Monday, February 28, 2005

Far From Home

Friday night we left at around 7:30pm Queensland time. I had never travelled so far on the road in my life; across the border to New South Wales - losing an hour to daylight savings - driving inland and arriving at the large wheat farm in the state's centre just as the sun was rising on Saturday morning.

We were down for the christening of a friend's niece and nephew and also to see the farm he had grown up on. Many hectares spread out in all directions from the house where we were staying, tiny in comparison. The second summer with no considerable rainfall compounded the intense dry heat that seemed to engulf the calm expanse.

Saturday afternoon we took a short drive around some of the property, with someone suggesting that I might be able to get some good shots from the ladder of the old windmill in the field. It somehow seemed quite a bit higher after I had climbed up there than it did from the ground.

Good to climb up for the view, but glad to return to solid ground. Good to travel down for the experience, wide open spaces, the yawning countryside, but glad to get back home again, back to where you once belonged.

Shadows over the farm

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Damselflies In Distress

Damselfies and dragonflies are two distinct species in the order Odonata. The damselfly, although quite similar to the dragonfly in many respects, can be most easily distinguished by the position of its wings when at rest, which lay together along the body, rather than spread out horizontally. Damselflies in addition, are usually more slender, weaker fliers and have a feminine look to them - hence the name. I wonder what the male damselflies might think about that, if they only knew.

Our two goldfish, white in colour, Snow White & The Seven Dwarves had gobbled down all of the nice looking water plants that I had purchased for them from the local pet shop. So I wasn't about to spend any more money on store bought water flora, when I knew that large masses were growing down in the waters of Kedron Brook for free.

Venturing down to the creek bed and after gathering some water weed into a two litre Coke bottle, I decided to sit for a little, taking a few pictures, quietly observing nature's private life. As I sat, I noticed a number of dragonflies, a few bright red, a few deep violet, dashing here and there, all aflutter chasing after one another in search for a mate. I sometimes wonder if we would look so flighty and absurd in our intricate dances of dating and courtship if viewed from the outside, a distant observer.

One memory that distinctly remains with me from my childhood happened when I spotted a light blue damselfly perched on the tip of a tree branch. It had been a particularly hot summer and there were flies everywhere - the common household variety. So as I was watching this bright blue damselfly on the branch, a housefly landed on my forehead and before I knew what happened, the damselfly flew up, grabbed the fly from my brow and landed back on the branch, proceeding to devour the helpless insect alive. Quite an experience.

Damsel or dragon?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Hand in Hand Through Their Half-Life

"Did the lungfish refuse to breathe air? It did not. It crept forth boldly while its brethren remained in the blackest ocean abyss, with lidless eyes forever staring at the dark, ignorant and doomed despite their eternal vigilance." --Wallace Breen, Half-Life2

Oh, look at the time. Have I really been playing for that long? I can feel now I'm getting rather close to the end of the noticeably linear narrative of Half-Life 2, but I've put the world of Gordon Freeman on hold for the moment, a story to continue another day - most likely tomorrow, as it seems to be quite addictive.

There is one part where Alyx and Gordon teleport back to City 17 and are unaware that a whole week has passed for everyone else during their transport, seeming a mere instant for them. When I save and exit, all the characters in the game become frozen in stasis while the real world rolls on, waiting oblivious for however long it takes to load their lives up again, perhaps forever.

In days gone by, I would at times ponder the possibility that just a moment ago, our reality had been on pause for a few million, million millennia. Maybe some higher intelligence was taking a coffee break from his regular interactive entertainment, although I couldn't imagine this world would be at all that exciting most of the time; no monsters, no aliens, but I could be wrong.

Hand me that pheropod would you dear? Cheers.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

When I'm x64

"Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty-four" --The Beatles, When I'm Sixty-Four

I built up a system for a friend of mine, who really needed an upgrade, using some of my old parts, giving me an excuse to upgrade myself. Half-Life 2 had just recently arrived in the mail, with which my old system was struggling a little. After quite a bit of effort and frustration, my new AMD Athlon 64 3500+ is now chugging away, processing 64 little ones and zeros at a time. Half-Life 2 is now running like a dream.

Incidentally, next year Sir Paul McCartney I believe will be turning sixty-four, a long time since Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band came out; long before I was even conceived of. The strange thing is, that when I inevitably turn sixty-four, this new computer will be but the distant memory of a technological antiquity.

The new box

Friday, February 18, 2005

Five Cents Short

Earlier today at the shops, I was half way through lunch - which was just a little bit spicy - when I felt I really needed a drink of some kind. I looked over at the prices of the pineapple juice, $2.30. I counted up all the change I had left, $2.25 just five cents short.

After looking around hopefully on the ground, I noticed the person at the next table had a stack of coins piled up. They were kind enough to part with one of their five cent pieces and I was able to buy the drink.

Later on, walking out of Woolworths, I happened to spot the shiny sparkle of a five cent coin on the ground in front of me. It seems always when you're not looking for something, that's when it shows up.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The World of Tomorrow, Yesterday

What amusing little predictions and premonitions of the future we have, visions of days to come. The human mind can pride itself with the uncanny ability to extrapolate from current perceptual data, how things may be some time from now. The further into the future the mind ventures however, the less confident its predictions become.

It is possible that one minute and twenty-nine seconds from now, the universe will come to an end and all will cease to exist, yet little weight seems placed on this scenario. So I continue on life as usual, with an almost certain assumption that we will all still be here when the clock strikes twelve and a new day has begun. From our thoughts of what will come, projecting forward in time, temporary time travellers in the mind, chaotic possibilities split off into ever growing uncertainties.

Countless films depicting days of tomorrow have passed by into the memories of yesterday, yet which of these, now that the present has had time to catch up, has shown us an accurate portrayal of the way things are? Why should history be written and the future, the further you look, increasingly be so utterly unpredictable? A relatively recent trend are those movies that combine futuristic elements and ideas with a historic setting or style. Sky Captain, which we went to see tonight, was one of these. Things not as they are, not as they were, not as they will be, but perhaps how they might have been.

Polly Perkins and Sky Captain (if that is his real name)

Monday, February 14, 2005


"Point is, what's so wonderful is that every one of these flowers has a specific relationship with the insect that pollinates it. There's a certain orchid look exactly like a certain insect so the insect is drawn to this flower, its double, its soul mate, and wants nothing more than to make love to it. And after the insect flies off, spots another soul-mate flower and makes love to it, thus pollinating it. And neither the flower nor the insect will ever understand the significance of their lovemaking. I mean, how could they know that because of their little dance the world lives? But it does. By simply doing what they're designed to do, something large and magnificent happens. In this sense they show us how to live - how the only barometer you have is your heart. How, when you spot your flower, you can't let anything get in your way." --John Laroche, Adaptation

I've found when time is in such scant supply, weekends become golden, though often so very fleeting. By Sunday evening, you begin to wonder as to what exactly that ever so valuable time was spent on and whether any good has come of your weekend exploits. Where does each passing week go as it falls past into our own personal history, inseparable from our separate individual reality?

Enjoying my Saturday without agenda, I sat out back, absent minded and relaxed, when my attention was caught by the movements of a few honeybees, busily buzzing around from flower to flower, attending to their daily food gathering duties. It reminded me a little of a scene from Adaptation showing the inseparable, symbiotic nature of insect and flower. Later, after everyone had left, I stayed up to see it again.

Last night we watched the Farrelly Brothers film Stuck on You, conjoined twins played by Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear, not letting anything - especially not each other - hold them back from their dreams, standing inseparable in the face of adversary through all their adventures. It was a real laugh of course, but also I thought, kind of inspiring at the same time. Last week marked my final week working full time and I have resolved to make the most of my future free time from now on, though I know as well as any, that doesn't always prove to be easy. Perhaps I’ll find my flower.

Soul mates

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Lady Luck and the Step Ladder

Construction and modification continue at the new office building. Arriving at work this morning, I noticed a large step ladder blocking the path down the hall. While carelessly ducking under it to get past, a trace of superstition came upon my mind for contemplation and I found myself light-heartedly joking to myself on the possible state of my luck over the next seven years - or was that only for broken mirrors? I can never remember.

As it happens, the day as it unfolded was not one of the greatest. For a start, I was feeling a little drowsy due to lack of sleep the night before; the volunteer for the day called in sick, leaving me with nearly double the usual work load and on top of that, one of our nurses was involved in a car accident on their way to see a client. After work I was stuck in a traffic jam for nearly an hour on the way to Mum's and when I got there, I discovered that I had forgotten the modem drivers that I was going to install.

Of course I don't believe in all of that superstitious nonsense, that the ladder in the morning had anything at all to do with the incidents of the day, yet somehow I can't help surmising that perhaps had I not stepped under that ladder, things may have been different. I wonder whether the day would have been the same, had I not been aware of the superstitions associated with walking under ladders or if I honestly believed that this act would bring grave misfortune.

I am currently re-reading The Richest Man in Babylon and have coincidentally come to the chapter on luck, the Babylonian Goddess of Good Luck and ways she can be seduced or something like that. I also just finished reading quite a good book called The Broken Dice, all about the metaphysics of chance and luck, the author tying it all together nicely with tales from Norweigan folklore.

Alexander entering Babylon - Le Brun, c. 1664

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Being Samus Aran

(The living room; under a spinning ceiling fan; a lone soul sits alone, controller in hand, gazing at the screen.)

I've fought my way through the obligatory fire and lava stage, battling fire-breathing serpents and these little luminescent flying things that let off clouds of green toxic gas when you shoot them. And now, through one of the many large elevator shafts, seem to have reached the absolute antithesis of my former world, the mandatory ice stage, naturally.

Metroid was one of the very first games I played on my cousin Andrew's NES, a long, long time ago, when home videogame consoles were just starting to take off and all the games had those good old chunky graphics. He'd finished the game of course and showed me this one part, right at the end I think, where Samus - the player's character - is shown, out of her suit; pixelated blonde hair flowing in the breeze. I remember being quite surprised, realising that it was a girl I had been controlling on the screen, when I just assumed, without even a thought really, that underneath the shining red armour was either just robotic parts or a regular computer game character, typically male.

I wonder if, had the decision not been made to markedly distinguish Samus’s gender, that the original Metroid may have passed the way of so many other action/shoot'emup video games that have come and gone over the years. Instead, the chatacter Samus Aran has been instrumental in keeping the Metroid franchise alive all this time. She has jumped from system to system, finding a new life within each.

It's the clothes that make the girl

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Emergent Lives

The living city sits steadfast on the shores of the river, it's reaching tendril streets outstretched across the land, a monumental mass of arteries and veins, circulating lives, feeding the ever-growing centre. The millions playing out their wearied existence, clumped together within the giant, complex behemoth, interact and organise in their ongoing attempts to fulfil day to day desires. Amongst this intricate system, various recognisable patterns take shape above the emerging lives.

Friday night was a friend's birthday dinner to attend; last minute gift anxiety, countered by a lot of chocolate mud cake. Saturday night, people over for drinks, music, a movie and videogames, warming the new place. Today we were expected for lunch at the Southbank Turkish restaurant Ahmet's, meeting Jim from work and others for the first Sunday of the month drumming and belly dancing, having missed the last few occasions.

As for the rest of the rather warm afternoon, it was spent relaxing at the over-chlorinated artificial beach in the parklands, surrounded by hundreds of other lives, swimming and splashing, without a care. We watched Taking Lives with Angelina Jolie and Ethan Hawke tonight - they were in it I mean. To experience life as another is an interesting thought, though not easily achieved. I wonder whether perceptions would be dramatically different; perhaps everything would remain relatively unchanged.

Over the river to Brisbane City

Friday, February 04, 2005

Well That's Just Perfect

"The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life." --Katsumoto, The Last Samurai

Time's value is not fully appreciated until you find its relative abundance suddenly lacking. I've finally been able to watch The Last Samurai all the way through, free from interruptions. Although now I find that the night seems to have slipped away and by the minute I can almost sense my morning self becoming a little more annoyed with my present night self.

Last night I was out in the city with friends. Peter, understandably not wanting to pay the inordinate prices they charge for drinks in some of these places, decided it might be a good idea to look around for a bottle shop and pick up a few. There was only the slight problem of finding a place to drink them afterwards.

I remembered that Jerry would most likely be staying at Lyn's place on Margaret Street, so I suggested we give her a call. That way we'd be able to have a few drinks before going out and finally get to see if where Lyn is staying is really as tiny as Jerry keeps telling us. It was quite small – crowded even with just a few of us – just a single small bedroom, adjoining petite kitchen and a little tucked away bathroom. I'm not sure if I could live like that; good view and great location though.

I first saw The Last Samurai in the cinemas when it first came out and was rather impressed after not quite knowing what to expect. Perhaps we're all just wandering through life, toiling, an inane search for that one perfect blossom. In the end do we see the truth?

"I see your schwartz is as big as mine"

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Stepping Over Mind Fields

A quick scan around the room and on my desk produces a count of around seventeen individual well-known brands, LG, Epson, Sony, that have managed to somehow infiltrated my life, Coca-Cola, Nintendo, Adidas, and subsequently have found their way from my mind, through motions of fingers upon the keys, into words upon the screen, Microsoft, Logitech, Google.

On TV tonight was a documentary called The Persuaders, all about modern advertising and the lengths that major brands go to, trying to incorporate themselves into the consumer lifestyle, or better yet, make consumers incorporate themselves into the lifestyle the brand is portraying. Advertising is everywhere these days (look up), with each company vying for a spot in your mind, already cluttered with a million other advertisements, elaborate formulas of influence, each designed with one purpose: to (en)lighten your wallet.

A few books were due back, so I found myself again browsing the shelves of the library. I came across this book on Hypnotism called Hidden Depths: The Story of Hypnosis and amongst some other photos, there was a picture of an amusing 1960s ad for a "new modernized method of getting girls" using hypnosis. Promising testimonials, money back guarantee, all the tricks of the trade. I wonder if it really works.

1960s sexual conquest through hypnosis