Tag Archives: Barry Bonds

Culturematic II: the nuts and bolts

(please read yesterday’s post before reading this one)

The point of the Culturematic is that it can “think” things we cannot.  

Barry Bonds and David Brooks, these two people are worlds away.  I would submit that there are virtually no naturally occurring circumstances in which their names would appear together.  

More to the point, they are disparate elements in a very diverse culture, so that even if we were to find these names sitting together, we would dismiss this as noise.  Actively making a conjunction between them?  Unthinkable.  No, really, I mean this literally: unthinkable.  

What I needed then was a simple program that would make random combinations.  I can’t program.  I don’t even know the basics of HTML.  (Sad, really, but there you are.)

So I was going to have to find one on line.  It took all of Saturday and most of Sunday, hunting first for the right search terms and then for the code.

Eventually I found The Virtual Professor.  This is a wonderful invention of someone at the University of Chicago Writing Program.  The VP creates spectacularly inflated pieces of academic rhetoric.  The author claims his/her intent is not rhetorical.  Hmm.

I lifted the code from TVP and I downloaded a trial version of Adobe Dreamweaver.   So now I was working with code I did not understand on a program I did not know.  

First, I replaced TVP noun list with the following

Noun = new Array();
Noun[0] = “Mel Gibson”;
Noun[1] = “Hulk Hogan”;
Noun[2] = “Bono”;
Noun[3] = “Barry Bonds”;
Noun[4] = “David Letterman”;
Noun[5] = “Hillary Clinton”;
Noun[6] = “Martha Stewart”;
Noun[7] = “Tyra Banks”;
Noun[8] = “Janice Jackson”;
Noun[9] = “David Brooks”;
Noun[10] = “Jon Stewart”;
Noun[11] = “Tom Ford”;
Noun[12] = “Oprah Winfrey”;
Noun[13] = “Arianna Huffington”;
Noun[14] = “Mos Def”;
Noun[15] = “LL Cool J”;
Noun[16] = “Mark Harmon”;
Noun[17] = “Bryan Singer”;
Noun[18] = “Judd Apatow”;
Noun[19] = “Jennifer Lopez”;
Noun[20] = “Jon Stewart”;
Noun[21] = “Malcolm Gladwell”;
Noun[22] = “Sean Combs”;
Noun[23] = “Christopher Hitchens”;
Noun[24] = “Graydon Carter”;
Noun[25] = “Kathy Griffin”;
Noun[26] = “Barbara Walters”;
Noun[28] = “Henry Kissenger”;
Noun[27] = “Skip Bayles”;
Noun[29] = “Joss Whedon”;
Noun[30] = “Johnny Depp”;
Noun[31] = “Francis Ford Coppola”;
Noun[32] = “Tom Cruise”;
Noun[33] = “Lorne Michaels”;
Noun[34] = “Diane Swayer”;
Noun[35] = “Katy Perry”;
Noun[36] = “Quinton Tarrantino”;
Noun[37] = “Madonna”;
Noun[38] = “JJ Abrams”;
Noun[39] = “Tina Fey”;
Noun[40] = “Charlie Sheen”;
Noun[41] = “Stephen Hawking”;
Noun[42] = “Natalie Portman”;
Noun[43] = “Hugh Laurie”;
Noun[44] = “Clay Shirky”;
Noun[45] = “Tiger Woods”;
Noun[46] = “Jay-Z”;
Noun[47] = “LeBron James”;
Noun[48] = “Jennifer Aniston”;
Noun[49] = “Howard Stern”;
Noun[50] = “Glenn Beck”;
Noun[51] = “Ryan Seacrest”;
Noun[52] = “Kenny Chesney”;
Noun[53] = “Robert Pattison”;
Noun[54] = “Cameron Dias”;
Noun[55] = “Stephanie Meyer”;
Noun[56] = “Stephen King”;
Noun[57] = “Sarah Jessica Parker”;
Noun[58] = “Lil Wayne”;
Noun[59] = “Julia Roberts”;
Noun[60] = “Brad Pitt”;
Noun[61] = “Richard Branson”;
Noun[62] = “Bill Clinton”;
Noun[63] = “Lady Gaga”;
Noun[64] = “Sandra Bullock”;
Noun[65] = “Simon Cowell”;
Noun[66] = “Pink”;
Noun[67] = “Dr. Phil”;
Noun[68] = “Beyonce”;
Noun[69] = “Taylor Swift”

Not a perfect list.  I was watching the English version of Being Human on Apple TV (my birthday gift) and who knows what effect this had.  Two days later, its clear to me that this list ought to have cast the net more widely than it does.  More sports heroes, politicians, journalists, captains of industry and so on.  I mean “Rupert Murdock,” how could I miss him?

I contemplated the idea that I should combine two names and a pretext.  So I added some pretexts or “modifiers.”  As with any Culturematic, I wasn’t really sure what it was I was trying to do.  As with any Culturematic, the idea seemed to be to “try it and see.”  As I noted in yesterday’s post, one of the output here was:

Lady Gaga and Glenn Beck struggle to establish a parent-child dynamic.

And I liked this a lot.  I could engage in the wildest thought possible and it would take me years and years to think of something so successfully strange.  (The simpler option would be to take one name, not two, from my noun list.  I didn’t test this.)

But was this combo when that was useful for any useful purpose?  That will take some conjuring.  I think it tells us at least that the postmodernists are wrong when they insist things have been draining of meaning.  If this were true, this output would be less strange, less distant, less hard to put out.  

Here is my list of pretexts.  They are a bit daft.  Again remember I was watching Being Human.  (They sound now like vaguely like David Letterman “top ten” lists.  But you have to try.)

Modifier = new Array();
Modifier[0] = “trying to persuade Les Moonves to back their new show”;
Modifier[1] = “trying to set up a Fair Trade Network in South America”;
Modifier[2] = “consider swapping identities”;
Modifier[3] = “have agreed to sing the National anthem at next year’s Superbowl”;
Modifier[4] = “are thinking about buying an African nation, a small one”;
Modifier[5] = “are starting up a hip little art gallery in the NYC meat packing district”;
Modifier[6] = “are breaking into a Hershey’s factor under cover of darkness”;
Modifier[7] = “eating together in a Paris cafe”;
Modifier[8] = “fighting for a place in line outside an Apple store”;
Modifier[10] = “sharing a Glee episode”;
Modifier[11] = “going to a Harley rally”;
Modifier[12] = “join forces to fight the power”;
Modifier[14] = “ask Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to fund their Tikibar”;
Modifier[15] = “working hard on their syncopated swimming routine”;
Modifier[16] = “take to a lighthouse in Newfoundland”;
Modifier[17] = “driving an Airstream to SxSW”
Modifier[18] = “struggle to establish a parent-child dynamic”;
Modifier[20] = “fighting the tyranny of big budgets”;
Modifier[21] = “consider swapping identities”;
Modifier[23] = “are thinking about giving up tenure”;
Modifier[24] = “consider swamping identities”;
Modifier[25] = “come up with a new peace plan for the Middle East”;
Modifier[26] = “wondering why all men can’t be brothers”;
Modifier[27] = “looking for a future on reality TV”;
Modifier[28] = “surfing the conceptual drift”;
Modifier[29] = “hoping for a show of their own on ESPN”;
Modifier[30] = “in a Paris cafe”;
Modifier[31] = “working the tension between nature and history”;
Modifier[32] = “looking for their own show on USANetwork”;
Modifier[33] = “deciding who has the upper hand”;
Modifier[34] = “think we’ve been a little hard on Tiger Woods”;
Modifier[35] = “wondering how we invented pop culture”;
Modifier[36] = “have had it up to here with ‘high’ culture”;
Modifier[37] = “riding the new train to Tibet, under protest”;
Modifier[38] = “can’t decide: Antigue Roadshow or Pawn Stars”;
Modifier[39] = “putting the industry in the culture industry”;
Modifier[40] = “are thinking of going all artisanal all the time”;
Modifier[41] = “, working on new concepts of civil society”;
Modifier[42] = “thinking someone should send Charlie Sheen a fruit basket”;
Modifier[43] = “committing to post-Hegelian criticism one day at a time”;
Modifier[44] = “trying to decide which one is the Other”;
Modifier[45] = “winning, duh!”;
Modifier[46] = “mining indeterminacy”;
Modifier[47] = “think there is really something rum about the academic world”;
Modifier[48] = “in a Paris cafe”;
Modifier[49] = “sky diving together”;
Modifier[50] = “Venture capital in the intellectual world”;
Modifier[51] = “are wondering, ‘that’s what you’re going with?'”;
Modifier[52] = “think it’s perfectly ok to answer a question with a question”;
Modifier[53] = “think it’s not too late for you to become an anthropologist”;
Modifier[54] = “are building their own Culturematic laboratory”;
Modifier[55] = “wonder if Austin is still as great as it used to be”;
Modifier[56] = “Outward bound”;
Modifier[57] = “believe in disinterested observation”;
Modifier[58] = “an anthropocentric experiment”;
Modifier[59] = “rocking the Dewey Decimal System”;
Modifier[60] = “want two of the roles in Being Human”;
Modifier[61] = “sharpen their chops as master story tellers”;
Modifier[62] = “are they commodified objects? Oh, come on!”;
Modifier[63] = “embrace corporeality?”
Modifier[64] = “looking for triumph in all the wrong places”
Modifier[65] = “famous, but still looking for their mooring”
Modifier[66] = “are not sure in all comes down to factual knowledge, after all”;
Modifier[67] = “still believe in the Red Sox”;
Modifier[68] = “thinking of staring a trailer court in the public sphere”;
Modifier[69] = “went off Starbucks well before you”;
Modifier[70] = “looking for hidden messages and the secret code”;
Modifier[71] = “opening their own digital agency”;
Modifier[72] = “searching for autonomous selfhood”;
Modifier[73] = “have heard some stuff about Area 51”;
Modifier[74] = “still waiting for the Wikipedia page”;
Modifier[75] = “fighting the effects of rank prejudice”;
Modifier[76] = “think LeBron should have stayed in Cleveland”;
Modifier[77] = “thinking about switching homes and lives”;
Modifier[78] = “switched at birth!”;
Modifier[79] = “struggle to remain civil”;
Modifier[80] = “well concealed Amtrak enthusiasts”;
Modifier[81] = “treats celebrity as a contagion”;
Modifier[82] = “exploring materiality in a digtal age”;
Modifier[83] = “learning the rules of a celebrity economy”;
Modifier[84] = “searching for a narrative sequence that does not require a car chase”;
Modifier[85] = “unsafe at any speed”;
Modifier[86] = “boldly embracing romantic inwardness”;
Modifier[87] = “two words; road trip now”;
Modifier[89] = “are not binary opposites”;
Modifier[90] = “still hoping for a chance in Triple A baseball”;
Modifier[91] = “taunting the abyss”;
Modifier[92] = “think Brazil is where the future happens”;
Modifier[93] = “wish that Gen Xers would just get over it”;
Modifier[94] = “really sick and tired of enlightenment rationalism”;
Modifier[95] = “speaking the unspoken”;
Modifier[96] = “mainstreaming marginal worlds”;
Modifier[97] = “knowing the unknowable”;
Modifier[98] = “assault the market place”;
Modifier[99] = “hoping for a spot on TMZ”;
Modifier[100] = “putting celebrity gossip behind them”;

So now the hard part.  How to change the Virtual Professor Code in order to make this Culturematic.  It’s really just horrible to admit to this.  I just kept making changes in the code with the hope of producing the output I was looking for.  The Javanese have a metaphor for stupidity: a water buffalo listening to a symphony.  Consider me so.  Here’s what I “did” to the code.

function Pootwattle(){
EraseAll(document.getElementById(“Voila”));

subject = pickAny(Noun);
object = pickAnother(Noun, subject);

bookref = pickAny(BookRef);
reviewverb = pickAny(ReviewVerb);

//The sentences are constructed here:

var PootSays = “” + subject + ” ” +
verb + ” ” + object + ” ” + objmodifier + “”;

var SmedSays = “” + objmodifier + ” ” + “”;

There must be several people out there who can do better than this.  Please do better than this!

Acknowledgements

I owe thanks to three inspirations for this exercise.  

First, to Bud Caddell for showing me that the spirit, indeed, the genius, of the Victorian inventor in contemporary guise.  

Second, to David Bausola, aka “zero influencer,” for his brilliant work creating, to use the fancy linguistics lingo, “syntagmatic chains out of paradigmatic classes.”

Third, to the Writing Program at the University of Chicago.  Please would you let me know the name of the author of this program.