Little blue books

We got our new passports!

The new versions now have bar codes and other electronic components so that they can be scanned. I think this will make life a lot easier as more airports and airlines are going to self-service kiosk readers, to verify your passport, etc. But it also means they need to be treated more gently, no slipping them into the back pocket of your jeans, in case you sit on them and crush some hidden chip. In fact the covers are so thick and stiff now, I can’t really put in into my leather passport cover. (Since I’m in a craftsy mood, maybe I’ll make a new one of stretchy recycle T-shirt material, and be creative about the cover: Mesopotatomatia? Siliconstan? Inner Tubeland? How about The Federal Republic of the Democratic States of Ginger Beer Drinkers?

1) I’m always a bit nervous during the interim period when I’ve sent off my existing passport with my passport renewal application, and waiting for the new one to come. What if something happens during that time when I don’t have a passport, but need to go somewhere international at a moments’ notice? Which is why I always shell out extra for the expedited service, even if I don’t have any plans to go abroad anytime soon.

2) I also renew my passport more than six months’ before its expiration date, as there are some countries that won’t let you in if there’s less than six months’ validity left on it.

3) Also, I always ask for extra pages when I get a new passport, because it doesn’t cost anything extra, and saves me the hassle of having to send the passport in for extra pages later on. See (1). That used to be a free service, now it costs $82!

The coolest thing about the new passport is that the visa pages are all different, showing different vistas of Americana. (Since I have double pages, the themes repeat.) I imagine the intention was to deter fraud and forgery, but primarily it will entice immigrations officers throughout the world to take a vacation to the see the good ol’ U.S. of A. The pages feature:

– The Grand Tetons? (from the Ansel Adams photo, perhaps)
– Liberty Bell and Independence Hall
– A tall sailing ship within sight of a lighthouse
– A bald eagle and bison roaming in the foreground of majestic mountains
– A steamboat chugging down the a placid river (it’s too murky to make out the paddle)
– A bearded man in overalls ploughing fields of wheat with two oxen (Pa Ingalls?)
– Cowboys on horseback herding longhorns
– A steam locomotive belching along the railroad
– A grizzly bear with a salmon grasped in its jaws near a totem pole
– The Statue of Liberty,
– Mt. Rushmore,
– Diamond Head off Waikiki,
– Saguaro cactus in the desert

On the inside cover of the back, there’s a spacecraft and the earth and the moon. There are also quotes from various prominent Americans, including Lincoln, Washington, King, etc on top of each page.

The images are rather heavy on dead-white-men history and technology – really, a steam boat, and a steam train, and a sailing ship! Are we supposed to be on the cutting edge of technology? Why not swap one of them out for a bicycle? Or even a Harley Davidson? A freeway cloverleaf interchange? An aerial shot of a Walmart parking lot the day before Christmas?

More diversity would be better: there are token quotes by a woman, a male Latino name, and Ellison Onizuka (Asian American astronaut). But none in the images themselves. Why not show pig-tailed Chinese working on the railway? Or Mexican farmworkers in the fields? Or African-Americans building Liberty ships?

I don’t disagree with the monuments portrayed: Liberty Bell, Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore. But how about something more contemporary: the Golden Gate Bridge? Disneyland? Las Vegas? Or recognizable scenery: The Grand Canyon? Old Faithful? Crater Lake?

Diamond Head is an interesting choice, as is the grizzly bear and totem (for Alaska), the last two states admitted to the Union. Is this some sort of sign that the Stripes may soon be accompanied by 51 stars?

I wonder what committee got to chose the images. Oh snap, of course there’s been an academic paper written on it . . .

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