Friday, 7 February 2014

Mouse and Cat

Mouse and Cat, by Philip Harvey

Mouse, the input device we wheel around our desk all day. It is highly mobile and responds well to touch. Mouse has features such as a spinning nose and bilateral commands. Mouse can act as a hand support. Mouse is in its element zigzagging over a rubber mat or sprinting laps across the tabletop. Mouse manoeuvres. It appears to operate solely for our benefit. It has extra buttons and shiny Californian skintight outers. Mouse's trajectories typically translate into the motion of a pointer, but sometimes Mouse loses its grip. It can get lost in space. Occasionally it’s a trial, but a trial with no jury or judge, a waste of our breath, as the Mouse puts it in the famous book. Mouse muses. Mouse motions. Mouse idles until you return. It feeds on currents.

But what about who it is attached to by its tail?

Cat, sitting so still, but we know it must be computing all the time. It’s the quiet ones we have to watch. We have to watch them closely. Some of us have names for our Cat. We call it, for example, Felix, amazed and happy at its black body and broad white face. Cat sometimes seems to be laughing at us and holding its sides. Then there are times when Cat feels more like an unfeeling mechanical calculating machine. Cat counts and sums up. Cat stores away data all day, or is it just there because it has nowhere else to go? We watch annoyed as it goes slow, or entranced as suddenly it gets up to very high speed. It clicks its pause and leaps to the next display. Cat has a continuous existence, seeming to be up to something even when asleep in the corner, with all the lights out. It’s up to something alright. Stare into its face long enough, watch its changing forms, and we find Cat is a creature with nine trillion lives. Even now we are looking at just one of them.

And is the mouse playing with the cat? Or is in fact the cat in control of the mouse?

Mouse, that scurries around all day in circles doing a thousand little diverting directions. Mouse, oblivious to role reversal. And Cat, that smiles the while, unmoving but still smiling, sometimes seeming to disappear behind a screen saver, but not quite, the smile still fixed in space the entire time, with sometimes only the smile, like the Cat in the famous book.

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