[narcissism, vanity, exhibitionism, ambition, vanity, vanity, vanity]


Still Funny

Back when the idea of a listserv was still interesting enough for me to spend time on one, someone posted Sartre's Lost Cookbook.

October 6
I have realized that the traditional omelet form (eggs and cheese) is bourgeois. Today I tried making one out of cigarettes, some coffee, and four tiny stones. I fed it to Malraux, who puked.

Fifteen years on, it still makes me laugh. Wish I knew who wrote it. Er, maybe that's the point.

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One Eye on the Winter

A moving series of photos from Pripyat -- sentinel photographs really, telling us this, too, is a human possibility, showing us one version of the future -- 20 years downstream from Chernobyl.

(Photo: Pedro Moura Pinheiro via:villageofjoy.com)

(The subject line's from Shona Laing's 1987 Soviet Snow.)

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Kseniya Simonova

If Picasso had had the Internet, Guernica might have looked like this.

via Vika and Moonrat

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Yet More Hot Type! READING HYPERTEXT available on 15 August

It's official: READING HYPERTEXT, a collection of essential papers about literary hypertext, edited by Mark Bernstein and Her Nibs, will be available on August 15. I'm biased, of course, but I think this anthology fills an important gap in the hypertext literature. We don't yet know nearly enough about how links change reading, but over the last twenty years, some very smart and thoughtful people have tried to map the territory, and this book brings a number of those essays together in one place.

Mark has posted the lowdown, including the table of contents, on his blog. Snippet: "Today, we all read on the screen, and we find what to read by following links. The Web is continuing to transform the world, artistically, commercially, technically, and politically. But the Web is not print, and it's certainly not television. What makes new media new? The link: the most important new punctuation mark since the comma. How do we write for a medium when we can't predict what the reader might click? How do we read well, when we cannot read exhaustively?"

If you're attending HT09 in Turin, you'll get a sneak peek!

You can preorder a copy online -- the first copies will ship on August 15.

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Follow Me

on Twitter.



This Transaction is 100% Safe

Too good not to share.

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.
I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transaction is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully
Minister of Treasury Paulson

via Wordsend, thanks Vika!

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The Original Motion Picture

Brown's breathtaking digitization of an 1860 panorama of the life of Garibaldi gives a sense of what the original experience must have been like. I wonder what Walter Benjamin would make of this example of remediation, which breathes a kind of life into a dead media form ...

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Large Hadron Rap

What strange, clever monkeys we are. The known 'verse, indeed.

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via JoanBeach4

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Ken Lee, Two Chinese Characters, Kiki and Bubu

The Internets coughed up three fab things recently:

First: Bulgarian Idol contestant Valentina Hazan sings with her heart, adding a whole new dimension to whatever the hell we are talking about, when we talk about love.

In the process, she spawns the dance hit of the summer, inspires a raft ofYoutube imitators, and even Mariah Carey responds by saying the right thing.

Ken lee, tulibu dibu doutchu...

Then, just in time for the Olympics, Two Chinese Characters teach you how to say "Beijing," and to cheer on your team in Chinese.

And, finally, there's Kiki and Bubu, the world's only classical Marxist sock-puppets. In a series of videos, they take on the contradictions of the "new" economy, explore surveillance as a bourgeois privilege by means of a reading of Orwell's 1984, and deconstruct copyright and identity while helping their friend, the Online Porn Monster, avert a psychological crisis when he is accused of being a plagiarism. ("Want to be .... SOMETHING ELSE ...")

Oh, okay. Just one more: An Engineer's Guide to Cats.

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Dao more shei kaan (Give me the ears for it)

I've got this song, "Praan," in heavy rotation on my iPod. Evidently I'm not the only one who's getting a brain worm from it. The song just spent some weeks at number one in Amazon's soundtrack bestseller list. Apparently there's a ringtone out there, too.

You may recognize "Praan" as the soundtrack to Where the Hell Is Matt?.

I'm not usually this passionate about pop songs, so I'm not sure why this one has stuck. To be sure, it is a joyful song, sung hauntingly by Palbasha Siddique. Beyond that, I don't know. At least it's not Hansen. (If you still remember the brain worm you got from their inexplicable 1997 hit, or even if you don't, you won't want to click that link.)

The song is based on the poem "Stream of Life" by Rabindranath Tagore. Here it is:

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and of death, in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life.
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.

(translated by Tagore)

"Praan" means "life, breath, devotion."

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"Finally" "!!!!" """"

The Blog of Unnecessary Quotation Marks.

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History Not What You Think. Uh. Thought. Uh. Thunk!

I don't even know where to start with this YouTube gem. The idea that all of classical history is merely an early modern fabrication is stunning enough, but then there's the presentation: the monotonous-yet-urgent synthesized speech, the weird powerpoint transition that looks like some kind of masonic emblem, the repeated instructions to buy the book at Amazon... And what is that music playing in the background?

First LOLCats, now this. Life before the innernets was truly impoverished.

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april hates u, makes lilacs, u no can has!!!

Of all the wonderfully strange media objects -- Hamster Dance, All Your Base -- for which we can thank the innernets, this one's got to be one of the best: a LOLcats version of "The Waste Land." Thanks for the laugh, ET.

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We'll Need to Rethink a Few Things

You can learn a lot about Web 2.0 from Michael Wesch's fascinating YouTube video ...



Blogs Not Zagats, Thank You Very Much

George Hunka -- a theater critic and dramatist with a wonderful blog -- explains why he has a blog in the first place:

"I want to insist that unlike my reviews for the Times or nytheatre.com in the past, these are essays of advocacy: notes on theatre work that I find interesting and inspiring to my own creative and critical efforts. I find that this is where the dramatic blogosphere works best. Because I'm not beholden to the whims of capricious editorial desks, constraining word counts, or the need to serve as a Zagat's Guide to theatre and drama, I've got the freedom here to write and contemplate at length and with seriousness that art form to which I've dedicated my time and my life."

That there is no room for GH's meditations within mainstream print media is a sad comment on that media, but good news for people who look more and more to blogs in order to find stuff worth reading.



Terminable & Interminable

Exploring World of Warcraft, a game, Jill makes an interesting comparison between the game and long-running TV shows: Both could go on forever. There are few, if any, endings built in. As Jill says, they "simply pose puzzles and defer closure for as long as they can."

I worry about this "simply." Setting up a framework in which the same, or similar, interactions can happen over and over, with enough differentiation to keep participants interested, isn't simple; and I wonder what the opposite of mere puzzle-posing might be, what Jill has in mind here. A recent complaint about Lost from New York Mag opposes quick puzzle-solving (good) to slow puzzle-posing (bad): "Puzzles are meant to be solved, not prolonged. You can only tease viewers so long before they feel like they're being mocked." Slowness, waiting -- if these things make bad TV, can they do anything good for games?

Well, maybe they don't make such bad TV. Soap operas are like this -- they go on for years and years. Epics -- Roland, the Kalevala, the Mahabharata, to name just three -- are like this too. The Thousand and One Nights. Et cetera. Jill mentions Arthurian legends. All I take from this is that certain stories are epics by virtue of their scope. Not all stories are epics, however. Not all stories have that open-endedness, that support for generating other stories within a single overarching framework.

Jill mentions an idea, from the Peter Brooks playbook, about what stories look like: the end should be fully contained in the beginning, every outcome should be prefigured in some way from the start, which should contain only these seeds of the narrative and nothing else. A story, in this case, is a machine for unfolding consequences from initial conditions. This is also a game. (Think of chess. Of Nabokov.) This is not, to my mind, an epic, though an epic might contain a story of this sort, as perhaps a kind of set-piece, so long as the manner of its unfolding does not break the larger framework of the epic (does not, in other words, break the rules of the world imagined in the epic).

Brooks thinks the end of a story should make sense of its beginning. That this feeling of understanding is what signals "the end" of the story. Aha! That's the moment, the end. Tout comprende. A perhaps wishful idea. I can see how it might be comforting. But other comforts are also available: repetition, perhaps mastery. Onyxia, as Jill points out, always comes back. She's playing Freud's game, fort/da; and so are we. You may lose, or she might, but nothing is ever really lost -- a point ironically underscored by the title, in Jill's post, of the TV series that never ends, in which the loss represented by an actual ending is precisely what is not on the menu.

Perhaps medium and genre not especially powerful categories of analysis in any case.

It may not be a good idea to ask this question, but I will anyway: What is the nature of the relationship between the world of World of Warcraft and the lives of those who play it? The game seems like a kind of supplement, as if those lives would, in important ways, not be the same without it.

WoW already has a place in an academic economy where it is just like books and films and other artifacts of popular culture insofar as it gives people who talk for a living something to talk about. There is an extraordinary video of a recent conference on WoW, in which the conference-goers (Jill's there, too) were filmed looking distinctly uncomfortable as they sat around a table full of rifles, presumably loaded, which they were about to learn to use. (A fascinating curriculum for these mild-mannered educators!) It would be interesting to read this footage through a Derridean lens; it seems like a trace of an experience that constituted a sort of supplement to the conference, and it certainly stands in some relationship (but, what?) to the supplementarity of WoW to the academic discourse around it. Or, perhaps, vice-versa. (Of course.)

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Flaubert's Revisions

to the opening paragraph of Madame Bovary were, well, quite extensive. Courtesy of the University of Rouen, here are some early drafts, the final draft, the copyedited draft (which Flaubert was apparently still editing, no doubt to his publisher's dismay, at press time), and the published version of 1873, here:

"Nous étions à l'Étude, quand le Proviseur entra, suivi d'un nouveau habillé en bourgeois et d'un garçon de classe qui portait un grand pupitre. Ceux qui dormaient se réveillèrent, et chacun se leva comme surpris dans son travail."

This opening moment -- the arrival of the Proviseur, the studied busyness of the students who greet him, and the stage business with the grand pupitre -- persists mostly unchanged. But in the earliest draft, the new student does not appear immediately; Flaubert seems to want to signal his appearance through the appearance of the desk alone. But when the student finally arrives, the book takes off. He's unnamed, a mystery, and already causing trouble. (Why does he need such a large desk, anyway?) In drafts, Flaubert adds details only to take them away later, summarizing when he needs to pick up the pace. In the copyediting stage, Flaubert cut the first clause, which rather delightfully located the reader precisely in time using the schoolbell, all the way down to the more direct and immediate "We were in class when..."

I can easily imagine the scene: the proofs on the desk, the pen poised over them. He's never really liked the first line but nothing else worked any better. But it's the first line, it has to be good. He should cut it, down to the essentials. Oh, but the schoolbell started everything off so audily... But no, again - it still won't do. All at once he sees a different way in. A breath, another, cut cut cut...

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