Books in General

Generating Music With Artificial Intelligence

17 August 2019

Since PG’s earlier post on using artificial intelligence to write fiction generated some interesting comments.

From Medium:

I started playing piano when I was five years old. I used to practice for about an hour every day and let me tell you, an hour felt like forever. I didn’t stop thought, and I kept on practicing though, because I really liked music.

Fast forward a few years and I started doing some really advanced stuff. My hands were literally flying all over the keyboard and I could play with my eyes closed. Just kidding. I wasn’t actually that good but I hope that for a second you thought I was a piano prodigy or something.

I loved almost every aspect of playing the piano. The sound of the music, the feel of the keys… everything except for music theory. It’s like if you took an old dude obsessed with rules and you combined him with musical creativity and ingenuity. Musical grammar, rules to follow when analyzing and writing music, key signatures and time signatures. It’s all a bunch of random stuff floating across the page that you need to remember.

. . . .

But wait, a ton of data? Lots of rules and patterns? Sequences and sequences of notes? This sounds like a perfect job for (dramatic piano music) machine learning!

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

. . . .

A super quick overview of Recurrent Neural Nets:

  • Vanilla neural networks are bad at sequential or temporal data, they also need fixed input sizes
  • Recurrent Neural Networks solve this problem by having subsequent iterations transfer data from the last, meaning that information gets passed through the network each run through
  • By taking the output of one forward pass and feeding it into the next, you can generate completely new sequences of data. This is known as sampling.

. . . .

After doing some research and learning more about using Recurrent Neural Networks to generate music, I found that it works pretty well. And it’s actually super sick.

. . . .

But it still doesn’t have that oomph to it if you get what I mean. I don’t think this will be replacing the Mozart on my Spotify playlist any time soon. Although it’s super cool that this piece of music was generated entirely by a neural network, given the context, I think most people would be able to tell that it was either composed by either a machine or by me.

Link to the rest at Medium

The OP includes a recording of the output of Alex’s neural network work, the one that lacked oomph.

Alex eventually located a more advanced version of what he was trying to do called The MAESTRO Dataset and Wave2Midi2Wave.

Here’s an example of what this more sophisticated neural network system did, starting with a piece composed by Domenico Scarlatti. The entire recording below was created and synthesized via computer.

7 Great Mysteries About Rare Books and Bibliophiles

17 August 2019

From Crime Reads:

There’s something about a rare or beautiful book that can ignite the darker human passions. Bibliophilia—a love for books as physical objects—might seem a gentle and even noble affliction, but history abounds with tales of obsessive bibliophilic greed, betrayal, theft, blackmail, fraud, assault, and murder. Can mystery fiction be far behind? (Lured by the puns, if nothing else? A Cracking of Spines? Dewey Decimated? The surface has barely been scratched.)

This sampling of well- and lesser-known mysteries about bibliophiles only begins to suggest the range of biblio-crime and biblio-cunning that awaits their readers.

. . . .

John Dunning, Booked to Die (Scribner, 1992)

Denver cop Cliff Janeway moonlights as a savvy collector who knows his way around old bookstores. When a hapless book scout is murdered, Janeway’s rough handling of the suspect earns him a brutality charge, and he quits the force rather than face suspension. Opening his own small shop, he continues to search for the scout’s killer, following a path that leads to more deaths and the mysterious surfacing of rare books the victims once owned. Dunning followed Booked to Die with five more Janeway novels spanning 14 years, making the series a standout for combining high-octane plots and—thanks to Dunning’s own experiences in the trade—a virtual primer in the headaches and pleasures of the rare book business.

. . . .

Joanne Dobson, The Maltese Manuscript (Poisoned Pen, 2003)

With their mix of bookish egos and academic infighting, college English departments are fertile territory for bibliomysteries. In this fifth entry in Dobson’s smart and provocative series, English professor Karen Pelletier is preparing for her college’s conference on “the murder mystery from a feminist perspective.” A leading mystery novelist arrives on campus just as several of the college library’s rare book treasures go missing, including its prize manuscript of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, and a suspect is found dead in the library stacks. Far more knowledgeable in such matters than the police, Karen and the visiting writer investigate on their own. The Maltese Manuscript deftly explores the biblio-minutiae that fascinate and vex collectors, in this case pertaining to elusive editions of mystery and detective fiction.

. . . .

Charlie Lovett, The Bookman’s Tale (Viking, 2013)

Peter Byerly is a recently widowed young antiquarian book dealer slowly regaining his pleasure in the hunt for important rare volumes. When he seeks to authenticate what appears to be his “holy grail” find—an Elizabethan volume whose marginalia proves Shakespeare wrote the plays credited to him—he steps straight into danger. Interwoven with Peter’s discoveries are chapters narrating the book’s provenance, tracing its precarious passage through the hands of various owners over the centuries, from its rakish author to avaricious collectors and murderous forgers.

Link to the rest at Crime Reads

A Writer’s Bare Necessities

17 August 2019

From The Wall Street Journal:

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) is widely known as a “woman’s writer,” a description that doesn’t do justice to her universal appeal. Celebrated Woolf novels such as “To the Lighthouse” and “Mrs. Dalloway” feature strong women, and Woolf was herself a compelling character in her many essays and reviews, gaining an audience in a literary culture that was strongly dominated by men. Those achievements have made her a seminal figure in feminist thought, but like all successful literature, her work speaks to that broader audience she would famously popularize as the “common reader.”

A good case in point is “A Room of One’s Own,” Woolf’s extended essay, published as a stand-alone book, that grew from her 1928 Cambridge lectures in her native England on women in fiction. Her hosts had assigned her the topic, which was general enough, she noted, to perhaps include a few polite remarks on Fanny Burney, Jane Austen and the Brontës.

But Woolf decided to stir things up by exploring why there were so few good books written by women. She pointed to centuries of sexism that discounted what women had to say, making them unlikely to become authors. Economic power rested largely with men, too, and they also tended to get the best educations, which better allowed them to have the skills, income and space needed to thrive as writers.

More women would achieve literary success, Woolf argued, if they had 500 pounds a year—a nice sum at the time—and “a room with a lock on the door,” the cherished “room of one’s own.”

. . . .

She knew firsthand, of course, the limitations often imposed on women of her time. The daughter of Leslie Stephen, a prominent British critic and historian, Woolf was taught mostly at home, although her brothers and half-brothers got university educations. That slight pretty much forced her to learn what she could from perusing her father’s massive personal library, which might have been a blessing in disguise. Perhaps her exclusion from campus life saved Woolf from the arid abstractions of the academy, pointing her instead toward the vivid particularity that informs prose works like “A Room of One’s Own.”

. . . .

In this way, “A Room of One’s Own” endures as a reminder that writing, for all its elevated aura, is the physical act of a human body—a person who must be sustained by basic necessities. Woolf had little truck with the mystique of the starving artist. “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well,” she puckishly observes. Books, she suggests, aren’t divined from Mount Olympus, “but are the work of suffering human beings, and are attached to grossly material things, like health and money and the houses we live in.” It’s an essential truth, though one not often pressed, one gathers, on aspiring authors in today’s MFA programs.

. . . .

She hints that a good book can create a mental space very much like a physical space—“not made of sentences laid end to end, but of sentences built, if an image helps, into arcades or domes.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Sorry if you encounter a paywall)

Three Letters from Switzerland

16 August 2019

From The Paris Review:

Between June 1930 and August 1931, after a series of mental health episodes had whittled away at her career, her marriage, and her overall well-being, Zelda Fitzgerald was a patient at Les Rives de Prangins, a clinic in Nyon, Switzerland, where she wasn’t allowed visitors until her treatment had been established. The experience, as one could imagine, was tremendously isolating: once at the center of a lively and glamorous scene, she now found herself utterly alone with her thoughts. Her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald, sent short notes and flowers every other day. She wrote long letters in reply, tracing the contours of her mind, expressing both love for and frustration with Scott, and detailing, in luscious, iridescent prose, the nonevents of her days. Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda collects more than three hundred of the couple’s letters to each other. Three of Zelda’s letters from Les Rives de Prangins—carefully transcribed with an eye for accuracy, misspellings and all—appear below.

[Fall 1930]

Dearest, my Darling—

Living is cold and technical without you, a death mask of itself.

At seven o:clock I had a bath but you were not in the next room to make it a baptisme of all I was thinking.

At eight o:clock I went to gymnastics but you were not there to turn moving into a harvesting of breezes.

At nine o:clock I went to the tissage and an old man in a white stock [smock?] chanted incantations but you were not there to make his imploring voice seem religious.

At noon I played bridge and watched Dr. Forels profile dissecting the sky, contre jour—

All afternoon I’ve been writing soggy words in the rain and feeling dank inside, and thinking of you—When a person crosses your high forehead and slides down into the pleasant valleys about your dear mouth its like Hannibal crossing the Alps—I love you, dear. You do not walk like a person plowing a storm but like a person very surprised at their means of locomotion, hardly touching the earth, as if each step were experimental—

And you are a darling and it must be awful to have a person always trying to creep inside you the way I do—

Good-night, my Sweet Love

Zelda

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

The First AI Inventor

15 August 2019

From IPKat:

As has been recently widely reported (BBC, Financial Times and The Times), a number of patent applications have been filed designating a machine learning (ML) algorithm as an inventor. The aim of the applications appears to kickstart a conversation on how patent law could be changed to take account of AI inventorship.

. . . .

Despite all the media attention, details about how the AI inventor actually invents are sparse. The reportedly inventive algorithm is covered by its own patent (US 2015/0379394) and was itself invented by Dr Stephen Thaler. A look at Dr Thaler’s company website (Imagination Engines) reveals that Dr Thaler purports to have invented neural networks that manifest “near-death experiences”. The networks also exhibit “a stream of consciousness” and “contemplate, invent, and discover”. The inventive AI is based on Dr Thaler’s “master equation that quantitatively predicts the rhythm of idea generation”.

Despite the potentially revolutionary nature of his inventions, Dr Thaler has not published examples in which his “Creative Machines” are tested according to the standards tests for AI algorithms (e.g. as would be demanded for a publication at a major ML conference, such as NeurIPS, ICML or ICLR). If Dr Thaler has “derived a master equation that quantitatively predicts the rhythm of idea generation”, it would be normal to expect evidence of these quantitative predictions.

. . . .

Another intriguing (and unanswered) question is how the algorithm articulates its invention. The patent application claims seem to have been drafted by a patent attorney. The University of Surrey press release indicates that Dr Thaler is working with an international team of patent attorneys from Williams Powell, Flashpoint IP, Dennemeyer and Fuchs IP. In what form was the “invention” output from the algorithm handed to the patent attorneys? Was it in the form of words, pictures, a time series? How did the algorithm communicate the invention? Does it talk? The patent applications and press releases are unclear on these points. Patent offices and patent laws do not require human inventors to explain how they arrived at an invention. It is therefore unclear whether the patent offices will want to see evidence of how the algorithm actually invents.

. . . .

If, for the sake of argument, we assume that Dr Thaler’s algorithm is capable of performing a creative inventive act, does it therefore make sense to name the algorithm as an inventor? This question was considered from the US perspective over on IPwatchdog.

The team behind the applications, who include Professor in Law at the University of Surrey, Ryan Abbott, argue that it should be permitted to name machines as inventors. The team argue that the algorithm was responsible for the inventive concept behind the patent applications, and that the algorithm would meet the criteria for inventorship if it was a natural person. The team also argue that allowing machines to be named as inventors would stimulate innovation into inventive machines. Therefore, acknowledging machines as inventors would help protect the moral rights of human inventors.

. . . .

Thus, whilst Dr Thaler insists that he is prohibited from listing himself as an inventor of the applications “because he has not contributed to the conception of the instant invention”, Dr Thaler maintains that he should have a right to the algorithm’s inventions. If another party were to use the algorithm to invent another invention, Dr Thaler and the team at the University of Surrey maintain that this invention would belong to Dr Thaler. But how does Dr Thaler derive this right from the algorithm inventor?

. . . .

It appears to this Kat that Dr Thaler’s insistence that he should be the owner of the algorithm’s inventions undermines his argument that the algorithm is the inventor. By insisting that he is the owner of the algorithm’s inventions, he is accepting that he has some rights to the invention which presumably derive from the fact that he invented the algorithm.

Link to the rest at IPKat

PG says the intersection between artificial intelligence and patent law is one that certain types of people could argue about ad infinitum. In the United States, Congress will probably settle the question from a legal standpoint several years following the issuance of conflicting court rulings on the subject.

As far as authors of books are concerned, it is a more interesting question about whether a random sentence generator of significant power could create a literary work that would qualify for copyright protection somewhere in the world.

PG used TextFixer to create the following literary work:

The growing course names into the far-flung birthday. What if the abnormal rub ate the command?

Is the depend direction better than the net? Did the valid passion really include the dirt?

The crushing desk can’t comb the ability. The energetic landscape can’t hand the error.

What if the clumsy transportation ate the impress? It was then the parsimonious girl met the shallow gas.

© PG’s Computer, Ralph, writing as Lucille Caramba, 2019

PG thinks there may be potential for a romance series based upon parsimonious girls meeting shallow gas provided that “women” is substituted for “girls.”

He is certain that all parsimonious women must be attractive and somewhere, there is an ideal, heavily-muscled, flowing-haired model who was born to be the illustrative representation of shallow gas.

Anti-Tanning Public Service Campaign Targeted All Tanning Salons, Thus Couldn’t Disparage Them

14 August 2019

From Rebecca Tushnet’s 43(B)log:

Appellants, several tanning salons, appealed their dismissal of defamation and product disparagement claims under Nebraska’s Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act (UDTPA). The NCC said negative things about tanning beds generally, not anything about any specific tanning salong.  This wasn’t enough to satisfy the requirement that defamatory or disparaging statements be “of and concerning” appellants.

Appellants “allegedly accounted for between 68 to 71 percent of the known tanning salons in the Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, markets and approximately 14 to 18 percent of all the entities in Nebraska that provide indoor tanning services.”  In 2014, NCC started a campaign named “The Bed is Dead” to educate the public on the dangers of indoor tanning. Statements included: “Tanning Causes More Cancers than Cigarettes”; “Tanning beds have been proven to cause skin cancer”; “Just one indoor tanning session increases your risk of melanoma by 20% and each additional use during the same year boosts risk by another 2%”; and “Tanning is addictive. One study produced withdrawal symptoms in frequent tanners with narcotic antagonists such as are used in emergency rooms. Studies find higher rates of alcohol, tobacco, and drug use in females that tan.” The website also said: “Tanning facilities do not require a license to operate in Nebraska. … In 2010, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission ordered the Indoor Tanning Association to cease false advertising claims: 1) that tanning is safe or healthy, 2) that tanning poses no danger, and 3) that tanning does not increase risk of skin cancer…. Yet, a congressional investigative report two years later found:… Nine out of ten salons DENIED KNOWN RISKS of indoor tanning.”  NCC promoted its websites in many ways, including dermatologist partners who visited Omaha schools and encouraged students to go to the website.

“According to managing staff and employees of appellants, customers asked questions about appellants’ facilities and the dangers of indoor training after visiting appellees’ The Bed is Dead website.”

. . . .

The district court construed the UDTPA, which states that “[a] person engages in a deceptive trade practice when, in the course of his or her business, vocation, or occupation, he or she … [d]isparages the goods, services, or business of another by false or misleading representation of fact” (emphasis added).  The state Supreme Court agreed that this language requires reference to a specific producer’s product, rather than to an entire industry as a whole.  “[T]he Legislature’s use of the ‘of another’ language indicates an incorporation of the same ‘of and concerning’ element present in common-law actions aimed at unfair and deceptive trade practices.”

. . . .

Likewise, defamation requires statements to be “of and concerning” the plaintiff, rather than about a group as a whole. A group libel claim can meet the “of and concerning” requirement “if either the group is so small that the matter can reasonably be understood to refer to the member or the circumstances of publication reasonably give rise to the conclusion that there is a particular reference to the member.” But that wasn’t the case here.

Link to the rest at Rebecca Tushnet’s 43(B)log

PG will note that the OP described a decision of a Nebraska court construing a Nebraska law that is not applicable outside of Nebraska. Additionally, the decision was based in part on the specific wording of the Nebraska statute.

State defamation laws vary across the United States but are all limited by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

While it may sometimes appear to visitors to The Passive Voice that Passive Guy has an opinion on everything, he is surprised to discover that he has no opinion on the OP or the underlying litigation described therein.

What if Better Penmanship Could Make You a Better Person

14 August 2019

From Medium:

Cursive is supposed to happen at the right speed for steady thought. It hits the page slower than type and faster than print, and in this happy medium, one hopes the mind will hit its stride and think clearly, rationally, linearly. But what if the idea of cursive practice was to humble, even eradicate the content of the written word? That is the project of the narrator in Mario Levrero’s novel Empty Words—recently released in translation from the Spanish by Annie McDermott—to focus on neat, regular handwriting so careful that it smooths out all digressions of the mind. Though the narrator is, like the author, a writer and crossword setter, he takes a writer’s tool and divorces it from the act of connecting with the self or world. Instead, the physical act of writing becomes about avoiding spiritual searching, which has become too onerous—in an opening poem, before he begins his “graphological self-therapy” he writes “ It’s not worth searching, the more you look /  the more distant is seems, the better it hides.”

So the narrator delves into his penmanship not in hope of being a better writer, but to “make changes on a psychological level,” ones that he claims, in a burst of optimism, “will do wonders for my health and charachter, transforming a whole plethora of bad behaviors into good ones and catapulting me blissfully into a life of happiness, joy, money, and success with women and in other games of chance.” When his exercises pick up pace, though, the neat, ordered discipline of handwriting breaks down and sloppy print letters creep into that uniform line of script. This indication that thought has begun to flow freely is not positive—it runs contrary to the two-dimensional bliss he imagines neatness can herald. He takes frequent breaks to play around with his computer, which, even though the book was originally published in 1996, is a daunting tool, “very similar to the unconscious.” Nonetheless, he claims to prefer it to his own exhausted mind: “there’s nowhere left to go when it comes to investigating my unconscious; the computer also involves much less risk, or risk of a different kind.”

Link to the rest at Medium

By the penmanship standard, PG is a terrible person.

One of the great reliefs of finishing elementary school was the elimination of grades for penmanship. Then, in high school, he learned how to type and hasn’t looked back since.

Discovering Family Secrets via DNA Testing

13 August 2019

Perhaps he’s late to the party, but PG immediately thought about the literary possibilities of this technology in the hands of some fiction authors.

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