July 16, 2003


How can we tell stories in sculptural hypertext -- hypertexts where almost everything is connected to almost everything, where we write by removing links?

A priest, a minister, a rabbi, and a computer scienist walk into a bar.

David Mamet has a clever scheme, in On Directing Film, of moving between storytelling and jokes. Jokes, he observes, are stories -- and they're stories we tell directly, concisely, without trying to be interesting or lyrical or fancy. We can learn good technique from bad jokes.

We've got the clergy and the bartender, and maybe there's a guy drinking at the bar.

We know where we start, and where we're going to end up. The computer scientist is going to have the last word. He's got to: he's the one that doesn't fit.

The minister, the priest, and the rabbi have interesting things to say. Not the punch line, but worth hearing.

And it doesn't really matter which in order they speak -- as long as it's the right order. Tonight, maybe, it matters that the rabbi gets in the first whack. This time, maybe, it works best if the priest comes last. But, whatever we do in the middle, it's still the same story.

There was this farmer who had to sell his pig.

There was this farmer. Had a daughter. Pretty.

So we know where we begin, we know where we're going, but we can improvise a little on the road. There are limits -- you've got to know the chords, you've got to know the changes -- but you can improvise.