Alternate Rudolphs
5 min read

Alternate Rudolphs

Alternate Rudolphs
Neural net box in santa hat sings: Caw caw caw oh, caw caw caw oh, Caw holly, Caw plum this Christmas

I’ve been experimenting with generating Christmas carols using machine learning algorithms of various sizes. The smallest AIs, trained from scratch on a set of carols, tended to get confused about what exactly the carols are celebrating. GPT-2, larger and with some internet pretraining… still got confused. Its carol about Rudolph “the All-Gracious King of All the Earth” was unsettling enough before Joe Zieja’s dramatic reading and The Forever Now’s eerily calm arrangement.

Now in 2020 we have GPT-3, trained on so much of the internet that my challenge is now to stop it from simply repeating carols that it has memorized. Give it just three example carols and it will respond with another from the internet, which is technically exactly what it was rewarded for during training. To get it to generate new carols, I discovered I could give it three existing carols (I chose Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (“bruise in us the serpent’s head”), All My Heart This Night Rejoices (“sin away and for aye full atonement maketh”), and Run Run Rudolph (“and away went Rudolph a whizzing like a merry-go-round”)), plus just the title of a nonexistent carol. It would generate, for example:

Mild is Rudolph

Mild is Rudolph's image in the snow
He has a shiny nose and knows how to cozy-up-nose
He has a little red nose and tiny little hooves
He persuaded a mischievous infant to go straight to sleep

Goodness, how downy is Rudolph's hide
He has, oh his forehead, so plump and smooth and divine
He has a little black snout and tiny little hooves
Benevolence makes foolish young children go straight to sleep

Shy is Rudolph's figure when he's near
He has a twinkle, oh in his eye, and he's kind of lean
He has a bright shiny nose, and tiny little hooves
He can make any child go straight to sleep

The AI has seen the existing Rudolph lore many times, however, so it would tend to drift back into singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Sometimes it would only drift back partway.

The Carol of the Rudolphs

Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
He kept it polished nice and clean with a white piece of soap.
All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and joke,
and call him names like ugly, Zonker, Dunderhead.
But their laughter stopped
when they saw him get
him speed on down the runway.

For he could change the course
of the wind
with his nose, and people called him
Very Bright.

Rudolf, the darting reindeer
knew the trail through the woods,
even in the fog he could spot his mark.
Eeee-merry, eeee-merry Christmas,
Yes, that is his song.

He could steer a craftsman's plane,
Could lead a camel home out of a trance.
His tender little bat-like ears
could hear a whisper, from ten miles away.

He could roar like a lion.
He could fly, gliding with ease.
His little rusty wheel, he would use
to help create the most wonderful wheel of cheese.

Yes, Rudolf, the cherry nosed reindeer,
could do all of these things and more,
But the only thing his nose could
not do was smell. Delectable Waffles
Who knows what's in Rudolph's nose?
Only Rudolph knows –
And Rudolph won't tell!
Reindeer with a halo sings: Eeee-merry, eeee-merry Christmas

The “sing the praises of Rudolph” directive seems to come through very well, especially if I give it an appropriate title.

All Hail to Rudolph

All hail to Rudolph
The legend of Christmas
The most famous reindeer of all

All hail to Rudolph
Happy all the year
From everyone we see

Heroes come and heroes go
But Rudolph stays forevermore
Oh boys and girls of every age
Can't you hear the sleigh bells ringing?

Oh look! There's Santa and Parson Brown
Defying the laws of time and space
Now prepare yourself and your family my boy
Prepare to get your Christmas fix

Now Rudolph goes smashing through the roof
Just like a power lift with a candy-cane moustache
And the deer's nose is dead-on, deadly accurate
Pow! Now it's Rudolph versus Mars

All hail this joyful night
All hail the night folks sing
All hail to Rudolph
The legend of Christmas
The most famous reindeer of all
O Come Rudolph, Come

O Come Rudolph, Come Ye Faithful
Oh come, come holly, clad in white, Oh come ye faithful.
Oh come aloud! Oh come and join our choir,
Oh make a joyful noise till earth and heaven ring.

Caw caw caw oh, caw caw caw oh, Caw holly, Caw plum this Christmas.
Oh, caw caw caw, oh caw oh, caw oh oh oh, oh.

Even if I give it a title like “Rudolph is the Worst” it knows that the story of Rudolph ends with redemption. (That is, unless it goes into truly awful territory, there being a lot of ways of being the Worst in its internet training data.)

Rudolph is The Worst Reindeer

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
Was a stubborn old reindeer.
Never would you find him
Participating in Christmas.
Never entered his head,
Of decorating a sleigh.

Then along came Bumbleboo
One foggy Christmas Eve,
And he said, "Rudolph with your nose so bright,
Won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"

Then all the other reindeer,
Gathered round to admiere him,
And they nodded their heads,
As they shouted out in cheer,
"Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
You'll go down in history."

Other times it seemed to be going for counting songs and, like GPT-2, is weird when it counts things. Here my title prompt was “Rudolph of”.

Rudolph of Orange (Medley)

There are 15 different colors,
That you see within the shirt.
There is a booklet,
Which identifies each one.

You’re looking at a number one,
While the kids are knocking on your door.
Then we started laughing,
When we realized that Rudolph was near!

Courtesy of the index theory,
There are only twenty eight!
July is the eighth,
And that’s when Christmas is!

REFRAIN:

And 1 wrapped a nose
(Time now for teasing and for fun)
2 pictures, horns a cap,
3 hooves and legs and feet,
4 antlers sweeming!
5 eyes,
6 nostrils,
7 buttons, zipper,
8 bolts and bumpers,
9 flashing lights on his cap,
10 red nose,
11 furry chin,
12 rubsy ears,
13 plastic eyes,
14 laughing so joyously.
15 steps and a twisted reindeer train!
16 frosted incislotes,
17 dreamily red bow,
18 nose light,
19 velco on reins,
20 candy apple red.

Two reindeer he’ll need to pull him through!
It’ll be commercial Christmas,
For years to come,
When Rudolph gets his new reindeer team.

For a few more carols (including “O Little Rudolph” which involves ghosts and ghouls somehow), become an AI Weirdness supporter!

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