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Reading/Travel Notes to OK; OCR, preservation, wrath & somethings in the hopper


somewhere in OK

Dear Internet,                                                    

August moves into September & the days grow shorter. Finalized the list of books we'll be publishing come 2014:

  • Niceties: Aural Ardor, Pardon Me—Elizabeth Mikesch
  • Travel Notes (from here—to there)—Stanley Crawford
  • When All Our Days Are Numbered Marching Bands Will Fill the Streets & We Will Not Hear Them Because We Will Be Upstairs in the Clouds—Sasha Fletcher
  • [title TBD]—Brandon Hobson
  • The Luminol Reels—Laura Ellen Joyce
  • The Static Herd—Beth Steidle

Almost necessitates us having a production schedule or something.

tornado shelter

self-portrait near a tornado shelter (undoctored)

The Crawford book, as we mentioned, was first published in '67 & never re-printed ... so no digital copy exists. So we've been scanning it & converting to txt using OCR ... a first for us, at least for an entire book.

The History of Luminous Motion re-issue Bradfield himself re-typed in by hand ... we found out after the fact otherwise we might've suggested OCRing. It was by no means a seamless process ... & at times spit out interesting (unintended) results, like here's a passage of raw text (from the beginning of Travel Notes):

who all have a s ig tly su? ests a pote u hty wtt a s1.ollw tw. tr1mg movement of the right hand, sueh as ne se pomt the mterpreter st?pped argumg long enough to turn around .t£o ask me tf I was marrt.ed, and t.f marn.ed where my w1 e was. 'Travelmg,' I said. I t ok Fam0us Lake. Netther he nor the driver, he said, had ever b£een thhere hbut knebw pkeople who had. Probably v;.ery £ew, or w en t e car ro e down three hours out t)f.ihe city w_e had not met or passed a single other vehicl, on the dtrt road. _It was on level stretch just beyond a narrow-gauge ratlway crossmg. We got out and the driver lifted the hoo_d, now add essea long, earnest speech at me, which the m_te preter explammg that he would have to take it apart. I said he could do wh.at he wanted• 1.t was h.ts car. The m. terpreter pulled m. e a.stde and told me how much the dn.ver wanted £or fixtg stuffed mto the driver's pocket. ' e With _that, I wandered off to inspect the immediate countrystde. Boulders, cacti, lizards, small moth-like reatures, ht le ratlway h. ne seemed all but abandoned. The ra.t1s were rusty, wtth one even missing, and many of the ties had be_en reduced to a yellowish powder by hordes of ter? rmtes. Some distance from where the road crossed the tracks, there was a small structure, a sort of hut or shed IJ

... obviously this bit required some massaging/manual intervention to get it to resemble the original ... to re-assemble. Right after this passage, a bus comes along that can't get by because their broken-down car is blocking the road. So they take the bus apart, piece by piece, and re-assemble it on the other side. Sort of feels like the process we're going through in re-assembling the text. Or life in general.

Back in the infancy of speech & text recognition, we used to have fun making experimental poetry using OCR, especially with those stylus pads (OMG, any of you freaks out there remember the Newton?) ... where you wrote (or purposely scribbled) by hand & it did its best to convert it & the results were usually unexpected & at times more brilliant than something you'd think to say.

Fortunately not too many pages turned out as mangled as the above ... which seemed to be a consequence of the two opposing pages being a bit at an angle to each other, so when the software straightened the left side, the right page got skewed & read in at an angle to the lines of text. Of course you scan single page by single page, or cut up the resulting PDF, but this would require processing each page by hand (the way we did it, we scanned the book straight into one single PDF). Anyway, if anyone has done this before & has suggestions, or if anyone is trying to do this & wants pointers, get in touch.

It's an interesting exercise to undergo, sort of cathartic. There's a certain satisfaction, like restoring a painting, or preserving a rare species of bird. Digitizing a book & saving it otherwise from extinction.

bug zapper

bug zapper somewhere in OK

The Sasha Fletcher book is a re-issue, but fortunately it exists already in digital form ... one of the Mud Luscious casualties in which they seem to have bitten off more than they could chew. There are others in their catalog that should be preserved, but at least for now we feel we are doing our community service. And When All Our Days are Numbered ... is a keeper, one that seems like it shoulda/coulda been Calamari off the bat. We saw him read from it the other night, at Jimmy's No. 43 ... good to put a real-world voice to the text. Can't say as much for the other readers (which is usually the case with us) ... fortunately Jimmy's No. 43 is a notorious Slow Food hangout & a bunch of farmers were gathered in the bar for some sort of meet & greet. Tho unfortunately Jimmy's No. 43 summer menu sucks ... more like 'No Food' than Slow Food ... ended up down the street at Mermaid Inn for two dozen oysters & a heaping plate of shishito peppers.



Speaking of preservation of species, they discovered a new carnivorous mammal the other day, the first in some 35 years ... something they're calling an olinguito that lives by night in the cloud forests of Ecuador. And the gray seal is making a comeback in Cape Cod ... & subsequently so are great whites (see also our predator-prey model in the last post). And grizzly bear attacks are on the rise (4 so far this year) ... as they should be. Gus, the OCD polar bear in Central Park died & likely you saw the photos already of the bloodworm outbreak a few days ago, in the water supply of some town in Oklahoma, nearby to where we just spent the weekend. Needless to say, we didn't drink the tap water ... & no lamb fries like last time.



In other calamari-related news, no more 6-legged hexapussies have been simultaneously discovered/killed, but crocheted octopi have been banned in Sweden.

The town we went to in Oklahoma was only an hour or so away from where Brandon Hobson lives, but we unfortunately didn't get a chance to meet in the real world yet. Elizabeth Mikesch also lives not too far away, somewhere in north Texas, but didn't get a chance to meet her either. But we know them both thru their words ... as will you hopefully one day, if you haven't already.

self-portrait near  a derrick

self-portrait (wearing 'I Exist' shirt) near a derrick

The Hobson novel is listed above as TBD because we're not sure what to call it ... for the moment it's Nightbird, after a Chet Baker song that figures in the book. But more recently he's thinking of calling it Deep Ellum, a suburb of Dallas where the book takes place.

guthrie, OK

Guthrie, OK

On the plane to OKC we read The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Or re-read ... the first time we read it was in high school, in Monterey, CA ...so the perspective was different. Steinbeck's dust bowl story has more to do with where the okies ended up, rather than what they were running away from. Last week we also somewhat coincidentally saw the Ken Burns Dust Bowl documentary ... recommended, especially if you're like 'what the hell's a dust bowl?' A: A man-made ecological nightmare—the worst in American, if not world history—that seems to have been 'swept under the rug'. The dust bowl days sure must've seemed like a wrath ... to atheists & God-fearing alike.

Burns scarcely mentions Steinbeck in the documentary, except to say the Joad family didn't even come from the dust bowl, but from eastern Oklahoma (closer to where the current bloodworm infestation is). He does go on about a woman named Sanora Babb who was writing about the dust bowl, and her editor (Tom Collins) sent her writings to Steinbeck, who then subsequently published The Grapes of Wrath, scooping Babb. And since Steinbeck stole her thunder, her book was scrapped ... until finally, just as she was knocking at death's door, her Whose Names are Unknown was finally published. So if you want to read the definitive, first-hand account (not by some Stanfurd (albeit drop-out) hi-falutin' liberal from Caleefornia) then evidently this here is the book fer ye to read. Not only is Sanora Babb a bas-ass name, she was raised on a rez, was friends with William Saroyan & was married to the cinematographer James Wong Howe (though their marriage wasn't recognized in California because he was Chinese & the law didn't stand fer such co-mingling back then ... & they were blacklisted as 'Un-American' & had to escape down to Mexico).


self-portrait with corn

... not that any dust bowl scars are visible in Oklahoma circa 2013, you have to use your imagination (or use sub-surface imaging to look at the time-lapsed levels of the Ogallala aquifer, which is being depleted at an alarming rate to keep another dust bowl from re-occurring). Just like The Wizard of Oz is a long way from modern Kansas. But tornadoes still strike more than ever it seems. And the OK Corral is not in OK but in Tombstone, AZ. And what the fuck does Natalie Merchant know about the dust bowl anyway?

Back on the homefront it's still steamy & we've watched a few late summer storms roll through.


lightning over the Hudson & Grant's tomb



lightning over NJ

And from our peregrinating perch we also watched more police drama unfold ... evidently some guy in NJ stole an undercover cop car & led police on a high-speed chase across the GWB before ditching the car right outside our window. We had just gotten back from a run (right past the stolen car & in retrospect a suspicious looking guy that matched the description of the suspect) when the cops started to converge ... dozens of them from all directions. This is the second time in recent months we've witnessed such a scene & again, we couldn't help but to think of the waste of resources ... all the cops just standing around, blocking traffic, eating doughnuts, the helicopters, the police boats, the mobilization of SWAT teams, police dogs, etc. ... all at our expense. All for what, because some dude stole a car? Granted, unlike last time (a harmless suicide gone awry) this guy was armed & dangerous, but is he only dangerous because he is being pursued? And is it worth chasing him through heavy bridge traffic at 100 MPH & endangering countless other civilians? And then there's the legal fees, the expenditures of the media, etc. ... & if the guy is convicted (after all this, they still didn't catch him), he will be housed in prison at a cost of $167,000 per year, per inmate. So basically your average NY household supports one prisoner, if that. What kind of society is this? And 57% of the inmates are black & 33% are hispanic. When you start thinking about things like this you realize what a fucked place America is ... & then to add to this, this monstrous mobilization of heavily armed resources is not constrained to U.S. borders but we seem to want to turn the entire globe into one big police state ...

police presence

the scene unfolding (far from OK)

And speaking of the decadent waste in prison terms, we binge-watched Orange is the New Black & then hated ourselves after for watching it ... Orange is the New Black is crap. It's like they (Jenji Kohan) can't figure out whether to make a light-hearted comedy or a serious show about prison & get stuck in some awkward & reality-detached in-between that isn't funny & belittles a serious issue (prisons in America). All the usual stereotypes apply. It's an interesting premise though, if someone did it right.

Oh & we're back on Twitter, at least the Calamari arm of us (1 of 8) ... we say as if it's a needle you spike in your vein. We've been on it all along, but in voyeuristic read-only mode from a locked incognito account. Part of what we don't like about Twitter is this whole following vs. follower metric which nowadays people seem to measure their real selves by. But since the communistic leanings in us compel us to follow anyone who follows us, what happens is your feed gets flooded with annoying tweets & becomes unreadable. So we're seeing if this solves the problem ... to read from one account & post to another. That way you can read exactly what you want & not hurt anyone's feelings if you unfollow them.

& we also surpassed the 1 million views mark on YouTube. Here's the latest video, lightning captures, the final two of which were almost simultaneous ....

On the way back from OKC (via Houston) we read Something in My Eye by Michael Jeffrey Lee (half of The Brothers Goat, who have been in Sleepingfish & who we hung out with recently in New Orleans) ... a nice collection of subtlelee odd & at times discomforting (in a good way) short stories. Also picked up some Mexican jumping beans which are now jumping on our desktop like a geiger counter ever-reminding us of something real. Like Something in My Eye. Perhaps for the next post we'll dissect them to see what makes them tick ...


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