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Israel Hires Maxim Magazine for Tourism Photoshoot

Israel is a land brimming with wonderful beaches and rich history. So, what's the best way to market that to the world? The government believes the answer is... "good-looking women." What? How disappointing.

This public relations strategy is particularly skewed to hit a key demographic of American men aged 18 to 35. The tourism board found that this group wasn't particularly interested in visiting the nation because they associated Israel with "war or holy relics." In an effort to change that target audience's collective mind, Israel hired a Maxim Magazine camera crew to photograph the country's (bikini-clad) female beauty amidst the country's natural beauty. Women of the Holy Land, anyone?

Tourism is a cut-throat market, so I can understand where a sexy, new approach might be appealing. (After all, I dedicated 188 words to it.) However, I cannot condone an entire marketing campaign built around objectifying women. Sure, sex sells, but whatever happened to dignity?

I think a Harvard Law School professor said it best in the Newsweek article: "Completely not the way to go. I can see models anywhere."

You are the Cartographer with Google's My Maps

Google introduced a new Google Maps feature called My Maps. This new option lets you create custom maps with relative ease via a simple point-and-click interface on Google's site.

My Maps gives you the ability to draw on a Google Map with placemarkers, lines, shapes, images, video, and text. Then, if you want, you can share that map with friends and family. You can even show your maps to the world by allowing Google to include your creations in Google Maps searches.

I love this idea of collaborative mapping. Community-driven content always brings new insight to a previously utilitarian service. A Google Maps search augmented with user-created My Maps could yield results you may have missed otherwise. A standard query for "Route 66" might just show you the highway. However, a My Maps search would also give you this Route 66 map complete with oral histories. Fancy!

More ideas for My Maps:
  • Share a parade route with the marching band.
  • Highlight a hiking trail and pass it onto your son's Boy Scouts troop.
  • Tell others about famous monster sightings.
The possibilities are endless! Sneak a peek at Google's blog to view more sample My Maps.

Common Cold Curses Continental Customer

Hawaiian student Rachel Collier caught a cold while on holiday in New York. She thought nothing of it until she began coughing aboard her return flight shortly before take off. The spell was so violent that she lost her voice. A doctor passenger looked Collier over and certified that the girl would be fine to fly home.

However, the captain disagreed. The plane returned to the terminal, and the crew dropped the ill ingenue and a chaperoning teacher back at the gate. They were forced to book lodging for the night and a flight for the following day. Thankfully, the carrier, Continental Airlines, apologized to the girl and reimbursed her for those expenses.

When I see sick people on airplanes, I immediately think of Patrick Dempsey in that movie Outbreak. I picture him coughing all over the plane passing on that deadly monkey virus to everyone. I wouldn't have minded if I saw the young girl ejected because I wouldn't want to end up in a quarantined town with Donald Sutherland threatening me with his Jeeps and helicopters. No, thank you.

Lonely Guy Dream Vacation Digital Photo Frame

Here's a leftover from April Fools' Day: ThinkGeek's Lonely Guy Dream Vacation Digital Photo Frame. The gimmick was that the frame would crop a lonely user/loser out of a green-screen image and superimpose him onto pictures of exotic places. Sure, our fearless producer Karen did this joke last year, but that's OK!

Fake destinations include: Egyptian pyramids, Playboy Mansion, and the Moon. Also, for the extra lonely types, the frame could pop you into a picture with your elusive Canadian supermodel girlfriend.

You know, if I had a picture frame like this, I'd insert myself into pictures from my childhood because time travel is the most extreme kind of adventure travel.

Insignificant Province Uses MySpace to Boost Tourism

Have you heard of the tiny Eastern European province of Yrsczstan? No? Well, you're not alone. In fact, most of its own citizens only know it by its former name -- "The People's Oblast of Vlad" (roughly translated) -- because of constant political upheaval. Well, Yrsczstan's Ministry of Promotions and Goats hopes to eradicate the land's obscurity by opening its borders to the Internet.

Last week, the Ministry created a page on MySpace to make friends with the site's 100 million+ users. Their desire is to connect with curious travelers and lure them to the province in a non-sexual-predator way. Yrsczstan describes itself on the site very succinctly: "We made mostly of factories and large women. We also have strong export of radioactive plastics."

As of the time of this post, Yrsczstan only has one friend: Tom.

Lonely Planet's Guide to the Island from Lost

I usually support and respect the quality and thoroughness of Lonely Planet guidebooks, but the company's most recent release left me questioning their methods. The Island from Lost seems like an odd choice for a travel destination especially since the tropical setting is well-hidden and -- most important -- a ficticious locale created for a popular primetime television show on ABC.

After I skimmed the table of contents, I came to the awful realization that the book was actually LP's guide to Hawaii re-branded to attract Lost's large fan base. (LP pulled a similar stunt a few years ago when then re-released their New Zealand book as a guide to Middle Earth.) Though, the writers did add a few new sections to the book:
  • Chapter 5: Hearsay and speculation about the Black Cloud
  • Chapter 7: 100 annoying ways to tell your friends why they should "totally get the Season 1 DVDs and spend an entire weekend watching them"
  • Chapter 9: Full-color pictures of Maggie Grace in a bikini
I do have to admit that Chapter 9 does make the book a worthwhile read. Available in major bookstores on April 8th for the retail price of $15.16.

Get the Worm with Southwest's "Early Bird" Seating!

Waah! Do you hear that? It's the shrieking cry known as the "cattle call." Southwest Airlines passengers know this sound all too well. Southwest doesn't offer assigned seating. Instead, they group their customers into first-come, first-serve boarding zones: A, B, and C. Group "A" boards first and contains the first 45 passengers to check into the flight. The trick to getting a coveted Group "A" pass is checking-in online early 24 hours before the flight.

This boarding procedure has worked very well for the airline, but the company wants to attract those obsessed customers who have too much time on their hands. (You may know them as your parents.) Well, these people would make up Southwest's new "Early Bird Class." This Group "A+" allows for pre-pre-boarding giving them preferred treatment over Group "A" fliers and those passengers requiring extra time for boarding. Why should you have to board later because you didn't break your leg anyway?

The only drawback to the program is that travelers must check-in at the airport 72 hours before the flight and remain at the gate to receive "A+." If the passengers leave the airport before the flight, they lose their Class "A+" pass. Yes, it's harsh, but these people can sit anywhere on the plane! Take that, assigned seating.

Southwest plans to roll out the new check-in and boarding procedures for "Early Bird Class" starting April 1st.

Skiing in the London Underground

The man in the video above found the perfect spot for downhill skiing. The location is clear of skiers and snowboarders, requires no lift ticket, and... lies beneath London? Yes, you read that right. Though, it's not so much a back-country trail as it's the longest escalator in Europe.

The footage shows the anonymous skier hurtling down an Up escalator in London's Angel Tube Station. He could have endangered the lives of anyone going up the moving walkway, but luckily it was clear. Officials from the London Underground subway system have seen the YouTube entry and derided the stunt as "dangerous, stupid, and irresponsible." I agree with the tube authorities, but -- you have to admit -- it was probably a really, really fun ride.

Roadtrip Time Lapse Video

Last year, I did a roadtrip with my good friend Dom Panarello. I wanted a simple way to remember the 45-day excursion, so I rigged my car with a windshield-mounted webcam that snapped a picture every 60 seconds while the car was running. The other day I looked at the 15,100+ images, and I decided to string them together as a time lapse video:

[Music: FC Kahuna - "Hayling"]

Sure, it's not Matt Harding dancing on the dark side of the Moon, but I think it's still mind-blowing. Each frame of the seven-minute video equates to one minute behind the wheel. If you don't blink, you'll experience the entire 16,748 mile trip across 45 states. The drive includes tours through national parks*, national forests, and historical sites. You'll also see thousands and thousands of miles of open tarmac.

* Acadia, Joshua Tree, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Death Valley, Yosemite, Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Carlsbad Caverns, Mesa Verde, Mammoth Cave

Evil Passports Plague Village

The devil is in the details for a group of Russian citizens. About a hundred residents of the village of Bogolyubovo claim bar codes found in the country's new passports contain the Mark of the Beast. This refers to a set of three sixes which are believed to signify the Devil.

The town's name translates to "God-loving" in English, and it seems its people are quite serious about that. Some elderly residents have even gone a step further and stopped picking up pension checks because of the attached satanic bar codes. Now, that's dedication.

This is all very interesting especially amid the talks of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips in American passports. I'm fascinated that American concerns dwell in realms of privacy while these humbler folk center their objections around religion.

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