Tuesday, May 01, 2007
NEW PP: Wrapped in Same Old B[S]
Article from the Sunday NYTimes Travel Section, with [my comments]
The New Passport: Stars and Stripes, Wrapped in the Same Old BS
The New Passport: Stars and Stripes, Wrapped in the Same Old Blue
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
Published: April 29, 2007 http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/29/weekinreview/29macfa.html?_r=1&ref=travel&oref=slogin
SYMBOLS: The theme of the new United States passport is “American Icon.”
Flip through the new passport on the U.S. Department of State Web site (travel.state.gov) See also: Security & Privacy of New E-Passport: http://travel.state.gov/passport/eppt/eppt_2502.html Animation of each page layout: http://travel.state.gov/passport/eppt/epptnew_2807.html
WHEN I went to collect my newly minted American passport, [says the NYT's Neil MacFarquhar-har] I discovered that it came with a radically altered design that included sheaves of wheat, the rather large head of a bald eagle plus the flag wrapped around my picture. And that was just one page!
But the design overhaul wasn’t much noticed by people emerging from what they called the purgatory-length waits to obtain their new passports. [I have now been waiting 9 weeks... jim 5/1/07]
“Don’t you want to kill this guy right now?” Sharon Marks exclaimed to a fellow sufferer outside the Passport Agency in San Francisco. “What are you talking about, design? It’s such a tangled mess in there that we haven’t even looked at the thing.”
When Americans do open their new passports, they’ll see a document strikingly different from the old booklet. By July, all applicants will get the new design, with the State Department expecting to issue a record 17 million passports this year, up from last year’s record of 12 million.
The new passport, in the works for about six years, incorporates the first complete redesign since 1993. Given new international standards for post-9/11 high-tech security features, which transform the document into an “E-passport,” the State Department decided it was time for something completely different.
The new passport comes with its own name: “American Icon.” It’s hard to think of one that was left out. [Neil! How 'bout Three Mile Island, SF's Castro District, the Bridge in Selma, Alabama, the Gulf Coast/NOLA post-Katrina, the LA Uprising, the Dallas Schoolbook Depository, the WTC crater, Virginia Tech and Columbine, etc. etc.?]
The inside cover sports an engraving of the battle scene that inspired “The Star Spangled Banner.” A couple of lines of the anthem, starting with, “O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave,” are scrawled in what the State Department says is Francis Scott Key’s own cursive!
The short, 28-page version of the passport comes with 13 inspirational quotes, including six from United States presidents and one from a Mohawk Thanksgiving speech. The pages, done in a pink-grey-blue palate, are rife with portraits of Americana ranging from a clipper ship to Mount Rushmore to a long-horn cattle drive.
Certain riffs are not obvious at first glance. The passport opens on Chesapeake Bay, while the last page shows Diamond Head in Honolulu. (Guess? “From sea to shining sea.”)
“We thought it really, truly reflects the breadth of America as well as the history,” said Ann Barrett, deputy assistant secretary of state for passport services. “We tried to be inclusive of all Americans.” ["Really, truly"? Oh, bullshit...]
The outside cover remains the standard gold seal on midnight blue, with the addition of a small gold emblem on the front, a circle surrounded by two parallel bars, which is the international symbol that the passport contains a computer chip; in this case, bearing a digital image and biographical information about the holder. (The chip, buried in the back page somewhere above the moon, has been the source of some controversy out of fear of electronic theft, although State Department officials say it is locked.) [I am guessing it can be unlocked, or at least made "inop," with a hammer. Social Engineers, please report!]
The new passport was developed by a six-member committee from the State Department and the Government Printing Office, with then-Secretary of StateColin Powell approving the final icon theme. [Words fail me...] Others themes considered included American documents, the Wright brothers and space exploration. (The latter called for black pages, [NOTE: This NOT a reference to the sexual proclivities of any former Republican Congressmen...] deemed rather impractical for reading visas.)
“We think it is a beautiful document as well as the most secure,” Ms. Barrett said. “It’s a work of art.” [Your a real piece of work too, Ms. Barrett!]
Professional designers shown the passport to critique mentioned art as well. “It is like being given a coloring book that your brother already colored in,” said Michael Bierut, of the design firm Pentagram in New York City. A passport, not unlike a scrapbook, gets its allure from gradually accruing exotic stamps, with the blank pages holding the promise of future adventure, he and other designers said. But they find that the new jumble of pictures detracts from that.
“There is also something a little coercive about a functional object serving as a civics lesson, even a fairly low-grade civics lesson,” Mr. Bierut said. New passport bearers in San Francisco seemed divided. “It’s very patriotic,” said Cynthia Yacur of Folsom, Calif., relieved to receive one just days before leaving for Greece. “Co-oool pictures!! An eagle! A bison! Ni-iiice!! Every page is different! I like it!!!”
Another Californian, Candace Serona, was less convinced.
“It seems to represent an idealized version of a country that is far from ideal right now,” she said, adding that the most positive thing was that at least the images embedded over her photograph hid some wrinkles.
Perhaps the ultimate judges will be border guards. [Oh! Great!]
Finally he said haltingly, “You are a diplomat?” [Yeah, I'ma' frgn diplomat...no bribe for you, schmuck.]