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February 5th, 2021
The content of Tinkered Thinking attempts to stay away from current events at nearly all cost. But the topic today is also a timeless one, when our history is considered. So without further ado, let’s start off by saying that the last year was rather a vast disappointment on the subject of masks.
Here was an opportunity to effectively have Halloween every day for more than a year and it was mostly squandered with fatuous debate and lacklustre innovation. Halloween. Arguably the funniest holiday commonly celebrated where you can literally be anything you want to be. And yet when it comes to masks, the best innovation we have is overlaying a bit of color and design onto an N95 mask. This is a serious disappointment.
Where was all the Star Wars stuff and Day of the Dead, Masquerade, and Native inspired mask talents that we’ve explored in the past? This could have been a ton of fun, but instead there were just squabbles and squawks about… freedom.
Which is rather strange. Here was an opportunity to innovate against facial recognition software and create a cultural precedent of normalizing the ability to cover your face in public. How exactly is this impinging upon freedom? Isn’t covering your face in public owned upon because it makes incrimination harder?
The childish debate around masks is clearly a proxy debate for some nonsense about credibility and perhaps something do do with authority, maybe. But honestly that’s a stretch. The main argument against masks is that it’s some sort of muzzle, which doesn’t seem to make much sense. We don’t exactly go around biting people with much regularity, and a mask certainly doesn’t stop anyone from expressing their opinion.
Looking to the world of fiction and fantasy, many masks had practical utility. Take The Predator for example. Even if you aren’t familiar with character, the name alone should hint that if a mask is involved, it certainly doesn’t get in the way of being a rather formidable entity. But it goes beyond that. For that character the mask is an awesome tool fit with all manner of technological gadgetry. A more accessible example is likely Iron Man, whose mask is likewise the control centre for an entire suite of superhuman ability. Far from a muzzle, maybe it boils down to the fact that we just need a better mask.
Our species has such a rich history when it comes to masks. Be it the plague doctor masks or the masks of Native Americans, all our super heroes and villains, Eyes Wide Shut, and the endless sci-fi and anime..
The Mandalorian is currently on of the top shows, and simply no one can argue that the appeal of the show doesn’t have anything to do with the awesome getup the main character wears, particularly the helmet, the mask. What well-respecting kid doesn’t want to stalk around in that helmet with the air of mystery and intimidation that it exudes?
The pandemic has been an amazing opportunity squandered. N95 masks, the cloth masks… not to mention other safety gear like bicycle helmets… all of these things just look so lame. It’s surprising that the cosplay community didn’t run with this chance and capitalize incredibly on a circumstance where some significant part of the population was covering their face.
This whole mask thing really highlights something that humans have gotten really bad at within the captivity of civilization. We used to be really good at pivoting on a dime and turning a setback into an advantage, but the creativity is bred out of us by impressively boring schools and jobs that are even more tedious. We whine for freedom but really we’re pouting because our delicate sense of comfort has been altered, slightly.
There’s still time though. The virus is still out and about, and it’s still not fun to be sick in any degree. So many people are complaining about boredom just because they can’t down out their lack of creativity with the loud and mind-muddling atmosphere of a bar or restaurant or some dumb beer-loaded sport.
Carve it out of wood, or start with cardboard, who cares, just make something. Try to make it cool, but no matter how it turns out, just have fun, and perhaps integrate a medical grade filter.