Rube Goldberg is the patron saint of computer programmers everywhere. His entire career is a running gag, creating the most insanely complex machines to do the simplest tasks. Having been a developer for many years myself, I can tell you from that this is a clandestine form of job security for many in the IT world.
And now, fittingly, there’s a competition in schools to carry his torch forward. “Machines were constructed to open an umbrella with an operating time of up to two minutes. They had to perform the task using no less than 20, but no more than 75, steps… Twenty people worked to create the Mary Poppins themed machine, which used 33 steps that focused on the use of marbles and momentum to make things move. Marbles fell down chutes, toy cars slid down tracks and dominoes fell to trigger the umbrella to open.”
Andrew Violette of the Purdue Chapter of American Society of Mechanical Engineers team, cackles as he triggers the first mechanism of his Rube Goldberg machine. (Photo: Taidgh Barron, Purdue Exponent staff photographer)
In 1971, he served as artist-in-residence at UC Berkeley and offered a spring semester lecture, African-American Studies 198, also known as “Sun Ra 171,” “The Black Man in the Universe,” or “The Black man in the Cosmos.”
…Now we have the rare opportunity to hear a full lecture from that class at the top of the post. Listen to Sun Ra spin his intricate, bizarrely otherworldly theories, drawn from his personal philosophy, peculiar etymologies, and idiosyncratic readings of religious texts. Hearing him speak is a little like hearing him play, so be prepared for a lot of free association and jarring, unexpected juxtapositions.
“Sun Ra wrote biblical quotes on the board and then ‘permutated’ them—rewrote and transformed their letters and syntax into new equations of meaning, while members of the Arkestra passed through the room, preventing anyone from taping the class. His lecture subjects included Neoplatonic doctrines; the application of ancient history and religious texts to racial problems; pollution and war; and a radical reinterpretation of the Bible in light of Egyptology.”
Luckily for us, some sly student captured one of those lectures on tape.
Sage wisdom for one of the purest artists the cinema has ever had. We are blessed with a new film from him, after 23 years, called The Dance of Reality. Like all his works, I’m sure it will demand we take it on its own terms.