How Jim Jarmusch Gets Creative Ideas from William S. Burroughs’ Cut-Up Method and Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies

As the name­less assas­sin pro­tag­o­nist of Jim Jar­musch’s The Lim­its of Con­trol makes his way through Spain, he meets sev­er­al dif­fer­ent, sim­i­lar­ly mys­te­ri­ous fig­ures, each time at a dif­fer­ent café. Each time he orders two espres­sos — not a dou­ble espres­so, but two espres­sos in sep­a­rate cups. Each time his con­tact arrives and asks, in Span­ish, whether he speaks Span­ish, to which he responds that he does­n’t. Each con­ver­sa­tion that fol­lows ends with an exchange of match­box­es, and each one the assas­sin receives con­tains a slip of paper with a cod­ed mes­sage, which he eats after read­ing, con­tain­ing direc­tions to his next des­ti­na­tion.

All these ele­ments remain the same while every­thing else changes, a struc­ture that show­cas­es Jar­musch’s inter­est in theme and vari­a­tion as clear­ly as any­thing he’s ever made. “Some call it rep­e­ti­tion,” he says in the page above from fash­ion and cul­ture bian­nu­al Anoth­er Man, “but I like to think of the rep­e­ti­tion of the same action or dia­logue in a film as a vari­a­tion. The accu­mu­la­tion of vari­a­tions is impor­tant to me too.” But to enrich the rep­e­ti­tion and vari­a­tions, he also makes use of ran­dom­ness, “the idea of find­ing things as you go along and find­ing links between things you weren’t even look­ing to link.”

Jar­musch cred­its this way of think­ing to William S. Bur­roughs (author, inci­den­tal­ly, of an essay called “The Lim­its of Con­trol”), and specif­i­cal­ly the “cut-up” tech­nique, which Bur­roughs and the artist Brion Gysin came up with, lit­er­al­ly cut­ting up texts in order to then “mix words and phras­es and chap­ters togeth­er in a ran­dom way.” He’s also found a source of ran­dom­ness in the Oblique Strate­gies, the deck of cards pub­lished in the 1970s by artist and music pro­duc­er Bri­an Eno and painter Peter Schmidt. “You just pick one card and it might say some­thing like, ‘Lis­ten from anoth­er room.’ One of my favorite cards says, ‘Empha­size rep­e­ti­tions.’ ” That last comes as no sur­prise, and he sure­ly also appre­ci­ates the one that says, “Rep­e­ti­tion is a form of change.”

Those who know both the Oblique Strate­gies and Jar­musch’s fil­mog­ra­phy — from his break­out indie hit Stranger Than Par­adise to recent work like Pater­son, the sto­ry of a bus-dri­ving poet in William Car­los Williams’ home­town — could think of many that apply to his sig­na­ture cin­e­mat­ic style: “Dis­con­nect from desire,” “Empha­size the flaws,” “Use ‘unqual­i­fied’ peo­ple,” “Remove specifics and con­vert to ambi­gu­i­ties” (or indeed “Remove ambi­gu­i­ties and con­vert to specifics”). His next project, which will fea­ture reg­u­lar col­lab­o­ra­tors Bill Mur­ray and Til­da Swin­ton as well as such new­com­ers to the Jar­musch fold as for­mer teen pop idol Sele­na Gomez, should offer anoth­er sat­is­fy­ing set of vari­a­tions on his usu­al themes. And giv­en that it’s about zom­bies, it will no doubt come with a strong dose of ran­dom­ness as well.

via Dark Shark

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jump Start Your Cre­ative Process with Bri­an Eno’s “Oblique Strate­gies” Deck of Cards (1975)

Mar­shall McLuhan’s 1969 Deck of Cards, Designed For Out-of-the-Box Think­ing

How to Jump­start Your Cre­ative Process with William S. Bur­roughs’ Cut-Up Tech­nique

How David Bowie, Kurt Cobain & Thom Yorke Write Songs With William Bur­roughs’ Cut-Up Tech­nique

Jim Jar­musch Lists His Favorite Poets: Dante, William Car­los Williams, Arthur Rim­baud, John Ash­bery & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities 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.

Japanese Musicians Turn Obsolete Machines Into Musical Instruments: Cathode Ray Tube TVs, Overhead Projectors, Reel-to-Reel Tape Machines & More

In the 1940s and 50s, exper­i­men­tal com­posers like Hal­im El-Dabh, Pierre Scha­ef­fer, and Pierre Hen­ry began mak­ing exper­i­men­tal com­po­si­tions that Scha­ef­fer would call musique con­crete. They used tape recorders, phono­graphs, micro­phones and oth­er ana­log elec­tro-acoustic devices to cre­ate music, as Hen­ry put it, from “non-musi­cal sounds.” These tech­niques became main­stays of more famil­iar audio art, such as the radio and tele­vi­sion sound designs of the BBC’s Radio­phon­ic Work­shop. With the advent of syn­the­siz­ers, elec­tron­ic music over­took these sound exper­i­ments, just as oth­er new tech­nolo­gies replaced the play­back and record­ing devices used to make them.

A Japan­ese group called Open Reel Ensem­ble recalls this lega­cy of musique con­crete, deploy­ing reel-to-reel tape machines, cath­ode ray tube TVs, over­head pro­jec­tors, and oth­er ana­log tech­nol­o­gy to make 21st cen­tu­ry music with “non-musi­cal sounds.” Head­ed by pro­gram­mer-turned-com­pos­er Ei Wada, the group embraces a very dif­fer­ent com­po­si­tion­al phi­los­o­phy than the exper­i­men­tal elec­tro-acoustic com­posers of the past, who worked in reac­tion to Euro­pean clas­si­cal music, oppos­ing “con­crete” sounds to abstract musi­cal ideas. Wada, on the oth­er hand, was first inspired by hear­ing a game­lan ensem­ble at a per­for­mance in Indone­sia as a very small child.

Giv­en a col­lec­tion of 70s reel-to-reel recorders by a fam­i­ly friend, he attempt­ed to re-cre­ate the polypho­ny of those tra­di­tion­al Javanese gong ensem­bles. He has, writes Moth­er­board, “been on a quest to repro­duce oth­er­world­ly sounds with tech that nobody wants.” But he freely com­bines these out­dat­ed machines with con­tem­po­rary mix­ers, ampli­fiers, light shows, beats, and tem­pos. Formed with friends Haru­ka Yoshi­da and Masaru Yoshi­da, Wada’s Open Reel Ensem­ble might be com­pared to both the avant-garde exper­i­ments of com­posers like John Cage and the pop­u­lar exper­i­ments of hip hop turntab­lists, both of whom used ana­log tech­nol­o­gy in inno­v­a­tive, uncon­ven­tion­al ways.

Some of the group’s work is a kind of exper­i­men­tal dance music, as you can see in the live per­for­mance fur­ther up; some is more ambi­ent sound art, as in Wada’s solo ven­ti­la­tion fan per­for­mance above, with implic­it com­men­tary on Japan’s econ­o­my and the dis­pos­able nature of con­sumer tech­nol­o­gy. “All these tech objects are a sym­bol of Japan’s eco­nom­ic growth,” says Wada. “but they also get thrown away in great num­bers. It’s good to not just say bye to things that are thrown away but to instill old things with new mean­ing, and cel­e­brate their unique points.”

The detourn­ing of tech­nol­o­gy that would oth­er­wise end up as land­fill requires some inge­nu­ity, giv­en the increas­ing rar­i­ty of such instru­ments. In the per­for­mance above, we see Wada play with invent­ed devices his group calls in Eng­lish the “Exhaust Fan­cil­la­tor” and in Japan­ese a kankisen­thiz­er, a neol­o­gism formed from the word for ven­ti­la­tion fan. “We used laser cut­ters and 3D print­ers to design the ven­ti­la­tion fans,” he says. This will­ing­ness to impro­vise, invent, and repur­pose what­ev­er works makes for some fas­ci­nat­ing exper­i­ments that are as much per­for­mance art as sound com­po­si­tion.

In the Wada per­for­mance above from 2010, he uses old tube TVs as drums, hit­ting the screens to trig­ger both sound and light effects and bring­ing to mind not only the sound art of the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, but also the 1980s video instal­la­tions of Nam June Paik, ful­ly immer­sive expe­ri­ences that fore­ground their tech­no­log­i­cal arti­fice even as they pro­duce an inex­plic­a­ble kind of mag­ic.

via This is Colos­sal 

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Lis­ten to an Archive of Record­ings by Delia Der­byshire, the Elec­tron­ic Music Pio­neer & Com­pos­er of the Dr. Who Theme Song

Hear the One Night Sun Ra & John Cage Played Togeth­er in Con­cert (1986)

Pio­neer­ing Elec­tron­ic Com­pos­er Karl­heinz Stock­hausen Presents “Four Cri­te­ria of Elec­tron­ic Music” & Oth­er Lec­tures in Eng­lish (1972)

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

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction: 17,500 Entries on All Things Sci-Fi Are Now Free Online

What turns peo­ple into sci­ence-fic­tion fans? Many enter through the gate­way of Star Trek, an ear­ly 1960s tele­vi­sion series “set on the worlds vis­it­ed by a giant Space­ship, the U.S.S. Enter­prise, and on the ship itself. Its crew is on a mis­sion to explore new worlds and ‘to bold­ly go where no man has gone before.’ ” Though “not par­tic­u­lar­ly suc­cess­ful in the rat­ings,” Star Trek nev­er­the­less “attract­ed a hard core of devot­ed fans, ‘Trekkies,’ who made up in pas­sion­ate enthu­si­asm what they lacked in num­bers.” Per­haps cre­ator Gene Rod­den­ber­ry’s sig­na­ture “blend of the mild­ly fan­tas­tic with the reas­sur­ing­ly famil­iar, and his use of an on the whole very like­able cast, attract­ed view­ers pre­cise­ly because its exoti­cism was man­age­able and unthreat­en­ing.”

Those quotes come from The Ency­clo­pe­dia of Sci­ence Fic­tion, a free online resource fea­tur­ing more than 17,500 entries explain­ing all things sci-fi, whether new or old, main­stream or obscure. Some of its pages deal with works of doubt­ed sta­tus as sci­ence fic­tion at all: Star Wars, for exam­ple, “an enter­tain­ing pas­tiche that draws upon com­ic strips, old movie seri­als, West­erns, James Bond sto­ries, The Wiz­ard of Oz, Snow White, Errol Fly­nn swash­buck­lers and movies about World War Two” whose “grat­i­fy­ing­ly spec­tac­u­lar – at the time – spe­cial effects and mar­tial music hyp­no­tized the audi­ence into uncrit­i­cal accep­tance of the basi­cal­ly absurd, delib­er­ate­ly Pulp-mag­a­zine-style con­flict between Good and Evil.”

That sort of thing is a long way indeed from the work of, say, a sci­ence-fic­tion grand­mas­ter like Isaac Asi­mov, who wrote pro­lif­i­cal­ly in “the clear unerr­ing voice of a man speak­ing rea­son, utter­ing tales about how to solve the true world.” Some read­ers of Open Cul­ture might well have found their way into sci­ence fic­tion through Rid­ley Scot­t’s Blade Run­ner, which despite its “many nar­ra­tive flaws” remains “one of the most impor­tant sf movies made,” hav­ing showed “almost for the first time – though fans had spent years hop­ing – how visu­al­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed sf in film form can be.”

Blade Run­ner’s entry includes, of course, a ref­er­ence to the scrip­t’s basis on Do Androids Dream of Elec­tric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, “a fig­ure who helps define by con­trast those iden­ti­fied in this Ency­clo­pe­dia as Main­stream Writ­ers of SF: writ­ers, that is, whose com­pre­hen­sion of the sig­nif­i­cant lit­er­a­tures of the last cen­tu­ry has some­times seemed less than full. An author like Thomas Pyn­chon, who is not described in this ency­clo­pe­dia as main­stream, will under­stand what he owes Dick; a main­stream author like Mar­garet Atwood has worked to make it clear that she does not.”

Stan­ley Kubrick­’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, “the most ambi­tious sf film of the 1960s and per­haps ever,” has also done its part to prop­a­gate a sci-fi way of look­ing at the world, explor­ing as it does “the idea of human defi­cien­cy in the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry.” Kubrick devel­oped it in col­lab­o­ra­tion with nov­el­ist Arthur C. Clarke, anoth­er of the gen­re’s titans, indeed “the very per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of sf. Nev­er a ‘lit­er­ary’ author, he nonethe­less always wrote with lucid­i­ty and can­dour, often with grace, some­times with a cold, sharp evoca­tive­ness that pro­duced some of the most mem­o­rable images in sf.”

Oth­er entries tell of writ­ers not so close­ly asso­ci­at­ed with tra­di­tion­al sci­ence fic­tion but high­ly regard­ed and endur­ing­ly influ­en­tial in the wider world of spec­u­la­tive lit­er­a­ture: Jorge Luis Borges, for instance, with his “ ‘sense of ecsta­t­ic enclosed­ness in the Word Incar­nate’ that may be unique­ly intense in world lit­er­a­ture,” or J.G. Bal­lard, “revered (and detest­ed) for the cor­ro­sive­ly inescapable vision of the late twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry world, which his sto­ries seemed not so much to reflect in a dis­tort­ing mir­ror as (alarm­ing­ly) to reflect, for the first time, with­out defen­sive eva­sions.”

“Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in phys­i­cal form in 1979,” writes Lithub’s MH Rowe, “the Ency­clo­pe­dia of Sci­ence Fic­tion won a Hugo award for best non­fic­tion book in 1980. A sec­ond edi­tion fol­lowed in 1993, with a CD-ROM sup­ple­ment a few years lat­er. The ency­clo­pe­dia won anoth­er Hugo in 1994, and a decade lat­er began its migra­tion online, where it launched in 2011 as a pre­cur­sor to its cur­rent dig­i­tal form” — albeit a far cry from a crowd­sourced, objec­tiv­i­ty-ori­ent­ed resource like Wikipedia. “Mak­ing no effort to avoid the par­ti­san­ship that’s a hall­mark of being a fan, the SFE pos­sess­es the kind of puri­ty you can only get from cor­rupt endeav­ors. It’s by turns cranky, self-doubt­ing, and ultra-con­fi­dent, but it couldn’t be more deeply engaged with the genre of sci­ence fic­tion.” And if any­thing char­ac­ter­izes sci­ence-fic­tion fan­dom more than deep engage­ment, even the gen­re’s most pow­er­ful imag­i­na­tions haven’t dreamed of it.

via Lithub

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free: 355 Issues of Galaxy, the Ground­break­ing 1950s Sci­ence Fic­tion Mag­a­zine

100 Great Sci-Fi Sto­ries by Women Writ­ers (Read 20 for Free Online)

Isaac Asi­mov Recalls the Gold­en Age of Sci­ence Fic­tion (1937–1950)

The Art of Sci-Fi Book Cov­ers: From the Fan­tas­ti­cal 1920s to the Psy­che­del­ic 1960s & Beyond

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities 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.

Conserve the Sound, an Online Museum Preserves the Sounds of Past Technologies–from Typewriters, Electric Shavers and Cassette Recorders, to Cameras & Classic Nintendo

The unmis­tak­able zip and whirr of a rotary phone, the ungod­ly squeal of dial-up modems, the sat­is­fy­ing thunk of a car­tridge in a clas­sic Nin­ten­do con­sole, a VCR rewind­ing, the click-clack sound of a Walk­man’s but­tons…. I date myself in say­ing that these sounds imme­di­ate­ly send me back to var­i­ous moments in my child­hood with Prous­t­ian immer­sion. The sense of smell is most close­ly linked to mem­o­ry, but hear­ing can­not be far behind giv­en how sound embeds itself in time, and most espe­cial­ly the sounds of tech­nolo­gies, which are by nature fat­ed for obso­les­cence. A muse­um-qual­i­ty aura sur­rounds the Walk­man and the first iPods. These are tri­umphs of con­sumer design, but only one of them makes dis­tinc­tive mechan­i­cal nois­es.

As ana­log recedes, it can seem that noisy tech in gen­er­al becomes more and more dat­ed. It is hard to hear the rub­bing of thumbs and fin­gers across screens and touch­pads. Voice com­mands make but­tons and switch­es redun­dant. How much tech from now will one day fea­ture in Con­serve the Sound, the “online muse­um for van­ish­ing and endan­gered sounds”?

Its col­lec­tion gives the impres­sion of a bygone age, quaint in its dozens of exam­ples of mechan­i­cal inge­nu­ity. The visu­al jux­ta­po­si­tion of hand­held film cam­eras, type­writ­ers, car win­dow han­dles, elec­tric shavers, boom box­es, stop­watch­es, and so on has the effect of mak­ing these things seem all of a piece, assort­ed arti­facts in a great hall of won­ders called “the Sound the 20th Cen­tu­ry.”

At the top of the site’s “Sound” page, time­line nav­i­ga­tion allows users to vis­it every decade from the 1910s to the 2000s, a cat­e­go­ry that con­tains only two objects. Oth­er dis­plays are more plen­ti­ful, and col­or­ful. The 1960s, for exam­ple show­cas­es the incred­i­bly sexy red Schreib­mas­chine Olivet­ti Dora fur­ther up. It sounds as sleek and sophis­ti­cat­ed as it looks. The vir­tu­al dis­play case of the 30s holds the sounds of a twin-engine pro­peller plane and a hand­ful of beau­ti­ful mov­ing and still cam­eras, like the Fotokam­era Pur­ma Spe­cial above. It also fea­tures the hum­ble and endur­ing library stamp, a sound I pine for as I slide books under the self-check­out laser scan­ner at my local branch.

Giv­en just the few images here, you can already see that Con­serve the Sound is as much a feast for the eyes as for the ears, each object lov­ing­ly pho­tographed against an aus­tere white back­ground. In order for the full nos­tal­gic effect to work, how­ev­er, you need to vis­it these pages and hit “play.” It even mag­i­cal­ly works with objects from before our times, giv­en how promi­nent­ly their sounds fea­ture in film and audio record­ings that define the peri­ods. You’ve like­ly also noticed how many of these prod­ucts are of Euro­pean ori­gin, and many of them, like the robot­ic head of the Kas­set­ten­reko­rder Wel­tron Mod­el 2004, are per­haps unfa­mil­iar to many con­sumers from else­where in the world.

Con­serve the Sound is a Euro­pean project, fund­ed by the Film & Medi­en­s­tiftung NRW in Ger­many, thus its selec­tion skews toward Euro­pean-made prod­ucts. But the sound of a fan or an adding machine in Ger­many is the sound of a fan or adding machine in Chile, Chi­na, Kenya, or Nebras­ka. See a trail­er for the project at the top of the post, and below, one of the many inter­views in which Ger­man pub­lic fig­ures, schol­ars, librar­i­ans, tech­ni­cians, and stu­dents answer ques­tions about their mnemon­ic asso­ci­a­tions with tech­no­log­i­cal sound. In this inter­view, radio pre­sen­ter Bian­ca Hau­da describes one of her favorite old sounds from a favorite old machine, a 1970s portable cas­sette recorder.

via WFMU

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The British Library’s “Sounds” Archive Presents 80,000 Free Audio Record­ings: World & Clas­si­cal Music, Inter­views, Nature Sounds & More

Bri­an Eno Once Com­posed Music for Win­dows 95; Now He Lets You Cre­ate Music with an iPad App

Cor­nell Launch­es Archive of 150,000 Bird Calls and Ani­mal Sounds, with Record­ings Going Back to 1929

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

NASA Captures the World on Fire

“The world is on fire. Or so it appears in this image from NASA’s World­view. The red points over­laid on the image des­ig­nate those areas that by using ther­mal bands detect active­ly burn­ing fires.”

The image and cap­tion above come from NASA’s God­dard Space Flight Cen­ter. On a relat­ed page, they go into some more detail, explain­ing why good parts of Africa, Chile, Brazil and North Amer­i­ca are aflame this sum­mer. Droughts, extreme tem­per­a­tures, agri­cul­tur­al practices–they’re all part of a wor­ry­ing pic­ture. View NASA’s pic­ture in a larg­er for­mat here.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

via Atlas Obscu­ra

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Cen­tu­ry of Glob­al Warm­ing Visu­al­ized in a 35 Sec­ond Video

Glob­al Warm­ing: A Free Course from UChica­go Explains Cli­mate Change

Frank Capra’s Sci­ence Film The Unchained God­dess Warns of Cli­mate Change in 1958

M.I.T. Computer Program Alarmingly Predicts in 1973 That Civilization Will End by 2040

In 1704, Isaac New­ton pre­dict­ed the end of the world some­time around (or after, “but not before”) the year 2060, using a strange series of math­e­mat­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions. Rather than study what he called the “book of nature,” he took as his source the sup­posed prophe­cies of the book of Rev­e­la­tion. While such pre­dic­tions have always been cen­tral to Chris­tian­i­ty, it is star­tling for mod­ern peo­ple to look back and see the famed astronomer and physi­cist indulging them. For New­ton, how­ev­er, as Matthew Stan­ley writes at Sci­ence, “lay­ing the foun­da­tion of mod­ern physics and astron­o­my was a bit of a sideshow. He believed that his tru­ly impor­tant work was deci­pher­ing ancient scrip­tures and uncov­er­ing the nature of the Chris­t­ian reli­gion.”

Over three hun­dred years lat­er, we still have plen­ty of reli­gious doom­say­ers pre­dict­ing the end of the world with Bible codes. But in recent times, their ranks have seem­ing­ly been joined by sci­en­tists whose only pro­fessed aim is inter­pret­ing data from cli­mate research and sus­tain­abil­i­ty esti­mates giv­en pop­u­la­tion growth and dwin­dling resources. The sci­en­tif­ic pre­dic­tions do not draw on ancient texts or the­ol­o­gy, nor involve final bat­tles between good and evil. Though there may be plagues and oth­er hor­ri­ble reck­on­ings, these are pre­dictably causal out­comes of over-pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion rather than divine wrath. Yet by some strange fluke, the sci­ence has arrived at the same apoc­a­lyp­tic date as New­ton, plus or minus a decade or two.

The “end of the world” in these sce­nar­ios means the end of mod­ern life as we know it: the col­lapse of indus­tri­al­ized soci­eties, large-scale agri­cul­tur­al pro­duc­tion, sup­ply chains, sta­ble cli­mates, nation states…. Since the late six­ties, an elite soci­ety of wealthy indus­tri­al­ists and sci­en­tists known as the Club of Rome (a fre­quent play­er in many con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries) has fore­seen these dis­as­ters in the ear­ly 21st cen­tu­ry. One of the sources of their vision is a com­put­er pro­gram devel­oped at MIT by com­put­ing pio­neer and sys­tems the­o­rist Jay For­rester, whose mod­el of glob­al sus­tain­abil­i­ty, one of the first of its kind, pre­dict­ed civ­i­liza­tion­al col­lapse in 2040. “What the com­put­er envi­sioned in the 1970s has by and large been com­ing true,” claims Paul Rat­ner at Big Think.

Those pre­dic­tions include pop­u­la­tion growth and pol­lu­tion lev­els, “wors­en­ing qual­i­ty of life,” and “dwin­dling nat­ur­al resources.” In the video at the top, see Aus­trali­a’s ABC explain the computer’s cal­cu­la­tions, “an elec­tron­ic guid­ed tour of our glob­al behav­ior since 1900, and where that behav­ior will lead us,” says the pre­sen­ter. The graph spans the years 1900 to 2060. “Qual­i­ty of life” begins to sharply decline after 1940, and by 2020, the mod­el pre­dicts, the met­ric con­tracts to turn-of-the-cen­tu­ry lev­els, meet­ing the sharp increase of the “Zed Curve” that charts pol­lu­tion lev­els. (ABC revis­it­ed this report­ing in 1999 with Club of Rome mem­ber Kei­th Suter.)

You can prob­a­bly guess the rest—or you can read all about it in the 1972 Club of Rome-pub­lished report Lim­its to Growth, which drew wide pop­u­lar atten­tion to Jay Forrester’s books Urban Dynam­ics (1969) and World Dynam­ics (1971). For­rester, a fig­ure of New­ton­ian stature in the worlds of com­put­er sci­ence and man­age­ment and sys­tems theory—though not, like New­ton, a Bib­li­cal prophe­cy enthusiast—more or less endorsed his con­clu­sions to the end of his life in 2016. In one of his last inter­views, at the age of 98, he told the MIT Tech­nol­o­gy Review, “I think the books stand all right.” But he also cau­tioned against act­ing with­out sys­tem­at­ic think­ing in the face of the glob­al­ly inter­re­lat­ed issues the Club of Rome omi­nous­ly calls “the prob­lem­at­ic”:

Time after time … you’ll find peo­ple are react­ing to a prob­lem, they think they know what to do, and they don’t real­ize that what they’re doing is mak­ing a prob­lem. This is a vicious [cycle], because as things get worse, there is more incen­tive to do things, and it gets worse and worse.

Where this vague warn­ing is sup­posed to leave us is uncer­tain. If the cur­rent course is dire, “unsys­tem­at­ic” solu­tions may be worse? This the­o­ry also seems to leave pow­er­ful­ly vest­ed human agents (like Exxon’s exec­u­tives) whol­ly unac­count­able for the com­ing col­lapse. Lim­its to Growth—scoffed at and dis­parag­ing­ly called “neo-Malthu­sian” by a host of lib­er­tar­i­an crit­ics—stands on far sur­er evi­den­tiary foot­ing than Newton’s weird pre­dic­tions, and its cli­mate fore­casts, notes Chris­t­ian Par­en­ti, “were alarm­ing­ly pre­scient.” But for all this doom and gloom it’s worth bear­ing in mind that mod­els of the future are not, in fact, the future. There are hard times ahead, but no the­o­ry, no mat­ter how sophis­ti­cat­ed, can account for every vari­able.

via Big Think

Relat­ed Con­tent:

In 1704, Isaac New­ton Pre­dicts the World Will End in 2060

A Cen­tu­ry of Glob­al Warm­ing Visu­al­ized in a 35 Sec­ond Video

A Map Shows What Hap­pens When Our World Gets Four Degrees Warmer: The Col­orado Riv­er Dries Up, Antarc­ti­ca Urban­izes, Poly­ne­sia Van­ish­es

It’s the End of the World as We Know It: The Apoc­a­lypse Gets Visu­al­ized in an Inven­tive Map from 1486

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

V.S. Naipaul Creates a List of 7 Rules for Beginning Writers

Pho­to by Faizul Latif Chowd­hury, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

As even his harsh­est crit­ics admit­ted, V.S. Naipaul knew how to write. The death ear­li­er this month of the author of A House for Mr Biswas, A Bend in the Riv­er, and The Enig­ma of Arrival got read­ers think­ing again about the nature of his art. A Trinidad-born Indi­an who went to Eng­land on a gov­ern­ment schol­ar­ship to Oxford, he even­tu­al­ly achieved a lit­er­ary mas­tery of the Eng­lish lan­guage that few of his peers in Eng­land — or any­one else there, for that mat­ter — could hope to match.

Like any cel­e­brat­ed cre­ator, Naipaul has long had his imi­ta­tors. But instead of try­ing to repli­cate what they read in his books, they would do bet­ter to repli­cate how he made him­self a writer. “It took a lot of work to do it,” Naipaul once told an inter­view­er. “In the begin­ning I had to for­get every­thing I had writ­ten by the age of 22. I aban­doned every­thing and began to write like a child at school. Almost writ­ing ‘the cat sat on the mat.’” Ami­ta­va Kumar quotes that line in an essay on his own devel­op­ment as a writer, influ­enced not just by Naipaul’s mem­o­ries of start­ing out but Naipaul’s sev­en rules.

“There was a pen-and-ink por­trait of Naipaul on the wall,” writes Kumar about his first day work­ing at the Indi­an news­pa­per Tehel­ka. “High above someone’s com­put­er was a sheet of paper that said ‘V. S. Naipaul’s Rules for Begin­ners.’ ” Tehel­ka reporters had asked the famed writer “if he could give them some basic sug­ges­tions for improv­ing their lan­guage. Naipaul had come up with some rules. He had fussed over their for­mu­la­tion, cor­rect­ed them, and then faxed back the cor­rec­tions.” Kumar decid­ed to fol­low the rules and found they were “a won­der­ful anti­dote to my prac­tice of using aca­d­e­m­ic jar­gon, and they made me con­scious of my own writ­ing habits. I was dis­cov­er­ing lan­guage as if it were a new coun­try.”

Naipaul’s list of rules for begin­ning writ­ers runs as fol­lows:

Do not write long sen­tences. A sen­tence should not have more than 10 or 12 words.

Each sen­tence should make a clear state­ment. It should add to the state­ment that went before. A good para­graph is a series of clear, linked state­ments.

Do not use big words. If your com­put­er tells you that your aver­age word is more than five let­ters long, there is some­thing wrong. The use of small words com­pels you to think about what you are writ­ing. Even dif­fi­cult ideas can be bro­ken down into small words.

Nev­er use words whose mean­ings you are not sure of. If you break this rule you should look for oth­er work.

The begin­ner should avoid using adjec­tives, except those of col­or, size and num­ber. Use as few adverbs as pos­si­ble.

Avoid the abstract. Always go for the con­crete.

Every day, for six months at least, prac­tice writ­ing in this way. Small words; clear, con­crete sen­tences. It may be awk­ward, but it’s train­ing you in the use of lan­guage. It may even be get­ting rid of the bad lan­guage habits you picked up at the uni­ver­si­ty. You may go beyond these rules after you have thor­ough­ly under­stood and mas­tered them.

If you’ve read oth­er writ­ers’ tips, espe­cial­ly those we’ve fea­tured before here on Open Cul­ture, some of Naipaul’s rules may sound famil­iar. “Nev­er use a long word where a short one will do,” says George Orwell. “The more abstract a truth which one wish­es to teach, the more one must first entice the sens­es,” says Niet­zsche. “The adverb is not your friend,” says Stephen King. Naipaul’s rules may strike you as over­ly restric­tive, but bear in mind that he com­posed them for news­pa­per­men look­ing to make improve­ments in their prose, and rec­om­mend­ed fol­low­ing them for six months as a kind of course of treat­ment to rid them­selves of “bad lan­guage habits.”

The sea­soned writer, how­ev­er, can work accord­ing to rules of his own. Naipaul once explained this in no uncer­tain terms to Knopf edi­tor-in-chief Son­ny Mehta. “It hap­pens that Eng­lish — the his­to­ry of the lan­guage — was my sub­ject at Oxford,” he wrote in a let­ter rep­ri­mand­ing the house for its overzeal­ous copy edit­ing, labo­ri­ous­ly adher­ent to French-style “court rules,” of one of his man­u­scripts. “The glo­ry of Eng­lish is that it is with­out these court rules: it is a lan­guage made by the peo­ple who write it. My name goes on my book. I am respon­si­ble for the way the words are put togeth­er. It is one rea­son why I became a writer.”

via Lithub

Relat­ed con­tent:

V.S. Naipaul Writes an Enraged Let­ter to His Pub­lish­er After a Copy-Edi­tor Revis­es His Book, A Turn in the South

Writ­ing Tips by Hen­ry Miller, Elmore Leonard, Mar­garet Atwood, Neil Gaiman & George Orwell

George Orwell’s Six Rules for Writ­ing Clear and Tight Prose

Nietzsche’s 10 Rules for Writ­ing with Style (1882)

Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writ­ers

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities 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.

The New York Public Library Puts Classic Stories on Instagram: Start with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Read Kafka’s The Metamorphosis Soon

I’d be hap­py if I could think that the role of the library was sus­tained and even enhanced in the age of the com­put­er. —Bill Gates

The New York Pub­lic Library excels at keep­ing a foot in both worlds, par­tic­u­lar­ly when it comes to engag­ing younger read­ers.

Vis­i­tors from all over the world make the pil­grim­age to see the real live Win­nie-the-Pooh and friends in the main branch’s hop­ping children’s cen­ter.

And now any­one with a smart­phone and an Insta­gram account can “check out” their dig­i­tal age take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­landno library card required. See Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Work­ing with the design firm Moth­er, the library has found a way to make great page-turn­ing use of the Insta­gram Sto­ries plat­formmore com­mon­ly used to share blow-by-blow pho­to­graph­ic evi­dence of road trips, restau­rant out­ings, and hash-tagged wed­dings.

The Won­der­land expe­ri­ence remains pri­mar­i­ly text-based.

In oth­er words, sor­ry, har­ried care­givers! There’s no hand­ing your phone off to the pre-read­ing set this time around!

No trip­py Dis­ney teacups…

Sir John Ten­niel’s clas­sic illus­tra­tions won’t be spring­ing to ani­mat­ed life. Instead, you’ll find con­cep­tu­al artist Magoz’s bright min­i­mal­ist ding­bats of key­holes, teacups, and pock­et watch­es in the low­er right hand cor­ner. Tap your screen in rapid suc­ces­sion and they func­tion as a crowd-pleas­ing, all ages flip book.

Else­where, ani­ma­tion allows the text to take on clever shapes or reveal itself line by linea pleas­ant­ly the­atri­cal, Cheshire Cat like approach to Carroll’s impu­dent poet­ry.

Remem­ber the famous scene where the Duchess and the Cook force Alice to mind a baby who turns into a pig? Grab some friends and hunch over the phone for a com­mu­nal read aloud! (It’s on page 75 of part 1)

Speak rough­ly to your lit­tle boy,

 And beat him when he sneezes:

 He only does it to annoy,

 Because he knows it teas­es


 (In which the cook and the baby joined)

 ‘Wow! wow! wow!’ 

Nav­i­gat­ing this new media can be a bit con­fus­ing for those whose social media flu­en­cy is not quite up to speed, but it’s not hard once you get the hang of the con­trols.

Tap­ping the right side of the screen turns the page.

Tap­ping left goes back a page.

And keep­ing a thumb (or any fin­ger, actu­al­ly) on the screen will keep the page as is until you’re ready to move on. You’ll def­i­nite­ly want to do this on ani­mat­ed pages like the one cit­ed above. Pre­tend you’re play­ing the flute and you’ll save a lot of frus­tra­tion.

The library plans to intro­duce your phone to Char­lotte Perkins Gilman’s short sto­ry “The Yel­low Wall­pa­per” and Franz Kafka’s The Meta­mor­pho­sis via Insta­gram Sto­ries over the next cou­ple of months. Like Alice, both works are in the pub­lic domain and share an appro­pri­ate com­mon theme: trans­for­ma­tion.

Use these links to go direct­ly to part 1 and part 2 of Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land on Insta­gram Sto­ries. Both parts are cur­rent­ly pinned to the top of the library’s Insta­gram account.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Behold Lewis Carroll’s Orig­i­nal Hand­writ­ten & Illus­trat­ed Man­u­script for Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land (1864)

Alice in Won­der­land: The Orig­i­nal 1903 Film Adap­ta­tion

The Psy­cho­log­i­cal & Neu­ro­log­i­cal Dis­or­ders Expe­ri­enced by Char­ac­ters in Alice in Won­der­land: A Neu­ro­science Read­ing of Lewis Carroll’s Clas­sic Tale

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Join her in NYC on Mon­day, Sep­tem­ber 24 for anoth­er month­ly install­ment of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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