the new cubism
unintended narrative qualities of streetview
double set of waves
neighborhood that looks like someone got lazy with the clone stamp tool
elegy for the KFC logo of yore
The KFC colonel I found years ago has finally disappeared from its spot next to Area 51 on Google Satellite. In memory of its 65,000 plastic tiles, here’s something I wrote about it back in the day:
In November 2007, Kentucky Fried Chicken unveiled what it claimed was the world’s first “astrovertisement”, a giant KFC logo made of 65,000 red, white, and black plastic tiles that was visible from outer space. Located just outside the tiny town of Rachel, Nevada—conspicuously close to Area 51, a favorite destination of satellite-view perusers—the Colonel smiled blankly into space. When I encountered him on Google Earth I was confused, especially by the logo’s sharpness compared to the dusty desert surrounding it. Was the Colonel on my screen, on the picture of the Earth, or on the Earth itself? Thinking it was an icon, I tried to click on it. Only after reading an old press release (“The largest stones in Stonehenge are the Sarsen stones which measure 8ft wide by 25ft long. Based on this measurement, you would be able to fit 435 stones into the KFC logo”) and looking at an aerial photo taken closer to the ground was I able to understand and believe that the logo I was seeing did indeed consist of tiles adhered to, yes, the Earth itself.
There is something deeply uncanny about the idea of what must have looked like a meaningless sea of tiles from the ground, legible only as the Colonel from an incredible distance. Uncannier still is the fact that the Colonel I saw was already a ghost; several ground-level eyewitnesses have attested that in “real life” the logo only survived two weeks before being ravaged by wind. But here he was on Google Earth. The question, like the Colonel himself, lingered: what was I looking at?
Practically speaking, the blanket of imagery that Google Earth has cast over the world is made up of patches taken from different sources at different times. Hence the strange and beautiful instances in which Interstate 80 passes abruptly from a dry summer to the whitest of winters, the occurrence of half-empty lakes and the cities whose shadows lie in two different directions. And yet it’s undeniable that these places have some kind of reality of their own. We come to Google Earth for maps and information on our own physical world and what we get instead is another world— a patchy, mysterious, time-warping world of partial seasons and logos that persist indefinitely. Perhaps inadvertently, Google Earth has transcended the sum of its parts (time-bound photographs, sporadically updated, of the world we live in) to become its own navigable present. The time in which we fly endlessly over half-red, half-green mountains is its own time, outside of the time of the map. In these moments Google Earth is not an accurate or inaccurate picture of anything now or in the past; it becomes a self-perpetuating world with its own rules and behaviors.
Consider, for example, a patron of the Area 51-themed “Little A’Le’Inn”, one of the only businesses in Rachel, Nevada, walking out to the dusty void where 65,000 plastic tiles were once painstakingly placed. There, as definitely as ever, would be nothing. But somehow this doesn’t make the persistence of the KFC logo on Google Earth seem any less true. It was built to be seen from space, to be registered by a satellite, so that the minute it was launched into visibility by Google Satellite its physical persistence on the ground no longer mattered.
Of course, it’s more than likely that the region surrounding Rachel will eventually be updated on Google Earth, and without ceremony the Colonel will disappear for a second time. But even this disappearance will be native to its separate existence on Google Earth, subject to a mysterious digital wind.
bulk carrier ships hanging out in singapore port
blue part of town
chex mix of the sea