Sing the Body Electric, Anywhere but Philly

A growing regional catch phrase is “Anything Can Happen in Jersey”.  I bet the creators of HitchBOT wished in hindsight that the BOT had traveled to Jersey instead; especially considering that Hitch made his way all across Europe and parts of America before meeting a tragic and eerie end in the “City of Brotherly Love”.

And they talk about Camden and New Jersey.  We’ve never hurt a robot in our lives, nor snowballed Santa for that matter.

We could call it a social experiment gone horribly awry or one that netted some interesting data about the human race.   Either way, I’m remembering a song by Mos Def that spun a tale of things you don’t do in the city; stuff that will ultimately cause your untimely and painful demise.  I’m thinking neither HitchBOT nor his creators ever heard the tune.  Had they done so, maybe they would’ve changed their strategy somewhat.

“Don’t get me, (Please!!), don’t get me, (No!), don’t get-gi-gi-gi-gi-get me!”

Imagine if HitchBOT was programmed to play “Got!” while the beating was taking place.  It would’ve added to the surreal humanity the droid had already exhibited.  I can almost hear the above chorus now, playing on a dark street in Old City Philly in the early hours of a Sunday morning, stereophonic sound belting out from speakers hitherto unseen, as an inebriated bar patron, who probably left the tavern angry, horny and alone, began unleashing his drunk anger on the traveling cyborg emissary.

“We’re supposed to be brothers!”

On the other hand, what if the culprit wasn’t drunk, as some think?  What if he was just your run-of-the-mill, ordinary Philadelphian who was ticked off and having a truly bad evening and they then decided to share?  What does that say about man and what does that say about Philly?

It says we’re mean that’s what!

Did creators Frank Zellor and David Smith need to send a defenseless BOT across Europe and the Americas to discover that or were they hoping for a pleasant surprise?  Maybe they hoped to avoid Philly altogether and someone, somewhere, in a truly, warped sense of humor, sent the droid our way.  Let’s see what the city of brotherly love has to offer in the way of socially-moving tidbits, shall we?  That worked out really nice, didn’t it?

Oh well, like it or not, it happened and as experiments go, it gave us data; in the case of Philly, hard-to-look-at data but data nevertheless.  HitchBOT did what it was supposed to do and gave us a glimpse of ourselves and how we deal with each other.  It showed us a picture of all sides and we didn’t even have to take the beat down to see it.  Thank you Zellor and Smith.

Bottom line is that we are a people with equal capacities for love, compassion, humor, anger, aggression   and destruction.  We can be cheerily charming and in the blink of an eye, turn ruthlessly intolerant.  Remember George Carlin’s bit about another millennial cliché; Baby on Board?  Carlin would quip unapologetically, “You want me to change my f#*!%!g driving habits because you got a God damn baby on board?!!  That, right there, says it all about us; HitchBOT notwithstanding, and not necessary.

YouTube video from myclef’s9 channel

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Commentary, Life and Society

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