Monsters and Dust

Table of ContentsAboutLinks

2 .

There's a song that constantly reminded me of the tagline from The Endless Summer. One of the few things I kept from the Demolition Sale was a mix-tape called Robot Jamsxiii, made by Gabe Fowler, which was on heavy rotation that year. Gabe included an Afrika Bambaataaxiv track about "Searching for the Perfect Beat" where Bambaataa ends the song with a chant that goes: ‘Keep looking for the perfect beat / and it'll help you reach your peak’ (8X). That this almost mythical search for perfection gets embodied in beats and waves seemed corollary to one another (at least on a visceral level, but maybe more), and extends into a romantic search for sublime in the landscape. In our post-Apollo space program condition this search extends into space. I found an image of Afrika Bambaataa costumed as Amen-Ra, the Egyptian Sun Deity, which demonstrates a connection to his jazz predecessor Sun-Ra. The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun-Raxv also made its way into my small collection around the time I began a mental folder of various Sun-worshippers of our time. The sun-chasers from The Endless Summer as well as nuclear physicists both fall into this grouping.

Recently I found a flag with a similar sun graphic and palette as the Endless Summer poster, except rather than surfers the silhouette is the mythical Tower of Babel from pre-Semitic Sumer (Babylon). A version of the story in the Bible describes how God, angry at the builders' pride, confounded the language of Babylon making them unable to properly communicate, which in turn led to bad engineering. With the engineers unable to create a unified vision, the tower fell over before it was finished. The flagxvi itself was designed by an international group of conlangers, people who construct their own languages. A tradition in the conlang community is to translate the story of Babel into their respective languages, but the symbolic usage of the Tower is a bit confusing being that it is often associated with megalomania and failure. When I asked one of the officers of the Language Creation Society about the graphic decision, he replied by saying “[…] the goal of a conlanger is to create a new language — to add to the total number of languages in the world. In that way, the destruction of the Tower of Babel can be seen as the first and greatest victory for conlangers and language enthusiasts the world over.” I also asked him about the use of the Sun in the flag, and he responded, “(a) I'm a big fan of the sun, and (b) it kind of symbolizes the rise of conlanging, and it was prophetic: conlang has really come into its own since those days.”