Tag: Pop Culture Travel

How Korean Karaoke Changed My Life

How Korean Karaoke Changed My Life la_minai via Flickr, cropped, (CC)

After being turned away from the school choir, Lavinia Spalding lost her love of public singing. Then she moved to South Korea.

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Mapped: The Complete Travels of ‘The Simpsons’

Slate has a clickable map, marked up by season and character.

Over 23 seasons, 499 episodes, and one feature-length movie, the Simpsons have become one of America’s most well-traveled families. Since the show debuted in 1989, they’ve travelled to more than two dozen countries and about two dozen U.S. states. By the end of the season, they will have travelled to all seven continents. The Simpsons are going to Antarctica!

Call me biased, but I always loved the episode where the Simpsons travel to Canada—and are joined on the bus to Toronto by a hockey player, a Mountie and a Sasquatch.

R.I.P. Chelsea Hotel

The Daily Mail reports that the iconic New York City hotel is no longer accepting new guests, and that its remaining long-term residents are “resigned to being bought out to make way for a run-of-the-mill boutique hotel” now that a new developer has taken control of the site. It’s a sad end for a notorious building. Tom Leonard looks back on the Chelsea’s more than 100 years:

Surely no other single building can lay claim to so much creativity, destruction and sheer scandal as the Chelsea Hotel in New York. For decades it was a byword for Bohemian eccentricity and hellraising excess, an imposing but squalid sanctuary for writers and artists too penniless or troublesome to live anywhere else.

Jack Kerouac wrote his Beat Generation bible On The Road there, in one drug-fuelled, three-week marathon. Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey there, too, training his telescope not into space but at the apartment windows opposite… From writers such as Mark Twain, Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill, through the hippies and on to the nihilist punks of the 1970s and beyond, ‘the Chelsea’ has more than lived up to its understated description of itself as a ‘rest stop for rare individuals’.

(Via Sophia Dembling)

Travel Movie Watch: ‘The Loneliest Planet’

The Loneliest Planet premiered at the Locarno Film Festival last week. It’s an adaptation of a travel-themed short story, “Expensive Trips Nowhere,” by World Hum contributor Tom Bissell, and it stars Gael Garcia Bernal of “The Motorcycle Diaries” fame. The story follows a pair of young backpackers on a guided hiking expedition in the Caucasus Mountains, and judging from this Variety review, it’s a must-see:

Much of the pic’s first hour unspools through continuous handheld shots of the threesome trudging along with backpacks, telling stories when they’re not silently concentrating on navigating treacherous terrain. At regular interludes, long-distance shots observe them dwarfed by the landscape as Richard Skelton’s haunting, rhythmic, ethnically inflected score intones in the background.

An encounter on the trail turns into a near-life-threatening test of manhood that Alex [Bernal] arguably fails. Thereafter, none of the characters discuss what happened, but it casts a profound pall over the adventure, shifting allegiances and sympathies among the threesome. ...[V]iewers may recognize a core emotional truth about how deeply travel tests relationships, how a single instinctive action can shift the ground irrevocably between people, and how no words can make things right.

Debating ‘The Lost Art of Postcard Writing’

Richmond, Virginia, via Wikipedia

Charles Simic laments the dwindling number of postcards arriving in his mailbox this summer.

Until a few years ago, hardly a day would go by in the summer without the mailman bringing a postcard from a vacationing friend or acquaintance. Nowadays, you’re bound to get an email enclosing a photograph, or, if your grandchildren are the ones doing the traveling, a brief message telling you that their flight has been delayed or that they have arrived. The terrific thing about postcards was their immense variety. It wasn’t just the Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal, or some other famous tourist attraction you were likely to receive in the mail, but also a card with a picture of a roadside diner in Iowa, the biggest hog at some state fair in the South, and even a funeral parlor touting the professional excellence that their customers have come to expect over a hundred years. Almost every business in this country, from a dog photographer to a fancy resort and spa, had a card. In my experience, people in the habit of sending cards could be divided into those who go for the conventional images of famous places and those who delight in sending images whose bad taste guarantees a shock or a laugh.

He ends his New York Review of Books piece with something World Hum contributor, Mad Libs-style postcard-template maker and campaigner to make handwritten postcards and letters cool again Doug Mack finds off-putting.

That generalization that people who write postcards are, in some nebulous-but-important sense Older—well, it’s probably correct. Almost certainly. And yet there’s also something so reductive about that artfully-drawn scene and its insistence on corralling the postcard-writers into some dusty museum display of a bygone era, as though to write a postcard is to put down one’s shuffleboard stick and scribble some comments about how Truman sure was a good president, gee whiz, before pushing the walker down the hall to the activity room for the 2pm ragtime sing-along. 

Come on. Don’t consign the very act of postcard-writing to the nursing home for lost-cause, nearly-dead communication, along with Morse code and the Pony Express. Don’t take pity on postcard writers. To ask for pity, to claim that this is the domain of only the “problem”-ridden “older people”—this isn’t going to do much to make anyone else want to write postcards, either. Lament the decline, sure, but spare me the elegies. 

The Return of Bulwer-Lytton and More Bad Travel Writing

Love this annual contest, where writers compose an intentionally awful opening sentence of a novel. This year’s winners were announced last week and, as usual, the honorees have given us some dreadful yet hilarious travel writing. My two favorites come from the purple prose category. Mike Pedersen took the top spot with this clunker:

As his small boat scudded before a brisk breeze under a sapphire sky dappled with cerulean clouds with indigo bases, through cobalt seas that deepened to navy nearer the boat and faded to azure at the horizon, Ian was at a loss as to why he felt blue. 

Jack Barry’s vision of Los Angeles was runner-up: 

The Los Angeles morning was heavy with smog, the word being a portmanteau of smoke and fog, though in LA the pollutants are typically vehicular emissions as opposed to actual smoke and fog, unlike 19th-century London where the smoke from countless small coal fires often combined with fog off the Thames to produce true smog, though back then they were not clever enough to call it that.

Clever, Jack. Clever.

Do you yearn to write bad travel writing? We can help

Greetings From _________

Keep in touch the easy way with Doug Mack's all-purpose postcard template

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Tales of a Travel Chaperone

Funny story concept well executed by the man doing the chaperoning of fifth graders to Spain: Dave Barry. 

Our group consisted of four dads, 18 moms and approximately 27,000 children. There was no way to get an exact count: They move too fast.

Our group assembled at Miami International Airport (motto: “Our Motto Has Been Delayed”). All of us wore identical ill-fitting T-shirts with our group name printed on them. That’s how you let everybody know that you’re a group of sophisticated world travelers.

The Washington Post Magazine covered similar ground this weekend. John Kelly joined a group of junior high students touring Washington D.C.

I began to recognize the symptoms of Stockholm syndrome about four hours into my day touring Washington with the eighth-graders of Centreville, Mich. I was starting to identify with my captors.

Happy Unofficial 75th Birthday, Aloha Shirt

Laura Bly explains why July is a significant month for the aloha shirt, unofficially.

Though Honolulu tailor Ellery Chun trademarked the term in the 1930s, the garb gained official visibility in 1947, when the city’s chamber of commerce amended an earlier resolution allowing open-necked shirts during the summer to specifically include the aloha shirt and its loud, colorful patterns. Celebrities from Elvis Presley to Tom Selleck were enthusiastic ambassadors, and soon every Hawaiian tourist worth his plastic lei was bringing one back as a souvenir of paradise.

One man who helped popularize aloha shirts, Alfred Shaheen, died in 2009.

Happy 50th Birthday, In-flight Movies

Fifty years ago today Trans World Airlines screened By Love Possessed starring Lana Turner on a Los Angeles to New York flight. It wasn’t easy. Given the technology of the time, it took David Flexer three years and $1 million to make it happen. Writes Angela Watercutter:

The airlines weren’t Initially interested in Flexer’s wares. But then TWA, which at the time was looking to increase its profile, agreed to give Inflight a shot. Flexer and his team took a Boeing 707, fitted it with their equipment and spent the early part of 1961 flying around and fixing bugs.

In July of that year TWA began offering films to first class passengers. The response was extraordinary, and soon flyers were paying huge fees to get into first class to catch the show. Before long, in-flight movies were everywhere.

Scenes From the ‘On the Road’ Movie

Jerry Cimino, founder and curator of The Beat Museum, updates what’s going on with Walter Salles’ film adaptation of Kerouac’s classic.

The film was shot between August and December of 2010 in Montreal, New Orleans, Mexico, San Francisco and many other locations. But Walter Salles was searching for even more authenticity, so unbeknownst to just about everyone he and Garrett Hedlund took to the road for a second time in April of 2011. They spent two weeks along with a crew of five and blasted 4,000 miles across the back roads of the USA. They purposefully avoided the interstate highways not built until the 1950s, retracing as best they could the original route of the two lane roads Jack & Neal drove.

The purpose of this unpublicized trip was for Walter and Garrett to be involved in the “Second Unit” shooting themselves. True to their desire to make On The Road as authentic as they could they wanted to capture the images of the ‘49 Hudson roaring across the continent with the sights and sounds of the country in the background. The story of On The Road is also the story of America and the film makers wanted to capture the physical and human geography at the core of On The Road as part of the film.

The Huffington Post has photos.

Travel Movie Watch: ‘The Trip’

NPR notes that British comedians Steven Coogan and Rob Brydon have put together a travel-themed comedy that sees them playing themselves (or, versions of themselves) on a restaurant tour of northern England. The film is mostly improvised and, says Coogan, “what makes it interesting is that there’s an edge to it and a discomfort to it that makes it engaging. It’s not just a couple of actors saying, ‘Get a load of me. I’m laughing at myself.’ There are a couple of moments where I find Rob irritating—genuinely—and I respond naturally, but not the way that I would in reality.”

I’ve been a fan of Coogan’s since his Alan Partridge days, and the movie will take place in my old expat stomping grounds, so I’ll hope to catch this one when I can. “The Trip” went into limited North American release last weekend.

The Peace Corps Volunteer Inspired by Angelina Jolie

Sean Smith is leaving his job as a writer at Entertainment Weekly to join the Peace Corps. Why?

As he writes in The Daily Beast, he was tiring of his job covering the entertainment industry when he traveled to India to interview Angelina Jolie.

A reported 43 percent of Mumbai’s 18 million people live in slums, and the depth of poverty is soul-sickening. By the time I met with Jolie, I felt raw and rattled, and I was eager to learn how she coped with this kind of suffering in her role as a U.N. ambassador. She said it was painful, yes, but it wasn’t debilitating because she was active. Her work was bringing attention to crises in the world. “If I couldn’t do that, I don’t know how I’d be around it, because I’d feel helpless,” she told me as we drove through the city. “You know, we all go through stages in our life where we feel lost, and I think it all comes down to having a sense of purpose. When I was famous for just being an actress, my life felt very shallow. Then when I became a mom and started working with the U.N., I was happy. I could die and feel that I’d done the right things with my life. It’s as simple as that.”

As a rule, I don’t ask celebrities for advice about anything, save hotels and restaurants, and I didn’t exactly race home and quit my job. But Jolie’s insight stuck with me, and over the next few years, as my ambivalence about my career deepened, I realized that she had provided me with an answer. I had absolute freedom. If I was willing to make a few sacrifices, I could find my sense of purpose and engage myself in work that would feel meaningful to me and be helpful to others.

‘Airplane!’ Picked for 2010 National Film Registry

And thus Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s tour de force performance as a knee pad-wearing pilot will be preserved forever by the Library of Congress. “Airplane!” was one of 25 films added to the registry Tuesday. From the press release:

Characterized by a freewheeling style reminiscent of comedies of the 1920s, “Airplane!” introduced a much-needed deflating assessment of the tendency of theatrical film producers to push successful formulaic movie conventions beyond the point of logic. One of the film’s most noteworthy achievements was to cast actors best known for careers in melodrama productions, e.g., Leslie Nielsen, and provide them with opportunities to showcase their comic talents.

It’s been an eventful but sad 30th anniversary for one of the greatest travel movies ever made. Three of the film’s stars passed away in 2010—Leslie Nielsen, Barbara Billingsley and Peter Graves

Two Travel Movies Land Golden Globe Nominations

The nominees for the 2011 Golden Globes were announced yesterday, and two travel movies we’ve kept our eye on this year—127 Hours and The Tourist—were among the honored films.

James Franco was nominated for Best Actor in a Drama for his portrayal of climber Aron Ralston, and “127 Hours” also received a nod for Best Screenplay and Best Original Score. Meanwhile, “The Tourist” received a nomination for Best Picture, Musical or Comedy while its two stars, Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, were nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy, respectively.

R.I.P. Palle Huld, the Real-Life Tintin

The Danish man widely believed to be the inspiration for Hergé‘s famous traveling boy detective died last week at 98. The Independent looks into the mystery behind the creation of Tintin:

The young Huld wrote an account of his adventures which was published in several languages including English, in which it appeared in 1929 as A Boy Scout Around The World. It is known that Hergé read Huld’s account. It was perhaps no coincidence that the character of Tintin surfaced for the first time the same year in Le Petit Vingtieme, the children’s section of a Belgian newspaper. Palle Huld was happy to encourage the notion that he was Hergé‘s inspiration for Tintin. But Hergé, who delighted in utterly baffling Tintinologists by using the phrase “Tintin c’est moi,” liked to keep the source of his world-renowned character shrouded in mystery.

(Via The Book Bench)

R.I.P. Leslie Nielsen

The actor starred as Dr. Rumack in one of the greatest travel movies ever made, “Airplane!” As Russell Brand tweeted, “Shirley, he will be missed.”

The New York Times and The Globe and Mail, among many, remember the native Canadian. The Telegraph picks his top 10 lines from “Airplane!” and beyond. Nielsen was 84.

Is ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ Worth Watching, ‘Just for the Scenery’?

Jaunted checked out the new reality show and came back with an answer: “You betcha.”

‘On the Road’ Meets ‘On the Bro’d’

An amusing and crude Tumblr mashes up Kerouac’s classic. The opening lines of On the Bro’d:

I first met Dean not long after Tryscha and I hooked up. I had just gotten over a wicked fucking hangover that I won’t bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with a six-foot-five douchebag and a beer bong. With the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my life on the bro’d. Before that I’d often dreamed of going West to see hot LA actress chicks and try In N’ Out burgers, always vaguely planning and never taking off. Dean is the perfect bro for the road because he knows how to fucking party.

And the mad ones? You’ll now find them trolling Buffalo Wild Wings:

[T]he only bros for me are the awesome ones, the ones who are mad to chug, mad to party, mad to bone, mad to get hammered, desirous of all the chicks at Buffalo Wild Wings, the ones who never turn down a Bud Light Lime, but chug, chug, chug like fucking awesome players exploding like spiders across an Ed Hardy shirt and in the middle you see the silver skull pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

(Via @thebookslut)

Sons of ‘The Beach’

What do "The Beach," "Are You Experienced?" and other travel novels say about us? Rolf Potts and Kristin Van Tassel explore backpacker fiction.

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