Exiting the train, listening to a podcast on the history of Fallout Shelters, and it sounds like some of my noise music collection has decided to mix its way in. No, it’s just the station announcement system, stuck at top volume blaring out dead static. The escalator slows and shudders, like it’s wearing down. A sense of the mechanisms of the city failing, the sand of innumerable burned civilizations gathering in the gears and making the whole thing grind. Good morning.
Roland S Howard - Teenage Snuff Film :: Absolutely grindingly depressing Bad Seeds-esque from the bassist of The Birthday Party, Nick Cave’s band before them.
Who Put The Benzedrine in Mrs Murphy’s Ovaltine, 1946 :: I had never been aware of Harry Gibson before now. Find some more of his performance videos on Youtube, the man is completely, deliciously mad.
Everything here, before the raw speculation starts, is taken from an episode of 99% Invisible I was listening to today. If you don’t already know about it, get into it, it is amazing brain food about ‘design’ in the broadest, most we-won’t-even-talk-about-helvetica sort of way.
In the 70s, in that brief period of time when Airline Hijacking seemed to almost be a recreational thing, before the idea that a plane could be a weapon, the airlines were dead set against any security measures that might inconvenience passengers enough that they might spend their money elsewhere. Far cheaper to fly to Cuba, put everyone up in a hotel for a night in Havana, then fly them on to their destinations after the hijackers had been safely neutralized, than to spend millions of dollars making their customers feel like criminals.
In this discussion, they asked for public input. Many bizarre plans were hatched by the ever-creative public. One, for example, was that all passengers be required to wear boxing gloves, because it’s very difficult to operate a gun wearing boxing gloves. I love the symbolism, here: we’re going to prevent a violent act by dressing everyone for a different violent act.
But the one that really got my Ballard Circuits going was the idea of building, in Florida, a Fake Havana Airport. The idea was that the pilots would gamely follow the instructions of the hijackers (all of whom wanted to go to Cuba at that time, the mid-east hadn’t gotten big on the hijacking game yet, Cuba was the go-to spot for people who paid for plane flights in ammunition rather than dollars), circle out over the ocean for a while, then come back to land at a reasonably functional replica of the Havana Airport. Then, the hijackers would make their cunning escape into the arms of the US military, all of whom would presumably be wearing fake mustaches and Castro beards.
One wonders how intense this charade could have gotten. How functional does the airport need to be to fool a hijacker? Presumably you’d want a few more planes laying around, at least. Probably some staff. Clearly you’d need a flight tower to talk in the hijacked flights. So… when does it stop being a fake airport? It wouldn’t actually be a Fake Airport, it would be an extremely specialized airport, a hyperreal replica, decorated to look just like Havana International, a displaced exhibit from the Disneyland of Communist Ideology.
In researching this, I found no Wikipedia article on the Fake Havana Airport. I did, however, find a news article from 2003 about a fellow hijacking a plane from Cuba to Florida. Oh how times have changed.
We live in a time where the NOAA has an official website on why we don’t nuke hurricanes for those feeling especially patriotic. Hal Finney, one of the original Cypherpunks, has just been cryogenically preserved, with the hope, eventually, of returning him to the world. The mystery of the Sailing Stones of Death Valley has been supposedly solved, which I mention only because it includes the wonderful notion of “GPS Rocks”.
I almost entitled this section “strange times,” but it’s quite redundant, these days, to ascribe strangeness to anything that happens in the world, isn’t it? I mean, what, really, is strange anymore in a world like this? I see a lot of scifi-and-related writers talk about how difficult it is to write these things when the world keeps getting weirder all around them. Charles Stross said a thing I cannot now find and may be wildly misattributing about how by the time one of his books found print the Hook had become History. I’ve talked about this myself, at length and in various media, so I’ll try to not rehash the point too much here. I have a story currently on the market (rejected with personal note from Analog! Best Possible Failure Mode!) which is a cautionary tale about Google Glass, and I hope to get it sold before Google Glass is too terribly quaint.
Anyway my point is not to re-flog that horse, but to say that I’ve been trying to think about this beyond the scope of the writer per se, and see how it affects the average person who is not in the business of engaging with ideas in the homoerotic sumo wrestling way I tend to. How does the average person scrolling through facebook renormalize all of the Things Are Now Different into a coherent baseline? The usual reaction seems to be this sort of YOLO semi-nihilism mated to a post-ironic ambivalence, but I don’t know that that’s a real psychological state so much as a set of symptoms. I see the Singularity, sometimes, as a sort of millennial endpoint to which we can map all the changes that happen to us. “Well, it was weird for a while there,” we’ll say, or, rather, transmit through our electron pheromone trails or whatever, “but then we all became Transhuman and now we know where we stand and/or float.” It’s a copout, like any apocalyptic model, looking for a point of reference somewhere in the future, when we should know by now that we can only define those things after the fact.
Keep those cards and letters coming in.
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