Archive for February, 2010

Let the Games begin…

I’m not sure what it is, but the Olympic Games has always been an exciting television event for me.

The atmosphere, the buzz, the excitement.  It’s in the air and all around the host city.  In 2002, when Salt Lake City was the host city of the Winter Olympic Games, there was something magical about it all.  The entire city was transformed into pretty much the absolute largest sports convention in the world, and it was happening in my backyard!  For 16 days, the world comes together, despite it’s differences and gathers to compete in what is arguably the most prestigious sports award in the world.

Now the world stage is ready to light up the Vancouver skyline, and I can’t think of a more beautiful city to have host them.  I had the privilege to work on the very first flight of the day from San Francisco to the Olympic Games today and you could really feel the electricity in the cabin as the passengers were set to begin the next chapter in world winter sporting competition.  There were several athletes onboard who waited until the last minute to come to the Games as they finalized their last workouts, honing their laser-sharp talents for the entirety of mankind to behold.  What a feeling that must be, to be a competitor in these most competitive of venues.

There was an older couple on the flight this morning wearing their leather USA jackets.  This is their 10th Winter Olympics and those jackets we adorned with pins from all the various games they had attended.  There was a young Korean family traveling with us who were there to inspire their two young daughters–perhaps one day they would be on the ice, winning their OWN gold Olympic medal!

Even though I will be on the road for most of the days of the Games this year, I will be running my SlingBox into overdrive this month, trying to keep my DVR from filling up too rapidly from all the events I want to watch.  I remember having to work to Tokyo during the 2002 SLC Games and being forced to watch the coverage in Japan was an interesting experience.  I was amazed at what events drew the attention of the Japanese, as opposed to an American audience, and it made me realize that with all the hundreds of different events that are offered, it’s good to know that there really is something for everybody.

To to all the world’s athletes: we salute you and wish you all the best in your endeavors to conquer gold!  And to the spectators, both in Vancouver and around the world: Let’s watch and play together in a spirit of harmony and good sportsmanship.

I believe it truly defines our species as worth growing together as a single world!  Cheers!


Did you hear what I heard…?

As I was going through my TiVo programs, trying to get caught up on Idol, Vampire Diaries and Project Runway, I caught a little snippet of a news report from a few days ago. And it sent a chill down my spine…but…

This country has been on high alert for terrorists infiltrating this country since 9/11/01. That’s eight and a half years of keeping our “ear to the ground” (so to speak) and trying to remain vigilant. The saddest part of all of this is that the American people, as diverse and proud as we are about our country, have a really bad case of ADHD when it comes to this stuff. It’s very easy for them to become complacent and get themselves into the mode of “my government will protect me” and just move on with their lives.

The problem with that is that those whose sole mission it is to destroy our way of life, those who hate our culture and our government, our excesses and gluttony, our success and our dominance on the world stage, do NOT have a short memory and they have, over time, begun to use the very tools and technology that our own country has developed and cultivated against us.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and U.S. intelligence expert Leon Panetta

According to the experts, it’s just a matter of time — and that was the gist of the news report that I saw — before the terrorists are causing havoc and mass destruction within our borders again, and in light of these recent events, they are saying that just such an attack is imminent within the next THREE to SIX MONTHS!

The TOP intelligence agencies have all reported to Congress in the past several days that Al-Qaeda and it’s operatives have begun recruiting rogue Americans to carry out their desires for the destruction of the United States, our economy and our freedom — to bring us to our knees, because in their eyes, we deserve it and we — the Infidels — must be punished.

Now, I don’t want to sound like Chicken Little here (“The Sky is Falling!”), but as an airline safety professional, my “guard” has been up since the 9/11 attacks. I have no choice and I have no tolerance for those who wish to believe that it can’t happen again. It almost did on Christmas Day, for goodness sakes! And I have no idea why our Intelligence leaders would mislead the American public on so serious an issue as this.

Attempted terrorist aprehended on Christmas Day Delta flight

The fact of the matter (in my own mind) is that these terrorists are testing the system EVERY DAY. I’m not a suspicious person, but I also can’t afford not to keep alert whenever I step on that aircraft. I get that the average traveler isn’t thinking about that at all. But if the bad guys are successful in bringing down another passenger jet in the name of their god, I know that once again, the flying public’s guard will be heightened and aroused.

I might sleep a little better knowing that we can prevent it every time it’s attempted rather than live through another 9/11 morning. I’m not giving up on America and the freedom and way-of-life that I am privileged to have. But I still believe it is a gift to be cherished. If we don’t protect it, someone is always out there to take it from us.

Let’s hope it never comes to that…

“Drama” Idol

So, two days down…two more to go before we have the final 24 American Idol singers for season nine.

I believe that there are some real talented people on the show this year. I was really impressed with some, and very surprised at others who I thought were not very good, yet were allowed through to the next round. It makes me wonder, “Did I hear something different than the judges did?”

And the group sessions were your typical drama-filled chaotic mess. But I have to say that I really have had a major complaint with the producers of the show every single year, and this year is no exception.

During the auditions, I can accept all the dramas and train wrecks that get their 5 minutes of fame on t.v. You really have to expect that. But at this point, you have 181 people that you have brought all the way to Hollywood, so they are supposed to be the best of over 100,000 people who auditioned, right? So why can’t we spend more time actually hearing them perform!

Look, I know I’m not a television producer, but does anyone else feel this way? If they want us to start feeling some sort of loyalty towards any of these kids, they need to stop showing us how stressed out they all are at trying to learn to dance and sing harmonies in a group, while at the same time trying to remain a focused singular talent.

Perhaps that formula still works, I don’t know. But I still think the show would be better if we could see more performance and less drama…and while they’re at it…show us a little more of the “behind the scenes” with the vocal coaches and the accompanists. I think those would be much more interesting.

But what do I know…

What defines “safety”?

As you know by now, I work for a major airline, and I have done so for over 13 years.

While I have enjoyed my career there, I have felt an “undertow” of change in the industry that has become increasingly disturbing to me and many like myself who take pride in what we do and truly do have concern for the traveling public.

As an airline employee, I am a SAFETY PROFESSIONAL first and foremost.  And I take that duty very seriously.  I know that 99.9% of the people I work with also take that duty with an almost religious fervor that is tough to find in any other industry except maybe the medical profession.  We are responsible for millions of lives everyday–and all we are trying to do is to get the public from Point A to B in a safe, comfortable condition.

The recent focus on airline safety is not only disturbing to the general public.  We, as the airlines FRONT LINE employees are truly concerned at how the “suits” at the top of the ivory tower have whittled away our ability to always have that focus as our number one priority, and it seems that more and more “whistleblowers” are stepping forward to try to put a dent in the public’s perception that those who manage the airlines truly have the public’s safety in their sites.

While the major carriers can boast about on-time arrivals and safety being #1, a large dark shadow has increasingly loomed behind them that they tend to turn a blind eye to: the regional carriers that masquerade as being part of that major carrier, but in reality is run but a smaller, separate company that may not have the same integrity or motivation as the majors do.  And all because the regional carriers are making huge money at the expense of it’s own employees.

Don’t get me wrong.  The airlines WANT you to believe that airline employees make BIG money.  That myth has to end!  What job do YOU know of that requires you to work (on average) 12-16 hour days, with as little as 8 hours of rest in-between, and of all that time you are on duty, you are only paid for 30-40% of it?  Most pilots and flight attendants are only actually paid for the actual flight time (that is, from the moment the brakes are released at departure to the time they are set at arrival).  All that time before flights (including during boarding, where we are actually interacting with AND serving passengers), in-between flight segments waiting for aircraft, including time waiting for mechanical issues to be resolved, as well as the time we spend away from home, waiting for hotel vans to and from the airport while away from home — NONE of that is PAID time!

The airlines will argue that pilots and flight attendants really ARE paid during all that time (via a “per diem” stipend) but that usually amounts to $0.90-$2.50/hour when away from our home-base but that is strictly dependent on each workgroups’ Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), and since most of these airlines have recently had the ability to have these CBA’s altered due to bankruptcy or near-bankruptcy threats, most airline employees have either had NO cost of living increases (COLA) in years, or have actually LOST income over time.  At my own airline, we are currently paid at 1991 pay levels…that’s almost 20 year-old wages without an increase (and soical security beneficiaries have gotten routine COLAs 15 times since 1991!).

PBS’s Frontline series is airing a special investigation program on this ever-increasing problem.  I have posted a preview of this program here for you to view.  Tell me what you think and please feel free to respond to my poll below…

Please go to: FRONTLINE

Sad Songs Say So Much

Over the weekend, I had seen a “countdown” show of the 100 “greatest” something or other…

As the countdown got into the top 10-15, I began to scratch my head and think, “what on earth were they thinking…” Then I started to wonder, “by who’s opinion?” I mean, if the list were based on something as tangible as “total sales,” “worldwide box office” or “most top awards” then I would be more inclined to agree. Usually, however, these lists are based on the cumulative opinions of the editorial staff of the program’s producers and as I began to realize this, I started to see how much older I have become.

As I have stated before on these pages, I had, at one time, wanted to be a movie director. And although that dream never materialized, my great love and respect for movies encouraged my study of the art, helped me open my mind to other approaches to the craft, and broadened my horizons to seeing movies that I probably may never have seen otherwise.

To those who are “true believers” to the art, it may shock them that I don’t consider “Citizen Kane” to be in my own personal TOP TEN (or even my own TOP 50—I’ve tried to watch the film on several occasions and each time find myself thinking, “OMG! People thought this was a great movie???” Blasphemy, I know!

I also began to realize that these “lists” are never really objective. If it were so, then “Avatar” should be listed as my all-time best movie I’ve seen. Although I enjoyed it greatly, it’s not even in my own personal top 25. Why? Because as good as it was, it didn’t touch me in such a personal way to really have that much influence in my life. And that is the whole point of these lists. They are PERSONAL in nature—subjective, NOT objective.

So, I thought it would be fun to share with you some glimpses of me as a person by revealing some of my TOP lists, from time to time, just to give you some insights as to who I am.

Along with movies, music has had a HUGE impact in my life, one which I personally thank my parents for. Our family’s life was filled with great music, and a wide spectrum of music was welcomed in our home, from classical and jazz, to rock and country.

Since there are so many different genres and styles and types of songs, I thought I’d start out with one most might overlook: melancholy songs. Why start with these? For one, these kinds of songs usually invoke strong emotions in the listener, and the songwriters have truly exposed a raw, injured side to themselves that others can not only relate to, but they can cause one to look within themselves and ask the question, “could I have overcome this?”

So, here is my salute to the broken hearted—to the lost, the longing, the lonely. Remember, these are the 30 songs that moved ME the most. Take a moment and listen to the words, to the music and even to the instruments that were used in their construction…they tend to be some of the most beautiful songs ever recorded (IMHO!)

You may be surprised at some, might have forgotten others, and still others, you may have never heard of before. Not all these songs were hit songs on the radio, but everyone of these moved me in some way, whether bringing a tear to my eyes, or made me hope that I never have to feel such a great level of angst. Please enjoy:

JetStar’s Top 30 Sad Songs

30: “Not Meant to Be” – Theory of a Deadman

29: “Who Wants to Live Forever” – Queen

28: “One Day in Your Life” – Michael Jackson

27: “It’s Your Life” – Milla

26: “The Winner Takes it All” – ABBA

25: “Fragile” – Sting

24: “Dreaming in Metaphors” – Seal

23: “Apologize” – OneRepublic & Timbaland

22: “I’ll Never Get Over You Getting Over Me” – Exposé

21: “Make Love Stay” – Dan Fogelberg

20: “I’m Not in Love” – 10cc

19: “If You Leave Me Now” – Chicago

18: “Without You” – Nilsson

17: “Ain’t No Sunshine” – Bill Withers

16: “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” – Bee Gees

15: “If” – Bread

14: “It’s Sad to Belong” – England Dan & John Ford Coley

13: “Holding Back the Years” – Simply Red

12: “Everybody Hurts” – REM

11: “Hold on My Heart” – Genesis

10: “One Less Bell to Answer” – 5th Dimension

9: “Solitaire” – The Carpenters

8: “Tears in Heaven” – Eric Clapton

7: “Think of Laura” – Christopher Cross

6: “All by Myself” – Eric Carmen

5: “A Thousand Years” – Toto

4: “One Day I’ll Fly Away” – (as recorded by Nicole Kidman)

3: “Alone Again (Naturally)” – Gilbert O’Sullivan

2: “Honey” – (as recorded by Gary Puckett & the Union Gap)

1: “It’s Over” – Level 42

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And the Nominees, along with the Nominees, plus the Nominees (and don’t forget the Nominees) are…

Ten “Best Picture” nominees…really?

AMPAS© (The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) has got to be confused, or else that new cannabis law in California is alive and well in Hollywood.

I am a huge movie fan. When I was a kid, I dreamt of being a big time film director and saw myself and my creativity as on par with the likes of Spielberg, Lucas, Kramer and Wilder. Alas, it never came to that, but nonetheless, I studied filmmaking enough to know what to look for in the creation of an “A-List” movie, with special emphasis on the screenplay itself (I’m a writer at heart…that should be a no brainer!).

Over the years, I have been at odds with AMPAS© over past nominees and winners because of the incredibly transparent political message they were sending at the time. Most of the time, the Oscars© are really just a popularity contest. I’m not really sure that the general public understands how these nominations and awards are handed out, but in a nutshell, there is an elaborate application process, followed by an onslaught of “political” ads urging the AMPAS© voting body to select their movies, actors, directors and film crews for the awards (mostly seen in the trade publications, like Variety or the Hollywood Reporter, and such. There are screening parties and tons of money is spent by the various studios to sway the votes.

As the voting goes, each individual category (Actor/Actress, Screenplay, Direction, Editing, Special Effects, etc.) can only be voted on by members of the Academy who are registered as that type of member, i.e. Editors vote for Editors, Directors vote for Directors and so forth. The only category open to all members of AMPAS© is the “Best Picture” category.

In case you missed the announcement, here are the “Best Picture” nominees for 2010:

  • Avatar
  • The Blind Side
  • District 9
  • An Education
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Precious: Based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire
  • A Serious Man
  • Up
  • Up in the Air

So, here’s my gripe: Has ANYONE ever heard of “An Education,” “The Hurt Locker,” or “A Serious Man”??? If you DID see “District 9” (I did), what on earth makes this movie on par with other true greats, such as “Braveheart,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Gladiator,” “American Beauty,” and “A Beautiful Mind” (for those of the more recent decade) or such classic winners as “The Last Emperor,” “Rain Man,” “Amadeus,” and “Gandhi!” Really? This is the best of the best???

So let me offer up the movies that I think are better qualified on this LONG list of nominees:

  • “Star Trek” (2009): Ok look, AMPAS© rarely nominates science fiction or fantasy, and it’s even more rare that one wins. “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003) is the ONLY Fantasy/Science Fiction winner of the “Best Picture” Oscar© in the 82 year history of the award. “Star Trek” (2009) was well acted, well directed, and the script well-executed. If you are going to compare the two, putting this film up against “District 9” is definately NO CONTEST!  The USS Enterprise WINS hands down!
  • “Julie & Julia” (2009): Ok, Ok! So Meryl Streep is in (yet) another great movie, and yeah, she is nominated. But think about this. “Julie & Julia” was truly compelling when you stop to think that it’s based on two SEPARATE true stories, intelligently interwoven into a delightful and watchable film; “Up in the Air” (although loosely based on a true story) isn’t all that interesting and Clooney is…well, Clooney (same acting style as all three Oceans movies!)  If I had to choose between Streep and George Clooney as to who is the better actor, I don’t know any serious movie lover who would really have a plausible argument that Clooney could out-shine her! Clooney: eye-candy, maybe, but really convincing actor? Hardly…
  • “Public Enemies” (2009): Wow! How did this film get overlooked? Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Michael Mann’s direction? The script was incredible, the photography was amazing and the film kept you on the edge of your seat for the entire 140 minutes. That this film was snubbed is simply criminal!
  • “The Soloist” (2009): Oscar© loves human interest stories, especially those based on true events, and with the powerhouse duo of Robert Downey, Jr. and Jamie Foxx, this film should have been a shoe-in. It’s no wonder that the heavy-hitting films are best released in late December…AMPAS© has a short memory than I do!
  • “Coraline” (2009): Ok, maybe I’m grasping at straws here because this film IS nominated for Best Animated Feature Film this year. And I will admit that I REALLY liked “Up,” Disney©/Pixar©‘s latest offering. But I think what I am griping about here is that Disney©/Pixar© no longer has the corner on the market for animation-based films, so why shouldn’t THIS picture be considered for the BEST picture of 2009? “Coraline” (2009) just proves to me that there is REAL talent existing outside the borders of the Magic Kingdom!
  • “The International” (2009): The best suspense-thriller action flick that no one saw! Cast was amazing, camera work was unique and compelling and the direction was definitely worth a nod from the Academy.  What a shame!

NBC Nightly News reported today that AMPAS© listed ten nominees in order to quell criticism from the public who have felt in the past that better films were overlooked for odd, obscure pictures. While that may be true, who cares!? The public doesn’t vote!

Sadly, I am not a member of the Academy, so my opinion is simply that. And that’s the way it is every year too, and will be ’til the day I’m six feet under. But if they were asking me, here are the nominees:

  • “Avatar”, Dir. James Cameron
  • “Inglourious Basterds”, Dir. Quentin Tarantino
  • “Julie & Julia”, Dir. Nora Ephron
  • “Public Enemies”, Dir. Michael Mann
  • “Star Trek”, Dir. J.J. Abrams

And the Oscar© goes to…

The Difference Between “Sweet” and “Are You Serious???”

A few years ago, I was given a pair of those amazing Bose Quiet Comfort 2 noise-reduction headphones for my birthday. They were one of the best presents I had ever been given and I got an amazing amount of use out of them.

Bose Quiet Comfort 2 Noise Reduction Headphones

After owning them for about 18 months, I fell victim to someone’s sticky fingers and I found myself actually sick to my stomach that such a great gift was gone in an instant. I was determined to replace that wonderful piece of equipment as soon as was possible.

About the time I was ready to make the purchase, I read a review of a new product that was comparable to those wonderful Bose headphones that I had lost. These new headphones, the Auvana X-Fi, were produced by Creative Labs, a company whose products I had come to trust and rely on for over 10 years, as they are the producer of the extremely popular “Sound Blaster” series of audio components for computers. They’ve always been a reliable and well made product.

Creative Labs Aurvana X-Fi Noise Reduction Headphones

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