Man can’t see snake, woman can’t see boulder. Maybe you’ve seen this illustration and accompanying story going around.
It’s a visual parable which most sharers today use to speak to how we can’t often see the struggles others are going through. I’ve also seen it used as a piece of couples communications counseling. I liked it (and probably Liked it) when I saw it.
There’s no attribution or source information shared with it that I could find, so I wondered where it came from. I am still on the hunt, but there are a couple of things I’ve noticed.
First, there seem to be characters in two different scripts just above the snake in this version. The one on the left looks like it could be Chinese characters, and the red script on the right looks Arabic to me. Or one or both of them could be a signature or name.
I did some reverse image lookup with this version, and found versions going as far back as October 30, 2018. First one I could find is on a Vietnamese site, whose title starts “From the picture of husband and wife life being shared wildly,” so it seems like this was going around in other parts of the world for a while before it gets to the US. I don’t really recommend that article. In translation, at least, it seems to miss the point a bit in explaining what’s going on in the illustration, or at least the most obvious layer of meaning. Or maybe that’s a testament to how different the accompanying lesson was when it was shared wildly at that time. Someone could write a fascinating thesis on the various accompanying passages and explanatory articles that go along with this thing as it travels, and what they suggest about the sharers and their immediate cultural assumptions.
That article has both scripts above the snake, and also, a speech bubble for the woman, which I haven’t seen in the Facebook versions.
It also includes a Vietnamese short quote version.
On Facebook, first public shares start to pop up on November 7, 2018, which is curiously the day after election day in the US. That may be significant or it may not be. It did make me wonder if this is the sort of innocuous thing that would be shared as part of the credibility/identity building of a group aiming to influence opinions as its main goal.
Over time, both the speech bubble and the characters above the snake are removed. The Facebook resharing account Sardonicism also published a spanish language version. And eventually, the colors get knocked back to grayscale.
As far as travels outside of Facebook in the US go, according to the Internet Archive, it got shared in this article on the bulk share-arounds site Bored Panda on February 1st of 2019, with both of those elements removed, and that either kicked off or was a part of another big batch of reposts and shares.
It must have gone around various Asian social networks a bunch before it surfaced on that Vietnamese dating advice post. My sleuthing skills aren’t quite sharp enough to dig in that direction. Maybe it originated in Hong Kong and circulated from there. If we could decipher the characters above the snake, I that would be a solid lead to try to get us back to the author. Any help out there would be greatly appreciated. I will continue to tug at the sweater thread on this one.
I found this super satisfying to watch. It’s a video, so click on in:
And as one commenter notes, “moral of the story: there is always someone stronger than you.”
The efficient reach of books. I picked up the slim volume So Many Books by Gabriel Zaid (translated from Spanish by Natasha Wimmer) a while ago on the recommendation of Robin Sloan in his newsletter. Leaving aside that Slim Volume should be my DJ name, I got a whole lot out of this fascinating overview of the business and culture of publishing books. You can always tell I get a lot out of a book because I will take photos of the pages so as not to forget a passage. Modern-day highlighting. Throughout the book Zaid shares a number of perspectives on the place books hold in culture today: some hopeful, some critical, some hard-edged, some quizzical. I’m sharing a snippet that makes some of the case for why, perhaps counterintuitively, writing a book is (still) a great way to reach a small number of people:
As a bonus, the only way to buy the book new is directly from the publisher, a small press in Philadelphia called Paul Dry Press. It’s on sale for $7.48 right now, and buying it this way cuts out a whole lot of middle-people. Recommended for anyone who wonders why books have stuck around the way they have, what niche they occupy, and what it would look like if you could see inside the whole publishing process.
Those are the bananas I found this week. I’m hungry to try something new with this newsletter (or outside of it in a new thing) and find a way to introduce something delivered via audio. Probably on this same platform, but maybe or maybe not as a part of #tbt. I may take a week or two off of harvesting and sending in order to get that figured out. And I may make some changes when I get back.
Thank you. You can reply to this email and it will go only to me.