Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Do Androids Dream of Electric Book Awards?
In the Recycled-Recycled Ideas Department (while acknowledging that the “in the [insert Dept. name here] Dept.” lead-in is itself a Recycled-Recycled idea and could therefore be considered part of its own department), computer-generated Spam prose is really breaking new ground.

[Deep breath.]

In fact, I was intrigued, while rifling through piles of remaindered books at the Strand during our recent New York tour, to find that an earlier version of this technique was developed in the 80s by none other than composer, wild mushroom connoisseur and favorite-of-pseudointellectual-hipsters-everywhere John Cage. (“Harsh words, my dear WULAD,” you might say, “and should not he among you who is without pseudointellectualism cast the first stone?” Fair enough. But I was never a hipster.)

When he was tapped to deliver the prestigious Charles E. Norton Lectures at Harvard in 1988, Cage devised a computer-aided system to create (mostly) random and arbitrary “mesostics” (like acrostics, only using a middle letter of the word rather than the first letter—never mind, not important to this rant) from a set of source materials ranging from works of literature and philosophy to newspapers, which he collected and read to the assembled audience.

The results resembled a sort of post-modern fortune-cookie collection, and of course, was infinitely boring. When, late in the lecture series, a listener told Cage as much, his response was that the student had “the opportunity with these lectures to discover how to pay attention to something that isn't interesting.”* Gotta love that guy.

Anywho, back in the 21st century, we find the same principles at work in our inboxes on a daily basis, albeit with a distinctly different motive: selling soap. (Or, more accurately, Viagra—which recently calculated there were 1,300,925,111,156,286,160,896 different ways to spell, so you can forget about fine-tuning your spam filter.)

And while WULAD has previously been kind and lazy enough to share with its readers samples of this poetry of the future, today I received what, if I have any say in the matter—which I don’t—could be the first non-human-composed nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature. So finally, we give you...

Quit y0ur j0b and w0rk 0n e-B-ay beyond 71 or
By Retroactive Hogan Paperbound Natchez

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Take Me Out to the WULAD
Metties beat the Giants yesterday, so I am, briefly, a happy man. Today they go 'round again, hopefully with Barry "Sinus Infection" Bonds in the lineup. Did I say "hopefully"? Yes, I wouldn't want to give my friends and neighbors and BALCO clients any reason to consider this series "tainted." Bring it, you threatening-to-retire-just-to-be-difficult motherf*cker!