Monthly Archives: October 2008

We’ll see how smart you are when the canine comes

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I've been enjoying the recent, expanding acknowledgment that most of what we go through in airports can be classified as 'security theater'. This is most clearly demonstrated by the 'take off your shoes' and 'no more than 8 ounces of liquid oh my god he's got a Mountain Dew we're all gonna die' policies under the beep-arch, but the swamp of bullshit that we wade through to catch a flight is actually much thicker than that:

Security theater is typified by make believe measures that make it seem as if authorities are "doing something" about security but that may have little connection to the threats that are most serious or the ways they might be thwarted. In the old days, an example would be the "have these bags been in your possession?…" catechism at airport check-in counters. These days, the reflexive demand to "show ID" before going into buildings or the ignored-by-all recordings in US airports that begin, "This is a security announcement. The threat level is elevated.."

There is a bureaucratic/political explanation for this, which is that no one is likely to be blamed for the cost or inconvenience of such measures, whereas any public official can easily imagine the resulting witch hunt if a "precaution" were removed and… something went wrong.

This seems like one of those minor-cum-major failings of democracy, the genre of laws that are easy vote-getters when they're tightened (Longer prison sentences! More surveillance!) but political cyanide to suggest loosening. The fallout from this phenomenon is strewn throughout the political landscape of the past 15 years, from the 1 percent of the US population in prison to the disaster-inspired, Inquisition-approved airport security apparatus.

At least security at airports is tight enough to weed out the dreg-terrorists. It works on the same level that wrapping a broken lock around your bike wheel makes it look secure to sketchy, opportunistic passers-by. What's amazing to me, to be honest, is how rarely terror attacks occur in other modes of transport.

There is literally no security whatsoever on buses, trains or cars. You can roll a barrel marked 'Flammable when detonated' onto an Amtrak or a Eurostar with no scrutiny, no questions and no wanding. There's nothing stopping you from hijacking a Greyhound right into a mall or a school.

This makes sense, really. Someone could blow you up or stab you pretty much anywhere in public. We generally trust that the people around us don't want to do this, or at least that according to statistics, it will probably be someone else that gets vaporized. So why are planes so different that they need such a severe security paradigm? I know 9/11 happened, but so did Madrid, London and Mumbai. We haven't started scanning commuters for liquids and hollow footwear.

I've been flying a lot lately, and this comes to mind whenever I find myself taking off my belt in the company of 200 zigzagging strangers, all of whom are petrified of tellig a joke or using the word 'napalm' at overhearable volume. I know we need to keep each other safe, but to anyone who takes that task seriously, it's easy to see that our governments don't.

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I just want this election to be over

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I’ll see you in Helvetica

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This is the country that the politicians are fighting over

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How going out by yourself in a foreign city can get you hickey-raped

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At a gay, inexplicable blowout at Geneva Stadium last night, I ended up talking to two Genevans, whose English and body language became more fluid with each new cosmopolitan. The relationship soured around 3.

Drunk Genevan, drooling: ‘Kissh me!’
Sober me, lying: ‘I can’t, I have a boyfriend in Copenhagen.’
Genevan: ‘He’s not here, is he? Kiss!’ [leaning in]
Me: ‘Um, we’re incredibly serious. I dropped my Civil Union Ring in a chocolate factory today, but it’s the symbol of our potent love, and it’s really heavy, ummm.’
Genevan: [Launches kiss. I turn my head.]
Me: ‘Our children’s names are Todd and Rantzaus. The dog is a Pekinese…’
Genevan: [begins lamprey necksuck]
Me: [90 grimacing seconds later] OK, that’s fine, that’s fine. Let’s get right offa there, huh? Let’s give that esophagus right back. Back. Back! [shove]
Genevan: [Wipes lips. Starts crying] ‘…Hold me.’
Me: ‘Great fuck, are you serious?’

I eventually had to appeal to the friend to remove the sobbing Swiss Miss from my person. The Belgium-shaped purple mark on my neck, however, is still there this morning.

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I’m in Geneva this week

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I get to bitch about politics for the next four years

Because I voted.

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For the speech-plagiarizing, troop-skipping, Muslim-hiding, whitey-blaming, America-hating, 'bitter'-labelling, no-experience-having Socialist. It was always going to be this way.

It's like David Sedaris said:

I don’t know that it was always this way, but, for as long as I can remember, just as we move into the final weeks of the Presidential campaign the focus shifts to the undecided voters.
[...]

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.

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Oliver Stone’s ‘W’ “Says nothing new or insightful about the president”

According to the New York Times.

Jesus, when did anybody? I seriously can't think of anything more boring than talking about George W. Bush at this point. His suck has reached a level of consensus equivalent to the weather. Any attempt to dwell or converse results in rote phrases ('yes, I hate the rain as well'), blahservations ('it changes every fifteen minutes') and arbitrary preferences ('fall is my favorite season!'). Everyone is just waiting until they can move on to another topic.

Why did Stone bother with George Dub? Could he not get the rights to Ryan Seacrest or something?

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Stark raving sad

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You know, given the number of dorkfish in the Loser Aquarium known as the Internet, you’d think you’d come across more solid, existential, pixellated dread. Or at least some Scandinavia-grade lamentations of loneliness beyond whatever the shut-ins at The Corner can come up with.

Reading this blog, it struck me that the Internet isn’t really set up for crock-pot emotions like melancholy, or wistfulness, or satisfaction. It’s much better at boiling irritation, flash-fried ire and reheated amusement. The kind of stimuli that pops the moment you pierce it with any reflection.

I read the other day how our sense of hearing really only responds to changes. This is why you can be at a football game for an hour and not notice that, as far as your cochlear is concerned, you might as well spend 60 minutes inside of a Harley Davidson exhaust pipe. Rather remarkably, your ears get used to whatever drone you’re immersed in, however hideous, and then only perceive escalations and cessations. The 60-times-a-minute version of this process is known as ‘dance music’.

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Sometimes I think our constitutions work like this, we only see the dips and bursts. I think of that line in ‘The Virgin Suicides’: ‘Some thought the tortures tearing the Lisbon girls pointed to a simple refusal to accept the world as it was handed down to them, so full of flaws.’

Many of the ‘flaws’ that make us so angry—the teenagers on your block make too much noise, your cubicle mate keeps hiccupping, different-colour people are loitering down your property values—are deviations from the drone. We don’t notice that we need to sleep every single night, for example, or that we sell eight hours of our day to a money-machine with a logo, or how the rich escape justice.

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The world fails to live up to our expectations in a million little ways, every little day. The smart people, the simple ones, don’t give a shit. The drone is too loud. Let someone else worry about changing the tax code, setting up a diversity awareness program, ploughing the parched earth of politics. All you’re doing is shushing the family next to you at a football game.

 

There’s little room for non-targeted misanthropy on the Internet, yep. As soon as this guy starts blaming a demographic group or recent social phenomenon for his ills (the Kurds? Texting?), he’ll be the next Chris Crocker.

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Debatable

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I love how politicians have figured out that the trick to campaigning is just to recite the same things over and over, regardless of their relevance, truth or interestingness. This is especially entertaining when candidates rinse and repeat points that have been roundly discredited.

 

Obama and McCain have had the same conversation in all three debates.

 

McCain: I want to limit spending. There are too many earmarks in the federal budget, and we need to get rid of them. [harumph-face]

Obama: Earmarks are indeed bad, but they represent only .5 percent of spending. Even if they disappeared tomorrow, that wouldn’t particularly solve the crisis that we’re in right now, or have any effect on the deficit.

McCain: My opponent supported earmarks! I want to get rid of them. Here’s how I’ll do it. [continued speech through harumph-hole]

 

Usually, when you make a point in a discussion, and your opponent sprays it with the pesticide of incontrovertible fact, you move on. Or, if your opponent is wrong, you correct him (‘Actually, earmarks make up 91 percent of the budget’ or whatever). Either way, you acknowledge that words have just emanated from your opponent and vaguely try to engage them. You don’t just put the transmission in first, take your foot off the brake and get out of the car.  

 

In real life, this would be the equivalent of

 

Girlfriend: You fucked my sister, you monster!

Boyfriend: What? I’ve never even met your sister. She lives in Maine.

Girlfriend: How dare you fuck my sister!

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