Tuesday, November 11, 2008

heavy traffic on purgatory road

"...snarlers, growlers, coughers, rumblers, roarers, rushers, whooshers, garglers..." This is the involuntary mutter of in the mind of a naturalist living in a contemporary urban environment. Not as much "Welcome To The Jungle" as "Yo! Grindcore!" The scientist within then, perforce, will have an impulse to classify automobiles, buses and trucks as distinct species (rather than a family or genera) and ordering their auditory according to engines/transmissions and/or exhaust systems. Morning calls are the most noticeable, greeting one with their full-throated throttlesong, tapitts a-rattle, gears-jamming--not all that different from their avian brethren,but more of a rookery chorus than individual songs or calls.

Audubon does the Autobahn.

Someone might wonder at the stretch required to connect the organic world to post-industrial production line models, but that person probably never gets out of the apartment. Especially not mine. Especially not that tenuous, first foray out the front door and down to the streets of concrete, the canyons of brick and glass. Hard, clean surfaces not only reflect sound waves, they amplify them; you might as well try hiding from a clapper inside the bell.

Most residents just let it slide, this tide, but a cacophony tsunami, for a select few, is just that physical, to the degree of interfering with one's ability to hold onto a patch of sidewalk, in order not to be swept away. Back in the 1960s, when the first supersonic aircraft were put into the air, as we lived not far from a USAF base, every now and then you'd hear the "BOOM!" and the realization would hit you that a jet had passed over you a few seconds before and this was the impact of its wake. That was my awakening to the fact that invisible forces are spilling over into our lives constantly.

Pretty melodramatic, isn't it?

Now as for the rush hour grind of gears? Why would anyone write about such a petty subject? That's the first question. The second is more complex, such as: If it bothers you that much, why not just tune into the iPod like everyone else?

That complaint comes WITH the iPod on. (And don't get me started on the Lexington line at Union Square.)

But, suddenly, and again as the result of indiscrimate browsing, I recalled another fascinating list, also discovered from that very same post quote in my post from October (?), appended here without attribution:

"My order of delusional goes like this (it is also the order of ‘emotionals’ by sheer coincidence):

Manic Depressives
Religiously Devout
Normal People in Love
Happy People
Depressed People

One has to wonder if the blogger who put this up was, in point of fact, getting his source from someplace authoritative. For one thing: Manic Depressives? The theraputic designation these days is "Bipolar." Also the "order of emotionals" doesn't exactly make sense to me, going from Happy to Depressed in the middle with Schizophrenics and Psychopaths at either end. If you are not going to include garden variety Neurotics and Sociopaths, then where are you drawing the line, and how do you classify? Speaking technically, Sociopaths might be deleted due to the fact that they are so dissociative and removed from "emotional" mechanisms that they might not be open for consideration. However, your Woody Allen-type Neurotic is an industry standard that they should at the very least be placed between the Happy and the Depressed, if only to add a gradation.

One then must conclude that it was manufactured merely to be able to place "Neocons" among traits of personality disorders...which I don't necessarily disagree with, per se; so, nevertheless, this list is very attractive. But why would I want to try to match the two together? What purpose could there be? What profit in it?

It is obviously, the Naturalist impulse. We observe things in our environment and then try to order them. The question then must be: Why? You don't have to be some kind of university-trained scientist to do this, or to even WANT to do this. The term "naturalist" says it all: you simply watch things and take notes, and patterns emerge. Then, publish. And anyone who has seen the two buttons on this service will know how easy that is. The sole reason one does this sort of thing might even be put down to that primal impulse. Kinda puts you on the same level as Steven Jay Gould. Kinda. Ok, not really. But no worse off than some of the dreck that shows up in the papers disguised as "journalism" or "critical review".

Then, consider this map as a "sort of" list. Admittedly, it is copped from the Times, so if this is copyright infringement, so be it--but I have an agenda greater than appropriation of intellectual property for profit. First and foremost, it must be noted that they have chosen a pastel motif. This cannot be too strongly emphasized. It only occurred to me after having as my desktop background for days. As I had long ago discarded the article, I cannot say with certainty that the author does indeed make mention of this, nor that it could be attributed to a choice by the editor or even the artist. However, seeing as it was the Week In Review section, I doubt that demographic data as aesthetics is given much weight.

What you see is county-by-county voting in the most recent election, colored-coded along the lines of the hyped-up war between Liberal Democrats and Conservative Republicans. And I know this even without the accompanying article since I saw John King on CNN playing with his 'magic wall' like he was Tom Cruise in "Minority Report." And even though he'd randomly switch colors on 'reporting precincts' in order to make his devil's advocate positions, he'd switch them right back so nobody got the wrong idea that he was promoting one side or the other. But all this did was create a dazzling number of opportunities for people to see their districts flip-flopping worse than the chosen footgear of boardwalkers at Coney Island.

With that in mind, I have taken my trusty photoshop in hand and, with the same liberties (well, similar) as Mr. King, have found the following image within the data.

Ok. So not the DATA, itself, but more the aesthetic. Simply, I increased the contrast a lot and then increased the brightness. Easy as pie. The reason? I wanted to see the world the way the hysterical journos do: EXTREME! And here it is! Take away the obvious Arizona vote for their "Favorite Son candidate" (which is what he would have been if the election process were more about substance and less about hype) and what yet see is the Bible Belt vs. the Progressives. Couldn't be clearer, right?--that little Nike swoosh of red, outlined in a thin nimbus, before smashing into the overwhelm of blue-gray.

Television commentators will go straight for the jugular: BLUE BEATS RED! Their whole justification for such conclusions being little more than finding something to put between commercial breaks. They HAVE TO make HEADLINES THAT SHOUT! This is a lot of what is wrong with America: we shout too much. If that seems to echo something else said here, that was because it was supposed to. (Motif, leitmotif, theme & variation, sequential argument--same tricks, nuttin' fancy.) In the competition for our attention, there can be no second place. But life is not, I'm sorry to say, all that dramatic.

There is no mention of the Victory of White.

(Dramatic pause for the hushed intake of breath for possible expression of articulate bigotry.)

White is, above all, in this picture, in all paintings, lighting for movies--whatever--neutral. It is NOT "The Silent Majority". It is NOT Soccer Moms and NASCAR Dads. It is NOT "Fear of a Black Planet." (You knew there was hip-hop before gangsta, didn't you?)

It is, in point of fact, a toner. Some may not realize this since the only 'toners' they are in regular contact with are printer ink cartridges. CMYK, right? Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and K stands for Black (for some obscure reason to do with professional lithography, I vaguely recall). So where's the white? It's the paper, of course. When you start at neutral, it is easy to forget what the colors are on (except Cezanne, who liked a lot of blank canvass at the end, and was either so nuanced that he figured he didn't need to put in what was already there...or was so cheap he didn't want to buy more titanium). It may be more startling to paint on black (velvet, at least, when doing portraiture of Elvis or Jesus or Keane Kids), but it takes a LOT more paint too. (cf. Cezanne above)

(You are invited to click on any of the images for a larger picture. I believe that will open the jpg in another window of your browser. It is not so much for the detail work as to get a better gestalt, ja?)

Back to that first foray out the front door. This is about as close as one can come to a "naturalist" perspective on demographics. The whole idea of the naturalist is nothing more than a person who sees things and renders them down to results and interprets repeated patterns as some kind of law of nature. (Gad. I hate using the same terms over and over, but it can't be helped. Nothing else for it.) And one technique is to take lists of traits, habits, etc., and compare them across species (or disciplines) until some sort of general statement can be made.

The one victory that is not spoken about is neutrality. (I would like to add a sidebar here from Nassim Nicholas Taleb's "The Black Swan" about negative evidence and its manifestation as "invisible forces", then move on to Dark Matter, but...)

So let's go for another cliche, eh? Using terms like "dawn of a new day" may seem more apt to entitle some mid-70's fusion jazz-rock album than a description of the 21st century socio-political sphere, yet there are few that would argue an augury is not among us...and that is the prime conclusion from this version of the map. For this, I bumped up the brightness and brought down the contrast, so the picture (colors) is exactly what the previous sentence is saying (words). It is also something of an acknowledgment that, for the first time in a long time, the old strophe of "we're all in the same boat" reaalllly seem apropos, no?

This is what happens when you 'tone-down' the rhetoric and 'tone-up' the picture. (See? That's just what SJG would have said. Told you it wasn't hard.) And, yes, I could have made it more extreme, but that would defeat the point. All I did was nudge the values a bit. So even if that's all that happens to the nation in the next few years, it will be a whole lot better for it. Maybe not as profitable for the top 10% of gross incomes, but a lot less miserable for the bottom 50%. An economic boom wouldn't be bad, so long as it doesn't mean more sonic boom shocks of US vs. Them.

As a previous post made mention of Purple, I feel that this is the juncture at which we should give equal time to pastels as well. Lavender is nice. Not a big fan of Pink, I must say.

And that's about as Red State/Blue State as I'm going to get for a while, I hope.

1 comment:

Hoardmeister said...

Dahling, you don't like PINK? What in the world is the matter with you?

So many Deep Thoughts...I must lie down.