Titanium Spork

A bit of an experiment this time.  I wrote this as a performance piece and the words are, frankly, ugly laid out on the page.

Which doesn't matter if I'm going to stand at the front and speak it to you (I call this: Poetry-1.0...)

So I'm going to do that.  I shan't paste the text.  I'll just offer the recording and hope it works for you.  This isn't a change of policy...  I shall continue to post text for the pretty poems.

Please let me know whether this is better, worse, or differently indifferent...


Essay: Future Technology #1

Future Technology #1

(or The Shape of Things to Come)

Future technology, earlier today
Civilisation, back in the '90s
If, back in the 90s, you played Sid Meier's Civilisation, on a DOS computer, and if you were very good (Rosemary regularly achieved Moon landings before 1730) then it was possible to reach the end of the technology tree...

(Aside, for the uninitiated:  a "technology tree" is a set of available upgrades in a video game.  The player typically has some sort of resources to spend on upgrades and chooses which to develop next.  Upgrades give benefits in the game and unlock the later technologies.  It's just like life.)

However, it is a tenet of geek philosophy that there is no end to the technology tree, and game designers are a sub-species of geek, so beyond the end of the tree lay more technologies:
  • Future Technology #1
  • Future Technology #2
  • And so on...
They served no function, except bonus points...

...but I loved this idea ever since I first saw it.  Future Technology #1 is wonderfully non-specific, whilst saying precisely what it means.

FT#1 could be a pocket hadron collider, smartpants (tm), or an ambiguous phase psycho-encapsulator (which we all could use, if you think about it...)

It could be tomorrow, or a thousand years hence.

And if we achieve FT#1 then there's FT#2 (henceforth to be known as FT#1).

So what is FT#1 for poetry?  I feel strongly that there ought to be something: a killer app for the Sonnet that takes it somewhere it's never been before and makes everybody say:  Well obviously I bought one; I can't understand why nobody thought of it sooner!

Which is not to say that poetry-1.0 (poet stands at front and declaims) or poetry-2.0 (words arranged on page) have had their day.  Far from it, poetry-1.1 (poet on radio/TV/YouTube) is quite popular, and 2.1 (words arranged on internet) has a variety of interesting new angles, but neither of those feels like a real FT, they've basically still just words in sequence, or words arranged in a space.

So every now and then I have a go.  I started with an example of animated poetry, but while that was pretty popular, it's basically a movie and as nicely as self-editing text works for that idea, I am not sure it extends to many other poems...  (see however Kinematic Typograthy.)

It ought to be possible to do more than mere animation, and Jenn Zed (of whom more later) has suggested that videos turn the poetry consumer off.  I hadn't realised it, but I recognise it in myself, and I think it is similar to poetry vs. lyrics  An element of time travel is involved in reading a poem the eye tracks up and down the page, effectively forwards and back in time which it can't when listening to a song, as the music proceeds at constant rate.

Something similar applies to videos.  A voice recording of a poem, accompanied by still text, doesn't suffer quite so badly, because the eye can still do a little out-of-order processing but a moving video is really hard to get right, because it is simultaneously distracting the eye, and locking the words into a fixed time-frame.

For lyrics, the fix was to adjust the words, you fit them into the experience already created by the music...

However for poetry-FT#1 I want the reverse.  What happens when we fit the medium as closely as possible to the words?  If the user (reader) needs to control time, then why not let them?

Well I don't know.

I'm still working on it.  It isn't easy.  It's not that poetry's difficult (I think that goes without saying) or that technology is hard to master (although certainly it can be awkward.)  The real problem is, in a world where:

this or this or even this
are easy to achieve...

...what do they mean?  It's more or less a brand new medium, so it doesn't have any established rules.  I'm basically inventing everything from scratch, albeit with wanton theft from books, films, video games and comic books.

Anyway, a new attempt on FT#1 is under way.  I am working with the aforementioned Jenn Zed (who has poetic inclinations and is an accomplished artist...)  This is "mixed media" by which I mean "words and images and Javascript and HTML and CSS and mp3 and anything else that seems to fit..."

It's not huge, but it's slow going...  It will probably take at least another six months, but until then:

Installing FT#1
Please Wait


Loose change -- unanimated

A few people have asked to see the words of my animated poem "Loose change" written out in full so they can be studied at leisure, rather than chased after as they run away like water...

It is sort-of against the spirit of the poem...

However a principal I like to keep to is that everything should be either easy or forbidden.  To put it another way it is a principal of user interface design, and I really dislike those computer programs, websites and bureaucracies which make it perfectly possible to do what you want, but put you through two dozen steps to do it.

So, by my own principal, since somebody could pause the playback and copy the words out by hand, I ought to make it easy.

Here you go.  The bold Roman numerals indicate the boundaries between completely different screens in the animation...

Loose change


Where does the future come from,
can we know? I will kick fallen leaves
when they blow around my ankles
in an rustle-russet tide,

but no-one can predict
when one leaf falls from the tree,
how many there will be,
whether I will stay to kick them thoroughly,
or wander on.


Why do those leaves fall? Do they shiver
in the summer's blaze, programmed
for an end to days? Or do they realise it late, rebel,
and get their Blade Runner moment:
we built you as best we could.

Perhaps it is so good, for trees,
that leaves don't even figure. Maybe
even when a tree falls
some other tree will say
it's for the good of the forest.


Can we see the forest for the trees? Thales thought
the whole world water, intransient, showering
past him all his raindrop days,

and Heraclitus saw it all
as change and only change.

Should he maroon me in this maelstrom,
how can I understand a thing?
How to arrange
a place for Archimedes
to stand and leverage the world?


There is no future. It cannot be
in any way determined. Point at it.
You cannot. Thus for me,

said the blind man, scratching,

the future does not exist.


Draw the blinds in Plato's cave,
are we stuck here? If you were brave
you would turn away from the shadow play

(it's just a rock wall anyway,)

and go investigate
the fire.


And do we burn? In one way it is true
we literally do. Metabolism charring sugars into lives
and chemistry a one way street.
Chew your meat. Swallow. You can only go downhill.

Cosmology will show the same thing,
on quite a different scale,
but you cannot fail to see
the analogy.

Death's most-favoured daughter --
Entropy -- she never winds the clock.


The more it changes, the more fools say
la plus ça change as if by that they'd chain
the beast. Blind men with elephants

feel a trunk
run into a face, and think
they know how trunks all go,
until the elephant is replaced with a camel.

Trend analysis is always wrong
but the tree has fewer leaves
every morning.