Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Blown away by The Sound and the Fury

Ok - so when I first started the sound and the fury I had no idea what was going on. 'I think they are on a golf course' I told my business partner Paul. 'I have no idea what is going on.' Half way through the book I felt that I was waisting precious moments of my life reading a piece of crap. However, at some point - probably during Quentin's chapter - I reevaluated.

Why did I reevaluate?? I dont know. Perhaps the language... there is a certain lyricism - and i am a sucker for dialogue. But, at the end of the book a few things struck me...

1) Such a wide expanse of time was covered in such a 200 page book. The fragmented storytelling conveyed more information and feeling than a 1000 page tomb of today's magical realism.
2) What is the story?? The book is really about the construction of narrative, or the construction of myth and meaning. At the end of the day - when you read a story or a myth everything seems so tidy - but the construction itself is messy. While the story is being written you have no sense of the whole completed version - the sound of the fury is like a story writing itself
3) Roshimon - Whose point of view is correct? Seeing the compson family through the eyes of the different narrators in a stream of consciousness voice bring home the fact that every story is told from a point of view.
4) It is a mind fuck - the story seems like a puzzle. Not a post modern puzzle, where the whole point of the novel is the puzzle (like paul auster - of whom I am a big fan). Perhaps puzzle is the wrong word... It is coded. I feel like if i diagramed the whole novel out - parsing out the different stories by the different narrators at different times in the life of the characters I would get another story. There is a second story hidden in the story.
5) This is a modern novel. It struggles with modern themes (and it was written in 1930s I think). Sexuality, Economics, Race, Class - the treatment of these issues are not preachy but are integral to the lives of the character. this is great storytelling - bringing up weighty issues as part of the characters struggles

Anyway I am inspired - I may experiment with this sort of writing for some of my short stories. Also reading Sarte's critique of faulkner - I'm into sarte as literary critic (just was gifted book 5 of the family idiot about flaubert).

Monday, September 20, 2010

Local build of ffmpeg

This was going to be a highminded post about fairy tales and morphology but instead i am going to record my trials and trivails of running ffmpeg on amazon's map-reduce.

So - what i am doing is adding a cached directory of ffmpeg to every map-reduce computer i use

./elastic-mapreduce --create --stream --alive --name $1 \
-c credentials.json \
--input s3n://13bit.videoout \
--mapper s3://13bit.scripts/compression.py \
--reduce s3://13bit.scripts/reduce.py \
--output s3n://13bit.videoout.ts \
--log-uri s3n://13bit.log \
--cache-archive s3n://13bit.scripts/ffmpeg.zip#ffmpeg

in order to build ffmpeg i started up a debian sqeeze box via aleatic ami (ami-daf615b3) http://alestic.com/. I then had to update apt-get (apt-get update), install git, download ffmpeg and related libraries and run the ffmpeg configure switch --prefix to set the install directory. I am now zipping it up and testing it on another instance of the squeeze debian - at which point i will start up the map reduce process again

i am also looking at boston terrier art on etsy (thanks to Jane Kim)
I am doing this while my boston terrier sleeps and farts next to me.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Living the Dream

Last night Paul and I attended a fascinating lecture on the postal history of the Congo Free State at the NY philatelic society. This is research for our latest documentary. There is nothing like listening to a lecture by an expert. Not all fields are capable of producing experts - Literary theory for instance. You can only be an expert is something that exists, that has a counterpoint in reality. You cannot be an expert in unicorns, however you can be an expert on the literature of unicorns, the archaeology of unicorns, and the symbology of unicorns. Likewise you cannot be an expert on literary theory, but you can be an expert on the thoughts of literary theorists. However I think expertise in something like stamps of the Congo is much more worthwhile...

On another note- I ran across the following art project by cory arcangle - it culls the internet for blog posts that begin with i'm sorry. I am a big fan of his video work, especially mario clouds video & the the one where he just projects fields of color from the projector. However, this 'sorry' project is sort of in bad taste. What is it? A project mocking people attempting to maintain blog? I am not quite sure what its purpose is. I doubt it is to be inspired by the heart felt apologies - as cory writes on his blog. So what exactly is the point of this project? to call attention to the dead blogs in the world, to show how apologies have become meaningless, is it supposed to just be funny, it it supposed to show how pathetic people are, how people have no imagination (except for cory)? not sure - here is a blog art project i just blew out of my ass - probably similar to the process of other net artists (although my process does not involve weed) - a dictionary of common words as spelled by bloggers ( or twitters)....

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

More Adventures with Map Reduce and the Cloud

I am compressing video in the cloud via amazon's EC2/mapreduce/s3/etc... I am using map/reduce for this although it is really not a reduce problem only a map problem and not even that - I just need to spawn a bunch of ffmpeg processes....

The problem is I cant map/reduce on a disk that has ffmpeg. So what I did was compiled map reduce on my machine - zipped it - uploaded it to s3 then added a bootstrap action to unzip and ffmpeg whenever the program starts... lets see how this works - I think I need to recompile on debian though - currently using fedora

As for the arabian nights - i have learned that the arabic oral tradition no longer exists because people sit around in cafes and watch tv instead of telling/listening to stories - ahh technology

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Deep thoughts on magical realism

So I am continuing my romp through Irwin's commentary to the Arabian Nights - although I really want to read a copy of The Ocean of the Rivers of Story- which apparently is the source of all stories. But I digress.

In my romp I found that fairy tales were considered part of the genre of the Arabian Nights - and were very much in fashion in 1600s Europe. The author speculates that these were stories were relegated to children's tales as tales of the fantastic were usurped by science fiction.

Today I suppose tales of the fantastic are usurped by magical realism. It is interesting to think though that much of literature is to satisfy this desire for surprise and wonder. We are normally taught in school that fiction imparts some sort of cultural norms - such as homeric heroism. Rather literature engages our desire for something beyond the real. Literature is metaphysics. Perhaps these days video games have replaced this fantabulism because even magical realist books are not quite fantastic enough. We definitely see strands of this in contemporary tv such as Lost and true blood. Sometimes, however, a simple rendering of the real, in all its absurdity, is fantastic (hence my continued obsession with tao lin).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Genealogy of manuscripts

I am reading Robert Irwin's "The Arabian Nights" A companion. It was recommended to me as 'the best commentary ever.' I dont really agree. I think the best work of commentary is Herbert Dreyfus's commentary on Heidegger's "Being and Time", "Being-in-the-world." The best work of literary criticism or commentary is Mimesis by Auerbach. I keep a copy of this above my desk - 'being-in-the-world' is relegated to my stacks.

What is interesting about the Arabian nights commentary is its discussion of literary scholarship. This all but disappeared with the advent of ideologies and literary criticism. Rather than the try piecing together of texts from various sources, trying to find the 'true text' in some sort of pseudo-scientific exploration, people now just interpret a text in light of some agenda - in some meta-pseudo-scientific pontification. We are really moving beyond the scientific method - it seems - as a mode of exploration and investigation of the world. String theory is not a result of empirical evidence and nor is the Lacanian interpretation of Pär Lagerkvist.

But back to the Arabian nights commentary. So one of the ideas that caught my eye was that scholars where attempting to create a sort of evolutionary tree of different editions of the Arabian nights. This is sort of an interesting thought to me that works of literature can have a history. Further along, we see that many of the stories in the Nights, have parallels in Chaucer, Boccaccio, various sanskrit works, and other. Here is yet another genealogy - the genealogy of an idea rather than the genealogy of a work. I feel like these sorts of ideas are used in the generation of books themselves, the questionable source of a work is used as a device in Don Quixote and in the "Dictionary of the Khazars" - and probably in 59% of Bevery Borges novels.

The sort of scholarship that went into this sort of detective work seems more apt for the computer age (or the Big Data Age) than the experimental age, however I dont think literature scholars are doing this sort of work anymore -

I leave you with some of my favorite lines from Tao Lin's "Shoplifting from American Apparel"
"On Christmas Eve Sam work around 7 p.m. in his brother's studio apartment in Manhattan. Sam had moved in November into a four-person apartment in Brooklyn but was staying at his brother's studio while his brother was on vacation with his girlfriend. Sam put on music very loud and showered in the dark with the bathroom door open. He put in earphones and walked ten blocks to an organic raw vegan restaurant. He ate a seaweed salad. He drank a smoothie. He walked back to the apartment. He drank an energy drink. He worked on writing for two and a half hours. He lay on his brother's queen-size bed and listened to music. He read most of the newest Stephen Dixon novel and fell asleep around 3 a.m.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Greatest Work of Our Time Is Lost

I was just watching the imaginarium of dr parnassus which begins full of promise and then sort of craps out. The most interesting part of the film is the story of parnassus not the imaginary wonderlands of random people who go through parnassus' mirror.

I was totally blown away by the production design of Parnassus' Monastery. After watching the DVD extras about the Monastery, it seemed that one of the great achievements of the film were the props. I often think this is the case with other films, and with theater in particular.

It seems after thousands of years of architectural masterpieces, 500 years of scupltural masterpieces, and about 200 years of painted canvas masterpieces - we are in an age where masterpieces are really transitory and in the service of other even more transitory masterpieces. I guess this is what happens when production is in service of entertainment or the triumph of bread on circuses.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A completely different blog post

i have been blogging lately to keep track of what I am doing with my streaming video project. The montagenik blog is probably not the best place for this. I should probably keep this info in evernote or perhaps another blog, or perhaps a del.icio.us account, or perhaps a git gist. However, the fact is, that I actually go back in my blog and look for these tidbits. My blog is like my personal search engine repository. When I spread out this information over a bunch of different application I generally dont use them. I find it more efficient to keep everything in one location.

This week has been a good week in the 13Bit getting things done world, but a bad week in the Meredith getting things done world. The jet lag has put me on a really messed up schedule and I am completely useless after 4pm. Tomorrow Paul and I have a short shooting trip to NJ where we will interview two collectors, then sunday Cindy and I will bot in preparation for the upcoming robot parade. Paul and I also have something special up our sleeves for the Ecopocolypse website. It is very cool....

I started out the day by reading from 'The Book of Disquiet' - This is a fantastic, beautiful, inspiring book. "And at this table in my absurd room, I, a pathetic and anonymous office clerk, write words as if they were the soul'd salvation and I gild myself with the impossible sunset of high and vast hills in the distance." I am considering ripping off Mattins and reading parts of this on a daily podcast.

My new love is the OED on the computer.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More EC2, FFMPEG and video streaming from the cloud

So today I am setting up the compression engine on EC2 to compress video out into 4 formats. I need to do this before I use the segmenter to divide up video out into segments that will then be recompiled on the fly via lexical searches...

Anyway I had a java program downloading my mov files - clips from video out- but it was taking to long. I dont want to have to download the file in order to convert it I want ffmpeg to convert it via http... luckily i found this on stack overload:

evermind, I found an easy way to solve my problem.

I set up an amazon cloudfront download distribution pointing to my S3 bucket.
Via cloudfront the files are accessible with ffmpeg over http:

ffmpeg -i "http://subdomain.cloudfront.net/video.mp4" -ss 00:00:10 -vframes 1 -f image2 "image%03d.jpg"

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Incoherent Ramblings on EC2 and ICT4D

When you are deploying some sort of web based app with some sort of services (mobile, messaging, whatever) in a far away land, one of the largest time sucks is configuring the server. If the server has already been configured, there is generally no documentation. No one knows you decided to config your ssh port on 666. Granted one 'could' provide better documentation, as well as server install scripts (think a list of apt-get or yum or whatever you are doing). However, after working with EC2 on amazon, I think standardized disk images are the way to go.

1) You are actually deploying the same server everywhere. So, why not make that server once, as an EC2 instance and then actually deploy it.
2) Services that rely on a hardware device such as an SMS modem have to be installed on a local box, but, web access, database storage, and number crunching, can all be stored in the cloud. Then, if you want to edit your web interface or Z-score calculation for child malnutrition, you don't have to worry about power outages in Tanzania. And you will probably have less latency as well. The route that your server takes to ssh into a server in Tanzania is Byzantine.
3) Scaling. This is a dream issue but say all of South Africa starts using your service, all you need to do is deploy some more EC2 instances and load balance. You dont have to send over a bunch of techies to set up a server farm.
4) CAVEAT - as i mentioned above if you have a device attached to your box - such as an SMS modem, or rf transceiver or whatever - then you cannot deploy that aspect of your app to the cloud (the aspect that connects with the device) however you can use the EC2 image to create your local server.

EC2 is great for standardization, especially when you lack people, money, and equipment - i love it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Superbitter AMI

I am creating an instance for the SuperBitter off the RAILS fedora AMI. I dont use fedora but I decided to use an Amazon recommended AMI and it was fedora or bust.

I added: git, java, csound, ffmpeg, scala, jetty & mavin (for lift)

ffmpeg is still missing some stuff

used this resource for ffmpeg install :http://blog.ryanparman.com/2008/06/28/installing-ffmpeg-php-fedora-amazon-aws/

in the midst of building thrift - (need to update autoconfig), mongodb (sort of a pain), open source segmenter (a pain), http://github.com/mfchang/HTTP-Live-Video-Stream-Segmenter-and-Distributor

For the future I am going to split up the web EC2 (rails) from the backend EC2 (scala, mongodb, csound). But for now I dont want to deal.