Tag Archives: scientists

Hypertext project Xanadu released after 54 years

Site Graph of Etsy.comAnd I thought I was bad with deadlines.

Ted Nelson is the father of hypertext, kids. All of your hard work involving posting pictures of your asses on FacePlace come from his original research that started back in 1960.

Nelson started writing about his hypertext invention back in grad school at Harvard, envisioning a word processor that could store multiple drafts of documents and mash them together in linked “zippered lists.” That eventually led to development the world’s biggest vaporware project, named for noted opium addict Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan.”  (No relation to The Wrath of Kon.)

Anyway, long after the Zuckerbergs of the world made billions off of his idea, he finally put out an initial release.  Go to http://www.xanadu.com and check it out.  Spoiler alert: you won’t know what the fuck is going on.  It’s still neat stuff.

(from kottke.org)

Your shitty movie of the week… this week: Cape Canaveral Monsters

This movie takes me back to my childhood and our long trips to Florida to see the rockets take off from Cape Kennedy. We’d pile in the family battlewagon, wood paneling peeling on the side, and burble south on I-75 until we could smell rotting citrus.  “SEE ROCK CITY” signs dotted the highways. Maminka would turn to Tatka and say, “We should go to Rock City.”

“It’s a bunch of crap!” he’d shout, spittle flying, and nearly would crash through the barrier into the opposing lanes of traffic in his dizzying rage fit.

“But the deti want to see it!” Maminka would say. The first time, she turned around and looked pleadingly at my sister and me. We shrugged at her.

One year, Tatka gave in to her, and we drove well out of our way to see Rock City. It was a bunch of crap. “What did I say?” Tatka rumbled, in both rage and victory.

“It’s not so bad,” Maminka mumbled in defeat. But it was bad. So very, very bad.

We continued down to Florida, mostly in silence, the AM radio chirping out the hits of the day. That was the summer that Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods sang, “Billy Don’t Be a Hero.” I remember seeing them on The Sonny and Cher Variety Hour wearing gold-spangled, bell-bottomed onesies, their chest hair in full bloom.

We watched the Apollo rocket take off in a big plume of chemicals, the ground shaking, me with my plastic space helmet on, my sister listening to Bobby Sherman on her little 8 track player shaped like a bright yellow Smiley Face.

This movie brought all of that back for me. The rockets, the arroyos and sagebrush, the mountains with their secret caves… yes, all of those Florida things. “Wait,” you say, “Florida has mountains?” To which I say, “Watch this movie, stupid! You tell me!” I say this in Tatka’s voice, the voice of victory he used on those rare occasions when he was clearly right and Maminka was clearly wrong.

These two...

Sure, there are a few stretchers in this movie. It’s science fiction, dummy! One of the stretchers is that we’re about to be invaded by Absinthe Fairies who can flit into the heads of dead people and control their bodies. The Absinthe Fairies, like nearly everyone in the cast of this movie, are from a faraway planet called “New Jersey.” This “New Jersey” is led by a rage-a-holic named Chris Christie who wants revenge on earth, so he sends two incompetent Absinthe Fairies named Nadia and Herman to shoot down rockets. They take over the bodies of a bickering couple and continue the bickering. Herman’s arm keeps falling off. Chris Christie communicates with his two minions  on a radar monitor that’s been spliced with a Tesla coil. He demands frozen women. So they find a woman for him, wrap her in a space blanket, freeze her, and transport her back to New Jersey by using a bucket of bubbling chemicals from a Super Fund site. That’s how New Jerseyites get around, you know.

Other things happen. There’s a love story in here, but the acting is so wooden I couldn’t tell if they were serious or not. I’m guessing not. Also, there’s a German rocket scientist who speaks with a Yiddish accent. Back in Germany, some years before, when the Fuhrer would drop by the rocket lab, everybody would say, “Oh course he’s not Jewish mein Fuhrer! Ha, ha, ha! Silly Fuhrer!” And the Fuhrer would say, “I want to see a foreskin on that rocket!” Ja wohl!

Senile, stroked-out Ike was still in the White House, fingering his golf clubs, when this movie came out. I can see him watching this movie in a private showing, while his vice president sat beside him asking, “Are you still alive Mr. President? Blink twice for no!”

“Shut up, Dick! Or you’ll get my putter up your ass!” says the still feisty Commander-in-Chief. “Say, Dick. How many World Wars do you think Adlai Stevenson won?”

“None, sir!” Nixon barks out.

“You are correct!” Ike says, and then passes into a coma for ten to fifteen minutes. He comes out of it just as Nixon is prying the nuclear football out of the grip of the Navy lieutenant commander on whose wrist it is handcuffed. “Put that down, Dick! Catch me up on this movie!”

“Well, sir, the local real estate agent just dressed up like Elmer Fudd. I believe he wants to hunt down those Absinthe Fairies from New Jersey as if they’re wascally wabbits!”

“Or like they’re microfilm in a pumpkin… right, Dick?”

“Hah, agh, agh, hah!” Nixon goes, in his best approximation of a laugh. Or maybe he’s just choking on his own bile.

Instant vacation to “Florida”: http://www.amazon.com/Cape-Canaveral-Monsters-Scott-Peters/dp/B009W4AQQ8

The death of fiction via algorithm

Server pornOkay, here’s some bullshit for you. Some computer science gearheads have written an algorithm to determine if a novel will be successful or not. They basically took the text from a bunch of best sellers, and then did statistical analysis on the text to try and determine why a book sells.

They found that “Novelists who write more like journalists have literary success,”  or using more nouns, pronouns and prepositions.  Says Yejin Choi, one of the paper writers:

“It has to do with showing versus caring,” Choi said. “In order to really resonate with readers, instead of saying ‘she was really really sad,’ it might be better to describe her physical state, to give a literal description. You are speaking more like a journalist would.”

There’s all of the usual disclaimers on sample size and whatnot, and this kind of project isn’t that new.  I’m too lazy to cite anything, but people have been doing this for years with music metadata. This kind of number-crunching on qualitative works with quantitative figures has been going on in the basement of computer science departments ever since computer geeks started watching Star Trek. And data mining is big business; you can make tons of money by selling the FBI or the NSA tools to mine through data in the name of security theater, for example by digging through grocery store sales of falafel to catch terrorists.

What’s more scary/disturbing to me are the implications for fiction writers. The article I linked above had a couple of chickenshit quotes from an agent and a writer, saying this would never apply to their respective lines of work.  But I’m certain that once this is productized, it will result in book publishing that’s vetted by a program that spits out a score based on your work’s ability to fit within the cookie cutter. It’s like the Save the Cat crisis in Hollywood, where the catalyst has to happen at the twelve-minute mark or you’ve failed.  This has created a Hollywood where every movie is the same damn thing, or at least the ones getting big funding are.  Books are already heading that way, but once Microsoft Word gets a fiction profitability wizard (“It looks like you’re trying to write a YA vampire romance!”) good luck trying to sell anything that’s not written with the exact structure of every other book out there.

And before someone gives me the “but that’s the beauty of self-publishing: no gatekeepers!” – 99% of self-published books that sell are just aping the same romance and detective story structure as the best-selling Big Four authors.  If something like this came out, every self-publishing hack would be telling their cultists they absolutely needed to use it to make their books a success.

Looks like it’s time for me to scrap that non-linear, emotional novel and start punching up my zombie erotica project.  Big money!

Your shitty free movie of the week… this week: The Brain That Wouldn't Die

The Brain That Wouldn't Die

You! Yes, you!

You can’t possibly be prepared for this, the greatest shitty movie ever made. You can gird your loins all you want. Strap on your six-shooter. Make a mug of cocoa and pour in dollops of peppermint schnapps. None of this will prepare you for this masterpiece, this mad vision of the world.

No, it’s not Troll 2, you newbie. It’s not Plan 9 from Outer Space either, grandpa. It’s The Brain That Wouldn’t Die… the movie that has everything: Love, science… love of science.

Download it now. I said now!

Obligatory synopsis that doesn’t begin to do the movie justice: A mad scientist’s love for his girlfriend drives him to keep her head alive in a brownie pan filled with Magic Bosco after he accidentally decapitates her in a car accident. She’s not thrilled with the situation, but she does make a new friend—a creature the mad scientist created who lives in the closet, a big ol’ huggable mass of reanimated amputated limbs. So there’s kind of a love triangle going on here. Plus, she torments Kurt, the mangled surgeon kept as a pet man by the mad scientist. Meanwhile, the mad scientist goes shopping for a new body for his girl at strip clubs, because that makes perfect sense.

You'll need this.

 

Put on your trench coat, button it up to your neck, and put a fresh flash cube in your Instamatic. Snap as many photos of the stripper fight as you dare! You know you want to, sleeze bag!

I’ve taken dialogue from TBTWD and have transformed it into a love poem for this vastly weird movie. Please to enjoy…
Dig the poem, daddy-o.

you’ve lost the urge to experiment, to explore
the line between genius and obsessiveness is thin
you’re walking on thin ice, bill
what’s the mystery, bill?

I don’t have time to argue, kurt
don’t you want to see what’s in the closet?

my eyes are deceiving me!
what’s done is done and what I’ve done is right
she’ll live and I’ll get her another body. I’ll restore her as she was before.

you took long enough getting back here
I liked your act
is that all?
you’re no tourist looking at the sights
you could flip any chick in the house, why me?
keep your g-string on
you cheap birdbrained stripper!

I remember fire! let me die!
knock twice if I’m not the first
you! in the closet! what’s he done to you?

behind that door is the sum total of bill’s mistakes. before he injected the serum…
it was a mass of amputated limbs

the alcoholic has his bottle, the dope addict his needle, I have my research
all work and no play makes for a bad bedside manner
bill’s egotism drives him on and on, from outrage to outrage

I hate all men!

today, nothing’s hopeless
I’m not afraid of you, a head in a pan!
am I so appealing to you now?
get him

do I look like a maniac who goes around killing girls?
is it a crime to want to keep you alive, to jump science ahead by years?