Wow, incredible: The Blackbird Spyplane community has assembled today like a POD OF TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLPHINS, splashing harmoniously in the BIO-LUMINESCENT ALGAE and GLOWING TOGETHER in the twilight of 2020 ….
This year Blackbird Spyplane EXPLODED onto the scene as the No. 1 source across all media not only for “unbeatable recon” but also “unbeatable reflection” on dope under-the-radar joints. So it’s only natural that we close things out with a MAJOR MEDITATION on a crucial issue:
GORP — shorthand for outdoor gear, for any beautiful BBSP newcomers out there — is bigger than any one fire garment. GORP is a mindset, embodied at its most blessed by crunchy principles of human fellowship, ego death and interconnectedness with the natural world — principles that feed into each other in an INFINITELY ENNOBLING BLESSED-GORP-CONTINUUM a.k.a. the “GORPOBOROS”:
But if there’s “blessed GORP,” it follows logically that there is also “cursed GORP” — and it’s time to draw a line between them. Which side are you on??
2020 was a topsy-turvy, highly GORPY year… excellent Instagram GORP-curation-account Organic Lab Dot Zip made a cool shoe with Salomon … Margiela dropped a WILD collab with North Face … Palace dropped an UNDERWHELMING Arc’teryx capsule (but a pretty sick Rapha capsule for my cyclo-gorp aficionados !?) … Cottle, And Wander and Comfy Outdoor Garment put out exquisite rare JAPANESE-GORP heat that we lavished with 100% accurate Blackbird “SpyPraise” ...
Meanwhile: The coronavirus killed 1.9 million+ people worldwide and accelerated grimly UN-GORPY trends like the fragmentation of social bonds, the seepage of the workday into all crevices of life, the immiseration of the most vulnerable, and the consolidation of wealth and power among fundamentally anti-human enterprises like Instacart, Doordash & Amazon … More people do seem to have gotten interested in outdoor activities, i.e. recreation that doesn’t involve commerce … and the GORPIEST presidential candidate in history came stunningly close to winning the nomination … also, anecdotally, way more ppl are eating psychedelic mushies out on nature walks, which is tight …
We know what yr thinking right now: “Blackbird Spyplane, like everything you’ve ever published, this is very true, but please define the ‘cursed GORP mindset’”… OK:
The cursed GORP mindset boils down to a sick mentality in which someone regards the GORP garment as a pure status-symbol, disconnected from fellowship with others and, perversely, disconnected from the natural world itself … !!
A great way to illustrate the CURSED / BLESSED divide comes via the GORPIEST blockbuster of all time: James Cameron’s sci-fi fantasy Avatar. In Avatar, Earth Scientists working on behalf of rapacious privatized interests develop advanced wearable technology (i.e. avatars) that allows Earth Marines to mine valuable resources from an unspoiled, impossibly beautiful alien planet where all life-forms are interconnected by a mystical-neural network.
The protagonist wears one of these avatars — i.e. he rocks high-tech GORP that allows him to venture into the wilderness — but at first his intentions are on some extractive, value-seeking, productivity-enhancing space-colonizer s**t.
That’s the “cursed gorp” mindset.
BUT: The more time he spends among the flora & fauna, banging with the planet’s indigenous beings and rocking that fire GORP, the more he transforms himself from within — and soon he realizes that the Earth Bosses he’s been toiling for all his life are actually a parasitic death cult who don’t even value him! He decides he can’t f**k with their vision any longer and must become a revolutionary… THAT’S the “blessed gorp” mindset.
We can read yr mind: “That’s brilliant, Blackbird Spyplane, you are truly unlike any other newsletter. So what’s the real-world equivalent of a CURSED-GORP-AVATAR situation — is it, like, how otherwise vibey-seeming companies like Patagonia and Arc’teryx have contracts with law enforcement and the armed forces, profiting off the heinously UNGORPY carceral state & military-industrial complex??”
Yes — Patagonia and Arc’teryx should divest from those contracts if they are really about this “blessed GORP” crunchy life.
“Makes sense. What about swaggerless tech & venture-capital dudes rocking outdoor apparel branded with their company logos — that’s cursed GORP, too, right??”
VERY good question. Tech-company puffers, V.C. vests, and other instances of “CORPO-GORPO” are a go-to stereotype when ppl talk about contemporary hyper-capitalist dystopianism, for good reason… But let’s dig a little deeper on these seemingly cursed jawns…
Back in February, Erin & I checked out some cool sculptures by Simon Denny at Altman Siegel gallery in San Francisco: puffer vests (evoking the city’s many tech workers) and sleeping bags (evoking the city’s many unhoused people) that Denny cut from 17 scarves once owned by ‘80s-era UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, which he finished off with Patagonia tags & Salesforce logos... Real talk, on purely aesthetic grounds, they were fire.
Thatcher interested Denny, he’s said, because of her centrality ushering in “a new kind of politics that emphasized the individual, deregulation and global neoliberalism” — which is to say, an ANTI-GORP AGENDA, carried forward by Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and their corporate benefactors, that set us on a direct route to our current hellworld.
Denny’s show — weaving together austerity politics, luxury fabrics, and outdoor aesthetics — was an artistic meditation on “cursed GORP” as hauntingly beautiful as we’ve seen.
But, as we saw in Avatar, do CORPO-GORPO jawns contain the potential for radical transformation??
Imagine a conference of Salesforce employees wearing identical dork-gorp. On its face this is a cursed phenomenon, because something inherently beautiful — a communal gathering — has been twisted away from GORPY goals of communitarianism, solidarity and fellowship and toward optimizing whatever it is Salesforce sells / whatever keeps Marc Benioff wealthier than any one person should be.
But what if the vast majority of these vest-rocking employees are fundamentally decent people, raised within an ideology whose cruel effects and inhumane contradictions have been (and continue to be) significantly obscured from them, which they might sense and be saddened by, but which they have not yet found a comprehensive way to theorize, much less dismantle, resulting in their own decreased humanity and SEVERELY DECREASED SWAG... ??
The cursed GORP mindset CAN transform into a blessed one — the sacred potential lies within all of us. To see how this might happen, consider “The Parable of the 3 Swagless Sales-Engineer Homies”:
After the pandemic hits, 3 Sales Engineers — a tech job I just looked up by Googling “tech jobs” — decide to make the most of their uncool company-branded jackets. They put them on over some WACK blue-gingham button downs and meet for a hike at one of the many stunning Bay Area trails carved into land that the Ohlone people once called home, before genocidal conquistadors and sociopathic “frontiersmen” waged war on them…
These 3 tech workers pick a trail lovely & long enough that all the sales-engineering talk dissipates by, like, mile 4, at which point they grow quiet, TEAR OFF the s**tty gingham shirts which have been CHAFING THEM, feel the GORP FIBERS against their bare skin & start noticing many “unbeatable truths” they’ve never clocked before…
For instance: how it’s not only incredible but necessary that such beautiful places remain wild, protected, and public … and how it’s a tragic outrage that not everyone in the Bay who might enjoy such places can do so reliably, thanks to various racist / anti-poor roadblocks that segregate access to the outdoors, and/or because the multiple jobs that people across racial lines are forced to work in order to pay their bills impede this kind of leisure, too …
Discussing this injustice, and then discussing their own issues with their bosses, these 3 tech workers begin to recognize that they have more in common with those other, less-fortunate workers than they thought…
And in this moment, they spot some whisper-thin mycorrhiza growing in a fallen log, and it reminds them of a video they once saw about the “Wood Wide Web,” i.e. subterranean mushroom networks that transmit nutrients and distress signals between far-flung forest trees — a phenomenon that challenges the Darwinist-capitalist logic of “nature-as-competition” and offers up incredible counter-evidence of “nature-as-cooperation-and-selflessness”…
They start thinking about the un-housed people whose tent encampments they passed on their way to the trailhead, and it occurs to them that San Francisco and cities like it could straight-up end homelessness simply by filling the thousands of empty luxury condos that people much richer than these 3 tech workers cop for purposes of tax evasion or something …
The workers start to discuss how it would not impoverish society but actually ennoble and enrich its citizens (and help everyone sleep better at night) if we stopped wasting money on corporate tax breaks & elaborate technocratic-philanthropic nonsense and instead created stronger tenant protections & straight-up built social housing like they have in Sweden, which we 100% could do if it didn’t conflict with the interests of the deep-pocketed bosses who hold so much sway over politics — and who, the 3 tech workers realize, ultimately view them, not just Doordash drivers, as exploitable prey, too.
Finally, after hiking 16 miles, the 3 homies emerge with a LASTING MENTAL BREAKTHROUGH — and their WACK CORPO-JAWNS transform into MACH 3+ POPPING GORP, because these tech workers have transitioned into the “BLESSED GORP mindset.”
NOW they start hiking with OTHER friends at work, and these hikes inspire FURTHER BREAKTHROUGHS in ecological-political consciousness, to the point that they decide to organize an employee walk-out to make demands of their bosses & their city that are in line with what they want society to become ??!!
Corny tech-GORP is just one possible “CURSED GORP MINDSET” talisman … this parable can be told many other ways in many other contexts …
In each version, what started out as an “INSULATED SHELL” becomes a GROSS luxury device that keeps you “insulated” so you never break out of yr “shell” — LOL BABY DO U SEE WHAT WE DID THERE ?!
Whereas GORP at its most blessed is a precision-engineered technology for DISSOLVING yrself into nature on some liberatory, subjectivity-erasing, soul-nourishing s**t.
NOT “conquering” nature, NOT using the flora and fauna to “recharge your batteries” so that you’re a more effective capital-accumulator come Monday, but allowing nature to dislodge u from the status quo so that you start to formulate answers to the COOLEST possible questions a human can ask, about how to better care for the planet AND yr brothers & sisters across it …
All while looking GOOD AS F**K in the process, especially if that fleece is MF-ing YAK WOOL… ! ☮✌☮✌☮✌
Blackbird Spyplane is a rare & precious 100% SUBSCRIBER-SUPPORTED “unbeatable newsletter” — paying for it is FUN & comes w/ MANY PERKS that we don’t charge as much for as we should, so SMASH the subscribe, underpay us, yr welcome — and PEACE.
Jonah & Erin
-Speaking of the Jawnz-Political Nexus, we talked to Yung Chomsky about whether or not Socialism would KILL COOL CLOTHES
-The full “Blackbird Spyplane Interview” archive, featuring such luminaries of the arts & sciences as Nathan Fielder, Jerry Seinfeld, André 3000, Lorde, Rashida Jones, John Wilson, Emily Bode, Ezra Koenig, Online Ceramics and more — is here.