Nikola Tesla Accurately Predicted the Rise of the Internet & Smart Phone in 1926

Certain cult historical figures have served as prescient avatars for the techno-visionaries of the digital age. Where the altruistic utopian designs of Buckminster Fuller provided an ideal for the first wave of Silicon Valley pioneers (a group including computer scientist and philosopher Jaron Lanier and Wired editor Kevin Kelly), later entrepreneurs have hewn closer to the principles of brilliant scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla, who believed, as he told Liberty magazine in 1935, that “we suffer the derangement of our civilization because we have not yet completely adjusted ourselves to the machine age.”

Such an adjustment would come, Tesla believed, only in “mastering the machine”—and he seemed to have supreme confidence in human mastery—over food production, climate, and genetics. We would be freed from onerous labor by automation and the creation of “a thinking machine” he said, over a decade before the invention of the computer. Tesla did not anticipate the ways such machines would come to master us, even though he cannily foresaw the future of wireless technology, computing, and telephony, technologies that would radically reshape every aspect of human life.

In an earlier, 1926, interview in Colliers magazine, Tesla predicted, as the editors wrote, communicating “instantly by simple vest-pocket equipment.” His actual words conveyed a much grander, and more accurate, picture of the future.

When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is…. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do this will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket. 

The complexity of smart phones far outstrips that of the telephone, but in every other respect, Tesla’s picture maps onto the reality of almost 100 years later. Other aspects of Tesla’s future scenario for wireless also seem to anticipate current technologies, like 3D printing, though the kind he describes still remains in the realm of science fiction: “Wireless will achieve the closer contact through transmission of intelligence, transport of our bodies and materials and conveyance of energy.”

But Tesla’s vision had its limitations, and they lay precisely in his techno-optimism. He never met a problem that wouldn’t eventually have a technological solution (and like many other techno-visionaries of the time, he heartily endorsed state-sponsored eugenics). “The majority of the ills from which humanity suffers,” he said, “are due to the immense extent of the terrestrial globe and the inability of individuals and nations to come into close contact.”

Wireless technology, thought Tesla, would help eradicate war, poverty, disease, pollution, and general discontent, when were are “able to witness and hear events—the inauguration of a President, the playing of a world series game, the havoc of an earthquake or the terror of a battle—just as though we were present.” When international boundaries are “largely obliterated” by instant communication, he believed, “a great step will be made toward the unification and harmonious existence of the various races inhabiting the globe.”

Tesla did not, and perhaps could not, foresee the ways in which technologies that bring us closer together than ever also, and at the same time, pull us ever further apart. Read Tesla's full interview here, in which he also predicts that women will become the "superior sex," not by virtue of "the shallow physical imitation of men" but through "the awakening of the intellect."

via Kottke

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Quentin Tarantino’s World War II Reading List

Image by Georges Biard, via Wikimedia Commons

With his first three features Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Jackie Brown, Quentin Tarantino claimed 1990s Los Angeles as his own. Then he struck boldly out into not just new geographical and cultural territories, but other time periods. With his first full-on period piece, 2009's Inglourious Basterds, he showed audiences just how he intended to use history: twisting it for his own cinematic purposes, of course, but only making his departures after steeping himself in accounts of the time in which he envisioned his story taking place. This naturally involves plenty of reading, and Tarantino recently provided HistoryNet with a few titles that helped him properly situate Inglourious Basterds in the Europe of the Second World War.

Tarantino calls Ian Ousby's Occupation: The Ordeal of France 1940–1944 "a very good overview that answered all of my questions about life in Nazi-occupied France." Ulysses Lee's The Employment of Negro Troops is "the most profound thing I’ve ever read on both the war and racist America of the 1940s, commissioned by the U.S. Army to examine the effectiveness of their employment of black soldiers." And for Tarantino, who doesn't just make films but lives and breathes them, understanding Nazi Germany means understanding its cinema, beginning with Eric Rentschler's Ministry of Illusion: Nazi Cinema and Its Afterlife, "a wonderful critical reexamination of German cinema under Joseph Goebbels" that "goes far beyond the demonizing approach employed by most writers on this subject," including even excerpts from Goebbels' diaries.

Rentschler also "dares to make a fair appraisal of Nazi filmmaker Veit Harlan," who made antisemitic blockbusters as one of Goebbels' leading propaganda directors. But the work of no Nazi filmmaker had as much of an impact as that of Leni Riefenstahl, two books about whom Tarantino puts on his World War II reading list: Glenn B. Infield's Leni Riefenstahl: The Fallen Film Goddess, the first he ever read about her, as well as Riefenstahl's eponymous memoir, which he calls "mesmerizing. Though you can’t believe half of it. That still leaves half to ponder. Her descriptions of normal friendly conversations with Hitler are amazing and ring of truth" — and that praise comes from a filmmaker who made his own name with good dialogue.

In a recent DGA Quarterly conversation with Martin Scorsese, Tarantino revealed that he's also at work on a book of his own about that era: "I've got this character who had been in World War II and he saw a lot of bloodshed there. Now he's back home, and it's like the '50s, and he doesn't respond to movies anymore. He finds them juvenile after everything that he's been through. As far as he's concerned, Hollywood movies are movies. And so then, all of a sudden, he starts hearing about these foreign movies by Kurosawa and Fellini," thinking "maybe they might have something more than this phony Hollywood stuff." He soon finds himself drawn inexorably in: "Some of them he likes and some of them he doesn't like and some of them he doesn't understand, but he knows he's seeing something." This is hardly the kind of premise that leads straight to the kind of violent catharsis in which Tarantino specializes, but then, he's pulled off more unlikely artistic feats in his time.

via HistoryNet

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Watch Klaus Nomi Debut His New Wave Vaudeville Show: The Birth of the Opera-Singing Space Alien (1978)

Given the history of New York’s East Village as the first foreign language neighborhood in the country after waves of European immigration, perhaps it’s only natural that Klaus Nomi, opera-singing German performance artist who made a name for himself in the punk clubs of the late 70s, would find a home there.

By his time, the tenements had given way to other demographic waves: including Beatniks, writers, actors, Warholian Factory superstars, and punk and New Wave scenesters, whom Dangerous Mind’s Richard Metzger calls a “second generation” after Warhol, “drawn in by that Warhol myth but doing their own things.”

Even amidst the thriving DIY experimentalism of Post-Warholian art, fashion, and music, of a scene including Talking Heads, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Haring, Nomi stood out. It was the way he seemed to inhabit two time periods at once. He arrived both as a cabaret performer from Weimar Germany—a tragic clown with the voice of an angel—and as a thoroughly convincing intergalactic traveler, teleporting in briefly from the future.

No one was prepared for this when he made his New York debut at Irving Plaza’s New Wave Vaudeville show in 1978, evoking an even earlier era by singing “Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix,” from Camille Saint-Saëns' 1877 opera Samson et Dalila. After his stunning performance, he would disappear from the stage in a confusion of strobe lights and smoke. East Village artist Joey Arias remembers, “It was like he was from a different planet and his parents were calling him home.”

Other acts at New Wave Vaudeville, a four-night East Village variety show, were “doing a punk version of Mickey Rooney, ‘We’re going to do a goofy show,’” says Kristian Hoffman, the musician who became Nomi’s musical director. In came Nomi with “a whole different level of accomplishment.” MC David McDermott was obliged to announce that he was not singing to a recording. You can see Nomi debut at New Wave Vaudeville above, in a clip from the 2004 film The Nomi Song.

The significance of these early performances goes far beyond the immediate shock of their first audiences. At these shows, Nomi met Hoffman, who would form his band and write the songs for which he became best known. Producer and director of the New Wave Vaudeville show Susan Hannaford and Ann Magnuson were also the owner and bartender at Club 57, where Nomi would help them organize exhibits by artists like Kenny Scharf.

Seeing Nomi’s debut can still feel a bit like watching a visitor arrive from both the past and the future at once. And it is lucky we have this early footage of an artist who would to on to perform with David Bowie and become a gay icon and pioneer of theatrical New Wave. But we should also see his arrival on the scene as an essential document of the history of the East Village, and its transformation into “a playground,” as Messy Nessy writes, “for artistic misanthropes, anarchists, exhibitionists, queers, poets, punks and everything in between,” including opera-singing aliens from West Berlin.

via Messy Nessy

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

82 Animated Interviews with Living, Dead, Celebrated & Sometimes Disgraced Celebrities

Who wants to live in the present? It’s such a limiting period, compared to the past.

Roger Ebert, Playboy 1990

Were Ebert alive today would he still express himself thusly in a recorded interview? His remarks are specific to his cinematic passion, but still. As a smart Midwesterner, he would have realized that the corn has ears and the potatoes have eyes. Remarks can be taken out of context. (Witness the above.)

Recent history has shown that not everyone is keen to roll back the clock—women, people of color, and gender non-conforming individuals have been reclaiming their narratives in record numbers, airing secrets, exposing injustice, and articulating offenses that can no longer stand.

If powerful, older, white heterosexual men in the entertainment business are exercising verbal caution these days when speaking as a matter of public record, there’s some goodly cause for that.

It also makes the archival celebrity interviews excerpted for Quoted Studios' animated series, Blank on Blank, feel very vibrant and uncensored, though be forewarned that your blood may boil a bit just reviewing the celebrity line up—Michael JacksonWoody Allen, Clint Eastwood holding forth on the Pussy Generation 10 years before the Pussyhat Project legitimized common usage of that charged word….

(In full disclosure, Blank on Blank is an oft-reported favorite here at Open Culture.)

Here’s rapper Tupac Skakur, a year and a half before he was killed in a drive by shooting, casting himself as a tragic Shakespearean hero,

His musings on how differently the public would have viewed him had he been born white seem even more relevant today. Readers who are only passingly acquainted with his artistic output and legend may be surprised to hear him tracing his allegiance to “thug life” to the positive role he saw the Black Panthers playing in his single mother’s life when he was a child.

On the other hand, Shakur’s lavish and freely expressed self pity at the way the press reported on his rape charge (for which he eventually served 9 months) does not sit at all well in 2019, nor did it in 1994.

Like the majority of Blank on Blank entries, the recording was not the interview’s final form, but rather a journalistic reference. Animator Patrick Smith may add a layer of visual editorial, but in terms of narration, every subject is telling their own undiluted truth.

It is interesting to keep in mind that this was one of the first interviews the Blank on Blank team tackled, in 2013.

Six years later, it’s hard to imagine they would risk choosing that portion of the interview to animate. Had Shakur lived, would he be cancelled?

Guess who was the star of the very first Blank on Blank to air on PBS back in 2013?

Broadcaster and television host Larry King. While King has steadfastly rebutted accusations of groping, we suspect that if the Blank on Blank team was just now getting around to this subject, they’d focus on a different part of his 2001 Esquire profile than the part where he regales interviewer Cal Fussman with tales of pre-cellphone “seduction.”

It’s only been six years since the series’ debut, but it’s a different world for sure.

If you’re among the easily triggered, living legend Meryl Streep’s thoughts on beauty, harvested in 2014 from a 2008 conversation with Entertainment Weekly’s Christine Spines, won’t offer total respite, but any indignation you feel will be in support of, not because of this celebrity subject.

It’s actually pretty rousing to hear her merrily exposing Hollywood players’ piggishness, several years before the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke.

For even more evidence of “a different world,” check out interviewer Howard Smith’s remark to Janis Joplin in her final interview-cum-Blank-on-Blank episode, four days before here 1970 death:

A lot of women have been saying that the whole field of rock music is nothing more than a big male chauvinist rip off and when I say, “Yeah, what about Janis Joplin? She made it,” they say, “Oh…her.” It seems to bother a lot of women’s lib people that you’re kind of so up front sexually.

Joplin, stung, unleashes a string of invectives against feminists and women, in general. One has to wonder if this reaction was Smith’s goal all along. Or maybe I’m just having flashbacks to middle school, when the popular girls would always send a delegate disguised as a concerned friend to tell you why you were being shunned, preferably in a highly public gladiatorial arena such as the lunchroom.

I presume that sort of stuff occurs primarily over social media these days.

Good on the Blank on Blank staff for picking up on the tenor of this interview and titling it “Janis Joplin on Rejection.”

You can binge watch a playlist of 82 Blank on Blank episodes, featuring many thoughts few express so openly anymore, here or right below.

When you’re done with that, you’ll find even more Blank on Blank entries on the creators’ website.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, December 9 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates Dennison’s Christmas Book (1921). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Download Stunning 3D Scans of the Bust of Nefertiti, Now Released by Berlin’s Neues Museum

Two years ago, a scandalous “art heist” at the Neues Museum in Berlin—involving illegally made 3D scans of the bust of Nefertiti—turned out to be a different kind of crime. The two Egyptian artists who released the scans claimed they had made the images with a hidden “hacked Kinect Sensor,” reports Annalee Newitz at Ars Technica. But digital artist and designer Cosmo Wenman discovered these were scans made by the Neues Museum itself, which had been stolen by the artists or perhaps a museum employee.

The initial controversy stemmed from the fact that the museum strictly controls images of the artwork, and had refused to release any of their Nefertiti scans to the public. The practice, Wenman pointed out, is consistent across dozens of institutions around the world. “There are many influential museums, universities, and private collections that have extremely high-quality 3D data of important works, but they are not sharing that data with the public.” He lists many prominent examples in a recent Reason article; the long list includes the Venus de Milo, Rodin’s Thinker, and works by Donatello, Bernini, and Michelangelo.

Whatever their reasons, the aggressively proprietary attitude adopted by the Neues seems strange considering the controversial provenance of the Nefertiti bust. Germany has long claimed that it acquired the bust legally in 1912. But at the time, the British controlled Egypt, and Egyptians themselves had little say over the fate of their national treasures. Furthermore, the chain of custody seems to include at least a few documented instances of fraud. Egypt has been demanding that the artifact be repatriated “ever since it first went on display.”

This critical historical context notwithstanding, the bust is already "one of the most copied works of ancient Egyptian art," and one of the most famous. “Museums should not be repositories of secret knowledge,” Wenman argued in his blog post. Prestigious cultural institutions “are in the best position to produce and publish 3D data of their works and provide authoritative context and commentary.”

Wenman waged a “3-year-long freedom of information effort” to liberate the scans. His request was initially met with “the gift shop defense”—the museum claimed releasing the images would threaten sales of Nefertiti merchandise. When the appeal to commerce failed to dissuade Wenman, the museum let him examine the scans "in a controlled setting"; they were essentially treating the images, he writes, "like a state secret." Finally, they relented, allowing Wenman to publish the scans, without any institutional support.

He has done so, and urged others to share his Reason article on social media to get word out about the files, now available to download and use under a CC BY-NC-SA license. He has also taken his own liberties with the scans, colorizing and adding the blue 3D mapping lines himself to the image at the top, for example, drawn from his own interactive 3D model, which you can view and download here. These are examples of his vision for high-quality 3D scans of artworks, which can and should "be adapted, multiplied, and remixed."

"The best place to celebrate great art," says Wenman, "is in a vibrant, lively, and anarchic popular culture. The world's back catalog of art should be set free to run wild in our visual and tactile landscape." Organizations like Scan the World have been releasing unofficial 3D scans to the public for the past couple years, but these cannot guarantee the accuracy of models rendered by the institutions themselves.

Whether the actual bust of Nefertiti should be returned to Egypt is a somewhat more complicated question, since the 3,000-year old artifact may be too fragile to move and too culturally important to risk damaging in transit. But whether or not its virtual representations should be given to everyone who wants them seems more straightforward.

The images already belong to the public, in a sense, Wenman suggests. Withholding them for the sake of protecting sales seems like a violation of the spirit in which most cultural institutions were founded. Download the Nefertiti scans at Thingiverse, see Wenman's own 3D models at Sketchfab, and read all of his correspondence with the museum throughout the freedom of information process here. Next, he writes, he's lobbying for the release of official 3D Rodin scans. Watch this space. 

via Reason

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

David Lynch Visualizes How Transcendental Meditation Works with Sharpie & Big Pad of Paper

Second only to the Beatles, David Lynch has become synonymous with the practice of Transcendental Meditation. And while the results were certainly mixed for the Fab Four, Lynch, in all his idiosyncrasies, has become the face of TM. He didn’t dabble with it mid-career. Instead, meditation helped create his career, as both his practice and the filming of Eraserhead started around 1972.

“...[L]ooking back,” he said in a Daily Beast interview in 2014, “I was filled with anger and took it out on my first wife and made her life miserable. I had a low-grade depression, and wasn’t really self-assured. If I’d gone forward without the ability to transcend every day, I think the pressures of the business could’ve gotten me.”

His career has been transcendent for sure, and as head of his eponymous foundation, he’s spreading the word, bringing TM to schools and calling in fellow creatives to extol its virtues.

But how does Lynch himself explain Transcendental Meditation? In this video, Lynch, armed with a pad of paper and a Sharpie, takes us on a scientific journey down past atoms and protons, and down to the unified field theory of quantum physics. A “no-thing” out of which all matter emerges. Scientists can’t take us into the unified field...but the mind can. Hence, meditation.

“The mantra is the key that opens the door,” he explains. (What is that mantra? It’s a personal one that the Maharishi, or someone high on the TM chain will give you after training...if you believe the TM pitch. Not everybody believes it needs be so proprietary, or expensive.)

With a mantra the mind can dive deep and then deeper: “Each deeper level of mind and each deeper level of intellect has more happiness,” he says. Go deep enough and the mind hits the equivalent of the unified field, and there…transcendence.

“Pure, unbounded, infinite consciousness...” he promises. “Transcendental meditation is just the vehicle to get you here.”

This can’t be the first time Lynch has drawn this diagram, but it really is one of the best visualizations of how science and meditation have arrived at the same conclusion. And it's also why science is now studying the effects of meditation on the brain. For those looking for more on Lynch and meditation, we have you covered.

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at and/or watch his films here.

How Art Nouveau Inspired the Psychedelic Designs of the 1960s

“In the late 1800’s new technology was changing the way the world worked, and the way that it looked,” the Vox video above explains. “Some people, especially artists, living through the technological revolution, were not so into all the new industry. To be blunt, they thought it was ugly.” They responded with organic forms and intricate patterns that evoked a pre-industrial world while simultaneously showcasing, and selling, the most modern ideas and products.

Drawing on the handcrafted aesthetic of the Arts and Crafts Movement, the Gothic revival, the florid, ornate paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites, a fascination with Japanese woodblock prints, and the strange, beautiful illustrations of sea creatures by Ernst Haeckel, artists began to challenge late Victorian orthodoxies. The style we now know as Art Nouveau emerged.

It went by many names: Jugendstil, Mondernisme, Tiffany Style, Glasgow Style, Stile Liberty, Sezessionstil. Each identified a collection of traits with which we are now familiar from the many hundreds of posters and advertisements of the time. Grand, flowing lines, intricate patterns, vibrant, often clashing colors, bold hand-lettering, feminine figures and elaborate, exotic themes….

The descriptions of Art Nouveau’s qualities also apply to the poster and album cover art of the psychedelic 1960s, and no wonder, given the significant influence of the former upon the latter. The artists of the acid rock period rebelled not so much against industrialization as the military-industrial-complex. At the epicenter of the movement was the San Francisco of Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead.

Venues like the Filmore and the Avalon advertised the hippie revolution with eye-catching posters inspired by those that once lined the thoroughfares of Europe in an age before TV, radio, and neon signs. Art Nouveau-like designs had already returned with the flower patterns popular in fabrics at the time. 60s graphic designers saw these seductive styles as the key to a new psychedelic vision.

It’s easy to see why. Flowers, curves, peacocks, updates of Art Nouveau images from the past (including skeletons and roses)—dialed up to 11 with “eye-vibrating” colors—made the perfect visual accompaniment for the acid-flavored Romanticism that took root during the Vietnam era. Even the fonts were poached from turn-of-the-century graphic art. Famous 60s designers like Wes Wilson confessed their admiration for modernism, “the idea,” Wilson told Time in 1967, “of really putting it all out there.”

Just as Art Nouveau flowered into an international style, with some presciently trippy manifestations in Brazil and other places, so too did the 60s psychedelic poster, spreading from San Francisco to every corner of the globe. And as Art Nouveau became the house style for the counterculture of the early 20th century—celebrating sexual and cultural experimentation and occult interests—it announced the birth of flower power and its recovery of modernism's expressive freedoms.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

What Ancient Chinese Sounded Like — and How We Know It: An Animated Introduction

No student of Chinese has an easy time with pronunciation. Even linguist Joshua Rudder, who tells animated stories on his Youtube channel NativeLang about languages around the world and how they came to be, admits his own struggles to get it right. "But lately I've been burying myself in hundreds of pages of Chinese linguistic history, and you know what? I'm in good company," says Rudder in the introduction to the video above, "What 'Ancient' Chinese Sounded Like — and How We Know." "Chinese pronunciation puzzled experts in China for a long, long time."

This leads into the story of one particular expert, a 19th scholar named Chen Li who sought to recover Chinese pronunciations that even then seemed to have been lost to history. "How do you recover the sounds immortalized in classical texts? How do you make the old poems rhyme again?" And how do you do it when "you have no recordings, no phonetic transcriptions, not even an alphabet — you're working with characters." Ah yes, characters, those thousands of logograms, evolved over millennia, that still today bedevil anyone trying to get a handle on the Chinese language, not excluding the Chinese themselves. That goes especially for someone as linguistically ambitious as Chen Li.

Chen Li's research on the correct pronunciation of ancient Chinese brought him to the Qieyun, an even then-1200-year-old dictionary of fanqie (反切), or the pronunciation of single characters described by using combinations of other characters. (On Wikipedia, you can find assembled links to scanned fragments of the text currently held in places like the British Library and the Bibliothèque nationale de France.) Drawing on not just the Qieyun but other sources as well, Chen Li's painstaking work of reconstructing old pronunciations overturned the long-standing teaching that the Chinese language had 36 initial consonant sounds. He found that it had 41. But even after that discovery, the nature of these "precise sounds" remained unknown, an incompleteness of knowledge chipped away at by the Swedish scholar Bernard Karlgren in the 1900s, who took into account "the many living varieties" of the Chinese language.

Other Asian languages with vocabulary descended from Chinese also come in to play. Rudder takes the example of the word for "country," pronounced guó (國) in modern Mandarin but kuk in Korean (국), koku in Japanese (国), and kuək in Vietnamese (quốc), all suggesting a common ancient Chinese ancestor word ending in a K-like consonant sound. But however much progress has been made, this research into "ancient" Chinese has turned out to be research into a linguistic period of "middle Chinese," which reveals evidence of "an even older language to uncover, a thousand years older still." The work of a linguistic history, just like the humbler work of a Chinese language-learner, is never done.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Salvador Dalí’s Iconic Deck of Tarot Cards Get Re-Issued: It’s Out Today

Last month, we highlighted Salvador Dali's deck of Tarot cards. Originally created in 1984, the tarot deck is now being re-issued by Taschen in a beautiful 184-page art book. For those interested, the official release date is today. Read all about the famous deck here. Or purchase your own set of Dali's tarot cards here.

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The Seven Road-Tested Habits of Effective Artists

Fifteen years ago, a young construction worker named Andrew Price went in search of free 3d software to help him achieve his goal of rendering a 3D car.

He stumbled onto Blender, a just-the-ticket open source software that helps users with every aspect of 3D creation—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing, and motion tracking.

Price describes his early learning style as "playing it by ear,” sampling tutorials, some of which he couldn’t be bothered to complete.

Desire for freelance gigs led him to forge a new identity, that of a Blender Guru, whose tutorials, podcasts, and articles would help other new users get the hang of the software.

But it wasn’t declaring himself an expert that ultimately improved his artistic skills. It was holding his own feet over the fire by placing a bet with his younger cousin, who stood to gain $1000 if Price failed to rack up 1,000 “likes” by posting 2D drawings to ArtStation within a 6-month period.

(If he succeeded—which he did, 3 days before his self-imposed deadline—his cousin owed him nothing. Loss aversion proved to be a more powerful motivator than any carrot on a stick…)

In order to snag the requisite likes, Price found that he needed to revise some habits and commit to a more robust daily practice, a journey he detailed in a presentation at the 2016 Blender Conference.

Price confesses that the challenge taught him much about drawing and painting, but even more about having an effective artistic practice. His seven rules apply to any number of creative forms:


Andrew Price’s Rules for an Effective Artist Practice:

  1. Practice Daily

A number of prolific artists have subscribed to this belief over the years, including novelist (and mother!) JK Rowling, comedian Jerry Seinfeld, autobiographical performer Mike Birbligia, and memoirist David Sedaris.

If you feel too fried to uphold your end of the bargain, pretend to go easy on yourself with a little trick Price picked up from music producer Rick Rubin: Do the absolute minimum. You’ll likely find that performing the minimum positions you to do much more than that. Your resistance is not so much to the doing as it is to the embarking.

  1. Quantity over Perfectionism Masquerading as Quality

This harkens back to Rule Number One. Who are we to say which of our works will be judged worthy. Just keep putting it out there—remember it’s all practice, and law of averages favors those whose output is, like Picasso’s, prodigious. Don’t stand in the way of progress by splitting a single work’s endless hairs.

  1. Steal Without Ripping Off

Immerse yourself in the creative brilliance of those you admire. Then profit off your own improved efforts, a practice advocated by the likes of musician David Bowie, computer visionary Steve Jobs, and artist/social commentator Banksy.

  1. Educate Yourself

As a stand-alone, that old chestnut about practice making perfect is not sufficient to the task. Whether you seek out online tutorials, as Price did, enroll in a class, or designate a mentor, a conscientious commitment to study your craft will help you to better master it.

  1. Give yourself a break

Banging your head against the wall is not good for your brain. Price celebrates author Stephen King’s practice of giving the first draft of a new novel six weeks to marinate. Your break may be shorter. Three days may be ample to juice you up creatively. Just make sure it’s in your calendar to get back to it.

  1. Seek Feedback

Filmmaker Taika Waititirapper Kanye Westand the big gorillas at Pixar are not threatened by others' opinions. Seek them out. You may learn something.

  1. Create What You Want To

Passion projects are the key to creative longevity and pleasurable process. Don’t cater to a fickle public, or the shifting sands of fashion. Pursue the sorts of things that interest you.

Implicit in Price’s seven commandments is the notion that something may have to budge—your nightly cocktails, the number of hours spent on social media, that extra half hour in bed after the alarm goes off... Don’t neglect your familial or civic obligations, but neither should you shortchange your art. Life’s too short.

Read the transcript of Andrew Price's Blender Conference presentation here.

Related Content:

The Daily Habits of Famous Writers: Franz Kafka, Haruki Murakami, Stephen King & More

The Daily Habits of Highly Productive Philosophers: Nietzsche, Marx & Immanuel Kant

How to Read Many More Books in a Year: Watch a Short Documentary Featuring Some of the World’s Most Beautiful Bookstores

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, December 9 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates Dennison’s Christmas Book (1921). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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