a few suggestions for people with monolith problems

dun dun DUN DUN

There’s an interesting story in today’s New York Times (via Gothamist) about some people in Brooklyn who have a monolith problem. Specifically, Verizon plopped a big grey fiberglass pole down in Flatbush without consulting anyone. It’s twenty feet high! Obviously Verizon is an asshole. An Episcopalian priest (and Kubrick fan?) who lives in the neighborhood told the Times “[t]he neighbors started gathering around it like it was the monolith in 2001.”

Flatbush monolith

Photo by Josh Haner / New York Times.

So many of our new technologies are small or otherwise unobtrusive or exist only in the cloud — I’m pretty fascinated with the fact that these people have a new object on their block to encircle, inspect, possibly (probably) kick, and figure out how to deal with. It brings to mind a college class I took at Sarah Lawrence called The Philosophy of Technology, in which we read a lot of Herbert Marcuse and talked about the phallocentric nature of rocket ships, that sort of thing. I can’t remember my professor’s name but I can tell you that for sure he’d say it’s not a monolith, it’s a big, late-stage capitalism boner.

I’m not trying to poke fun at it. It isn’t funny, this ugly object. Actually it is quite funny, but I feel bad that these people have a big, shitty technological thing hulking on their block through no fault of their own. I also feel it is contemptible Verizon didn’t have the wit to go full monolith with it — it really is just a big pole, and that is an act of aesthetic cowardice. The company says it is now working with the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to identify “alternatives” to plopping down more of them, but in the meantime, a friend and I have come up with some ideas about alternative ways of living with this particular pole:

1. Make it into a candy cane. We feel that the green and white kind are less Christmassy than the red and white kind and more suitable for year-round looking-at. The fruity kind are less Christmassy still, but those don’t seem right for Flatbush.

2. Make it into a Maypole like the one in The Wicker Man.

There has to be a Brooklyn band that could come up with a fantastic new Maypole song for the people of Flatbush.

3. One person greases the pole and everyone else tries to shimmy up it. (Annually, with prizes). I have seen this happen at a country fair in Connecticut. It still happens in other places too. This particular pole is pretty thick so it’s probably a good one for urbane, middle class people with limited pole-climbing skills to start out on.

4. Get Claes Oldenburg to make a sculpture of a giant pair of trainers and hang it off the top of the pole, the way drug dealers supposedly do. Maybe a bit too edgy for a historic district in Flatbush, but it will draw art tourists, and they’ll want to buy some lemonade or kombucha or tote bags or whatever from the locals, so it will bring money in. Voila!

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