by Eva Holland | 11.17.11 | 7:20 AM ET
by Michael Yessis | 11.07.11 | 7:12 AM ET
Gerardo Valero finds the cheesy disaster movies of the ‘70s had something important to say.
There’s nothing quite like the movies if you want to learn what people’s hopes and dreams were during the period in which they were made. Take for instance the recent “Up in the Air”. In the present when air travel has turned into something to be endured, George Clooney’s Ryan Bingham showed us how it can become an enticing way of life. The same subject was also portrayed extensively, under a very different light, some forty years as the “Airport” movies dealt with our fears of dying in new and horrible ways, while glamorizing our dreams of flying first-class, surrounded by a movie star in every seat. As the trailer for one of these features once put it: “on board, a collection of the rich and the beautiful!” They also marked the advent of a new genre (the Disaster Film) as well as the “Ark movie” which Ebert’s Little Movie Glossary defines as “mixed bag of characters trapped in a colorful mode of transportation”. How many films can claim to this kind of impact?
I made a similar point in my look back at the 25th anniversary of “Airplane!”
by Eva Holland | 08.02.11 | 2:58 PM ET
Novelist Tony Parsons is the latest writer to sign up for a week at Heathrow. According to the Evening Standard, Parsons will “roam around the airport, among passengers and staff, as inspiration for his 13th book which will be a collection of short stories based on his experiences there.”
“The Art of Travel” author Alain de Botton was the airport’s first writer-in-residence back in 2009. We interviewed him about the experience.
by Michael Yessis | 06.08.11 | 10:55 AM ET
Just tweeted a Wall Street Journal piece about authors promoting their books at airport bookstores. The appearances are known as “fly-bys” and, apparently, nobody does them like second-tier celebrity authors such as Ice-T, Rob Lowe and Joan Collins.
David Roth writes:
Airport book signings won’t supplant traditional book tours anytime soon, but maximizing publicity opportunities, even during an author’s travel layover, makes sense for publishing houses as marketing budgets shrink and traditional bookstores vanish. Hudson News’s transit locations make up 10% or more of total sales for some books that the retailer keeps in heavy stock, said Sara Hinckley, a company vice president.
The story brought to mind a couple literature-goes-to-the-airport pieces I liked in recent months. Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport recently opened the first airport library for ebooks. And The World profiled the real-world library that opened last summer at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.
Here’s the video that accompanied The World’s report:
by Eva Holland | 11.10.10 | 11:43 AM ET
Slate’s latest Well-Traveled series follows Chadwick Matlin, newly unemployed and newly single, on a quest to visit 30 airports in 30 days. Here’s Matlin’s explanation of his “unnecessarily idiotic” mission:
Airports are universally reviled. They’re full of bad food, arbitrary security rules, and stale air. The planes are little better—uncomfortable seats, no personal space, and yet more stale air. No person has felt better getting off a plane than they did getting on.
But if unemployment is supposed to be good for anything, it’s for chasing dreams we otherwise couldn’t. And for reasons far too masochistic for even me to understand, going to 30 airports in 30 days had become my dream.
The series continues all week. So far it’s a solid mix of insight and humor, with some fun graphic treatments of the trip’s numbers thrown in.
by Eva Holland | 11.09.10 | 1:27 PM ET
USA Today’s Ben Mutzabaugh makes the case, arguing that—despite the many complaints about air travel today—low fares, new technology and an array of service choices could mean flying has never been better.
Meanwhile, a quick browse through our archives reveals that we may also be enjoying the golden age of American family vacations, the golden age of green travel, a new golden age of train travel, the golden age of British indie bookstores and the new golden age of the cross-country road trip. Travelers of the 21st century, count your blessings.
by Michael Yessis | 11.01.10 | 4:17 PM ET
The man who introduced us to Airworld likes to bypass Airworld. For the last four years, Kirn has made regular driving trips from Livingston, Montana to Los Angeles, to stay in touch with “the gritty ‘real America’ of perpetually flooded truck-stop men’s rooms and quickie meals of stale tortilla chips doused in liquid cheese dispensed from pumps.”
I pay a high price for clinging to Kerouac in the age of frequent-flyer programs. I’ve worn out a couple of engines on my commute, a few sets of tires, and one or two relationships. I’ve also worn myself out, partly because whenever I make the trip, I tell myself I can do it without sleeping. It’s difficult, though. The problem is Mormon coffee. In Utah, the state in the middle of my trek (a place of allegedly spectacular scenery that I always seem to cross at night, anaesthetized by the synthetic murmur of ‘80s soft rock from my satellite radio) caffeine is deemed a narcotic, not a vitamin. It’s obtainable, sure, but only with an effort, and it’s weak when you find it. You sort of have to know a guy.
by Eva Holland | 11.01.10 | 12:50 PM ET
The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg writes about an illuminating encounter he had with TSA agents last week. Goldberg had refused to enter the full-body imaging device at the security checkpoint at Baltimore-Washington International, opting instead for the manual pat-down. Here’s how the agents responded:
When I made this request, a number of TSA officers, to my surprise, began laughing. I asked why. One of them—the one who would eventually conduct my pat-down—said that the rules were changing shortly, and that I would soon understand why the back-scatter was preferable to the manual search. I asked him if the new guidelines included a cavity search. “No way. You think Congress would allow that?”
I answered, “If you’re a terrorist, you’re going to hide your weapons in your anus or your vagina.” He blushed when I said “vagina.”
“Yes, but starting tomorrow, we’re going to start searching your crotchal area”—this is the word he used, “crotchal”—and you’re not going to like it.”
“What am I not going to like?” I asked.
“We have to search up your thighs and between your legs until we meet resistance,” he explained.
“Resistance?” I asked.
“Your testicles,” he explained.
‘That’s funny,” I said, “because ‘The Resistance’ is the actual name I’ve given to my testicles.”
The agents go on to explain that the ramped-up pat-downs are actually intended to force embarrassed passengers into the scanners, rather than to up the chances of catching underwear contraband. Goldberg also has a follow-up post from his return flight.
by Eva Holland | 10.21.10 | 4:53 PM ET
Reader’s Digest has put together a fascinating collection of revelations from mostly-anonymous working pilots. The tidbits range from the worrying (“I’m constantly under pressure to carry less fuel than I’m comfortable with”) to the practical (“I may be in uniform, but that doesn’t mean I’m the best person to ask for directions in the airport. We’re in so many airports that we usually have no idea.”) and are arranged thematically. A stand-alone comment listed as a “parting thought” is my favorite:
Here’s the truth about airline jobs: You don’t have as much time off as your neighbors think you have, you don’t make as much money as your relatives think you make, and you don’t have as many girlfriends as your wife thinks you have. Still, I can’t believe they pay me to do this.
by Eva Holland | 10.19.10 | 2:26 PM ET
Jennifer Saranow Schultz, the New York Times’ Bucks blogger, thinks it’s about time for some ground rules:
At many airports, it seems as if there is an unspoken first-come, first-serve policy with no time restrictions. To me, this doesn’t seem right. With outlets in such short supply, I’d like to see use limits, say 15 to 20 minutes, become the accepted unspoken norm. Or, at the least, I’d like to see people only use the outlets for quick charging or for work they have to get done and not just to watch a movie.
I don’t see things changing anytime soon. Several NYT commenters on the post point out that packing a power strip is a good interim solution.
by Eva Holland | 10.15.10 | 2:42 PM ET
New research suggests that the white noise of airplane cabins could be contributing to the infamous blandness of in-flight meals. Here’s the Independent’s Steve Connor:
White noise consists of random collections of sounds at different frequencies - such as the muffled noise of aircraft engines - and scientists have demonstrated that it is capable of diminishing the taste of salt and sugar.
The findings could explain a phenomenon well known to airline companies: passengers tend to lose their sense of taste when they are in the air.
Interesting stuff—but I’m a little surprised to find researchers putting serious time into studying airplane food, considering the in-flight meal is nearly extinct.
by Eva Holland | 09.23.10 | 3:50 PM ET
Twenty-two people have been charged with conspiring to shift cocaine from California to Pennsylvania by domestic air carrier—and it looks like a misdirected luggage incident may have helped bring them down. From the AP:
Ruben Mitchell, of Stockton, Calif., lost track of more than 40 pounds of cocaine in a misdirected piece of luggage during a Pittsburgh-bound Southwest Airlines Inc. flight last year, prosecutors said.
Mitchell had the drugs in a carry-on bag when he boarded the flight on Feb. 19, 2009, but a flight attendant put the bag in the plane’s cargo hold because it wouldn’t fit in an overhead luggage compartment, they said. The bag then was mistakenly unloaded during a layover in Las Vegas, and Mitchell later filed a lost-baggage claim for it after arriving in Pittsburgh, they said.
What’s next? Bank robbers’ getaway foiled by tarmac stranding? Counterfeiters snared by $7 blanket fee?
by Eva Holland | 09.13.10 | 3:32 PM ET
Wired has the scoop on the SkyRider, a new “saddle-style” design that debuts next week at an aircraft interiors conference. This latest innovation shaves up to ten inches off each row. Blogger Charlie Sorrel asks: “Is it one step closer to just drugging us and piling us onto shelves like suitcases, or a legitimate next-step for cheap air-travel?”
by Eva Holland | 08.09.10 | 6:59 PM ET
The New York Times City Room blog has the details on today’s drama on the tarmac at JFK:
One passenger got out of his seat to fetch his belongings from the overhead compartment before the crew had given permission. Mr. Slater instructed the man to remain seated. The passenger defied him. Mr. Slater approached and reached the passenger just as he pulled down his luggage, which struck Mr. Slater in the head.
Mr. Slater asked for an apology. The passenger instead cursed at him. Mr. Slater got on the plane’s public address system and cursed out all aboard. Then he activated the inflatable evacuation slide at service exit R1, launched himself off the plane, an Embraer 190, ran to the employee parking lot and left the airport in a car he had parked there.
And then the puns began. NYT commenter Dave Ryan chimed in just 26 minutes after the story went live: “In this case, I’m hoping that the authorities just let it slide…”
Gawker’s always-reliable readers followed up with several more: “Yeah, the FAA is never gonna let this slide.” “Airplane security is a very slippery slope.” “Sounds like he blew his slid.”
by Michael Yessis | 08.04.10 | 4:28 PM ET
Peanut stacking! A remote with a delete neighbor button! Clouds that look like a Henry Moore sculpture! Yup, more travel-related brilliance from Christoph Niemann.
Niemann previously mapped the hokey pokey, an omelet and Rumsfeld’s Iraq.
by Michael Yessis | 07.23.10 | 11:33 AM ET
by Eva Holland | 07.06.10 | 1:41 PM ET
The Book Bench goes bookspotting at O’Hare, and comes back with a slideshow of travelers and their airport reads.
by Michael Yessis | 07.06.10 | 11:10 AM ET
I guess there’s a Golden Age for everything. Marketplace turns back the clock to the post-WWII glory years of “platters laden with hors d’oeuvres” and “heaps of brisket.”
by Michael Yessis | 06.28.10 | 12:46 PM ET
by Michael Yessis | 05.10.10 | 11:47 AM ET
The man who recently spent a week at Heathrow outlines what the world might look like without “the unremitting progress of inbound aluminium tubes.” De Botton even imagines what would happen to Heathrow:
At Heathrow, now turned into a museum, one would be able to walk unhurriedly across the two main runways and even give in to the temptation to sit cross-legged on their centrelines, a gesture with some of the same sublime thrill as touching a disconnected high-voltage electricity cable, running one’s fingers along the teeth of an anaesthetised shark or having a wash in a fallen dictator’s marble bathroom.
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