February 2006

I’m working on creating a piece for Brown’s Cave, a 3D environment here that I don’t feel like explaining now (but if you want to find out about it, check out the Brown Cave Writing class website).

Basically, the idea is that you would maneuver around an environment that kind of felt like the International Space Station, or maybe a small solar system. Machines made of words would revolve around you, and as you moved past them, you’d hear bits of audio that suggested what these little poem machines had in them.

Here’s a little Maya demo movie of this first part.

Once you clicked on a poem, it would unfold before you, and you then had the ability to cycle through the subpoems, little surreal things that were written based on where the letters fell when you moved the lines about. Like the below (click on the words to move to next poem).

The full proposal can be found here: Ouija Poems.pdf. Well, I think it’s a cool idea.

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[Some responses I wrote this evening, in a semi-drunken stupor, to Mark A. Cantrell, who wrote asking me about my setting of Christian Bok’s Eunoia. Nobody’s really asked me about this in the past, so I thought to post them, why not.] 

Thanks for contacting me on this. I’m always surprised that people have been so interested in my setting of that part of Eunoia because I actually never thought it that successful, though my favorite part of it is that part you pointed out, the fact that the text goes downright woggy after you hold down on the button. Let me just address the few initial questions:

> First, do you or did you ever have any plans to create settings for any of the other chapters of Eunoia? If not, was there a particular reason why you chose Chapter E?

I did think of doing all five chapters but I realized that with each chapter I’d have to come up with something quite original, and I frankly didn’t have the time, but also, I wasn’t sure that it really added anything to the text. Unlike with Bembo’s Zoo (which you should Google) to merely add an animated interactive dimension to the text didn’t seem to be enough.

Also, to do a justifiable animation to, say, the “o” chapter would have required doing something different with every “o”, not just fade every paragraph into the next, and I didn’t think it was worth the effort. If I had time at a later date to do each chapter, I would, but then I would have to redo chapter “e” because I didn’t think it was that successful. If I had done something amazing with chapter “o” (for example) I would have had to go back and redo the chapters I had already done (which is what happened with “The Dreamlife of Letters,” which took me 6 months).

No particular reason why I chose chapter “e”. Perhaps that’s what Christian sent me. Frankly, I don’t remember. Maybe it was the longest chapter (certainly at that time, see below) so it was the most obvious choice. I don’t remember at all. >I noticed that your setting combines the Chapter E of the book with the part entitled “Emended Excesses.” Was this your decision or one made in collaboration with Bok? What were some of the reasons for this choice?When I did the piece, that part of the book was part of Chapter E. Christian later moved it to the appendix.> Finally, do I understand correctly from the 2001 date on your site that the Flash setting was made available at approximately the same time that Coach House Books published the book version?

Probably not. I think I did my bit at least half a year before the book reached print. But I could be wrong about this. Certainly a few months. Thus the discrepancy noted above.

When I launched the piece, Marjorie Perloff complained about the aspect that let you send the text into a tizzy. But I was more interested in the fact that, when you moved backwards through the text after sending parts into crazy activity, they just rested there, and faded into each other, and it reminded me of walking through the ruins at the World Trade Center after 9/11, coming across these strange wreckages through the fog, one after the other (or maybe walking through any sort of ruin, like in that movie “Excalibur”). I guess this means that the piece was done after 9/11, if that means anything.

I was accused, in my piece for the Inkblot Record, of doing too much “violence” to the text (in that case Dan Farrell’s) and I think that’s what Perloff was accusing me of this time. But frankly, I think this is totally untrue.

Text, once it reaches a digital realm, is always vulnerable to this sort of “violence” — think of the pornolizer or the shizzolator, or anthing sort of text that is screwed up by digital technology (in cell phones, for example) — and so I was merely illustrating the type of violence it could succumb to, but in a friendly, aesthetic way. Of sorts, I suppose. I was simply introducing the text to the digital realm in a “tough love” sort of way, not subjecting it to the sort of abuse that putting it out there, in HTML (for example) might subject it to. I thought it looked great. A Google search is, in this light, more violent than anything I did with it.

Anyway, a few answers quickly before I go to sleep… thanks for asking!

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The idea was inspired by two things: 1) a visit last semester by David Lynch in support of his new Transcendental Meditation / World Peace foundation, and 20 the “Frankie Says” t-shirt campaign that happened in the eighties centered around the band Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Perhaps Apple’s “Think Different” campaign was behind this also.

My idea was to attract students from many different disciplines to the class, so I used major figures in various genres to throw their weight behind us. For good measure, I included Frank Sinatra and a splat of paint.

If you ever get the urge to proselytize for electronic writing – and I know you do, frequently – these are easily printable, so you can poster your campus, office or local coffee shop. Click to enlarge.













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I didn’t think the site would get so popular so soon… but someone has been so kind as to create a mirror of the site in, I don’t know, Germany?


It’s definitely worth checking out.

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This one reminds me of my Flash Polaroids… and it’s named after a Robert Altman film.

Three Woman

I count more than three, don’t you?

Other fun things from the Scenes of Provincial Life

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My Dad… I’m proud of him! (Now I have a new place to publish my Ron Silliman editorials… ONLY KIDDING.)


John Stefans, a former reporter for The News-Review, is returning to the newspaper as its editor, succeeding Denise Civiletti.

Ms. Civiletti said she is stepping down as editor in order to devote full time to her duties as co-publisher of Times/Review Newspapers, publishers of The News-Review and three other community papers, The Suffolk Times, The North Shore Sun and The Shelter Island Reporter.

Before joining The News-Review as a reporter, Mr. Stefans was editor of the Traveler-Watchman of Southold. He moved to South Jamesport full-time six years ago after retiring from Chase Manhattan Bank, where he was senior vice president and director of corporate communications. He attended Fordham University and served on active duty for three years as a U.S. Army correspondent. After leaving The News-Review, Mr. Stefans worked as an assistant to Riverhead Town Supervisor Phil Cardinale from July 2004 to May 2005.

“John’s leadership abilities, reporter’s instincts and accessible writing style make him a perfect choice for us,” Ms. Civiletti said. “John has a passion for the Town of Riverhead and its people. He takes great pride in his community, and that’s important to us.”

Mr. Stefans and his wife, Karin, now live in Riverhead. They have five children.

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I once made the joke that the Four Horsemen — the sound poetry group that included Steve McCaffery, Paul Dutton, bpNichol and Rafael Barreta-Rivera– would be appearing in NY at my digital poetry event. What I really meant was that these guys – which I found on a Swedish children’s site that I highly recommend for adults – would be appearing.

Click away and be treated to a fabulous sound poetry concert in the tradition of the Ursonate and Meredith Monk, with a touch of Steve Reich’s Tehillim. (I don’t know why I can’t make it bigger…)

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