A 33-ton shark tank in a Shanghai mall exploded, injuring up to 16 people and leaving three sharks and dozens of turtles and fish dead. It was a ghastly event that makes for an ecologically apocalyptic moving image. Going beyond the real-life scenario of such a thing happening—and ‘such a thing’ has actually happened—I’ve been grappling with its symbolic power, that is, some way to answer for the fact that I watched it on loop a dozen or more times. (That’s more times than Open Water and Open Water 2: Adrift, but not much more.) The what of the image is clear: what is the how of what it’s doing?
It is a truthful moving image not only because it is real (in contrast to the Spielberg and Hirst works that are framed as fiction or art, or the variety of viral hoaxes) but because it delivers on the dystopia of a false ambient environment. You wanted a giant decorative aquarium? Here’s your giant decorative aquarium.
As university education becomes a more highly valued commodity—as you pay fourteen thousand a year for a UC education, instead of nothing—the university experience has, indeed, become more a pleasurable self-cultivation, since university administrators prefer customers to workers. This is why universities spend more and more money on new dorms, new campus programs, and new ways of making their campus experience an attractive prospect for incoming freshmen: as universities transition towards a customer-payment model, they moving out of education business into the production of education products. They spend less and less money on classrooms and teachers, the spaces where student work happens, because they are, quite literally, not interested in student work. Their financial interest is in student-customers, and it shows.
In which Propertius, discussing the affliction and folly of love, also defines the relation between debt -
like love, a description of a present condition that insists upon the future constancy of the subject (because “I love you“ means “I will love you forever”, which means “There will continue to be a constant I, which is bound both to the I that loves you now and the you to which it says it,” no matter how much chatter there is about growing and changing together, sure, growing and changing like how the flesh learns to treat a long-ago misplaced fishhook like a small extra bone, the kind found in fish, because fish carry their own barbed nooses inside them, like debts, and they stick in our throat) and therefore becomes a prescription, cursing the future to be ever and always as if the present: in love, in debt -
and death: For to what lying necromancer have I not been a fortune?
The Kitchen Weeps Onion
The kitchen weeps onion
because the cook is dead. Pans strike chorus
and the ladles keep a knock-kneed stride.
Burners gleam more brightly. Chives,
chives, and chives. Everyone seems so tired
but the diners can’t sleep. The kitchen tonight
weeps onion, so everyone else must weep.
What’s the use in talking? Let’s touch,
and turn apart. The cook is quiet,
cold, unearthly, and the turnip
breaks its heart.
The relationship between subject and object lies at the core of our relationship with beauty. The most obvious example is that women play dress-up to turn ourselves into objects under a system where men are the subjects. But in the new-ish strain of thinking about beauty, women have reconfigured beauty work not as a way to keep themselves objectified but as a liberation or expression of the “true self.” It’s a neater, more progressive response to objectification on the behalf of men, yet using “but I do it for me!” as the end to the conversation would be a mistake. For then, the relationship merely shifts from making oneself into an object for others to making oneself an object for ourselves.
now 29 almost 30, my life is clearly moving into more boring crap.