Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ebert has been recuperating now for what, four or five weeks? I think the truth behind this clever PR stunt is that Ebert is actually dying or already died, and initiated a plan to transfer all writing responsibilities and the Answer Man title to his brother, Raul Ebert.

But seriously, I hope he is doing okay. He has done a lot for movies. At least in part due to his influence, some movie store chains now stock widescreen DVDs as their primary format. And with his Great Movies series, scores of moviegoers have been directed to something other than the current week's dubious releases.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Nearly five years after Sept. 11, 2001, US airport security remains obstinately focused on intercepting bad things -- guns, knives, explosives. It is a reactive policy, aimed at preventing the last terrorist plot from being repeated....Of course the Israelis check for bombs and weapons too, but always with the understanding that things don't hijack planes, terrorists do -- and that the best way to detect terrorists is to focus on intercepting not bad things, but bad people.
There are various things I admire about the Israelis. Their efficient, intelligent, no-apologies approach to this problem could be counted as one.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Want to visit a castle? This site lists castles in 47 states, plus D.C.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Pretty cool concept.

The site Pandora lets you type in an artist, and the site then creates a customized playlist based around the sound of that particular artist.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Reluctant, Involuntary Education on Evil.

This week's foiled terrorist plans to blow up outgoing British flights in air taught me something. I think that the next time a terrorist attack occurs, it is going to be harder to go through than 9/11.

Last time, the event was totally unforeseen for most people. The immediate reaction for most, I'm guessing, was shock, which is an invaluable defense mechanism for handling trauma.

Also, I viewed the tragedy of 9/11 in terms of a past event. Most tragedies are appropriately viewed that way. Although some may have felt fear or anger primarily—and I read a news poll at that time giving only those options—my internal response was a profound sadness.

But we’re not naïve anymore. In the first moments of learning about 9/11, when I was told by a coworker that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, I couldn’t even conceive of what that meant. I pictured a small prop plane going off course and causing localized damage to the building. It was a bizarre news sentence, and I had no immediate context to frame it.

Not anymore. When I heard of the airline threat this morning on my way to work, the first emotion I experienced was a flash of fear. We now know quite a bit about the mindset this produces this global danger. We know a lot about how they operate, what they’re capable of, how committed they are to succeed, and how long they’re willing to persevere. And while I subconsciously might have been in lulled into denial about the possibility of a large-scale attack happening again, this morning served as a striking reminder. When people speak of 9/11 as being the day the world changed, they are making reference to tragedies caused by unspeakable evil no longer happening merely as isolated incidents that have limited duration and move into the past. I think most now view terror as an ongoing, present reality.

I have a brother who trims trees for a living. Because of his line of work, he is occasionally asked about fear of heights or vertigo. He once said that the one moment when he was most scared at his job, he wasn’t even in a tree, or in any immediate danger. He had prepared to climb a tree, but decided at the last minute to use the bucket truck. As he cut into the trunk high above ground, the whole tree collapsed—it was infested with ants.

The comment didn’t make much sense to me at the time, but I think I understand it better now. When the threat of danger is a present reality, the body goes into “deal with it” mode, which provides an outlet for nervous energy. But reflecting in calmer moments on what could have happened, reflecting on what came awfully close to what can be described as inevitable, sometimes brings a perspective that fear can easily sneak in on. And so with that instantaneous twinge this morning while riding along the freeway, I acknowledged that what we view as safety and security is a remarkably thin blanket of ordinariness covering the day-to-day, one that can be yanked away at any moment.

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