Posts filed under ‘Rant’

Is it the 1870s?

I will have to check my calendar. I could have sworn we were all living in 2009 but perhaps not. Given a tidbit of news I stumbled on this week, maybe we are still living in the late 19th Century when Jim Crow laws started to be enacted in the United States and African-Americans suffered the humiliation of segregation.

Cast your eyes over this photo – see anything that might make you mildly (or really, really) angry?

What on earth was Barnes & Noble thinking? Here we have a “Presidential display” – books relating to Barack Obama and the First Lady. And in the middle of it all – a book entitled Monkeys: A Captivating Look at These Fascinating Animals.

Now, I hasten to add that B&N are saying that it was all a malicious act and have issued a public apology. They believe a customer replaced one of the books in the display window in their store at Coral Gables, Florida with the Monkey book. I’m sure if I tried to replace a book in a window display in let’s say Borders here in Sydney, I’d be spotted pretty fast and hauled off. So perhaps it was a B&N employee who would not raise suspicion by being in the window? And I wonder how long people were outside staring at the display, snapping away before B&N caught on? Perhaps someone had a grudge against B&N. Whatever, I don’t think B&N is a pack of racists.

What it really demonstrates is undercurrents of racism in the US despite Americans electing their first African-American Prez and the ignorance of idiots who still lurk in our society.  And then we have this cartoon I came across from the New York Post that frankly seems to depict Prez Obama as a chimp:

It would seem to be a thinly veiled attempt to say that the author of the stimulus bill (and that would be the Prez one would assume) is like a rabid chimpanzee that should be shot. Frankly, it’s an extremely violent cartoon IMHO. If we couple this cartoon with the B&N monkey debacle, I think we have to ask is it still the 1870s over there in the US?

The cartoon’s creator made his plea following the controversy stirred up, saying that it was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill, nothing more. Maybe so, but I still think it’s an unnecessarily violent cartoon and as someone who doesn’t live in the US and is therefore not embroiled in the racism against African-Americans – its instant message to me was that Prez Obama is being compared to a primate and that there’s a racial subtext.

I’m not sure (perhaps my US readers can help out) but I think a chimp attacked a woman recently, hence the police officers with guns. I just think that America has made such progress that these sorts of offensive behaviours are two steps backwards.  What do you think?

March 14, 2009 at 2:00 am 2 comments

Is change always good?

Two stories caught my attention recently. Yes, we know the world is changing, FAST. Yes, we’re told to embrace change and most of us roll with the punches. We’re told that globalisation benefits the common good because it lifts people in the developing world out of poverty. We’re told that progress accompanied by globalisation spreads technologies, better ways of doing business, raises standards of living and hygiene, and allows markets around the globe to be interconnected.

On the downside, globalisation results in income polarisation; natural resources are sucked out of countries; corporate profits are gained by exploiting cheap overseas labour; domestic jobs are shipped offshore; national sovereignty is weakened; the consumerist society feasts on The Brands and other expensive luxury goods produced in foreign countries with low wages. A global monoculture is the result and we are faced with the same coffee shop on a busy street corner in the global cities we may visit. In my view, globalisation has destroyed the concept of individuality – we dress alike, we smell alike, we covet the same Brands. As the world becomes smaller, so our individuality shrinks but this is IMHO. The decline in artisanship consumes age-old customs and fine crafts skills and erodes the world’s cultural diversity.

Anyway, that’s my rant for the day. Why don’t you read the two articles I found. The first article concerns the human cost of oil drilling and the devastating effects on a traditional Arctic community.  The second article looks at the probable destruction of 700 homes within a long-standing community – to make way for Heathrow’s proposed third runway.

What do you think?

February 2, 2009 at 2:00 am 3 comments

Treated like terrorists

On January 12 2009, a new online visa waiver programme came into effect in the US. Should you wish to travel to the US, you will now have to apply electronically for travel authorisation. I won’t need to worry as I have vowed never to set foot in the United States again (lovely country that it is) and here is a sobering example, which might make us wonder what the hell is going on in the US.

Put aside the circus that is their biometrics programme (which is why I refuse to enter the country), here’s how you might be treated by US stormtroopers Customs and Border Protection officers should you be brave enough to try visiting the US. This is a real story from a real Australian family.

Picture this – you have an 84-year old father living in Los Angeles. He is ill so you and your family make a mercy dash from Sydney to the US.  You have a valid visa to enter the US. You are a humble taxi driver from a leafy suburb in Sydney’s north. Your wife is an aged-care worker. You take your two sons, aged 8 and 14 years, along with you to see their grandfather, perhaps for the last time.

You get off the flight in LA. You are greeted by friendly, helpful US customs officials. Oh sorry, I was dreaming! This is what really happened:

  • you are hauled aside and detained
  • you are frisked and your luggage is inspected
  • you are hauled off to a hotel with other “detainees”
  • the van you travel in to this hotel has a cage to contain you and your family
  • you arrive at the hotel at 2.30am. You try to get some sleep but it’s hard when armed guards are by your bedside
  • you are woken at 4.30am, hauled back to the airport and shoved on a flight back to Sydney
  • you are an Australian citizen (last time I looked, Australia was one of the US’s staunchest allies, sending our troops to support the US in Iraq. Maybe we need a rethink).
  • the whole frightening incident unfolded over 24 hours

So here’s the multiple choice question. Are you:

(a) a terrorist; or

(b) a paedophile with a long criminal history; or

(c) a humble taxi driver on an emotional dash to see your ailing, elderly father.

If you answered (a) or (b) then perhaps you might expect to be questioned, frisked, grilled, hauled off by US authorities. But if you answered (c), you are correct and you must ask – why is an Australian citizen and his family (remember there are two teenagers involved here) treated in such an appalling manner?

US border protection officers accused this poor man of trying to enter the US illegally (Note to US customs and border protection – not EVERYONE in this world wants to emigrate to the US despite the fact you now have a Prez who can string a sentence together). The man showed them his return tickets worth $6400 for flights back to Australia on February 5.

During detention, the family says minimal food and drink was provided. What appalls me even more is that two teenagers had to suffer through detention in a hotel with armed guards sleeping near them. The man, Mr Fazle Rabbi, was not allowed to see his father despite emotional pleas.

Now, let’s look at the name here: Fazle Rabbi. Mr Rabbi and his family emigrated to Australia from Bangladesh four years ago. Mr Rabbi is an Australian citizen (smart move to emigrate here and not try  the US Mr Rabbi!).  Did US officials refuse this man and his family entry to the US  because of their ethnic heritage? Was he the victim of racial profiling? I’m afraid this is the conclusion one might reach because everything else seems to have been in order: return tickets and visas.

Apparently, the official response has been that the US reserves the right to refuse entry. Hey dudes: did you refund this poor family their wasted $6400?  Did you bother to ring someone – like ASIO and find out if this family were a pack of terrorists in disguise?  Did you bother to find out if the elderly father had a doctor in LA you could ring to verify the story? Did you confuse the Australian passport (presumably Rabbi travelled on one) with that of Afghanistan? Did you take one moment to think you could display some compassion?

Note to the US: if you treat foreign travellers this way, one day that treatment may just be what you experience when you try to enter a foreign country.

Source: SMH

January 28, 2009 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Money, money, money

The global financial hissy fit (or as I call it the GFHF) has probably caused us to consider money a whole lot more. The other day, I set off to one of Sydney’s department stores to purchase a Dazzle Glass lipgloss from Mac. I admit I suffered temporary amnesia – I forgot that Mac is a global brand.  Besides, when I considered the price of the lipgloss, I declined to buy it. But if the GFHF wasn’t our reality of the moment and you could spend any amount you wanted to spend, what would you buy?

I’ve always wondered: if I won zillions in a lottery, what would I do with it? Would I still work? I think the answer to the last question is I’d be out the door so fast, there would be no chance of it smacking me in the posterior! But the answer to the first question would be….well, not sure. I know I would donate a fair amount to charity. I know I’d probably trek around the world for a few months. But beyond that, don’t know.

So I was intrigued to read about the estranged wife of United Technologies Corporation’s former CEO. Now, whilst the rest of us are starting to feel the impact of the GFHF and some people are even fretting about homelessness, said wife believes she simply cannot live on anything less than $53,000 per week. Yep, that’s right: $53,000 every 7 days. My cunning maths ability tells me that’s approximately $7,571 per day. What is she spending on you ask?

  • clothing $4500
  • hair and skin care $1000
  • dry cleaning $650
  • flowers $600
  • fur storage and cleaning $45 (darls, one should NOT wear dead animals – you could save some money!)
  • travel $8000 (I reckon she could save here by staying at home. Apparently, she can’t travel on the UTC corporate jet anymore)
  • mortgage, maintenance fees, rent or other costs for a Park Avenue apartment, a Hamptons residence and several properties in Sweden

Poor lambchop! I could certainly share with her some of my very own recipes for making organic moisturisers, soaps and body lotions. I could save her $1000 at least on skincare.

Meanwhile, I suggest that said estranged wife of ex-CEO who had more money than he possibly knew what to do with, should read this article that chronicles the individual hardships and stories of people suffering through the GFHF in the US.  She’d read about foreclosures, declining towns and streets, eviction of the poor, lay-offs, unemployment benefits that will run out, people on the verge of homelessness, families living from paycheck to paycheck.

Darls: I reckon this will stop you whinging about how you can’t live on anything less than $53,000 a week!

December 21, 2008 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

UK loses its memory

What the? The title of the article in The Telegraph (UK) piqued my interest: “Words Associated with Christianity and British history taken out of children’s dictionary”.

Oxford University Press IMHO has lost the plot. They are zapping words like – monarch, empire, aisle, bishop, chapel, abbey, monk, nun –  from its Junior Dictionary and adding words like – blog, broadband, celebrity, MP3 player, biodegradable, voicemail, bullet point. Words relating to the English countryside, such as willow, heather, sycamore and buttercup have also vanished, along with Christian-related words such as – sin, devil, minister. Talk about verbal re-engineering! Well, actually stupidity.

The logic behind this, according to OUP, is that the changes reflect the fact that Britain is now a modern, multicultural, multifaith society. So all the Christians have suddenly disappeared from Britain?? Seems to me if you zap Christian-related words, you are rejecting Christianity and can hardly lay claim to being multifaith. Is this political correctness gone too far? Will Britain lose a large part of its cultural and etymological memory?

Apparently, the removal of words largely went unnoticed until a mother from Northern Ireland was helping her son do his homework and noticed that “moss” and “fern” were in the 2003 edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary but not the 2007 edition. Yeah, I can see how the words “moss” and “fern” could be politically charged or offensive !!!

Academics and teachers have thrown their collective hands up in horror. Professor Alan Smithers (clearly a smart dude), the director of the Centre for Education and Employment at Buckingham University says:

“We have a certain Christian narrative which has given meaning to us over the last 2,000 years. To say it is all relative and replaceable is questionable… The word selections are a very interesting reflection of the way childhood is going, moving away from our spiritual background and the natural world and towards the world that information technology creates for us.”

Did not George Orwell say that the decline of language has accelerated the general decline of civilisation? And didn’t the Catholic theologian, William Smith, say that all social engineering is preceded by verbal engineering?

Okay, I realise that it’s a lexicographer’s job to analyse things like the frequency of word usage and chuck out old-fashioned words so language is fluid. But dudes come on! Moss is moss. What should we call it now? Furry, green stuff that you slip on? And why is buttercup suddenly an old-fashioned word? Do milk producers now have to change the title of cartons of Buttercup Whole Milk to “pale golden, creamy coloured liquid you can drink”?

I well remember being a teacher in country New South Wales. Dubbo to be exact. At that time, it was out in the boondocks, full of fabulous, country Australian characters who uttered fascinating words like geebung, malarky, collywobbles, jimjams. I have a great book called Lost for Words by Hugh Lunn that faithfully records some of Australia’s lost language and reminds me of the language I used to hear.

I guess someone will have to write a book soon for the UK with a title something like “Gross Stupidity: how Oxford University Press scuttled the rich language of Britain”. But if you ask me, I think it’s just another example of the dumbing-down of our society.



December 15, 2008 at 2:00 am 7 comments

Confessions of a brand slave 3

dsc_0067ThinkingShift reader, Elaine B, has reminded me (quite rightly!) that I have not posted an update on how I’m going with The Brands. I declared myself to be anti-brand back in March. Go here and here if you missed my confessions. So….how have I been going avoiding the siren call of The Brands?

Actually, pretty well I’m pleased to say. I was spotted in the Apple Mac superstore in Sydney but that was to get something for the husband. I have scrupulously avoided entering emporiums that house The Brands like David Jones and Myers (two department stores in Sydney). And I have discovered how to make things. Yes, dear reader, I can tell you that I am pretty good at whipping up a batch of lime flavoured or chocolate flavoured lip balm. I have conquered the mysteries of how to make soap and can produce silky, creamy vanilla scented bars of soap. I have discovered that avocado makes THE best face mask ever. And you can do amazing things with bicarb soda and vinegar (for cleaning) and oil of cloves (to knock off nasty mould). I have become a domestic goddess – if there weren’t so many “tips on cleaning” books out there telling you how to use natural products in the home, I’d write it!

Given that we are in financial tough times, you can save a LOT of money making your own stuff and it’s quite fun. I have not conquered the ultimate goal yet – how to make the perfect lipgloss that is as shiny as glistening water. But the moment I figure that one out, I’m going to create my own cosmetics company :-)

But on a more serious note (the following is probably a girl’s only zone but guys feel free to read on) – I told you recently how classic perfumes have been sacrificed to The Brands. This post sparked off a flurry of comments and emails to me about a classic perfume I mentioned, Coriandre. I managed to help a chap in New Zealand get hold of this very hard to get classic scent for his wife and I have just recently found Venezia by Laura Biagiotti for another man who needs it for his wife’s Christmas present- it’s a beautiful, woody Italian scent created in 1988 that is just so darn hard to get hold of.  Do I sniff a new career here for me? Perfume hunter?

I contacted the one perfume shop left in Sydney that I know of that deals in classic perfumes to see if they had Parfum Sacre by Caron (if you have never smelt this, you don’t know what you’re missing out on). Quell horror! My email to them bounced back…because….they have shut down. Gulp, gasp!  The owners of the shop then emailed me from L.A where they are on holidays and told me I can go to their storeroom of perfumes in late November to buy what I like before they go out of business. Whatever classics are in their storeroom I plan to spirit off with!

When I heard this news, I went a whiter shade of pale. How on earth will I get my hands on the unusual, classic scents? I am currently researching on how old-time perfume shops used perfume houses and traders to obtain the classics. I plan to do the same thing. If you know anything that would help: leave a comment! I also reminded some readers who contacted me that buying perfumes online can be dodgy, so be careful.

Meanwhile, I have discovered the exotic smells of Arabian perfume oils. I picked up a couple in Dubai last year and a few more in Abu Dhabi. These oils (known as Oudh) use natural ingredients like sandalwood and myrrh or the purest essential oils like rose or tangerine. The perfume oils are usually presented in the most stunning bejewelled bottles that are worth collecting. They can be very strong though and I’m just beginning to understand how very different they are from classic perfumes. The colours of the perfume oils are striking: rich ambers and golden tangerines.

And just to get me further riled up – I was reading the other day about Celeb and Designer Scents. Some of the newest ones are:

  • Unscripted by Patrick Dempsey. Now, this guy is a pretty suave looking dude. But I’m sorry, he’s not a nose with a long history of expertise in the art of fragrances. This art belongs to very few people these days like Luca Turin for example.
  • Fairy Dust by Paris Hilton. I will refrain from commenting on what I think about this – I’d be up for defamation!
  • McGraw by Tim McGraw, the country music megastar. It’s said to be a spicy, woodsy cologne. Well, if you want to smell country…
  • Blue Seduction by Antonio Banderas – another easy on the eye dude but last time I checked Banderas was no emperor of scent (I’m stealing Chandler Burr’s title of his great book on Luca Turin, The Emperor of Scent).
  • Donald Trump by the coiffed-one, Donald Trump. The press release from 2004 says that this cologne is aimed at “….men of all ages (who) want to experience some part of Mr. Trump’s passion and taste for luxury. People want to know him on every level.” Eeeeewww!!

Call me cynical but these “celeb perfumes” are just cashing in on contemporary society’s stupidity in worshipping celebrities. And before you email me to say you love one or two of these celeb scents, yes, I have tried them. Across most of the celeb scents I’ve sniffed, I detect strong notes of laboratory created vanilla and that smell best left in the 1970s, patchouli. A bit of gardenia thrown in or a bit of basil or blackcurrant to fool us into thinking we’re buying “green”.

Apparently, the top 3 selling perfumes in the UK are:

  • Stunning by Katie Price (who?). Apparently, she’s a buxom English glamour model who was called Jordan and is best known for…well, I’m not sure really!
  • Kate by Kate Moss – this perfume is said to have a vintage English feel about it. What the?? Does the perfume have a couple of old English ladies dressed in tweed stuffed into it for that “vintage feel”?
  • Christina Aguilera by Christina Aguilera.  This fragrance apparently reminds Christina of her honeymoon. Not sure I want to be reminded of it though!
  • even Sir Cliff Richard is wading into the fray with his scent, Devil Woman. Sigh.

The celeb perfume industry sees an annual income in the UK of around 255 million and sales comprise over a third of the 638 million income per year of the entire UK perfume industry. And the culprits who are buying these “perfumes”? One in five Brits between the ages of 16 and 24 years own a celebrity endorsed perfume. These are people who want to smell like Britney Spears or Paris Hilton. In a way, you can’t blame them. They have never experienced or heard of some of the classics like Coriandre or Fracas or L’Air du Temps. They are surrounded by swirls of manufactured patchouli, strawberry, blackcurrant and basil and think these are classic scents. Everyone smells alike these days. In days gone by, a woman (and man) was after the signature scent, the one perfume they would be loyal too because it evoked a feeling within them not because they wanted to be like Britney Spears or Paris Hilton. It is a rare occasion for me these days to stop as I’m walking along because I’ve sniffed a perfume that is elegant, unusual or lingering. Usually, I’m stuck walking behind a woman who wears that awful perfume that reeks of gardenias! (If you know your perfumes, you’d instantly recognise the designer-created gardenia soaked drudge I’m referring to).

Well, I’m dabbling with essential oils these days. Might just see if I can create a scent of my own. I’d call it Paranoia (in honour of my obsession over privacy because, darn it, Obsession has been taken by Calvin Klein!).

November 15, 2008 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Police state USA

I’ve been asking a lot of “what the heck?” questions recently and here’s another one – what the heck is going on in Minneapolis? If you need a clearer example that the US of A is heading well down the road of a police state, I’m not sure I can give you a better example than this.

As we know, Arizona Senator, John McCain, has accepted the Republican party’s nomination for Prez in a glittering national convention the other day (I’ll have a bit to say about Sarah Palin in a future post). What you may not have known is that a bunch of people variously described as anti-war and anti-authoritarian were planning to protest. Yeah, well: last time I looked a democracy encompasses freedom of political expression. No wait: that was before Prez Bush turned the US into a police state!

Now, the protesters were members of a group called Food not Bombs. They hand out free vegetarian food in cities around the world. So no mention of Al-Queda in the name; no uttering of the word “terrorist”. Many of the protesters were college students who were living in a “hippie house” and were described as politically active but not threatening. Yeah, well we could probably describe the whole of Gen Y like this: politically and socially aware and concerned but not violent. I haven’t seen the whole of Gen Y busted by the cops yet. But the poor members of Food not Bombs were busted big time by the Storm Troopers police.

The protesters didn’t even make it to the National Convention. In what was very clearly an anticipatory raid that was fully intended to squash any form of freedom of political expression, cops from the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff’s department raided four homes in the Minneapolis area were protesters were staying. College students were arrested, handcuffed, photographed and intimidated.

Now from a legal perspective, the law under which the protesters were nabbed has me shaking my head. They were not arrested pursuant to anti-terrorism laws. Nope, they were arrested under…wait for it….fire code violations (because they had gathered in a public space to talk about the protest). When the cops busted into houses, the charge of “conspiracy to commit riot” was used, which from my understanding has never been used before to arrest people in Minneapolis and is vague in its parameters.

The police used some heavy weaponry and tactics to scare 18 year olds: SWAT teams, automatic weapons, demanding people lie on the floor, handcuffs, riot gear, tear gas canisters , refusing to state why they were there, and best of all – refusing to say whether or not they had a search warrant. Note to police dudes: read the Fourth Amendment of your US Constitution, which requires you to conduct a search having obtained a search warrant based on probable cause. This means you must show the warrant (watch Law & Order SVU for instructions on how to do this!!) and the warrant must be limited to the specific object to be searched for and the place to be searched.

So having not told the College students what they were there for or showing them the search warrant, the cops spirited away laptops, personal journals and political material whilst keeping the protesters with noses pressed to the floor for 45 minutes. From all I’ve read, it seems the protesters were just a dissident bunch planning to protest. They weren’t planning to hurl bombs or take people out with AK-47s. Apparently, even journalists attempting to cover the raids were hauled off and detained (there goes freedom of the press!) as well as a lawyer from the National Lawyers’ Guild. You can read all the details here, here and here. You can even read a blog post from a person trapped in one of the houses being raided who blogged “This is extraordinary, folks. The St. Paul police came after us with unfounded allegations that we were engaged in criminal behavior”. This blogger is a member of I-Witness Video, a group that documents police misconduct and protects civil liberties.  Members of this group were also targeted during the raid.

What the? Is the US now saying that lawful protests are not allowed in a democracy and that they will do all in their power (constitutional or not) to stop any protest activity, including heavy fisted pre-emptive strikes? Police officials are saying that the protesters were armed to the teeth with weapons, including machetes. Possibly the protesters were a bunch of thugs who torture kittens but from everything I’ve read, it doesn’t seem the case. Check out this YouTube video by a videographer on the spot.

It’s all pretty dry stuff, no rioting by protesters, no chanting of protest slogans. The most exciting thing is the protesters’ lawyer making a statement in handcuffs saying they are waiting for a warrant. I think this is more about citizen control.

I remember reading this from The Washington Post during the recent Olympics: “Behind the gray walls and barbed wire of the prison here, eight Chinese farmers with a grievance against the government have been consigned to Olympic limbo. Their indefinite detainment, relatives and neighbors said, is the price they are paying for stirring up trouble as China prepares to host the Beijing Games. Trouble, the Communist Party has made clear, will not be permitted.”

Well, just replace the Communist Party with the US Government in the above quote because it seems US citizens are not permitted to protest.

September 7, 2008 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

All that Jazz

Not sure whether to laugh at this or not – it’s so bizarre. Due to rising fuel costs, some airlines have their passengers buy food onboard (hello? Iberia that would be you. And BTW, you haven’t contacted me yet).

So we cough up a lot of money to buy an airline ticket (particularly if you live in the “arse end of the world” as our former PM, Paul Keating once quipped). And now we’re expected to cough up more to buy refreshments. What’s next? Bring your own cutlery?

I do find it amusing that airlines give you a plastic knife, hoping to bypass any terrorists stabbing people, but still give you a metal fork, which to me seems a pretty good stabbing instrument. Now, I’m reading that an airline in Canada – a regional carrier by the name of Jazz – is removing life vests from all its planes in order to save weight (around 25kg) and fuel. Not sure I’d travel with an airline with that name anyway but I’m wondering if passengers are being asked to either (a) bring along their own life vests or (b) perhaps bring a plush cushion or two along as they could make handy flotation devices.

Jazz is apparently now telling passengers that should the aircraft be hurtling earthwards, they are to rip out the seats and use these as safety equipment. What the? I don’t know too much about Jazz as this is the first time I’ve heard of them. I’m presuming their flight paths don’t cross over oceans because if you’re about to hit the water, a life vest might just come in handy.

Mind you, this article says that Jazz planes cross Canada and the US. A quick look at the atlas tells me that Jazz might have to fly over the Great Lakes (unless of course, global warming has sucked up the water and made the lakes dry, ergo Jazz is not crossing water). Jazz must think we’re all awfully good swimmers too – a’la Michael Phelps – because apparently Transport Canada regulations allow carriers that fly within 50 nautical miles of shore to use flotation devices instead of vests. So if the plane comes down 49 nautical miles from dry land, well no worries, just rip out your seat cushion, kick awfully fast and head towards shore!

Frankly, I think this grabbing for money by airlines is bordering on obscene. We’ve all heard about the fiasco of JetBlue Airways, a US carrier, charging passengers US$7.00 for the luxury of having a blanket and pillow. The argument being that it’s eco-friendly, you can reuse the pillow and blanket, which are now your very own, on your next JetBlue flight. When it comes to messing around with safety equipment like life-vests, that has me really worried.

So I thought it best to prepare the ThinkingShift Survival Kit When Flying. It would consist of:

  • your own doona and pillow – heck if you’re not going to be given blankets and pillows, why buy them from the airline when you can bring your own super comfortable doona and extra-fluffy pillows?
  • favourite mug and thermos full of steaming hot tea or coffee – if like me you’ve had enough of purchasing airline food/refreshments and consider airline tea “overstewed”, then bring your own!
  • cutlery – who wants the plastic stuff. Toss in some plates too.
  • toilet paper – think ahead, airlines will probably charge per sheet soon!
  • flotation devices – if the airline isn’t providing them well…actually I can see opportunities here. Perhaps Hello Kitty! decorated flotation devices could be purchased Duty Free. If you’re going to be floating aimlessly around some ocean, you may as well look good.
  • perhaps a screwdriver or spanner for ripping out that seat cushion in a hurry
  • lipgloss – never forget the lipgloss!

And here is the Jazz passenger safety card, which shows you how to rip out your seat cushion and swim to shore:

September 1, 2008 at 2:00 am 2 comments

Not flawless?

Well, you probably guessed I might rant about this. I must confess that I’m not really into the Olympics extravaganza. Didn’t even go to the Sydney Olympics. I of course admire all the athletes and the enormous energy and dedication they have. And the opening ceremonies are usually spectacular although I did find Beijing’s somewhat mechanical. What really incensed me of course was the turfing out of 7-year old Yang Peiyi as the singer of Hymn to the Motherland during the Opening Ceremony. Let’s have a look at Yang:

Either my eyes are getting really bad with old age or this girl is cute as a button. But some idiot from China’s Politburo, who popped in to watch rehearsals, ruffled feathers when he wanted a face to match the songbird voice he was hearing. The suggestion was that Yang’s face wasn’t flawless – yep, she has slightly crooked teeth. Yeah, well Chinese dude, most people do have something wrong with their choppers unless they’ve popped off to the dentist for a Hollywood set of straight, blinding white choppers (that frankly look oh so fake). Her face was apparently deemed to be “chubby”. What the? She’s a 7-year old girl – girls this age are allowed to have some puppy fat.

But here is China criticising poor Yang for not being flawless. And so they replaced her with 9- year old Lin Miaoke:

who is of course also cute and apparently considered far prettier than Yang. Has anyone thought of the emotional damage that Yang might suffer as a result of this stupidity? Being told you’re not pretty enough and having the whole world know about this is bound to have some impact on a poor 7 year old girl attempting to establish her identity. And Lin will probably go through life being referred to as “that girl who did the fraudulent lip-synching during the 2008 Olympics”.

The chief music director for the opening ceremony said: “The audience will understand that it’s in the national interest”. What is China’s national interest? To show the world that the women there are Barbie dolls? I read somewhere that the girls hanging around to give out medals had to be a certain weight, height and show six teeth when they smile. Is there some sort of cuteness test that women have to pass in China? China is so intent on showing the world a flawless image that images of the city and fireworks were apparently digitally inserted into the Opening Ceremony.

All this reminds me of another time when a certain psycho wanted everyone in Germany to be Aryan, with blonde hair and athletic capabilities.

Dudes: the Olympics are supposed to be about excellence and competition in sport not aesthetics. It’s not about cuteness and desperately trying to show the world that you’re full of flawless Asian dolly birds. For the sake of your reputation China, I would suggest you allow Yang to sing in the Closing Ceremony and be seen- allow the world to enjoy the songbird voice and image of a cute little 7-year old girl and help to boost her self-esteem, which surely must be suffering because of some idiot who decided she’s not cute enough. And while you’re at it China: trot out the Politburo dude who suggested Yang wasn’t pretty enough. Let’s see if he has a six-pack and a Hollywood smile rather than being some 40+ years guy with a pot belly who’s seen better days. Shame on you China is what I think.

August 13, 2008 at 11:33 pm 1 comment

Dude! where’s my luggage?

There’s a certain airline I’ve travelled with on two occasions and, both times, said airline has managed to lose my luggage. First time around, I wasn’t that fazed. After all, airlines handle loads of luggage everyday around the world – something is bound to go missing. So my luggage was a statistic and I had to wait 24 hours for it to be flown from Madrid to Lisbon. What irked me then was that the airline in question never responded to my two official complaints that I left in the complaints book at Lisbon airport (the book gets sent to Madrid so airline reps can respond. I did note then the book was pretty thick with complaints).

Well, I’m clearly not a very good KM person because I didn’t learn from my mistake. On this holiday, we travelled from Rome to Portugal on the very same airline via Madrid. Like last time I flew this airline, take-off was late (25 mins this time). As we arrived in Madrid, the flight steward was talking about connecting flights and that H2 gate was for Lisbon. What they didn’t say was that the plane was arriving at gate H2. Because we were late in taking off, we had missed our connecting flight and so we rushed out like mad things to find gate H2. We get to the top of the ramp after a brisk sprint, urgently look around for gate H2 and turn around to find we had just rushed out of…. H2! At this point, I was wondering why they didn’t know that H2 would be the same gate for the Lisbon flight, but gave them the benefit of the doubt.

We then find that we would be going on the very same plane to Lisbon – so you wouldn’t think they could lose two rather large, colourful pieces of luggage would you? Obviously, they unloaded the luggage of passengers leaving the flight in Madrid but how hard is it to read a luggage tag that says luggage is going onward to Lisbon on the very same plane with the very same crew?

The flight out to Lisbon also left late. This airline seems very consistent in being late I’ll say that. As we boarded the flight, we asked the check-in dude “can you tell us if our luggage is on this flight?” as I had memories of the last time. Said dude responded “yes”, although I was looking at the computer screen and didn’t think he had even looked at the screen. I wonder now if he just said yes to dispose of us.

So…we arrive at Lisbon airport. Waiting at the luggage carousel. Other passengers connect with their luggage and happily trot off. We wait and wait and wait. Our bright green and red luggage is nowhere to be seen. So we go to Groundforce, who track luggage at Lisbon airport via a worldwide computer system. We showed them our ticket stubs with the luggage receipt and barcode but……our luggage cannot be tracked. We’re told that the system only tracks 50% of luggage – what the? What kind of system is this? So there was no record of our luggage. We didn’t even have the comfort of knowing that our luggage was in the system and would appear on some later flight from Madrid.

The Groundforce people said there was nothing they could do except log the issue. They muttered something about the airline providing 100.00 Euros after 24 hours. Fat lot of good that would do! I had visions of my favourite lipglosses never being found and having to wear the same clothes for the next three weeks. I went to the airline’s desk to leave (yet another) official complaint, not really believing that they would ever respond, after all the previous two complaints went unheeded.

We then went to our Lisbon accommodation and fretted. We had to leave for Portimao in the South the very next morning but without luggage what would we do? My husband wondered whether he should camp out at Lisbon airport like he did the last time but decided to wait until the morning and we could ring the number we’d been given. By early morning, our luggage still had not been located (this was about 12 hours later). Then….about 2 hours later, the bags were located…still sitting in Madrid. So we had to wait until the airline would put the bags on a plane to Lisbon. Just over 24 hours later, we got our luggage back but one of the bags had been damaged so badly it was useless. So…off to the Complaints book yet again and we made a claim for compensation.

Now, really: I know that running an airline must be tough. But Qantas has taken me all over the world for at least 15 years and never once lost my bags. Even Aeroflot didn’t lose them on the way to Moscow when I was sitting in “first class” next to a crate of chickens (a long time ago!). LAM LInhas Aereas de Mocambique hasn’t lost my luggage nor has Air New Zealand, American Airlines, Delta, US Air, BA, Air France and I could go on.

Ironically, I was reading a book on brands at the time of this incident. The book highlighted that trust is the basis of a brand. You trust the brand, you trust their products. So is this airline a ‘brand”? Not in my view. I can’t trust it to get my luggage from Madrid to Lisbon (only a one hour flight). I can’t trust it to respond to my complaints (three complaints now). I can’t trust it to take-off on time. I can’t trust it to deliver me to another airport on time to make a connecting flight. Even my step-kids, who are French, told me that this airline had lost their luggage and my step-son had to wait for one week before his was retrieved. The airline? Iberia.

As we waited at the airport for news of our luggage, even the people at Lisbon airport shook their heads and said “we’re dealing with Spain”. Now, maybe you’ve had a good experience with Iberia. Maybe I’ve just had a run of bad luck. I wouldn’t mind so much if Iberia bothered to respond to me. They did eventually email an automated response saying they couldn’t find any details of our compensation for luggage claim. Seems they’ve lost that too. I asked the Iberia reps at Lisbon airport for a customer service manager or PR person to contact. They had no names to give me. So Iberia: I await a response. Give me a call: I’d be happy to come over to Madrid and do some consulting work for you, starting with Customer Service 101: How to Respond to Your Passengers :-)

August 9, 2008 at 11:29 pm Leave a comment

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