All 3 entries tagged Jg Ballard

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February 23, 2010

Brainwashing techniques

The brainwashing techniques I used in my talk on Ballard last week are readily available at

I also picked up an interesting article about how the brain plays to simplicity. The article extends one of the Cracked techniques - #3, keeping you in line with shame - which points to an evolutionary security developed through tribal conformity:

Psychologists have determined, for example, that shares in companies with easy-to-pronounce names do indeed significantly outperform those with hard-to-pronounce names. Other studies have shown that when presenting people with a factual statement, manipulations that make the statement easier to mentally process - even totally nonsubstantive changes like writing it in a cleaner font or making it rhyme or simply repeating it - can alter people’s judgment of the truth of the statement, along with their evaluation of the intelligence of the statement’s author and their confidence in their own judgments and abilities. Similar manipulations can get subjects to be more forgiving, more adventurous, and more open about their personal shortcomings.

Relating this to Ballard's call, in an interview with V Vale for RE/Search, for individuals to establish a "moral microclimate", you could argue that post-surrealism's struggle for social progress involves resistance to the tribe. (This implies Dadaism's moral aesthetics also - non-conformity as a fundamentally optimistic activity, that originality leads eventually to the notion of a better society.)

There's a need to resist conformity in order to protect one's rights, the ability to decide for oneself whether, e.g. a given text is of value to society, or simply part of the herd buzz; and to resist government actions that are morally reprehensible. But there's also security to be had in finding like minds and some people just can't stand that. I've a feeling that if everyone had started thinking the way Ballard did, he'd have tried to a way out of that grouping, to keep individualising and criticising his social environment. He tried to write the present by keeping himself outside of it.

The article goes on:

A handful of scholars have already started to explore the ways that advertisers, educators, political campaigners, or anyone else in the business of persuasion can use these findings. And some of the implications are surprising. For example, to get people to think through a question, it may be best to present it less clearly. And to boost your self-confidence, you may want to set out to write a dauntingly long list of all the reasons why you’re a failure.

Happily, this reinforces my hatred of cliché. To be understood well, to force a cerebral engagement with creative writing, as well as an emotional connection, one has to write in a way that is original. I don't agree with the idea that the writing needs to be unclear - I hate trying to read badly presented critical texts with too much verbosity. They blind me. But clearly presented language, originally phrased, allows readers to engage with ideas in ways that cannot be lapped up and dismissed.

So to quote my favourite ever quote, ever, ever, by Ezra Pound:

The secret of popular writing is never to put more on a given page than the common reader can lap off it with no strain whatsoever on his habitually slack attention.

April 19, 2009

RIP JG Ballard

Just heard that JG Ballard passed away, yesterday morning. One of the greatest C20th British novelists.



Guardian Blogs



Rest of the Google News links (as of Sunday evening)

We've been looking at his work this term - The Atrocity Exhibition. A book that firmly puts the lie to the idea that there's nowhere else to go with the novel after Ulysses.

January 28, 2009

Ballard & Ambit

Writing about web page

“In 1965 I met Dr Martin Bax, a north London paediatrician who published a quarterly poetry magazine called Ambit... I began to write my more experimental stories for Ambit, partly in an attempt to gain publicity for the magazine. Randolph Church, son of Winston and a friend of the Kennedys, objected publicly to my story 'Plan for the Assassination of Jacqueline Kennedy'. Churchill made a song and a dance in the newspapers, demanding that Ambit's modest Arts Council grant be withdrawn and describing my piece as n irresponsible slander, all this at a time when the ordeal of Mrs Kennedy and her courtship by Aristotle Onassis were ruthlessly exploited by the tabloid newspapers, the real target of my satire...

“I suggested to Martin Bax that Ambit should run a competition for the best poem or short story written under the influence of drugs – a reasonable suggestion, given the huge claims made for drugs by rival gurus of the underground. This time Lord Goodman, legal fixer for the Prime Minister Harold Wilson, denounced Ambit for committinng a public mischief (a criminal offence) and in effect threatened us with prosecution...

“Another of my suggestions was staged at the ICA, when we hired a stripper, Euphoria Bliss, to perform a striptease to the reading of a scientific paper. This strange event, almost impossible to take in at the time, has stayed in my mind ever since. It still seems in the true spirit of Dada, and an example of the fusion of science and pornography that The Atrocity Exhibition expected to take place in the near future. Many of the imaginary 'experiments' described in the book, where panels of volunteer housewives are exposed to hours of pornographic films and then tested for their responses (!), have since been staged in American research institutes.”

JG Ballard, Miracles of Life

Ambit Magazine

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