Archive for May, 2007

May 1, 2007

16 seconds

That’s how long it takes when you wake up your laptop for your mail program to automatcally check your emails. I never knew this until just now. I always click click clicked on get mail as soon as the screen lit up. I couldn’t wait, that would be a waste of time. Time I could spend playing Age of Empires 3. I had reached the Fortress Age and wanted to see what came next. If everybody is famous for fifteen seconds then a whole lifetime of celebrity was contained in that dead down time. The time it took for my airport to connect to my ethernet to log onto my service provider, to check my inbox and route any messages down onto my laptop. By all rights this sounds like it should take weeks. In fact I have actually met an old Italian guy who when he was a teenager would deliver the post to villages way up the valley from his in the winter on foot, or on ski-shoes. It took him sixteen hours to get from where he was to a place called Rialdo and back, stopping off for supper in a village called Creppo. In our relay race to the future, this man passed me the baton of his story.

Is there a phrase to decribe the sound that your computer makes when you click on get mail and you haven’t got any. ‘Sickening downbeat ding’ isn’t good enough. For me the concise sound contains all the gravity and loneliness of say a Shostakovitch symphony, a terrible discordant punctuation of the daily failures of living a logged on life. If it is a pleasure, if your heart lifts when you come back to your laptop after minutes away, swiftly mouse your curser over the magnified dock and see thered circle stamped (or should I say franked) with a number bigger than one in it, then boy you have been a long time dead.

I found myself wanting to raise my arm in a ‘Seig Heil!’ on the glass steps of the staircase at the regent street flagship branch of Apple computers. An involuntary rasing of the right arm. I was sweating and had just bought something I didn’t want that lurked at the bottom of a drawstring see-through bag slung over my left shoulder, waiting, counting down the time until I would ravenously unwrap it, whatever it was.

Back in ‘Age of Empires 3’, a place in truth I have never left I have finally made it to the industrial age and have upgraded my mortars, my deep mining ability and also clad all my fighting ships in iron, therby bolstering their defences. Clever me.

The thing is when you play this game in full screen mode you can still here the sound the mail program makes when you get new mail. The upbeat ding, the Vivaldi sound. The dilemma is whether to immediately exit ‘Age of Empires 3’ or continue playing, forging ahead with industrialisation and allow whatever mails you mght get to accrue. Store themselves up for when you save and finsih the game, eye sick from staring at your 15 inch screen for two and a half hours with the door shut.

Hands up who shouts down ‘I’m working! in annoyed tones to your wife/partner. All they were doing is seeing if you wanted a cup of tea.

Everything I write sounds like a deposition at the Nuremberg trials.

And it could all have been so different. randomly walking into a McDonalds the other day i realsied we are more than a little in love with death. All the fat people, the fat dads, the fat sons dressed identically to the fat dads in tracksuits, the fat mums jeans straining at the gut as they st down to burgers and fries, the gaudy pastel colours, the contemprariness of the furniture, the smiles of the shift workers, the team leaders behind teh counter revving teh staff up for the lunchtime rush. And to think these are the people, this great big us that is going to save the planet. Forget about it It’s already over. Now I am stuffing a quarterpunder with cheese int my face, my throat constricting at the presence of something that feels like a slick piece of cardboard, the McNuggets with sweet and sour sauce to come next as my entree.

I taste this meal for three days, voluntarily burping it up, a strangely reassuring taste and aftersmell filling the back of my mouth.

With mortar and cannon I prepare to smash the fortifications of the british soldiers. My lancers and mercenary cavalry have already been sent into the forest to act as a decoy, a lure for the superior forces of the imperial empire.

When I turn my computer off I can only think about sex and reading and wine.