In honor of WandaVision ending (I haven’t seen the last episode yet), here’s a piece I wrote after Episode 4. Many thanks to Shawn Berman for giving it a home, and many thanks to the new Existential Poetics newsletter for including it this week!
Burger King is going back to its former logo. Smart branding move for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is the chain’s need to keep differentiating itself from industry leader McDonald’s and perpetual internet-winner Wendy’s.
Here’s what I think is interesting. My kids, who were born well after Burger King dropped its classic branding, have always thought the 1999-2020 BK logo looked like a frying pan full of eggs.
They’re absolutely right. I’d never seen it because I knew what the logo was supposed to be.
Context really matters.
Yes, this is a logo for a giant corporation that sells mostly shitty food, but it’s a good reminder for artists, writers…anyone who is trying to communicate something to someone else.
Is what I have to say clear? Is what I have to say true? How do I know? What contexts have I assumed are understood, shared, taken for granted? What social constructs have I mistaken for objective frames and lenses?
On one hand, “perception is reality” can be a lazy excuse for all kinds of willful ignorance. On the other hand, if the things we have to say matter, it matters enough to do the best we can with them. Perhaps more to the point: we don’t know what we don’t know until we make the decision to learn about the world beyond our native settings.
Would you believe I’d never heard of James Baldwin before college? It’s true, and I went to well-funded public schools (that also happened to be predominantly white, and by a lot). I don’t think we were asked to read anything by Black writers except for (maybe) The Color Purple and a few lines of Langston Hughes. Worse: school kids in the 80s and 90s, at least in my experience, were meant to intuit that anything resembling racial injustice had been conquered by 1970. That’s probably something most of the adults in our lives wanted to believe themselves.
It’s been a long time since I was in school. I don’t know if we do a better job now or not. I do know that budgets in struggling districts continue to be slashed, that music programs are cut, gym programs are cut, the school district I went to is richer now, than ever, and the city schools a mile away have a fraction of those resources. I know that conservatives like to say that in America, we’re granted equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. I know that only half of that statement is true.
I wish I could say that the events of January 6 seemed surreal to me. Sadly, they were predictable (and predicted). What maybe does feel surreal: trying to go about my normal course of business in this moment. Nothing I do seems serious enough, almost everything I do seems very trivial. And I’m a person who benefits from a great deal of privilege. Maybe you are, too. If so, think about your frames and lenses. Think about the fact that there are many things we’re just not seeing. Many points of reference and perspectives we don’t have. Think about how we were taught to take up space, demand attention; think about how the insurrectionists were treated and how they would have been treated had they been mostly brown or Black.
I’m not saying Burger King’s branding language is some kind of metaphor. But there are an effing lot of Burger Kings. There are an effing lot of us (myself included) who need to unlearn an awful lot of shit.
Now the battle is to keep fascists out of power and freedom in sight. Even the Daily Planet suffers at the hands of the villains, who fear the truth of their exploits will be exposed and therefore go after Lois and the free press. The struggle is to keep Brainiac from overtaking the world via mindless technology while trickster Lex Luthor works in tandem, to fool everyone into believing they need protection from a false enemy, while he shields the sun and becomes the lone source of energy for sale…”
Kevin Smith may have accidentally created our current timeline.
A great short piece at Matchbook today by Jennifer Howard.
I got this from Jon Winokur’s twitter feed. It’s a lot like what Benjamin Taylor and Robert Antoni taught me at The New School:
“The responsibility of a writer is to excavate the experience of the people who produced him.” – James Baldwin
Leave it to James Baldwin to define this whole addiction and ordeal so briefly, so clearly, so truly.
I would tend to agree with this. I think it’s very good advice. (Aimee Bender, via Jon Winokur’s Advice to Writers page).
From Jay Parini’s site:
“There is really only one worthwhile piece of advice. Write about what really interests you, and do it every day…”
Read the rest here, and check out Jay’s work while you’re at it. I really like what he says about reading and writing going hand-in-hand. When I am having a hard time writing, reading is always a kind of key.