7 min read

Startup ish [Ńtá égó]

Far from the markets of Onitsha and the Florence of Ezra Pound's small-trader utopia, we have no end of entrepreneurs here in the Rocky Mountains, and in fact this is Denver Startup Week.
Startup ish [Ńtá égó]
Denver Startup Week
Some rhyme, some throw shows, some sew clothes
Some hobo at the junction in between cars
Some enter the functions in between stars
Some teach, some preach saying they seen God
Some put they money up, against mean odds
Flipping real estate yo, stocks and bonds
Dreams of rollin Eldorados bumping El DeBarge
Whatever the dreams, stay on ya—deem the world is ours
It's the hustle

—Common - The Hustle

And o' nights there's fire-flies and the yellow moon,
And in the ghostly palm-trees the sleepy tune
Of the quiet voice calling me, the long low croon
Of the steady Trade Winds blowing.

—John Masefield - Trade Winds

The Igbo have always been considered arch-entrepreneurs, and to be frank, arch-capitalists, though Igbo entrepreneurship and capitalism are only related to their Western counterparts in the most superficial ways. There is so much I could write on this, and will do over time in this newsletter, but for now I'll just invite you to read an essay I wrote at The Nervous Breakdown back in 2009, in the midst of the financial crisis: Only one poem for the implosion of Capital. In the essay I use the text of Ezra Pound's economically and historically complicated tour-de-force of a poem, “Canto XLV” (“With Usura”), as a departure point for exploring the scale of capitalism from the good to the disastrous.

African Heritage House, Nairobi, with Ezra Pound Quote

Far from the markets of Onitsha and the Florence of Ezra Pound's small-trader utopia, we have no end of entrepreneurs here in the Rocky Mountains, and in fact this is Denver Startup Week. On Tuesday I led a session,  "Music, Poetry and Tech, Oh my!" Connecting my interests in these three topics has been a major theme for me in the past couple of years, and indeed is at the heart of this intersection of enquirable spaces I call The Loomiverse. The session included the poem Parachute Men, by Lenrie Peters, a bit of the new poem/lyric/tune I'm working on, Space Trader (a lyric taster below, and you hear some of the music in this episode's mix tape). I ended with my usual approach to land acknowledgment, Salutations to the First Nations. Sprinkled in was discussion of local artists entrepreneurs from Cleo Parker Robinson to Thomas AKA Detour 303. It was the first time I'd used my MPC One instrument to run all the music for a live performance, and that worked pretty well.

Detour 303 with Nkem & me while he was painting public art in Superior

New Music, and more

Just yesterday finally released and available to listen, "Choccy's Theme" is my first ever single (self-composed & produced), which happens to be an ode to my first born son. An instrumental Hip-Hop track.

"Choccy's Theme", new single by Uche Ogbuji

I hope you enjoy it, and please share through your favorite music outlets if you do. I'm already working on more music, and looking to gear some of it towards the long-plotted Ńchéfù Road mix tape.

Bring us from our mother muse with one more
Jungle motet before the mowers make naked the floor.
Move us inside music to script our memento.
Move us into the mood, for music is the moon
In movement meeting the mute nuisance of midnight evil.

—Uche Ogbuji - from "Le Freak Musique Afrique" (Ńchéfù Road)

Speaking of the book, I sold out my first batch of author-sold copies, thanks to you lovely folks, and I received the second batch this week. I'm still offering personalized poems with signed copies.

Unboxing the second batch of copies of Ńchéfù Road to sell

I mentioned Space Trader, a song I'm working with, which might be my next single. This one has lyrics to go with it, an excerpt of which will serve as the original poem for this post.

Space Trader (excerpt)

One brain lobe on the steering
One star to the left
Nothing out there you should be fearing
Mother vacuum knows best

Put the needle on the antique
You want warble on the beat
Resonate with the song in the spheres
You've heard nothing so sweet

Soldier through the dark wild, star child
One super sleep from your goal
That's where your future is reconciled
What you sell to retain your soul

What the client needs to feel whole

Kolanut to your kwenu brother
An heirloom to the family friend
A keepsake smuggled undercover
Kind of message where you don't click send

A strung heart at the opposite end

The traveler's is the wisest head
No relativity needed
It's new worlds where new words are said
And by the traveler heeded

All through the journey repeated

❧ Uche Ogbuji, 19 September, 2022

Infinite monkey theorem

An interesting idea was expressed by Sir Arthur Eddington in lectures at Cambridge University in the 1920s: if you got an army of monkeys to pound away at typewriters, and waited long enough, there is some probability that they would produce all the works of Shakespeare. In other words, in any long enough sequence of randomly produced letters you will eventually find familiar language. Of course, waiting long enough in the case of the monkeys at the typewriter might mean waiting trillions upon trillions of years. The probabilities of truly random strings of letters producing familiar language are just too small.

One of the earliest experiments in generative AI involved taking this idea of monkeys at the typewriter, but just juicing the typewriter with statistical models based on the target language. So we know that "t" is a really common letter in English, that it's often followed by an "h", and if you have a "th" that's often followed by an "e". If you had specific stats along those lines, you would have a tool for generating new language with similar characteristics. That's all simply put, but there are a million choices to make in creating such a language model, and in how you use it for language generation. Just to give a small flavor: do you differentiate uppercase from lower-case? Do you include spaces and punctuation in the stats.

For the coders among you, the technical term for such language models is N-Grams, and for a common technique for generating sequences from such models is Markov chains. I wrote a series of articles on these principles for IBM a few years ago. IBM has since, infuriatingly, erased (or lost) their library of technical articles, but the Wayback machine has them archived. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. For this post's experiment I set up a Markov chain using bigrams (N-grams of pairwise word correlations) from the raw txt of Ńchéfù Road. As you can see, I didn't include punctuation or uppercase in the model, but here is an example run from the program I wrote.

i see you re still inoculated the beat before they were the bush and this new world would be at the horizon tree tops never mind the muscled men are drawn they ll take on the people s great in the ocean along in the coast here s materials your head s feet what he would come to those who had to close from what the niger s hand versus dad s a new things oh the rains tried its own causes his own causes the same place only to my own causes from the hunters you know your language and with the sacred he put on the tree trunks some time to drown warrant courts with the drawl of way is on your might be at any him forever a sixteen for the sea the stalwarts on the size of her comforting the tune of my own causes that one more fire to know your town may be at this way back to read what you are the downhill road from her comforting the tongue is no hippopotamus

Interesting to see what an extremely limited infinite monkey bot thinks the book sounds like. I must emphasize how extremely limited it is—we'll have a bit more fun kneading at those limitations in future posts. I do realize I need to write that poem, a "sixteen for the sea", and let us all be reassured that "the tongue is no hippopotamus".

Happy Solstice!

Hope you had a lovely Solstice yesterday. Here is an Emojiku for autumn (a bonus original poem? 😁)

🍃🍂🧺🍁 / 🍏🍄🍎🌾🎃🍁 / 🍃🍂🌁🍁

The season seems to perfectly suit the reading of poems from my friend Wendy Videlock's sapient new book of poems, Wise to the West.

The dark guardian of the west
has left a feather in the ash
and given me another test.
The hour gleams and comes to pass.

—Wendy Videlock - from "The Feather" (Wise to the West, 2022)

Wise to the West by Wendy Videlock (Able Muse Press, 2022)

A few quick music recommendations from your friendly neighborhood DJ.

❧ Say goodbye to summer with Heattt Too Hottt by Maria Lina & The Machetes, a heard-through-the-walls dollop of funk hettt up to hottter.

❧ From The Continent, Ocean, from one of my favorite singers, Aṣa, off her latest album, V.

❧ For hardcore headz, the inLAnd by Trizz & MIKE SUMMERS. If you'd told me that California's Inland Empire would have one of the slammingest hood cuts of the year, I'd have cackled at you, but here it is.

Happy new moon on Sunday (Ọ́nwá atụ̀ọ́—ya ga zíé O!) May the new month bring you good market days, whether start-up style or old school.

Please do consider sharing this newsletter with others, and subscribing, if you haven't (button in the lower right). Always something new to listen to, some new word play, a fresh take for tech's sake, with side sauce of odd juxtapositions. Dá àlụ́-nu!

❧ Égwú 🪘 Ókwú ✍🏿 Ígwè 📡 Ńdụ̀ ❣️