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the pathetic caverns - movies by title - Fast, Cheap and Out of Control

eclectic reviews and opinions

Fast, Cheap and Out of Control

1997, D: Errol Morris

Morris spins strands of four disparate lives together, asking questions about the connections between them without necessarily answering them. George Mendonca, topiary gardener of Newport, RI's Green Animals and wild animal trainer Dave Hoover are near the end of their careers, which they spent persuading things to go against their natures. Mole rat specialist Ray Mendez and robot specialist Rodney Moore are united by a geeky superenthusiasm, but more to the point, (since Morris uses voice over B-roll a lot) sometimes the only clue as to whether Mendez is talking about the insect-like organization of mole rats or Moore is describing the principles he builds into his self-motivating robots is the accent.

But Mendez is also struggling to understand the nature of mole rats, and by inference, how they challenge aspects of our understanding of mammalian life. In building autonomous robots, Moore is asking big questions about the nature (and organizing principles, and lack thereof) of all life. Mendonca laments that none of the understudies who've tried working with him understand the need for constant, detailed and precise maintenance; he very nearly mouths the cliche about sculptors when he talks about taking a bush and removing everything from it that isn't "bear." Moore talks about commercially-produced canisters of tiny robots to clean dust from TV screens, admiting the absurdity of his vision with a palpable yen in his voice to see his toys made real.

And I wonder: how could you seek to understand a robot whose nature is to make bushes that look like bears?

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