A simple experiment can help show how complex systems respond in the real world, and in the process make it easier to make sense of the sort of climate phenomena we can count on seeing in the decades ahead.

The next time you fill a bathtub, once you’ve turned off the tap, wait until the water is still. Slip your hand into the water, slowly and gently, so that you make as little disturbance in the water as possible. Then move your hand through the water about as fast as a snail moves, and watch and feel how the water adapts to the movement, flowing gently around your hand. .

Once you’ve gotten a clear sense of that, gradually increase the speed with which your hand is moving. After you pass a certain threshold of speed, the movements of the water will take the form of visible waves—a bow wave in front of your hand, a wake behind it in which water rises and falls rhythmically, and wave patterns extending out to the edges of the tub. The faster you move your hand, the larger the waves become, and the more visible the interference patterns as they collide with one another.

Keep on increasing the speed of your hand. You’ll pass a second threshold, and the rhythm of the waves will disintegrate into turbulence: the water will churn, splash, and spray around your hand, and chaotic surges of water will lurch up and down the sides of the tub. If you keep it up, you can get a fair fraction of the bathwater on your bathroom floor, but this isn’t required for the experiment! Once you’ve got a good sense of the difference between the turbulence above the second threshold and the oscillations below it, take your hand out of the water, and watch what happens: the turbulence subsides into wave patterns, the waves shrink, and finally—after some minutes—you have still water again.

This same sequence of responses can be traced in every complex system, governing its response to every kind of disturbance in its surroundings. So long as the change stays below a certain threshold of intensity and rapidity—a threshold that differs for every system and every kind of change—the system will respond smoothly, with the least adjustment that will maintain its own internal balance. Once that threshold is surpassed, oscillations of various kinds spread through the system, growing steadily more extreme as the disturbance becomes stronger, until it passes the second threshold and the system’s oscillations collapse into turbulence and chaos. When chaotic behavior begins to emerge in an oscillating system, in other words, that’s a sign that real trouble may be sitting on the doorstep.

The world also sends us constant reminders that there is another kind of relationality. These reminders are photographs—either literally, or by other means. Photography is able to disclose the world, show us that it is structured by analogy, and help us assume our place within it because it, too, is analogical.

Some really beautiful, funny, scary moments in this conversation with Werner Herzog. I particularly like how he expresses the difference between facts and truth (around 52 mins):

"If you think Facts constitute something of greater importance (or Truth) look at the Manhattan phone directory. That would be the book of books: four million entries, and all are correct. But do we know what they dream? Does Mr. Alfred Smith cry into his pillow at night? What do they think? For whom do they cast their ballots? We do not know, and it doesn’t illuminate us."

I like Herzog because he does not discriminate between thought and art. His practice—making movies—is as much a work of theory as a philosophical/academic book is. It is only important to point this out because they are dichotomised in the first place. I wish this was a trite point, but it’s important to realise the degree that theory and practice have been separated in mainstream art and theory.

To abstract is to understand one thing without understanding another at the same time even though in reality the one is not separated from the other, e.g., sometimes the intellect understands the whiteness which is in milk and does not understand the sweetness of milk. Abstraction in this sense can belong even to a sense, for a sense can apprehend one sensible without apprehending another.

– William of Ockham, Expositio physicorum, fol. 111c.

One of the biggest problems facing film criticism and film culture is that that there is often very little relationship between how movies are written about and how they’re actually made. Film is a medium that is inextricably linked to technology, but the language we use to talk about and evaluate films is by-and-large the language of antique or dying technologies or of environments (such as the old studio system, with its clear divisions of filmmaking labor) that no longer exist. While much of the old critical / cinephilic vocabulary—mise en scène, montage, etc.—still works, it’s often not enough.


Chinatown during the popular Vegetarian Festival

Chinese people

Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre

A bar with a bar (rare in Thailand)