Friday, December 17, 2010

BallDroppings and The Google Chrome Experiment

BallDroppings (2003) by artist/designer Josh Nimoy.
As seen on

All but the least attentive net users will have heard of Google's proprietary browser ChromeLaunched in 2008 and already the third most popular web-browser, Google Chrome claims enhanced speed, versatility and security, amongst other dull and generic boasts. It seems another web-browser, much like Safari or Internet Explorer.

As with all things Google, one can be certain that if given a whirl Chrome would surely offer irresistible utility coupled with a mechanized disregard for the rights of the private individual. El Tarangu has yet to trial Chrome, having read enough sci-fi to be skeptical of a corporation that drives around in a van spying on peopleAccusations of corporate villainy aside, when Google released a decent sized chunk of its source code to the open source movement it consciously enabled folks at home to develop new software for their inter webz.

This may at first sound like so much shop-talk but it has thrown open the door for The Google Chrome Experiments. The project rounds up, vets and showcases what they call 'creative web experiments' or software engineered by third-party users - and Google's own crack development squads - using the Google Chrome platform. To put it simply, it is akin to the web developers Flickr: designers submit functional,  often ingenious pieces web programming, and the Google Chrome Experiment puts them on display. This image tarnished slightly by the small print declaring Google itself the daddy of the project.

The Google Chrome Experiment describes these projects as 'some beautiful, magical, crazy' and in many ways I would agree. Of course, the software varies in quality and focus, ranging from simple and derivative games, to what could be the squeals of a new-born Art-chimera, and thus the article finally turns to more familiar and rather more right-brained topics.

El Tarangu came across Google Chrome Experiment via user JTNimoy's experiment BallDroppings. In a laundry list of inspired work for any number of large corporations, the sardonic JTNimoy describes BallDroppings as his 'most contagious meme' that he created in 'one night of idle programming that blew up unexpectedly into a web phenomenon.' 

A simple and addictive program in which users draw lines under a continuous stream of falling white balls, upon which the balls will bounce as determined by the 'gravity' of the program. As they bounce new lines can be made, thus directing and bouncing the ball around the screen. And, crucially depending on where the line is drawn the ball's 'bounce' sound out a different frequency and tone. It is simple and ingenious; a basic 'video game' premise that allows users to make electronic music (of sorts). It is at once a meditative and an infuriating experience, and headphones are recommended if living with anyone but a saint.

If Web 2.0 marked the advent of bilateral interaction with the net through the homogenizing lens of developers such as facebook and the dreaded twitter, El Tarangu ponders whether this is the early rumblings of a Web 3.0?

Users are creating not only the content but the apparatus through which and by which the content is guided and disseminated. Moving our stand-point as net users from mere viewers to users to the architects of the web itself. Supposing these tools and functions are adopted with sufficient gusto, El Tarangu is tempted to forecast that user-generated programs such as those seen on the Google Chrome Experiment could become to the 'YouTube video' of the future. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Old Irish Book Covers

B’Fhiú an Braon Fola, Séamas Ó Maoileóin (Anne Yeats)

From the blog Vintage Irish Bookcovers, as seen on New Inquiry.

This reminded El Tarangu of an article we saw in the Irish Times years ago about book covers from the early years of the Irish State, published by state publisher An Gúm. The article is long behind a paywall, but we were able to find the link to the original exhibit.

Allagar na h-Inise,  Tomás Ó Criomhtháin (AÓM)

Trí Dúnmharfa go Leith, Mícheál D'Andún (unsigned)

Síobhraí na mBeann is na nGleann, Brighid Ní Loinsigh (unsigned)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Little Wilson and Big God: Being the First Part of the Confessions of Anthony Burgess

Having a marble bust of your head on the front cover is pretty badass, btw

Little Wilson and Big God is the idiosyncratic title of part one of novelist Anthony Burgess’s autobiography. The volume chronicles the author’s life from birth until his forty-third year - this juncture chosen as it was at that point that Burgess became a full-time novelist. Prior to reading his memoir, my only other frame of reference for Burgess was as the author of A Clockwork Orange which, I must confess, I didn’t particularly care for (the film was better).

Little Wilson and Big God recounts the life and times of John B. Wilson, as Burgess was known before adopting his better-known moniker for commercial reasons (a publisher told him that he needed a name more distinctive than John Wilson). Wilson/Burgess’s coming of age coincided with many of the seminal events of the 20th century, so the memoir plays out against an engaging backdrop. Burgess was born towards the end of the First World War, his mother dying in the influenza epidemic that followed the conflict. He served in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the Second World War, and spent most of the war stationed in Gibraltar. After the war, Burgess joined the colonial service, and was stationed in Malaysia (Malaya, as it was at the time) and Borneo during the twilight of the British Empire.

The book reveals Burgess as quite the Renaissance man. Aside from writing, Burgess was also an artist and a linguist, and had aspirations as a composer: among other works, he produced a musical adaptation of the novel Ulysses. Joyce is one of Burgess’s fixations: he laboriously conveyed Finnegan’s Wake around with him for the entire Second World War under the mistaken assumption that it is a real book (it isn’t).

The memoir occasionally lags a bit when Burgess gets on one of his numerous hobby horses. And I know that it’s his autobiography and everything, but the poetry. Just when the narrative is getting particularly engaging, the author will stop to regale the reader with a sample of his verse (mediocrity in the Modernist mode, for the record). And Burgess regrettably reverts to that favourite motif of mid-20th century British authors: Catholic guilt. El Tarangu was raised RC, and yet we never seem to suffer the existential crises that so afflict the likes of Burgess and Graham Greene. As a matter of fact, the two were neighbours in Monaco, where Burgess had moved to escape Britain’s punitive tax regime. They probably had a high time in sunny Monaco, not paying tax and discussing their theologically-induced guilt complexes to their hearts’ content.

Bad poetry and belaboured Catholicism aside, Little Wilson and Big God is still a thoroughly enjoyable literary memoir. Roll on part two, which will presumably come with Stanley Kubrick anecdotes included.

Buy Little Wilson and Big God on Amazon (for one cent!)