Sometime in the ’80s I remember reading The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart. This was a novel where a man decides to give over all decision making in his life to the roll of a dice. This idea has found adherents and I’ve heard of real people attempting to live their lives in this way. I guess that the impetus is to knock one out of habitual behaviour. I recall going through a phase of carrying dice around though my dice based decision making never went much further than which boozer to drink in or whether to have a pint or a short.
Years later I learned of similar ideas in psychology where one attempts to resolve problems around decision making by using techniques such as visualisation.
Yesterday I was browsing the web and came across the theme tune to the BBC TV program Arena which was aired in the 70s and 80s. This wonderful piece of music was reminiscent of an old album I have by Robert Fripp and Brian Eno and sure enough the Arena theme was composed by Eno and is entitled Another Green World.
The wikipedia entry states that Eno used his Oblique Strategies instruction cards for guidance during composition.
OBVIOUSLY, the next step was to figure out what Oblique Strategies cards are and, what may have taken me months in the 1980s, was accomplished in seconds. It seems that as long ago as 1975 Eno and Peter Schmidt created a set of cards each containing a “phrase or cryptic remark which can be used to break a deadlock or dilemma situation”. Examples being “Use an old idea”, “State the problem in words as clearly as possible” and “What would your closest friend do?”.
Eno is flogging these cards at £30 a set on his web site. While I would love a real set I found a cheaper and more portable version in the form of a free iPhone app by Viktor Kelemen. Or, if you’d like it on your PC or Mac there is a web based version by a guy named Josh Harrison.
It seems that version 5 of Oblique Strategies is now available and, while I have no evidence of the efficacy of Eno’s idea it should at least be preferable to rolling a dice to decide whether one should “..go downstairs and rape Eileen”.