Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Monthly Archives: October 2019

Word to the wise.  §

Activism is immoral.

That is all.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is just fucking rant.  §

So I’m back from Victoria, as of yesterday.

I tried to write another entry while I was there, in my hotel room, the last evening. Or rather, I tried to try to write. For about three or four hours, I paced back and forth and repeatedly almost opened up a tablet or a laptop to write.

But in the end, nothing got opened and nothing got written. It was just pacing. And then it was midnight and I realized I’d better pack, and then it was 5:00 am and I was driving in silence toward the Victoria International Airport on the dark, lonely, and—early on Saturday—very rainy Patricia Bay highway.

— § —

Thing is, I don’t know if I can write any longer. There is too much to say; I’m overwhelmed. I’m overrun. Strong feelings buffet me all day about far too many topics. Hundreds per hour. Thousands per day.

I write hundreds of blog posts in my head. Words, sentences, paragraphs. Sadness, nostalgia, irritation, rage, reflection, it all washes over me all the time now, in so many ways. But you can’t just sit in front of a machine all day and type.

Or rather, you can, but that’s called a day job and it doesn’t involve blogging.

So when you finally do sit down to do something like this, you don’t even know where to start. There are so many things you’ve mentally bookmarked to say, so many topics to touch on—and more still that you know you were entirely in arms about yet have already forgotten.

Between the bewildering need to choose and the incredibly frustrating sense of having forgotten so much already over the course of the day, it’s already a feeling of failure from the first word.

Blogging has become infuriating and dissatisfying because it is invariably and inevitably an exercise in omission and disappointment these days. I hate that, yet there it is.

— § —

Nonetheless, here I am. So—some things.

On Canada. Every time I go to Canada I’m shocked by just how different it is. People are incredibly polite, which is good. But it is also marked but a subtle social totalitarianism that as an American I find grating. Oh, we have our own, to be sure.

But in Canada, you’ll earn obvious disapprobation for things as simple as walking alone down the street (you’re supposed to go places with others) or eating alone (you’re supposed to eat with others) or failing to seem sufficiently tentative to begin a sentence.

They don’t realize they’re doing it, but you can see it in their face. Invariably, when I’m in Canada, I feel vaguely like a criminal for doing simple things (say, walking alone, eating alone, and speaking directly, if politely) that I’d otherwise never think about.

On the other hand, it’s also rather clear when you re-enter the U.S. and face U.S. customs folk and so on just how difficult the U.S. must be for Canadians to navigate, in rather the same way. Even as a native U.S. citizen, returning from just a few days in Canada, it’s like hitting wall of rudeness, dismissiveness, and impatience twenty feet high.

If that’s how I feel about it, how must it be for others?

Yet I’ll take the abrupt and grating American bravado over the subtle condemnation for insufficient culturally-inflected sociability every day of the week. Naturally. Since I am after all an American.

On civil war. That said, I’m not exactly in love with the United States of America. I’ve come to have this weird relationship with my country of birth over the last decade or so.

When I was young, I was adamantly opposed to it, wanted to be and to live and to be associated with almost any other place on earth. But I don’t feel that way any longer.

I know very well—one comes to realize these things as one ages and experiences more of the world—that there’s no place else I’m fit for. Wherever else I go, I will be regarded as a foreigner—as “not one of us,” save for in the USA, where I am very clearly “one of us.” You only have one people, and for all the decades of cultural theory that have passed over bullshit bridge, you don’t get to choose it.

You frankly don’t get to choose anything about your identity in life. You are what other people say you are, and though we can dress that up all we want and try to make it illegal to say such things or to make pronouncements about what other people are and change the bathrooms and put up “inclusion” posters and take cases to the Supreme Court and blah, blah, blah, it’s all just shit and nonsense.

If people say you’re fat, you’re fat.
If people say you’re ugly, you’re ugly.
If people say you’re old, you’re old.
If people say you’re a woman, you’re a woman.
If people say you’re a man, you’re a man.
If people say you’re a saint, you’re a saint.
If people say you’re American, you’re American.

You can drone on all you want and for as many years as you want about all of the things that you “feel inside” and you can in fact sue the pants off of everybody and lead dishonest social movements with hordes of activists to get people to say other things out loud.

But in their minds, everyone knows exactly what you are. And whatever it is, you did not get to choose it, and you never will.

So I know I’m an American. I don’t have to love everything about the United States of, but I have completely accepted that whatever it is guilty of, I am also guilty of, because I am it and it is me and ’twill always be that way. So if there’s love, it’s also self-love, and if there’s loathing, it’s also self-loathing.

On civil war, take II. So we didn’t get there. You noticed. Now we may.

Thing is, everyone in the United States, and maybe even across most of the west in general, is dying for civil war. For hot, gunpowder-scented civil shooting war. People are dying for it. They are desperate to pull the trigger, itching to pull the trigger, they can’t wait to pull the trigger.

The only thing stopping everyone is a prisoner’s dilemma-style problem. If you jump the gun and shoot before the “war” arrives, you are at a tremendous disadvantage because you stand out like a sore thumb. Everyone looks around to see whether there’s a war on and because everyone is afraid to be the first to declare a war because of precisely what’s about to happen to you as the person first to declare a war, everyone decides to say that you’re nuts and you end up in jail because obviously there is no war.

But secretly more and more I think everyone knows in their gut that war is coming.

And it’s because the desire for vengeance is the single biggest driver of meaning, ambition, and politics in American society right now. We are a land of people that want revenge. Every group against some other group. There is no single group against which nobody wants revenge.

Revenge has, of course, been declared okay as a matter of intent, and we have labeled it “activism” and nervously laughed out loud as we have also said “But you can’t do it with physical violence, see.”

The problem is that one of the first things everyone seems to have agreed on once this prior decision was made was the idea that words and gestures and symbols are actual violence too. Which means that we have declared revenge to be okay, even admirable, so long as you don’t use violence to achieve it, but then declared everything under the sun to be violence.

That won’t hold. People have been promised their revenge and they’re going to get it. That’s why civil war is coming. How long. Ten years? Twenty years? Hard to say.

Where? The United States only? The United States and Great Britain? The United States and Great Britain and Western Europe? If it goes global, the times could be altogether too interesting. But it is what it is.

Nobody is going to give up on having their revenge, now that it’s been promised, just because the Rare Wise Head or two says that it could make for interesting times. That’s the sort of thing that makes people also want revenge against the Rare Wise Heads.

On time and stuff. Sometimes these days I think that everything will be okay if I just throw away at least a couple dozen things a day that I once though too important or too worthwhile to throw away.

But mostly I don’t even think that. Instead, I just think that everything will not be okay.

I am on a kind of overwhelmed autopilot in which there are too many things and too many needs and not enough time and I am not keeping up.

Plus even when you do throw things away, it doesn’t seem to do anything. Just today I’ve gone through a couple more closets and tossed all kinds of things into the trash that should probably go to a thrift store only that’s one more thing to do and who’s got time to do it, and my God some progress of some kind has to be made some times aaaagh aaagh aaaagh so let’s just toss it.

I continue to do this on a regular basis. Most of the things I throw out continue to be things that date back to before my divorce, or even before my move to Utah. How much detritus accumulates in a person’s life, year by year? Piles of it. Tons of it.

Shit tons of it.

You throw away and you throw away and you throw away and you fill cans and cans and bags and bags full and the trucks come and carry it all away and you do it week after week and still week after week you run into all of the old things, some of which make you feel nostalgic, some of which make you feel devastated or sad, some of which make you feel bitter, and all of which remind you by their age just how rapidly you are aging and how much time in life is passing—

—while you stand still trying to throw away an infinite list of items from an infinite number of nooks representing an infinite number of previous moments at which one has, not knowing where to put a perfectly-good-something something or just what to do with it—simply set it “aside” for later consideration or future application—

and so on. Time keeps marching. I am getting older. I have this feeling that in five minutes I’ll be too old to work and five minutes after that I’ll be dead and I won’t have gotten a single god damned thing done and I will have let myself and my children down.

Okay, I try not to think that way, and I also try to avoid the bitterness and the thoughts of civil war.

— § —

Am I manic? No. I don’t get manic.

Just trying to hit a couple highlights from the list of ten thousand over the last couple of days or so. So very, very much has passed across the mental projection screen, so very, very many discussions with myself culminating in a “must blog that” followed by the next 123456 thoughts…that never make it here because once you sit down it’s just too, too much and you don’t know where to begin and you know that if you do it’ll just piss you off because it’s impossible.

Which is why I’m losing the ability to blog. But whatever. More things.

— § —

On dating. Meeting people has become this thing that I dread because, I have realized, it can’t go anywhere. I don’t want a significant other. Because I won’t trust them any longer. Not in that way that so many lovesick people mean. I mean, I don’t trust them:

  • to not commit crimes.
  • to not make stupid decisions.
  • to not engage in violence.
  • to not send either themselves or myself to jail.
  • to not do crack cocaine.
  • to not assault the neighbors.
  • to not try to eat a bowl full of cockroaches.

You name it, I don’t trust them not to do it. In fact, less and less do I trust anyone not to do stupid or immoral things. It’s not just about significant others.

It’s just that significant others are people that you expect and are expected to spend time with, so when, not if, they do stupid, immoral, dangerous things, you are also saddled with it. That’s not good. Better to let the idiots out there do it far away from you, on their own.

Yes, yes, I know, this all sounds vaguely antisocial or nihilistic or whatever.

In fact, during the divorce period, in couples’ therapy, there was this whole time period during which the therapist was trying to convince me that I had spent years making my life sadder and harder by not being open to people and by mistrusting people.

The problem, of course, is empirical evidence. I cannot think of a time (forget significant others) in which I felt done right in the end by someone that I did not consider to be kin. You live and you learn, and what I have learned is that you can not and should not trust adult human beings not to either accidentally or intentionally kill, murder, or steal from you unless they are and remain kin.

On kin. Yes. Oh yes, this is an anachronistic word, a stilted word, a strange word. A word we don’t use any longer. Do you know why?

No, no, it’s not because “it’s the sort of word that only white supremacists use” or some other similar rejoinder—though the fact that many, many people in today’s world would say that about “kin” is a particularly interesting illustration of just where I’m doing.

You see, we don’t believe in kin any longer, most of us. I do, but then I know full and well that in recent years I’m going further and further off the reservation in terms of political and social thought.

Kin. Blood. Shared genes. Family. The bonds of fucking family. Sure, adoptions count, as long as we consider the adopted people TO . BE . KIN.

Why don’t people like the word? Because it implies a transcendental mutually reciprocating relationship of obligation that regard that CAN . NOT . BE . ESCAPED.

Once you are kin, you are forever kin. You can’t take it back. You can’t undo it. Not if you don’t like them. Not if they don’t like you. Not if you want to. Not if they want to. No matter what happens. Kin is an involuntary social bond.

We don’t like those. We think they’re oppression. We think only the reactionaries and the counterrevolutionaries want such things, along with “sending blacks back to the plantation and women back to the kitchen.”

To even use a term like “blood relation” now puts you in a particular box in most peoples eyes. Who cares about kin? About social bonds that can’t be escaped? About forms of family that can’t be divorced away? About blood relations? Neo-Nazis, that’s who. In the popular imagination, at least.

That’s where we are.

The very idea of a social relation that cannot be escaped as a matter of person will and fiat is now understood to be tantamount to genocide, race war, and so on. Because naturally, anyone who isn’t a Neo-Nazi wants every social relationship to be a matter of voluntarism and choice.

Which is why you can’t trust any of those bastards. Once people don’t have to be stuck with you forever, nor you with them—there is precious little incentive, when the getting gets really good, not to do whatever the fuck you want, and that’s exactly what people do.

Because they know they can go. Because they aren’t kin. Because only white supremacists and Neo-Nazis care about unbreakable family bonds and kin and blood relations.

And even what were formerly some of the strongest forms of kinship have been declared null and void as forms of true kinship. Marriage? Forget about it. Voluntary association. You can divorce. Parent and child? Oh no. You can divorce. Even if you’re biologically related.

Haven’t you heard the stupid young folk (and even some stupid older folk) saying things like, “Your family is whoever you choose them to be” in recent years? I’ll bet everyone has heard this. Because we are trying to do away with kin. Every social bond should be a matter of choice.

And as a result, everyone does exactly whateverthefuck they want. Which is why you can’t trust them. And also one more reason why everyone, everyone, everyone is out for revenge (see above).

And why in the coming years one of the axes along which a civil war will be fought, deep down underneath things, is the axis that divides those who believe in unbreakable social bonds (kinship, blood relations, family genes, clan, traditional marriage, cite the examples you want) from those you believe that all social bonds should be voluntaristic and the demand for revenge must be eliminated by eliminating its causes, which can easily be accomplished with stronger behavioral and ideological controls to ensure that everyone acts in similar ways.

Yes, there’s a whole Marxian discourse thing to do here but I won’t do it.

On decisions. But, as a result of all of this, and—as I say—the fact that I just won’t date, not going to do it, can’t trust anyone and thus can’t actually find a way to like them because they are just plain not my blood relations and I no longer believe that almost anyone is capable these days of developing new bonds of kinship in the ways in which I would trust them—all of the decisions and their consequences are mine.

And yes, I am tired.

I am tired, tired, tired, tired, tired.

I am tired of making decisions. I am tired of taking action. I am tired of being the one and only one on the hook for the decision, the action, and the consequence. Yes, I am tired of sailing this boat alone, but I don’t quite see any way out of this.

There is a weird undercurrent of bliss in what I mentioned earlier about feeling as though in five minutes I’ll be retirement age and then five minutes after that I’ll be gone—it means that maybe there isn’t so very, very much of this to have to be stoic through any longer after all.

Maybe the time will pass very quickly because maybe that is the nature of things.

Yes, that causes a tinge of sadness, particularly when I think back to the time of my youth and the things that I wanted to accomplish and the things that I wanted to experience and the things that I wanted to believe about the world, but that tinge of sadness is maybe something that everyone feels as they age.

Or maybe not, I don’t know. It’s not like I talk to people much any longer, except about business, which is the primary set of socially sanctioned conversations to have in our culture anyway.

On dating part II, or, conservatism. Funny thing, I’ve though about deciding that I will only date people if they are religious and political conservatives because then they are likely to believe in kin and in the reality of material things and not in all of this postmodern discursive bullshit (whose endless books I still have lining my bookshelves).

But I don’t believe these people actually exist.

I think everyone has been captured.

Everyone will fight the civil war.

Everyone.

So don’t trust anyone—except kin formed before the formation of kin was abolished by our elites, betters, thinkers, and activists.

One more thing for the night.

On politics. Dancing around the edges of a lot of other stuff in this post, one key thing that we need is a massive reduction in political engagement. We need far, far fewer people to care, or to vote, or to be politically engaged at all.

Yes, yes, I know, the theory was that by getting more people engaged the system would have more diverse inputs, which means better policy, and it would have more legitimacy, which meant better stability.

That hasn’t panned out.

Turns out that when you tell the plebes to get political, they don’t spent time learning about new areas of life as we thought they would in order to become politically engaged. Instead, they just say “Okaya” and do the things they already do as politics.

So when you spend years encouraging regular folks to get political, what you get is not more discussions about energy, infrastructure, monetary policy, and foreign policy.

What you get is their hairstyle discussions as politics.
Their shopping decisions as politics.
Their exploration of their heritage and relation to their racial identity as politics.
Their grievances with their ex-spouse as politics.

The result? A shift in elites to the group that we increasingly have today. Thanks to inappropriately high political engagement, there are more voters that hold votable opinions on hair as politics, shopping as politics, race and heritage as politics, and so on than holding votable opinions on—say—how we ought to update key parts of our infrastructure.

And so candidates are busy talking about how brown they are and who’s inclusive, rather than how to fix the stuff that the plebes are too uneducated to see but that they depend on far more than they depend on their “identities” and so on.

In short, the reason we have crappier and crappier candidates is that we have a crappier and crappier body of voters to drive their success by including people that just shouldn’t be included. High political engagement means wrong politics, wrong elites, bad policy, lower legitimacy, higher social conflict, and lower stability.

We desperately need many, many people to check out of politics permanently. Participation should ideally be low, basically purely self selected without prompting or social pressure—though you can’t try to reduce participation visibly or you risk legitimacy.

Basically, actively encouraging people to get involved over the last several decades was a stupid move that may just bring down the republic.

More on all of this some other time, maybe.

For now, I’ve just typed four thousand words rapidly and my hands want a break.

— § —

Oh, fall is here.

I left and it was still “late summerish.”

I came back to wind, rain, cold temperatures, and pile of leaves.

The older I get, the more I appreciate apocalyptic weather.

I continue, invariably, to hope that the strong intrusion of material reality on peoples’ lives will suddenly cause 300 million Americans to wake up to the idea that reality is a thing and that they are in fact bodies made out of meat—which requires protection and aid—and not free-floating wills merely encumbered by meat and the agency of others against whom revenge must be sought.

— § —

Some people would go back and kill Hitler.

I think I would go back and kill Descartes.

P.S. America, and West in general—you are all weak-minded. You are paper. You are smoke. You blow away with a little gentle puff. That’s why your time of dominance is over.

Invisibility cloaks are not obscure future technology.  §

I’m in Victoria on business.

It’s such a strange feeling. Other than my kids, nobody is really thinking about—or caring—where I am.

Someone wrote a letter to a blog that I read saying that as their life progressed, they felt more and more like a ghost. They attributed this to a lack of social ties.

I share their sense of things.

I’m sitting here in silence, in the humidity, charging my devices and doing nothing in particular. Autopilot, I think they call it.

It’s a way of living in modernity.

When I get back, I will pick up where I left off. Nothing will change. Other than my kids, nobody will really notice that I was gone.

I need to change some things up. I don’t want my kids to be in that position.

All I need to do is approach people and ask them to be “in my life.” When they worriedly demur, I will say: “But think of the children!”

(Yes, I used that word right. Also, I spelled it right. Yes, that is black humor. Not sure why it’s objectionable, but I had a bit of the same sense writing this. But now it’s out.)

Regrets are the sorts of things that can feel a lot like medical emergencies at times.  §

Cards on table.

Most of the time all is well, yes. Well, as well as it can be given the totality of circumstances of my life. But—but…

There are still times when life is so painful that it takes my breath swiftly away. I’d say about five percent of the time. So, a couple times every day, for twenty minutes or half an hour at a pop.

Then, pull self together. Get back on with it. Things get back to normal. And so on.

But yes, it can be hard. Very hard. Very, very hard.

— § —

What’s the pain about?

Everything. All the people that I’ve had the fortune and misfortune to love. All of the dreams that were once ahead of me and that are now in the realm of “Once, I wanted to…” Watching my children grow up in two broken homes. Knowing what lies ahead for me in the future.

Just everything.

Tennyson said “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” People often misconstrue this as being about love. I suppose at one level it could be, but of course it’s really about life. Better to have lived and lost/failed than never to have lived at all.

I don’t want to say that Tennyson was wrong, exactly.

But maybe that like all truisms, this one is just a bit too pat, and it elides a great deal.

— § —

Would I rather have never loved many of the people I’ve loved? Yes, actually, I’d rather never have loved most of them. And that’s not about the pain of the breakups. It’s about all of the things that led to them.

Would I rather have never, say, gone to college? Written books? Yes, actually, I’d rather have simply chosen a trade, joined a crew, and worked from the start with a bunch of regular guys.

Do I feel like my entire life has been a waste? No, certainly not. Not all of it. But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t significant chunks of it that were. And that’s not a good thing when you’re dealing with a precious substance like life.

You see, once enough things go wrong, there’s a certain genie that escapes that can never be put back into the bottle.

After enough of a certain kind of failure—the kind that amounts to a failure of good faith, a failure of promise, a failure of integrity—and make no mistake these can happen in many ways that have nothing to do with love—you stop seeing people, or yourself, or the world, in the same way ever again.

A certain level of disillusionment cynicism is good; it does no one any favors for lots of people to go about the world as naive as a warm spring morning.

But it is dangerous to have too many people understand just how bad things are, and just how faithless are the people, the world, and as a result by the conservation of momentum if nothing else, the self as well.

That’s how we get into the downward spiral we’re in as a civilization and as a species.

The one that people often say takes their breath away.

— § —

My biggest regret: listening to the wrong elders, and listening to the wrong self so very many times over the years. Making the awful idiot beginner’s mistake of conflating the recent and the wise, otherwise known as “believing in progress.”

If there’s a deep, dark heart to this post, it’s this thought:

There is no such thing as “progress.” There never has been. Run—as fast as you can—from anyone that encourages it or promises to deliver it, because what they are offering you is actually and merely torture of the most banal and terrible kind.

The things that you won’t regret are those that connect you to time immemorial or that support such a connection. Anything that delivers the “new” to you? New experience? New love? New success? New sensations? Forget it. It’s a trick—an evil trick.

When they discontinue Spectra, you pay more and bow head, because Instax is for kids.  §

It’s now too late—or, I suppose, early—to qualify as “the middle of the night” any longer.

So naturally, I’m going to write. And rather than write about any of the two dozen things I’ve thought (and sometimes sworn) about over the last couple of months without managing to post, instead I’m going to do something else.

I’m going to talk about photography.

— § —

It’s only recently that the following several things have happened:

  • I have developed enough cash flow in my career to be able to consider film photography. I’m not rich, but lots of liquidity equals flexibility.

  • The kids got Fuji Instax cameras for Christmas that turned me on to instant films in a way that I’d never been turned on before.

  • The films of The Impossible Project, given way to Polaroid Originals, have become viable.


Spectra.
© Aron Hsiao / 2019

So naturally, as soon as I get ahold of a Polaroid Spectra ProCam, Polaroid Originals announces the discontinuation of Spectra film.

What are they continuing to make? Stupid shit for influencers, who are apparently now capitalism’s chief natural resource, as everyone is making stuff just for them. In the case of Polaroid Originals, that means:

  • Rechargeable, “Stranger Things” branded 600 format cameras. Vomit.

  • Instant 600 film stock with brightly colored edges in red, blue, green, and yellow. Double vomit.

Generational warfare usually appeals to me as a matter of hating the Boomers, but as I age, it also begins to appeal to me as a matter of hating the Millennials, Gen-Ys, and Gen-Zs/Zoomers. “Influencers” are a key factor driving us toward civilizational decline and hot internecine-intercultural warfare, and they will be first against the wall when the revolution comes, where they will remain insufferable until the bitter end.

But I digress.

— § —

As I’m sitting here reading and re-reading the message announcing the end of Spectra and suggesting that those of us wanting to shoot it buy available stocks while stocks are available, I’m torn between the possibilities of:

  • Stocking up at the $3.00 a frame that it currently costs with film that will be expired and unusable in less than two years (and likely less than one).

  • Replacing my Spectra ProCam with a Fuji Instax Wide 200 or 300 camera and shooting Instax Wide instead (no, I will not shoot 600, never, ever).

  • Just throwing up my hands and going back to 35mm for film play, where things are infinitely less expensive and infinitely less precarious (but also infinitely less interesting).

  • Doing nothing at all, or maybe sticking a thermometer down my throat to evaluate my health as I consider spending $3.00 on individual shots when I have piles of perfectly good digital equipment to give me flawless 40mp+ photos for free.

The thing is, the older I get, the less appeal flawless has for me.


Instax.
© Aron Hsiao / 2016

Because of course flawless is what any person over 30 gradually realizes that they are not. And so to venerate the flawless and to reject the flawed is not only to venerate the other and reject the self but also to venerate only the abstract stranger and reject the intimate.

— § —

Flaws are a sore point with me because as much as I’d like to morally categorize them, just like that pat style, I can’t. Because I want to insert some boilerplate here about how we’re all flawed and that’s what makes life worth living, but of course that’s influencer bullshit.

In reality, we’re all flawed and sometimes that’s what makes life hell and in fact threatens our very survival as a species, and at times and in some cases some people and their flaws probably need to be at the very least imprisoned and more pointedly probably marched right off the end of a short plank over a deep bed of nails, needles, and schadenfreude.

But at the same time, if nobody was flawed, that would be just as bad—because perfection isn’t just totalitarian, it’s oxymoronic. The perfect simply isn’t because ontologically and phenomenologically, we’re not configured to appreciate perfection. We are, as Arendt points out, configured for natality, which is at its core a matter of risk. We are risk junkies because of course at some deep, thermodynamic level, we understand that perfection is uniform distribution is static is thermodynamic death.

Always risky action is better than even the most orderly, perfect inaction. Because we don’t like the end of time and the universe any more than we like the ends of ourselves.

So, naturally, digital photos aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. They’re great, but they need to be staggered with some truly beautiful shit (the latter meant, oxymoronically, literally in a variety of figurative ways; figurative that out if you can).

— § —

Instax Wide makes a lot more rational sense than does clinging to Spectra. Semiswank camera sub-$100 brand new. Aspect ratio better. Exposure latitude greater. Contrast greater. Color saturation and accuracy greater.

And the big kicker—a sixth the price. Fifty cents a shot, rather than three bucks a shot with Polaroid.


Instax
© Aron Hsiao / 2016

Not to mention that Instax hasn’t been discontinued. And the film is proven rather than a garage workshop experiment in prints that could fade entirely in five years for all anyone knows.

There are a million and one reasons to go Instax.

And they are all negated by one reason to throw money I shouldn’t try to have at Polaroid while it’s still alive.

— § —

And that reason is that the Polaroid shots are beautifully wrong. Beautifully wrong in every way. Completely perfectly imperfect.

While the Instax shots are just… analog.

Analog is fine, as far as it goes, but if you’re not careful, it’s Instax analog is an analog of obsolescence in a way that Polaroid Originals manages not to be.

Instax looks an awful lot like what digital rather successfully replaced.

Polaroid Originals Spectra? Digital can’t replace it, because it’s playing a different game.

  • Not the affordable film game.

  • Not the durable photos game.

  • Not the easy to use game.

  • Not the influencer game.

  • Not the perfect shots game.

What game is it playing?

What indeed.

What.

— § —

You have to peer through a glass darkly, and then try to speak through it, or maybe with it stuffed in your mouth, to try to explain what’s going on with Polaroid Originals Spectra.

What game is it playing?

You see it. You know it. But can you describe it?

It’s playing the game of being: present + itself + enough + imperfectly perceptive.


Spectra
© Aron Hsiao / 2016

I want to say that this means that it’s playing the game of being engaged and opinionated, but that makes it sound rather like an influencer.

No, no, no.

It’s—

Okay, remember Rashomon?

Remember those bull sessions when you get together with your friends (young influencers, you’ll just have to take this one on faith, since you aren’t there yet) and you’re talking about memories that you made twenty or thirty years ago, and you each have a different recollection of the event that you both equally cherish, and you’re both surprised by each others’ recollections because they’re entirely foreign to you, even though they’re about a familiar event?

And this foreign-familiarity isn’t off-putting, but is rather endearing?

In fact, they enrich you, these bullrecollectionsessions in ways that are permanent and evocative of something deeper in life that you can’t articulate yet because (presumably) you aren’t on your death bed or “putting your affairs in order” or whatever?

Yes. That.

That’s what digital doesn’t do.

It’s also what Instax doesn’t do.

And it’s why I’m considering shelling out money that I don’t have and that nobody should spend for a discontinued film format that nobody knows about and that influencers don’t give two shits about.

Actually, there’s a part of me that thinks it’s worth doing just for that latter reason.

Although, that said, if “influencer doesn’t give a shit” starts becoming motivation for me buying things, I’ll be broker than I am faster than I am broke.

— § —

Spectra, I’m sad to see you fade away, day by day.

Life, I’m sad to see you fade away, day by day.

QED.

— § —

Final thought in parting.

The problem with digital is that it is uncharitable in its perfection.

It ruthlessly deprives us of the very thing that photography is meant to recall—a past.