Thursday, November 24, 2005

Randomness & Art III: Our Googletries

Here, in any case, is my take on the Google Search experiment chez David. (It's been posted there, along with David's and Thomas', since Sunday.)


Welcome to the Death Clock, the Internet’s friendly reminder that life is slipping away... second by second.
Would you like to increase your brain power today?
Have some Hallmark ornaments you just don't want anymore?
What is the impact of recent hurricanes on U.S. Oil Markets?
Stanford University scientists have discovered a potential new weapon in the battle of the bulge: a hormone that reduces the urge to eat.
At least 500,000 earthquake survivors in Pakistan still have no shelter.
The dust-up in the Dungeon video arcade began when a group of Jordanian teenagers cursed aloud about the television reports.
Love is when you look into someone's eyes, and suddenly you go all the way inside their soul and you both know it.
The first space mission in a decade to Earth's closest neighbour, Venus, has blasted off.
Sensational revolution in medicine! Enlarge your penis up to 10 cm or 4 inches!
"We rented an apartment," she said, adding that her husband taught her how to use her explosives belt.
We drowsed for a while in the gentle purling murmur of the river, until Demi spoke again.
Why are you jerking off to this ten-second video clip?
Welcome to the Death Clock, the Internet’s friendly reminder that life is slipping away... second by second.

I must confess, when I embarked on the exercise I was unfamiliar with flarf -- there were links in David's post, but I hadn't really read them thoroughly. Perhaps so much the better. What I came up with was something more in the spirit of Cornell's boxes -- appropriating whole pieces from the random assortment and arranging them into a "sonnet" box, suggested, easily enough, by the title that David gave the exercise. (Notice -- the poem does have 14 lines, if you disregard the wrap-around. I love that term raw general search, by the way.) So you could say I took pretty darned laid-back approach to this one -- producing something more akin to sixties' or early seventies' style "found poetry" than to the intense parsing and mashing of pre-fab phrases we see in flarf-related poetries. (Probably you flarfist hipsters out there would find this terribly old hat.) And like the "found poetry" of the sixties & seventies, what I did flings the inane crap we're bombarded with pretty much back holus bolus at you dear readers out there, but in the context of a blank page which, like the gallery context of Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup cans, gives them a false dignity and throws them into relief as the inanities they are. (Even the comparison to Warhol shows how "old hat" this approach is...) This of course is an electronic page, which undercuts the irony quite a lot... I think this Google sonnet would be more effective on high-quality vellum. As I cut and pasted it together, tho, I imagined it being read out loud. Big dramatic pauses between each sentence. That kind of thing.

Of all the phrases provided, the "Death Clock" leapt out at me as particularly evocative, and an obvious one to start with. After that, with rapid selection of what struck me as the most interesting phrases I found myself shaping the thing into a question-declaration sequence leading back (obviously enough) to the "Death Clock" as a closing refrain. In following a highly traditional symmetrical pattern (yes, falling back on good old Death to keep things profound), I got the notion of giving a fairly representative survey of all that's out there that's bombarding us and poisoning us as our timeclocks tick away. I found this actually more exciting than perhaps it is. I think here the sampling falls down. I ended up seeking other sources: a piece of highly typical spam that hit me between the eyes that very morning + a phrase almost anyone gets blasted at them if they do the tour of porn on the net (haven't we all?), and then, because I wanted something gentle to counter all the violence I googled in "gentle murmer river" and the third last line is what I came up with, courtesy of someone's blog.

At this point I would like to replace that sentence about the Jordanian teenagers with something, say, from the realm of Sports. I love the evocativeness of "the dust-up in the Dungeon video arcade" -- "video arcade" is pretty sporty too-- but we already have another line from the same incident (I think it may be from the same article) which is darker still, and "video" is used in the second to last line . I googled articles on hockey , sports violence, Todd Bertucci even, but so far have come up dry -- that is, of anything with the requisite punch. (Despite the fact that Todd with his "sucker punch" broke another player's neck...) I guess eventually I'll come across one that seems right, if not right on. So much for randomness.

I of course am tempted to tighten the poem -- take away hanging phrases like "a hormone that reduces the urge to eat" and "and you both know it", but I also like leaving them in. They seem to me to me typical of the kind of excess of obviousness that beats middle brows into submission.

Of all our attempts, I think Thomas Basbøll’s contribution to the experiment is the most vivacious and successful on its own terms -- if somewhat intellectually driven.

Welcome to the Death Clock: a friendly, second by second reminder to work out the percentage of memories that are designed, manufactured and tested to specifications.

Here are the updated graphs for October. As you can see, the fish leapt from the water. This framework only provides guidelines: a limited amount of content. There will be "more deep cuts".

Like me, he had the instinct to start with the Death Clock. I think that fish leaping from the water -- such a delightful surprise -- saves this piece from being irredeemably dry. The double-sense of "deep cuts" is cutting...


David's is perhaps more deeply parsed.


that is
ured and
updated graphs
the opening
a limited
of content
available in
English please
for more
Blue Steel
the areas of
buildings and
a New York college
an existential
nightmare victims
of a cruel
and enduring myth Love is when you look
into someone's
not want
to be free
it wants
to be brief economics
bath water

I'm not so sure about this one. I like the way "information does not want to be free it wants to be brief" is thrown into relief as a summative statement towards the end. (I considered using that line, but couldn't fit it in... "sonnet" being such a "disciplined form", ;-)) The final four words are splashed on like dabs of paint -- that I enjoy -- and deer, read out loud, would be taken as "dear", a term of endearment I rather like after all those arid explicative-sounding phrases (the bath water too is refreshing -- sex in the bath, perhaps? No I think I'm reading too much into ...). "Graphs" though doesn't follow grammatically (that is, if you want a smooth splicing). I'm not sure why we need Blue Steel (the first vivid image in the piece), and if you're going to parse, "existential nightmare" seems a bit cliche-ish. Why is it called a triple sonnet? (Maybe this is my ignorance here... I'll soon google "Triple Sonnet" and see what I get.) I'm also not sure about "Cooked", although I can sense what you're telling us about the process. (Half baked? Mine, too, though is a work in progress...) Oh well, David, you described it as an attempt, and I know you were probably less at leisure last week than Thomas and I.

Thanks for bringing us the exercise. Your last two posts have been beautiful...


David Leftwich said...

The ultra-parsing was in part an attempt to see if you can remove a sense of the source material, and in part it just seemed to be where the language wanted to go. As for “graph”, I was purposefully playing with both grammatical senses. That sentence up to a point can be read, “Memory that is designed,manufactured and updated” or it can read “Memory that is designed,manufactured[,] and updated graphs explain…” The second sense is the more correct in context of the whole sentence. I liked the fact that it could be read both ways, partically capitazlizing on both senses and also throwing the reader a bit. I agree “Blue Steel” is uneccesary. It’s called a triple sonnet because it is 42 lines long. I used cooked as the opposite of raw – and as a play off the 50s & 60ss dictomy of cooked vs. raw in poety, as in say Lowell vs. Ginsberg. I’m glad you picked up on the double sense of “deer”. I left “exsistential nightmare” precisely because it was such a cliché. I think this is were the source material did help shape my attempts. Many of the items from the blog search came from something called Live Journal, which really is an online journal of “the I feel crappy today and my car won’t start” nature and is riddled with cliché’s. So I think I was influenced by how bad the language is in these.

I was struct by the Death Clock phrase as well, and I think that’s why I avoided it, especially after seeing that Thomas had already used.

Our different strategies are interesting, I was trying to avoid exactly what you were doing. I enjoyed the weird juxstaposition that the raw search had produced, but as I mentioned above avoided just stringing the exact phrasing together – it did seem that that had already been done before by other poets and by the initial search, and I was to some extent trying to avoid the very randomness that you had intitially critizied. I was interested in how editing/whitling/sculpting raw materail from an outside source would be different from editing/whitling/sculpting that I had generated myself. As I mentioned, on my site there came a point when it did seem that I was now edited my own “stuff.” But I came up with phrases and juxtaspositions that I wouldn’t have come up with on my own, which I find very interesting and to some extent liberating. Also, interestingly it reminds me of early experiments writing very formally and how by trying to maintain the structure of say a traditional sonnet you are foced to say things differently or come with whole new things to say. Oddly, I think formalism can, in the right hands, actually lift the poet out of the self in ways that some experimentaly writers are trying to do.

I, of course as we often do with our “children”, liked what I came up with maybe for the reasons you didn’t like it. That may also may have something to do with what I’m thinking about in poetry write (is it significant, random even, that I accidently typed “write” instead of “right) now – the line and line breaks, and reducing everything down to a bare essense – neo-minimalism, so I’ve been really chopping things up to see were there is excess that is unnessary and to see how various line lenghts effect the poem on the page and when read outload – so this poem could be cut some more – the blue steel line is probably already gone.

Interestingly, I have done a second poem using the same method but with Shakespeare’s second sonnet. And that poem has 14 lines, longer lines, and it a little bit more along the lines of your poem here. Again, the raw language seemed to take it in that direction…maybe the langauge acts like a piece of stone or wood for a scultporl,l eading him or her to the final out come. I am currently at work on a 3rd poem, and if I’m feeling really ambitious I might do one for each of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets. They may never see the light of day, but it could prove interesting.

David Leftwich said...

The comment section really needs an edit option: "scultporl,l eading him" should obviously read "sculptor, leading." Where's my live-in copy editors when I need them?

Brian Campbell said...

Actually I like your spelling above -- exsistential nightmare -- better than if it's spelt properly (more properly, propppelri). Maybe if you use that spelling, it would "save" the phrase.

Sometimes its hard in a poem to tell whether the writer is being ironic or serious... problems of "tone" in the bare written word that affect letters, e-mails, etc.

Perhaps if you collect all your misspellings in comments sections, that could make an interesting poem too....

I find it's useful to use the preview button before logging in and publishing, but even then weird things pass. Blame QWERTY.

David Leftwich said...

Typos (many typos in this case) -- the danger of writing (and commenting) quickly, oh well. Next time I write a long comment, I may set it aside for a bit and reread it before posting.

It's all qsact's fault.

Brian Campbell said...

He who hesitates is typographically correct.

Brian Campbell said...

David -- if you send me your revised version, I'll gladly post it as a "makeover".