Tuesday, November 04, 2008

(and it came from Mom's basement)

We America-hating liberals chortled when patriots failed to come up with the $10,000 to pay that Oxford professor for a computer analysis of similarities between Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father and William Ayers's Fugitive Days. And, yes, the professor did twist the knife by saying that shared authorship was "very implausible."

Ah, but now a computer program has demonstrated the link! This is going to be the eleventh-hour game changer:

In early October, a friend of Chris Yavelow's forwarded him a copy of my article, "Who Wrote Obama's Dreams From My Father." In the article, I make the case that erstwhile terrorist Bill Ayers had a substantial and easily detectable hand in the writing of Obama's lyrical masterwork....

The friend knew that Yavelow, an award-winning composer and author, had worked for years developing what he believes is the most comprehensive linguistics tool for authorship detection, a software product trademarked as FictionFixer.

... When ... Yavelow compared Obama's
Dreams with Bill Ayers' memoir, Fugitive Days, he found the similarity of the two books "striking." He then quickly corrects himself: "'Striking' is an understatement for the relationship FictionFixer uncovered between Fugitive Days and Dreams From My Father."

For instance, Dreams averages 17.61 words and 26.48 syllables for non-dialogue sentences. Fugitive Days averages 17.62 words and 26.27 syllables....

Wow!! That's it!! The smoking gun!!!!!

So what is this FictionFixer?

Oh it's, um, not exactly a tool to determine authorship, as the Baltimore City Paper explained a couple of years ago (emphasis added):

Nearly seven years ago, as Chris Yavelow sat down to write his first novel, he did the usual things. He says he took "a bunch of classes," joined some creative writing groups, and started writing. Then something unusual happened. "I started having questions, like, Should I use the word 'seemingly'?" he says. "I was reading Congo by Michael Crichton. I wondered, Did Crichton use 'seemingly'?"

To find out, Yavelow scanned
Congo into his computer and did a word search. The Congo scan led Yavelow, a computer expert who looks like a cross between Gene Wilder and Larry from the Three Stooges, to other questions about how to turn a phrase. And he wondered if certain turns of phrase would tend to turn a buck. He hypothesized that successful books all had something in common -- something that, if he could analyze it, he could learn to bang out best sellers like Crichton.

Surrounded by books on writing and right-wing polemics in his mother's Timonium basement, Yavelow started scanning popular novels into his computer, and he began writing a computer program to scan for patterns.

In October he launched the result, "FictionFixer" (www.fictionfixer.com), a computer program and analysis service that, for about $380, Yavelow says will help turn anyone’s novel into a potential best seller.....

This guy sounds smart! He came up with this clever program in his mother's basement!

So how'd that work out for him?

"I'm in the middle of my second novel," Yavelow says. "I feel like the first one will be a best seller because of my use of FictionFixer."

That first novel is still unpublished.

(That was in 2006. According to Amazon, there are still no novels by Chris in print, although he is thanked in the acknowledgments of this one. That's a start, isn't it?)

FictionFixer is a very clever program. The City Paper reporter fed it a James Frey memoir for analysis:

FictionFixer lists Frey's use of the word "crack" among its descriptive verbs, and Yavelow praises it as a "good sound word" before being told that, in Frey's work, "crack" is usually a noun meaning rock cocaine.


Well, at least the program is probably selling well ... right?

Yavelow defers questions about FictionFixer's sales history so far. "That's confidential information," he says, but adds quickly, "There haven't been as many [paying customers] as I would have liked." He also says that he hasn't done much to promote the service yet.

But, hey, this ought to turn everything around! A program that doesn't work, doesn't sell, and wasn't design for the purpose might just bring down a would-be president! Awesome!

(Or seemingly so.)


(FictionFixer site here.)

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