Monday, January 09, 2006

Garbage In 11

Garbage in 11

Garbage In 11 (2000)

military USED
taboo USED
barbecue USED
cruel animal NOT USED
robot border USED
Ancient Mariner as World Governor DATA INSUFFICIENT
no more demon lover
no more faith healer


"Garbage In" first appeared in 1992 in a chapbook entitled No More Nature. The title of the book came from a line spoken by Clov in Samuel Beckett's Endgame: "There's no more nature." The poem was later layered over images in 2000.

Ostensibly, "Garbage In" is a poem about computers -- written before I even owned one. Its title, of course, stems from the old programming maxim -- Garbage In, Garbage Out. From Webopedia:

Often abbreviated as GIGO, this is a famous computer axiom meaning that if invalid data is entered into a system, the resulting output will also be invalid. Although originally applied to computer software, the axiom holds true for all systems, including, for example, decision-making systems.

I had a crude computer at work -- and a computer dictionary. The design of the poem, broken into fifteen sections, was to inject/infect the computer terms with emotion expressed through various narrative voices. The result, hopefully, was a persona of a kind of disjointed, paranoid, angry, and random HAL 9000 commenting (often satirically) on popular culture, technology, Native American history, literature, transcendental meditation, and other stick-to-the-wall stuff.

There's the use of an early iPod shuffle technique of previously used words suddenly reappearing again to form new contexts and connections. In readings, the capitalized outbursts are read through a VoiceChanger toy my wife purchased at Wal-Mart -- to simulate the voice of the computer (or "God" -- as an audience member once told me). Initially, when my daughter was younger, I used a plastic children's cassette player with a microphone attached when reading the poem. It had a garbled, mushy sound I liked, and if I held the mike to the speaker it wailed out weird, high-pitched Jesus and Mary Chain feedback.

The poem is also the source for my web identity of "cruelanimal." That name has been misunderstood by people -- who have assumed it meant everything from a comment about animal testing to a capsule summary of my personality. It's just my shorthand description for people -- for the human race. As the poem notes:

We are the cruel animal.

Afraid so. We are the only species that demonstrates deliberate cruelty for pleasure, sport, contemplation, or entertainment. GIGO isn't instinctive or random. It's the expected outcome and predictable nature/nurture input/output of human beings -- cruel animals all...


The complete series of "Garbage In" can be read here.


Neil Shakespeare said...

Cool. So how's the 'Garbage Out' series coming?

cruelanimal said...

My muse crashed after "in." Nothing more came back out.

Of course, some people say that about all my work [rimshot].

Neil Shakespeare said...

Naw. You get that 'Garbage Out' series going and things will really start to flow. My own work, although I don't call it that, is pretty much all 'Garbage Out'.

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