Friday, January 19, 2007

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Friday, July 28, 2006

Today was my last “work” day at MMU, at least for awhile—but I have to put the word work in quotes because it was far more social than laborious. In the morning I met with Dr. Rafi and then Ali—who offered some excellent advice on how to improve the quality of my photographs without a lot of rigmarole. As always I enjoyed my discussion with him. Apparently he and his friend Sheji are still planning on developing an interactive version of the Malaysian poems during the next year. After lunch with Amy and Sau Bin we went up to Forest’s office for some tea and to admire her books, which was pleasant as always. Finally I had about an hour’s time to work, and wrote letters and prepared a package for the library (including the bibliography), and got things ready so that the office could be vacated. Along the way I had chance to talk with a few of the other folks—like Khong and Helena, who was on campus for the first time since the birth of her daughter awhile back—whose company I’ve much enjoyed the past few months. At 4 p.m. there was a “high tea” (or Minum Petang) for Dr. Rafi, which also served as a going away part for me and a welcome party for the new Dean. After Rafi was feted and gave a casual speech, Hal and I were taken by surprise and also prompted to say a few words. I kept my bit short and did my best to avoid triteness, mostly expressing my gratitude and view that the place held a lot of potential (which is true). I look forward to seeing how the FCM develops over the next few years, and hope to be an active participant in the Faculty again. Somebody was telling me that they thought my presence at MMU and introduction of Digital Poetry in Malaysia would have an effect. I don’t know to what extent this is true, but have certainly done the best I can to build bridges, cultivate thought, exchange/introduce ideas, and so on. I did receive a few gifts from colleagues, which was nice, and most of the Faculty was at the “tea” (the chow at which was delicious), so got a chance to see people one time and bid farewells. Alea and Amy came up also (Stella at a sleepover), so it was a really nice affair all the way ‘round. Afterwards Amy and I walked over to the library, so that I could drop off my donations and walked back to the apartment and then went out to dinner. It was another day full of “lasts” but the experience will also totally last by sticking with me and being inside me for a long while. I didn’t feel sadness or melancholy, either, mostly fatigue! The right way to end the activities here, I think.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Heading down to the wire, and there was a nice write up in KL’s newspaper The Star today about our exhibition, which you can see at
I like that they say the show is full of “mind boggling works,” which I think from a certain perspective is true. The article doesn’t do a great job of describing my work, but glad that it is mentioned anyway. The odd thing to me, in terms of media presentation is that the printed article in the newspaper actually contains twice as many images as the online version—which seems strange and may be an indication that server space isn’t as copious here as it is elsewhere? Amy and I were planning to take our work down mid-day on Saturday (since we’re leaving first thing Monday morning), but tonight the organizer called us and said that he really wants us to keep it all up until Sunday because he has received 100+ phone calls since the article appeared, people telling him they’re going to come on the weekend. So it looks like I’ll run in on Sunday afternoon and take it all down… I haven’t yet had a dull moment here in Malaysia, and it doesn’t look like I will…

A bunch of work happened at the desk today, although most of it had to do with the class I’m teaching. Tough to keep up with students doing a semester’s work in just five weeks, but it is going alright. I seem to have come “full circle:” the first couple of weeks I was working here were spent fact checking, copy editing, etc. my book—a “home” based project, and here I am the last couple of weeks here doing much the same (though a totally different type of work). The best part of the day was probably the lunch hour spent in the company of Amy, Stella, and Dr. Beik. Amy gave us her ideas for the Rumi project, which impressed Beik. Now we just need someone who can build us a holographic Rumi to read the new poems of his we’re going to try and manufacture! Ali joined us for awhile, stewing about his academic situation, and we all did our best to calm him down.

Posted a bunch of pictures from the past few days on Flickr, and took Stella for a walk in the Putrajaya Botanical Gardens in the late afternoon. Family satay dinner in Kajang, and an evening swim at Palm Garden—lovely!!

Tomorrow my last day at MMU for awhile, and it will be a busy one I’m sure. I have a few things to finish up and take care of, people to visit with. I’m glad that there will be a Faculty party in the afternoon—not celebrating my departure, but the conclusion of the Dean’s (Dr. Rafi’s) stint in that position. This will give me a chance to say so long to everyone, and move on…

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

After a good workout I spent two or three hours working on campus. I began compiling a bibliography of books I think the MMU library should acquire that pertain to digital writing, graded student works, filed the aforementioned Fulbright letter, made some copies, and so on. Essentially desk work, which will also keep me busy tomorrow. Afterwards, Amy, Stella, and I took the train up to Kuala Lumpur and a taxi to Bangsar, where we had a meeting with the proprietor of Silverfish Books, whose publications we hope to promote in the United States. I also picked up a few publications, including a book of Malaysian short stories, an interesting new collection of poems (An Acre of Day’s Glass) by Malaysian Wong Phui Nam, and a cd of movie soundtracks that I recently read about (eating pomeloes from Tokyo to tamil nadu by Hardesh Singh). From there we went to KL’s IMAX theatre and saw a 3D film Walking on the Moon. This was a new and outrageous experience for us all. The screen—purported to be the largest in Southeast Asia—is gigantic, and the 3D effect really made it seem as though the movie was happening around me. I don’t think this will be the last time we go to this type of movie. It was a short film (45 minutes) so we went over to IMBI plaza across the street and bought a couple of inexpensive SD cards, a new USB drive, and a few pieces of software (mostly audio) to experiment with. We finished the excursion with a great dinner at a fancy restaurant, perhaps our last urban treat of this voyage. We do have to go to KL again to remove our artwork from the gallery, but that’ll be mostly work. So, a mixture of pleasure and play today—which I think was perfectly appropriate.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Today’s performance at IIUM was a real success and probably my best gig yet—no doubt the previous two stage ventures helped to cultivate the presentation of materials. Amidst another hectic day of this and that—running around settling various matters—I made it to Gombak, set everything up without any trouble, and had a large audience who were very interested in what was going on (partially, of course, because their poetry teachers were requiring them to make multimedia poetry, which none of them had experienced before). I started without introduction, with a brief overview of the trajectory of the modes of poetry from an oral tradition to a postmodern free-for-all. I did a brief demo of the eBook to orient them a bit, playing a sound poem, an animated poem, and a poem of interlinked passages. Then I read three poems that were accompanied by animations (“How Fast Can a Zebra Run,” “Why do Durians Smell,” and SPAM poems). The rest of the show was similar to Saturday night’s set of Malaysian poems, except I left out the Cyberjaya/backwards piece and had to stand on a table (in front of 100+ young, impressionable students and some faculty) in order to get the projector to project the images on to me (draped in a sheet). The timing was exactly perfect: the poems, images, and soundtrack all ended at the same moment. The reading was followed by Q&A, which got off to a slow start but eventually the students warmed up and asked about how to approach acquiring and balancing content, the implication of letting the machine create and project emotions, asked more about the historical background of digital poetry. I handed out a number of cd-roms, and a few students took down the url of the “13 States” website ( Now I’m beginning to wonder how the work is going to translate on the other side of the world, and guess I’ll begin to get a sense of that at September’s “BIOS: the poetics of life in digital media” in West Virginia (

Afterwards the gig went to a café with my host Tanja, which was nice, and ended the day by attending a lecture by Lee Kian Seng ( at the 153 Gallery, in which he presented an overview of his work from the 60’s onward and discussed the politics and inaccuracies regarding Malaysian installation art in the history books.

Monday, July 24, 2006

There’s a lot going on in terms of getting organized to leave, administrating expenses, taking care of housing bureaucracy (like today campus security handed me a form about my personal computers that I was supposed to have filled out within 24 hours of arriving), and so on, but I managed to get a full day’s work in on campus anyway. A bunch of time was spent writing a letter of recommendation for a close friend who wants to go on a Fulbright to Australia next year, so had to do a spot-on job with that, but also did NJIT coursework, and a little prep for tomorrow’s performance at IIUM (International Islamic University Malaysia). I also had a nice long meeting with the new Dean of the Faculty of Creative Multimedia, Hal Thwaites, who has a vision and I’m sure will bring positive direction to MMU. Later in the day I also met with Dr. Beik, with whom I further discussed our upcoming “Neuro Net” collaboration (which Amy is calling “The Rumi Simulator”). Anyhow, Beik and I made a plan of attack, which will involve me returning to the US and delving into the four or so Rumi translations I have in my poetry library, while he does the same with some Persian editions. We have to begin by building a vocabulary for the “poet” and then train the software to speak the language. Along the way we’ll probably identify key themes taken up by the poet in order to devise a navigation system. If all goes well, and I see no reason why it shouldn’t, this should be a very interesting project—presuming we can get the machine to talk. And if this scheme works and manages to bring a reasonable facsimile of Rumi back to life, I’m thinking we should tackle someone like Bob Creeley next time. But that remains to be seen.

The gig in Cheras the other night went well. Although the hour was late by the time I got on stage, being there (on stage) with such unusual works in a rather foreign place (it was my first trip to Cheras and did I ever get lost on the way there) brought me back to life. The strange texts I read during the first half (a TRAVESTY text made with “Song of Myself,” an old ZenMOO session, the Durian poem, and a SPAM poem) were fun and matched with good soundtracks, then I switched gears, donned a white sheet onto which 165 of our Malaysia images were projected while a few soundtracks played and I read a few of the Malaysia poems (from beneath the sheet). This setup had a great visual effect, and I will use the same technique tomorrow I think (using some of the same materials). I also brought along a few new (native, handcrafted) instruments, which I jammed on when I thought to do so. I made a new (in)version of the Cyberjaya poem and re-titled it “Backwards poem for Siew Wai” (because the gathering was in part her birthday celebration). Four other artists, including Siew Wai, showed there work, and there was something superb in each performance. Aziz used Max to process sounds (mainly words) live—while projecting his actions with the software on the screen, which was an important aspect of his presentation. Another fellow, Fairuz, improvisationally mixed videos while accompanied by a live musician (also improvising). A fellow named Haron, played what I’d call “intuitive” guitar while chanting a few songs in a language nobody could really understand. Everyone got together at the end and played an impromptu rendition of a birthday song for Siew Wai. I’m still shocked by these art gigs where no booze is present, but everyone enjoys themselves, and projects stimulating art just the same.

After the gig tomorrow I’ll head over to the 153 Gallery to hear a lecture there. We’ve just printed out a bunch of new images—which would have been solid additions to the show that’s up now, but will have to wait to be seen until Amy’s show at Blair Academy in the fall.

Lots of last minute things to do, including seeing people and places that will be missing from our lives for awhile. We nixed the plan to go to Melaka on Wednesday, and instead decided to take in a movie at the 3D IMAX in KL, a nice meal nearby, and some shopping for software. It won’t be the same as Ikan Panggang by the sea, but we can do without the 5 hours in the car (especially since in a week we’ll be cooped up in an airplane for 21 hours)…

Friday, July 21, 2006

Today was an enjoyable and fulfilling day of faculty camaraderie and artistic practice. I went to a couple of well-attended “work completion” seminars by Masters degree students, and enjoyed seeing how the academic review process works here. Afterwards a lunch was prepared and had a chance to visit with a few colleagues I haven’t had a chance to speak with much lately, and made plans to meet with a few of them again next week. I had a really positive sense of knowing and liking these people. Afterwards reviewed images, and over the course of the afternoon selected 165 pictures to present in animations on various surfaces tomorrow night in Cheras. Made shortcuts on the desktop so that works can be accessed quickly and burned a cd that will accompany the reading of the poems, etc.

Had nice visits with both the outgoing Dean (who is taking over my office after we leave) and Sau Bin (who is feeling much better) this afternoon. I think I finally have a clear picture of what my role (as an “external consultant”) may be in the future. I’m hoping, needless to say, that it brings me to Malaysia from time to time between now and the next Fulbright (or whatever other opportunity I can create), which I’ll probably have to wait a few years for. That we have to leave is a fact I can handle, but I refuse to see it as any sort of endpoint. In any case, by afternoon’s end I was riding high on good vibes all around, and though packing up is not exactly my idea of a good time, it has to be done.

We’ll print some more pictures tomorrow, and looking forward to the evening gig at SicKL.

The strangest thing that’s happening at this point is that my NJIT email has been down for nearly three days—and it is not the first time this has happened this summer. Because I rely on this communications tool for so many reasons it is a bit frustrating. Life goes on and everything but one would expect that a major research institution would be able to prevent such occurrences from occurring…

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