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Off Key

By Bob Frederickson

From Purple People Seater’s Roar of a Score to Campaign Slogan Bore…

Van Wezel Stalks Larger Prey…

The long-standing rap against Van Wezel audiences has been the annoying habit of some patrons distracting performers and fellow audience members alike by leaving before the end of a show in order to beat the traffic rush. Well, there was none of that on display on opening weekend of the Lion King’s two-and-a-half week run at the famed Purple People Seater by the bay that continues through March 31st. All those in attendance for the Friday night show my wife and I attended were locked into the production’s non-stop spectacle of sound, motion and color; most even remained through the standing ovation that continued beyond the final curtain call.

The extended run, which includes 23 performances, is unprecedented for a Van Wezel booking. If the run is a box office success – which appears likely as this is written with many of the performances already sold-out – it could be a game changer for the auditorium, leading to fewer instances of booking agents overlooking the smaller Sarasota market in favor of Tampa and its Straz Theater, with its greater capacity of 2400 seats versus the Van Wezel’s 1700.

In any case, kudos to the Van Wezel’s executive director Mary Bensell and her staff for bringing this iconic show to the area, and with it the prospect of more large canvass events to come.

Boeing’s Self-Inflicted Wound?

There was an interesting discussion on talk radio recently in the aftermath of the FAA grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max 8 aircraft after two of the planes fell from the sky, killing all on board in separate crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia. 

Rush Limbaugh and several of his callers with aviation backgrounds noted the extreme competition between US based Boeing and the European Union consortium, Airbus, suggesting that rivalry may have unduly accelerated Boeing’s rollout and marketing of the ‘new’ model.

When a new aircraft goes to market airlines not only have to consider the cost of the plane itself but also the time and expense involved in training their pilots on how to operate the new flight platform. That’s why many major airlines opt to stick with existing models their pilots and maintenance staffs are already familiar with.

This has led to speculation that Boeing’s decision to name its ‘new’ 737 Max using the familiar 7-3-7 series designation was made with this in mind. Buyers with an existing fleet of older 737s might have inferred that they would save substantial sums by ordering a plane their workforce was already familiar with.

But here’s the thing: As Limbaugh and several callers pointed out, despite the 7-3-7 prefix, the plane is very different in size and avionics and apparently – flight characteristics – than the older model 737s the new planes were in many instances purchased to replace. Perhaps complacency trumped better judgment on the part of some airlines and even Boeing itself, leading to an assumption that the usual learning curve needed to fly the new 737 Max 8 would not be as steep as should have reasonably been expected.

Two unexplained crashes later Boeing might now be wishing it had rolled the new model out as precisely that: an entirely new model, emphasizing a more in depth training regimen to familiarize pilots with how the plane responds to various flight scenarios.

It’s like your mother always said: shortcuts don’t always work out as planned.

In Other Transportation News…

The Sarasota County Commission has decided to park – for now – plans to turn over the SCAT bus system to a private operator. Drivers, mechanics and maintenance workers made their voices heard in recent weeks protesting the plan after news broke about a proposal the county had received from the company Transdev that offered at least $2.5 million in annual savings off the county’s current $30 million SCAT budget. Employees clearly figured it was a good bet those savings would come at their expense, despite Transdev’s claims to the contrary.

But the county has tapped the brakes, apparently relenting to employee and union pressure by opting to table any privatization plans, at least for the time being.

So it will be more of the same: a $30 million SCAT budget featuring in some instances near empty buses rolling down an ultimately unsustainable road. For real long-term job security, employees would be better served by working with a management team committed to making the current system run more efficiently. That’s the only true source of job security.

Instead, it’s just a matter of time before it becomes obvious the busses could be parked and every current rider simply given a means-tested Uber voucher for their trips with the result that none of those drivers and mechanics will have jobs and the county will likely save much more than the modest $2.5 million the Transdev plan offered. Pollution would likely be reduced as well. The county may tout its fuel friendly busses, but any efficiency is offset by a wide margin when a full size bus is transporting a mere handful of riders. And what about the wasted fuel and productivity (not to mention traffic backups) accruing from a system that includes very few pull outs for bus stops on single lane roads like Honore Avenue, resulting in traffic backups behind buses stopped to pick-up or discharge riders?

Quote of the Day

“I hope every guy is as happily married as my wife says I am.”

                                                                                     -Christopher Doumitt

Snoring Cure Lands Woman in Pokey

47-year-old Lorie Morin of Cocoa Beach had a surefire – if somewhat extreme – cure for her boyfriend’s snoring.

Unfortunately, it involved a shotgun, discharged by Morin in the general direction of her offending housemate.

Luckily, her aim wasn’t true. Still, she ended up in the Brevard County jail facing attempted murder and aggravated battery charges. Her defense lawyer will probably claim she just needed a good night’s sleep…

Could you Repeat that Answer?

It was the final question on a recent episode of The Family Feud with host Steve Harvey putting this toss up question in play for two family patriarchs representing that evening’s competing families:

“On which day of the week do most people get fired?”

Patriarch 1: “July 8th.”

July 8th?  Really? Even the quick-witted Harvey was at a loss, looking as stunned as he was a few years back after realizing he had announced the wrong winner of the Miss America Pageant.

So did this guy get fired on that date? Or maybe he was the one doing the firing and it just so happened July 8 was his preferred day to complete the task.

Or maybe he just didn’t understand the question… It boggles the mind.

Anyway, in case you’re interested:

            “Survey says…Friday.” (Any Friday will do, not just one falling in early July.)

I Hate it When this Happens…

Life vests? Check! Fuel? Check! Sun screen, Cooler, Beer? Check, check and check…

Boat plug?

“Arghhh!  $@!#&%*$”

That pretty much sums up the story of a local family launching their boat one recent weekend when their planned outing on the bay ended before it begot underwaygan, with the realization that someone forgot to install the boat plug used to drain water from inside the boat when it is OUT of the water. The result: the couple’s craft sank to the bottom of the 10th street boat basin faster than you can say, “Abandon Ship!”

Talk about a sinking feeling.

Déjà Vu all over Again…

“A senior UN environmental official says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the earth…if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000,”

         – Peter James Spielman, June 29, 1989, as reported by the AP at the time

So here we go again, with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke both predicting Armageddon just around the corner as the uber liberal wing of the Democratic Party increasingly comes to resemble an end-time cult.

I just can’t believe a party platform with the slogan “The End is Near: Vote Democratic” will be anything more than an uninspiring bore.