Of aquariums and arcades: John Cage and Walter Benjamin

March 20th, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

An interesting remark in the preface to avant-garde composer John Cage’s 1969 book, Notations:

A precedent for the absence of information which characterizes this book is the contemporary aquarium (no longer a dark hallway with each species in its own illuminated tank separated from the others and named in Latin): a large glass house with all the fish in it swimming as in an ocean.

This aquarium metaphor immediately reminded me of another work: Walter Benjamin‘s Arcades Project.

Both represent examples of literary montage — collections where the author’s primary contribution is the compilation of materials for the works.

In the case of Notations, Cage assembled a complete compendium of graphical music scores submitted by composers. For the unfinished effort known as The Arcades Project, Benjamin researched and cited works to create, in a way, his own arcade: an arrangement of windows into 19th century France for the reader to stroll through and explore.

What are similar examples of this that you’ve seen?

View the full Notations book on Archive.org:

Path of discovery

I first learned about Notations (and John Cage, though I had to formally discover him independently more than a year later) by reading Theresa Sauer’s Notations 21. I came upon that  and purchased it after being captivated by a post on Brain Pickings. (Although only very expensive re-sell or used copies are on Amazon, it appears to still be available directly from Sauer for $34.)

As for The Arcades Project, Max Fenton featured it during his week of the Snarkmarket Seminar in March 2013. He also kindly gave me a copy of the book (thanks again!) during the in-person gathering last November,  which I reciprocated by giving him a copy of Marjorie Perloff’s Unoriginal Genius.

And, to close the loop: I knew Max was interested in Kenneth Goldsmith, whom I learned about when fellow seminarian Tim Carmody recommended Uncreative Writing. Goldsmith, who references Unoriginal Genius early on in Uncreative Writing, helped bring Cage to my attention and rediscover the Notations connection.

Seinfeld’s “nothing” and John Cage’s “silence”

March 12th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Seinfeld called itself a “show about nothing.” The following video (via Lauren Rabaino) captures this cleverly by compiling moments of “nothing.”

As I watched, the stark “nothingess” compressed together in such a literal way reminded me of John Cage‘s concept of “silence.”

The experimental composer’s piece 4’33” is generally referred to as his “silent” piece. But, like Seinfeld, it is — despite its label — not silent at all.
For Cage, it’s about the shifting the focus from the performer to the audience and sounds of the environment in which the piece is performed.

With the general Seinfeld-Cage connection in mind, I thought:

Doing a quick search after this, I found that Joel Garten previously made a similar connection in a piece about MoMA’s current Cage exhibit.

As a longtime Seinfeld fan and someone who visited that Cage earlier this year, I never made the connection until sparks by that video.

Searching further, I found the connection to be even stronger when I stumbled across Cage’s 1949 “Lectures on Nothing:”

I have nothing to say and I am saying it

Nothing!

Let me know if you’ve seen anything about this connection before. I’d be very interested to read more or hear your thoughts.

P.S. Speaking of Cage, who used indeterminacy (a.k.a. chance operations) in his music, I’m also very interested to know if anyone has written about chance in Mallarmé’s poem Un coup de des as it relates to Forrest Gump:

#ONA13 workshop materials: Using WordPress to Structure your Beat

October 17th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Materials from the structure your beat session that Stephanie Yiu, Connor Jennings and I presented.

Examples

Politifact

http://www.politifact.com/ (using Django for structure)

- statements

- people (politicians and now pudits)

- legislative bills

- commercials

- states

- true/false spectrum of fact checks

Technically Philly

http://technical.ly/philly/

http://technical.ly/philly/directory/ (uses WordPress)

- people

- organizations

- projects

- expertise

Homicide Watch

http://homicidewatch.org/ (uses Django for structure, WordPress for posts)

Kaiser Family Foundation

has 30+ Custom Post Types that allow for faceting when you search their site:

http://kff.org/search/?s=vaccinations

They combined 10 years of content across 10 CMSes into WordPress:

http://vip.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/kaiser-family-foundation-bringing-20-years-of-data-into-wordpress/

The structured data allows them to generate these maps of State and Global Health Indicators.

http://kff.org/statedata/

http://kff.org/global-indicator/malaria-deaths/#map

General types

  • Crime

  • Education

  • Government

  • Transportation

  • Business

  • Entertainment

  • Arts

  • Restaurants

  • Food/recipes

  • Sports

  • Obits

  • Anything!

How can WordPress help?

Custom post types

http://codex.wordpress.org/Post_Types

http://wp.smashingmagazine.com/2012/11/08/complete-guide-custom-post-types/

Custom meta boxes

http://codex.wordpress.org/Function_Reference/add_meta_box

http://wp.smashingmagazine.com/2011/10/04/create-custom-post-meta-boxes-wordpress/

Plugin

http://wordpress.org/plugins/meta-box

Custom fields

http://codex.wordpress.org/Custom_Fields

Custom taxonomies

http://codex.wordpress.org/Taxonomies

http://wp.smashingmagazine.com/2012/01/04/create-custom-taxonomies-wordpress/

Misc

http://wordpress.org/plugins/post-meta/

http://www.advancedcustomfields.com/

Come say hello at #ONA13 workshops, karaoke and maybe a lightning talk!

October 16th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Greetings! I’m here in Atlanta for the Online News Association’s #ONA13 conference — my sixth consecutive ONA. Check out the stuff below, if it strikes your fancy.

Follow me on Twitter as @greglinch and be sure to say hello there and in-person! I’m always happy to talk about ONA, the board, the ONA student committee and a smattering of other things:

  • journalism
  • data and coding
  • science!
  • abstraction in art, poetry and music
  • milkshakes and French toast

Also, say hello to all the wonderful Washington Post folks!

Lightning talk pitch

Vote here for my lightning talk, which you can read the pitch for here.

Workshops

I’m helping to teach a few workshops alongside some awesome folks like Stephanie Yiu, Connor Jennings and Jeremy Bowers. Come join the fun!

Using WordPress to Structure your Beat
#wp4yrbeat
Thursday, 2:45 – 3:45 p.m.
room 401

Digging through notebooks or scanning old articles isn’t the best way to find archival information. Structure your beat using the key subject matter as your foundation to track people, places, organizations, incidents, schools and more.

Editorial Workflows in WordPress
#edflowwp
Friday, 11:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
International 6

Learn how to use WordPress to control your copy flow, with plugins like Zone Manager, Google Docs and edit flow to wrangle emails.

Programmer Workflow
#programmerwf
Friday, 4:15 – 5 p.m.
room 401

From git to commit, root to branch, learn the best way to go from ack to zsh.

Karaoke

Join us Friday night at 9:30 at the Metro Diner Cafe for the third annual officially unofficial ONA karaoke bash. It’s just a block down that street from the conference hotel. See you there!

Lessons from the past for “The Future of Programming”

August 13th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Watch Bret Victor – The Future of Programming and then read his notes.

Bret Victor – The Future of Programming from Bret Victor on Vimeo.

In his notes there’s a link to a 1987 Alan Kay video in which Kay narrates footage of a demo Sketchpad around 4:14. It’s from 1962. Whoa.

My previous exposure to Victor came reading and later re-reading his Learnable Programming manifesto, which is radically practical and completely re-shaped my perception of how programming should work.

As someone who is basically self-taught in code, The Future of Programming video stands as similar shift in mindset for me. It also rekindled my interest in reading The Early History of Smalltalk by Kay (h/t Jeff Larson).

Update: Here’s the Hacker News comment thread

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