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posted by [personal profile] brain_spew at 02:59pm on 18/11/2010
So with all the hubub surrounding the "Irradiate or be groped" controversy, I'm going to weigh in on the TSA. Some of you are not going to like what I have to say.

In principle, I think both the TSA and to a certain extent, the HSO, are a good idea. However, I do not believe the conspiracy theory BS that both agencies were dreamed up ages ago ready to be put in place when 9/11 was set off as a deliberate act by internal forces within the US goverment.

Up until 9/11, metal detectors and common sense served us well. Its only in hindsight that we realized that the terrorists use of shaving razors was a hole no one had ever thought of because quite frankly, why should we? There had not been an attack on our soil by forgien agents since Pearl Harbor and that was a massive all out effort by a known hostile with the capability to pull it off and against a military target. So, 9/11, accomplished by a small team and with shaving razors against civilians basically hit us blind.

Our goverment panicked, there's no other word for i,t and decided to unify both antiterrorist and airport security efforts. I agree with this attempt. But they were concieved in blind panic and in haste and desperation, so the idea was sound. The execution was not.

Internal defense of America is normally in the hands of the FBI and National Gaurd, with the Armed Forces backing them up. However, there's also the US Marshals, NSA, CIA, Secret Service, Military Intelligence, Justice Department and probably a few others. Plus, State Police, Federal Prisons, and then going down to county sherriffs and and city police. That's a lot of data and records running around. Plus support staff, officers, and agents, all having to talk to one another. Things get confused, or lost, or worse. On top of all that, we're a big country. There's a lot of ground to cover.

A central, unified hub where data and defense and countermeasures can be planned, analyzed, and directed is a good thing. But in its haste to get things set up, HSO was given broad powers by the goverment. Too broad and with little oversight. Nobody really knew what to do or how to proceed, and again, there was a panic. What we got is an inflated goverment office that jumps at everything and makes a lot of people feel like they've already been convicted of being themselves.

The TSA is also a good thing. In principle. Material science is getting better, particularly in the field of plastics and ceramics. Things metal detectors don't pick up. Plus, air travel is at an all time high. A central office overseeing the nation's airports and holding them to a set of standards as well investigating new technologies is a good thing. We're going to need something better then metal detectors. If not now, then soon.

But, as with the HSO, the execution is sloppy. The TSA was even more poorly concieved then the HSO, if that's possible. Air Travel is not something to fuck around with. Air Marshals on random flights. Excellent. Arming pilots? Good. Virtually untrained men and women on guard at the gates with no oversight and broad powers? Very bad. Reacting to any threat or new hole with technology or more regulations? That's what we have now.

While the HSO needs to be reined in and put under the thumb of Congress or the Supreme Court, the TSA needs to be gutted and rebuilt from the ground up. Properly, this time.

At least six to eight weeks of training before they're sent to the gates. Ironclad and brutal punishments for sexual harrasment. Procedures and training for dealing with handicapped passengers, those with medical issues, and small children. Plus intelligent, common sense based and efficent screening procedures. Import some Isreali experts and have them give us tips and training.

We're not going to catch every single terrorist. Sooner or later, one is going to slip through the net, no matter how tight, and there's going to be a loss of life. That's the way it is. But if we do what we're doing now, forting up, allowing fear and panic to influence our choices, our thinking, and our neighbors, then we're doing nothing to protect ourselves. At all.
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posted by [personal profile] brain_spew at 02:12am on 22/09/2010
Let's talk talk.

When watching a movie or TV show, or even reading a book, dialogue is as important to the story as action. It is through the characters speaking that we learn about them, and how they think, speak, and act. Actions can only tell us so much. It is through speech that we connect with one another and exchange information.

In the first episode of the sitcom "Head Of The Class", teacher Charlie Moore enters the classroom, writes his name on the board and says "My name is Mister Moore. But you can call me by first name; 'Mister'." In this single line, we are given insight into his character and teaching style.

But perhaps more challenging is conversations. The audience must be made to believe that they are watching a genuine conversation. In Iron Man, Tony Stark and Pepper Potts have realistic conversations in which they talk at the same time, interrupt, change topics and give the viewer the impression that these are two people who have known each other for a long time. Their dialogue is dynamic, paced, energetic and engaging. Many other films and shows have the actors taking turns, each one delivering their line and using inflection and tone to give credibility to what is being said.

The problem with the second method is that no matter how well you film it or how well written the script, the delivery does not feel natural and throws the audience out of the suspension of disbelief required. Once this happens, the audience will have trouble reconnecting with the characters and their enjoyment is lessened, or even ruined.

However, having said all that, dialogue does not always come in the spoken form. There is a play and unfortunutly, I can't remember the name, but the entire show is a man sitting in a chair listening as an unseen woman berates him. He speaks not a word, but only reacts to what the voice says. His dialogue is in his face. A twitch of the mouth, a scowl, a sad smile. Although only the woman speaks, they are still having a conversation. As the play unfolds, we learn about the man, his life, and his mistakes and regrets. As surely as though he is speaking, he tells us what he is thinking. All without uttering a single word.

There is a power in the spoken word. A power as formidable as any method of war you would care to name. History has been shaped by words as much as it has been shaped by war. It was with words that John F. Kennedy started the Space Race, challenging America to put a man on the moon and bring him home. A hundred years before that, Abraham Lincoln issued the Gettysburg address, setting the United States firmly on the road to the American Civil War. Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" is written as a conversation in which Socrates convinces Glaucon of his philosophy that society is chained, imprisoned in a cave gazing at shadows, convinced that they are real. No writer, no historian, can ignore the power of conversation, of the spoken word.

Otherwise, we'd have nothing to talk about.
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posted by [personal profile] brain_spew at 11:34pm on 15/09/2010 under
Once upon a time there were these two mimes who, when they spoke at all, spoke only to each other and then only in rhythmic poetry. One day, one of the Mimes failed to come up with an appropriate couplet to warn his partner of an approaching steamroller. The newspaper the next day read "a hitch in rhyme paves mime."

Speaking of newspapers, saw this neat article the other day about Sherlock Holmes. In talking about the area he lived in, the article highlighted one of the problems that constantly faced the Great Holmes of England; No one lives in them anymore.

I was in a small town the other day and this guy told me about how these friars came in a while back, opened up a flower shop and only sold carnivorous plants, which weren't too picky about what they ate. Nothing the locals could do would make the friars budge. Finally, this kid from one of the farms, named Hugh, came into town, walked up to the friars, and told them to scram and they did. For only Hugh can prevent florist friars.

It was kind of a pity though. See, the Friars were historians and they had a lot of books and stuff. Got to leaf through one. Seems that a long time ago, there was this viking named Rudolph the Red and his wife. They were always fighting and always about small, petty things. It was kind of silly, really. For example. This one time, Rudolph looked outside and said that he was pretty sure it was going to rain. Immediately, his wife disagreed and they started arguing, going back and forth about how it was or wasn't going to rain until Rudolph had had enough. "Please!" he yelled out, "Rudolph the Red knows rain, dear!"

As I finished reading that, I happened to look up and watched this horse go buy pulling a cart, and he was wandering all over the place. Turns out the cart horse was named Absence. Poor guy. No one in town liked him since Absence made the cart go wander.

I felt sorry for the poor horse, but I had to meet a friend of mine at the local bar, so I went down there, but my friend didn't show and I seriously thought about leaving. But the bartender he, says to me, "Come on, man, Sherry you jest. Wine not give your friend another half hour or so? Beer in mind how many times you've been late to something."

He had a point. Then he told me a story. A while back, there were two funeral parlors in town and then one closed up shop when the mortician died. The remaining one gouged customers, engaged in false advertising, and even though no one liked them, what choice did they have? But then one day, the son of the mortician who died announced he was opening a new funeral parlor. Well, the first mortician didn't like that too much and tried every trick in the book to keep the son from carrying on in his father's shoes, and after a lot of trouble, the son finally opened for business. As he remarked to the mayor, "opening a new funeral parlor can be quite an undertaking."
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posted by [personal profile] brain_spew at 08:16pm on 25/05/2009
I did a meme in an internet friend's Livejournal several years ago. The meme was to give them a compltely fake memory of myself and them. This is what I came up with.

I recall that last day we were together, before I had to go.

I remember we met at dawn, breakfast in that diner, the walk to the mall,
the people we saw. We pointed and laughed at the preppies and the
wanna-bes who were spending fifty bucks on a T-shirt we could find at
Target for ten. Then in the afternoon, we went to the beach and walked,
hand in hand along the sand, talking about things. This and that,

I gave you a shell, you gave me a kiss, a gentle kiss, just on my cheek.

Lunch was corn dogs from the boardwalk. Big massive things, with real
mustard. I don't even like them, but I can't say no to you when you look
at me like that.

Then we just kept walking. Walking and talking, all the way to the park.
It was almost empty, almost like it was our private place.

We swung on the swings, climbed the gym, and were two years old, just for
a while, a moment's innocence.

Then, in the corner of the park, concealed by nature, you gave me the
only gift you could. A gift that only you could give, and time vanished
to be replaced by sensation.

Then at the entrance, once dusk had passed and it was night, we parted. I
had to go, and I did, but leaving you was the hardest thing I've ever
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posted by [personal profile] brain_spew at 07:15pm on 02/05/2009
I find myself curious as to the origins of the phenomenon of social networking. Because, no matter how you want to look at it, it is a phenomenon and could not have come about without the internet.

When I was a child, I read Ray Bradbury's The Murderer. This short story was about a psychiatrist and his paitent, who had been arrested for silencing machines. The future world presented in the short story is frightfully like our own, though with wrist mounted two way radios instead of cell phones. The paitent's criminal act was driven by the need for silence, and he rejoiced that in his act, he'd forced the people around him to converse with each other.

Later, in high school, I encountered a book called Kill Your Television. The author's stance was that all forms of communication evolved out of the need to distribute information. Speech, writing, radio, the telephone and of course, television. Each one began life as a way to move information quicker and quicker and was then ultimately ursurped as a device of leisure and pleasure. TV had run its course and the time had come to destroy it.

The internet, on the surface, is no different. What began as a military communications network has become the heir to TV as a realm of pop culture, and commitee manufactured content. But it is not time for it to die, for the internet is also the heir to CB and Ham radio. Anyone with the proper equipment can enter the fray and be heard. Whether or not they're worth hearing is another matter.

This, then, is the cornerstone of the social networking phenomenon. The internet is the first truly level playing field for not only fun, but the exchange of information. No company may do something and then not hear about it immediately should people approve or disapprove. Amazon's recent mishap with its labeling system removing the rankings of Gay, Lesbian, and Transexual authors and items was a flashpoint as hundreds of bloggers, twitter users and plain old citizens came together and took the company to task for it. Ten years ago, a mere decade, such a phenomenon would have been almost impossible to imagine.

But there is a dark side. In using the digital age to cross borders that were once impossible, we as a race are becoming more isolated from one another. Bradbury's story foretold a world where it is almost impossible to get away from the din and noise of people talking to each other. Where wanting a bit of silence and/or face to face communication is all but unheard of.

So where is social networking going from here? The answer is, I don't know. Ragged Trouser Philosopher published an interesting fictional work called Conversation With God about an Atheist who encounters a being who claims to be God. This being is not a supernatural entity, but the result of evolution and forged the universe and life in order to

In the course of their conversation, "God" explains where humans need to go if they hope to hit the next level of evolution and how we'll be pretty much there within a generation or two. Artificial Intelligence and Genetic Manipulation are the keys, apparently.

I disagree because I don't think that's where we're headed. Are we evolving? Yes. But into digital beings and social networking is the first, tenative step. We are pouring more and more of our lives and ourselves into the internet and the electronic realm. Within the next fifty years, we may see the first true virtual civilization where people are actually plugged into the network, where the cycle of life becomes less biological and more technological.

Or perhaps not.

I do know this. Technology itself is evolving exponentially and in directions no one can predict. In fact, trying to predict and direct it is an exercise in futility and is ultimately pointless. What we must do instead is learn to ride it, be braced for the bumps and twists along the way and take the surprises with a certain amount of skepticisim. Master that skill and not get too absorbed, and we should be fine.

Excuse me, I need to check Facebook.


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