Category: Press releases and publicity

Anthony Bourdain, TV, food, and travel

A friend of mine in the food business recently asked me my opinion on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.

It’s a show I’ve watched, but not watched recently. After my friend told me what a fan he was of the show, I may have to check it out again. Being in the food business, he relates to it a lot more than most. However, he thinks most traveler would enjoy the show.

Bourdain seems to lean towards the far east and he sprinkles culture into it. Like the fact that he does not go to a country and go right to the five star locations that are not indicative of what the regular folks in that country would experience. He eats a lot of “street food” which also infuses more culture.

So if you’re looking for a show with food, wine, history, culture, and politics, Parts Unknown might be substantive enough for you. The show is well produced as well.

The only criticism I have heard is that Bourdain may be taking himself to seriously in his more recent work. Another friend of mine thinks that the guy who wrote Kitchen Confidential would recoil at some of the self-indulgent sequences in the later episodes of No Reservations and Parts Unknown.

What to you all think about Anthony Bourdain’s travel shows?

Book Review: Cosmos Screen by Perry Kelly

When they invited me to review Cosmos Screen, I agreed because there were a few things I thought would be interesting.

Since this is a travel site, I first flipped to page 115 and the description of a tour through Europe in 1958. Travel by ship was normal then and at least on the Greek Queen Frederica, the parties on the lower levels went all night long (kind of like in the Titanic movie I guess where the richer people on the higher floors go to bed early).

Another interesting note is that people took time to tour 12 countries in six weeks. These days you wonder how many people would make time for a six-week tour. And how much would it cost if they did make the time? Here is one trip’s itinerary:

New York, Barcelona, Genoa by ship. Then Rapallo (day trip to Portofino), Grosseto, Naples (day trip to Capri and the Blue Grotto), Rome, Florence, Bologna, Ferrara, Padua, Venice (day trip to Lido Beach), Trieste.

And then on to Austria: Klagenfurt, Valden, Portachach, Vienna (day trip to Vienna Woods), Salzburg.

Then Germany and Switzerland: Munich, Zurich, Baden-Baden (Germany), Assmannshausen (for a Rhine River cruise to Bonn), Cologne.

And to save me from listing countries, the rest of Western Europe: Brussels, Antwerp, The Hague, Amsterdam, Copenhagen (day trip to North Zealand, Elsinore castle, Danish Riviera), Stockholm, Oslo, Newcastle, London, Paris, Madrid, Toledo, Granada, Gibraltar.

Then back to New York by ship.

While reading about the travel experience is enjoyable, the book seems to be a memoir first and some of the details may not interest everyone – the college boy who wants to dump his girlfriend on tour, the woman who sees the ship doctor for menstrual pains, etc.

There are other travel experiences too, like China in 1988 and Brazil in 1989. But the travel experiences may not be the most interesting part of the story. The author grew up on a farm in Alabama in the 1930s. He “gave up” on being heterosexual in 1968. In the end, I decided to save some of the travel experiences for later and learn more about a kid’s experiences growing up during the Great Depression.

In conclusion, if you like memoirs and travel, then Cosmos Screen by Perry Kelly may be a good book for you. The writing seems matter-of-fact to me. I never laughed but I did sometimes nod my head and think to myself that this detail or that detail was interesting. Not all of the author’s memories resonated with me, but Cosmos Screen did give me a glimpse of a world that I had never seen before and never could have glimpsed on my own.

Former TSA agent writing book about TSA

It sounds a little like a cliche – a creative writing major (Jason Harrington) gets a job with TSA to pay for school. Then he writes a book about how bad things are at TSA.

Is this a trustworthy source or just the exaggerations of a disgruntled (former) employee? I have no clue but this short article is an interesting read at least.

And if you want more to read about America’s TSA, we have some stuff here.

Book Review – The World in the Curl – An Unconventional History of Surfing by Peter Westwick & Peter Neushul

The authors have given us an outstanding, comprehensive history of surfing as it evolved from the simple, natural way of life for ancient Hawaiians and survived the challenges of an ever-changing world to become an international, competitive sport of cultural significance around the globe.

The central theme of the book is the expansion of surfing from relatively isolated locations in the early 20th century with the world’s most famous surfer Duke Kahanamoku in Waikiki, Hawaii to the familiar shores of California and eventually to every continent. The mystery of the ocean and the romantic appeal of sand and sea have fascinated people for years, but surfing in the early days was viewed as far too daring and not widely accepted as a popular pastime. At first, surfers were scorned for being nothing more than a group of free spirits and delinquents seeking pleasure, frequently on drugs and alcohol, and rebelling against authority and society in general. The book explores the changing attitudes of the public as movies, books, and music provided inspiration and renewed interest in surfing as great entertainment. When Southern California became an aerospace success, surfers now had new locations and exciting waves to challenge.

Economic growth meant more money and more leisure time for people to travel to distant locations for adventure and fun. Tourism grew by leaps and bounds, as other countries welcomed surfers and vacationers flocked to the beaches and ritzy hotels for days in the sun. Surfing superstars appeared on the scene, and both men and a few women were now part of the surfing world. There was money to be made from this new interest in what had become a global industry with the development, production, and advertising of new surf boards and equipment, designer clothing, and trendy accessories. Surf shops in every country continue to make billions of dollars each year from sales of apparel and surfing gear. The natural lifestyle image of surfing had been replaced by the inevitable result of social and technological modernization.

Along with this widespread popularity, however, came the environmental issues caused both by nature and by man, which meant fewer good surfing locations. Buyers began searching for homes to purchase by the shore, claiming their part of the beach as private property and limiting access for surfers. Some of these problems were partially resolved when manufacturers began creating artificial wave pools in communities away from the sea. They were convenient and relatively inexpensive entertainment for many people who could no longer afford the distant, exotic surfing locations. Although similar sports such as skateboarding, snow boarding, and windsurfing grew popular, most avid surfers found them poor substitutes.

Through the years surfing has managed to maintain its image through extensive media coverage and advertising campaigns as a form of escapism, a natural release for millions of people from the hectic pace, stress, and problems in the world today. For readers who have not studied surfing and have little knowledge of the sport, this book provides a wealth of historical information skillfully interspersed with human interest stories and thoroughly researched by the authors, Westwick and Neushul. Although primarily educational in scope and style, the book is much more than the usual textbook of facts, figures, events, and names. It is a fascinating narrative that will appeal to sports enthusiasts everywhere, as well as to those of us who have never had the opportunity to experience the thrill of that “magic carpet ride,” and for all you surfers out there “Hang Ten.”

Published by Crown Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc., New York
July 23, 2013
Random House: $26.00
Amazon: $19.71 (Prime)
Kindle: $11.84

Sharon L Slayton

Book Review – This is Paradise: Stories by Kristiana Kahakauwila

This collection of stories by Kristiana Kahakauwila, a native-born Hawaiian, gives readers a different perspective on her birthplace. The six short stories contrast Hawaii as she remembers it with the Hawaii of today in a skillful transition from traditional to modern. Raised and educated in America, the author has displayed an extensive knowledge of Hawaii and a profound, impressive insight on the many aspects of human nature. She writes of the glitzy, tawdry places the tourists know and reveals the wasteful spending and carelessness the local people are forced to observe and accept. Although many of them resent this lack of respect for their Hawaiian customs and traditions, just as many are resigned to the fact that this paradise is no longer theirs.

The central theme of the book is nostalgia, a yearning to return to the paradise Wanle the storyteller reminiscences about, only to discover it is not and can never be the same. Thomas Wolfe once wrote “only the earth endures” in You Can’t Go Home Again, and the author recognizes that the natural beauty of Hawaii will probably endure long after the people she knew and the relationships she had are gone.

I found it easy to follow Wanle’s fascinating, memorable story, but much more difficult to follow each interesting character in the book, simply because there are so many. On the other hand, readers can readily visualize the author’s perception of love and passion, empathy and kindness, brutality and death. The use of Hawaii Creole “pidgin” English in the dialogue among the local people enhances the author’s simple, unaffected style of writing. Although this does add flavor to the characterization, it can be confusing to read unless you are familiar with the language. A reference to an online source of translation for these Hawaiian terms might be useful for the reader.

You will enjoy the delightful humor in the Thirty-Nine Rules For Making a Hawaiian Funeral Into A Drinking Game. A typically sad occasion becomes a lively, social gathering where friends and relatives drink for any reason, for old folks and their memories, for young cousins and their new adventures, for lovers and affairs, for favorite pastimes and delicious food.

This collection of well-written stories highlights the negative effects of tourism and the inevitable loss of old traditions and values, but the concept is not new and Hawaii is no exception. Although countries benefit economically from the tourist trade, the natural beauty of the environment suffers from exploitation and abuse. Much of the charm and appeal of the local culture is slowly disappearing, the beaches are crowded and no longer pristine, and the quaint shops on uncrowded streets have been replaced by bright lights and rows of popular restaurants and hotels. I found the reality of this paradise somewhat depressing at times when realizing that most of Hawaii as it once was must be left to our own imagination, or memories if we have them. Yet, some will long to return, as Wanle does, only to be disappointed when they realize it is gone.

Kristriana Kahakauwila is a talented, young author with remarkable potential for a successful career and a bright future in the writing world.

Published by Hogarth, imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. New York
July 9, 2013
Random House: $16.00
Amazon. $12.61 (Prime)
Kindle: $7.99

Sharon L Slayton

Book Review – The Society of Timid Souls or How To Be Brave by Polly Morland

British author and documentary filmmaker Polly Morland has done extensive research for this outstanding book of nonfiction, written with a degree of humor in a personal, narrative style that will appeal and inspire many readers. She provides remarkable insight on the concept of bravery in coping with fear, and how we as individuals or in a group choose to react. We are invited to join this talented author on her journey, as she discovers extraordinary and ordinary acts of courage in more than 95 personal interviews along the way. Famous quotations by notable philosophers, explorers, poets, and authors are skillfully interspersed among compelling human interest stories of bravery.

The central theme of the book is courage which individuals or a group call upon not only in times of uncertainty, danger, and injustice, but for personal growth and building self-esteem. The strong will to survive is clearly apparent in the courage we exhibit in responding to unforeseen catastrophes and natural disasters. The bombing of Pearl Harbor was probably a mere coincidence, however, when four pianists came together in January 1942. The first Society was established by classical pianist Bernard Gabriel in New York City to help these four timid souls overcome their stage fright. Stage fright, being in the limelight, is nothing new; it has been in existence since actors wore masks on stage for protection from audience derision or humiliation.

The author explains that fear comes in many forms including fear of failure, fear of taking a risk, fear of ridicule, fear of the unknown, and other phobias which frequently manifest in real anxiety. The words of Dr Harry Croft, renowned psychiatrist, “Remembering the mind is powerful medicine,” are significant when considering fear, whether real or imaginary. The reader learns that fear does not necessitate jeopardy as seen in the courage of a cancer patient, or a mother in childbirth (which some attribute to a natural physiological reaction to pain). It takes courage to overcome any fear; it can be extraordinary or simply ordinary in the familiar process of growing up in Grimm’s Fairy Tales, “The Boy Who Left Home to Learn Fear.”

If we acknowledge the words of FDR in his first inaugural speech that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” then we must also recognize that courage can be as infectious as fear. This is where free will becomes important, whether you choose to fall victim to fear along with the crowd, run from it, or accept it as inevitable and stand your ground.

The military regularly face danger in fighting wars, but they are trained to develop confidence in their job, courage is expected, and only exemplary bravery is noticed. We read and listen to exciting stories of extraordinary courage by the soldier, the policeman, bullfighter, and firefighter, but over time they are embellished by repetition and the media. As a result, the medals for bravery become more valuable as collector’s items than for the merit in the heroic acts they represent. Certainly, courage displayed by the military is admirable; however, I feel that the reader may find the distinction between training in the military as part of their job and bravery becomes unclear in reading their individual stories. I find courage is seldom relevant to winning a political victory, and unacceptable criminal behavior is no more than unjustifiable risk-taking.

The author includes the amygdala factor, which offers another perspective on fear; however, it also suggests more in depth discussion of neuroscience (which I find somewhat distracting). Returning to courage and fear, the author reminds us that no amount of courage can counteract the universal fear of dying. Even the words from French essayist Michel de Montaigne, “If you do not know how to die . . . Nature will do this job perfectly for you . . . ,” offer small consolation and questionable rationale to overcome this fear.

Readers will be intrigued by the fascinating stories of remarkable courage and the fears that elicit the extraordinary and ordinary acts of bravery. The author’s use of thought-provoking quotations adds interest and readability to each chapter in this stimulating book. She has given us an opportunity for introspection, and we will ponder the concept of moral purpose as a virtue and essential for courage. It is true that without moral purpose, courage can become as ordinary as animal instinct. Perhaps you will agree with Aristotle who saw courage as a character trait, and fear as a vice which each one of us has the potential to overcome, for whatever the reason or source.

Readers of this book will recognize that they too are part of a constantly changing society, where the timid gather in fright and the brave emerge to overwhelm and defeat the fears that may ultimately confront us all.

Crown Publishers – Division of Random House
July 9, 2013
U.S. $26.00
Amazon – $18.03 Hard Cover, Kindle – $13.99

Sharon L Slayton

West Virginia hotel auction

Here’s an auction you won’t find on Ebay – an actual 65-room hotel in West Virginia. Nice opportunity to get into the hotel business if you have a lot (and I can’t really guess how much a lot is in this case) of money. Could be a fun auction even for those without the spending power to take a hotel home with them.

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W. Va., July 23, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — AmeriBid LLC (www.ameribid.com) in cooperation with Hurley Auctions (www.hurleyauctions.com) announced the foreclosure auction of a 65 room historic hotel and spa adjacent to Berkeley Springs State Park in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. “The Country Inn is an exceptionally well located hotel in the heart of historic downtown Berkeley Springs,” comments Stephen Karbelk, Co-Founder of AmeriBid, LLC. “With 65 rooms, a restaurant and bar, full service spa and countless income
opportunities, this property is a real gem.”

Matt Hurley, Auctioneer and Founder of Hurley Auctions elaborates, “Very rarely do we see such an important historic property go to auction. For generations, this hotel site has serviced the tens of thousands of people that visit Berkeley Springs.”

The property will be auctioned on-site at 110 S. Washington Street in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. The auction will commence at 12:00pm EDT on Wednesday, August 28th, 2013. This is a one of a kind resort property with 65 rooms or suites, a full service restaurant, large commercial kitchen, banquet space, bar, lounges and a large welcoming lobby. The property also features a 3,415+/- sf full service spa facility with multiple treatment rooms perfect for massages, manicures, pedicures, waxing and more. For rental or use by a new owner, the property boasts two single-family homes. The Treehouse Cottage is a 936+/- sf, 2 bedroom, 1.75 bathroom home, while the Barker Executive Retreat Center features 2,430+/- sf of living space with 6 bedrooms, multiple bathrooms and expansive views of downtown Berkeley Springs.

Known as “The Country’s First Spa,” Berkeley Springs, West Virginia is a short 90 minute drive from Baltimore, MD as well as some of the most wealthy counties in the country in the Washington, DC region. First recorded as the Medicine Springs in 1747, these springs have been popular since George Washington visited them in 1776. The springs flow at a constant 74 degrees and can be enjoyed year around, including the Roman Bath House.

A 2% Broker participation is offered, subject to Auction Company guidelines. Property inspection dates and times are available on our website. To receive more details and complete terms, please visit www.ameribid.com or call 877.895.7077. You may also contact Stephen Karbelk (stephenkarbelk@ameribid.com) at 571.481.1037 or Matt Hurley (matt@hurleyauctions.com) at 717.597.9100.

Back online, evil cable company beating me up, and roadtrippers.com

I’m back! For those who missed their regular blog updates, here’s my excuse. For everyone else, travel writing starts a few paragraphs down. Last week we closed on a little condo in Tallahassee. We then spent a few days up there talking to our contractor, visiting Home Depots, Loews, and specialty home stores. We do not yet have internet service in the new place so blogging here would wait until we returned to Kissimmee (while the contractor does his thing up in Tallahassee).

It was a good plan except that we cam back and had no internet access here either. After many hours on hold and many more hours with tech support, they sent someone over to swap out the modem. At first the tech said there was no problem but I showed him how my laptop, my phone, and my PC couldn’t get online. So he swaps out the modem. Then does it again. Eventually my laptop and phones got online but my PC doesn’t like the new modem. The tech guy said he had no idea why and left.

Even as I write this I am on hold with them. You tell the machine you have internet trouble, wait a long time, talk to a real person for a minute, then get transferred to the internet people. Why they didn’t connect me to internet people in the first place is a question I have asked but for which I have no answer. So I’m on my second very long hold, because I ran into a question while trying to troubleshoot what the cable guy would not.

Let me go on record here and say that I despise Brighthouse. A couple of things I miss about living in Korea – good internet connections and good customer service. Brighthouse has neither.

The travel stuff

So I got an email asking me to check out roadtrippers.com, a free road trip planning tool. Apparently I have a few hours to kill while the evil cable company puts me on hold and then transfers me to hold some more so I figured I’d check it out. Besides I like road trips.

So I enter that I’m starting in Tallahassee and ending in New Orleans. They tell me that a 5 hour 48 minute trip. Nice and short, but still, I wonder if I’m driving by some good stuff on the way. I click on attractions and then tourist attractions – a few things pop up on my little road trip map, the USS Alabama being the only one directly on the way. It’s hard to believe that’s all there is to do in Mobile but maybe it’s the biggest attraction there.

Then I click on food and then healthy food. The restaurants that pop up are a little ways off the route, near Panama City FL. But Cowgirl Kitchen is a cool name so I go tot he little thing on my map and click for more information. Rosemary Beach, Florida. Never heard of it, but I can look it up later so I click on add to trip. My map adjusts and my driving time goes to 7 hours 10 minutes. Now when I look up Rosemary Beach, I know I need to decide if it’s worth an extra 80 minutes in the car.

I think roadtrippers.com can be a neat toy or starting point when planning a road trip. It seems faster than Mapquest for figuring out driving times and it has the attractions and food things and all that good stuff and shows you pretty quickly how much driving time one of them will add to your trip.

So next time you find yourself on hold for a few hours, put the phone on speaker and check it out. I don’t think you’ll end up with a complete travel plan, but you can probably get a few ideas. In my case, the cable company just connected me to a real person. He seemed to know what he was doing, but two minutes later I got disconnected. I don’t have the mental fortitude to call them again until tomorrow. Evil Cable Company 5 – Me 0. My wife is carrying on the fight for now.

Product review: AllergEase

I’ll keep my review fairly short and then post a list of ingredients and stuff in case some of you want to try this product. I took Allergease because I’m allergic to cats, dust, and pollen. I think pollen is the biggest threat at the moment. Some days I’m not really bothered but other days I sneeze like crazy. I’ve tried Allergease about three times, taking one to three drops whenever my allergies were bothering. All three times, I thought I felt some relief. Also, at the moment, you can enter their contest if you have a picture of yourself holding some Allergease, so it’s not a bad time to try it out.

Here are most of the ingredients, the ones that are supposed to do something for you:

Eyebright – A wild plant native to Europe’s open meadows, eyebright has been used since the 12th Century to provide natural relief for itchy, irritated eyes associated with hay fever.

Menthol – This organic compound occurs naturally in peppermint and other mint oils, and has been used for centuries to provide soothing relief for itching and burns.

Elderflower – Ancient Romans used Elderflower for medicinal purposes, boiling the leaves to create a tea for treating coughs, colds and hay fever.

Vitamin C – For centuries, sailors suffered from scurvy, a Vitamin C deficiency, until discoveries were made connecting a diet rich in citrus fruits with scurvy prevention. It was not until the 20th Century, however, that affordable, mass production of Vitamin C was able to boost the immune systems of millions.

Plantain – Not to be confused with banana plantains, this plant is a common weed that is indigenous to Eurasia. Europeans settlers brought it to New Zealand, where it was nicknames
“English Man’s Foot” because it spread easily wherever the settler’s went.

Nettle – Native to Europe, North American and some parts of Asia, this popular herb has been used since the Middle Ages to manage inflammation and combat allergy symptoms.

Tips for travelers to ptotect themselves against identity theft

Here we have a press release with ten ways to make it harder for a thief to steal your identity. Some things seemed strange to me at first (like not putting your name and address on your luggage)
but after a little thought, I think these tips all make some sense (if someone knows your name and address and that you just arrived in a foreign country, then they could get word to thieves near your home who could go in there and steal personal information and other things). Anyway, here’s the press release.

ATLANTA, May 23, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — As summer nears, many people start dreaming about and planning vacation getaways. But while you’re enjoying the beach, identity thieves are devising new ways to steal your personal information. Consumers often let their guards down on vacation, putting them at greater risk of identity theft. In an effort to curb the growing problem of identity theft, Equifax shares the top 10 ways consumers can help protect themselves while traveling:

1. Don’t announce your travel plans on social media. This invites identity thieves to target your house while you’re away.

2. Place a hold on your mail. When criminals see an overflowing mailbox, they see an easy way to steal personal information.

3. Go through your wallet and leave at home your library card and other cards with your name on them. Carry only necessities in your wallet when traveling. Tourist areas are hotspots for pickpockets.

4. Set up a travel alert on your credit card accounts, and freeze your credit with the three credit bureaus.

5. Leave your laptop computer at home if you can. If you must travel with a laptop, update your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. Do not access bank accounts from your laptop while in a hotel room or at a coffee shop or other public location.

6. While staying at a hotel, lock important documents such as your passport in a safe.

7. Use only ATMs located in banks.

8. Protect your smartphone. Create a password for access, and use an application with a GPS locator to find your phone if it is lost or stolen.

9. Don’t put your full name and address on luggage tags. Include just your last name and phone number.

10. Tear up and discard used boarding passes. Many travelers leave boarding passes behind in airplanes or hotels. They often contain full names and other personal information.

“Everyone loves a relaxing vacation, but this is not the time to let your guard down about identity theft,” said Trey Loughran, president of the Personal Solutions unit at Equifax. “By developing good identity protection habits at home and on the road, you can reduce your risk of becoming a victim.” Visit www.IdentityProtection.com powered by Equifax for more information and resources on identity theft and how to help protect yourself and your family.