Happy 10th Birthday, Norman!
That's what we would be saying if, on this day exactly ten years ago, my friend Earl had fathered a child instead of a blog.
First of all, my deepest congratulations and respect to Earl for keeping his weblog diary going for ten whole years! It's the only thing on the Internet that I will read every day. And there's something amazing right there, as Earl posts every single day without fail. The very earliest posts are among the Earl-iest, if I can use that term, since it took him a while to discover and refine his online persona. Today, Earl's blog is confident, informative, entertaining, and rewarding: all the things I hope for JSVB.
Second of all, here's Norman. Norman Decker Woods is what I calculate that Earl's ten-year-old boy would look like, had Earl and his wife Sylvia chosen to have offspring instead of a blog. This isn't an actual child, it's just a simulation of what-if, an alternate-universe construct built in Photoshop. As I see it, it's also a rather large and personal dip into the deep end of the Uncanny Valley.
Since Earl's blog is very extensive, there were many childhood pictures of Earl and his family to choose from. I found many elements of the Woods family that I could use to make this picture. Sylvia is well-represented with photos as well, but they are all of her as an adult. I had to guess a little more as to which of her features would go onto Norman's face. It seems to me that the Woods men tend to pass on their eyes, forehead, ears and jawline to their male heirs, as well as a tendency for red hair. I assume that Sylvia's skin tone, nose, cheekbones, mouth, and chin would fill out the rest of the face.
I chose the names "Norman Decker" because of their weight as Star Trek references, and I could not resist putting the little guy in a Starfleet uniform. I figure alternate-universe Earl would have wanted that, over-riding the good sense of alternate-universe Sylvia. Otherwise, I suspect that the boy would have been named using the traditions of Sylvia's and Earl's respective families. I think Norman himself would prefer the Pavel Chekov hairstyle.
The name Norman has special meaning for me and my wife, as well. Like Earl and Sylvia, we chose not to have children. Unlike Earl and Sylvia, we also decided to create our own simulated child as an experiment in what-if. I feel there must be a difference in choosing to simulate your own child versus being surprised out of the blue with such a simulation, and so if this effort creates too much shock for Sylvia and Earl, I profoundly apologize for that.
Even more than ten years ago, my wife and I decided to simulate our own hypothetical kid. We used the popular "Sims" videogame as our test program. In "The Sims", you can create the basic physical attributes of your character as well as some intrinsic psychological traits such as intelligence, neatness, bravery, and affinity for grilled-cheese sandwiches. I took a few hours to model myself and my wife within the game as accurately as the program would allow, and then after the real-world Mr. & Mrs. fortified themselves with wine, we ran the sim and allowed the two characters to mate, become pregnant, and have a simulated child.
The result in the game was a little girl with brown hair, a big nose, and the need to wear eyeglasses. She was artistic but not good at it. In fact, she wasn't much good at anything at all. Nor was she bad at anything either, just average competence. "The Sims" game could draw a graph that plotted all of the personality attributes and abilities. Our little girl was at the very top of the bell curve, perfectly average in every way. We named her Norma, on account of her hyper-aggressive normality.
Sure, Norma would be competent and unlikely to fail, she was reasonably healthy and able to be fairly active. On the other hand, she would never fully succeed at anything, would never be recognized for brilliance in any field, and would never attain more than mediocrity.
My wife and I finished off the wine bottle and archived Norma. I think her files live on an Iomega Zip Disk, which is tough since it's been years since I've owed a Zip Drive. There is no easy way to get Norma's files back so I cannot present her on JSVB, at least not now.
If you look at Norman out of the corner of your eye, he almost looks plausible, if not real. Unfortunately, I could not make a high-resolution image because nearly all of my source material, eyes, nose, face, and so on, were low-resolution pictures to begin with. Norman will always have a digital look about him, but maybe that's for the best.
My wife thinks that Norman would grow up to resemble comedian/actor Breckin Meyer. Looking at pictures on the Internet of Mr. Meyer and his young daughter, I feel that she is likely correct within reason. Norman Decker Woods would likely break some hearts, both with his looks and his personality.
From my view, if you aren't having children and you are creating fantasies of them, frankly that's off-beat. There are reasons in the world why we have the people we love, and reasons why we don't have the ones we ourselves create out of thin air. Computer technology is becoming more adept at compositing fictional people we can believe to be real. Soon enough biotechnology may fill the gap, the uncanny valley between artificial construct and artificial human being. For now, we just have make-believe. When we weigh that against the measure of the real world, it's more than enough, I say.
Happy 10th Birthday to "My Name Is Earl (J. Woods)", the blog that keeps inspiring me.