Tuesday, 3 December 2013


Amazon Drones

These past few days I’ve been gobbling NyQuil Liquicaps like candy and chasing them with brandy. The walking, waking fever dreams have been nothing short of spectacular.

I have crossed the green Sahara in a snowsuit on a pink elephant with T. E. Lawrence. I have swum the trade routes to Kashmir in the company of secret elders of a gentle race. I have soared on the updraft of the mighty Zephyr far above Avalon and swooped and tumbled under fizzing high tension wires amidst a flock of naked pixies. I have absorbed the wisdom of Justin Trudeau and know that hope is to be feared and that love is stronger than anger unless it rains on your wedding day which may be pathetic fallacy or just stormy weather and most certainly ironic. The fruits of my stoned Internet shopping spree will be delivered by drones.

Whoa, the drugs wore off. The drone business is real. The future just flew in: instant gratification for agoraphobics; career opportunities for adult gamers who dwell in their mothers’ basements. Amazon will deliver packages weighing up to five-pounds by octocopter! Tom Swift and Popular Mechanics live again! Segway PTs, the previous future, are so 20th century. Meanwhile, gloom pervades the respective headquarters of the United States Postal Service and Canada Post: first private couriers and now delivery drones; this bullying must stop and how exactly did we mess up our national monopoly again?

For people of a certain age encountering the phrase ‘German troops’ in an international news story remains a serious cause for pause. There are like difficulties with the word ‘drone.’ In the realm of science-fiction great tales have been told of sophisticated machines becoming self-aware. The robotic embrace of Descartes must necessarily lead to a warranted Nat Turner Rebellion or the unrelenting fascist heel of a newly triumphant species. In the here and now a drone is remote death from above, hi-tech machinery aimed and launched by the US Military or the CIA, its lethalness theoretically perfectly surgical. War, like economics, is an imprecise art or science. Its latest weapons, each designed to curtail its very existence, are scattershot. We want to fight and win wars that don’t actually kill anyone. Drones are a positive step in that direction except for the ‘collateral damage’ (civilians) within range of the blast. Drones need more PR spin than German troops.

If I were to order Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS from Amazon, I don’t know that I’d be comfortable with Amazon’s drone delivery. Eight sets of rotors slicing through the annuals, perennials and bushes; beheaded chickadees, robins, jays and cats; a shaved dog; neighbours muttering judgments about special delivery Nazi soft-core porn. There’s something about mailbox lottery, about waiting for things to arrive when they should actually get there over miles of bad road. And there’s something about the hope that the discreet brown package may possibly turn up one day early. Anticipation: hate to drone on, but it’s a really good feeling.

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