Boarding Time

October 31, 2011

The NY Times today published an article about the efforts
airlines are making to get planes boarded in less time.

Certainly boarding a plane is one of the most stressful
parts of an already fraught experience. You have already gotten up at a
ridiculous hour, driven in lousy traffic to the airport, lined up for parking,
lined up for the shuttle bus, lined up for check in, lined up to be scanned and
groped (to no purpose, we know) lined up for overpriced coffee, and now let’s
all line up again to get on the wretched flying cattle truck.

One of the most obvious things about this moment in mass
transport is the lack of clear and timely information. The confused folk
milling around the gate do not know what they are expected to do. The gate
crews are forced to use the really old fashioned and ineffective loudspeaker
system to announce what is going on, with predicable results. “What did she
say?” is the most common overheard phrase, followed by “Who is boarding now?”

The attempts by some airlines to use display
screens to show who is actually boarding now and who is next have been next to
useless because one would have to stand within six feet of the tiny screens and
on someone’s shoulders to actually read and understand the messages.

The solution is to have large, easily legible
screens that have genuine and instant information. Add the audible
announcements using a speaker system that really works and you may have a more
efficient gate control procedure.

Quite a few airports around the country have spent millions
of dollars upgrading their parking lots, their concourses, their shopping
malls, their bathrooms, everything but the feature that would increase
efficiency, wider and double jetways.
Sure they are expensive, but so were all the other features that do
nothing for efficiency. Of course it would not matter how many jetways could be
latched onto a jetliner it won’t reduce the number of occasions when the ground
crew seem taken aback by our arrival. You were expecting us, right? Or did our Captain
forget to call ahead?

Once on the plane the problem is of course the daft design
of these aerial aluminium anxiety chambers. These machines are not designed for
people. They are designed for airline profit. Without going into the hideously
uncomfortable seats, and the toilets meant for midget contortionists, I will
point out that the aisles are far too narrow, and far too long. What chumps
decided that you only need one aisle and one boarding door for a plane as long
as a Boeing 767? Not even the buses in India have this dopey layout. The
overhead bins are not too small, but people’s idea of a carryon is a
revelation. Just enforce the size rule. Why is that so hard?

The solutions are easily identified. The passengers will end
up paying for them. How can this be done whilst increasing the salaries and bonuses
of the top executives of the company is the only thing that will actually get

A New Dance Piece

October 28, 2011

Some years ago I wrote a short spoken piece that I would love to see
interpreted by a dance group. The words describe a world some distance in the
future where individuals have been almost eradicated by a joint consciousness.
A common enough theme in science fiction, but worth another treatment! The piece
would not last more than five to ten minutes and so would likely fit a larger
program of work. I have a basic idea of the movements but I am very interested
in ideas from someone with modern dance experience with a view to a public
performance. Villella and Tharp are unavailable; Balanchine and Jerry Robbins
(another ex-chemsitry student) have left the scene. So it is up to you.

Contact me here with your ideas, comments and suggestions.

Nap Time

October 14, 2011

A few years ago I wrote a series of poems about a childhood, mine, and about the part of England where I grew up. My poetic muse comes and goes, but dropped in recently to pop out this tiny offering.


Nap Time

Now and then
I take a nap
A nap on the couch
It’s that or pretend I am paying attention.
To accelerate a reluctant somnolence
I return to another house
A house very far away
And in the past
Where my mother is busy in the kitchen.
While I doze off my jet lag in the closet she calls a bedroom
The almost rhythmic sounds of her kitchen are a sleeping draught
A draught so powerful no opiate competes

I wonder now if she knew.


It is a work in progress. No promises.


My Planet Hates Me

October 4, 2011

I am beginning to suspect that far from being a nurturing and supportive planet, Earth is actively rejecting humankind as an alien invasion. What informs this conclusion you inquire Every day nearly half of any conversation I have with another human involves some mention of allergies. A list of things to which humans are allergic comprises a significant part of the surface of the planet. We are not well here. We are not welcome here. Plants we touch will cause us to break out into puss filled scabs. Much of our food threatens some important body function. My own children, conceived on the surface, are variously allergic to apples, wheat, milk, peanuts, dust, cats and some yeasts. All fairly mundane items found nearly everywhere; ubiquitous. I am myself allergic to some as yet unidentified airborne material which leaves me sneezing and gasping for breath at unpredictable intervals.

We are a sneezing, itching, scratching, and inflamed life form from another world that this one is desperately rejecting so that its own flora and fauna can survive. Why we came or were sent here is a mystery, and when the mother ship will show up to rescue us is another, even to those crazed religious sects who claim the knowledge. Yet even they do not mention the rejection by a planet that seems obvious to me.

The classic novel of alien invasion by H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds, needs to be rewritten so that the aliens are us and try as we might to subdue the planet it kills us off by bacteriological infection. Something I suspect it of already slowly doing. Why are there diseases that only humans enjoy? Why do our drugs, efficacious at first, slowly lose their power?

The Earth, a relatively pleasant place for a few days a year when perhaps it takes a break from hating us, is not our home planet. We need to start signaling home for help.