3 March 2005
SEX IN THE STROKE WARD
Journal of a Futurist
Yes, Ive been on strike. Downed tools after labouring so long in the salt mines of cyberspace and missing the sunshine. Back to the surf, back to bush; adrift in the sweet sleep of forgetfulness, averting my eyes from the foul crows of Christendom the ones whose pre-emptive assaults are still spilling blood, though you wont see the corpses on TV. To achieve this honour as with the tsunami casualties - you need to be a group victim of God or geology, not of our invasion.
Why are we still bombing the homes of those we claim to be liberating? Official reasons keep shifting. But enough of that here. I can no longer stand the tone of my voice when discussing the war, the cowardice of our media, the indifference of citizens. We care more about the state of our mortgage than the slaughter and torture of foreigners. A nation of debtors is a nation of deadheads. John Howard marched into Baghdad to put a stop, as he stirringly told us, to put a stop to the notorious Human Shredding Machine. It wasnt there, of course. Now we are surrounded by Human Lying Machines, one of whom is our Prime Minister.
But as I said, enough! This journal is supposed to chronicle the life and times of a futurist, not dwell on the depravities of leaders whose mission is to enhance the prestige of the West in a way that achieves the opposite. Of course modernising and democratising the middle east is a worthwhile project, but not by imposing Western terror, razed cities, puppet leaders and systemic torture...puppet leaders and systemic torture. Oh, shut up Dick, from now on, my views on the invasion and its aftermath will be found at the blog, When the Web Mistress Sleeps'. This page, Journal of a Futurist, will resume its focus on what lies ahead, rather than on what lies our political gangsters are peddling.
A toy ad from Parade magazine
For latest war links, see HOTLINKS in the right hand column
THE INDIAN SUMMER OF
Plastered with sun-block under a silly hat, I sat on the beach at Byron Bay, watching the i-Pod generation hurl itself into the outer reaches of human pleasure. Bronzed Gods with rippling sixpacks kite-surf across breakers, and teenage sirens captain catamarans. The end of January, the holidays supposedly over, but the sands are as clogged as a Bondi Xmas. Under palm fronds a Japanese couple with intimations of dreadlocks keyboard gigs from the Byron Echo into a palmtop; whispering of Bo Diddley. Youngsters whoosh through the skies on flimsy sets of wings or plunge to the deep with designer oxygen tanks. A whiff of Cappuccino drifts from the café, the ice-cream tricycle is encircled by a volley-ball team. My youth flashes by.
What pleasures awaited us between high school and job? Bugger all, by todays standards. A family picnic, the drive-in, an inflatable vulcanised surfmat. A grey man in a grey suit on a grey TV playing cha cha records. Until the 60s got into its stride, it was artificial coffee, gender apartheid and looking forward to Cinemascope. Prior to the summer of 1964, it had not yet dawned on a single Australian male that women were hot blooded. The Saturday night plan of attack was to trick a date into dropping her guard, usually to no avail. Our bodies were yuk, our teeth were crooked, our foreplay was thug-like.
For all the crassness, cruelty and materialism of life in the third millennium, our kids seem to be having a ball. Indian take-aways, music downloads, Virgin getaways. Style has invaded the kitchen sink, alcopop stacks the fridge, and the pirated DVDs of Sex in the City are educating the babysitters and maybe even the baby . Dads on Viagra, mums on Desperate Housewives and the girl next door according to one website is flinging herself at mechanised dildos. No wonder the boys have gone to the gym.
TAKING THE TIGER OUT OF THE TANK
Will the Boomers make up for their late start? A sexualised culture, easy divorce and prolonged lifespans could mean that most of the sex in the coming decades will be enjoyed by people over 50 and not just by Jack Nicholson. When average age stretches into the 90s, people will be sexually active for 75 years, even if the climax will be in slow motion. (The Futurist, Nov-Dec 2004).One day the Silver Singles Scene will brighten up the Byron Blues Festival, the clash of zimmer frames confusing the dolphins.
Baby Booming around the clock
Its odd that no-one has told the oldies that Viagra isnt compulsory. Socrates welcomed the decline of his sex drive, likening it to being unchained from a tiger. Personally, I cant wait, and this isnt a boast. During a group tour of the stroke ward, some of us lamented the lack of an anti-Viagra at the corner store and came up with a brand name: Downboy®. Anything to avoid the horrors of free love at the hospice. Years ago I was a perennial guest at Amsterdams Wet Dream Film Festival, but now its time to leave the building. In one episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, a murder victim is revealed to be part of a community of plushies, those who enjoy sex while dressed up as stuffed animals. Go for it Fido, by all means, but Ill settle for a dose of Downboy®. Like the future, getting stuffed isnt what is used to be.
Of course I am fearful about the unfolding of theme park Byron, which some of us have been monitoring for over 30 years. Dire predictions have already come true. The millionaires are descending with dumb plans and bright lawyers to eradicate the very qualities that make the area unique, bringing gridlock, schoolies week, McMansions. The local council is on a war footing, the local paper leads a gallant crusade. For the most part, the out-of-town pleasure seekers are oblivious to the threats facing their playground. In times past, tourists moved on to the next string of undiscovered beaches, but now there arent any.
HIT WITH 40,000 ADVERTSING MESSAGES ANNUALLY
Is it a slur on Gen Y, also known as the millennials (1984-2000), to suggest that the call of the wild is being replaced by the call of the mall? Brand awareness arrives at age three and shopping begins at age six, according to Juliet Schor in Born to Buy. A US university study has found that 10% of millennials can be classified as clinically compulsive spenders, compared to 5% for Gen Xers and 1%-3% for boomers. This is excellent news for those who believe the world progresses by shopping, like our Treasurer. For those who believe the consumer society is hurtling towards the abyss, the only parachute is total sustainability. Is there enough time? After 10 years on the futurist circuit, I can report that more and more people and professions are rising to the challenge. Heres a chunk of an address to the Eco-Edge conference dinner in Melbourne last month, hosted by the Australian Green Building Council, which did not result in a fusillade of rotten eggs. While motor vehicles account for about 7% of pollution, keep in mind that according to US figures, the embodied energy of todays buildings account for almost half of total energy consumption, as well as greenhouse gases.
THE FUTURE OF PROPERTY
On top of the challenges of building for a market where tastes can fluctuate dramatically, costs rise and bureaucrats dig in their feet, you people are now faced with the mother of all demands to play a key role saving the planet. To design and build in such a way so as to help turn down the global thermostat. Thats a bit scary. Not only scary for you but scary for the rest of us.
The construction industry is probably the most conservative human endeavour on Earth. It makes the Vatican seem like the Gay Mardi Gras. (Come to think of it
) And yet, despite a reputation for being hidebound, your industry is now under intensifying pressure to transform itself.
The result is sometimes comic. Boral now markets a brand of green ready-mix concrete, which some of its Queensland customers find confusing, so the bags have be re-labeled with a warning: Our green cement is not green.
Most of you here tonight are being led into a brave new world where green is the new black, at the same time as you must run a profitable business in a country whose leaders in Canberra still think that green is the old Red
reds under the bed.To John Howards mob, the Kyoto protocol is a communist plot.
Actually, it was one Old Red back in 1840 Pierre Joseph Proudhon - who coined the phrase that helped fuel the Russian revolution: All Property is Theft. It was a slogan some of us believed once, for about 16 minutes. It turns out that Monsieur Proudhon was not against the right of individuals to own their own dwellings, but he did denounce absentee developers who used their assets to exploit the labour of others, either with excessive rents or loan sharking, while they themselves contributed nothing of value to the local community. You know the type. Theres a few of them circling Byron Bay.
Anyway, in this new millennium, Proudhons rallying cry has a different ring. From the viewpoint of the birds, the bush, the wild flowers, and the marsupials, all property is theft. A theft from nature. If this sounds a bit too hippie-dippy, I suggest you check out a recent interview with one of the worlds most successful architects, William McDonough (Metropolis Magazine, Nov/04), whose US based firm is part of the construction goldrush now re-shaping the cities of China. (In the next 12 years, the Chinese plan to re-house 400 million of its people).
McDonough is working with group of local developers, as well as the China Housing Industry Association to create templates for cities based on his famous protocol: cradle-to-cradle. Some of the sites for his projects are as big as 20 square kilometres. Before turning a sod, McDonough & Partners examine the sites through various sets of lenses. They look at them as if we were a migrating bird: What would we want to see on the site in terms of evolution? McDonough goes on: Another lens would be hydrology. What if Im groundwater, or a raindrop? So we work from the sky into the earth. Were the master planners for seven sites. And the basic point is that if you look at the world through a new set of lenses, suddenly the ecosystem becomes your infrastructure.
So there you have it. Property does not always steal from nature - it can also be its partner.
But what about people? The health and welfare of a buildings occupants is also part of the mix, as is emphasised in the design of Melbourne City Councils forthcoming HQ in Collins Street, CH2. The building will cool itself at night by automatically opening windows to catch the breeze, and then closing them when sensors detect a storm. During the day, it will cool staff by drawing in fresh air over chilled panels, avoiding the shivery wastefulness of air conditioning. Vines grown vertically will provide shade and soften the glare. Personally, Im surprised that it is taking so long to incorporate true sustainability as well as social innovation into large building projects.
IS A GREEN MEGA-CITY A CONTRADICTION IN TERMS?
It has lately been argued that on a per capita basis, the extreme compactness of New York City makes it much more environmentally sound than suburbia. Manhattans residents use less electricity, less water, less lawn fertilisers and less petrol than the denizens of leafier neighbourhoods. 82% of New York City dwellers travel to work by public transport, by bicycle or on foot; which is probably about ten times the rate in Melbourne. According to New Yorker magazines David Own, dense urban centres are one of the few plausible remedies for the worst of environmental ills, and New York is one of the worlds greenest cities.
While the range of initiatives unfolding today in our cities is impressive, the green revolution is still in its early stages. In truth, we will never create a fully sustainable skyline, until we create a fully ecological self. The age of the 3000-mile Caesar salad is coming to the end.
The journey we are on a journey to heal the rift between ourselves and the natural world is not without precedent.
About 800 hundred years ago, the act of re-connecting the urbanised human with the wild was ignited by the visionary zeal of one man, a barefoot spiritual radical, now known as St Francis Of Assisi. This monk, the son of a wealthy merchant, downsized his lifestyle and embraced all of Gods creatures. He preached to the birds, he befriended the wolves, he opened the medieval cloisters to the sun and the fresh air.
So far reaching was the influence of St Francis, that the first wave of Italian master-painters of the 13th Century, chose to depict his deeds in a series of stunning frescos, which helped to foster a revival of spiritual values. It could even be said that the insights of St Francis led not only to the greening of Christianity, but also inspired the greatest leap forward in arts, sciences and human knowledge
. that the world has ever known the Renaissance.
A shift of consciousness may seem a little thing, L & G, but the results can transform the world, as well as the lives of future generations. This is something to keep this in mind when you pour the next slab.
All ready for the Byron Bay Silver Singles Scene
Remember, from now on, my views on the invasion and its aftermath will be found at the blog, When the web mistress sleeps . Pop by if youre not entirely satisfied with Pentagon press releases.
(image from The Guardian, 22 September 04)