I have been giving thought to the proliferation of AI art and word generators. As I spend days, weeks, months, and years, poring over the words of a novel, I can sort of see the attraction of such devices. No fuss, no muss, just write me a story where a woman assassin is having a psychotic break.

That prompt may create something brilliant,  who knows?

The craft of writing is the art of choosing the right word, not just the next word. ChatGPT and other Large Language Models (LLMs) like it, are just selecting the next word, not the best word because it has no context. If most people say hello, then it is reasonable for an AI to respond, hello, how are you? Does it care? Can it say, hey, you are looking down, how are you? Or perhaps it is displeased, maybe even jealous, how are you?

Each word chains into the next with an LLM, choosing a word that will most likely matches the next. It is very very good at it. But it is not clever. While a language model can choose the next word, it can’t tell you why it chose that word.

Another example, “So, you really didn’t know,” is different from “So, you didn’t really know,” which are both the same combination of words, that can mean the same thing. With emphasis, context really blossoms “You really didn’t know,” is different than, “You didn’t really know,”

LLMs on the other hand, are writing elaborate run-on sentences. It isn’t writing, it’s approximating it. It has no context before or after that word. There is deliberation for the writer in choosing words that can’t exist when only the next best word is being picked.

Tons of digital ink has been spilled on this subject, some even in defense of these LLMs (that were trained on whose writing?). I guess if you are trying to have the experience of being an author, perhaps even a published one, then putting in the actual work is secondary.

That is missing the point though. They will never know the joy of being tucked into little imagination cocoons and having the words appear like magic. It’s real magic, not some algorithmic proximation. When the dialogue dances from your brain to your fingertips, and onto the paper. 

That is the real joy of writing. Don’t get me wrong, being published is a writer’s goal. As part of that goal, we network, receive critiques, we fine-tune our stories and polish our words. There is no effort to be had by typing a prompt, and the effort is what makes it great.  The fact that it isn’t always easy is what brings writers back as much as those sessions where the writing flows.

This is where machines can never go. They just have a pile of words to apply to a mathematical formula.  Because you can start with one word. An LLM could offer you many words after that, but pick your word. 

Make it the best word and only you can decide what is next. Tell a story, your story, not generate words. You know why you chose that word. That one special word can be the key to your imagination. 

If you can feed a prompt, you can write a novel, I promise.  All it requires is one word after the next, except you know all the words, not just the next word. 

Running into the dark side of the wall

The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older.

One could argue, the last pure Pink Floyd album was ‘The Dark Side of the Moon.’ Sure, the albums that came after had some bangers, but the band slowly devolved ‘Roger Water’s Therapy, The Musical.’ Don’t get me wrong, The Wall is an amazing piece of work, pop psychology and all.

‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ is just such a cohesive piece of work, more dreamscape than rock ’n roll album. The quiet heartbeat in every song carries you on a sonic journey on the life cycle.

As profound as ‘Mother’ can be on ‘The Wall’, for those of us with our own smothers, I mean, mothers, none of it comes close to ‘Time’, let alone ‘Great Gig In The Sky’ or ‘Us and Them’.

When I was in my twenties trying to recover from my childhood, The Wall spoke to me.

But, today, Dark Side’s cycle mirrors my own long journey. ‘The Wall’ had an impact, but ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ has constancy.

The equally fascinating ‘Animals’ and ‘Wish You Were Here’ are between those two. The late seventies were very good for Pink Floyd and would greatly influence any kid of the time. And of course, ‘The Wall’ hit me right between my young adult eyes when it came out. Even with that, I put on Dark Side when I wanted to chill.

‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ is arresting in its complex arrangements, hitting the same emotional notes whether it’s teenage angst or old man acceptance. Resonance is the key to great music. The pain of life is much better understood through the prism of time.

In all of this are the memories associated with music. They come back, thick like an encompassing fog.

Boston’s ‘More Than A Feeling’ is playing. We are at a restaurant in Cle Elum whose name I don’t remember. I am tapping my feet and humming. My dad yells at me to stop.

Aerosmith’s ‘Big Ten Inch Record’ is playing. I am at a party in Clackamas. It’s a rich girl’s house, and I am drunk. Very drunk. I want to go home, so I am stepping over what seems like scores of couples making out on the floor, calling for my ride. Definitely, not being cool.

Barenaked Ladies ‘If I Had $1000000’ is playing. I am in the car with my boys. The Hale-Bopp comet is clear in the cold winter sky. My oldest is probably eight or nine. It is dark and I have turned the car off. We listen, much to their delight. And to mine.

Captain & Tennilles’ ‘Come In From The Rain’ is playing. I am having my first slow dance with Diane. Looking back, it felt like a promise. She made good. I hope I did, too.

Pink Floyd’s ‘Time’ is playing. I am laying on some deep shag carpeting in some typical seventies living room, complete with one of those open conical fireplaces. I had never heard anything like it before. It was like it came from outer space. Music became a vision. Both the artists and my own.

I was mesmerized; it was the first time music opened my eyes to a bigger musical world.

My life will always have a soundtrack. Whose doesn’t? Behind it all, like that heartbeat strung throughout, The Dark Side of the Moon has been that musical constant. If I have to ride off into that sunset, queue and turn it up for me.

And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
If there is no room up on the hill
And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon

Falling Down

I’ve never talked about my mental illness in detail, even though I suffer from bouts of dark depression. Yes, my physical health does play a role in that place of despair. But there are other unprompted places I go.

When you are manic, you believe every thought. When depressed you doubt every one. Both are feeding you bad information.

The effect of mental illness is to have you forget that.

How best can I describe this place that has taken me to the edge more than once?

Do I say; “It is like a slow motion wreck. Everything happening all at once and nothing can be done to stop it,”

Or; “I both want to scream at the world and crawl in a closet and cry,”

Maybe; “Have you ever felt like your hair was on fire? If you ask people, they can’t see it, but you can feel it burning?”

So what does it feel like?

You have become untethered from the world.

There you will feel alone. But you aren’t, and the longer you stay the easier is is to fly away.

If you feel like you are floating away, tie yourself down. If you look closely, somebody holding on to you. Let them pull you back in.

So what does that feel like?

Love. Caring. Safety.

I know it’s hard. You may have reason to not trust people, but find someone to hold your string.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Tie yourself down. 

It will be okay.

Must Be Wednesday

I don’t know if you noticed, but I generally post on my blog on Wednesday afternoons. Why is that you ask? Well as an old crusty web developer, I am obsessed with data.

Not the data that the mega-corps collect, share and sell. No, I just want to how many people visit, maybe generally where they are from, and what kind of device and app they are visiting with. But, as a data nerd, I can tell you all that stuff, even what is collected on the sly ,really means nothing.

The algorithm can offer stuff it thinks you want, but it can’t control how you see it. Except on Wednesday, specifically, Wednesday afternoons. This is when the most traffic comes my way and it always has.

This isn’t a secret to most web developers and masters and designers. I first noted it back in the 90s when I was doing primitive web apps on the side. Like clockwork, every Wednesday there was more traffic than usual, particularly on e-commerce sites.

Did most of that traffic come from corporate domains? Why, yes it did. Even the internal app I was building for the big evil oil company had an uptick in traffic. Some people may get a case of Mondays but everyone gets a case of Wednesday afternoons. 

You are bored, hours before quitting time and you have Amazon calling your name. Someone on Facebook needs to hear your opinion. A news article is unread. It is Wednesday afternoon, what else is there to do?

Even on the last real job I had before my body and mind broke down, was in 2011, and I could still count on Wednesday afternoons.

Because, while you were bored, weirdos like me were looking at the data you were leaving behind (which has ethical uses, which requires very little data, but is often too much collected and used for unethical ones). So Wednesdays it is. Like this Wednesday. Where you are probably bored and can’t wait for the day to end, never mind waiting for the weekend.

You are exactly in between weekends. E-commerce, social networking, or maybe even a blog post will pass the time. Maybe this post will help. Thanks. I see you.

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