for    1. 1. 2021

Dear GPT-3,

You were lauded as an artificial intelligence breakthrough no less, in an article in November of the year that just ended — where the writer laid out your full name, an unlovely mouthful if ever there was one (sorry).

GPT-3, which stands for generative pre-trained transformer version three, is an extremely powerful machine-learning system that can rapidly generate text with minimal human input.

We were left unmoved until this passage, quoting a future-focused technologist, who

spent time playing around with GPT-3 and was fascinated by what he discovered.

… “I have had conversations about the purpose of life with GPT-3 and it is very revealing. It said the purpose of life was to increase the amount of beauty in the universe …”

How marvellous that you should think so GPT-3, and how hopeful, given that your kind will be taking over soon — even if you cannot really be said to think or be an actual you. 

It is hard to disagree with you about the universe. Why else would tracks left on the approach to a front porch by a mysterious and (possibly) inconsequential small animal be so graceful, so exquisitely proportioned? Why would the arrival and departure a few days ago of this creature we never saw, a being too small to register on an outdoor camera, make us think of being visited by angels?

HAPPY NEW YEAR

to you and any other reader — or should that be, text-processor? — who happens to stray this way —

pG

for 12. 4. 2020

000 + Easter 2020 (1) EIed postgutenberg@gmail.com

In a light spring snowfall in mid-March, on the edge of a ponderosa pine wood, an Easter hare trying to think about preparations for her big day was interrupted again and again by fragments of frozen water drifting into her elegant long ears. What to do? Tilting her head, flapping and criss-crossing those ears like chopsticks or scissors, or whirling them about like helicopter propellors, did nothing to keep the annoying snowflakes out of them. She would just have to outrun them, she decided. Watchfulness, running and leaping, more gracefully than any dancer in the corps of the Kirov  or Bolshoi Ballet, are not merely the best but only defences of any hare or — if we must be formally accurate about her species — any black-tailed jackrabbit or Lepus californicus. 

She rose to her paws and took off … 

000 Easter 2020 (2) EIed postgutenberg@gmail.com PANEL 1 - 700H X 1339W

 …

000 Easter 2020 (3) EIed postgutenberg@gmail.com PANEL 2 - 700H X 1339W

 …

000 Easter 2020 (4) EIed postgutenberg@gmail.com PANEL 3 - 700H X 1339W

000 Easter 2020 (5) EIed postgutenberg@gmail.com

for 1. 1. 2020

 

for 1. 1. 2020 postgutenberg@gmail.com

It was such places as this, such moments that he loved above all else in life; she knew that, and she also knew that he loved them more if she could be there to experience them with him. And although he was aware that the very silences and emptinesses that touched his soul terrified her, he could not bear to be reminded of that. It was as if always he held the fresh hope that she, too, would be touched in the same way as he by solitude and the proximity to infinite things. He had often told her: ‘It is your only hope,’ and she was never sure what he meant. Sometimes she thought he meant that it was his only hope, that only if she were able to become as he was, could he find his way back to love.

— Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

for 1.1.2020 postgutenberg@gmail.com

for 1. 1. 2020 - postgutenberg@gmail.com

H A P P Y    N E W    Y E A R 

 

for 25. 12. 2019 

 

for 25.12.2019 postgutenberg@gmail.com

Was Charles Dickens turning vegetarian or fruitarian, if not vegan, when he wrote A Christmas Carol — in 1843? 

That thought is unlikely to have occurred to anyone before this year beginning to drift into the past, in which Tom Parker Bowles — the stepson of Britain’s apparent heir to the throne — has actually published a review of vegan alternatives to the traditional Christmas meats. ‘Ban this sick filth,’ his verdict on one offering, includes the word furky for reasons that anyone curious enough will want to read about independently. About a seemingly inoffensive butternut, almond and pecan nut roast, he thunders in deepest gloom: ‘If this looked at me in the street, I’d cross the road to avoid it.’ 

A quick trawl through Dickens’s Christmas story, in the hope of rereading a luscious tribute to a crisp-skinned, succulent, (de-)feathered beast — surely one appeared on the Cratchit family’s table to a chorus of oohs and aahs? —  proved pointless. It contains nothing of the kind. What Dickens says about ‘the Turkey’ that the newly reformed Scrooge buys at the novella’s end makes it merely a tragicomic victim of gigantism, or morbid obesity: ‘He never could have stood upon his legs, that bird. He would have snapped ‘em, short off, in a minute, like sticks of sealing wax.’ In the scene that Scrooge is served by the Ghost of Christmas Present, Queen Victoria’s favourite writer states simply — about the goose that the Cratchits feast on — that its ‘tenderness and flavor, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration.’ 

No — hard as it is to believe — the foods for which Dickens reserved his peerless powers of evocation are virtually all fruits: 

There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Onions shining in the fatness of their growth like Spanish Friars, and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples clustered high in blooming pyramids, there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers’ benevolence, to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people’s mouths might water, gratis, as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown: recalling in their fragrance ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shuffling, ankle deep, through withered leaves; there were Norfolk Biffins, squab and swarthy, setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner. 

Now, compare those enchanting flights of imagination with Dickens’s repetitive sizeism, whenever his Turkey is mentioned:

[ Scrooge ] was checked in his transports by the churches ringing out the lustiest peals he had ever heard. Clash, clang, hammer, ding, dong, bell: bell, dong, ding, hammer, clang, clash! 

Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head.

… ’What’s to day?’ cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look about him.

‘EH?’ returned the boy, with all his might of wonder. 

‘What’s to day, my fine fellow!’ said Scrooge.

‘Today!’ replied the boy. ‘Why, CHRISTMAS DAY!’

… ‘Do you know the Poulterer’s in the next street but one, at the corner?’ Scrooge inquired.

‘I should hope I did,’ replied the lad.

‘An intelligent boy!’ said Scrooge. ‘A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there; not the little prize turkey, the big one?’

‘What, the one as big as me!’ returned the boy.

‘What a delightful boy!’ said Scrooge. ‘It’s a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck!’ 

H A P P Y     C H R I S T M A S

for 25.12.2019+ postgutenberg@gmail.com