When your experience of a big city is a seamless parade of hip restaurants and privately funded transportation, it’s easy to overlook the things that cities need, like filled potholes and a reliable transit system. San Franciscans feel resentful about the technology industry’s lack of civic and community engagement, and the Google bus is our daily reminder.
Then there was the small matter of hitting the woman at the bus stop.
There is a close relationship between having a life that is sheltered from everyday experiences of discomfort and difficulty, and having a blatant lack of consideration for other people. It’s not an accident that the man at that bus stop didn’t notice that he had hit someone. Nor is it an accident that he didn’t bother looking around to acknowledge the person whom he had hit.
He had no interest in seeing her. He will never see her.
And this, my friends, is why these stories inevitably end with the have-nots taking to the barricades, while the haves scramble for security and wonder when and why everyone got so angry.
One of ten Nazi regulations about jazz music written by Josef Skvorecky, as quoted by Josh Jones in an article for Open Culture, The Nazis’ 10 Control-Freak Rules for Jazz Performers: A Strange List from World War II (via)
Skvorecky is quoted as saying: “I read them, gnashing my teeth, in Czech translation, in [a] film weekly, and fifteen years later I paraphrased them – faithfully, I am sure, since they had engraved themselves deeply on my mind – in a short story entitled I won’t take back one word.”
To my North American perspective, the whole UK tech and design scene has this uniquely British-feeling mixture of humour and the unexpected–playfulness, in other words—and that’s what immediately felt familiar to me when I read “Low Life.” That community seems deeply rooted not just in 2000 AD, but in Boys’ Own and Dan Dare, and other British visions of the future (versus, say, Star Trek) And BERG themselves were named by Warren Ellis, who is closely linked with that scene, after the British Experimental Rocketry Group in The Quatermass Experiment.
And of course, given a choice of ur-texts to inspire the scenius of creative technologists, I’ll take the Dan Dare and 2000 AD of Silicon Roundabout over the Atlas Fucking Shrugged of Silicon Valley any day of the week.
Last week, the internet sat up and took notice of Bloomberg Businessweek’s cover story about the launch of Lego Friends, its new “for girls” line. There was much wailing of gnashing of teeth on Twitter, with a common and much-retweeted line being “Lego is launching a product line for girls. Someone should tell them that they already have one; its called Lego.”
Well, yes and no. As the article points out, much of Lego’s growth since its nadir in the early 2000s has been on the back of boy-oriented franchises: the biggest is Star Wars, but also Bionicle (fighting robots), Ninjago (fighting ninjas) and so on. Of course, culture isn’t as good at noticing when a line is aimed at males, since they’re the default market, so nobody’s really saying anything, but it is a change since the Lego of the 1980s.
Compare Lego Town circa 1981, with a “house with garden” and minifigs gendered merely by hairstyle (all the faces were the same smiling face) with City in 2011, dominated by fire, police and aeroplanes. (There is at least the City Corner set, with a female pizza chef, and it’s gratifyingly sold out at the moment.) Is it any wonder parents say things like “The last time I was in a Lego store, there was this little pink ghetto over in one corner”?
(Speaking of pink, Lego’s had that colour in its palette since at least the early 1990s, although it is somewhat rare. Lego Friends “introduces six new Lego colors—including Easter-egg-like shades of azure and lavender”, but pink was already there, including an entire pink brick box.)
Meanwhile, I’ve also seen people reacting against the idea that Lego Friends have backstories printed on the boxes, as if it’s assuming a lack of imagination on the part of girls. Well, perhaps, but if you’re playing with Star Wars, Harry Potter, or DC Superheroes sets, aren’t you also tapping into someone else’s narratives and creations?
Reading the article, it’s clear this isn’t something Lego rushed headlong into. They’ve talked to their potential customers, attempted to understand them, and dealt with their own core beliefs (including the previously-near-sacred minifig) to create something to sell - which, for better or worse, is what as a company they have to do. If we’re going to place blame somewhere, perhaps it should it be the external society?
Oh, and one last thing. If you really hate the idea of Lego Friends, why not ignore it and instead buy Lego Creator sets? Apple Tree House looks particularly good, and there’s not much gendered about it at all.