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ARST ARSW (29 Jun 2014 at 23:36)
At the beginning of the month I published ARST ARSW, which is Star Wars sorted alphabetically. It "went viral" (I think it was actually bacterial. Gram stain was positive) almost immediately, due to some lucky press, which is fine by me. If you haven't seen it, clicky-clicky:

ARST ARSW: Star Wars sorted alphabetically
ARST ARSW: Star Wars sorted alphabetically


Literally, every word spoken in the movie is assembled in alphabetical order along with the corresponding video clip (and ties of course broken chronologically). The description contains some "fun" facts, like that "lightsaber" only appears once in the movie!

At 43 minutes, it's a bit hard to watch the whole thing in a sitting, although many have declared success. I've only been able to finish it with a break or two, in all honesty. Maybe on the elliptical machine. If you do watch, please get to at least Alderaan (link skips directly) to see how it can create unintentional humor, as each character pronounces this fictitious planet's name differently (Luke kinda goes with whatever the person he's talking to says). Some other parts I like: Two words appear adjacent in ARST ARSW that are also adjacent in the movie, such that it goes an an an an ... an analysis. All the words that appear in Leia's hologram message are interesting, like Kenobi. See how much time people spend looking for Luke in this movie, and here you can see one of my three mistakes (one of the "Luke"s is out of order because it had an invisible tab character after it in my transcript). Catch 'em all! And I think Han Solo's scene that contains almost all the uhs in the movie is pretty hilarious. There are lots more favorites highlighted in the comments, along with the ubiquitous internet abuse. (Mom, who felt protective at my Ph.D. defense: Never read the comments.)

For F.A.Q.s like "Why did you do this?" take a look at this nice article in WIRED. That was the best writeup (thanks Emily!) but there were several, like in Yahoo Movies and cracked.com and many more. My favorite thing was that Conan O'Brien made fun of me on his show! He even has his own parody version, which is pretty good, except for that atrocious font. Here is the real font for next time, Conan.

It took a while to make, but people routinely waste entire weekends just binge-watching Netflix or worse. Not only was this basically relaxing (not to mention that it absorbed that nervous energy that you probably know I'm aflame with) but I got some practice making software for video editing. The source code is here. It's a pair of multithreaded C++11 apps. Basically the process was like this: I loaded all the frames up into memory, along with the audio, and had keyboard commands for marking a section of the video (actually the audio—you need much better resolution than 24fps to chop up words) and refining its borders while listening to it in a loop. I'd find a phrase in the audio, then type "if this is a consular ship where is the ambassador" and it'd just split up that loop into 10 mini-loops of the same length, one for each word. Obviously "if" is much shorter than "ambassador", so then I'd go and adjust the edges of those loops with the keyboard. I made tweaks to the program as I went, to make it efficient and fun-ish, and eventually got pretty fast at it. Here's what the UI looks like:

The software called ARST.EXE. Click for full-rez
The software called ARST.EXE. Click for full-rez


I also learned some things from making this video and the reaction to it. First: Star Wars is a really well-made film. I've probably only seen it four times or so—I'm no superfan—but watching the movie this closely, frame by frame, was a master course in filmmaking. At the micro level, I was very surprised how densely packed the dialogue is, with almost no pauses in between lines. (And yet it doesn't sound weird? People obviously don't talk like that.) It was neat how sound effects like laser blasts were carefully placed between words of dialogue during messy scenes, so that you'd still be able to hear the characters. I was also surprised with how little actual sound you need in order to perceive words like "a" or "it"; I often had trouble even isolating what part of the audio even corresponded to the word, despite it being clear that the character was saying that word when I listened to the whole line. It was notable how much of the story is propelled by the two droids, and I entertained an alternate theory that C3PO was Keyser Söze-ing the whole plot by "interpreting" R2D2's nonsense bleeps, which is pretty plausible.

I also learned that people have done this kind of thing before. For example, someone alphabetized one of George W. Bush's speeches as Qaeda Quality Question Quickly Quickly Quiet. There's also AARRSSTW, which I was terrified to see because I thought it might have been literally the same thing, but it is in fact Star Wars reordered by the length of the shot. In general, this kind of exhaustive analysis of the words in some work is called a Concordance, which is usually done entirely earnestly for books like the bible by people who are even more extremely boring than me.

Lots of people have asked to do other stuff with the timecoded words, especially, something where you type in a phrase and it outputs a video of clips from the movie speaking your phrase. (Or more cleverly, take the movie itself and replace each word with a clip of a different character saying that word.) There are lots of good ideas, but I decided that it would detract from the art of this one to do anything that might be perceived as "useful" or "interesting" with it. The point is the movie and that it has no point.

Moreover, although I'm always happy with attention for my projects, this one is now probably my most famous (!), at least if measured by Youtube views, which are now nearly 1 million. (Though people have watched more than twice as many actual minutes of my previous virus.) I don't want to be known as the Star Wars guy or something, so we are now done with this project and it's on to the next! Expect the next post to contain an unexpectedly resumed classic.
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Anonymous (73.35.233.240) – 08.02.14 08:18:03
I've only seen about 5 minutes of it so far, but it seems strangely hypnotizing. if it was just a bunch of random scenes flipping I think it would be extremely uninteresting but somehow the words tie it together. it might just be because we hear words and our brain pays attention automatically, or maybe its because the same word is used again and again in similar emotional contexts which makes it seem more coherent than just random scenes would be.

maybe you should release one where the words are sorted randomly and see if it holds people's interest the same.
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Anonymous (73.35.233.240) – 08.02.14 08:35:36
do you have all the scenes "attached" to the text words, so that you can sort the scenes with a program? Because if you did, then you could take the list of all the words spoken, and then find songs or quotes or something that would be funny, which contain only words in the transcript and have it speak the sentence.
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Anonymous (73.35.233.240) – 08.02.14 08:38:03
wait I see you already addressed that. nevermind.
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Anonymous (c-a41ae555.07-285-6f72651.cust.bredbandsbolaget.se) – 08.13.15 12:11:15
k den.
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ur mum (c-a41ae555.07-285-6f72651.cust.bredbandsbolaget.se) – 08.13.15 12:11:58
ey bich lemme get dat number
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fuked ur mum (122-57-186-232.jetstream.xtra.co.nz) – 10.20.15 02:56:03
luke shitwalker
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fuked ur dad (122-57-186-232.jetstream.xtra.co.nz) – 10.20.15 02:57:12
Aye, fuked ur mum, dont say that kinda shit here!
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fuked ur mum (122-57-186-232.jetstream.xtra.co.nz) – 10.20.15 02:57:40
go fuk ur self!
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stupid fat fucking idiot shit ass mc ... (122-57-186-232.jetstream.xtra.co.nz) – 10.20.15 02:59:30
OI YOU TWO CUT IT OUT
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Jaden Smith (122.58.86.13) – 11.06.15 04:58:26
Jaden Smith - 6 / 11 /15

What are our fingers if our toes are just meat.
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Anonymous (pool-70-106-230-30.clppva.fios.verizon.net) – 11.29.15 17:53:24
This comment section is scary.
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Sara Calvo (47-63-111-193.red-acceso.airtel.net) – 12.03.15 10:05:21
I don't know why, but I can't stop watching it. It's so interesting the way each actor deliver a word in so many different ways due to the character and the context. And see how the most iconic words like Lightsaber, Leia or Skywalker are just said only one or two times. I love it!
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Nels (c-174-63-47-203.hsd1.ma.comcast.net) – 02.27.16 17:30:29
It's especially funny to see the fake "argument" above with the hostname right next to it.
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Anonymous (169.236.78.21) – 10.18.17 18:56:14
Thank You so much for making this video! It is very cool
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