An Inconvenient Force. From the results of the Tatooine Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:
The Working Group contribution to the TIPCC’s First Assessment Report (AR1) considers cumulative evidence of climate change based on many independent scientific analyses from observations of the climate system, paleoclimate archives, theoretical studies of climate processes and simulations using climate models. It represents a first concerted attempt to address the possible long term effects on the Tatooine geological and biodiversity systems, particularly as it pertains to the current unregulated practice of water mining.
This Summary for Policymakers (SPM) follows the structure of the Working Group report. The narrative is supported by a series of overarching highlighted conclusions which, taken together, provide a concise summary. The degree of certainty in key findings in this assessment is based on the droid teams’ evaluations of underlying scientific understanding and is expressed as a qualitative level of confidence (from very low to very high) and, when possible, probabilistically with a quantified likelihood (from exceptionally unlikely to virtually certain). Confidence in the validity of a finding is based on the type, amount, quality, and consistency of evidence (e.g., data, mechanistic understanding, theory, models, expert judgment) and the degree of agreement.
Probabilistic estimates of quantified measures of uncertainty in a finding are based on statistical analysis of observations or model results, or both, and expert judgment. Where appropriate, findings are also formulated as statements of fact without using uncertainty qualifiers. The basis for substantive paragraphs in this Summary for Policymakers can be found in the chapter sections of the underlying report and in the Technical Summary.
Tale of Two Cities. Borders are the logistical mechanics of separation. In the absence of clear geographic boundaries they are little more than arbitrary divisions of space—legal fictions producing territorialized landscapes with frustratingly real consequences for the humans and nonhumans who must cross them. Sometimes porous and permeable, they can rapidly ossify into rigid and resistant markers of permanent exclusion. Perhaps the most dramatic imagination of the absurdity of these fictions is given by China Miéville’s account of the vaguely Balkan cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma in The City and the City (2009). Evoking something akin to (but different from) the absurd division of Berlin or the markers carving up Jerusalem, the mirrored cities of the book are just as evident in the class divisions of everyday urban life—neighborhoods unvisited, people unseen.
The border that separates Besźel from Ul Qoma is notable in its absence from geography. The cities overlap, differentiated only by the colors and designs of their building, the dress and habit of their people. This literal manifestation of the “wall in the mind” requires one city’s inhabitants to learn to not recognize the other, and vice versa. Border crossing can only take place at the designated border zone at Copula Hall, where emigrants circle back on the same space, but enter into an altered perceptual place. Transgressing this arrangement is punishable by the seemingly otherworldly phenomena of Breach, but it is in exactly this kind of transgression that the story seems to set its motions.
BLDGBLOG: I’m curious to what extent you were hoping to base your work on these sorts of real-life border conditions.
Miéville: The most extreme example of this was something I saw in an article in the Christian Science Monitor, where a couple of poli-sci guys from the State Department or something similar were proposing a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. In the case of Jerusalem, they were proposing basically exactly this kind of system, from The City and The City, in that you would have a single urban space in which different citizens are covered by completely different juridical relations and social relations, and in which you would have two overlapping authorities.
I was amazed when I saw this. I think, in a real world sense, it’s completely demented. I don’t think it would work at all, and I don’t think Israel has the slightest intention of trying it.
My intent with The City and The City was, as you say, to derive something hyperbolic and fictional through an exaggeration of the logic of borders, rather than to invent my own magical logic of how borders could be. It was an extrapolation of really quite everyday, quite quotidian, juridical and social aspects of nation-state borders: I combined that with a politicized social filtering, and extrapolated out and exaggerated further on a sociologically plausible basis, eventually taking it to a ridiculous extreme.
But I’m always slightly nervous when people make analogies to things like Palestine because I think there can be a danger of a kind of sympathetic magic: you see two things that are about divided cities and so you think that they must therefore be similar in some way. Whereas, in fact, in a lot of these situations, it seems to me that—and certainly in the question of Palestine—the problem is not one population being unseen, it’s one population being very, very aggressively seen by the armed wing of another population.
In fact, I put those words into Borlu’s mouth in the book, where he says, “This is nothing like Berlin, this is nothing like Jerusalem.” That’s partly just to disavow—because you don’t want to make the book too easy—but it’s also to make a serious point, which is that, obviously, the analogies will occur but sometimes they will obscure as much as they illuminate.
Initial Image via René Fijten
Selected interview via BLDGBLOG.
Evolutions of Ape Artillery. It is clear to anyone who has viewed one of the (now three) adaptations of La Planète des Singes (1963) that there is something important about the presentation of this particular moment in the evolution of the apes (and of ape society). The gripping visuality of ape on horseback is both explicitly evocative of a deliberately intentional meaning and promiscuously open to all manner of polysemiotic purchase. It is not, as Eileen Jones points out, the kind of image that forces that farcical exchange of humans for the might-as-well-be human animals that so often populate cartoons and children’s stories. The apes, in this singular segment of their presumed post-human evolutionary path, are both like us and not like us. They perform some sense of humanity through the adoption of our primitive infrastructures of civilization, most explicitly through their own mastery of our domestication of the horse. In so doing, they weigh the grandeur of its place in our grand history of human exceptionalism and differentiation with the unfamiliarity of seeing that history now usurped.
But this vision of the not-human’s performative choreographies is balanced by a kind of counterpoint, the violent imagery of the apes, streaked with tribal paint, joined by gesture, united for the hunt. This is not to say that the this kind of hunt, which features the apes swinging through the trees armed with that quintessential tool of primitive imagination, the spear, is inhuman, or purely animalistic. It is not. But where the image of the man astride horseback is imbued with (even today) an almost elegant sense of mastery, the fevered pace of the hunt seems to evoke a more darkly brutal vision. And while the image of the hunt plays out as a more chaotic and viscerally violent spectacle, it is through their mastery of the horse that the apes most closely demonstrate the human calling to ecological domination.
Jones ultimately sees the captivation of the unfamiliarly familiar image as a kind of hopeful promise of a cycle we hope to be broken, but the fascination of the images of a new society so completely inhabiting the most fundamentally human “tools,” suggests also the powerful entrenchment of not only the material embodiments of human civilization. Zaius’ determination to keep apes out of the Forbidden Zone warns against the (literally) earth-shattering contaminants to be found there, but also of a more subtle kind of influence, that the very idea of human progress and patterns is not only materially durable, but imaginatively infectious. The film is filled with images that explore the subtle slippage between the human, the animal, and the inhuman (perhaps most strikingly in Caesar’s poignant acceptance of his own, so-to-say, humanity near the film’s end). But in the collective sense, this vision comes to its most elaborate and disturbing imagination as the apes, in the grip of a violent coup, march on the humans with guns loosely held and in the chaos of a camera caught on top of a spinning tank. It has neither the honest brutality of the hunt, nor the elegant domination of the horse. An image disturbing more in the context of the perceived loss of humanity in the apes then in the violent consequences for the real humans. Even though, in a sense, it represents the pinnacle of that most human of acts—war.
Super H&M. Whether or not Batgirl’s new outfit trades one representational trope for another, there is no denying that it is noticeably more sensible—the kind of thing you could imagine putting together at the mall in short notice. As long as you have a cape, a mask, a utility belt, some leather friendly paint, and can cut a mean stencil.
Tabletop Geographies. From the AV Club’s Food Fiction series (with My Dinner with Andre , pictured above).
Sitting and talking and eating and chewing and swallowing creates a familiar situation that’s full of minor distractions and opportunities for bits of business, creating a relaxed setting for great speeches to seem completely unrehearsed. Characters passing time together in a living room or bedroom or parked car changes the nature of the conversation—great speeches can be delivered anywhere, but in those non-table situations, the characters are somewhat deliberately choosing to remain together long enough to discuss something, and we’re subconsciously aware there’s nothing keeping them there. They could up and leave without much consequence, as opposed to abandoning a meal half-eaten, or uneaten, which makes a relatively big statement.
“Having a talk” is serious, deliberate business—“Honey, sit down. I need to tell you something.” A meal just happens now and then. Gathered around a couple plates of ambiguously brown and green items, or a couple of drinks, the conversation occurs partly to fill the silence—and as a result feels unplanned, spontaneous, offhand, and maybe even more genuine as a result.
And about the series itself:
Even fictional people have to eat. Sometimes food reveals what we should know about a character, sometimes it’s a pleasant pause in the action, sometimes it’s guacamole—made right here at the table! Food Fiction is an ongoing feature that looks at some of the most memorable foods in the history of storytelling.
Radish Infrastructures. Fraggle Rock is a world of the radish. The Gorg grow them (for their anti-invisible “youth and beauty cream”). The Doozers mine them (for their elaborately industrious constructions). And the Fraggles eat them (either raw, or after they’ve been shaped into Doozer sticks).
"Architecture was meant to be enjoyed." —Cotterpin, a Doozer.
Please do not feed the animals. Although we have only few details from the film, it will be interesting to see if Jurassic World inherits more, as it seems to, from the contemporary pattern and practice of first-rate zoos than from the safari-esque animal park of the original. I’m also keen to see if they have spared any expense with regard to the development of their park management software.
And are there going to be any coupon days?
Mapping Marvel. Unlike their competitors, the Marvel Universe has long inhabited geographies more familiar to us than Metropolis, Gotham, or Smallville. While these spatial constraints may contribute to a less fantastical and fluid environment, it also helps to ground characters in contemporary culture, politics, and place. Trends towards urbanization and gentrification impact superhero and citizen alike, and this spatial consistency has produced groupings of characters who frequently interact in their respective geographies. And it should be no surprise that New York, even without its secret identity as Gotham, is the most super city.