Welcome to 5 Quick Things that I saw since last month that I thought were interesting enough to share with you. None of them are particularly timely so feel free to just enjoy 🙂
This is America
Back in May of last year Childish Gambino dropped “This is America” a song I heard about two hours before even seeing the video. I liked the song well enough that I had listened through it a couple times before the well of news articles about the video started pouring out like a wave through the internet. The thing is, the video is a lot of layers on top of an already complex topic and it doesn’t lend itself to a nice, neat summary. 500 words or 5000 words can’t really contain it but when I found this video essay it did a much better job in relating and pulling in some of the themes from Donald Glover’s other seminal work, the TV show Atlanta and explained so well why the music video eluded description that even though the song and video have slid out of most peoples minds, it’s absolutely worth going back and considering all over again. (Also please watch Atlanta because it’s very good, thanks!)
LEGO and Oil
Did you even know that Digg was still around and kicking it old school? I had no idea until I stumbled on this little article last month about the connection between LEGO and their long time fictional brand. This nifty little article explores oil, LEGO, their personal brand Octan and its real world ramifications all together.
At the end of the day the most interesting food for thought is that LEGOs are made out of plastic which is made from oil which the product they originally had their first fictional company sell and is now something they’re trying to phase out. How something harmless and wonderful as LEGO could accidentally be part of the machine that makes the world a less habitable place. Even worse is the sad juxtaposition between the creative joy and freedom that LEGO allows weighed against the collective weight and influence their company has on its own branding and products.
I find myself re-reading this sentence and realizing all over again how difficult it is to do good in a world where complications and complexities exist far beyond our small social groups:
You could build a whole model anarcho-syndicalist colony with Lego, but there will always be a big asterisk hanging off that act of creation so long as Lego is a brand — something to be protected and enforced for profit — and not merely a thing.
The Train – Destroyer of Time, Space, and Sanity
I’ve always been fascinated by trains in a way that moves beyond the mechanical or capitalistic. Trains certainly are the markers of the capitalism boom and they changed how we conduct business, how we moved goods, how we calculated profit but this book looks more at how trains changed the people who created them. This book squarely sits humans as the main drivers of change and the train in its rightful place: a piece of technology which we used to reshape the land and ourselves. The book is about the train as its viewed by the people living in a world suddenly changing. The train as not simply as an object of movement or economy but as a force that changed bodies, class, social interactions, and even psychological understanding.
What I loved most were the many snippets taken from poems, letters, and journals from the turning point in history revolving around the train which attempt to both explain and dispel how revolutionary the train was to the people at that time. Trains most certainly destroyed humanities link with time and space and distance in some ways but in others, they drew us closer. Upon reading this book it struck me that my fascination might not be with the train at all, or with any of the technologies that change society but instead with the people themselves. Their shock and delight. Their joy and their sorrow. And simply put: the railroad was a just a vehicle to explore those emotions.
Reality, Poetry, Joi and You
I don’t have any poetry to share with you this month but instead, this article about the “poetry” of Blade Runner 2049. (Spoilers below)
I love this article so much and there is little I can add to it except that it always makes me remember that upon my the end of my first watch of Blade Runner 2049 it occurred to me that we don’t see the real protagonist of the film until the end of the movie. In fact, that very thought occurs to me each time I watch the film. We, the audience, are not connected to Ana Stelline anymore than K is. We are outside, unconnected (not interlinked) and because of that we do not get to see the reunion between Deckard and Ana, we do not experience the fulfillment of a journey completed, instead we watch K die knowing he is not special, not unique, not “real”. Except that he is. As much as both a movie character and a replicant can be. He is real to Joi, his Joi, who is unique to him and he is unique to her and the symmetry has always rung like a poem to me. Something when placed in front of you rings true but evaporates once you try to root at what makes those words in that order, or these pictures when lined up feel real even when they are not. And that’s all that matters, not that they are real, but that they are real enough to you.
Everything that is, is alive
So I read this story back in 2009 and it has stuck with me ever since. I’m not actually sure this five page short story even makes any sense if you’ve never played World of Warcraft or not but it’s probably worth the read either way. This is one of those stories that I read when things feel grim and dark. This story encapsulates something for me that is messy and strange but basically it’s about being cut off from the things that you drew your power from and how to transform yourself into someone who can find a new path.
Anyway, that’s all there is folks so hope to see you next month with more cool things to share!