Lazy Luddite Log

30.8.12

Gumshoe Telepath: Mirrors

It is over twelve months since the last instalment of this story but it takes me ages to get the concepts and motivation to make these happen. The key concept of this chapter – Mirror Neurons – is one I knew I wanted to use for several months but only now do I have a go at writing.

By the time we got back to my apartment the media were buzzing with news of the assassination of the Congress Minority Leader. We had to get past that however and focus on finding a parallel event happening in another part of the world. We had returned to Casa Derrick because we wanted both privacy and my criminally superb home access to the Net.

Our progress was frustratingly slow. Kristen was hampered by the fact that I eschewed TINI interfaces in my home and she had to use touch sensors and vocal recognition just like me. I was hampered by the fact that every bloody time I looked at a report of a murder I wanted to cry. The last time I had been that much of a pansy was as a teenager watching gritty history docos. I must have been feeling the pressure of our predicament.

In scouring the Net we were looking for any attacks on those we guessed could detract from the power of centralizing global government. Who, other than the Congress Minority Leader, represented the greatest obstacle to world domination? We considered the presidents of nation-states that had declined membership of Global Monetary Integration. We looked at military admirals and generals with a popular profile. We even looked at those actors who flirted with sub-cultures deemed non-rational by the Government Majority.

Nothing much seemed conclusive. None of the incidents we looked at fit the behaviour patterns of our suspected Twin Telepath Assassins. Eventually Kristen declared it was coffee time so we moved from my study-loft to my couch pit.

“What are we overlooking Kristen?”

I was exasperated and my telepathic partner in crime-busting seemed frustrated too. She glanced over the rim of her mug at me with what looked like a hint of resignation.

“Do we have to do this Derrick? Have we even asked ourselves whether this is a job for us anymore? Gangland murder is one thing and political assassination is another.”

Kristen had a point. The fact that we had only just now even contemplated the impact of the changing scenario for us showed just what dogged investigators we were. But did it matter to us anymore?

“You think we just pack it in then Kristen?”

“Well we can report what we know, rather than what we suspect, and let the Cops take care of the rest of the Masonite-O’Leery case. This is so totally beyond us and we have lives to get on with.”

I liked living a small and private life but I also was surprised that Kristen was the one suggesting we let this one go. Between the two of us it was she that was the authority-condemning radical.

“So you reckon we just let your predicted dictatorship take hold?”

“Derrick this is dangerous and we have loved-ones this could affect too. Dammit”

“What?”

“I’ve totally forgotten to check my personal messages the last few days. Give me a few beeps.”

I let Kristen return to the loft while I stared absent-mindedly at my pixel-wall. The apparent bricks were slowly morphing from granite to sandstone. Usually that relaxed me but today I was just too perturbed.

“Fuck!”

Kristen had exclaimed audibly and I rushed to her.

“What’s the matter kid?”

“Dr Pax is dead. He drowned in his own spa. Police say it was an accident but many of his protégés – telepaths like me – find the whole thing very suspicious…”

Kristen was visibly distressed and I felt her shock and sorrow. She must have been projecting in this stressful moment. And along with emotions came thoughts too, startling thoughts.

“Kristen… how could your mentor be a threat to the Government?”

“Mirror Neurons, Derrick.”

“Okay…”

I knew enough to know that Mirror Neurons were brain cells that allowed us to imitate the actions of others. They were also widely held to be the biological font of empathy – one mimicked others by constructing mental models allowing one to feel as others felt.

Despite my awesome trivia mastery I looked puzzled so Kristen elaborated for me.

“Dr Pax was investigating the stimulation of Mirror Neuron development via telepathic means. He felt that such an ability could be incredibly useful in all sorts of conflict resolution scenarios.

Suddenly something dawned on me.

“Hey Kristen did that thing you did to me at the Roundtree have anything to do with Mirror Neurons?”

“Yes.”

“Coz I’ve been wanting to cry all day.”

“I may have boosted your compassion in the process of getting you to understand me…”

“Boosted my compassion? Thanks a whole bunch!”

I felt like launching into a rant at Kristen regarding this affront to my rugged personality but was distracted by the whirring of an unusually low-flying hovercopter over my apartment block. A moment later Kristen grabbed me by the shoulders.

“There are several minds – the ultra-disciplined military kind – on the roof of these apartments and…”

“And what Kristen?”

“A Twin is with them!”

“Shitburgers!”

I rushed to secure the door then changed my mind. In that same instant Kristen started staring intently at the door and muttered “I can totally make them overlook your front door…”

“Forget it – there is more of them and they have a telepath too. We gotta get away and fast!”

I grasped my jacket from the hat stand by the door and threw Kristen her trench coat. I then rushed to the window, opened it, and gestured for Kristen to get onto the fire escape. She took my suggestion and started rushing down the steps, three floors of them, towards the network of alleyways of my neighbourhood. I followed her down the steps just as a violent banging started at my door.

I felt to make sure I had a gun in my jacket, and I did, but I also suspected that getting away was by far the best thing we could hope to do. Someone very nasty and determined was after us. I wondered exactly what the connection between Dr Pax and Kristen had been but it was hardly the best time for questions. Once more we had to run for our lives.

This chapter feels a bit forced. I move from dialogue to science fiction concept to action and hope it all flows and makes sense. Still it now feels like the story is coming to some kind of conclusion and that in itself is heartening.

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

Cross-posted here.

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15.8.12

Interstatedness


At the end of last month I went to the Northern Territory. As a result I have now been to every Australian state and territory. In the process I have visited every Australian capital city (in some cases the capital was my visit to a particular state). This all started as a result of conversations had with German relatives back in 1995 that set me on a kind of 'quest' to see more of Australia. I will summarise those travels herein.

Victoria

I was born and have lived here all my life bar 12 months. It is home and a good state to live in I think. I criticise the climate like most Melburnians but I think I am suited to a temperate zone. I enjoy living in a big metropolis with access to both hills and bays. I have everything I need and almost everything I want here. The only thing missing is some faraway friends. But then they play a key part in helping one travel so I cannot object all that much to even that lack.

I was more lucky than many children in that the family left the city for holidays. One trick of ours was to stay in cottages on farms in rural Victoria (the farmers would have made a better farm house befitting an affluent demographic and preserved the older house to hire to holidaying city-slickers). In this and other ways I had been all over the state by my adulthood. Mind you there are still things I want to see sometime like Crater Lake and Gabo Island. Still that will come with time I expect.

But back to Germany. My relatives there were fascinated by Australia which seemed like some exotic frontier to them. Naturally they quizzed me on what it was like and I told them astounding things like our huge landmass and our tiny population and so forth. And yet it struck me as odd that I had barely seen any of what I was describing. It was from that moment that I decided to get to every state and territory. I am shocking at long-term plans and so the fact this has happened is worth documenting.

Australian Capital Territory

I started my visits beyond my home state with the national capital of Canberra. I also started my habit of making use of voluntary associations to help me in my quest. In this case I was attending the Young Australian Democrats (YADs) National Conference 1996. A car-full of us drove all the way there. It was exciting to be collected from my home (at the time my first share household of Cesspool) and go all the way chatting with new friends (none of whom I am in contact with now). Some of our conversation was heavy politics I imagine but there was also silly stuff such as our decision that the 'south' of any given locality is always the more bogan part.

Anyway Canberra was something entirely new to me - it felt more like a university campus that had spilled into the surrounding suburbs. It is very planned and cultivated and back then it was particularly interesting to me as the centre of Australian Democracy. We even held some of our conference proceedings in New Parliament side rooms.

As well as the first city I visited, Canberra is also the one I visited most frequently and, eventually, even lived in. I returned there for a full party National Conference and another YADCon and even just on drives there with friends to visit other friends. Finally in 2009-10 I lived there but it had nothing to do with politics - rather it was to live with my then partner Petra. During that twelve months we also helped facilitate the Canberra Intervarsity Choral Festival 2010. In other states the Choral Intervarsity Movement has been even more useful to me than the Australian Democrats as a way of completing my quest.

New South Wales

Naturally I experienced New South Wales in visiting the ACT by car. However it was later that I made a specific road trip to Sydney. This was the first of many road trips with Sean. If memory serves we transported a friend of his to Canberra and then went onto Sydney to stay with my friend Nadine, who had gone to Monash Uni but worked at the time in the Navy and lived in Woolloomooloo close to the navel base there. Wandering round Sydney it stuck me how very different it was from Melbourne. It was more hilly and therefore provided me vistas of its close-packed skyscrapers. It was warmer and humid. It felt more busy and vibrant. It made me a bit nervy. I have been back there many times now whether for a party conference or a choral festival. Most recently I visited and stayed with choral friend Lisa during the most recent Australia Day. They seem that bit more into that event there than here. Hardly surprising since the date celebrated is the arrival in 1788 of the First Fleet in the vicinity of what is now Sydney.

South Australia

So far I have been to South Australia twice. Once was on an epic road trip with Sean and this time we were accompanied by my brother Lukas. We decided to drive via the coast and made minimal plans. We got into Mount Gambier, just across the border, by nightfall and managed to find a motel that would accommodate us. The next day we saw Blue Lake and what an odd thing that is. Then we drove onwards though marshland and farmland and hills to Adelaide. We had fish and chips on a beach. We got a room in a backpacker. We spend the next day driving to the Barossa Valley and back. We decided to take the short way home via an inland route. On the way we also saw Pink Lake (a salt-flat) and Green Lake. Ever since we have called that journey the Colour Lakes Tour even if it all happened by chance. The second visit was to help in a state election there and I was billeted by fellow Australian Democrats. That was a lot of fun in its own way too.

Tasmania

By the turn of the century I had been to Canberra, Sydney and Adelaide. It took a bit longer to get to Tasmania on account of the fact you cannot just drive there. Nonetheless in 2002 I got together with Sean and his friend Olivia and we drove a car onto the Spirit Of Tasmania. We disembarked at Devonport and drove the long way, via Penguin and Queenstown, to Hobart, getting into town just in time to find a servo that would sell us petrol, and a backpacker, the Pickled Frog, still open and with spare room for us. We had a lovely time wandering round Hobart, driving to the top of Mount Wellington, driving southward somewhat and taking a ride on a jet boat. We then drove to Launceston for me to get a flight back home, in time for a state election here (yes I had abandoned a few days of campaigning for a holiday). Since then I have been back to Tasmania another time for a choral intervarsity festival (IV).

Queensland

I have only been to Queensland once and never left the confines of metropolitan Brisbane. I visited for a few days of the most recent Brisbane IV which I document in another part of this blog. It was a lot of fun to experience yet another city and a dose of winter sunshine.

Western Australia

Likewise my one experience of Western Australia to date was confined to metropolitan Perth (I include Fremantle in that). I blogged on the topic. It was also for the most recent Perth IV. Once more I got extra Vitamin D and a lot of fun.

Northern Territory

Finally we come to my recent holiday which is unusual in that I travelled alone and got share accommodation (at the Darwin Youth Hostel) with complete strangers. In my one visit to the Territory I had nothing to do with a political or choral event of any kind. I was just there to see something new and to visit some friends. Those friends were Eugenie & Sahardi (along with kids and pets) who live in Katherine. So my visit was a kind of Katherine sandwich made with Darwin bread (Darwin then Katherine then Darwin).

It was particularly fun to visit Katherine and wander round the whole town and get shown the local hot springs and attend a party held by my hosts. It was also interesting to just wander round the city of Darwin and observe all the tourist industry which seems to drive that town. I attended some nice night markets by the beach but I also did some very non-touristy things like killing time in the local cinemas. I also experienced some moments of personal introspection.

Me

At my recent birthday party I made a somewhat tipsy speech regarding whether I felt forty and it was far from coherent. Wandering round Darwin however it became very coherent: I feel nothing like I would imagine an adult of forty should feel (particularly if you factor other vital statistics of mine into the mix). Someone in his prime should be alone in a new city while still in his own nation and feel secure and self-assured. I however was always somewhat alert and tense and aware of my self and my belongings. And as much as I enjoyed seeing new things I also wanted the time to pass quickly so I could go home. I felt more child than adult but possibly that is what it is to be a stranger.

Nonetheless I am happy to have been to the Territory and gotten my mid-winter dose of tropical sunshine. I have enjoyed noting all the tiny differences from one city to another. I value having friends who live far away as well as ones who live round the corner or even down the hall. I smile as I think how I have ruthlessly utilized my time as a political hack and (more recently) as a chorister to travel on a budget. However I also am happy that I can stay close to home and notionally visit the world in the form of information and imagination.

Cross-posted here.

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