SOAPBOX TNT // Absolutely Bombastic… But Actually?

TATI: Tony, you’re a fan of videogames, virtual reality and other cool modern ‘toys’, aren’t you?

TONY: Pretty much! If it involves joysticks or pixels then count me in!

TATI: Oh, I hoped for this answer. Another question: Do you like ABBA?

TONY: I love ABBA!

TATI: Have you heard they’ve reformed for the Voyage tour in 2022?

TONY: I have, and I’m very excited about it too! I can’t wait to see them on stage again, and to hear their new songs!

TATI: I bet millions of people would agree with you on this. To see their idols live again? To hear their voices? People are clamouring to pay hundreds—even thousands—of dollars for the tickets! Will you and Cassy go to their new show if you have the chance?

TONY: Hm. Depends on whether or not we can actually afford it, I guess.

TATI: Imagine that you can afford tickets for the show.

TONY: Well then it’s a hard YES!

TATI: And now imagine that you bought the tickets, are looking forward to the show, and maybe even prepared some silly t-shirts with ‘I love ABBA’ to wear to the concert.

TONY: I wouldn’t wear such a t-shirt but everything else tracks so far!

TATI: No matter—then silicone bracelets. You’ve recharged your phone so that you can take some cool photos and videos to post on Instagram. Why? Because everyone should know you were there!

TONY: Should they? Or should I just go along with your scenario? It sounds like you’re building up to something…

TATI: Okey dokey. So, you’re there. Everyone’s excited and full of anticipation. Light slowly fills the stage, the chords of your favourite song starts to play, you and Cassy are jumping and yipping on the parquet like two teenagers.

TONY: Okay, I’m seeing this in my head now. Pretty cool!

TATI: You’re ready to finally meet the legendary band. After so many years they are together again on stage. But…

TONY: But… what? Now you’re beginning to worry me.

TATI: Perhaps you didn’t remember to read the disclaimer in tiny letters on the last page of the brochure. Who reads that stuff anyway? But, you see, it says that there’re no Benny, Anni-Frid, Agnetha and Björn on the stage.

TONY: What the dum dum diddle FUCK?!

TATI: Well, they are mere holograms, their young digital avatars on the stage. It is not them in person. So… what do you feel?

The New ABBA!

TONY: I…

TATI: Do you feel excited? Do you love pixels now?

TONY: Well… I…

TATI: Come on, boy! You did say that they could count you in!

TONY: Well, no! Not if this is all I’m paying my hard earned cash for!

TATI: And what’s the difference, Tony? Why are you suddenly so tight-fisted? I believe your beloved PS5 cost a lot of money too.

TONY: Yes, because I know I’m going to be playing some of the finest videogames ever made on it! I’m not expecting ABBA to also be videogame characters! I’m expecting them to actually be live on stage! You know… in the flesh?

TATI: Oh, I hoped for this answer!

TONY: Did you now?! Well, bully for you! What are you hoping to achieve with this conversation? Other than to break my heart? I was really hoping to see ABBA live!

TATI: Sorry, Tony. I promise to stop tossing these concepts around for now. Actually, I wholeheartedly agree with you on this. I don’t want to see a digital ABBA. I prefer to see them live even though they’ve grown old, gotten some grey hair, wrinkles and put on excess pounds.

TONY: Exactly! If all we’re gonna get is a glorified digital show then I’d much rather stay at home and watch some of their old concerts on DVD. It makes more sense!

TATI: Yes, and even if their voices aren’t so clean and powerful now, they’ve got lived experience and the feeling of passing years. I bet every song will sound different now. 1972 to 1982 versus 2022. A whole life lies between those dates, huh?

TONY: Yes, that’s part of what I enjoy about following certain singers and bands. It’s the pleasure of seeing how their artistic expression evolves and matures over time. It would be a shame if they remained static and only did the same kind of thing over and over and over again.

TATI: Why do you think they are doing this? Of course, it’s not about the money—and they’ll still get millions from this anyway. Are they afraid to present themselves as they are now to their legions of faithful fans who probably remember them when they were young and beautiful? Or do they hope to gain a new generation of fans through the use of modern, gimmicky technologies?

TONY: It’s hard to know really. Like you say, they don’t need the money, so I’m assuming the hologram angle is more for personal creative reasons. But what would those creative reasons be? What artistic satisfaction could they possibly derive from this rather than the more traditional live on stage approach?

TATI: Perhaps you can consider me cynic but I vote for the age option. They’re scared of showing themselves as they are now and don’t feel confident.

TONY: Perhaps vanity does play a part in this. If it’s true then I personally would find it hard to fault them. I always think twice before committing my face to film too. It shouldn’t matter at the end of the day but unfortunately that’s not the world we live in. But let me ask you something: Do you think the kind of concert they’re going to stage in 2022 is ever going to be as good as just appearing as themselves live on stage?

The New ABBA!

TATI: I have no idea if it will be a great show or a total fuck up. Let me put my answer this way: I’d prefer an imperfect live show than a perfect digital one.

TONY: Yes, I agree. I mean, sure, they can put on whatever the hell kinda show they want. They’re artists after all, and that’s what artists do. They buck expectations and try to give the audience what it never knew it wanted. Hopefully that will be the case here.

TATI: So, ultimately, would you pay you money for the digital ABBA?

TONY: No. I would save that money for something else. I assume your answer would be the same, yes?

TATI: Absolutely! And now, I feel this is a perfect place to end our discussion and pass the baton to our Dearest Readers. What do they feel about this? Would they pay money for tickets to this new ABBA show?

TONY: Excellent! Well, I’m off to play some more ‘Metroid Dread’. I gotta help Samus defeat some creepy robot to get a morph ball upgrade.

TATI: Great! I’m off to do some yoga. I believe it will be more useful for keeping my mind and ass in a good shape. Let’s have another look in forty years and see which of us will be more prepared for a live tour. Who do you bet?

TONY: Oh, that’s easy. Samus!

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2021

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SOAPBOX TNT // Twinkle Tush

TATI: Tony, are you ashamed of your anus?

TONY: Say what now?!

TATI: It’s this little thingy between your buttocks that you use fo—

TONY: Are we talking about buttholes or little thingies?! Those are entirely different body parts, you know!

TATI: Tony, I am aware of male anatomy. Could you please be serious for a moment?

TONY: Sorry.

TATI: So… are you ashamed of your anus or not?

TONY: Oh, so this is what you call being serious, huh? Well, anyway, I’m not ashamed of my anus. But I don’t go flashing it about in public either.

TATI: Well, that’s because you just don’t know about a certain something that can make your butthole flash, twinkle and shine bright like a diamond!

TONY: Why would I want my butthole to go off like fireworks at a Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade? That sounds pretty tacky.

TATI: Tony, you’re so old-fashioned. Now even cats wear it!

(Tati takes something small out of her pocket and tries to place it in Tony’s arse.)

TATI: Boom! Twinkle Tush!

(Tony, quite naturally, jumps away in surprise.)

TONY: Winkle what?!

TATI: You’re welcome! Now you can bathe in the warm rays of fame and hero worship!

TONY: More like in a river of shit! Yuck!

TATI: You’re so hard to please! Just look at this cat. It looks so happy! You can be happy too!


TONY:
I’m not a freakin’ cat!

TATI: Well, it’s not my problem if you don’t want to be shiny and famous.

TONY: Okay, real talk here. Don’t you think it’s a form of animal abuse to be plugging up kitty bungholes? I do!

TATI: It’s not a butt plug! Just an elegant ass pendant. Do you think that is more abusive than a leash or a flea collar?

TONY: Oh! I thought it was something they were inserting in them. My mistake…

TATI: So, does this mean you change your mind and that you would like to own this shiny thing after all?

TONY: That’s a hard NO. Even if it’s not strictly abusive, it’s still as tacky as hell! And do you mean to tell me that you applaud something like this?

TATI: Honestly, I think it’s way better than piercing or tattooing animals, for example. Or docking their ears and tails for the sake of weird breeding standards that people invented for want of something better to do.

TONY: Look, since you put it like that then I have to agree. But I do think that an animal needs to have its dignity too. Is the sparkly anus cover really for its benefit or for the owner’s vanity?

TATI: Funny, the manufacturer of the Twinkle Tush says it was made exactly for keeping cats’ dignity, because they are supposedly ashamed to exhibit their naughty bits to public view.

TONY: Well, that’s not been my experience. Every cat I’ve ever met couldn’t wait to show me its anus. I never knew whether they wanted me to take a sniff or just be offended. And anyway, do cats ever think of their ‘naughty’ bits as something to be ashamed of? Isn’t shame purely a human construct?

TATI: I actually agree with you. Maybe they’ve never owned a real cat?

TONY: Perhaps not. Anyway, I think we project far too many human traits onto our furry friends. They don’t want our tattoos. They don’t want to wear cute little clothes. They don’t want anal bling! They just want to lick their genitals then go about their day.

TATI: Amen to that! Hey, where is the twinkle tush thingy?

TONY: How would I know? You were the one holding it!

TATI: You took it, didn’t you? Don’t tell me you’re not fond of tiny shiny things, Tony! I’ve seen your perverted collection!

TONY: Those are MARBLES, Tati, not glittery sphincter covers. There’s a pretty big difference, you know!

TATI: Then where is it, smarty pants?

TONY: Oh, look! See that magpie up on the roof there?

TATI: Hey! You feathery thieving freak! Bring that back right now! I paid a whole six bucks for it!

TONY: Wow. Such a wise expenditure of precious pocket money there, Tati. Bravo.

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2021

SOAPBOX TNT // Does Size Really Matter?

TONY: Well, that was wholly unexpected…

(Tati is poking at a socket with a screwdriver.)

TATI: Yes, fuck a duck with a Christmas tree!

TONY: Erm, no. I’d rather not, thanks. I’m still recovering from the naughty video you sent me.

TATI: What naughty video? Stop babbling, Tony! It’s a children’s television series! It’s aimed at four to eight year olds!

TONY: John the penis man? I don’t recall television ever being like that when I was growing up!

TATI: Oh, of course. Your sweet childhood when the trees were tall and green, and men were supposed to fix things in the house! How on Earth did you manage to break this, Tony?

TONY: I dunno. I just plugged my PS4 in and the socket kind of died… a bit.

TATI: PS4? I thought you had ordered a PS5… Oh. Was that the real reason, huh?

TONY: Tati, this is not Teti-à-Tête. This is a different feature. So let’s stop playing dickheads and just have a good, adult discussion here, eh?

TATI: Oh, really? Well… okay, let’s. Have you already posted the link to the video you’re so outraged by? Are our dearest readers aware of what we’re talking about?

TONY: You’re right. Just a moment…

TONY: There you go. All they have to do is click on that image. Oh, and if I’m honest, I’m not outraged by this at all. If anything, I’m just a bit speechless. What can you say about a children’s show that features a man with a prehensile penis?

TATI: It’s we, the perverted adults, that highlight certain parts of our bodies over others for shaming. Don’t you feel so?

TONY: That’s true. You don’t see a very young child reaching for a fig leaf out of a sense of modesty, do you? It’s usually only adults that get shocked over this kind of thing.

TATI: Firstly, shall we give some background for our readers, Tony?

TONY: Well, again I would encourage them to click the image above if they haven’t already done so. And as for what it is, it’s the first season of a Danish stop motion animated series aimed at young children. It features an adult male who wears what appears to be a striped bathing costume, and has a long, posable penis. (God. How many times am I going to say the word ‘penis’ in this conversation?)

TATI: You forgot to mention that it was developed together with a child psychologist—and other professionals—who reviewed the scripts to ensure that children wouldn’t misinterpret what they saw.

TONY: That’s the part that troubles me slightly. There will always be at least one child who interprets what they’re seeing in this show in a way that the experts won’t want them to. But then… what would an incorrect interpretation even look like?

TATI: Okay, while I’m thinking about a smart reply, just give me your professional opinion. I believe you previously studied animation at university, yes? Do you think this show is technically well made? Or is it trash?

TONY: I think it works well enough for the stories that the creators want to tell. It’s stop motion animation with what appears to be a mixture of cut outs and some claymation figures—I can’t quite tell. But the overall art style works because it seems to be designed to look like a toy set that a very young child might play with. Everything moves in a slightly clunky and limited way, but again this might be to enhance the whole visual aesthetic they’re aiming for. I believe this show very much appeals to quite a large younger demographic, so they must be doing something right.

TATI: So, do you feel it was really made for children? Or, rather, is it a cynical move where they’ve realised that it will be discussed by a wide adult audience? Is it a way to generate some ‘hype’?

TONY: For publicity you mean? Sure, that’s certainly a possibility. Having the main character be an adult with a… well, ‘versatile’ penis… and it’s a children’s show? That’s bound to generate a lot of discussion at the very least. Outrage even. I can imagine that many parents wouldn’t want their children to view such content, but the more attention they draw to it then the more success it is likely to enjoy.

TATI: Would you allow your children to view the show?

TONY: In a way, I’m kinda glad I don’t have children. Can you imagine having to decide whether or not it’s okay for them to watch something like this? On the one hand, I don’t want them to grow up being ashamed of their bodies, so I can see how watching this show could help them to laugh at the beautiful absurdity of the human anatomy. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to inadvertently expose them to something that could be considered wildly inappropriate. It’s a tough call to make. Would you allow your children to view ‘John Dillermand’?

TATI: Well, like you I can only theorise this. I believe our dearest readers who have children and grandchildren will give us much more reasonable pros and cons. As for me… hell, yes. I would allow them to view it. Though I am surprised that they don’t have something like a warning or disclaimer at the beginning of each episode. Even the most silly videos where people do something completely idiotic include ‘performed by professionals’ and ‘don’t try this at home’. But why don’t they explain to children that poking a penis into a lion’s cage can be rather dangerous? Or touching a bare wire? Everything looks like mere fun here.

TONY: Yes, I take your point. Mere fun with no consequences. And, actually, when you think about it, it’s a wonder that you and I didn’t immediately perish from our own stupid mistakes when we were growing up. We were children in an era that had no warning labels for anything, so we had to learn stuff the hard way!

TATI: Do you mean that it makes no sense to warn children about danger? They will do it anyway?

TONY: I expect children will do what they do anyway. I mean, we did, right? Of course, this doesn’t mean that parents shouldn’t fulfill their role as caretakers, but perhaps some of the most indelible life lessons that children learn can only be done through personal adversity.

TATI: Anyway, I think there are no right or wrong answers here. Let’s try to sum this up and then our readers can add anything if they want. Do you personally say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to such TV shows?

TONY: There’s no point me saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a show that already exists without my say so. All I really can do is raise my hypothetical children as best as I possibly can, which would include gently guiding them in their viewing choices. And, on second thought, I think I’m probably leaning more towards your earlier response. I would allow them to watch at least one episode of this, and hopefully their reaction would clue me in on whether or not they should watch any more. There you go. That’s my long-winded answer to your ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question!

TATI: Okey-dokey, Tony. I think the socket is fixed now. How about we watch one more episode?

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2021

SOAPBOX TNT // Do You Love Me?

Dear Readers,

Today we present to you a new feature that we hope you’ll love. (Time will tell, eh?) We’ve decided to call it ‘Soapbox TNT’.

We usually avoid posting our personal opinions on stuff. We strive instead to make Unbolt Me a kingdom of unfettered creativity. But sometimes the real world is a crazy dystopia that goes far beyond even our wildest imaginations. It’s fascinating (and kinda scary) to realise that something we read in books and watched in movies just yesterday has become reality today! The world is a strange place indeed.

So, this is what our new feature is all about. It is us discussing various subjects from our own perspectives, and in an attempt to reach some mutual consensus that we can perhaps even learn from. As such, we hope you’ll forgive any ignorance on our part. Feel free to weigh in on what we discuss. Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts! The more the merrier!

In short, don’t be shy about joining the discussion. Tell us if you agree or disagree, and educate us when education is necessary. And, above all, let’s be respectful and have fun!

TATI: Tony, have you seen this video that’s been trending on YouTube?

TONY: Oh my god! That’s amazing! Truly sophisticated engineering right there, don’t you think?

TATI: Yes, to be sure!

TONY: I recall reading an article many years ago about how making bipedal robots with a stable centre of gravity was an incredibly difficult engineering challenge that had not yet been overcome. I guess we now have robots that can stay on their feet without toppling over, huh?

TATI: I see you are rather excited with this, aren’t you?

TONY: Hell yeah! It seems we may be nudging closer to the day I can ride around in a robot that transforms into a tank. No more parking problems ever!

TATI: I have mixed feelings, to be honest. Yes, the robots in the video look cute and funny, but they’re a little scary too. And I don’t mean their appearance. I mean their behaviour. It feels like a mockery of humans a little bit. Presently, real human beings are scared, restricted and locked down… but these robots are making a happy ‘Do You Love Me?’ dance.

TONY: I remember you once telling me that robots do make you a little uneasy…

TATI: Here… Let me show you another video.

TATI: Do you see how it tries to get through the door and how that man tries to hinder it in different ways? That robot is smart and persistent enough to stick to its task, and goes ahead anyway. But if it’s also a real AI, how long will it take before it realises that the real barrier to completing its task is the man? And maybe push him away? Or worse?

TONY: It’s something I’ve considered too.

TATI: I was watching this and thinking… damn, it will attack the man now!

TONY: It’s strange but I was also thinking that! But here’s the thing… for the robot to realise that the real barrier is the man, it would first have to be self-aware, wouldn’t it? It would have to possess some form of consciousness. But as it’s just a manmade object then of course it doesn’t possess these qualities. But intelligence doesn’t equal sentience, does it? Those are two different things.

TATI: Yes, but it’s a coin with two sides. You see, they don’t have reason. They have a program. Even a maniac can be reasoned with. Not so with robots. Robots perform code. They just follow commands laid down in their programming that dictate their moves. One moment they’re dancing but add some changes to the code and they will do something different the next. And I don’t think it needs ‘self-awareness’ to distinguish a human being from a wall. We’re still just another object in the robot’s way.

TONY: It could be argued that this is also the best thing about artificial intelligence, that it isn’t truly self-aware, sentient. And while it will never deviate from its programming it will also… well, never deviate from its programming which means that it can only ever act predictably… which also means that we human beings will always be able to stay one step ahead. Well, as long as we continue to think outside of the box, I suppose. That’s the hope!

TATI: ‘This means that it can only ever act predictably…’ Sometimes even I can surprise myself with silly and irrational decisions. Can you speak so confidently for other people? Have you not seen what is happening in the Capitol now? Does it still make you proud to be a human? Do you still think you’re a ‘step ahead’?

TONY: One could argue that the president’s assault on democracy is entirely predictable given his past statements, and that some of his followers would take these statements to their logical extreme is also predictable. But I do take your point. Robots will never act with conscience because they are not self-aware. We, however, have no such excuse so the onus is always on us to act responsibly.

TATI: I put an equal sign between humans’ behavior and robots’ behavior. I can’t believe in robots’ decency because they’re made and programmed by people. Have you heard about the Three Laws of Robotics?

TONY: I have! My father introduced me to Isaac Asimov’s robot stories when I was a child. ‘A robot may not injure a human being’ and that kind of thing.

TATI: Do you think that the Three Laws of Robotics work in the real world?

TONY: Well, no, because I don’t think anybody’s using them in the real world at the moment. Robots aren’t quite that sophisticated yet, not ‘human’ enough where such laws would be necessary.

TATI: I believe it’s not far off…

TONY: I guess it’s wayward presidents I’m more worried about for the moment, but you make a good point. There was a video game called Horizon Zero Dawn that tackled these very themes. The story really blew my mind. I love robots but I do go a little quiet when I think about a world where robots not only take over everything but also consume anything that is organic—including human beings. A bit of a horrifying thought if you ask me.

TATI: And do you still feel safe and easy when you watch dancing robots?

TONY:

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2021