Try a little … wait for it

Mason posted this video for the fourth of July:


I haven’t got any idea what this song is about.  I couldn’t keep my mind on the lyrics. Instead, I mentally tripped, over and over and OVER, on the Otis Redding sample they used as the backbeat for the song.  The sample is from “Try a Little Tenderness,” and comes from a moment about 85% of the way through the song (around the 2:50 mark in the video below), as the music in the background reaches a crescendo and Redding’s voice gets louder and more enthusiastic.

The range on the song is such that the moment Kanye West and Jay-Z have sampled is the crucial moment, a rising tension in the song that leads up to the final cathartic shout of the song’s title among the musical cacophony that leads quickly to the end of the song.  By sampling that moment of tension without ever moving past it, this song creates an entirely different experience for someone who knows Redding’s original than for the people encountering it for the first time as a sample.  It’s the musical equivalent of every time two meet-cute romantic leads in a television series (say,Castle) almost kiss and then get interrupted.  But repeated, over and over, for three minutes.


More stressful than it was supposed to be, I suspect.  If I were a responsible writer or crafting this commentary for more than just a passing fancy, I’d rewatch the video and concentrate on the lyrics, so I could comment on the connection between the sample and the music.  Instead, I leave that work to someone else.

PS – The title of this post refers, of course, to one of the most delicious moments in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when Dr. Frank sings about temp… … … tation.  At live screenings, during the pause between syllables, the audience often shouts “Wait for it,” if my memory serves me correctly.


On Oil Spills and Brain Hemmorrhages

Something burst deep below and suddenly there’s a leak, a major leak, a catastrophe. Doctors are working to locate the source of the blood; the Navy’s working to stop the source of the oil. Spokespeople express sympathy for the families of the missing men (presumed dead); my class and I crack jokes about Bret Michaels, cheap shots. Then we stop because it’s a person’s life at stake. I haven’t heard any gulf oil spill jokes yet.

The spill does not appear to have forced a change of heart for the former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, who popularised the Republican “drill, baby, drill” slogan in the 2008 election. She told an audience in Kansas City that offshore drilling should continue. “I want our country to be able to trust the oil industry.” (link)

"I want our country to be able to trust the oil industry."
"I want our country to be able to trust the oil industry."

Poison singer Bret Michaels has been discharged from hospital and is expected to recover completely from a brain haemorrhage, doctors have said. The 47-year-old has been advised to wait up to six weeks before resuming regular activity. Medical experts have declined to say when the rock star might resume touring….

Doctors at the Phoenix medical centre where the singer was treated said they will examine him every two weeks until he is declared fully fit. “This produces a great deal of stress on the body. This is like being involved in an accident from inside,” said Dr Joseph Zabramski. (link)

"This is like being involved in an accident from the inside."
"This is like being involved in an accident from the inside."

I obsess for days about the confluence and media coverage of these events. If you’re not actively following them, they both appear often. The day I finish this post, the outlook his diverged: Bret Michaels recovers nicely, the bleeding stopped; BP executives admitted yesterday that the leak could expand to 40,000 barrels a day. The scope of this catastrophe exceeds comprehension.

Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive, refused to comment on the proposal yesterday. He has said the company will bear the costs of the clean-up and any “legitimate” claims arising from those who have lost their livelihoods. “We will absolutely be paying for the clean-up operation. There is no doubt about that. It’s our responsibility‚ we accept it fully.” He said the firm would also be prepared to pay individuals. “Where legitimate claims are made, we will be good for them.” (link)

Can VH1 sue Michaels’ production company for the inevitable hole in their programming schedule? Can the Hard Rock Cowboy Hat industry survive the months of downtime? Will Rock of Love and its like ever see television again?

Bret Michaels and deepwater horizon
Bret Michaels and deepwater horizon

I find myself pondering both names. What the fuck does Deepwater Horizon mean? It sounds like a marketing ploy, like a suburban development named after the trees that used to be on the property, Evergreen Terrace. And what happened to the second T in Bret Michaels’ name?

Turns out I was wrong about Oil jokes. My favorite so far (reworded to fit my humor better):

America is caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, we have a huge oil spill messing up the Gulf of Mexico. On the other hand, Arizona is deporting all the people we’d normally hire to clean up that mess. (link)

Runners up:

The Oil Spill is affecting prices of sea food world wide. The good news is that eating sea food from the region now protects you against viscosity breakdown. (link)

I’m suddenly inspired to do an oil painting of the Gulf of Mexico. (link)

A woman I worked with at a P.R. agency once told me that the tasteless jokes you hear right after a tragedy are almost always coined by reporters, who cover tragedy so much they can’t help but become cynical. But in the digital age, we’re all reporters (correspondents for Twitter, anyhow), so snarky cynicism follows fast and furious. Leaks spring from busboys tweeting on iPhones, not top aides lurking in parking garages.

The digital age “leak” is closer to Deep Horizon than Deep Throat.

America is caught between a rock and a hard place:

On the one hand, we have a huge oil spill messing up the Gulf Coast.

On the other hand, Arizona is deporting the very people who would normally clean up that mess.

Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town

Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town
Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town

by Cory Doctorow; narrated by the author

GoodReads says I’ve been reading Someone Comes to Town since 3 April. That’s when I discovered and downloaded the back-episodes of Cory Doctorow’s ongoing reading of his novel. It finished last week and I’m pleased.

The book tells the story of a man in a magical family of oddities: his father is a mountain, his mother a washing machine. He’s got a bunch of magical brothers, including an evil one. The main character also undertakes crazy maker projects, like sanding his entire house and filling it with bookshelves. And helping a dumpster-diver build a citywide free wifi network.

It’s an enchanting book with major drama and a good arc, but it’s in the little details that it really succeeds. The sections about network philosophy could be excised from the magical horrorshow and be their own thing. A few other thoughts:

  • More than some of Doctorow’s other books, I feel like there are a lot of tangents or threads that weave in and out of the story but don’t get resolved. Under that umbrella of real-life’s unexplained and unrelated events, the magical elements of the story stay in bounds, and the story doesn’t feel like a cheat.
  • There’s an amusing twist in the idea that Alan (the main character) and his other brothers are each named ordinally, using the alphabet for their first initials. The names themselves are less important, so the narrator and characters refer to Alan by any random A name. It’s a little disconcerting early on but it works later.
  • That the audio-book is being performed by the author gives the interpretive elements a distinction and value that are just great. The down side, however, is that the timely updates on Doctorow’s status will seem odd and annoying in archived versions of the book. I also tired of the cuckoo clock. I like it, but Doctorow commented about how he liked it every darn time it went off.
  • I mentioned the book shelf project above, but I wanted to quote the relevant passage below. It’s the bibliophile’s fantasy.
  • I’ve pondered the title, which doesn’t have the utilitarian title like Eastern Standard Tribe or the jaunty zazz of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Zazz aside, I don’t understand it. It could refer to Alan’s brothers, who interrupt his wacky life in his polished-wood bookshelf house. He could be both, the person who comes and the person who leaves.

Anyhow, worth a look or listen if you’re into his books or this sounds interesting to you.

The Book fantasy, from Cory Doctorow’s Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, follows after the break.

Continue reading Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town

From A to <A>

cbd writes:

I’m happy to say that at long last, From A to <A>: Keywords of Markup is under contract with the University of Minnesota Press. Jeff and I hope to see it in print in Spring 2010.

As the contributor of the <style> chapter, I’m also looking forward to it.


Intermission’s Colin Farrell

We got this movie accidentally — Jenny had seen it already so I was under pressure to get it watched quick.  I liked the multiple narratives interweaving around a number of nodes, but the end didn’t do much for me.  I would have liked to see it continue.  I wonder how you might work this as a television series.  Character narratives could flow in and out as the show progresses, using “slice of life” bits to hook new viewers and making all former episodes available for download viewing to let people get caught up.  You could even break the episodes into scenes for download, and then shuffle by storyline.  You’d have to have an audience interested and willing to buy into it, though.

Colm Meaney is in the film and, as always, is thoroughly enjoyable.

Random: The Internet is Funny

I leave for PCA tomorrow, to present my flash project, which I’m calling internet art. Try it out and enjoy:

Random: the Internet is Funny

Now a working link!

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.

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.

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.

More How to Lie with Maps

I just finished Mark Monmonier’s book. It’s great. There’s one passage that strikes to the core of my being with a glowing, cartographic, nerdly joy. He writes:

…map publishers have been known to deliberately falsify their maps by adding “trap streets.” As deterrents to the theft of copyright-protected information, trap streets are usually placed subtly, in out-of-way locations unlikely to confuse or antagonize map users.(51)

It seems to me that the “trap street” is a fantastic opportunity for hypertext writers. While people working for “transparency” and “clarity” certainly wouldn’t want trap streets cluttering up their “site maps,” I think hypertext authors interesting in the more playful aspects of the web could use “deliberately falsified” elements deliciously.

When trying to write using hypertext to be more socially active or aware, this passage seems particularly apt:

By omitting politically threatening or aesthetically unattractive aspects of geographic reality, and by focusing on the interests of civil engineers, geologists, public administrators, and land developers, our topographic “base maps” are hardly basic to the concerns of public health and safety officials, social workers, and citizens rightfully concerned about the well-being of themselves and others. In this sense, cartographic silences are indeed a form of geographic disinformation(122).

Perhaps an offshoot of adbusters could be mapbusters–people dedicated to the cartographic education and elucidation of social problems often ignored in maps.