Hoc Opus, Hic Labor Est

Friday 19 July 2013, 3:34 pm   //////  

Some of the Internet, Printed Out

The Internent isn’t just the Web; it’s also telnet, Gopher, email … and the Worl. Here are 500 pages of the Worl that I printed out and mailed today to Kenneth Goldsmith’s exhibit, Printing Out the Internet.

The Worl is accessible to anyone who has a recent Web browser and has installed The Deletionist.

Media Archaeology Lab’s New Media

Tuesday 16 July 2013, 4:53 pm   /////  

Lori Emerson has been running an excellent facility at the University of Colorado at Boulder that is a kindred lab, and an inspiration, to my Trope Tank here at MIT.

This is the Media Archaeology Lab, which has recently launched a new site (with blog) and has also begun (as a lab) to tweet.

The Colorado lab, like the Trope Tank, offers working systems from decades past to support research, teaching, and artistic/literary work. The MAL is ahead of us in several ways, for instance by providing extensive information about its holdings in the form of an inventory. They even have a NeXT cube, like we do – although I think the retail price estimate on that page is missing a digit. The Trope Tank only has such information on placards placed on the hardware itself, as discussed in our technical report on the setup of the lab, but perhaps we’ll look to better publish what we’ve gathered here in months to come. I hope the MAL’s progress continues and that I’ll get to visit before too long.

Doug Engelbart, 88, Inventor of …

Tuesday 9 July 2013, 1:55 pm   /////  

… the mouse; the chording keyboard for use with the mouse; the demo; videoconferencing; real-time online collaboration and collaborative editing; the first practical, working hypertext system, which was also a hypermedia system; word processing; dynamic file linking; version control; computer augmentation of human intelligence; and the bootstrapping of human intellectual processes.

Engelbart died on July 2. (Los Angeles Times obituary.)

An Occasional Digital Poem

Wednesday 19 June 2013, 8:59 am   ///  

After releasing The Deletionist, a project that three collaborators started two years ago, I thought it would be nice to do something smaller-scale – an occasional poem (in HTML and JavaScript) that took me 30 minutes to write during a conference/festival session this morning, and referring to some of the discussion in it: “I Heart E-Poetry.” It’s meant to be read alound, so I suggest at least imagining doing so.

The Deletionist

Tuesday 18 June 2013, 9:41 pm   //////  

The Deletionist I’m pleased to announce the release of a project that I’ve been working on with Amaranth Borsuk and Jesper Juul for the past two years: The Deletionist. This is a bookmarklet (easily added to the bookmark bar in one’s browser) that automatically creates erasure poetry from any page on the World Wide Web, revealing an alterate mesh of texts called the Worl. Amaranth and I presented The Deletionist for the first time today at E-Poetry in London, at Kingston University.

Is that a Computer in Your Browser?

Wednesday 5 June 2013, 9:56 am   //////  

Two online emulator initiatives I found out about at the Library of Congress recently, at the Preserving.exe Summit:

The Olive Executable Archive, which originated at CMU and which is not open to the public yet, provides Linux VMs running emulators via one’s browser. When I saw it demonstrated, I was told it worked only on Linux, but that the team planned to have it working on other platforms soon.

JavaScript MESS, a port of the famous multi-emulator to allow it to run in a browser window. It’s not complete, but some of it is working and the code’s on GitHub. This one is an initiative of Jason Scott’s, with a great deal of work contributed by others.

&NOW AWARDS 2

Monday 20 May 2013, 2:00 pm   /////  

Although the &NOW AWARDS 2: The Best Innovative Writing may appear at first to be an HTML character entity reference, it’s actually a new book. Arranged back-to-back like Chow Yun-Fat and Danny Lee in The Killer, it offers copious amounts (400 pages) of recent provocative writing in various genres. It’s published by Lake Forest College Press.

I’m delighted to have my work in the good company of that by many excellent writers, including J.R. Carpenter, Craig Dworkin, and Michael Leong. My contribution to the volume is just a page each of output from the Latin and Cyrillic versions of “Letterformed Terrain,” from Concrete Perl.

Trope Tank Annual Report 2012-2013

Trope Tank home computers

I direct a lab at MIT called The Trope Tank. This is a lab for research, teaching, and creative production, located in building 14 (where the Hayden Library is also housed), in room 14N-233. Its mission is to develop new poetic practices and new understandings of digital media by focusing on the material, formal, and historical aspects of computation and language.

Trope Tank Atari VCS

The Trope Tank is a physical facility with unusual material computing resources from the past few decades – as well as places for researchers to sit and work with their more modern computers. The facility and materials provide for visits from classes, discussions with visiting researchers, and support for creative and research projects. The lab space continues to house the monthly meetings of the People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction, the Boston Area’s local IF group. Trope Tank equipment has supported talks this year at the Boston Cyberarts Gallery, Microsoft Research in Redmond, UCLA, the University of Maine, and other venues.

This academic year, two Trope Tank affiliates are becoming faculty members:

  • Clara Fernández-Vara, who took part in the Tools for the Telling project back in 2007-2008 and has been a visiting scholar at the Trope Tank this year, is joining the faculty of NYU’s Game Center at the end of summer as an associate arts professor.

  • Amaranth Borsuk, who was guest organizer of the Purple Blurb series in 2011-2012 and is a current collaborator on The Deletionist, is joining the faculty of The University of Washington, Bothell as an assistant professor. She has been a senior lecturer there.

The Trope Tank’s series of technical reports, called the “Trope Report” series, now features five items and is archived in MIT’s DSpace.

There have been two major research projects (both with artistic aspects) and one creative, poetic project this past year:

  • The book 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 was published last year by the MIT Press (and is also available for free download as a PDF). Various subsets of the ten authors have been doing presentations related to the book in many different contents.

  • The story generation project Slant was initiated and the first paper was accepted at ICCC 2013. It will be presented there, in Sydney, next month. The project involves integrating or developing new work based on decades of research by Nick Montfort, Rafael Pérez y Pérez, and Fox Harrell; those three and Andrew Campana have collaborated to initiate the project.

  • The Deletionist is a current poetic project by Amaranth Borsuk, Jesper Juul, and Nick Montfort which will premiere at E-Poetry next month at Kingston University, London.

The Trope Tank will continue to support research, creative work, and teaching this summer and beyond. This is a laboratory to allow people to work with material computing systems; while it is not an archive, museum, or library, and does not offer all that such institutions do, it does provide for hands-on access to the history of creative computing. If you are interested in using the systems and materials in the Trope Tank, please contact Nick.

House of Leaves of Grass

Monday 13 May 2013, 11:32 pm   //////  

What miracle is this? This giant tree.
It stands ten thousand feet high
But doesn’t reach the ground. Still it stands.
Its roots must hold the sky.

O

HYMEN! O hymenee!
Why do you tantalize me thus?
O why sting me for a swift moment only?
Why can you not continue? O why do you now cease?
Is it because, if you continued beyond the swift moment, you would soon certainly kill me?

[This “House of Leaves of Grass” is a 24K poetry generator that produces about 100 trillion stanzas. Vast, it contains multitudes; it is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. By Mark Sample, based on “Sea and Spar Between.”]

Should Have Sent a Poet

Monday 13 May 2013, 1:02 am   ///  

Well, this time they did. And a Canadian one at that.

E-Lit in the LoC: A Writeup

Thursday 25 April 2013, 5:23 pm   /////  

There’s a nice article by Illya Szilak, with a discussion/reporting by Melinda White, about the Library of Congress Electronic Literature Showcase. This ran April 3-5; I was down there to read from Ad Verbum and Taroko Gorge and to speak about electronic literature’s history with libraries on the last day of the event and exhibit. And it was an excellent exhibit.

A New Trope Report on E-Lit Readings & Exhibition

Tuesday 23 April 2013, 11:04 pm   ////////  

Thanks to Dr. Clara Fernández-Vara, the Trope Tank has a new technical report, TROPE-13-01: “Electronic Literature for All: Performance in Exhibits and Public Readings.”

This report covers readings of interactive fiction done by the People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction, the Boston area IF group, and the exhibit Games by the Book, discussed previously on here. But there is much more detail in this report about how these attempts managed to share computational works (works that are both games and e-lit) with the public. If you are interested in outreach and presentations of this sort, please take a look.

Consonants and Vowels form Constant Vows

Thursday 28 March 2013, 10:43 pm   //  

Since the news has apparently reached a certain social network (of which I am not a member), I’ll mention on here that with a minimum of fuss and no prior announcement, Flourish Klink and I got married today.

A challenge that arose was writing wedding vows that captured that essential and positive semantics of the traditional statements, but which acknowledged that two people can be, in some ways, opposites, looking at things from different directions while also agreeing to live as partners and to make the same commitment to one another.

Of course, it would have been more challenging, and perhaps more amusing, if I had followed this writing constraint and also added a promise to “obey” to Flourish’s vow. Texts of this sort often are especially pleasing when they change their meaning from first half to second half. But for this particular purpose, the point is really the make the two halves equal in meaning, even if the language itself is less varied as a result.

So:

All through good and bad times, through sickness and health, through all, yes, I will love and honor. Will I? Yes.

Yes, I will honor and love. Will I? Yes. All through health and sickness, through times bad and good, through all.

For Those of You Reading This with Google Reader

Saturday 16 March 2013, 7:19 am   ///  

One classic downfall deserves another: Hitler reacting to the cancellation of Google Reader.

Symmys: Ymmy, Ymmy Symmys

Monday 11 March 2013, 7:16 pm   //  

I send you, dear readers, the press release from Mark Saltveit (palindromist, editor of The Palindromist, and stand-up comic) about yesterday’s award ceremonies, complete with amusing references to me – and I send my congratulations to Aric Maddux and the other winners!

Palindromes Win at SymmyS Awards

Shock as First-time Writer Takes Grand Prize With Serious Message On Pill Addiction; Discovered Via Tweet

PORTLAND, OR – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, March 11, 2013.

Aric Maddux of Indianapolis, Indiana won the Grand Prize for Best Palindrome at the 2012 SymmyS Awards Sunday night with the first palindrome he ever wrote. His winning entry, a rare “word-unit palindrome,” was a dark warning about the dangers of prescription pill addiction:

“You swallow pills for anxious days and nights, and days, anxious for pills, swallow you.”

Maddux, a computer technician and poet, tweeted his debut effort to Professor Nick Montfort of M.I.T., who took fourth place in Will Shortz’ World Palindrome Championship last year. Montfort, recognizing Maddux’ talent, nominated the beginner for the SymmyS – and then lost to him in the finals. Any Ymmy Award (the singular of SymmyS) was awarded in four categories — Short, Long, Poetic, and Word-Unit Palindromes – in addition to the Grand Prize for Best Overall Palindrome.

Maddux spoiled an otherwise dominating night for Australian Martin Clear, who won the Long Palindrome YmmY outright, tied for first in Poetry, and placed second in both Short and Long Palindromes. He wrote fully 10 of the 40 total finalist entries, spread among all four categories. Clear’s short palindrome, which came within half a point of winning that division, dipped into pop culture:

“I made Rihanna hirsute, familiar, frail: I’m a fetus Rihanna hired, am I?”

Popular author Jon Agee (“Go Hang A Salami, I’m a Lasagna Hog”) won first and third place in Short Palindromes, scoring with both “A Slightly Violent To-Do List” and this “Igloo Dialogue:”

“’An igloo costs a lot, Ed!’
‘Amen. One made to last! So cool, Gina!’”

Statistics professor John Connett, of the University of Minnesota, took both 3rd and 2nd place in the Word-Unit category with an unprintable entry and with this epigram:

Fishing for excuses? No need. You need no excuses for fishing.

A word-unit palindrome is one where entire words reverse, instead of individual letters. The motto of the Three Musketeers — “One for all, and all for one!” – is a famous example. “Surprisingly,” Saltveit noted, “the fiercest competition was among the word-unit palindromes. Before this competition, they did not get a lot of attention. Nick Montfort has worked hard to popularize them, and it ended up costing him an Ymmy.”

The Symmys are produced by The Palindromist Magazine, the world’s leading palindrome periodical. Hundreds of entries were assembled from direct submissions to the magazine as well as a worldwide search for new talent. Competitors hailed from Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. “We created these awards to showcase the great new palindromes being written every year,” explained to Palindromist Editor Mark Saltveit. “Many people think all the good palindromes were written years ago. These great new works show how wrong that is. And word-unit palindromes are a good way for a beginner to get involved, as Aric showed tonight.“

The night’s biggest controversy involved the disqualification of an entry. A little-known article in a 1984 issue of Word Ways magazine was found to have a palindrome very similar to a Short Palindrome contender by the little-known Anne Tenna. “Ottoman Empire: We Rip Men!” (a motto) Tenna’s entry was leading the category and in second place for the grand prize at the time of its disqualification. “No one is suggesting plagiarism,” noted Palindromist Editor Mark Saltveit. “The earlier palindrome was very obscure, and parallel invention is not uncommon. But we hold the highest standards for originality, and this entry had to be withdrawn.” Tenna nonetheless tied for first place in the Poetry category, and had four nominations total.

The ceremony, held at Portland, Oregon’s Funhouse Art and Beer Cabaret, featured Los Angeles comedian Dax Jordan, star of the upcoming show DaxTV on the MavTV network, and tap dancing saxophonist Michael “Shoehorn” Conley. Both added original palindromes, written for the occasion, to their performances.

The panel of judges was a murderer’s row of wordplay and geek celebrities, including puzzle master Will Shortz, “Weird Al” Yankovic, comedian/author Demetri Martin, comedian Jackie Kashian, musician John Flansburgh, journalists Jack Rosenthal and Ben Zimmer, and palindromists Tim Van Ert and Jeff Grant.

——————————————————————

Full details are available on the website of The Palindromist Magazine, including: Biographies and photos of the contestants; Biographies and photos of the judges; A full list of winners; and A full list of the nominated palindromes (10 in each of four categories).

The Winter Anthology is Out

Friday 8 March 2013, 11:34 am   ////  

This winter’s Winter Anthology, a collection of contemporary literature informed by history and older art, 21st century science and philosophy, and the ending of print culture, is now out.

This is volume three, and contains work by Joanna Howard, Andrew Zawacki, Andrew Grace, Ryan Flaherty, Srikanth Reddy, Ponç Pons, Lee Posna Louis Armand, Dan Beachy-Quick, Steven Toussaint, and Nick Montfort & Stephanie Strickland.

I’m delighted to have our poetry generator “Sea and Spar Between” published in this context.

How to Buy Some of My Most Obscure Books

Thursday 7 March 2013, 2:06 pm   ////  

2002: A Palindrome Story

By Nick Montfort and William Gillespie. Illustrated by Shelley Jackson. Designed by Ingrid Ankerson. (24 pp., acknowledged by the Oulipo as the longest literary palindrome.) Spineless Books, 2002. $16.

The First M Numbers.

By Nick Montfort. Edition of 80. 4 pp. No Press, Calgary, Canada, 2013. $2.50.

In New York, Saint Mark’s Bookshop has copies of these two books for sale; in Cambridge, MA, they are available from the MIT Press Bookstore. 2002 is also available from the publisher, Spineless Books, and other online and local bookstores. I believe that No Press is out of copies of The First M Numbers.

Implementation: A Novel

By Nick Montfort and Scott Rettberg. (270 pp., a 4-color book documenting the 2004 project Implementation.) 2012. $77.95.

This book is only available for purchase directly from the printer, Blurb.

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