A Form of Aversion Therapy

David Bowie and William S. Burroughs. Photo by Terry O’Neill, 1974

 

The Ludovico technique is a fictional aversion therapy from the Anthony Burgess’ novel A Clockwork Orange administered by a “Dr. Brodsky” at the Ludovico medical facility, with the approval of the UK Minister of the Interior. It involved forcing a patient to watch, through the use of specula to hold the eyes open, violent images for long periods, while under the effect of a nausea-, paralysis-, and fear-inducing drug. The aim of the therapy was to condition the patient to experience severe nausea when experiencing or even thinking about violence, thus creating an aversion to violent behavior.

The therapy renders the protagonist of the novel, Alex, incapable of violence even in self-defense, and unable to touch a naked woman or think about having sexual intercourse. In the original novel, Alex is accidentally conditioned against all classical music due to the background score of the films. In the 1971 film, he is conditioned only against Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. “Ludovico” is the Italian equivalent of the German name “Ludwig”; it is possible the name was selected for this reason.

 

A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)

 

The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976)

 

Welcome to the Jungle (Nigel Dick, 1987)

 

Geffen Records was having a hard time selling the video to MTV. David Geffen made a deal with the network, and the video was aired only one time around 5:00AM on a Sunday morning. As soon as the video was aired, the networks received numerous calls from people wanting to see the video again.

In spite of the early morning airtime, the song’s music video caught viewers’ attention and quickly became MTV’s most requested video. The video in question begins with a shot of Axl Rose disembarking a bus in Los Angeles and a drug dealer (portrayed by Izzy Stradlin) is seen trying to sell his merchandise while Rose rejects it. As Rose stops to watch a television through a store window, clips of the band playing live can be seen and Slash can also be seen briefly, sitting against the store’s wall and drinking from a clear glass bottle in a brown paper bag. By the end of the video Rose has transformed into a city punk, wearing the appropriate clothing, after going through a process similar to the Ludovico technique.

During an interview with Rolling Stone magazine about the music video, Guns N’ Roses‘ manager at the time, Alan Niven, said that he “came up with the idea of stealing from three movies: Midnight Cowboy (John Schlesinger, 1969), The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976) and A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971).”

To watch Guns N’Roses music video, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/The-Genealogy-of-Style-597542157001228/?ref=hl

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Gravity’s Rainbow

 

Gravity’s Rainbow is a 1973 novel by American writer Thomas Pynchon. The plot  is complex, containing over 400 characters and involving many different threads of narrative which intersect and weave around one another. The recurring themes throughout the plot are the V-2 rocket, interplay between free will and Calvinistic predestination, breaking the cycle of nature, behavioral psychology, sexuality, paranoia and conspiracy theories such as the Phoebus cartel and the Illuminati.

The novel’s title declares its ambition and sets into resonance the oscillation between doom and freedom expressed throughout the book. An example of the superfluity of meanings characteristic of Pynchon’s work during his early years, Gravity’s Rainbow refers to:

*the parabolic trajectory of a V-2 rocket: the “rainbow-shaped” path created by the missile as it moves under the influence of gravity, subsequent to the engine’s deactivation;
the arc of the plot. Critics such as Weisenburger have found this trajectory to be cyclical or circular, like the true shape of a rainbow. This follows in the literary tradition of James Joyce‘s Finnegans Wake and Herman Melville‘s The Confidence-Man.

*The statistical pattern of impacts from rocket-bombs, invoked frequently in the novel by reference to the Poisson distribution.

*The introduction of randomness into the science of physics through the development of quantum mechanics, breaking the assumption of a deterministic universe.

*The animating effect of mortality on the human imagination.

Pynchon has brilliantly combined German political and cultural history with the mechanisms of paranoia to create an exceedingly complex work of art. The most important cultural figure in Gravity’s Rainbow is not Johann Wolfgang von Goethe or Richard Wagner, however, but Rainer Maria Rilke, Captain Blicero’s favorite poet. In a way, the book could be read as a serio-comic variation on Rilke’s Duino Elegies and their German Romantic echoes in Nazi culture. The “Elegies” begin with a cry: “Who, if I screamed, would hear me among the angelic orders? And even if one of them suddenly pressed me against his heart, I would fade in the strength of his stronger existence. For Beauty is nothing but the beginning of Terror that we’re still just able to bear, and why we adore it is because it serenely disdains to destroy us.”

These lines are hideously amplified in the first words of Pynchon’s novel: “A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.” This sound is the scream of a V-2 rocket hitting London in 1944; it is also the screams of its victims and of those who have launched it. It is a scream of sado-masochistic orgasm, a coming together in death, and this too is an echo and development of the exalted and deathly imagery of Rilke’s poem.

Pynchon’s novel is strung between these first lines of the Duino Elegies and the last: “And we, who have always thought of happiness as climbing or ascending would feel the emotion that almost startles when a happy thing falls.” In Rilke, the “happy thing” is a sign of rebirth amidst the dead calm of winter: a “catkin” hanging from an empty hazel tree or the “rain that falls on the dark earth in early spring.” In Gravity’s Rainbow the “happy thing” that falls is a rocket like the one Blicero has launched toward London in the first pages of the book or the one also launched by Blicero that falls on the reader in the last words of the last page.

The arc of a rocket’s flight is Gravity’s Rainbow–a symbol not of God’s covenant with Noah that He will never again destroy all living things, nor of the inner instinctual wellsprings of life that will rise above the dark satanic mills in D.H. Lawrence‘s novel The Rainbow. Gravity’s Rainbow is a symbol of death: Pynchon’s characters “move forever under [the rocket]. . .as if it were the Rainbow, and they its children.”

 

Little Girl in the Big Ten, twentieth episode of The Simpsons‘ season 13 (May 12, 2002)

Lisa: You’re reading Gravity’s Rainbow?

Brownie: Re-reading it.

 

My Mother the Carjacker, second episode of The Simpson’s season 15 (November 9, 2003)

Mona Simpson read Homer Gravity’s Rainbow as a good night story. After Homer started to sleep Mona said “Thomas Pynchon you are a tough read”, before she also started to sleep

 

Gravity’s Rainbow is a song by the British band Klaxons, from the album Myths of the Near Future (2007). Pat Benatar also released an album called Gravity’s Rainbow after reading Thomas Pynchon’s novel

 

The novel inspired the 1984 song Gravity’s Angel by Laurie Anderson. In her 2004 autobiographical performance The End of the Moon, Anderson said she once contacted Pynchon asking permission to adapt Gravity’s Rainbow as an opera. Pynchon replied that he would allow her to do so only if the opera was written for a single instrument: the banjo. Anderson said she took that as a polite “no.”

 

New York artist Zak Smith created a series of 760 drawings entitled, “One Picture for Every Page of Thomas Pynchon’s Novel Gravity’s Rainbow” (also known by the title Pictures of What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon’s Novel Gravity’s Rainbow)

The Projection of the Four Dimensional Universe

 

Conceptualized by renowned artist, Steven Sebring this revolutionary motion capture system is the first of its kind, inspired by Eadweard Muybridge‘s pioneering work in photographic studies of motion, Sebring brings his groundbreaking concepts to a 4-D rig.

With a single revolution, the 4-D rig allows the viewer to experience an extraordinary second. By capturing every angle of a moment, the rig has the capacity to stretch time and capture extended movement. Picture the ability to photograph the full motion of a golf swing – a ballerina´s pirouette – a product falling in endless space from every angle.

 

The Illusion of Depth

Concept and design by Storm Thorgerson

 
 

The sleeve of the Alan Parsons album Try Anything Once recalls at least two recurring elements of Magritte’s works, the man with the hat and the white sphere.

 
 

The Ignorant Fairy (1950)

 
 

Golconde (1953)

 
 

There is an easter egg inside the inlay. One of the pictures is a stereogram; when the viewer looks at it correctly, an image of a man and woman upside down will appear, similar to the other pictures in the album’s artwork.

Stereoscopy (also called stereoscopics or 3D imaging) is a technique for creating or enhancing the illusion of depth in an image by means of stereopsis for binocular vision. The word stereoscopy derives from Greek στερεός (stereos), meaning “firm, solid”, and σκοπέω (skopeō), meaning “to look, to see”. Any stereoscopic image is called stereogram. Originally, stereogram referred to a pair of stereo images which could be viewed using a stereoscope. Magritte made several studies of stereograms in some paintings (for instance, Man with a Newspaper, The Menaced Assassin, A Taste of the Invisible, Portrait of Paul Nouge, and many others).

The Principle of Archimedes

Le principe d’Archimède, René Magritte, 1952

 

The most widely known anecdote about Archimedes tells of how he invented a method for determining the volume of an object with an irregular shape. According to Vitruvius, a votive crown for a temple had been made for King Hiero II, who had supplied the pure gold to be used, and Archimedes was asked to determine whether some silver had been substituted by the dishonest goldsmith. Archimedes had to solve the problem without damaging the crown, so he could not melt it down into a regularly shaped body in order to calculate its density. While taking a bath, he noticed that the level of the water in the tub rose as he got in, and realized that this effect could be used to determine the volume of the crown. For practical purposes water is incompressible, so the submerged crown would displace an amount of water equal to its own volume. By dividing the mass of the crown by the volume of water displaced, the density of the crown could be obtained. This density would be lower than that of gold if cheaper and less dense metals had been added. Archimedes then took to the streets naked, so excited by his discovery that he had forgotten to dress, yelling “Eureka!” (Greek: “εὕρηκα,heúrēka!”, meaning “I have found [it]!”). The test was conducted successfully, proving that silver had indeed been mixed in.

The story of the golden crown does not appear in the known works of Archimedes. Moreover, the practicality of the method it describes has been called into question, due to the extreme accuracy with which one would have to measure the water displacement. Archimedes may have instead sought a solution that applied the principle known in hydrostatics as Archimedes’ principle, which he describes in his treatise On Floating Bodies.

Proust Was a Neuroscientist

 
 

Proust Was a Neuroscientist is a non-fiction book written by Jonah Lehrer, first published in 2007. In it, Lehrer argues that many 20th and 21st-century discoveries of neuroscience are actually re-discoveries of insights made earlier by various artists, including Gertrude Stein, Walt Whitman, Auguste Escoffier, Paul Cézanne, Igor Stravinsky, and, as mentioned in the title, Marcel Proust.

The New York Times described it as “a precocious and engaging book that tries to mend the century-old tear between the literary and scientific cultures.” A review in The Daily Telegraph stated, “Lehrer is a dazzlingly clever young man whose writing bears witness to both the clarity of his scientific training and the humanity of his literary studies. The Whitmanesque electricity of all the thought and heart he has put into this book fizzes from each sentence.”Salon.com, by contrast, described it as being written “arbitrarily and often inaccurately”.

Jonah Richard Lehrer (born June 25, 1981) is an American author, journalist, blogger, and speaker who writes on the topics of psychology, neuroscience, and the relationship between science and the humanities. He has published three books, two of which, Imagine and How We Decide, were withdrawn from the market by publishers after it became known that Lehrer had fabricated quotations. This led to his resignation from his staff position at The New Yorker following disclosures that he had recycled earlier work of his own for the magazine. A later investigation at Wired.com, where he had previously worked, found instances of recycled content and plagiarism. He was fired from that position as a result of the investigation.

Lehrer resigned from The New Yorker on July 30, 2012, less than two months after he had joined the staff, after an article by Michael C. Moynihan appeared in Tablet Magazine exposing him as fabricating quotes attributed to singer Bob Dylan in his book Imagine.

 

The Botany of Desired Garments

“Honeybees favor the radial symmetry of daisies and clover and sunflowers, while bumblebees prefer the bilateral symmetry of orchids, peas, and foxgloves”

Michael Pollan
The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World

 
 

Alexander McQueen Spring Summer 2013 by Sarah Burton
“It was bringing back the silhouette of the house and embracing the female form – the hip and bust. But there was a lightness to it. It still felt erotic but not overt,” explained Burton backstage after the show, joking that “most women are worker bees” – which made then for the perfect collection match.

 
 

The making of

 
 

Sneaker Puma by Alexander McQueen Joust III Mid Sunflower. Fall/Winter 2013

Picasso’s Promenade

Photograph by Chema Madoz

 
 

“On a very round plate of real porcelain
an apple poses
face to face with it
a painter of reality
vainly tries to paint
the apple as it is
but
the apple won’t allow it
the apple
it has its word to say about it
and several tricks in its bag of apples
and there it is turning
on its real plate
artfully on itself
blandly without budging
and like a Duc de Guise who disguises himself as a gas duct
because they want to draw his portrait against his will
the apple disguises itself as a beautiful fruit in disguise
and it’s then
that the painter of reality
begins to realize
that all the appearances of the apple are against him
and
like the unfortunate pauper
like the poor pauper who finds himself suddenly at the mercy
of no matter what benevolent and charitable and redoubtable
association of benevolence charity and redoubtability
the unfortunate painter of reality
then suddenly finds himself the sad prey
of a numberless crowd of associations of ideas
And the apple turning evokes the apple tree
the earthly Paradise and Eve and then Adam
a watering-can a trellis Parmentier a stairway
Canadian Hesperidian Norman apples Reinette apples and Appian apples
the serpent of the Tennis Court and the Oath of Apple Juice
and original sin
and the origins of art
and Switzerland with William Tell
and even Isaac Newton
several times prizewinner at the Exhibition of Universal Gravitation
and the dazed painter loses sight of his model
and falls asleep
It’s just then that Picasso
who’s going by there as he goes by everywhere
every day as if at home
sees the apple and the plate and the painter fallen asleep
What an idea to paint an apple
says Picasso
and Picasso eats the apple
and the apple tells him Thanks
and Picasso breaks the plate
and goes off smiling
and the painter drawn from his dreams
like a tooth
finds himself all alone again before his unfinished canvas
with right in the midst of his shattered china
the terrifying pips of reality.”

Jacques Prévert

The Secret of Architectural Excellence

“The secret of architectural excellence is to translate the proportions of a dachshund into bricks, mortar and marble.”
Sir Christopher Wren

 
 

Portrait of Sir Christopher Wren, Godfrey Kneller, 1711

 
 

Sir Christopher Michael Wren (20 October 1632 – 25 February 1723) is one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history. Other notable buildings by Wren include the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and the south front of Hampton Court Palace. The Wren Building, the main building at the College of William and Mary, is attributed to Wren. It is the oldest academic building in continuous use in the United States.

In Wren’s age, the profession of architect as understood today did not exist. Since the early years of the 17th century it was not unusual for the well-educated gentleman, (virtuosi), to take up architecture as a gentlemanly activity; a pursuit widely accepted as a branch of applied mathematics. This is implicit in the writings of Vitruvius and explicit in such 16th century authors as John Dee and Leonard Digges. When Wren was a student at Oxford, he became familiar with Vitruvius’s De architectura and absorbed intuitively the fundamentals of the architectural design there. In English Medieval tradition, buildings were constructed to the needs of the patron and the suggestions of building professionals, such as master carpenters or master bricklayers.

Educated in Latin and Aristotelian physics at the University of Oxford, Wren was a notable anatomist, astronomer, geometer, and mathematician-physicist, as well as an architect. He was a founder of the Royal Society (president 1680–82), and his scientific work was highly regarded by Isaac Newton and Blaise Pascal.

 
 

Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London – plan and section. Christopher Wren, (1675-1709). Wren wrestled with the design of the famous St Paul’s dome even as it was being built, remodeling its profile countless times.

 
 

Marlborough House, Westminster as designed by Wren

 
 

Cambridge University, Wren Library, Trinity College

 
 

In the 20th century the potency of the influence of Wren’s work on English architecture was reduced. The last major architect who admitted to being dependent on him was Sir Edwin Lutyens, who died in 1944. With the purposeful elimination of historic influences from international architecture in the early 20th century, Wren’s work gradually stopped being perceived as a mine of examples applicable to contemporary design.

 
 

Rashtrapati Bhavan (formerly known as Viceroy’s House) is the official home of the President of India, located in New Delhi, Delhi, India. It was designed by Lutyens. Lutyens said the design evolved from that of the Pantheon in Rome, while it is also possible that it was modeled partly after the great Stupa at Sanchi, or St. Paul’s dome.

The Structure of Life

Metal working model used by James Watson and Francis Crick to determine the double-helical structure of the DNA molecule in 1953

 
 

In molecular biology, the term double helix refers to the structure formed by double-stranded molecules of nucleic acids such as DNA. The double helical structure of a nucleic acid complex arises as a consequence of its secondary structure, and is a fundamental component in determining its tertiary structure. The term entered popular culture with the publication in 1968 of The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA, by James Watson.

In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick suggested what is now accepted as the first correct double-helix model of DNA structure in the journal Nature. Their double-helix, molecular model of DNA was then based on a single X-ray diffraction image (labeled as “Photo 51”) taken by Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling in May 1952, as well as the information that the DNA bases are paired—also obtained through private communications from Erwin Chargaff in the previous years. Chargaff’s rules played a very important role in establishing double-helix configurations for B-DNA as well as A-DNA.

 
 

A segment of the very long DNA molecule—the double helix. Physically, DNA resembles a spiral staircase. Each rung of the ladder is composed of two chemicals, called nucleotides or base pairs, that are chemically bonded to each other. DNA has four nucleotides: adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine, usually abbreviated by the first letter of their names- A, T, G, and C.

 
 

A caduceus—the staff carried by Hermes, “the messenger of the gods.” Is its double-helical structure an ancient Greek premonition of the most vital ‘message of the gods,’ or simply a coincidence. It is said the wand would wake the sleeping and send the awake to sleep. If applied to the dying, their death was gentle; if applied to the dead, they returned to life.

Three Sources of Gravity

Relativity, M. C. Escher, 1953

 
 

Relativity depicts a world in which the normal laws of gravity do not apply. The architectural structure seems to be the centre of an idyllic community, with most of its inhabitants casually going about their ordinary business, such as dining. There are windows and doorways leading to park-like outdoor settings. All of the figures are dressed in identical attire and have featureless bulb-shaped heads. Identical characters such as these can be found in many other Escher works.

In the world of Relativity, there are three sources of gravity, each being orthogonal to the two others. Each inhabitant lives in one of the gravity wells, where normal physical laws apply. There are sixteen characters, spread between each gravity source, six in one and five each in the other two. The apparent confusion of the lithograph print comes from the fact that the three gravity sources are depicted in the same space.

The structure has seven stairways, and each stairway can be used by people who belong to two different gravity sources. This creates interesting phenomena, such as in the top stairway, where two inhabitants use the same stairway in the same direction and on the same side, but each using a different face of each step; thus, one descends the stairway as the other climbs it, even while moving in the same direction nearly side-by-side. In the other stairways, inhabitants are depicted as climbing the stairways upside-down, but based on their own gravity source, they are climbing normally.

Each of the three parks belongs to one of the gravity wells. All but one of the doors seem to lead to basements below the parks. Though physically possible, such basements are certainly unusual and add to the surreal effect of the picture.

This is one of Escher’s most popular works and has been used in a variety of ways, as it can be appreciated both artistically and scientifically. Interrogations about perspective and the representation of three-dimensional images in a two-dimensional picture are at the core of Escher’s work, and Relativity represents one of his greatest achievements in this domain.

I Saw It First

“That guy merely makes it easy for me. Now I don’t have to draw ’em any blueprints…We are both in the same business…Except I saw it first.”

Mae West
An Open Letter to Dr. Kinsey from Mae West
Cosmopolitan, March 1949

 
 

Nightclub Singer Julie Wilson reading the Kinsey Report at the Mocambo Club (Hollywood, California). November, 1948. Photo by Peter Stackpole

The Male Nudes

“The depth and commitment he had in photographing the male nude, from the start of his career to the end, was astonishing. There was absolutely no commercial impulse involved — he couldn’t exhibit it, he couldn’t publish it.”

Allen Ellenzweig, art and photography critic who wrote the introduction to George Platt Lynes: The Male Nudes, published in 2011 by Rizzoli.

 
 

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During his lifetime, George Platt Lynes amassed a substantial body of work involving nude and homoerotic photography. In the 1930s, he began taking nudes of friends, performers and models, including a young Yul Brynner, and author Tennessee Williams although these remained private, unknown and unpublished for years. Over the following two decades, Lynes continued his work in this area passionately, albeit privately. In the late 1940s, Lynes became acquainted with Dr. Alfred Kinsey and his Institute in Bloomington, Indiana. Kinsey took an interest in Lynes work, as he was researching homosexuality in America at the time.

By May 1955, when Lynes had been diagnosed terminally ill with lung cancer, he closed his studio and destroyed much of his print and negative archives, particularly his male nudes. However, it is now known that he had transferred many of these works to the Kinsey Institute. “He clearly was concerned that this work, which he considered his greatest achievement as a photographer, should not be dispersed or destroyed…We have to remember the time period we’re talking about—America during the post-war Red Scare…” The body of work residing at the Kinsey Institute remained largely unknown until it was made public and published in 2011. The Kinsey collection represents one of the largest single collections of Lynes’s work.

A Misterious Sense of Levitation

Leda Atómica (Atomic Leda), Salvador Dalí, 1949

 
 

Leda Atomica is a painting by Salvador Dalí, made in 1949. The picture depicts Leda, the mythological queen of Sparta, with the swan. Leda is a frontal portrait of Dalí’s wife, Gala, who is seated on a pedestal with a swan suspended behind and to her left. Different objects such as a book, a set square, two stepping stools and an egg float around the main figure. In the background on both sides, the rocks of Cap Norfeu (on the Costa Brava in Catalonia, between Roses and Cadaqués) define the location of the image.

After the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Dalí took his work in a new direction based on the principle that the modern age had to be assimilated into art if art was to be truly contemporary. Dalí acknowledged the discontinuity of matter, incorporating a mysterious sense of levitation into his Leda Atomica. Just as one finds that at the atomic level particles do not physically touch, so here Dalí suspends even the water above the shore—an element that would figure into many other later works. Every object in the painting is carefully painted to be motionless in space, even though nothing in the painting is connected. Leda looks as if she is trying to touch the back of the swan’s head, but doesn’t do it. Dalí shows us the hierarchized libidinous emotion, suspended and as though hanging in midair, in accordance with the modern ‘nothing touches’ theory of intra-atomic physics. Leda does not touch the swan; Leda does not touch the pedestal; the pedestal does not touch the base; the base does not touch the sea; the sea does not touch the shore. . . .”

 
 

Studies of Leda Atómica, 1947

 
 

Leda Atomica is organized according to a rigid mathematical framework, following the “divine proportion”. Leda and the swan are set in a pentagon inside which has been inserted a five-point star of which Dalí made several sketches. The five points of the star symbolize the seeds of perfection: love, order, light (truth) willpower and word (action).

The harmony of the framework was calculated by the artist following the recommendations of Romanian mathematician Matila Ghyka.

In reference to the classical myth Dalí identified himself with the immortal Pollux while his deceased older brother (also called Salvador) would represent Castor, the mortal of the twins. Another equivalence could be made regarding the other twins of the myth, Dalí’s sister Ana María being the mortal Clytemnestra, while Gala would represent divine Helen. Salvador Dalí himself wrote: «I started to paint Leda Atómica which exalts Gala, the metaphysical goddess and succeeded to create the “suspended space”».

Dalí’s Catholicism enables also other interpretations of the painting. The painting can be conceived as Dalí’s way of interpreting the Annunciation. The swan seems to whisper her future in her ear, possibly a reference to the legend that the conception of Jesus was achieved by the introduction of the breath of the Holy Ghost into the Virgin Mary’s ear. Leda looks straight into the bird’s eyes with an understanding expression of what is happening to her and what will happen in the future to her and to her unsure reality. Dalí’s transformation of Mary is the result of love as if he created his love to Gala, like God to Mary

Coffee and Cigarettes as a Common Thread

Coffee and Cigarettes is the title of three short films and a 2003 feature film by independent director Jim Jarmusch. The film consists of 11 short stories which share coffee and cigarettes as a common thread, and includes the earlier three films.

 
 

The film is composed of a comic series of short vignettes shot in black and white built on one another to create a cumulative effect, as the characters discuss things such as caffeine popsicles, Paris in the 1920s, and the use of nicotine as an insecticide – all the while sitting around drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. The theme of the film is absorption in the obsessions, joys, and addictions of life, and there are many common threads between vignettes, such as the Tesla coil, medical knowledge, the suggestion that coffee and cigarettes don’t make for a healthy meal (generally lunch), cousins, The Lees (Cinqué, Joie, and a mention of Spike), delirium, miscommunication, musicians, the similarities between musicianship and medical skill, industrial music, acknowledged fame, and the idea of drinking coffee before sleeping in order to have fast dreams. In each of the segments of the film, the common motif of alternating black and white tiles can be seen in some fashion. The visual use of black and white relates to the theme of interpersonal contrasts, as each vignette features two people who disagree completely yet manage to sit amicably at the same table.

The eleven segments that make up the film are as follows:

Strange to Meet You
This is the original 1986 short Coffee and Cigarettes with Roberto Benigni and Steven Wright having a conversation about coffee and cigarettes.

Twins
Originally the 1989 short Coffee and Cigarettes, Memphis Version – aka Coffee and Cigarettes II – this segment features Joie Lee and Cinqué Lee as the titular twins and Steve Buscemi as the waiter who expounds on his theory on Elvis Presley‘s evil twin. Cinqué Lee also appears in Jack Shows Meg his Tesla Coil. The scene also features a recounting of the urban legend that Elvis Presley made racist comments about Blacks during a magazine interview.

Somewhere in California
Filmed in 1993 as the short Coffee and CigarettesSomewhere in California, and won the Short Film Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. In this segment musicians Iggy Pop and Tom Waits smoke cigarettes to celebrate that they quit smoking, drink some coffee and make awkward conversation.

Those Things’ll Kill Ya
Joseph Rigano and Vinny Vella have a conversation over coffee about the dangers of smoking. The silent Vinny Vella Jr. also appears to beg his father for money, which is given in exchange for affection, which is not provided.

Renée
Renée French (played by herself) drinks coffee while looking through a gun magazine. E. J. Rodríguez plays the waiter, who is eager to be of service. He initially approaches her to serve more coffee, to which she reacts by saying “I had the right color, right temperature, it was just right”. After that, he comes back several times, hesitates, and leaves. He seems intent on striking a conversation with her.

No Problem
Alex Descas and Isaach De Bankolé are a couple of friends who meet and talk over some coffee and cigarettes. Alex has no problems, or so he answers to Isaach’s repeated questioning. At the end of the scene, Alex takes out a pair of dice and rolls three sets of doubles. It could be assumed that Alex Descas has an excessive gambling problem but to him it is not a problem because of what he can roll. Notice he doesn’t roll the dice in front of his friend.

Cousins
Cate Blanchett plays herself and a fictional and non-famous cousin named Shelly, whom she meets over some coffee in the lounge of a hotel. There is no smoking in the lounge, as the waiter informs Shelly (but not until Cate is gone). Shelly tells Cate about her boyfriend, Lee, who is in a band. She describes the music style as hard industrial, similar to the band Iggy describes. Cate tells Shelly she looks forward to meeting “Lou” someday.

Jack Shows Meg His Tesla Coil
Features Jack and Meg White of the band The White Stripes having some coffee and cigarettes. They play themselves, although the scene seems to perpetuate the band’s former pretense that they are indeed siblings. Jack shows Meg his Tesla coil that he says he built himself and waxes intellectual on the achievements of Nikola Tesla. In the beginning, Jack seems upset that Meg doesn’t share his excitement, and it takes Meg some coaxing to get Jack to agree to show Meg his Tesla Coil. He introduces the line, “Nikola Tesla perceived the earth to be a conductor of acoustical resonance.” Cinqué Lee plays a waiter in this segment. In the end, the coil breaks, and Meg and the Waiter offer suggestions as to why it might be broken. Finally Meg says something that Jack seems to agree to, and he leaves to “go home and check it out”. Meg clinks her coffee cup to produce a ringing noise, pauses, says “Earth is a conductor of acoustical resonance” and clinks her coffee cup to produce the noise again; she looks pensively out into the distance before a cut to black. Early during the segment, Down on the Street by The Stooges is played in the background.

Cousins?
British actors Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan have a conversation over some tea. (Coogan offers Molina a French cigarette, but Molina “saves” his for later.) Molina compliments Coogan’s designer jacket but notes that it will make him hot in the 85 degree Los Angeles heat. Molina works up to presenting his evidence that the two are distant cousins. Coogan rebuffs Molina until Katy Hansz asks Steve Coogan for an autograph, and Coogan won’t give out his phone number to Molina. Then when Alfred Molina gets a call from his friend Spike Jonze, Coogan tries to make amends, but it is too late, and he regrets missing the chance to make the connection. Although they say they are in LA, the segment was actually shot in Brooklyn at Galapagos, Williamsburg.

Delirium
Hip-hop artists (and cousins) GZA and RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan drink naturally caffeine-free herbal tea and have a conversation with the waiter, Bill Murray, about the dangers of caffeine and nicotine. During this conversation GZA makes a reference to how he would drink lots of coffee before going to bed so his dreams would “whip by” similar to the camera-shots at the Indy 500, very similar to the same reference that Steven Wright did in the first segment. Murray requests that GZA and RZA keep his identity secret, while GZA and RZA inform Murray about nontraditional methods to relieve his smoker’s hack.

Champagne
William “Bill” Rice and former Andy Warhol superstar Taylor Mead spend their coffee break having a nostalgic conversation, whilst Janet Baker singing “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen” from Gustav Mahler‘s Rückert-Lieder appears from nowhere. William Rice repeats Jack White’s line, “Nikola Tesla perceived the earth as a conductor of acoustical resonance.” It is possible to interpret the relevance of this line to the constant recurrent themes throughout the seemingly unconnected segments.