On this week’s ‘Not My Job’ segment of the socially-distanced NPR quiz show Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, the guest is Kellee Edwards – pilot, scuba diver, sailor and explorer – and host of the Travel Channel series, “Mysterious Islands.” She has a fun, enthusiastic conversation with host Peter Sagal about her adventuring, survival skills – and especially being a pilot and able to fly around to different places during the pandemic.
Gallup released its latest poll, and Trump's approval was down to 38%. What's notable about this, beyond being so low, especially four months before an election, is that Gallup's results have been higher than most other pollsters over the past six months. They even had him at 49% as recently as May. So...we'll see.
It's not terribly surprising, of course, give how completely completely nuts the administration has gone. And yes, I know that's a subjective term, but consider the four issues Trump and the RNC were talking about yesterday -- four months before the election, in the middle of a pandemic, with massive unemployment, national social change and Russians bounties. There was Trump’s tweet that NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace should apologize for a noose being found in his driving team's garage, another tweet about how unfair it was for sports teams to change their nicknames from ones that are racist, the RNC slamming Joe Biden for his “assault” on the Declaration of Independence by him writing an op-ed that refers to “all people are created equal” rather than “all men.” (All that was missing was for spokesperson Liz Harrington -- say, a woman said that -- to have started her complaint with, "Hey, Ladies!") And the White House Press Secretary proudly proclaiming that the world looks at the United States as the leader in COVID-19. Yes, honest, she said that, without even a hint of irony.
With their approval plummeting to 38%, these were the issues the administration thinks are winners that will expand their base. In a pandemic. With massive unemployment. Amid national social change. And a Russian bounty scandal.
And as a bonus note: the upcoming book by Trump’s niece has gotten so much attention that the publisher announced they had moved up release two weeks to July 14. Happy Bastille Day!
But rather than spin the Trump Wheel o' Wonder and pick a topic wherever the dial lands, I've decided to take a look, not at the news of the day, but a very interesting article about one area that is affected by it all. And an area that, on the surface, seems somewhat limited in its scope, but actually has much wider implications.
On the heels of my vacation over the weekend to my guest room -- and yes, I've recovered from jet lag for anyone curious -- here is an excellent interview in the Washington Post with travel expert Rick Steves, who has spent most of his adult life traveling through Europe, writing about it and leading tours. His observations on the future of travel are insightful and honest, not being overly pessimistic or optimistic, but how things will adjust to changing realities.
For Steves, travel isn't just about seeing the sites, but even more it's the human experience, interacting with other cultures, having a beer in an Irish pub and chatting with the locals next to you, getting a kiss on the cheek in France, making it all accessible to everyone, and that's what he sees most impacted.
"The only way somebody can have a quality experience is to pack the house," he says. "You’ve got to pack the theater. You’ve got to pack the bus. You’ve got a pack the airplane. You got to pack the hotel because then you can generate enough revenue to provide a service that’s top notch. If you have to have every other seat filled, you’ve got half the revenue. So the little mom-and-pop restaurants that I love to feature, if they can only have 50 percent capacity, they can’t pay their rent. And that’s what scares me.
"If the airlines can only put half as many people on the plane, it’s going to cost us all double. Then travel becomes an activity just for wealthy people. And I’ve always wanted travel to be affordable and accessible to people who just, you know, are reasonably employed but not necessarily wealthy."
He also draws an interesting connection to travel and the necessity of people staying at home, and why in today's world that isn't and should be a luxury but important to all.
"Travel is the best way to get to know your neighbor," he explains. "If a community is going to function, you need to know and respect your neighbors, need to trust your neighbors. You need to collaborate and work together. That’s not just a community thing. Community is global now. That’s a scary thought for a lot of people, especially people who don’t travel, who are afraid of people who are different.
"When you travel, you celebrate diversity. When you travel, you’re not afraid."
You can read the whole interview by Natalie B. Compton, my favorite travel writer for the paper, here.
Or "Around the World in in 800 Minutes."
I had a brainstorm last night and after over four months here sheltering at home, I finally decided to travel and take a vacation.
My plans began when I realized that I have a guest room and a bed that has never been used. I only moved to my new place a year or so ago, from a one bedroom apartment to a three-bedroom condo. And though I'm largely settled in now, there are still features I'm getting used to. And having a guest room is one of them.
Anyway, upon that realization, that I had someplace to travel to, I began my itinerary.
Instead of the dining room, I had dinner al fresco on my porch. (I didn't have a porch before, so I still don't use it as much as I should -- though it was one of the features I required when looking for a place. Glad I did!) I then watched my favorite world travel-food series on Netflix. (Somebody Feed Phil. It’s great. The episode last night took me to Saigon and was a total joy.) Beforehand, I also put a little piece of chocolate on the pillow in the guest room to wait for me (really). I packed my world atlas and lounged in the guest room browsing around the globe. And spent the rest of the night watching the local television to see how people from that part of the world lived. And in the morning, I used the guest room bathroom that was fully stocked.
I traveled home this morning and can give the report. I look forward to future trip.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote here about my friend, novelist and ad litem children's advocate Gay Courter who was quarantined on the Diamond Princess with her husband Phil. The happy news is that they're well and finally back home.
She said it all played out like a B-movie and even had a crazy ending. As Gay explained, "When the mayor of San Antonio said we radioactive zombies couldn’t enter his town, one of my travel insurance policies went into effect and they sent a private jet to take us home. That part was fun."
There's sort of an an odd bonus ending to the tale, as well. During the quarantine, the cruise line put out a notice on behalf of the passengers, which I came across on their website when trying to track down news of the Courters' status. It said --
“Because of the extraordinary circumstances onboard Diamond Princess, the company is refunding the full cruise fare for all guests including air travel, hotel, ground transportation, pre-paid shore excursions, gratuities and other items. In addition, guests are not being charged for any onboard incidental charges during the additional time onboard. Princess Cruises will also provide guests with a future cruise credit equal to the cruise fare paid for the voyage."
I thought, boy, was that ever clever of Gay and Phil. The lengths some people will go to get out of paying for a cruise. And get another for free! Mind you, I'm not sure if going on another cruise is high on their list, at least for now. But perhaps in the future. After all, they have it in writing, and as Gay wrote back, "Yes, now they are stuck with the deal!"
We have one final (at least for the time being...) of those wonderful air safety videos that are shown on Air New Zealand flights. The classic gems are those that deal with Hobbits and Middle Earth, but the others are wonderful in their own right. This one, titled "Summer of Safety," would be a total treat compared to most any other airline's efforts, though compared to the others from Air New Zealand it will have few touchstones for most travelers (and viewers...) from other countries, since it features celebrities from New Zealand. But supermodel Rachel Hunter should be familiar to many
Let's check in and head back down to New Zealand for another of those oddball and absolutely wonderful in-flight safety videos for Air New Zealand. This one is called "Safety Old School Style" and stars Betty White, along with some guests.
We haven't had one of those absolutely wonderful (and unique) on-board safety videos from Air New Zealand for a while, so let's correct that. This one is titled, "Bear Essentials of Safety" -- and it features Bear Grylls, here taking you on his own adventure to help make your flight as safe as possible.
Last week, I wrote about and posted here a spectacular in-flight safety video for Air New Zealand, "The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made" that was an extension of The Lord of the Rings I noted that the airline has a history of making wonderful and elaborate air safety videos, including several others based on Middle Earth.
Here's a second of those Middle Earth safety videos. It's not as near-operatic as the original, but great fun on it's own -- and would stand out even more if it wasn't for the "Most Epic" one that was, indeed the most epic.
A while back, I posted a video that I titled, "The most epic safety video ever made." But that wasn't my name that I gave to the little film, it was what Air New Zealand called their own video. And the thing is -- it is. It turns out, though, that Air New Zealand has a history of making outlandish, funny and extremely wonderful safety videos. I've tracked a bunch of them down and will post them here in the coming days.
But first, as a reminder, or for new people to these pages, before we get to the others, I thought it best to repeat that original video. So, here is it is and the article I posted about...
"The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made."
* * *
And no, that is not hyperbole.
In fact, the video itself begins by saying on-screen, "The most epic safety video ever made." And it's being low-key and polite. To be fair, "Epic," in this case, is sort of a tongue-in-cheek reference, as you will see. But it's nonetheless epic in the generally accepted sense, as well. This is far and away like no in-flight safety video you've seen, or likely will ever seen. It's so far away that everything else is in third place. Just leave second place empty. And, honest, that's not an exaggeration.
The in-flight video is for the safety explanation aboard Air New Zealand flights, and...well, let's just say as a reminder that New Zealand is where they filmed The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. And we'll leave it at that, and let your imaginations take over..
There are twists and turns here, and a lot of tongue-in-cheek fun, and some surprises. And further, when is the last time you ever saw credits at the end of an in-flight safety video?
As a safety video, I'm going to guess that patrons aren't going to be paying the closest attention to what's being told them, which probably isn't ideal. On the other hand, a) most people by now have a pretty good idea of the safety procedures on an airplane, b) in some ways, people are going to watch this much closer than the regular in-flight safety videos they zone out of, and c) this is going to be see FAR more by people who are not on an airplane, so there's no risk of going down in the water.
Which brings up the other point.
Beyond being the Greatest (and Most Epic) In-Flight Safety Video Ever, this is also a brilliant promotional video for the next film in The Hobbit series. If I had the opportunity to bet all my cash money, it will go viral around the world, if it hasn't already. However much it cost, there will be no need to buy TV air-time (which is so expensive), and you wouldn't anyway, since it's 4-1/2 minutes long. Maybe they'll cut down a 30-second version, but it's really not necessary, and it won't do it justice.
This is so wonderful and so smart. Just a brilliant idea, and whoever came up with the idea deserves a major promotion and bonus, and hats off to all the people on both sides of the aisle who approved doing it.
So, here, then is the most epic in-flight safety video ever made. Really.
As I always have tried to do on my more recent trips to Chicago -- since I now stay with relatives who live in Evanston, just blocks from the beloved Northwestern University -- I like to walk through the campus which has retained its charm on the shores of Lake Michigan, but added serious construction over the past couple decades. A bit too built up in some areas, in my taste, but with incredibly impressive additions in other areas. (Particularly in the theaters arts and music areas with new stages and performance halls, and also in athletic facilities on the landfill.)
To be clear, this body of water is not an inlet from Lake Michigan but a lagoon they built on campus a while back. You can make out Lake Michigan right behind the trees. But this lagoon plays a fun part in family history.
Back when I was going to NU in the School of Speech (now Communications), I took a Communication Studies course, and for reasons I don't remember, one day the professor took the whole class down to the lagoon to practice projection. (It wasn't a performance class, so I really don't recall at this point why we were doing this, perhaps to expand our awareness of the use of the voice or...oh, I don't know.) But half the class stood on one side of the lagoon and the rest on the other shore. And for decades after, my father who still be bemused by this and said, "So, just to be clear, I was paying tuition so that you could learn to yell across a lake..." For what it's worth, I thought it was sort of silly at the time, too, though I enjoyed the rest of the class. But that didn't matter. It was always "That class where you yelled across the lake."
But hey, as long as we're down by the waterfront, I thought I might was well also include of my buddies who joined me for part of the walk.
Anyway, I bring up my walk for another reason entirely, for a reason that will likely mean absolutely nothing to most people, but it was a big deal to me.
Over the past few years, as I mentioned, I take this walk through the Northwestern campus. And each time, there's one place I always make sure to stop at -- there is a museum on campus, and I always want to see it. I don't mean I "always want to see it again", I mean quite literally...I always want to see it. At least once. But every single time I've been on campus, the Block Museum has been closed. Either that was the one day it wasn't open, or they were closed for lunch, or they were closed for renovation, or they were closed to put in a new exhibition. Whatever the reason, it's always been closed. Always. So, I've never seen it, and it looks very nice, and has a good reputation for a small museum on a college campus.
But this year ...are you ready? -- it was OPEN!!! O joy! I told the receptionist how thrilled I was to finally get in, and explained why. She laughed and said, "Yes, we do seem to close a lot" -- but really, she was just being polite. They don't close that often, just often enough when I'm there.
Alas, they only had one exhibit, but when I rolled my eyes at my timing again, she said, "Oh, no, it's a good one." And it was. "Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa." It look at the Trans-Saharan trade culture from the days of antiquity, how the gold and even salt were such major factors in the area, and how historians and archaeologists have been able to put the past in perspective, often from only fragments.
It wasn't a deeply-extensive exhibit, but respectably comprehensive, and very well presented, along with interesting video interviews of archaeologists talking about the area and this exhibit. It will be traveling to the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto this Fall -- and to any folks reading this in Washington, D.C. (and yes, this means you Nell Minow, who I know not only lives in the area, but even went to the beloved NU briefly, and we had a class together -- but she transferred to be with her longtime boyfriend who is now her longtime husband. But I digress...), the exhibit will be there in the Spring of 2020 at the National Museum of African Art which a part of the Smithsonian Institution.
The exhibit got a lot of funding, but notably some came from the Buffett Institute for Global Studies. Yes, it's that Buffet, but only in being the same family. Not Warren Buffet, but his sister Rebecca Buffett Elliott who went to Northwestern and about two years ago gave the university a massive donation for that Global Studies institute. And when I say "massive," that's not hyperbole. It was $101 mlilion. Mainly, I love the extra "$1 million" so that it wasn't just a flat, dull $100 million...
Anyway, I finally made it to the Block Museum on the Northwestern Campus. All is well...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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