by Danny McBride
Alright, stand up straight. Now walk. Okay. Now crouch like a hidden tiger-dragon and walk at the same time. Now jump up and down as if your team has just won the Super Bowl and walk at the same time. Can you hop? Skip? Do a double back flip? Or maybe you can moonwalk. You may need to perfect all of these if you plan on going into the terrorist business in the near future in order to fool yet another step forward in the anti-terror technology game.
Georgia Tech researchers have nearly perfected a surveillance system which will be able to identify people by the way they walk. They claim it may be as accurate as a fingerprint in distinguishing one person from another. Using a combination of radar and computer vision technology, law enforcement will be able to tell who you are from a distance of up to 500 feet by the way you walk.
Of course even though this will reduce your civil liberties another notch, youíll have no say about it because itís all being done under the guise of catching terrorists.
"Hey, look!! Itís Gimpy the Mad Bomber!"
"Yes, and whoís that with him? Isnít that Peg-Leg Crutcher?"
The new anti-terrorist surveillance system will be able to tell you apart whether you stroll, lurch or lumber. Lurch? "Yeth, Mathter?"
Of course this includes not just a personís gait, but also leg and arm movements. "Can you thay Ďantipathtoí?"
All of thith, er, this, is being funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). And you didnít even know such a thing existed. Heck, they have a website telling about the various semi-secret projects they have under way, all under the auspices of the Defense Department. Check it out: www.darpa.mil
This fine use of "your tax dollars at work" brings to mind three of my favorite movie characters: Kevin Spacey as ĎVerbalí in The Usual Suspects: "beware of Keyser Soze", Marty Feldman as ĎIgorí in Young Frankenstein: "Didnít that hump used to be on the other side?" and anything with Groucho Marx: "Walk this way.Ē These guys all walked in very distinct ways but obviously only for the movie roles, not in real life. If you get a pebble in your shoe donít you walk differently? Or what if you have an ingrown toenail?
"Hey, look!! Itís that stubby-toed terrorist!"
"Yeah, quick! Catch him before he goes home and soaks his foot!"
Changing your fingerprints is nearly impossible. Changing your voice print is fairly easy. How many funny voices can you make? Make your best one out loud right now. Or try "You dirty rat. Yeah, Johnny Rocco, thatís who." Or "Hereís looking at you, kid." Or "Momma always said life is like a box of chocolates." You can change your voice in an instant. More on this in a minute.
But changing your walk is as easy as changing your shoes. I walk differently in boots than I do in sneakers. And what about high heels? Well yes, I walk way differently in those too. When Iím happy I tend to bounce more. When Iím depressed I tend to slouch. I must have a dozen or more ways that I walk.
So if youíre a terrorist intent on walking up to a crowded bus stop and blowing yourself up, and everybody there with you, one thing you should know is that wearing a heavy overcoat foils the surveillance cameras. Of course, if itís August and youíre wearing an overcoat, that might be enough to give yourself away.
"Jeepers, Ahmed. Arenít you hot in that thing?"
"Yeah, hotterín hell, Iíd guess, but I suppose Iíll get confirmation on that in a few minutes after I blow myself up."
If you want to know more about this kind of science it has a name: Biometrics. Itís the same field of spooky science that includes identifying people by their irises -- or their daffodils -- whatever you like. This is used in the movies a lot. Also, your face or skull shape makes you unique. And as I said earlier, so does your voice.
The National Institute For Truth Verification [ cvsa1.com ] has come up with another truly scary device called the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer. Sounds like something out of Animal Farm, but itís real. Itís like a way-fancy lie detector which costs about $10,000. Police departments use it to browbeat confessions out of the innocent. The machine registers micro-tremors in the human voice without wiring up a suspect like a polygraph. It uses a simple microphone and is supposedly able to detect "lies" by the tremors in your speech patterns. According to a recent "This American Life" on NPR, it is totally bogus -- phoney as the baloney in your sandwich. The machine only detects tremors, and all tremors do not indicate lies, especially when a nervous kid is being interrogated about something he knows nothing about. The act of being interrogated alone makes the "suspect" nervous enough to create tremors in the voice patterns, which cops like to read as "lies.Ē The NPR program highlighted several convicted "felons" later proven innocent by DNA testing. Theyíd have a ball with Katherine Hepburn: "The callalilies look wonderful this year. So do the irises and the daffodils."
This all may possibly identify a terrorist or two, but it makes me jumpy. Jittery. Makes me want to walk away fast and shout "whoa" in a tremory voice. Have a nice day.
Danny McBride © 2003
He's familiar to us from his days of rockin' with ShaNaNa on their sellout national concert tours and starring as Dirty Dan on their four-year smash-hit television series in the seventies. Lead guitar for the colorful fifties flashback band from 1974 to 1981, the ubiquitous Danny McBride has also been seen and heard for the past thirty years in film, on stage, as a radio DJ and political commentator, and in commercial voice-overs.
Blessed with a natural radio voice, he says he's been performing since childhood, when he put on neighborhood puppet shows in his hometown of Reading, Massachusetts . . .
In the late sixties McBride ventured into radio broadcasting as a news reporter on country station WPAQ in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. Having lived exclusively in the Boston area, McBride recalls his culture shock: "We screamed country music all over the Bible Belt" . . .
For more about this talented writer/entertainer, visit Danny's website: www.dannymcbride.com. Editors and fans may write him by clicking here.
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