Friday, May 06, 2005


Wooo wooo is right

In Wired, Ryan Singal writes about the many-splendored uses to which Amazon is putting its bottomless database of digital texts. One of the latest bells and whistles, which I had noticed before but never bothered to explore, is called the SIP, or Statistically Improbable Phrase. According to Bill Carr, the company's head honcho for digital media, this characteristic combo--extracted, I'm sure, by means of some algorithmic trickery--often "gets to the heart of the book." (His example: "adaptive unconscious" as the figure in the carpet for Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. Sounds reasonable.)

Anyway, I wanted to take the SIP technology for a spin, and decided to let it extract the soul, the spirit, the very marrow of Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons. In this case, the ghost in the machine came up with multiple SIPs (not an unusual situation.) And yes, it did get to the heart of the matter. The first ten SIPs from Wolfe's bootylicious doorstopper are: canvas boat bag, caress caress caress, unhh unhh unhh, rutting rutting, sobs sobs sobs sobs, ilial crest, rut rut rut, very hide, wooo wooo, depressed girl. Granted, that last phrase doesn't sound like quintessential Tom Wolfe. But if you had the first nine entries to cope with, you'd be depressed too.

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