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Glimpses of the Life Beyond Life

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by P. David Hornik

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Author and journalist Judy Bachrach started volunteering in a hospice in the late 1980s, and her real motive was to try to overcome her fear of death. About two decades later, when her mother came down with Alzheimer’s, Bachrach decided to look into the subject of near-death experiences.

So she delved into the literature, and journeyed around the United States and the world to interview near-death experiencers (NDErs or, as she calls them, “death travelers”) and leading researchers in the field. The result is her book Glimpsing Heaven. Her conclusion from her inquiries: “there are simply, as some of the doctors and scientists I’ve interviewed point out, too many experiencers and too many experiences to discount.”

How many? Dutch cardiologist and NDE researcher Pim van Lommel says that in the last 50 years over 25 million people worldwide have reported NDEs. A 1982 Gallup poll found eight million Americans reporting them. As Bachrach comments: “Not every self-proclaimed death traveler could be an arrant liar or deeply unbalanced or both.” If you want to hear accounts by “travelers” who are evidently balanced, mature, and intelligent, you can easily find them on YouTube.

But were these people really “dead”? Aren’t these experiences just hallucinations caused by oxygen deprivation? Having looked into the NDE subject myself for a few years, I believe one can only hold that view if one is ill-informed or determined.

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The 10 Greatest Moments from the Disney Renaissance

Friday, October 24th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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Editor’s Note: Check out the previous installments in Chris’s series exploring Disney history: “10 Disney Cartoons from the 1930s that Reflect the Can-Do Spirit That Survived the Great Depression,” “10 Ways World War II Affected Disney’s Filmmaking,” “10 Examples Of How Disney’s Productions Reflected The Changing America Of The 1950s,” “Walt Disney’s 7 Most Radical Ideas From His Last Decade on Earth,” “Disney’s Wilderness Years, Part 1: How The Studio Reflected The Chaos Of The 1970s” and “Disney’s Wilderness Years, Part 2: How The Studio Navigated The Hit-Or-Miss 1980s.”

A few years after Walt Disney’s death, the studio he founded entered a creative drought of nearly 15 years. The projects Walt had his hands on had dried up, and the most creative minds in the company were working directly on the theme parks. Ron Miller, Walt’s son-in-law, oversaw the company during most of this era, and, though the studio managed to produce some underrated cartoons and live-action films during this time period, nothing matched the artistry and innovation of the years when Walt was still alive.

When Roy E. Disney and Sid Bass brought Michael Eisner over from Paramount to head Disney — along with Frank Wells — the company experienced an almost immediate injection of creativity. In the realm of animation, most everyone dubs the period beginning with 1989′s The Little Mermaid the Disney Renaissance. (Some people end the Renaissance with the execrable Tarzan from 1999, but for me, this period ends with 1995′s Pocahontas.)

A lot of exciting things took place at Disney during the first few years of the Eisner-Wells tenure, and here are the ten best of them.

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10. Pocahontas (1995)

Pocahontas marked the end of the Disney Animation Renaissance of the late-’80s and early-’90s, as far as I’m concerned. And it’s nowhere near as good as the films that preceded it, largely due to its over-earnestness, Judy Kuhn’s vocal melisma, and the screenplay’s loose play with history.

However, Pocahontas deserves mention because of its firsts. It was the first Disney animated feature based on a historical person, and it also brought the Disney Princess banner to an American character (something the studio did much better in 2009 with The Princess and the Frog). Disney also deserves some credit for turning the dramatic “Colors of the Wind” into a smooth pop hit.

Even though Pocahontas isn’t the greatest of the Disney classics, it does belong among the highlights of the early Eisner-Wells era.

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Want Great Coffee? Go to Ukraine

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 - by Robert Wargas

I am not one of those people who reflexively think European goods are superior to American ones—you know the kind of people I’m talking about—but boy do I sometimes wonder about the coffee in this country. The average American takes his or her daily caffeine in the form of a tepid, mud-like beverage that delis, diners, and commercial chains have chosen to call “coffee.” Is it? It can’t possibly be. Even the coffee at Starbucks, which is supposed to be something special, more often than not tastes like the business end of a drainpipe. It’s a shame so many people have been duped by words like “venti” and “macchiato.”

This dislike of mine has nothing to do with snobbery. I don’t care about price, brand, origin, or other markers of prestige. I know precisely nothing about the agriculture of coffee beans or the chemistry of brewing. I do know, however, that the proof of the coffee is in the drinking, and the motor oil served at most American establishments is barely potable.

I suspect I’m not alone in this judgment. If not, follow me, dear reader, on a mental trip to the beautiful city of Lviv, in western Ukraine—a place where I found some of the best coffee I have ever tasted. This was after I had tried the product of Vienna’s famous Cafe Hawelka. In fact, to imagine what Lviv is like, picture Vienna, only not as well preserved, with extra grit and grime on the buildings, and with occasional glimpses of drab Soviet architecture.

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Disney’s Wilderness Years, Part 2: How The Studio Navigated The Hit-Or-Miss 1980s

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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For the past few weeks, we’ve looked at the company Walt Disney built and how it has survived over the decades. We talked about how the studio reflected the can-do spirit that beat the Great Depression in the 1930s, as well as how World War II affected Disney. We’ve also discussed the changing world of the 1950s and how Disney reflected it, and we looked at Walt’s seven most radical ideas from the 60s.

Last week, we delved into what I call Disney’s wilderness years – the period after Walt’s death when the company had exhausted all of its founder’s projects and its output suffered creatively. We looked at the 1970s and how Disney reflected the both the general malaise and the leadership crisis the country faced.

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Walt Disney’s 7 Most Radical Ideas From His Last Decade on Earth

Monday, October 6th, 2014 - by Chris Queen
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Walt on the set of The EPCOT Film in October 1966

Over the last few weeks we’ve looked at how Disney and its productions reflected, and sometimes influenced, the times. We’ve seen how Disney mirrored the can-do spirit of the ’30s, how the studio overcame the challenges of World War II in the ’40s, and how Disney changed with the times in the ’50s.

By the time the 1960s rolled around, Walt Disney appeared to have done it all. He had elevated the cartoon from an opening-act short to a feature-film art form. He had conquered live-action movies and embraced television, and he even revolutionized the theme-park experience. But Walt wasn’t done — in fact, it looks like he saved his most radical and powerful ideas for the last years of his life. And here are seven examples to prove it.

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7. Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (1961-1969)

After a seven season run for Disneyland on ABC, Walt wanted to explore different options. His greatest desire was to broadcast a show in color. Even though ABC had broadcast the show in black and white, Walt insisted on filming most of the segments in full color because he believed color would add long-term value to his productions. Rival network NBC had begun to promote color series heavily since parent company RCA made color television sets, and, after a brilliant sales pitch from Walt, the network bit.

Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color ran for eight seasons before undergoing a retooling and title change. During those seasons, Walt took advantage of the new and exciting world of color programming when few producers were willing to branch out, especially in the earlier years. Once again, Walt willingly blazed a trail, and once again his pioneering spirit paid off.

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The Battle Against Israel’s Orthodox Patriarchy

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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I didn’t fully appreciate how spiritually free I am as an American woman until I set foot on an El Al plane.

“Do you speak Hebrew?” the fretting woman in front of me asked.

“No, not really.”

“It’s okay, I speak English,” she hurriedly replied, obviously looking for a friendly face. “These Orthodox,” she motioned to the people sitting next to her, “they don’t like sitting next to women.”

“Well, that’s their problem.” My response was pointed, matter-of-fact, American.

She smiled as if a light bulb went off in her head. “You’re right!” Her expression grew cloudy. “But what if I take off my sweater? They won’t like that I expose my shoulders with my tank top.”

Again, I simply replied, “That’s their problem.”

She smiled, empowered. Removing her sweater, she took her seat and stood her ground.

And at that moment I thanked God I was raised in pluralistic America, and realized, oddly enough, that the Holy Land was giving me my first chance to practice the biblical feminism I’ve preached.

Israel is a Western nation in that women have equal rights by law. Israel is also a confluence of religious and ethnic cultural attitudes, not all of which are friendly to women. Two days into our trip to Jerusalem, a family member who also happens to be a retired journalist explained the latest story to hit the nightly news. A man accused of spousal abuse was released to return home. Later that evening, police found his wife had been shot dead. The husband confessed to the murder. Apparently, domestic violence and death is a relatively small but significant problem in Israel. When I asked my former journalist why, he pointed to the influence of Middle Eastern (both Arabic and radical Islamic) patriarchal culture as the primary source.

Yet, even religious Jews in Israel (and around the world), despite their insular nature, are far from immune to sexual abuse. Sex scandals among the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) show up frequently on the evening news. In this case it’s not the Arab/Muslim influence, but perverted behaviors that arise from rabbinic abuse of biblical teachings. How do you expect a man to relate to a woman sexually when he’s not even allowed to look her in the eye?

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10 More Movies Projecting the Jewish Experience on Film

Sunday, September 28th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

10. Daniel Deronda

A multi-part BBC series based on the powerful English classic penned by Zionist George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), Daniel Deronda tells the story of a young gentleman who discovers, through a series of almost mystical events, that his mother is Jewish. A fantastic examination of Jewish identity in Victorian high society, the novel was cited by the likes of Henrietta Szold and Emma Lazarus as influential on their decision to become Zionists. Wonderfully cast, the BBC version is grossly engaging and well worth a marathon viewing.

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10 Reasons Why I Will Forever Love Joan Rivers

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

I pushed off the idea of writing this article when I first heard that Joan Rivers, one of my comic icons, was rushed to the hospital after a botched outpatient procedure last week. I didn’t want to think about having to say goodbye to Joan, to bid farewell to yet another icon of an age gone by, a powerhouse who managed to be a cultural force until her last breath. The only solace we can muster is in knowing that, for these ten reasons at least, Joan’s memory will be a blessing.

10. Joan never grew old or gave up.

At 81, she was as attuned to pop culture, politics, and current events as a 20 year old. A self-made fashionista, the comedian never retired, sat in a chair, or gave in to technology. Joan will forever be a role model to women who refuse to trade style for a shapeless moo-moo and an office chair for a rocking chair. In her later years she paired up with Melissa, illustrating that mothers and daughters really can work together and get along. She was a modern Bubbe, surrounded by her children and grandchildren as she took the world by storm.

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New York City: The Good, Bad and Ugly

Monday, August 25th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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There were too many “good” things to squeeze into this post, while the “bad” and the “ugly” run together:

Way more homeless people than we saw in 2011, perhaps because they’d been cleared out during the 9/11 anniversary.

Speaking of which: the tourist behavior at the WTC memorial is every bit as depressing and infuriating as you’ve heard. We couldn’t wait to get out of there.

(Hint: When Vice Magazine thinks you’re out of line…)

LaGuardia still looks like a 1970s bus terminal.

Times Square is my idea of hell.

But back to the “good” stuff:

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The 6 Biggest Misconceptions About the Midwest

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 - by Ari J. Kaufman

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6. Food is meat-and-potato style.

As I discussed in last month’s “10 Reasons Why Indianapolis Is the Best City in the Midwest,” you can enjoy food from around the world in any U.S. city these days. I’ve had, for example, spectacular Thai in St. Louis; Colombian in Minneapolis; Indian in Indianapolis; Lebanese-style in Lansing; Ethiopian feasts in Omaha; and more. People may know Chicago has those options, but clearly so do other locales. “Globalization” has rendered authentic international food once found only in places like New York, San Francisco and assorted college towns commonplace.

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A Great Sunrise Video From the Island of Formentera

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Sunshine

Located off the coast of Spain, via Instagram user ele_nora11 earlier today:

Since December of 2013 PJ Lifestyle has been collecting sunrise and sunset photos from contributors, readers, and Instagram. Now we’re going to begin an effort to organize the ongoing collection. Revised goals:

1. Collect a sunrise from every state in the union. Completed July 25, 2014 but you can still send in your great photos to be featured.

2. Collect a sunset from as many countries around the world as possible.

3. After getting all 50 states’ sunrises then switch to collecting their sunsets and begin the global sunrises collection.

Updated April 2014: 4. The extraordinary submissions of Mark Baird have inspired a new collection of photographs devoted specifically to our nation’s capital. We’re going to try and organize fantastic sunrise and sunset photos from all the different monuments and scenic views.

Updated August 2014: 5. We’re going to now try and start combining sunrise and pet photos, leading with images and video taken by PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle featuring Maura the Siberian Husky on her morning runs.

The Completed United States Sunrise Collection

Alabama

Great Colors In the Alabama Sky At Sunrise in Cullman

Alaska

The Sun Rises Over a Town in the Alaskan Mountains

Arizona

A Very Cool Sunrise in Arizona This Morning…

An Encouraging Sunrise While Driving in Arizona

Arkansas

3 Invigorating Sunrise Shots From the Shores of the Arkansas River

California

A Bright Sunrise Over San Francisco Bay

Another Superb Sunrise Over Silicon Valley

The Sun Rises Over the Fog In Silicon Valley

A Huge, Colorful Sunrise over San Francisco

A Good Morning Sunrise From the San Fernando Valley

The Sunrise Illuminates The Path By the Beach In Cambria, California

The Last Socal Sunrise of 2013

3 California Sunrises – San Diego – Santa Cruz – San Francisco

These 3 Photos Fail to Do Justice For This Morning’s Southern California Sunrise

Beverly Hills: A California Sunrise in Memory of Shirley Temple

A Subtle Sunrise From The San Fernando Valley This Morning

A Colorful Sunrise From the San Fernando Valley

A Golden Sunrise From the San Fernando Valley

Today’s San Fernando Valley Sunrise

3 Shots of the San Fernando Valley Sunrise This Morning

The Sun Rises Over San Diego’s Working Waterfront

Colorado

Stunning Shots of Sunlight Escape the Clouds In Roxborough Park

A Purple, Pink, and Gold Colorado Sunrise

Which of These 3 Colorado Sunrises Is the Best?

Garden of the Gods at Dawn

Colorado Sunrise Vodkapundit Style

An Orange Sunrise from Boulder, CO

Connecticut

Sunrise Over the Snow in New England

A Connecticut Church’s Stained Glass Sunrise

Delaware

A Delaware Sunrise That Looks Like Heaven

Florida

What Could Be Better Than Kayaking At Sunrise?

A Bold, Blood Red Sunrise Reflecting On Lake Maitland in Florida

3 Fantastic Photos of Yesterday Morning’s Florida Sunrise Courtesy of Myra Adams

The Sun Rises Over the Sea In Florida

A Heavenly Sunset in Cedar Key, Florida

Sunrise at a Damaged Honeymoon Cottage in Cedar Key, Florida

3 Florida Beach Sunrises

Florida Sunset With 3 Dogs (All Sunsets Are Better With Dogs)

Don’t Miss This Breathtaking Sunrise Shot From a Kayak On Lake Minnehaha

Georgia

The Sun Rising Over Atlanta From 10,000 Feet

Many Colors Over The Sky In Yesterday’s Sunrise Over Atlanta, Georgia

How the Sun Starts the Day in Covington, GA

Another Beautiful North Georgia Sunrise

Hawaii

Sunrise Dances Across The Clouds in Maui

Idaho

Beautiful Clouds As the Sun Rises In the Idaho Hills

Sunrise On the Farm in Buhl, Idaho

Illinois

Chicago: 7 Sunrises to Start Your Sunday

Indiana

An Indiana Cornfield Sunrise In the Rearview Mirror

Iowa

A Bright Red and Orange Iowa Sunrise

Kansas

An Artsy Kansas Sunrise

Kentucky

An Inspiring Sunrise Over the Ohio River Shot From the Kentucky Side

Louisiana

A Peaceful Purple Louisiana Sunrise over the Superdome

Maine

2 New England Sunsets

Maryland

A Superb Sunrise Canoeing on the Monocacy River in Maryland

Massachusetts

A Powerful Pink Sunrise From Framingham, MA

Michigan

Detroit Ice Fishing Sunrise

An Ice Fishing Sunrise From North of Detroit to Start Your Weekend

Sunrise on Lake St. Clair, Just Outside Detroit

Minnesota

Michigan Vs. Minnesota: Which Sunrise Is Better?

A Calming Sunrise Over Wolf Lake in Minnesota

Mississippi

An Overwhelming Sunrise on the Mississippi River

Missouri

This Missouri Sunrise On the Plains Is a Gorgeous Photograph

Montana

Sunrise from the Rooftop in Billings, Montana

Nebraska

A Truly Triumphant Sunrise From Nebraska

Nevada

A Hopeful Sunrise In the Nevada Desert

New Hampshire

A New Hampshire Sunrise Shot Through The ‘Glass Wall’

New Jersey

A Great Smile of a Sunrise On the Jersey Shore

New Mexico

Which State Has the Superior Sunrises? 2 From New Mexico Vs 2 From Colorado

New York

A Bright, Colorful New York Sunrise

North Carolina

A Sunrise to Start The Day at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

North Dakota

These 2 North Dakota Sunrise Photos Are Some of the Most Breathtaking We’ve Ever Received…

A Wide Open North Dakota Sunrise on the Farm

Ohio

It’s 3 Below In Newark, Ohio And The Sun Shoots Up Like a Shining Column of Light

‘Flying at 6500′ Msl Over Zanesville, OH in My Cessna 182 Heading South’

What a 17 Degree Ohio Sunset Looks Like

Oklahoma

An Oklahoma Driving Sunrise

Canada Vs Oklahoma Vs Tunisia: Which Sunrise Is Your Favorite Today?

A Wonderful Blue & Orange Sunrise Creeps Over the Oklahoma Grasses

Oregon

Which of These 2 Oregon Sunrises Is More Beautiful?

A Beautifully Composed Portland Oregon Sunrise Photograph

Oregon Vs. Oklahoma: Which Sunrise Do You Like More?

Pennsylvania

2 Gettysburg Battlefield Sunrises

Rhode Island

A Colorful Rhode Island Sunrise

South Carolina

5 Instagram Sunrises From Around the World

South Dakota

Golden Skies Over South Dakota at Sunrise

Tennessee

Cows At a Colorful Sunrise in Tennessee

Texas

Which of These 4 Texas Sunrise Photos From This Morning Is Your Favorite?

An Optimistic Sunrise Over Dallas

Sunrise From Galveston Island, Texas

Utah

These 2 Bright Utah Sunrises Are Inspirational

A Utah Camping Sunrise

Vermont

Golden Dancing Clouds in this Tranquil Vermont Sunrise

Virginia

Sunrise Over the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia

Charlottesville, VA: When the Morning Sun Gets Under the Clouds and Lights Them Up

Washington and West Virginia

West Virginia Vs Washington: Which Sunrise Do You Like More?

Wisconsin

3 Artsy Sunrise Photos From Milwaukee

Wyoming

Wake Up in Wyoming And Start Today With this Bright, Beautiful Sunrise

Mars (which we might as well go ahead and start counting as an American state now)

What Does a Sunrise Look Like on Mars?

The International Sunset Collection

1. Australia:

The Sun Sets in Sydney, Australia

2. Brazil:

The Sun Sets at a South American Achipelago

2 Very Different Brazilian Sunsets

3. Canada:

6 Sunrises to Start the Last Week of January

4. Cayman Islands:

An Insta-Sunset From the Cayman Islands

5. Chile:

Fire Dances In the Skies As the Sun Sets in the Chilean Mountains

6. Costa Rica:

3 Bright Sunsets From Costa Rica

7. England, 8. France, and 9. Denmark:

3 European Sunrises

10. Finland

Brazil Vs Finland Vs Chile: Which of These Sunsets is Your Favorite?

11. Italy:

An Italian Sunset in Miramare, Trieste

12. Germany:

A Red Sunset in the Woods of Hagen, Germany

This Bright Orange German Sunset Is Like the Conclusion of an Epic Quest

13. Greece:

A Soothing Sunset On the Greek Island of Oia

14. Malaysia:

Sunsets On 3 Continents

15. Maldives:

Tropical Paradise: A Sunset in Maldives

16. Mexico:

Gray Crashes into Gold in This Striking Mexico City Sunset

17. Mozambique:

5 Golden Sunsets From Africa

Orange and Blue in the Mozambique Skies: The Sun Sets Over Nacala

An Absolutely Amazing, Haunting, Spiritual Sunset From Mozambique

2 More Magical Mozambique Sunsets And a Bonus Sunrise

18. Philippines:

A Panglao Island Sunset

19. Russia:

6 Sunrises from Australia to Paris to Russia to America…

20. Sweden:

6 Sunsets to End the Week

21. Thailand:

2 Thailand Sunsets

22. Trinidad:

A Trinidad Sunset Bursts Through Gray Clouds

23. South Africa:

A Waterfront Sunset in South Africa

24. Scotland:

An Astounding Scottish Sunset on the Isle of Mull

25. Serbia:

Purple and Gold in the Skies Over Serbia

26. Spain:

A ‘Naughty Sun’ Tries to Sneak Down the Chimney In Catalonia

27. Wales:

A Beautiful Burst of Sunset at Broughton Bay Yesterday in South Wales

Starting The United States Sunset Collection:

1. Arizona

The Sun Sets Over the Grand Canyon

2. Florida

Florida: A Pink Sunset At Passagrille Beach

3. Montana

A Majestic Purple Montana Sunset

 

The Washington D.C. Collection So Far:

27 Sunrises:

5 Sunsets:

The Siberian Husky Sunrise Collection So Far:

5 Shots of a Siberian Husky Greeting the Morning Sun in SoCal

The First Siberian Husky Sunrise in Inglewood

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10 Reasons Why Indianapolis Is the Best City in the Midwest

Thursday, July 31st, 2014 - by Ari J. Kaufman

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10. Indiana War Memorial Plaza Historic District

Throughout four consecutive blocks, Indianapolis recognizes our military heroes. Standing tall in the center of “Circle City,” the Indiana World War Memorial was constructed to honor soldiers from the Great War. General of the Armies John “Black Jack” Pershing laid the ceremonial cornerstone July 4, 1927, two years after the American Legion moved their national headquarters to Indianapolis, where they remain two blocks north. The War Memorial opened its doors on Armistice Day, 1933. A cenotaph, honoring the first soldier killed in World War I, from Indiana no less, sits at the plaza’s northern end.

Because there is so much history within walking distance around downtown, people from around the world visit the area. I know this from experience as a state historian. If you go a few blocks north, you’ll hit the Benjamin Harrison Home, where the 23rd president lived, campaigned and died. A few blocks to the south is the incredible Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, which we’ll discuss later.

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The 10 Most Overrated Destinations in the Midwest

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Ari J. Kaufman

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Last week I shared my choices for most underrated destinations in the Midwest; this week I present the most overrated destinations.

10. Soo Locks, Sault Ste. Marie, MI

A vital commerce site and river bypass between Great Lakes along the Canadian border, but ships pass through as infrequently as Old Faithful, so you’re usually staring at empty locks. If you’re in that gorgeous region of our nation, there are superior places to visit like Traverse City, LelandSleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Mackinac Island, the Porcupine Mountains and much more.

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The 10 Most Underrated Destinations in the South

Saturday, July 26th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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Last week I shared my picks for the most overrated destinations in the South, and this week I’m presenting the flip side of that list. Here are ten destinations that don’t always make the list of great places to visit down here in Dixie. Hopefully some of you will consider these places when you book your next vacation. Enjoy!

10. St. Petersburg, FL

On the north side of Tampa Bay, on a peninsula bordering the Gulf of Mexico, sits St. Petersburg. Like its sister city, Tampa, St. Pete boasts beautiful beaches, vibrant attractions, and nightlife. But deep down, St. Petersburg is a funky arts and architecture town masquerading as a mid-sized city.

The architecture of this city encapsulates much of the 20th century’s notable styles, yet nearly all the buildings look like they belong in a city by the water – quintessentially Floridian. The arts scene in St. Pete is strong – museums and bohemian arts communities are nestled all over the city, and one museum in particular holds the largest collection of Salvador Dali’s works in North America.

With an exciting city core and a beach rated number one in America, St. Petersburg has a lot to offer its visitors.

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The 10 Most Overrated Destinations in the South

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Chris Queen
Much of Cherokee, NC consists of quaint, kitschy tourist traps that have not changed much since the 1950s like the Pink Motel.

Much of Cherokee, NC, consists of quaint, kitschy tourist traps that have not changed much since the 1950s like the Pink Motel.

As a lifelong Southerner, I’ll be the first to admit that there’s plenty to love about this varied region I adore. But I’ll also admit that certain areas of the South are simply overrated. Here’s my list of the ten most overrated destinations in the South.

10. Cherokee, NC

Let me start this entry by admitting that I love Cherokee. Growing up, we went there a lot for camping trips and vacations, and my mom’s family did too a generation before me. There’s a lot to enjoy about Cherokee: the history – especially the Trail of Tears play Unto These Hills – and the breathtaking scenery. But beyond that, most of what Cherokee has to offer is kitschy tourism which has changed little since the mid-20th century.

What has created the hype that has made Cherokee overrated? Harrah’s, of course. Harrah’s promotes Cherokee as some sort of amazing resort destination, but that’s not what Cherokee is. If you’re looking for history, natural beauty, and tacky retro-tourism, Cherokee’s your place. If you want to gamble and party, go to the casino and nothing more, because you’ll come away disappointed.

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The Top 10 Things to Do in Cleveland

Saturday, July 12th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

Stonebridge Dusk View

Maybe you’ve never considered spending your hard-earned vacation time in Cleveland. It’s certainly understandable because many people only know the city as the “Mistake by the Lake” or the home of the burning Cuyahoga River. But things have changed on the North Coast, and you might be surprised at all the cultural attractions the city on the shores of Lake Erie has to offer — great food, museums, theater, and more. The RTA buses run between most Cleveland locations and Uber just announced that they’re starting service in Cleveland, which will make getting around even easier.

Here are the Top 10 Things to Do in Cleveland:

10. Little Italy

Historic Little Italy is on Cleveland’s East Side, located on “Murray Hill” not far from Case Western Reserve University. It features charming restaurants and bakeries, art galleries, and frequent festivals and art shows.  Our favorite restaurant there is Trattoria on the Hill. If you go, try the Shrimp & Gnocchi Trattoria, which features their gnocchi served in Trattoria’s homemade cream sauce with mushrooms, scallions, and a hint of cayenne pepper. If you’re not in the mood for pasta, try the Spinach & Prosciutto Pizza with black olives, white garlic sauce, and feta cheese.

For dessert, stroll down Mayfield Road to Presti’s Bakery for a cannoli or a delicious gelato.

The Feast of the Assumption is the biggest event of the year in Little Italy. Held in August to commemorate Mary being taken to heaven, the festival is an unusual combination of Catholic religious ceremonies, carnival rides, fireworks, lots of incredible Italian food, and heavy, heavy drinking.

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10 Ideas For How I’d Build a Star Wars Land at Walt Disney World

Thursday, July 10th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

Filmmaker George Lucas meets "Star Wars"-inspired Disney characters at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida

The rumors of a forthcoming Star Wars land at Walt Disney World keep raising their heads from time to time. So I thought it would be fun to put myself in the Imagineers’ shoes and (to use their term) blue-sky some ideas for a Star Wars land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Here’s what I came up with…

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10. A Mos Eisley Cantina Restaurant

One of the prevailing rumors surrounding a potential Star Wars land at Walt Disney World (and other parks) concerns a restaurant based on the Chalmun’s Cantina at Mos Eisley. A.J. Wolfe over at Disney Food Blog has discussed the idea of a Cantina-based quick service space potentially coming to Disneyland Paris as well as to Orlando.

This idea has a ton of potential. I can picture an animatronic version of the band playing music from the films and dishes themed to the Cantina, along with menu items that conjure up life on Tatooine. Of course, a Walt Disney World Cantina would have to be much more family-oriented than in A New Hope, but I imagine how much fun a Cantina could be for fans of all ages.

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The 17 Places and Things We’ll Miss Most About Living in the San Fernando Valley

Saturday, July 5th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

When I was a kid they went to a little more effort to disguise the fact that it was just a toy commercial... What is this Lego movie crap? April and I about to see "Her". Date night.

17. The ArcLight movie theater at the Galleria.

Where: 15301 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA

Our theater attendance tended to drop the last few years as my wife’s graduate school workload increased, but when we really wanted to see something projected well and make a nice date of a movie this was our preferred indulgence.

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The Top 10 Tips for Surviving Summer Airline Travel

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

Planes Trains Steve Martin

Vacations can be wonderful experiences, but all too often they start out at an airport, which can be one of the most frustrating, uncomfortable, and stressful places on earth.  Here’s the top ten ways to make your airline travel a good experience.  Or at least not a nightmare.

10. Pack a small refreshment bag for the end of the flight.

Purchase the wisp toothbrushes that come with toothpaste already installed. Buy a packet of facial wipes. Take a last visit to the bathroom before landing to wash up, brush your teeth, comb your hair and prepare for your day. No matter how tired you are or how long the flight, the refreshment of a small amount of grooming helps energize you and get you ready to face your journey’s destination. Just avoid changing clothes. It never turns out well unless you’re David Spade in Tommy Boy

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More Star Wars Land Rumors Buzzing Around Walt Disney World

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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I’ve reported in the past about rumors of a Star Wars land coming to Walt Disney World. Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, two attractions are closing in the near future, and these closings are leading some writers to speculate that Disney is making way for a Star Wars land at DHS.

Disney Dining is reporting that the American Idol Experience, which opened to much fanfare in 2009, will close in early 2015:

The close is not that surprising.  The show has never really gotten solid traction and it seems Disney is ready to pull the plug.

A statement was posted between the Walt Disney World Company:

“After more than five successful years, The American Idol Experience will be coming to a close at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park in January 2015. Our partnership with FremantleMedia and 19 Entertainment has been a great addition to the park and we are very appreciative of the amazing cast and guests who have devoted their time and talent to make this experience special and memorable. We are incredibly proud of the more than 2,000 Dream Tickets that have given guests a chance to live their very own Cinderella story and audition for ‘American Idol.’”

Over at Disney At Work, sources report that the long-running Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular will close soon as well:

My sources also suggest that Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is also slated to close at the end of the year. All of this is happening to make way for the major Star Wars additions coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It will surround that end of the Echo Lake corner of the park, and supposedly extend further out as well, though in what direction(s) is uncertain. What is coming in remains to be formally announced, as the attraction is also being tied to a very anticipated follow-up series starting in 2015.

What’s interesting about the closings is that nearly all the vestiges of Disney’s Hollywood Studios as a “behind-the-scenes” park will be gone. Instead of the original park idea of a glimpse behind the magic of the entertainment industry, DHS is increasingly becoming a park about the movies, music, and television programs themselves. Do both closings point to a new Star Wars land? Of course, the outcome remains to be seen, but I’ll keep you in the loop.

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10 Free Ways to Have Fun at Walt Disney World

Thursday, June 12th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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Let’s face it: a trip to Walt Disney World can cost a lot, but it’s absolutely worth it. But you may not know that not everything at Disney World is expensive. Resort guests can take advantage of several experiences that enrich the trip but don’t cost a thing. (Non-resort guests can take advantage of some of them too.)

Here are ten free ways to have fun at Walt Disney World…

10. Enjoy A Boat Ride Around Bay Lake.

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Guests know that transportation is a huge part of the experience at Walt Disney World. From classic trains and old-school ferryboats to innovative monorail and linear induction technology, getting around the parks and resorts is a big part of the fun.

Taking the boat that runs from the Magic Kingdom to the Contemporary Resort to Wilderness Lodge to Fort Wilderness is a nice way to cool off with a breeze and take in the sights around Bay Lake. In addition to the resorts, check out the “ruins” of River Country and Discovery Island, both of which you’ll see along the way, and marvel at the road that passes under the canal between the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake, near the Contemporary Resort.

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NBC Declares Jerusalem Television’s City of Gold

Monday, June 2nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
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The show’s creator, Israeli-turned-Hollywood golden child, Gideon Raff.

The Jerusalem Post reports that NBC will begin shooting a new action-adventure series, Dig, in Jerusalem this week:

Israel’s capital city is slated to play a central role in storyline of the series that portrays FBI agents uncovering a conspiracy of the Old City while investigating the murder of an American archaeologist.

…”The filming of “Dig” will be a boon for the production industry in Jerusalem, drawing more of them to come film here, create new jobs and encourage investments in the city,” Bennett added.

NBC’s first large-scale production filmed in Jerusalem, will reportedly be broadcast in the United States at the end of 2014.

While American versions of Israeli shows (In Therapy and Homeland, another creation by Dig’s Gideon Raff, come to mind) have made their way to the small screen, this will be the first time an American television show is shot in Israel. According to the Wall Street Journal,  Dig was co-developed by Keshet Media Group, an Israeli media company, and is expected to make its premiere on the USA Network, with a possible second run on SyFy.

“When we combine Hollywood’s creative potential with Jerusalem’s historic backdrop, it will result in the ability to connect hundreds of millions of viewers around the world to this unique and beautiful city. There is an undeniable inspiration and creative energy in Jerusalem, which is why it has become a center for international film production,” said Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, in a statement.

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The Executive Behind Walt Disney World’s MyMagic+ Will Leave The Company

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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Disney Parks has announced that Nick Franklin, who held the cool title of Executive Vice President for Next Generation Experience at the company, is leaving Disney after 17 years. Franklin spearheaded the massive My Magic+ effort and has served the longest on Disney Parks Chairman Tom Staggs’ Executive Committee.

“Nick let us know that after 17 successful years with Disney, he wanted to help other companies innovate in how they provide products and services to their customers, much like he did here in leading the development of MyMagic+,” Disney spokeswoman Kim Prunty said. “We want to thank Nick for his tremendous accomplishments throughout his tenure with Disney.”

In 2009, Disney tapped Franklin, then the head of its global business and real-estate development teams, to lead a secretive project that was referred to internally as “NextGen.” That work ultimately produced MyMagic+, the many-tentacled technology project at Walt Disney World that includes a reservation system allowing visitors to book attraction times up two months before their trips and microchip-embedded wristbands that interact with sensors installed throughout the resort.

Franklin served as essentially a CEO for the MyMagic+ project, and his team grew from 35 to more than a thousand employees. The company has already hailed Franklin’s efforts as a success, despite rumors that the effort went over budget and took longer to implement than expected. Disney is looking to expand the program beyond Walt Disney World.

Although Disney executives have been hesitant to discuss MyMagic+’s financial performance, they say Disney World visitors are embracing the technology. The company’s chief financial officer, Jay Rasulo, told analysts recently that more than 75 percent of guests staying in Disney-owned hotels are now reserving ride times ahead of their trips, as are more than 25 percent of day visitors.

The company says that guests who plan more of their trip schedules in advance ultimately spend more time and money at Disney World, rather than visiting rival attractions. The project, which includes enhanced data collection, is also designed to make purchases easier and to give Disney more personal information about its guests, ultimately leading to more spending on food, souvenirs and other items.

Franklin also negotiated the deals that led to Hong Kong Disneyland and the forthcoming Shanghai Disneyland.

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Yo Ho Ho and My Bottles of Rum

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

Hi PJ gang! I’m back from an adventure-filled trip to St. Croix, where I helped a friend capture and study America’s rarest lizard, and met some interesting characters along the way. You’ll hear those stories another day soon; for now, let’s talk about the TSA.

On my last morning on island, my friend took me to the Cruzan rum factory. While Cruzan was acquired by Jim Beam several years ago, it’s still operated by the same local family that has run it for generations. You can tell locals are very proud of their brand; the other rum factory on the island is Captain Morgan, which has only been operating from St. Croix for two years, and if you walk into nearly any bar, you’ll see rows upon rows of delectable Cruzan rum varieties, and perhaps one or two bottles of Captain Morgan stuck in the corner.

I had just enough time to squeeze in a factory tour before heading to the airport. At the gift shop, I was bummed that I couldn’t pick up any nice large bottles to take back, because I wasn’t checking my bags. The tour guide told me I could buy the 18-bottle variety pack of airplane bottles in different flavors, and then dump them all into my TSA-mandated clear plastic toiletries bag. Sounded clever; other people had done it!

My 18 airplane-sized bottles of rum fit neatly into my plastic bag. I hugged my friend, and prepared for the journey home. However, in the TSA line, I was stopped.

Agents informed me that the scanner told them I was selected for additional screening. My bags were hauled onto a table for examination. The agent assigned to me held up my plastic bag and said, “Too many.”

“I don’t understand,” I said. “Everything fits in my bag. All the bottles are the correct size. I thought I was allowed to take whatever I wanted that would fit.”

The TSA agent told me my bag was too large. That confused me as well; I told her I fly frequently, and I’ve always used that size bag, often full to the brim (I have a beauty regimen, okay!), and I’ve never been stopped or informed it was incorrect.

“You come from the big cities,” she told me. “They’re too busy to stop you, they have too many people. We have plenty of time here, so we enforce all the rules.”

Now came the reckoning. Do I ditch my cosmetics, or the rum?

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