House of Small Cubes: on Water and Memory

This lovely 2008 animation was brought to my attention by a good friend of mine. Sort of like a Japanese version of “Up”, but involving scuba diving! An old man drops his favorite pipe in the ocean and, deciding to go after it, dons scuba gear to go find it by plunging through a trapdoor in his house (that leads to the ocean). Descending the water column becomes a way of remembering, ending on a positive note–“cheers!”

Ocean as World Bathtub

It struck me that the film Beasts of a Southern Wild, which takes place in a fictional area of Louisiana called “The Bathtub,” needs to be put in conversation with the recent entry of a giant inflatable duck into the bay of Hong Kong, by artist Florentijn Hofman. Its presence changed the way that people experienced scale in the harbor, and became a vehicle for more broadly thinking about interconnection between waters of the world and related environmental issues. After it collapsed, “The duck’s demise reflected the city’s every anxiety: One blogger pondered if it had succumbed to lung disease from the Pearl River Delta’s infamous air pollution. Images of the duck, wearing one of the face masks made ubiquitous here after the 2003 SARS virus crisis, proliferated online. Others wondered if it died from the newest deadly strain of avian flu found in China, which University of Hong Kong researchers have discovered can be both airborne and transmitted to pigs, as reported in Science” (NYT).

What does it mean to think of the world’s oceans in terms of a bathtub?  What does this metaphor do?

The Island President: climate change now

An extremely compelling biographical film about the former (as of last year) president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed. He was been arrested several times, imprisoned, and beaten before being the first democratically elected leader of the Maldives. I realized I need to read up on the situation more because only last year was there a coup that terminated his governance, and it’s likely that all the hard work he did to help move the Maldives towards being carbon neutral–and fight for global cooperation to lower carbon emissions–will stop.

Foucault: Madness as the manifestation of an aquatic element

‎”let us only note the great half-anthropological, half-cosmological analyses of Heinroth, which interpret madness as the manifestation in man of an obscure and aquatic element, a dark disorder, a moving chaos, the seed and death of all things, which opposes the mind’s luminous and adult stability.” – Michel Foucault, in Madness and Civilization ch. 1. 

the amphibian man

The Amphibian Man is a 1962 Russian film based on A. Belyev’s novel of the same name.  The film is summarized well here, although it diverges quite a bit from the book through the introduction of a central romance plot and new female character.  This visually brings out the parallels between the beautiful and somewhat androgynous Icthyander (the amphibian man) and Gutiere, his romantic interest, who is also pursued by a greedy ship captain.  Her resistance to marriage and his resistance to capture by the same captain clearly mirror each other.  


Animals and Water in “The Life of Pi”


Just went to see “Life of Pi” and my friend pointed out that it takes on two of the most daunting cinematic subjects, animals and water, at the same time, and does it beautifully.  The picture below, of when Pi is staring into one of the pools of the island, is surreal: we can only see the pool–as an eye–staring back at us because of the presence of the tree and Pi as a frame.  All of the water imagery is amazing, although the sea was too calm in some scenes to realistically be the Pacific Ocean.  But more than that, the film is about the tension sustained between large animals, sea animals, and people: on the boat, a zebra, orangutan, hyaena, and tiger.  Outside the boat, flying fish, dolphins, a humpback whale, sharks, jellyfish, bioluminescent plankton.  Credit to my friend for noticing, the film also includes the scene on the original book cover, a bird’s eye view of the boat drifting along with all these sea creatures passing under it.  




Giant Pacific Octopus: New activism after hunting images posted

A 19-year old diver posted photos of himself holding the giant pacific octopus he legally caught–and they went viral.  From what I’ve read, it seems like he was within his rights, but on the way out of the water, he ran into two other divers who were going to the area specifically to see giant pacific octopus. The wildfire of commentary also seems to be from people who enjoy visiting giant pacific octopi, and don’t want to see their tourism-objects killed, or dumped unrespectfully into the back of a pickup truck.  This marks a fascinating instance where, as with dolphins but not pigs, intelligence in animals has been a primary motivator for bans against hunting.  Once we mark certain animals as kin, even evolutionally convergent kin, it becomes taboo bordering on cannibalism to eat or mistreat them.Image