Sunday, November 13, 2011

I am the queen of time. Well, that's how I feel with one timepiece around my neck and another one now on the wall in my living room.

Yes, I put Il Modernissimo on the wall. Irritatingly, it seems to have that common problem with cheap quartz clocks: the second hand gets stuck at ten to. Oh well, at least I only paid $4 for it. I can't tell if this problem is because the hands are loose or because it needs a new quartz movement; if I take it off the wall and shake it, it usually starts back up. New movements are available online for about a dollar, plus about three dollars postage, but it does erode the pleasure of a bargain to realise that you will need to spend more money to make it work.

On the other hand, I have never had any trouble from the Beckoning Cat alarm clock that I bought a couple of years ago as a Christmas present for my brother Matt, and then ended up keeping because Matt spent Christmas overseas with his girlfriend. It keeps great time and hasn't even needed a new battery. Of course I haven't used the alarm since it gave me the fright of my life the first time I heard it. It sounds like exuberant J-pop with a cat as the lead vocalist.

Beckoning Cat has brought the soothing sound of a ticking clock back into my life. Il Modernissimo has quite a loud ticking mechanism; Graham noticed the sound straight away when I first put the clock up, and I realised the second hand was getting stuck when the room felt quieter all of a sudden.

It's easy to forget, given that most clocks these days are digital. Perhaps because you can only hear it when the room is very quiet, it always evokes peace for me. This is because I am constantly struggling to stuff work into my days and nights; I remember when a ticking clock meant agonising boredom in school, or the sound of authority being exerted on me in a principal's, boss's or doctor's office. On the other hand, when I catch the very quiet ticking of my necklace, it feels a little unnerving, like I have a time bomb around my neck.

On Friday night I had a pleasant pub dinner with my brother Lina, and we were discussing the Justin Timberlake film In Time. Writer/director Andrew Niccol is trying for more of the speculative magic he made with Gattaca, but the story seemed to replace the human dramas of the earlier film with bombast and cornball dialogue. Gattaca could wring nail-biting thrills from Jude Law dragging himself up a staircase, but Justin Timberlake and Cillian Murphy have to do absurd parkour and car chases.

But what annoyed me was that Niccol filled In Time with dialogue in which money was literally replaced with time in a gimmicky, obvious way. "Have you got a minute?" says a child beggar; "Here, take five…" says good-hearted Timberlake. Later, as he lives it large thanks to a windfall of time, he's asked if he "comes from time" or if he's "fast" – which is this universe's way of policing socioeconomic class.

In Time does seem preoccupied with class divisions, and I was telling Lina about a great review  I'd read of the film, which picks up on the way it uses the visual language we associate with the America of the 1920s and 1930s – both periods of class conflict. The glamorous, near-immortal elite of New Greenwich seem to be living in a Roaring Twenties utopia – complete with ladies in gloves, furs and bobbed hair – while in working-class Dayton, where everyone literally lives from day to day, it's more like the Depression. And when rich girl Amanda Seyfried goes on the run with Justin Timberlake, they're like Bonnie and Clyde, or even like Patty Hearst and the SLA – folk heroes who want to overthrow plutocracy.

But really this 'time is money' idea wasn't completely fleshed out. Fur coats, for instance, should only be status symbols if it took ages and ages to produce them. Hand-knitted jumpers ought to be the height of sophisticated chic because of the effort that they use, and crappy Etsy crafters would be venerated as master artists. Diamonds, however, are still a valuable commodity because they are produced over millennia. Anything that reeked of speed would be seriously trashy. The Concorde and the Shinkansen would be the RyanAir of this world, whereas the super-rich would travel by ocean liner and ferry, and boast about getting in traffic jams.

Oh well, lest I fall into another blogging reverie and waste another entire day, I had better eat something. Time, time, time… see what's become of me…

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