Month: April 2010

The Very Short List of Links

Communities:

The Nerd Forums of NYC is the premiere place to find nerds in new york, and wherever.

The Post Punk Kitchen forums – Sometimes, it’s hard to be a vegan sympathizer on the web, but the PPK makes it easy.

Game resources:

The Arreat Summit for all your Diablo II needs, Mojo Stormstout’s for Warcraft 3, and the Compendium for Starcraft. If you havent taken a beatdown on battlenet lately, you are due.
If you’ve never been to Home of the Underdogs, you’re missing out on some awesome abandonware.

Enrichment:

Sue Savage-Rumbaugh is in love with Kanzi at the Great Ape Trust!

Penny Patterson needs money to get Koko and friends a better life, please help them out!

Gorilla Michael was a deeply feeling individual. He was a great artist, and a reluctant ambassador. He was like a brother to Koko and his death hit her really hard.

Koko and Penny and the bashful chat

You may have heard of Koko the Gorilla, who was taught american sign language as a young ape. She and her caregiver, Penny Patterson, are rather famous.
Read the intro below, or skip to the chat.
In 2002, the pair had a well-publicized online chat over AOL. Thousands logged in to see what kind of conversation a gorilla was capable of. They were dissapointed. The chatters would ask a question, and Koko seemed to reply with utter nonsense. Penny appeared to be making excuses for Koko’s incoherence. She was overexplaining each reply, almost desperately. There was something fishy about the whole thing. Websites ridiculed the chat. People left the chat thinking that the gorilla’s purported grasp of vocabulary was, essentially, a sham.

But they were wrong. Koko was using her vocabulary just fine. She simply wasn’t having the conversation they thought she was having.

It needs to be said first that I think the things that Penny and her friends have achieved in the past few decades have been astonishing, and incredibly important to the future of humanity. I mean it! However, I’ve come to the conclusion that there was something fishy going on in that chat, after all.

What follows is all my own conjecture. But, I don’t find this chat transcript particularly cryptic at all. One simple supposition of motive, and the supposedly nonsensical chat transcript starts to make real sense. Koko’s end of the conversation consisted (for the most paart) of one persistent request. Ironically, it was a request that Penny refused to translate.

I never would have realized this if it wasn’t for a lawsuit that made the news in 2004. Penny was being sued by a couple members of her staff. The lawsuit alleged that the two were fired because they refused to show their nipples to Koko.

San Francisco Chronicle:

The suit, in any case, says that Patterson would interpret
hand movements by Koko as a demand to see exposed
human nipples. She warned Alperin and Keller that their
employment with the foundation would suffer, the suit says,
if they “did not indulge Koko’s nipple fetish.”

During at least three visits, the suit says, “Patterson communicated
to Alperin that exposing one’s breasts to Koko is a normal component
to developing a personal bond with the gorilla.”

Even though the plaintifs tried to put a ridiculous ‘besitality’ spin on the practice, the suit was dismissed. The fact is, the employees weren’t fired because they refused to show nip. They were probably fired because they were doing a shitty job in other ways. However, the lawyer representing Penny was careful never to deny the idea that Koko likes to see nipples. He said that the plaintifs were trying to “manipulate a purported employment issue and miscast it purely for publicity purposes”.

So, let’s face it, Koko likes to see nipples. In some situations, she feels uncomfortable unless she gets to take a peep at them.

Understandably, this is not something Penny would want to be public knowledge. The woman has been fought by the curmudgeony establishment for her entire career, when all she is trying to do is provide a good life for her charge, wake the world up to the plight of Koko’s species, and maybe discover a few things about the nature of empathy, about creativity, about emotions, about the mind.

Koko is a gorilla who has adapted to a very unusual culture. I think a gorilla can understand an amazing array of things, but the societal idea of shame of nudity? Doubtlessly, confounding. The idea that Koko takes a little comfort in seeing a nipple here and there makes perfect sense to me.

One facet of this wild speculation, is that Penny would certainly have been covering up for this behavior for years in her many public appearances. How often does Koko say something so embarrasing that it must be mistranslated to avoid awkwardness? And how confusing for Koko! Confusion makes us nervous. When we become nervous with the people we love, we argue. I think that is what you see happening in this chat:

Some Background info (from Penny’s faq)

About what they do:

Koko and I communicate with each other through a modified form of American Sign Language (ASL). Koko has demonstrated well over 1,000 such gestures. She also understands over 2,000 words of spoken English, so people can speak to her and she will respond in sign. She also communicates with her normal gorilla vocalizations, of purrs and cries. In our more than 28 years together, Koko has expressed the whole range of emotions associated with humans, like, happiness, sadness, love, grief, embarrassment.

About the chat:

People will log onto aol.com and join the Webcast and chat. I will be with Koko in front of a computer and people will be able to see us through live streaming video on the aol.com site. They will send us questions and I will be at the computer where I will sign the question to Koko. She’ll sign the answer back to me and AOL will transcribe the chat.

The chat description:

In the following transcript, parentheses denote behaviors, actions and possible meanings (or possible mistranslations) of Koko’s utterances not included in ongoing interpretation during the chat, XXX indicates indecipherable signs, and an asterisk (*) indicates vocalizations.

the chat: (yellow text are my editorial comments)

In this chat Penny is claiming that Koko is fully engaged with the Public’s questions. What I suppose is happening instead is that Koko is trying to get Penny to show her nipples, a routine request. It also appears that maybe she wants to give them a little kiss, and there’s nothing wrong with that, people!

To get her meaning across, Koko will try any words she can think of that relate to the idea in her head she is trying to get across, much the way I do (but I do it, like, WAY better). In this transcript, you will see Koko try a lot of different ways of getting across one idea.

.PENNY: Let me explain what we’re doing.

KOKO: Fine.

PENNY: We’re going to be on the phone with a lot of people who are going to ask us questions…

KOKO: Nipple. (Koko sometimes uses ‘nipple’ as a ‘sounds like’ for ‘people.’)

And we’re off! Two seconds into the conversation, and we have the thing that we will see over and over in this chat. Koko has made her intentions known. She would like a tiny reassurance, a comfort in this auspicious moment. She wants to see some nipple, and Penny basically lies about it. It’s understandable.

PENNY: …about you and about me. . . Lots of people.

KOKO: That red pink. (Indicating Penny’s shirt).

(Indicating her something)

PENNY: That red pink. Yes, right!

KOKO: Hurry good.

Koko can’t always get her meaning across right away, so she is used to people misunderstanding what she wants. But, by now, she’s pretty sure that Penny knows what she’s talking about, and she expects to see some nipple in short order.

PENNY: This is red—this is pink, exactly.

KOKO: Pink. (Koko reaches for Penny’s pocket which contains treats. )
Again, nice save. Her shirt pocket conceals some treats indeed.

PENNY: OK. That’s the kind of things they are going to ask.

KOKO: Good.
‘Good’ Koko thinks, Penny said ‘OK’

PENNY: Questions about colors or how you’re feeling. OK?

KOKO: That red. (Indicating her own hair).

Koko repeats her request again, by saying ‘red’ and tugging her chest hair

PENNY: Honey, this is black.

KOKO: XXX XXX. (XXX looks like ‘sun’.)

Koko is trying to sign ‘black.’ Penny touch prompts ‘black’.

KOKO: Black. There hurry. (Indicating Penny’s pocket.)

K has one ape doll kiss the other.

KOKO: Kisses.*

KOKO: Lips lipstick.

PENNY: Yes, ‘lips lipstick,’ right.

KOKO: Lips fake candy give-me. (Then Koko reaches for Penny’s pocket.)

Lips fake candy give-me. At this point, Koko is getting pretty fed up. She has now used dolls, innuendo, and every bit of vocabulary she can think of that would yield a nipple check. You can see how her agitation has escalated over the last few lines. And why not? Her request is very simple, but Penny is giving her the run-around!

PENNY: Wait . . . a minute.

KOKO: Good.

KOKO: Bad hear (left hand on lt. ear) hear.(left hand on rt. ear) Hurry. (Koko reaches for Penny’s hand.)

Bad Hear= “You aren’t catching my drift!” See how much more sense this chat makes, knowing what we do?

AOL: Is Koko aware that she’s chatting with thousands of people now?

PENNY: I just explained it to her so she has some idea.

KOKO: Hear. (Koko reaches for Penny’s treat pocket.)

PENNY: You want to hear? . . . OK. Koko is ready.
Get it? “Hear”, or “Good Hear” means to undersand. Koko is trying to get Penny to hear, and Penny, desperate to get Koko off the subject, intentionally mistranslates it as “oh Koko says she’s ready to hear questions”. It’s like an Abbott and Costello routine!

AOL: Welcome, Dr. Patterson and Koko, we’re so happy you’re here!

PENNY: They said ‘Welcome.’ . . . That was me actually. I’m translating for her. . . . I gave Koko an explanation of what we’re doing and she said ‘Good hear.’

Koko pulls Penny close and kisses her cheek.

KOKO: Pink this. (Grasping Penny’s shirt sleeve. Koko is now changing gears in her quest to see the nipple, she is trying the soft touch)

PENNY: She’s just signed ‘pink’ and she’s looking . . .

KOKO: Pink this pink. (Indicating Penny’s shirt sleeve.)

“Indicating the shirt sleeve?” Try, “tugging on the shirt”.

PENNY: . . . at my shirt. We have had earlier discussions about color today.

Koko pulls Penny’s phone hand closer.

PENNY: OK. She wants to listen. Do you have a question?

KOKO: Listen.

PENNY: She said ‘listen.’. . .

AOL: MInyKitty asks Koko are you going to have a baby in the future?

PENNY: OK, is that for Koko? Koko are you going to have a baby in the future?

KOKO: Koko-love eat … sip.
Koko is obviously ignoring the AOL questions, why should she listen when Penny isn’t listening to her? Koko really wants to get her point across, so she’s still trying her best to communicate her desire for a little nipple check. Sorry, AOL person.

AOL: Me too!

PENNY: What about a baby? You going to have baby? She’s just thinking…her hands are together…

KOKO: Unattention.

PENNY: Oh poor sweetheart. She said ‘unattention.’ She covered her face with her hands..which means it’s not happening, basically, or it hasn’t happened yet. . . I don’t see it.

AOL: That’s sad!
It IS sad! Koko can’t understand why Penny isn’t paying attention to her request for a nip peck!

PENNY: It is responding to the question. In other words, she hasn’t had one yet, and she doesn’t see a future here. The way the situation is actually with Koko & Ndume, she has 2 males to 1 female which is the reverse of what she needs. I think that is why she said that, because in our current situation, it isn’t possible for her to have a baby. She needs several females and one male to have a family.

Who knows, maybe Penny herself is actually oblivious that Koko is still completely intent on getting her to pay attention.

.

AOL: Do you see that situation changing when you get the Gorilla preserve on Maui?

PENNY: Yes, we do.

KOKO: Listen.

PENNY: Koko just signed ‘listen’ and she wants to hear the phone so I’m going to hold it to her for a second. Did you hear them? (to Koko.)

KOKO: Huff.*

PENNY: She just made a vocalization. Did you hear that? That was her talking on the phone.

It was her in a huff! From here on in, you see Koko become less and less cooperative. I think she’s really getting teed off at this thing.

AOL: Hi Koko! I can hear her! She breathed at me! This is so cool!

PENNY: I’m working to create a family here in Woodside which would mean that we would need to add an additional female at a minimum. So I’ve been working with the zoo community to do that. And in Hawaii, we’ll have much more space which means we will be in a much better situation to welcome additional gorillas to our family and then she’s almost assured to have a family of her own.

KOKO: Purr.*

Here, she has calmed down momentarily. She gets frustrated again just a few lines ahead. I think Koko is changing tactics one last time. She now believes that Penny does understand her request, and is willfully not aquiesing.

AOL: So she really is looking forward to this!

PENNY: That’s a happy sound when I said ‘a family of her own’…Yes, she seems to be responding to my English.

AOL: Question: EFRN asks: Would Koko like to have a kitten, a dog, or gorilla as another friend?

PENNY: OK, let’s ask her that. Koko like to have a kitten, a dog, or gorilla as another friend? Which?… Koko, would you like to have a kitty, dog, gorilla?

KOKO: Dog.

PENNY: She actually has two dog friends right now, one kitty and two gorillas.

AOL: SBM87: ask What are the names of your kittens? (and dogs?)

KOKO: Candy give-me.

There, Koko says, I answered a question, give me my reward.

.PENNY: OK.

Penny gives treat.

No! Not that kind of reward! The nipple! the thing we’ve been talking about the whole time for crying out loud!

KOKO: See give-me. (Indicating the phone?)

PENNY: What’s the name of your kitty ? Kitty’s name and dog’s name?

K picks up the foot of the large stuffed gorilla doll she is sitting on.

KOKO: Foot… (Many times, first on the doll’s foot then on her own foot.)… Foot. (Twice on the doll’s foot.)
This one is confusing, because ‘foot’ is Koko’s word for ‘male’. Perhaps she is simply being obstinate, perhaps something else.

PENNY: ‘Foot’ isn’t the name of your kitty.

KOKO: Hear lip.
Yeah, well listen to me for a second and I won’t be so uncooperative!

PENNY: She wants to hear the lady on the phone. Maybe you can ask her that question.

Penny puts the phone to K’s ear.

AOL: Koko, what’s the name of your cat?

KOKO: Huff* no. (Headshake.)
Not the phone, the nipple! GOD what is your problem, are you a moron?

PENNY: She just gave some vocalizations there… you probably heard soft huffing.

AOL: I heard that soft puffing.

PENNY: Now shaking her head ‘no’. Are you not going to answer that question?

K pulls PP’s head close & kisses her cheek.
Im sorry i got mad. Please? Just a peek? At the nipple?

AOL: Question: Do you like to chat with other people?

PENNY: Koko, do you like to talk to people?

KOKO: Fine nipple.

PENNY: Yes, that was her answer. ‘Nipple’ rhymes with ‘people,’ OK? She doesn’t sign people per se, so she may be trying to do a ‘sounds like…’ but she indicated it was ‘fine.’

K climbs up on large box & PP asks her to turn around.

KOKO: Give-me. (For more treats.)
You want me to participate? Give me nipple!

AOL: BSikor439 wants to know, Koko, Which of your paintings do you like most? Is she still painting?

PENNY: Uh-huh. OK. Gosh, you know, she hasn’t seen her paintings for awhile. She is (still painting.)

K starts getting down from box and it comes away from the sink.
|Ok that’s it, I’m toppling the furniture.

AOL: Tell us what she’s doing right now!

PENNY: She’s re-arranging the furniture in her room, basically. Let me move some of these boxes back. There’s a lot of stuff here. Let me ask her if she LIKES to paint…one second..She’s taking a toilet break.

She’s taking a toilet break.

More shenannigans on page 2