Will Dean’s Ideas Factory: How does a robotic copy editor cope with Ulysses? – Features – Gadgets & Tech – The Independent
As the newspaper industry works out how to tackle the threat from free online news and other structural problems, some journalists can at least take heart that, no matter, what the medium – newsprint, the web, or electronic paper – a good copy editor is an essential role. As it is in publishing and advertising/copy-writing, too. When the robots are making our coffee and vacuuming our floors, at least they won’t be criticising us for our use of cliches… Oh. Hang on a minute…
Pro Writing Aid is the creation of Chris Banks, a London-based programmer. It allows writers to insert their copy and uses algorithms to pick out redundancies, cliches, overused words, unvaried sentence lengths and other errors which relate to neither spelling or grammar.
I put the technology to the test by entering a feature I wrote for these pages last week on 3D printing. The analysis came back with a plethora of suggestions, including four “overused words”, a couple of redundancies (“component parts”, tssk) and a massive 16 issues of “vague or abstract words”. Alright, Sir Harry Evans-robot, I get it. Though some of the points were fair enough, others still need a bit of human nuance. One of my red-marked phrases was “kind of” which might be weak for a novel but was part of a vital quote from one of the people I spoke to.
SIPHIWE Ngwenya hails from Alexandra township, sometimes known as Gomorrah Maboneng (Dark City). The name originates from the time when there was no electricity in Alex. It was here that Ngwenya initiated the Maboneng Township Art Experience that uses people’s homes as an exhibition space, thereby campaigning for the development and expression of the arts in the townships.
Growing up in Alex, Ngwenya lived with his grandmother, his mother and father, and although these three people all lived in their own homes, he describes a close-knit family. He finished his schooling at the National School of the Arts in 2000, and from his acting work he paid for his own education as well as assisting some family members. He has strong memories of arriving late at school every day because he was helping his mother with the family business of selling vetkoek. Although the teacher was unsympathetic, he believes this time was influential in growing his work ethic.
“We had to sell vetkoek to make a living. I cooked them; my mom would sell. I’d make dough in the evening so that it would rise in the night. I would wake at 4am and start cooking. I used to get to school late every day, smelling of oil … and the teacher was really unhappy with me. But the daily work of making vetkoek is what made me strong. I got so much from that hard time.”
The project started from a simple sketch: “I was sitting in the street and drawing. I wanted to show my work, and I wanted to show it there and then. I come from an environment where we used to visit the galleries to go and see artworks. I used to walk from Alex to the Goodman Gallery to go and see art. It was tiring and the costs were large.”
This prompted Ngwenya to use his own backyard. “Ntathe Solly, who owns a spaza shop, was the opening speaker at my exhibition. My dad gave me speakers.” The community came to the party in more ways than one, allowing the concept to develop and grow — his father’s employer became an art buyer, thus supporting this initiative.
At the end of this superb production of Eugene O’Neill’s harrowing autobiographical play, I barely had the strength to get out of my seat. The dramatic impact is shattering. The raw pain, passion and even the occasional clumsiness of the writing are testament to a work of heroic honesty.
O’Neill himself described it as being “written in tears and blood”. His wife said he was “tortured by the experience”, emerging from his study at the end of each day of writing “gaunt and sometimes weeping”.
The play has been known to run for as long as four-and-a-half hours, a long journey indeed. In this superbly judged and wonderfully acted production, which finds flickers of humour in the darkness as well as aching passages of desperate love, the director Anthony Page brings it in at under three hours, thanks to the fluency of the playing and some judicious cutting.
As the title suggests, the play follows a single day in the life of the Tyrone family in their summer home in 1912, with the dramatist looking back on his own mother, father and older brother, all of them dead when he wrote it between 1939 and 1941, as well as his own younger self.
It is a family racked by addiction, despair and festering guilt, but in the opening act O’Neill offers a heart-wrenching glimpse of hope. After years addicted to morphine, first prescribed to her when she gave birth to Edmund – O’Neill’s portrait of himself as a young man – the mother, Mary, appears to have undergone a successful cure. Her actor husband James is palpably proud of her, and the two sons are less juiced up than usual. The production brilliantly captures the tension of characters walking on eggshells around each other, fearful that this brief moment of happiness will be short-lived.
Strange Random Theatre Quote:
- Eugene O’Neill, master of American theatre (guardian.co.uk)
- Eugene O’Neill – Long Day’s Journey Into Night (realstorypublishing.com)
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- Theater Review: O’Neill’s ‘Beyond the Horizon’ at Irish Repertory Theater (theater.nytimes.com)
Tech expert Jennifer Jolly details financial and innovative services.
Strange Random Personal Finance Quote:
There are plenty of ways to get ahead. The first is so basic I’m almost embarrassed to say it: spend less than you earn. – Paul Clitheroe
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