It’s All Real

Jerry Brito is off to Walt Disney World:

That said I have to admit that Disney World would not be my first choice of vacation destination. The reason, I tell myself, is that I don’t care for artificial experiences. At Disney World, “cast members” are never allowed to frown, for example. The smell of fresh-baked cookies is pumped into the air around “Main Street.” In fact, the very idea of a long lost American main street is fake.

But then I think, isn’t immersing ourselves in fantasy exactly what we do when we go to the theatre or read a book? Disney World is just intensely more immersive, that’s all. Why not just enjoy the ride?

Exactly. That Disney World is “artificial” is a common criticism but there’s no such thing as an artificial experience. That assumes some experiences are more valid than others. Everything one experiences is real. No one would argue that going to Paris is artificial. Yet is it less “real” than going to a war-zone like Afghanistan? The only way Disney could be described as “artificial” is if you somehow truly believed Paris is just like the France pavilion in EPCOT and equated the two. But of course nobody does that.

Experiences certainly have different weights; the death of a parent has greater reverberations than buying a Slurpee at 7-11 — but again, everything is actually happening. People who distinguish between “real” and “artificial” experiences disassociate themselves from their own lives. It’s what Sartre would call being-for-others. They imagine themselves at Disney from an exterior, third-person point of view and feel as if they have to justify their actions to that faceless observer. It’s anti-individualist.

When people say an experience is “fake” or “artificial,” what they mean to say is that it’s not to their liking. Another friend recently returned from Costa Rica. He reports “the whole place was just a little too commercialized and globalized for my tastes.” Translation: the natives wore shoes. A place is what it is. If he wants something more ethnic and impoverished (which is what the friend really means), there are other places he can go. I don’t travel to deserts because I don’t like deserts. I’d rather go to the beach.

In other words, I think perhaps Jerry didn’t want to go to Disney because, as a 30-something dude without kids, riding the Dumbo carousel doesn’t get his heart pumping. Which, as much as I love WDW, is a sentiment I can understand.

Chabon on Lego: You’re Doing It Wrong!

Thank goodness Michael Chabon is around to save us from the evil machinations of Lego:

In the world of Legos, what I did discover is that my kids were taking these beautiful, gorgeous, incredibly restrictive predetermined Legos Star Wars play sets — and yeah, they really wanted it to be put together just the way the box showed it. I don’t think it occurred to them you’d want to do anything else with it. But inevitably, over time, the things kind of crumble and get destroyed and fall apart and then, once they do, the kids take all those pieces, and they create these bizarre, freak hybrids — of pirates and Indians and Star Wars and Spider-Man. Lego-things all getting mashed up together into this post-modern Lego stew. They figure out a way, despite the best efforts of corporate retail marketing.

What a douche. Lego Group doesn’t care what you make with their product — they just want you to buy it. In fact, they expect their customers to whip together a “post-modern Lego stew.” If Lego’s goal was to ensure the toy being kept in stasis, the official Lego magazines wouldn’t contain alternate builds — that is, different designs you can fashion with the bricks in a particular set or by combining those from several sets. Their console games wouldn’t contain unlockable minifigure creators where you can mix characters from DC Comics and LucasFilm to assemble unique avatars. Hell, if their goal was fossilization, Lego wouldn’t even be in the business of making a construction system. They’d just sell a finished truck or Death Star and be done with it.

There’s no downside to Lego. If a child wants to build what’s on the box, then he’s learning to read manuals and follow instructions, a good skill to have if he ever wants to bake a cake or fix a car. If he wants to disregard the box and construct something on his own, then he’s exploring the same process involved in writing a novel or designing a piece of furniture. It’s impossible to go wrong.

Chabon looks at his kids and sees subversion of corporate hegemony, a reflection not of his children and their actions but rather of his own common political mindset that consumes the fruits of capitalism while complaining the whole time he’s been tricked or oppressed. The rest of us parents — including those of us who grew up with Lego — watch our children playing and see gears moving behind clear eyes.

Give Me Armband Tattoos or Give Me Death

During a visit to Long Island last weekend, my in-laws were grousing about their high taxes and the proposal to make it easier to dissolve villages, which would reduce local control. My brother-in-law argued Nassau and Suffolk counties should secede from New York and become their own state.

Apparently he isn’t alone:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Long Island Wants to Secede

As someone who went to school upstate, worked in NYC, and married a Long Island girl, I’ve always found New York’s personality to be apples and oranges and bananas. For one or more of those selves to break away isn’t as crazy as it might seem.

Though it may not matter in the end. I think my in-laws are moving to Florida.

More 51st-state talk here.