Friday, May 17, 2013

Watching the Watchers: Sometimes I Spook Myself But How I Do Drone On




"Beyond the Palace hemipowered drones
scream down the boulevard
The girls comb their hair in rear view mirrors
 and the boys try to look so hard"
~ Bruce Springsteen,
from the song "Born to Run"

You know the look. When Joe Torre, famous baseball team manager, looked out behind the field, he had it: A glum stare. No expression. The poker face. It was as if he didn't like baseball at all. Dark sunglasses are needed. The look is stoic. Rocky. Pitiless and hard.

The other day I was in this coffee house, which I won't tell you the name of, and there was this old guy in there who had the look. The coffee house was actually a kind of front, apparently, for a whole range of evangelism-related activities. The coffee house charged a lot for its brew. Prices were in range with what other establishments charge, but the actual coffee was served in a container about the size of a Dixie cup. It was a little like passing the plate, I suppose, since they sure were making a mint, in terms of coffee per serving. What I mean by passing the plate is what happens when a church asks for money when God probably has enough already, doesn't use money, touch it, or anything. But that's not the point. It was as if the coffee place believed you really didn't like - or you didn't really want to have - coffee.

But that's not the point, either. The point is, while I was at the coffee place there was this guy, an older gent, who looked at me blankly as if he hated me from behind these dark sunglasses. It was kinda creepy. The only way I can describe it is it reminded me of what the late Rev. Jim Jones, who told his customers to drink the Kool-Aid to commit mass suicide, looked like. It was the late Rev. Jim Jones stare.

Then I noticed the person I was looking at was merely a reflection of myself. I was staring at myself. I had the the late Rev. Jim Jones stare.

So now I try to smile more and wear sunglasses less, and when I do, I try to smile more. I try to be less, well, apocalyptic about things.

But what about everyone else? People stare from behind dark sunglasses a lot lately, and one supposes it might be because they are unhappy. Or it could just be a fashion thing. Nobody smiles in public anymore, or so it seems. That's most likely because the times are so hard, and perhaps many people who stare blankly with the Jim Jones stare because they drank the tea didn't like the taste, or, didn't like baseball, or, simply don't have jobs, just lost their homes in some financial, climate-related disaster or all of the above.

But most of all, staring is rude. It's a kind of surveillance. A really, really crude kind of surveillance, but surveillance nonetheless. As they say, idle hands are the devil's workshop, but a Medusa stare, man, that's hard and cold as a stone.

People need jobs. Cuts down on staring time. But staring skills could be better employed. You could, for example, right now (operators are standing by) apply for training as a remote flyer of drones.

Since the best and brightest lunatics and social-political defectives (world leaders) of our generation have determined surveillance society is good for the economy, and the encouragement of drone technology is all of the wave, let us consider where the jobs are ... staring at a screen for drone technology.

First and foremost: It's the best short-cut there is in the motion picture industry.

I know this because of my own experience in film and television and motion pictures. For example, I spent a considerable amount of bartering trade on a cameraman to produce a film about myself. However, his camera fell off a cliff and the document was lost. Long story. The short side of the story is it broke into pieces, since video-making devices are fragile. This is something we need to remember. Careers as famous people are fragile things and can come and go quite quickly.

Fortunately, even as I write this, my life story is pieced together as some odd duck shot on the public patois of surveillance society for posterity's sake. We are all pieced together this way.

We all have a legacy in film to be pieced together. To produce a full movie, all you need are the necessary security clearances to obtain this productivity en masse.

For example, I have appeared in such films as "My Left Foot by the Laundromat," "Photo Radar," "Coffee and Cigarettes by the Convenience Store," a very Jim Jarmusch-style series of daily sequences, and "Leaving Las Vegas Bank with Less Money in My Pocket Than When I First Arrived." 

Numerous bank, library and national monument documentaries. I have been a star walking down the street and driving up and down what seems like every road in America.

You get the picture.

All of these films about myself are in pre-production since nothing bad happened in them. Unfortunately, great stories need conflict. I went to the Twin Towers a few years before 9/11, but that film, "What the Bleep Do I Know About the Location of the Restroom," also is lost to the dustbin of history. Another short film,
"Cleanup on Aisle Three" has some comedic value, but short films don't appear as fodder for theater matinees anymore.

Anyhow, I lack much conflict in film. Terrorists get all of the play these days and I'm not a big fan of the genre. News media outlets, purveyors of such films, with tight controls on the hype, distribution, serializations and so forth, like them. They get big repeat business. Horror films and fear-based stuff is big business. Bigger than sex, in terms of theme, I suspect. However, as a long-time film critic, I find this trend most unfortunate.

Still, it's a booming field, especially if we consider the future prospects of drones. Oh sure, the blessings of such technological miracles come at the expense of the sanity of many individuals, but look at the bright side. If every inch of the earth, every town, city square, park or, hell, blade of grass, were under drone surveillance, it would force job creators to hire millions, perhaps even billions of people to process the information.

It's good for lawyers, too. A whole new field of privacy law would need to be considered: personal air space. Could take a century to adjudicate. After all, the U.S. Supreme Court hasn't even been able to update the 1872 mining law allowing individuals and corporations to plunder federal property for valuable minerals, despite the ecological damage to such lands beneath our feet.

I'll bet personal air space isn't even being considered.

I have my own mind on a film called "Bang the Drum Slowly in Personal Air Space." It combines baseball and horror into one big basket. It starts out when one of these airborne, dragonfly-esque, nanotech devices comes toward me and I swat it with a baseball bat.

Like I say, these surveillance drones are pretty fragile. Must be because as I say, life is hard. Best keep an eye on the ball.

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