Transition States

I went to the theatre last night. At the Vineyard Playhouse, Dr. Yukevich did three short dramatic readings — one story by Joyce, one by Poe and one by his own self. This last was a Monty Pythony tale, and the good doctor, whose regular job is emergency room medicine, proved to be something of a John Cleese. The last time I had seen him it was 11:30 PM at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and he was treating my younger daughter for what turned out to be whooping cough.

I’ve been to the playhouse several times over the last year or so (ever since I got ‘volunteered’ to be an usher). I never want to go but always end up enjoying it, and of course ushers get in for free.

Anyway it got me to thinking. About how a story on the printed page is and is not the same thing as the identical story when acted out by a man in a costume. The words are the same, but what was a story has now become a play. It’s the same thing but it isn’t. Similarly, consider in what ways sheet music is the same as the music performed. You see where this is going. . . unless one snaps out of it, one is going to spend the next N hours lost in idle ontological daydreaming.

I’ve been thinking about this general topic a lot lately, as I have decided to do some kind of adapted version of Cheap Complex Devices. I want to do an audiobook, with some human voices and some computer-generated voices– and also with sound effects — for example, buzzing bees. Some friends have volunteered to read parts of it, and I’ve been fooling around with some software to generate compute voices for other parts. This project, in theory, is not much more complicated than turning on a tape recorder. . .

I’m also trying to imagine what a movie — or flash movie, to be precise — of CCD would look like.

I have fantasies of a brilliant interactive movie/audiobook that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to Wetmachine. Cheap Complex Devices: the Movie is actually more like a videogame, perhaps, than a movie. It’s visually weird and compelling; perhaps it has the feel of Linkletter/Dick’s A Scanner Darkly.

Did anyone notice that my little side hobby project of turning my book into an audiobook just became a major Hollywood studio project?

One thing becomes another. What had been a bunch of out-takes from Acts of the Apostles and a bunch of memories of a week spend in Amsterdam for a SIGCHI meeting in 1993 and a bunch of dreams about the meaning of dreams, and the analogy of human dreaming to garbage-collecting compilers, and a fascination with Nabokov’s Pale Fire becomes Cheap Complex Devices, the book. Now the book becomes something else.

Well, the book probably is not going to become something else unless I get off my virtual ass and midwife this project. But in my ontological daydream it has already become something else. It has become such a compelling “something else”, in fact, that people come to this little site in their multitudes. They are intrigued, beguiled, astounded. They want to understand the germ of this new thing. Not content to merely read the (free) bits on the screen, they order copies of Cheap Complex Devices, the book. They like the idea of the Charinga– something they can hold in their hands. Truckloads and truckloads of books sell. Now it’s become a cultural phenomenon. Suddenly I’m the hip “it” author. Everybody wants to interview me! Terry Gross on NPR! (Which is odd, if you think about it, since the book is about, in its own postmoderny way how it has several distinct and mutually exclusive authors.)

James Joyce, by the way, was a seminal postmodernist, although the story performed by Dr Yukevich last night (The Boarding House) was pretty linear and conventional.

Hmmmmmmmm. Cheap Complex Devices, the play. . .

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