We make fecal jokes. We make jokes out of time. We make noises that humiliate us in front of our neighbors. We make trees stand together to form paper. We make obvious jokes. We make clouds stand still for the photograph. We make babies out of food. We make self-propagating programs that we call “worms.” We make coffee. We make self-governing groups of people that we call “teams.” We make impressions on our skin, permanent or semi-permanent. We make tents. We make cigarettes. We make cheese. We make earrings out of shells. We make plastic body parts out of our ability to melt things. We make unlikely drinks. We make fantastic jokes. We make movable parts that are in motion to the metrics of the seas. We make sunglasses to stare at the sun. We make moustaches. We make wallets out of skin. We make shoes out of skin. We make coats out of skin, being bashful about our own skin, and insecure in general. We make virtues out of our vulnerabilities. We make concepts. We make plans. We make bags, we fill them with stolen items. We make movies that we call “popular” or “classics,” occasionally “popular classics” We make burrows like hedgehogs and name them “A,” “C” and “6.” We make hotels and never sleep in them. We make “printers” and never write on them. We make televisions and never appear on them, nor do we televise anything. We make cigarettes (did I mention that already?). We make cars but can’t drive them to Germany. We make planes but most of us don’t fly them. We make bookshelves and write books, also. We make kimchi, not quite as quickly as we make hot dogs, but we do. We make unique phrases out of old, already used ones. We make jellies, ones you can eat and ones that burn. We make soap. We make dirt, but not on purpose. We make plans, and as we ruin them, we make “progress.” We make inscrutable jokes. We make constitutions out of what were once just communal fixations. We make myths out of the most ordinary individuals. We make certainties out of an incubating cloud of doubts. We make starlets out of the most ordinary, female material. We make “plays.” We make lists. We make steam out of tormenting water with heat. We make sauces out of corrupting the aforementioned water. We make industries out of water, also. We make flesh, even when we’re sleeping. We make “arrangements,” sometimes in the home, sometimes in the park. We make parks out of trees that could have better been used for paper. We make odors (this is also usually involuntary). We make jokes about them. We make religions out of fear, but also the ability to make things too complex. We make noises out of air, even when it has its own noise. We make sentences. We make divorces. We make slam. We make hard. We make gerunds, and sometimes they make gerunds but sometimes they can’t make proper “gerunds.” We make hearsay out of information. We make “journeys” out of “trips.” We make “jokes” as byproducts of undiagnosed misanthropy. We make “essays’ out of classroom notes. We make memories, or so I have heard. We make more flesh just listening to this, and just typing. We make music out of noise. We make “novels” out of our communal self-regard, and despite their name, they are often not “novel” at all. We make “leaders” out of self-proclaimed “leaders.” We make “healers” out of those with a talent for the scalpel (they are also sadists). We make cuts in the salami (but not with scalpels). We make family events and serve the salami. We make riddles out of platitudes. We make crossword puzzles out of history’s ungoverned proliferation, when it falls into language. We make guitars out of trees. We make rhythms out of watches (and hitting guitars). We make thoughts out of insomnia. We make “Trojan horses” out of comfortable elements in the landscape. We make light out of sulfur, usually in the process of desiring heat. We make blankets out of cotton, out of sheep, or just anything that lives, and has leaves, or skins. We make noises that silence the audience. We make shovels, we make art. We make jokes to punctuate the bad news. We make good news out of bad news in an effort to avoid new orthodoxies. We make high ceilings in central post offices in an effort to supplant old religions. We make mirrors that are hundreds of floors high. We make “skylines.” We make “waistlines” (again, in our sleep). We make “skylines,” thus, yes, but again, most of us don’t make them. We make cities at the intersections of rivers. We make lists of money, often more elegantly than lines of poetry. We make saliva when we talk, somehow anticipating food. We make food out of talk. We make three spellings out of words that sound the same, “through,” “threw” and “thru” for instance. We make insecure people out of wisely impassive people. We make “writers” out of people with no ability to do anything else. We make “havoc” out of places of pristine, sublime and evocative stasis. We make perverts out of huggable, avuncular people. We make “crimes” out of situations that are unremarkable. We make colas out of chemicals (and commercials). We make women out of men, and men out of misprisions of women. We make grammars that are “correct” to deem other grammars “incorrect.” We make mores, and if you don’t stick by them, in order to save you some humiliation, we make “originality,” and in special instances, we adopt the category” sui generis,” in order to put you in there and leave it all fashionably, disarmingly inscrutable. We make magazines that arrive with the frequency of waves. We make quiet out of unread magazines. We make “stories’ out of half-heard “tales.” We make laws out of fear. We make number sequences, like the fibonacci, out of -- oh, I don’t know. We make animals out of water, some of which look like us. We make platelets in our marrows. We make synapses in our wombs. We make fetal (or fecal) jokes out of this prehistoric memory. We make “territories” out of triangulations marked by spots of urine. We make remarks of unintended kindness out of undernourished witticisms. We make art out of bankruptcy. We make gurus out of the unhealthy propagators of “charisma.” We make politics out of unsorted data. We make weather reports that are never true. We make sheets of paper. We make numbers. We make cold people out of dead people. We make cold people out of our own never visited relatives. We make prophecies, when really we should be making observations. We make anticipations of biological finality when we fail to make use of flesh, air, and time. We make music that could soothe the soul, but often softens the wallet. We make music that humiliates us before our neighbors. We make texts that are easy to memorize, and texts that are difficult to recommend to parents. We make poems that sound like other poems. We make stanzas, we make glue, we make treachery out of trust, we make codas out of what were once highly anticipated, fresh beginnings.
This is the most amusing piece that I found in the Times this weekend, about a real American eccentric named Sidney N. Laverents, a sort of Nancarrow of film who made some great stuff with relatively primitive machinery. I've already emailed this guy to get copies of his videos -- tough going, he emailed me back once claiming to have included an attachment with prices, etc., but it wasn't there, and he's not returned any of my emails since. He's also apparently done some wonderful nature "documentaries" shot in his backyard, kind of doing for snails what Jean Painleve did for sea horses, showing these little hermaphrodites falling in love, procreating, generally going about their business, kind of like Microkosmos with a bolex.
This story was written by Matt Haber, who has a nice blog called www.lowculture.com.
IN the video for OutKast's "Hey Ya!," André 3000 sings and dances, backed by a band of seven digitally replicated Andrés.
The effect may have helped to make the video one of the year's most popular. But to fans of the outsider filmmaker Sidney N. Laverents, the computer graphics trickery looked familiar. Mr. Laverents, an engineer and self-taught film hobbyist, created a primitive version of the same effect in "Multiple SIDosis," a nine-minute film from 1970. Working at home in suburban San Diego, he used a reel-to-reel, two-track Roberts recorder, a retrofitted 16-millimeter Bolex camera and eight musical instruments from his vaudeville days as a one-man band.
The star of the film? The paunchy, middle-aged Mr. Laverents — a square with a comb-over and ample musical talent.
Shot over four years with the help of his third wife, Adelaide, "Multiple SIDosis" went on to win dozens of awards at amateur filmmaker conventions all over the world. In 2000, it became the first amateur work included in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. And now, 34 years after it was shot, a 35-millimeter version (cleaned up by by Ross Lipman, who also has restored films by John Cassavetes and John Sayles) is the centerpiece of "The Wonderful World of Sid's Cinema," a retrospective to be held on Friday at the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles.
I just discovered the following review by Edward Picot of Papertiger, a CDRom journal of poetry and art published out of Brisbane, Australia, that has a really nice paragraph on my Flash piece The Dreamlife of Letters.
I think he's totally spot on (of course, because he likes it!), right down to the last bit about it not being "avant-garde" or the issue with newness. It's for this very reason that, when asked to produce statements on "digital poetry" I rarely if ever write about what one is able to do with text in motion, etc. I've never been very convinced that a resurgence of "avant-garde" activity was imminent due to the availability of digital technology. But I'll take the "mastery" and even "form of classicism" that Picot mentions -- it's what one can aspire to with the extraordinary control that software and coding often provides.
Yadda yadda -- I'm a bit too tired right now to really divagate on these themes. Sorry for the my-own-horn-tooting, just not much else for the blog these days.
"The last section is titled "Flash", and consists of four pieces of Flash poetry. None of them is non-linear, and none of them is interactive. The most interesting is The Dream Life of Letters by Brian Kim Stefans - a kind of fantasy on the letters of the alphabet, showing a list of words that start with each letter in turn, all animated in various ways. The whole sequence is played out within the confines of an orange square, and all the words are shown either in black or white, or a mixture of the two. Black or white lettering on an orange square works very effectively as a visual statement, as the Orange mobile phone company has discovered, so Stefans has this in his favour from the start. He doesn't use any sound effects, so his letters and words float and dance around the screen in silence, which enhances the dreamlike atmosphere of the piece. He is constantly inventive, frequently witty and thought-provoking: numerous small white examples of the word "am" go floating down the page early on in the piece, for example, with only one black "am" amongst them, which seems to say something about individuality. "Conventional", "cunt" and "curse" follow one another in quick succession around a circling C - the prim is replaced by the obscenely vulgar, and the third word, "curse", both describes "cunt" as a swear-word, and acts as a colloquialism for menstruation. There is a lot of material about gender and sexuality here, as Stefans suggests in his introduction to the piece, but for me its fascination lies primarily in how it works as a piece of design. Words and letters drift and drip down the square, or bounce, or float upwards, or slide across from one side to the other, or fade in and out. They can be aligned to the right, to the left, to the top or bottom. They can be large or small. Sometimes they chase each other, sometimes they are transformed into each other, and sometimes a formation made by one word is broken by an onslaught from another. This isn't avant-garde art: The Dreamlife of Letters is not trying to be radically different from anything we have ever seen before. On the contrary, the austerity and simplicity of its layout suggest a form of classicism, a purifying and restatement of themes and formats that have already been attempted more than once. What we are being asked to admire here is not newness but mastery within a given medium: not invention but inventiveness."
A nice, peaceful work of web art.
what they rearrange
in grease-stick pollack marks
accent of lariats
instant professional commentary
the weave unbroken
my suburban chatelaine
safe in a constitutional reich
in a corner
we want instructions
to replace such
as lives are made of
four whims collapse into two
to list retrograde
juggernaut the contract
—the canny smoke like hairlips
pretty on demand
in the salsa of tableaux
receding in a history
curated with the same icy tools
beards warrant identification
though metal be blind
strays are enumerated
until the percentage towers
deemed a false eyelash
to demand such
love as exists in cubic form
when the code of hatred respires
on a piece a paper
Here's a link to the Pound poem I mention below in "GATT Freedom", and an excerpt from the first part. It was never one of my favorite of his, but it always stuck in my mind since there are rarely offered anything like glimpses into his private life in the early work, nor in the later for that matter (before Pisa, if one could call that "private"). I never found this poem convincing, though I like the stanza beginning "Their little cosmos is shaken..."
I HAD over-prepared the event—
that much was ominous.
With middle-aging care
I had laid out just the right books,
I almost turned down the right pages.
Beauty is so rare a thing …
So few drink of my fountain.
So much barren regret!
So many hours wasted!
And now I watch from the window
rain, wandering busses.
Their little cosmos is shaken—
the air is alive with that fact.
In their parts of the city
they are played on by diverse forces;
I had over-prepared the event.
Beauty is so rare a thing …
So few drink of my fountain.
[Steph and I have new tricks up our sleeves for this one... if you didn't catch it the first time at the BPC, here's your chance.]
THE TRANSIT PLAYS, written by Sheila Callaghan, directed by Hayley Finn, with Deron Bos, David Brooks, Flora Diaz & Hilary Ketchum, music and sound by Sophocles Papavasilopoulos
KINSKI IN KANADA, written and performed by Brian Kim Stefans, with Stephanie Sanditz
PAPA PETROVSKY AND THE BIG FROSTED CAKE, written & directed by Ann Marie Healy, with Graeme Gillis & Rachelle Mendez
YOUR GUEST HOSTS: Stephanie Mnookin & Eliot Laurence of GUILE
Monday, January 26, 2004 at 8:00 pm @
107 Norfolk Street
between Delancey and Rivington.
Tickets are $8.00 at the door, first-come first-served; reservations are not accepted.
[I was enjoying returning to working on this blog until I started getting hit with so much comment-box spam that it's gotten quite miserable. So there are no longer comments boxes on the stories until I can figure out what to do -- the upgrade to 2.661 promises to stem some of this tide, but I have yet to see proof (just upgraded ten minutes ago).
The following little poem is something I wrote for my class, "Jai-lai for Autocrats", based on an assignment I had given -- you can see the assigment if you click "read more" below. Just a sketch, but I think it bears some relationship to Pound's "The Psychological Hour," one of his lesser poems, for what that's worth.]
Mailbomb: I had a mug of coffee sitting on my desk.
Mantis: I reached out my hand and picked up the mug.
Market: I had several pieces of paper in front of me.
I suddenly began to hate the Specialist
wild and white choreography unleashed
on a semiotics-ignorant public—
None of them love you.
Happiness is a new idea.
The fine young artificial
proto-mullets are so natural
brazen vessels, buttery-soft.
I continued to sit there for a while.
It was a terrifying and grotesque sight,
but the Specialist continued:
“Say, did you sleep with Francoise?”
None of them love you.
Happiness is a new idea.
Playboy: The lace on one of my shoes was undone.
Plutonium: I depressed the switch on the side of the kettle.
Plutonium: I continued to sit there for a while.
“Just as the film was about to start, Guy-Ernest Debord would climb on stage to say a few words by way of introduction. He’d say simply: ‘There’s no film. Cinema is dead. There can’t be film any more. If you want, let’s have a discussion’.”
the counterfeit siblings
I’m no longer self-conscious
using my hand
when the convulsions had subsided.
Buddhistic and bland
(Journey to the Moon)
in the cafes
their revolts become
years: at that age,
one is capable of all acts of civil life.
I continued to be apathetic with my activities.
Base a sonnet (or a poem if you want) on one (or more) of the following:
"DEATH IN WINNIPEG" (excerpt)
"The fine young artificial brothers, looking warm and cozy beneath period-perfect wigs, are power-chording unplugged guitars and lip-synching to "Crazy Horses," one of the Osmonds' zestiest sorties into Mormon rock. These early-'70s proto-mullets are so natural I'm no longer self-conscious about my own new toupee, which I'm debuting on this occasion. Clad in buttery-soft, fringed white kid leather with matching macramé belts and white platform boots, the five counterfeit siblings retrace to perfection the famously wild and white choreography unleashed on a semiotics-ignorant public almost 30 years ago. These osmonoid performers are really caught up in the song's feral rhythms, rudely beating on brazen vessels, bellowing like stags, and harmonizing like horny barbers: "What a show, there they go, smokin' up the sky-y-y-y-y-y—yeah!!! Crazy horses, all got riders, and they're you and I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I—I!!!" When the number is over, I forget myself and—this is inexcusable for a supposed filmmaker—applaud wildly, actually ruining the take, because the cameras are still running, and the sparse audience in the scene is supposed to be apathetic. Sheepishly, I promise to stopper my fervor. Fortunately, the next take is the keeper."
THE DULLEST BLOG IN THE WORLD
(follow the link)
"A VOICE THROUGH A CLOUD" (excerpt)
One day a specialist was in the ward, examining a patient, when the patient fell down in front of him in a fit. The patient was a fat middle-aged man; he shrieked and trembled and rolled on the floor, as if he were wallowing in mud. It was a terrifying and grotesque sight, but the specialist watched it with a smile on his face. He neither raised the patient up nor prevented him from cutting his head on the corner of the bedside locker.
When at last the convulsions had subsided and the patient, with blood on his face, looked up bewildered, the specialist's smile grew even more Buddhistic and bland and he said in a fluting voice, so that other people should hear, 'Well, I must say there's one improvement this week - you're falling so much more gracefully!'
He gave a light little well-bred laugh, which at once raised up in my mind a picture of some woman with enormous bust measurement, swathed in strainingly tight red velvet. He seemed delighted with his own urbane, unsentimental wit, and I felt that at that moment he would have used the words 'heartless elegance' about himself. He seemed really to be living for a moment in his own conception of an eighteenth-century French marquise in her brilliant salon.
I suddenly began to hate the specialist for his clownish show of vanity and facetiousness. I hated him so much that my face began to burn. I felt insulted and outraged; I wanted to have the specialist publicly beaten in front of all the staring patients. I imagined his black pin-striped trousers being taken down, and his squeals of shame and pain ringing through the ward.
"The 300 words that would most attract the government's attention were they to be used online..." (follow link above)
"HOWLINGS IN FAVOR OF DE SADE" (screenplay)
Voice 1 The film by Guy-Ernest Debord, Howlings in favour of Sade...
Voice 2 Howlings in favour of Sade is dedicated to Gil J Wolman
Voice 3 Article 115. When a person shall have ceased to appear at his
place of abode or home address for four years, and about whom
there has been no news whatsoever, the interested parties
shall be able to petition the lower court in order that his
or her absence be declared.
Voice 1 Love is only worthwhile in a pre-revolutionary period.
Voice 2 None of them love you, you liar! Art begins, grows and
disappears because frustrated men bypass the world of official
expression and the festivals of its poverty.
Voice 4 (young girl) Say, did you sleep with Francoise?
Voice 1 What a time! Memorandum for a history of the cinima:
1902 - Journey to the Moon.
1920 - The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari.
1924 - Entr'acte.
1926 - Battleship Potemkin.
1928 - Un Chien Andalou.
1931 - City Lights
1951 - Birth of Guy-Ernest Debord.
1952 - The Anti-concept.--Howlings in favour of Sade.
Voice 5 "Just as the film was about to start, Guy-Ernest Debord would
climb on stage to say a few words by way of introduction.
He'd say simply: 'There's no film. Cinema is dead. There can't
be film any more. If you want, let's have a discussion'."
Voice 3 Article 516. All property is either movable or immovable.
Voice 2 In order never to be alone again.
Voice 1 She is ugliness and beauty. She is like everything that we love
Voice 2 The art of the future will be the overturning of situations or
Voice 3 In the cafes of Saint-Germain-des-Pres!
Voice 1 You know, I like you very much.
Voice 3 An important Lettrist commando made up of some thirty members,
all donning the filthy uniform that is their only really
origional trademark, turned up at the Croisette with the firm
desire of indulging in some scandal capable of drawing
attention to themselves.
Voice 1 Happiness is a new idea in Europe.
Voice 5 "I only know about the actions of men, but in my eyes men are
transposed, one for the other. In the final analysis, works
alone differentiate us."
Voice 1 And their revolts became conformisms.
Voice 3 Article 488. The age of majority is fixed at twenty-one years;
at that age one is capable of all acts of civil life.
It's so quiet I can hear the Kurds.
[Mike Scharf sent this to me to post...]
Fiona Templeton is down with pneumonia. Tim Davis has graciously agreed to
step in. Please forward this around.
The Segue Series at the Bowery Poetry Club presents
Saturday, January 17th, 4pm
$5, 2 for 1 drinks
The Bowery Poetry Club
(between Houston & Bleecker)
F train to Second Ave,
or 6 train to Bleecker
I just finished formatting the Segue series calendar for their website. It's still nothing happy to look at but a little easier on the eggwhites.
You'll notice Frodo the Baptist on March 13, but there are several other groovy names in this four-month stretch, too many to name here -- just stop gawking and click through!
[Here's a review I wrote for the NYFA newsletter of a recent MIT publication, the excellent if pricey New Media Reader. This is the rough, and much longer, draft; it doesn't incorporate any of the changes that the editor (ok it's Alan Gilbert) made, so there are probably a few unforgivable gaffs and tedious attempts at humor -- please excuse them!]
The New Media Reader
Edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort
8 x 9, 837 pp., 325 illus.
Something in me misses the day when publishers used to put out supermarket-novel sized anthologies with names like “The Structuralists,” “The New Novel” or “The Lower East Side Scene,” kept the page count below 350 and put a whopping price tag of two dollars or so on the cover, and still managed to include the essential texts – by Roman Jakobsen, Monique Wittig or Paul Blackburn – associated with the title. The non-intimidating size of the book left a lot of room for subway-trapped laymen to acquire some pretty heady, relevant information without having to budget in for a new, potentially (self-)alienating library. Consequently, these egalitarian, bite-sized encyclopedias – thirty or so years after publication – have gone on to have rich afterlives as lucky-find additions to the Strand’s outdoor dollar paperback carts, providing minoritarian competition to their trade-sized Routledge, Zone or Princeton cousins costing ten times as much in the great air-conditioned indoors.
Luckily, the folks at MIT think otherwise, and their latest edition to the incredible shelf of books crossing the nexus between art, science and language – genuine encyclopedias such as Steve McCaffery and Jed Rasula’s Imagining Language and Stephen Wilson’s Information Arts – is a stunner, perhaps the most convincing argument for this handsomely, even lavishly, designed and edited series so far. A search of MIT’s online catalogue produces a welter of books that have come out in the past decade including in their titles the words “information” (60 at least), “digital, “new media” (including Lev Manovich’s seminal The Language of New Media ) and “hypertext,” but it would be hard to imagine any of these volumes being as complete or as energetically, even giddily, edited. The delight of brainy duo Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort — their other collaborations liberally speckle net.art space — comes through not just in the longish preambles to each of the book’s fifty-four chapters and the reams of text on the CD itself, but in every additional 8-bit Atari game, forgotten manifesto, “Aristotelian” comic strip, and chunky piece of Deleuze and Guattari they found a way to cram into the collection.
The New Media Reader contains most of the classic, if not often read, staples of digital cultural theory such as Vannever Bush’s 1945 article “As We May Think,” his argument for the conversion of wartime experimental research into pacifistic technologies such as the “memex” – created for secretaries, it’s the information-retrieval equivalent of the washer-dryer combos that were just coming out, one that types, talks and does much of what our present day iMacs do while storing everything on microfilm – as well as essays by AI guru Alan Turing and the inventor of the term “cybernetics,” Norbert Wiener. But this section of the reader, titled “The Complex, the Changing, and the Indeterminate,” starts with a short story by Jorge Luis Borges – “The Garden of Forking Paths” from 1941 – and ends with a brief but rich anthology of writing by the Oulipo, that French group of writers who devised complex mathematical formulas by which to compel – rather than write themselves – a “potential” literature, the prime example being “A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems,” by Raymond Queneau, ten sonnets whose lines are rendered interchangeable by cutting the pages, such that each line can substitute for its peer on another page — a paper computer. An essay by Allan Kaprow about the Sixties “happenings” and a bit by William S. Burroughs describing the “cut-up” method land in the middle of the section, pages away from the white paper “Sketchpad: A Man-Machine Graphical Communications System” (1963) by Ivan Sutherland – replete with flowcharts and formulas, it describes the technology that would later produce graphical user interfaces – and “Man-Computer Symbiosis” (1960) by J. C. R. Licklider, a decidedly non-Burroughsian view of human and machine collaboration.
What Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort achieve by such a frottage of scientific and creative texts is manifold. The scientific papers, which can seem dated by the pace of technical innovation or obtuse by their jargon, are ironicized in a way that renders them more than quaint or insufferable geek-talk. In fact, they are melded into the very inner psyche (or outer superego) that produced some of our most iconic cultural visions, making us see the Strangelove in the heart of every (decidedly not roaring) mouse. Indeed, Douglas Englebert’s 1968 “mother of all demos” (included on the CD), spoken at a Stephen Hawkins pace, of a basic form of the mouse, hypertext, interactive teleconferencing and collaborative authorship, seems to argue for his species of researcher, and not that of the late Edward Teller, as the inheritor of the prophet function in society after the age of Einstein. These early struggles among cyberticians can then be seen as a search for human forms and practices — like the sonnet or the Heimlich maneuver — that are unlikely to be improved upon. This mingling also show how often “creative” writers have outpaced technology itself, a most obvious (though perhaps contentious) example being how very simple Oulipian writing such as Queneau’s “Yours For the Telling” – a ridiculous choose-your-own-adventure about “three tall, lanky beanpoles” who have “deliciously oneiric” dreams – provide many if not more of the transcendental delights that hypertext was supposed to bring about in the hands of a competent, if not necessarily brilliant, writer of fiction. Many fine hypertext works have succeeded remarkably well and move well beyond what a standard codex could do, and some of these, like Wardrip-Fruin’s own “Impermanence Agent,” which bases its story on a user’s indifferent web browsing, have no “author” at all. But much of the Tron-like rush of participating in the random-access universe while in pursuit of a negligible, however charming, “plot,” is contained in Queneau’s witty and concise literary parlor trick.
“Collective Media, Personal Media,” section two of the book, includes bits by Baudrillard, Deleuze and Guattari, Raymond Williams, Hanz Magnus Enzensberger and Nam Jun Paik, and looks at more cultural ramifications of a virtual, mediated horizon that is constantly revising the very rules of approach. A chapter of Williams’ Television: Technology and Cultural Form is followed immediately by a very different work, the nearly Blakeian mixture of drawings and often “counter-cultural” speculations that signals perhaps the true end of the “white paper” approach to computer writing, Ted Nelson’s “Computer Lib / Dream Machines” — “the most important book in the history of new media” in the words of the editors. Nelson avoids the trap of writing about specific uses for known technologies that will be outdated in a decade’s time while adhering closely to precisely described visionary concepts, many of which he groups under the term “fantics,” a broad science of the study of humans and reactive or responsive machinic environments. “Design, Activity, and Action,” the third section of the reader, has its share of manifestos, and continues much of the man/machine speculation of Nelson’s, for instance through the model of Greek theater in Brenda Laurel’s famous book Computer and Theater , or through the image of the “cyborg” in Donna Haraway’s influential, if often misunderstood, “A Cyborg Manifesto.”
The real charge of The New Media Reader comes in the political inclusions in the final section, titled with much bravado “Revolution, Resistance, and the Launch of the Web.” One realizes, first, that little in the previous 600 or so previous pages has concerned technologies that are being actively used today: the internet, MP3s, digital film, P2P clients, recent video games or (not unexpectedly) blogs. But a dramatic shift in scale has also occurred: the discussion has progressed way beyond whether an isolated office worker will be able to locate an invoice via a pipe-infested thingamabob right out of Dr. Seuss (or the wet dreams of beans), but whether revolution itself — the physical kind, like what could have happened in Tiananmen Square — will be nurtured or squashed by, respectively, satellite communications or government surveillance technology — two sides of the same coin. “Cybernetic” and “haptic” space — the “global village” of MacLuhan — sheds any sheen of naive technological optimism when we read of the Hacktivismo group cDc (Cult of the Dead Cow)’s practice of “disruptive compliance” — an obtuse offshoot of “civil disobedience” that involves the enabling, through contraband software, of the free flow of information in such zones the “Great Firewall of China,” the mostly tightly controlled cyberspace in the world. (The romantic version of this is epitomized in the perhaps forgettable image of Ice-T transmitting the cure for AIDS through a dolphin in a football helmet in Johny Mnemonic .)
Internet technology has little left to prove in organizational practices — the anti-globalization and anti-war movements relied heavily upon it for the accuracy and efficiency with which it coordinates millions of people worldwide with hourly precision. Underrecognized themes by the more seemingly aberrant thinkers today, such as the theory of “copyleft” rights, “hacktivism” in the cDc style, and the Computer Art Ensemble’s concept of “nomadic power,” or even John Ashcroft’s (yes, he thinks, too) push for increased digital surveillance rights, may not always be, like suicide bombings and purchased elections, front-page headlines, but if any of this power is harnessed the way it could be — either for or against basic human liberties — you can bet they will. This would be a safe bet, if the scale of our “symbiosis” with the machine increases to the same degree it has from the first to the final inclusions in this reader. Its unwritten chapters are yours to write.
The New Media Reader is so generous in its witty, jargonless editorial commentary, rich bibliographies, informative sidebars, as well as in the content itself — I’ve touched on less than a percentage of it — that it almost seems as if the editors, hip to the new politics of information and intellectual property rights, struggled to make it seem free by going several extra yards, down to having it printed in small but very legible typeface (Michael Crumton’s elegant, interactive design made this possible). Whether this book will replace “The Lower East Side Scene” in the Strand’s outdoor dollar carts is beyond my overextended skills of prediction, but it’s hard not to believe that a blueprint for the next stage of world culture — even or especially from those areas where a computer is not to be found — is hidden in its pages.
Erotism rhymes w/
Margaret every fashion Sunday
made to the pronunciation
of Laotians: blue, purple, green
aggravations of government that
portend future dates
— I can’t ignore the punctuation
of gentlemen who wait in the station shouting blanks
will never end — she’s lost two sons already to the
mob w/ auto-
matic pleats who never had the nerve
to ask for a second helping of physical comedy, & never spoke of
the after-spirits of tastes
we are almost
at the top of
sequence of stars
there is a lively
one gone AWOL
where several poets have died
but only a few
were named Jack Canopy
my favorite things to chastise
a dog with
on sloping lapwings
when the skyline
is toward the east & the hemlines
— don’t let me say that joke again I am
almost in love
w/ the privilege
that brings your shy legs
in the simulacral Hamptons
wrists of your economy
wondering how this idiot
got here clearly holding his breath
— for ardor
I would say that
we are almost tired of
growing old when
the galaxies were invented
we didn’t mind them, too
but that was
the day Alexander
found a heap of orphans
in the pathways under his heart
garden in the alternate pleurisies of late-
by artless close-captioning — thus, we love
never tiring of the prism
of snaking letters at the head of every
sentiment — every song that goes
on stage unrehearsed
w/ battering applause
from the paupers' rows
somehow rendering it all back
revolution of the middle
class will not be
but preserved on Caucasian
disks for millennia in several
hundred 96-page books
titles right out of
Christian songbooks circa
1975 Australia we pledge
allegiance to the
drag of tired instincts w/
victuals served up each night
wives in ashtrays an entire
calendar’s worth of
metered doses and, of course, poetry
w/ assurances of sought votes
confidence — I failed to be annoyed, yes,
to cough when
the pollen entered the nostril — when the policeman entertained
thoughts of annual events for elected
suicides & there were
wallets beneath every basket case
They say you had
an idea my arthritic
double that brings it
all back to you
buried beneath the austerity
suggesting a charity
— once or twice
is almost a career “choking”
(in medieval Los Angeles
they used to call it) fail
one last time the fireworks
could bystand quite
innocently and watch one
in collusion w/ mediocrity
a cultish, ritual necessity
— so slow you are
paralyzed and hiding here
tracks of the lime sky fluxus night
That was a way to start a poem
in 1963 we barely knew
how to use words then — when
he learned how to spell “egges” and “shoppe”
in the local style w/ a
Cossack for a backdrop
trying to market the good word of
like a Williamsburg Elmar Gantry but this time
w/ promises of increased penetration, um,
the market type
to ambient salsa music
the offices of all
the rural bodegas she took a nap
dreaming of floating Africa
as if it were never there
Who could I love if my
youth was this
pishy nights green blue
of them palsied for my blood
— nationalism’s shotgun
looking for another
mind in last year’s immigrant
friend from a different era
in a galaxy far far away, said
he preferred my Jean-Paul Satre style to my
Depp — I agree
but for the taint of my pleasure
& the salt of my wandering eye on this book
Drinking the wine: marrying the incredible. | Pausing before words, inhaling: anticipating commotion. | Taking the wrench to technology: curbing the linear. | Bathing, paring, shaving: detoxifying. | Exploring the real estate of the block: inveigling the dogs. | Loving by brush of the cheek: evading the secular. | Futzing with the stocks, rolling with the hunches: the quizzical mine. | Pissing: watching. | Making controversy on the blog: stemming literary conversion. | The laughs get better, the writing: worse. | Running away to Canada, running away to Patagonia: syllables. | Chuckling in Cathedrals: instantiating echoes. | With an eye on the ball: with a hand on the clutch. | Feeling fancy when ordering in German: debasing the European. | Knee shakes, rhythmically: manic. | Korean soup-eater sips loudly: her comforting music. | Glass backboard after youth smashing basketball against flaccid metal one: failure. | I cough: sub-comic material. | The job was filled: the statistic was digitized. | Argument settled, friendship adhered: check paid. | Touching with two hands, when one was never enough: discovery of sympathy. | As able, as husband: and wife. | We know the news when we refuse the headlines: disciplined scanning. | On a fecund plateau against the short shrift of Senators: writing. | Of the dope: after the anxiety. | Naughty movie business: middle-aged voyeurism. | No longer: fingering the watch-chain. | No longer: sinking behind make-up. | No longer: such tender knees. | I mean: it must be. | Retiring every ten years to the country: levelling out. | Chaucer got it: James didn’t. | Wanting the throat to be Chinese: getting Sicilian. | Lorca got it: Dali didn’t. | Wanting a show: wallowing in trauma. | In the ribbons of morning, feeling the touch of a hand: existential measure. | Speaking softly: hardly speaking. | Garbling the vowels: burping. | New airport screening rules: new sentience in the database. | Revisiting photographs: deep-freezing the enigmas. | The clatter of seashells, the walking stick: a turquoise memory.
Here's a nice interactive Shockwave piece by a guy named Nicolaus Clauss. Make sure your sound is on, and don't be afraid to click around and learn the interface -- there are several screens to explore.
[The Guy Maddin story about ABC filming the Osmonds docudrama in Winnipeg is still online -- excerpt below. I think it's a longer version of this story included in From The Atelier Tovar but I could be wrong.]
Thomas Dekker as Donny (center), with Taylor Abrahamse (Jimmy) and Taylin Wilson (Marie)
photo: Guy Maddin
The fine young artificial brothers, looking warm and cozy beneath period-perfect wigs, are power-chording unplugged guitars and lip-synching to "Crazy Horses," one of the Osmonds' zestiest sorties into Mormon rock. These early-'70s proto-mullets are so natural I'm no longer self-conscious about my own new toupee, which I'm debuting on this occasion. Clad in buttery-soft, fringed white kid leather with matching macramé belts and white platform boots, the five counterfeit siblings retrace to perfection the famously wild and white choreography unleashed on a semiotics-ignorant public almost 30 years ago. These osmonoid performers are really caught up in the song's feral rhythms, rudely beating on brazen vessels, bellowing like stags, and harmonizing like horny barbers: "What a show, there they go, smokin' up the sky-y-y-y-y-y—yeah!!! Crazy horses, all got riders, and they're you and I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I—I!!!" When the number is over, I forget myself and—this is inexcusable for a supposed filmmaker—applaud wildly, actually ruining the take, because the cameras are still running, and the sparse audience in the scene is supposed to be apathetic. Sheepishly, I promise to stopper my fervor. Fortunately, the next take is the keeper.