TITAA #20: Hidden Connections and Rabbits
(My photo of the SATOR square I found unlabeled in a local folk museum in the Monts du Lyonnais, July 2021)
I posted this photo on Instagram and got some curious interest; it's a SATOR square, a strange Roman anagram block found all over Europe (the earliest in Pompei), associated with mystical and magical applications. The 5 rows of 5 letter words say, up and down, "SATOR, AREPO, TENET, OPERA, ROTAS." Which may translate prosaically as "The farmer Arepo uses a plough." "Arepo" is not a word found in Latin and is assumed to be a proper name. In any case, the letters are associated with exorcism spells, fooling the devil, putting out fires, and protection from fatigue while traveling. That's my favorite, of course. Evidently Christopher Nolan's Tenet was heavily influenced by SATOR mystique.
If you're into the SATOR square mystery, you'd probably like Rabbits, a book I rec below.
AI Art and Creativity
There's a lot more CLIP action going on! A few of the latest notebooks of interest are Jbustter's (@jbusted1) MSE regularized version of Katherine Crowson's (@RiversHaveWings), over here. And Katherine adapted the ImageNet diffusion model released by OpenAI into a slightly more abstract CLIP-based generator, here.
An article by Brad Dwyer recaps some experiments generating raccoons driving tractors, and makes the point that the models lock in on composition quite early and it would be nice to steer that or bail and move on if you don't like their direction. "I'd like to modify the notebook to concurrently generate 10 or 20 different starting points until the 100 iteration mark, save the checkpoints, and let you choose which one to continue from." (I think I got this article from Travis Hoppe, thanks.)
@E08477 tried 64 different "art style" prompts and reported what they looked like. Similarly, kingdomakryllic shows comparisons of styles vs. the same 4 prompts (this is the top, it scrolls on for a long time).
Using the MSE regularized notebook, I tried my regular prompt "a castle on a hill under a stormy sky" with "in the style of Arthur Rackham," and with 2 different seeds, I got these - the first is after 200 iterations, the second is using another seed, after 1700 iterations.
Essentially these models always want to put castles in the sky, as well as on the hill. The sky castle starts as a creepy cloud, and becomes more solid and real over iteration time. Fewer iterations are more watercolory and suggestive.
More CLIP art productions: Martin O'Leary (mewo2)'s animated Kubla Khan poem generation using CLIP-*GAN "Sinuous Rills" is outstanding.
Don't miss Ryan Moulton's collection of "Sacred Library" images made with BoneAmputee's bot on EleutherAI Discord. (The BATbot can be run via the #the-faraday-cage channel. It's super hard to keep up with the action over there, btw, they're all on fire.) These sacred library images use an inspired "James Gurney style" prompt.
"A shadowy figure spotted in multiple Wal-Mart locations has baffled paranormal experts." The Internet Dungeon of Unexplained Phenomena features haunted CVS's and Wendy's, in @leighalexander's project pairing text generated by GPT-J and with low-res images made with Bigsleep, Ryan Murdock's first CLIP-GAN colab.
This Beach Does Not Exist is an animated StyleGAN video collection of latent beaches in HD. Very pretty and vacationy.
Random Tech & Tool Stuff
CoPilot Writes a Text-Based Adventure Game - apparently because it's an activity in Learn Python the Hard Way, so there's a lot of code lying around for it. It runs, kind of. It creates a "bear_room" and a "cthulhu_room."
The noclip.website is an amazing collection of reverse-engineered 3d game worlds and levels you can wander around in your browser, using webgl and the arrow keys. It's a great homage to game design art. (Putting this here as well as in Games below.)
A long collection of visual programming tools, if you like those.
This Mineflayer minecaft bot tool looks outstanding, actually.
Updated ipydatagrid for pandas in Jupyter notebooks.
A nice pandas/python data analysis walkthrough of the Star Trek Gender Dialogue chart going around.
Here's a scrollytelling exploration of parallel quantum worlds, by Allan Pooley. Relevant to Rabbits.
Here's a lovely and creepy poem by Emily Dickinson illustrated and interactivated by artist A.M. Sartor. There are hidden triggers in the panels. Thanks to Emily Short for this.
Also via Emily Short: The story of an illustrated "children's mystery" book, Masquerade, by Kit Williams on the Criminal Podcast. This book (wikipedia story here) featured well-hidden clues to a golden hare statue buried somewhere in Britain. The solution, and the solvers, are all downright wacked. There's eventually even a connection to a computer game company, and hey, it reminds me of Rabbits, the book I recommend below.
Speaking of wikipedia, the depthsofwikipedia account on IG has been posting some banger weird stories. Capital Hill's Mystery Soda Machine is a particularly good one.
The post on the article on the men's marathon at the 1904 Summer Olympics is also excellent. "Buckle up, this one’s long but sooo good. there’s rat poison, feral dogs, mid-race naps, rotten apples, hitch-hiking to the finish line, and more."
This article about a man making a chatbot with his dead fiancée's texts is surprisingly touching.
This is by Alf Bärbel Wit, a 6-year old who draws line art that's amazing. Found via outsider art magazine Rawvision on IG.
★ Dickinson, S2. Well, it was tough going, emotionally painful but also so inspired in places. The modern political allusions and snipes as Civil War dawns are on point. In S2, Emily's sister Vinnie becomes both hilarious and self-confident; and in fact all the characters grow into themselves and mellow as a great ensemble. The ending scene of the season made it worth much suffering, but I can't imagine how they will manage S3. This is definitely TV I think about when I'm not watching it, like I do with great narrative games like KRZ and Edith Finch, or (obviously) a very good book. Unlike, say, Loki. (Was that mean?)
Season 6 of In the Line of Duty was fun. A solid, twisty, procedural organized crime series.
I'm liking Jack Irish, available on Acorn TV. Starring a very scruffy Guy Pearce, it's an Australian series that mixes up many-dimensional oddball characters, investigative reporting, old guys who live on bar stools, and a lot of deaths to explain. It feels very Elmore Leonardy; and although I am bemused by the ongoing horse racing subplots and I don't really know what Jack's job is, the bulk is excellent. I'm just about to start the newest season (3).
Children of the Deterrent, by Ian Sainsbury, is a readable super-hero story, with a very creepy British secret agency and a kid who discovers he is descended from a long-missing hero. Some gore.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante: A justly famous, close-read on a competitive and sometimes friendly relationship between 2 very smart girls trying to survive in a working class, sexist Naples. I'm saving book 2 for a trip to Italy.
★ Rabbits, by Terry Miles. There's this huge "game" that involves finding discrepancies and synchronicities in the world, and following them leads to possibly parallel worlds or maybe just giant conspiracies, quantum computers, and secretive game companies, the darknet, and players dying. Highly recommended if you are into old computer games, liked "Devs" (the tv show), are interested in conspiracy thinking and liked this piece by Reed Berkowitz on how QAnon is like ARG/LARP gaming. (Huh, the handle on Medium is "Rabbit Rabbit." Coincidence? Well, it was a podcast, too.)
★ I finished the magical-realist text-rich Kentucky Route Zero, and my Saturday afternoons feel sadder and emptier. Aaron A Reed presents a good close study of it in his Narrascope 2020 talk, situating it relative to past adventure games (so many callouts to old game history in KRZ!) and the promise of future games, especially indie narrative games about outsiders. Also recommended, the talk on Designing for Mystery in KRZ by Jake Elliott at GDC. Jake (and later Aaron) talk about the difference between puzzles, which can be solved if you have enough information, and mysteries, which are more open-ended, even ineffable, and may be unsolvable. (I'm entertained that as a book genre, mysteries are normally "just" puzzles and if they aren't, they can be called "unfair," or they become genre-breakers, maybe even becoming "literary", like my favorite Tana French novels.)
I'm very sad about a VR game called Star Shelter, from 2018ish. I love the premise, but can't get anywhere at all. You "wake up" as a survivor of an exploded ship, in a space capsule, surrounded by burning planets, meteors, and floating junked space equipment. You jet using your precious oxygen to your base, which is damaged, and you are expected to repair it (using what?), salvage, and somehow craft your way to subsistence. Salvaging for materials involves jetting to nearby junk in space and exploring it. I adore my little space trips to ruined craft and star trash, but I die over and over and over. (You respawn as another survivor in a space capsule in the same generated spacescape.) All the walkthroughs seem to be for early releases which differ a lot, the UI controls are awkward, and there's virtually nothing useful in the tutorial. So sad. I want to salvage in spaaaaacceeeeeee!
Here is a strange ascii art poetic collaboration game, If We Were Allowed to Visit, by Ian MacLatchy and Gemma Mahadeo. Wander a landscape built of text. You can even play a piano. I don't think i'm very good at this game either but it's very interesting.
The noclip.website is an amazing collection of reverse-engineered 3d game worlds and levels you can wander around in your browser, using webgl and the arrow keys. It's a great homage to game design art. (Putting this here as well as above.)
try this apparently & at the line of trees
go left whether it was a deer or a moose
in the road is important i'm afraid i don't
love anything & i love you or what its
name will be looking for you no word for
the-way-a-verb or for the passing of small
distances it's human nature like some story
which leached through two mountains you
remind me i doodled us between two pages
which i never hung on to that at the gas station
i asked for directions the valley continuing
is the one thing we do not know what i
called no word for the way music ends
no word to get just ahead of the words
--M A. Vizsolyi (I picked this because it made me think of playing KRZ)
I hope you are well and are considering vacations. If you like this newsletter, pass it on, reply and drop me a note, say hi on Twitter, or buy me a coffee. :)
-Lynn / @arnicas