City Bird by Millie Niss

Millie Niss passed away in 2009. She was a New York writer/poet, programmer, and mathematician who took her work as a new media artist very seriously. Her mother Martha Deed has put together a book of her writings called City Bird that was recently published by BlazeVox. I’ve been reading it. Anyone who knew her, in reading this book, is reminded so much of her presence, voice, humour, intelligence, suffering, and strength. It’s quite a strong statement, really, of resilience in the face of the frequent sickness she had to endure throughout her life.

It’s a book I’ll keep and read over the years. I think Millie would be delighted with what Martha has done in editing this collection of Millie’s poems and getting it published.

I wrote something about Millie not long after she passed away, and worked with Martha on putting some photos of Millie up on the net. I miss the Niss. Many thanks to Martha for this terrific collection of Millie’s poetry.

Andrew Topel

I subscribe to the Poetics list from SUNY, which is one of the oldest/biggest English language poetry-related listservs. Mostly the posts are ‘here’s my new book of poems’ or ‘I’m going to be reading on Tuesday’, but occasionally something else transpires. There are several interesting visual poets who post URLs to new work on the list. Andrew Topel posted what I think is distinctive, exciting work, recently, that I’d like to recommend.

It doesn’t immediately remind me of anyone else’s work. It’s an interesting mixture of textual and photographic media. Some of it is in ‘comics’ mode. Some of it is ‘pain terly’. Others are traditionally gray-scale but with Escher pagination.

From CONCRETE by Andrew Topel

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In the soup with the digital book

Nicolas Negroponte of MIT famously defined the phenomenon of digital
convergence as ” digital soup” and I’m poised – or at least tottering – on
the point of scattering my bits of alphabet into the digi-soup, in the form
of an e-book for platforms like Kindle and/or i-Pad. In one way, it’s the
logical development of an involvement in electronic media since the early
seventies , using audio, then video, then the www. Yet it’s also a decisive
break with the fixed identity of the printed book as artefact. If the text
on one’s e-reader links to multi-media files elsewhere , or to inter-active
options, or options for updating the text then the reading experience
obviously changes. As a newcomer to the field, I’m probably re-inventing the
wheel in thinking through all this aloud, but I’d be interest to know what
other NetArtisans make of the e-book phenomenon, either as readers or
creators. For example, would Jim want to see his animated texts on an
e-reader rather than a full laptop or desktop screen? Would Gregory want to
add a visual or textual element to his audio dramas via i-Pad – or would
this lose the enigma of the immersive audio-only experience? What do people
think is an outstanding or prophetic work which exploits the possibilities
of the e-book format. I’d be intrigued to know.

Radiauteur: new webzine for radio art

Radiauteur – a new web magazine dedicated to radio art is now live online.

Intro:

Dedicated to radio art, the transmission of conceptual sounds and voiced thoughts, Radiauteur was launched to become a web magazine for academics and artists from all over the world to publish their work. In addition to this, Radiauteur aims to become an online platform for the dissemination of past, present and future praxis – an Ariadne’s thread for radio art to reach an audience as wide as possible.

Radiauteur is a non-profit initiative kindly supported by the Centre for Cultural Studies and the Department for Media and Communications of Goldsmiths, University of London.   http://www.radiauteur.com

Transmissions:

We have included radio stations (and podcasts) which either broadcast radio art or are radio-art-friendly, and open to contributions. Please feel free to suggest any other stations you might know of.

Artists:

We are currently still updating our database of radio artists. If you would like to be featured on our website please send us a short bio, a link to a personal website/page and a sample of your work.  We are also working on setting up an online radio playing exclusively radio artworks. If you would like your pieces to be featured please send them in mp3 format to info[at]radiauteur[dot]com

Call for papers and radio artworks:

The subject of the first issue of Radiauteur is ‘Freedom’. Abstracts and proposals for artworks (found sounds, field recordings, radio experiments and installations, collages, readings, interviews, etc) should be submitted by the 31st of March and final articles and pieces by the 30th of April.

The first issue of Radiauteur will be published online on the 1st of June 2011.
All queries should be sent to:  info[at]radiauteur[dot]com

Maria Engberg reviews Funkhouser and Drucker

Maria Engberg wrote an interesting review of two books relevant to digital poetry: Chris Funkhouser’s Prehistoric Digital Poetry–An Archeology of Forms (1959-1995) and Johanna Drucker’s Speclab: Digital Aesthetics and Projects in Speculative Computing. Engberg says:

“A challenging notion for both scholars and artists to take up, then, is that social media seems to speak against the strong authoritative force and artistic drive behind the works that both Drucker (artists’ books) and Funkhouser (digital poetry) discuss. The modernist poetics of digital poetry that Funkhouser describes, not incorrectly, is perhaps inherently incompatible with the contemporary social creativity (for lack of a better term) of YouTube mashup videos, Facebook status update string narratives, Twitter feeds, and locative mobile “app-experiences” with their motley aesthetic and political pedigrees and agendas, unclear sender and reader positions (endlessly multiple) and transient status as objects.”

I have a different take on this subject, I think, than Engberg’s. Digital/literary work that deals with Twitter, say, is not simply somebody tweeting. Instead, we see work like The Longest Poem in the World. This is a programmerly work that creates rhyming couplets out of a Twitter feed of thousands of people tweeting. When I just visited, it had written 1,353,298 verses. It’s constantly adding more verses.

Similarly, digital/literary art that deals with Facebook won’t simply be someone writing status updates or links or notes or whatever other functionality Facebook provides.  It will, like The Longest Poem in the World, operate not simply within the social media app’s system, but will take it and its contents as ‘feed’.

Mom’s music

When my mom was dying, there was a short time when she no longer could talk but could hear. This was only a few days before she died, when she was in the Hospice, which she was for the last couple of weeks of her life.

Mom had always loved her music.  I have cherished childhood memories of kicking around the house on Sundays when mom would be doing house work and playing her music loudly on the stereo. Probably those Sundays, when she wasn’t working and was just relaxing at home and listening to music, shaped my love of music.

Anyway, I made a CD of some of her favorite tunes and took it in with me to visit her. The Hospice had some boom boxes. So mom and I sat together, she no longer able to talk. But she could hear, and I played her a CD of her favorite tunes and we sat together just listening.

Her eyes had been bad for a long time. Which had prevented her for years from using the stereo I bought her. She rarely listened to her music, in her last years. It was too hard for her to use the machinery. But I know she loved her music.  And I love it also. The Sound of Music. Westside Story. Harry Belafonte. Enya. Neil Diamond. Leonard Cohen. Moon River by Henry Mancini was mom and dad’s song. That was their love song.

I will remember that visit to mom forever, and playing her that music. She was visibly relieved to hear her music. And, to me, to hear it with her reminded me so much of all those Sundays as a kid with my mother.

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Slidvid 3.0

The 'ink' of the four nibs is lettristic animation

I’ve been working on version 3 of a JavaScript slideshow program I call Slidvid. I initially developed it to show screenshots of dbCinema in action. All the dbCinema slideshows use an earlier version of the Slidvid software. I’d like to show you Slidvid 3.0 in this post. And if you have a site you’d like to show your graphics on in a slideshow, drop me a line and we’ll put Slidvid on your site with your graphics.

The graphics in the first Slidvid 3 slideshow are old ones; they’re screenshots from a generative, interactive Shockwave piece I wrote called  A Pen.  I’ve had the screenshots on my site for quite a while, but not in a slideshow. The experience of them in a slideshow is more to my liking. Less work for the viewer. More options for the viewer and the presenter. And just a classier presentation.

The graphics in this slideshow were made with a virtual pen that has four nibs. The ‘ink’ of each nib is a lettristic animation that leaves trails as the pen moves the nibs/animations around the screen. Think of the nibs as being attached to the pen by long loose springs. When you click and drag the mouse in the Shockwave piece (not the slideshow), the nibs eventually catch up with you. And you can adjust things like the size and opacity of each nib. Hence the sort of graphics you see in this post. The project A Pen consists of both the interactive Shockwave piece and also the slideshow of screenshots taken from the Shockwave piece in action.

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The Curse of the “Code Blue” Motto

The motto of the Canadian national junior hockey team in 2011 was “Code Blue”. Who knew that their motto would prove ironic? After the final game, did whoever thought up the motto for the Canadian juniors glimpse, in a kind of literary horror, the final meaning the motto would have in history? It’s final meaning was revealed only after the Russians stormed back from a 3-0 deficit at the end of the second period to win 5-3 and capture their first World Junior tournament gold medal since 2003.  “Code blue” is for “cardiac arrest”, and it most aptly described the collapse of the Canadian team itself in the third period from hell. Did the motto’s writer sense being trapped in the inevitability of a story that he had helped write without knowing the end and the meaning that would give the motto?

Consider another case of literary horror. In The Shining, there’s a moment when Wendy, Jack’s wife, discovers that what Jack has been writing all winter amounts to an entire volume of repetitions of one sentence: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

It’s funny but it’s also a moment of literary horror. He’s mad! Or is he just postmodern???? A conceptual poet??? No he’s mad, look out for the axe!! A boy so dull cannot but be mad!!

Similarly, the moment, after the third period, of the revelation of the final meaning of the “Code Blue” motto. A little frisson of the secret wiles of destiny. A peek into the machinery of the universe.

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New online journal: Experimental Poetics and Aesthetics

I received the below notice concerning a new online journal on experimental poetics and aesthetics, which I thought I’d post on netartery.

Dear colleagues,

We would like to take this opportunity to announce the launch of the inaugural issue of the journal Experimental Poetics and Aesthetics. If you could forward and share this announcement through your professional networks, we would be very grateful!

An index of the contents of this first issue is available at http://www.experimentalpoetics.com/blog/vocabulary/issues . As you can see, most of the content for this inaugural issue is in Spanish and Portuguese, however EXP also publishes works in English and as such we would warmly welcome submissions from authors working in that language for our upcoming issues.

We anticipate that the call for papers for the next issue will be sent out in mid-January.

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Doc At The Radar Station

In 1980, as I took my own first forays into the wilds of electromagnetic schizophonia, bouncing twisted walkie talkie tracks between two battered Superscopes, Captain Beefheart released an album that would deeply impact my understanding of the wired up human voice and its seductive tangle of paradox and possibility: Doc At The Radar Station.

Ashtray Heart?

Suddenly, here was a fully charged songbody that contained within its convoluted nervous system the same double edged vibe I was sensing both on tape and in the air: the lucid paranoia of the electrified persona, with its modulating potentials for revelation, wounds or oblivion; the juiced immersion with some other entity, some other ethereal field, floating somewhere close to the gods — though maybe it was just some scrambled cipher left behind by an unscheduled sparagmos.

I had been listening to the Magic Band for many years before then, with a transistor radio tucked beneath my pillow, Trout Mask Replica, cross rhythmic incantations for the shocked disembody —  but song/poems like Telephone took signature Beefheart out-thereness and injected it straight into the bone marrow of the lone schizophonic self. At the radar station, the rips and crackles became very personal, no longer out there, but in here.

And I strangled

And I ripped the cord

And I saw the bone

And I heard these tweetin’ things

N twinkling lights

N there was nobody home

Where are all those nerve endings coming out of the bone?

Telephone

Telephone

————-

Creep the Ether Feather

Don Van Vliet , aka Captain Beefheart, died yesterday at the age of 69.

Nick Montfort & Stephanie Strickland / Sea and Spar Between

Stephanie Strickland and Nick Montfort have collaborated on a  work of digital poetry called Sea and Spar Between. The  generative/interactive piece uses Emily Dickinson’s poems and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

Here is the Javascript file for the work. If you understand Javascript, this’ll show you how the program works.

Both Stephanie and Nick have been involved in electronic literature for many years. Nick teaches it at MIT and Stephanie is a mathematician who has published several books of poems and created many online interactive works.

iPhone apps for Native languages in western Canada

Quoted and condensed from an article by Judith Lavoie in the Victoria Times Colonist, Dec 16, 2010.

New apps for the iPod Touch, iPad and iPhone have been developed for the Sencoten language, spoken on southern Vancouver Island [in British Columbia, Canada], and Halq’eméylem, spoken in the Fraser Valley [of the same area]. Six more communities are using archives of recorded words and phrases to build mobile, audio dictionaries with funding from the province.

“Young people today are distracted by a lot of technology. They want to text, be on the web and play games and so we knew that, if we had any hope of keeping the language in front of them, it had to be presented in these ways,” said Peter Brand, co-ordinator of FirstVoices. FirstVoices archives and teaches aboriginal languages.

The struggle to keep B.C.’s 34 aboriginal languages alive becomes more difficult as elders die. On the Saanich Peninsula, only about 10 fluent Sencoten speakers remain.

The apps can be downloaded free from the iTunes store.

Sencoten:

http://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/id398943185?mt=8

Halq’eméylem:

http://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/halqemeylem/id398945845?mt=8

Wikileaks, Napster, and the Ayatollah Flanagan

Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks

Wikileaks and Napster

In an Assange interview published by the Guardian on Friday 3 December 2010,  Assange says:

“Western speech, as something that rarely has any effect on power, is, like badgers and birds, free. In states like China, there is pervasive censorship, because speech still has …power and power is scared of it. We should always look at censorship as an economic signal that reveals the potential power of speech in that jurisdiction. The attacks against us by the US point to a great hope, speech powerful enough to break the fiscal blockade.”

In other words, he says the only Western speech that is ‘free’ is speech that does not threaten “the fiscal blockade”.

The commodity, in the case of Wikileaks, that is threatened is safe/private intelligence. We might call it ‘safely encrypted intelligence’.

The commodity in the case of Napster was monetized, commodified, marketed music.

Napster was savaged by the music industry because Napster represented a significant threat to the business. They were actually able to shut it down through the legal system. Wikileaks is being savaged by governments and also the media around the world. The media is savaging Wikileaks because Wikileaks is fulfilling a job typically done by the press. Governments are savaging Wikileaks because Wikileaks is publishing their secret information.

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P.o.E.M.M. = Poems for Excitable Mobile Media

Hello Netartery! Jason Edward Lewis here. I’ve been working on digital texts and electronic poetry for a couple of decades, and I teach in the Computation Arts program at Concordia University in Montreal.

Jim invited me to contribute to this blog, and I thought it appropriate that my first post be an invitation to you all to check out Speak, my first art/poem app. It just went live on the iTunes app store: http://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/speak/id406078727?mt=8#ls=1.

Speak is the mobile version of What They Speak When They Speak to Me. It works on all i-devices, but looks best on the iPad.

This is the first publication in our Poems for Excitable Mobile Media series. P.o.E.M.M. is a research/creation project looking at how to write and implement poetry designed for touch interaction on mobile devices. It’s an attempt to sketch out the space of possibilities for a poetic structure that incorporates dynamic, interactive and tactile strategies as a core component of the writing process and presentation.

Give it swing, let me (j@jasonlewis.org) know if there are any technical glitches.

Radio Poetics, Interference and Muck

I love my new digital radio!

With the proliferation of audio webstreams and all sorts of digital smart boxes calling themselves radios, we need to ask, well, if these streams are becoming ever more fluent, then what space is being drained? When someone asks me, as they do, often, if I love Pandora, well, what sort of bugs are they asking me to love?

Radio poesis flows from the edges, some of them very fragile and sensitive, and occasionally they may even swell or bleed. Edges between signal and noise. Edges of frequency and range, both of which implicate edges of power and politics. Edges between attraction and repulsion; between Eros and Thanatos, or utopia and oblivion; the double edged ambiguities of sender and receiver caught in their limbic limbo dance. How low can we go?

As any biologist will confirm, edges are very often the key to the vitality of an ecosphere. Without edges, exchanges of energies (be they hoots, howls or body fluids) are rapidly and perhaps terminally diminished.

My kind of radio

When I bemoan the lack of poetic or aesthetic diversity on public radio (whether CBC, NPR, BBC or wherever), I am bemoaning the lack of edges. Instead of program streams that celebrate lively & liminal qualities such as fluid ambiguity and slippery murk, qualities that give heart and truth to the medium, we hear nothing but tight and tidy pitter patter, which in an infinitely messy cosmos (well expressed within the human species) serves up the ultimate deceit.

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New online issue of CIAC’s magazine

The CIAC is the Centre for International Contemporary Art in Montréal. They publish on the net a long-running magazine, now edited by Paule Makrous, that features web art, interviews, reviews, and other work. The most recent issue (38) features poetry by some of the victims of Ravensbrück, a Nazi concentration camp for women. And an interview with Gregory Chatonsky. And an interview with me by Paule. And other work.

Sound Resolution

Now what I’m going to tell you you already know back in some primitive part of your brain. Digital sound doesn’t sound as good as many analog recordings. Here’s why.

Digital sound is typically 44,100 samples per second. That sounds like a freakin lot of samples per second but it’s too low and that’s the problem. Really high quality sampling of sound takes place at 2,822,400 samples per second. This is known as SACD (Super Audio CD) developed by Sony and Philips. That’s 64 times greater than 44,100 samples per second. Currently, the best digital audio recordings have a sample rate twice as high as SACD. Or 128 times the typical 44,100 sample rate.

The problem is that CDs don’t hold enough information to be able to support SACD. You’d only get a couple of minutes or less of such audio on a CD. That is probably the historic rationale for commercial audio being typically 44,100 samples per second: the file sizes are not too big.

When I listen to typical digital audio, what I notice, if I crank it up–and I like to crank up music, typically–is that there’s no presence to the recordings. Some vinyl albums I had, when played on decent stereos–the stereos didn’t have to be top of the line, but they had to be OK–sounded pretty much ‘live’. They had presence. But digital audio, it can’t break through from the other side, as it were.

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Digital Fiction iPad Project: the Good and Bad Stuff

I thought it might be interesting to reflect on how we’re finding the iPad as a development platform regarding our latest digital fiction project ‘Changed‘, bearing in mind that we’re not using the Apple SDK or exporting an App from Flash CS5 to produce this piece.

Changed is an atmospheric story set beneath a roadway tunnel. It’s based on a script by Lynda Williams (see Grace, a short film which Lynda wrote, here). It contains a mix of text, video, audio and some elements of interactivity. It’s self-reflective and strongly visual, the tunnel itself forming the ‘canvas’ onto which all other aspects of the story unfold.

The work is being designed as a ‘Web App’, which means it can be found on Mobile Safari on the iPad, bookmarked, and then added to the iPad’s Home Screen as if it were a native App. Theoretically, once downloaded, it should run offline where no internet connection is available. We’re also looking to try and keep it compatible with desktop computers/browsers.

It’s a bit of an experiment into what’s possible – but here’s what we’ve liked and disliked about the iPad development part thus far:

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NHL Brain Trinket

What I’m going to tell you—I warn you—is of no consequence whatever. And it won’t even be of interest to you unless you’re an NHL hockey fan. And, worse, it’s going to test your algebra skills. The only thing I can say in favour of saying it at all is that you just won’t ever read anything else about hockey like what I’m going to tell you right now. It just doesn’t happen. This is the unicorn of hockey writing. Right here, right now.

It’s so messed up to be telling you this at all that I have to give you something to get you to read it. What I’m going to give you is like something you’d get out of a bubble-gum machine. But maybe the best such thing you’d get. Cuz it’s an idea. It’s from the bubble gum machine of the mind. I figured it out myself. I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere else. I’m going to give you a little brain trinket. It’s a formula. The formula tells you how many points a perfectly average NHL team should have after they’ve played N games. That’s it. That’s all this is about. The only use it has is to be able to tell if a team is above or below average. Think of this as a peculiarly Canadian gift. It’s a way to think a little bit more clearly about something that is barely worth thinking about at all. But, you know, in Canada, we think about hockey. It’s more pleasant than thinking about the mess we’re in.

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Shoes red as wounds

Performing at Inspace and my Underbelly Cabinet of Curios

For my performance of Underbelly in Edinburgh, UK, on Halloween at Inspace no one can hear you scream I intend to wear shoes as red as wounds. Why? Because Underbelly, my work of playable media fiction, is an exploration of women’s bodies in relation to the land – past and present, inside and outside, above and below ground – and shoes, especially red ones, are loaded with associations.

I’m tempted to say more but instead, it might be more fun to point you to my Underbelly Cabinet of Curios. It’s a digital collection of some of the sources, influences and catalysts that gave rise to Underbelly, and a peek at one stage of the process of writing and structuring the piece. Within the cabinet, you’ll also find some connections and contextual curios, creative works by others in other media that struck a chord with me in relation to the themes I explore in Underbelly… and, if you follow the merry dance, the significance of red shoes.

Since I spend so much of my time stuck at my desk in front of a computer, I’m really looking forward to stepping out and into performer’s shoes – not least because there’s such a fantastic line-up of other artist-performers at Inspace on Halloween:

48 hours | Inspace no one can hear you scream

Sunday 31st October 2010, 7.30 for 8pm.
Inspace, 1 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB

As part of the third International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling, we present an evening of language in digital performance with works by Martin John Callanan, JR Carpenter & Jerome Fletcher, Donna Leishman, Maria Mencia, Netwurker Mez, Stanza and Christine Wilks.