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Posts Tagged ‘Burroughs

“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future”*…


Robot-assisted farming

It’s easy to chuckle at the prognostications of yore– where’s my jet pack?!?  But as long-time readers will recall, there was one writer whose predictions were uncannily on the money:  Jules Verne.

His Paris in the 20th Century, for example, describes air conditioning, automobiles, the Internet, television, even electricity, and other modern conveniences very similar to their real world counterparts, developed years– in many cases, decades– later.   From the Earth to the Moon, apart from using a space gun instead of a rocket, is uncannily similar to the real Apollo Program: three astronauts are launched from the Florida peninsula– from “Tampa Town” ( only 130 miles from NASA’s Cape Canaveral)– and recovered through a splash landing.  And in other works, he predicted helicopters, submarines, projectors, jukeboxes, and the existence of underwater hydrothermal vents that were not invented/discovered until long after he wrote about them.

Verne’s writings caught the imagination of his countrymen.  As Singularity Hub reports,

Starting in 1899, a commercial artist named Jean-Marc Côté and other artists were hired by a toy or cigarette manufacturer to create a series of picture cards as inserts, according to Matt Noval who writes for the Smithsonian magazine. The images were to depict how life in France would look in a century’s time, no doubt heavily influenced by Verne’s writings. Sadly, they were never actually distributed. However, the only known set of cards to exist was discovered by Isaac Asimov, who wrote a book in 1986 called “Futuredays” in which he presented the illustrations with commentary…

In what some French people might consider an abomination, one illustration depicted the modern kitchen as a place of food science. While synthetic food in commercial products is sadly more common today than we’d like to admit (sorry Easy Cheese lovers, but I’m calling you out), the rise of molecular gastronomy in fine dining has made food chemistry a modern reality. It may seem like food science has its limitations, but one only needs to consider efforts to grow meat in a laboratory to see how far technology may go…

“Food Science”

See them all at “19th Century Artists Predicted the Future in This Series of Postcards.”

[A re-post, inspired by this piece in Upworthy.]

* Niels Bohr


As we console ourselves that, while the future may be another country, we may still speak the language, we might recall that it was on this date in 1888 that William Seward Burroughs of St. Louis, Missouri, received patents on four adding machine applications (No. 388,116-388,119), the first U.S. patents for a “Calculating-Machine” that the inventor would continue to improve and successfully market.  The American Arithmometer Corporation of St. Louis, later renamed The Burroughs Corporation, became– with IBM, Sperry, NCR, Honeywell, and others– a major force in the development of computers.  Burroughs also gifted the world his grandson, Beat icon William S. Burroughs.



“‘Paradise!’ he screamed. ‘The one and only indispensable Paradise'”*…


Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, and Phillip Whalen; Naropa, 1975.


The Naropa University Archive Project is preserving and providing access to over 5000 hours of recordings made at Naropa University since it’s founding in 1974 in Boulder, Colorado.  The archive was developed under the auspices of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics (the university’s Department of Writing and Poetics) started by poets Anne Waldman and Allen Ginsberg, and contains an extraordinary collection of material from members of the literary avant-garde, especially the Beats and their umbra.

From William S. Burroughs’ “Creative Reading” class, through Ginsberg performing William Blake, to presentations from visitors like Gregory Corso, Gregory Bateson, and Peter Warshall, it’s a treasure trove.

* Jack Kerouac, On the Road


As we feel the Beat, we might warm the birthday tapas for Félix Lope de Vega Carpio (best known by his shortened pen name: Lope de Vega); the Spanish poet and dramatist was born on this date in 1562.  A rough contemporary of Shakespeare, Lope de Vega was much more prolific; indeed, he is reckoned to have written between 1,500 and 2,500 fully-fledged plays, of which 425 have survived.  One estimate puts his work at twenty million dramatic verses, earning him a position in the firmament of Spanish letters second only to that of Cervantes.



Written by LW

November 25, 2014 at 1:01 am

Too cool…


The guide to modern life for which one has been waiting:  Coolness Graphed.




As we navigate our lives with increased confidence, we might send adventurous birthday greetings to Edgar Rice Burroughs; he as born on this date in 1875.  In 1911, after a series of unsuccessful jobs (cavalry ranger, cowboy, clerk), Burroughs was working as a pencil sharpener wholesaler.  The story goes that…

Burroughs was sitting in his rented office and waiting for his crack pencil sharpener salesmen to report in, their pockets bulging with orders. Besides waiting, one of Burroughs’ duties was to verify the placement of advertisements for his sharpeners in various magazines. These were all-fiction “pulp” magazines, a prime source of escapist reading material for the rapidly expanding middle class. Verifying the pencil sharpener ads didn’t exactly take much time. The pencil sharpener salesmen never showed up, so Burroughs spent his idle time reading those pulp magazines. And an idea was born.

After reading several thousand words of breathless pulp fiction Burroughs determined ~ or so he claimed ~ that “if people were paid for writing rot such as I read in some of those magazines that I could write stories just as rotten. As a matter of fact, although I had never written a story, I knew absolutely that I could write stories just as entertaining and probably a whole lot more so than any I chanced to read in those magazines”…

Burroughs wrote a novel, Under the Moons of Mars, which was serialized in All-Story Magazine in 1912 (and introduced “John Carter”).  Tarzan of the Apes came later that year.  Burroughs served as one of the oldest war correspondents in the field during World War II, and died in 1950, having published almost 70 novels.

In 1915 (or 1919, records disagree), Burroughs purchased a large ranch north of Los Angeles, California, which he named “Tarzana.”  The citizens of the community that sprang up around the ranch voted to adopt that name when they incorporated their enclave– and Tarzana, California was formed in 1927.



Written by LW

September 1, 2012 at 1:01 am

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