Saturday, May 12, 2007

Hexagram 01: The Creative, Heaven

A word about the p3 video slot machine, at the top of the column. This is the feature in the newly re-jiggered Blogger that outshines all the rest. The drag-and-drop editing is very handy, as is the modularized sidebar feature. But they are as nothing to the video slot machine.

It's a clever way to leverage not only Google's own Google Video but also their recently-acquired YouTube. It's a simple matter of typing search words into a Google-style search form--it begins returning results as soon as it recognizes any keywords, without the bother even of hitting Return. Add a title in another field (it really needs another field where the blogger can add at least a little commentary beyond the title), and click Save.

Blogger, by the way, calls it a "video bar," but they've severely underestimated their creation. The great moments often come not when it returns what you're looking for, but when it doesn't. Much more like watching the tumblers spin on a Vegas slot.

No matter how carefully or cleverly you select your keywords, like a gambler with a system you soon realize it's not entirely under your control. There's something unfathomable about the connections it sometimes makes, and those are the best.

For example, to mark the 80th birthday of satirist Mort Sahl, I set it searching with the fairly reasonable keywords "mort sahl." It returned a video tribute to Sahl, a 1994 Charlie Rose episode featuring an interview with Sahl, an odd little bit of webcam extemporizing that at least mentions Sahl . . . and a performance of "Atlantis" by Donovan on one of the many incarnations of the "Smothers Brothers Show."

. . . "Atlantis?" Yes, there's a Sahl connection, although you've got to wait for it. Still, what a wonderful bit of Aquarian silliness--if you don't fondly (and perhaps sheepishly) remember the song, there's the possibility of anthropological delight in the hair and the shirt. And, if I had not trusted to the video slot machine, I never would have stumbled onto it.

The video slot machine reminds me of the electronic I Ching calculator owned by Dirk Gently in one of Douglas Adams' novels:

He had never before even guessed at the existence of such a thing. And to be able to move from total ignorance of something to total desire for it, and then actually to own the thing all within the space of about forty seconds was, for Dirk, something of an epiphany. […]

It was much like an ordinary pocket calculator, except that the LCD screen was a little larger than usual in order to accommodate the abridged judgements of King Wen on each of the sixty-four hexagrams, and also the commentaries of his son, the Duke of Chou, on each of the lines of each hexagram. These were unusual texts to see marching across the display of a pocket calculator, particularly as they had been translated from the Chinese via the Japanese and seemed to have enjoyed many adventures on the way.

The device also functioned as an ordinary calculator, but only to a limited degree. It could handle any calculation which returned an answer of anything up to 4.

1 + 1 it could manage (2) and 1 + 2 (3) and 2 + 2 (4) or tan 74 (3.4874145), but anything above 4 it represented merely as "A Suffusion of Yellow." Dirk was not certain if this was a programming error or an insight beyond his ability to fathom, but he was crazy about it, enough to hand over twenty pounds of ready cash for the thing.

Keep your eye on the p3 video slot machine. You really don't know what's coming.

(I Ching hexagram image and commentary via this site.

"[Perseverence doubled - single-mindedness].
Heaven moves continuously.
using this fundamental power, one never needs to stop and rest."

In a context of perseverence we utilise singlemindedness.

And hat tip to James Wolcott for remembering MS's birthday--which, you may recall, is how this whole thing got started.)

No comments: