Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bailouts and Handouts

I'm going to post on a different topic than usual this morning, because I just read a report in the New York Times that ticked me off, quite frankly.

You may recall that earlier this year, a US Airways jet landed in the Hudson river after a birdstrike. The pilot was (rightly) hailed a hero, as he managed to land the plane without the loss of a single life, and most passengers escaped serious injuries.

I'm reading about how people are now unsatisfied because they feel they are owed compensation either for loss of possessions or emotional trauma. You can read the whole article here, but here are some of the bits that irritated me:

"Everything went downhill," said Mr. (Paul) Jorgenson, a software executive in Charlotte, N.C., whose laptop and keys have not been recovered.

A spokesman for US Airways, Morgan Durrant, said the airline issued each passenger a check for $5,000 shortly after the accident to cover their immediate needs; it had no legal obligation to do so. He declined to discuss the airline's liability insurance policy or claims processes, saying the matter was pending and he did not want to jeopardize it.

He (Mr. Jorgenson) recently got some of his clothing back from the airline but the shoes were ruined, he said. One suit was missing its jacket, and his cufflinks and sunglasses are still gone. He got his wallet back but not the cash it held, he said.

Because he could document losses of more than $5,000, A.I.G. sent him a second $5,000, with a letter saying he could get an additional $10,000 if he signed a statement releasing it from any further claims. Other passengers are also being asked to sign the release in exchange for $10,000.

Mr. Jorgenson said he thought this was disingenuous, because some degree of liability might eventually be established. Then A.I.G.'s policy would be in play, but the passengers would have signed away their claims.

"I wish I had a hammer to get them to do the right thing," said Andrew J. Maloney, a partner in the New York firm of Kreindler & Kreindler, which specializes in aviation litigation. He is representing some of the US Airways passengers but has not filed any lawsuits. "They're riding a wave of feel-good opinion about how well the flight crew handled the bird strike."

Ms. Sosa said (her daughter) Sophia "remembers everything. I just want her to walk away from this knowing that we did everything we could to make it make sense." A.I.G. agents have told her that for therapy she should use her own health insurance, but it has a $3,000 deductible for mental health care.

"Why should we be paying out of pocket?" she said. "That's why they're there. They're the insurer."

A.I.G. has told Ms. Sosa and other passengers that it would pay for therapy, but only for three sessions. "It's like telling me, 'We aren't responsible for this. This is your trauma. You deal with it,' " Ms. Sosa said. In one exasperated conversation with an A.I.G. claims official, she invoked the taxpayer bailout, saying she doubted Congress and the Obama administration would approve of the stonewalling. The official "told me their division didn't get a cent from the bailout," she said.

So let me see if I can get this straight. We have one guy, an executive, that was given $10,000 for lost items and still thinks the airline and the insurer are "disingenuous". And on the other hand we have a woman who thinks that because the airline's insurer received government money, the President should somehow think it appropriate to pay for an endless supply of coddling sessions to make her daughter feel better.

Now, I have no doubt that the flight crash was traumatic. I have flown across the Atlantic many times, across the English Channel even more, and spent three years flying all over the country as part of my job. My wife is terrified of flying. I can't image exactly what these people went through. What I can do is imagine if I lost the possessions I was traveling with, and I do have some experience with emotional trauma.

People may disagree, but I'm going to side with the airline here. Whenever you get on a plane, you understand the dangers. You listen to the safety instructions ("in the unlikely event of a water landing...") and go on reading your magazine. The bird strike was not due to any negligence by the pilot or crew (an event usually termed an accident) and I think everyone involved can look back and realize how fortunate they were to be shivering and cold, but alive. Compared, let's say, to the 227 Air France passengers who disappeared in the Atlantic.

In my opinion, if you travel on a plane with more than $10,000 worth of possessions you are either very rich or a bit stupid. How much money was in this guy's wallet for him to be complaining about it? Maybe he should just go buy a new pair of shoes. I can't believe he's complaining about losing his sunglasses in an air crash. I lose my sunglasses visiting the grocery store.

As far as emotional trauma goes, let me say this. Some of you know my stepson received a traumatic brain injury in a vehicle accident when he was not the driver. That was three years ago. My wife has had to pay for some therapy sessions out of her own pocket. I'm sure we are not an unusual case, either. People suffer losses and traumas all the time. Probably everyone could sue somebody else if they really wanted to. But where do you draw the line?

There is an apocryphal story that says that if the Good Samaritan helped the mugging victim today, the guy would probably sue him for aggravating his injuries and leaving him at an inn he didn't like.

The American Dream used to be this: work hard, love your family and friends, respect your country and it's moral values, be thankful for what you have, and one day you will have achieved everything that you desire in life.

Now, the American Dream is this: go on a reality show, burn the flag, sue everyone, play the lottery, complain about everything you can, and one day you will get what you deserve.

Maybe they are both correct, if you think about it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Random 80's Wednesday

Quando Quango - Atom Rock
Roman Holliday - One Foot Back In Your Door
Cocteau Twins - Aikea Guinea
Fiction Factory - Not The Only One
Jamie Rae - Pretty One

All of these were released in the same week, in March of 1985. Also released were "We Close Our Eyes" by Go West and "Kiss Me" by Stephen Tin Tin Duffy, but I think you may have already heard those...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Mysterious Lyrics of Howard Jones (and William Bryant)

I was relaxing in my favorite way this evening, by shuffling through my box of vinyl and thinking about what to play. My hands fell on the original US maxi single of "New Song" by Howard Jones. This extended version is different from the one on The 12" Album and was recently released on CD through Hi-Bias as part of their RetroActive series.

As I listened to the second track, "Conditioning", I started thinking about the lyrics. I always liked the line, "Well we think that you are John or Dave", just so different from normal pop lyrics. So, let me back up for a second to talk about my history with Howard.

The first album I ever owned was Dream Into Action, Howard's 1985 album. I bought it because I had liked both "Things Can Only Get Better" and "Look Mama" and one of the guys at school, who was generally considered cool, had a Howard Jones backpack. This was before I discovered Ultravox, New Order, or The Cure and he was the first artist I considered myself to be a big fan of. I can remember bringing home the album on the bus that day, being so excited because it was so much more substantial than the wispy singles I had previously been buying up. I also remember copying the album to a C-60 cassette tape and hand coloring the insert to make it look like the real one.

I really liked the album, and it was the first time that I realized that artists could produce meaningful work that was not a chart single or written in that format. One of my favorite tracks from the album was "Is There A Difference?" and I really identified with the concept of how people often drifted around without direction but we should seek fulfillment for ourselves.

I grew out of Howard quite fast. The follow up album One To One, produced by Arif Mardin, largely abandoned the whimsical synth sounds I had liked so much and by that time I was a dedicated Ultravox fan. Although I kept a copy of Dream Into Action, and eventually replaced it with a CD version. My favorite tracks were always from that album or from Human's Lib and also some of the B-Sides from that early period.

So with that background, let's get to the present and how I was looking at the lyrics for "Conditioning". For some reason I has always assumed that Howard wrote all his own lyrics, especially as there seemed to be a common, humanistic thread running through them all. I then noticed that the name "William Bryant" cropped up as the writer of the lyrics to "What Is Love", "Conditioning", "Human's Lib", "Hunt The Self" and several others, including my favorite B-Side, "It Just Doesn't Matter". It begged the question, just who was William Bryant and why have I never heard of his name in connection with Howard Jones before?

Of course the internet is an amazing place, and I found an interesting biography of Mr. Bryant here. Based on this account, it would appear that Bill Bryant was the person that encouraged Howard's pop career as well as his quest for spiritual enlightenment, and provided the impetus for much of the direction that he would continue to go in, developing the lyrics and encouraging the addition of mime to the concerts, among other things.

What's interesting to me is that there is absolutely no mention of any of this in Howard's official biographies, or sleeve notes, or on his website. It is claimed that the association was dropped by Howard as soon as he signed for WEA/Elektra and he never gave any further credit except for what was required by copyright law.

Naturally, I think there is a bigger story in this. Was Bryant a crank that Howard became reluctant to acknowledge? What broke apart their friendship, if, indeed that relationship existed in the way it was described? Whatever the truth is, it is clear that the lyrical concepts that Bryant is given credit for putting down on paper were important enough to signpost a direction that Howard would continue to take in all his subsequent work.

Well, that's enough sleuthing for today!

Howard Jones - It Just Doesn't Matter
Howard Jones - Conditioning

Saturday, June 6, 2009

"And There Was The Light..."

For the first time ever, I'm posting a completely original mix. I was listening to the haunting song "Valley of Evergreen" by Alternative Radio when I remembered the phrase "they shall not grow old" from a famous poem. I then also remembered a favorite Roald Dahl story of mine which was also called "They Shall Not Grow Old" which has some incredible imagery in it. So I put elements of them all together and played around with it until I liked it.

This is dedicated to the brave servicemen and women who have given their lives for our countries, and on this day in particular, of those many brave souls who perished on D-Day, June 6th 1944.

May we all, one day, see the light.

Alternative Radio - Valley of Evergreen (Rememberance Mix)

[UPDATE: June 2017 - I found this on a CD I made for my brother so it's up again finally]

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Random 80's Wednesday

Rock & Hyde - I Will (from Under The Volcano, 1987)
The Rescue - Tell Me Now (from Messages EP, 1984)
400 Blows - Runaway (7" Single, 1985)
Instructions - So You Learn From Computers (from Instructions, 1982)
Immaculate Fools - Immaculate Fools (from Hearts of Fortune, 1984)