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“The realty layout-computer in its wisdom for random play in home-road curvature had designed the layout logic….”

October 4, 2009

“The Neil Armstrong house was modest, with a high-pitched roof of brown shingles. It was a house like half a million other houses in suburbs combining modern and brand-new traditional style. It had hints of an English country inn, for it was a dark-colored warren with small windows and long eaves. Yet the house was situated on a street whose curve had come from no meandering cow but from favorable indices on graphs which showed the relation of income to cost for planned curved-development streets as opposed to planned straight-development streets. El Lago—the name of this suburb—like those others named Kingston and Timber Cover and Nassau Bay—was a soft checkerboard of carefully bent little avenues which ran at reasonable approximations of right angles into other paved prospects, a street occasionally dead-ending, a street just as occasionally completing a full circle. The realty layout-computer in its wisdom for random play in home-road curvature had designed the layout logic so comprehensively, so ready to take into account the variety of desire-factors expressed by consumer dweller groups oriented in at these precise income-purchase levels, that the effect—what a blow to the goodwill of the progressive designer who had doubtless opted for just once let’s have something better!—was as agreeable and sterile to the eye as a model department store living room for brides on a medium-high budget layaway.”

—Norman Mailer, Of a Fire on the Moon (1970)

“An important part of our information-gathering behavior has always been to find out what other people think. With the growing availability and popularity of opinion-rich resources such as online review sites and personal blogs, new opportunities and challenges arise as people now can, and do, actively use information technologies to seek out and understand the opinions of others. The sudden eruption of activity in the area of opinion mining and sentiment analysis, which deals with the computational treatment of opinion, sentiment, and subjectivity in text, has thus occurred at least in part as a direct response to the surge of interest in new systems that deal directly with opinions as a first-class object. This survey covers techniques and approaches that promise to directly enable opinion-oriented information-seeking systems. Our focus is on methods that seek to address the new challenges raised by sentiment-aware applications, as compared to those that are already present in more traditional fact-based analysis.”

—Bo Pang (of Yahoo! Research) and Lillian Lee (of Cornell University), in “Opinion Mining and Sentiment Analysis” (2008)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 5, 2009 11:07 PM

    That passage by Mailer is amazing! It shows how a writer, by being sensitive to his feelings, or by probing them, and then by doing research, can open up a world of personal and social meaning in the most ordinary scene or event.

    • October 5, 2009 11:31 PM

      I agree. The book this passage is from–“Of a Fire on the Moon”–is too often neglected. That description of Neil Armstrong’s house goes on for several more pages; it’s some of the best prose Mailer ever wrote, and a fascinating look at “WASP” culture (so to speak) from the outside.

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