August 10th, 2006


Unsettling News

The news today about the arrests involving a plot to blow up US-bound airliners leaving from the UK has me a bit rattled.  It was just two weeks ago that I was on one of those flights, heading from Heathrow airport to Chicago.  The security at Heathrow wasn't too alarming; there were long lines to get through the screening area in terminal 3, but the process felt less intrusive than the scans I routinely get here in Austin.  I did get additional screening when I was at the gate to board the plane, but it only took about a minute.  I boarded the plane with two bottles of water and a backpack full of electronics and personal affects.  Based on the short-term "critical alert" rules, I wouldn't even have been allowed to take a book on with me for the flight back to the US, and all the stuff I bought in the duty-free area would have had to be checked somehow.  I really empathize with all the travellers who are caught in the middle of all of this.

Personally, I'm conflicted.  I'm very glad that they detected the plot, and I understand the need to have restrictions in the immediate aftermath.  However, I hope these don't stick around too long.  The new intra-US flight restrictions mean that I'm going to have to check my main bag on my next California trip which adds about a half hour to my travel time each way.  However, I think these restrictions can't hold long-term.  I would hope that the public disclosure of details of their plot would mean that we'll rely on passengers to be more aware of what's happening on the plane and feel that they can act to stop things that seem wrong.  I really like David Brin's writings on this subject, particularly this article for The Futurist.  Rather than trusting a faceless security authority with our safety, we need to take personal responsibility to notice when things are odd and to take action.  I really wonder that if this plot hadn't been detected, how many of the detonations would actually have been successful?  How many of the schemes would have been detected at the airports, and how many would have been thwarted in-air by passengers and flight attendants who notices suspicious behavior and did something about it.

The Fiona Apples of Comedy

Several of my friends saw the brilliant film "The Comedians of Comedy" at SXSW a couple of years ago.  A few of them even got to see the actual comedians from that tour perform at Emo's.  While I don't think the TV show documentary series of their second tour held up as well as the original film, it was still worth a watch.  I now present the Michael Blieden-directed video for Fiona Apple's "Not About Love", staring the lovable Zach Galifianakis.  It makes me giggle.