1st Annual World Palindrome Championship

Monday 12 March 2012, 11:24 am   //////  

It’s this Friday in Brooklyn, and I’ll be one of six competitors.

This Friday night I’ll be competing in the First Annual World Palindrome Championship. If you insist, you can call it the First or the Inaugural World Palindrome Championship, but that’s the name of the event.

Er, Eh – Where?

The event will take place in Brooklyn at the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge. The competition, with a 75-minute time for palindrome composition based on a prompt, will kick off the 35th Annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and will start at 8pm. (Those cruciverbalists like to stay up late.) It’s all run by Will Shortz, crossword puzzle editor for The New York Times. The championship is the first thing on the tournament schedule.

Name no one man!

Actually, one man is almost sure to be named. The five competitors already selected are Jon Agee, Martin Clear, John Connett, humble narrator Nick Montfort, and Mark Saltveit. Jon Agee has authored books of cartoons illustrating palindromes, including Palindromania! Martin Clear penned “Trade life defiled art” and is making a trip from Australia for the event. John Connett is a fellow academic whose wonderful palindromic quips include “Epic Erma has a ham recipe.” Mark Saltveit is a stand-up comedian and found and editor of The Palindromist, the only magazine specific to this form that I know. And I suppose I got into this by writing the 2002-word palindrome 2002: A Palindrome Story with William Gillespie. The whole list, with pictures and further links, is up on Saltveit’s page for the event.

A competitor will be selected from the audience on Friday based on a palindrome written and submitted that day. If this is a woman or a pair of identical twin collaborators, there is some chance that no one man will be named. Unless one of these miraculously appears and is selected, though, we will unfortunately miss the company of my collaborator William, Mike Maguire (author of Drawn Inward and Other Poems), Demetri Martin, Harry Mathews, and many other top practitioners of the art. For a first gathering of palindrome-writers, though, who can complain?

Purple Blurb is Shaped Like Canada

We have an amazing Spring 2012 Purple Blurb lineup, thanks to this academic year’s organizer, Amaranth Borsuk, and featuring two special events and readings by two leading Canadian poets who work in sound, concrete, and conceptual poetry. The Purple Blurb series is supported by the Angus N. MacDonald fund and MIT’s Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies. All events are at MIT and are free and open to the public.

Monday, March 19
5:30 PM
6-120

Steve McCaffery

Author of Carnival, The Black Debt, Seven Pages Missing
Professor and David Gray Chair of Poetry and Letters, SUNY Buffalo

A central figure in Canadian avant-garde writing, Steve McCaffery’s work spans sound poetry, generative and iterative text, experimental prose, performance art, literary criticism, and visual poetics. A member of the Four Horsemen sound poetry ensemble and a professor of English at SUNY Buffalo, he is the author of over a dozen influential books of poetry, twenty chapbooks and four volumes of critical writing. His works include CARNIVAL panels 1 and 2, Panopticon, The Black Debt, North of Intention and Rational Geomancy: Kids of the Book-Machine (with bpNichol). With Jed Rasula, McCaffery edited Imagining Language, an anthology for MIT Press.

Monday, April 9
5:30 PM
6-120

Open Mouse / Open Mic

Featuring Alexandra Chasin, Ari Kalinowski, and YOU

Please join us for an open mic featuring  D1G1T4L WR1T1NG for a variety of platforms, from immersive projections by Ari Kalinowski to generative fiction for the iPad by Alexandra Chasin.

Bring video art, interactive fiction, SMS poems, hypertext fiction and poetry, text generators, and any form of electronic literature you’ve got up your sleeve! This event is co-sponsored by the Electronic Literature Organization.

Alexandra Chasin is the author of Kissed By (FC2), and Selling Out: The Gay and Lesbian Movement Goes to Market (St. Martin’s). She teaches Writing at Lang College, The New School. Ari Kalinowski runs the Intermedia Poetry Project.

Thursday, May 3
6:00 PM
6-120

Christian Bök

Professor of English, University of Calgary
Co-sponsored by the Visiting Artist Series and WHS
Author of Crystallography, Eunoia and The Xenotext.

Christian Bök is the author of Crystallography (Coach House Press, 1994), nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award for Best Poetic Debut, and Eunoia, a lipogram that uses only one vowel in each chapter, which won the 2002 Griffin Poetry Prize and is the best-selling Canadian poetry book of all time. He is also author of Pataphysics: The Poetics of an Imaginary Science (2001). His latest project, The Xenotext, encodes a poetic text into bacterial DNA that will produce proteins in response—yielding another poetic text. Bök has created artificial languages for Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict and Peter Benchley’s Amazon.

1:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Bartos Theater
Friday, May 4

Unbound: Speculations on the Future of the Book

Co-sponsored by the Mellon Foundation, SHASS, WHS, the Arts at MIT Visiting Artist Program, and the MIT Communications Forum

An afternoon of discussion with theorists and practitioners from MIT and beyond who are concerned with the shape of books to come.

Participants include:

Christian Bök (University of Calgary)
Katherine Hayles (Duke University)
Bonnie Mak (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Rita Raley (UC Santa Barbara)
James Reid-Cunningham (Boston Athenaeum)
Bob Stein (Institute for the Future of the Book)

Taroko Gorge … Makoto, Guile

Monday 5 March 2012, 9:28 pm   //////  

Take the natural splendor of Taiwan’s beautiful canyon and add side fighting action. Or, just see how Damian Esteves has already done it in yet another Taroko Gorge remix.

Computational Narrative and Games T-CIAIG Issue

Tuesday 28 February 2012, 1:04 pm   ////////  

IEEE Transactions on Computational Intelligence and AI in Games (T-CIAIG)

Call for papers: Special Issue on Computational Narrative and Games

Special issue editors: Ian Horswill, Nick Montfort and R. Michael Young

Stories in both their telling and their hearing are central to human experience, playing an important role in how humans understand the world around them. Entertainment media and other cultural artifacts are often designed around the presentation and experience of narrative. Even in video games, which need not be narrative, the vast majority of blockbuster titles are organized around some kind of quest narrative and many have elaborate stories with significant character development. Games, interactive fiction, and other computational media allow the dynamic generation of stories through the use of planning techniques, simulation (emergent narrative), or repair techniques. These provide new opportunities, both to make the artist’s hand less evident through the use of aleatory and/or automated methods and for the audience/player to more actively participate in the creation of the narrative.

Stories have also been deeply involved in the history of artificial intelligence, with story understanding and generation being important early tasks for natural language and knowledge representation systems. And many researchers, particularly Roger Schank, have argued that stories play a central organizing role in human intelligence. This viewpoint has also seen a significant resurgence in recent years.

The T-CIAIG Special Issue on Computational Narrative and Games solicits papers on all topics related to narrative in computational media and of relevance to games, including but not limited to:

  • Storytelling systems
  • Story generation
  • Drama management
  • Interactive fiction
  • Story presentation, including performance, lighting, staging, music and camera control
  • Dialog generation
  • Authoring tools
  • Human-subject evaluations of systems

Papers should be written to address the broader T-CIAIG readership, with clear and substantial technical discussion and relevance to those working on AI techniques for games. Papers must make sufficient contact with the AI for narrative literature to provide useful insights or directions for future work in AI, but they need not be limited to the documentation and analysis of algorithmic techniques. Other genres of papers that could be submitted include:

  • Documentation of complete implemented systems
  • Aesthetic critique of existing technologies
  • Interdisciplinary studies linking computational models or approaches to relevant fields such as narratology, cognitive science, literary theory, art theory, creative writing, theater, etc.
  • Reports from artists and game designers on successes and challenges of authoring using existing technologies

Authors should follow normal T-CIAIG guidelines for their submissions, but clearly identify their papers for this special issue during the submission process. T-CIAIG accepts letters, short papers and full papers. See the IEEE T-CIAIG page for author information. Extended versions of previously published conference/workshop papers are welcome, but must be accompanied by a covering letter that explains the novel and significant contribution of the extended work.

Deadline for submissions: September 21, 2012

Notification of Acceptance: December 21, 2012

Final copy due: April 19, 2013

Expected publication date: June or September 2013

Codings

Sunday 26 February 2012, 7:24 pm   ////////  

Codings shows the computer as an aesthetic, programmed device that computes on characters. The works in the show continue and divert the traditions of concrete poetry and short-form recreational programming; they eschew elaborate multimedia combinations and the use of network resources and instead operate on encoded letters, numbers, punctuation, and other symbols that are on the computer itself.

////////////////////////// Giselle Biguelman
///////////////////////// Commodore Business Machines, Inc.
//////////////////////// Adam Parrish
/////////////////////// Jörg Piringer
////////////////////// Casey Reas
///////////////////// Páll Thayer

Curated by Nick Montfort
Pace Digital Gallery

Feb 28th – March 30th, 2012 (with regular gallery hours Mon-Thu 12-5pm).

Panel with artists Adam Parrish and Páll Thayer and the curator, and opening reception, Feb 28th, 5-7pm.

The Codings catalog is available as a PDF for download (6MB).

The Pace Digital Gallery is directed by Frank T. Marchese and Jillian Mcdonald and is located at 163 William St, New York, NY. More information on the works exhibited, and directions to the gallery, can be found at the Pace Digital Gallery site.

Snyder Winder

Thursday 23 February 2012, 1:22 pm   /////  

Leonardo Flores presents his “Taroko Gary,” a mash-up remix of Gary Snyder’s “Endless Streams and Mountains” and my “Taroko Gorge.” (Update: I changed the URL on February 28, 2012.)

A Panel on Digital Sound, Poems, and Art

Thursday 23 February 2012, 10:47 am   //////  

We talked about digital sound as well as some poetic and visual art matters on a panel on Feb 15 here at MIT with David Cossin, Ben Hogue, yours truly (Nick Montfort), Evan Ziporyn, and Joe Paradiso … backed for a while by ppg256-3:

Word Palindomes Dog Me. Dawg, Palindromes! Word!

Thursday 16 February 2012, 6:43 pm   ////  

Mark J. Nelson has posted a very nice note about word-unit palindromes, mentioning that I have been tweeting palindromes-by-word as “@nickmofo” recently.

Nelson points out the paucity of such palindromes in the printed (and digital) record, and the lack of discussion about these. There are a few famous palindromes of this sort, including one that he mentions, “You can cage a swallow, can’t you, but you can’t swallow a cage, can you?” Another fairly well-known one is “King, are you glad you are king?” and another is “So patient a doctor to doctor a patient so.”

Without trying to add too much to this helpful discussion, I’ll note here that some of my tweets are meant to be amusing references to and reworkings of these more famous (for certain values of “famous”) word-unit palindromes:

You can mind a fashion, can’t you, but you can’t fashion a mind, can you?
(Oct 28, 2011)

You can touch my bear, can’t you, but you can’t bear my touch, can you?
(Oct 25, 2011)

Mister President, are you glad you are president, mister?
(Nov 28, 2011)

So stiff a doctor to doctor a stiff so.
(Nov 27, 2011)

In case some of my palindromes seem more inscrutable than others, I’ll also note that my output includes tweets that pertain to things I saw (a VCR chained to a fence near MIT) and events that I attended (a poetry reading by Doug Nufer).

Taroko Gorge Remixed & Installed

Tuesday 14 February 2012, 6:11 pm   ///////  

Designer Gulch by Brendan Howell is another remix of my oft-remixed poetry generator, Taroko Gorge. This one is installed in the lobby of the Berliner Technische Kunsthochschule.

CCS IMR IRQ BBQ

Monday 13 February 2012, 6:21 pm   ////  

I’ve participated in three conferences on digital and literary and poetic topics recently – and haven’t participated, unfortunately, in a barbecue.

The Critical Code Studies (CCS) Working Group 2012 is an online discussion – or, I suppose, several discussions – that started on January 30 and runs until February 20. It’s organized by Jeremy Douglass and Mark C. Marino.

At In Media Res, a project of MediaCommons, I was part of the digital literature discussion last week. This was organized by Eric LeMay.

And in meatspace (to be precise, at Brown University), I took part in Interrupt 2, a sort of semi-un-conference with performances from JODI, Vanessa Place, and my collaborator Stephanie Strickland. This one was put on by John “CPU” Cayley and many students.

It’s Time: Overthrow Elsevier.

Thursday 9 February 2012, 7:31 pm   ///  

The Boston Globe calls it the scientific community’s Arab Spring. Perhaps the comparison is bombastic, but this issue actually goes beyond science. It’s a question of whether the results of our research, scholarship, and critical writing as academics will be held hostage from our own universities and completely locked away from the public view, or whether we can put aside the artificial scarcity of information that commercial publishers have created and foster better, open communications.

Our colleagues in the sciences are the main ones who are taking a stand in this particular case – a boycott of commercial, closed-access publisher Elsevier – but others can stand with them.

If you haven’t, please read about the issue with Elsevier specifically, for instance in the Chronicle and the Guardian. These are good old news stories in which one side says it’s right and then the other side says it’s right, and so on.

I wrote about open access in the digital media field back in 2007, and at that point drew some ire (along with a good bit of agreement and praise) for simply refusing to review for a closed-access journal. That discussion may be interesting to those interested in this issue, too.

And there is plenty to read about open access more generally, such as John Willinsky’s book The Access Principle: The Case for Open Access to Research and Scholarship. (Registration is required, but the full text of the book is available for free download.)

I hope that these links help to inform, and that, if you’re an academic, you’ll choose to

visit The Cost of Knowledge

and join the protest against Elsevier.

There are 5000 of us now.

Code and Music on In Media Res

Thursday 9 February 2012, 12:04 am   ////  

Yo dawg, I hear you like blog posts. So I put a link to a blog post in your blog post. The link goes to my “Curator’s Note” on In Media Res about very short programs to generate music, in which I also mention how poorly suited prevalent Web systems are for transmitting and discussing code.

A New Paper on the Dreamcast

Sunday 5 February 2012, 10:21 am   ////////  

I’m very pleased to see the article Mia Consalvo and I wrote published in Loading…, the journal of the Canadian Game Studies Association (CGSA). There’s an intriguing lineup of articles in Loading… Vol 6, No 9; ours is:

Montfort, Nick and Mia Consalvo. “The Dreamcast, Console of the Avant-Garde.” Loading… 6: 9, 2012. http://journals.sfu.ca/loading/index.php/loading/article/view/104/116

We look at the connections between the Dreamcast platform, five games in particular (Jet Grind Radio, Space Channel 5, Rez, Seaman, and SGGG) and avant-garde movements and work in art, literature, and other areas in the 20th century. By seriously considering and applying the idea of the avant-garde and looking into these fives games closely (in terms of gameplay, in interpretive ways, and with regard to players’ online discourses about them), we show some ways in which videogames, within gaming, have done the work of the historical avant-garde; the business situations and factors in platform technology that relate to this innovation; and what opportunities for radical exploration in console gaming remain.

Cut-up Codework Meow Mix

Wednesday 1 February 2012, 9:37 pm   ////  

“A 1700 line text generated using a string of unix commands to process a short text file describing an encounter with a cat.”

This is all thanks to James W. Morris. He is the author and artist – not the cat.

Just When I Was Worried that I’m Not Blogging Enough

Friday 27 January 2012, 10:30 pm   //  

Dear Mr. Montfort,

I do not want to cause offense, merely offer a suggestion: would you consider removing the parts of your blog that clearly do not deal with interactive fiction from “Planet IF” (http://www.planet-if.com)?

While I am not saying that your posts are not intersting or that the term “interactive fiction” should only apply to text adventure games in the narrow sense (and while I appreciate the articles on Game Design and other forms of interactive fiction that appear on Planet IF), the sheer volume of your blog posts, along with “Grand Text Auto”, sometimes tends to drown out anything else.

Big Questions

Thursday 26 January 2012, 1:00 pm   /////  

Radical Books of 2011, 10/10

Big Questions, Anders Nilsen, Drawn & Quarterly, 9781770460478

Anders Nilsen has done exquisite sequential art, a.k.a. comix. I’m particularly fond of the trembling outlines and barely-representational figures in The End. The trade book of Big Questions is more conventional in style, but it binds 658 pages and 15 volumes of Nilsen’s work together in an extended, amazing story. In it, birds speak, but aren’t very smart. They devise their own ideas about a piece of unexploded ordnance, for instance, imagining it as an egg. An elderly woman dies in a plane crash; the idiot man-boy she has been caring for survives, as does the pilot. He also doesn’t seem too smart. The drawing style, which passes for simple at times but is nicely composed and filled with rich details, keys into the story, an animal tale that passes beyond childish simplicity. There are none of the mainstream superheros and no hint of the indie comics memoir in these ten years of work by a master of this art. Comic readers should love it; radical readers who wish to try out comics should try it.

Pale Fire: A Poem in four Cantos by John Shade

Wednesday 25 January 2012, 1:00 pm   /////  

Radical Books of 2011, 9/10

Vladimir Nabokov's poem Pale Fire

Pale Fire: A Poem in four Cantos by John Shade, Vladimir Nabokov, Ginkgo Press, 9781584234319

Extracting the poem (which only exists as a sort of in-joke in the radical novel Pale Fire) from what is perhaps (according, e.g., to Larry McCaffrey) the major English-language novel of the 20th Century? It’s at least a very extreme move. This edition drops the prose like a bad habit, makes like a banana and splits it off, makes like a tree and abandons House of Leaves prose for Leaves of Grass verse. Does it work in the sense of presenting a beautiful poem freed from its chrysalis? No. Much of it is still most notable for building up, and then comically deflating, the explicitly implied author, John Shade. It’s better as part of a narrative than as language trembling between sound and sense. But John Shade’s “Pale Fire” is not too bad of a poem qua poem, and reading it alone can certainly enhance one’s appreciation of the truly incredible novel that has been shucked off here. I haven’t read the included commentary, but must note that including commentary is an absolutely hilarious idea.

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