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September 17, 1997 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1997-09-17

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Danny Seo, an environmentalist, speaks about his latest book,
"Generation React" tonight. Seo is the founder of Earth 2000, an
environmental and animal-rights group. Stop by Borders tonight at
7:30 and meet the man and the mind behind "Generation." Call 668-
7652. Free.

4'*

Wednesday
September 17, 1997

Teller pens tale of electronic creature

By Jessica Callaway
For the Daily
Weaned on the Internet, the elec-
tronic creature of Astro Teller's novel
"Exegesis" is forced to teethe on dis-
cussion groups like
alt.sexfetish.white-mommas, alt.big-
foot.research and soc.culture. alban-
ian. The information superhighway
can be a rough
place for a naive R
computer program
that has just begun
to develop self-
awareness. Edgar,
an artificial intelli-
gence project that
has somewhat literally taken on a life
of its own has an appetite for infor-
mation voracious enough that its con-
tentment depends upon the freedom
to explore the Web.
Composed entirely of e-mail corre-
spondence (an e-epistolary work :) ),
the novel transmits readers through the
appearance and development of Edgar,
along with the trials of his harried cre-
ator, Alice Lu, a graduate student at
Stanford University. Edgar's attempts to
understand the human world solely
through posted text provide a some-
times humorous, thought-provoking
w context for this entertaining creation

I

parable.
Edgar's e-mail communications
prove him to be far more appealing
than the bright but somewhat boring
Alice, as he unwittingly spews
Whitman-esque babble - "That para-
dox fills me and I love it" - and high
tech witticisms: "Every human with
whom I have interacted has an imper-
fect self-model."
EV IEw His defiant
response to Alice's
AstrO Teller caution-driven
attempts to
Borders restrain him is
Sept. 16 classic: "You were
depriving me of
information.You had becme an obsta-
cle. You have been surmounted. :)".
Any program with the nerve, artificial
though it may be, to adopt "HAL" as a
web handle, immediately commands
our sympathies.
In a telephone interview with The
Michigan Daily on Monday, before his
Tuesday night reading at Border's,
Teller spoke about the electronic pro-
tagonist of his novel.
"Edgar is not a typical artificial
intelligence program (as portrayed by
the media and fiction) in a number of
ways," he said. "He's not all-powerful
or all-knowing. With programs like

War Games or HAL or Electric
Dreams, once they can speak English
they can do everything, like see out of
a video camera for example. And I
wanted to make it clear that Edgar is
not like that."
Although Edgar communicates with
his creator (or mother), Alice, and
seems to be developing a sense of self
awareness, Teller wanted to make it
clear that he still faced enormous obsta-
cles.
"In particular, he has no sense of
perception," Teller said. "As a result,
he's got a lot of difficulty doing some
basic stuff like sorting out the differ-
ence between truth and fiction, right
and wrong, a number of other
things."
Teller, a 26-year-old doctoral candi-
date at Carnegie Mellon University,
describes his first novel partly as "a
response to and comment on classic fic-
tion about what it is to be non-human
and what that means about what it is to
be human."
Both tacit and implicit references to
tales such as "Pygmalion" and
"Frankenstein" are woven throughout
the novel. For instance, as Teller
explained, Edgar posts to a discussion
group called alt. medical.ingolstadt.
(Ingolstadt is the town in which the

creature in Mary Shelley's novel
"Frankenstein" is created.)
The book's title, "Exegesis," was cho-
sen in part to point to a reading of the
novel as an allegory for the second
coming of Christ.
"Most people don't know the word
exegesis," said Teller. "When they hear
it and don't know it, what they hear
generally is 'Exit Jesus.' That pun was
very much on purpose and is a specific
hint to think about the story from the
point of view of what if God were inter-
ested in giving us another chance to
learn from somebody and this time his
divine spark landed not in some
woman's womb but in some computer
program."
In creating Edgar, Teller invariably
drew upon his own scholarly knowl-
edge of artificial intelligence.
At the same time, he said that writing
a novel about artificial intelligence
"helped me to understand a lot better
the things that interest me about my sci-
entific work. I think other people in my
field are glad that I've done this and
find it interesting."
Keeping up with the demands of sci-
entific scholarship while writing and
promoting a first novel is a continuing
challenge for him.
"To be completely honest, I haven't

Astro Teller read from his first novel, "Exegesis," last night at Borders.

gotten a lot of work done," Teller
said, in reference to his doctoral
research.
"I've been six to eight months from
finishing my dissertation for a year and

a half now From a purely practical
point of view, I need to get back: Butas
distractions go, this is about as-0goodas
it can possibly be."

'I.

r
t
t
C

Crystal perfects method
with feverish debut
The Crystal Method goodness that fill all the dry spots and
Vegas then some. "Busy Child" has roving
Outpost / City of Angels phasers and tight snare drum lasers cut-
Outpot / ity f Anelsting their way into the lyrical mantra,
"Gettbusy time," while the atmosphere
gets tighter and tighter.
Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland, a.k.a. Have you ever heard of liquid oxy-.
The Crystal Method, have whipped up gen? Well, there is such a thing. Now
quite a techno-rave-hop masterpiece imagine breathing a mix of liquid oxy-
here. The band's proper debut, "Vegas," gen and your favorite liqueur and being
pulsates with feverish rhythms and omi- submersed under a blanket of deep
nous bass over eerie vocal snippets. water and just chilling for a while,
Finally, we have something to call while the sunlight cascades down
our own! The Crystal from above in circular rays of
Method is from the States goodness. This is The
(Las Vegas to be exact) Crystal Method inside
and not from that you, burrowing its
island out East that soft metallic fingers
has those people who into your frontal lobe
speak funny and eat and rubbing until you
tea and crumpets and give in.
say "football" instead Another beast of a
of "soccer." This is so track is "High Roller."
fresh, you're going to feel "This transmission is coming
stale! to you / All right you are a go /
The opening track, "Trip Like I Do," You've got it / Now we, uh, see the Earth
grinds and churns bombastic booty but- now" blusters around fat redwood-sized
er until you're sore in the butt and ask- columns of bass and drums under and
ng for more Land '0 Lakes to spread above an electric jungle moon.
n your mental crackers. The layered "High Roller" demands attention and
keyboards are slices of rich creamy thumps into every crevice and shakes

The Crystal Method debuts with a delicIous album, "Vegas."

'Window' reflects o0
women, food, cooking
Through the Kitchen .
Window: Women lection of more than 40 stories pqems
Win ow Wo enand recipes brings to light altt'p fge-
Explore the Intimate dom, history, joys and passiortjU have
Meanings of Food and passed through kitchen doofs:at he
Cookig hands of women.
Sharing their stories and recipes are
Arlene Voski Avakian writers such as Maya Angelou, Julie
Beacon Press Dash and Aurora Levins Morales.
Many works in this collection look, at
cooking as not just a daily ritual used
when a person is hungry, butaas a
For as long as women can mony of life, family ~and
remember, the punch- love.A .,
line to the popular ' An a$Sspcite
male-chauvinistic P professor of
joke, "Wy ddwomn. stud-
the woman cross h
the road?" of University of
"Who cares? Massachusetts
What's she doing out at Amherst,
of the kitchen?" has been Avakian also provides n
an insult of the most degrading kind interesting story within the collec i
The joke is now on those ignorant and about preparing a festive Armenian
lazy beer-swigging bums, as revealed by meal, called, "Zarouhe's Easter Gift."
the rich and boisterous book, "Through The best thing about "Through the
the Kitchen Window: Women Explore the Kitchen Window" is that it contains sever-
Intimate Meanings of Food and al tasty recipes featured in the fascinating
Cooking." stories, including borscht, stove-top paella
The book's editor Arlene Voski and shish kebab.
Avakian explains that "if we delve into "Through the Kitchen Window" is an
the relationship between women and intriguing book that makes readers, male
food we will discover the ways in which and female, want to experience the same
women have forged spaces within kind of mouth-watering liberation.
(male) oppression." This eclectic col- - Julia S

you loose.
This whole album is just too good.
"Comin' Back" has trigpy female
vocals by Trixy Reiss, who mysterious-
ly wafts and whirlpools in and out of
gurgling, buzzing samplers like a torna-
do funnel of incense and smoke. This
three-tiered song ends with a Aphex
Twin-esque keyboard ditty that seam-
lessly segues into "Keep Hope Alive."
"Keep Hope Alive" is a relentless
tunneling of beats and telescoping
galactic treats into your other side that
renders your sub-subconscious numb.
Every song on "Vegas" is a delicious
layer of something sweet and powerful.
"Vapor Trail" is more of a strict drum-
and-bass kind of song that careens and
flexes over the cliff of complexity.

This is where The Crystal Method
succeeds and other techno acts have
failed. The Method has fleshed out
songs, giving them three (or more)
dimensions and an attitude. Other tech-
no, too much techno, has been flat, flac-
cid, and extremely myopic.
The Crystal Method returns turgor to
the wilting entity called "Techno." It
brings back character, texture and five
fleshy floors of funkiness to the mix.
My suggestion is to put down the
paper right now and go out and buy a
copy before The Crystal Method is so
huge you'll have to use your soul as col-
lateral to buy a copy of its future
albums. This is delicious, kids,
extremely delicious.
See RECORDS, Page 9

9

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Tuesday, September 30
4:00 - 7:00 pm
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