Conde Nast Traveler

The Abu Ghraib Museum and Gift Shop

Photo: Paul Keller,

by Sara Tucker

The recent announcements that Guantanamo will close and Abu Ghraib will reopen have piqued the Aggregator's interest in a sector of the tourism economy with potential for substantial growth. The Iraqis have promised to turn part of the notorious Baghdad prison into a museum, and some (like this blogger) say Guantanamo should be similarly preserved.

As the world's leading jailor, the U.S. has quite a stock of potential museums at its disposal, though how many of them could be moneymakers is anybody's guess. Probably a lot: Alcatraz attracts more than a million visitors a year, Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary gets upwards of 150,000, and Montana's Old Prison Museum draws 45,000. Why the fascination? It's the "shock and horror" of seeing the way the inmates lived, a Montana museum official told the New York Times. "It's like going by a car accident. You can't help but look."

That sounds about right, but is it, well, right? A senior Iraqi justice official has said the Abu Ghraib museum will feature "execution chambers and torture tools used by Saddam's regime, including an iron chain used to tie prisoners together." Is this a good idea?

Continue reading "The Abu Ghraib Museum and Gift Shop" »


The World's Happiest Countries

The Danes are happy
Stop worrying, start pedaling
Photo: Flickr

by Sara Tucker

What's the happiest country in the world? That depends on your criteria. The Happy Planet Index gives top honors to a little-known island in the South Pacific; several other surveys finger a chilly country on the Baltic Sea. Australia ranks high by some standards, low by others. According to the World Values Survey, Nigeria rules.

There's "something dodgy about happy stats" that produce such a mishmash. What, exactly, are they measuring? It's often hard to know. Happiness isn't a scientific term, and researchers are free to use whatever criteria they want. The Happy Planet Index, for example, factors into its score a country's "ecological footprint," a washy concept that pulls the happiness rug out from under developed countries and is dismissed by some critics as irrelevant: "It is quite conceivable," says one blogger, "that people living in countries with a large ecological footprint could be happy even if it was the case that their lifestyles were unsustainable." Well, sure, but they wouldn't be happy for long.

Once you've sifted through the reams of scientific evidence, however, the advice we get from self-professed happy people is remarkably universal:

Continue reading "The World's Happiest Countries" »


The Obama Bounce: A Positive for Travel?

Kenya is Obama country
Kenya is Obama country.
Photo: Zoriah

by Sara Tucker

"Obama-mania is here," reported ABC News in the heady days of November. "From delis to barber shops and business offices to bookstores, visitors have been seeking out the Illinois lawmaker's favorite Chicago stomping grounds, sending business spiking . . . The city is not about to miss out on the tourist gold mine."

Neither are a lot of other places: Obama country stretches far and wide. "Ripple effects of Barack Obama's election are already being felt in Kenya," reported the Wall Street Journal, "where the beleaguered tourism industry is preparing for an inaugural-season surge of visitors eager to trace the President-elect's African roots."

From Kenya's Daily Nation: "The once sleepy village [of Kogelo] has been catapulted into the international limelight, in proportions beyond its wildest dreams."

From the Jakarta Post: "U.S. President-elect Barack Obama carries the hope for Bali's tourist industry that his election will bring more visitors to the island."

From The Age: "With his cool cat reputation, [Obama] is expected to do for Washington what the Guggenheim Museum did for Bilbao."

"To see all the places connected to Obama's life story, you'd have to visit three countries, six time zones and six states," pointed out an AP story. "Obama grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia, has roots in Kansas and Kenya, and went to school in Los Angeles, New York and Boston."

Now that President Obama has settled into the Oval Office, tourism officials want to know: Will he deliver the hoped-for masses? Expectations are high.

Continue reading "The Obama Bounce: A Positive for Travel?" »


Who Wants a Pleistocene-Era Backyard?

Pleistocene Backyard
To rewild or not to rewild North
America with ancient animals?
Photo: Karen Carr

by Sara Tucker

This week's post is completely bollixed. After several readers pointed out the depressing nature of recent columns (obesity and the flying public, the devastating effects of noise pollution, English as an invasive language), we decided to rummage around in the blogosphere for happier news. World happiness itself came to mind, but that idea was still a bud on the vine when we got sidetracked by a flock of penguins. Before you can say "happy feet," we were deep in a brambly thicket, torn and bleeding.

It happened like this: While casting about for feel-good stories, we remembered the lost and starving Magellanic penguins that were airlifted to safety by the Brazilian army last fall. The rescue operation was covered by USAToday (under "News: Offbeat"), the Washington Post, the BBC News,, and dozens of other news organizations. The young penguins, whose home is in the southern Atlantic, had wandered too far north, washing up on the warm beaches of Brazil by the hundreds, and the situation looked grim when "animal-welfare activists loaded the birds onto a Brazilian air force cargo plane and flew them 1,550 miles to the country's southern coast, where a crowd of onlookers celebrated as the penguins marched back into the sea." Definite feel-good material.

One penguin rescue reminded us of another, so next we decided to check in on a colony of Australian fairy penguins and their canine protector, a Maremma sheepdog named Oddball.

Continue reading "Who Wants a Pleistocene-Era Backyard?" »


Fat at 40,000 Feet

Famous Fat Twins
Minibikes don't discriminate.

by Sara Tucker

Whatever is heavy on the ground is even heavier in the air. That's not physics; it's economics. It's costing the airlines $538 million a year to tote our excess flab through the did the math--and that's just in terms of jet fuel. In Canada, the cost of serving overweight flyers just went up: Starting tomorrow, disabled passengers, including the severely obese, will be entitled to two seats for the price of one on domestic flights.

Our fatness is forever in the news. Bloggers loved the story of Dr. Craig Alan Bittner, the Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon who used human blubber to power his SUV, a bit of journalistic flotsam that surfaced during Christmas week, just as millions of Americans were resolving to slim down in 2009. The Beverly Hills lipodiesel story had some holes in it (Wired, for one, called Bittner's bluff; the doctor himself has skipped town). And yet the whole idea of fat-powered vehicles is just too intriguing to dismiss.

Obvious question: Why not use air travelers' excess weight to help fly the plane?

Continue reading "Fat at 40,000 Feet" »


Holiday Message for the Informationally Challenged

by Sara Tucker

Because way too many of us are checking our email at least once a day while on vacation (39 percent according to a recent survey); and because a guerilla insurgency is calling for a No Email Day; and because 46 percent of women polled say they'd rather give up sex than the Internet; and because Phoebe Gates gets only 45 minutes and the president of the United States gets zero; and because the news that Daddy Gates had clamped down made headlines around the world; and because Chinese doctors have spoken; and because boot camp is no fun; and because recent Google searches for information overload, information fatigue syndrome, and data smog generated an undigestible number of hits; and because the days leading up to the new year are supposed to be a time of spiritual, mental, and physical renewal . . . the Aggregator has only one word for its readers this week: Peace.


Animal Lust: In Ecstatic Pursuit of Unknown Creatures

by Sara Tucker

It's been a thrilling year for the world's taxonomists, the folks who find and classify new plants and animals. An estimated 10 million species are out there, they tell us, waiting to be discovered. But finding them has become a race against time.

Case in point: The Kalimantan jungle toad, first discovered in remotest Borneo 30 years ago. The lungless frog lives in rivers so cold that "after just 45 minutes of snorkeling, I would have to stop because I was shaking uncontrollably, my lips were blue, and my breathing became too labored," researcher David Bickford told LiveScience. No wonder that until recently, only one specimen had been found. "This is an endangered frog that we know practically nothing about," says Bickford, "with an amazing ability to breathe entirely through its skin, whose future is being destroyed by illegal gold mining by people who are marginalized and have no other means of supporting themselves."

The Laotian rock rat, on the other hand, was supposed to have been extinct for 11 million years when a researcher spotted one for sale in a food market in Laos in 2005. The rat is one of hundreds of finds that have been pouring out of Southeast Asia's Greater Mekong region at the rate of about two species per week for the past ten years. (Check out the above video for some more finds.) "We thought discoveries of this scale were confined to the history books," says Stuart Chapman, director of the World Wildlife Fund's Greater Mekong program. "This reaffirms the Greater Mekong's place on the world map of conservation priorities."

Continue reading "Animal Lust: In Ecstatic Pursuit of Unknown Creatures" »


Killer Noise: The Growing Clamor About a Global Menace

by Sara Tucker

The world is experiencing a noise pandemic, one that is literally killing birds, whales, and yes, people. And it is getting worse every year.

Traffic is the big culprit. Car alarms, lawnmowers, radios, and construction equipment add to the din, fraying nerves and raising tempers in places as far-flung as Paris, Buenos Aires, and Cairo.

Human noise has spilled over into the oceans, where marine mammals are under auditory siege from seagoing vessels, seismic surveys, and military sonar.

In Japan, the "way of silence" venerated by Zen scholars has fallen victim to a plague of loudspeakers, says longtime Japan observer Ronald E. Yates. A national fondness for the PA system has resulted in a bombardment of "announcements, sales pitches, warnings, reminders, and commentaries--all from loudspeakers which have been placed strategically just about everywhere humans might eat, sleep, work or roam."

The loudest city in America is said to be San Francisco, where "noise from traffic is putting nearly 1 in 6 San Francisco residents at risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and other stress-related illnesses."

Too much noise "can literally suck the life out of you," Salon reports. "Recent studies reveal that noise can be harmful to human health, just like water or air pollution, damaging not only hearing and sleep but raising our blood pressure to dangerous levels. According to the World Health Organization, noise pollution is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths a year."

How do we cope?

Continue reading "Killer Noise: The Growing Clamor About a Global Menace" »


Bottled Water Bad, French Lessons Good

Amy Walker's 21 accents in 2 minutes. (Note: English is not an endangered language.)

by Sara Tucker

Normally, it is not the Aggregator's style to lecture and harangue, but these are not normal times. First item: Katie Couric's observation, all but buried in the onslaught of bad news this past week, that too many of us are still drinking bottled water. The Aggregator had noticed the very same thing even before Katie pointed it out on Wednesday and was planning to say something about it, but while we were dithering around Katie scooped us.

To those of you still engaging in this mindless practice: Stop. Today. Please.

Next item: The Aggregator has thus far refrained from commenting on the backlash against then-presidential candidate Barack Obama for daring to express the opinion, back in July, that Americans should be encouraging our children to study a foreign language. Any foreign language. The Aggregator will now address said backlash.

For the record, Mr. Obama did NOT say that Americans should be forced to learn Spanish. Nor did he say that we should all become vegans or that the high-five should become the official salute of the U.S. military. What he said was this: "It's embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe and all we can say is merci beaucoup, right?" Right.

Fun fact: English is growing at the rate of roughly 20,000 words a year. Here's a new one: linguicide. Meanwhile, the world is losing languages at the rate of one every two weeks. "The number of languages is plummeting, imploding downward in an altogether unprecedented rate, just as human population is shooting straight upward," said University of Alaska linguist Michael Krauss in an LA Times interview. Linguists estimate that half of the world's 6,000-plus languages will disappear by 2050, 90 percent by the end of the century. The hotspots of linguicide today are Australia and the USA.

In other words, English is NOT an endangered language. Wichita is.

On the other hand, refusing to speak anything BUT English entails certain well-documented risks.

Continue reading "Bottled Water Bad, French Lessons Good" »


Ballad of the Sad Cafe

by Sara Tucker

Everywhere you turn, it's the same story: the French bistro, the Irish pub, even the Italian trattoria, icons of national culture, all in trouble from rising costs and changing mores. And yet, and yet, there are places in the world where antediluvian fans of real bars and cafés are obstinately resisting the trend.

"The French are no longer eating and drinking like the French. They are eating and drinking like the Anglo-Saxons." That's Bernard Picolet, owner of Aux Amis du Beaujolais, explaining to New York Times correspondent Steven Erlanger why more than 3,000 independent French restaurants filed for bankruptcy in the first half of 2008. "The way of life has changed," said Picolet. To be perfectly frank, the French are gulping their food.

The traditional French café/bistro has been in trouble for some time, but the numbers registering its decline have spiked with the plunging economy. The latest bankruptcy toll represents a 56 percent increase over the same period last year.

A similar affliction across the Channel elicited this lament from the Associated Press: "The iconic British pint is fast losing ground as the national drink," with beer sales at British pubs "slumping to their lowest level since the Great Depression." The Campaign for Real Ale, a brewers association, reached even farther into the historic past to come up with a suitably bleak comparison, reporting that "more than half of Britain's villages are 'dry' for the first time since the Norman Conquest of 1066."

Smoking bans and rising costs (rents, fuel, taxes) are partly to blame, as well as stricter drunk-driving laws, which is why supermarket beer sales are going up as pub sales are going down. In Ireland, which has lost more than a thousand rural pubs in the past three years, the closings are blamed less on rising costs and more on "the profound lifestyle changes that have accompanied the country's dizzying rise to affluence." The loss, here as in France, has been particularly devastating in the countryside, where pubs and cafés are a central part of village life. "What is a village," a Frenchman asked Erlanger, "but a café, a school, a pharmacy, a bakery and a city hall?" The closing of the only pub in Connolly, a town 50 miles south of Galway in County Clare "cut the heart out of the village" said one resident; another, a bricklayer who was working when he heard the news, had to lay aside his trowel and "sit down for an hour."

Continue reading "Ballad of the Sad Cafe" »


Moscow's Millionaire Fair, Where the Bling Still Sings


by Sara Tucker

It's a confusing time for Russia's oligarchs. Consider: Last December, none other than the New York Times crowned Moscow as the luxury destination for 2008, a great place to fling your bling, a city to be congratulated for "renewing itself with a vigor and opulence seen in few other places on the planet." concurred, declaring the once-grim capital had "found its legs as a chic travel destination  for high-end travelers."

Barely a year later, the party's over.

Or is it?

"Russia begins oligarch bailout," announced the Kyiv Post in a recent headline. But while some analysts predicted that "the power-hoarding era of the Russian oligarchs is approaching its end," others dismissed the notion as "wishful thinking."

All food for thought on the eve of Moscow's shopping event of the year.

Continue reading "Moscow's Millionaire Fair, Where the Bling Still Sings" »


10 Ways to Celebrate World Toilet Day

Mr. Potty on the Daily Traveler

by Sara Tucker

"There are lots of problems with public toilets in New York City," began a recent Times editorial, "starting with the fact that there aren't any."

The scolding, posted by the Gray Lady on The Board, went on to point out that while "New Yorkers have long been promised relief in the form of high-tech European toilets that take coins and clean themselves," the city's small number of demonstration models "have never been able to multiply to critical mass the way, say, fiberglass cows and Duane Reade drugstores have." 

The situation is no better in Paris, where "hygiene workers have to clean an average 56,000 square metres of urine-splashed surfaces a month" and "the sight of dozens of men urinating on the walls of the Paris town hall" during last year's rugby World Cup so incensed Mayor Delanoe that he ordered the installation of 'anti-pipi' walls to fight back.

And in Britain, whose public toilets were once the envy of Europe, "hailed as marvels of Victorian municipal design," as many as 5,000 public lavatories have closed in the past decade, halving the number of conveniences. "There could hardly be a more urgent need for public money," groused the Daily Telegraph.

Indeed, the problem is so widespread that bloggers have been driven to wonder: "Are public toilets viable?"

Absolutely, says Jack Sim, founder of the World Toilet Organization. Not only viable, but imperative, and we had better do something about their sorry condition if we want to hang around the planet much longer. That's why Sim has made it his mission to "raise the social status" of toilets and toilet attendants in all parts of the world.

According to the WTO, some 2.5 billion people, or 40 percent of the world population, lack basic sanitation. And of the billion or so people lucky enough to have sewerage systems, only about 30 percent have their sewage "treated in an environmentally acceptable way." The rest flows straight into gutters, rivers, or lakes.

We deserve better, says Sim, which is why the WTO has declared November 19 World Toilet Day, its purpose "a call to action for people to demand clean toilets for all." It is the organization's hope that the public and the "restroom community-at-large" will mark the day "to practice toilet etiquette" and make "a new declaration for the forthcoming year." A declaration, that is, to elevate the status of the toilets in our lives.

This is no joke. "If those systems go down," says a trustee of The Plumbing Museum in Watertown, Massachusetts, "civilization rapidly deteriorates. The day water stops coming out of the tap is the day civilization starts to crumble."

For ten ways to celebrate World Toilet Day, read on.

Continue reading "10 Ways to Celebrate World Toilet Day" »


Le Grand Pissfest

Worldwide reactions to the U.S. election.

by Sara Tucker

Worldwide euphoria was the mood this week as the election of Barack Obama "unleashed a global tide of admiration, hopes for change, and even renewed love for the United States."

"If history records a sudden surge in carbon emissions on Wednesday," commented an LA Times staff writer in a story filed from London, "it may be due to the collective exhalation of relief and joy by the hundreds of millions--perhaps billions--of people around the globe who watched, waited and prayed for Barack Obama to be elected president of the United States."

Le Monde's Robert Solé was rendered nearly speechless with emotion: "Sorry. No column today. The keyboard is not responding. History is a page being turned. Three words on the screen: 'Yes we can.' "

Nowhere was the relief more palpable than in Europe, where U.S. relations have been deteriorating since the 1990s. "Hard as it may be to recall, the United States' problems with the world--or, rather, the world's problems with the United States--started before George W. Bush took office," Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, reminded us before the election, in the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs.

"The end of the Cold War gave everyone a chance to take a fresh look at one another," Kagan continued, "and the Europeans, in particular, did not like what they saw. American society seemed to them crass and brutal--just as it had to their nineteenth-century ancestors. [French Foreign Minister Hubert] Védrine called on Europe to stand against U.S. hegemony partly as a defense against the spread of Americanism. 'We cannot accept . . . a politically unipolar world,' he said, and 'that is why we are fighting for a multipolar' one."

Continue reading "Le Grand Pissfest" »


Europe Balks at the Scanning Booth

The future of security scanning?
AP Photo

by Sara Tucker

Invasion of the body scanners!

Digital penetration!

The TSA wants to see you naked!

Such were the warnings when scanners that bare all began cropping up in the nation's airports last year, starting in Phoenix. "Are you up for this?" Slate asked its readers as JFK and LAX stood in line to receive the equipment. "Are you ready to get naked for your country?"

Then came this year's rollout and another spate of headlines. "Body-scanning machines that show images of people underneath their clothing are being installed in 10 of the nation's busiest airports," announced USA Today in June, calling the proliferation "one of the biggest public uses of security devices that reveal intimate body parts."

But apart from the media and the ACLU, nobody seemed to care. Instead of an invasion of privacy or an Orwellian threat to their personhood, most passengers caught in the bovine shuffle through airport security perceived the glass booths as just another boring obstacle in the long, dull slog to their departure gates. That's because they "have no idea how graphic the images are," contends the ACLU's Barry Steinhardt.

"In a nation infamous for its loud and litigious protesters, the silence, the absolute and utter silence on this issue is screaming," fumed a reader at Slashdot.

Continue reading "Europe Balks at the Scanning Booth" »


Season of Giants

Giant Pumpkin
Pumped up.
Essdras M Suarez/

by Sara Tucker

"In the world of competitive pumpkin growing, this is Super Bowl time," announced in early October. That's when growers began trucking this year's crop of giants to official weigh stations across North America.

For anyone who hasn't already been swept up in the trend: This is a sport that has made huge strides in recent years. "Just two decades ago, 400 pound pumpkins were looked at in wonder, but these days, even a 1,000 pound pumpkin looks like a pipsqueak to competitive pumpkin growers," notes

Last year's world champion topped 1,600 pounds, raising the specter of a one-ton pumpkin in the very near future. "During the past 10 years, the world record has fallen every year and the weight of the heaviest pumpkin has tripled. Thousand-pound pumpkins, once the pride of the patch, are now laughingstocks at major competitions" (

Naturally, bigger pumpkins attract bigger crowds: "Growing giant pumpkins has become all the rage," reports the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, likening the appeal to that of baseball: "It's a competitive sport. Traditional. It requires hard work, determination, discipline, attentiveness, patience and the ability to anticipate. It's grown in appreciation, not just in this country, but internationally. Fall is the time of final defeat for most and victory for a lucky few."

As the October weigh-offs began, the pumpkin to watch was the 'Beast from the East,' a leviathan 16 feet around, raised by Steve Connolly, a mechanical engineer from Sharon, Rhode Island. "The epic girth of Connolly's pumpkin has electrified" even pumpkin insiders, said, and rival producers were "making pilgrimages to behold Connolly's creation," widely forecast to become the next world champion--barring a last-minute catastrophe.

"Connolly grew five pumpkins in his patch this year, and four of them have exploded," NPR cautioned. "Two pumpkins burst just days before a major competition."

Continue reading "Season of Giants" »


America Bashing: It's Only Words

Le Clezio
Mystery man: Nobel winner Le Clezio.
Photo: Flickr

by Sara Tucker

A whole lotta mud was slung this past week over the Nobel prize for literature, providing a welcome diversion from McBama bashing and the world economic meltdown. The literary hissy fit began when a Nobel judge told the Associated Press that America is "too insular" to produce Nobel-worthy literature. Americans are little interested in translating foreign books and "don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature," said Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, which doles out the award. "That ignorance is restraining."

The howl of protest that followed was anything but restrained. "You can criticise a nation's politics, or its cuisine, or even its dress-sense," commented one bystander, "but to describe a nation's books as 'ignorant' is fighting talk."

The maligned nation retaliated with a firestorm of insults: "You would think," huffed the New Yorker's David Remnick, "that the permanent secretary of an academy that pretends to wisdom but has historically overlooked Proust, Joyce and Nabokov, to name just a few non-Nobelists, would spare us the categorical lectures."

"There is no argument like a literary argument," observed  The Independent's John Lichfield as the vitriol began to spew. "Expect a vicious, transatlantic war of words." Calling for a revolt, Slate's Adam Kirsch wrote: "America should respond not by imploring the committee for a fairer hearing but by seceding, once and for all, from the sham that the Nobel Prize for literature has become."

Across the Internet, American bibliophiles jumped into the fray. At Omnivoracious, one gave the Swedes a taste of "American rube" vernacular ("Hey Horace, Stick your Nobel where the Sun Don't Shine!!") while another reached for satire ("They give out Nobels for LITERATURE? When did this start?"). Cynics were quick to point out that literary awards "don't really 'mean' anything. They're like the Academy Awards, except the recipients are old and ugly instead of young and beautiful." Idealists, however, were less willing to give up the fight. At the Literary Saloon and Words Without Borders, there were shout-outs on behalf of the perennially snubbed, such as Philip Roth and John Updike, and a host of lesser-knowns and long shots: "I hope Bob Dylan finally gets it," wrote a wistful fan.

Too soon, though, the fight was over. On Thursday, the academy named French novelist Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio as this year's recipient, and the furor ended in a collective "Who?"

Further reading:
* An interview with Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio (in English)
* Nobel notes: Engdahl Fallout (Literary Saloon)
* "Jean-Marie Who?": Nomadic novelist wins Nobel Prize for literature (Adam McDowell, National Post)
* The Aggregator: News of the day in links


Apple iPhone 3G: The Ultimate Travel Device?

iPhone and Steve Jobs
Photo: Associated Press

by Tom Loftus

Chances are not single a travel reporter was among the thousands attending yesterday's keynote address at the Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco.  But the newly-announced Apple iPhone 3G is sure to appear in the pages of various travel web magazines in the months to come.  The  "iPhone 3G is real! GPS looks like a killer app" reads the lead from yesterday's post on the tech blog CrunchGear

For the first time, the iPhone will combine Assisted GPS (A-GPS), a faster version of traditional satellite-derived data combined with Wi-Fi hot spots, and cellular towers.   The three technologies can work in tandem or separately, as the Apple web site explains.

If GPS is available, iPhone displays a blue GPS indicator. But if you're inside--without a clear line of sight to a GPS satellite--iPhone finds you via Wi-Fi. If you're not in range of a Wi-Fi hot spot, iPhone finds you using cellular towers.

Continue reading "Apple iPhone 3G: The Ultimate Travel Device? " »


Bo Diddley's World Beat

Bo Diddley
The Originator.

by Tom Loftus

For the casual music fan, yesterday's death of Bo Diddley may have brought no more than a fleeting memory of a scratchy black-and-white film of a 1950s rock and roller playing a box-shaped guitar. Bo Diddley? Aw, yes, didn't he do that "Tutti Fruitti" song? (Ed.: No, that's Little Richard.)  

But as the obituaries piled in yesterday, it was obvious that the Originator, as Bo Diddley called himself, deserves recognition in the world music scene.

Here's Keith Richards's take on Bo Diddley in an interview with Neil Strauss, republished on yesterday:

"Muddy [Waters] and Chuck were close to the straight electric blues," he said. "But Bo was fascinatingly on the edge. There was something African going on in there. His style was outrageous, suggesting that the kind of music we loved didn't just come from Mississippi. It was coming from somewhere else."

Continue reading "Bo Diddley's World Beat" »



Empty seats did them in.

by Tom Loftus

It's getting to be commonplace. This morning it was the all-business-class carrier Silverjet's turn to refresh its homepage with a letter beginning, "To our dear customers..." 

Sixteen months after its inaugural flight, the airline known for its fully reclinable seat/beds joined fellow all-business-classers Eos Airlines and MAXjet Airways Inc. in the good idea/sorry breaks category.

Bloomberg does a nice summary of Silverjet's demise--rising fuel prices, an inability to secure a last-minute loan--and unloads a bomb from analysts at Numis Securities: "There are likely to be a number of spectacular casualties as brutal economic reality hits home.''

Continue reading "Silverjet" »


Shark Attacks in Zihuatanejo

Trocones beach
Troncones, Mexico.
Photo: Melanie Acevedo/CNT

New! Several times a week, the Daily Traveler will spotlight a travel news item by taking a look at how it is reported by the growing mass of travel-based blogs, magazines, and assorted Web sites. We call this section the Aggregator.

by Tom Loftus

Surf paradise Zihuatanejo, Mexico, has been the site of three shark attacks, two of them fatal, in the past month. uses the opportunity to add the area to its Killer Beaches 2008, a Google mashup documenting recent shark attacks worldwide. also runs a post on the attack, although it makes the mistake of running a photo of the fearsome-looking, but harmless sand tiger shark. The shark(s) in question may be greys or tigers.

Continue reading "Shark Attacks in Zihuatanejo" »


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