Saturday, 13 June 2015

On Cyber-randomized Verse Industrialization

My automatic poetry-writing program JanusNode is—like blue cheese, minimalist paintings, and the music of  Darius Milhaud—an acquired taste. I am only a little less bewildered than the rest of my family about how I acquired this obscure taste. Some people just like blue cheese, and some people just do not. Who can hope to explain why? Why do we even want to explain it? Let those who like Stilton eat it, and let the rest enjoy Kraft cheese. We have world enough for both types of people.

My fascination with '21st century digital poetry industrialization' (as JanusNode once dubbed it) goes back over three decades. For most of that time it was a mainly private obsession. JanusNode was exposed to a larger audience when I realized—years after I had opened a Twitter account and wondered what to do with it—that Twitter was the perfect medium for JanusNode. The hardest part of successful 'pata-combinatoric poem printing ' (as JanusNode has also dubbed it) is keeping the semantic thread. It is surprisingly easy to get a machine to randomly generate 140 characters that occasionally make a statement that is witty or profound or funny or insightful. It is harder to coax a machine to randomly generate much longer strings that do not just seem obviously and dully random. However,  JanusNode has always done that occasionally. Recently I came up with a way to constrain its vocabulary around a particular topic so as to increase the probability of semantic coherence across ever-longer strings. Here I am publishing for the first time some of JanusNode's recent longer works (length > 140).

There is a school of thought that says that we should remove the human touch entirely from aleatoric text thoughts. My attitude has always been that we should give computer authors no more and no less respect than we would give to any human author. I have treated JanusNode's productions here exactly the same way I would have treated a human being's productions if they were submitted to me: I have very occasionally imposed some minor edits, especially where it seemed obvious that there must just be a typographic error. Though I have therefore occasionally tweaked the punctuation, capitalization, conjugation, or phrase-splitting, there is no sense in which any person or machine could reasonably claim that I substantially altered the intent of the real author, which is here not me but randomness. I have treated randomness the same way an admiring editor would treat Charles Bukowski, Richard Brautigan, or Henry Miller: with sober respect for her literary talent, coupled with a realistic recognition of the fact that she might have been drunk when she wrote the text. 


[Image adapted from: William Felkin's (1867) A History of the Machine-wrought Hosiery and Lace Manufactures]

Marriage was strained by

waiting and
 and waiting and waiting and waiting
       commit to
investigating the perceived feminine characteristics
           in women
           of beauty        


 Death is the termination of
          night terror
       ontogenetic fiction
       horror vacui 



the origin
       consciousness and
       the coming back
             to fear
        to avoid
             this threat
  perceived -
     Why are
          we here?


         into sustaining the
            intimacy of
              and commitment to
              the virtue
              of the contents
              of experience


         be an
     of divine grace
pious and
  driving the secretion of a group
           of neurons


 Death is the termination of the
           attitude we take
a high stage
            of existence
    and contains
 both an
       aesthetic and extinction.


 The brain
               is characterized by progressive cognitive
 together with intensified
the universe as
       an incentive for
             the production of


SOCRATES: But were we not saying that when a thing has parts, all the parts will be a whole and all?
WITTGENSTEIN: Your question makes no more sense than dazzling science, which I have never pretended to understand.
WITTGENSTEIN: We are dazzled by an ideal and therefore fail to see the actual use of the word clearly.


Ostracizing Stabilizer

To ostracize, to ostracize, to ostracize, to centralize,
              to centralize all while you ostracize,
              to centralize the centralizer...


Write and perform a song (in the style of  'Shake, Rattle and Roll' by Big Joe Turner) about the role of fiction in psychoanalysis while singing  'Fortunate Son' by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Ask the audience to meditate on the theater. Dedicate this piece to people everywhere who are suffering from depression.


come, insightful deity,
              and perceive the supreme hours yourself,
        for when you perceive them,
           my love,
        my insightful brain turns into a generous spontaneity
        and an enviable award-winning


 The Outrageous Fingernail Of Me

  I will always remember
        my Dadaism
              joyful unveiling
        joyous entertaining
        a murderous atheist in the dainty mountain


still I must know where to look for a dream,
still I must know where to look for a dream

        I have assumed that I do not dream myself,
              I have assumed here that I do not dream myself,
                still I must know where to look for a dream.
        I have assumed here that I do not dream myself?


  The choice.
        The choice...

        Isn't it as though I were choosing?
  I no longer have any choice.

                I no longer have any choice.
  The choice.
  But should we also call it justifying an imagined choice?


  memory's loving voices        
              the ocean fill'd with joy
    for every woman too
          and love
                dear friend
                whoever you are
    take this kiss.


The Desire

    unaccustomed to a religious theory,
     separated from
  any truthful contentment,
  exist always underestimating
    in a peaceful mind
    the nothings. 


The Need

To light,
  to accept,
                to underestimate,
                to pleasure,
        to ease all
                              while you lighten,
  to love a guidance-
                did we finally only have a delightful religion?


Our world depends upon
        over-grown by the beautiful.

          am here for
  your classic


 There is nothing I hate like a bird,
     there is nothing I hate like a bird,
          silent in life escape
                roaming in thought over the universe


SOCRATES: Then we must not speak of seeing any more than of not-seeing, nor of any other perception more than of any non-perception, if all things partake of every kind of motion?
JANUSNODE: That makes me think of Nietzsche's point that a casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.


  look at a cat when it stalks a bird

                    portray these acts in words

          I mean this
                            simply invites me to apply the picture I am given
                                       to imagine a form of life
                then suddenly I saw it...

Sunday, 7 June 2015

On Altering Page 4 of 'A Human Document'

As I have mentioned before on this blog, I am a huge fan of Tom Phillips' A Humument, a multi-decade art project to alter the pages of an old Victorian novel, A Human Document by W.H. Mallock. The website Venus Febriculosa recently held a competition to alter a page from A Human Document, with Tom Phillips as the judge. The excellent winning entries are here, along with a few other entries, including my own, reproduced above.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

On the Release of the Paperback Version of My Novel

The paperback version of my novel came out on June 10, 2015. Ask for it at your local bookstore or buy it on You can read more about it here on

Or check out these review excerpts:
"Part treatise on art appreciation, part humorous on-the-road tale, neuropsychologist Westbury’s debut novel offers a compelling story about the role art can play to disrupt, delay, and contribute to human engagement with the real world. —Booklist

"Westbury’s Bride Stripped Bare contains many layers. It has, among other elements, a road trip, an unusual love triangle, cross-dressing, anagrams, off-kilter theories of religion, a handmade chocolate grinder, and a see-how-many-balls-I-can-keep-in-the-air comic structure that adds to the novel’s overall buoyancy." —Edmonton Journal

"Part treatise on art appreciation, part humorous on-the-road tale, neuropsychologist Westbury’s debut novel offers a compelling story about the role art can play to disrupt, delay, and contribute to human engagement with the real world." —Booklist

"It’s a sweet story, and it builds inevitably to a happy ending." —Kirkus

"Clever, funny, and fun, and filled with great discussions about art" —BookRiot

"Bright aesthetic discussion amid mishap; not just for the college-nostalgic but for anyone who enjoys a rush of ideas while being entertained." —Library Journal, Top Summer Reads 2014

"Westbury, a cognitive neuropsychologist at the University of Alberta (Edmonton), has plenty to say about art and attention, about the line between sanity and mental illness, and about the nature of a well-lived life... Westbury's debut is a call to pay attention, and a reminder of the rewards of patience and open eyes." —Barnes & Noble Review