Saturday, August 04, 2007


On the subject of paranoia

The origianl classic quote regarding paranoia (or the one I first fell in love with) went along the lines of:

Paranoia is merely a heightened state of perception: most people are persecuted beyond their wildest dreams.

For years this enjoyed no competition as my favourite paranoia-related quote. Then, a few weeks ago, I finally had the chance to watch Darkman 2: the return of Durant.

Darkman, you see, has the scientific know-how to adopt other people's faces; a technique which he puts to good use, infiltrating the bad guys' organisation and causing well-laid schemes to go wrong. Durant (Larry Drake), aware of this, takes to seizing his henchmen's faces randomly, just to check they're not the good guy.

When a henchman with a smarting face accuses Durant of becoming paranoid, Durant screams:

"Paranoia is total awareness!"

and we have a new contender for best comment on paranoia.


For years I have been convinced that I am being subjected to extra scrutiny at airports. Particularly on the England to Japan leg of my annual return home. In 2005, I got pulled out of the boarding line at Heathrow by the nice young man who'd previously handled my check-in for an extra badge. Evidently, I am unable to differentiate between nice young men and neo-fascist twats. I've got yours right here, Adolf.

I got the third degree coming through Osaka as well.

Last year, Doris Day at KIX went through all of my bags, asking pointless questions about every damned item she could lay her hands on. Asked me which university I studied at, despite having my passport open to the page to which my working (that's right- working!) visa is attached in her hand. I maintained frosty civility, gathered my much-rearranged possessions and made my way through the arrivals gate to a welcoming party of three policemen.

Who proceeded to ask me all the same questions again.

This year, I felt sure I was going to get the cavity search: I was flying in from Amsterdam. I even said as much to my father as we supped an obligatory coffee at Birmingham International airport.

I disembarked at Osaka, and they just waved me through. Waved me right fucking through.

I walked fast towards the train terminal, head down, mind racing.

They know I know. Somehow, they know I know.

Either that guy at the next table was listening and told them to abort the mission or...

...Jesus, no: not my own father...


Just a little something to keep that fire of fear burning in my heart: one of my students (I think she's about six) has taken to wearing something round her neck when she comes in my class.

It's an adorable Hello Kitty baby monitor: one of those two-part things parents keep so they can hear if their offspring is choking to death upstairs in the cot while they're watching The Bill or Casualty or similar.

And it's switched on. I'm not even joking.

Which means somebody, somewhere, is listening. And even if it's the mother, that doesn't make it OK: what's she expecting to hear?

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. One of my father's oft-repeated gems.

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