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It's so easy to get caught in the current on Wikipedia. Find the thing you're looking for then... link... link... link... link... and then you're miles downstream of where you intended to be. Sometimes the results are interesting.
It all started with a friend at a Jawbreaker concert in Boston... which is a blast from the 20th century.
"One two three four / Who's punk? What's the score?"
And then we had a quick chat about the jawb market, since 90s contemporary Jawbox is back and on tour.
I listened to more Jawbreaker than Jawbox in college—which is academic anyway since both bands had already broken up. But bits of Jawbox turned into Burning Airlines, who I also liked during college.
I didn't think much then or now about where Burning Airlines got their name, but Wikipedia quite helpfully explained that they got it from a Brian Eno song, "Burning Airlines Give You So Much More", from his 1974 album Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
And here is the delta where this current left me: during the development of Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt developed a deck of cards called Oblique Strategies to help them through the creative process—ideas and prompts and dilemmas that would help them think of things from a different point of view.
Here's a website (in 90s style—hello there, beautiful) from Gregory Taylor that explains the cards: A Primer on Oblique Strategizing (1997).
I think this sort of thing—random but thoughtful prompts—is great for getting a pushstart on work of various kinds. Stuck on writing a post? Draw a card. Stuck on a piece of code? Draw a card. Stuck on some work? Draw a card. The card need not have the answer, or even be a relevant question—it really just needs to nudge your internal trajectory so that you get to a thought you wouldn't have got to otherwise—which is kind of how this whole link-following episode turned out for me this time.
And a few other links to send you off:
- Colin Marshall, Behold the Original Deck of Oblique Strategies Cards, Handwritten by Brian Eno Himself, Open Culture (2018-12-03)
- Sasha Frere-Jones, Ambient Genius, The New Yorker (2014-06-30)
- Adam Brent Houghtaling, Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies in the Kitchen, Gourmet, (2009-06-19)
- Simon Armitage, Oblique Strategies, BBC Radio 4 (2013-06-13)
- Gareth Branwyn, Reshuffling the epigrammatic phrases of Eno/Schmidt's Oblique Strategies into Grotesque Tables, Boing Boing (2018-07-24)
- William Landay, My Oblique Strategies, williamlanday.com (2017-05-11)
- Maria Popova, Oblique Strategies: Brian Eno’s Prompts for Overcoming Creative Block, Inspired by John Cage, Brain Pickings (2014-01-22)
And finally, from minimaldesign.net, a version of Oblique Strategies on your browser.
Try faking it.