№ 8. Alignment Charts, Women’s March Signs, and the Duty to Posterity

(On weekends, a smorgasbord of discoveries made both offline and online will be featured here, to celebrate how the Internet is full of oddities and ideas from the real world.)


1. Mia & Sebastian’s Theme

When Damien Chazelle’s La La Land debuted at the Venice Film Festival in mid-2016, most critics hailed it as a “magical love letter to the golden age of Hollywood.” Today, it suffers from backlash caused by audiences having had more time since then to nitpick the movie’s flaws, from its oversimplification of jazz history to its unfailingly whitewashed cast.

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Nevertheless, the film’s music and aesthetics undoubtedly pay homage to classic predecessors from the twentieth century. Mia & Sebastian’s Theme, for example, is a brief melody that encapsulates the two lovers’ trajectory in the same way that Casablanca‘s As Time Goes By vocalized the romance between Rick and Ilsa.

The former piece, alternatively known as Late for the Date for reasons shown in the movie, is best heard in its simpler piano version. In one interpretation, i.e. this writer’s, it is a poignant anthem of might-have-beens — especially in the context of Sebastian and Mia’s story. The first few bars communicate a weary, wistful sadness, which later builds up to what only comes across as lonely indignation at the ending that, for better or for worse, did not materialize.

2. Alignment charts

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For players of tabletop and online role-playing games alike, character alignment is basic knowledge in character generation — and yet in the course of decades, the use of alignment charts has crossed over to mainstream pop culture. They are now used to classify pre-existing characters, both fictitious and real, though not always do aficionados of Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, or even American history fully appreciate the nuances of said chart.

Alignment is premised on two intersecting measures: morality and ethics. In arguably reductionist terms, the former imposes a standard for right and wrong and is thus more norm-based, while the latter induces one to choose what is typically good in consideration of the present society. In any case, the morality spectrum is often composed of good, neutral, and evil; lawful, neutral, and chaotic comprise the ethics spectrum. Combined, the two spectra generate at least nine unique character variations that fit even with most contemporary, non-RPG applications.

3. Discarded Women’s March signs

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While rallies in the past had often been reliable sources of paper waste, the Women’s Marches around the world last January paved the way to a new destination for demonstration signs: museums and libraries. The Newberry Library in Chicago, the Bishopsgate Institute in London, and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History were but some of the institutions that quickly acted on the potential of discarded local protest signs to be artifacts of academic study. After all, while the marches mainly revolved around the hate-promoting ideas of American president Donald Trump, the protests were phrased through many different lenses: from feminism and women’s rights, to LGBTQ rights, and so on.

The myriad signs mirror the variety of voices accordingly, and the opportunities of study from there on are endless. Any archives will prove to be just as serviceable for historians as for political scientists, sociologists, even design professors.

4. Ex Urbe

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Amidst all the long-form blogs that populate today’s heavily profit-driven cyberspace — and these are rare enough in occurrence — Ex Urbe is one that strikes just the right balance between personal presence and intellectual substance. Ada Palmer writes with pizzazz on a wide array of topics ranging from European history, her academic specialization, to gelato and Marvel movies. Her website is a role model for budding academics’ own attempts, like this one.

5. #KwentongJollibeeValentineSeries

Since the dawn of the advertising industry, romance has yet to fail as a marketing approach regardless of the time of year. In the Filipino setting, where even in politics appeals to emotion take precedence over logical reasoning, one can only imagine the year-long proliferation of such-themed commercials, not to mention the increased hype every February. For instance, Jollibee’s three new Valentine Series videos recently went trending on Twitter because of the sheer volume of reactions to what already may have been plots in a local television drama or commercial.

These videos are targeted at millennial Filipino audiences, who are currently perceived to be all about hugot (sentimental) culture. Older and/or more YouTube-savvy netizens, however, would know that the ending in “Vow” is similar to a 2009 ad released by McDonald’s Philippines entitled “First Love (Huling El Bimbo),” or that the romance unfolding in “Crush” has been the premise of many a local teeny-bopper film. Critics have also been quick to point out that Jollibee seemed to have no qualms profiting off the idea of a loved one’s death in “Date.” As with La La Land, more people are calling the videos an advertising backfire only now that the initial rush of emotions has cleared up.

Of course, the intention is to celebrate love, and that ought not to be lost even on the naysayers. The notion of advertising agencies running out of original ideas nonetheless calls to mind the possibility that at our current rate of production and consumption, one day our collective pool of ideas could become saturated. In that case, one solution would be to recall an old idea and modernize it, à la Ratatouille, and this could be justified by claiming a celebration of the past.

Still, up to how many times are we justified in our nostalgia — and for that matter, in recreating or modernizing an old idea? True, our duty to posterity may be to keep knowledge alive for their own appreciation and instruction later, but given the current state of things, some people are wont to think that certain ideas are better off kept from future minds’ perusal. Then again, history will only prove that studying history is necessary, however painful, though that is a matter for another post.

 

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