The Love Song of J. Alfred Skimbleshanks
February 6, 2020 1:21 PM   Subscribe

@cats_wasteland is a Twitter bot that, according to its creator, "mashes up lyrics from CATS with the rest of T.S. Eliot's writings" by taking "the first words from two consecutive lines from CATS and then extend each with other words from T.S. Eliot, choosing next words based on the probability of one word following another."
posted by mandolin conspiracy (5 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The naming of cats is a dangerous suggestion to make a cowardly amends

And Eliot knew a thing or two about cowardly amends, if by “amends” you mean “writing a shitty letter about a woman he corresponded with.”
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:20 PM on February 6, 2020 [5 favorites]

I find with most things like this that the effort needed to make the sentence make sense is too much to take pleasure in any "new meaning" or cognitive dissonance. In this case in particular, the original sentences are so long that while the program is capable of stitching together something that looks like a fancy sentence, even the most cursory inspection shows that it doesn't make any sense, either as intended by the author or a "new" sense.

The point of cut-up technique was that it was a tool for the intelligence, wit and humour of a Burroughs or a Gysin or a Bowie, who selected from the results of the application of the technique, and it tends to work better with simple, bare texts where clear meanings can crash into each other and make new meanings. The more complex the source, the less interesting the result - indeed there's an inverse correlation between complexity and a fruitfulness in cutting it up. Similarly, AIs that can synthesis pseudo-poetic or post-modernist or Biblical texts might be technically impressive, but the original texts are complex enough that it takes a bit of work to extract the meaning that someone actually put into them, and one feels a bit of pride in having done so. Doing that work to find out that there's nothing there results in one feeling tricked - like a sumptuous meal that one finds was made of polystyrene.

tldr: Meh.
posted by Grangousier at 1:44 AM on February 7, 2020 [5 favorites]

To be fair, I think André Breton could have written “When the dawn comes tonight will be time to murder and create”
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:53 AM on February 7, 2020

It was really only this year, a couple of days after seeing the film of Cats, that I realised that the T.S. Eliot of Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (which I read a lot as a child) and the T.S. Eliot of The Waste Land were the same person. Which is to say, this appeals to me greatly.
posted by daisyk at 4:42 AM on February 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

even the most cursory inspection shows that it doesn't make any sense, either as intended by the author or a "new" sense

Heh. In that way, it's quite analogous to the experience of Cats itself.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:54 AM on February 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

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