Useful Phrases

Useful Phrases (usfl_phrss) uses Markov word/phrase probabilities to generate unique sentences by breaking apart a source text — in this case, the introduction to “Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases” by Grenville Kleiser. These sentences are then added to a blog.

Click here to view the blog or here to go straight to the “writing” tool.

The application was built with Processing/RiTA and blosxom. The source code can be viewed here.

Giant Amoebas Ooze Through Texas

This is both fascinating and terrifying news: an organism that can break down into self-sufficient parts only to re-constitute itself as a massive Blob-like mega-entity. A prime candidate, evolution-wise, to usurp us genetically-varied individualists:

Scientists say the discovery is much more than a mere curiosity, because the colony consists of what are known as social amoebas. Only an apparent oxymoron, social amoebas are able to gather in organized groups and behave cooperatively, some even committing suicide to help fellow amoebas reproduce. The discovery of such a huge colony of genetically identical amoebas provides insight into how such cooperation and sociality might have evolved and may help to explain why microbes are being found to show social behaviors more often than was expected.

“It is of significant scientific interest,” said Kevin Foster, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University who was not involved with the study. Though amoebas would seem unlikely to coordinate interactions with one another over much more than microscopic distances, the discovery of such a massive clonal colony, he said, “raises the possibility that cells might evolve to organize on much larger spatial scales.” (nytimes.com)

Via Angel Station

Translating Media

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TRANSLATING MEDIA is a Graduate Student Conference co-hosted by the Department of Critical Studies and the Media Arts and Practice PhD (iMAP) Program at the School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California. The event is co-sponsored by the USC Graduate and Professional Students Senate (GPSS) and the Association of English Graduate Students (AEGS). I did a little organizational work for this conference, and I recommend it to anyone who happens to be in the Los Angeles area on April 3 and 4, 2009. Of particular interest is the Friday night keynote address by Julia Meltzer and David Thorne, whose video, photographic and installation work tackles heavy stuff like faith, geopolitics and the way that the future gets imagined.

Photo: Epic, 2008. Video installation by Julia Meltzer and David Thorne with Rami Farah

Deadmau5 iPhone app

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I think the albums-as-applications concept will probably go a lot further than just a simple track-mixing app like this one by electronica artist Deadmau5, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Deadmau5′s iPhone app ($3 on iTunes) lets you load any of 10 quantized Deadmau5 tracks into its dual-track playback engine, which works pretty much like professional DJ software while being easy enough for anyone to experiment with.

You can change BPM, control up to four concurrent effects, skip to the next phrase or back to the last one, loop a phrase, and cross fade between the two tracks, or from one to the next. When some albums cost $18 on CD, a $3 album that includes the ability to remix it each time you listen seems like a pretty good deal. And since the tool is so easy to use, it lets anyone DJ a dance party by plugging their iPhone or iPod Touch into a stereo and letting ‘er rip. (wired epicenter)

(See RIAA, it’s all going to be all right… just a little less linear and with a lot less packaging to throw away.)