Category Archives: English

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3 of 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird Gifs

I was inspired by Jason Coats’ #vizpoem students sharing poetry images on Twitter (see the whole course here) and decided to take a stab at an old favorite – Wallace Stevens Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.

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Source files for the crow and mountains.

her face, crow tree, crow, other crow

Source files for her face, crow tree, crow, other crow

Source for the man, woman, and bird.

Source for the man, woman, and bird.

Voyant (Green) – it’s a peephole!


h/t the wily Alan Levine

Seeing Cindy’s post which put “As We May Think” in a tag cloud, I started wondering about other text visualization options and understandings they might drive. ManyEyes was long my default for this type of thing but the hassles with Java security have driven me away. So I decided to give Voyant a try. Will Berry1 had used it so well with students, it seemed worth a more in depth exploration.

You can play with the text of “As We May Think” in Voyant here.

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As you can see you get the typical tag cloud. You do have the additional ability to hide words using pre-constructed common word lists or custom lists you build yourself. That can be awfully useful.
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You also have the ability to select certain words from the corpus2 and they will be charted in relative or raw distribution rates across the corpus. Incidents of “as”, “we”, and “may” are depicted below.
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You can also view occurrences of selected words contextually. Below are “record” and “thought” as I was curious how closely they would parallel one another.
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I think the contextual piece is nice, not quite as nice as the branch stuff ManyEyes does but nice and space appropriate. It’s interesting to see that in combination with when the words appeared. Bush seems to stick with “record” almost exclusively and then move into “thought” which is encouraging me to re-read the piece and see if that exposes a deliberate move from something I see as more trivial (record) to more complex (thought).

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I also looked at “man” vs “human” because of Morgan’s comment on Bush’s use of “man”. Always interesting to see how time impacts language and how contextualizing writing to its time can change how you read it.3 In any case, it seems like “man” and “human” are used in close proximity and in similar amount with the exception of the middle of the work where “man” is used in isolation repeatedly.Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 9.46.02 PM

I don’t know if I have any answers on why Bush chose man or human but looking for reasons and playing with rationale has been fun though.


1 #thoughtvectors participant bonus score

2 Humans and works as collections of strange things.

3 I’m sure David could hit me with some interesting sociological perspective on this. Maybe more should be stressed about when “As We May Think” was written. Bush does reference the whole war context in the intro but it may not be clear to all readers what war this is. The time period matters quite a bit as this would not be a very interesting essay if it were written in the 1990s.

“Truth” through omission

The mission is “Truth” through omission. Can you get at the underlying truth of a historical document through blackout poetry?

Blackout poetry has been fairly popular for a while1 but I haven’t seen any done on historical documents with the intent to get at a deeper, if fairly melodramatic, “truth”. I decided to use The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. It makes for a pretty interesting way to interact with a dry document and requires a pretty close, and repeated, reading. I like the idea of redaction being a way to expose, rather than hide, things the government would rather not have said.

Gulf of Tonkin Blackout Poetry

The text from above . . .

The United States of America

in violation of the principles of the of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law, have deliberately and repeatedly attacked the Communist regime in North Vietnam

the United States has territorial, military, political ambitions in that area

desires the Congress approves

the United States regards the Constitution
its obligations
reasonable assured
except that it may be terminated earlier by concurring resolution of the Congress.


1 It appears Austin Kleon invented the idea in 2010 which seems crazy.

Four Leaf Clovers, Question Paths, & Literal Names

Yesterday, I decided I’d look for four leaf clovers getting in and out of my car. Not hanging out searching, just opening my eyes and paying a bit more attention. Wikipedia tells me there’s one four leaf clover per 10,000 three leaf clovers.

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What surprises me is despite their relative rarity just how many four leaf clovers seem to be out there.

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It’s like interesting things. If you just start looking around, you end up amazed at how many interesting things surround you daily that you never noticed.

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One interesting thing leads to another. It gets to be harder to pay attention to more mundane things like crossing the road because there are so many interesting things to see and think about.

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Generating Questions

I tried to take pictures representing each question I had walking to work the other day. I only decided to do it about halfway in but it was interesting to see it snowball because I made it intentional. The results are embedded below as a set. Additional questions are sometimes in the descriptions and won’t be visible in the embedded view.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Literally Literal

Dodge Caravan takes on a very odd feel if you read it literally. I decided to start capturing all the car/bike names I came across that were also actual words. I’m working on a categorization system for them. It’s another interesting way to shift how you process the stuff that normally just flows on by.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

A Strange Aside – A Rejoinder About Crackers

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I saw this interesting photo on the Smithsonian Libraries Tumblr which led me to this online archive of Forest & Stream from the 1890s. Where I found the letter included below (because of the interesting photograph beside it). Bonus points for the ability to download specific pages with or without the OCR data.

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The letter makes for an interesting read in a variety of ways. Just another example of how much amazing content is out there.

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A Rejoinder About Crackers

While I do not wish nor intend to enter into controversy with “A Georgia Cracker” over the manner in which I described my first meeting with a “Florida Cracker,” still if you will kindly allow me a little of your valuable space in which to defend myself, I promise not to transgress again.

Now, in the first place, if “A Georgia Cracker” will kindly look on page 507 of Forest and Stream, in the first column near tbe top, he will find these words: “There may be a better class of this part of the human race than we met. I hope there is.” I did not say that there was not a better class of these people. That I hoped there was. My assertion that we did not meet this better class, however, I still stand by. While I do not in the slightest doubt the word of your Atlanta correspondent when says he has met this better class, still what he has met and what I have seen are “horses of different colors.”

Secondly — 1 do not wish “A Georgia Cracker” nor any one else, from anything I may have written, to infer that I include all persons born in the State of Florida categorically as “Crackers.” Far from anything of the kind. I always supposed that they were to be found exclusively in the lower class of Southern whites. And from all accounts of camping, hunting and fishing in that State that I have read (for I, too, have read Forest and Stream very closely ; in fact, as I write my eyes rest on more numbers of that valued journal than an able-bodied man could very well lift, as they date as far back as 1879), I do not remember having read anything that would lead me to infer to the contrary. I would not for one minute class the considerate Fernandina storekeeper with the concave-chested exister.

Thirdly— It puzzles my mind considerably, in fact, it is utterly impossible for me to get it through my head — how under the sun friend “Georgia Cracker” could investigate such cases so thoroughly as in one place to say that if I “had taken the trouble to inquire of them their birthplace,” as he had done in Georgia and Florida, “I am sure their answer would have been Philadelphia or other refined centers of the North;” when in another place he distinctly says he never has run afoul of a case of the kind while hunting, fishing and traveling in every State east of the Mississippi.

Fourthly— Of the hospitality of the people of the South as a whole there is no question. But as to his inferring in one place that my article was written to suit the taste of Northern readers of Forest and Stream; then again, in another place, of his distastefulness of my use of Forest And Stream’s columns in which to vent spleen and prejudice against the South he simply is ‘way off the track, as I have no feeling of prejudice whatever to vent against the South— for, list you, Sir Georgia Cracker, while I gently whisper in your ear the fact that every drop of blood that flows through my veins is Southern. My parents and grandparents, uncles, aunts and each and every one of their preceding ancestors, extending far back into the past, years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, all first beheld the light of day in that sunny land to the south of Mason and Dixon’s line.

With good feelings for all — even concave-chested “Crackers”— and animosity to none, I close.

Wm. H. Avis.

New Haven, Conn., July 4.