Categories: art, best, books, librivox

LibriVox – public domain books for your ears

OK, I’ve just launched a little experimental project, let’s see how it goes. It’s called LibriVox:

LibriVox is a hope, an experiment, and a question: can the net harness a bunch of volunteers to help bring books in the public domain to life through podcasting?
LibriVox is an open source audio-literary attempt to harness the power of the many to record and disseminate, in podcast form, books from the public domain. It works like this: a book is chosen, then *you*, the volunteers, read and record one or more chapters. We liberate the audio files through this webblog/podcast every week (?).

There some more info here.

So if you know any podcasters, literature buffs, actors, librarians, teachers, readers, writers, radio announcers, or anyone at all who might be interested in donating some time to read a chapter of a public domain book and record it to the net, please send them to LibriVox. If you want to get directly in touch, try: librivox(at]yahoo(dot]ca.

So this is for all you bloggers who read and comment on this site occasionally: (eponym, fling, andre, mike l, martine, seb, wirearchy, danielle and the rest)…

let’s see where it all goes!


let’s put it ALL online: brewster kahle

IT conversations, a site that broacasts talks by leading thinkers on all things informational-technology-y, brings this (awe)-inspiring talk which argues that everything, every book and every song & movie, every recorded lecture, everything ought to be, and can feasibly (!) be put online, for anyone to access.

Brewster Kahle, currently leads the Internet Archive (and various previous successes), a repository of everything media, which, among all sorts of amazing things, offers stogage space, for free, for life, for anything published under a Creative Commons license. Among the many many great things in this very brief talk, Kahle mentions, the IA’s collection of lego movies.

If you worry about your ideals, and think the Machine is too big to fight against, listen to this and have some hope. Universal Access to All Human Knowlegde. A worthy, and you will be convinced, possible goal. The question is how many of you will help push for it? (Me included).

The amazing thing, though, is imagining how anyone could argue against this project…but I am sure the lawyers are lining up.

Kahle gets extra points for suing the US goverment to allow out-of-print (but copyrighted) books to be scanned and put online, but even without extra points, he makes it to the top of my “most exciting audio streams” list for 2005.


Categories: art, best, data, technology

the flickr photo “coincidence”

this is just one of those cool things that the universe likes to throw out at us to remind us that everything, in the end, is related to everything else: Flickr Tokyo Photo Surpise.

Update: O! Ye non-believers, with hearts of cold and minds closed to the Truth, behold: Evidence.

Says one fella in the thread, eloquently and with a hint of the pargmatic philosopher about him:

Whatever your thoughts about coincidences, there appears to be a broad consensus that they occur more frequently on Flickr than they do in our day-to-day lives. I think that says something very interesting about the structure of Flickr, the way it allows those connections to happen. And it has potentially profound implications for Flickr-like systems in general.

It may just be that flickr helps us notice coincidences more often — but that doesn’t make them any less coincidental, now, does it? and maybe it even makes flickr interesting for new and different reasons.


Categories: art, best

suffering & justin hall

I posted a while ago about nietzsche and blogging, and then after a reminder from sen no sen, I dug up some more nietzsche, all of which amounted to a few observations, summarized a bit crassly here:
1. blogging can be a way to transform ones life into something more (art)
2. seeing ones life as art is a means to transform suffering into something meaningful and positive
3. if one is driven by art, one should strive for art
and finally
4. one should equate ones life to fate, and love that fate, whatever it might be

You may have seen this intense video by Justin Hall (via i never knew). Hall has chronicled the last 11 yrs of his personal life online. The video, titled aptly, “I sort of had a breakdown in January 2005” is a cringe-inducing or gut-wrenching 10-minute peek into the soul of a blogger mid-meltdown, a very strange place to peek. Commenters are split between: “I feel your pain,” and “Wait wait wait WAIT ONE FUCKING SECOND, You’re 30 years old? What the fuck, dude!” Anyway, Justin Hall’s dilemma: his meaningful relationships are with that wide web of the internet, his writing (and his camera!); and his candid online writing about personal life taints his personal relationships. So he’s alone. Blogging and art, or or real connection; he thinks he can’t have both.

The video makes painful watching–it’s not the sort of stuff you see too often, but it’s fascinating are really weird, and you can watch real-time as Hall consciously translates this breakdown into a video. At one point Hall, with a wry chuckle, choked in tears, says something like: “If I’m going to go through this crap, I might as well make some good media with it.” I laughed out loud when I head that, but he’s right. Isn’t that, really, what art does? It transforms our lives, experience and our (possibly self-absorbed) torment into something more, something wider, something that other people can connect with? (I used to have a prof in university who constantly quoted CS Lewis: “We read to know we are not alone.”) Whatever you think of Justin Hall’s misery, he took it and transformed it into something for the rest of us to consider, and it probably did him some good. Nietzsche:

Art as the redemption of the sufferer–as the way to states in which suffering is willed, transfigured, diefied, where suffering is a form of great delight.

Blogging as problem and solution, maybe.

I was thinking about Justin Hall as I hopped into a taxi tonight. It’s rare to find a cab driver in Montreal who isn’t mid-argument, or mid-plea with some friend or lover on his mobile while driving you from place to place. A good thing, probably, at least for taxi drivers: talking makes their shifts pass faster, and you hope it helps them better develop their own relationships. But that technology cuts completely my interaction with the driver: I give my destination, and pay my bill. In the past you could count on every fouth taxi ride providing some entertaining conversation–rants about the mayor and bicycles, or just pleasant weather-talk–and sometimes some great human interaction. Now it’s one out of ten, because of mobile phone technology, which occupies the driver with other things. So the crazy taxi conversation fades from our world; what was once a social and commercial transaction becomes nothing but a commercial transaction. I don’t begrudge taxi drivers their mobile converations, but I miss the crazy-talk. I’ve lost out a bit, and I think society has lost out a bit too – though probably the taxi drivers have gained, which is fair-enough as far as trades go.

Blogging’s got some of that calculus as well: you gain in interaction with a community of like-minded individuals spread through the ether of the net, but your flesh n blood interactions can suffer. I notice this in a very small way with myself and others. The trade off. Maybe it’s a bit much to call blogging art, and maybe recording a tantrum isn’t art either; but it’s engaging, I was drawn in, fascinated, and decided to write about it, which gives it some more value, at least to me.


Categories: art, technology

nietzsche, art & blogging

I am slow to get used to blogging, where I should probably be putting out more thoughts, half-cocked if need be, rather than just letting them simmer, trying to get them right. Well, here are some neither fully-formed, nor coherent, but what follows is the begining of some thoughts on Nietzsche and Art and blogging:

Friedrich Nietzsche in Will to Power, fragment 853, outlines the importance of Art in an existence that Neitzsche calls “frightening,” where Truth (God is dead) has been toppled, and we struggle comprehend what it means to live in a world where we have no objective (God) to appeal to in questions of consequence. Says Nietzsche:

Art and nothing but art! It is the great means of making life possible, the great seduction to life, the great stimulant of life….
Art as the redemption of the man of knowledge–of those who see the terrifying and questionable character of existence, who want to see it, the men of tragic knowledge.
Art as the redemption of the man of action–of those who not only see the terrifying and questionable character of existence but live it, want to live it, the tragic war-like men, then hero.
Art as the redemption of the sufferer–as the way to states in which suffering is willed, transfigured, diefied, where suffering is a form of great delight.

OK now all this has something to do with blogging, I think. Nietzsche’s general gist is that with the loss of faith in anything beyond human consciousness, humans can go down two paths: one is pessimist, and sees disaster (chaos will result); the other optimist (sort of), the path of the overman (Übermensch), who sees this loss of objective Truth as liberating… a realization of the creative power of humans to form truth (small-T) around principles of their making. He sees this as a sort of Art — not just artistic art, but life as art, where forming the principles of one’s own morality becomes a creative exercise, and living itself becomes Art. So if you live your own life as a kind of artistic creation, then you manage to acheive a life Nietzsche would be proud of (well probably not, since he was Nietzsche…).

This process of transforming life into art is a magical sort of thing: anyone who has written a brilliant poem after being spurned by that cute girl in calculus class–no matter how poorly the stanzas stand-up to time–can attest to the power of that creation. In producing Art we transform our own existence into something more, and somehow that enables us to turn “suffering into great delight.”

And more, we take even greater pleasure in sharing that with others. I was discussing capital-A Art with with a writer friend over coffee, and he said, more or less, “Art just is, don’t worry about whether it’s important or not. Birds sing, people paint and write and make art. We are creatures who make art, so don’t spend time humming about why that is important.” I agree, though I think Art is important for specific reasons (another post sometime) … but the relevant thing is that humans like to create, we derive benefits from creating, and we like to share our creations with the world. Anyone who has built something, anything–a bookcase, a great script to track who’s bookmarking urls in del.icio.us, a newly landscaped garden, or a novel–can attest to the pleasure not just in looking at one’s own work, but having a close friend admire it as well. Strangers are even better.

Blogging is particularly important because it allows, and encourages, anyone–as long as they have access to technology, never guaranteed–to easily transform bits of their lives into Art which they can share with others, a life-affirming sort of thing that Nietzsche might be happy about. Particularly since blogging by its nature tends to diffract the capital-T Truth that other forms of controlled media try to sell us. (The subject of a future post).

All this is just more rambling, except that it provides some context for a couple of specific projects I am developing, and I encourage any blogger to consider as well: working with groups of people who are often marginalized to help them find the pleasures, and the Nietzschean benefits of blogging, of finding Art in their lives, and finding an audience for their Art in blogging. More on these projects later.