Lazy Luddite Log


Memory Cathedral

I spent the past weekend in Adelaide to attend the end of the Adelaide Intervarsity Choral Festival (AIV) 2013. Even just a few days of visiting another city and interacting with interstate friends is both invigorating and exhausting. Here I shall reflect on that and on past choral intervarsity (IV) recollections.

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The choristers of AIV had been to Victor Harbour for rehearsal camp and beautiful shots of that made me wish I had attended fully. On returning the choral contingent continued rehearsing at the University of Adelaide and I witnessed a bit of that. I also got regaled with acts I had missed from the camp revue while sipping a malted milkshake at the Pancake Parlour. Choristers work and play hard and much of what they do is musical.

The next day across the River Torrens this all culminated in a moving performance of works by Rachmaninoff and others at Saint Peter’s Cathedral. The gig was followed by a post-concert party at a bar we had exclusive use of which had a lovely old-world charm and a balcony looking over the city streets. There was singing and drinking and chatter.

The next day a recovery barbeque in Botanic Park allowed for relaxed hugs and final farewells. I miss a score of friends I barely interacted with but I’m still happy I saw them (I cannot name them all but some are depicted in the linked photo album).

My holiday was a truncated one and yet I did manage to spend some quality time with particular friends. I stayed in the Central Youth Hostel with Belinda and we visited the local produce markets, the Museum of South Australia, and a Thai restaurant in North Adelaide. I went lunching and shopping with Lisa and Ayla and got to see costumes they had worked on for assorted IV functions I had missed (particularly impressive is Lisa as a bat). And the long journey by car to-and-from Adelaide allowed me to spend more time with younger MonUCS Varia, Ryan, Meaghan & Ben (whose driving endurance and good cheer is fantastic).

I also spent some of my time alone if only to walk from here to there as I did assorted things. I had been to the City of Churches in the past and the overall lie of the land came back to me pretty quickly. And as I did this wandering the sensation of exploring another city started reminding me of other such experiences and other IVs.

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There is a custom among university choristers of noting the participation of a member in seven consecutive IVs (seven for the seven alternating host cities). I am vague as to whether one has to be a full performing participant to say one has completed a ‘cycle’ so I will simply note here what I have done.

* For MIV 2012 I sang in the first concert of two and otherwise participated socially in the whole festival.

* For PIV 2011 I only visited for the last few days and only saw the second of two concerts. I also spent some of my time just wandering as I had never seen Perth.

* For CIV 2010 the only performing I did was for some promotional singing at the Bus Depot Market. For the fiesta itself however I was ever-present and a very helpful adjunct to the Committee.

* For 60IV (aka H1N1IV) in 2009 I attended for the second half of the festival and sang in the last concert.

* For SIV 2008 I attended for the first half of the festival and sang in the first concert.

* For BIV 2007 I only visited for the last few days and only saw the second of two concerts. This was another new city to me so I did lots of wandering of Brisbane.

Wow. This time seems both short in that it has gone quickly and long in that so much has happened in that timeframe. Also IVs have triggered some significant changes in my life and most of them for the better. Despite my somewhat patchy participation I feel as if I am a part of this crazy never-ending show. Even if I cannot continue to attend future IVs I will still do all I can to preserve friendships formed as a result of these seven amazing festivals.

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You may be familiar with Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds (1978). It is an adaptation of the H G Wells classic science fiction novel War Of The Worlds (1898) in the form of a progressive concept album (which much more recently was made into a live musical). I enjoy the album but there is one part of it that has always annoyed me – the added epilogue.

The story is set in the time H G Wells originally set it but this epilogue has a setting contemporary with that of the music album or sometime in the future. In it the transmission from a NASA mission to Mars is suddenly interrupted and the sound effects used throughout the album to signal Martian presence echo and fade. This track was added, I suppose, to grant a contemporary relevance to the story, and to add an ominous note to its ending, but it annoys me because if human civilization had been almost destroyed by Martians in the 1890s then the subsequent history of space exploration, and indeed the history of all sorts of things, would have been very different.

Imagine your world has been almost conquered by aliens and the only thing that stopped them was Earth bacteria, which the aliens had zero resistance to and, in a display of selective intelligence, had somehow overlooked in their colonization plan. You are yet to have had any kind of human-versus-human world war. Chances are you never will now. All the efforts of all the nations of Earth will be bent towards preventing the Earth from ever suffering again at the hands (pseudopodia) of extra-terrestrials.

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The existence of aliens, let alone hostile aliens, would likely have altered the disposition of humans towards each other. The differences between nation-states and military alliances would be diminished and the overwhelming similarity of humanity would be embraced. The value of saving ourselves from celestial terror would be paramount. It is likely that our emerging defence plans would include forward defence and who could blame us if a motive for this offensive strategy was revenge for all that death and destruction. I envisage a counter-attack directed at Mars with the intention of destroying rather than colonizing that world.

The first rockets – the V2s of Nazi Germany – were operating in 1944. Twenty Five years later, drawing on the same technology, the United States put astronauts on the Moon. Moonshot in 1969 was a product of decades of technological development spurred on by both hot and cold wars, but I suspect a Martian invasion would be an even greater motivator to technological development, assisted, not by super-power competition, but by cooperation between all the great powers.

The ability to get to Mars would also have been assisted by having the abandoned Martian war machines to study. Human ingenuity supplemented by alien tech would assist the process drastically. Still it would depend on the nature of the tech. I get the impression from War Of The Worlds that the Martians travel interplanetary space by means of projectile rather than propulsion. In other words the Martians capsules were thrown to Earth rather than self-propelled and thus key technology would be far away on Mars and impossible to study. On the other hand one could imagine humans developing a different way – possibly propulsion is the human method in my scenario.

If there was a way chances are we would find it. Without two world wars to distract us, and a fervent desire to get back at the bastards, one could imagine us in orbit and on the Moon by the 1920s. And from there? What then? I can imagine us mining the Moon to make artificial meteorites and hurl them at the Martians, causing a planetary extinction event. But would the Martians be prepared for us?

The Martians knew of us since they sent the invasion to us. However that act was itself one of desperation as they are described as coming from a dying world. Possibly, having poured resources into a failed invasion, they would then have turned their efforts back into rehabilitating their own world. Also, they had shown themselves capable of overlooking Earth microbes, so they could very well also overlook Earthlings. It could be that they had one chance, blew it, and now are at the mercy of the new and very dangerous kid on the solar block. I almost feel sorry for the slimy gits.

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To my surprise I recently discovered that someone did think that the natural consequence of the War Of The Worlds story was an Earth retaliation on Mars. What was even more surprising was that this was done later the same year that H G Wells published his novel. I’m sure there are other more recent science fiction novels that do this but for it to have happened then alters some of my perceptions of literature over a century ago. An American author, Garrett P Serviss, published Edison’s Conquest Of Mars without approval from Wells, but with the acceptance of Thomas Edison himself. What this says to me is that fan-fiction is nothing new and that fictionalizing public figures is also old hat. Now it is all the rage – heck I only discovered this because I was reading a historical fiction novel in which Wells and Serviss are characters – but then? I would have expected more propriety in Victorian times. Tells you what I know.

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There are superficially tantalizing aspects to the alternative history I have described. A united world which never had to suffer the trauma of two world wars is an appealing one. A humanity that has ventured into interplanetary space rather than just sent a few toy robots into it is likewise attractive. But other things may have come with this other history. A united world could still be one with lots of problems. The forces of totalitarianism that were developing between the world wars could have also developed but taken on a different form in which jingoism was non-discriminatory and humanocentric. We could have had a regimented planet dedicated to conquest in which everyone had to contribute to the never-ending effort of making sure nothing in the Universe was more threatening than us. This alternative is anything but tantalizing and was ably depicted in the movie of Starship Troopers (1997).

I think I will stick with what we had. And yes of course this is a silly discussion because Wells was simply mistaken – we know now that “the chances of anything coming from Mars” are zilch. Which gets me back to the musical version – we were pretty sure of that in the 70s too and that just makes the added epilogue even more annoying.

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