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Random thoughts on the 2010 Winter Games Opening Ceremonies

Beautiful but occasionally odd Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics.  I generally detest these things because they are loaded with meaningless crap devoid of narrative that some art director thinks is challenging and contemporary, as opposed to something expository that might tell visitors and the folks at home something about the host nation.  So I was pleasantly surprised by the spectacle and staging.

You... shall not... pass!

Aurora borealis effects.

Aurora borealis effects.

Very neat orca effects.

Na'vi are actually self- loathing expats from Toronto, like everyone else in Vancouver.

Welcome to Lilith Fair 1998.

Most boring segment based on equally boring "Who Has Seen The Wind?", by W.O. Mitchell.

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Do NOT let these people talk through your broadcast event. Ever.

One item that was a real letdown, though, was the commentary.  On CTV, Lloyd Robertson and Brian Williams should have shut their pieholes during the staged “show” portion.  Instead they were offering inane descriptions of things the camera was already showing us.  Imagine sitting through Star Wars with Lloyd and Brian sitting behind you, reciting gems like this:  “The small, heavily outnumbered Rebel Alliance strike group is approaching the Death Star.”  “Tough break for Porkins, looks like he was shot down.”  “Luke is putting aside his targeting visor and relying on the mystical properties of the Force.”   “Apparently those proton torpedoes found their way through the thermal exhaust vent to a critical system!”  Yeah, thanks.  We’re seeing the same damn images you are; just shut up and let me enjoy it.  Nothing is more annoying than guys that talk through the show.

Other parts of the ceremony were more fun.

It's Mecha-Bear! Run for your lives!

If I understand the staging correctly, in the prehistoric past, the Inuit people were attacked by an enormous Mecha-Spirit Bear, which broke up the sea ice sheets they lived on and forced them to flee for their lives.  They remember this terrifying tragedy through oral traditions passed down through the centuries.

As Paul Wells notes, the sad bit where Willem Dafoe died at the end of Platoon is engraved in our national memory.

Fiddling survived 21st century nuclear war and the collapse of Western civilisation.

Mel Gibson’s Mad Max films apparently had a titanic and enduring impact on the development of Celtic fiddling on the East Coast.

What’s with the CanCon oldsters like Bryan Adams and  k.d. lang?  lang was popular back in the Cretaceous Era when early amphibians and Teddy Ruxpin first crawled out of the sea.  Couldn’t dig up the real Leonard Cohen?  Isn’t he Canadian anymore?  Or was he busy singing at somebody else’s Olympics?  There’s a dozen slightly used hipsters from Broken Social Scene shilling pencils on streetcorners, surely they could be shaved and thrown into clean clothes for a tune or two.  Leslie Feist?  No?

Wayne's Excellent Cauldron-Lighting Adventure

When planning the logistics for Wayne Gretzky’s taxi ride to the Auxiliary Backup Cauldron, Vancouver police decided that drunken twentysomethings spilling out of bars would be more effective crowd control than a full police cordon with sidewalk barricades.

It also wouldn’t have hurt for the driver to learn where the accelerator pedal is, and what it does.  NBC had time to interview Vice President Joe Biden in the time it took Wayne to get from the Show Cauldron to the Waterfront Cauldron.

Less talking, more editing.

Vancouver Olympic Committee CEO John Furlong needed to cut his welcoming speech by about two and a half hours.  I can only imagine how much fun the years of meetings with this guy were.  He probably takes fifteen minutes just to say “Good morning” as you pass him in the hallway.

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Notice to Airmen

Air Ministry DirectionsAn appointment at the crack of dawn on the other side of the city means posting will be delayed until later in the day.

Also some minor administrative changes to note:

First, the blog now supports a specific style/theme for mobile device browsers, in the event that any readers employ mobile devices.  Although it is The Company’s policy that reading the site via mobile device is a function is best fulfilled by subscribing to the RSS feed, there are always those that arrive to us via Google.

Second, our linked LiveATC feeds have reverted to their normal (pre-Haiti emergency) lineup; MDJB Santo Domingo and TJSJ San Juan have been replaced by EHAM Amsterdam and YSSY Sydney.

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Airlift: a distraction?

As an aviation-related blog, naturally the Company focuses its attention on the aerial aspects of the relief effort in Haiti.  But airlift has some inherent limitations, chief among them being that even the very largest aircraft have tiny payload capacities when compared to ships.  In typical logistics doctrine, airlift happens first because it can reach an affected area in hours, whereas sealift takes days (or sometimes weeks).  But as the conflict or crisis drags on, airlift’s priority wanes once sealift is established.  Writing at the US Naval Institute blog, author Galrahn (who also writes at Information Dissemination) is anxious to see sealift get the attention it deserves.  While I don’t necessarily agree with his characterisation of USAF’s effort, it’s an interesting read.  And it is inarguable that sealift’s throughput and cost effectiveness is an order of magnitude greater than airlift; airlift’s primary advantages have always been speed and flexibility, not volume.

Todd H. Guggisberg, Assistant Professor, Department of Logistics and Resource Operations (DLRO) US Army Command and General Staff College emailed me today with an important observation.

As a retired career Army logistics officer, I am following the events closely.  Understanding what it means to feed/water/shelter 3 million people is difficult for most Americans.  One of my logistics students did a quick estimate and came up with a requirement for 2,000 cargo trucks per day to supply ONE humanitarian ration to 3 million people per day….and rations are easy compared to water.

That might explain why there has been a policy change regarding the danger of airdropping relief supplies. Are things getting critical? Probably more than most Americans probably realize.

One C-17 airdrop represents ~30,000 rations (usually divided between humanitarian rations and bottled water), and we would need to conduct more than 100 C-17 airdrops per day and equally distribute those rations just to get just 1 bottle of water or 1 humanitarian ration to each of the 3 million people the UN says are in need in Haiti today. The SOUTHCOM focus to date on the one runway airfield is a distraction, by no fuzzy math is it possible for ~180 planes around the world to meet the demand of the Haiti catastrophe

— galrahn.  “Obama’s Public Diplomacy From Haiti Wears Combat Boots.”  US Naval Institute blog, 19 January 2010.

I am sure the US Navy (and allied navies) are working hard at opening up critical port facilities; but this bound to be somewhat camera-unsexy.  It involves a lot of planning, surveying, diving and so forth, things the land-based media can’t film easily.  It takes far less effort for a camera operator to sit at an airfield and get shots of aircraft taxiing around, while a reporter makes concerned noises.  They will continue to film the airport because that is what they know, and because more of their audience back home have flown aboard commercial aircraft into an airport (and can relate to that).  Very few audience members will have known the experience of sailing into a major seaport aboard a ro/ro bulk carrier, and helping to unload it.

Combine this with the media’s usual lack of knowledge/interest in military matters, and odds are most reporters on the ground don’t know that the next few hours in the seaports are where the battle for Haitian lives will be won or lost.

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Notice to Passengers

tc_no_passportsThe Company has been informed that some of our anti-spam measures (specifically, user registration) were a little too vigorous and have subsequently stifled commenting.

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Flight Attendant Uniform Collection

aircan17Mr. Cliff Muskiet is a flight attendant for KLM, and through his travels he has amassed a large collection of stewardess uniforms from many of the world’s current and former airlines.

Glancing through the samples from the various Canadian airlines, one will quickly realise that they are generally very conventional.  Nothing too avant-garde, just boring and mediocre.  It is a miracle they could convince any Canadian women to wear these drab togs to work on a daily basis.

Here are Canada’s workplace fashion representatives:

But even the worst of these is better than the horror of current-issue Deutsche BA.

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Subway Stewardesses

An MTA Service Specialist passing out food in the subway. (Source: Indymedia NYC)

An MTA Service Specialist passing out food in the subway. (Source: Indymedia NYC)

Four women, members of Boring Inc., have taken it upon themselves to increase customer service on New York City subways. Dressed in matching uniforms complete with heels, pill box hats, and of course, a snack cart, this past Saturday, Kae Burke, Lauren Larken, Anya Sapozhnukova, and Kristine “Kiki” traveled around New York offering help, snacks, and smiles.

… The performance is a response to the MTA’s fair (sic) hikes. It has been more than a month since the fair hike and the MTA has yet to improve their overall service including extended evening hours and additional train routes.

— Nathanson, Alex.  “Subway Stewardesses Fight Fair Hike.”  Indymedia New York City, 07 April 2008.

While there’s no question that TTC service would be drastically improved by the addition of food carts, pillbox hats and heels, the place where these ladies could really put their morale-improving skills to use would be Air Canada.  And WestJet.  And pretty well every Canadian airline except Porter—which has already figured out the comfort / convenience / style thing.

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Wedding Processional

Your scribe is not the world’s biggest fan of the elevation of modern weddings into a plebian coronation festival, viewing it as something nigh to idolatry.  The princess-for-a-day mentality, the everything-must-be-perfect obsession, and so on.  Nor am I a huge fan of R&B as exemplified by one Chris Brown.  So a combination of the two would seem, on first blush, to be a perfect storm of suck.

But this processional looks like a lot of fun.  I wish more wedding ceremonies had this much life injected into them.

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