Sunday Morning Silliness

  • In my effort to stop sucking eggs at Age of Mythology, I’ve been playing against the computer, which means I can quit when I’m losing. After soundly whumping Isis on “Hard” mode yesterday, I swtiched to playing against Poseidon and learned a wholly new way to suck. The battle continues.
  • Get Fuzzy gets funnier by the day.

  • All Moby and Fatboy Slim today.
  • I’m not excited about the Oscars tonight. Meg Norcia, I miss your parites.
  • I’m playing with PERL again for my random comic, and I’m loving it.
  • Currently Reading:
    Lynch, The Image of the City
    Rucka, Queen and Country, vol 6
    Standage, The Turk: The Life and Times of the Famous Eighteenth Century Chess-Playing Machine
    PC Gamer, newest issue

Freud and Internet spirits

I’m working on a random web generator that uses google and a bunch of
filters to grab stuff. As part of the test phase, I’m using lots of different test phrases to see how it reacts to a variety of input, and one of the test phrases
I put in was “subway muggings”. After it filtered and shuffled around
some pages, this was the fifth-rated response:

Next up in our Earthlink sponsored series on the “Future of Wireless” – Corante profiles Chaska, Minnesota. The small city rolled out its
municipal Wi-Fi offering in November and has already seen more than 10%
of its residents sign up for the service. It’s also attracting a lot of
attention from big cities such as Philadelphia and San Francisco that
are eager to hear its lessons learned. Read the article interview here.

This passage epitomizes the unheimlich of randomness and the web. Who knows why I was interested in subway muggings (I ate lunch at Subway yesterday), but the search and filters (which have no intentional bias toward Minnesota) yielded a passage about the town I grew up in. Weird. I emailed a few fellow Chaskans about this, and they suggested that:

  • “I’ll bet you experienced some Freudian coding into your java. That is
    too weird. “

  • “…and maybe some input from the internet google spirits.”

I love those ideas too. Freud and the Internet spirits. Rings of Ulmer’s Internet oracles.

Vocab lesson

It’s rare that I read a book whose author regularly uses words I’m unfamiliar with. Thus, I present my list of new words from Avatars of the Word. (Bonus game for you: see how many you know without looking them up!)

rebarbativeness, page 3.
lability, page 10.
etiolated, page 94.
cynosure, page 101.
bumptious, page 116. This word (quite rightly) makes me think of the Bumpuses and their hounds in A Christmas Story.
suasion, page 169.
velleity, page 188.

Does anyone else think it’s lame that the OED Online isn’t free anymore?


Two enjoyable moments from my media-viewing yesterday:

  1. Jack, lamenting about Miles’ failure to publish his novel thus far in Sideways:
    “F— the New York publishers, Miles. Publish it on your own. Hell, I’ll chip in. Just get it out there, get it reviewed, get it in libraries. Let the public decide.”
    My new motto for the web.

  2. From the sorely under-watched Veronica Mars:

    Wallace: Man, this is boring. I thought this private eye stuff was all about shooting bad guys and making out with sexy widows.

    Veronica: The sexy widows come later.

Not the Wild Wild West

One of my students (thanks, Robert!) sent me this clip of someone–purportedly Harlan Ellison–talking about the Internet. I don’t distrust my student, but you never know; the Internet is, after all, the Wild Wild West.

Download mp3 file (600kb)

I find this clip interesting, mostly because it reveals such a venom from someone ensconced within the gates kept by the print culture. Rather than suggesting ways to deal with the question, Ellison just rants that the Internet is pretty much worthless.

And Bukatman thinks science-fiction is conservative.



I’m not sure what’s going on out there in the web, but in the last six hours I’ve gotten approximately 30 spam postings on my blog. That far exceeds my average of ten or so a day. When I got up this morning I deleted about 20. Dang.

I’ve disabled commenting for a bit—I’m going to see if I can figure out how to stem the tide. I feel a bit like Casper Van Dien and Jake Busey looking out over the approaching swarm of ‘bugs.’ HOLD THE LINE! (Current banned IP total: 339)

<< Addendum > > After twenty minutes, I’ve re-enabled the comments. Using a few of the suggestions I found here, I may have made some progress. We’ll see how it goes.


The other day, I had a long chat with a colleague about electracy, new media, and many other things. I described my theory about Future Shock (at the bottom of the page), and she agreed; she also added that in her experience, it was with generation X that students started being consistently skeptical of not only texts, but symbols, explanations, and conversations about those texts. This is not to say that they were not skeptical before, but rather that a sea change had occurred in which many more were skeptical now than were in the years before the Gen Xers hit college.

Then I read this in Avatars of the Word:

The underlying insight of this strategy [of “teaching the arguments of the field”] is that ours is already a culture permeated by irony. Skepticism about received messages is rampant, leaving any system that depends on transmitting those messages vulnerable. To use the space of the classroom to teach both the message and the critical reception and evaluation of the message is to create an opportunity to reach students at multiple levels. (119).

I’m not sure what I want to do with that passage, but I found the synchronicity pleasing.

Dang kids!

Quoted in Avatars of the Word by James O’Donnell:

They have chopped up the text into so many small parts, an brought forth so many concordant passages to suit their own purposes that to some degree they confuse both the mind and memory of the reader and distract it from understanding the literal meaning of the text.

That’s Nicholas of Lyre, lamenting the proliferation of manuscripts in the fourteenth century. This passage struck me as hilariously apt (as it obviously did O’Donnel). More later.

Feed the Idiot Box

A list of television-y things:

  • Numb3rs: It’s like Pi meets L&O: Criminal Intent. I like it. Rob Morrow, Judd Hersh, Sabrina Lloyd, and I even like David Krumholtz. Whee!
  • Murder, She Wrote: everyone knows I love this show. (My secret fantasy: Jessica is a master hypnotist and serial killer. What a twist ending that would have been!) I finally saw the first episode, “The Death of Sherlock Holmes”—very “meta.” Jessica investigates the costume-party murder of an acquaintance. Also, we see her first book published.
  • Alias: I still think Jack’s the best character.
  • Murder, She Wrote, part 2: Apparently they’re releasing the first season (23eps) on DVD for $60. Who’s gonna pay $60 for that? I might pay $20, but $60? The commercial was ultra-cheesy, btw.
  • The Simpsons: still funny.
  • The Daily Show: have you seen the crossfire clip?
  • Boston Legal: I love the first season or two of any David Kelly show. I miss Keen Eddie—Mark Varney was far more interesting on that show.
  • Arrested Development: I know I should be watching this.
  • The Office: apparently they’re producing an American version of this show, with Steve Karrel as the oafish boss. I wish they wouldn’t do that. Just re-broadcast the British show. Was awesome.

Dang, that’s a lot of TV.

Concept comics

Warren Ellis has produced four comics under an interesting premise. He writes:

Years ago, I sat down and thought about what adventure comics might’ve looked like today if superhero comics hadn’t have happened. If, in fact, the pulp tradition of Weird Thrillers had jumped straight into comics form without mutating into the superhero subgenre we know today.

The other day, I was thinking about response songs. Rappers taking shots at each other, covers that answer something in the original, art made in reaction to art. Which, you kind of hope, is not the same as being reactionary.

The small music labels 555 Recordings and Dark Beloved Cloud have singles clubs. People play down the importance of singles these days — they don’t sell the way they used to, downloads bother the music business — but I love them. Sometimes one song contained on one object is all you need to move the axis of the world. Self-contained and saying all that needs to be said.

Ellis produced four comics, released under the imprint Apparat. They suggest an alternate history of comics–what would comics look like today if superhero comics had not emerged in the thirties? I particularly like Frank Ironwise.

I think the apparat books would make a great course assignment. As always happens when I’m a short spit away from a semester (starts Monday), I have ideas for “something completely different.” Thus, I give you a future research arc for one of my Composition 2 courses (feel free to poach):

In Warren Ellis’ Apparat comics, he considers what the media of his discipline, comics, would look like if one of the major moments in the medium did not happen. His comics draw on an older tradition and project into the future the premises they suppose. During this course, we will use Ellis’ project as a model to produce three small hypertext “singles” that explore your discipline in a divergent future. These explorations will ask what if a key moment in your discipline had never occurred? What would your discipline look like now?

The course would use the Ellis books, of course, as well as a history of comics to explore how Ellis made these conclusions. We’d use Rice’s Writing About Cool as our rhetoric and perhaps read The Man in the High Tower to talk about how alternate histories might or might not work.

So apt!

From Matthew Pearl’s enchanting The Dante Club:

The mind of our country is moving with the speed of a telegraph, Osgood, and our great institutions are stagecoaching behind it. (16)

This passage seemed particularly relevent given the recent discussion on WPA. Plus, I think it’s damn funny. It appeals to the part of me that fetishizes old technologies—cogs and levers look so much cooler than circuitboards.