Quick hello from Taipei airport, where I'm en route from Sydney to Vienna for five weeks of semi-deductible flaneurie, mostly in Germany, Benelux, Switzerland, and a bit of France.
Flying north over the Philippines. Not in a window seat; instead I have in front of me a screen showing an image from a camera looking straight down from the plane. The effect is pretty much like Google Earth, but with clouds. You could say it’s just like looking out of the window, but without the plane in the way. But of course, that would be looking at the real earth, while this is an artificial image, a real-time television show. I sometimes think I’ll be the last human to whom that distinction matters.
At this height, shapes of the land are only vague hints. Was that long thin curving white band a river, or just a trick of the cloud? And what was that hard round thing, a white dot, edged in black, with three smaller black dots around it, just touching it? I leaned forward, watched intently as it slid past, but with no context at all, nothing but clouds on all sides, I finally had to accept the first impression, that it must be an apparition of Mickey Mouse. I could take it as a miracle, a sign that I should quit my job and devote myself to founding a new Disney World here in the Philippines. If only I knew which Philippine this is.
(We are not
in the Philippines
of course, because it's an international flight. Yet a domestic flight, at
exactly these coordinates and altitude, would be. Where are we, exactly?)
To my left and right, the same movie is playing on two screens, but at different points in the film. On my left is development, on the right climax. The same characters doing different things to each other, at the same time.
There was something among the clouds, just now: A thin line across the screen, curving but very solid. A coastline, surely, but I couldn’t say which side was land and which sea. It looked more like a membrane, a boundary between two fluids.
I like the contrast between the view of the earth in front of me and the two parts of the same movie blasting away on both sides. On my screen the clouds, vague landforms, and miraculous apparitions all flow past an even pace, just as they do on Google Earth when you give the mouse a little nudge. Compared to this, the emotional and visual turbulence of the movies looks like its own kind of tedium. To my left the lead couple in the film are having a quiet romantic moment over dinner, while to my right they're about to kill each other. And straight ahead, just the earth rolling past. Or maybe I have to say, a picture of it.