Tag Archives: Writing


In 1982, William Chamberlain and Thomas Etter programmed a computer in BASIC to write English. They did this by programming in specific grammatical rules and structures. The point of the experiment was to give the impression of communication – what was said was secondary to the fact that it was saying it correctly. While most of it was nonsense, it created (by chance) some surprisingly lucid prose:

More than iron, more than lead, more than gold I need electricity. I need it more than I need lamb or pork or lettuce or cucumber. I need it for my dreams.

Bill sings to Sarah. Sarah sings to Bill. Perhaps they will do other dangerous things together. They may eat lamb or stroke each other. They may chant of their difficulties and their happiness. They have love but they also have typewriters. That is interesting.

A crow is a bird, an eagle is a bird, a dove is a bird. They all fly in the night and in the day. They fly when the sky is red and when the heaven is blue. They fly through the atmosphere. We cannot fly. We are not like a crow or an eagle or a dove. We are not birds. But we can dream about them. You can.

A tree or shrub can grow and bloom. I am always the same. But I am clever.

Some of the program’s work was actually published in OMNI magazine. It concluded with some rambling about eating a leotard which was produced by a horde of commissioners, and went on to conclude: “Is that thought understandable to you? … I wonder. Yet a leotard, a commissioner, a single horde, all are understandable in their own fashion. In that concept lies the appalling truth.”



Scrabble-Tile Poem

Mike Keith has written a poem that uses all 100 Scrabble tiles:

Each tercet (three lines of iambic pentameter with ABA rhyme scheme) in the poem below is formed from the set of 100 Scrabble® tiles, which consist of 98 letters (including all letters A-Z) plus two blank “wildcards” that can be assigned any letter. The poem is visually depicted using six sets of Scrabble® tiles, where the two blanks in each set are indicated by red tiles. In this challenge we deem it quite permissable to use different letters for the blanks in each separate set of tiles (each stanza).

In this depiction, each line of iambic pentameter is split in two in order to keep the page from being too wide. In other words, the first line of the poem is really “Through sentient, gauzy flame I view life’s dread”.

Very impressive.

Scrabble Tile Poem   [Cadaeic]

Explorer-in-Residence Writing Office

Pictured above is the incredible writing office designed by Travis Price architects for Wade Davis, National Geographic’s current Explorer-in-Residence:

“Travis did a studio on M Street in Georgetown for me,” Davis says, noting that in his current home, zoning prohibited a detached building. While many need light-filled rooms for inspiration, he wanted to avoid large windows opening onto a residential neighborhood and sought a cave-like atmosphere to disappear into his work. Subtle light was brought in by other means when the architect built a dome above his client’s desk (which Price describes as similar to the rotunda of the oracle’s temple at Delphi) and filled it with the books he uses the most. Davis whimsically calls the space his “Navajo kiva of knowledge.”

Writing Office for National Geographic’s Explorer in Residence   [BoingBoing]

The Musalman

The Musalman is a small Urdu-language daily newspaper based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. What makes it so special? It’s the world’s last hand-written daily paper.


The Shadow Scholar

In the Chronicle of Higher Education is a fascinating article by a guy who makes his living writing papers for students, which they pass in as their own:

In the past year, I’ve written roughly 5,000 pages of scholarly literature, most on very tight deadlines. But you won’t find my name on a single paper.

I’ve written toward a master’s degree in cognitive psychology, a Ph.D. in sociology, and a handful of postgraduate credits in international diplomacy. I’ve worked on bachelor’s degrees in hospitality, business administration, and accounting. I’ve written for courses in history, cinema, labor relations, pharmacology, theology, sports management, maritime security, airline services, sustainability, municipal budgeting, marketing, philosophy, ethics, Eastern religion, postmodern architecture, anthropology, literature, and public administration. I’ve attended three dozen online universities. I’ve completed 12 graduate theses of 50 pages or more. All for someone else.

You’ve never heard of me, but there’s a good chance that you’ve read some of my work. I’m a hired gun, a doctor of everything, an academic mercenary. My customers are your students. I promise you that. Somebody in your classroom uses a service that you can’t detect, that you can’t defend against, that you may not even know exists.

The Shadow Scholar

The Other Numbers

“The Other Numbers”, by Nathan Pyle.

Little Billy’s Letters

In the 1990’s, while less-than-employed, Bill Geerhart decided to channel his inner child to ask some important questions from some famous (and infamous) people. He collected all the letters (written in pencil on elementary school-style paper) as well as the responses and put them into his new book. Some of my favourites are after the jump.

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