Logistics Entry II: Daddy, What’s a Train?

Daddy, What’s a train? Is it something I can ride?

Does it carry lots of grown up folks and little kids inside

Is it bigger than our house? – oh, how can I explain

When my little boy asks me, “Daddy, what’s a train?”

-Utah Philips, “Daddy, What’s a Train?”

The second day of Logistics was a train ride through the Swedish countryside. We roll past small towns, industrial areas, fields and hills. It’s straddling space between a cut shot from Tarkovsky’s Stalker and a real-time train hopping video on YouTube. However, this is one of the most notably truncated areas of the film—and that absence invites discourse. 

Watching Prano Bailey-Bond’s film Censor is a jarring exploration of memory, loss, and the Deleuzoguattarian fascist that lives in each of our heads. It’s also a subtle exploration of our relationship to failing transit infrastructure. The protagonist, Enid, spends much of her screen time anxiously passing through underground light rail stations. 

Transit is often a site of horror in film. Midnight Meat Train, Train to Busan, Christine, Titane, we could do this all day. If you think of transit in a horror movie, it always leads to uncertainty—never utopia. 

Even the car ride at the end of Texas Chainsaw Massacre serves as a vehicle for horror. We manage to escape Leatherface, but, now knowing “who will survive,” we never know “what will be left of them?” Sally still lives in a world that has the potential for creating Leatherfaces and, from that, there is no escape. 

Transit is a site of collective anxiety. We are made anxious by both our sense of being caught in the gears and by the knowledge that freedom is so close. Our access to transportation is mediated by a larger position within a society designed for specific types of transit. Being forced to rely on increasingly degrading public transit infrastructure is the exact type of personal and social anxiety that summons the gothic. 

Each freight conveyance is a reminder that a Zune gets effectively free travel across the world, but this movement is largely inaccessible to—essentially—everyone along the path of said Zune. The workers mining raw materials, handling the shipping, selling Zunes in shops are all geographically stuck as a function of capitals movement.

All trains are ghost trains—their cargo is our lost futures. In this ghost train transit, we see the potential for utopian movement, but we can not access it.

Utah Philip’s song “Daddy, What’s a Train?” Was written decades ago, but the core message has only gotten more and more resonant. Logistics forces a re-integration of the presence of the vehicular technology of transit, but underscores our absence from it. These vehicles exist only to move Zunes from place to place—the presence of people is incidental. 

Hauntology is often summed down to the mere presence of ghosts, but that loses a depth to this conversation. We are those ghosts. We are in a process of becoming the ghosts of our own lost futures. Our absence from the mechanical systems of transit in Logistics is a haunting by absence.  

“Daddy, What’s a Train?” Speculates a future moment when children have no material connection to transit by rail, but by the age of this song, we have already been those children. Our memories have been shaped by a chain of events stretching several decades from the moment of that song to today. The central question of Utah’s song doesn’t lose relevance, but instead gains an increased hauntological weight.

This leaves us hauling a gothic potential. Everything is brutally, horribly possible. The same potentiality that creates our near-total absence of freedom of movement carries within itself the seed of the great revelry that is that movement’s return. There is the potential of a moment where ghost trains, and their spectral riders, roar into time-gnawed stations delayed, but finally back on track.

Ghosts are moments, potentials. Every act of memory is a necromancy. Our transit through Logistics dredges these haunted moments from rail to wave. 

—Cinecartographer Darrow 

45 DAYS AT SEA AT HOME

I’ve been watching this container ship drift about the sea for 45 days. Nearly all day, every day, this film plays in front of me. While eating, while writing, while watching other films, Logistics has become the Chief Mate of my visual landscape. Each and every morning I make my coffee and embark on a nautical journey of watching a ship that, visually, is completely still. 

From our perspective, the ship never moves. The world shifts and swirls around it, cargo is shuffled about, but the ship itself is the single fixed point of references in a melting world. We are not a viewer along for the ride, we are the ship. 

It’s the cultivation of a kind of organic machine consciousness. A meditative approach to thinking as a hive of steel, fiberglass, and plywood. Marathoning the world’s longest movie requires the film critic’s equivalent of a machine ontology. 

In order to watch this entire film by my fixed deadline of April 30th, 2022, I must watch at least 9 hours each day. No matter how busy work gets, regardless of my social life, as long as the boat sails, so must I. The container ship and I are companions displaced by time and experience. 

My mind to your mind. My thoughts to your thoughts. We meld with the container ship. The ideological solvent of this mostly still container ship clears the eyes and becomes a new humor in the blood. It’s stillness compensated for by my reaction. 

This encountering of a ship at sea is a flat plane of ideology, emotion, and legacy. A history of ghost ships, maritime mythology, and perennial Evergiven jokes weigh you down into a sea of interpretation. There is water rising up, slowly, past your ankles, to the level of your eyes and then back and downward to the soul. 

This ship-being surrenders no meaning, no cargo, to a discursive sea. When it docks, we have only to exchange the weight of time for insight—so long as there is labor enough to withstand the task. 

Go on then, hide your meaning, boat. I am ever with you and will have it. It is your last cargo to unburden. The dock approaches. 

-Cinecartographer, Darrow