Lazy Luddite Log

30.4.08

Handel's Messiah

On the date this entry is postmarked I wrote the following:

On Saturday 17 May from 8pm the Monash University Choral Society (MonUCS) will perform Handel’s Messiah (you all know the Hallelujah Chorus from it). The concert will be held at All Saint’s Anglican Church on Chapel Street in Saint Kilda East (opposite the Astor Theatre and close to Windsor Station)...

Well it was a fun night and I think it came off well. The scratch orchestra our conductor had pulled together were awesome (as always) and in keeping with the era of music there is even an honest-to-goodness harpsichord! I enjoyed some bits of the music more than others. The twiddly bits were frustrating and rather taxing for me but I also feel that some of the simpler or slower parts were also more effective and evocative anyway. I was also exhausted from the night (which had inlcuded helping move lots of metal and wood in the construction of our makeshift stage).

Still it was a worthwhile show and culminated in the traditional victory song of Laudate in our backroom (itself an experience as I always love seeing rooms one normally never gets to see - in this case a small multi-purpose room in the attic of the church). I had the fun of sharing this singalong over the phone with Petra in Canberra (I am very slowly warming to all the lovely applications of such technology).

Then the post-concert party was fun - there was even mulled wine! It ended late but it also started late so some of us felt like we wanted more partying than we had got. Still we were all exhausted (you could tell that we were all holding back the tiredness with willpower and the desire for fun) so I was happy to get a lift home (MonUCS are always so proactive in ensuring lifts home) and roll into bed.

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29.4.08

Tourguide

Last week I had a lovely time playing host to Petra whom I have been dating for several weeks. Petra comes from Sydney but now lives in Canberra. We met via interstate choral festivals. Petra stayed with me and also came along to the MonUCS rehearsal camp last weekend at Wombat Corner in Emerald. During her visit I had a lovely time and part of that was due to the satisfaction that comes from showing off our lovely metropolis of Melbourne.

Showing an interstate or international visitor ones own city is a particular experience I would recommend to anyone. You get the ego-boosting experience of demonstrating how familiar you are with your own home town and all its distinctive characteristics and secrets. You have a chance to relive and reminisce over some of your best hometown experiences. And you get to see your city with a fresh perspective. So for instance Petra was impressed with our public transport. This is indicative of the difference in service levels, not between Sydney and Melbourne, but rather between her part of Sydney and my part of Melbourne. I am now thinking that PT in the middling suburbs of Melbourne is okay by me.

One more thing that hosting a foreign guest does for the host is it allows one to experience new aspects of ones own home. I have many times seen the ferris wheel between the Yarra and Birrarung Marr. But it was only on prompting from Petra that we went on it - It is rather a fun ride and affords some impressive views of the City. So I now have yet another Melbourne experience to look back on. And I can show off this expanded 'Melbourne Lore' next time I am interacting with visitors from far away.

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14.4.08

Gumshow Telepath: Brunch

Here is the long overdue next installment of Gumshoe Telepath.

I walked into the Roundtree my customary ten minutes late. I always liked to keep clients and colleagues alike stewing. It was just a part of the whole PI schtick I like to cultivate. Kristen looked perturbed and naturally I assumed it was because of my tardiness. That was a mistake. On my getting to our corner booth my gorgeous if gloomy partner in crime-busting glanced up at me and asked if I had seen the news.

The netlink on my side of the table was bung. Once, I would have reflexively groped in my pocket for some hand-held device, but the solar flares that had started in the 2040s had brought the wireless age to a premature end, and our lingering need for web access had resulted in permanent fixtures, like net-enabled cafe tables, in all sorts of places. They were great, till such time as they needed fixing, and I asked Kristen to read the news to me. That was my next mistake.

It was the news that had her all flustered and, as she read, her words became more agitated and strident. “Listen to this Derrick!” she began.

“Today the Global Institute for Standardized Terminology (GIST) bowed to pressure from the Congress majority to alter the definition of ‘discrimination’ to apply only to those aspects of an identity that are innate and cannot be altered by personal or collaborative acts-of-will.”

Kristen then looked at me, expectantly, as if I was somehow to blame for this particular snippet of ‘boring but important’. Then came yet another mistake…

“So, what's the biggy?”

“What's the biggy? Derrick, GIST set the definitions for all words in Global English, and now the Government has the authority of this new definition to justify so much more of its Discernment Policy!”

“Kristen, this is 2050, not 1984, and nobody these days thinks that you can actually control thinking by controlling words, and nobody can control words anyway. Nobody tells me how to define my terms but me, so why would it matter to me what a bunch of geeks at GIST say?”

“Derrick, they only need to sway the thinking of a handful of wavering congresspersons, and they do pay attention to GIST. Every politician likes to think they are some kind of expert and so they mimic what the technocrats think. Now GIST tells us that ‘discrimination’ and ‘discernment’ are distinct words because a rational language should work that way, and the Congress will go right along with that...”

“And this affect us how?”

“We may be okay, we are well-adjusted and productive members of society, we get regular contracts, we engage in respected forms of recreation, we have vigorous sex lives...”

“Mine could be more vigorous than it is…"

Kristen rolled her eyes at that, glanced away, stirred her coffee, then looked back at me. “All I’m saying is that they are pulling a swifty on us. All the old forms of prejudice, like racism, sexism, homophobia, are prohibited by law, but now the Government is just playing with words so that they can turn on new kinds of victim, new forms of excluded other…"

“Kristen, can we move on from talk of ‘excluded other’ and move onto the much more pressing matter of murdered crime bosses?”

“I just wish you could take more interest in world events, Derrick”.

“Look, I’d be more interested if I thought the Government was the P-Plate dictatorship you think it is, but it cannot even manage the crime corporations, so it looks to me like a pretty pathetic excuse for an oppressor, whatever it may try to be.”

“So what you’re saying is that life is fine if you’re in a multinational gang, but if you are a goth, or a feral, or celibate, or religious, or anything deemed maladjusted or non-rational, then you’re fair game?”

I often made the mistake of arguing with Kristen. A PI and his telepathic sidekick we may be, but we were also politics graduates. Only dif was that I was trying to play the part. She was just trying. Once more I deftly moved to change the topic...

“Speaking of fair game, what about those crime bosses erasing each other?”

“Well, okay then” said Kristen as she inhaled audibly. “Both Jacinta O’Leery and Marko Masonite were killed on the same night, and witnesses to both events swear that each was killed by the other, despite the fact that both incidents occurred at the same time, and on other sides of the city, and that is simply impossible!”

“Well, I would agree with you, and would also say that the smooth escape of whoever the perps are was also damn unlikely.”

Whomever.”

“Now who’s the fucking GIST?”

“Sorry, Derrick, old habit. Look, I need more info to go on if we are to find the missing link in all this. We’ve interviewed witnesses, we’ve inspected the scenes, but what I need is to be there while nobody is around at all, free from any distracting mental activity, so I can do a proper vibesweep.”

“Kristen, you know the O’Leery and Masonite clans only let us in under duress, and are wanting to take care of this in-house. I cannot get the cops to give us any more than they have given, and the clans are unlikely to allow us to wander round their houses at night unaccompanied.”

“I am aware of all that, but I have something that may allow us to bypass all that.”

Kristen had a funny look on her face, a mischievous look, one that I found both infuriating and maddeningly alluring at the same time. I was gonna make a whole lot more mistakes by the end of the day. Call it a prescient ability of my own! I looked at her, waiting for her to continue.

“Notice anything about my coffee?”

“Your coffee is gone Kristen, the waiting staff must have taken it.”

“No, Derrick, it’s still there, only I’m now editing it from your perceptions”.

The smile on Kristen’s face was infectious. I smiled too.

“How much stuff can you do that to?”

“I can definitely edit an entire human form from the perceptions of several witnesses, and I think with a bit of practice I could do the same for two.”

“And just how rare is this ability?”

“Dr Pax says there are only sixteen reported cases of it worldwide."

Rajiv Pax was a colleague and mentor to Kristen, and the foremost world authority on telepathy. If anyone knew how rare this particular talent was, it would be him. Kristen had more to say about her new party trick.

"If I let on that I could do this I would instantly be recruited for government surveillance work.”

“But then you couldn’t slum it with me, babydoll.”

“Something like that,” grinned Kristen, abandoning her usual cool demeanour.

“So, mental prodigy you may be, but you’ll still need me for my wicked lock reprogramming skills if we are gonna get you into those places…"

And so it went. I was spending my brunch planning to illegally, and very dangerously, break into the houses of the City’s crime duopoly, under the invisibility granted by this wunderkind of a telepath, who I knew was all too human. Anything could happen. Still, it meant more time spent with Kristen, so I was game. And hey, I figured we may even get some traction on the damned case.

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

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5.4.08

Words & Pictures

”Hey, wait, I’m having one of those things, you know, a headache with pictures”

This line from Futurama suggests that the character Philip J Fry thinks in the same way that I do: I am constantly seeing things. Right now as I draft this entry I am seeing the relevant scene from Futurama. I am also seeing the computer screen I am working with. And as I think more generally of thinking in images I am also seeing the site of recent MonUCS rehearsal camps. Why this last one?

Well it is just once instance of how I cannot think free of images. The next rehearsal camp will have a new venue to which I have never yet been. So I cannot imagine what it will be like with the normal accuracy of such imaginings. As I anticipate the coming camp I cannot help but visualise the old campsite. That will change once I have been there but for now my experience shapes my thinking thus.

A more common instance of this ‘always seeing things’ is in phone conversations – if I am talking with a friend on the phone I will involuntarily be imagining them sitting at home and – once more – if I have never been to that home then I have to substitute some other likely setting in. I cannot be free of such imaginings.

My writing on this topic arose from a conversation at a party recently in which the different ways in which we experience thinking was discussed. As well as discussing images we also discussed words. Seems that many of us (me included) tend to think in conversations and (in my case for instance) those conversations tend to be in English. One person in this conversation however suggested that they think in concepts rather than in words and pictures. This puzzled those of us whose minds are picture story books or narrated documentary shows. I cannot even imagine such a thing. But possibly a more technically minded or mathematical person will do this. Maybe they think in ‘Mentalese’ (a term I came across on Wikipedia) rather than any language for communication.

In another conversation I had (in which I referenced the original one) I then introduced emotions into the mix. I may think in words and pictures but I feel emotions. These seem to exist independent of words and pictures (even if sometimes they will be associated with them) and if emotion is a kind of thought then I am experiencing pure thought free of linguistic or sensory representations.

There are whole academic disciplines that focus on these matters and which I cannot begin to discuss here. This then is the ramblings of one interested layperson. It stands as a record of the kind of things that arise in conversations of nerds. Shall I also tell you of the recent party I attended in which a thesaurus became the focus of attention? Possibly some other time.

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