Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Monthly Archives: October 2006

Paradoxes  §

As usual, came down to the school early to read. As usual, once I get here I just want to lay on something and sleep. Maybe even loudly. That tells me that the space here is somehow wrong. But the space is always wrong for me, I’m never quite comfortable in these public spaces.

Most chairs are no good, and most tables don’t provide any kind of conceptual isolation from the rest of the wide, open space. It feels like sitting in a marketplace or something, rather than a study area. The University of Utah library post-expansion was must better in this regard than the NSSR library or the Regenstein at Chicago.

A good library is a space that contains lots of books, feels like home, but also keeps you awake long enough to actually get something read. I’m just sayin’.

I preface this fragment by saying  §

that as an armchair epistemologist I’m not a believer in truth anyway.

But the thing about truth (small ‘t’ maybe, because of course there is no big ‘T’ truth) is that its edges are frayed. It’s not clear where (temporally, spatially, conceptually) it begins or began and where it ends or will end.

It’s an intuitive state, it really does ultimately have to be conceptually constructed within an “I know it when I see it” trope, because once anyone begins to theorize it, it all falls apart into contradiction and relativity.

I say this not because it’s world shattering, but because it’s apropos of this month and this weekend. Everybody I know who reads this: I’ve meant everything I said, and it has been truthful. My apologies for not having at instant command the long army of qualifiers that I really need to deploy in order to make these truths battle-hardened and impenetrable.

Sometimes I wish  §

my life was simpler. More like everybody else. Everything about me is a special case. My birthday. The way I spell (both of) my name(s). My ethnicity. My parents’ ethnicity and nationality. My education. My work history. Nothing about me is ever quite easy to pin down.

So I try to tell people about myself, and it always ends up that I tell the truth and people fill in blanks with what “normally” goes with lots of different truths, and then they have me or facts about my life all wrong and later on I have to correct it and they think I’m contradicting what I said before, only I’m not. I’m just contradicting the assumptions people always make. Because you can’t fill in the blanks with me as a matter of course, you have to get the whole story.

Because nothing about me is ever quite easy to pin down. I guess it’ll just always be that way.

a mixed day  §

That might in another time and place have been a triumphant one. But while things go well for me, there are people in every other part of my life—personal, family, friends—that are having a tough go of things and/or that are sad. So it’s hard to really feel triumphant when seeing people that you care about suffer. 🙁

As an American, even given all of my cynicism about the country, it’s sometimes easy to forget just how tough—how really, shockingly heartless—this place and this culture can be for the uninitiated. What passes for commerce and common sense here would easily be fraud, insult, and dishonesty elsewhere.

As an American, one gets used to it. We handle the unreliability and amorality of our fellow citizens without thinking about it. We plan ahead, watch our backs, succeed, feel fine. But even while we aren’t busy thinking about it, those nasty things—those worlds of bad intentions and untrustworthiness—are happening to us, changing us, making us all the time what we are.

No wonder we Americans are not nice people. We are subject to an endless barrage of mutual assaults on decency and absolute failures to care, and rather than refuse to accept it, we alter ourselves, become hard and competitive, pre-emptive, defensive, relentlessly successful.


Tonight I have (weeks early) sketched out the arguments that I will make in two of my final papers for the semester. Not only this, but the arguments are good and insightful. Not only this, but the two papers are actually two halves of the same paper on media and cultural materialism which I have deftly sliced into major parts applicable to each class that can easily be united afterward for further work or publication.

This is good.

But I can’t stop thinking about the various people in my life, the sadness that they are experiencing, and the ways in which I’m not helping them (or in some cases even making things worse). This pains me.

I just don’t know how to change it, exactly.

Ironic and vexing. Either I’m not okay or everybody around me is not okay. Either way, the melancholy is never far off. I guess that’s the way life is.

implicated things  §

I’m swimming in a sea of: political economy, rationalization theory, media, social epistemology, poetics, post-structuralism, philosophy, and space. Does this all fit together somehow? Hopefully if I keep making notes and typing like a madman I’ll be able to see where all of the pieces go (or which ones to throw out).

Sometimes it feels as if every subject is just too big to approach from any one direction.


Today I was told once again by a very nice smiling someone that I make trouble. Why are people always telling me that I make trouble? And why do I like it when they say that?

Tonight I was thinking about something that I said before in class: sociology is the history of modernity. I said at the time that I didn’t know what it meant, but later I qualified it by saying that all fields of the social sciences arise from particular historical circumstances. A sort of cop-out.

Now I’m really prepared to defend the claim, I think. History is the would-be pedagogical narrative of bourgeois Europe. Anthropology is the would-be pedagogical narrative of colonialism. Political Science and Economics are the would-be pedagogical narratives of rationalized markets. Sociology is the would-be pedagogical narrative of modernity. And postmodernism is the would-be pedagogical narrative of the crisis of modernity. And just what this pedagogical enterprise is is the political argument amongst them all.

I love blogging, because I can make specious claims.

I love specious claims, because they make lovely light blogging.

I’m so narcicisstic that I read my own blog.

I’m so shamless that I call myself narcicisstic on my own blog.

Gosh, I love just about everything. Hahahahaha. As an aside, I have too damn much email to which I need to reply. A certain wager can be made that I’ll never bother. Another wager can be made with respect to my ability to sleep well tonight, for various reasons.

Last night it was so hot in here I nearly roast. Those are the wages of centrally-controlled apartment heating. It seems a waste to run the building heater to 6,000 kelvin thus requiring residents to strip down to impoverishment and open the window as wide as it goes to let some freezing air in.

A Chinese? Do I think of myself as “a Chinese?” I suppose in some ways I do. But I suspect that 100% Chinese would laugh at this until their little sides hurt.



There is a certain level of complexity beneath which life cannot be reduced. There is no way around this. I don’t know how many years I’ve been sitting here writing and making appeals for a more “simple” life, but it just ain’t gonna happen, kids.

What to say… What to say… Nothing. That’s what to say.

Sometimes that’s the only thing to say.

Hmmm…  §

It suddenly occurs to me tonight as I sit here responding to literally dozens of email messages, working on writing papers and writing for work, hoping that I get a job call over the next few days, preparing for an appointment tomorrow followed by class, checking bank accounts and creating web sites that I’ve promised to create, as well cleaning up and preparing the next batch of photos for submission…

I have a very busy life all of a sudden.

It’s only been a couple of months since I was sitting around in SLC doing little more than shooting photos and waiting to go to school.

What I miss right now:  §

– My Grandfather
– My childhood
– Infallibility (you won’t believe this, but I used to have it)
– A certain lack of contradictory emotions
– Real chinese food that I can afford

I am rusty at paper writing. I’ve been working at it more or less all day without being particularly satisfied at the result. The funny thing about New York (not a clean segue, nor paragraph break, but oh well) is that it is an inversion of my previous schedule. From full-on usually-at-home, freelance, direct-my-own-time pacing, I have moved to a rarely-at-home, externally-driven lifestyle that will only intensify once I get work.

I suspect that for the next half-decade I shan’t have any personal life (or time) at all. But that’s just a guess.

I  §




Some days  §

get away from you somehow. I can already tell that today is one of those days, even though it’s not even half over yet. I came down to the school to work on papers, but I’m not working, I’m mostly being distracted and odd. Heh.

Thinking about friends, actually, and how long it’s been since I’ve seen them and how strange it is that I don’t see them more often and how strange it would be if I did.

But pretty soon I’m gonna get on the subway and go back. What happens after that is anybody’s guess.

life  §

is a strange kind of beast

It’s always hard to tell liberation from domination from failure.

It’s a Saturday afternoon in New York City and I’m at school (pretty much the only one). Why?

I don’t know. Why not?

I have a bunch of photos to keyword and caption, but I’m not really into that right now. I need… something… but I don’t know what. Always that’s the way. I guess what I really need is to resolve paradoxes.

I want to live in the snowy mountains and I want to live in the dirty, packed city.

I want to be alone and I also want company.

I want to be poor but I also want to be able to play rich and travel, photograph, etc.

I want to teach and I also want to get out of academia forever.

I want to be a photographer but I don’t want to have to sell photographs.

I love technology but I also find it to be completely unfulfilling and banal.

I always miss my friends but I never, ever see them.

I should get to work. That’s why I’m here.

the most cynically hip Americans  §

are always making fun of others’ naivete. But the older I get the more I realize that it is the most cynical that are the most naive: they actually believe that they can outrun the existential crisis simply by employing massive amounts of reflexivity, by sneeringly feigning nonchalance, or by mobilizing an army of would-be judges.

They (and I myself am guilty of this) are so naive (mistakenly taking it for cynicism) as to suggest that the denial of the object and the absence of the object are one and the same. So long as you can maintain the illusion, of course, they are…

But we are all mortal. And at that point the cynically hip American collapses into tragically wasted irrelevance. We Americans think we can gain eternal life by sheer force of bitter will. When we fail, we find ourselves in those last moments (of course) alone with our bitterness.

That is my “life-project” right now. I am trying to ascend out of that fog and confront the nadir of being, not as some kind of rejected anti-hero, but as what it is: the end. I am hoping in this process to find… hope.

The long and short upshot is that I don’t want to be intentionally antisocial or deeply nihilistic anymore. I want what “they” have: simple pleasure in life, while we’re here. It’s not hedonistic or narcicisstic because I want it to be directed outward. The most ethical position is not well-reasoned or even well-stated at all. It is not even conceived, as to try to conceive it is to sully it. The most ethical position is one of pleasant participant, gentle contributor, smiling person.

Enough venom and enough self-destruction already. Let’s just smile at the clouds.

why  §

do I feel down?

slow  §

What is this sludge that fills us, we Americans? Make no mistake, it’s sludge, degraded dirty crude never refined in the first place, then run through the machine 40, 100, ten thousand times.

I was saying tonight that my blog was honest. A total lie, of course. There is not an ounce of honesty here. On the other hand, there are absolutely no lies. They’re the same thing anyway, these “truth” and “lies.” How do I know? I’ve never heard any truth and I’ve never told any lies. And everyone else can say the same.

I’m so old now. How old is too old?

“To old for what?” is the question, but of course it’s a stupid question.

I remember those early mornings as a teenager, 1:00 or 2:00 am, in the freezing cold and snow, shivering and fighting and sleeping on concrete. For no reason. That’s how petty we Americans are. We make ourselves suffer for no reason, butcher and rob each other for no reason, just to have the privelege of complaining about it later.

I have to re-read Dostoevsky. And Nietzsche.

The thing about non-Americans is, they always make we Americans (those of us with any fscking brains) feel like total frauds, largely because we are. That is, after all, the core value of the nation. Advertising, PR, salesmanship, the turning of tragic loss into serendipitous victory. Hurrah!


Still feel guilty.