the machine-generated psuedo-blog created by the website that uses a selection of pre-scripted commentary and the monitored activities of your game console to create an amusing if actually rather scary blog that appears to be written from the point-of-view of the Xbox 360.

A sample entry that is most amusing reads:

Recnef's Xbox - Aug 23 2013

I had to set aside my plans for world domination yesterday when Recnef decided to game. Our score is 127,365 and always improving! That is an improvement of 50 points over last time! He rocked out to Gears of War: Judgment adding 4 achievements, and afterwards, there were some awkward stares and silence... you know how it is.
If you read the blog regularly you will see some of the lines repeated, particularly the humor-laced observations that the "Xbox" makes and its rather possessive (one is tempted to say possessed) attitude and jealous nature...

But that is the entire point of the site and its humor...  Under that humor though is a fairly useful set of services that among other things keeps track of your game play activities and provides a breakdown of your Achievement progress in the different games you play.

In addition to the daily summary the site also has a weekly summary that sort of collects all of the data from the week but delivers it in character - here is my last one:

Recnef's Weekly Recap - Aug 26 2013

This entry is a little different than the others. It is a recap of the last week of gaming. Check it: So yeah... Last week Recnef showed up 4 days total and logged some serious gaming. We added 190 points of gamerscore which ain't too shabby. Getting 13 achievements can do that to you. I was there. I saw it! Oh, and from what I remember, Recnef's favorite game last week was Gears of War: Judgment. He played it on 4 of the days.

So there you have it... Check back next week for another report from yours truly.

Like I said, it delivers it in character, but as I read it having been prompted to do so by that email I had to wonder if the person who emailed me was taking the piss out of me or what?  I suppose it is funny either way, but I wanted to know...

As it turned out - which I learned from emailing him back - he is 10 years old and actually thought that I had somehow managed to get my Xbox 360 to acquire Artificial Intelligence.  And he was so genuinely disappointed that it was NOT my console writing the blog that I almost felt like I should email his mom and have her give the bugger a hug, he was that sad over it.

So how was your weekend?