Archive for June, 2010

The Marconi factory beams out one final SOS

The BBC reports that the daughter of Guglielmo Marconi, the Princess Elettra, has been shocked by the derelict condition of her father’s former factory in Chelmsford, England.  Once providing a makeshift studio for the very first radio broadcast intended purely as entertainment, the factory has now become a local shooting gallery and residence  of last resort — undoubtedly still offering an abundance of cross corporeal transmissions.

What Shocks Elettra

Guglielmo was evidently quite fond of the name Elettra, giving it to both his daughter and his yacht, which doubled as a floating laboratory for his lifelong investigations into the vagaries of maritime wireless communication. SOS, as in Save Our Ship or Sink Our Ship? History has heard plenty of both.

Elettra on board Elettra

The first entertainment broadcast beamed forth on June 15, 1920, featuring the voice of Dame Nellie Melba, who gave her name to toast and to a peach dessert. Opening with a rendition of “Home! Sweet Home!”, the broadcast was confirmed as having been clearly received from as far away as Newfoundland, and was even recorded by wireless enthusiasts in Paris.

Home! Sweet Home!

A quite entertaining video documentary of Melba’s performance can be found here. From all accounts, the broadcast was a great success, the one complaint being that the strength of the signal obliterated all other wireless transmissions in the vicinity, a strength that contrasts notably with Marconi’s first attempt at transoceanic wireless on December 12, 1901, centering around the infamous letter “S”, dot dot dot. Did Marconi actually hear the S, up there on Signal Hill, or did he hear what he wanted to hear, amidst the crackle of cosmic interference?

I swear I heard a dot dot dot... really!

In any event, one wonders what is to become of the derelict factory, given that Elettra, for all her horror at the state of decay, does not appear eager to twitch a single noble finger towards purchasing the property. I suspect that the market for luxury flats is not exactly on fire in Chelmsford, and of course, the English, like Americans, don’t really fabricate much of anything anymore, not even Melba toast. But whatever the future brings, it is clear that the good ship Marconi at Chemsford has been forever dismasted.

Marconi's Main Mast, 1920

Up for the challenge

The first challenge is: viivakoodi, barcode, código de parras, codice a barre…

I’ve always enjoyed a challenge – or rather, I’ve always hated to turn my back on a challenge, ever since I was a girl and the roughest, toughest boy in the playground dared me to go up on the swing with him, standing face to face, as high as it would go…

Well actually, this challenge, set by Finnish visual poet, Satu Kaikkonen, wasn’t half so scary – in fact, it was pure pleasure. Time for a Vispo is a new blog run by Satu where she gives a weekly challenge to create a vispo. The 1. challenge, issued on Monday 28 June, is barcode.

id card is my response. Created in Flash, it’s a random coded e-poem with voices – it’s an update of a remix I created for R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX

screenshot of id card

Screenshot of id card - a remixworx e-poem created in Flash by crissxross

R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX is a collaborative blog for digital art and e-poetry remixing, started by Randy Adams (runran) in November 2006. Barcodes have featured a number of times in remixworx so I also slipped a few other remixes into The 1. challenge. See the collection under the remixworx barcode tag, including:

seepage by runran

artifact (bicycle – 2111) by runran

artifact (rusted sergio mix) by babel (Chris Joseph)

Worx by babel

sizing up by crissxross

My little cyber shrine

Dick Andrews

It’s been ten years since my dad passed away in 2000. I’ve been meaning to put some pictures of him on the net, for myself and for family and family friends, primarily. I just finished doing that. And writing something about dad. The photos are at and the writing is at .

I also just put a couple of family videos up at . My dad’s sister Lucy Milne passed away last June at the age of 98. But, before she did, I bought a video camera and videoed a couple of conversations I had with her and her daughter, Isabelle, over family photos. And then I learned a bit of Adobe Premier to make these two videos, which combine the conversations with the family photos. Wish I’d done this with my parents when they were alive. Each of the two videos is about an hour long. And they use about 200 family photos.

In 2008 I also put some photos of my mom up at . She passed away in 2008. Oddly enough, these were mentioned in Le Monde.

I didn’t approach any of these things as art, really. But there is no shortage of love in them.

On fluid poetry

Hi all “netarterists”, this is my first post. It’s great to be part of the team!

I don’t usually write about my own work, but I figured out that it could be an interesting way to introduce myself. So I am posting here a paper I wrote earlier this year called “On fluid poetry”, in which I describe the inner workings and ideas of my piece, “Computer Aided Poetry”. Please excuse the “academic formatting” of this post, I promise it won’t happen again 😉

On fluid poetry

Condensation is the chemical process through which the atoms / molecules of an element or compound in a gaseous state change their aggregation phase into liquid droplets. During condensation, the kinetic energy of the atoms / molecules is reduced by slowing them down. They are brought together as a consequence since the attraction between them, an invisible link, prevails. They also become colder and, because of their aggregation, visible. The droplets formed by the condensation of an unseen gas seem to emerge from out of nowhere. Their sudden mass makes the huddled molecules vulnerable to forces which were latent or too weak in their previous state, such as the pull of gravity, which will make the droplets slide down a smooth surface, leaving behind a liquid trail.

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Online Russian mag of sound poetry & audio art

To me, this is quite juicy: an online Russian magazine of sound poetry and audio art called ARTronic Poetry. Edited by Evgenij V. Kharitonov. This is like exotic blue cheese.

If you are new to sound poetry, I suggest you try to sing along. Seriously. The meaning of some sound poetry is not simply in how it sounds, but in how it feels to vocalize it.

I was particularly taken with Alexandr V. Bubnov’s 1-2-3 Sonnets. There’s a mixture of languages and just pure sound in this, plus allusion to written form, that is very rich. But, mostly, the sound is terrific.

Issue 1 of ARTronic features work by Heike Fiedler, Anna Kharitonova, Sergej Birjukov, Alexandr V. Bubnov, Evgenij V. Kharitonova, Amanda Stewart, Tim Gaze, Maksim Borodin, and Alexandr Oyko. is related to this publication. I’m not sure if this is by Evgenij V. Kharitonov also.

I know of only one other online journal of sound poetry: from Atlanta.

On Pulsate by Andre Michelle

From 'Pulsate' by Andre Michelle

I find Andre Michelle’s (Flash)  interactive audio piece called Pulsate quite interesting. I won’t describe it (very much) because it’s online and you can check it out for yourself. Writing about works you can check out online is different from writing about works you can’t check out so easily yourself. Overly descriptive writing about such pieces avoids the harder and more interesting task of saying something about the piece that isn’t obvious.

This paragraph contains  all the description that’s required. Click to create a circle. Press the space bar to start from scratch. A circle  grows in size until it kisses another expanding circle; a note is played; then the two circles both begin to shrink in size. They shrink until they disappear; then they grow again.

Pulsate is a generative work. That is, the audio is generated by the program depending on what you, the user/player, do. And it’s quite interestingly compositional, really. The compositional paradigm is dynamically visual and geometric. Very simple. But intriguingly puddle cosmic and charming. Looking at puddles in the rain is a kind of quotidian cosmic contemplation. Expanding circles intersecting. Ripples of what is and what seems and distortions of the image accordingly. Pulsate nods in the direction of rainy puddle lovers and geometers.

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On using tools made by comrades

Notes and memoirs on using digital poetry tools engineered by other digital poets.

Funkhouser using Tisselli's Midi Poet tool

With regard to digital tools, there are makers and there are users. As an artist, I feel lucky to be living at a time when artists who are making terrific tools make them available to use. Without any sort of conscious (premeditated) intention to do so, I began a period of intense creative “collaboration” involving software programs made by other digital authors (Jim Andrews, Charles O. Hartman, Eugenio Tisselli, Andrew Klobucar/David Ayer) in early 2009. These poetry-oriented tools have been part of my practice in various ways since.

Results, from my perspective, have been extremely positive. Will writing about the experiences of using them have value? I do so to provide compositional examples to the larger community, to show how working with such tools holds a range of possibilities for asynchronous—if not autonomous—collaboration people are capable of across the network, despite physical separation. Works described below are successful experiments, outcomes of which surpassed my expectations of what would be achieved. In all of them, personal filters are present, in most so is direct artistic/authorial input. In two examples, output made with these tools is visually combined with other experiments (layered as montages with other animations) in performance settings.

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2 short films from ELO Archive & Innovate

from '51 Responses'

Spontaneous film-making is getting easier in this era of HD DSLRs, so while I was at the recent (wonderful) Electronic Literature Organization Archive & Innovate Conference, under-cover of creating a video-document to compensate for my weak capacity at putting names to faces (a.k.a. Prosopagnosia) I took the opportunity to ask as many participants as I could to briefly tell me what inspired them to get into digital literature.

The white balance is deranged, the sound cruddy at points, the focus occasionally misguided, but nonetheless it is a compelling testament to the diversity of a generous community that includes old guard luminaries as well as fresh-faced newbies.

I am grateful to all those who gave a moment of their time to the creation of these two short online films: 51 Keywords (33 seconds) and 51 Responses (18:25).

The Playground

Mobile EditionsThere is one story that has been niggling me for as long as I can remember. A story involving the  relationship between a boy of school age, his grandmother and a frightening, possibly-supernatural force that comes between them. Dreaming Methods is riddled with fragmentary glimpses into this strange relationship; Dim O’Gauble, The Flat, The Diary of Anne Sykes, The Scrapbook. No matter how far around the houses I go to produce work that shuffles away from this personally obsessive concept, I always end up being drawn back to it and attempting  to generate another multimedia perspective on this complex – yet only ever glimpsing –  piece of fiction.

I’m at it again at the moment, this time from a much more direct angle. Nightingale’s Playground is a work that brings a lot of vintage Dreaming Methods themes and ideas together in a more coherent and accessible way than previously attempted. It’s a large-scale piece that spans several recent time periods – as well as a number of different delivery methods and formats.

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Script: a new publication

S C R I P T is a new online publication edited by David Goldsmith and Quimby Melton. There are interesting articles on the work of Ted Warnell, my favourite ‘code poet’, and Nico Vassilakis, a Seattle friend and visual poet. And there’s what promises to be an interesting section coming up in the next issue on the Voynich manuscript.

Digital Fiction on the iPhone via Flash export?

Dreaming Methods - iPhone EditionOne of the things that attracted me to upgrade from Flash CS4 to CS5 (as well as the improved drag and drop code snippets and generally better stability) was the promise of iPhone and iPad export. Apps for these devices are making waves in the world of digital literature at the moment with publishers knocking out mobile device editions of their authors’ books like nobody’s business. Despite the raging battle between Apple and Adobe over Flash, I thought this was a cool move on behalf of Adobe (after all, it compiles Flash into App code, bypassing the problem), and a few weeks ago decided to see whether this export option really worked. A Dreaming Methods project on the iPhone? That would be a nice thing to see.

Let me mention that I don’t have an iPhone myself – or indeed an iPad. My wife has an iPod Touch, which is supposedly like an iPhone but without the phone capabilities, so I borrowed that and plugged it into my PC ready to see this miracle in action. I couldn’t quite believe that it was going to be as simple as pressing “Publish for iPhone”. And it wasn’t.

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The gusher provides the ink

But what’s the message?

A few years ago, I co-produced a documentary for BBC Radio 3 that set out to follow the watery migrations of bits of Gospel tossed into the ocean by bottle evangelists.  Like the bottles themselves, we soon found ourselves in deeper waters, and the program gradually shifted into a more global meditation on the planetary postal delivery system formed by intersecting ocean currents:

The Planetary Postal System

A retired oceanographer named Curt Ebbespeyer has become possibly the world’s foremost expert in reading the strange and unruly texts that wash ashore around the world each day. By tracking various categories of flotsam and jetsam, he is also able to guage the relative health of the postal conveyor belts, the sub currents that together remind us that we are all truly connected via the flows of Okeanos.  Over the years, Ebbesmeyer has tracked everything from vast flotillas of Nike sneakers to potentially lethal depth charges.

Now let’s shift focus to the two large floating dump sites for discarded plastic:

Sing the Plastic Fantastic

Needless to say, these enormous globs severely gum up the flow of global mail, with consequences that remain unknown.

OK, so with the stage set, let us imagine that the oil gushing forth in the gulf is a sort of cosmic ink, and let us further imagine that it enters the postal delivery system via the Gulf Stream, an event that may only be a few weeks in the future. Finally let us imagine that this vast quantity of ink eventually finds a suitable surface upon which to leave its mark: the twin sheets of plastic garbage.

The resulting text creates the world’s most spectacular dead letter, an ominous message that cannot be delivered nor returned, a text as strange, violent and inscrutable as the hulking corpus of The White Whale.

BP Horizon oil spill volume

How much oil is spilling into the Gulf of Mexico from the Horizon oil spill? Wikipedia tells us that although no really accurate testing has been permitted by BP, estimates range from 500,000 to 4,200,000 US gallons per day.

How big is that? If we were to fit 4,200,000 gallons in a cube, the cube would be 53 ft in length, width, and height.

53 ft is about the length of my property. My house is on a lot that’s about 53 ft by 53 ft.

So, to imagine the volume of the spill, imagine a typical house lot, only 53 feet high, also. That’s about 6 stories high.

One such ‘house of oil’ every day is spilling into the Gulf.

The spill started April 22, 2010. It is now June 3. That’s about 40 days. That’s 40 six-story houses of oil, so far. And many more to come, we gather, because they apparently have no idea how to stop the spill.

40 six-story houses of oil is already an oceanic suburb of death and ecological annihilation.

The Exxon Valdez spill of 1989 was 10,800,000 US gallons. It takes the Horizon disaster about 2.5 days to spill that amount. The Horizon spill is already about 16 times larger than the Exxon Valdez spill.

An average-sized swimming pool holds about 100,000 gallons. The BP Horizon spill would fill about 42 swimming pools per day. We’ve had 40 days of it, so far. That’s 1,680 full swimming pools.

Reduced to the state of a child

I recall reading writing by the poet P.K. Page about her time in Brazil, as the wife of a Canadian ambassador. She didn’t understand Portuguese. She said she felt reduced to the state of a child, not knowing what is being said or how to express basically anything verbal. It was a time, for her, of being profoundly helpless but also rather inspired in English, poetically, and in story. Words meant something to her, not being able to communicate very well in Portuguese-speaking Brazil. She valued what she could say (in English) about the fascinating beauty of Brazil.

My head, in trying to learn ActionScript, is not immersed, in the same way, with Portuguese as Page was. I am immersed in ActionScript but it is not in the daily and outside world so much as in the world of my read and written discourse as a writer of software.

But certainly there has been a great deal of frustration and feelings of helplessness. I have four books, all the online and offline documentation of Flash Builder and Flash, the FlashCoders list, the video tutorials, and all the online third-party documentation to understand the Flash development platform. And my native brain.

I am very slow in being able to read and write what I need to read and write. So slow that it seems I’m barely getting anything done. Frustrating. The progress is daily, also, however.  But so slow and crawling, compared to how quickly I  work in Director, that it feels like I am crawling around a huge room and have very limited mobility in my crawling. WWWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Learning new languages, be they computer languages or whatever, is an educational experience it’s hard to savor, at certain points. One feels too helpless, hopeless, ignorant, challenged, overwhelmed, and so on.

I have to keep telling myself that this stage will pass, and I will pass into a new literacy and ability to create new types of work I haven’t been able to. The carrot is the possib of being able to explore, after a while, the creation of types of art machines I haven’t yet been able to.