Sunday, July 30, 2006

Recommended Reading

Unfortunately, It Was Paradise -- Poems by Mahmoud Darwish

Mahmoud Darwish is the somewhat official poet laureate of Palestine, and his recent selected poems Unfortunately, It Was Paradise is a dynamic lyric voice full of wild imagery mixed with the fury of scripture. His voice is calm poverty in a storm of mideast chaos, a man who lived through and mourns the first Israeli invasion of Lebanon, but was himself inspired to write by the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai. With Israel currently shelling the entire state of Lebanon into the ashes of history, and nobody (read: America) really seeming to care, it seems an appropriate and unsettling book for the current geopolitical situation. Three hours of your time you won't regret having spent.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Animals vs. Pac-Man

For me computer games are predictable. They are pre-programmed, and will not do anything except what their programmers programmed them to do. If the programmer did not think of it, it can not happen. Donkey Kong will never get tired of throwing heavy barrels at you, or strain a muscle, or get hungry and just eat the princess. After playing a computer game for some time, you know what you can expect from it. But is it possible to take the unpredictability of an animal, and merge this behaviour with a computer game, by this replacing parts of the computer code by animal behaviour?

This is from the introduction to Wim van Eck's Master's Thesis, in which he used live crickets to control the ghosts in an otherwise normal game of Pac-Man. The new insect players add a lot of unpredictability to the game. For example, what are you supposed to do when they all huddle together in one corner of the board and don't move?

Much like in the original game, the ghosts' movement bares no connection to Pac-Man's movement. But when he goes into pursuit, the crickets' board begins to shake. Shaking ground being a very good sign of a predator, they will try to escape.

This has all kinds of interesting implications for the video game world. Moreover, it's just a little bit creepy. You can read Eck's thesis, as well as watch videos of the game in action, at his hopepage. (via)

And now, here's a bonobo playing Ms. Pac-Man: (via)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

"Once the name and address is known and they sue a person in their name, they still have this extremely vague complaint which tells you nothing because they know nothing. They say the defendant downloaded, distributed and/or made available for distribution certain song files. But they have no evidence of any downloading, they have no evidence of any distributing. And at most they can say that someone who might somehow be associated with the ip address might have made some files available. But they certainly don't know that the defendant did.

"...but the judges have no clue. They actually won't even let me talk about it. One of the three motions had no oral argument. And the two that had an oral argument, the judges would not let me speak and kept cutting me off."

From a transcript of Ray Beckerman, a lawyer defending some individuals being sued by the RIAA, talking about the lawsuits. Beckerman is speaking to the organizers of DefictiveByDesign, an anti-DRM campaign.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Mr Rogers

Mr. Rogers speaking to the US Senate in 1969, after Nixon had proposed cutting the budget for PBS in half.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


These drawings are the work of Mazen Kerbaj, a minimalist musician and cartoonist who is living in Beirut, and watching and writing about the attacks going on there. He's been posting his drawings around-the-clock on his blog, Kerblog.

These drawings had a huge effect on me. I know that there are actual people there, and I know that Israel is dropping a lot of bombs there right now, but those two facts don't always meld together in my mind like they should.

STARRY NIGHT (excerpt) 6.31 min
a minimalistic improvisation by:
mazen kerbaj / trumpet
the israeli air force / bombs


Sunday, July 16, 2006

I am Sitting in a Room

Alvin Lucier

I am Sitting in a Room by Alvin Lucier (mp3) is one of the most hauntingly beautiful pieces of sound I've ever heard. Lucier records a short speech. He then records himself playing that recording, records the 2nd recording, etc.

The idea is that, with each iteration, you're listening less to Lucier's own voice and more to the pure resonant frequencies of the room in which he's making the recording. (Of course, you're also listening to amplified tape hiss). By the end of the piece, what you're hearing is not speech at all, but it still carries the rhythms of speech. It's strange.

There's also a dark irony in Lucier's text. "I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have," referring to his slight speech impediment.

The album is part of the inspiration for Paul Morley's Words and Music: A History of Pop in the Shape of a City. Morley creates a lineage of contemporary music, using I am Sitting in a Room and Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get You Out of my Head" as focal points. I'm about 100 pages into the book, and it's great.

More on Lucier from (via)

Welcome back, your dreams were your ticket out.

After some time of silence, Idiolexicon is finally getting on the road. Poets and other types of writers, please check out our submission guidelines, and then send us some stuff.

We have some big ideas for where this site is going to go, including some exciting surprises that will surface over the next few months. But of course, all of this will be shaped by what submissions we love.

Both in style and format, a lot of my inspiration comes from No Slander, Bryan Charles and Greg Purcell's now-defunct online journal. Actually, it's not defunct, but it's not an online journal anymore. It's something else.

Here are some examples of what the looked like when it was an online journal:
Trying to Sell Your Magazine by Amy Fusselman
I Can Still Dunk a Regulation Basketball by Jay Reed

In my book, there's really nothing cooler than going to a website and seeing a poem or story sitting there all by itself. It's a level of simplicity that paper journals can't possibly have. So at least for now, that's what Idiolexicon will look like.

Other online journals that we'll be drawing a lot of editorial inspiration from include DIAGRAM, No-Tell Motel, and Shampoo. But we're also trying for something totally different, something you'll be amazed by. Believe me.

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