Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"The Waste Land" app

(App icon)

There are hundreds and hundreds of not very good apps for the iPad. And thousands of really crappy ones. And then there are the few imaginative ones which are starting to appear which take advantage of what the iPad can (and, as importantly, cannot) do.

All that's needed is a bit if creativity and a modicum of lateral thinking to start exploring the potential of the iPad.

I have a couple of apps - mainly for my boys - from Stephen Wolfram and Theodore Grey and their colleagues at Touch Press - The Solar System and The Elements. They are just to very nice apps that are trying to make better use of what the iPad can do.

Some magazines have also started coming up with apps that are actually quite nicely done and take advantage of what the iPad can do (one of the better ones I've come across happens to have been free for the first few issues - Intelligent Life from the Economist. Another, which also happens to be free is Dazed & Confused magazine).

Which brings me to the Waste Land App. I had originally read that it was published by Faber & Faber, - Eliot's publisher. Until I was writing this I hadn't caught that it is actually produced in partnership with Touch Press who I mentioned above. I haven't got my hands on this yet but I really like the look of it and what they have done around one of the more important and influential poems of the Twentieth Century.

From a couple of reviews:

The LiteraryPlatform

"The gallery is my favourite bit, giving us a clutch of relevant postcards – of Bob Dylan, Dante Alligheri, the first Mrs Eliot,

a crowd of people crossing the river Thames,
‘so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.’

These images create real breathing space around the poem. They evoke, inform and leave the poem be.

There’s a picture of the first edition of Prufrock in a plain brown cover, then all the pages of the typescript manuscript with the inky slashes of Pound’s fierce corrections and comments. The notes, presented in a Comment-press style, can be brought up when wanted, then brushed away if you want the text plain. Likewise it’s a doddle to switch between the different audio readings or switch them off entirely."

and Salon

"You can watch (Fiona) Shaw read for a while, then switch back to the text to check a reference or translation, then go on reading the lines to the accompaniment of Ted Hughes' very different vocal interpretation; the app keeps track of your place as you go. Eliot's friend Ezra Pound played a crucial role in shaping "The Waste Land"; and the inclusion of the original manuscript with Pound's handwritten edits offers a glimpse of that process. These various ways of approaching the text are enticements to the multiple readings that make a full appreciation of the poem possible.

Spending a day poring over "The Waste Land" app made me look at my old Norton critical editions with a new gleam in my eye. Instead of leafing through tissue-paper-thin pages of "Paradise Lost," squinting at the tiny footnotes, it would be so pleasant to scroll through Milton's epic (maybe with Gustave Dore's engravings?), tapping on the lines that cry out for elucidation while listening to a professional narrator vault the poet's enjambments far better than I ever could myself. How about "The Canterbury Tales," with an audio track in Middle English to juxtapose against a modern English translation? I would indeed pay for these, and the enthusiastic reception for "The Waste Land" app suggests that I am not alone."

I already have two or three different recordings on my iTunes/iPad of Eliot, Hughes et al reading the Wasteland and various other Eliot poems. But I like the way this app appears to take those, along with the text itself and a multitude of other things about the poem and draw them all together."

If The Wasteland app is as nice as it appears to be in the review I've seen then I have no problem paying a decent price for it. Some people automatically start to moan when and app costs more than $3.00 or $4.00, whatever it is. I'd rather have one good, creative app like The Elements that cost $10.00 or $20.00 than a couple of dozen crappt 99c ones.

BTW, I haven't yet seen many photography based apps (as opposed to "photo apps") which have managed to take advantage of the iPads possibilities quite as well. In fact I'm having a hard time thinking of one worthile one that I would pay more than the usual 99c or $1.99 for. I paid out a bit more for one that was billed as "the first photo book designed for the iPad" or some such, mainly to see what it was like but it was basically pretty lame.

I think there is lots of potential for some very creative and intriguing photograph based apps along the same broad, general direction. I just haven't really come across many yet.

Mind you, now I'm waiting for The Wittgenstein app.... Stephen Wolfram, Theodore Grey... anyone?


THE river's tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf
Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind
Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed.
Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.
The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,
Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends
Or other testimony of summer nights. The nymphs are departed.
And their friends, the loitering heirs of city directors;
Departed, have left no addresses.
By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept...
Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song,
Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or long.
But at my back in a cold blast I hear
The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear.


P.S. Talking of apps, this post was written with Blogsy - so far the only decent blogging app for the iPad. For the longest time blogging from the iPad was a really rather clunky affair. There was no decent blogging app at all, which was a little strange as really, the iPad and blogging go together like 5 year old Stilton and a tankard of Scrumpy (and led to me beginning to muse on the possibility that the rumours of the death of blogging were not actually premature...). I had the opportunity of beta testing Blogsy and was quite excited about it when it came my way. It has been out for a couple of months now and the creators have continued updating and tweaking it and it continues being nice app that's very good at what it's supposed to do. Usually link to the AppStore stuff

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