my favorite road in the history of roads


Oxford in 10 Instax Photos

I went to school in Oxford from 2011-2015, and got a chance to go back for a day this past summer when I was visiting London for a few weeks. I’d recently acquired an Instax Mini 8 (after coveting one for a few years…), and brought it with me with a full cartridge of film. That meant I could take 10 photos.

Being limited to a certain number of pictures is one of the most fun things about using a film camera, to me. If I’m using my phone or digital camera, I can take pictures of anything vaguely interesting, which means I spend less time thinking about what would actually capture a place in the best way. It was especially fun to do that in Oxford, where I’ve spent many hours walking around. I ended up taking pictures along a pretty typical day’s route for me, from where I lived, to my college, to the near the physics and philosophy departments, and back again. There are so many other important places to me in Oxford too, but maybe it works better not trying to show everything.

Let me tell you about all the places I took pictures of and drew on my maps!

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Mad Max and Robocop, a Quest for a Lost Humanity.

Mad Max: Fury Road has some amazing scenes that will go down in cinematic history, much like Road Warrior and Thunder Dome. However, there’s one scene that made me cry both times I’ve watched Fury Road so far. The brave and ferocious Imperator Furiosa, after killing the tyrannical war-lord Immortan Joe, is dying from blood loss. Desperate for her to live, Max takes the IV tube still connected to him from the time he spent as a Blood Bag for the War Boy Nux, and inserts it into her in a hasty blood transfusion.

“Max.” He tells her. “My name is Max.”

After I left the theater, I was trying to place why that line of dialog had moved me so much. Then I remembered.

Directed by Paul Verhoeven, 1987’s Robocop is a dark satire set in the not-so distant future of Detroit. It tells the story of Alex Murphy, a good cop who is brutally murdered, only to be resurrected (without his consent) as Robocop, a twisted cyborg and the ultimate crime fighting machine. If you have not seen Robocop, I highly recommend it, as a fantastic (if not insanely violent) film, but a huge over-arching theme in Robocop is Alex Murphy’s “resurrection.” Not just as Robocop, but as Murphy trying to remember who he used to be before his body was warped and re-imagined to fit the needs of a corrupt and powerful system.

In the final scene of the movie, Robocop saves the day, shooting the film’s main antagonist (the corrupt senior president of OCP, the company that made him) and rescuing the OCP Chairman. The Chairman looks at Robocop in approval and says “Nice shooting son. What’s your name?” To which Robocop replies, “Murphy.” The film ends right then and there and it’s my favorite ending scene in cinematic history outside of Margaret Dumont getting pelted with fruit in Duck Soup. It’s simply perfect and sums up the entire arc. Murphy has found his humanity again. Fucking perfect.

Much like Robocop, Max Rockatansky’s story arc in Fury Road is not so much about him saving the day (that’s Furiosa’s job), it’s about him discovering his humanity again. From the first scene in Fury Road, Max has been reduced to little more than a feral animal. He even admits as much in his narration that he’s been reduced to simply “survive.” The world Max inhabits reaffirms this as well, having him reduced to a “blood bag,” and then parading him around as a fancy hood ornament. By the time he meets Furiosa and the wives, he’s muzzled, grunting and barely comprehensible in the words he is able to make.

Through Furiosa’s trust of him and the compassion of the wives, Max is able to regain his humanity with his acts of heroics, selflessness and altruism; his final act of willingly giving Furiosa his blood (which was originally being taken from him without his consent) finally restores his humanity and therefore his identity. Max has done what is nearly impossible: He has managed to be kind and compassionate in a world that is not. He is no longer a thing, or a beast. “Max.” He says. “My name is Max.”