July 4th Blast in Year One of „The Spill“

– or –

A Bitter World Cupful of Crude Oil & Sound Waves

This post will start out with a tiny, oily wave – eventually reviving this dormant blog with a plastic trumpet call!

Wavelets have been rippling through my brain ever since global World Cup fever 2010 has infected a significant percentage of world’s thinking individuals, transforming them into patriotic swarms – largely blotting out from the collective screen of consciousness the news of dying wildlife within and all around the Gulf of Mexico: Drowning out the fate of a dying ocean in Vuvuzelian hummings, in sounds reminiscent almost of a biblical insect plague. The blasting sound of a swarm was considered to be a sign of warning, then… – …and now?!

Global BP (formerly: British Petroleum – now actually bp: beyond petroleum) may consider themselves extremely lucky that a globally dominant, serious interest in football has displaced serious worries about our global interests from dominant headlines – for the time being. And yet not from all of our consciousnesses… Plus, this is not „merely“ about BP’s spill either. „The Spill“ is an inevitable icon for the dangerously leaky foundations of human civilization as we take it for granted – despite our knowing better, or rather, despite of all our bitter knowledge of its faulty, rickety state.

A worrying-sick feeling – and a feeling of rage, a not quite entirely helpless rage against the machine – against BP’s seeming nonchalance… – which is really mirroring humanity’s seeming nonchalance – may creep up on us at any time, when and where we least expect it… I will try to find words for sharing my feelings, possibly creating some ripples in your reading mind?

Two examples:

The Vuvuzela – it’s sound has been widely bashed in the media, but somehow I think, its penetrance points to a metaphoric potential we must not overlook – not just that, when blown by an army of fans, vuvuzelas will create a sound like a biblical plague, reaching far beyond any football stadium or public viewing venue. Their sound may even be literally taken to be one of long-distance communication and warning: And that’s what it has originally been created for, I claim. If you are prepared go back to humanity’s roots for a deeper understanding, that is. Maybe there is counsel to be gained for the present – and future – by looking back: Look up the ancient Shofar!

Sounding the Shofar (for purposes of demonstrating its potential)

Usage and relevance of the Shofar originated before the emergence of Jewish traditions and extend beyond religious ritual contexts. Various types of Shofars have developed over the millenia. Herders have clearly used Shofar signals for communication on the wide plains of Africa ages ago – in what we call prehistoric times, before contemporary beliefs were shaped. Its function may be compared to the smoke signals of Native Americans (insert mental image of Ejafjallajökull here), as well as to yodeling echo-soundings in the Alps, or whistling codes on the Islas Canarias, and so on. Social media channels of sorts – communication for better cooperation including information on, say, changing weather or more general warnings against imminent dangers. Of course this kind of communication only works, if, when, and where the single voice is listened to and the meanings of signals are mutually agreed upon and understood.

Best-known today is the spiralled Shofar made of Kudu horn. According to the entry „Schofar“ in the German Wikipedia, Kudu are a species once at home in Kanaan as well, but having survived exclusively in South Africa till today. Lucky for the Kudus that we have discovered petrochemical replacement for the „natural material“ well in time before the 2010 World Cup, so that enormous numbers of plastic Vuvuzelas could be stocked up on for sale all around the globe! Spared a lot of four-legged lives…

Here is a contemporary soundblast on a traditional Shofar by a Jewish(?) Masai:

To me the Vuvuzela – a Shofar made of plastic – epitomizes all the ambivalence in our culture: How on the one hand our civilization relies on crude oil to an extent we hardly realize in every day life. And it is indeed not an infinite resource… And how therefore, on the other hand more efficient global wake-up calls are truly what we need, if we don’t want humanity to go down and end up in a second coming of the slime that once spawned all life. (Please forgive, if I am not discussing evolutionary vs. creationist views at this point – slime is slime – in essence: pro-creative matter!?)

I am all for sounding the Vuvuzela, even after the World Cup, and especially today, this July 4th in Year One of „The Spill“ – I am all for listening to its complex messaging, too.

Complex messaging – a key concept in these days… „It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.“ That’s how Clay Shirky condenses it – and elaborates in his talk by the same title, which you may want to consider listening to… But not now!? – Now, you are welcome to read on, if you will…

I will present you with an example for apparent filter failure of a special type – my second example, as announced above, rippling the oily waves:

Muscle Shirts – a double package of a black and a white shirts, both carrying an uneasy cargo of unintentional subtext… or so I assume: If it were intentional, I’d call this the most sarcastic summer offer ever to be found in a globally operating discount store chain.* Did you know that muscle shirts have no sleeves? So, you can show off your muscles. And you avoid getting dirty sleeves while spending your free time with summery activities – such as…Celebrating World Cup wins? Getting mustard on your shirt on July 4th? Joining beach clean-ups? Collecting dying birds and sea turtles? (Inevitably leaving sea urchins and starfish, mussle and shellfish, fish and plancton to suffocate in the rot.)

Indeed, there are beaches and settings, even today, especially here in Europe, where you would be able to enjoy unadulterated fun and play in your brand new muscle shirt – and where its brilliant white colour, its smooth black, would be only temporarily be spoiled. Where you could brush off the sand without finding oil specks remaining that were hidden in the ground. And yet – floods of waste, plastics, poisons, and crude oil, with which we humans and our current civilized habits encumber the air, the ground, and oceans globally, will not be facts to be brushed off our minds.

Therefore – here is my challenge:

Copy one or both of the pictures below. They are the (unholy) virgin motifs I want you to set to work on.
You can access, open, and download the original size jpg-images with first a left, then a right click on the pictures.

*(Or buy yourself a 2-pack of shirts, if you find any left at „Trader Al’s“… restyle it to reflect on „The Spill“ … show it around… here and whereever you go!)

Create your self-designed wake-up-shirt: Show off your creative brain muscles!

Any pixeled manipulations – or photographs of custom-manipulated brain-muscle-shirts – you send to me will be published here along with the original prime example of a filter failure with global implications:

A case of filter failure - on sale at, let's say, *Trader Al's*...

Widen your Deepwater Horizon!

Post Scriptum (preliminary):

This text wanted out in English. I might rewrite it in German, if either complaints – or pronounced interest – are declared with any vehemence. Plus, I will happily link up with English or German language whistleblowing blogs or dedicated homepages concerning themselves with what I’ve tentatively baptized „The Spill“. If you know of interesting ideas, facts or fictions, analyses or comment, please, let me know – just add a link in the commentaries… I will be adding more of what I think of as relevant links asap, i.e. after catching up with lively chores and acute fatigue…

A strangely ironic meaning – might sound like a flat joke to Twitterians around the globe – might be derived from a news item on „The Spill“ by Reuters, Germany: They report on recent BP strategies to avert bankruptcy, but they also note that first attempts have been made to siphon off parts of the oil. The ship entrusted with the job to prove that it could be done is referred to by name. It is called a famous – or, as it were, infamous – name: According to Reuters the trusty ship is called „A Whale“… #fail („No name jokes!“)

If you can stomach some more concrete visual impact (read: inspiration for creative action?!): What „The Spill“ means to wildlife in and around the Gulf of Mexico can be studied in an exquisitely presented gallery of horrors at The Nokturnal Times.


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