Inside a Net of Eyes
To be seen is to begin the long road toward metadata.
Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time watching videos of dogs being fostered and then adopted after a traumatic rescue story. These are slickly produced, featuring voiceovers and jump cuts and lots of cute zoomie footage, and rarely extend beyond five minutes. They are from channels with cutesy names like ‘Faith Restored’, although that is rarely how I feel when I’m watching them. Usually, after the initial rush of seeing a cute and happy dog wears off, I feel foolish for having spent time with all these other strangers watching animals through a screen. But maybe this is only a personal guilt, not one that can be extrapolated out to others.
A recent tweet from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) showed a screenshot from underwater footage taken by a Remotely Operated Vehicle, in which a diaphanous deep sea jelly, or perhaps a siphonophore, drifts in the current:
“#MondayMorning with Solmissus.
Traditional methods of studying the #MidnightZone once involved dragging a trawl net through the water exclusively. But now, with ROVs we often glimpse details that would be impossible to observe from specimens recovered in a trawl.”
Is looking is less bad than trawling? Is it true that eyes on screens carry none of the colonial baggage of a fishing net and a specimen jar? I am not so sure.
To be seen is to be noticed by the algorithm. To be seen is to begin the long road toward metadata. Visibility is not always a blessing, something we’ve become intimately familiar with in our online discourse, but we still like to watch animals online. I — I still do. If not there, where else would I see them, all these species that are supposed to disappear soon? Creatures that hold the possibility of ungraspable metaphor.
What I’m Reading
After listening to Fernanda Melchor on Between the Covers, I picked up her novel Hurricane Season from the library. I did not refresh myself on what the book was about, but instead dove in, and I’m glad I did, because it has been nothing like I expected, which has been an immensely good thing (if not necessarily a ‘pleasure’, as it’s difficult to qualify the grim misogyny and violence throughout as that). The long chapters ramble on propulsively, looking much like Ducks, Newburyport on the page, but with a few more periods scattered about. What is it about this style that lodges itself in my brain so thoroughly I can’t stop thinking about it? With Ducks, I thought it was the ability to get lost in one person’s psyche so deeply that I was able to just turnoff my own inner monologue and sink into the pages. But Melchor doesn’t restrict herself to one consciousness or one point of view, often whiplashing back and forth between characters and perspectives. But it’s a readable, urgent whiplash, one I’ll be plugged into all weekend.
Soft Skull Press is accepting nonfiction, fiction or comics submissions from Black punk artists and writers for the anthology Black Punk Now!, edited by James Spooner and Chris L. Terry. Deadline January 1, 2022.
The Periplus Mentor program is open for applications until November 1. Apply if you are a BIPOC early-career writer not currently enrolled in a graduate program, and have not yet published a book.
My book A Natural History of Transition, published by Metonymy Press, is available now.
First time here? Subscribe below. You can find more of my work at calangus.com.