The Whole Earth Catalog

Before we had the Internet, we had this:

IMG_1970

This copy was printed in 1971.

It’s where I learned about Buckminster Fuller, Gurney’s seed catalogs, and how a guitar is put together. I ordered the parts to build a clock from a supplier listed in the catalog. The “access to tools” subtitle gives you the original idea, which was to be a resource for  people in the back-to-the-land movement, but it’s more than that.

It’s a way of organizing knowledge.

I’m thinking about a website and the best way to organize various things I’d want to put on it, which made me think about the Catalog.

Here’s how it’s set up:

WHOLE SYSTEMS — cosmos, universe, earth, energy, geography, surface, clouds, laws, connections, form, general systems, human beings, being human, Jung, anthropology, thought, history, future, eastern future, Think Little, future biology, funky future, world game, world organism, evolution, human evolution, ecology, ecology issues, population, liferaft Earth, ecology action, ecology periodicals, more ecology, desperate ecology action, Four Changes
LAND USE – agricultural origins, land life, organic gardening, compost, biodynamic gardening, pests, soil, vegetable & flower seeds, trees & flowers, herbs, indoor gardening, exotic crops, wildlife, goats, livestock, rabbits, chickens & horses, energy, wind & sun, water & sanitation, wells, water, mining, tools, roads, surveying & blasting, trees & saws, land buying, Canada & Alaska, wild foods, mushrooms, land use, Soleri
SHELTER – natural structure, Gaudi & Wright, Japanese house, design considerations, architecture, mode, stained glass, dome geometry, domes, owner-built home, low-cost construction, carpentry, building, stoves, lanterns, tipis, cabins, adobe, stone buildings, concrete, Frei Otto, inflatables, plastic, materials
INDUSTRY – alloy, design, Chinese technology, inventory, engineering, inventions, village technology, knots, science, technology, handbooks, plastic, data, tips, modular materials, appliances, lab suppliers, plastic, welding & winching, nifty tools, government surplus, tools, surplus, precision tools, fine tools, tool use
CRAFT – woodcraft, wood, furniture, reed craft, frontier crafts, country crafts & antiques, craft design, philosophy & craft access, craft supplies, jewelry supplies, jewelry, glass, sculpture, candles & bonsai, pottery, kilns & throwing, potters & wheels, ceramic supplies, weaving, spinning, dyeing, looms, wool & yarn, knitting, sewing, embroidery & quilts, macrame, dye, leather
COMMUNITY – forebears, funk living, Japanese communes, schemes, the commune lie, consideration, organization, market, business, funds, food, cooking, kitchen, vegetables, woks & Dutch ovens, preserving, storing, grinders & juicers, gourmet equipment, gadgets, wine & beer making, sauna, massage, Go (the board game), stuff, dogs, animals, dope, mental health, health, emergency medicine, first aid, doctoring, drugs, country cures & medical stuff, home delivery, birth, baby stuff, sex, women, death, bargain living, bargain buying, Sears, Wards, shopping, shoes etc., Hong Kong, outlaw, time, justice, organization, politics, down home, country, kindred, the arts, kindred, New Mexico road
NOMADICS – the Great Bus Race, buses & campers, campers & trailers, Volkswagen, car repair, vehicle repair, off road, motorcycles, bicycles, The Way, walking, aloof, mountains, horses, boots, moccasins, camp clothing, tents, sleeping bags, packs, outdoor suppliers, snow equipment, north, camping, camp, survival, guns, knives, bow & arrow, bowhunting, fishing, canoeing, canoes, kayaks & inflatables, boats, scuba & surf, diving, sailing, seamanship, cruising, ocean, boatbuilding, boats, boat supplies, flying, airplanes, sky sports, exploration, trips, Nepal, travel
COMMUNICATIONS – diagram, image & control, silence, culture, style, language, universe, mind, sense, brain, information, math, organization, computer design, computers, electronics, radio, electronic equipment, high fidelity, managing rock, tape, electronic synthesizers, music, instrument making, guitars & banjos, dulcimers, exotic instruments, wind instruments, music, economics, non-profit, tokens, money, capitalism, video, theater, filmmaking, film, photography, photography supplies, art, image, art, painting, silk screen, printers supplies, writing, bookmaking, printing, books
LEARNING – parent, toys, children’s books, home school, children’s art, learning books, nature, astronomy, history, pioneer, wilderness, Indians, games, kites & paper airplanes, kid technology, science, teaching, schools, school methods, school things, free schools, correspondence schools, what to do, culture, The Game, dope, psychedelics, discorporate, paranormal, mysticism, psychology, mind, centering, self-hypnosis, meditation, yoga, calisthenics, myth, China & Tibet, excursions, Don Juan, mysticism, thinking, serendipity

It’s kind of like a random walk through sixties counterculture. You can see the interest in other cultures, the reaching back to the past for skills, and the hopeful looking upward, outward, and into the future.

Not very helpful for organizing my future website, though.

It’s a cautionary tale

1971 was two years after Woodstock and seven years after Ken Kesey’s psychedelic road trip that Tom Wolfe wrote about in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. By the time this final catalog came out, people had experience with actually living in communes and trying to live a better life away from the repressive Establishment. The Community section is peppered with sad letters and essays, and this photo that says a lot about the reality of living with other people:

IMG_1972

It’s a historical artifact

The counterculture has moved on. Stewart Brand, the genius behind the Catalog, has moved on and rethought a lot of what he wrote in the sixties. For one thing, he’s now saying that the environmentally responsible thing is dense urban living, not dropping out to live on a tiny farm. Here’s a link to his current work with the Long Now Foundation, and here’s his Ted talk at the U.S. State Department.

Politics have shifted. The page on guns includes an affectionate note about the NRA, its useful magazine with tips on things like storing and preparing game, and the help it provides to any member who has a question. The writer says there are a lot of “flag-freaks and super-patriots” involved in the organization, but it hadn’t yet taken on the boundless power it seems to have today.

And I think this page on computers is a perfect illustration of how technology has grown since the year I took Fortran in college. Check out the features of the $4,400 and $4,700 desktop calculators, compared in the bottom left corner of the page.

IMG_1971

It’s hope and confidence

One thing that comes through loud and clear is the idea that people can do anything they put their minds to. Want to raise goats and churn your own butter? You can learn how from this book, and buy the supplies you need from these sources. Want to build a camera and create your own movies? The resources are here. Same for raising wool, spinning yarn, and knitting sweaters. There’s a pitch for the USDA Agricultural Extension Services, with free help and information on all kinds of things.

And bigger problems, like overpopulation, pollution, and poverty, aren’t insurmountable. Read this book, and think about these ideas, and use your ingenuity to invent solutions using these tips.

Well, this trip down memory lane didn’t help me much with the website organization question I came in with, but it gave me a lot to think about. And it led me to the Long Now and its optimistic podcast series. Just what I need in 2018.

If you also remember the Whole Earth Catalog, or if you’re from a different generation and have something else that brings your era to vivid life the way this did for me, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

 

 

 

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Scrivener update

I’ve been using Scrivener for a few years now. I wrote a post about it in July 2016, in which I raved about some of the basic features that I love about the software. Literature and Latte came out with a new version for Mac a few months ago, and it’s even more awesome now. It’s called Scrivener 3, and they haven’t released a PC version yet.

Bookmarks

There are 5 little icons at the top of the inspector column: synopsis/notes, bookmarks, metadata/keywords, snapshots, and comments/footnotes. If you click on the bookmarks icon, it opens a little panel and you can drag other documents from your binder into it, so you can refer back to other documents without losing your place in your current document!

My current project has dozens of documents in it, including text, character sheets, places, and research notes. Plus, I have a memory like a steel sieve, meaning I’m constantly going back and forth to remind myself of what I said last time I wrote about a particular character, or whatever.

The screenshot below shows the bookmark panel at the right. I’ve just put a couple of the character sheets in there as an illustration.

Screen Shot 2018-02-16 at 10.08.16 AM

The screenshot also illustrates another awesome new feature:

Linguistic focus

This feature is under the EDIT/WRITING TOOLS menu. It grays out everything except the kind of text you ask for. You can just look at your verbs, to see if maybe you’re overusing passive voice; you can look at adjectives or nouns to see if maybe you can inject a little more variety or elegance into your writing; and you can even look at dialogue to see if your character voices are consistent and distinct (the direct speech option highlights everything that’s inside quotation marks).

Tabs

I usually have multiple Scrivener documents open at the same time. There’s my current project, of course. I also have a catch-all called “how to write” which has my notes on everything from the 3-act structure to how to take a screen clipping, and I usually leave that one open. I keep a copy of my blog posts in a Scrivener project, which helps when I want to look up something I wrote a long time ago but am not sure when; that’s also usually open somewhere in the background. In the past, I’d have to shuffle the documents around to find the one I wanted somewhere buried behind everything else.

The new WINDOW/MERGE ALL WINDOWS feature creates tabs in your header bar, one per open project, so you can see them all nicely laid out and switch between them with ease. You can see it in my screenshot above.

Along the same lines, if you have projects you might not open very often but want to find them easily, you can add them to your favorite projects list (FILE/ADD PROJECT TO FAVORITES). I don’t know if this is a new feature, but I just learned about it.

Screen Shot 2018-02-16 at 10.41.42 AM

Arrange by label

This is a feature I think has huge potential for helping to see the flow of your story, or figure out if you have the right balance of different points of view, or identify what stage of drafting and revision your pieces are in.

When you’re looking at your document in group mode (the cork board with index cards), there’s a group of icons at the bottom of your document that looks like this:

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If you click on the one that looks like little tadpoles, it shows you a diagram like this:

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The way it works will depend on how you set up your labels. In the illustration, mine are set up for where the scene takes place. You can zoom out to see more of the diagram at a time (VIEW/ZOOM/ZOOM OUT). A neat thing about this is you can move the cards from one line to another and it will automatically change the label.

There are lots and lots of other cool features in Scrivener, but I’m most excited about these right now.

Happy writing, everyone! If you use Scrivener and have found other neat things to share, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.