A Commodore 64 at Airport Security

Friday 25 January 2013, 7:28 pm   //  

Boston: No reaction.

Seattle: “No, for real?” “Yes, for real.” “That was my first computer!” “How old is that thing?” “It’s from 1982.” “Hey, that used to be state of the art! But now -” [TSA agent takes phone out of pocket, points to it.] “This has got more processing power!”

Los Angeles: “Sir, please come with me.” [TSA agent swabs power supply for explosives.] “Can you tell me what this is for?” “It’s a computer.” [Older TSA agent arrives.] “Hey! A Commodore 64! That’s a classic!”

Just Posted, Computational, Conceptual

Friday 18 January 2013, 8:54 pm   //////  

Now online: “The First M Numbers Classified in Alphabetical Order.”

This was my New Year’s poem for 2013. It is based on Claude Closky’s 1989 “Les 1000 premiers nombres classés par ordre alphabétique” [The First 1000 Numbers Classified in Alphabetical Order], which he laser printed and which begins this way:

From Closky's The First 1000 Numbers Classified in Alphabetical Order

A full image of the first page spread (which is the source for the image above), and more context for this work, is available on this page.

The printed copies of my “The First M…” were dot-matrix printed on two connected sheets of fanfold paper. In the printout, as online, I included the program as well as the output.

Chercher le Text Call for Artistic Works

Tuesday 15 January 2013, 6:22 pm   ///////  

Here is the call for artistic proposals for the ELO 2013 “Chercher le Text” in Paris!

The “chercher le texte” event deals with literary issues and text-oriented multimedia practices on digital devices: digital books, texts generated or animated through programming, fiction hypertexts, “manipulable”, playable works, or on the contrary works whose very program embraces literariness. The considered devices range from computers to mobile devices, including social networks. They can be used in various contexts: installations, performances, personal devices designed for digital reading. These contexts range from solo reading to collaborative or participative reading.

This event will represent an opportunity to showcase young artists and bring together two worlds, which otherwise barely come into contact with one another: that of the experimental digital literature forms deriving from the second half of the 20th century avant-garde movements and that of the digital writings, as used by authors coming from the book world and who have taken over the digital technologies, namely blogs and e-books. In this context, the Musique et Informatique de Marseille (MIM) laboratory associates with team Écritures Numériques from Paris 8 Paragraphe laboratory, the digital literature European network Digital Digital Digital Littérature (DDDL), the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO), the Bibliothèque Publique d’Information (BPI), the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF), the Cube, the Labex Art-H2H coordinated by Paris 8 and the École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (EnsAD) to organize the following events:

  • An online virtual gallery on the DDDL network website.
  • Four events consisting of performances and projections of works, from September 23 to 26, 2013, in the small room of the Centre Pompidou, the big auditorium of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the Cube amphitheater.
  • A six-week exhibition on “digital literatures from the past and future” in the BNF lab room of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, which will be launched on September 24, 2013. This exhibition will feature the virtual gallery and a selection of digital literary works with emphasis on the works designed for touch-pads and e-readers.

Artists, especially young ones, are invited to propose one or several work(s). Please send your proposals to work@chercherletexte.org before February 18.

This is a summary of the call – see www.chercherletexte.org for full details.

The Tale of the MLA E-Lit Exhibit, Reading

Monday 14 January 2013, 12:54 am   ///////  

Kathi Inman Berens storified some nice media elements relating to the 2013 electronic literature exhibit and reading at the MLA Convention.

Canonical Hypertext, IF, and Digital Narrative

Thursday 10 January 2013, 8:13 pm   /////  

What is it that those who have it hate it and oppose it, but those who lack it desperately want it and imagine it?

A canon.

Deb Chachra called my attention to Infovore’s new canonical list of “hypertext literature / interactive fiction / digital narrative.”

I certainly don’t object to the exercise of blog-based canon development. Back in 2004 I presented a canon-like list of Atari VCS games. Thinking up the list and discussing it online were very useful to me as I started formulating the book I’d later write with Ian Bogost, Racing the Beam. Some of the discussion was “what about this game, why not that game?,” as one commenter noted, but really not much of it – more often we ended up discussing why the focus on the Atari VCS, or what qualities make a game worth studying, or how gameplay and graphics/sound interact, etc.

So, instead of offering any substitute items for the list provided, I’ll just try to mention an aspect of “canon” that Infovore has already picked up on. The best idea in developing such lists seems to be not to pick the greatest hits or the first at doing something or the most widely cited, but rather to choose those productions that are interesting to compare to others.

A canon is a standard, as the OED offers: “c. A standard of judgement or authority; a test, criterion, means of discrimination.” So, it would make sense to me to select works that are, for example, the best at political discourse, or engagement with language, or formal innovation, or critique and transformation of existing work – or whatever aspects of interactive literature one values. What would you hold up as an example of avant-garde writing practices meeting interactivity, for instance, after 1961? What’s the standard for work that engages with contemporary political issues?

New 10 PRINT Story from the MIT Libraries

Thursday 10 January 2013, 11:43 am   /////  

The MIT Libraries have posted a story on 10 PRINT that includes discussion of the book from Patsy Baudoin and me, describes how the project came amount, and gives the latest information on how royalties are being donated. The story was written by Katharine Dunn.

Challenge: 10 PRINT Screensavers

Wednesday 9 January 2013, 6:56 pm   ///  

All right, anyone who is listening.

Someone has written requesting a 10 PRINT screensaver.

I can’t find one lying around the Web – is anyone up for creating one for Windows, Mac, and/or GNU/Linux (xscreensaver)?

It’s be great to make the code available so that people could modify it as they could modify the original 10 PRINT program.

The person seeking this screensaver has suggested, cleverly, that upon exiting the screensaver, the message “BREAK IN 10 / READY.” be shown.

10 PRINT Marches on

Monday 7 January 2013, 11:34 pm   //////  

The news service of my school at MIT, the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, has an article about 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10.

Also, there has been some furious and pretty amazing program creation and compaction going on in DOS/x86 land. It all seems to have started when demoscener Trixter (a.k.a. Jim Leonard) decided to port 10 PRINT to x86 assembly. His first, straightforward version was 42 bytes long, but he was quickly able to chop it down by replacing the random number generator with a single instruction: 25 bytes. Getting ready of some of the nice and tidy but strictly unnecessary startup and shutdown code brought the program down to 15 bytes. Then, thanks to the clever use of an opcode that I’d never heard of before which is meant for string comparison and is called SCAS, he was able to trim the code to 13 bytes — the shortest he thought it could ever be.

Of course, someone (Peter Ferrie) found a way to get rid of another byte, so the program sat at 12 bytes long.

herm1t came along to provide an optimization that assumed DOS was loaded, reducing the program to 11 bytes.

And, most recently, Peter Ferrie returned to lop off another byte, showing that the program (on Intel CPUs, at least) need only be 10 bytes long.

Trixter provides the full story (so far!) on his blog, Oldskooler Ramblings.

My joke about this is that the shortest possible 10-PRINT-like program will be a single jmp instruction to a run of 8 or 9 bytes that happen to already be in memory. However, this is probably only a joke: the number of possible 8-byte combinations of bits are 256^8 = 18446744073709551616, so it really isn’t very likely, even for an extremely short program of this sort, that it will just happen to be lying around somewhere in memory initially.

Speaking of the demoscene, I mentioned in my last post that viznut has checked out the book. He’s also written a very nice VIC-20 version of the program that uses two of the tiles from the Black Path Game instead of the original diagonal lines:

0 FORI=7168TO7183:READA:POKEI,A:NEXT:POKE36869,255
1 PRINTCHR$(64.5+RND(.));:GOTO1
2 DATA16,16,32,192,3,4,8,8,8,8,4,3,192,32,16,16

The result:

VIC-20 Black Path Game version of 10 PRINT

Finally, we had a great time exhibiting the 10 PRINT program and the 10 PRINT book at the 2013 MLA’s electronic literature exhibit and presenting the program and modifications of it at the MLA offsite electronic literature reading. Thanks to Dene Grigar and Kathi Inman Berens for curating the exhibit and the reading. And, thanks to Patsy Baudoin, Mark C. Marino, and Mark Sample for joining me for that presentation and for offering commentary (play-by-play and color) as I coded on the Commodore 64.

Code, Poetry Intersect in a Corner

Monday 7 January 2013, 10:42 pm   //////  

In this episode of Poetry Corner with Guido, Guido the python shares a Gertrude Stein poem titled Sacred Emily.

Poetry Corner with Guido

Jared Nielsen, thanks to his schooling in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, his ability as a programmer, and his recent creation of a puppet, has developed an amazing conflation of Gertrude Stein, the Python programming language, and the Wonder Showzen episode “Patience.”

Nielsen has been recreating famous American poems in Python or so that they are about Python, as in “The Red Wheelbarrow” and “Song of Myself.”

His project parallels that of Páll Thayer along two dimensions: Thayer, in his series Microcodes, presents short programs in Perl (not Python) that often recreate famous artworks (not poems), for instance Vito Acconci’s Seedbed and Jasper Johns’s Flag.

We must admit, however, that Thayer does not employ a puppet named after Larry Wall.

Radical Books of 2012 (7/7)

Monday 7 January 2013, 1:30 pm   //////  
Book from the Ground

Keyhole Factory
William Gillespie

Soft Skull Press · 368 pages

William, congratulations to you – and Soft Skull Press – on the new, big publication of Keyhole Factory, which some might think is your first novel. Actually, your intensity of writing would humiliate Roberto Bolaño. You have at least eight books (some pseudonymous, some collaborative) available via your press Spineless Books, which publishes other people’s work as well. You share a quality with George Perec in that you are a graphophile, and you share another quality with him in that you are an incredible writer, imaginative on all levels, as you demonstrate in Keyhole Factory. It’s great that Jeff Clark designed the cover. I think I see why he used the picture of the monkeys. They’re voyeuristic subjects; we’re watching them as if through a keyhole. That one in the middle looks back, making us nervous. If they were people they’d be eating lunch or making love or watching TV or something, and we’d fixate on that. But they’re monkeys, so we just notice that one of them is watching us. You think?

Radical Books of 2012 (6/7)

Sunday 6 January 2013, 4:50 pm   /////  
Book from the Ground

· → → ·
Book from the Ground
Xu Bing

120 pages

The dot of unconsciousness opens – and then winks out again. The book, one point in a project that Xu Bing has undertaken since 2003, is written entirely as a series of symbols, narrating a daily odyssey (or perhaps a Ulysses) that is read left-to-right and from top to bottom but almost entirely without the use of words or letters – they only appear as part of logos and the like. Symbols derived from Neurath’s Isotype system, which led to today’s airport signs, are used alongside emoticons and computer icons to describe the workplace experiences, fraternal beverage consumption, dating, and insomniac video game play of a rather harried, forgetful, busy, and not particularly productive generic man who lives in a city located on [globe icon]. By borrwing a bit from comic conventions within this typographical framework, not only actions but also thoughts and the topics of discussions are depcited (to me, at least) legibly.

Radical Books of 2012 (5/7)

Saturday 5 January 2013, 3:15 pm   //////  
Cutting Time with a Knife

Cutting Time with a Knife
Michael Leong

Black Square Editions · 124 pages

When randomness is employed in poetics and succeeds, it is because of how it plays within regularity of different sorts. This book sutures the two very well. Concrete elemental sqaures sit at the top of each page, containing irregularly arranged phrases of regular syntax (“The [buttock] of the poet is the [geodesic dome] of [Rhodium].”) The text and sometimes symbols underneath read like a Google Books snippet view. Leong constructed this book “by etherizing T.S. Eliot’s classic essay,” “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” upon the periodic table. The cyborg text, animated with galvanic force, is made from cut-ups of this essay and the Wikipedia articles for the 118 elements. The periodic table has offered a rich lattice for poetic production, digital and otherwise; here, the unique twist was provided by the amalgamation of this tabular framework with an (ostensibly random) avant-garde writing technique, a classic essay on how individuality relates to commonality and a collaboratively-authored encyclopedia.

Radical Books of 2012 (4/7)

Friday 4 January 2013, 1:30 pm   //////  
I'll Drown My Book

I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women
Edited by Caroline Bergvall, Laynie Browne, Teresa Carmody, and Vanessa Place

Les Figues · 455 pages

Community Reviews (showing 1-30 of 96) filter | sort: default (?) | rating details

Nov 19, 2012 Mark Noack rated it ***** review of another edition
a fantastic book. as an overview/introduction to current post-modern writing, the most interesting anthology i have read to date. while some of these writers might not have made the “cut” for the Goldsmith/Dworkin anthology, possibly due in part to their work being too “baroque” (in Vanessa Place’s terms); this is my preference. while i find conceptual/experimental writing interesting, much of what has been done suffers the danger of becoming automatic/generated/stenography. while the dadaist ar…more
like · see review

Oct 17, 2012 Sigrun Hodne marked it as to-read
A perfect gift from dear a friend! Looking forward to diving into it!
like · see review

Oct 26, 2012 Erin Lyndal added it
This wasn’t my cup of tea, so I didn’t finish. Bummer because I was really psyched about it.
like · see review

Dec 08, 2012 Janey Smith added it
My review of I’ll Drown My Book

Flores on Sea and Spar Between

Friday 4 January 2013, 10:04 am   //////  

Leonardo Flores has posted a nice discussion of Sea and Spar Between (by Nick Montfort and Stephanie Strickland) on his blog, I ♥ E-Poetry.

Radical Books of 2012 (3/7)

Thursday 3 January 2013, 1:30 pm   ///////  
Rise of the Videogame Zinesters

Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Drop-outs, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form
Anna Anthropy

Seven Stories Press · 208 pages

The discussion of mainstream gaming in this book, while it isn’t exactly generous, covers both what is produced and the labor issues of how it is produced. The book’s DIY instructions point readers to tools and sketch the simplest sorts of development processes. (Such pointers may be what a book does best, as there is plenty of relevant information online.) What makes this book valuable and radical (other than the conceptual writing exercise cataloging game topics on pp. 137-139) is the amazing world it presupposes in which Halo and Bioshock can go unmentioned while there are pages about Anthropy’s Gay Sniper. Unofficial games made by individuals are shown to be part of culture and the politial and social discourse. Beyond newsgame and artgame, although not detached from some of their tactics, are many short experiments, games about “putting down your dog” that speak to everyday experience. Games that say what you want them to say and not games that say what someone else wants you to say.

Radical Books of 2012 (2/7)

Wednesday 2 January 2013, 1:30 pm   ////////  
How It Is in Common Tongues

How It Is in Common Tongues
Cited from the Commons of digitally inscribed writing by John Cayley & Daniel C. Howe

NLLF [Natural Language Liberation Front] · 296 pages

Some seek diamonds in the rough on the Web; others mine from this lode of language mud and darkness. This profound document was fashioned with snippets of pages, with the search engine, and with the novel first publised as Comment c’est – using all of them quite perversely. Samuel Beckett’s 1964 How It Is describes a person moving and not moving through the mud, alone, not alone, and then once more alone. Cayley and Howe, bending the service known as Google to their literary purposes, have located every phrase of the novel on Web pages where no reference to Beckett is made. For instance, the first words, “how it was I quote,” are found in a New York Times excerpt from Elie Wiesel’s And The Sea is Never Full. The phrase is provided, the URL is given in a footnote … and the same is done for every other phrase in How It Is. The result is an edition of Beckett’s book made of text that was literally found on the Web. The only thing funnier will be the Beckett Estate’s response.

10 PRINT “HAPPY NEW YEAR”

Wednesday 2 January 2013, 12:00 am   ///////  

Happy new year!

A few updates related to our book 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10

Booksellers had some problems keeping the book in stock in recent weeks. The MIT Press is addressing this by printing more copies.

We learned in November, and were recently reminded by Finnish scener and programmer of one-liners viznut, that there is a pre-Commodore 64 version of the program. It’s in a fairly obvious place, too: The VIC-20 User’s Manual, on page 102. The program is identical to the first variant in our book (Variant 1982) except that the line numbers are 10, 20, and 30 instead of 10, 20, and 40. This wasn’t a big surprise to us, as we knew since early in the process of writing the book that the program worked not only on the Commodore 64 but also on the VIC-20 and the PET. It would have been nice to have documented this variant in the book, of course.

mjcohenw on Hacker News states that the program originated even earlier:

I discovered this on my Commodore PET probably about 1980 and presented it at a users’ group meeting (in the Los Angeles area). I have no way to prove this right now, but I swear that this is true.

So, there’s a testament to the program being written and shared on the PET even earlier. That it comes from human memory, and not from some print source, should be no surprise to readers of 10 PRINT.

Finally, I’ll note that 10 PRINT appears as one of the “creation stations” at the 2013 Modern Langauge Association Convention. The exhibit it’s in, Avenues of Access: An Exhibit & Online Archive of New ‘Born Digital’ Literature, will be in room 312 in the Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center. Exhibit times are:

Thursday, 3 January, 12 Noon to 7:00 p.m.
Friday, 4 January, 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, 5 January, 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

The exhibit closes on Saturday afternoon and will not be open on Sunday.

There will be a reading to accompany the exhibit on Friday night, 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., at Emerson College’s Bordy Theatre, 216 Tremont Street. 10 PRINT will be part of that and will be presented by five of the book’s co-authors.

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