Sep 30, 2008

The Last Enemy on PBS: May We See Your I.D. Please?

A half century ago Orwell predicted Big Brother's eye watching over everyone. The scenario seemed preposterous, scary, and so far, far away that future generations would have to deal with the issue. Not us. Well, 1984 has come and gone and privacy as we once knew it has disappeared. We have become a surveillance society. Cameras in plain view follow my actions at the bank, at intersections, through toll booths, in airport terminals, and while shopping. Credit card companies follow my every purchase, phone companies detail every call I make, and online libraries, bookstores, and movie rentals track my personal preferences. Imagine my chagrin when a computerized gizmo makes suggestions based on past purchases. Google and Firefox brazenly record each site I visit, and from space satellites take images of my neighborhood that are so detailed that I can see my car parked on its pad.

It boggles the mind to think what would happen if some entity decided to brand me by my credit cards, driver's license, passport, citizenship papers and other vital pieces of identification. How would I be able to travel or do banking or purchase a house or do anything that required legal documentation? Or what if some bureaucrat decided that I belonged on a public enemies' list or that I required extra surveillance without my knowledge, and that I had no course of appeal because all of this was done in secret on behalf of the state?

The Last Enemy, a modern drama written by screenwriter Peter Berry, prompted these thoughts. This five-part contemporary drama, will be show on Masterpiece Contemporary on PBS Sunday October 5th through November 2nd.

Spurred by heightening surveillance and identity laws in contemporary England, Peter Berry crafted The Last Enemy as a cautionary fable of post-9/11 society, where technological and political trends are converging on a culture that is the antithesis of everything represented by Britain's ancient charter of individual liberty, Magna Carta.

"There are those who would argue that the innocent have nothing to hide," says Berry, "but soon the innocent are going to have to prove that they are in fact innocent - suspects until proven innocent by the data logged on their ID cards. Ordinary citizens will become the enemy - the last enemy."
The first episode sets up the series. Stephen Ezard returns to London to attend his brother Michael's funeral after fours years of doing mathematical research in China. Mysterious events occur almost immediately. A female refugee dies in his apartment, then her body disappears. Stephen meets Michael's widow and almost immediately starts and affair with her. When he is kidnapped by a rogue agent he learns that microbiologists are dropping like flies, dying of unnatural causes. I won't give the plot away except to say that Stephen and his paramour, Yasim, are instrumental in unraveling the clues of this modern thriller.

The characters:

Robert Carlysle as Russell, the mysterious agent

Benedict Cumberbatch: Stephen Ezard, the mathematician

Max Beesley: Michael Ezard, Stephen's brother

Annamaria Marinca: Yasim Anwar, Michael's widow

Geraldine James: Barbara Turney, the PM's assistant

Sep 27, 2008

A Class Act Is Gone

Rest in peace, Paul Newman, and thank you for the years of entertainment. You lived your life well, and with grace and dignity. You also gave back more than you took and became an example to all.

We will miss you.

Sep 15, 2008

In the Face of a Hurricane: Utter Stupidity and Cruelty

Seen over the blogosphere, this news quote in the aftermath of Hurrican Ike: "One resident had waded through the waters to release two chained dogs that had been left behind."

This begs the question: What sort of brainless morons leave their pets chained or locked, and unable to fend for themselves during a hurricane, for which there was ample warning?

Answer: The meanest sort of human scum, utterly worthless and cruel.

Would it not make sense for those who live in hurricane and tornado country to implant chips in their domestic animals' necks? This would allow them some way of finding their pets if they get separated during a storm. Enough about the pets, what about the selfishness of humans who put rescuers and relief workers at risk with their stubborn insistence on staying put? The article continues:

Hackberry resident Darren East, his shirt soaked, came in on a rescue boat as a pale sun sank across the flooded prairie. "We sat around watching TV and listening to the news, and then we saw the water getting higher and higher," he said. "It was a little hectic."

Seventy-five people remained in Hackberry overnight, joining thousands of others determined to ride out the floods that clung to the Texas-Louisiana border. Attempts to get them out resumed Sunday morning, as rescuers across the region went back to work. The relief effort could last two weeks, said Legle.

In light of what happened in New Orleans three years ago, and to Galveston nearly a century ago, one has to wonder about the sanity of the people who opted to stay behind. WTF were they thinking?

BTW, my dog has a chip implanted in him. Does yours?

Sep 13, 2008

Thin Models: A Healthy Alternative?

Several fashion designers, including Micheal Kors and Diane von Furstenberg, have signed a petition from the Council of Fashion Designers of America that has made recommendations similar to the following:

Models with an eating disorder should be encouraged to seek help; those seeking help cannot model without the recommendation from their counselor.

No models under the age of 16 should be hired for the runway shows; they should be provided with regular meals and nutrition advice.

If you click on the above link you will see the rest of the recommendations. Curiously, I saw none regarding weight. The Wall Street Journal ran an article on Friday, The Skinny-Model Debate: Is a Petition Enough?

One tell-tale sign of severe malnutrition is a blotchy mosaic of mineral deposits under the skin. At runway shows, this is visible on some models’ arms and legs from as far back as the third row. A fashion photographer told me recently that they use special software to digitize this effect out of photographs.

The article provides a simple solution to the problem of anorexic models: put the onus on fashion designers and force them to create sample designs in larger sizes.

Click here for my other post on the topic: Pretty Model, Pretty Dead

Image from the Wall Street Journal

Sep 10, 2008

Palin Action Figure

Now this is scary. I almost lost my morning coffee when I saw this Palin as Britney doll. Read more in The Huffington Post.

Sep 3, 2008

Spotless Sun

This is an image of a spotless sun. I didn't know this was possible. Amazing. Click here for a post about the phenomenon.