Douglas Coupland’s JPod revolves around six misfits who work for a gaming company whose duty is to create video games; in this case, a corny skateboard game whose main character is a cheery turtle. We follow Ethan Jarlewski throughout the novel and the escapades he witnesses and goes through however farfetched they are. His mother has a grow-op in her basement; his father is a bit actor who is having an affair with a girl that Ethan went to highschool with and his older brother is a successful real estate agent. Coupland creates eccentric characters that are specifically made for a technologically evolved society as this is reflected into his work.
What Coupland achieves is a modernized world whose characters are eccentric and their necessity to function is with the use of technology, primarily computers. Ethan and his co-workers revolve around their computers because they design video games. This reflection of computers, video games and the internet is placed in Coupland’s novel as he places random pages of Chinese symbols, scrambled words, and internet ads. It is as if he is treating the novel itself as a computer. As the reader continues, there are spots within the novel where the stops completely for a moment list off all the languages of the world; in other spots, there is a list of words generated by a pseudorandom number generator. These stops seem as if they are pop-up ads for when a user is surfing on the internet. It seems unnecessary but what Coupland tries to distinguish between a print text and a computer is that he is able to manipulate this same process.
It is as if Coupland tries to create electronic literature in print text form. He is successful in many ways for at the beginning of the book the reader is confused as to where the story actually starts. Just a start-up menu for a computer program, Coupland sets up the novel in the same fashion. We reach the beginning of the story were we meet Ethan as he sits through a mundane meeting and it suddenly ends with one of Coupland’s “pop-up ads.” What he tries to state for the reader is the fact that we, as a society, are going into a different direction with literature and life in general. Technology has become a part of our lives that a computer is considered an appliance now. It’s a necessity now to have this device in our lives; just as this device is necessary for his misfit characters in JPod.
Translation by John Cayley is a form of ambient visual media bordering on poetry with the conceptual idea of interchangeability between languages. The statement the author makes with the piece is that all latin based languages are interchangeable. This is written within the lines of the poem/statement that is the basis of the piece. Translation is really just “continuous forms of transformation.” It is through “media of varying densities” that the languages of the western world are connected. News, movies, and books being the staple of modern society, these medias are translated and transformed daily to repeat the exact same messages only rearranged into new words and sounds.
Twelve Blue by Michael Joyce is an interesting look at poetry explored through technology. He uses a simple HTML interface with a left frame or rather what seems to be simple at first glance which is actually an involved navigation. Joyce’s use of HTML, colour, pictures, and frames was unique and ambitious for it’s time. I spent an hour or so finding my way around his page. I primarily used the links found in each page of storyline to navigate my way through his work. This however was not the way to go about it if you wanted to experience the surprising story he is telling from twelve different perspectives.
Jordan Mowat Presents
“SOLILOQUY” IN REVIEW
Kenneth Goldmith’s “Soliloquy” is spoken word in the extreme sense: a transcription of every word he spoke over the course of a week in 1996. The text includes all of the unedited flaws and falters inherent in the spontaneous production of speech, which proves to be no less informative than refined disclosure. Autobiographers usually enjoy the luxury of longwinded self-justification and selective recount, but Goldsmith takes a bolder tack by neglecting both.
The piece is viewable by days of the week, each of which is distributed into 10 separate sections. Left undisturbed, these sections are wordlessly white excepting the first phrase, but poking through the emptiness with the cursor highlights more snippets. Goldsmith avoids daunting the reader by allowing him to reveal only one phrase at a time, which is good, because the sheer volume of words is dizzying. This elegant interface also visually reproduces the flow of speech, drawing attention to the smaller phrases that might otherwise be overlooked. Tiny, pale grey text over white is not easy on the eyes, but aside from that, “Soliloquy”’s minimalist form fully suits the content.
Review By: Mackenzie Gans
Girls Day Out is an Electronic Literature Collection poem by Kerry Lawrynovicz. It is a poem split up into three parts, with the main Poem, a collection of newspaper headlines in Shards and the self-explanatory Author’s Note. First I will explain the three sections then analyze them.
The first section, the Poem, is a body of text that talks about the two sisters riding their horses in a pasture, and how the horses reacted when they reached a certain section of the field. When you click on the body of text, the body of text fades out and several words which relate to the story are visible (But we will not reveal them, to not ruin the story for the reader). With Shards, it is a collection of information from various newspaper articles about the event, and when the reader clicks on the text, the words fly around and re-assemble themselves into a new batch of headlines and news tidbits. Finally there is the Authors Note. In this part, the author talks about her childhood experiences, and what led her to write the poem. This is a simply body of text, with no fancy re-assembling words. However it is very interesting, because it gives the reader a very personal window into the writers mind and her inspirations for writing what she did.
Chemical Landscape, a tale of toxic waste being brought upon the land due to pollution or the likes? Or is it about the impact a growing city has on the landscape? Those were the first thoughts that entered my mind but that was certainly not the case. Chemical Landscape is a piece of work resulted from Edward Falco and his partnership with Mary Pinto and Will Stauffer-Norris. A series of photos that suggests landscapes but are entirely made by shining a flashlight on particular chemicals in a dark room. It has eight poems, which can be seen by clicking various spots on the opening page. Each tale is coordinated with the landscape and is set up in a way that makes the text disappear before there is a chance to even finish it. This is intentional as stated by Falco because it forces the reader to have to concentrate on different words each time they read it which results in numerous readings of just one tale. The way this digital tale was made allowed the reader to break away from the tradition way of reading text. It was about having the freedom of choosing your own starting line and ending. And it is because of this that the tales can be experienced differently each time it is read as the reader’s eyes jump from word to word when trying to read the poem. Though it has achieved Falco’s goal of being a field where we can choose the direction in which the tale can be read from, it soon becomes a maze in which the reader can get lost in when the context of the tale is always being eluded from the reader each time. Though the tales are absorbing, it has the tendency to be annoying after awhile because the piece can never be read all at once. And even after having gone through each of the poems plenty of times and gotten the idea of what the context is about, it is still not the same as reading the piece as a whole and fully understanding it. Besides that, Falco has successfully presented the breaking away from the classical structure in which normal stories should be read with a beginning, middle, and end. And as we get further into the piece and after numerous readings, the visual harmony between the landscape and the text makes the reader appreciate the relationship between the two. This gentle landscape façade of pleasantness belies the strong presence of environmental issues and it is because of this contrast that makes Chemical Landscape a surprising and striking piece.
Who wants the best toy ever conceived? Why everyone of course! Imagine it now, your very own Slinky! Just joking, it’s myBALL: the dream toy of tomorrow. This bad boy does it all: plays roll and catch; give your kids someone to talk to; helps with indoctrinating racial prejudice and best of all, can be dressed up like your favourite financial institution. That’s myBALL, the toy that replaces any need for human contract for the kids and eliminates any point in having kids for the parents.