There’s a nice article up at The Atlantic about Flash, written by the two authors of the new Platform Studies book, Anastasia Salter and John Murray. Their new book, I’ll remind you, is Flash: Building the Interactive Web.
The fruits of my National Novel Generation Month (NaNoGenMo) labors are now online; the Megawatt generator is available as a single 350-line Python file, while the novel it deterministically generates can be obtained as a PDF, megawatt.pdf or in epub format, megawatt.epub. From the program’s docstring and from the preface to the book:
Megawatt is the title of both a computer program, the source code to which you may be reading, and the output of this program, which in many ways is like a standard novel and which you may instead be reading. This note appears at the beginning of both.
The program Megawatt is based on passages from Samuel Beckett’s novel Watt, first published in 1953 but written much earlier, when Beckett was aiding the French Resistance during World War II.
The novel Megawatt leaves aside all of the more intelligible language of Beckett’s novel and is based, instead, on that which is most systematic and inscrutable. It does not just recreate these passages, although with minor changes the Megawatt code can be used to do so. In the new novel, rather, they are intensified by generating, using the same methods that Beckett used, significantly more text than is found in the already excessive Watt.
(Please note: The following information is handy if you want to, for instance, modify the program and generate a PDF or epub yourself. You don’t need to do this to read the novel. You can download it in PDF: megawatt.pdf or in epub format: megawatt.epub.)
To produce the novel in markdown format, run megawatt.py (a Python 2 program) with TextBlob (a text processing library) installed.
% python megawatt.py > megawatt.text
To produce PDF and epub documents, use pandoc:
% pandoc -V geometry:paperwidth=5.5in \ -V geometry:paperheight=8.25in \ -V geometry:margin=.7in -o megawatt.pdf \ megawatt.text % echo '% Megawatt' > info.txt % echo '% Nick Montfort' >> info.txt % pandoc -o megawatt.epub info.txt megawatt.text
Megawatt was written/generated for the second NaNoGenMo (National Novel Generation Month) in November 2014, and is free software.
One question that remains is exactly when the program that automatically permuted phrases was written by Ian Sommerville in collaboration with Brion Gysin. I’m very interested in finding this out, but I do have other projects that are keeping me from doing archival or even deep library research into this. After discussion on the original announcement post, I’ve made a few corrections to this sort of metadata, but I still can’t figure out when this permutation code was first written. And since I don’t know which texts are the first examples of output from these programs, I also can’t tell how the permutations were ordered by the program.
The poem “KICK THAT HABIT MAN” was written manually in 1959 and other permutation poems were broadcast by the BBC in 1960. “Around 1960″ is sometimes given as a date for the program or programs. However the Honeywell Series 200 Model 120, indicated in several places as the computer used, was not released until 1965. Please let me know if you know that a different computer was used or if you know the exact year in which the permutation poem programs were written.
And I can’t post something about these friends of William S. Burroughs, on Thanksgiving, without including this little prayer:
Some kind comments about World Clock and NaNoGenMo in the article “The Strange World of Computer-Generated Novels” by Josh Dzieza.
Nick Montfort’s World Clock was the breakout hit of last year. A poet and professor of digital media at MIT, Montfort used 165 lines of Python code to arrange a new sequence of characters, locations, and actions for each minute in a day. He gave readings, and the book was later printed by the Harvard Book Store’s press. Still, Kazemi says reading an entire generated novel is more a feat of endurance than a testament to the quality of the story, which tends to be choppy, flat, or incoherent by the standards of human writing.
“Even Nick expects you to maybe read a chapter of it or flip to a random page,” Kazemi says.
There were many great generated novels last year, and are already many great ones this year. I don’t think among this abundance that World Clock is a very good poster boy for NaNoGenMo. Still, my experience with the book does make a strong case for having your generated novel translated in (or originally written in) Polish.
There is much to discuss and celebrate, such as the conclusion of the IF Comp – congrats to Sean M. Shore for his 1st place game Hunger Daemon, and to all the other winners. Besides that there’s the recent release of Hadean Lands by PR-IF stalwart Andew Plotkin. And, today there’s a front-page New York Times article about IF, and Twine games specifically. I’m sure I forgot some things we have to celebrate, so come by to see what those things are.
I’m doing two Central Texas readings from my book of programs and poems #! this weekend:
San Antonio: The Twig Book Shop
Friday, Nov 21 at 5pm
The Twig Book Shop
in The Pearl (306 Pearl Parkway, Suite 106)
Austin: Monkeywrench Books
Saturday, Nov 22 at 4pm
(110 N Loop Blvd E)
#! (pronounced “shebang”) consists of poetic texts that are presented alongside the short computer programs that generated them. The poems, in new and existing forms, are inquiries into the features that make poetry recognizable as such, into code and computation, into ellipsis, and into the alphabet. Computer-generated poems have been composed by Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville, Alison Knowles and James Tenney, Hugh Kenner and Joseph P. O’Rourke, Charles O. Hartman, and others. The works in #! engage with this tradition of more than 50 years and with constrained and conceptual writing. The book’s source code is also offered as free software. All of the text-generating code is presented so that it, too, can be read; it is all also made freely available for use in anyone’s future poetic projects.
Nick Montfort’s digital writing projects include Sea and Spar Between (with Stephanie Strickland) and The Deletionist (with Amaranth Borsuk and Jesper Juul). He developed the interactive fiction system Curveship and (with international collaborators) the large-scale story generation system Slant; was part of the group blog Grand Text Auto; wrote Ream, a 500-page poem, on a single day; organized Mystery House Taken Over, a collaborative “occupation” of a classic game; wrote Implementation, a novel on stickers, with Scott Rettberg; and wrote and programmed the interactive fictions Winchester’s Nightmare, Ad Verbum, and Book and Volume.
Montfort wrote the book of poems Riddle & Bind and co-wrote 2002: A Palindrome Story with Willliam Gillespie. The MIT Press has published four of Montfort’s collaborative and individually-authored books: The New Media Reader, Twisty Little Passages, Racing the Beam, and most recently 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10, a collaboration with nine other authors that Montfort organized. He is faculty advisor for the Electronic Literature Organization, whose Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1 he co-edited, and is associate professor of digital media at MIT.
Today I’ll offer a discussion of porting and translation in computational art and literature at the ATNE Salon, Boston Cyberarts Gallery. The event’s at 7:30pm; the gallery is in the Green Street T Station, on the Orange Line in Jamaica Plain.
I’ll read from my book #! at the University of New Hampshire tomorrow: Memorial Union Building, Theater 2. 12:30pm.
You don’t have permission to access /memslam/IN A GREEN, MOSSY TERRAIN,IN AN OVERPOPULATED AREA,BY THE SEA,BY AN ABANDONED LAKE,IN A DESERTED FACTORY,IN DENSE WOODS,IN JAPAN,AMONG SMALL HILLS,IN SOUTHERN FRANCE,AMONG HIGH MOUNTAINS,ON AN ISLAND,IN A COLD, WINDY CLIMATE,IN A PLACE WITH BOTH HEAVY RAIN AND BRIGHT SUN,IN A DESERTED AIRPORT,IN A HOT CLIMATE,INSIDE A MOUNTAIN,ON THE SEA,IN MICHIGAN,IN HEAVY JUNGLE UNDERGROWTH,IN AN OVERPOPULATED AREA,BY A RIVER,AMONG OTHER HOUSES,IN A DESERTED CHURCH,IN A METROPOLIS,UNDERWATER on this server.
I was delighted to be at the first NYU ITP Code Poetry Slam a few hours ago, on the evening of November 14, 2014. The work presented was quite various and also very compelling. Although I had an idea of what was to come (as a judge who had seen many of the entires) the performances and readings exceeded my high expectations.
These are well-known pieces, at least among the few of us who are into early computational poetry. (Chris Funkhouser and his Prehistorical Digital Poetry is one reason we know these and their importance; Noah Wardrip-Fruin has also offered a great discussion of Love Letters, and Stephanie Strickland, who was in attendance at the slam, has done two collaborative poems based on A House of Dust, one with me and one with Ian Hatcher.) Some implementations exist already of many, perhaps all of them – although I did not find one for A House of Dust. My point in putting these together was not to do something unprecedented, but to provide reasonably clean, easily modifiable versions in two of today’s well-known languages. This will hopefully allow people, even without programming background, to learn about these programs through playing with them.
If I didn’t implement everything perfectly, these are explicitly free software and you should feel free to not only play with them but to improve them as well.
Alan Cox has just released Fuzix, a Unix-like OS for the Z80. The kernel runs in 40kb. Designed for portability, it’s been compiled on the 6502 and 6509, but further work will be needed to fully support those processors.
Er, sorry. I exaggerated a bit. It’s actually just NaNoGenMo 2014. But that’s still really cool.
“Spend the month of November writing code that generates a novel of 50k+ words.” As is traditional, the event occurs on GitHub.
I awoke one night in Quito, Ecuador, this year and came up with a way to save a chip or two from the Apple II, and a trivial way to have the 2 grays of the Apple II be different (light gray and dark gray) but it’s 38 years too late. It did give me a good smile, since I know how hard it is to improve on that design.
That’s Woz, in 2014.
I mentioned a few of these earlier, but there are more. I’ll try to keep an updated list of reviews here for any curious Polish-reading visitors:
Update Jan 19, 2015: Review of Zegar światowy in Kulturnatywnie.pl.
Update Jan 8, 2015: Review of Zegar światowy in kanapa.it.
Update Dec 15, 2014: Review of Zegar światowy in sztukater.pl.
Update Dec 15, 2014: Review of Zegar światowy in sZAFa – kwartalnik literacko-artystyczny.
Update Dec 10, 2014: Review of Zegar światowy in Szuflada.net
Update Dec 10, 2014: Review of Zegar światowy in Popmoderna.
Update Nov 13, 2014: Review of Zegar światowy in Stacja Książka.
Update Nov 4, 2014: Review of Zegar światowy in Altmundi.
Update Oct 31, 2014: Review of Zegar światowy in Gazeta Wyborcza.
Update Oct 30, 2014: Review of Zegar światowy in kulturalnie.waw.pl.
There was also a review of Zegar światowy in the major Polish weekly magazine Przegląd (the review is not online).
The book was also discussed in an interview I did on Radio Kraków.
The site Unglue.it, which offers books that can be made free after a certain number of purchases, also promotes born-free e-books such as the Creative Commons PDF of 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10. They have featured our book today, in fact. The founder pointed out to us that there are now 11 different “editions” of 10 PRINT in WorldCat, thanks not to the hardback, paperback, and e-book editions but to variant titles and author entries.
Students published the first digital Des Imagistes in 2008, chose to self-host it without sending me a copy. It’s gone.
Wired: It’s up on the Internet Archive. Tired: Without scraping that I can’t get the CC BY-NC-SA site.
Beautiful class project. The preservation strategy was not so great. I should have required the files be sent to me, too. Live, learn.