Archive for the ‘Gripes’ Category

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

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…