a generative book of nonsensical chinese restaurants and their fortune cookies
description: have you ever noticed that chinese restaurants often have similar names seemingly comprised of a set of "oriental" or "asian-inspired" words? in addition, don't fortune cookie fortunes appear nonsensical at times?
i certainly think so, which led me to utilize generated chinese restaurant names and fortune cookie messages in my generative book project for Interactivity & Computation. in this project, i take whimsy and silliness to the extreme with my randomized takeout restaurants, visuals, and fortunes.
This project was created for the 'Generative Book' assignment in 60-212: Interactivity & Computation Fall 2018.
Initially, I had no idea what I wanted to do for this project. I was really impressed by the examples we were shown in class and knew that I wanted to incorporate both generative text and generative imagery. In fact, I liked Lingdong's approach in his project "Fauna of Sloogia" where he focused more on generative imagery and the generative text aspect of his book was simply the names he gave to each generated creature.
With this in mind, I first thought of images I could generate. I needed objects that came in large batches/quantities but were not all exactly alike. Items that fit this category included snowflakes, fruits, etc. but these seemed unimaginative. Finally, I thought of fortune cookies and this idea immediately tied into what I wanted to create through generative text - strange fortunes and Chinese restaurant names - and from there, I developed a comprehensive plan for my generative chapter.
This project was split into four parts: the fortune cookie, the takeout box, the restaurant name, and the fortune.
1. the fortune cookie For the fortune cookie, I first sketched a few cookies and determined the vertices they all had in common. I gave each cookie 9 vertices and graphed them on a 500x500 p5js canvas.
From there, I played around with bezier curves and shading to create each fortune cookie. Every cookie's vertices and bezier curves are randomized and thus generated by the computer every time.
2. the takeout box
For the takeout box, I had a very similar approach as I did with the cookie; I sketched takeout boxes, determined the common vertices, and randomized the vertices within p5 so that no two takeout boxes would look alike. In addition, I added text onto the box. Two phrases - comprised of "Thank You" or "Enjoy" - appeared at random points on the box.
3. the restaurant name
For the generated Chinese restaurant names, I drew inspiration from a discussion I had a few weeks ago about Chinese restaurants commonly being composed of similar words and language.
I put more thought and research into this idea and came up with five categories of words commonly found in Chinese restaurant names: places, adjective, nouns, food, and location. And depending on the length of the name, I would randomly choose one word from each of these categories in a predetermined order and generate names.
places: "Beijing", "Peking", "Szechuan", "Shanghai", "Hunan", "Canton", "Hong Kong", "Taipei", "China", "Taiwan", "Formosa"
adjectives: "Lucky", "Golden", "Gourmet", "Imperial", "Oriental", "Grand", "Mandarin", "Supreme", "Royal", "East", "Old", "Happy", "Hot", "Chinese"
nouns: "Cat", "Moon", "Sun", "Dragon", "Star", "Roll", "Panda", "Bamboo", "Chef", "King", "Empire", "Empress", "Emperor", "Phoenix", "Lion", "Tiger", "Jade", "Pearl"
foods: "Seafood", "Noodle", "Dim Sum", "Hot Pot", "Rice", "Ramen", "Hibachi"
locations: "Palace", "Garden", "Cafe", "Bistro", "Kitchen", "Restaurant", "Buffet", "House", "Wok", "Bowl", "Grill", "Cuisine", "Express"
For example, if I wanted to generate a Chinese restaurant name that was four words long and had a word order of adjective-food-place-location one example would be "Golden Noodle Szechuan Kitchen".
To finalize this, I gave each word length (from two words long to five words long) a chance of 20% (i.e. the chance of the generator returning a three word long name and a five word long name were both 20%). And within each word length, I thought of word orderings and manipulated the chances of each ordering.
To demonstrate the Chinese Restaurant Name Generator in action, click on the following sketch to generate names:
4. the fortune
To generate the fortune, I first wrote down each fortune with blanks and filled in the blanks with random nouns, adverbs, adjectives, verbs, etc. using RiTa.