Monday, October 13, 2008

Early bird

As children, we were told that the early bird catches the worm... and our juvenile minds were meant to interpret this metaphor as an incentive to get out bed before everybody else. Personally, I don't recall having ever been motivated in the intended way, no more so than by the proverb: Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. I grew up believing that the only poor folk who were obliged to crawl out of bed in the cold darkness were so-called cow cockies such as my uncles Eric and Ken, running dairy farms, who had to milk the cows. In France, there's a similar saying: The world belongs to those who get up early.

Over recent years, I've started to accept this belief, in the sense that I find that my personal creativity is maximal when I wake up, whereas it declines steadily throughout the day. In concrete terms, this means that I try to write in the morning, while awaiting the evening to read or watch TV. This difference in performance levels is particularly true in the case of computer programming... as when writing ActionScript code for a Flash website, for example. Of an evening, I can hammer away unsuccessfully at attempts to get something working in Flash, only to give up and go to bed. The following morning, as soon as I wake up, I can often solve the problem immediately.

At a planetary level, the situation is completely biased, because all the Earth's early birds are located—for better or for worse—on the left-hand side of the following map:

Bloody lucky Antipodeans! They're all up and about on a new morning, at work, at the same time that we tired Old World folk are thinking about crawling into bed, or maybe dreaming already. Americans are even worse off still. By the time they get up and start working, the rest of the world—the Antipodes and Europe—has already terminated their deeds and misdeeds for the day in question. You might say that, on any particular day, the following series of events is enacted:

• Australians react to the morning's happenings in Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand. Big deal!

• Asians turn their regard to what has been happening Down Under.

• Faraway Europe gets out of bed and tunes into news from the Antipodes.

• Finally, America has the opportunity of looking at "the day that was" in Australia, Asia and Europe. But America is rarely humble enough to do so. Instead, New York prefers to imagine in the morning that a new day is about to dawn in California. This is both true and false at the same time. Datewise, California's "new day" is condemned eternally (at least for as long as the International Date Line stays where it is) to be yesterday.

For me, in concrete terms, this global situation means that, every morning, the first thing I do on the Internet is to tune in to news from Australia. To a limited extent, this reflects the obvious fact that I'm curious about happenings in my native land. But I do so, above all, because Australian journalists have been active for hours (while I've been sleeping), describing yesterday's events on the planet, particularly those that closed the day in America. It's a weird situation. For us Europeans, there are no better up-to-date accounts of happenings in America than what we can read, of a morning, in the Australian media... for the simple reason that Aussie journalists have been "up all night" (from the point of view of our temporal reckoning) describing yesterday in America.

At an Internet level, I've been living in this global context for at least two years now (ever since my access to top-quality broadband services), and I'm becoming adjusted to it. Australian relatives and friends probably imagine that my awareness of local happenings indicates that I'm hooked up on nostalgia. Yes and no. I bow down to the undisputed fact that the location of the International Date Line means that my Down Under compatriots have a huge advantage with respect to the rest of humanity. In a timewise sense, we Europeans are mere followers of Antipodes. The people in France who are most aware of this situation are the TV producers in charge of Christmas and New Year shows. They never fail to show us images of Aussies celebrating such dates in Australia at about the same time that most late-night Europeans are thinking about going to bed in order to rise, tomorrow morning, as early birds.

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