Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rush's Toronto (Under Construction)

Just back from GoMedia, a Canadian tourism conference in Toronto. I squeaked out a little free time to follow Rush -- the bronze medal winner in total gold and platinum records (after the Beatles and Stones), though completely snubbed by the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame, which found a place for the Hollies.

More to come, but meanwhile, please enjoy a still of my serious conversation with Dave Glover, aka 'the kid in the Subdivisions video,' along with the 'high school halls' of L'Amoreaux Collegiate Institute, where the video was shot in 1982.

I am delighted by travel.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

76-Second Travel Show: 'What is a Travel Animal?'

Episode #041
F E A T U R I N G * 7 9 * B O N U S * S E C O N D S

Animals are going berserk of late: whales jumping, like Simon Le Bon, aboard private yachts in South Africa; bears hijacking Toyotas and ramming them into trees. Are they protesting our travel? Or just trying to tag along?

I've tried to promote 'travel animals' before -- such as the walrus, the pig and the prairie dog. But the notion has changed for me. It's time to refocus toward animals who travel, not just animals to look at.

Some will liken the best 'travel animal' to those who travel the longest distances, like the arctic tern which travels the equivalent of three trips to the moon over its life. But distances, just like ticked-box countries visited, doesn't equate to travel value. Instead, I'm looking for are animals that combine relaxation, fun with curiosity and escape.

We have one suggestion. Do you have any candidates?

If bored, visit the full 76-Second Travel Show archive.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Avoid the One-Pillar Pagoda

It's fun debating friendliest, prettiest, ugliest place in this world of travel. But some negative superlatives can strike me as particularly careless or hollow -- particularly when based on a quick, solitary visit.

It's what I call the 'one-pillar pagoda.'

No opinions should be built on the back of a lone observation or experience. But often they are. I can't say the number of times I've heard swipes at Vietnam -- 'greedy loud locals ripping off tourists' -- from visitors who stuck with the deeply rutted backpacker trail from cafe to cafe, travel agent to travel agent. Go a block or two in any direction -- away from the fly-paper tout zones of banana pancakes and Internet cafes -- it's another story.


I fight this urge to demean or overly sell a place all the time. In fact, one of the key things I've learned from updating a couple dozen Lonely Planet guidebooks has been to NOT trust yourself. At least not always. Particular giddiness or fortune in meeting/knowing locals that connect you to a place, or the presence of an untimely headache can greatly alter how one sees -- and talks of -- a destination for years to come.

This same principle, of course, works in life too. One-pillar structures exist (like the Hanoi pagoda above), but there's a reason most buildings are built on at least four supports.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How to Fly Right

A few years ago, on a flight from Magadan to Vladivostok, Russia, a couple thin, well-dressed Russians in suits looked across the aisle to me, one shook a vodka bottle and asked 'you drink with us' -- no question mark intended.

After a few shots on the flight, we landed and I watched the two exit first and proceed to immigration, where they turned on their heels and began checking documentation. After clearing me, a trio with vodka breath, they offered me a ride into town in their SUV.

Never know who you'll meet on planes.

It was a rather different story for the ex-JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater, who is getting his fair share of high-fives around the travel community for sliding into airline history.

Here's my take on how NOT to enrage your flight attendant for CNN.com today.

The photo above is of a cargo plane that wrecked in Manitoba; no one was killed.

Monday, August 2, 2010

76-Second Travel Show's Greatest Hits

It's self-indulgent and unnecessary, but to commemorate the first 40 episodes of the '76-Second Travel Show,' I'm doing it anyway: 76-Second Travel Show's Greatest Hits.

Manhattan Bridge's 100th Birthday

I'm still steamed that the city celebrated the centennial of this iconic, overlooked bridge two months ahead of time because, essentially, the weather's better. (Some videomakers didn't mind.) The 76 had other ideas -- going deep into the New Year's Eve snow, and commissioning an original song, to celebrate the bridge ON ITS ACTUAL BIRTHDAY. Because that's just the sort of birthday befitting a bridge like the Manhattan. And yes, we did clean up all that confetti.

Love for Cold Travel

I've long last track of how many 'unreasonable' days -- or sightings of pants-staining butt sweat on subways -- we've had to endure this summer in New York. All I know is that winter is way underrated as a time to travel (or explore your own home). Media-wise in this ep, we were able to get in hand-drawn signs, telephone calls, a couple interviews and random Bulgarian footage in this one.


Is San Francisco Better than NYC?

By far the most controversial (and viewed -- with over 10,000 clicks), this episode's simple question sent San Franciscans and New Yorkers onto the defense. One recent YouTube commenter lashed out, 'Is this guy for real?' Actually the SF/NY question remains is open-ended, never answered. There really is no 'better' in travel. And the video never claims it.

Chester Arthur's Pants

It didn't do well -- a trifle of exposure compared with some -- but the 13-second reenactment of 'the Shooting of an Ohioan President' remains my personal favorite moment in all 40 episodes (or any aspect of my career). AND, I think, the fun fact that you can order Lebanese sandwiches in Chester Arthur's former bedrooms (and that he had a pants fetish) is worth the price of admission. (No, I'm NOT the presidential assassin; that was handled by John M Whitaker.)

Billy Joel's Long Island

It willfully defies the 76-second limit by the longest shot imaginable -- it's nearly 7.6 minutes -- but following Billy Joel's lyrics across mid-way Long Island, with a fun group of contest winners including BrooklynNomad, led to meeting some unforgettable characters and meeting Julie Chang of Fox 5 NYC. More importantly, I'll never hear 'Scenes from an Italian Restaurant' quite the same way again.

Vikings vs Pirates

Hollywood refuses to ask a key hypothetical question of our past -- who'd win in a fight, Vikings or pirates? -- travel, once again, comes to the rescue with Viking/pirate sites chipping in.

Goes to Sesame Street

I first learned of 'uptown' and 'brownstones' on Sesame Street. Finally I got to visit the source. And to quote Ciccone Youth, it felt like seeing New York for the first time.


$10 Luge Lessons

Anticipating an mass mockery of luge during the Olympics -- and a few days before the tragic death of one luger in warm-ups -- I went Ponce de Leon on a question NBC's exhaustive Olympic coverage over the decades never bothered to ask: where can you luge? Turns out Michigan rules the day. And, at ten bucks, the best travel deal outside of DC's free museums. So 76 HQ is happy. (Though we're all still waiting an answer regarding Apolo Ono's inexcusable 'soul stripe.')

Is Marco Polo overrated?

In the very first episode, the 76 template was conceptualized/focus-grouped/shot/edited/released in about 25 elapsed minutes, including artwork of the signs. Really don't want to confess how long the Billy Joel one took.