Radical Books of 2012 (5/7)

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)

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

Radical Books of 2012 (3/7)

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)

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”

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.

Radical Books of 2012 (1/7)

The Oregon Trail is the Oregon Trail

The Oregon Trail is the Oregon Trail
Gregory Sherl

Mud Lucious Press · 65 pages

Consciousness wobbles between the “real world” of Barry Manilow concerts, streetscapes that look like Frogger, and private Facebook messages on the one hand and a fabled simulation bleeding beyond the phosphors of the computer-connected CRT television on the other. Amid tender moments featuring the wife, child #1, and child #2, these poems also offer reminders of the political context in which Westward expansion was undertaken. “The Oregon Trail 2 Starring Mel Gibson Directed by Mel Gibson” notes, for instance, “We have Manifest Destiny in our cocks.” This book about the American journey, not the destination, may appear to be a nostalgic romp. (Perhaps the book’s dedication, “FOR YOUTH,” and the theme of adult responsibilities invites such an attitude.) There is no home to ache over, though, in these 39 poems that join intimate imagination to a famous if floppy American document, showing that however personal or national memory flows past, in whatsoever form, you can’t ford the same river twice.

The Gorge in Review, and in Remix

Leonardo Flores has now written 22 posts (one each day, as is his wont over at “I ♥ E-Poetry”) on Taroko Gorge and its various remixes.

Quite a critical outpouring, considering that Taroko Gorge was originally a one-day project!

Leonardo also presents TransmoGrify, another remix of Taroko Gorge that narrates the programming and remixing of these 22 poem generators, producing stanzas such as this one:

Mark inverts the line.
Sonny Rae experiments.
Judy intervenes upon the variable.

With the absolute ♥ of the e-poetry of life butchered out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years.

Purple Blurb Spring 2013: McIntosh, Di Blasi, Henderson

Thanks to the good work of guest organizer Gretchen Henderson, the Purple Blurb schedule for Spring 2013 is already set! I hope to see you locals at some or all of them.

All Spring 2013 events are Mondays at 5:30pm in MIT’s room 14E-310. This is in the East wing of Building 14, across the building’s courtyard from the Hayden Library. Building 14 is not part of the Media Lab Complex. The Spring 2013 schedule is thanks to guest organizer Gretchen Henderson.

February 11, 5:30pm in 14E-310

Jason McIntosh

Presents the Interactive Fiction “The Warbler’s Nest”

The Warbler's Nest title image

Jason McIntosh is an independent games critic, designer, and scholar. During the previous decade, he produced “The Gameshelf”, a public-access TV series examining both tabletop and digital games, and “Jmac’s Arcade,” a set of video monologues on growing up within the arcade culture of the 1980s. More recently, he’s taught a game-studies lab at Northeastern University, published the XYZZY Award-winning work of interactive fiction “The Warbler’s Nest”, crafted the iPad edition of the tabletop game “Sixis” by Chris Cieslik, and worked as a game-design consultant for other clients. He continues to write game-criticism essays on The Gameshelf’s blog, and produces the occasional episode of the podcast series “Play of the Light”, which he co-hosts with Matthew Weise. His website collecting all this stuff may be found at jmac.org

March 11, 5:30pm in 14E-310

Debra Di Blasi

Skin of the Sun: Five Iterations Toward Human As Novel”

Followed by a discussion of the literary publisher’s role in the 21st Century

From Skin of the Sun

Debra Di Blasi is a multi-genre, multimedia author of six books, including The Jirí Chronicles & Other Fictions, Drought & Say What You Like, and Skin of the Sun. Awards include a James C. McCormick Fellowship in Fiction from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, Thorpe Menn Book Award, Cinovation Screenwriting Award, and Diagram Innovative Fiction Award. Her fiction is included in a many leading anthologies of innovative writing and has been adapted to film, radio, theatre, and audio CD in the U.S. and abroad. Her essays, art reviews and articles can be found in a variety of international, national and regional publications. She frequently lectures on the intersection of literature and technology and is working on a nonfiction book on related topics.

April 8, 5:30pm in 14E-310

Gretchen E. Henderson

Galerie de Difformité:The Book as Body, The Body as Book”

Followed by an OPEN MIC!

From Galerie de Difformité

Gretchen E. Henderson is a Mellon postdoctoral fellow at MIT and a metaLAB fellow at Harvard, who writes across genres, the arts, and music to invigorate her critical and creative practices. She is the author of two novels, The House Enters the Street and Galerie de Difformité (winner of the Madeleine Plonsker Prize), a collection of nonfiction, On Marvellous Things Heard, and a poetry chapbook, Wreckage: By Land & By Sea. Among other projects at MIT, she is working on Ugliness: A Cultural History (for Reaktion Books), while continuing the collaborative deformation of Galerie de Difformité: a print book that is interfacing with the history and future of the book, networked online, inviting readers to participate in its (de)formation across media.

A Poetry Class for 36,000

December 10, 5:30pm in MIT’s 6-120

Al Filreis

Teaching Modern & Contemporary American Poetry to 36k

Al Filreis has taught his “ModPo” course at Penn for years; in Fall 2012 he
offered a 10-week version of the course online, via Coursera, to more than
36,000 students. The course, as in its previous versions, does not include
lectures, being based instead on discussion – the collaborative close
readings of poems. The course grows out of Filreis’s work at the Kelly
Writers House; he has been Faculty Director of this literary freespace since
its founding in 1995. Filreis is also co-founder of PennSound, the Web’s
main free archive of poetry readings, publisher of Jacket2 magazine, and
producer and host of “PoemTalk,” a podcast/radio series of close readings of
poems. In conversation with Nick Montfort, Filreis will discuss ModPo and
his perspective on writing, teaching, and digital media.

Filreis is Kelly Professor of English and Director of the Center for
Programs in Contemporary Writing at the University of Pennsylvania. He is
the author of Wallace Stevens and the Actual World, Modernism from Right to
Left, Counter-Revolution of the Word: The Conservative Attack on Modernism,
1945-60, and other works. He was chosen as Pennsylvania Professor of the
Year by the Carnegie Foundation in 2000.

Co-sponsored by the SHASS Dean’s Office and the Literature Section.

All Purple Blurb events are free and open to the public. The Purple Blurb
series is supported by the Angus N. MacDonald fund and Writing and
Humanistic Studies.

What’s the Story on Digital Media?

I generally will reply to any email messages that was personally written to me and which requests a reply. Perhaps because I wrote for my college newspaper, I’m inclined to try to help student journalists when I can. Sometimes, though, the best suggestions I can offer are ideas about how to rethink the basic approach and find a real story, rather than the sought-after quotations. As when, recently, I wrote basically this in reply to some extremely general questions about digital media and changes in the way we communicate – perhaps prompted by a class assignment rather than part of work toward an article for publication:

Grouping together Facebook, blogs, and text messages on one side and letter-writing on the other isn’t really sound, since it assumes that Facebook, a blog, and a text message are the same sort of thing and that a letter is a different sort of thing. Is a letter typed on a word processor the same as or different from a hand-written letter? Is one a digital media letter and the other pre-digital? Why is publishing a long, public blog post at all like sending a text message to a friend?

Your questions also suggest that people are constantly making choices between using digital media and traditional media. We live in a media ecology in which old media are not simply replaced by new. There are many ways to communicate, but we very seldom choose one over the other. I suppose there are circumstances under which you might send a friend a postcard, for instance, but I find it very unlikely that you’d make a direct and conscious decision to do that instead of sending that friend a text message.

Your questions also seem to assume that new media technologies just appear and that we are influenced by them, because you ask only about the effects of these technologies. Facebook was not given to the Earth by aliens, though. It was developed by people based on existing ideas about communication. The same can be said for the Web and any other digital communication system. Someone who is interested in knowing why communication online is the way that it is will never figure that out just by asking about how Facebook influences the way people write. It’s also necessary to understand why Facebook came to be the way it is, in terms of its original motivation and development and down to specific questions (such as your last one) related to particular features.*

I would suggest focusing on a particular digital media system and asking about how it arose, how it is used, and what’s special about it — not just in relation to some non-digital means of communicating, but overall. It can be worthwhile to ask what niche such a system has in the media ecology: What does it offer in particular that is better than other media channels? Then, you can see how people use language within that channel in interesting ways that is revealing in terms of culture, cognition, and so on. The people who study these systems successful in the humanities and social science, and those who build them and do well at it, take this sort of approach, and there are certainly interesting stories that result about why certain systems are successful in certain ways and how they are actually used.

The paragraph marked with *, of course, is just as true for computational platforms (the focus of the platform studies approach and the MIT Press Platform Studies series) as it is of communications systems, and it’s one of the core ideas behind platform studies and what it comprehends.

This student didn’t seem interested in approaching the topic differently and more productively, and asked instead if I could recommend someone who would provide quotes. That’s not a surprise – it’s the typical nature of this exchange, after all, and not a desire to roast any (unnamed) person, that motivates me to post this. It does go to show that whether you use in-person interviewing, an analog land-line phone, or email, you can miss gaining insight in the same way.

Review of 10 PRINT in Slate, New Ports/Variants

Geeta Dayal reviewed 10 PRINT in Slate. As far as I know, this is the first published review of the book, and I greatly appreciate how it traces the discussion of mazes and other topics, pointing out the many cultural and well as technical touchstones.

Over at Stack Overflow they have a nice thread going with several shell scripts that implement 10 PRINT.

Daniel Haehn has written a 3D version of the 10 PRINT program in WebGL.

And my lab’s server is back up after a power outage here in Cambridge, MA, so the PDF of the book that was hosted there is once more available.

10 PRINT Event, Post, Site, Photos

Our event at the Boston Cyberarts Gallery (with me – Nick Montfort – Patsy Baudoin and Noah Vawter) went very well, with the gallery full for the salon and people willing up after the discussion to come program on the two Commodore 64s that we brought. There were some fascinating variants developed, too. Thanks to George for setting this up for us and to Dan and Bill for getting the space set so that the C64s could be powered up and connected to a projector.

Lev Manovich, one of the editors of the Software Studies series in which our book appears, writes of it:

10 PRINT was “coded” by 10 writers. However, rather than producing yet another academic anthology made up by independent parts, they made a coherent single “intellectual software” which executes beautifully.

We have a site for the book now at http://10print.org – you can download the entire contents, Creative Commons licensed, from the site there in a 50MB PDF. We’re happy to follow up on how the original program was shared in the 1980s by sharing our book in this way.

Finally, Casey Reas, our co-author and the designer of the book, has posted a set of photos of the 10 PRINT book. These are very effective in showing the care that Casey took in putting together the book, and how well it communicates the insights we reached together – and why you may enjoy reading the physical, printed 10 PRINT.