Below us lies a massive growth of porous luminosity, its cellular steel and glass exoskeleton inhabited by various species of soft light. A colossal marine organism has emerged to colonize the harborside. Brighter creatures enjoy mutualistic relations with the colonial host. Some of them, Logo spp., are neural parasites that prey on humans.
Sara and I stand atop the Peak Tower with a bunch of other creatures, not yet colonial but through the wonders of digital technology fast evolving that way. We stand four or five deep at the railing, cameras and phones held high overhead, obsessively flash-flashing at the softly throbbing creature below us for some important reason that no one knows, driven by a primordial imperative to record innumerable images of this thing we’ve been led to, and then share them by means of social networking until, ideally, every sentient being in the universe has witnessed the giant light-creature on the shore.
Lo, and verily. And eventually, as we did once before this day, we come to stand in a queue of thousands to enter the tram, this time to be delivered back down from the Peak for reabsorption by the light creature. As we descend, it becomes progressively less apparent that this thing is in fact one organism.
During our precipitous descent, we catch glimpses up through bright high-rise canyons where members of the colony dwell.
Sara later reveals the fact she had already experienced the Peak Experience on YouTube that very morning. And then, just to rub it in, she say she did this thing without suffering interminable waits in line for the tram and pushy mobs on the viewing platform.
“Jasus, jasus,” I tell her. “We could’ve stayed in Bangkok and saved the airfare, not to mention the hours spent standing in queue.”
“Yes,” she says. “But it freshens the mind to visit different places.”
And to record every square centimeter of the buggers, and take the same photos millions of other travelers have and try to share these experiences with someone, except that everyone has already experienced them, at least on YouTube.
“Did that video really convey the Experience?” I ask her.
“No. It was much better. They took it when there was some special light show.”
Whatever. As Sara pointed out, there was plenty more to enjoy in Hong Kong.
See “McStuff and the triumph of democratic mediacrization” for more on these ideas.
Related insights from Susan Sontag: “Tourists in our own and each others’ realities.”
Notes. The illustration doesn’t begin to do justice to the Victoria Peak Experience.
The other shot is from the Kowloon side of the harbor on the 118th floor of the Ritz Carleton, atop the ICC Building. The Ozone is reportedly the highest bar in the world. (I believe the tall building in the top left corner of the first photo is the ICC Building.)