Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Random thoughts, unconnected facts

Yesterday was the fourth of July, celebrated as Independence Day in the US of A. About ten years ago there was a disaster movie released called Independence Day, in which aliens attacked the earth. Humanity was about to be wiped out but was saved on the fourth of July after - inevitably - clever Americans found a way to stop the aliens. The film's fictional US President gives a speech designed either to rouse your patriotic spirit [or empty the contents of your stomach, depending upon your nationality and gullibility], saying how mankind was reclaiming its right to survivial on that day. Forever more, this would be humanity's independence day, etc.

One question: if the fightback had begun on another national holiday or annually celebrated event, would they have changed the name of the film and that infamous, cringe-inducing speech? "Today is our Arbor Day!" Or "Today is our Mother's Day!"

Maybe not.

I first left home of the fourth of July, creating my own little independence day. Of course, that was 1985, aliens were not about to destroy the earth and I was much younger then [with more hair, natch]. I drive to my first proper job as a cadet reporter in the New Zealand provincial town of Hawera [that's Maori for Burnt Place]. My car's radiator all but exploded, I scalded my wrist on the boiling water it gouted at me and the trip took ten hours instead of five. A memorable day, but I can't believe it was 21 years ago yesterday.

The post has just arrived, bringing two different experiences with it. First was the envelope containing my tickets to see Scritti Politti playing live in Edinburgh next month. The band hasn't toured for 26 years but Green Gartside has finally overcome his quarter of a century attack of stage fright to hit the road in support of a new album, White Bread Black Beer. Can't remember the last time I went to see a band in concert, particularly a concert where I stood up for the whole event. You know you're getting old when your choice of musical events to attend involve considerations of personal comfort. Then again, I've never enjoyed great, big outdoor events [or the great outdoors in general], so the prospect of attending a festival like Glastonbury fills me with horror and dread. Perhaps I suffering a traumatic experience involving tents as a youngster?

Also in the post was a cryptic and somewhat disturbing letter from British Airways. Here's the text in full, so you can savour its paranoia-inducing flavour...
Dear Mr Bishop
Thank you for writing to us. We have set up a file for you, and the reference number is at the top of the page. It may take us up to 28 days to contact you. Please be assured we will be in touch again as soon as we can.
Yours sincerely
Aaron Fernandes
Administrative Assistant

Recent cutbacks at BA have obviously affected the use of punctuation as well. Poor Aaron Fernandes was only allocated a single comma for the whole of that letter, but I thought he used it with aplomb. You can sense him wishing he had another couple to round things off nicely, but when you've only got the one comma, use it wisely.

Putting aside considerations about commas and their shortage [is there a punctuation drought at BA? Has the airline instituted a semi-colon ban, except for essential usage? I think we ought to be told], the letter left me feeling guilty for no particular reason. The oblique nature of the prose, the apologetic yet Orwellian hints about being in touch again soon, the ticking deadline of BA's ominous response, and - most of all - the fact they have set up a file for me... these are all somewhat disturbing in tenor and tone. It's absence of any reference [beyond a reference number] to why BA is doing all of those that left me bemused.

I'm guessing this is to do with my complaint about having coffee drip on me from the bulkhead of a BA flight to LA in February. If so, I've already banked the nine pound cheque BA sent me to compensate for getting my clothes cleaned. Beyond that, I've no idea what the hell this is all about. Let paranoia commence.

Today's task: write a 5000 word short story featuring masked avenger The Phantom, to appear in a prose anthology being published by America's Moonstone Comics. Got my plot, got my deadline, now I've just got to get my arse in gear. Onward!

1 comment:

Matthew Cochrane said...

It could be that the plan to drip more coffee on you at a later date to maximise the surprise; or BA wants you to write them some punctation, and perhaps run a masterclass on how best to use it.