A Literacy of the Imagination

a deeper look at innovation through the lenses of media, technology, venture investment and hyperculture

Lost Angeles: Aliens, Earthquakes, Tsunamis & Sheen-Like Superegos... A Transmedia Mythology #BattleLA

The textual backdrop.

I live in Lost Angeles.

The phrase was coined by a host of prolific and underground artists – the likes of Henry Rollins, Greg Graffin, David Hockney and others – who saw the corruptibility of a marshland and its broken dreams a stimulant of sorts, as well as a means to manufacture a new life.

Chief among them is Norman Klein, who in his landmark book first released in 1997, The History of Forgetting, describes Lost Angeles as a series of myths culminating in a forbidden territory, a violent land masked as an entertainment mecca – anything but a real place with historical roots where people live and are in constant need of better living conditions and better lives overall. Klein wonderfully illustrates how sensationalist constructions of LA gain dominance and displace memories of lived experiences. He goes on to argue that instability in white hegemony has led to overreactions in public policy, urban planning and police practices (remember O.J. Simpson, Rodney King and the LA riots?), and these overreactions find expression in the built world as freeways, demolished homes and decimated public transportation systems.

He concludes that once the material landscape is altered, memories lose their symbolic cues and history itself adapts to the dominant stories of urban growth or destruction, but very little if anything in between.

Lost Angeles: Aliens, Earthquakes, Tsunamis & Sheen-Like Superegos... A Transmedia Mythology #BattleLA

A revisionist life. An active mythology on steroids. The kind of culture one would find in a giant petri dish. And the associated delusions of glazed, manufactured, neon opportunity that rinse over the senses of anyone who will buy them for cents on the dollar.

For now, let’s just call this reality... imagination.

Mythic reality: (re)introduction of phenomena.

I sit here writing this as the local and national news show clips of a massive Japanese earthquake that struck in the wee hours, Pacific Standard Time. Almost immediately, the news outlets go haywire and platforms like Google step up to offer a helping hand as communication lines go silent.

Lost Angeles: Aliens, Earthquakes, Tsunamis & Sheen-Like Superegos... A Transmedia Mythology #BattleLA

This is a tragedy of epic proportions. A tsunami has swept through many coastal and rural areas with unprecedented force. People, cars and buildings topple and break like matchsticks. Fires sweep the countryside and urban centers. Newscasters wear helmets at their desks for fear that the roof above might cave in.

Shortly thereafter, those of us here on the west coast – Southern California in particular – are issued a tsunami warning. I live by the coast. My mother lives next to a harbor. I’ve been through warnings like these (and false alarms) before. But this should get interesting. There’s a bigger story here, and a timely one at that.

The myth of signs.

Just this week, I’ve witnessed some things that are not only strange, but downright eerie and of Biblical proportions.

First, there was a sudden spell of fish that mysteriously died in Redondo Harbor. Then, legislation was passed – after 15 years mind you – ordering the county to take action on the storm drains polluting our local beaches. Then, rumblings about Navy activity “protecting something off of our coastline”. Then, something I have never seen in my life, something so magnificent and frightening: A foggy, cloud-like formation with beautifully organized holes like Swiss cheese, hovering above San Clemente island... Smack dab in the middle of a sunny, virtually cloudless, oceanic horizon.

I am not making this up, nor am I mentally unstable (well, insofar as I’ve been told). Here is a photo of the foggy cloud-like formation I just described, taken by my girlfriend on Wednesday, March 9, 2011 (the same day that the news broke about the dead fish). Look closely at the center of the photo.

Lost Angeles: Aliens, Earthquakes, Tsunamis & Sheen-Like Superegos... A Transmedia Mythology #BattleLA

Allegories we might question, but there are still truths hidden within lore and conjecture.

The myth of government conspiracy.

Sure enough, there has been something going on above San Clemente island for quite some time, a curious story about an ex WWII fighter pilot who has been tracking unusual Navy activity off the coast... Even more curious that this story is more or less buried in the search engines (conspiracy theories aside, and in case you didn’t know, Google has a partnership with the U.S. Government).

To boot, back in November a news story ran briefly on a "mystery missile launch off of the California coast." When I say it ran briefly, I mean that it circulated for about 12 hours and then dropped off the media radar. Poof... Just like that.

Media & narrative form a definable mythological trail.

Amid this paranormal landscape are all the movie posters for Battle: Los Angeles. Posters depicting alien domination, replete with crop-circle like explosions rising out of the ocean and long, distending plumes of artillery smoke stretching across the city basin... All illustrated in key art using the same location where I saw the cloud-like formation on Wednesday...

Lost Angeles: Aliens, Earthquakes, Tsunamis & Sheen-Like Superegos... A Transmedia Mythology #BattleLA

Oh, and did I mention that

today

is 3.11.11? (Do not forget that the tsunami warning was issued this morning...) Hmmm, some dots are really starting to connect. Here's a video posted in 2006 on the 1942 battle between the military and an "alien presence above Los Angeles".

By the way, word of mouth around the movie is spreading like nobody's business...

Making meaning out of circumstance.

Okay, so someone is doing some very clever marketing... Or, maybe just tapping into phenomena that have taken hold of our collective consciousness for decades. Or just maybe, people like me are committed to carving out some sort of meaningful reality for ourselves, whether that is embedded in delusion or not.

If you live in Lost Angeles, maybe it really is the end of the world as we know it. We’re constructing it. We’re building that bigger story.

States of mind and being are apocalyptic in this hotbed of media, pomp and calculated, transcendental circumstance.

For now, I have no real desire to go see Battle: Los Angeles, but I can tell you that my curiosity around unspooling the myths of the city is piqued. I am going to continue to investigate to the best of my abilities. I am an accidental journalist

And finally... The main theater of the absurd.

Just as I sit here waiting to discover “our” fate in the form of a tsunami and other unforeseen forces of nature, Charlie Sheen is furiously planning his seemingly rightful manipulation of the media machine, accruing millions of fans through social channels like Twitter, setting high ticket value for his protestations and rationalizing every bit of bad behavior with a penetrating stare into the audience (that audience being us).

So what does this have to do with the myth of Lost Angeles, you ask?

We all know, or at least think we know, that Charlie Sheen is insane. But Charlie Sheen is no longer Charlie Sheen. He's now an integral part of that much bigger media machine. And it is very likely that this machine is focusing our attention both on the storybook absurdities of a man, his family and a "fight for freedom" (yes, read into this and remember that conspiracies are circulating...), as well as diverting our attention away from warning signs that are not grounded in fact, but in wild, nail-biting assumption (is San Clemente island another Area 51?).

Things not so much attributable to Charlie Sheen the human being, but Charlie Sheen the alien meme.

An alien meme, no less, that is driving our collective Superego, an organism on the brink of collapse. That, or, Charlie Sheen the superhero is planning to save us from ourselves. After all, he may see something none of us can afford to, or even want to.

Maybe this is a bit of a stretch. Maybe not. But what is the difference, if any, between reality and our imaginations?

Meanwhile, online and offline chatter surges. People are talking about conspiracies. Private interest groups are forming. More myths in the form of memes are developing. The stories transcend the media channels they are born in.

And so the transmedia mythology behind Lost Angeles grows... Are you a willing participant? A piece of the puzzle? A part of its mystery? Bringing this back full circle to a history of forgetting, what can possibly manifest in the physical spaces between?

Lost Angeles: Aliens, Earthquakes, Tsunamis & Sheen-Like Superegos... A Transmedia Mythology #BattleLA