40-Watt Bulb Department

Through deliberate provocations of memory we relive events and reacquaint ourselves with people and ghosts from our past. Google is great for this, although most of the people I knew prior to, say, 1993, are nowhere to be found in the Googlesphere.

Sometimes, however, people and events from the past randomly trickle up from the mental archives, through the bog of daily cerebral activity and into the light of awareness. And sometimes it isn’t pretty.

Like this morning while I was making coffee. Out of the blue I had a flashback to a conversation I had about eight years ago with a guy I worked with at the time. Let’s call him Bob.

Bob was a nice enough fellow, and good at his job. But when it came to dealing with women — particularly with regard to personal relationships — he definitely had a (shall we say) “old world” mentality. It wasn’t any sort of defiant anti-feminism thing; he was just completely uneducated on gender issues and seemed blithefully unaware of the changes that have taken place over the past three decades with regard to gender roles. A bit odd, given that he was barely 30 years old himself.

Anyway, Bob was a bachelor, and a he certainly got around. He was thinking about maybe settling down and getting married but he wouldn’t consider any of the women he dated because they were all “too loose.” (On the other hand, he wouldn’t consider dating anyone who wouldn’t “put out.”)

Incidently, he also had a hairy back, but at least he got it waxed.

One time he took a solo trip to a resort in the Dominican Republic. He later told me of his surprise at finding that almost everyone there was black. Not exactly an expert on post-Columbian Caribbean history, I think he was expecting to find an island full of booty-shaking latinas. An equal-opportunity horndog, the ethnic flavour of the island didn’t bother him — he just couldn’t understand why the only chiquitas he saw were bananas.

One night, during his trip, he went to the Vegas-style befeathered girly show put on by the resort, and lucky him, managed to pick up one of the dancers. (Despite his shortcomings, Bob was quite “successful” with women, primarily because he was very forward and uncomplicated with his intentions. Apparently some women like that.) Back at her room, she introduced him to a box of condoms. He was rather put out by this, and was reluctant to use one. She pulled the old “no glove, no love” line and he finally capitulated and capotulated.

The part of the story that randomly surfaced in my head this morning was the conversation I had with Bob while he related this story. I said “Bob, what were you thinking? Why wouldn’t you wear a condom?” Bob shrugged, and without a hint of irony or sarcasm replied “Why would I need a condom? I didn’t even know the girl!

You’re being watched…

grease bath

That’s not the exit light.

I was at the AMC Cinema in the old Forum on Saturday night (screening room 5). Waiting for the movie to start, I passed the time by playing with my new camera. I noticed, when I pointed it towards the screen, that I could see — on the LCD screen — a light on the wall just to the right of the screen. Oddly, when I looked with my naked eye, I saw no such light.

I checked a few times to make sure it wasn’t one of the lights that run down the side wall, but no, there was very definitely a bright spot on the front wall that the camera could plainly see, but my eye could not. So I zoomed in all the way (even using the ghastly “digital zoom”). I saw a strange looking rectangular bug-eye thing that was definitely no exit sign.

So what the heck is it? I surmised that it must be some kind of infra-red light that the cinema uses to illuminate the room, so they can watch over us in the dark using some kind of infra-red viewer. I suppose they need to know if someone is getting naked, or if thieves are nabbing purses, or whatever.

grease bath

Yo! Paranoia!

After the movie I walked down to the front of the room, and sure enough, there’s a panel up there, about the size of a shoebox, with a red lens over it and some kind of bulbs behind the lens. There’s another one on the left side of the screen.

So you’d better watch out or that hanky-panky you get up to in the back row might end up all over the Internet. Cinema spy cam!

Follow-up! An alert commenter (Rosco) has identified the device in question as an infrared “assisted listening device” for the hearing impaired. Not unlike this one. Mystery solved!

This morning, on This Morning . . .

This morning, on This Morning, host Ralph Benmergui was speaking to some folks about the current situation and he asked them “will we still be talking about this a year from now?” and “can we handle this level of anxiety for a whole year?

Clang! Think about it. People handled this level of anxiety (and then some) for five full years during WWII, and that was a mere 22 years after suffering the same level of anxiety for four continuous years during WWI. Before that there were all manner of colonial wars that went on for ages, as well as the various empirical clashes throughout Europe and Asia that have gone on for centuries. Humans are a warring species! Not that I’m happy about it, but even a cursory glance at human history confirms this.

At our current point in history and geography, we have two generations (boomers and “X“) who haven’t really had much to worry about aside from nuclear anihilation, which is something that only caused anxiety for a few weeks at a time every few years, usually in response to a made-for-TV movie, or for a few weeks the Cuban missile crisis. (The Vietnam war doesn’t count because there was no homeland threat, and most of the attention and anxiety during that war was directed inward, at Johnson, Nixon, and their administrations.) The result is two complacent generations of fools who waste their political bandwith worrying about a splotch on some White House intern’s dress or the goings-on of a ficticious President.

This idea that persists (perhaps I should use the past tense on that) in North America that “everything is wonderful and peaceful” is something of an illusion. We have built that illusion ourselves and it has worked very well for quite some time, but the fact of the matter (which we all know, but choose not to think about very much) is that the rest of the world isn’t like this and many of those “have-nots” are pissed off at us.

From my analysis, the issue is less about our “material success” as it is about our complacency and ignorance. It’s one thing to be safe and comfortable and humble about it. It’s another thing to be safe and comfortable and to ignore the price of that safety and comfort – a price that is paid by others around the world.

Charging into less-developed countries to sell them burgers and cokes and Sylvester Stallone movies while they toil in factories and fields for less than a living wage while we grow fat and soft is insulting. Even though on an individual basis those workers may be thankful for their jobs or even aspire to “be like Americans,” it degrades their humanity and their cultures, and there are people in those societies who recognize this and speak up about it.

Unfortunately, we live in an age of conflict resolution through violent confrontation, so these people end up behaving like thugs and terrorists (I include in this group the violent wing of the anti-globalization movement).

Where are the Gandhis, Martin Luther Kings, and Mandelas of the 21st century?

The same applies to propping up puppet governments. It may provide stability, and perhaps even a level of prosperity. But at what cost? Do we ask? No, we assume everyone is happy and then we melt into the sofa watching sit-coms while waiting for the pizza delivery.

Is it any wonder we’re frequently very impressed by the knowledge of history and culture we find in educated people from other parts of the world? This well-worn cliché applies to North American’s view of Europeans, but it extends to educated people from everywhere outside of North America. And there’s a reason for it… most of these people have had real things to worry about and as such have not let their minds grow soft and mouldy.

(I shouldn’t have to point this out but I will… I’m talking about “us” as a whole, not as individuals. Many of us have been keenly aware all along, while others completely have their heads in the sand. The heads-in-sand crowd is more numerous, however, so as a whole, we are more than half buried in it. Also, I should not have to mention that what I say here in no way justifies terrorism of any kind. However, if we do not stop to think openly and honestly about the root causes of the hostility of others, then we will never move towards resolving these issues and strengthening our own collective character.)