Monday, June 11, 2012

First Sentence I Can Find New Yorker Caption Contest!

. . . (wherein I caption the New Yorker Caption Contest cartoon with whatever sentence I first see in whatever book is nearest to me.) [N.B.:  My iPad was closest to me, so I picked the first book in my iBooks library (in this case Leaving the Atocha Station, by Ben Lerner) and "flipped" to a random page. I think this decision was still in keeping with the spirit of this little game I like to play.]

Besides the insomnia, which this time lasted, save for a few nights of long and total and dreamless sleep, for a couple of weeks, I experienced two other notable side effects:  first, my jaw was constantly and involuntarily clenched; second, I had what the internet told me was sexual anhedonia, lovely phrase.

Intra-/Inter-Dimensional Galavanting at the 2012 Tony Awards

Last night, Heather and I watched the Tony Awards on television.  It's a good awards show--swift and interesting.  And I don't typically know most of the people and/or productions involved, so it's a learning experience.  Things were going swimmingly in last night's broadcast.  Then this happened:
Harvey Fierstein came on stage and, "for the first time ever," threw the broadcast to a live performance of a scene from Hairspray performed on a Royal Carribean cruise ship floating on the high seas at, according to a caption in the upper corner of my television screen, "20 53.4°N 074 33.2°W,"  which for all I know means it was docked in a port in New York or something.

It was gimmicky and all that, but non-offensive, and really a pretty good performance.  Heather and I half-watched it with half-enjoyment.

Then I thought about it for a second.  Here's what actually happened:

Heather and I watched, through our television screen, as the immediate Tony Awards audience watched Harvey Fierstein direct their (and our) attention to another screen which showed a different cruise ship audience watching a performance of a musical on a different stage, and at one point in that musical fake cameras are rolled out to film a fake television show (akin, I suppose, to American Bandstand) hosted by a fake Dick Clark-like figure, AND that fake show is "viewed" on stage by two young women on their fake television.

So, for those of you keeping track at home:  Heather and I were sitting in our apartment watching and commenting on the Tony Awards as we watched the Tony Awards audience in New York watch a screen showing another audience watching a musical performance wherein a fake television show was being "filmed," and all of the audiences watched as two characters in this musical pretended to watch this fake television show on their fake television and comment on it.

Whew!  How many meta-layers became laminated at that moment?  More than a few.  I don't know what it might mean.  I mostly just find it interesting that Heather and I found it so incredibly easy to follow the action.  So much movement between so many different realities and dimensions, and we traversed them so effortlessly!  We are good, experienced little travelers.

The opening and closing numbers were also pretty brilliantly, and much more self-consciously, meta.  Look:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Moustache Grave: Yeats + 7

The Oulipo is a small group of writers devoted to constrained writing.  Oulipo is short for  Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, which means something like "workshop of potential literature."  Its members have included Italo Calvino and Georges Perec.  I first read about it recently in a Believer article.  They come up with cool, complex constraints under which to write, often based on mathematical formulas.  They also come up with cool, not-so-complex, but still very productive text-generation techniques.  I stumbled across a few here, and I thought I'd try one out.  It's called the n+7 technique.  According to, 
The N+7 procedure, invented by Jean Lescure of Oulipo, involves replacing each noun in a text with the seventh one following it in a dictionary.
The link just above will take you to a n+7 generator into which you can insert a text, and it will produce 15 new texts using the n+7 procedure.  N+1 replaces each noun with the first one following it in a dictionary, n+2 replaces each with the second preceding noun, and so on.

The text I've experimented with is W.B. Yeats's little poem, "Memory," which I like a whole lot.  Here it is as Yeats wrote it (n+0):
One had a lovely face, 
And two or three had charm, 
But charm and face were in vain
Because the mountain grass
Cannot but keep the form
Where the mountain hare has lain.
 And here it is at n+1:
One had a lovely facet, 
And two or three had charmer, 
But charmer and facet were in vain 
Because the mountaineer grasshopper 
Cannot but keep the formality  
Where the mountaineer harelip has lain.
Not great.  Not really even very good.  Here's n+2:
One had a lovely facial, 
And two or three had chart, 
But chart and facial were in vain 
Because the mountainside grassland 
Cannot but keep the format  
Where the mountainside harem has lain.
This one is a little better.  It turned kind of sexual, which is interesting.  Let's skip to n+7, where I think things start to get really cool:
One had a lovely faction,  
And two or three had chasm,  
But chasm and faction were in vain  
Because the moustache grave 
Cannot but keep the forte  
Where the moustache harmonic has lain.
What a great opening couple of lines!  And "moustache grave" and "moustache harmonic"?!  Priceless.  N+9 gets a little industrial:
One had a lovely factory,  
And two or three had chateau,  
But chateau and factory were in vain  
Because the mouthful gravel  
Cannot but keep the fortnight  
Where the mouthful harmony has lain. 
Some uglier words pop up in n+13:
One had a lovely fag,  
And two or three had chatterer,  
But chatterer and fag were in vain  
Because the mover gravy  
Cannot but keep the forum  
Where the mover harpoon has lain.
And reassert themselves in n+14:
One had a lovely faggot,  
And two or three had chauffeur,  
But chauffeur and faggot were in vain  
Because the movie graze  
Cannot but keep the fossil  
Where the movie harpsichord has lain.
And, finally, n+15 brings it all home:
One had a lovely failing,  
And two or three had cheap,  
But cheap and failing were in vain  
Because the moviegoer grease  
Cannot but keep the foul  
Where the moviegoer harpy has lain. 
I like the first three lines of this last one, but, besides the original (n+0), I would say n+7 is my favorite.  What a fun way to mess with text, make stuff, waste time, whatever.  All literature is "potential literature," and it's fun to explore those potentials.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

First Sentence I Can Find New Yorker Caption Contest!

. . . (wherein I caption the New Yorker Caption Contest cartoon with whatever sentence I first see in whatever book is nearest to me) 

Having seen Johannsen's elaborate argument about the control of language and rhetoric and in preparation for seeing the rhetorical work of genes in other contexts, I am tempted to find in Morgan's statement a claim about the importance of rhetorical and figurative work in the service of the production of scientific knowledge.