The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

February 4, 2008


Why, Hello Julu! And so good to hear from you! Yes, this is a theme that
has occupe ied me for days and days , most of them recent. For example,
what were "electrical recreations" and more to the point, what might one
say about the relative simplicity of the apparatus used for them?? Metal,
the material world, puckers and withdraws, all is spheres and spikes. Ah
but conditions or situations, environem ments, material ecologies, the
very splay of the real? In such a fashion
  metal declares itself.Yes, and how you have filled out these many years,
lovely Julu! Thus de uring the era of steam-engines and diplex telegraphy
- and one must remember that the most of the nineteenth century ran on
batteries, not electrical outlets - during this era, electrostatic
generators were constructed of nothing more than rods, circular plates,
god knows what else...The illustrations of the time for the most part
indicated what? Young women, such as ourselves, in touch with metal,
standing on stools with glass legs, carefully applying dischargers with
rubberized handles, it was as if the real were out of contrl---Or Until,
dearest Julu, one mght speak of that sudden discharge, the orgams sm, the
sudden exaltation of teh he spirit, for we might have concluded then, that
spirit itself were inhabiting the world, a kind of ectoplasm of the
metallic. Matter spoke and no one listened.However (as our words and arms
entwine), it's as if there were a surplus that couldn't be contained - the
experiment of electrocuting the dog for example, or creating the semblance
of hydrogen/oxygen explosion. Which surely is why the models were young
women , with the demonstrator male, the demonstration of the male,
dis/splay. , which is why we are torn together as one, sundered together,
across electronic ab barriers,

which surely are the remnants of those electrostatics, those "electrical
recreations" as we would have them ourselves...

--------------------------------= talk =--------------------------------

Hello Nikuko and you are how? I have been very busy, reading about the
electrical apparatus, electrostatics and dynamic electricity, from the
late eighteenth century, perhaps early to mid-ninteenth century. To be
sure, what a mix of worlds here, electrical theatrics, young men leading
young women into circular frenzy, controlled, I do forget how beautiful
you are, your wet skin, tissue against mine, minds blurred, the
discharges, phenomena Dionysian, the apparatus Apollonian - cleansed,
purified, perfected, holding charge back -I remembver your orgasms, your
body against mine, matter speaking and no one listening for that matter:
the audibility of the world was all bound up in the visible, even the
electrostatic parlor tricks resulted in sounds and sights, the ontology of
what was taken for granted as real. This isn't science, this is the
ikonic; we might as well leave the indexical far behind. There are no
pointers, no measurements, with all of these phenomena, just phenomena
themselves, as if the world were talking, but talking mutely, drenched in
our passion, against our skins and minds.Which perhaps the young women
chose to ignore; I'd imagine they'd choose to ignore it, and which is why

yes, as we would have them, and have us, and have at them and ourselves...


online text for Creative Writing and New Media Course at de Montfort 

Writing and Wryting

I write daily and when I'm not writing, I'm thinking about writing or 
writing in another medium; the world is a world of inscriptions. At one 
point I believed there were signs, that the world was inhabited by 
signifiers which might or might not have referents; now, after looking 
repeatedly at tantra and the casting-off of whatever was found and 
impeded, I think signifiers might be nothing except residues of a kind of 
frisson, the world rubbing up against itself. Whatever codes there are, 
and however these codes are manipulated - -

they're not the only story, or rather, they _are_ the story but that's 
nothing - what's going on in the world isn't story at all. We tend to make 
scripts of things around us - that's how we get along. For example, 
there's the restaurant script (and this example of course isn't mine) - I 
enter a restaurant I've never been in before, but I know exactly what to 
do; there's a restaurant script and subscripts; we don't make it up 
immediately - that would be far too costly - but rely on constructing, 
memory, reconstructing, and so forth, and there we are, eating together. 
And it's eating together, because scripts, like the world, are consensual 
and build community.

Somebody said something like aye, there's the rub of it - and that's it, 
precisely; the world rubs one, _worlding_ is a form of rubbing - which 
makes virtual worlds such as Second Life all the more perplexed, where 
rubbing and any physics has to be _intended_ by someone, a programmer, or 
nothing would happen at all. Still, in second life, one might have bodies 
or rather one might _inscribe_ bodies with writing, and this body writing 
I call _wryting_ and it occurs in the real world as well. For example,

where avatars conform and display to one another, and all these behaviors 
are automated from written files called bvh files, which give an indica- 
tion of how virtual worlds are in fact a kind of writing. Here is part of 
a bvh which produced what you've seen in throbbed:

OFFSET 0.000000 0.000000 0.000000
CHANNELS 6 Xposition Yposition Zposition Xrotation Zrotation Yrotation
OFFSET 15.061017 17.082508 -14.925126
CHANNELS 3 Xrotation Zrotation Yrotation
JOINT LeftKnee
OFFSET 160.534210 236.940994 175.551743
CHANNELS 3 Xrotation Zrotation Yrotation
JOINT LeftAnkle

This gives the initial positions of the body; later, there are tens of 
thousands of numbers that give the node movements from these positions.
Do note that this is an ascii, a text file, and not a binary, not an 
executable; the file is executed by a program that uses it as data. In 
this sense, the virtual world is always inscribed, digital, just as the 
real physical world is not written, but _is,_ and is analog, and tends to 
wear out. Nothing wears out in the digital world, and while avatars - what 
I call emanents - need electricity to run, they don't need food. Still, 
given that, I think that for a conscious mind, a mind used to dreaming, to 
projections and introjections, there are no real differences between the 
virtual and the real, and there's dreaming, proverbs, tales, stories, 
poetry, poetics, hallucinations, hypnagogic imagery, meditations, and the 
like to show that.

And even though the real physical world isn't written, it's full of 
writing and our bodies themselves are always already written, inscribed - 
full of tattoos, scars, burns, abrasions, wrinkles, salves, perfumes, 
calluses, and so forth. I think it's from these things, particularly from 
scars, wounds, abrasions, scrapes, etc., that language descends - that 
language is first and foremost a reading of the history of the body, that 
the body, the physical body, carries its own primordial memory upon it. 
That's important, since it's this memory, these scarrings, that bind us to 
the earth, to the world, the analogic. The digital is constructed from 
that with a bit of a help from the corporate, from political economy - the 
digital rides and infuses poitical economy in fact. So there are digital 
standards for sampling, for encoding and decoding and checksums and so 
forth, and these guarantee that a parsing of the world in one part of it 
can be a parsing of the world in another. Think of the digital as an 
extrusion, and think, even, of writing as _always_ digital or at least 
always discrete, one symbol differentiated from another, from the other, 
as all of them together generate meaning within organism and conscious- 
ness, generate culture.

An aside here to the effect that _culture is all the way down,_ that any 
organism has culture, has learning, has the symbolic, has the digital (in 
the sense that catastrophe theory prescribes and describes certain sudden 
shifts in behavior or states which might as well be digital, that is _on 
and off switches_ operating within potential wells, that is a level above 
noise which allows them to function. Recent experiences in fact demon- 
strate amoebic memory, even within this one-celled animal without neurons 
or nervous system. It's important to think throug this, to see the world 
as not only processings but also culturings - if you do that, a very 
different kind of world emerges.

So where does codework or digital writing come into play here? One might 
begin back with culturing - that the world is replete with poetics, that 
it makes real, concrete, sense to speak or think of the poetics of the 
real - that this isn't just metaphoric. And then one might proceed fur- 
ther and realize, within the analogic the digital resides - that the 
analog harbors splits and leaps, as the collapse of the wave equation or 
annihilation of virtual particles shows. And within the digital, there's 
the analog as well - the potential well upon which the digital rides, 
literally, let there be no mistake about it.

So one might ride the digital as well, perceive the digital as an extru- 
sion from the analogic, or a residue, or a system of signs which for the 
most part are produced by humans, according to human conventions and 
protocols, for example, the tcp/ip structure or protocol suite of the 
Internet - and if not this protocol suite, another or an other. Then one 
writes here, in this medium, in this temporarily electronic medium (for 
there might be other sorts of transmission in the future, who knows? or 
other sorts now for that matter, literally for that matter). And within 
the digital, in which bits bite bits, every pixel, every character, every 
moment of the digital is independently accessible, and every moment is 
deeply ruptured, disconnected, from every other. This is why the digital 
is inherently untruthful; there's no truth within it, since manipulation 
is complete and replete within every file, every domain, every protocol, 
every instantiation in fact. There are no lies, either, and if there are 
narratologies, these reside in sememes embedded or encoded within the 
digital, interpreted by organism, often human. In creating in such an 
environment, one plays god, or at least deity (in the tantric sense); one 
constructs out of nothing, and if I write the phrase, as On Kawara might, 
"I am still alive," these letters are, at a very fundamental and concrete 
level, completely independent; I could just as well write "lkurj llisihg" 
or anything else, literally, again, for that matter, and for the sorts and 
sortings of that matter.

Well, I can write anything, I can say anything. And some of what I write 
just lies there, and some is performative, in the sense that, if I type

k3% date
Sat Jan 19 01:13:23 EST 2008

at the k3% prompt, the date is returned - the word is not just a word, but 
an action, a process, an operation inherent in the reading and writing of 
it within an operating system. Now if I type

k7% lkjsfug
ksh: lkjsfug: not found

as you can see, it's still performing, but the operating system is looking 
for a meaning or decoding and can't find any or rather finds a kind of 
null-decoding which is based on absence. So that electronic writing, with- 
in a terminal window is always a performance; it's never static. And it's 
not only a performance, but also a communalit, since there are others who 
may well be present, even though invisible, uncounted, and unaccountable:

cbpp     ftp12907 Jan 18 10:42  (
cbpp     ftp7371  Jan 18 10:16  (
jpl15    ttyp0    Jan 18 11:20  (
harold   ttyp1    Jan 19 01:16  (
dagger   ttyp2    Jan 16 01:31  (
bitty    ttyp3    Jan 16 20:32  (
bord     ttyp5    Jan 14 11:10  (

for example are running around on the same machine I am, and I'm aware of 
them, even though I don't know who they are. I can find out what some of 
them are doing:

bord     ttyp5   75-129-128-49.dhcp.fdul.wi Mon11AM  5:20 irc
gburnore ttyp6      Fri10PM    29 rtin
bord     ttyp7   75-129-128-49.dhcp.fdul.wi Mon11AM 12:25 
bord     ttyp8   75-129-128-49.dhcp.fdul.wi Mon11AM  5:20 irc
jkurck   ttyp9   adsl-75-10-97-59.dsl.frs2c Fri02AM 12:25 -tcsh

for example, but I'm not informed as to the semantics involved, only the 
protocols, the surface syntactics.

So one might see codework as a mix of all of this, a kind of dirty or 
abject combination, a kind of rupturing, of surface and depth, one 
producing another or an other, a kind of drawing-out of the fecundity of 
the world and its structure, its poetics. This combination or drawing-out 
reflects the real unclarity of what I call the true world, which is the 
real and virtual world interpenetrated, intermingled, diffused, effused, 
as they are for us, no matter where we think we are, in first life or 
Second Life or what I call third sex, which is online sex, as if there 
were a first or second, which there aren't.

Beyond this, I'm not sure what codework is, even though I've invented or 
discovered the term. Here is a program Florian Cramer wrote for me, called (it's in perl):


while (<STDIN>) {
         @words = split /[\s]+/, $_;
         @spaces = split /[\S]+/, $_;
 	for ($x=0; $x <= $#words; $x++) {
if ($word_count{$words[$x]} == 1) {print $words[$x],$spaces[$x+1]}

This is based on the Thousand Character Essay, written in Chinese around 
fifteen hundred years ago - an essay in which each character is different 
from every other; each character, in a sense, is primordial, individuated 
- an extreme nominalism. Although I don't know Chinese, I worked with a 
friend laboriously translating it. Anyway, I wanted to duplicate this in 
English - use a program in which each instance of a word appears only 
once, that is, at its first (and only) appearance. Within this, the fol- 
lowing are still distinguished: "word" "Word" "Word," "word-" and so forth 
since these have different ascii renderings. Here is part of this very 
essay rendered with the program:

my writing

I write daily and when I'm not writing, thinking about or in another
medium; the world is a of inscriptions. At one point believed there were
signs, that was inhabited by signifiers which might have referents; now,
after looking repeatedly at tantra casting-off whatever found impeded,
think be nothing except residues kind frisson, rubbing up against itself.
Whatever codes are, however these are manipulated - they're only story, rather, they
_are_ story but that's what's going on isn't all. We tend to make scripts
things around us how we get along. For example, there's restaurant script
(and this example course mine) enter I've never been before, know exactly
what do; subscripts; don't it immediately would far too costly rely
constructing, memory, reconstructing, so forth, eating together. And it's
together, because scripts, like world, consensual build community.

== Now this is at the beginning of the text, and clear, but see what 
happens towards the end:

$word_count{$words[$x]}++;($word_count{$words[$x]} == 1) {print
$words[$x],$spaces[$x+1]} }Thousand Character Essay, Chinese fifteen
hundred years ago essay each character other; primordial, individuated
extreme nominalism. Although Chinese, worked friend laboriously
translating Anyway, wanted duplicate English use instance appears once,
only) appearance. Within fol- lowing distinguished: "word" "Word" "Word,"
"word-" forth ascii renderings. rendered program:

== Here, towards the end, the condensation is extreme. One might think of 
this in terms of the biblical book of Genesis - and one of the first 
things I did was to render Genesis with the program, which resulted, 
again, in a kind of _Vac,_ word-creation, creation-word of a primordial 
sort. I think of this as codework, since, reading it, it becomes clear 
quickly - what is happening, what the structure is - even if the code 
itself isn't present except as a disturbance upon another text, an other.
This becomes clearer, perhaps, when the program is applied to itself:

while (<STDIN>) {
  @words = split /[\s]+/,
$_;@spaces /[\S]+/,
for ($x=0; $x <= $#words; $x++)
$word_count{$words[$x]}++;if ($word_count{$words[$x]} == 1) {print

== Now I don't think of this as a 'better' example of codework than the 
first example, even though code is evident here; it's just another sub- 
ject for the performative maw.

A point about interactivity: Every writing, wryting, upon reading or 
sensing, scenting, is always already interactive; the inscriptive is never 
_linear,_ no matter the appearance of lines. Memory, remembrance, is at 
work, scanning moves backwards and forwards, moves in chunks, and even 
syntax tends to jump about, leap. There is of course an active interactiv- 
ity, in which the reader/scenter is required to _do_ something concrete, 
within a repertoire or potential series of actions; hypertext is perhaps 
the simplest example. I've not been so interested in that, and my lack of 
interest has to do with worlds and the false appearance of choice; I'd 
rather have the running of inscription and meaning go on about without 
interruption, as the world goes on about one, even though one seems to 
have choice within it. This stems to some extent from my interest in film; 
I've never been carried so far in a hypertextual situation as I am when 
embedded in the cinematic other which is also the self, selving. The world 
is complex and I attempt to deal with that complexity and its perturba- 
tions, attempt to deal with the surface codes of the world. This isn't a 
manifesto on my part, and in fact, I've produced interactive work as well, 
particularly in simple Visual Basic, but I'd rather the interactivity 
occur elsewhere, within consciousness.

Here are some links. First, to the most recent series of texts: - here you'll find all sorts of things, 
from a report on an airline's first attempts at wireless en route to the 
derivation of 'bug' (as in software or computer bug), to the kinds of code 
early telegraph operators used, to... a google scraping piece on 'bush 
fucks' to... an elimination piece featuring my Facebook superwall. These 
texts are 'thicker' than many others, and they're stressed - we were mov- 
ing temporarily to West Virginia, and our companion cat of 18 years had to 
be put down, which was one of the most traumatic events of my life. At 
this point, pm.txt is somewhat diaristic, although most of it isn't.

These are part of the Internet Text, which I've been writing since 1994, a 
continuous meditation on the above and other subjects. If you look at the 
earlier texts, for example: - you'll find a clearer form of expo- 
sition than much of the later work. Since this is from 1994, the Net is 
very different, mostly what I call 'darknet,' referncing lower ascii and 
terminal windows as standard, instead of the current multi-mediacy. Almost 
from the beginning, I wrote through avatars, other characters, who really 
weren't other at all (see my file-in-progress, - for an account of the research I'm 
doing in this direction).

This is about it at the moment; as you can see, there are gaps, errors 
(which I'm interested in), disturbances, in the account. On another, an 
other, hand, we can proceed from here, I'm sure.

And thanks for this opportunity -

Alan, 01/19/08

Generated by Mnemosyne 0.12.