1st Annual World Palindrome Championship

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?

Word Palindomes Dog Me. Dawg, Palindromes! Word!

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).

E-Lit Platforms at the MLA

Dene Grigar, vice president of the Electronic Literature Organization and one of the organizers of the excellent e-lit gallery and reading here at the MLA Convention, just gave a great presentation about the importance of platform in the development and reception of electronic literature. I was pleased initially to see that there was not only this presentation with “Platform” in the title, then very interested to hear about her work in a lab with original older computer hardware and her discussion of platform differences and changes through the years.

Even more surprising is that Ian Bogost and I have managed to advance part of our diabolical plan to have people use five long, colored rectangles stacked on top of each other:

More from New River

The journal New River has a new issue, very nicely designed and with a diverse selection of work. Editors Brianna P. Stout and Christopher Linforth have five different sorts of collaborative works, by Andy Campbell and Lynda Williams; Chris Funkhouser and Amy Hufnagel; Nick Montfort and Natalia Fedorova (who translated my “Concrete Perl,” “The Two,” and “Through the Park” into Russian); Jason Nelson and several Virginia Tech collaborators; and Alan Bigelow with those readers who respond. Here’s the link to my three poems, which are short computational works that operate on the level of the letter, word or phrase, and sentence.

HypeDyn Hypertext Authoring System Released

Here’s an announcement about a new, free hypertext authoring system from my collaborator Alex Mitchell:

> We are pleased to announce the first public release of the HypeDyn
> hypertext fiction authoring tool: http://www.partechgroup.org/hypedyn
>
> HypeDyn is a procedural hypertext fiction authoring tool for non-programmers
> who want to create text-based interactive stories that adapt to reader
> choice. HypeDyn is free to download and open source, and runs on Linux,
> MacOS and Windows. You can download HypeDyn from
> http://www.partechgroup.org/hypedyn/download.html
>
> HypeDyn was written in Kawa Scheme, http://www.gnu.org/software/kawa/
>
> As part of our ongoing research, we are interested in how people use
> HypeDyn. Please let us know at hypedyn@partechgroup.org if you are using
> HypeDyn and would like to tell us about your experiences, in particular if
> you have made any changes to the code.
>
> We are also interested in having authors take part in a more detailed study.
> If you are interested in helping with this study, please read the details at
> http://www.partechgroup.org/hypedyn/study.html
>
> Note that downloading/using HypeDyn does not require participation in the study.

Emergency! Please Help!

I really hope this gets to you in time! During a trip to Brookline,
Massachusetts I was robbed — robbed of all poetic impulse. All of the
brilliance of language was stolen from me. My poetic license was taken as
well. I need your help encountering English once again.

I know the unusual diction of this note, the unusual nature of this
request, the fact that I am using more than one exclamation point per
email, and the fact that it is being sent to everyone in my address book
must make it seem like my account was hacked, but I assure you, that’s
not the case!

I’ve made contact with my library but the best they could do was to send
me a poem the mail which will take 3-5 working days to arrive here. I need
you to lend me some words to sort my self out of this predicament.

It would be a great help if you’d just quickly reply (you can use that
“comment” mechanism, below) with a single memorable phrase, or some sort
of short litany or list, or the current contents of your copy and paste
buffer, or a Google search result, or a paragraph, joke, riddle, or even
haiku.

I’ll pay you back as soon as I can!

Thanks,

-Nick

Brian Moriarty to Speak at MIT

In the Boston area? Please join us for a talk by

 

Brian Moriarty

Creator of Wishbringer, Trinity, Loom, and other interactive fiction and graphic adventure titles

and professor of practice, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

“Beyond Zork: Games & Interactive Fiction”

Monday, November 28, 5:30 pm

MIT’s room 6-120

 

Brian Moriarty built his first computer in the fifth grade. He began
publishing games in the early 1980s and in 1984 joined legendary text
adventure company Infocom, where he authored three award-winning interactive fiction titles, Wishbringer (1985), Trinity (1986) and Beyond Zork (1987). His first graphic adventure game, Loom, was published in 1990 by Lucasfilm Games to wide critical acclaim.

Sponsored by the Angus N. MacDonald Fund

As always, this Purple Blurb event is free and open to the public.

Yo Dawg, I Hear You Like Taroko Gorge

In his just-released “Argot Ogre, OK!” Andrew Plotkin presents mash-ups and remixes of (almost) all the “Taroko Gorge” remixes to date (and of course the original “Taroko Gorge”), producing such poignant lines as “LAWN DARTS linger” along with single-source remixes and some different stanza shapes. Anyone interested in this thread of poetry generation projects should check it out and should certainly “view source.” Or don’t, if you don’t want to discover more about the secret of the monkey.

This, my friends, calls for a recap of the generators of this general sort to date – eleven of them, so far. Note particularly the two generators mentioned only in comments (“Whisper Wire,” a third remix with visual elements by J. R. Carpenter and the fanlicious “Takei, George” by Mark Sample, which was released after my post) and two other generators released after my post (“Alone Engaged” by Maria Engberg, made at and perhaps redolent of Georgia Tech, and a generator for the the Harry Potter wizarding world of Weasleycest, “Fred & George” by Flourish Klink). In alphabetical order by title, here is a linked list of all of them so far:

Alone Engaged by Maria Engberg
Along the Briny Beach by J. R. Carpenter
Argot Ogre, OK! by Andrew Plotkin
Fred & George by Flourish Klink
Gorge by J. R. Carpenter
Takei, George by Mark Sample
Taroko Gorge by Nick Montfort
Tokyo Garage by Scott Rettberg
Toy Garbage by Talan Memmott
Whisper Wire by J. R. Carpenter
Yoko Engorged by Eric Snodgrass

Wow, Game Mag. Wow.

I keep hearing about this Believer article about palindromes – actually, it’s mostly an article exposing a particular palindromist to readers’ chortles. The article signals no awareness of the palindrome as a literary form, but I appreciate it pointing me to Mr. Duncan’s “A Greenward Palindrome,” written for my local eco-boutique and charming in its topicality.

A community of practice is a set of people who do the same type of work (writing, art, game development, etc.) and who are at least aware of one another and have some interaction with one another. Poets constitute a community of practice, for instance, or at least several significantly interlocking communities of practice. Poets are aware that there are other poets. They read each others’ work. Sometimes they hate one another, which shows that they care.

Electronic literature authors are literary migrants to the computer, not always of the same genre or movement, and are less established as a single community of practice. But thanks to organizations like the Electronic Literature Organization and events like the E-Poetry festival and the ELO conference, many of them do get to meet each other, talk to each other, and learn about each others’ work and interests. Some specific sorts of practice, such as poetry generation, have much less community around them, of course; but others, such as interactive fiction, have a great deal of healthy community.

Palindromists, I would venture, do not constitute a community of practice. They mostly don’t know each other and aren’t aware of each others’ work, despite the efforts of people like Mark Saltveit, editor of the magazine The Palindromist. Duncan describes palindrome authors as “practicing the invisible craft.” When thinking of the short, canoncial palindromes that have circulated without attribution, this designation makes sense. But in other cases, it doesn’t.

For instance, there are plenty of palindrome books in print for those who look. Here are three from a single press, Spineless Books: 2002: A Palindrome Story by Nick Montfort and William Gillespie, I’d Revere Verdi: Palindromes for the Serious Music Lover by Jane Z. Smith and Barbara Thorburn, and the sublime Drawn Inward and Other Poems by Mike J. Maguire, which contains:

Same Nice Cinemas

Same nice cinemas,
same nice cafe.

We talk late.

We face cinemas.
Same nice cinemas.

There are several palindromes of literary interest online, too – my and William’s 2002 is just one, alongside “Dammit I’m Mad” by Demetri Martin and “The Big One” by Will Helston.

From reading that recent article, one would guess that palindromists aren’t a community of practice because palindrome writing isn’t a practice, but a pathology. The truth is that palindromes make for difficult reading, difficult writing, and unique engagements with language that have been savored by Edgar Allan Poe, Vladimir Nabokov, Harry Mathews, and Georges Perec. So, for those who want to take a break from gawking at personal quirks to read some brilliant texts, read a few of the many palindromes that are out there – works of writing that will wow you coming and going.

Videos about MIT’s Montfort and Harrell

At MIT TechTV, there’s a new 5-minute video about me and my work, featuring Ad Verbum, Curveship, Taroko Gorge, the ppg256 series and (as examples of really cool things that have been done with computers and that are worth our attention) some productions by others from the demoscene.

Also see the excellent video covering the work of my colleague Fox Harrell and his Imagination, Computation, and Expression Lab. Harrell describes his projects, reads from one of them, and discusses his concept of “phantasmal media.” That term provides the title for a book he’s completing for the MIT Press.