Friday, July 18, 2008

What Have the Romans Ever Done For Us?

Voters in San Francisco have qualified an initiative for the November ballot that, if passed, would name a sewage treatment plant after President Bush. It's political theater meant as an insult. They think they're being cute and sarcastic--"ironic" in the current (wrong) usage of the term--by associating Bush with the dirty business of cleaning poo.

I come here today not to praise or condemn the president. Rather, I'd like to speak on behalf of sewage treatment.

In an earlier career, I spent many years working as an environmental chemist, a good deal of which involved water quality. I worked for and with engineers and chemists from water treatment plants, and still have friends in the sewage treatment business. And let me tell you: I am hard-pressed to think of much that is more basic to civilization. I'm serious. It's a cornerstone, right up there with roads and clean drinking water. Shut down the sewage treatment plants and see how long it takes diseases we don't even remember to charge back through our communities.

So when I heard about this initiative, my first thought was that it was less an insult to Bush than to all the engineers, chemists and technicians working at that plant who've just been told their jobs are a joke. I think the initiative's a stupid misstep that just reinforces the "elitist" reputation of its backers--evidently happy to use flush toilets as long as someone else gets their hands dirty--that could and should backfire on them. If I were President Bush, I'd proclaim it a sincere honor to have a sewage treatment plant named for me. Heck, if I were Bush, I might even fly into SFO to campaign for the initiative's passage.

More irrefutable evidence that water treatment plants are cool: they can teach you how to drive a starship. Or at least the producers of "Star Trek" thought so; when they needed a location to double for the 24th-century Starfleet Academy, they shot at the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys, California.

I wonder if the ballot initiative's proponents realize that Starfleet Academy will someday be located in San Francisco? We'll see who's laughing then.

Tillman Water Reclamation Facility (top)
and Starfleet Academy (below).

3 comments:

Frank Mariani said...

Bravo, Brian. no further comment needed. I always admired the Roman achievements, too. Yes, I am obviously biased, being of Italian descent :-)

Karen's Brother said...

Comic-Con 2008
Saturday, July 26
11:30-12:30 Image Comics/Tori Amos

17 years ago, history was made at Comic-Con, when a kid gave Neil Gaiman a tape of her music. Now, Indie music icon and multiplatinum recording artist Tori Amos comes to Comic-Con to talk about Comic Book Tattoo, the new 480-page coffeetable-format anthology from Image Comics containing over 50 stories based on songs and music from her entire discography. Tori is joined by project editor Rantz Hoseley, as well as some of the contributing creators, including David Mack, Elizabeth Genco, Ted McKeever, and Kelly Sue DeConnick. Seating is limited, so be there early to hear Tori, the panel, and moderator Douglas Wolk talk about the long journey that resulted in one of the most exciting comics projects of the decade! Room 6B

Mike said...

I'm pondering a major editorial about the war on bottled water, which appears to be waged by the same sorts of people who think it clever to name this facility after George Bush. They make illogical claims about bottled water that I hope are based on honest misunderstandings and not a hidden agenda, but that is, in effect, kinda like calling them stupid. But, certainly, they haven't talked to any of the sorts of people who understand where water comes from and how it does or doesn't remain clean. Or, for that matter, what the wet part of a can of Coke is and where it comes from.