So Jamie more or less forced us to watch iron man on Thursday in some nondescript multiplex cinema in Swansea, Wales. Definitely not the worst film i have ever seen but for some reason these comic book adaptions fail to really excite me (except for film versions of comic books by enki bilal that is).
Out of curiosity i also bought a DVD version of some DVD hawker in the restaurant Hai Ha (they do make really nice special roast duck in that place) on Mare street in hackney on Friday. As one could have expected it turned out to be a really bad (as in having chairs and the ceiling in the picture for three quarters of the film) chinese cam version.
Still kind of amazing that they get DVDs out into london restaurants in a bit more than 24 hours…
Just finished watching the BBC documentary (from 2004) ‘the power of nightmares – the rise of the politics of fear‘ by Adam Curtis. This three part mini series compares the rise of the American Neo-Conservative movement and the radical Islamist movement, making comparisons on their origins and noting strong similarities between the two. Curtis argues that the threat of radical Islamism as a massive, sinister organized force of destruction, specifically in the form of al-Qaeda, is in fact a myth perpetrated by politicians in the west in an attempt to unite and inspire their people.
While i generally agree with this analysis, the series has one central weakness. In part three (‘The Shadows in the Cave’) he describes in detail how none of the 600+ people arrested under the post 9/11 UK anti terrorism legislation until 2004 had any connection with Al Qaeda and how none of them was actually arrested for (planning to) carry out terrorist attacks. While this is factually true it sounds quite different when seen from todays perspective as it merely demonstrates that the UK anti-terrorist organizations failed to recognize the activities of the 7/7 bombers before they carried out their attacks.
However i would still argue that Curtis has a point (which is aptly illustrated by the silliness that the UK security forces have demonstrated in the post 7/7 period (see here, here, here & here) and if you have not seen the power of nightmares yet, you would probably want to download it from a torrent tracker near you.
I have written about virtues of ‘the knowledge‘ and the dangers of GPS to human evolution before. Now the good old BBC is running an article that actually pits the one versus the other in some kind of technology versus humans death match. They held a race through London in which a cab driver (in possession of ‘the knowledge’) had to compete against a BBC hack who was following the instructions of a Tom Tom GO 720 navigation unit:
We chose waypoints that took us through extremely busy parts of London. We would need to go from Box Hill in Surrey to Wembley Stadium, then the Houses of Parliament and finish at Greenwich Observatory. In fact, if we had just followed the shortest route to our first waypoint – the new Wembley Stadium – we would have gone right through some of the worst traffic blackspots in the area.
The rules were simple. Andy the cabbie could choose whichever route he wanted, listen to traffic reports on the radio, and change route at any time. But so he did not get an unfair advantage, he was not allowed to use bus/taxi lanes to avoid any jams. I had to do what the sat-nav said. No exceptions.
The BBC’s Spencer Kelly won the first part of the race as a result of the GPS suggesting to take the M25 that bypasses London and managed to get to Wembley Stadium 5 minutes ahead of the Cab driver. The second leg, however was clearly won by the Cab driver who proved much more experienced in navigating through the highly congested city center and arrived at the Greenwich Observatory a full 27 minutes before the car following the sat-nav instructions. Guess this illustrates my point that relying on GPS for navigation is definitely going to be detrimental to humankind.
So i am back at London heathrow, waiting for my connecting flight to Amsterdam. To get from my arrival gate to the departure hall i had to clear a third(!!) security check since arriving at the airport in Delhi. (the first one being the standard delhi airport one and the second a special one by BA just before boarding the plane because they are obviously not trusting the Indian authorities). Now they must be selling explosives and machine guns on board of planes these days otherwise searching everyone after leaving a plane is a rather silly exercise…
Anyway, this time they apparently found something in my carry-on baggage so a young screener started removing items one-by-one from my bag. As she had told me that i probably had something liquid in my bag (and i was sure i had not) i was starting to take the piss out of her commenting every item she removed with a description of it and the addition that it was solid/not-liquid. however the last thing she pulled from my bag was a half empty 20ml tube of sunscreen which either had not been considered to be liquid before or they had not seen the pervious two times. This made me look rather stupid in any case.
After finishing my search her shift had ended and she left which is why we ended up next to each other on a escalator a little bit further in the terminal building. I told her that my behavior hadn’t been meant personal. surprisingly she thanked me and immediately started to complain about her job which she said she ‘hated’ because she had to take away stuff from people that was clearly not dangerous, like taking away perfume from old ladies and such. she then went on to say:
i dont want to curse, but me and my colleagues we behave like bitches
Apparently she was only on the job for four days (which means that either she picked a bad time to start or that they are hiring lots of new staff at Heathrow to cope with the mess they have created for themselves (and do not do very intensive security screenings of their new screeners) and absolutely hated it because most of the stuff she had to do made no sense whatsoever.
I for my part will try to avoid both British airports as well as British Airways in the future. Kind of hope that both BA and the BAA go bankrupt because nobody will want to use their services anymore. If i was them i would really start pressuring the government to stop acting silly and focus their energy on useful things.
Ars technica has a sweet little write-up about the fact that London cabbies apparently reject satellite navigation devices (which they are allowed to use since beginning of this year). The main reason seems to be pride in having passed the notoriously difficult exam (‘the knowledge‘) which is required to get a license:
Cabbies have two basic reasons for not embracing the systems, one rooted in technology and the other in psychology. For one thing, the devices still do not give the kind of perfect directions that are needed by someone who makes a living driving a car about the city. But secondly, the devices also remove the mystique that surrounds the Knowledge and the pride that passing the exam gives to cabbies. With a satellite navigation unit, just about anyone can become a cabbie and they can do it without studying.
Now everybody who was forced to take a cab in Amsterdam in the last couple of years will be able to attest to the fact that it is indeed a very bad idea if (a) ‘just about anyone’ can become a cabbie and (b) they do rely on satellite navigation which does not work in congested European city centers. Kind of surprising to see that that conservative stubbornness of the islanders does have positive effects once in a while…
Actually i am sick of a number of things at the moment. Has a lot today with what the media reporting, but this evening i am particularly sick of how the media are reporting. Around 2000h yesterday evening the germen news-portal spiegel online had a breaking news alert on top of their frontpage:
Why is that important? Even the most stupid intern doing a sunday afternoon shift in the news room while it is summer outside must have noticed that up until now more than 150 people have been killed in Lebanon by the Israelis and at least 20 have been killed in Israel by Hezbollha. So what is the point of pointing out that 8 Canadians have been killed? I mean dead people are dead people and it does not really matter which passport they had (o.k sometimes it does matter, but that is another story and i cant find the link right now) even if the idiots who are running most media outlets and wire services seem to think otherwise.
Are we supposed to pay more attention to the death of Canadians just because they are mostly white, better educated and issue pointless statements for restraint through the same international organizations (G8/NATO/OECD/…) as ‘we’ are?
Or is it because canadians are so healthy and live in such a safe place that their live expectancy is slightly higher than that of the average Lebanese person and as a result their unexpected death weights more than that of a non-western person?
Now don’t expect an answer from spiegel online, as their breaking news alert linked to an absolute non-story. i do not even know why i still have this crap news-site as my start up page in my browser. Guess i have to change that.
This whole episode also reminds me of how pissed i was with all the western media last week for the amount of attention they paid to the Bombay train bombings. given that these attacks where almost exactly one year after the 7/7 London bombings and killed almost 4 times as many people the media attention was extremely sparse. No interactive flash graphics or interviews with distressed emergency responders when it comes to non-westerners being the victims of terrorist attacks (but then interactive flash graphics and interviews with distressed emergency responders are highly annoying things so maybe one should plead for less media attention to terrorist attacks in the west).
Another trip to london another blurry phone-cam picture of girls in black (here is the last one). i was sitting on the Hammersmith tube on my way to the hotel when two college girls stepped in. One of them was wearing a black dress and a black headscarf quite obviously for religious reasons. Generally one would assume that women who dress this way do this to comply with the modesty that the Qur’an requires from muslims. However this girl was openly carrying a playboy branded notebook which – at least me – is hard to reconcile with the very concept of hijab…