Friday, December 26, 2014

We Want Information (Christmas Travel and Technology 2014)

In this modern era, technology gets information to us at a phenomenal rate. The main problem is that it gets correct information to us at exactly the same rate and in the same manner as incorrect information. In fact, nowadays, incorrect information can be beamed straight from the source of that misinformation direct to the phone sitting in your pocket. It's never been so easy to lie to or misinform so many people so convincingly. Believe me, smart phones will bring about more religions, not less. Notice that even the most fanatical religious people pray far less than most of us check our phones.
We were running a little behind schedule. Partly because we had to leave super-detailed instructions for our cat sitter, who I assume is some sort of robot, as I have never seen her/him/it. So when my baapp, or whatever the British Airways app is called, gleefully told us that our flight was going to leave 90 minutes later than the sages had originally predicted, we took this as providence and proof that we should hold off from worry.

We decided to take our time. If we hadn't been worried about meeting up with the cat sitter, who I guess must have laser eyes and would vaporise any non-cat creatures she might see upon entry, we would have hung about for an hour, but instead we just sauntered to the metro.

Sitting leisurely on the train, we rechecked our compact guru who was eager to inform us that the flight was now on time. On time! We were in saunter mode, planning to roll up to the gate at our leisure, well in time for a very delayed flight, but now we were the ones running behind.

I think the lesson here is always have a deep seated distrust of technology.

As it happens, the plane did end up being delayed by 20 minutes, so our arrival was not as tight as we had feared. But we were worried most of the way. And because our original plan allowed plenty of extra time to allow for delays in reprogramming the cat sitter.

Well I say 20 minutes delayed. They told us ten minutes but they started boarding 20ish minutes later. And once on board, we had to wait for a gap in the constant stream of planes and a let up in the wind that was causing all this chaos.

We, in fact, got off lightly. There were flights delayed even more than we had been originally told. Planes from the morning were still waiting to leave 3 hours later. The whole board was lit up like a Christmas tree, with baubles replaced by a rubicated "Delayed."

"Rubicated" is the dictionary word of the day and it means "marked or coloured with red." At least that's what my phone says and so it quite likely means something more like, "to be ridiculed and humiliated by a bunch of refined metals and micro-engineered plastics in what is increasingly looking like a concerted pre-takeover plot."

Yes, I know that sounds paranoid, yes, I do believe it's all part of some technological conspiracy and, yes, I do think the cat sitter is in on it too.

Ding Dong - The Horror of Christmas Music

Christmas has descended upon us like a plague of tinselly locusts.

At the airport, 3 young ladies in narrow, red dresses were harmonising closely the song Silent Night. (Or "Spent Might" as my phone suggested the song be spelled.) They were very good and Spent Might is one of the least awful Christmas songs, but still this whole endeavour was indicative of the fact that absolutely everything at this time of year has to be tinsellated or Christmasified or ensantanated or whatever it's called.

Every shop becomes a shrine to glitter. Every TV show will have a Christmas special featuring expensive guest stars and more whimsy than a castle full of fairy princesses. Anything that can broadcast any form of sound is forced to transmit non-stop seasonal songs. And if there is enough space for it, people will be forced into herds and made to sing these songs. As witnessed with the red dressed trio at Schiphol. Many of them seem very happy to do it, but I presume they have family members being threatened and if they stop smiling, an uncle will be shot.

I'm not generally a curmudgeon, but there are some things that really do bug me. And Christmas music really does bug me. In fact, the moment I first heard the Coldplay Christmas song (or "a" Coldplay Christmas song as there may be more than one), I very nearly went on a shooting spree.

What's funny is that there are people out there who like Christmas songs. I've met them. People who otherwise seem to be rational, intelligent human beings. People who at other times of the year could be people I'd be more than happy to hang out with. But for several weeks of the year, a sort of mania sets in and they actively wish to hear these tunes. These songs so cheesy it's like Christmas is just one big, giant cracker; songs so cliched it's like the whole season is a direct-to-youtube action movie sequel; songs so joyful, they are clearly hiding some inner trauma.

So, although these three red-bound women at Schiphol taken on their own, are a nice diversion, they are the shiny tip of the great, bloated, glistening corpse of a semi-musical whale that is dredged up every December.

Well, that's a glimpse into my head this time of year. I wish all of you seasons greetings, but I do so in flat tone, with absolutely no musical accompaniment.