This is Life, a simple computer game designed by John Conway in 1970. It has three rules:
– Birth rule: An empty, or “dead,” cell with precisely three “live” neighbors (full cells) becomes live.
-Death rule: A live cell with zero or one neighbors dies of isolation; a live cell with four or more neighbors dies of overcrowding.
– Survival rule: A live cell with two or three neighbors remains alive
It has fascinated people for years.
”I first encountered Life at the Exploratorium in San Francisco in 1978. I was hooked immediately by the thing that has always hooked me — watching complexity arise out of simplicity.
Life ought to be very predictable and boring; after all, there are just three simple rules that determine the position of some dots on a grid. That really doesn’t sound very interesting until you start tweaking those rules and watching what changes.
Life shows you two things. The first is sensitivity to initial conditions. A tiny change in the rules can produce a huge difference in the output, ranging from complete destruction (no dots) through stasis (a frozen pattern) to patterns that keep changing as they unfold.”
If the ad seems funnier than it has any right to in this context, that’s because it was written by Seinfeld alum (and Veep showrunner) David Mandel, no stranger to the tics that made Newman so memorable. According to Entertainment Weekly, it was Mandel who convinced a reluctant Knight to reprise the role.
Ron Cobb, an underground political cartoonist, who happened to befriend a young Spielberg, and went on to design Star Wars Cantina creatures, the Back to the Future Car, the Nostromo (ask Makerbot), a time traveling DeLorean, and ET (Spielberg gave him a cut, and made him so rich he fucked off to Australia and was never heard from again), has died. His political cartoons were ridiculously prescient, and are sadly still timely. Comic above is from 1968!
The Elvis Costello & the Attractions version was first issued as the B-side of Lowe’s 1978 single “American Squirm”, credited to “Nick Lowe and His Sound”. At the time, Lowe was Costello’s producer, and he produced this track as well. When the song became a hit, it was quickly appended as the last track to the US edition of Costello’s album Armed Forces. It has appeared on most of Costello’s “Best of…” compilations over the years, as well as on the soundtrack to the film 200 Cigarettes. Live versions appeared on Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Volume 7: 2002–2003, and 2012’s The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook, both by Elvis Costello and the Attractions. In 2004 Rolling Stone magazine ranked this version of the song as the 284th best song of all time.
Modern Drummer said of drummer Pete Thomas’ performance, “A beautiful thing happens on this song, common to many early Attractions songs. It’s that feeling that the track could derail, when in reality Thomas has everything locked down. He does a lot of playing here without overplaying. Like most Attractions songs from that era, this was cut live, full-band and lead vocal. That’s probably why so many years later, it still sounds so energized and inspired.”
The video for the song was directed by Chuck Statler.