Monthly Archives: June 2008

Goodbye George

Sunday evening George Carlin cashed in his chips and left this world a less intelligent place.  Carlin, if you were born last week, was a gifted comic and a gifted observer of the world that we call home.  He was extraordinarily funny, but the edge of George Carlin over other comics was the nugget of truth that he managed to sneak into his material. 

Jerry Seinfeld, as a contrast, is also very funny, but Seinfeld’s comedy is not there to change your point of view.  Carlin’s was overtly political.  He looked at the universe with slightly distrustful eyes, a dash of common-sense and a 50,000 watt bullshit detector that he kept in his pants pocket, usually set on "Stun".

There are very few who can balance laughter and wisdom at the same time.  Carlin was one.  He will be missed.

A Quick Read of the News

You reach a point where you truly want to opt out of being aware of your surroundings some weeks.  This would be one of them.  Work requirements have taken all the brain cycles until now, so I caught up on the News, such as it is.

The favourite is the continuing discovery of severed human feet washing up on the British Columbia shore, occasionally encased in footwear.  Five so far, as the last one was a hoax.  Which makes me wonder when we’ll see a floating eyebrow, a half a buttock and one shoulder come to land.  If one were to ask Dick Cheney, he’d suggest that a gang of terrorists is trying to sneak into Canada, one piece at a time. 

Speaking of discoveries, the Mars Phoenix project, the little Meccano Set That Could, has confirmed that there is water ice on Mars, just below the surface of the dirt.  The Mars Bartending Rover in 2010 will look for Gin, tonic and small paper umbrellas as further proof that there was, or is, intelligent and civilized life on Mars.

Airlines generally have decided that the end is nigh.  With fuel prices through the overhead storage bins, the airlines have no choice but to add bigger fuel surcharges to your ticket.  Overheard on the job this week, a family of four travelling to the UK on frequent flyer miles get to pay nearly $2,000 in fuel surcharges, taxes, fees and other pickpocketings added to the ‘free’ frequent flyer tickets. 

Why don’t the airlines just give up the pretence and charge the travelling public the actual price it costs for the flight, plus a profit of 3% and be done with it?  Yes, that will mean the end of a $150 one-way ticket to London, but so what?  Flying is as bad as intercity bus transport used to be, including the stench of the lavatories and the wall-eyed passenger in 11C who talks to himself about the voices in his head.  

Which brings up a small story of a United Airlines pilot yesterday.  He was overheard engaged in a heated exchange in Salt Lake City with someone on his cell phone.  After the flight buttoned up, he came on the PA and announced that he was too upset to fly to Denver on flight 416 and that passengers would be accommodated on other flights.  The pilot did what he should:  If he’s not up to the high precision task of flying for whatever reason, you step away from the yoke.  Good for him.  There will be jokes galore, but so what?  He did the right thing in not endangering his passengers.

Then we have the entire Midwest US under water, at least according to the news outlets.  Which means there will be grain shortages, not enough gas, or ethanol, or soybeans, therefore all prices must go up.  Even if everything was just peachy in the Midwest, the news outlets would declare some kind of emergency (Q-Tip shortage in Quincy, Ill.  Oil Prices Surge on News!) that will result in footage on the 6:00 of people lining up at gas stations and Wal-Mart stocking up on gas and Q-Tips.

Now that Hilary has jumped out of the plane (She was in seat 11D) we are left with the pundit class examining Barack Obama and John McCain through the wrong end of the telescope.  Both candidates are going to agree to a live, broadcast, sigmoidoscopic examination to see exactly who is up their respective asses. 

If Obama had a lick of sense he’d wear a Confederate Flag on his lapel while Johnny Mac would be seen diddy-boppin’ oldskool to "Baby Got Back" with white ear buds leading to an iPod in his suit pocket. 

Let’s leave the pundits jangled and twitching on the studio floors of CNN, Fox"News" and the three majors as they try to make sense of those particular images from the campaign trail.   Perhaps a deuce from the grid will fall on Paul Begala or Ann Coulter, or maybe both at once, if we’re really lucky.

Meanwhile, the tomato crops in the US are filled with shit.  Really.  The e.coli bacteria comes from fecal matter in the water used to rinse off the produce before shipping.  Which explains why I have a very large tomato plant on the balcony, promising me nice, clean, organically grown vine ripened tomatoes in another 50 or so days.  I was considering growing some onions, peppers and cilantro too.  The objective was to grow my own salsa, but I ran out of time and motivation if the truth be known.

My next career is gong to be the guy who does the chalk outlines of the bodies at crime scenes.  You meet quiet people and get to put ‘artist’ on your business card. 

Coming Soon to a Seatback Near You!

If one can believe what our governments are up to, which is a stretch, I know, one would want our government to be forward looking, right?  Airport Security Theatre is one of those places where we get to see what our governments drink at lunch.

This article in the New Scientist, talks about a prototype European system to mount a camera in every seatback to monitor the passengers’ facial expressions for signs of potential terrorist activity.  The high concept is that those under extreme stress exhibit facial expressions that a computer can read and flag.  As well, the computer program will identify those loitering near the cockpit or running in the aisles of the aircraft, along with "other predetermined indicators that suggest a developing threat."

Consider this:  Face recognition software has been in use at sporting events, like the Salt Lake City Olympics, the World Series and the Super Bowl to identify miscreants, terrorists, left-leaning Democrats and other evildoers of the Axis of Evil Doers of Evil Axis, since 2000, give or take

Consider this: There are barely 14 citizens per each police Closed Circuit TV Camera in the United Kingdom.  The UK has a population of just over 60 million. Miami, Chicago, New York City and other large American collections of humanity have embraced the Surveillance Society mantra with equal gusto. 

Consider this:  In George Orwell’s 1984 a citizen could commit facecrime in the Two-Minutes Hate by not protesting loudly enough, therefore citizens learned to have the appropriate expression on their visages at all times.

Which leads us back to the original article in the New Scientist and cameras in aircraft seatbacks watching you for twitches, flinches or other facial quirks that may indicate your hidden terrorist agenda while flying from Luton to Antwerp.

There are three unplanned consequences of continuous airborne passenger surveillance.  First, you will find that terrorists will get their faces Botox’ed solid so they don’t betray their hidden agenda.  Look at Nicole Kidman or Joan Rivers as two examples of faces that cannot move.

Second, the Air Security folks will have hours and hours of video of celebs, the well-heeled and the famous, picking their noses, getting the gunk out from between their teeth and snoring open-mouthed on longer trips.  In the case of some passengers there will be tape of them complaining mightily about the service. then bashing their assistants over the head with a cellphone and calling the flight attendants whores, sluts and trash eaters.  This would be in the Naomi Campbell section. 

Third, if you can fit a camera, you can fit a microphone.  Not only will the Authorities have hours of you face, but every business meeting, confidential chat or rude aside with a seatmate will be heard and recorded, aside from scanning your mug for terrorist-twitches.  Muttering under you breath about the in-flight movie (Happy Gilmour) or not being properly appreciative of the level of service you are being grudgingly offered by the airline (Wow! Almost a full 4 oz cup of water!) can get your butt arrested.

So, in keeping with the logic of the Security Forces, since they can conceivably find the terrorists by watching for twitches, all terrorists will get Botoxed before a flight.  Therefore we must arrest all doctors and clinicians who provide Botox injections, as they may well be in league with the Evildoers. 

However that doesn’t mean we’re home (-land security) free.  No siree!  We’ll have to post 24 hour guards on plastic surgery clinics in case the Evildoers of the Evil Axis of Doers of Evil try rob the clinics of needles and Botox, for their nefarious ends.  Since many makeup and nail spas offer those kinds of services or referrals, then we should also be posting guards at any place that has more than two sinks or three towels, again to Help Keep Our Homeland Safe from bearded, frozen faced terrorists who are determined to climb on a flight and do their Evildoing.

I don’t like being the one to burst the bubble of pervasive surveillance, but a computer reading a face for twitches or other epheremal microtremors during a flight is not a very good way to find terrorists. 

The essential question is "How did this person get on the plane in the first place?"

Watching the citizens all the time does very little to keep us ‘safe’.  It does go a long way to controlling society however, which is probably what they really want.