Thursday 29 December 2016

Sic transit gloria mundi

Boys, boys, they are taking an old Ford Transit apart as an archaeological dig.  Before I went to college, I had a job tooling around the lanes of Devon and Dorset delivering books to primary schools in a Ford Transit. I lived in that van for several months and got to see [a small part of] the World. Archaeologists are super careful meticulous people who, like Louis Agassiz making slow progress across his lawn, are devils for detail. Most of us pay no attention whatsoever: to the food we eat; the things we discard; the places we pass through.

The film is peculiar because it has two over-lapping sound-tracks which are both important and complementary but which no normal person can handle in parallel. That shows that multi-tasking is not A Thing: it is really task switching - flick flick flick - from one channel to the other. That indeed is exactly how computers work: sharing processor time among tasks. Some [women?] are better at integrating the conflicting information. My advice is to listen through twice: once on the left channel, once on the right. I guess the film-makers saw it as a clever metaphor for showing how hard it is to integrate layers of detail into a cohesive whole.

Archaeologists have been restlessly expanding their empires from Roman and Sumerian to British and American. They have, over the last 100 years, developed techniques to sift and sort through the detritus of Pompeii or Çatalhöyük to piece together what life was like in antient tymes. In the early 1970s, they [U Tucson AZ] started turning their attention to modern middens aka landfill. I guess nobody was too surprised when they turned up perfect copies of National Geographic thrown away by the previous generation in 1948. But to find anaerobically preserved hot-dogs and lettuce looking ready to eat was unexpected. These Garbology projects were also important because the generated policy-informing data to show that disposable diapers were only a small fraction of landfill and paper a large one. The Transit project grew from this tradition.

If you look to the bottom of the film page, there are a number of links to commentary on the Bristol U project; someone else has used the same 'obvious if you have a classical education' headline as me. A few more comments on the Metafilter page where I picked up the thread. Finally, interesting Art spin-off.

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