Archive for November 25th, 2011

Skyway Robbery

Once upon a time, air travelers would occasionally have their Realities interrupted by young men with beards and a grievance, who would rise in the aisles to command that a flight proceed forthwith to some place other than where it was originally intended to go.

Hijackings. For a while, all the rage.

That was then, and this is now. But following the principle of everything old is new again, it seems that we may now be upon the dawn of a new age of hijackings. Except this time, passengers are being hijacked by their own airlines.

Let us consider the case of a recent Comtel Air flight scheduled to wing its way from India to Great Britain. When the plane stopped for fuel in Vienna, the crew informed the passengers that unless they coughed up $31,000, the plane would fly no further.

Britain’s Channel 4 news broadcast video showing a Comtel cabin crew member telling passengers: “We need some money to pay the fuel, to pay the airport, to pay everything we need. If you want to go to Birmingham, you have to pay.”

Some passengers said they were sent off the plane to cash machines in Vienna to raise the money.

Even as the Vienna robbery was underway, 190 passengers on a Comtel flight arest in Amritsar were informed that the plane would never take off, unless each would-be flyer forked over $200 apiece.

A spokesman for the airline boldly declared that these robberies were not his company’s fault, and furthermore insisted that the high-flying firm was in fine financial shape.

Bhupinder Kandra, the airline’s majority shareholder, told the Associated Press from Vienna that travel agents had taken the passengers’ money before the planes left but had not passed it on to the airline.

“This is not my problem,” he said. “The problem is with the agents.”

Kandra insisted Thursday the company was still solvent.

“We have not run out of money,” he said. “We have enough.”

Kate Hanni, executive director of, a tubes-outfit advocating for airline passengers, cautioned that the Comtel hijacking is hardly unique.

“There’s plenty of absurdity in airline land,” she said.

So stay tuned.


Come As My Guest

Ron Garan is an astronaut, and also an artist. Stationed in space, he photographs the cosmos, and then shares those images with us. He maintains a blog, titled after this planet: Fragile Oasis.

Of late he has been chiefly responsible for two remarkable videos, one of which is embedded here, the second available at the link at the bottom of this post.

The video below documents the recent return of Garan and two fellow cosmonauts, Alexander Samokutyaev and Andrey Borisenko, from the International Space Station. That it is accompanied by perfectly appropriate music from Peter Gabriel helps, but the primary power emanates from the images. For Stewart Brand knew what he was about, way back when, in understanding that those first NASA photographs of the planet, as seen from space, were vital, important, revealing “an island,” “this little blue, white, green and brown jewel.”

Whole-earth photographs always make me feel tender towards the planet. And all aboard. For though in one sense it’s big, and the creatures on it are so . . . busy, it’s also so very small, and so fragile. I feel like I ought to take care of it.

The related video, consisting of nighttime earthside footage only, can be found in a worthy Diary over on the Orange Place. People should go there, too.

Lark Ascending

Occupy Wall Street was born of this image. That is what it is about. That is its power.

The United States Supreme Court, when, in the early 20th Century, it moved to codify restrictions on free speech in this country, decreed that it was unconstitutional “to shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”

The Street people evade that. They, in fact, turn that decision on its head. They, instead, as seen in that image, in re that ballerina, dancing upon that bull, encourage all and every, to instead “shout ‘theater’ in a crowded fire.”

There has not yet been a United States Supreme Court decision, extinguishing that right. To “shout ‘theater’ in a crowded fire.” Because that is too far afield of what is believed to be normal. And so it was believed to be unnecessary. To outlaw it.

But that is its strength. Its very abnormality. That is what, even into these days, lives. The impulse to shout “theater,” in a crowded fire. The very reason the Street people are successful, in what they are doing.

The true meaning of the ballerina upon the bull, is not something that can be translated into language. And that is why no one can “define” what the Street people are. For they are beyond definition. And so, flowing from that, the Street people will not have leaders. They will have not demands. They will not have goals.

Though they do have an end. Inchoate as that may sometimes seem to be. And they will employ means. As shifting as those may be.

What is key: the Street people know there is a fire. They are not asleep, as the fire rages ’round them. They are, instead, standing amid it. The fire. And they are shouting “theater.” So that all those, who are also being consumed, might see. And mayhaps move out of the flames.


When I Worked

November 2011
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