Friday, February 19, 2010

A different universe?

Oddly enough, I didn't get the full meaning of this comic until I posted it here a few moments ago. I initially thought, "How humorously surreal. The traffic signal gets up and walks when its light changes to 'WALK'!"

But did you notice the guy standing on the corner? He looks appropriately shocked at the walking signal, in the second frame, but that's only half the gag. In the first frame, his eyes are shut! Apparently, the man in the purple shirt is some sort of traffic signal to the unique stoplight-ish lifeforms of the world depicted in this Speed Bump cartoon.

It's a brilliant minimalist science fiction story!

More to the point, it's a mediation on the relationship between symbols and the thing signified, and how often we misread signs or miss them altogether. We assume, from our limited life experience, that the man on the corner is the intelligent being, waiting for the sign to change to "walk," so that he can cross the street. The initial shock comes to our senses as we observe that the "signal's" change to "walk" signified that it was okay for the post-ling on the corner to cross. Then, in mild horror, we observe that we have been supplanted as the leading intelligence in our sphere of existence by something we thought as a mindless slave-machine, and it is WE who are reduced to the mindless subservient role!

The artist even explores gender identifiers in the second frame. We might assume that this "walk/don't walk" signal is female, since it appears to be wearing a skirt. Maybe, though, it a guy wearing a kilt, symbolizing his membership in clan MacPost.

We appear to be faced with the probing question, "Do I really understand anything, including this cartoon?"

Actually, things seem to work the opposite way in my world. Appliances and other needful items seem to move to somewhere difficult to find when I close my eyes.

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