Logistical Fictions

On the Road
10 November 2015
Status: 3 Moving Objects
10 November 2015
Stepping Out
01 October 2015
On Its Stomach
15 June 2015
Stay on Target
14 June 2015
Manufacturers & Exporters of Fine Sweat
16 May 2015

Despite the evocative tagline, the sweat shop The Wiz (1978) villain Evillene runs below the streets of New York City seems more conventional than not. It seems that the laborers are working on *some* sort of apparel apparatus, but the sewing machines melt along with their mistress.

Fully Operational
17 February 2015

As we’ve already suggested, Jurassic World has the potential to truly revel in the kind of functioning park we were never really able to see in the original film. The recent release of marketing material for the forthcoming blockbuster spares no expense, offering exactly the kind of publicity we would expect for any world-class contemporary zoo.

Map Not to Scale
01 January 2015

This Christmas classic transcends its place as a relatively mediocre suburban survival story when it ventures into slapstick. The most captivating part is the planning, when Kevin’s precisely honed logistical senses meet with the power of plot to force the not yet notorious Wet Bandits through an (almost) perfect procession of pain.

How’s My Trans-Stellar Utility Lifting?
05 December 2014

On the typography of the original Alien.

The Golden Path
14 November 2014

Dune is not subtle in examination of the logistical constraints that bind the fate of the galaxy to the planet Arrakis, to the spice Melange that is found only there. In its narrative, the gears of civilization move only through the regular supply of this, the most precious and valuable commodity in the universe—the singular substance through which the navigation of space is possible.

The Lure of the Open Road
13 November 2014

On this very night, ten years ago, on this same stretch of road, in the dense fog, just like this, I saw the worse accident I ever seen. There was this sound, like a garbage truck dropped off the Empire State Building. And when they finally pulled the driver’s body from the twisted, burning, WRECK, it looked like… THIS!

The Good Ship
28 October 2014

This prototype from the creator of Papers, Please puts its player in the role of an insurance adjustor for the East India Company, tasking them with investigating the mysterious return of the lost ship “Obra Dinn.” A ghost story in classic Mac game style.

Internet: 2021
19 September 2014

At Lines and Nodes, the day-long conference and weekend-long film series that began today at NYU, our discussion of the aesthetic dimensions of extraction and infrastructure began with Finn Brunton’s recognition of the “infrastructural tracking shot.” In the strange sort of material aesthetic Johnny Mnemonic (1995) deploys for its designs of the digital, Brunton finds an exemplar for exactly this kind of maneuver.

The Republic
18 September 2014

Despite its famous cover featuring the Battersea Power Station, the infrastructural analysis performed in Animals (1977) is more closely attuned to the structural emanations of the beasts themselves.

It looks just like a window
12 September 2014

In the video, Clark stands in for Metropolis’ automaton, complete with mechanized movements — all geometric lines and robotic stare. But where Lang’s world is all moody black-and-white, Clark and Moya paint a surreal, pastel-hued future soundtracked by St. Vincent’s funky, horn-infused dancey track.

Paper Architecture
02 September 2014

What do you do as an architect living in a country that sets limits on and penalties for architectural design? …During the Cold War, the brave and inventive architects of the Soviet Union did not cease to advance their cause. They continued to explore their ideas in several ways, including one very simple but dangerous method: they drew what they couldn’t build, and thus invented paper architecture.

Supply Chain: The Game
04 August 2014

Or at least, Assembly Line: The Game… with aliens.

Who Watches the Watchers?
01 August 2014

Every life is a series of choices. Some are large, and some are small. And if logistics is the science of detail, as Jomini wrote, every life must play out as an experiment for which the outcome can never be analyzed. The details build towards a future that stands as the terrible object of an uncertain construction, wrought by every decision of existence.

Fly me to the moon
29 July 2014

Long before humanity had reached that closest object of our celestial imagination, we’d already imagined ways of getting there. Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon (1865) offers the mighty cannon as the most efficient means of long distance travel, lunar locomotion which evokes a spatial simplicity not well realized in the harsh reality of the complex mathematics for practical travel outside of our atmosphere.

Water and Power
28 July 2014

In the drought plagued world of Tank Girl (the 1995 film, inspired by the British comic) water is literally power—the imagination of utilitarian monopoly transcending its expected social and political limitations.

An Inconvenient Force
25 July 2014

The Working Group contribution to the TIPCC’s First Assessment Report (AR1) considers cumulative evidence of climate change based on many independent scientific analyses from observations of the climate system, paleoclimate archives, theoretical studies of climate processes and simulations using climate models. It represents a first concerted attempt to address the possible long term effects on the Tatooine geological and biodiversity systems, particularly as it pertains to the current unregulated practice of water mining.

Tale of Two Cities
23 July 2014

Borders are the logistical mechanics of separation. In the absence of clear geographic boundaries they are little more than arbitrary divisions of space—legal fictions producing territorialized landscapes with frustratingly real consequences for the humans and nonhumans who must cross them. Sometimes porous and permeable, they can rapidly ossify into rigid and resistant markers of permanent exclusion. Perhaps the most dramatic imagination of the absurdity of these fictions is given by China Miéville’s account of the vaguely Balkan cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma in The City and the City (2009). Evoking something akin to (but different from) the absurd division of Berlin or the markers carving up Jerusalem, the mirrored cities of the book are just as evident in the class divisions of everyday urban life—neighborhoods unvisited, people unseen.

Evolutions of Ape Artillery
22 July 2014

It is clear to anyone who has viewed one of the (now three) adaptations of La Planète des Singes (1963) that there is something important about the presentation of this particular moment in the evolution of the apes (and of ape society). The gripping visuality of ape on horseback is both explicitly evocative of a deliberately intentional meaning and promiscuously open to all manner of polysemiotic purchase.

Super H&M
18 July 2014

Whether or not Batgirl’s new outfit trades one representational trope for another, there is no denying that it is noticeably more sensible—the kind of thing you could imagine putting together at the mall in short notice. As long as you have a cape, a mask, a utility belt, some leather friendly paint, and can cut a mean stencil.

Tabletop Geographies
16 July 2014

Sitting and talking and eating and chewing and swallowing creates a familiar situation that’s full of minor distractions and opportunities for bits of business, creating a relaxed setting for great speeches to seem completely unrehearsed. Characters passing time together in a living room or bedroom or parked car changes the nature of the conversation—great speeches can be delivered anywhere, but in those non-table situations, the characters are somewhat deliberately choosing to remain together long enough to discuss something, and we’re subconsciously aware there’s nothing keeping them there. They could up and leave without much consequence, as opposed to abandoning a meal half-eaten, or uneaten, which makes a relatively big statement.

Radish Infrastructures
15 July 2014

Fraggle Rock is a world of the radish. The Gorg grow them (for their anti-invisible “youth and beauty cream”). The Doozers mine them (for their elaborately industrious constructions). And the Fraggles eat them (either raw, or after they’ve been shaped into Doozer sticks). As the Doozer Cotterpin says: “Architecture was meant to be enjoyed.”

Please do not feed the animals
14 July 2014

Although we have only few details from the film, it will be interesting to see if *Jurassic World* inherits more, as it seems to, from the contemporary pattern and practice of first-rate zoos than from the safari-esque animal park of the original. I’m also keen to see if they have spared any expense with regard to the development of their park management software.

Mapping Marvel
09 July 2014

Unlike their competitors, the Marvel Universe has long inhabited geographies more familiar to us than Metropolis, Gotham, or Smallville. While these spatial constraints may contribute to a less fantastical and fluid environment, it also helps to ground characters in contemporary culture, politics, and place. Trends towards urbanization and gentrification impact superhero and citizen alike, and this spatial consistency has produced groupings of characters who frequently interact in their respective geographies. And it should be no surprise that New York, even without its secret identity as Gotham, is the most super city.

City of the Mind’s Desire
09 July 2014

A map which imagines a city where every movie takes place.

All Aboard
08 July 2014

At turns wonderfully evocative, spectacularly heavy-handed, and frustratingly impotent. Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer (2013) skillfully realizes a fantastically dystopian setting drawn from the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige (1982) where all of humanity lives on a single train powered by an eternal engine. Within, the temporary institution of the certain kind of class which accompanies our travels embraces its etymological fullness, as the materially oppressive confines of humanity’s daily life.

Imperial Airport
07 July 2014

Some of the ships from Star Wars apparently takeoff and taxi from Frankfurt Airport. Just as long as they avoid that small moon.

The Logistics of Freedom
04 July 2014

Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world, and you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind.

The Homer, or Design by Averages
03 July 2014

"The Homer" (also known as "The Car Built for Homer") was an infamous concept car that yielded disastrous financial results for the company that produced it, Powell Motors.

“The mission was real, the movie was… also real?”
02 July 2014

The thrills of 2012’s Argo are borne out of the real-life rescue of six U.S. diplomats during the Iran hostage crisis (the so-called “Canadian Caper”). At its core is a carefully constructed story about false film production, clandestine location scouting, and a science-fiction future that would never be realized.

The Economics of Star Trek
02 July 2014

If you eat a meal at Sisko’s Creole Kitchen, do you pay? It seems almost definite that you don’t pay. If you paid, with anything, including Federation Credits, that would be money. You could barter, but it seems if the entire economy was a barter economy, we’d hear it. No, it seems almost certain that you go to eat at Sisko’s, you don’t pay, and Joseph Sisko doesn’t pay for his supplies, and his suppliers probably don’t pay for theirs.

Solar Subway
01 July 2014

The Solar System as imagined as a subway map.

01 July 2014

Spiderman’s preferred form of locomotion is one of the truly great logistical fictions—we simply want to believe it is possible. If other superheroes fly (or can run and jump with enough force to approximate it), the idea of sticky spiderweb as means of transportive connection seems (in contrast) a realistically (super)natural alternative. But while Times Square is a somewhat believable scene for the Web Crawler, there are far fewer parts of the city than one might imagine that are “web accessible.” While organic production has its own materiality, prior formulations leave questions about exactly how the scientific mind of Peter Parker was able to come up with a web-shooting device that works as long (or as reliably) as it did—failing only at the most (in)convenient of moments.

America Personified
01 July 2014

A video of Captain America doing things that (statistically speaking) America isn’t so great at, data courtesy of the CIA World Factbook.

Red October
30 June 2014

When he reached the new world Cortez burned his ships. As a result, his men were well motivated.

The Chocolate Factory
26 June 2014

The factory in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971, adapted from Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) is not very much like a factory at all. Or rather, removed from all of the jagged edges that comprise our biting accounts of industrialization, it appears as the dream of a factory in place of its reality.

The Village
25 June 2014

The opening to The Prisoner (1967) is one of television’s most logistically dense attempts at visual exposition.

Geographical Fictions
23 June 2014

The supposed and filmed locations of fictional places.

The Video About Nothing
23 June 2014

Seinfeld’s establishing shots emphasize the role real locations played in making up the show’s fictional—sometimes surreal—portrayal of New York City. But in this supercut, the familiar funk of the show’s musical riffs begin and end in rapid succession. It produces, initially, a disconcerting effect—a kind of nothingness defined by the suspension of movement, of repetition, and of continually denying resolution to the viewer. As the music diminishes and the shots become more varied, it offers a gradual suppression of suspension opening into a hauntingly bleak vision of the show’s world: an empty, uninhabited segmentation of New York City. Through it all the convention of the form, the establishing shot, becomes a kind of mocking specter of loneliness, of desperation, and finally of despair.

Alternatives to Publishing
20 June 2014

Anthologies have often struggled with the need to contextualize the disparate stories on offer each week. The Twilight Zone brought Rod Sterling’s famous narration, Tales from the Crypt couched each story in the infectious cackles of the Crypt Keeper before inevitably zooming into a corresponding comic. But Goosebumps took the material inspiration for its stories a step farther, positing a world in which the pages spilling out from the mysterious strangers briefcase (marked “R.L. Stine”) enact a kind of material dissemination of darkness within the otherwise tranquil town below.

More than meets the eye
19 June 2014

While some Transformers (like the Dinobots) have developed more elaborate transformations, the original crew tend towards more mundane logistical forms. The most iconic is Optimus Prime’s excursion from his recognizably robotic position as leader of the Autobots to the (other) toy marketing executives most associate with young male children.

“Now You’re Thinking With Portals.”
18 June 2014

The hit pack-in from Valve’s Orange Box introduced its players to a harsh world of testing and evaluation (“for science”).

The Bat-Signal
17 June 2014

In opposition to the flexible technologies of demand that accompany most logistical calls to action, the Bat-Signal’s blunt simplicity can be directed only to one fixed and singular purpose. Of all the various mechanisms for unleashing the crime-fighting potential of the caped crusader (including the rather more mundane, but daytime friendly, Bat Phone), none offers the iconic instantaneity of this illuminating symbol of justice within the darkness of Gotham City.

Who you gonna call?
16 June 2014

In a refreshingly materialist spin on the spiritual, Ghostbusters (1984) is forced to forge new ground in its efforts to exorcise ectoplasmic emanations. Acting at the intersection of supernatural studies and paranormal pest control, the logistics for the capture and containment of the undead finds form in proton packs (where the nuclear powered proton stream counters negative energy with a stream of positively charged ions) and the laser grid containment unit.

The Logistics of Hope
13 June 2014

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing dies.”

Future of the Phone
12 June 2014

Imagining the evolution of the phone, from Western Electric.

Telling Space
11 June 2014

While the temporal annihilation associated with modern telecommunication heralds a key historical triumph, the Weasley family clock from Harry Potter makes the association between logistics, time, and space more explicit. From the living room at the Burrow, the clock’s nine golden hands tie each member of the household to a series of possible geographies, including home, school, work, traveling, lost, hospital, prison, and (most notably) mortal peril.

Logistics for the Lazy
10 June 2014

After Wal-Mart stand-in Buy ‘n’ Large’s brand of mass consumerism leaves the earth a wasteland of garbage, human evacuation leaves behind a logistical cleanup crew of WALL-Es (Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth-Class). While WALL-E’s 700 year service is impressive, it’s the logistical operations in the stars above that deserve the most attention.

The Flood
09 June 2014

Blowing up a dam to flood the plain and wipe away a swarm of devastating ants in the “Trumbo’s World” episode of MacGyver (1985).

Logistical desperation
08 June 2014

In “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen: “The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive/ Everyone’s out on the run tonight but there’s no place left to hide.”

Deviant Globalization
07 June 2014

Batman Begins (2005). Since a significant component of the film’s plot is a drug smuggling operation orchestrated by Carmine Falcone, Jonathan Crane, and a mysterious mastermind, it is only fitting that the dark knight’s first costumed reveal takes place at the Gotham city docks.

06 June 2014

It shouldn’t be surprising that a movie whose premise rests on energy production offers a rich landscape for exploring alternative imaginations of a monstrous interpretation of logistics. Monsters, Inc. (2001) follows its protagonists through a nightmarish world where energy and economic infrastructures are primarily founded on fear (or more specifically, screams).

Great Masters
05 June 2014

Imaginary tunnels to nowhere.

The Bottle Deposit
04 June 2014

Newman “crunching the numbers” in one of Seinfeld’s most logistically dense episodes. The Bottle Deposit (1996) hinges on taking advantage of an (almost) empty mail truck and the 10¢ refund offered by the state of Michigan.

“I thought all communication systems were the same.”
03 June 2014

Don’t lose that account in Cleveland, use OCP Communications.

Delta City
02 June 2014

Delta City would stand above the ruins of Old Detroit as the realization of the dream for an efficient, clean, and above all, harmonious, city. But most importantly, it would offer an “unending project with unending rewards” for Omni Consumer Products, the only steward in service to the city’s maintenance, safety, and security.

Factory floor
01 June 2014

Minority report doubles down on its futuristic imaginations. Cops with jetpacks, crawling spider drones, and (of course) automated cars. While the movie deserves credit for its unusual highway design, the most striking image of futuristic imagination is the productive promise of the factory sequence: cars assembled in an (otherwise) empty factory.

31 May 2014

While self-driving cars may soon be an everyday automative reality, they’ve long been a robust logistical fantasy. While films like Minority Report and I, Robot both toy with the idea, it has never been so wonderfully realized as in Total Recall (1990). In marrying a creepy animatronic driver to an autonomous vehicle with poor voice recognition, it seems to have provided a grimly accurate speculation for our coming transportive future.

30 May 2014

The Doctor and the Tardis are nearly synonymous. While the ability to travel freely in time and space seems like it would provide instantaneous access, the Tardis is often waylaid by inconvenient landing locations, temporal miscalculations, and strangely inaccessible locales.

Documents of Control
29 May 2014

Papers, Please, the self-proclaimed “dystopian document thriller,” places players in the role of immigration inspector for the glorious nation of Arstotzka. With the country only recently having reopened its border, you soon find your desk overflowing with the forms, passports, visas, and other documents of the hopeful travelers who line up each and every morning. While this would seem to offer an unappealing afternoon of gameplay, your bureaucratic business is soon laden with unforeseen ramifications for life and death as you process a seemingly endless stream of suicide bombers, smugglers, and survivors.

Logistical lamentations of the dispossessed
28 May 2014

This overlooked masterpiece carefully choreographs the internal and external conflicts of the men assigned to the transportation of unstable quantities of nitroglycerin.

Car Trouble
27 May 2014

Logistical failure in National Lampoon’s Vacation.

Fortune and Glory
26 May 2014

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom features a journey made by car, plane, and emergency raft. I’d love to make the “no ticket” joke, but that will have to wait for another entry.

The original sandwich architecture
25 May 2014

Building burgers has never been so much work.

“That CAT can pull anything.”
24 May 2014

A Caterpillar 977 L and a 1963 Jeep Gladiator make up a few of the local transportation options necessary for Graboid avoidance in 1990’s Tremors.

The Lunchbox
23 May 2014

A rare (and in this case, fictional) mix up of the real world “dabbawalas” of Mumbai in The Lunchbox (2013) results in an unexpected connection.

Homes for Old Robots
23 May 2014

The flawed adaptation of Asimov’s “I, Robot” collection manages to juxtapose its protagonist’s precisely contemporary nostalgia with a future built from logistical changes in the pattern of daily life—from the robots themselves, to vehicles for their transport and delivery, to the terrifying vision of the Lake Michigan lakebed crammed with storage containers of obsolete models.

The Breakfast Machine
22 May 2014

One of the more familiar examples of Rube Goldberg machines, Pee-wee’s elaborate contraption, while not at all efficient in the conventional sense, seems to operate precisely to the particulars that Herman has specified.

Minecart Madness
22 May 2014

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom features what is quite possibly the most unrealistically complex mining operation in the history of cinema. Who built this?

Imperial Interiors
21 May 2014

How many Jawas can you fit inside a sandcrawler? Various schematics at various scales for the myriad of transportation technologies in Star Wars. Countless defenses have been offered to provide practicality for the AT-AT’s clunky locomotion, but the justification is obvious. It looks cool.

The Brundlebox
21 May 2014

The greatest logistical invention in the history of humankind is transformed into a gruesome brundlebox because of a seemingly irrational drive to transport organics in David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986).

20 May 2014

M.U.L.E., a game in which up to four players attempt to settle a distant planet with the so-called help of a mule-like machine they all learn to hate.

Logistics of the Couch Gag
20 May 2014

The Simpson home exhibits a surprising degree of consistency for a show whose broader geographic (and temporal) constraints undergo nearly continuous adjustments.

Monster Island
19 May 2014

Where do all the Kaiju live? Good question. Initial forays into the genre were content to have giant monsters awaken deep under the sea, but the increasing population (and frequency) of these atomic attacks began to necessitate a logistical solution to explain their regular appearances. While recent entrant Pacific Rim solves this problem with less fanfare—Kaiju arrive via dimensional rift at the bottom of the ocean floor—Toho offered Monsterland and Monster Island as (sort of) different homes for Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, and the rest. Brought there by the United Nations, or by the dreams of children everywhere, you can be sure they are in reasonable proximity to Tokyo.

19 May 2014

Portkeys are one of the most confusing magical tools of the Harry Potter series.

Weyland-Yutani Corp Powerloader
19 May 2014

Like Chekhov’s gun, Ellen Ripley’s skill with a Weyland-Yutani manufactured powerloader delivers a crushing demonstration of logistical force in the final act of Aliens (1986).

221B Baker Street
19 May 2014

Russell Stutler’s 221B Baker Street illustration offers a design for deduction.

Logistical Fictions
19 May 2014

I’ve been impressed by the curatorial capabilities (or rather, the curatorial popularity) of tumblr.

Yellow Brick Road
19 May 2014

Baum’s “road of yellow brick” (and its allegorical reference to the gold standard) becomes MGM’s famous "Yellow Brick Road,” the seemingly only relevant and reliable path through the whole of Oz.

To build a better Björk
18 May 2014

From the All is Full of Love music video.

Somewhere very safe
18 May 2014

Before a later film revealed its boring mundanity, the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark surfaced as a kind of Überwarehouse, a seemingly infinite repository of all manner of myths and magicks–carefully catalogued by “top men.”

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts
17 May 2014

This DHL Trojan horse advertisement recalls a far more ancient logistical fiction.

Forsaken Logistics
17 May 2014

Varok Saurfang gives a lesson in the logistics of supplying Warsong Hold to an impatient Garrosh Hellscream in World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. “Our only viable port for resupply is held by the Forsaken on the other side of this blasted continent!”

Quality is Our #1 Dream.
17 May 2014

The illustrated ACME brand product catalogue.

No Menthol?
16 May 2014

One of Jurassic Park’s unsung innovations was this perfectly designed container for extinct embryo transport (and shaving cream).

3 wooden boxes, mining equipment
16 May 2014

Bill of Lading signed by Captain H. van Breda in Novy Odense, from “Once Upon a Time in the North,” the prequel to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series.

Only the penitent man will pass
15 May 2014

Auction record for Henry Jones’s grail diary.

“You must construct additional pylons.”
15 May 2014

Protoss supply constraints.

(4) Live Penguins
14 May 2014

Bill of Lading for a delivery coming out of the Central Park Zoo.

Beep, Beep
14 May 2014

Plans for the capture of the common roadrunner (Accelerati Incredibilus).

That plane’ll be comin’ anytime
13 May 2014

Real life twin-engine piston airplane, the Adam A500, makes an appearance in 2006’s logistical tour de force Miami Vice.

At least you’ve got your sofa issue handled
13 May 2014

Life, courtesy of an Ikea catalogue, in Fight Club (1999).

Imagined Elephant Delivery Devices
13 May 2014

The entire premise of Operation Dumbo Drop (1995).