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If this doesn't cause Luke to turn back on his targeting computer, what will?

Master Yoda is joining the gang from a galaxy far, far away (turn-by-turn directions there available) to voice direction for the TomTom GPS system.

Yes, this is shilling, but it's shilling at its Star Wars best. If all ads were this awesome, we'd need nothing but ads to pass the time.

In fact, the only way this doesn't make me want a TomTom more is that it doesn't include an R2 droid upon purchase.

Now the debate begins - who does the behind-the-scenes spots better? Yoda, or Darth Vader:

Again, why quibble? Just set up a cable channel and run them all 24 hours a day.

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Here's something to chew on, political wonks. President Obama may just be magical afterall.

Or at least his chewing gum is.

In the great tradition of the Reggie Bar, but likely without any of those messy licensing payments to deal with, the president's face has found its way onto chewing gum packaging from a company called Kenafric, documented by tweeting traveler Mara Abrams in Tanzania and the subject of some discussion on BoingBoing, complete with "full of hot air" jokes.

This is not the first we've seen of the Obubblegum, which comes in at least one other flavor - orange. Though you have to wonder why no grape - we do live in a purple country, according to the president. Right?

Watch out, Mouse, here come the bricks. Legoland is opening a theme park in Florida.

The Ledger in Winter Haven reports the park, which will only be the fifth in the world, is gonna take residence in the state after plans were leaked in an e-mail:

1. LEGOLAND Florida will be the fifth LEGOLAND attraction worldwide (CA, Denmark, England, and Germany).

2. Merlin is the second largest attraction company in the world, second only behind Disney.

3. Merlin's massive research in the area already indicated that; the LEGOLAND brand already has high recognition and a 90% intention to visit by families in their target market.

4. LEGOLAND, CA, is the fastest growing theme park in the U.S., realizing an astounding 6% growth in 2009. The park was also recognized by Amusement Today as the country's best theme park for children for the sixth consecutive year.

5. Check out Merlin's website for a broad overview of their operations.

Whatever the case, exciting news for roller coaster fans and Lego nerds.

Beware of falling iguanas!

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Don't know about you, but I feel like this sometimes, too, when it gets too cold ...

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Yes, Google is an all-powerful overlord to which we all must bow. But like any good false god or dictator, occasionally trinkets of affection are rained down on the unwashed masses.

So Happy ChrismaHunnaKwanzika, everyone! Google has the gift of free WiFi in select airports for the holidays - starting now through January 15.

"We're very happy to extend our Holiday Wi-Fi gift to the millions of people who will spend time in airports over the next few months," said Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Search Products and User Experience at Google. "We know that this is a very hectic travel season for people, and we hope that free Wi-Fi will make both traveling and connecting with friends and family a little bit easier."

Sounds great, right? Well, before you get too much spirit flowing, there is a lump of coal in quite a few stockings. The deal only stretches to 47 airports, none in Chicago area, if that's important to you, though Milwaukee and Madison are participating.

Many more exciting press release quotes available here.

There's nothing like an inbound CTA/Metra ride to make one think of drinking - at least that's what Budweiser is banking on in a new video ad spot.

The twist? It's a spot running in the United Kingdom and Ireland as part of a campaign for the beer's licensed brewer, Diageo Ireland.

Set to the tune of the Beatles' "All Together Now," the spot almost makes you forget you're watching an ad - and almost makes the schlep downtown something to look forward to for the work-a-day drones stuck on the various "L" and Metra lines used in the piece.

Sliding by scenes both famous and simply familiar, it's not the usual glamour shoot you'd see from a Chicago-shot ad campaign, but rather an insider's view to the city. There's the usual skyscraper footage and the like, but no ballparks. No lakeshore. No Michigan Avenue.

Irish blogger Darragh Doyle touched on some of the Chicago-centric aspects of the ad in a post in July. Here's what Doyle had on the city - and its people - as star:

Written by Dave Henderson and Richard Denney, and shot by award winning Director Chris Palmer, it was shot over 5 days from an actual train on the metro-rail as it tracked around the city of Chicago.

All in all, the film and crew were on the train for 50 hrs over a 5 day period in temperatures that were often below freezing. All of the actors were outside for up to 10 hrs a day in the freezing temperatures, often in costumes that provided little warmth. As such there was almost an entire crew of people dedicated to keeping the actors warm with blankets, thermoses and portable heaters.

The people of Chicago were brilliant as well and invited actors into their homes and offered them some respite from the bitter weather during shoot down time glorious stuff.

The band playing the Beatles cover is The Hours, a London-based duo.

The work for the "Lyrics" was written and conceived by DDB London and during a blogger release party for the spot, DDB's Matt Delahunty tells krishnade.com what it took to get the add off the ground - a 17-month process. It's an interesting look behind the scenes:

Delahunty talks about not only the technical challenges of getting the shoot timed perfectly, but his surprise at the freezing Chicago weather that surprised him on his first trip to the States.

You can find much more on the making of the video - behind the scenes and concept work, as well as upload your own video clips - here, though you'll need to be 21 - or at least tell the site you are - to get through the age wall. Some very cool insights to be found.

In the end it is just an ad campaign for a mediocre beer, but any Chicagoan can appreciate the glimpses into our city. And anybody who appreciates the creative process will find the explanations behind the work a treat for sure.

Hat tip to the Windy Citizen for finding this Chicago gem. Stop by and give it a vote up if you're so inclined.

If you can't get enough of Anthony Bourdain and his Travel Channel cohorts, take a few minutes to step back in time to the tour films of yesteryear, specifically a look at Chicago, circa 1948, courtesy of the James A. Fitzpatrick TravelTalk series.

Many of the building remain, though with different names and owners. And the tallest building was the Prudential in the Gold Coast. But driving along the lake is still beautiful - though traffics looked just as bad - and the buildings have only gotten grander.

And then there's the nightlife, though much of it was in the Loop, not the Viagra Triangle. Love that cape dance!

Black hole sun / won't you come ...

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Wednesday is a big day for the ultimate shiny object: it's the longest total solar eclipse that will happen this century. Yep, no other eclipse for the next 91 years will top it.

But you can't see it.


Animation from NASA

Unless, of course, you're on a flight tonight to Shanghai or Bangkok or a tiny island in the southwestern Pacific. And many amateur and professional stargazers are doing just that.

Complete details, maps and more are available from NASA here.

It being a solar eclipse, and we being starry-eyed dopes, plenty of scary predictions are collecting around the event. The AP reports:

"Astronomers hope the eclipse will unlock clues about the sun, while an astrologer in Myanmar predicts it could usher in chaos. Some in India are advising pregnant relatives to stay indoors to follow a centuries-old tradition of avoiding the sun's invisible rays. ...

Man has been recording solar eclipses for 4,000 years, and even today they inspire a combination of fear, fascination and wonder.

One astrologer in Myanmar, also known as Burma, predicted in a magazine that the eclipse would trigger wars, instability and natural disasters for the next several months."

But, hey, relax. The true horrors of the eclipse-predicted end o' the world are still three years off ...

With Bike to Work Week set to start Saturday, it seems like the appropriate time to remind everyone that while you may want to take the Beer Bike in, it's probably a better idea to take it home.

Unfortunately you would have to work in Amsterdam to take advantage, anyway. And now it seems like that fine city may not be able to enjoy a 10-seater bike built around a bar.

Various outlets are reporting that Hans Gerson, the city counselor responsible for squashing fun, is mad that drunks get to peddle through the city center for some reason:

"This beer bike is completely legal, but he (Gerson) is not very enthusiastic about this idea of people drinking while being amongst traffic," a spokeswoman said.

Surely a knee-jerk reaction over what? A couple of accidents with the keg-speed since April?

Just goes to show you, you try to help the environment AND enjoy liquid refreshment and you get in trouble. No good 10-speed deed goes unpunished.

Hey, at least these rolling punters weren't on their cell phones (though, as with all good drunks, they really should be wearing helmets).

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sonicx.jpgHey, more free food! This time it's Sonic passing out the grub in the form of a free root beer float til midnight tonight.

Add this to the growing list of companies trying to find their way to your heart - or wallet, anyway - through the stomach.

Yes, the ice cream weather still eludes us in Chicago, but a free float is a free float.

And yes, there are a few locations around the city, but you better be ready to travel for that free goodness.

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The, umm, design NebraskPWNED! on CollegeHumor

And the 2011 state-certified winner of Nebraska's lisence plate contest.

License Plates-1.jpgDepartment of Motor Vehicles Director Beverly Neth announced Friday that a white, gold and black plate featuring the state bird and state flower -- the western meadowlark and goldenrod -- is the actual winner of online voting. The new plates go into use in 2011. The winner announced Tuesday had been a black-and-white plate with the URL of Nebraska's Web site in red. But those results were skewed by a prank instigated by collegehumor.com, which encouraged people to vote for what it deemed to be the most boring design.

Gov. Dave Heineman's spokeswoman, Jen Rae Hein, said the black-and-white plate generated 12,510 of the 14,805 votes cast through collegehumor.com's link to the Nebraska DMV voting site.

After Neth disqualified the humor site's votes, the bird-and-flower design became the winner with 32,858 votes. The black-and-white plate managed to place second among four entries, less than 5,000 votes behind.

AP

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Scott Stewart-Sun-Times

In case you missed the splendor of the second Windy City Snuggie Pub Crawl Saturday, you can relive it in photo form here. And remember, it was a 70-degree day. Moist conditions in those Snuggies, my friends.

There are a lot of fantastic snake oil salesmen in the world, and Joel Bauer will be happy to tell you he's their king. Thing is, he might be right.

Bauer, whom you've probably seen as his business card video makes its way through the Internets like wildfire lately, is a self-proclaimed mentalist that specializes in telling people how great he is and basically makes a living selling the idea that he can train you to ... um ... well, I really have no idea what you'll learn at his knee. Something about observation. Something about success. Something about mental power. Yadda yadda yadda.

But who is the pompous gasbag you see in the video above? Is this guy for real? Can you get that hair? Here's a quick look at his bio from his Web site and, if you can stomach it, a half-hour interview on his amazingly craptastic talents of magical, physiological observation.

• Consumed by Martial Arts and Magic

• Performed professionally at events from age 7

• Warm-up act on tour for George Jessel at 12

• Featured Entertainer on cruise ships from 14-21

• From 21-41 created/produced Infotainment presentations & road-shows on Trade Show floors and corporate events internationally (IBM, Nortel, Dresser Wayne, Polaroid, and ITT to name just a few clients)

• Author of best selling books which include: "Hustle, Hustle-The Business Of Magic", "How to Persuade People Who Don't Want to be Persuaded", "Gravitational Marketing", and soon to be released, "Retire In 5-8 Years As An Infotainer"

• Creator of four systems on personal marketing, branding, passion, Infotainment, speaking, and closing from the platform

• Featured media personality on CNN, CNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and in SUCCESS, WIRED, and The Wall Street Journal to name a few Retired at 43

OK, all well and good. He's just one of many greasy life or success coaches running around like the proverbial post-apocalyptic cockroach. At some point, you even have to ask yourself if this guy is for real. A quick skim of the Google seems to indicate he is indeed serious. So much so, he provides this 20-minute gem that teaches you how to pack for a trip oversees. I know. 20 minutes is more than you want to devote to this guy, but believe this: you will not be able to stop watching the self-possessed crazy emanating from this d-bag.

Some of Bauer's motivational mentors after the jump ...

iStock_000000195819XSmall.jpgSo maybe those aren't really jumbo jets after all?

Beginning today, United Airlines is going to start aggressively enforcing its obesity seating policy that requires passengers that need a second seat because of physical size to pay for that extra space. According to WBBM AM-780, at the airline's ticket counters at O'Hare International Airport, that means gate and ticket agents will be asked to size up their larger customers - deemed "seatmates of size" - for the potential fat fee.

If a passenger cannot fit into a single seat, buckle their seatbelt - even with a seatbelt extender - or put the seat's armrest down, the airline will ask that passenger to pay for an extra seat or stay behind.

The policy applies to tickets purchased on or after March 4, 2009 for travel on or after April 15 and United says they did it because of passenger complaints - though a spokesperson tells Lewis Lazare that they got only 700 gripes out of 80 million or so travelers last year - and the increased fuel costs brought on by the heavier payload obese passengers create.

Here's the big question, especially for gate agents: How do you determine who's too big to go in one seat? Are they supposed to pull people out of line who look a little too hefty? Will calipers and Body Mass Index charts be issued and hanging next to the luggage check scale? Are there measurements involved? How soon til the first discrimination lawsuit is filed? And will there be discounts for the svelte fliers?

Who's next on the target list? People who snore while sleeping are charged extra to be put in a seclusion zone? People flying with crying children charged extra for a blast of thorazine and noise dampeners? Where does it stop?

Of course United isn't the only airline dealing with this weighty issue. Southwest Airlines has been in the headlines for its handling of heavy folks, too, though they've backed off their policies of late and do offer a refund if a seat is pulled out from underneath a passenger.

What do you think? Is this fair?

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    This page is an archive of recent entries in the travel category.

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