Tag Archives: connections

Crestfallen. Twice.

I like making connections. So I’m often on the lookout for them. It’s fun for me to align concepts for an expanded meaning beyond what they may singularly impart. The same is true with writing: symbolism, parallelism, etc. And as a corporate communications professional, connection-making often comes in handy, whether with words, concepts or people.

Crestfallen

Wired February 2013So it was interesting for me to see an uncommon term, “crestfallen” twice in a single issue of Wired this month. The word appeared in David MacNeal’s story on mobile boombox dance parties, as well as Carl Zimmer’s story on sleuthing out deadly mutant bacteria. Both are positive stories overall, but each includes a mention of someone being crestfallen. I think that’s interesting, and am happy to report not being crestfallen at this discovery.

What do you think? Ever notice an uncommon phrase in rapid succession from multiple sources? Do you believe in synchronicity? What are your thoughts on making connections? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Contrasts Make Connections

It’s contrast that makes art interesting. Chiaroscuro, juxtaposition, or as Charles Atlas might call it, “Dynamic Tension,” whether in visual art, writing, or music. I noticed this recently in a superb story in The AtlanticEarth Station: The Afterlife of Technology at the End of the World, by Alexis Madrigal.

Click for full story by Alex Madrigal. © The Atlantic

Mr. Madrigal’s story has plenty of contrast, metaphorically and literally.

Contrast is the basis of nearly all humor. We love it. Subversion, exaggeration, things that should not be but for some wacky reason are — it all works thanks to contrast. Three Stooges? Ridiculous. Grown, yet idiotic men slapping each other around? Pure genius.

It’s this kind of juxtaposition that establishes scale in our minds’ eyes, and it’s a very efficient way to deliver a punch. Why is it so dramatic when a rock band takes things down for a minute? It makes the heavy parts heavier. Just ask Black Sabbath. They weren’t known for being fast, but no one wielded mightier riffs for that time (and not much since). And when they did it slow, it had maximum impact.

Many times, Madrigal works contrast into the text: describing how small he is in the photograph he has his fiancé take of him outside the station (“at its base, I was almost too small to see”); showing some genuinely human yet long forgotten documents emerge from a backpack then go back again, across the creek with a couple of scavengers — or rather, heroes.

The contrasts in this story drive home the underlying theme, as Madrigal himself states:

That story is about how jagged technological advancement is. People received images from the moon feet from a saloon locals rode horses to.
-Alexis Madrigal

From the moon to a saloon. There you go: contrast. (Also my favorite dive bar).

Yet in this contrast Madrigal shows a real connection, bound by geography. I would add to his description above that the story is also about connections: past-present, Chinese-American, lunar-saloonar… and as Madrigal elegantly phrases it, society and technology:

No technology stands outside society, and no society exists without the people who build it.

This point about connections is illustrated with the example of a utopian space colony described alongside the boring tedium required to make it possible:

Space Colony

Beautiful, yes. Now just imagine the meetings and spreadsheets behind making this happen.

Again: contrast, making connection happen as we take in the details.

It really hit me when I laid eyes on this photograph:

The whole article is worth reading for just this photo. See the story for full effect. © The Atlantic

As I state in the article’s comments:

My jaw dropped upon scrolling to the image of the Chinese visiting. With the scene painted so vividly by the preceding text, I fully appreciate the enormity of what those files revealed, as I can imagine Mr. Madrigal also did, seeing through his lens what another photographer captured four decades ago. The contrasts between then and now are astounding, as are the connections.
-Wow, did I say that? Huh.

This is a fascinating read and I highly recommend taking a moment to enjoy it, noticing the contrasts and connections as you go. It’s great writing and an inspiring story. It certainly got me appreciating how far we’ve come with technology and how human we will always be.

See also: Slideshow from New York Times. Outstanding photography from Annie Tritt (annietritt.com, @trittscamera)

Jamesburg Earth Station

Old communications equipment at the station. The Operational Room was where Jack Ramey, a retired technical supervisor at the station, said that he had listened to astronauts on a mission. © New York Times

In closing, just let me say… Ladies and Gentlemen, Black Sabbath:

What do you think? Do you notice contrast making things interesting? What are other examples? Could you live in a former Earth Station? Do you have designs on this piece of real estate to set up your evil lair? Let us hear from you in the comments!

Occupying Art

"It's wrong," the sign said, "to create a mortgage-backed security filled with loans you know are going to fail so that you can sell it to a client who isn't aware that you sabotaged it by intentionally picking the misleadingly rated loans most likely to be defaulted upon."

The point of this post is not to debate the merits of the Occupy Wall St. (and other places) protests, but rather to note some connections spurred by communication around the topic. Politics aside, I noticed something last week that I found kind of amazing.

As I commented at the original story by Marketplace, I heard this example of shared communication on the radio (streaming, via my phone), read it online, linked to it on Facebook and Twitter, and am now blogging about it.

I think it’s extraordinary — that this one guy has a thought, it gets adopted by someone in this protest, it’s a highly relevant thought, and now it’s broadcast and rebroadcast via many different channels. Will anything come of it? Who knows; my point is that we are part of communication magic, and it’s worth reflecting upon.

True, there are maddening issues spurring on the protests, and many of them are complex… adding to the maddening. And along those lines, I think this sign captures the thought that originally inspired its content, while also making a statement on the complexity and associated frustration around the issues — while also illustrating the evolution of mass media communication, given the new breadth an individual’s thoughts can achieve through technology… right to this very moment on this blog you’re reading now.

There’s something artful in the expression.

It makes me wonder if we’re indeed in a revolution, at least in terms of communication, what with having the ability to reach and influence in so many ubiquitous, yet simple ways. We walk around with computers in our pockets and can connect with someone on the other side of the globe with ease. Or, maybe I’m just noticing the traceable pathways of the communication. Still, it’s interesting to observe and document. I’m no protester, but I’m intrigued. As Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal noted, it’s all very… “woah.” And so, I was inspired to do some documenting via Instagram

I photographed this sign made by a protestor in my city over the weekend:

Occupy Winston-Salem, 10.22.11

Turns out I was subliminally giving props to Rage Against the Machine.
Which, oddly, is kinda appropriate:

Rage Against The Machine, 11.02.99

And in fact, I support long-haired freaky people,
and I actually thought I was paying tribute to Tesla

 

So hey, there’s some art — or at least the convergence of national and local events, mass media, music, and visual design. I think that’s remarkable, and I hope something can come of it, even if only reflection or informed entertainment.

Update, 10/26: not so sure I meant this kind of entertainment, from the people who brought you Puck and Snooki. Oh, well. For the story on how all this started in the first place, see the original author’s follow-up.

Have you had any transcendental communication moments lately? Do you think we’re in a revolution? Do you remember Tesla? Tell us in the comments…