Bizarre realizations in note taking:
The tattoos on Leonard Shelby’s body in the film Memento act as a physical zettelkasten of information stored on skin rather than index cards. He uses his permanent notes to supplement his fleeting memory to solve a murder.
Guy Pierce as Leonard Shelby featuring a number of text-based tattoos on his torso and arms. One in mirror revers from shoulder to shoulder reads "John G. raped and murdered my wife" while another across his chest in bold Celtic script reads "find him and kill him." Other tattoos in the black and white image can be seen but not read.

This post was originally published on Chris Aldrich

Having been studying Welsh for a while, this video about how it informed J.R.R. Tolkien’s creation of Elvish languages for his fiction was fascinating.

The fact that he uses the word Nazgûl [~““35:51] from the Irish (nasc) and Scots Gaelic (nasg) words meaning “ring” to take a linguistic dig at Irish is notable. He was probably motivated by his political views of the time rather than celebrating (as one should) the value and diversity of all languages.

Tolkien once termed Welsh ‘the elder language of the men of Britain’; this talk explores how the sounds and grammar of Welsh captured Tolkien’s imagination and are reflected in Sindarin, one of the two major Elvish languages which he created.

Via https://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/medieval-welsh. For those interested on Tolkien, they’ve got a huge list of other scholarly content on his work: https://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/keywords/tolkien.

This post was originally published on Chris Aldrich

I’ve done something similar in paper form as early as the 1990’s and have seen examples in diaries and commonplace books that go back much earlier. TiddlyWiki had a digital capability to to something like this as early as the late 2000s and I’ve used it there as well. As you mention, content management systems like WordPress certainly do this with various archive views, but this is a secondary effect and not done up front as is seen in tools like Roam, Obsidian, et al. I suspect that one might find the ability to do such workflows with early versions of DEVONThink, Tinderbox, or even MediaWiki, though as these are used personally, it’s much harder to provide evidence for their direct use as such.

The real question is what additional value and affordances does this pattern allow? Some of the value is in emptying your head (forgetting) as seen in productivity systems like 43 folders or doing Morning Pages. I suspect that rarely are people revising these tidbits at later times to get additional value from them.

Outside of this, systems like Roam Research may make it easier to create a diary like this with the day’s work, but the real value there is not the date/timeline created, but the way that the system treats each block like its own unit of knowledge and allows cross linking them. In this case, the real precursor goes back at least as far as Konrad Gessner’s Pandectarum sive Partitionum Universalium (1548), which provides a classic definition of the zettelkasten format, though this obviously is heavily informed by the earlier traditions of excerpting and annotating found in commonplace books, florilegia, etc. stemming from the ideas of rhetoric from the Greeks and Romans.

In oral cultures, precursors of this sort of time ordering can be seen with respect to the ideas of ancestral time, genealogy, and techniques like the songline in Australia, but the implementations will vary and it’s unlikely that one might find a complete one-to-one mapping of these ideas into Western cultures.

This post was originally published on Chris Aldrich