Moveable Type – Ben Rubin and Mark Hansen

The words flash out and then fade, like something from the cut-up prose of William S. Burroughs or the disjointed Americana of John Ashbery:

“You just have to react.”

“You won’t be asked to leave, but you will want to leave.”

“I steal it from her every chance I get.”

Sometimes they unite vaguely and ominously:

“Five-year-old girl’s finger.”

“One shot.”

“Two of his lawyers.”

“Fifteen years in prison.”

At other times they seem sentient, asking the right questions (and maybe watching television):

“Tony Soprano?”

“And where’s all the blood?”

As poetic as they might sound, these phrases did not bubble up from the subconscious of a writer or latter-day Dada collagist. They were culled from another kind of memory, a vast collective one that is stocked and ordered every day (and these days, every minute) by reporters, editors, photographers, bloggers, Op-Ed contributors, letter writers and inveterate e-mailers: the databases of The New York Times. They comprise tens of millions of words that have appeared in the newspaper since its founding in 1851 and that appear continuously in its online version.

– New York Times full article here.

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