Gertrude Stein Larry King

“Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.”

— Gertrude Stein

Issue thirty-two of Otoliths has just gone live, a few days early. This issue contains four of my works: three poems and a video poem. These are part of a series that began with “Gertrude Steinbot Online“, a track I collaborated to produce for the Second Land album, The Copycat Sessions.

The video that appears in Otoliths was created using CrazyTalk Animator, one of its stock animation characters, and a still image from the Larry King Live television program. The audio was created with a text-to-speech reader and a handheld audio recorder. The text is excerpted from Gertrude Stein’s 1933 self-published work entitled “A Long Gay Book.”

One of the poems that appears in Otoliths is entitled “Mick Jagger vs. Gertrude Stein” because “Angie,” the 1973 song by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and “Susie Asado,” the poem written in 1913 by Gertrude Stein, both have some traits in common. For example, they’re both named after women and they’re both repetitive. With this mashup, I imagine that the two works are sharing a duet with each other.

Otoliths contains what it describes as “a variety of what can be loosely described as e-things, that is, anything that can be translated (visually at this stage) to an electronic platform.”

The issue maintains the magical mix of styles & media Otoliths is known for, with work from Jennie Cole, Michael D. Goscinski, Howie Good, Kyle Hemmings, Eric Hoffman, Raymond Farr, Jim Meirose, John M. Bennett, Craig Cotter, Philip Byron Oakes, Jack Galmitz, A. J. Huffman, Reed Altemus, Anne-Marie JEANJEAN, Paul Summers, Philip Terry & Tom Jenks, Miro Sandev, Lee Slonimsky, Joshua Comyn, Zachary Scott Hamilton., SS Prasad, Michael Berton, Marthe Reed, Nicola Griffin, Owen Bullock, John Martone, Louise Landes Levi, Kate Tough, Alex Stolis, Elizabeth Allen, Bobbi Lurie, Cecelia Chapman, Demosthenes Agrafiotis, Catherine Vidler, H. Mark Webster, Adam Fieled, Joel Chace, Carol Stetser, dan raphael, Corey Wakeling, Taylor Reid, Johannes Bjerg, Mariapia Fanna Roncoroni, sean burn, Felino A. Soriano, Leigh Herrick, John Pursch, Mark Cunningham, Tony Beyer, Vernon Frazer, J. D. Nelson, Richard Kostelanetz, Lakey Comess, Andrew Brenza, Jeff Harrison, Darrell Petska, Marc Thompson, Spencer Selby, Katrinka Moore, Michael Brandonisio, Eryk Wenziak & Amy Gentile, Branko Gulin, Bogdan Puslenghea, Caleb Puckett, Bob Heman, Marty Hiatt, Gene Flenady, Tim Wright, Collin Schuster, bruno neiva, Geraldine Burrowes, Dylan Kinnett, & Aditya Bahl.


I’ve attended a lot of literary readings. I’ve noticed that literary events, like any live performance, are bound to have some glitches here and there. I’ve begun to notice some very common glitches, though, in readings by professionals and amateurs alike, and I think they should be avoided.

If you’ve ever been to an open-mic, spoken word or poetry event then you’ll know what I’m talking about, here. If you’ve never been, perhaps you can use this list to explain why you haven’t. If you’re ever behind that open microphone or featured on that stage, please, don’t do any of the following things.

01. Don’t Mention Your Rehearsal

Whether you did, or did not, remember to rehearse your reading beforehand, just don’t talk about it. Your audience would like to think that you are experienced, or at least competent. If you did rehearse, that’s great but it should be evident by the quality of your reading. If you skipped over a badly needed rehearsal then there will be no need to restate the obvious. Maybe you don’t actually need to rehearse. This is unlikely but in any case, just don’t mention rehearsing. Instead, get on with the reading.

02. Don’t Say “I Just Wrote This”

This tip is mostly intended for the reader who wrote something in the moments leading up the performance. At an open mic event, this happens frequently, but it isn’t very polite. Taking notes while someone else is reading is one thing, but don’t completely ignore the other readers, just so you can scratch off something you “just wrote” and then read it immediately, unedited, to a live audience. There’s a way to present new, timely work, but this isn’t it. (an exception to this rule may be required, for example, if yesterday was a major historical event, or if an important life ended or began last night)

03. Don’t Rifle Through Your Papers

If you haven’t decided what to read and in which order, you’re not ready to read, and so you shouldn’t. Have a plan. Stick to it. Small deviations from the plan are probably inevitable at a live event but please don’t make the audience watch you thumb through your ratty notebook while you mutter to yourself about what you might or might not read.

04. No Spoilers

Don’t explain each and every piece before you read it. If some initial context is needed, keep it to a minimum, providing only the very essentials. You should let your work speak for itself, as much as possible.

05. Don’t Diss Your Own Work

Believe or not, some writers actually announce to the audience that they don’t care for a work, and then proceed to read it to a live audience! This may seem to the writer like a kind of humility, but it may have a very different effect on the audience. If you don’t even like the work, then, an audience might think, why should anybody else bother to give a damn? Similarly, you shouldn’t mention whether anybody else does or does not like the work, unless it’s a celebrity or a mutually despised tyrant. Just read the work, and allow the audience to make up their own minds in their own way.

06. Don’t Speak Too Quickly

Especially where poetry is concerned, it is very important to give the words some room to breathe. If you have a time limit for your reading, it would be better to fill the time well than to fill it completely. Don’t try to cram too much work into your reading. Instead, choose the right number of works and read them slowly.

07. Don’t Speak Too Quietly

Before speaking in public, take a deep breath, and imagine that you are speaking to the person who is furthest away from you. That person will appreciate being able to hear you. This rule applies with and without the use of a microphone.

08. Don’t Sound Like You’re Reading

This one is difficult to define and to avoid, but it is the critical difference between a “reading” and a “performance”. To break this habit, it helps to make some audio recordings. Record yourself speaking naturally, in conversation. Then, record yourself reading a difficult text you have never read before. We’ve all had to suffer through difficult readings like those: at school, political and religious events, meetings at work. It’s not fun,so your performance should not sound like a “difficult” reading. It should sound natural, like conversation.

09. Don’t Ignore the Audience

Look up from the page. Look out at the audience. Remember, this is a live event. You may be nervous, and afraid of the audience, but please don’t ignore the audience. They’re people, too, and you just might notice that they’re smiling, thinking about or otherwise responding to your work. It is important to be aware of these things.

10. Don’t Forget to Stop Between Pieces

The audience needs some time to move from one idea to the next, and you probably do too. Besides that, if you pause for a moment, you might even get some applause.

This concludes my list of ten things not to do at a literary reading. For some tips on what you should do instead, try Adam Robinson’s article How to Deliver a Poetry Reading. For musicians, there’s a similar list advice for musical performances by Thelonious Monk, in his own handwriting.

If you’ve got anything to add to the do and don’t list, please post in the comments.

There’s a maxim out there, variously attributed, which says: “serious writers should keep their work in circulation until it either sells or the ink wears off”. It can be difficult and time consuming to keep that circulation going, especially if you’re trying to get a variety of things published. There are so many important things to remember. To record all this information, there are so many different apps available, but none of them seemed perfect for me. So, I built my own database. I call it “bestrew.” Bestrew is a database designed to help writers, or other creators, to track their work, its submissions and the results. In summary, Bestrew is designed to track three things, along with several details about each:

  1. What have you created? (“works”)
  2. Where have you sent your work or where might you send it? (“venues”)
  3. Which works have you sent to which venues and what happened? (“submissions”)

I built it for myself to use and for me it works pretty well, but there is definitely room to grow. Currently, it’s just a database built to work with SQLite, so if you know how to use SQLite then you’re able to use it. I hope that it can be made easier to use so I’m sharing this database in the hopes of attracting a community around the idea. Perhaps we can devise an open source application to help ordinary writers to stay organized?

Download Bestrew v0.8-beta from GitHub and let me know what you think of the idea in the comments.

It annoys me when the marketing copy says that something is “interactive” when all that really means is that you can click on stuff. Buttons and hyperlinks: yes, they yield results (even when they don’t work properly), but is that enough to warrant the use of the word “interactive”? If I have watched a video, listened to audio or if I have otherwise acted as a passive consumer, I have not “interacted” even if I did push a button to begin that passive experience.

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about something called “conversational interface” as a way to go beyond the world of button-mashing-so-called-interactivity.

For now, this post is just a placeholder for the idea, with some notes.

(Random) Examples of Analogue Conversational Interfaces

When a patient visits a doctor, the doctor can begin to diagnose the patient by asking a series of questions. The answers to those questions can prompt other questions, and so on, until enough information has been gathered by the doctor, who can then make some sort of determination.

See also: the socratic method

I work in a museum and I notice that, aside from the computers, a lot of what goes on there is conversational: the help available at the museum’s front desk, a tour with a docent or a curator, the comment book (although the comment book isn’t as interactive it can be conversational)…

Fortune-tellers might rely on non-verbal cues to ascertain whether or not the yarn is being spun in the right direction. There are probably better examples of things that are non-verbal and yet “conversational”

One of my favorite examples of a conversational interface is the text of a bedtime story, as it is told to a small child. An inquisitive child is likely to ask questions, make requests for embellishments, offer up related anecdotes and so on until the end result is anything but a passive experience.

A Few Digital Examples

a search engine is somewhat conversational, in effect. You name for it the thing that you are looking for, and in response it will show you all the places where it has found a phrase similar to, or related to, the phrase you gave.

see also: the suggestion engine, which may need to begin by interviewing the user’s preferences, before it has data to use for making suggestions.

Some websites, online surveys and applications can take on the format of a series of questions and responses. Some of these are amazing, but the infuriating examples may be the best known, such as Microsoft Office’s “clippy” and “Anna” the Ikea help bot. Another perhaps more interesting bot is A. L. I. C. E. The Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity.

Many new smartphones and GPS systems are starting to develop voice-driven interfaces, with varying results.

For a while, it was popular to play with the “20 questions toy” which was programmed to be remarkably good at playing a game of 20 questions.

Further Reading

Beyond the GUI: It’s Time for a Conversational User Interface

The Conversational Interface: Our Next Great Leap Forward

Conversational Hypertext: Information Access Through Natural Language Dialogues With Computers

The Conversation

A post about conversational interfaces isn’t so good without… conversation. If you know of any good examples of a conversational interface, either online or analogue, please let’s talk about it in the comments below. Thanks!

Fair warning: this is going to be one of my geekier posts. Let’s get to it shall we?

At the beginning of 2014, I started thinking about all the things I wanted to do this year, making the usual resolutions and so on. To record those thoughts, I opened up my trusty todo.txt file, rattled off some things, rattled off some more, deleted a few things I’d done… the usual. Then, in the middle of the work, a reminder went off on my phone. It was time to go, so I saved the file and ran off to have an adventure in Baltimore.

While waiting on the bus outside, I thought of a few more items for my list. Unfortunately, my todo.txt file isn’t on my phone. I thought: maybe it’s time for me to finally grow out of using an old-fashioned text file to keep track of my to-do list. I thought: nowadays, there’s an app for pretty much everything under the sun, and there’s got to be at least a zillion different apps for keeping track of a to do list. It should be a simple matter of finding the one that meets my needs. So what are my needs?

I’m looking for a to-do app that has (all of) the following features:

  • store/edit the list as a .txt file
  • available via the command line (terminal on OSX and Cygwin)
  • tags for things like context and project
  • set due dates and reminder dates
  • reminder alerts on an iphone

Some features that would be nice:

  • turn an e-mail into a to-do item, the way Outlook for Windows can, but without the need for Outlook
  • recurring tasks, like the ones available from the iOS Reminders app

There’s already an app named, fittingly todo.txt that comes close to what I have in mind but not all the way. I wonder if there is such a thing? I’ll try it for now, along with the iOS Reminders, and see which one works best. Meanwhile, if anybody knows of other options, please let me know.


Today, I’ve finished compiling a printed collection of every poem I’ve ever written. I do this every few years, just to have a nice paper copy in case all my digital copies go haywire. With 237 poems, printed double-sided, I now have a stack of paper about an inch thick. I bought a thesis binder for a good price online, so that I can quickly and easily turn the stack of paper into a durable bound volume.

While compiling this collection for myself, I learned a new trick. It’s surprisingly easy to create an index of first lines. I saw an example of such an index in the back of my shiny new copy of Sampson Starkweather’s book The First Books of Sampson Starkweather, which I bought from the author a couple months ago. I wondered: how much work is it to create an index of first lines?

There are two ways to do it. If each of your poems is a separate text file, then a handy command line trick will produce an index of first lines. If you have all your poems in a single Microsoft Word document, you can use the index feature to mark each first line as an index term, and then create an index. An index of first lines is an interesting way to review the collection of poems, and I see that some of the first lines are better than others.

Index of First Lines from Poems by Dylan Kinnett

  • 7, 8, 9, 10
  • A haunted past begins
  • A rendering of a reflection of a s
  • A syringe in room 212
  • A thousand
  • A tough step two
  • Ain’t no rain, gonna wash this body
  • All I have is bread
  • Always and For
  • And so I danced
  • And then, and then
  • Angels done broke the bugle
  • Angie, Angie
  • As I watch the dust fall
  • As in church, pray for once
  • At last, people will com
  • Baby boys on their birthdays
  • I’ll stand here
  • Be, for a brief moment
  • Blistering haze, wandering days,
  • Burn me brightly
  • but and but or;
  • By the river barefoot in the muck
  • Children can remember
  • Clear eyes, full of light.
  • Cloud patterns shift and kick
  • Cold steel begs my eyes to burn through you
  • Come in close. Pass and go
  • Come one, come all
  • Dad says, “It’s time you know.
  • Dance like children on her back did she
  • Devils fall from the sky
  • Did I know your name
  • dim moon rolled along the horizon
  • Dim moon rolled from below the horizon
  • Do I radiate that beauty,
  • Do you know m
  • Dream life in front of a dead thing
  • Ears for to hear
  • Erosion
  • Every few days, a new turn presents itself
  • Every time we took a picture
  • Everything I’ve not forgotten
  • Farther than the light goes
  • Feels like I’m the static in the air
  • Fluid, Stoic, and Gas like,
  • For every up I find
  • Full moon light snowfall
  • Give me your hand
  • Glowing in the cold
  • Have you, with yo
  • He speaks again of shadow
  • Here you go, eat some life, it’s a blue thing
  • Here, and nowhere els
  • Here’s one, warts and all.
  • He’s downing two of them
  • hoping to be noticed
  • How did I choose the wine?
  • How many hands must fall upon the Earth
  • I am left to count the breaths
  • I am locked in the case of my opinion.
  • I am standing,
  • I awoke this morning to the startling realization
  • I came to get
  • I cannot purge these thoughts
  • I could swear I saw a tear in the mirror.
  • I hear your voice
  • I just wanna roll into a ball
  • I keep a little boat by the doc
  • I know the rule
  • I looked through large bound books
  • I remember being small
  • I remember when I’d call for you
  • I saw Jesus in the Detox
  • I see a splash of light
  • I started a journey long ago
  • I still have a Christmas poinsettia
  • I thought I saw you crying
  • I wait, but it doesn’t come.
  • I want to dance across the minds of others
  • I want you
  • I wanted something, once
  • I’d make a list, take nails and pound it on the door
  • If I pound the air
  • If only I had a place with a creek
  • I’m here with a candle,
  • I’m not who I am
  • I’m scared because the street
  • In the beginning there was an artist of gravity
  • In winter,
  • Ink pens fit the fist nicely
  • Is your body cold
  • It should have been me
  • It should have been me out there
  • It sleeps, but turns too much to dream
  • It sounds empty, over spoken
  • it was almost as if the voice on paper
  • It’s a specific bend.
  • Its raining
  • It’s raining in Mecklenburg again
  • I’ve got a trash bag
  • Kick a ball against the wall.
  • like children we laughed around
  • Live without “I”s
  • Live without eyes,
  • Look up, Woman and Man
  • Look, we’d hear the unheard,
  • Metropolis, won’t you wrap your arms around me.
  • Midnight greyhound dreaming
  • Morning exploded
  • Mother and I gaze at the sky
  • Musical comedy, you make us laugh
  • No florescent, linoleum, walkways and row
  • No more words please.
  • Nothing burns from the stone candle
  • O Holy heart
  • Obvious worthlessness is unusual
  • Of all the words in the English language
  • oh hell, here we go again,
  • Oh-boo-dee-Q-la dee-Q-la on-ta-Ko-in-da-wa
  • On a scraggly pat
  • One hand holds, and one hand breaks off
  • Open your eyes
  • Open your eyes and tell me what you see
  • Out with the old
  • Put your face on tonight
  • Rocket ships and escalators,
  • Rows and Racks with spools of yarn
  • Sailing on the wrong side of the sea
  • Say doom, and look at what they do
  • Seems to me, there’s usually some thing we’re all chasing after:
  • Sewage seeps like a slow blood flow
  • Sewage seeps like a slow blood flow, beneath the street,
  • Shadows grow long
  • She cries
  • She had strong legs, long legs
  • She sees herself in the sea and she fears it
  • Shooting the kitty in a rocket to mars
  • Should have,
  • Should have, could have
  • Shuffled up, tossed and furious
  • Slop seeps down the street
  • So this is the way green summer ends
  • Something important to me
  • sometimes
  • Sometimes I could swear we are moving
  • Somewhere, barely beneath the city, she lies in wait for me.
  • Sound without meaning
  • Sticks and stone
  • Still forest sounds snap
  • Study how the present begins.
  • Stunned
  • Swelling
  • That song is just a sweet silly poem
  • That song is just a sweet silly poem my dear.
  • that’s my reflection on the slick stone floor
  • The boy sees snakes of soldier
  • The candy silo unloads
  • the fires nightly
  • The flies have all fattened
  • The hangman. Thinks he
  • The painted faces stay outside,
  • The peephole in the center of the door
  • The perfect waste of a day
  • The rainstorm caught me
  • The roses at night
  • The same hands hold red
  • The sign sez: “farm use
  • The song changes
  • The sun does set on the sunset street
  • The sun was dead
  • The total conversion of matter into energy
  • The train came calling by,
  • The world around me
  • There are certain things
  • There are dead fish in the run
  • There are places where the roads don’t go
  • There is fury in this room
  • There is no Jesus as the miles go over by
  • There’s a midnight train by my house,
  • There’s a moon over you
  • There’s a place in the shade for me.
  • there’s a song in my head and my head keeps playing i
  • They do. not. eat. who mention, silver and sweet
  • They have their bonds and deals
  • They stand on points
  • They taught us to argue
  • They’re all out there dying, baby.
  • They’re on a crash-course collision run
  • things arranged, now splayed
  • think of any thing
  • This city is a bird
  • This is how it i
  • This is the nowhere story
  • This is where whole nations lost their prayers
  • This world, my misery
  • Too many christs
  • Too many sets of these crying eyes
  • Too many times
  • Towers of slabs
  • Toys in the hands of God, we are,
  • Train came calling b
  • Two paths, one line that parted:
  • Under a head of human hair
  • walking in the rain., 224
  • We built highways out of the darkness
  • We can’t have unflattering, art;
  • We draw a dream in the sand.
  • We have fingerbone trees
  • We live in the bizarre
  • We were waiting for silence to die,
  • We would sing
  • we’ve got/ are clockwork
  • Whatever words, whatever nouns, whatever verbs
  • What’s the bother
  • When love blossoms, it isn’t a flower
  • When you’re too busy being happy
  • Who’s that in that picture
  • Wilt away
  • working forever
  • Would I lie to you
  • You can’t just lie here
  • You can’t see the angels
  • you sang a song; I found my hell again.
  • You say someday you’ll be gone
  • you thoughts on the walls
  • Your arms held sway over whole language,
  • Your garden finally decided to grow

With the big push for cloud computing came a whole bunch of online writing apps. Some of the great ones are already dead and gone. Today, I saw the announcement of another one that has bitten the dust. Editorially, an online application for writing collaboratively, has announced that it will close down soon.

This is the trouble with online writing apps: if you’ve got your documents stored with them, you’ll need an exit strategy, because the service just might go away. For me, I’ll stick to writing files on my hard drive for the time being. When I need to collaborate, presumably that’s only for a fixed period of time, so I’ll just use whatever is best, at that time. Presumably it, too, may not be around in the years to come.