Over the past week I have determined that, if I were to buy a gift for the equipment in my office, my fax machine would like a copy of Alan Titchmarsh
's "The British Isles, A Natural History" and my printer would like a copy of "The Da Vinci Code
" by Dan Brown
. Today I shall consider the demands of my monitor, although I shall attempt to do so in an unexpected way as, of all the equipment on my desk, my monitor is the only thing which intimidates me. It stares at me. I stare back. But the monitor does not blink
. It doesn't even have eyelids.
But first, should I consider my mouse? It is a passive thing, never answering back on those few occasions when I demand answers of it, and I do not think of it as possessing a soul. It is a parasite, feeding on the warmth and sweat of my hand, feeding on the dust and grime which coats my mouse pad, exercised with tiny movements of my wrist, senseless. Perhaps I could spinkle some fish-food over the mouse pad, as a treat, but I will not bother myself unduly with mouse pleasure. Similarly, my keyboard might warrant the taste of a soft drink, but it does not talk to me. Often at night I have been comforted by the soft green glow of my keyboard's NUM LOCK light; as sleep pulls me down, it is heartening to know that there is a light still burning somewhere, that there is a world outside my mind. When we pass from this earth, the machines will exist as living monuments to our once having been, and that is my faith. One day there will no longer be a SCROLL LOCK light, and each day thereafter will be slightly sadder. Perhaps for Christmas I shall hug my keyboard, or wash its keys.
What do monitors enjoy? Presumably they enjoy displaying information. Pictures, or text? I suppose, in the mind of a monitor, there is no difference. One screenful of pixels is much like another. Once upon a time there were distinct text and graphic modes, and monitors presumably enjoyed displaying one or the other, but that distinction is no longer as meaningful as it was. Except in the odd cult world of alternative operating systems, everything is now windows and icons and menus. Despite all the criticism heaped upon Microsoft, one cannot deny that their visionary innovation has shaped the world.
Can a monitor determine the significance of the image it displays? Fashionable thinking has it that all meaning is a social construct, indeed that all information and human knowledge is socially constructed - I do not know what the position is with regards to the individual, which is unfortunate as monitors are not social animals. An image of a urinal is of no more significance in itself than an image of a dying child, because the meaning of an image resides in the viewer rather than in the image itself, indeed it resides in the viewer's upbringing and condition, for no two people see the same urinal, or the same dying child.
This is is a reasonable thesis, although I question the perceived importance of reason; why should reason be held as superior to other, supposedly less valid theories of understanding? Why do we place more importance in the output of rational minds than in the impulses of the sexual being? It is interesting to theorise how a purely sexual perspective would consider the aforementioned images of a urinal and dying child respectively; who amongst us has not felt a twinge of erotic desire when witnessing news footage of starving children - a potent mixture of youth, nakedness, death and power - and who amongst us does not associate the public toilet with sexual congress? Who amongst us, for that matter, does not associate a small, starving child with sexual congress? I am glad that I am not alone.
Still and all, it is reasonable to assume that monitors can neither detect nor form a perception of meaning when they contemplate the images they are called upon to display. This gives me cause for relief, when I consider the type and quantity of images I cause my monitor to display; if my monitor had a moral sense, it would think ill of me, it would question my sanity. Without moral sense or a mechanism for meaning, monitors must therefore be purely sensual beings, they must enjoy speed and motion, clashing colours, crashing velocity, and for this reason I shall consider unconventional gifts. Trinny and Susannah's "What to Wear can Change your Life" clearly will not do. Indeed, books themselves are probably not appropriate. I am sure that my monitor is sick of words.
Once books are eliminated, there is really only one other medium; the computer game. And for maximum stimulation, there is only one presentation of the computer game medium, and that is the speed run. I have of late found myself mesmerised by speed runs of popular computer games, recordings of highly-skilled players blasting through their favourite titles at the fastest possible speed, using every trick in the book to complete each level of the game in as few seconds as possible. Some of these runs are masterpieces of kinetic fury, particularly the famous "Quake Done Quick" series, in which a particularly venerable title is subjected to the unfettered will of man. "Quake" lent itself well to high-speed tricks, but I do not believe a speed run of Quake would be an appropriate present, for it had a famously bland colour scheme, all browns and purples and greens. Other, more colourful speed runs - such as 'Super Mario 64', perhaps the most colourful game of all time - are, conversely, visually uninteresting on a kinetic level, as they are merely fast rather than tricky. It is not enough merely to complete a game as quickly as possible within the parameters laid by the game; the walls must be broken.
There is another. "Half-Life". Built on the same engine as Quake, but with more colours, there is a speed run for this game, which I shall display on my monitor. My monitor will be dazzled and amused by the clever uses to which limpet mines can be put, or the un-natural ways in which it is possible to bypass the bit with the tentacles, or the bit where you're on the little train and there is an electrified rail and some water and lots of those sonic dog things without heads, you know. Forty-five minutes, that's how long it takes to finish 'Half-Life'. I have seen this speed-run with my own eyes. For me, it is as worthwhile and emotional as an hour-long television programme on any topic. It is my entertainment, watching a professional gamesplayer complete a fondly-remembered game in double-quick time.
I shall turn the refresh rate down slightly, and use a lower resolution. Love is a thing. And so is mischief. One can spread love, and one can spread mischief. They are two sides of the same coin. Love and mischief.