What we Loved This Week: From Yesterland to ‘Graceland’

Travel Blog  •  Jim Benning  •  02.01.08 | 3:00 PM ET

imageWorld Hum contributors share a favorite travel-related experience from the past seven days.

Michael Yessis
I’m 90 pages into Barack Obama’s memoir, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, which so far has covered his childhood in Indonesia, a stint in New York City and his early life in Hawaii. He’s a terrific, evocative writer, and I’m hooked. You sure you don’t want to trade politics for travel writing, Barack?

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom
Moving from Indiana to Southern California has given me lots of chances to renew my acquaintance with the Magic Kingdom. (My new book, China’s Brave New World—And Other Tales for Global Times, has a chapter that mentions childhood visits to Tom Sawyer’s Island and includes a section called “The Tomorrowland Diaries.”) My most recent Disneyland visit led me this week to armchair travel over to a Web site I Iike: Yesterland: A Theme Park on the Web. It’s devoted exclusively to providing information about and images of discontinued Disneyland attractions. If you want to find out whether the name of the People Mover ride should be spelled with a space between the two words (it should be written PeopeMover) or when that attraction stopped moving people around the park (1995), this is the site for you.

Eva Holland
I’ve been reading a lot lately about the history of soul music in the South (in preparation for a March music-history road trip through Tennessee, Alabama and the Mississippi Delta), and this week I was thrilled to find a lot of the seminal tracks and artists I’ve been reading about on YouTube. My favorite by far is this track by Dan Penn. Penn was a songwriter and producer at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and American Studios in Memphis—both small-scale operations whose influence far outstripped their size—and he was responsible for writing a number of classics, including Aretha Franklin’s “Do Right Woman” and James Carr’s much-covered “Dark End of the Street.” Call me controversial, but I’ll take Penn singing lead on his own creation over the versions by Carr, Percy Sledge, or even The Commitments. Here’s video:

Julia Ross
Persepolis, the animated film by Iranian-born illustrator Marjane Satrapi, finally made its debut in Washington, D.C. this week, and it was well worth the wait. Based on Satrapi’s Frank Bures
This week, on the podcast of From Our Own Correspondent, there was a great piece by Fergal Keane that really cut past all the tribal nonsense to get at what’s going on in Kenya. And there was another great piece about Goa. Paul Moss reports that “As well as Christianity, Goa has also played host to that most modern European expression of mystic celebration: the drug-fueled beach party.  Once it was ‘60s hippies that gathered here, ensuring there would be a corner of a foreign field that was forever Woodstock.  Now their modern descendants dance to techno music rather than psychedelia, and it’s laboratories that produce their drugs of choice: ecstasy and cocaine.” Moss also talks about the “middle-age ravers,” and how, “There was a time when it took commitment to turn on, tune in and drop out. Now it’s a two week package holiday experience that can whisk you away to la-la land, and have you back at the office for Monday morning.” You can hear the program here, too.

Joanna Kakissis
I’ve been reading No Place Left to Bury the Dead, a moving and superbly reported book that chronicles the stories of three families living with AIDS in Africa. My friend Nicole Itano, a Christian Science Monitor correspondent in Greece who used to be based in South Africa, wrote it, and I’ve been taken in by the rich, textured and dramatic portraits of the families and their countries (Lesotho, South Africa, and Botswana).

Jim Benning
I happened to catch a terrific show on VH1 Classic about the making of Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album. Not only did the footage transport me to South Africa at times, but the show gave me a new appreciation for Simon and the unorthodox way he made the album, recording lengthy jam sessions in South Africa that were then crafted into songs much later, back in the studio. When the album was released, Simon was criticized by some for exploiting the South African musicians in some way; the show makes a strong case that he did not, with some of the musicians themselves declaring that if any exploitation occurred, it went both ways. Here’s video of Simon performing the title track in Central Park:


4 Comments for What we Loved This Week: From Yesterland to ‘Graceland’

TambourineMan 02.01.08 | 5:52 PM ET

Jeffrey, if you like old Disneyland, check out “E” Ticket magazine as well:

Jeffrey Wasserstrom 02.02.08 | 12:45 PM ET

Thanks for the tip about “E” Ticket magazine, as I hadn’t heard of it, but am definitely now glad to know about it.

John M. Edwards 02.02.08 | 1:05 PM ET

A couple of days ago I received a box from Amazon, which contained a DVD of Charleton Heston’s rare first film, “Peer Gynt.” I first became aware of this film when I was a kid from the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland.

This fantastical film adventure into pagan mythology, based on Norwegian composer Grieg’s symphony of the same name, was something I’ve been trying to track down for years. The soundtrack would be familiar to anyone, including such evocative haunters as “In the Halls of Mountain Kings” (which Peter Lorre whistled menacingly in Fritz Lang’s classic “M”). Also, one of the tunes reminds us of a scene in Soylent Green when Edward G. Robinson dies with background music. (“Soylent Green is people!!!”)

Anyway, I’ve haven’t yet seen the film. I’ve been unable to connect my new DVD player. But while sipping Belgian brews at the popular pub The Spotted Pig in Manhattan last night, I realized that at last finally finding such “Lost and Found” treasures brings closure to our urge to collect places we travel in and dream of alternate geographies of art and legend.

JohnD 02.03.08 | 4:26 PM ET

“E” Ticket magazine is a refreshing look at things!


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