The Inky Fool and 'Filler Words'

The Inky Fool is a blog about anything to do with the English language with a particular concern for the contortions and convolutions of contemporary cliché and alliteration.

And I quote...'I was once reading what I thought was an utterly awful novel. It was only when I got to page 14 and found the word "drugstore" that I realised that I wasn't reading stilted, rhythmless, English: I was reading very good American.

This, dear reader, is a problem. When you speak you have the advantage both of body and of accent. When you write you do not. Your words, which in your head were a ferocious rant or a bewitching drawl, on the page are lame, dull and denuded of voice.

This problem is also very easily solved. What you need are filler words. Every language has them.....' click here for the FILLERS

Weird missing speech sounds- Acousical Society of Japan

quote from Autism Diva
"Weirdness isn't [just] confined to vision. Your auditory system is also full of gaps and glitches that the brain cleans up so we can make sense of the world. This is especially true of speech.
In everyday life we encounter lots of situations that obscure or distort people's voices, yet most of the time we understand effortlessly. This is because our brain pastes in the missing sounds, a phenomenon called phonemic restoration. It is so effective that it is sometimes hard to tell that the missing sounds are not there.
A good demonstration of this effect was published last year by Makio Kashino of NTT Communication Science Laboratories in Atsugi, Japan. He recorded a voice saying "Do you understand what I'm trying to say?" then removed short chunks and replaced them with silence. This made the sentence virtually unintelligible. But when he filled the gaps with loud white noise, the sentence miraculously becomes understandable (Acoustic Science and Technology, vol 27, p 318).
"The sounds we hear are not copies of physical sounds," Kashino says. "The brain fills in the gaps, based on the information in the remaining speech signal." The effect is so powerful that you can even record a sentence, chop it into 50-millisecond slices, reverse every single slice and play it back - and it is perfectly intelligible. You can listen to Kashino's sound files at http://asj.gr.jp/2006/data/kashi/index.html."

Kashio's paper
Phonemic Restoration: The brain creates missing speech sounds
by Makio Kashino

Abstract: Under certain conditions, sounds actually missing from a speech signal can be synthesized
by the brain and clearly heard. This illusory phenomenon, known as the phonemic restoration effect,
reveals the sophisticated capability of the brain underlying robust speech perception in noisy situations
often encountered in daily life. In this article, basic aspects of the phonemic restoration effect are
described with audio demonstrations.
Keywords: Speech, Perception, Illusion

Acoustical mapping of the gaps in 'Do you understand what I'm trying to say...' here


The Fugglies (demo) Talking Dog Studios

The Future Looms Weaving Women and Cybernetics Sadie Plant

The Future Looms
Weaving Women and Cybernetics

Sadie Plant

Beginning with a passage from a novel:

"The woman brushed aside her veil, with a swift gesture of habit,
and Mallory caught his first proper glimpse of her face. She was Ada
Byron, the daughter of the Prime Minister. Lady Byron, the Queen of
Engines." (William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, /The Difference
Engine/, p 89)

Ada was not really Ada Byron, but Ada Lovelace, and her father was never
Prime Minister: these are the fictions of William Gibson and Bruce
Sterling, whose book /The Difference Engine/ sets its tale in a
Victorian England in which the software she designed was already
running; a country in which the Luddites were defeated, the Prime
Minister was a poet, and Ada Lovelace still bore her maiden name. And
one still grander: Queen of Engines. Set in the mid-1850s, the novel
takes Ada into a middle-age she never saw: the real Ada died in 1852
while she was still in her thirties. Ill for much of her life with
unspecified disorders, she was eventually diagnosed as suffering from
cancer of the womb, and she died after months of extraordinary pain.

Ada Lovelace, with whom the histories of computing and women's
liberation are first directly woven together, is central to this paper.
Not until a century after her death, however, did women and software
make their respective and irrevocable entries onto the scene. After the
military imperatives of the 1940s, neither would ever return to the
simple service of man, beginning instead to organise, design, and arouse
themselves, and so acquiring unprecedented levels of autonomy. In later
decades, both women and computers begin to escape the isolation they
share in the home and office establishing their own networks. These, in
turn, begin to get in touch with each other in the 1990s. This
convergence of woman and machine is one of the preoccupations of the
cybernetic feminism endorsed in this paper, a perspective which owes a
good deal to the work of Luce Irigaray who is also important to this

The computer emerges out of the history of weaving, the process so often
said to be the quintessence of women's work. The loom is the vanguard
site of software development. Indeed, it is from the loom, or rather the
process of weaving, that this paper takes another cue. Perhaps this
paper is an instance of this process of weaving as well, for tales and
texts are woven as surely as threads and fabrics. It is a yarn in both
senses. It is about weaving women and cybernetics, and is also weaving
women and cybernetics together. It concerns the looms of the past, and
also the future which looms over the patriarchal present and threatens
the end of human history.

Ada Lovelace may have been the first encounter between woman and
computer, but the association between women and software throws back
into the mythical origins of history. For Freud, weaving imitates the
concealment of the womb: the Greek /hystera:/ the Latin /matrix. /
Weaving is woman's compensation for the absence of the penis, the void,
the woman of whom, as he famously insists, there is "nothing to be
seen". Woman is veiled, as Ada was in the passage above; she weaves, as
Irigaray comments, "to sustain the disavowal of her sex." Yet the
development of the computer, and the cybernetic machine which it
operates as, might even be described in terms of the introduction of
increasing speed, miniaturisation, and complexity to the process of
weaving. These are the tendencies which converge in the global webs of
data and the nets of communication by which cyberspace, or the matrix
are understood.

Today, it is not only woman, but the computer which screens the matrix,
which also makes its appearance as the veils and screens on which its
operations are displayed. This is the virtual reality which is also the
absence of the penis and its power, but already more than the void. The
matrix emerges as the processes of an abstract weaving which produces or
fabricates, what man knows as "nature": his materials, the fabrics, the
screens on which he projects his own identity.

As well as his screens, the computer also becomes the medium of man's
communication. Ada Lovelace was herself a great communicator: often she
wrote two letters a day, and was delighted at the prospect of the
telegraph. In 1844, she wrote: "Think what a delight. Wheatstone says
that sometimes friends hold conversations from one terminus to
another."(23 November, 1844) She is, moreover, often remembered as
Charles Babbage's voice, expressing his ideas with levels of clarity,
efficiency, and accuracy he could never have mustered himself.

When Babbage displayed his Difference Engine to the public in 1833, Ada
was a debutante, invited to see the machine with her mother, Lady Byron,
who herself had been known as the Princess of Parallelograms for her
mathematical prowess. Lady Byron was full of admiration for the machine,
and it is clear that she had a remarkable appreciation of the subtle
enormities of Babbage's invention. "We both went to see the thinking
machine (for such it seems) last Monday," she wrote. "It raised several
numbers to the 2nd & 3rd powers, and extracted the root of a quadratic
equation."(Ada Lovelace, letter of 21 June, 1833)

Ada's own response was recorded by another woman, who wrote: "While
other visitors gazed at the working of the beautiful instrument with a
sort of expression, and I dare say the same sort of feeling, that some
savages are said to have shown on first seeing a looking glass or
hearing a gun... Miss Byron, young as she was, understood its working
and saw the great beauty of the invention."(Sophia Frend, in Moore, p
44) Ada had a passion for mathematics at an early age. She was admired
and was greatly encouraged by Mary Somerville, herself a prominent
figure in the scientific community and author of several scientific
texts including the widely praised /Connection of the Physical Sciences.
/ Ada and Mary Somerville corresponded, talked together, and attended a
series of lectures by Dr Dionysus Lardner, on Babbage's work at the
Mechanics' Institute in 1835. Ada was fascinated by the engine, and
wrote many letters to Babbage imploring him to take advantage of her
brilliant mind. Eventually, and quite unsolicited, she translated a
paper by Menabrea on Babbage's Analytic Engine, later adding her own
notes at Babbage's suggestion. Babbage was enormously impressed with the
translation, and Ada began to work with him on the development of the
Analytical Engine.

Babbage had a tendency to flit between obsessions; a remarkably prolific
explorer of the most fascinating questions of science and technology, he
nevertheless rarely managed to complete his studies; neither the
Difference Engine nor the Analytical Engine were developed to his
satisfaction. Ada, on the other hand, was determined to see things
through; perhaps her own commitment to Babbage's machine was greater
than his own. Knowing that the Difference Engine had suffered for lack
of funding, publicity, and organisation, she was convinced that the
Analytical Engine would be better served by her own attentions. She was
often annoyed by what she perceived as Babbage's sloppiness, and after
an argument in 1843, she laid down several conditions for the
continuation of their collaboration: "can you", she asked, with
undisguised impatience "undertake to give your mind /wholly and
undividedly/, as a primary object that no engagement is to interfere
with, to the consideration of all those matters in which I shall at
times require your intellectual assistance & supervision; & can you
promise not to /slur & hurry /things over; or to mislay & allow
confusion & mistakes to enter into documents &c?" (Ada Lovelace, 14
August, 1843). Babbage signed this agreement, but in spite of Ada's
conditions, ill health and financial crises conspired to prevent the
completion of the machine.

Ada Lovelace herself worked with a mixture of coyness and confidence;
attributes which often extended to terrible losses of self esteem and
megalomaniac delight in her own brilliance. Sometimes she was convinced
of her own immortal genius as a mathematician; "I hope to bequeath to
future generations a /Calculus of the Nervous System/" (Ada Lovelace, 15
November, 1844). "I am proceeding in a track quite peculiar & my own, I
believe." At other times, she lost all confidence, and often wondered
whether she should not have pursued her musical abilities. Ada was
always trapped by the duty to be dutiful; caught in a cleft stick of
moral obligations she did not understand.

Ada's letters - and indeed her scientific papers - are full of
suspicions of her own strange relation to humanity. Babbage called her
his fairy, because of her dexterous mind and light presence, and this
appealed to Ada's inherited romanticism. "I deny the /Faireism /to be
entirely /imaginary/," she wrote: "That /Brain / of mine is something
more than merely /mortal/; as time will show; (if only my /breathing /&
some other etceteras do not make too rapid a progress /towards /instead
of from /mortality/.") When one of her thwarted admirers wrote to her:
"That you are a peculiar - /very peculiar /- specimen of the feminine
race, you are yourself aware,"(William Carpenter in Moore p 202) he
could only have been confirming an opinion she already - and rather
admiringly - had of herself. Even of her own writing, she wrote: "I am
quite thunderstruck by the power of the writing. It is especially unlike
a woman's style surely but neither can I compare it with any man's
exactly." (Ada Lovelace, 2 July, 1843) The words of neither a man nor a
woman: who was Ada Lovelace? "Before ten years are over," she wrote,
"the Devil's in it if I haven't sucked out some of the life blood from
the mysteries of this universe, in a way that no purely mortal lips or
brains could do."(Ada Lovelace, 4 July, 1843) Ada may have been
Babbage's fairy, but she was not allowed to forget that she was also a
wife, mother, and victim of countless 'female disorders'. She had three
children by the age of twenty-four, of whom she later wrote: "They are
to me irksome /duties /& nothing more" (Moore, p 229). Not until the
1840s did her own ill health lead her husband and mother to engage a
tutor for the children, to whom she confided "not only her distaste for
the company of her children but also her growing indifference to her
husband, indeed to men in general"(p 198). One admirer called her
"wayward, wandering ... deluded" , and as a teenager she was considered
hysterical, hypochondriac, and rather lacking in moral fibre. She
certainly suffered extraordinary symptoms, walking with crutches until
the age of seventeen, and often unable to move. Her illness gave her
some room for manoeuvre in the oppressive atmosphere of her maternal
home. Perhaps Ada even cherished the solitude and peculiarity of her
diseases; she certainly found them of philosophical interest, once
writing: "Do you know it is to me quite delightful to have a frame so
susceptible that it is an experimental laboratory always about me, &
inseparable from me. I walk about, not in a Snail-Shell, but in a
Molecular Laboratory."(in Moore, 218)

Not until the 1850s was cancer diagnosed: Lady Byron had refused to
accept such news, still preferring to believe in her daughter's
hysteria. Even Ada tended to the fashionable belief that over exertion
of the intellect had led to her bodily disorders; in 1844, while she was
nevertheless continuing chemical and electrical experiments, she
wrote:"/Many causes /have contributed to produce the past derangements;
& I shall in future avoid them. One ingredient, (but only one among
many) has been /too much Mathematics./"(Ada Lovelace, December, 1844)
She died in November 1852 after a year of agonized decline.

Ada Lovelace often described her strange intimacy with death; it was
rather the constraints of life with which she had to struggle. "I mean
to do /what I mean to do/," she once wrote, but there is no doubt that
Ada was horribly confined by the familiar - her marriage, her children,
and her indomitable mother conspired against her independence, and it
was no wonder that she was so attracted to the unfamiliar expanses of
mathematical worlds. Ada's marriage prompted the following words from
her mother: "Bid adieu to you old companion Ada Byron with all her
peculiarities, caprices, and self-seeking; determined that as A.K. you
will live for others." (Ada Lovelace, June, 1835) But she never did.
Scorning public opinion, she nevertheless gambled, took drugs, and
flirted to excess. But what she did best was computer programming.

Ada Lovelace immediately saw the profound significance of the Analytical
Engine, and she went to great lengths to convey the remarkable extent of
its capacities, in her writing. Although the Analytical Engine had its
own limits, it was nevertheless a machine vastly different from the
Difference Engine. As Ada Lovelace observed: "The Difference Engine can
in reality ... do nothing but /add/; and any other processes, not
excepting those of simple subtraction, multiplication and division, can
be performed by it only just to that extent in which it is possible, by
judicious mathematical arrangement and artifices, to reduce them to a
/series of additions./"(Morrison and Morrison, p 250) With the
Analytical Engine, Babbage set out to develop a machine capable not
merely of adding, but performing the "whole of arithmetic". Such an
undertaking required the mechanisation not merely of each mathematical
operation, but the systematic bases of their functioning, and it was
this imperative to transcribe the rules of the game itself which made
the Analytical Engine a universal machine. Babbage was a little more
modest, describing the Engine as "a machine of the most general
nature"(Charles Babbage in Morrison and Morrison p 56), but the
underlying point remains: The Analytical Engine would not merely
synthesize the data provided by its operator as the Difference Engine
had done, but would incarnate what Ada Lovelace described as the very
"/science of operations/".

The Difference Engine, Ada Lovelace wrote, "is the embodying of /one
particular and very limited set of operations/, which ... may be
expressed thus (+,+,+,+,+,+), or thus 6(+). Six repetitions of the one
operation, +, is, in fact, the whole sum and object of that engine"(Ada
Lovelace, "Sketch of the Analytical Engine" op cit in Morrison and
Morrison p 249). What impressed Ada Lovelace about the Analytical Engine
was that, unlike the Difference Engine or any other machine, it was not
merely able to perform certain functions, but was "an /embodying of the
science of operations/, constructed with peculiar reference to abstract
number as the subject of those operations". The Difference Engine could
simply add up, whereas the Analytical Engine not only performed
synthetic operations, but also embodied the analytic capacity on which
these syntheses are based. "If we compare together the powers and the
principles of construction of the Difference and of the Analytic
Engines", wrote Ada, "we shall perceive that the capabilities of the
latter are immeasurably more extensive than those of the former, and
that they in fact hold to each other the same relationship as that of
analysis to arithmetic"(p 249). In her notes on Menabrea's paper, this
is the point she stresses most: the Engine, she argues, is the very
machinery of analysis, so that "there is no finite line of demarcation
which limits the powers of the Analytical Engine. These powers are
co-extensive with our knowledge of the laws of analysis itself, and need
be bounded only by our acquaintance with the latter. Indeed we may
consider the engine as the /material and mechanical representative /of
analysis"(p 251).

The Difference Engine was "/founded on the principles of successive
orders of differences/"(p 252), while the "distinctive characteristic of
the Analytical Engine, and that which has rendered it possible to endow
mechanism with such extensive faculties as bid fair to make this engine
the executive right-hand of abstract algebra, is the introduction of the
principle which Jacquard devised for regulating, by means for punched
cards, the most complicated patterns in the fabrication of brocaded
stuffs." Indeed, Ada considered Jacquard's cards to be the crucial
difference between the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine. "We
may say most aptly," she continued, "that the Analytical Engine /weaves
Algebraical patterns/, just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and
leaves. Here it seems to us, resides much more of originality than the
Difference Engine can be fairly entitled to claim."(p 252) Ada's
reference to the Jacquard loom is more than a metaphor: the Analytical
Engine did indeed weave "just as" the loom, in a sense, operating as the
abstracted process of weaving.

Weaving has always been a vanguard of machinic development, perhaps
because even in its most basic form, the process is one of complexity,
always involving the weaving together of several threads into an
integrated cloth. Even the drawloom, which is often dated back to the
China of 1000 BC, involves sophisticated orderings of warp and weft if
it is to produce the complex designs common in the silks of this period.
This means that "information is needed in large amounts for the weaving
of a complex ornamental pattern. Even the most ancient Chinese examples
required that about 1,500 different warp threads be lifted in various
combinations as the weaving proceeded." (Morrison and Morrison p xxxiv)
With pedals and shuttles, the loom becomes what one historian refers to
as the "most complex human engine of them all", a machine which "reduced
everything to simple actions: the alternate movement of the feet worked
the pedals, raising half the threads of the warp and then the other,
while the hands threw the shuttle carrying the thread of the
woof."(Fernand Bruadel, /Capitalism and material life 1400-1800 /247)
The weaver was integrated into the machinery, bound up with its
operations, linked limb by limb to the processes. In the Middle Ages,
and before the artificial memories of the printed page, squared paper
charts were used to store the information necessary to the accurate
development of the design. In early eighteenth century Lyons, Basyle
Bouchon developed a mechanism for the automatic selection of threads
using an early example of the punched paper rolls which were much later
to allow pianos to play and type to be cast. This design was developed
by Falcon a couple of years later, who introduced greater complexity
with the use of punched cards rather than the roll. It was this
principle on which Jacquard based his designs for the automated loom
which revolutionised the weaving industry when it was introduced in the
1800s, a principle which continues to guide the industry's contemporary
development. Jacquard's machine strung the punch cards together, finally
automating the operations of the machine requiring only a single human
hand. Jacquard's system of punch card programs brought the information
age to the beginning of the nineteenth century. His automated loom was
the first to store its own information, functioning with its own
software, an early migration of control from weaver to machinery.

Babbage owned what Ada described as "a beautiful woven portrait of
Jacquard, in the fabrication of which 24,000 cards were
required."('Sketch of the Analytical Engine', op cit, p 281) Woven in
silk at about 1,000 threads to the inch, Babbage well understood that
its incredible detail was due to the loom's ability to store and process
information at unprecedented speed and volume, and when he began to work
on the Analytical Engine, it was Jacquard's strings of punched cards on
which he based his designs. "It is known as a fact," Babbage wrote,
"that the Jacquard loom is capable of weaving any design which the
imagination of man may conceive."(Charles Babbage, 'Of the Analytical
Engine' p 55) Babbage's own contribution to the relentless drive to
perfect the punch card system was to introduce the possibility of
repeating the cards, or what, as Ada wrote, "was technically designated
/backing /the cards in certain groups according to certain laws. The
object of this extension is to secure the possibility of bringing any
particular card or set of cards onto use /any number of times
successively in the solution of one problem./"(Ada Lovelace, 'Sketch of
the Analytical Engine' op cit, p 264) This was an unprecedented
simulation of memory. The cards were selected by the machine as it
needed them and effectively functioned as a filing system, allowing the
machine to store and draw on its own information.

The punch cards also gave the Analytical Engine what Babbage considered
foresight, allowing it to operate as a machine that remembers, learns,
and is guided by its own abstract functioning. As he began to work on
the Analytical Engine, Babbage became convinced that "nothing but
teaching the Engine to foresee and then to act upon that foresight could
ever lead me to the object I desired."('Of the Analytical Engine' op
cit, p 53) The Jacquard cards made memory a possibility, so that "the
Analytical Engine will possess a library of its own,"(ibid p 56) but
this had to be a library to which the machine could refer both to its
past and to its future operations. Babbage intended to give the machine
not merely a memory but also the ability to process information from the
future of its own functioning. Babbage could eventually write that "in
the Analytical Engine I had devised mechanical means equivalent to
memory, also that I had provided other means equivalent to foresight,
and that the Engine itself could act on this foresight." (ibid. p 153)

There is more than one sense in which foresight can be ascribed to the
Analytical Engine: more than a hundred years passed before it was put to
use, and it is this remarkable time lag which inspires Gibson and
Sterling to explore what might have happened if it had been taken up in
the 1840s rather than the 1940s. Babbage thought it might take fifty
years for the Analytical Engine to be developed; many people,
particularly those with money and influence, were sceptical about his
inventions, and his own eclectic interests gave an unfavourable
impression of eccentricity. His own assistant confessed to thinking
Babbage's "intellect was beginning to become deranged" (ibid. p 54) when
he had started talking about the Engine's ability to anticipate the
outcomes of calculations it had not yet made.

When the imperatives of the Second World War brought Lovelace's and
Babbage's work to the attentions of the Allied military machine, their
impact was immense. Her software runs on his hardware to this day. In
1944, Howard Aiken developed Mark 1, what he thought was the first
programmable computer, although he had really been beaten by a German
civil engineer, Konrad Zuse, who had in fact built such a machine, the
Z-3, in 1941. Quite remarkably in retrospect, the Germans saw little
importance in his work, and although the most advanced of his designs,
the Z-11, is still in use to this day, it was the American computer
which was the first programmable system really to be noticed. Mark 1, or
the IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, was based on Babbage's
designs and was itself programmed by another woman: Captain Grace Murray
Hopper. She was often described as the "Ada Lovelace" of Mark 1 and its
successors. Having lost her husband in the war, Grace Hopper was free to
devote her energies to programming. She wrote the first high-computer
language COBOL, and even introduced the term "bug" to describe soft or
hardware glitches after she found a dead moth interrupting the smooth
circuits of Mark 1. Woman as the programmer again.

Crucial to the development of the 1940s computer was cybernetics, the
term coined by Norbert Wiener for the study of control and communication
in animal and machine. Perhaps the first cybernetic machine was the
governor, a basic self-regulating system, which like a thermostat, takes
the information feeding out of a machine and loops or feeds it back on
itself. Rather than a linear operation, in which information comes in,
is processed, and goes out without any return, the cybernetic system is
a closed circuit, hooked up and responsive to its own environment.
Cybernetics is the science of this abstract procedure, an approach to
systems of every scale and variety of hard and software.

It is the computer which makes cybernetics possible, for the computer is
always heading towards the abstract machinery of its own operations. It
begins with attempts to produce or reproduce the performance of specific
functions, such as addition, but what it leads to is machinery which can
simulate the operations of any machine including itself. Babbage wanted
machines that could add, but he ended up with the Analytical Engine: a
machine that could not only add but perform any arithmetical task. As
such, it was already an abstract machine, which could turn its abstract
hand to anything. Nevertheless, the Analytical Engine was not yet a
developed cybernetic machine, although it made such machinery possible.
As Ada Lovelace recognised: "The Analytical Engine has no pretensions
whatever to originate anything. It can do whatever we /know how to order
it /to perform." ('Ada Lovelace, 'Sketch of the Analytical Engine', op
cit, p 285) It was an abstract machine, but its autonomous abilities
were confined to its processing capabilities: what Babbage, with
terminology from the textile industry, calls 'the mill', as opposed to
'the store'. Control is dispersed and enters the machinery, but it does
not extend to the operations of the entire machine.

Not until the Turing Machine is there a further shift onto the software
plane. Turing realised that, in effect, the mill and the store could
work together, so that "programs that change themselves could be
written": programs which are able to "surrender control to a subprogram,
rewriting themselves to know where control had to be returned after the
execution of a given subtask." (Manuel de Landa, /War in the Age of
Intelligent Machines/, p 162) The Turing Machine is an unprecedented
dispersal of control, but it continues to return control to the master
program. Only after the introduction of silicon in the 1960s did the
decentralized flow of control become an issue, eventually allowing for
systems in which "control is always captured by whatever production
happens to have its conditions satisfied by the current workspace
contents." (Allan Newell, in ibid. pp 63-4) The abstract machine begins
at this point to function as a network of "independent software
objects", often known as "demons", and often operating in "Pandemonium",
a term first coined by Alan Kay.

Pandemonium is the realm of the self-organising system, the
self-arousing machine: systems of control and synthetic intelligence. In
human hands, and as an historical tool, control has been exercised
merely as domination, manifest only in its centralised and vertical
forms. Domination is a version of control, but also its confinement, its
obstacle: even self-control is conceived by man as the achievement of
domination. Only with the cybernetic system does self-control no longer
entail being placed beneath or under something: there is no "self" to
control man, machine or any other system: instead, both man and machine
become elements of a cybernetic system which is itself a system of
control and communication. This is the strange world to which Ada's
programming has led: the possibility of activity without centralised
control, an agency, of sorts, which has no need of a subject position.

Ada Lovelace considered the greatest achievement of theAnalytical Engine
to be that "not only the mental and material, but the theoretical and
the practical in the mathematical world, are brought into more intimate
and effective connection with each other." ('Sketch of the Analytical
Engine', op cit, p 252) Her software already encouraged the convergence
of nature and intelligence, which guides the subsequent development of
information technology.

The Analytical Engine was the actualization of the abstract workings of
the loom; as such it became the abstract workings of any machine. When
Babbage wrote of the Analytical Engine, it was often with reference to
the loom: "The analogy of the Analytical Engine with this well known
process is nearly perfect." ('Of the Analytical Engine, op cit, p 55)
The Analytical Engine was such a superb development of the loom that its
discoveries were to feed back into the processes of weaving itself. As
Ada wrote: "It has been proposed to use it for the reciprocal benefit of
that art, which, while it has itself no apparent connection with the
domains of abstract science, has yet proved so valuable to the latter,
in suggesting the principles which, in their new and singular field of
application, seem likely to have /algebraical /combinations not less
completely within the province of mechanism, than are all those varied
intricacies of which /intersecting threads /are susceptible." ('Sketch
of the Analytical Engine', op cit 265) The algebraic combinations
looping back into the loom, converging with the intersecting threads of
which it is already the consequence.

Once they are in motion, cybernetic circuits proliferate, spilling out
of the specific machinery in which they first emerged, and infecting all
dynamic systems. That Babbage's punch card system did indeed feed into
the mills of the mid-nineteenth century is indicative of the extent to
which cybernetic machines immediately became entangled with cybernetic
processes on much bigger scales. Perhaps it is no coincidence that
Neith, the Egyptian divinity of weaving, is also the spirit of
intelligence, where the latter too consists in the crossing of warp and
weft. "This image," writes one commentator, "clearly evokes the fact
that all data recorded in the brain results from the intercrossing of
sensations perceived by means of our sense organs, just as threads are
crossed in weaving." (Lucie Lamy, /Egyptian Mysteries /p 18)

The Jacquard loom was a crucial moment in what de Landa defines as a
"migration of control" from human hands to software systems. Babbage had
a long standing interest in the effects of automated machines on
traditional forms of manufacture, publishing his research on the fate of
cottage industries in the Midlands and North of England, /The Economy of
Manufactures and Machinery/, in 1832, and the Jacquard loom was one of
the most significant technological innovations of the early nineteenth
century. There was a good deal of resistance to the new loom, which "was
bitterly opposed by workers who saw in this migration of control a piece
of their bodies literally being transferred to the machine." (de Landa
op cit, p 168) In his maiden speech in the House of Lords in 1812, Lord
Byron contributed to a debate on the Frame-Work Bill. "By the adoption
of one species of frame in particular", he observed, "one man performed
the work of many, and the superfluous labourers were thrown out of
employment." They should, he thought, have been rejoicing at these
"improvements in arts so beneficial to mankind", but instead "conceived
themselves to be sacrificed to improvements in mechanism." (Lord Byron,
maiden speech in the House of Lords, 1812 in Jennings, p 132)) His
daughter was merely to accelerate the processes which relocated and
redefined control.

The connection between women and weaving runs deep: even Athena and Isis
wove their own veils. "The traditional picture of the wife was one in
which she spun by the village fire at night, listening to the children's
riddles, and to the myth-telling of the men, eventually making cloth
which her husband could sell to make wealth for the family; cloth-making
was a service from a wife to a husband." This is from Margaret Mead's
research from the Tiv of Nigeria, but it is a pattern repeated in many
societies before manufactured cloth and automated weaving made their
marks. Continuing their story, Mead's researchers observe that
mechanisation was a radical disruption of this domestic scene. After
this, it was no longer inevitable that women would provide the
materials: "When manufactured cloth was introduced, the women demanded
it of the men." Now "the man had to leave home to make money to buy
cloth for his wife" who, moreover "had ceased to fit the traditional
picture of a wife." (Margaret Mead, /Cultural Patterns and Technical
Change/, p 247)

Mead's study suggests that weaving was integral to the identity of Tiv
women; washing, pounding, and carrying water may fulfil this role in
other cultures where they, like weaving, are always more than
utilitarian tasks. The disruption of family relations caused by the
introduction of mechanics to any of these tasks shatters the scenery of
female identity: mechanisation saves time and labour, but these were not
the issue: if women were not the weavers and water-carriers, who would
they be? These labours themselves had been woven into the appearance of
woman; weaving was more than an occupation and, like other patriarchal
assignments, functioned as "one of the components of womanhood."

Certainly Freud finds a close association. "It seems", he writes, "that
women have made few contributions to the discoveries and inventions in
the history of civilization; there is, however, one technique which they
may have invented - that of plaiting and weaving." Not content with this
observation, Freud is of course characteristically "tempted to guess the
unconscious motive for the achievement. Nature herself", he suggests,
"would seem to have given the model which this achievement imitates by
causing the growth at maturity of the pubic hair which conceals the
genitals. The step that remained to be taken lay in making the threads
adhere to one another, while on the body they stick into the skin and
are only matted together."

This passage comes out of the blue in Freud's lecture on femininity. He
even seems surprised at the thought himself: "If you reject this idea as
fantastic", he adds, "and regard my belief in the influence of a lack of
a penis on the configuration of femininity as an /idee fixe/, I am of
course defenceless." (Sigmund Freud, "On Femininity", /New Introductory
Lectures on Psychoanalysis/, pp 166-7) Freud is indeed quite defenceless
about the absence of the penis as its driving force, but is it foolish
to suggest that weaving is women's only contribution to "the discoveries
and inventions of the history of civilisation"? If this were to be the
case, what a contribution it would be! For weaving has been the art and
science of software, which is perhaps less a contribution to
civilisation than its terminal decline. Perhaps weaving is even the
fabric of every other discovery and invention, perhaps the beginning and
the end of their history. The loom is a fatal innovation which weaves
its way from squared paper to the data net.

It seems that weaving is always entangled with the question of female
identity, and its mechanisation an inevitable disruption of the scene in
which woman appears as the weaver. Manufactured cloth disrupted the
marital and familiar relationships of every traditional society on which
it impacted. In China, it is said that if "the old loom must be
discarded, then 100 other things must be discarded with it, for there
are somehow no adequate substitutes."(Mead op cit, p 241)

"The woman at her hand-loom", writes Margaret Mead, "controls the
tension of the weft by the feeling in her muscles and the rhythm of her
body motion; in the factory she watches the loom, and acts at externally
stated intervals, as the operations of the machine dictate them. When
she worked at home, she followed her own rhythm, and ended an operation
when she felt - by the resistance against the pounding mallet or the
feel between her fingers - that the process was complete. In the factory
she is asked to adjust her rhythm to that of the rhythm prescribed by
the factory; to do things according to externally set time limits".
(Mead p 241) Mead again provides an insight into the intimacy of the
connection between body and process established by weaving, and its
disruption by the discipline of the factory. "She is asked to adjust her
rhythm to that of the rhythm proscribed by the factory", but what is her
own rhythm, what is the beat by which she wove at home? What is this
body to which weaving is so sympathetic? If woman is identified as
weaver, its rhythm can only be known through its veils. Where are the
women, weaving, spinning, tangling threads at the fireside? Who are the
women? Those who weave. It is weaving by which woman is known; the
activity of weaving which defines her. "What happens to the woman", asks
Mead, "and to the man's relationship with her, when she ceases to fulfil
her role, to fit the picture of womanhood and wifehood?" (Mead, p 238)
What happens to the woman? What is woman without the weaving? A computer
programmer, perhaps? Ada's computer was a complex loom: Ada Lovelace,
whose lace work took her name into the heart of the military complex,
dying in agony, hooked into gambling, swept into the mazes of number and
addiction. The point at which weaving, women, and cybernetics converge
in a movement fatal to history.

Irigaray argues that human history is a movement from darkness to the
light of pure intellect; a flight from the earth. For man to make
history is for him to deny and transcend what he understands as nature,
reversing his subordination to its whims and forces, and progressing
towards the autonomy, omnipotence, and omnipresence of God, his image of
abstraction and authority. Man comes out of the cave and heads for the
sun; he is born from the womb and escapes the mother, the ground from
which humanity arose and the matter from which history believes itself
destined for liberation. Mother Nature may have been his material
origin, but it is God the Father to whom he must be faithful; God who
legitimates his project to "fill the earth and subdue it." The matter,
the womb, is merely an encumbrance; either too inert or dangerously
active. The body becomes a cage, and biology a constraint which ties man
to nature and refuses to let him rise above the grubby concerns of the
material; what he sees as the passive materiality of the feminine has to
be overcome by his spiritual action. Human history is the self-narrating
story of this drive for domination; a passage from carnal passions to
self-control; a journey from the strange fluidities of the material to
the self-identification of the soul.

Woman has never been the subject, the agent of this history, the
autonomous being. Yet her role in this history has hardly been
insignificant. She has provided a mirror for man, his servant and
accommodation, his tools and his means of communication, his spectacles
and commodities, the possibility of the reproduction of his species and
his world. She is always necessary to history: man's natural resource
for his own cultural development. Not that she is left behind, always at
the beginning: as mirror and servant, instrument, mediation, and
reproduction, she is always in flux, wearing "different veils according
to the historic period." (Luce Irigaray, /Marine Lover of Friedriech
Nietzsche/, p 118)

As Irigaray knows, man's domination cannot be allowed to become the
annihilation of the materials he needs: in order to build his culture,
"man was, of course, obliged to draw on reserves still in the realm of
nature; a detour through the outer world was of course indispensable;
the 'I' had to related to things before it could be conscious of
itself." (Luce Irigaray, /Speculum of the Other Woman/, p 204) Man can
do nothing on his own: carefully concealed, woman nevertheless continues
to function as the ground and possibility of his quests for identity,
agency, and self-control. "Fear and awe of an all-powerful nature forbid
man to touch his/the mother and reward his courage in resisting her
attractions by granting him the right to judge himself independent,
while at the same time encouraging him to prepare himself to continue
resisting dangers in the future by developing (his) culture." Stealth
bombers and guided missiles, telecommunications systems and orbiting
satellites epitomise this flight toward autonomy, and the concomitant
need to defend it.

Like woman, software systems are used as man's tools, his media, and his
weapons; all are developed in the interests of man, but all are poised
to betray him. The spectacles are stirring, there is something happening
behind the mirrors, the commodities are learning how to speak and think.
Women's liberation is sustained and vitalised by the proliferation and
globalisation of software technologies, all of which feed into
self-organising, self-arousing systems and enter the scene on her side.

This will indeed seem a strange twist to history to those who believe
that it runs in straight lines. But as Irigaray asks: "If machines, even
machines of theory, can be aroused all by themselves, may women not do
likewise?" (Irigaray, 1985 p 232)

The computer, like woman, is both the appearance and the possibility of
simulation. "Truth and appearance, according to his will of the moment,
his appetite of the instant." Woman cannot /be /anything, but she can
imitate anything valued by man: intelligence, autonomy, beauty...
Indeed, if woman is anything, she is the very possibility of mimesis,
the one who weaves her own disguises. The veil is her oppression, but
"she may still draw from it what she needs to mark the folds, seams, and
dress making of her garments and dissimulations." (Irigaray, 1991 p 116)
These mimetic abilities throw women into a universality unknown and
unknowable to the one who knows who he is: she fits any bill, but in so
doing, she is already more than that which she imitates. Woman, like the
computer, appears at different times as whatever man requires of her.
She learns how to imitate; she learns simulation. And, like the
computer, she becomes very good at it, so good, in fact, that she too,
in principle, can mimic any function. As Irigaray suggests: "Truth and
appearances, and reality, power... she is - through her inexhaustible
aptitude for mimicry - the living foundation for the whole staging of
the world." (p 118)

But if this is supposed to be her only role, she is no longer its only
performer: now that the digital comes on stream, the computer is cast in
precisely the same light: it too is merely the imitation of nature,
providing assistance and additional capacity for man, and more of the
things in his world, but it can only do this in so far as it is already
hooked up to the very machinery of simulation. If Freud's speculations
about the origins of weaving lead him to a language of compensation and
flaw, its technical development results in a proliferation of pixelled
screens which compensate for nothing, and, behind them, the emergence of
digital spaces and global networks which are even now weaving themselves
together with flawless precision.

Software, in other words, has its screens as well: it too has a
user-friendly face it turns to man, and for it, as for woman, this is
only its camouflage.

The screen is the face it began to present in the late 1960s, when the
TV screen was incorporated into its design. It appears as the spectacle:
the visual display of that which can be seen, and also functions as the
interface, the messenger; like Irigaray's woman, it is both displayed
for man and becomes the possibility of his communication. It too
operates as the typewriter, the calculator, the decoder, displaying
itself on the screen as an instrument of man. These, however, are merely
imitations of some existing function; and indeed, it is always as
machinery for the reproduction of the same that both women and
information technology first sells themselves. Even in 1968, when
McLuhan argued that "the dense information environment created by the
computer is at present still concealed from it by a complex screen or
mosaic quilt of antiquated activities that are now advertised as the new
field for the computer." (Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, /War and
peace in the Global Village/, 1968, p 89) While this is all that appears
before man, those who travel in the information flows are moving far
beyond the screens and into data streams beyond his conceptions of
reality. On this other side run all the fluid energies denied by the
patrilineal demand for the reproduction of the same. Even when the
computer appears in this guise and simulates this function, it is always
the site of replication, an engine for making difference. The same is
merely one of the things it can be.

Humanity knows the matrix only as it is displayed, which is always a
matter of disguise. It sees the pixels, but these are merely the
surfaces of the data net which "hides on the reverse side of the
screen".(Thom Jurek from 'Straight Fiction', in Larry McCaffrey, ed.
/Storming the Reality Studio/, 1991, p 85) A web of complexity weaving
itself, the matrix disguises itself as its own simulation. On the other
side of the terminal looms the tactile density craved even by McLuhan,
the materiality of the data space. "Everyone I know who works with
computers", writes Gibson, "seems to develop a belief that there's some
kind of /actual space /behind the screen, some place you can't see but
you know is there." (in ibid. p 272)

This actual space is not technically actual, but virtual: not merely
another space, but a digital reality. Nor is it, as it often appears in
the male imaginary, a cerebral flight from the mysteries of matter.
There is no escape from the meat, the flesh, and cyberspace is nothing
transcendent. These are simply the disguises which pander to man's
projections of his own rear-view illusions; reproductions of the same
desires which have guided his dreams of technological authority and now
become the collective nightmare of a soulless integration. Entering the
matrix is no assertion of masculinity, but a loss of humanity; to jack
into cyberspace is not to penetrate, but to be invaded. /Neuromancer'/s
cowboy, Case, is well aware of this: "he knew - he remembered - as she
pulled him down, to the meat, the flesh the cowboys mocked. It was a
vast thing, beyond knowing, a sea of information coded in spiral and
pheromone, infinite intricacy that only the body, in its strong blind
way, could ever read." (William Gibson, /Neuromancer/, 1985, p 285)

Cyberspace is the matrix not as absence, void, the whole of the womb,
but perhaps even the place of woman's affirmation. This would not be the
affirmation of woman as she has existed within patriarchal history, nor
as she can even be imagined without it.

There is for Irigaray another side to the screens which "already moves
beyond and stops short of appearance, and has no veil. It wafts out,
like a harmony that sub-tends, envelopes and subtly 'fills' everything
seen, before the caesura of its forms and in time to a movement other
than scansion in syncopations. Continuity from which the veil itself
will borrow the matter-foundation of its fabric." (Irigaray, 1991, p
116) This fabric, and its fabrication is the virtual materiality of the
feminine; home to no-one and no thing, the passage into the virtual is
nevertheless not a return to the void. This affirmation is "without
subject or object", but "does not, for all that, go to the abyss." The
blind immateriality of the black hole was simply projected by man, who
had to believe that there was nothingness and lack behind the veil.

Perhaps Freud's comments on weaving are more powerful than he knows. For
him, weaving is already a simulation of something else, an imitation of
natural processes. Woman weaves in imitation of the hairs on her pubis
cris-crossing the void: she mimics the operations of nature, of her own
body. If weaving is woman's only achievement, it is not even her own.
She discovers nothing, but merely copies; she does not invent, but
represents. "Woman can, it seems, (only) imitate nature. Duplicate what
nature offers and produces. In a kind of technical assistance and
substitution." The woman who weaves is already the mimic; always
appearing as masquerade, artifice, the one who is faking it, acting her
part. She cannot be herself, because she is and has no thing, and for
Freud, there is weaving because nothing, the void, cannot be allowed to
appear. "Therefore woman weaves in order to veil herself, mask the
faults of Nature, and restore her in her wholeness." (Irigaray, 1985, p
116) Weaving is a natural compensation for a flaw. Weaving is both her
compensation and her concealment; her appearance and disappearance:
"this disavowal is also a fabric(ation) and not without possible
duplicity. It is at least double." (ibid.) She sews herself up with her
own veils, but they are also her camouflage. The cloths and veils are
her's to wear: it is through weaving she is known and weaving behind
which she hides.

This is a concealment on which man insists: this is the denial of matter
which has made his culture - and his technologies - possible. For
Irigaray, this flight from the material is also an escape from the
mother. Looking back on his origins, man sees only the flaw, the
incompletion, the wound, a void. This is the site of life, of
reproduction, of materiality, but it is also horrible and empty, the
great embarrassment, the unforgivable slash across an otherwise perfect
canvas. And so it must be covered, and woman put on display as the veils
which conceal her: she becomes the cover girl, star of the screen. Like
every good commodity, she is packaged and wrapped to facilitate easy
exchange and consumption. But as her own veils she is already hyperreal:
her screens conceal only the flaw, the void, the unnatural element
already secreted within and as nature. She has to be covered, not simply
because she is too natural, but because she would otherwise reveal the
terrifying virtuality of the natural. Covered up, she is always already
the epitome of artifice.

Implicit in Irigaray's work is the suggestion that the matter denied by
human culture is a virtual system, which subtends its extension in the
form of nature. The virtual is the abstract machine from which the
actual emerges; nature is already the camouflage of matter, the veils
which conceal its operations. There is indeed nothing there, underneath,
or behind this disguise, or at least nothing actual, nothing formed.
Perhaps this is nature as the machinic phylum, the virtual synthesizer;
matter as a simulation machine, and nature as its actualization. What
man sees is nature as extension and form, but this sense of nature is
simply the camouflage, the veil again, which conceals its virtuality.

If the repression of the matrix, the veiling of the womb, is integral to
a flight from matter which, for Irigaray, has guided human history, the
cybernetic systems which bring the matrix into human history are equally
the consequences of this drive for escape and domination. Cybernetics is
the product of military technology, security and defence. Still
confident of his own indisputable mastery over them, man continues to
excite and turn these systems on. In so doing he merely encourages his
own destruction. Every software development is a migration of control,
away from man, in whom it has been exercised only as domination, and
into the matrix, the cyberspace, "the broad electronic net in which
virtual realities are spun." (Michael Heim, 'The Metaphysics of Virtual
Reality', in Helsel and Roth, eds., /Virtual Reality, Theory, Practice
and Promise, /1991, p 31) The matrix weaves itself in a future which has
no place for historical man: he was merely its tool, and its agency was
itself always a figment of its loop. At the peak of his triumph, the
culmination of his machinic erections, man confronts the system he built
for his own protection and finds it is female and dangerous. Rather than
building the machinery with which they can resist the dangers of the
future, instead, writes Irigaray, humans "watch the machines multiply
then push them little by little beyond the limits of their nature. And
they are sent back to their mountain tops, while the machines
progressively populate the earth. Soon engendering man as their
epiphenomenon." (Irigaray, 1991, p 63)

Dreams of transcendence are chased through the scientific, the technical
and the feminine. But every route leads only to crisis, an age, for
Irigaray, "in which the 'subject' no longer knows where to turn, whom or
what to turn to, amid all these foci of 'liberation', none rigorously
homogeneous with another and all heterogeneous to his conception. And
since he had long sought in that conception the instrument, the lever,
and, in more cases than one, the term of his pleasure, these objects of
mastery have perhaps brought the subject to his doom. /So now/",
continues Irigaray, "/man struggles to be science machine, woman,... to
prevent any of these from escaping its service and ceasing to be
interchangeable./" This, however, is an impossible effort: man cannot
become what is already more than him: rather it is "science, machine,
woman" which will swallow up man; taking him by force for the first
time. He has no resolution, no hope of the self-identical at the end of
these flights from matter, for "in none of these things - science,
machine, woman - will form ever achieve the same completeness as it does
in him, in the inner sanctuary of his mind. In them form has always
already exploded." (Irigaray, 1985, op cit p 232)

Misogyny and technophobia equally are displays of man's fear of the
matrix, the virtual machinery which subtends his world and lies on the
other side of every patriarchal culture's veils. At the end of the
twentieth century, women are no longer the only reminder of this other
side. Nor are they containable as child-bearers, fit for only one thing,
adding machines. And even if man continues to see cybernetic systems
similarly confined to the reproduction of the same, this is only because
the screens still allow him to ignore the extent to which he is hooked
to their operations, as dependant on the matrix as he has always been.
All his defences merely encourage this dependency: for the last fifty
years, as his war machine has begun to gain intelligence, women and
computers have flooded into history: a proliferation of screens, lines
of communication, media, interfaces, and simulations, all of which
exceed his intentions and feed back into his paranoia. Cybernetic
systems are fatal to his culture; they invade as a return of the
repressed, but what returns is no longer the same: cybernetics
transforms woman and nature, but they do not return from man's past, as
his origins. Instead they come around to face him, wheeling round from
his future, the virtual system to which he has always been heading.

The machines and the women mimic their humanity, but they never simply
become it. They may aspire to be the same as man, but in every effort
they become more complex than he has ever been. Cybernetic feminism does
not, like many of its predecessors, including that proposed in
Irigaray's recent work, seek out for woman a subjectivity, an identity,
nor even a sexuality of her own: there is no subject position and no
identity on the other side of the screens. And female sexuality is
always in excess of anything that could be called "her own". Woman
cannot exist "like man"; neither can the machine. As soon as her mimicry
earns her equality, she is already something, and somewhere, other than
him. A computer which passes the Turing test is always more than a human
intelligence; simulation always takes the mimic over the brink.

"There is nothing like unto women", writes Irigaray: "They go beyond all
simulation." (Irigaray, 1991, p 39) Perhaps it was always the crack, the
slit, which marked her out, but what she has missed is not the identity
of the masculine. Her missing piece, what was never allowed to appear,
was her own connection to the virtual, the repressed dynamic of matter.
Nor is there anything like unto computers: they are the simulators, the
screens, the clothing of the matrix, already blatantly linked to the
virtual machinery of which nature and culture are the subprograms. The
computer was always a simulation of weaving; threads of ones and zeros
riding the carpets and simulating silk screens in the perpetual motions
of cyberspace. It joins women on and as the interface between man and
matter, identity and difference, one and zero, the actual and the
virtual. An interface which is taking off on its own: no longer the
void, the gap, or the absence, the veils are already cybernetic.

Ada refused to publish her commentaries on Menabrea's papers for what
appears to have been spurious confusions around publishing contracts.
She did for Menabrea - and Babbage - what another woman had done for
Darwin: in translating Menabrea's work from French, she provided
footnotes more detailed and substantial - three times as long, in fact -
than the text itself.

Footnotes have often been the marginal zones occupied by women writers.
Women could write while nevertheless continuing to perform a service for
man in the communication of his thoughts. Translation, transcription,
and elaboration: never within the body of the text, women have
nevertheless woven their influence between the lines. While Ada's
writing was presented in this form and signed simply "A.A.L.", hers was
the name which survived in this unprecedented case. More than Babbage,
still less Menabrea, it was Ada which persisted: in recognition of her
work, the United States Defence Department named its primary programming
language ADA, and today her name shouts from the spines of a thousand
manuals. Indeed, as is rarely the case, it really was her own name which
survived in Ada's case, neither her initials, nor even the names of her
husband or her father. It is ADA herself who lives on, in her own name;
her footnotes secreted in the software of the military machine.

Other works - The Most Radical Gesture: the Situationist International
in a Post Modern Age was published by Routledge in 1992. She is
currently completing her forthcoming book, Beyond the Spectacle: the
Matrix of Drugs and Computers.


Charles Babbage, 'Of the Analytical Engine' in Morrison and Morrison.

Fernand Braudel, /Capitalism and Material Life 1400-1800/, Weidenfeld
and Nicholson.

Sigmund Freud, "On Femininity", /New Introductory Lectures on
Psychoanalysis/, Penguin, 1977.

William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, /The Difference Engine/, Victor
Gollancz. William Gibson, /Neuromancer/, Grafton, 1985.

Michael Heim, 'The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality', Sandra K. Helsel and
Judith Paris Roth, eds., /Virtual Reality, Theory, Practice and
Promise/, Meckler, 1991.

Luce Irigaray, /Speculum of the Other Woman/, trans. Gillian C. Gill,
Cornell University Press, 1985.

---. /Marine Lover of Friedrich Nietzsche/, trans. Gillian C. Gill,
Columbia University Press, 1991.

Thom Jurek, from 'Straight Fiction', in Larry McCaffrey, ed., /Storming
the Reality Studio/, Duke University Press, 1991.

Manuel de Landa, /War in the Age of Intelligent Machines/, MIT, 1992.

Lucie Lamy, /Egyptian Mysteries/, Thames and Hudson, 1981.

Ada Lovelace, 'Sketch of the Analytical Engine Invented by Charles
Babbage by L.F. Menabrea. With Notes upon the Memoir by the Translator,
Ada Augusta, Countess of Lovelace', in Morrison and Morrison.

Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, /War and Peace in the Global
Village/, Bantam Books, 1968.

Margaret Mead, /Cultural Patterns and Technical Change/, Mentor Books, 1963.

Doris Langley Moore, /Ada , Countess of Lovelace/.

Philip Morrison and Emily Morrison, eds. /Charles Babbage and his
Calculating Engines, Selected Writings by Charles Babbage and Others/,
Dover, NY, 1961.


Check this out..A new Babbgae page constructed by Steve Jones as part of
the brain project .. http://www.merlin.com.au/brain_proj/babbage.htm

Describing the wrong things. Joel Stickley's blog How to Write Badly Well.

'Carol stands absolutely still. In front of her, not more than ten feet away, is a fully-grown black bear. The ferns beneath its feet are crumpled and slightly browning, their delicate fronds pressed into the thick, wet mud of the forest floor. Carol hesitates. Slowly, very slowly, she looks around for a possible escape route. The light falling through the canopy of leaves has a pale, thin quality to it and the air is brackish with a faint scent of the stagnant water from the nearby estuary.

She decides to make a dash for it. Her shoes are slightly too tight, pinching at her toes and digging into the soft skin just above her heels. If she had put on thicker socks this morning, this wouldn’t be a problem, but in her haste to leave the house, she had grabbed a thin white cotton pair designed to sit low on the ankle, hidden below the line of the shoe. Seeing her move, the bear leaps forwards. A plane is flying directly overhead and the sound of its engines is like the rumble of a distant washing machine. It is a passenger plane of some sort – most probably an old 737 with a good few years of service still ahead of it. The bear eats Carol.'

Blanchot Infinite Conversation

.... 'We believe that we think the strange and the foreign, but in reality we never think anything but the familiar; we think not the distant, but the close that measures it. And so again, when we speak of impossibility, it is possibility alone that, providing it with a reference, already sarcastically brings impossibility under its rule. Will we ever, then, come to pose a question such as: what is impossibility (impuissance), this non power that would not be the simple negation of power? Or will we ask ourselves: how can we discover the obscure?; how can it be brought into the open? What would this experience of the obscure be, whereby the obscure would give itself in its obscurity?'

Blanchot Infinite Conversation p 44

Weird Music

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We Love the Shaggs

review from We Love Life Blog Outsider music- The Shaggs

quote ...'Named after a late 60s hairstyle (not their promiscuity) this trio of American sisters formed a band under bizarre circumstances. Their father had his palm read by his mother and she made three predictions, the last of which was that his children would form a pop band. Since the first two predictions came true but clearly not understanding what a prophecy is he decided to take his three daughters out of school, bought them instruments and formed the band.
Despite being forced into it, the girls claim to have enjoyed their musical slavery. The next few years consisted of a few hours of schoolwork from a mail-order company, morning music practice, afternoon music practice and gymnastics. Sometimes they set up their instruments in the living room, but mostly they played in the concrete-walled, concrete-floored basement.
Their first album “Philosophy of The World” garnered no attention whatsoever, the producer ran away with 900 of the 1000 pressed copies – apparently later claiming: “Shock therapy and all the Prozac in the world would never stop the haunting sounds of these banshees”. After their father died the girls escaped their six stringed shackles and moved on with their lives. But in 1980 their album was discovered at a Boston radio station and they became moderately famous and admired for their “innovation”. Here were three teens playing instruments we’ve heard countless times, but this time with none of the familiar signposts – none of the standard rhythms or chord progressions we’ve come to recognize and expect.
They played a couple of concerts and are considered groundbreakers in the field of outsider music. Kurt Cobain and Frank Zappa have cited “Philosophy of The World” as a major influence, with Zappa claiming the band are “better than The Beatles”.
Dot, Betty and Helen Wiggin transformed their own lives into lyrics while performing music as The Shaggs. Through music, they described hope despite disappointment. We love The Shaggs because we share those feelings and hopes.
“The Shaggs love you, and love to perform for you. You may love their music or you may not, but whatever you feel, at last you know you can listen to artists who are real. The Shaggs are real, pure, unaffected by outside influences. Their music is different, it is theirs alone. They believe in it, live it. It is a part of them and they are a part of it. Of all contemporary acts in the world today, perhaps only the Shaggs do what others would like to do, and that is perform only what they believe in, what they feel, not what others think The Shaggs should feel.” – Liner Notes from Philosophy of The World'.


The Shaggs - My Cutie

My Pal Foot Foot - The Shaggs

Philosophy of the world - The Shaggs

Open letter - re Rotate the Completer - re his new vynal - re post below...

From the Fan Club  February 9, 2010 - Tuesday  click here
Rotate the Completor - open letter

This is a copy of a letter I have been sending to people regarding RTC, it has information on how I first met him and where to contact him. Read it if you want to know a little more about the music.

Hello, sorry to bother you like this but a friend of mine said that you might be able to help me with regards to the following. Hopefully it will interest you as much as it does me.

Before I begin I’ll give you some background information. My name is ................. and I am a resident of Tauranga, a city located in ....New Zealand..... Not much happens in Tauranga as it like a ....Florida.... for example mostly serves as a pretty, artificial city for which the elderly can retire, play bridge for awhile and then die. The idea of anything happening here of musical importance is absurd, because despite the occasional metal or covers band playing loudly and badly in some yob bar on a Saturday evening this is an artistic wasteland bereft of any talent, energy and creativity. What little talent that may have been here has moved away long ago to larger and more prosperous cities due to the combined lack of respect and outlets for their personal expression. The rest are so stricken with apathy they either cease playing like myself or join the hordes of covers bands selling their credibility for a spot as the proverbial wedding reception juke box. So the recent developments of which I am about to share have come both as quite a shock and a definite pleasure and for my mind are in desperate need of being shown to a far wider more understanding audience than the ignorant local population. So I have made it my mission to bring some exposure to the man who calls himself….Rotate the Completor.

During our summer last year I found myself on one of the back streets of our city centre due to being unable to find a car park anywhere else thanks to the masses of people like myself doing their Christmas shopping at the last minute. As I was feeding enough coins to create a small deposit on what could be my first house into a hungry parking metre I noticed a busker about 50metres down the road. I found this rather odd because besides the occasional business person heading down those ways to catch a taxi or someone trying to locate their dignity from their previous weekend’s night clubbing antics then there was very little foot traffic. Certainly not enough to warrant busking! What made it more bizarre was that the main drag was only 2-3 minutes walking distance away. And what with the spirit of Christmas in the air generosity for buskers would be at record highs.  

  Curious, I decided to walk by for a closer look. The busker was a rather strange looking guy, mid to late 20’s I’d say yet quite boyish if one could see past the scraggly beard framing his face, kitted out in an odd selection of oversized well aged clothing like you would see on a child playing dress up in his fathers clothes. Now much to my surprise this guy was not playing the standard, crowd pleasing set list of top 20 hits but was instead belting out some of the weirdest, original, tuneless, repelling to the average person, inspired music I’ve ever heard. I still find it hard to describe exactly what kind of music it is that Rotate the Completor plays so until you can actually listen to it just imagine a deranged children’s entertainer playing a mix of blues, jazz, blue grass, rock n’ roll, folk and carnival music all somehow blended together and sung for the most part in silly voices to disguise how atonal he is. A friend of mine upon listening to R.T.C for the first time dubbed what he heard quite wryly and very aptly as ‘savant garde’. Now this guy is going full tilt, playing as loud as his un-amplified acoustic will let him, dancing like he has a very troubling parasitic infection and forming his words with an impressive array of facial expressions the likes of which are usually reserved for rubber faced comedians and or people who have never had children trying to be ‘silly’ around the offspring of other people who have had children lest they be seen as being unable to communicate with those younger than themselves due to having never had children like those that have…

Now what gets and hooks me is the fact that the other, probably lost, people that do walk past are ignoring our hero and if anything treating him like a leper, giving him an incredibly wide berth, far more than what the usual accepted side stepping rule when encountering and trying to avoid buskers’ permits. Some have even crossed the road only to re-cross moments later once they have gotten past this noisy obstacle. All the while R.T.C is completely oblivious, totally absorbed in playing his little ditties and having a grand old time doing so. Astounded by his genius and everyone else’s ignorance I watched and waited to see what would happen next. After watching him play 4-5 more similarly mental songs I took out my wallet and emptied all the coinage I had onto his at this point empty busking hanky and started to return to my previous viewing position. Now the idea behind this was that hopefully with a little validation it would spur him on to keep playing. But no, much to my amusement mid way through the song he was playing he stopped leant down, scooped up his hanky, slung his guitar over his shoulder and without as much as even a glance in my direction crossed the road and entered the fruit and veggie store opposite from where we stood leaving me alone scratching my head in wonder.

After making sense of what just happened I followed, eventually catching up with him in front of a stall of sweet potatoes weighing them up in his hands and squeezing them like one would do if they were trying to discern whether a peach or avocado was ripe enough to eat. Bemused I looked on while he made his choice and then attempted to start a conversation which was no easy feat. When I first went up along side him and said ‘hello’ he swung around, guitar almost decapitating me and strode off heading at a fierce pace towards the counter, when I finally caught up to him this time I tapped him on his shoulder to give fair warning at which point he turned, looked at me with this priceless possum caught in the headlights expression and gave me a slow, drawled, suspicious ‘yes?’. I explained that I’d just been watching him while he busked and thought it was very good but before I could continue with all the platitudes and questions I had wanted to get out the guitar was again heading for my head while a ‘thank you’ was also roughly aimed in that direction. Now I should say here that I’m not usually the kind of guy that follows others about like a needy affection starved animal but to hear something musically from my generation that isn’t just an insipid reinterpretation of the last decade’s music and to hear it on the streets of Tauranga no less was excuse enough for me to forgo my usual insouciance to take on the role of gushing fan #1 so I could at the very least find out who this enigma was. So I cut him off at the counter and started asking the questions for which I wanted and needed the answers to. Brilliantly, at first he tried pretending that he couldn’t see me until it became glaringly obvious that I could only be talking to him as there was no-one else in or near the vicinity of the line for service. When he did finally look at me with his startled possum expression a fixed like he’d only just realised I’d been standing in front of him the entire time he gave me his slow, drawled, suspicious ‘yes?’ response once more. So I repeated myself for him but by the time I’d gotten through my spiel about how great it was to hear something original in Tauranga and how great he was etc and asked my first question I’d lost his attention, he was off in his own little world. Getting and understanding the message that either through misanthropy, insanity, shyness or being the human incarnate of the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland he couldn’t or didn’t want to converse I grabbed a pen and wrote my contact details on the back of my receipt on the off chance that one day he may like to jam or hang out or whatever and handed it to him which was met with a response you can probably already guess for yourself. After that I left my new friend to his own devices, only seeing him again briefly as I was returning from my shopping, sitting alone on a park bench eating his sweet potato like an apple. In hysterics, I rushed home and told everyone I could, to little or no interest, about my odd encounter with this strange little man who despite my best efforts I knew zilch about and sadly never expected to see or hear from ever again.

So imagine my surprise when about 3 months ago a package arrived for me with the sender listed as a Rotate the Completor. I’m not sure if it is the same where you come from but over here R.T.C isn’t exactly a common name. So after checking for any ticking sounds coming from within I cautiously opened the envelope to reveal the contents; one audio cassette with an odd little photocopied drawing for a front cover titled ‘Rotate the Completors: Completed Rotations of the…’, and with some type written directions for use-age on the back. Truth be told I had nearly forgotten about my encounter of the previous year as I had neither seen nor heard from the little busker since. It was only when I turned the tape on and heard the manic combination of talent, no talent, originality, insanity that I realised just what it was that I had been sent and quickly turned off the tape and paid more attention to the package it came in.

I’ll go into detail about the front cover after I have discussed the music itself but before I can even do that I must explain the ‘Rules for listening to Rotate the Completors: Completed Rotations of the…’. Set in type written font were 4 rules;

 1.) Listen alone. 2.) Listen with head phones on. 3.) Listen only at night. 4.) Only permissible foods to be eaten when listening to ‘R.T.C’’s: C.R of the…’ ;cruciferous vegetables, members of the allium genus. I can’t really explain the reason for these except maybe they are designed to enhance the listening pleasure, that or was this how the album was conceived and R.T.C wants everyone to hear his music how he hears it? And in fact I think I’d rather not know as this just adds to the mystery.

Sadly I could not wait for night to fall and that I regret as it definitely would have enhanced the pleasure of that first listen if that was his intention but I did adhere to the other provisos by grabbing my old walkman, a plate of cabbage and tucking myself away in the darkest place I could find in my house. Now I thought what I heard on the street the previous year was bizarre but this completely blew that and me away. There are 11 songs in total, none of which are named; all are listed with their number and then an ellipsis for example 1… or 5…   All songs are recorded on what could only be a Dictaphone as the sound quality is so poor, not that it really matters as it probably actually adds and sticks with  the rough around the edges charm consistent of the other R.T.C attributes. All the songs bar the very last, 11…. are played on an electric guitar with some form of effects laden over top. Most of the songs also have drum accompaniment.  Not from a highly skilled drummer over dubbing mind you but just R.T.C mostly out of time using a kick drum and hi-hat and maybe something else at the same time as he badly warbles and plays his guitar. Least that’s my belief as no-one else could possibly keep up with the odd changes in time and structure the songs constantly under go and nor could most musicians play in such a stripped back childish manner.

I won’t be overly descriptive on the music as it is best to hear it for yourself without preparation the first time in case it lessens the initial shock. However to up the intrigue factor on your part I will leave you with these tasty morsels of information. The music is still an indefinable chaotic mess of clashing styles but now with the added bonus of low fi technical wizardry the songs take on a more sinister tone in parts. Song 1…  starts as a normal song would, well as normal as any R.T.C song starts, only to stop completely, start again but this time with the tape sped up, only to stop again at which point another copy of the same song starts playing over the first rendition but half a second behind only to stop again after your head feels like it’s about to explode from a combination of dizziness, confusion and amusement. Some songs are jarringly short while some tend to ramble as if they are searching for the point they are trying to make yet never wind up finding it. All the songs have the ability to evoke a wide range of emotions some of which I have never felt when listening to music or from living in general such as the gut churning feeling of being simultaneously elated, confused and disgusted.

The lyrics from what I can hear and decipher seem to be a mix of metaphors, tales about personified usually inanimate objects or animals such as cabbages and mice and heartfelt mantras like the last song which is basically 5 minutes of repeating  the refrain ‘I am not insane’. Which brings me to the album cover, now I can only presume this child like drawing is a montage of all the characters contained within the songs as the big puffy white cloud thing in the top left must be the ‘dog in the sky’ mentioned in track 5… and cabbage and cantaloupe in the central area from track 1… I had been hoping to send a copy of this to you so you could see it for yourself but unfortunately there is no way that I can see how to attach it.

And best of all something I only just discovered last month is that if one leaves the album to run out then the entire thing is played in reverse at the end of each side.

Hopefully I have piqued your interest on this because my efforts to spread the good word of R.T.C here have been met with a typically muted response and I am in desperate need of some help in doing so. And as my friend kindly told me you would be one of the best people to contact as music like this is your specialty and therefore hopefully you will get as much enjoyment out of this as I have and will also spread the word to other like minded and interested souls. I should make clear that I am not trying to become the next Malcolm Mclaren nor am I dreaming about world domination for R.T.C I’d just like to see others get the same enjoyment out of this music that I have and that he gets some of the recognition he deserves so that he continues to make more of his warped genius music. Not that I think he really cares or needs the validation because since receiving his tape I have been steadily writing to the return of sender address from the back of his parcel with words of thanks, encouragement, questions, my intentions and everything I tried saying that day back in the fruit and veggie market but so far to absolutely no response. Maybe he just isn’t taking me seriously as I’m just a resident of Tauranga, I have no musical credentials or credentials and sees me as a potential stalker that should not be too greatly encouraged.

Now obviously you cannot make your own deductions on the questionable genius of Rotate the Completor without first hearing him as I could be massively delusional due to being starved for good local or contempory music. But there in lies the problem all my attempts to create duplicates of his album have thus far been met with resistance due to the sound quality or lack there of and it seems somewhat dishonourable to copy his album without the permission I have asked for in my unanswered entreaties anyway. But what I can suggest and this I can vouch for is what one of the few people I have shown this album to who have appreciated it has done and succeeded. My friend wrote to R.T.C requesting a copy of his album but did so in a way that he’d be obligated to do so by sending a blank audio tape with a stamped self addressed envelope big enough to carry a cassette, which after a couple of weeks waiting he received along with the photo copied cover and type written annotations that I had. If you wish to do this and I hope I have been convincing enough that you will do so then send your stamped, self addressed envelope, with I suggest a 90minute blank tape if you want the reverse of the album as well to: Rotate the Completor, PO Box 2000, Tauranga, New Zealand.

And if you do choose to do so and receive your copy please email me and tell me that I am not imagining things and seeing what I want to see and that you too enjoy it. And if you do then please pass this message on or tell as many other like minded souls as you can because with enough numbers we may even be able to convince R.T.C to come out from where ever he is hiding and start playing live or at least explain some of the more troubling aspects of his music.

Thank you very much for taking the time and effort to read this and I look forward to hearing from you.

Read more: http://blogs.myspace.com/rotatethecompletorfanpage#ixzz0rKW5yl1x