and Diversions

Time flies at optimal temperatures.

Getting settled has given way to another kind of settling, the dread disease governmentitis. The name of this condition, like tennis elbow or athlete's foot, is derived in this case from circumstances that lend themselves to it, but it is one to be found with reliable prevalence amongst all who live cheek by jowl with the mute glow of a computer monitor. The symptoms mimic the outward appearance of a busy, productive person. Devout attention to the screen, a fixed posture, the sense that everything else is a distraction from the task at hand. Of course, for the afflicted, there is no task at hand. And so sufferers sit aimlessly, as if awaiting revelation from out of the liquid crystal.

It is an illness that penetrates deep into one's routine, and renders all other forms of activity more difficult and less desirable. This is not to be confused with the "internet addiction" currently in vogue, as the disease does not require any form of actual connectivity. Rather, it is as if the subject is simply mesmerized by the sheer refined potentiality of the machine itself, and stripped of all utterances.

Fortunately, treatment is available: a strict regimen of separation from the machine and exposure to words printed on paper. Melbourne offers a sanatorium of sorts in the form of the State Library of Victoria, an impressive neoclassical structure with a hushed reading hall at its heart. I was reminded on entering of the Rose Reading Room at the New York Library in Midtown, one of my favourite places on Earth, and the absence of security checks was an added bonus. The silence and cool air is a welcome contrast to the chaos of the Central Business District on a hot afternoon. I'm kicking myself for not coming sooner.

Melbourne has a bit of a reputation for the alleyways that riddle the CBD. Some of them have been designated as legal paint walls, and bear the fruits of such sage policy. Graffiti climbs the walls of these lanes, reaching to daring heights, covering every available inch in layer after layer of conflicting design. Empty cans are strewn in corners, discarded tips lodged in cracks in the road. The art attracts tourists. Hordes of them. An endless procession, winding its way up from Federation Square, like a train of adventurers leaving Everest Base Camp. They halt at five step intervals to take photos, trying to capture even the sparest fragment of this sensory overload to savour at a later time.

I walked among them. Was one of them, even. My friend Colin was giving an impromptu tour to some friends from out of town, and since I happened to meet both of those criteria I opted to tag along. He promised us a Banksy, and we found one, across from a police station, a bit underwhelming in light of the hype. It was a lazy tour on my part, the kind you take for granted when it's free, and I didn't even pay too much attention to the photos I took, so most of them are blurry or ill-exposed. But, as they say here, no worries.