Not a political thing; then again, maybe it is…

Speaking of things climatic should soothe us into the realms of the non political; that of course is not so. I wonder if any of Mr. Trump’s people – or the mannikin himself – is aware of NASA’s perspective on climate change; just another expert agency one can safely ignore, I guess. I know that our own PM (Monsieur Turncoat) is ostriching us into higher use of dirty coal and the pockets of mining magnates.

climate-change
Image from Bloomberg site and based on NASA data.

For me, our days now are gravid with climate change; several years of personal recording of temperature and rainfall data where I live offer alarming evidence that (at least in this little corner of the world) things are getting hotter and less pleasant. Average summer maxima and minima have risen by over 2 degrees celsius in the course of just 3 years. Rain falls less frequently but more intensely. The birds and butterflies I know appear and disappear at different times than they used to.  Yes, I hear that it may be a temporary aberration… but it surely feels like so much more, and worse.

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A lovely writer

careynovelcover-hisillegalselfI’m reading Peter Carey’s His illegal self; the back cover blurb put me in mind of Bliss, my favourite of his novels. I have been mightily impressed (again) with his transitions: slick, poetic, expedient. Look at this one, paragraph 3 of chapter one, it follows 2 paragraphs of context and background on the boy (who is one of the novel’s key focalisers): ‘Then, when the boy was almost eight, a woman stepped out of the elevator into the apartment on East Sixty-second Street and he recognized her straightaway…’ The woman is his mother, the boy is Che  (named, we know,  for the revolutionary and icon of 60s protest) and the apartment into which this woman steps is Che’s grandmother’s; the woman who has kept him all these years.

We know, without being told, that this is Che’s mother. In a sentence or two we have a clever juxtaposition of context/background with a child’s here and now. With rescue.

And look at how Carey engineers the ruunign away of mother and son from the grandmother. ‘…out on Lexington Avenue and his grandma was looking for a taxi. The first cab would be theirs, always was [notice how those two final words characterise the grandmother: empowered, privileged; don’t we all want to run away]. Except that now his hand was inside his true  mother’s hand and they were marsupials running down into the subway, laughing.’  No accidental diction here; look at true and marvel at its implications re Che’s perspectives; he is now with his true mother and not with the false one (his grandmother). Marsupials posits a love so close it is pouched, enveloping: the kangaroo with its joey. Coincidentally a metaphor more likely to have been chosen by aa Australian author, which of course Carey is. Lovely prose; still a ways to go with my reading so will need to consider all the other things that go into making books memorable before I add this to Bliss as a book worth re-reading.

 

On Nature deficit disorder

Relph (2011) argues that ‘the deepest sense of place seems to be associated with being at home, being somewhere you know and are known by others, where you are familiar with the landscape and daily routines and feel responsible for how well your place works[1].’ I cannot claim to be responsible for how this place works but I can argue that at least some of what has been done by me in my life (perhaps a familiarity with this place’s rhythms engineers how it works for me) has been protest at the stripping away of nature from treasured places like this one. Such de-naturing, I’d argue, is T. S. Eliot’s ‘shape without form, shade without colour, paralysed force, gesture without motion…'(The Hollow Men, 1925). This place and the ways in which I sense it may be very different from how the Girramay, Bandjin and Warrgamaygan peoples knew it — their perspectives are outside the purview of my allotted span — but what I do love about my relationship and interaction with it is that they have a true form, shade and colour, force. This place asks of me to construct meaningful gestures.

 

If my primary (ostensible) reason has been to fish [this place], then my sense of this place, both real and imagined, reminds me that place, natured place, is far more than this one activity. Fishing it has never fully been my rationale for being there. I feel at home, and, if it were my one last port of call, it would be like going home. I have told people I would like to be buried beneath some tree on its banks, high enough up so that I cannot be washed away in some middling flood but close enough to hear it run, even in dry winters — if such a thing were possible. I am sad that it isn’t but…

Here I am not disordered with nature’s deficit.

[1] A Pragmatic Sense of Place

A deep sense of place

 

 

Extracts from an essay

 

Let me pose a simple yet stubborn question of what you need to imagine are your last days. Suppose that Death — which nearly had you — has let go for a time; a remission which gives you, let’s say, a week’s grace. Maybe two. You are spry and full of life and feel the need to go back to a place that is… special. Somewhere loved, treasured.

Where do you go? And, more importantly, why there?

If you are like me, your place will not be urban. It will be natured and own a spirit; you will have sensed it, received it, deeply1. It will have, to quote geographer Edward Relph2, “a synaesthetic faculty which combines sight, hearing, smell, movement, touch, imagination, purpose and anticipation.” In short, all your senses and all of what your mind desires and anticipates will partake of it. You will use it. Why ‘use’?

For me, its purpose — why you use it —  is a key part of its significance. It feeds all those other reasons you partake of place, of nature.

 

~    ~    ~

 

I shall answer my own intractable question, not out of dire necessity but because to create its answer is to rekindle my sense of why nature and place matter; to re-establish meaning; in imagining it, I am anticipating bringing into being what Richard Louv would call3 a place that restores us, one that feeds a hunger.

My immediate purpose in this place, to be singularly mundane, is fishing. Angling…

When the term “place” is used geographically (as in the expression, “The place where I live is…”), the reference usually seems to be to somewhere about the size of a landscape that can potentially be seen in a single view—for example, a village, small town, or urban neighbourhood.

Edward Relph, 2011, A pragmatic sense of place

 

Google Earth lets me take in this place, from headwaters to confluence with the big river, in that single view. The scale of such a viewing, however, is not really human. Nor practical. Nor what I really know. I have never scaled the ladder of topography (blessed because it is mostly preserved in a National Park) down which the creek descends and have been no further than a two-day fish/walk up from where the creek joins the river. There is more fishing to be had than I have ever done and still parts of this place I’d like to go, different to what I sense and know simply because I’ve never been there. Those places I’ve yet to go, to be, are ones with imagined continuities and dissonances from those I have travelled. A reason to explore; maybe next time.

Though the landscape is dominated hereabouts by beef cattle and mixed farming (lychees, guava, some sugarcane, other exotics) it is the traditional land of the Girramay, Bandjin and Warrgamaygan peoples4. They would have known and loved this place; peopled it with stories, swum in it, worshipped its shade, trapped its eels and snakes and birds, caught its fish, eaten its plants. Like much of the native vegetation in the wider valleys, they were — under the auspices of either pest removal or now-deeply-ironic protection —  fundamentally removed as a significant influence on place after Europeans came here to do what they do in the mid to late 19th century. Down deep in the creek, however, while wading, you can still feel it is as it was when they camped here, fished it, loved it. Riparian vegetation still shades the creek, azure kingfishers (Ceyx azureus) still sit and watch the water — and you, freshwater monitors leap ashore from drowned branches when they hear you coming…

 

1 In A Pragmatic Sense of Place (2008-09), Edward Relph speaks of a distinction between spirit of place and a sense of place. One may say that the difference between them is that the spirit of place, in lying outside us, is essentially transmitted to us. A sense of place is received, interpreted; it lies within us.

2 Relph is cited in Threshold country, by Annamarie Weldon, 2011.

3 See The nature Principle, Human Restoration and the end of nature deficit disorder by Richard Louv, 2011

4 See Queensland Government, Cultural Histories E – I, Hinchinbrook Shire, 2015 and Qld Government, Department of National Parks, Sports and racing (what a strange amalgam), Dalrymple Walking Track, 2016…

 

 

 

 

And now for something… different

Forgive the abridged theft from Monty Python… Lazy titling while on a mobile phone to blame.

I’ve just read an interesting and affirmative piece in the New Yorker, entitled Citizen Khan,  which prompted this response from me.

“As a non-American I took much from this story; it reminded me of what has always been the great promise of US social & political ambition (and unfortunately also of how often that ambition can be frustrated). I was also alarmed at how similar US & Australian histories have been in terms of racist exclusions… think of the White Australian policies of the late 19th & 20th centuries. I do think the journalist might be mistaken when she claims that… “At the start of the Second World War, the United States was the only developed nation other than Germany to explicitly restrict citizenship on the basis of race…” Australia still restricted citizenship & this continued, one could argue, into the early 1970s.”

Trafficville – full draft written; time to let it sit

Finished first full draft of Trafficville- dystopian cyberpunk fiction re gaming, social media and so on; it is 24,600 words, give or take. Probably merde – I’ll follow Mr. Hemingway’s advice and let it sit in my cyber kitchen drawer for a couple of weeks before I have another look.

The final chapter reads:

Chapter Forty-Three

Q and A

 

So here’s a sampling of key Q and A we here at Phantom have dealt with during the beta trial and first three weeks of full release (English version only). Feel free to send us more – remember; this game works best with your interactions built in.

 

Q from Randy in Dallas… If this is meant to be so American I don’t get how come there are no African-Americans in here?

A: I guess you just never played any bits of Trafficville with Benny Goodman, who is Normans’ best friend. He’s just one (the main one) of 17 African American characters written into the mainframe of Trafficville, and he gets a Hispanic girlfriend. Can’t get much more Yankee-doodle than that.

Surely you must have seen at least one darker than average character at some time while you played Trafficville! And no, we didn’t have the police force round them all up, nor shoot them, though that was one reality we did contemplate. Benny does get mobbed by rogue police. We didn’t put that one in – that was outside players messing with the program; we love that Trafficville can take on a life of its own.

Q from Sissy in Duluth Minnesota… How come Adolf Hitler got into the plot; I mean, that was a bit weird?

A: That actually came through one of our beta players and we were as surprised as you to see him walking down Merrie Yngland Drive. But we let it run and it worked out as a game, didn’t it? Had to have good old Norman climb the clock tower, didn’t we, to re-set. Who’d have thought we’d get that lesson in – how easy it is to become a Nazi. We liked what the game taught us with this one.

Q from Wayne in NY… I felt like the game got out of control sometimes; I mean I felt like I was just reacting, not in charge. Was that intentional?

A: Yes, and no. We’ve written so many possible pathways into this (and the lightspeed tech means they’ll run at a natural pace) that we knew the game offered stuff we hadn’t even thought of; it was meant to be like life, after all, unpredictable. We just didn’t know how life-like it could be.

I guess if you’re a real control freak that might get a bit much – but most of our feedback has been that players love that the game doesn’t repeat itself… It is good to just go with the flow… 

Trafficville ~ USA: players and played

Trafficville posits a world – a game space – of shifting possibilities; an ambiguous merging of real and not-real. A series of questions, really: Who is played and who is player? Who is in control: of themselves, of others, of place and time? Should someone be in control? Who accepts the blame should things go wrong? Is anyone responsible for the generalities of what happens? Are ethics even a question in simulated reality (think practice for a bombing run)? What is programming and who is programmed? Who?

SO… here are a few bits along those lines from the draft novel (novella, more like):

I PUT MY HEADPHONES ON

I walk out of my house and I build a wall, straight away. There’s too much out there for me to bear so I put my headphones on and listen to retro stuff; after all, we don’t need no education.
I’m not the only one, dude. Retro nuts, some of ‘em even carrying those old ghetto blasters on their shoulders, but all of us funked up with headies, walking the roads. No need to self drive those hover cars or get a hover bus and be en-canned with too many other folk. Just us, in fact just you, yourself, walking the roads and tuning out the noise.

I put my headphones on
So I can shut out the rest of humanity
I put my headphones on
So I get to live vicariously
And when I’ve got them on
Yeah!
That blues world slips away.

Who am I?
I’m a game player, baby….

 

USE OF THE I…

I like to play games. And that’s despite all the stuff they tell us about what’s wrong with on-line gaming, You know, the normal person plus anonymity plus on-line audience = idiotic behavior. They’ve got that right but you don’t have to play with the idiots. Me and my buddies (some of whom I don’t know from Adam, they might live in India for all I know, but they are still my buddies) – we rag each other but we don’t get nasty and shitty and call each other some of the stuff I’ve seen on-line and if someone new wants to join… Well, we vet them; they are on trial for a while. They know they’re on trial too, so it’s not a secret. We’ve got a good rep out there. Trafficville lets you block players, if you know how – and we do. Ryan, for example, has access to the town’s birth and death records and we could make a player simply disappear by erasing some records; it’s that easy, if you know how.
And why might you do this? Because- as one of my favorite on-line gaming commentators says – “Cheating, team-killing, entering a game but not playing, quitting before the game is over, and more, are all relatively common…’ This guru tells us that this stuff means that “normal people become f*5$^$# on-line.” And he’d know.

Girls don’t play so much as boys but I wonder if some of my gamer buddies are girls; there’s one called Des I figure might be a girl because of the way she plays – she seems to be more in touch with the characters feelings, that sounds sexist, I know, but she does and she plays different. And Des I reckon is short for Desilee (which is the name of one of my sister’s friends) or maybe Desiree and she – in the game – is this scrawny Japanese girl that moved to Trafficville after the Fukushima disaster; that’s her back-story. I reckon Des has got to be female; it’s good having a female player.