If you position yourself just so in front of a three-way mirror, you can see a seemingly infinite number of your own reflections as the mirror panels play off one another. A similar effect in art occurs when a picture appears within itself — and goes on repeat indefinitely. People in the reflective world know call this the Droste effect, named for the image on the front of Droste cocoa boxes. Alexander Kolomietz has taken the concept a strange bit farther, by compiling a series of images of 20 or so people with smartphones taking a picture of another person taking a picture of another person taking a picture… You get the idea. The final effect is a bit dizzying, but fascinating all the same, if you take your Dramamine first. (The Atlantic)
So, this next story is based on a related principle, but I’m going to keep it to myself. Perhaps someone can take a guess in the comments. Even though the researchers had a whole box of happy white silk worms work to build their silk sculpture, they figured out a way to make a robotic arm mimic the movements of the silkworm and create these woven panels. And I’m wondering to myself if the scientists in the Tweetspeak labs wanted to apply little magnetic attachments to my hand, they could get a robot to create my drawings and I’d be out a wacky illustration gig like these newly unemployed silkworms and looking for a bright orange truck to drive. Hold your horses, that’ll make more sense in a minute. (Design Taxi)
Here’s what’s great about being immersed in the literary world every day: a front row seat to such heart-stopping debates as “Does Reading Literature Make You Smarter?” Yes, indeed. There is a debatable question of fact, as we would say in my other day job which lives and dies on the pinpoint of what you can prove as opposed to what is actually true. But don’t worry. Even though most of us who know the phrase would say res ipsa loquitur (the thing speaks for itself) and the research isn’t necessary, the research is right there to prove it: reading (meaning, print, not that skimming headlines you do on the web) makes you a smarter and all-around better person. (Time)
The article begs the question: if print reading is the key, where there are no distracting hyperlinks on the screen, then where does one find this “literature” of which you speak, if not delivered wirelessly to one’s mobile device? Let Penguin take care of that for you. Forget the lunch truck or hotdog stand. Penguin has a mobile delivery vehicle for books. If you see one of these big orange wagons, let me know if there’s a grating tune coming from it like the ice cream truck. (Book Riot)
Every research outlet seems to have a take on the future of publishing, in particular analyzing the trajectory of e-books. One firm projects that e-books will take the lead by 2017 over print and audio books combined. Whether that is good news or bad news remains a debatable question of fact, I suppose, and whether, for instance, you just got a new job driving a big orange truck full of Penguin books. (Paid Content)
Despite that research, reports are that the mood at the recent BookExpo America was calm and stable, with a sense that the chronic disruptions to the industry had settled, at least somewhat, and the simple good news that no matter the format, technology, or publisher, “books and readers remain embedded in our national life.” (The Atlantic)
4 Poetry at Work
Ever wonder why your Pinterest images don’t get as much traction as your neighbor’s, even if you’re putting up pictures of the same clematis vine that climbs the fence between your houses and you can’t agree who it belongs to? It might be because you post landscape orientation photos instead of portrait. Or maybe your color saturation is too much. Or you’ve tinted yours toward purple and she’s kept the red.
We’ve inadvertently stumbled into the Scientific Research Edition of the Top Ten Poetic Picks so it is my duty to tell you that the research is in on what makes a Pinterest image the most pinnable. To be safe, we suggest an arrangement of dressed cucumbers and tomatoes in a peach colored bowl (see, got the red in there) from a Paula Deen recipe. But if you think you need to be different, there are some tips for you. The researchers suggest that “Consumers are increasingly communicating using images rather than words. We’re trying to decode that language and give you a better vocabulary with which to speak.” Poetry is images, and it looks like Pinterest has poetry. (Wired)
I read with a pencil in my hand or behind my ear. Or a pen. Doesn’t really matter. Some might find it disgraceful the way I mark up books. There is no systematic method to how I mark. I underline, I circle, I star, I write comments, I argue, I draw arrows. I fold down the corners and I break the binding. The first book I did not mark up was, curiously, a book about handwriting. I just couldn’t bring myself to do more than make small dots next to interesting paragraphs. Ploughshares recently did an informal, non-scientific study on readers’ marginalia habits. Where do you fit in? (Ploughshares)
Research — yes, new research — has turned up evidence that your “creative thinking can be enhanced by external forces, and isn’t necessarily reliant on ‘good genes’ or natural ability.” 99u has seven ways to boost your creativity with different mental and environmental approaches. (99u)
The history researchers have conducted their own research into the origins of Twitter, tracing possible origins of the form back to the days of the telegram. They produced this instructive piece translating a handful of famous telegrams (where, what? Verbosity reigned?) into the restrictive parameters of the 140-character tweet. My favorite:
Telegram: The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.
Twitter: totally still alive! #YOLO
Take a look at the rest of the list of telegram-to-Twitter translations at The Victorianachronists.
Are you seeking to cultivate your own unique writer voice? How do you know when you have one? Believe it or not, there is a science to it, complete with research and cool algorithms. All you have to do is drop a writing sample (yes, they’ll give you a cup at the door) into the I Write Like analyzer and you’ll find out who you write like. I tried four samples and my results ranged from Stephen King to David Foster Wallace and a couple of guys I’d never heard of. So let’s not give this research too much credit for precision, but lots of points for fun. Go test it out and report back so we can update our data. (I Write Like)
And while we’re getting excited about the algorithms, maybe you’d like to know whether your poems are professional grade. Our friend Maureen spotted the Poetry Assessor, which will give you a point score from Professional to Amateur. Of course, I tried it out too. I outscored Sylvia Plath on one sample, thank you very much. And my giant Alice in Wonderland head quickly returned to size with my less-than-zero score on the next. Go have some fun. Or, you know, be totally demoralized. (Poetry Assessor)
Nothing says research like doing the New York Times crossword puzzle. Some days you’ll need Google, a dictionary and another cup of coffee. Peter Valentine not only solves the puzzles, but writes the puzzles into delightful poems, like this, from The Case of the Gold Violin:
The clue’s below
below the swimming pool
roaring at the music
wrestling with the song
Read the rest of Valentine’s poem on his Tumblr page, The Crossword Poem.
I have really good intentions about reading poetry. And we all know what the research says about what kind of pavement good intentions make for roads to certain unpleasant destinations. It’s one reason I love Every Day Poems so much. The poems come to me, every day, right in my inbox. It takes me a few minutes and just about zero effort to get a wonderful slice of poetry every morning. And Every Day Poems is so passionate about spreading poetry that this week they were even feeding it to the horses.
Feeding a Poem to a Horse
bitten down like the moon
to a crunchy nub
scored with greed
Read the rest of Feeding a Poem to a Horse by Alan Michael Parker
I’m going to send you off to read an interview with T. S. Eliot at the Paris Review. It is regrettable that I could find no mention of scientific research or clever algorithms with which to tie this delightful interview to the rest of the Top Ten entries. But on a completely unrelated note, you can read about his relationships with Conrad Aiken and Ezra Pound and the editing of The Wasteland. Just call it your own research. (Paris Review)
This little project in Seattle must have taken a few engineers and scientists to map out. I don’t know that, of course, but I’m working with a theme here. At any rate, it took a little research to know that it would take 2131 books to set the world record for the longest domino chain made of books. Take a look, and then tell me this: Who’s going to put all those books away? (Book Riot)
If you need a good book to read and you’ve not completely lost faith in the power of a good algorithm (and if you have, just stop by Amazon and they will cure you), give What Should I Read Next a try. You give the big brain inside this machine a little information about the books and authors you like, and it will give you some suggestions. (What Should I Read Next)
10 Sound n Motion
If we mix and match a bit, we can find a place for Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince in our collection this week, since surely it takes a Mathematical Master to put together all those algorithms we’ve been talking about. Enjoy this animation of Wilde’s famous tale. (Open Culture)
Photo by Anieto2k. Creative Commons via Flickr. Article photos by Claire Burge. Used with permission. Post by Will Willingham.
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L. L. Barkat says
The cup at the door totally made me laugh, as did the demoralization of our personal poetry 🙂
And, for the record, I am not putting the books away. 😉
Will Willingham says
Took me five minutes to remember what I said about a cup at the door. Yes, I’ll admit that was funny. 🙂
And I sure wish we’d had this link when I wrote the post. Another analytic tool. This one tests a writing sample for fitness (as opposed to flabbiness): http://writersdiet.com/WT.php
Monica Sharman says
If they didn’t also provide a Sharpie to label the cups, I wouldn’t have done any of it.
On the “I Write Like” I turned up like Arthur Conan Doyle. Probably because I quoted Sherlock Holmes in the sample.
And for the Writer’s Diet link in your comment, I put in the last post I wrote for Tweetspeak. Every category turned out “lean.” We must have some good editors around here. 😉
Will Willingham says
My sample came out lean also, in all categories but one, which was “fit and trim.” Apparently I use my share of prepositions. 🙂
Maureen Doallas says
You really filled that cup today. Great stuff. Love the voice you use to write the Top 10. Let me know when you get yourself outfitted with that extra-robotic arm.
Will Willingham says
I owe it all to drinking plenty of fluids, Maureen.
Megan Willome says
So, apparently I write like William Gibson. Who? Wikipedia says, “William Ford Gibson is an American-Canadian speculative fiction novelist who has been called the ‘noir prophet’ of the cyberpunk subgenre.”
That’s me: cyberpunk noir prophet. 🙂
Will Willingham says
Ha! Yes, the tool nailed it. 🙂
Kathryn Neel says
Yes, yes, the scientists at TSP Laboratories have been busy little bees or kittens or mutant ninja something-or-others … now what was I saying?
I think I left a bunsen burner on or maybe that smell is the decomposing corpse of the algorithm from Poetry Assessor. I can’t remember.
In any case, I must pop off. I have an appointment with Gibson’s The Difference Engine, not to be confused with Babbage’s Difference Engine, which happens to appear in Gibson’s The Difference Engine. Fascinating things Difference Engines…. Now where did I put my keys? More importantly, where did I put the car?
Will Willingham says
Hey, waaait a second. If Babbage’s Difference Engine appears in Gibson’s The Difference Engine, is that a little like the Droste effect?
Kathryn Neel says
Ann Kroeker says
I got sidetracked by the analyzer. I pasted in an article I wrote for Tweetspeak and was told I wrote like H.P. Lovecraft, “writer of weird fiction.”
I can live with that.
And on the second try, Chuck Palahniuk, “American novelist and freelance journalist, who describes his work as transgressional fiction.”
And then I did one more and turned up another little known author of fiction.
All that I inputted was nonfiction.
Do you think the site simply wants to introduce us to little-known authors? Or do you think I should start writing fiction?
Or maybe I don’t need to because my life reads already like a novel?
Will Willingham says
That’s funny. I tested it by putting the same text in more than once, to see if it actually ran an analysis at all, or just randomly threw up an author’s name, and it gave me consistent returns.
But I found it amusing that I couldn’t get the same author to repeat for different works. So I guess it is me who is inconsistent. 😉