Civic Media from 2006

Friday 3 August 2012, 12:12 am   ////  

These are unedited search queries, all recorded in this sequence and all from the same “anonymized” user, on the evening of 2006-04-07. They were found in the user-ct-test-collection-03.txt, one of the leaked AOL search query files from 2006.

jaimiewantsahondacivic
www.iwantahondacivic.com
jaimiedeservessomethingthistime
mickisselfish.com
www.selfishhusbands.com
hondacivicshondacivicshondacivics
iwantahondacivic.com
hondacivicforjaimie
jaimiewantsahondacivicplease
if you love me then please buy me a civic

A Thousand Twitters

Thursday 2 August 2012, 11:24 pm   ////////  

News of a strange new social network, Monolyth, reaches us from December of this year and from Chris McDowall.

To sate the great appetites of the system, which will only publish messages at least 140,000 characters long (and will abbreviate longer ones), authors turn to unusual techniques.

One of these is generating massive texts using modified versions of Taroko Gorge, one of which is included in the blog post.

Islands of (Text) Adventure

Friday 13 July 2012, 1:00 pm   ///////  

In the “Michelangelo” room of the Portofino Bay hotel, at Ascendio (the latest and last in a long series of Harry Potter fan conferences), just down the lagoon from The Islands of Adventure and the Harry Potter area of that theme park, Flourish Klink presented her interactive fiction, “Muggle Studies.”

(In Michelangelo the women come and go, talking of rooms…)

We had a reading/playing of the game, to start, in the People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction public reading style. It worked well; another option would have been to “demo” the game using the successful format we tried out at the New School, Penn, and some Purple Blurb IF readings. The audience was game to try commands, though, and a volunteer read the game’s text aloud.

Then, Flourish provided some context, describing a bit about IF and Inform 7.

Given the vigorousness of fandom and the way interactive fiction production continues apace, it’s particularly good to see a demonstration of and call for more crossover work.

Ubu Runs Ubuntu!

Wednesday 11 July 2012, 4:38 pm   ///////  

Welcome back to the Web’s major agglomeration of the avant-garde, Ubuweb.

(I don’t know that Ubu actually runs Ubuntu, but some statements are univocalically true regardless. And the site is back up, that’s for sure.)

Language and Code at the Gate

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

A technical report is to arrive today.

No need to worry about what will become of you without a technical report! The report, the fourth “Trope Report” in the Trope Tank series that started this year, is here:

In “Carrying across Language and Code,” Natalia and I discuss issues of translation and computational writing. With reference to electronic literature translation projects in which we have been involved as translators or as authors of the source work, we argue that the process of translation can expose how language and computation interrelate in electronic literature. Various small poetry generators, a cybertext poem, and two works of interactive fiction are discussed in this report.

Share and enjoy…

“Taroko Gorge”: The Vandalism Continues!

Thursday 5 July 2012, 10:40 pm   ////////  

As I wrote a few days ago, I made a statement about “Taroko Gorge,” and all of its vandals, at the ELO conference in Morgantown, WV.

Sepand Ansari created a Beckett-based “Taroko Gorge” remix at the ELO conference. And now I have the URL for this piece, “Waiting for Taroko Gorge.”

Kathi Inman Berens has created “Tournedo Gorge” “to mash the space of computation with the female, domestic, and tactile,” as she discusses in her blog post.

“Taroko Gorge” at the WVU ELO Conference

Friday 22 June 2012, 12:47 pm   ////////  

This was my statement for the “Taroko Gorge Remixed” panel yesterday (June 21) at the 2012 ELO conference. The panel was organized by Mark Sample and also featured Scott Rettberg, J. R. Carpenter (who joined us by video chat), Talan Memmott, Eric Snograss, Flourish Klink, and Andrew Plotkin. In attendance and part of the discussion were Leonardo Flores and Sonny Rae Tempest, who did work based on the Taroko Gorge code after the panel was proposed.

It is curious that I was invited to be part of this panel today, for I am the only speaker in this session who has not created and released a remix of Nick Montfort’s “Taroko Gorge.”

Today, however, to remedy this mismatch, to bridge this gap, to traverse this gorge, I am releasing a remix of my poetry generator, “Taroko Gorge.” This new work that I have completed and placed online today is also called “Taroko Gorge.” This remix was created to be an elegant poetry generator, producing a boundless nature poem and inspired by the experience of walking through Taroko Gorge National Park in Taiwan. The code of the program is the same as that of the original, and the text used as strings in the generator is also the same as that of the original. No comments have been added.

So, how can one distinguish this new “Taroko Gorge” from the original poetry generator of the same name? For one thing, I have placed today’s date on the right side of the page, to indicate that this is the remix that was completed today. When citing this work, you must also include the date that you accessed this page to comply with MLA, Chicago Manual of Style, and other bibliographic standards. If you leave the “Taroko Gorge” page open long enough, staring at it with meditative bliss, rapt attention, or monomaniacal trembling, you should include a date range rather than a single date in your bibliographic entry.

But enough of the temporal dimension. In addition to including a date, the new version of “Taroko Gorge” includes the names of all known vandals, those who have replaced my own lyrical words and phrases with ones associated with various other individual visions, ranging from the idiosyncratic to the downright perverse. These appear on the right-hand side – stricken out. Since it is not proper to condemn people without evidence – unless we put them aboard a plane and take them to another country – I have also included links to the offending Web pages.

This remix of “Taroko Gorge” asserts something very simple: that the rebirth of the author comes at the expense of the death of other authors. Something simple, about originality, voice, and purity of essence, which has been said in so many ways: Remix = death. Take back the gorge. Don’t tread on me. There’s a bear in the woods. Make it old. I did it my way. Under the page, the code.

Computational Creativity: MIT at ICCC

Thursday 31 May 2012, 2:27 am   ///////  

Many exciting things here at ICCC-12 (the International Conference on Computational Creativity 2012) in Dublin, but here are those that come from MIT, Writing and Humanistic Studies, and Comparative Media Studies:

I represented my lab, The Trope Tank, by presenting by the position paper “Small-Scale Systems and Computational Creativity” by Nick Montfort and Natalia Fedorova. The Trope Tank has a longer technical report that deals with this topic, written for a more general audience: “TROPE-12-02 – XS, S, M, XL: Creative Text Generators of Different Scales” by Nick Montfort.

One of the demos here, “Exploring Everyday Creative Responses to Social Discrimination with the Mimesis System,” by D. Fox Harrell, Chong-U Lim, Sonny Sidhu, Jia Zhang, Ayse Gursoy and Christine Yu, is the work of Harrell’s ICE (Imagination, Computation, and Expression) Lab at MIT. Harrell presented this demo yesterday, showing the current state of the iPhone game Mimesis, developed as part of the Advanced Identity Representation project.

Adventuresome Clara Fernandez

Wednesday 30 May 2012, 6:49 pm   //////  

There’s a nice new interview with game scholar and game maker Clara Fernandez, who is an affiliate of The Trope Tank. Check it out.

Christian Bök in Purple Blurb *Thursday* 6pm

Monday 30 April 2012, 12:14 am   ////////  

Update: Thanks to Francisco Ricardo, a video of some of Christian’s Purple Blurb reading is now online.

The Spring 2012 Purple Blurb series comes to an end this week, not with a whimper, but with Christian Bök!

Thursday May 3
6-120
6pm

Christian Bök is the author of Crystallography (Coach House Press, 1994),  a pataphysical encyclopedia nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial  Award, and of Eunoia (Coach House Books, 2001), a bestselling work of  experimental literature, which has gone on to win the Griffin Prize for  Poetic Excellence. Bök has created artificial languages for two  television shows: Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict and Peter  Benchley’s Amazon. Bök has also earned many accolades for his virtuoso  performances of sound poetry (particularly the Ursonate by Kurt  Schwitters). His conceptual artworks (which include books built out of  Rubik’s cubes and Lego bricks) have appeared at the Marianne Boesky  Gallery in New York City as part of the exhibit Poetry Plastique. Bök is  currently a Professor of English at the University of Calgary.

If you’re in the Boston area, and interested in radical play with language (why else would you have found this blog?) please come by.

“Creative Material Computing in a Laboratory Context”

Thursday 26 April 2012, 2:28 pm   //////////  

The Trope Tank has just issued a new technical report:

Creative Material Computing in a Laboratory Context
Nick Montfort and Natalia Fedorova
TROPE-12-03

Download the full report

Abstract
Principles for organizing a laboratory with material computing resources are articulated. This laboratory, the Trope Tank, is a facility for teaching, research, and creative collaboration and offers hardware (in working condition and set up for use) from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, including videogame systems, home computers, an arcade cabinet, and a workstation. Other resources include controllers, peripherals, manuals, books, and software on physical media. In reorganizing the space, we considered its primary purpose as a laboratory (rather than as a library or studio), organized materials by platform and intended use, and provided additional cues and textual information about the historical contexts of the available systems.

ICIDS 2012 CFP

Wednesday 25 April 2012, 11:52 am   ///////  

Developers of digital storytelling systems, take note: The call for papers for the Fifth International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling is now out. Conference to be held November 12-15, 2012 in Spain.

Borsuk, Bök, Montfort – May 5, 7pm, Lorem Ipsum

Saturday 21 April 2012, 10:05 pm   ////////  

I’m reading soon with our Canadian guest Christian Bök and with my MIT colleague Amaranth Borsuk, who will present Between Page and Screen (published by Siglio Press this year). The gig is at:

Lorem Ipsum Books
1299 Cambridge Street
Inman Square
Cambridge, MA
Ph: 617-497-7669

May 7, 2012 at 7pm

Amaranth Borsuk is the author of Handiwork (2012), the chapbook Tonal Saw (2010), and a collaborative work Excess Exhibit to be released as both a limited-edition book and iPad application in 2012. Her poems, essays, and translations have been published widely in journals such as the New American Writing, Los Angeles Review, Denver Quarterly, FIELD, and Columbia Poetry Review. She has a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from USC and is currently a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Comparative Media Studies, Writing and Humanistic Studies at MIT where she works on and teaches digital poetry, visual poetry, and creative writing workshops.

Christian Bök is the author of Crystallography (2003), a pataphysical encyclopedia, and of Eunoia (2009), a bestselling work of experimental literature. Bök has created artificial languages for two television shows: Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict and Peter Benchley’s Amazon. Bök has also earned accolades for his virtuoso performances of sound poetry (particularly Die Ursonate by Kurt Schwitters). Currently, he is conducting a conceptual experiment called The Xenotext (which involves genetically engineering a bacterium so that it might become not only an archive for storing a poem in its genome for eternity, but also a machine for writing a poem as a protein in response). He teaches English at the University of Calgary.

Nick Montfort writes computational and constrained poetry, develops computer games, and is a critic, theorist, and scholar of computational art and media. He teaches at MIT and is currently serving as president of the Electronic Literature Organization. His digital media writing projects include the interactive fiction system Curveship; the group blog Grand Text Auto; Ream, a 500-page poem written on one day; 2002: A Palindrome Story, the longest literary palindrome (according the Oulipo), written with William Gillespie; Implementation, a novel on stickers written with Scott Rettberg; and several works of interactive fiction: Winchester’s Nightmare, Ad Verbum, and Book and Volume. His latest book, Riddle & Bind (2010), contains literary riddles and constrained poems.

Straight into the Horse’s Mouth

Saturday 21 April 2012, 1:39 pm   ///////  

My word-palindrome writing project (being undertaken as @nickmofo) has been boosted by Christian proselytizing, by Bök’s page. I am delighted to be featured in Christian Bök’s post on Harriet as an instance of conceptual writing on Twitter – named, in fact, right after @Horse_ebooks.

This makes it particularly apt that Christian describes my writing as potential poetic “fodder.” Why not treat this feed of texts as the gift horse that keeps on giving? Please, feel free to make the tweets of @nickmofo into your chew toy.

Palindrome “Sagas”

Saturday 24 March 2012, 12:12 pm   ///////  

Marty Markowitz, borough president of Brooklyn, said his borough was “the heart of America” in welcoming the 35th Annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. My heart was certainly in Brooklyn last weekend, both literally and figuratively. I was there to participate in the First Annual World Palindrome Championship on Friday and, on Saturday, to visit Big Reality, a wonderful, scruffy art show that included some of my work. More on Big Reality soon; here’s a belated note about the WPC.

I made into New York in time to meet at Jon Agee’s sister’s house in Brooklyn with him and several other palindromists who would be competing that evening. (Agee is a cartoonist whose books include Go Hang a Salami! I’m a Lasagna Hog! and Palindromania!) The other competitors included a fellow academic, John Connett, who is professor of Biostatistics at the University of Minnesota and an extremely prolific producer of sentence-length palindromes. Martin Clear, another author of many, many sentence-length palindromes, came from Australia. Barry Duncan, a Somerville resident and thus practically my neighbor, also joined us. Another competitor was Mark Saltveit, editor of The Palindromist and a stand-up comedian. And Douglas Fink, who won a celebrity palindrome contest with his now-famous entry “Lisa Bonet ate no basil,” was the audience contestant selected to join us.

I met Barry and Doug later that day, and had a great time sitting around and discussing palindromes with the others over lunch. We had plenty to talk about. It was interesting to see that we also had different perspectives, interests, and terms associated with the art. Jon thought “Er, eh – where?” was a good palindrome, probably in part because he was imagining how to illustrate it or frame it in a cartoon in a funny way. The others generally thought this one was bogus. A sentence was the desired outcome for most of us, while I was a fan (and writer) of longer palindromes. And, as we found out that night, the audience had their own tropisms and aesthetics when it comes to palindromes.

We had 75 minutes to write up to three palindromes that we’d read to the crowd, which was to vote for their two favorite. There were three possible constraints given: Use X and Z; Refer to events in the news in the past year; or refer to the crossword tournament itself. Here’s what I came up with, using the first constraint:

The Millennium Falcon Rescue

by Nick Montfort

Wow, sagas … Solo’s deed, civic deed.

Eye dewed, a doom-mood.

A pop.

Sis sees redder rotator.

Radar sees racecar X.

Oho! Ore-zero level sees reviver!

Solo’s deified!

Solo’s reviver sees level: ore-zero.

Oho: X, racecar, sees radar.

Rotator, redder, sees sis.

Pop a doom-mood!

A dewed eye.

Deed, civic deed.

Solo’s sagas: wow.

All of the results (and the text of the palindromes) are up on The Palindromist site – take a look!

Mark Saltveit became champ with a short palindrome about acrobatic Yak sex. John Connett got 2nd, Jon Agee 3rd, and yours truly 4th.

Which is the longest?

In mine, I count 54 words, 237 letters, and 327 characters. If “doom-mood” and the like are single words, we’d have 50 words. Mark says on The Palindromist site that it’s 57 words long; I’m not sure how the counting was done there.

In Barry’s, the only other possible contender, I count 70 words (as does Mark), 184 letters, and 311 characters. Some of those words are “7” and have no letters in them, as you’ll note if you check out the results page.

So, they’re both the longest: Barry’s has the most words, while mine has the most letters and characters.

It’s a sort of odd comparison, because the constraint I used (employ only palindromic words, counting things like “ore-zero” as words) let me reframe the problem as that of constructing a word palindrome with a restricted vocabulary. Of course, you should be very very impressed anyway, with my general cleverness and so on, but I think Barry chose a more difficult feat at the level of letter-by-letter construction.

Does length matter?

Yes. A palindrome should be the right length. 2002 words is a good length if you’re trying to write a palindromic postmodern novel. For a snappy statement, a short sentence is a good length. I think some of the best palindromes are longer than a sentence and much shorter than 2002. My last edits to “The Millennium Falcon Rescue” were to cut several words (an even number, of course), and maybe I should have cut more? And, should I revise this one, I might cut the word that was included for the sake of the Z.

What about those palindromists?

The most interesting thing about this event, for me, was a gathering focused on palindrome-writing. Kids know what palindromes are, the form of writing has been around for more than a thousand years, many people have palindromes memorized, and there are a handful of famous books … but as I see it there hasn’t even been a community of palindrome-writers, discussing writing methods, coming up with common terms and concepts, sharing poetic and aesthetic ideas.

Well, perhaps there has been, in the Bletchley Park codebreakers. But I only learned about them because I met Mark, who is one of the people researching the origins of famous palindromes. And that was, due to wartime security, a very secretive group.

It was great having the Championship hosted by Will Shortz at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, with many puzzle-solver and -constructors who are interested in formal engagements with language. Of course, palindrome events would fit will at other sorts of gatherings that are focused on poetry and writing, too.

Whether or not we have another championship (which would be great), it would be nice to have another summit of some sort and to build a community of practice around this longstanding practice. Particularly if we can get someone named Tim to join us: Tim must summit!

What If

Thursday 22 March 2012, 10:42 pm   //////  
David “the supah fly” Cronenberg

was making a movie starring

Robert “can’t stop sparkling” Pattinson

based on a novel by

Don “say the word” DeLillo



Cosmopolis



about a fantastically wealthy guy trying to cross Manhattan in his limo to get a haircut



?

(Thanks to Mark Sample for alerting me to the trailer.)

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?

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