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I saw tigers, pistons, bison, tides, and armies
March 9, 2013 8:23 PM   Subscribe

The Aleph is a short story by Jorge Luis Borges in which a man is suddenly able to see all things at once. I wanted to present a version of what The Aleph might look like now, designed as an endless stream of descriptive passages pulled from the web. For source texts, I took the complete Project Gutenberg as well as current tweets. I searched for the phrase "I saw."
The Aleph: Infinite Wonder / Infinity Pity by David Hirmes
posted by Lorin (30 comments total) 88 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Twitter feed is mesmerizing; combining it with the Gutenberg search is surreal.
posted by jokeefe at 8:34 PM on March 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


...I saw a girl with 12 nipples. It sounds pretty fucking strange, dozen tit?

And I'm done.
posted by The otter lady at 8:53 PM on March 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yes, the combination version is fascinating.

I saw a guy from school in victorias secret um akward. I saw in my vision by night, and behold the four winds of the heavens strove upon the great sea.
posted by DrMew at 9:11 PM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Gutenberg feed gives me more of that pleasantly vertigo-inducing "seeing the sum total of human experience" feel.

The Twitter feed, on the other hand, has displayed that "dozen tit" joke like 3-4 times.

I think this whole art project is designed to make me want to chase teenagers off my lawn with an Eastwood scowl on my face. YOU ARE RUINING MY SUBLIME EXPERIENCE.

I'm hiding my Aleph in the basement and putting some goddamned parental controls on it
posted by edguardo at 9:44 PM on March 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's amazing how many Borges stories can function as metaphors for modern technology and the Internet. The Garden of Forking Paths, the Library of Babel, Peirre Menaud, Author of the Quixote (Tumblr plagiarism), that story where golems build other golems (self-replicating machines). And most of his stories are short, the perfect length for our ADHD generation.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:18 PM on March 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


I think the Twitter one needs a larger amount of source material.

Nevertheless, this is truly wonderful.
posted by solarion at 10:20 PM on March 9, 2013


I Saw a Peacock, with a fiery tail,
I saw a Blazing Comet, drop down hail,
I saw a Cloud, with Ivy circled round [...]

posted by Joe in Australia at 11:05 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is on MetaFilter Projects - it's by gwint.
posted by oulipian at 12:03 AM on March 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I approve of this randomness
posted by philip-random at 12:29 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I saw a great wagon and an ox-chain knocked off to a very pretty woman. I saw wild asses in great abundance which be like vnto Mules. I saw Cynthia's among them. I saw your horses' heads against the sky, he explained, and knew them. I saw your elephant act. I saw it in your fainting. I saw his glance take me in.

This could only be better if each passage was spoken aloud by Laurie Anderson.
posted by Prince Lazy I at 12:35 AM on March 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yeah this is pretty much what I would call best of the web.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:48 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I want this read by James Mason while WebCollage is continuously updating on a big screen.
posted by Segundus at 12:56 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wish I could click on a sentence and have it jump to the source material. You might be able to develop an interesting reading list this way (or perhaps a bizarre twitter stream.)
posted by brappi at 3:04 AM on March 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


I saw a puddy tat.
posted by oddman at 5:07 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness... @carlsolomon #gyzymofconsciousness
posted by drlith at 5:10 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is... actually amazingly good. Seems like it could with some work be an automatic Underworld song generator.
posted by overyield at 5:42 AM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I saw a cute girl with a broken leg at the bar last night. My first thought was . this one can't run away. Court date is Thursday.

what
posted by jquinby at 6:19 AM on March 10, 2013


And most of his stories are short, the perfect length for our ADHD generation.

When trying to read Borges I, uh, actually found it too long. My ADHD generation needs synopses of Borges.

And the artistic representations of such synopses, because those end up being pretty cool.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:16 AM on March 10, 2013


I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by hamsters.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:57 AM on March 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


The streaming text is disjoint and incohesive. The description of the Aleph in Borges's story is concise, recursive, and holistic, its pieces of specific random detail producing a fuller rendering of infinitesimal boundlessness.

YMMV
posted by mistersquid at 8:04 AM on March 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I like this a lot more than I was expecting to, honestly. It's lovely.

I saw his body glint across the rising sun, swoop in a wonderful curve and land in a sheltering bush. I saw him Who sat therein. I saw him throw four men out of a hotel once for insulting a girl, so I knew that he was much better at that sort of thing than I.
posted by daisyk at 8:33 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is really neat. Reading the Gutenberg version really felt like reading Borges. I always enjoyed the way he put lists together, all of the knife fights, the mirrors, the weathered gauchos, the blood mixed with dirt, the impossible objects, the infinities, the distortions of time, the subtle intrusions of the divine into the everyday.

When trying to read Borges I, uh, actually found it too long. My ADHD generation needs synopses of Borges.

His later works are the shortest; a lot of the pieces collected in Dreamtigers are less than a single page.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:24 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is on MetaFilter Projects - it's by gwint.

Thanks for pointing that out, I saw it on pinboard and entered a bit of a fugue state between reading and posting. And thanks pb for linking the Projects version here!
posted by Lorin at 9:38 AM on March 10, 2013


mistersquid makes a point, though I don't think complete fidelity to an original is required of derived art, and is particularly difficult/impossible to achieve when doing any kind of text analysis. Hacking together different texts can be difficult, especially with something like "I saw xxxxxxx".

If you wanted to get closer to the original, one possibility would be to use something like WordNet to try and make sure that the next sentence refers to a phrase used in the previous sentence. Alternately, you could build your Aleph from Wikipedia. Start with the first sentence of an article. continue for at least random N sentences, then jump to the next linked article you see. If you dead end, jump to a random article. Pull in the Gutenberg text as well, looking for similar definition phrases, like "An/The/A/That/Those X is/was/are" and you'll have a better stream of material.

But there'll always be glitches that make it look like nonsense. Automatically process text, and there'll be garbage somewhere.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:53 AM on March 10, 2013


I love this story. Glad to see it inspiring. It inspired my bathroom window.
posted by princelyfox at 12:30 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Automatically process text, and there'll be garbage somewhere.
In what way is that different from human-created text?
posted by IAmBroom at 12:48 PM on March 10, 2013


I can't get over how beautiful this is.
posted by aparrish at 12:56 PM on March 10, 2013


I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:52 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


In what way is that different from human-created text?

I don't follow your comment, so sorry if my elaboration isn't helpful.

If you process text in a procedural manner, you're going to see errors that make no sense - e.g. ELIZA, while a sort-of-convincing computational therapist, can be gamed into printing nonsense phrases which break its simulation of being a therapist. Correspondingly, while automated text processing has gotten & is getting better, language is weird enough that automated processing will go wrong and produce a bad result.

I don't usually think of human-created or human-processed texts as having these issues because people understand the text that they're writing. While you may see bad grammar in Wikipedia text, the meaning still generally logically follows. When a computer procedurally generating text goes off the rails it often produces complete nonsense, like "Gravity drowned." or "What makes you think you are just kidding?"
posted by Going To Maine at 4:46 PM on March 10, 2013


The Gutenberg stream is the sort of amazing zen thing, I could lose hours that way. The twitter one frightens me. Although this pull from the twitter feed made me laugh out loud:
I saw a commercial for a website called cougarlife .com. I'm confused as to what that means exactly. But all the pictures were of moms #bleh.
posted by dejah420 at 8:18 PM on March 11, 2013


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