Lazy Luddite Log

29.3.06

Advertising

Sometimes I think there is an advertising agent possessing my mind. Stupid advertising slogans will just come to me. Here is one...

Mocha: The power of coffee with the pleasure of chocolate!

Sometimes I go further and conceive of products whose design is dictated by a particular advertising slogan (e.g. the reverse of common sense). Consider this...

The mission statement of Herevale Shopping Plaza can be conveyed in just three short words: Fun... Food... Fashion... We have even designed the Herevale Shopping Plaza so that it becomes the living embodiment of this philosophy! Three distinct arcades form a massive triangular formation. Each arcade is filled with specialty shops dedicated to one of the three pillars of the Herevale Shopping Plaza mission: Fun... Food... Fashion... Then at the three intersections of the arcades we have a cinema and food court (Fun Meets Food) a supermarket (Food Meets Fashion) and a department store (Fashion Meets Fun). At Herevale Shopping Plaza you the customer can always find what you want - just say 'Fun... Food... Fashion...'

Phew! I can almost feel a tiny pony-tail growing at the back of my scalp. Gotta go get some scissors...

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21.3.06

Shadows & Echoes

Modern methods of recording images and sound have a peculiar effect on ones perceptions of time. I look at a photo from five decades ago and it seems as if the things depicted exist now.


A person in such photos - think Marilyn Monroe or James Dean or Humphry Bogart - can look vibrant and alive (the linked image is a painting but still...). You can imagine having a drink with them! And yet they are nothing but dust now.

I look at footage of a car driving along some village street. The car and houses are old but then old things exist in the present too. I know the scene was filmed decades ago but it looks like it may have been taken at any time since - it may even be a direct satellite telecast. Look in the background at the cloud formations - they are so like ones I saw only yesterday. But those clouds will have changed moments after they were filmed - those precise formations are lost forever.

I listen to recordings of vocalists from the past - a Hutchence or a Mercury or a Carpenter. A voice is like the living signature of someone - so totally personal and human. These singers all died a decade or more back and yet I sing along with them like they were here right now.

These recorded images and sounds make the recent past seem all the closer. But the past is the past and those times are as utterly gone as the ancient days of the Roman Empire. Looking at an eroded stone bust of Augustus Caesar only accentuates for me how distant from me his life and times are. They belong in dusty old history books. In contrast the photos or recordings from the last century and a half make me feel much more of a kinship with those times.

For me the invention of the camera and the phonograph marks a dividing line in history - everything following that time is in sharper focus while everything before that time fades into the distance. And so my sense of loss for the recent past is all the more powerful. Contemplating this makes me feel like some kind of exile in time.

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9.3.06

Gumshoe Telepath

The following short story (or rather the opening scene of a much longer but non-existent story) was recently printed in 'Diverse Visions' (the newszine of the South Eastern Science Fiction Club). I like the setting and characters and 'feel' of the thing but cannot for the life of me think of a plot! Anybody want to finish it for me?

Sometime in the dark night I woke with a sense of impending doom. I looked around my room. The florescent face of my alarm clock read 3:30 am. The rain was splattering on my windowpane and the light of the street lamp cast impressions of the raindrops on the wall opposite me.

I knew that some rotten shit was coming down over this old town of mine. The gangs were moving in on one another and the cops were helpless to do anything but sit by and place bets.

2050 had been one shocker of a year and everyone had been saying that the New Year was gonna be a whole lot better. So much for foresight. All I had right now was hindsight and from that vantage I knew that things had gotten a whole lot worse.

Why had I woken? I needed to go to the loo. But it was more than that. Something was nagging away at my senses. Somebody was whispering in the darkest corners of my mind. Suddenly I saw her: She was standing in a cold alleyway looking for a way back onto the street, but the alleyway was part of a maze of alleyways and there was nothing but trash cans and rats to keep her company. She was anxious and wanted me to know it. That was why I was seeing her. That was why she was in my mind right now. The investigation was like a maze to her, a maze of crooked hints and haunting clues. Hence the image of twisting alleyways she was projecting at me. The trench coat she was wearing – classic ‘gumshoe’ attire – also fit the story she was telling of an investigator running around in circles. So what was she getting at with the wind whipping the trench coat open and revealing that she was wearing only black lace lingerie? Hold on - that was my mind infecting her message. Well it served her right for waking me up in the middle of the night.

I picked up the holophone and punched in her number. It started ringing. The image in my mind fizzled and shattered into a thousand careless echoes. A moment later the phone projected a holo-image on my desk of Kristen answering her phone. Her hair was frazzled and she wore a dark blue dressing gown. There was no wind in her apartment to blow it open…

“Derrick, why are you calling me at this time of night.”

“Well, kid, if you had not started blowing creepy movies into my skull I would still be asleep right now.”

“You saw the maze?”

“Got it in one.”

“Sorry about that.”

“Its okay. I gotta go to the loo anyways.”

“Too much information Derrick!”

“Too much confusion Kristen. What is all that alleyway stuff anyway? And the trench coat? Been looking at too many old Bogie & Bacall vids.”

“This case is driving me crazy. I cannot sleep and once I do all I have is this maze thing happening over and over. Nothing changes. Except something was a bit different with this one just now…”

“Ah – how is that then?”

“Never mind. Look, can we meet for brunch and talk it over then?”

“Sure, as long as you give me some rest now, sweet thing.”

“I’ll try. This must be getting to me if I am projecting while asleep.”

“It’s a bugger of a case. Just get some zeds and try to keep it from getting to me too.”

“Okay, I’ll see you at the Roundtree, say, at 10?”

“Roundtree and 10. It’s a date.”

“No, its just brunch. See you then…”

That was just like her. Flirting with me. Getting into my mind. But never recognising that it was something more for me. Damn.

The rest of this now completed story can be accessed via this listing.

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4.3.06

The Service Sector

The following item is to be published in a forthcoming edition of the Australian Democrats National Journal. Copyright belongs to the writer however so I may as well stick it here too.

The Service Sector and Progressive Politics

Have you ever noticed how many political activists romanticise the primary and secondary sectors of the economy? The positives of working on the farm or in the factory are exaggerated and the negatives overlooked. It has struck me as peculiar that nobody seems to have done this for the tertiary sector. This is unusual, as there are many benefits that are arising from the growth and dominance of a service economy, particularly from the perspective of progressive politics. Consider the following:

Ecologically Sustainable Development

In any industry there is a significant level of resource consumption associated with establishing a farm or factory or whatever. Once the site is operational, the level of resource consumed at any one time reduces compared with the time in which it was established. This reduction in resource usage between establishment and operation is much more significant for services than for agriculture or manufacturing. Consider a car factory and then compare it with - say - a cinema. The car factory consumes a particular level of resources for every car it produces. In contrast a particular film reel is produced once but then can be played many times over. Every time it is played a service has been rendered to consumers and wealth has thereby been generated but the resource consumption associated with that product is nominal. Think of other services such as a barber or a website designer to see how little is consumed in producing their product.

It is almost as if wealth is produced from next to nothing. The services sector is driven by humans interacting with other humans moreso than by the use of natural resources and so has much more potential for growth regardless of any natural limits to growth. As such a service economy is much more conducive to ecologically sustainable development than older forms of economy.

A Diverse and Tolerant Society

The services sector depends on the interaction of humans for its existence. Many services can be defined as the conducting of relationships, including the transfer of information from person to person, rather than the making of things. The fewer barriers to human interaction the more vibrant a service economy becomes. Differences of gender, sexuality, culture, creed, generation, locality and interest are overcome by those who wish to have more customers or partners.

Contrary to the old saying, familiarity breeds respect, and the more that prejudice is set aside for the sake of success in working life, the more it will be abandoned altogether. This would be particularly strong in an economic activity that is defined by human interaction. Whether it is a case of correlation or causation, it seems that the growth of the service economy goes hand-in-hand with the development of a more tolerant and diverse society.

What to make of all this?

I have written this short item just to explore some processes and associations that seem overlooked by many. It seems that the development of a service economy may be conducive to key objectives in progressive politics. What are the implications of having political activists recognise this connection?

It may make sense for us to develop policy positions that work alongside rather than contrary to these processes. It may even be worthwhile to factor the prominence of the service sector into political self-promotion - who advocates for the needs of service sector workers as a distinct group in society? In the end however it hardly matters what political activists do. Such processes have a life of their own independent of what governments or political interests may do. The service economy is here to stay and hopefully that is a good thing.

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