The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Month: December, 2013

The evolution of Ryu

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Image credit Eventhub

Ever since his inception in the first Street Fighter in 1987, Ryu has become a staple in every Street Fighter game or game that has Street Fighter cameos.  His appearance has changed drastically then, and the above image shows how.

Anyone remember the terrible movie, Street Fighter (1994), starring Jean-Claude Van Damme? Byron Mann plays Ryu in that one.

ryu-street-fighter-movie-anime-tarjetas-y-cards-3677-MLM45437925_6708-O[1]Ryu for reference, in Street Fighter. At least they cast an Asian.

I kind of prefer the Chinese spoof Street Fighter, Future Cops (1993), with Aaron Kwok as Ryu.

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So much better

I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t seen Future Cops to watch it. It combines the best of action films, the craziness of old Hong Kong flicks, and video games. What more do you need? In fact, you know what? Here it is, with English subtitles!

Insert: Code Poetry

First Stanford code poetry slam reveals the literary side of computer code

The high-tech poetry competition, which explored how computer code can be read as poetic language, is accepting submissions for the next competition.

By Mariana Lage
The Humanities at Stanford

Leslie Wu presents her code poem
Leslie Wu, a Stanford graduate student in computer science, presents her code poem, ‘Say 23,’ which won first place in the Stanford Code Poetry Slam. Image: Mariana Lage

Leslie Wu, a doctoral student in computer science at Stanford, took an appropriately high-tech approach to presenting her poem “Say 23” at the first Stanford Code Poetry Slam.

Wu wore Google Glass as she typed 16 lines of computer code that were projected onto a screen while she simultaneously recited the code aloud. She then stopped speaking and ran the script, which prompted the computer program to read a stream of words from Psalm 23 out loud three times, each one in a different pre-recorded-computer voice.

Wu, whose multimedia presentation earned her first place, was one of eight finalists to present at the Code Poetry Slam. Organized by Melissa Kagen, a graduate student in German studies, and Kurt James Werner, a graduate student in computer-based music theory and acoustics, the event was designed to explore the creative aspects of computer programming.

With presentations that ranged from poems written in a computer language format to those that incorporated digital media, the slam demonstrated the entrants’ broad interpretation of the definition of “code poetry.”

Kagen and Werner developed the code poetry slam as a means of investigating the poetic potentials of computer-programming languages.

“Code poetry has been around a while, at least in programming circles, but the conjunction of oral presentation and performance sounded really interesting to us,” said Werner. Added Kagen, “What we are interested is in the poetic aspect of code used as language to program a computer.”

Ian Holmes explored Java language in a Haiku format

Ian Holmes, a Stanford undergraduate studying computer science and materials and science engineering, explored Java language in a Haiku format. Image: Mariana Lage

Sponsored by the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages, the slam drew online submissions from Stanford and beyond.

High school students and professors, graduate students and undergraduates from engineering, computer science, music, language and literature incorporated programming concepts into poem-like forms. Some of the works were written entirely in executable code, such as Ruby and C++ languages, while others were presented in multimedia formats. The works of all eight finalists can be viewed on the Code Poetry Slam website.

With so much interest in the genre, Werner and Kagen hope to make the slam a quarterly event. Submissions for the second slam are open now through Feb. 12, 2014, with the date of the competition to be announced later.

Giving voice to the code

Kagen, Werner and Wu agree that code poetry requires some knowledge of programming from the spectators.

“I feel it’s like trying to read a poem in a language with which you are not comfortable. You get the basics, but to really get into the intricacies you really need to know that language,” said Kagen, who studies the traversal of musical space in Wagner and Schoenberg.

Wu noted that when she was typing the code most people didn’t know what she was doing. “They were probably confused and curious. But when I executed the poem, the program interpreted the code and they could hear words,” she said, adding that her presentation “gave voice to the code.”

“The code itself had its own synthesized voice, and its own poetics of computer code and singsong spoken word,” Wu said.

One of the contenders showed a poem that was “misread” by the computer.

“There was a bug in his poem, but more interestingly, there was the notion of a correct interpretation which is somewhat unique to computer code. Compared to human language, code generally has few interpretations or, in most cases, just one,” Wu said.

Coding as a creative act

So what exactly is code poetry? According to Kagen, “Code poetry can mean a lot of different things depending on whom you ask.

“It can be a piece of text that can be read as code and run as program, but also read as poetry. It can mean a human language poetry that has mathematical elements and codes in it, or even code that aims for elegant expression within severe constraints, like a haiku or a sonnet, or code that generates automatic poetry. Poems that are readable to humans and readable to computers perform a kind of cyborg double coding.”

Werner noted that “Wu’s poem incorporated a lot of different concepts, languages and tools. It had Ruby language, Japanese and English, was short, compact and elegant. It did a lot for a little code.” Werner served as one of the four judges along with Kagen; Caroline Egan, a doctoral student in comparative literature; and Mayank Sanganeria, a master’s student at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA).

Kagen and Werner got some expert advice on judging from Michael Widner, the academic technology specialist for the Division of Literatures, Cultures and Languages.

Widner, who reviewed all of the submissions, noted that the slam allowed scholars and the public to “probe the connections between the act of writing poetry and the act of writing code, which as anyone who has done both can tell you are oddly similar enterprises.”

A scholar who specializes in the study of both medieval and machine languages, Widner said that “when we realize that coding is a creative act, we not only value that part of the coder’s labor, but we also realize that the technologies in which we swim have assumptions and ideologies behind them that, perhaps, we should challenge.”

Mariana Lage is a visiting doctoral student in the Department of Comparative Literature.

When I was younger, I scoffed at the idea of programming language being a real language. “It is an efficient language, but lacks the capability for beauty,” I thought back then. That’s why we can achieve poetry with living languages and not programming.

Turns out people have been trying to prove that wrong. The folks at Stanford created a code poetry slam that attempts to bridge the gap between a language I (and many others) long-derided for being incapable of beauty, with poetry, the very art of turning language beautiful. It’s interesting to see how one takes a language with “stripped-out” syntax, one void of auxiliaries and other linguistic features, and tries to work with its sparseness to turn it into poetry.

This begs the question of “What is beauty? What makes word poetry beautiful?”

We find beauty in poetry in a number of ways: Some find the words used per se beautiful — word-image evocation. Some find the conjured images from metaphors beautiful — visual/thematic image evocation. Some even find the structures used to arrange the words beautiful — structural inspiration. The bottom-line is, there is some sort of inspiration or reaction drawn from the reader by the poem, and this reaction is essentially what we call the “beauty” we find in poetry.

When I shared this article on Facebook, a friend, who does programming, says that code can be beautiful too. He says, to him, an efficient code is a beautiful code; if an algorithm can figure out the solution to a problem in 10 lines where it takes him 50, the code is beautiful to him. While there exist similarities between the two, in that he is inspired by the efficiency of the “beautiful code,” that beauty is not the same sense of beauty that exists in natural language poetry, and the people at Stanford are trying to bridge that difference.

Where my friend equates the idea of efficiency to be beauty, “code poetry” tries to go beyond mere efficiency. Efficient “beautiful code” is just efficient code, and I think those at Stanford are trying go beyond just “beautiful code,” and trying for the same sense of “beautiful” that people find in imprecise written word with the precise structure of coding. The creativity from code poetry isn’t in the creative licence common to written poetry or in the ingenuity of finding a way to make the code more efficient, but possibly using a code that lies in-between.

In that, a code poet might end up with a slightly unwieldy, bulky code that programmers might think to be “ugly,” but appreciated beyond its efficiency, and applying the image-evocation processes of natural language poetry that traditional poetry beauty can be seen in code. At times, the code need not even solve anything, and in programming, that is just redundant code. But redundancy is very important in natural language, and by breaking away from the strictures of what makes good code, and eschewing snobbish ideas of natural language poetry superiority, can we begin to see the start of a novel way of understanding how beauty and structure can co-exist hand in hand.

Of course, as highlighted in the article, there’s the problem of access: those who do not understand programming cannot understand code poetry. Would this be a short-coming? Who would then be the arbiters of what makes good code poetry? Would we need masters of both the computing and natural language to dictate which poem highlights the sensibilities of both sides? I think not, actually. Take the Java haiku in the article above. I don’t understand Java, but I think there’s an element of beauty in that. I think anyone, as long as they’re willing to abandon what traditionally defines good code or good poetry, and listen to what inspires, what is beautiful to the mind, can appreciate good code poetry.

In desperate times, superheroes resort to… MMA?

As commented on by Deadspin,

I don’t have any information or context to provide to help you make sense of how this video came to be. The best I can do is this message board thread that has live play-by-play of the action, but it isn’t necessarily all that helpful. (“No one in the crowd. Including us, know what the fucks going on. Before you start shouting ‘staged’. I can confirm they arnt. The fights are SO bad that they couldn’t possibly been choreographed.”) Anyway, I think that’s for the best. You should be able to enjoy Spider-Man beating the absolute shit out of Batman and Robin without having to think about what you’re watching.

At least the Spiderman retains his cocky nature. The Batman and Robin were just so… underwhelming. Especially Batman. He seems underfed. Somebody give that man a burger.

I’d rather take Batusi Batman at this point.

The Big Apple everyone wants a slice of

How did “New York City” come to be known as the “Big Apple”? Brain Pickings mentions that the book, Does My Goldfish Know Who I Am?explains:

There’s an old American expression “to bet a big apple” and it means to be very certain of what you’re talking about. Then about a hundred years ago the “big apple” started to be applied to horse racing in New York, perhaps because it was the most important center for horse races or because of the value of the prizes. From there the expression grew even wider until it came to describe the city itself, especially during an age when it was one of the most exciting, fast-moving and glamorous places on Earth.

After a time, advertisers started using the words and even the image of a large, glossy, unblemished apple because they realized it was a good way to encourage people to visit the city. It’s true too: New York is like the biggest apple in the world, the shiny object that everybody wants a slice of.

– Philip Gooden, author

Whenever I think of “Big Apple”, two cartons come to mind. The first is this:

While the cartoon doesn’t specify itself to be New York City, but somehow wrecking balls, skyscrapers, theatre, and talent agencies bring New York City to mind. One Froggy Evening (1955) sings of building dreams and of making it big, and of dreams and hopes dashed by an uncooperative frog.

This was probably my first impression of what a big city like New York City would be like, and somehow I likened ragtime and jazz with the city as well. The frog in question, Michael J. Frog, stuck with me for the longest time, even though I didn’t know its name until when I moved to New York City, and I suddenly remembered this frog, whereby I searched up the cartoon and lo! Memories of what I envisioned the city to be, what it represented, and now that I’m in it, how the same exact pitfalls are applying to me.

The next cartoon, of course, is Rhapsody in Blue. Drawn in the iconic style of Al Hirschfeld, I first heard this song in middle school when my music teacher played it in class (on her Playstation 2 which she brought to class, for its DVD playing capabilities, but I suspect mostly to show off her PS2, which was expensive at the time).

My favourite part of the song is when the trumpet fanfare first comes up, since I was a trumpet player myself, but the flutter blare of the trumpets was just so exciting. On one of my first proper internships in the city, where I had to commute on the trains and all that, I played Rhapsody in Blue on the train ride on my first day at work, and it got me very hyped up for the rest of the day.

The song is set in the 30’s Depression era, of a period where dreams and joblessness are rife. Today, we’re coming to the end of 2013, and I still feel like we’re in the throes of the Depression. What with articles everywhere touting us to be in the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression, it’s hard not to look at the video and feel blue. But unlike the characters in the video, who miraculously get the life they want, for the rest of us stuck on this side of reality, we can only slog on.

In Search Of The Day Til We Get A Slice

I have been blinded by the sparkles
that bounces off of the Big Apple
that comes from the shining gems and ‘scrapers
of those who have made it
while we the many have to remain content
with the sights we get from lights above,
dreaming of the day that we, too, get a slice

To learn that
the crunch of the bite
are the sounds of those trodden underfoot;
the sheen of red
is painted with the blood of those sacrificed;
in payment for a slice.

Vivillon fashion

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Vivillons are butterfly Pokémon for the 3DS game, Pokémon X and Y. A unique feature of the game is that for this one Pokémon, it has a distinct pattern based on what region one’s 3DS is set to. For example, those whose 3DS are set to New York gets the Polar pattern while those in Tokyo might get the Elegant pattern.

Tumblr user Greenvelvetcake takes these different patterns and turns them into gijinka, or anthropomorphism.

The patterns, in order from left to right, top to bottom: Meadow, Polar, Garden, Sun, Tundra, Elegant, Modern, Marine, Continental, Savannah, Monsoon, Icy Snow, and Ocean.

 

What’s in a name? Government regulation, that’s what

I was researching names that have fallen into disuse, and suddenly the regulation of names came up in the search. I decided to look up how China and Japan regulates what names are permitted for newborns, trying to find out what is or isn’t permitted.

China

Apparently there’s no restriction to what names can be used, as long as a computer is able to reproduce the character. Thus, according to Wikipedia, “(it) is not illegal to name a child after a famous celebrity, company, or product, as copyright and trademark laws do not apply to personal names.”

However, while there are over 70,000 Chinese characters available to choose from, only 32,232 are supported for computer input. Thus people with characters that fall outside of this 32,232 have names that run into problems when these people try to register for ID.

Japan

Japan takes a more stringent approach to naming one’s newborn, and restricts character usage based on readability and taste. “Only kanji which appear on the official list may be used in given names. This is intended to ensure that names can be readily written and read by those literate in Japanese. Rules also govern names considered to be inappropriate; for example, in 1993 two parents who tried to name their child Akuma (悪魔, which literally means “devil”) were prohibited from doing so after a massive public outcry.”

 

Where are Singaporeans living in America?

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Image credit Daryl Sng’s blog

Former political counsellor to the Singapore Embassy Daryl Sng created a post on his blog about where Singaporeans are residing in the United States, using ArcGIS, a geographic information system software. He uses county-level data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 2005-2009, which shows some 26,754 people who claim Singapore as their place of birth. Of course, that includes children of expatriates born in Singapore and Singaporeans who have given up their citizenship. Sng also states that the new 2008-2012 census data was recently released, showing some 29,173 people who indicate Singapore as their place of birth living in the United States.

The above map shows the distribution of these people across the country. Not surprisingly, the highest concentrations are on the East and West coasts, where there are “10,000 living within the Boston-New York-Philadelphia-Washington DC corridor, about 5000 living within 250 miles of L.A., and just under 5000 living within 250 miles of the Bay Area. The next highest concentrations are in Texas and then in Chicago/Ann Arbor.”

I think the most interesting parts of the data are: who are the random specks living in Montana and South Dakota (only dot in the entire state)?