Lazy Luddite Log

22.8.11

Localized Lamentation

They say that in modern mass society we have lost a sense of community. To some extent that is true but to some extent the focus of community has simply shifted from the geographic to the interest-focused form of community. Yes I have barely anything to do with my neighbours but my 'community' is defined by my interests and is scattered across a huge space (with members of that community living across a major metropolis and indeed interstate and even overseas).

In truth however I am lucky to have a bit of both. The City Of Monash is in effect a university town and one consequence of this is that I am within walking distance of a handful of share houses that are home to friends (whether former or current students and staff of Monash Uni). I enjoy the experience of living locally in that I can walk to my weekly choral rehearsal and likewise walk to the local gathering of friends who weekly come together to work on creative projects and converse. I even have a lovely creek to wander along. Shops and a station are a bit further away but still I enjoy a vigorous walk.

And then recently I had a chance at that key component of living locally - a job close to home. I was qualified and had relevant experience. I performed well in the interview. The feedback via agency was good. For over a week now I have been anticipating getting offered a job (long-term contract) at this particular utility company that is only 15 minutes walk from home. Amazing!

* * * * *

Savings from my last temp role have dwindled so government income-support has once more become vital for me and this morning I discovered that the expected payment was missing from my account. I rang Centrelink to check on the problem and was in a queue so sat with the landline handset to my ear. Suddenly my mobile phone rang so I put it to my free ear. It was my agency contact with the news that the employer had offered the role to someone who fit it just that bit better than me. They do want to consider me for some future temp work so that is something and I did say I was keen on that.

Still - there I was with one device telling me I am at the mercy of an impersonal government instrumentality and another device telling me that there is always someone better than me. I thanked my agent and that call concluded. Then a Centrelink operator informed me that the payment problem was with my bank rather than with them (checking with the bank tells me that it will be sorted sometime soon).

I made a mistake in hoping for the role. It was nice to think that things may all come together for me. My life has had too many metaphorical cul-de-sacs and I was buoyed by a sense that ones fortunes can always change. Still the feedback of experience says otherwise. This is why I focus much of my energy into my personal life - it consistently gives me good feedback which is in stark contrast to the professional sphere. For someone who lacks those big ticket items we are constantly told we have to have to be a successful person I have a surprisingly fulfilled life. Nonetheless the instant evaporation of hope I experienced today has shaken me rather. Possibly a walk along that creek will put me in a better frame-of-mind. And the sunshine we are getting today is totally free-of-charge yes?

Update

I expressed my feelings via this and other methods and my suspicion was confirmed - asking for help works. I got a lovely interstate text and other messages of support online. Furthermore I got invited to dinner by some friends and taken for a walk at Jells Park a few days later by another friend. Also by coincidence other kinds of communication were forthcoming.

I got contacted by an employer who has employed me on two past occasions to cover for holiday absences wanting me back in a few weeks time. And then I got a call from another employer offering me a longer-term assignment. This is a good thing even if the clash of offers is frustrating. Naturally I will take the longer-term role even if it is further from home. In a few weeks I will be in a position to lunch with fellow city centre workers. And overall thanks to all friends just for who you are.

Cross-posted here.

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18.8.11

Cups And Saucers

A while ago I expressed a desire to discuss starship design in Star Trek specifically. And recently some of my spare time has been filled with looking at many fictitious spacecraft designs. This Fantastic Plastic hobbyist site presents images of many models from decades past and pings many a memory for me. What I am finding most interesting is how the designs are very much the product of the times in which they were conceived, however futuristic their designers wished to make them seem.

Saucers Are So Mid Twentieth Century!

So to start with – the USS Enterprise from Star Trek (1966-1969). Its components are a fascinating product of its times and the intentions of its creators. There is a hint of science fiction rigor in the model in that the warp nacelles are well removed from any crew quarters – separating the obscene energy levels of space-faring engines from habitat modules is a standard consideration in spacecraft configuration. However it is the rest of the Enterprise that is interesting.

The engineering section (secondary hull) is vaguely shaped like a modern naval vessel and that is fitting given that Star Trek writer Gene Roddenberry drew on his naval background in conceiving of Starfleet. But then we move onto the saucer section (primary hull) which is – well – a saucer! The flying saucer was the most popular form for fictional space ships in the 1950s and into the 60s. It was a dominant meme but also one that is now very dated.

Since the 70s saucer-shaped star ships only exist if they are cleverly embellished so that one overlooks the basic form (Cylon Raider from Battlestar Galactica in 1978) or film-makers wish to blatantly pay homage to 50s era alien invasion movies (consider Independence Day in 1996). Hold on – there is one more case in which saucers survived the 60s – in the Federation starships of the many incarnations of Star Trek into the present. They have a sense of nostalgia for the heritage of the show and so every version of the Enterprise has had the same basic form including the ubiquitous saucer section. Somehow they make it work even if it is an amazing anachronism.

Future As Present… Future As Past...

Looking over the many models pictured on that Fantastic Plastic site shows that in many cases a fictional spacecraft will betray its vintage in terms of aesthetic. Rocket ships of the 30s have an Art Deco simplicity. The diversity of forms and colours expanded in the 60s and I wonder if this had anything to do with Psychedelia. By the 90s geometric angles had been supplanted by mock-organic curves and I suspect many everyday products from cars to vacuum cleaners have followed a similar progression.

Accidentally showing your age as a design is one thing but deliberately emulating a past era is another and that is the thing I find most intriguing in fictional spacecraft design. Anyone given the task of designing vehicles for movie adaptations of Jules Verne or H G Wells novels cannot help but employ a Victorian Era look (even if the writers themselves imagined more functional designs). They do it because it fits the vibe of the setting and coz it looks cool.

In Dune (1984) there is a Baroque look in prominence and they do this to suggest an opulent and over-developed future civilization. I think the same look exists in The Chronicles Of Riddick (2004) and making your future setting Baroque looks cool.

There was a hint of World War II utility in the feel of original Star War trilogy (1977-1983) designs and so it was hardly surprising that they then gave everything in the Star Wars prequels (1999-2005) an inter-war era elegance. And once more a lot of it is done to look cool. New and striking forms draw our attention but likewise something familiar helps give us a context within which to fit a thing that is otherwise beyond our everyday experience.

And did I say it looks cool? Whether angular or curved… whether contemporary or retro… whether functional or fanciful… one thing that spaceships need to do is look cool both then and now.

Cross-posted here.

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