J.G Ballard wrote a while back that “The marriage of reason and nightmare which has dominated the 20th century has given birth to an ever more ambiguous world. Across the communications landscape move the specters of sinister technologies and the dreams that money can buy. Thermonuclear weapons systems and soft drink commercials coexist in an overlit realm ruled by advertising and pseudo events, science and pornography. Over our lives preside the great twin leitmotifs of the 20th century—sex and paranoia.”
So when I read that New York City’s law enforcement arrests some guys operating a “drone” near the George Washington Bridge with the accusation that they interfered with a Police Helicopter, while an Air Traffic Control Report now clearly shows that it was the helicopter threatening the drone, I feel ambiguity creeping up the base of my neck; even more so when I notice on my beach walk right here on our beach some guys operating remote controlled drones with HD Digital cameras and I wonder the potentially compromising personal pictures they can take of scantily dressed sunbathers and post them online. Am I a weirdo for thinking that or should guilt be shared with Ballard’s observation above??
Ambiguity can refer to a statement, an act or an attitude. Let’s see if you can find examples of this in the following list:
1. ONE TEQUILA, TWO TEQUILA, THREE TEQUILA…… FLOOR.
2. ATHEISM IS A NON-PROPHET ORGANIZATION.
3. IF MAN EVOLVED FROM MONKEYS AND APES, WHY DO WE STILL HAVE MONKEYS AND APES?
4. THE MAIN REASON THAT SANTA IS SO JOLLY IS BECAUSE HE KNOWS WHERE ALL THE BAD GIRLS LIVE.
5. I WENT TO A BOOKSTORE AND ASKED THE SALESWOMAN, “WHERE’S THE SELF- HELP SECTION?” SHE SAID IF SHE TOLD ME, IT WOULD DEFEAT THE PURPOSE.
6. WHAT IF THERE WERE NO HYPOTHETICAL QUESTIONS?
7. IF A DEAF CHILD SIGNS SWEAR WORDS, DOES HIS MOTHER WASH HIS HANDS WITH SOAP?
8. IF SOMEONE WITH MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES THREATENS TO KILL HIMSELF, IS IT CONSIDERED A HOSTAGE SITUATION?
9. IS THERE ANOTHER WORD FOR SYNONYM?
10. WHERE DO FOREST RANGERS GO TO “GET AWAY FROM IT ALL?”
11. WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU SEE AN ENDANGERED ANIMAL EATING AN ENDANGERED PLANT?
12. IF A PARSLEY FARMER IS SUED, CAN THEY GARNISH HIS WAGES?
13. WOULD A FLY WITHOUT WINGS BE CALLED A WALK?
14. WHY DO THEY LOCK GAS STATION BATHROOMS? ARE THEY AFRAID SOMEONE WILL BREAK-IN AND CLEAN THEM?
15. IF A TURTLE DOESN’T HAVE A SHELL, IS HE HOMELESS OR NAKED?
16. CAN VEGETARIANS EAT ANIMAL CRACKERS?
17. IF THE POLICE ARREST A MUTE, DO THEY TELL HIM HE HAS THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT?
18. WHY DO THEY PUT BRAILLE ON THE DRIVE-THROUGH BANK MACHINES?
19. HOW DO THEY GET DEER TO CROSS THE ROAD ONLY AT THOSE YELLOW ROAD SIGNS?
20. WHAT WAS THE BEST THING BEFORE SLICED BREAD?
21. ONE NICE THING ABOUT EGOTISTS: THEY DON’T TALK ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE.
22. DOES THE LITTLE MERMAID WEAR AN ALGEBRA?
23. DO INFANTS ENJOY INFANCY AS MUCH AS ADULTS ENJOY ADULTERY?
24. HOW IS IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE A CIVIL WAR?
25. IF ONE SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMER DROWNS, DO THE REST DROWN TOO?
26. IF YOU ATE BOTH PASTA AND ANTIPASTO, WOULD YOU STILL BE HUNGRY?
27. IF YOU TRY TO FAIL, AND SUCCEED, WHICH HAVE YOU DONE?
28. WHOSE CRUEL IDEA WAS IT FOR THE WORD ‘LISP’ TO HAVE ‘S’ IN IT?
29. WHY ARE HEMORRHOIDS CALLED “HEMORRHOIDS” INSTEAD OF “ASSTEROIDS”?
30. WHY IS IT CALLED TOURIST SEASON IF WE CAN’T SHOOT AT THEM?
31. WHY IS THERE AN EXPIRATION DATE ON SOUR CREAM?
32. IF YOU SPIN AN ORIENTAL MAN IN A CIRCLE THREE TIMES, DOES HE BECOME DISORIENTED?
33. CAN AN ATHEIST GET INSURANCE AGAINST ACTS OF GOD?
34. WHY DO SHOPS HAVE SIGNS, ‘GUIDE DOGS ONLY’, THE DOGS CAN’T READ AND THEIR OWNERS ARE BLIND?
And just for good measure and to show that Ballard’s observation has an eternal application, here are 5 sketches that confirm that sex and paranoia are still male leitmotivs in the 21st century. Enjoy.