This Week's Aerial-Themed News of the Weird

Think you can improve on "Ready When You Are" or "Fly the Friendly Skies" as airline slogans? Chinese innovators show you how.

While gathering material for descriptive posts on Holland, Michigan, here are several items catching up on recent aerial themes.

1) Great moments in corporate branding. A friend traveling in China sends this shot of the exterior of a China Eastern Airbus.

No kidding, I would go out of my way to fly on airplanes expressing this attitude.

2) Authority strength being screwed up by the government. From the Economist, an analysis that starts with an observed recent problem -- the amazing system-wide slowdowns and miseries of Chinese airline travel -- and draws larger conclusions about the dilemmas/challenges in China's development that this symbolizes. It's a very good article! Eg:

Bad weather and technical hitches can cause flight delays anywhere, but two man-made conditions are chiefly responsible for China’s problems. Experts agree they must be put right if China’s aviation industry is to continue growing, but they are so deep-rooted, and so political, that they will not be fixed without the intervention of officials at the highest level.

The article goes on to explain what those conditions are. If you have any further interest in this line of analysis -- ie, what the bottlenecks in China's progress toward high-value, high-tech industries say about the larger Chinese condition -- I know just the book to recommend.

3) Any device with an on-off switch .... Via Stewart Brand, the real explanation for the airlines' ban on electronic devices aboard.

4) 'It was like he wasn't sure where he should make the next cut.' A few days ago I mentioned the latest example of the NYT's weirdo obsession with frightening-seeming, and obviously made-up, tales of brushes with death in the skies. I also mentioned that I had written to the Times reporter asking if she knew any more about the incident; she hasn't replied.

One reader wrote to suggest that the best approach would be just to start making fun of the Times for its gullibility on these tales, rather than seeming huffy about it. Good point! By chance my friend Bruce Williams, who is a tech-industry veteran and writer who is also an accomplished pilot and flight instructor sends in this first installment of appropriate mockery. I am going to suggest that he submit this as an entry for a "Lives" column in the NYT Mag.

"Suppose I, a person with no medical training or experience beyond what I’ve gathered from watching TV shows like ER, observed, say, heart surgery," he says in his message. "I might write an account for the Times that would go something like this:"

The operating room seemed chilly. I bet the patient was freezing before they put him under. The surgeon looked kind of young, and he told one of the nurses to crank up rock music on the sound system, which made me worry about whether he could hear all the beeping monitors. 

Anyway, the first cut he made in the patient’s chest seemed awfully deep. There was a lot of blood, and the nurses were passing a lot of sponges and instruments back and forth. They looked harried. After they opened the chest, the chief surgeon (at least he was the older of the two doctors working over the patient), kept looking at the displays that showed what looked like X-rays of the patient’s chest.

It was like he wasn’t sure where he should make the next cut. And he kept asking the other surgeon a lot of questions, like he needed to be reminded of the details of the procedure they were doing, which I’m pretty sure was something to do with a valve—or maybe a blocked artery. Both of the surgeons seemed to sweat a lot—even though the air conditioning in the room seemed to be on full blast.

About 30 minutes into the surgery, the monitors hooked up to the patient started beeping really loud and fast, and then one of them stopped making noise and flashed some numbers I couldn’t see clearly. I was terrified, but the doctors seemed oblivious. They just went on cutting and clamping, cramming stuff into the patient and pulling bloody rags back out. Suddenly, the chief surgeon put down the scalpel or whatever it was he was holding, told the other doctor to finish, and he left the OR! I’m pretty sure he was worried that he’d be blamed for messing up the operation.

I never did find out what happened to the patient—this all happened several years ago in a hospital in Midwest. But I sure hope I never need a heart operation.