Flight safety

5 01 2013

photo credit: licensed under Creative Commons from Beverly & Pack

photo credit: licensed under Creative Commons from Beverly & Pack

One of my favourite books, Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (a trilogy in five parts) has its hero travelling the universe interminably seeking….who knows what. Well he thinks he is seeking the earth in some parallel universe – it has been destroyed in his own universe. Anyway, this is actually beside the point.

Because of his excessive travel and excessive boredom, and because he was trapped on a spaceship which was put in suspended animation while they awaited a delivery of moist towelettes so they could take-off, when his flight is actually involved in an emergency, he is the only one who survives because he is the only one who has actually listened to the safety instructions.

Flying with children who are somewhat nervous brought this to mind. They are the only ones on the flight who listen to the stewards doing the emergency instructions, and are the only ones reading the evacuation and emergency procedures card.

Airline staff are one of those stereotypes that often is the butt of comedy jokes. And none-so-more that the emergency procedures which is, after all, the most distinctive thing about them from the viewpoint of the flying public.

Who has not seen a hilarious skit where the stewards turn the safety presentation into a lesson on bondage? Oh – what? only me? Ah well. It stayed with me.

Australian comedian Adam Hills tells a story about a hostie who had integrated some Auslan sign language (Australian sign language for hearing impaired) into the safety presentation. Only in Australia is there sign language for “Fuck you, Fuck youse all” (youse being plural of you, for those unfamiliar with vernacular bogan). I won’t spoil the joke – it can be viewed here.

However, airlines are starting to get in on the joke. Air New Zealand has released this Hobbit inspired safety video. While it is a hit on Youtube, I presume it is also shown on flights. While the safety details are pretty much the same as any other safety video, one would have to be more concerned about finding an orc, or Gollum sitting alongside or behind you….and there are no suggestions how to deal with unpleasant fellow-passengers. Also notable, two of Tolkien’s grandsons make guest appearances, as does Director Peter Jackson. This isnt Air New Zealand’s first effort – a previous safety video (view here) features stewards and passengers wearing…..body paint!

Of course other airlines have tried to make the safety videos mire interesting, notably….Thomson Airlines (featuring small children, this video from Sri Lankan Airlines is animated, as is this offering from Virgin Airlines, Delta Airlines, and Cebu Pacific’s video featuring a choreographed presentation, which must surely make the routine more entertaining for staff, as well as passengers.

Fly safe!


1 10 2011

I have a deep suspicion of horoscopes.

I tend to avoid reading them. The reason I avoid them is because I am concerned that if I let them into my head, I will make the predictions come true in some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy scenario.

And if anyone is going to be programming my subconscious to be making things come true, then I want it to be me, not someone I don’t know writing what can only be described as light-entertainment for a trashy magazine.

We all know that the logic of 1/12th of the world’s population having a good day or a bad day, all on the same day based on the position of some large rocks thousands of millions of miles away on our day of birth defies logic. I am sure the rocks themselves have little no interest in the birth of a lifeform on a small blue-green planet in a small solar system in the unfashionable end of the Milky Way. (Douglas Adams)

And even those horoscopes that are specifically about you – your moon rising and Venus setting (I won’t pretend I even know what these mean) at the time and place of your birth….well, the logic about how that influences your life then (in some predestined, slightly depressing and disempowering way), or how it influences your life now on an ongoing basis…..well, it really hasn’t been adequately explained.

Personally I liked the Douglas Adams story from one of the Dirk Gently books, where the horoscopes were written by an arch-enemy of Dirk’s, and were written specifically to send messages and try to make him have a bad day. Pity about the other 1/12th of the population who were the same birth sign.

Then of course there is the psychology experiment where psychologst Bertram R Forer offered students a free horoscope profile on their personalities. No matter what star sign, birth date or place the student was, they were given the same profile:

“You have a great need for other people to like and admire you. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself. You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage. While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them. Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept others’ statements without satisfactory proof. You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic. Security is one of your major goals in life.”

The students were then asked to rate out of 5 how accurate it was. The average rating was 4.26.

Apparently this is called the Forer Effect, or the Barnum Effect (the latter attributed to PT Barnum’s statement “We have something for everyone”. Personally I think it more fits with his other famous statement “There’s one born every minute.”)

So clearly these are broad statements and you can read into them what you want. To a certain extent they do apply to everyone – there is nothing really specific in them.

Declaration: The author declares that she is a Pisces but relates entirely to the positive profile at the top of the page. The negative one in no way resembles the author. While neither of these profiles mention this, the author has in the past been told that being a Pisces tends her more towards skepticism, it does apparently make her more prone to drink (presumably it is a fish-and-liquids thing). The author wishes to state that this is her excuse and the rest of you had better come up with better reasons for your alcohol consumption. The author is now off to see of the sparkling wine in the fridge is cool enough yet.

Photo credit: licensed under creative commons from jo-h.


23 09 2011

licensed under creative commons by gadl http://www.flickr.com/photos/gadl/91539531/

I am a voracious reader. Always have been.

As a child when I was sent to my room to get ready to go to school, guaranteed I would pick up a book and half an hour later I would still be in my pyjamas.

I can still remember the first reader I had at school. It was called Big and Little, and had a picture of a large and a small child on a seesaw. By the time I had finished Prep (as it was called then) I had read all the readers up to Year 3, and hence I was allowed to read library books for the rest of Infant School. As it was called then.

I still have some of my favourite books from childhood, but as all my children are boys, they aren’t into the same books. Even though I don’t re-read the books now, just looking at the covers can bring back fond memories.

And yes, I am a hoarder. I hoard books. We have six very large bookshelves in our house, jam packed with books. And several baskets, and a large pile next to my bed. I am incapable of walking out of a bookshop without buying a book, and I like to keep the books I have read for future rereading. Occasionally I can be persuaded to loan books to friends, but it has to be a pretty awful book for me to throw it out.

I go through phases with book subjects. For a while there it was fiction – I went through a strong Mary Wesley stage, adore F Scott Fitzgerald, and some of the Waugh brothers (but not all). And of course the incomparable Douglas Adams of Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe and Dirk Gently fame.

Then there was my biographical phase – mostly women writers (plus several on Douglas Adams), but it also intersected with my 1920s phase (biographies of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, the Waughs and the Mitfords featured strongly here).

More recently there has been a pseudo-science phase with Freakonomics, Super-Freakonomics, The Psychopath Test (all of which I loved) and the book from the Blog Dear Raed. Then there was the midlife crisis phase, where I picked books about people who completely changed their lives – One Red Paperclip, Eat Pray Love, Emergency Sex.

Now I am in a French phase. I am working my way through a pile of books about Australians who have moved to France to live for work, love or long-held passion, and the culture shock they have experienced. I suspect this is an extension of my mid-life crisis phase.

I am thrilled to find that my children seem to have inherited my love of reading. One is now found most often with a book in his hand when he should be getting ready for school. Child after my own heart!

Reading is one of the great loves and skills I wanted to hand on to my children. If you can read and don’t find it onerous, then you always have access to information. More important than knowing information, if you can read and you want to learn something, you can. It opens up horizons and opportunities.

I don’t really mind if we are running late for school.

What type of books do you read? Who is your current favourite author?

If you liked this post, you might like Food for Thought: Mindfire.

Thanks goodness I never studied Gatsby

3 09 2011

I love reading. I go through phases of what I love to read – sometimes it is biographies (usually of writers or 1920s artists), sometimes it is Classics, sometimes science and statistics books, sometimes pop culture, sometimes fiction, sometimes short stories. I have a bookshelf bulging with favourites that I reread when the mood takes me, and a pile of books next to my bed that have I haven’t yet read. I find it very difficult to walk past a bookshop, and almost never walk out of one without a new book or two. I am a book-a-holic.

My favourite writers are (in no order)
F Scott Fitzgerald (a sense of place and an economy with words)
Dr Suess (a way with words)
Douglas Adams (a sense of the bizarre)

Every time I reread these authors I find new things I hadn’t noticed before. Several decades and many rereadings on, it is a tribute to the quality of their writing that this is still the case.

I was lucky – oh so lucky – that I didn’t have to study Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby for English classes at school. Without fail, every book we studied at school I have developed an abhorrence for.

This came to mind when a librarian friend was commenting on his favourite book – Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. (Side note – we both agreed we pronounce it “roth” not “rath” as seems to be the fashion now). I have never been able to even pick this book up since we dissected, sliced, diced, analysed it to pieces in Year 11. It ceased to be a story and instead became a series of themes and mechanisms, literary devices and conceits. The beauty of the story was lost.

I had always thought it was just me that felt like that, but my librarian friend agreed that English classes destroyed some books for him as well.

He had had the luck not to study Steinbeck’s book and hence he still loved it. I am grateful not to have studied Gatsby.

Fast Fact: The latest 60 Minutes / Vanity Fair Poll found that 65% of people surveyed could not identify who Harper lee was. This despite being given four options (including the correct one) to choose from. She is of course the Pulitzer-prize winning author of To Kill a Mockingbird. So I did learn something in English class!

If you like this post you might also like Old Dogs and New Tricks.

Top Ten British Comedy series

6 08 2011

Having just had a trip down memory lane at Digitized Graffiti, I felt an urge to reminisce about British comedy series.

Comedy has been a strong theme for British television series, and thank goodness they have moved on from painfully predictable sexual innuendo (Benny Hill Show, Carry On Movies, St Trinian’s) and racism (Love They Neighbour) as the sources of humour.

Here are some of my favourites.

1. The Good Life

I loved the alternative lifestyle of Tom and Barbara, who set up a sustainable farm in their backyard in the middle of a high-class London neighbourhood, much to the distress of their neighbours and friends, the posh Jerry and Margo. Good natured humour in the clash of lifestyles.

2. The Goodies

Originally targeted at adults, this is a great bizarre show for children with lots of slapstick humour. Bill Oddie, Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor were the Goodies, an unemployed troupe hiring themselves out for any jobs. They travelled on a three-seater bicycle. A giant kitten, a Yorkshire-based martial arts group “Ecky-Thump” taking over the world, the British Olympic team in the Arctic Circle Olympics (they melted the arctic ice sheet with spotlights – before their time), the Bun-fight at the OK Tea Rooms. Physical gags abound. This link is to the theme song, there are lots of episodes on Youtube.

3. Monty Python’s Flying Circus

You either like Monty Python or you don’t. Either way, it was a ground-breaking series in many ways – the use of animation, the comments on society, the musical humour and the very abstract humour (the fish-slapping dance). Launched a number of movies and a number of careers.

4. Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy

Not as good as the books but so much better than the movie. It would be hard to translate Douglas Adams’ witty prose onto a screen but this is cleverly done with graphics and voice-overs so that the essential parts of the plot are not lost. Except that Trillian is blond on the TV series and brunette in the books.

5. Blackadder

All five series and the specials, but particularly the second. If you haven’t seen Blackadder, you are missing out. I can’t speak highly enough about it.

6. The Young Ones

Four poverty-stricken students sharing a house-sit : Rik Mayall as Cliff Richard fan and would-be anarchist Rick, Adrian Admondson as medical student and violent punk Vyvyan, Nigel Planer as mild hippie Neil, and Christopher Ryan as Italian lothario Mike. Cameo appearances by Alexei Sayle as the landlord Jerzei Balowski. Guest appearances by some of Britain’s most prominent comedians, and musical interludes by bands from the 1980s.

7. Absolutely Fabulous

Absolutely fabulous! I loved this show so much I can almost quote most of the scenes. Patsy was glamorous, but Edina had so much more fun. And Saffy was the perfect “straight-woman”. If only there were more.

8. Red Dwarf

Dave Lister, the last human known alive, Arnold Rimmer, a hologram of his former room-mate and so-cool Cat, a hip humanoid that evolved from Lister’s former cat’s kittens, are trapped on the Red Dwarf spaceship, roaming the universe with the aid and abetting of the ship-board computer, Holly. (Holly becomes Kryten in series three). What the smeg?

9. Keeping Up Appearances

With the inimitable and determinedly upwardly-mobile Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet!) and her long-suffering husband, neighbours and various lower-class relatives. I once travelled down the Nile on a boat with a woman exactly like Hyacinth. Hysterical on television, nightmare in real life.

10. The IT Crowd

Two nerds, one goth and a failed corporate executive live in the bowels of the corporate headquarters, the IT section, at the beck and call of the sleazy erratic boss and other more important sections of the corporation.

11. Black Books

Three misfits (always misfits!) trying to make a go of a book shop and its neighbouring bric-a-brac shop. Alcoholic and and belligerent bookshop owner Bernard Black (Dylan Moran), his much-abused assistant Manny Bianco (Bill Bailey) and neighbouring shop owner Fran Katzenjammer (Tamsin Greig).

12. The Vicar of Dibley

Dawn French is the first female vicar assigned to a parish in a remote town of bizarre and somewhat interbred characters. She keeps her sanity and woos passing men.

13. Mr Bean.

Beloved of small children, this mime-based comedy offering from Rowan Atkinson translated to the Big Screen and an international audience. My children insisted I had to put this one in the list. I vastly prefer the series over the cartoon.

14. Fawlty Towers

Starring John Cleese of Monty Python fame, Connie Booth, Prumnella Scales and Andrew Sachs. Socially inept and acciednt-prone Basil Fawlty and his long suffering wife run a bed and breakfast hotel where victims – sorry guests – are subjected the Basil’s strange personality and misunderstandings. If you love Monty Python you will already know this one!


Notable Absence: Yes, The Goon Show. I am too young to know this one!!! But I am told it was a classic and completely changed comedy.

OK – there’s my list. I don’t claim it is exhaustive, I’m sure there are many more I have left out. And yes, I did notice that my “top ten list” blew out to fourteen and a notable mention.

Which ones are your favourites?