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Italian Fashion CEOs Are Saving Important Monuments

Italians do it better! How do we know this? The CEOs of well-known international fashion brands like Tod’s, Fendi and Diesel Jeans are using their considerable wealth to restore popular historic monuments in Italy. Your move Zuckerberg.

The Colosseum in Rome is crumbling due to pollution and idiot tourists. Venice is sinking and deteriorating. You would think the government would invest tax payer money so that you, me and our future generations can enjoy it. Nahhh.

Among thethings that Italy is best at besides food, wine, fashion and good looking people is corruption and bureaucracy. Taxes go unpaid, the police force that protects the Pope and Vatican City is mired in jurisdiction confusion and there’s always something shady going on to fleece locals and tourists. So you can see why maintaining important monuments can get caught up in red tape.

In steps in Diego Della Valle, Renzo Rosso, Silvia Venturini Fendi and the Ferragamo family– the unofficial rulers of Italian culture. Della Valle is President and CEO of Tod’s, the leather goods company that his grandfather started. Rossi is the mastermind co-founder of Diesel jeans, who know runs OTB group (Diesel, Viktor & Rolf, DSquared², Just Cavalli). As you can guess, Fendi runs the family’s luxury fashion brand. The Ferragamos are currently donating money to update the Uffizi Museum’s air conditioning in Florence. That’s pretty cool.

Together, they are using their considerable wealth to aide in the restoration of these monuments. In a 60 Minutes profile in 2o14, Fendi talked about her efforts to restore the Trevi Fountain,  “It means that you will be in good health in order to come back. So it’s very important for us. This country gave us a lot. And so it’s nice at a point to give back something.”

While we associate Diesel with high style and expensive goods, Rosso, son of a farmer, built the company from the ground up. So he owes all his success to Italy, but he hates what he sees from the government. He’s currently funding the restoration of the Rialto Bridge. “The Italian people are tired of this corruption. Because we have too many people that steal, too many people that put the money in his pocket. We have 40 percent of people who don’t pay tax. Can you imagine? Forty percent. It’s unbelievable,” he told CBS.

This being Italy, there’s a catch. When you buy a ticket to tour the Colosseum, guess what brand you’ll see printed on the ticket? From Newsweek:

Tod’s Chief Executive Diego Della Valle came under fire after it emerged that, in exchange for restoring the Coliseum, Tod’s negotiated the right to publish its logo on tickets to the venue, which are bought by more than 6 million tourists every year. Images began circulating on the Internet showing the 2,000-year-old amphitheater displaying the company’s logo. A consumer group went to court to block the deal, and the country’s antitrust authority probed precisely how Tod’s had secured the deal. (A judge dismissed the case after two years of hearings.)

I think it’s a small price to pay. Della Valle has spent €25 million of his €1.2 billion fortune in this endeavor.  I can’t afford any of these company’s goods, so go wild with the philanthropy.

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Consider This: The Portable Battery Charger

If you’re like me, your phone is your lifeblood while traveling. More than anything, it’s for the GPS and Google Maps. I know there’s certain charm by winging it and just getting lost to discover new places by chance, but I have certain places that I want to visit.

With that it mind, GPS drains a lot battery. I have the Samsung Galaxy 7 Edge and it’s the best battery life of any phone I’ve had, but it still can get the dreaded red battery meter after 7-8 hours of heavy use.

The New York Times and The Wirecutter did some investigating in extending battery life by testing out closing apps, dimming the screen brightness, not streaming media and turning off wi-fi searching. Do research on your phone on the companies website and message boards to see what works best.

Luckily, the battery and charging companies have come up with devices that can easily fit in your bag, pocket and even your wallet. With these, you can forgot the hoop jumping in  preserving battery life and having to bring your phone’s wall charger everywhere you go. One of the embarrassing things I hate doing is looking around for outlets or asking bartenders to hook up my phone and charger. Then if you’re abroad, you have to bring the voltage converter as well.

There are two ways you can go with travel chargers — a portable charger that you charge up beforehand or a battery extender that attaches to your phone. I have both. Both have pros and cons.

The portable charger like the one pictured from Anker is perfect for my needs — small, fast, compact, convenient and reasonably priced. I bought the 15600 version on Ebay for $20 and it works like a charm. The newer, high capacity versions are still reasonable at $40-$60 and are highly rated. I like it because it just makes charging on the go simpler and hassle free.

The drawback is that you have to remember to bring it with you. I am a tad forgetful. It takes two or three times to leave my hotel. “Oh snap, forgot my wallet … on snap, forgot my phone … on snap, forgot to wear deodorant.”

phonesuit-elite-battery-caseThus, the solution to not having to bring an extra item is the extended battery route. If your phone has a replaceable battery, you can buy a larger battery extender that can double your battery life. My old Galaxy 3 had a removable battery, so I bought a ZeroLemon where I didn’t have to charge it for two days.

The newer models are forgoing the removable battery to keep the phones thinner. In return, the battery companies have come up with more of a case-like wraparound shell that you charge. Not only will it double your capacity but it will safeguard against drops and bangs.

The downside is that your slim phone is now thicker and a bit heavier. That can also be an upside because now you’ll know if you forgot your phone by not having that weight in your jacket pocket.

No matter what you choose, these devices will help out in emergency situations where power is not available due to power outage, alien invasion or falling down a cave where you have to cut your arm off to escape.

 

Ryan Lochte Proves That Douchebag Tourists Ruin Everything

ryan lochteThe Rio Olympics are over, so we can look forward to how awesome Tokyo is as a host city. Yeah! Or should I say, Jeah?

In case you haven’t heard, U.S. Gold medal swimmer Ryan Lochte caused an international incident by firing a rocket launcher at a gas station bathroom while peeing on a litter of puppies and giving the middle finger to the Olympic refugee team. The man is talented. The other three swimmers should feel fortunate to be with him.

I’m joking.

With the amount of coverage we’ve seen, you’d think this was on par with the 1996 Atlanta bombing and the 1972 Munich hostage crisis. I’ve seen a lot of valid comments about white privilege, celebrity privilege and making Brazil and America look bad. In the big picture, this shit happens all the time — tourists and visitors behaving badly.

While it’s hard to come by statistics when it comes to arrests and citations when if comes tourists, we do have evidence that local governments are cracking down and have had enough. Of those arrests, it’s harder to determine the level of douchedom in the perpetrator.

For instance, the mayor of Venice, Italy wants to jail visitors for public drunkenness after a drunk New Zealand man jumped off the Rialto Bridge. First off, that water is nasty. It smells like zombie farts and will likely give you botulism. Second, how drunk do you have to be in Venice of all places? It’s expensive to drink there. “I insist on [introducing] special powers to the city to uphold public order. Pickpockets, vandals, drunks! A night in the cells,” tweeted Mayor Luigi Brugnaro.

Back here in the States, three Canadians guys are facing criminal charges for stomping around Yellowstone National Park’s Grand Prismatic Spring. “Such off-trail travel also creates a hazardous condition for the traveler by breaking through the delicate thermal features and possibility of thermal injuries and subjecting rescuers to the same or similar injuries,’ wrote park ranger Alec Chapman. The bros in question would fit right in with Lochte as they advertise their clothing company and go around the world douching it up.

Finally, a U.S. tourist was arrested in Jerusalem for staying overnight in Zedekiah’s Cave. The 19-year old hid in the cave after close and was found digging holes in the walls looking for treasure. Nathan Drake or Lara Croft he’s not.

While social scientists learn about douches and how to cure it, we can only call them out by publicly shaming them. The Lochte scandal and our collective outrage will soon blow over, and will can continue to roll our eyes when a back of bros spoils our abroad fun.

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The JFK Airport False Alarm Was Chaotic, Inevitable and Will Happen Again

Last week and this weekend was not good at JFK International Airport in New York. First, Delta Airlines’s computer outages caused massive cancellations and delays not only at JFK but worldwide. Then, people lost their shit, literally and figuratively, when people thought they heard gunshots at Terminal 8. That caused stampedes, lockdowns and mass chaos. They were no gunshots, no active shooters and no terrorists.

I have a running joke where I say “EVERYBODY PANIC!!!” during certain dumb situations. Whole Foods is out of kale. EVERYBODY PANIC!!! Netflix is dropping Saturday Night Fever from streaming. EVERYBODY PANIC!!! In this case, everyone did panic and now the reports are coming in how bad it got. Two stampedes ran towards each other like the big battle from Game of Thrones. People ran onto the tarmac, which I’m sure is completely safe with the planes landing at all that jet fuel in the air. Then, people hopped the fence to get out of the airport.

Here are the must-read articles:

  • NY Times: From False Alarm to Panic: Inside Kennedy Airport’s Chaotic Night
  • New York Magazine: Scenes From the Terrifying, Already Forgotten JFK Airport Shooting That Wasn’t
  • SOFREP News: Active Shooter panic. Navy SEAL at JFK, and lessons learned on personal travel safety.

Here are my talking point from this situation:

Don’t Fly In August
I can say it over and over to my friends and family, but they’ll do it anyway. August is the heaviest travel time due to families wanting to go on vacation before kids return to school. Work tends to slow down in August because people go on vacation, thus people will venture out as well. They want to get in vacation time before Labor Day, because we equate summers with vacations. All this creates crowds at airports. Nothing will ruin your relaxation than crowds — crowds running and screaming.

I can never understand why people head from one warm climate to another in summer. In Europe, August can be unbearable, especially in Italy and Spain. Air conditioning isn’t widely available.

In An Emergency Situation, Leave Your Luggage Behind

As I mentioned last week about the Dubai flight that landed in flames and people were grabbing their carry-on in the overhead locker, taking your stuff with you in a stampede will make things worse. The Navy SEAL saw people running with their bags. As he and I point out, anything in your carry-on can be replaced. Your life can’t.

Despite Recent Events, Terrorist Acts Are Rare

NY Times’ Upshot shows stats that, yes, more people have died in terrorism acts this year then last year in the West. The whole world, it’s gone down. You’re more likely to die in the cab ride home then you are from a shooter at the airport. We can state that over and over, but that doesn’t comfort travelers. That leads into the next talking point…

Fear Caused an Unavoidable Chain Reaction

The Associated Press reports that clapping from Usain Bolt’s Olympic victory might have been the cause. It just takes one person to mistake a handclap, a box falling off a shelf or a metal line divider falling over for a gun shot.

It’s easy to say, “Hey, before you start screaming ‘FIRE!’ or ‘GUN!’, make sure you see a fire and a gun.” We’ve built a lot of social anxiety when we read the news, follow social media and are constantly told to “See Something, Say Something.”

After reading the reports, I wouldn’t know what I would do. The joke I would make to myself, “If something happens, hopefully I’ll be in the airport lounge with a cocktail.”

To put the JFK panic in context, here’s something that happened shortly after 9/11. A few weeks after the tragedy, e-mails were spreading that some big terrorist act was going down in New York City that weekend. The e-mails were like “my brother’s friend knows somebody in the NYPD and he swears that they are on high alert and know something will happen.” People freaked out that weekend, which is understandable.

Nothing happened. Point being, this happened before, and it will happen again. There’s nothing we can do to stop it, but….

GOOD NEWS: The NYPD Is the Greatest Anti-Terrorism Task Force in the World
Don’t believe me, watch this 60 Minutes piece from 2011, which details the sophisticated lengths that the NYPD has done to protect the city, it’s citizens and visitors. 35,000 officers and 15,000 civilian employees have state of the art equipment, training and intelligence. “Commissioner Ray Kelly has built something else that most New Yorkers never see. It is nearly impossible now to walk a block in lower Manhattan without being on television. There are 2,000 cameras, and soon there will be 3,000 – all of which feed into this control center housed in a secret location.”

BAD NEWS: The Port Authority Runs JFK Airport
What I gleaned from the reporting was how disorganized everything became, even after it was declared a false alarm. TSA agents had no clue, airport employees knew nothing and airline staff didn’t know what to do. From that NY Times piece from an eyewitness: “I understand situations like this are inherently chaotic, but the lack of communication and guidance just compounded an already tumultuous and traumatic experience. At least in our terminal, they should have had enough time to get a coordinated plan together. But they didn’t, and that caused a lot of unnecessary panic and heartache.”

I can start a whole other blog writing about the Port Authority of NY/NJ, who run the three major airports, the world’s shittiest bus station, the seventh-level of hell that is Penn Station, the bridges, the tunnels and the World Trade Center site and Freedom Tower. Mis-management is their specialty.

For great reporting on the PA, check out Scott Raab’s stories about the building of the Freedom Tower on Esquire. What you’ll take from it is that the Port Authority is a fucking mess. It has their own police force that monitors the bridges, tunnels and transportation hubs like JFK. I’ll leave you with this scary nugget from Esquire:

… it’s not easy to digest the fact that the PAPD force, now ramping up to 2000 officers, is larger than that of many large U.S. cities. For the most part — and for many years — their primary responsibility has been as guardians of the PA’s airports, trains, and bus terminal, which is what led the Republican mayoral candidate for New York City to call them ‘mall cops’ during last year’s campaign — harsh truth.

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Dutch Guy Waits 10 Days at Chinese Airport for Girlfriend He’s Never Met

My rule for getting stood-up is 45 minutes. A 41-year old man waited 10 days until he had to be removed by an ambulance. I wonder what day he decided to take his shoes off.

Alexander Pieter Cirk traveled from Holland to Changsha Huanghua International Airport in China to meet his girlfriend. The problem being that he’s never met this girl.

Cirk met “Zhang” on an online app two months earlier and decided that he has to meet her. My guess is that he sprung for the paid version of Tinder and was swiping right for God knows how long.

He told her that he was coming. When he got to the airport, no one showed up and he refused to leave. After 10 days of malnutrition and exhaustion, Chinese authorities removed him. I guess Changsha doesn’t have a Sbarros or Panda Express.

Hunan TV found “Zhang” and she had this to say. “We had advanced our romantic relationship but later he seemed a little callous towards me. One day he sent me a photo of air tickets abruptly and I thought it was a joke. He didn’t contact me later.” She then said she was having plastic surgery, so she turned off her phone. Ohhh, that old line.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? “Zhang” is a 12-year old boy having a laugh. Manti Te’o shakes his head in disbelief.

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Netflix Streaming The Irish Pub Documentary

Those darn Netflix recommendations. It’s like it downloaded my interests into my brain and picked out a program that I would like.

If you need any more inspiration to head to Ireland, check out The Irish Pub streaming on Netflix. It’s a loving slice-of-life documentary where director Alex Fegen sits his camera down in pubs across Ireland and lets his subjects talk. There’s no narration, no camera movement and no rowdy atmosphere.

As Americans, our picture of the Irish pub is boisterous crowds, loud music and pint after pint after pint after pint after pint after pint after pint of Guinness. The reality goes much more deeper when you travel further in Ireland into the small villages where the pub is the focal meeting place.

As you see in the documentary, the pubs still function as a grocer and, at one point, the town’s church. You can figure the connection between pub and church on your own.

You’ll see pub owners explain how their patrons are an extension of their family, and vice versa. The locals are born into the pub when they are of age and will probably take their last sip of Guinness on the same stool.

You can also see how the Irish get their gift of gab and hospitality. Just make sure you put the subtitles on so you can understand the tall tales and antidotes.

While the film jumps around from county to county, the one pub that’s featured in Dublin is The Palace Bar on Fleet Street, which I profiled in my historic pubs series. This is the place where journalists from the nearby Irish Times go to talk shop.

The pubs in the far-off counties aren’t the polish ones you find in Dublin with the aged wood, golden brass and storied histories. These joints are weathered, creeky and charming.

If you rent a car and set off to drive around Dublin, watch the documentary and you can set your GSP to find the pubs yourself. You might even come across the stereotypical flock of sheep in the middle of a county road.

 

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The One Thing To Do in Vienna — Ride the Riesenrad

Vienna is the kind of city that grabs you the second you emerge from the metro onto the Mariahilfer Strasse. The energy from the crowd and the historic buildings lining the street is memorable. It’s tradition, old world charm and romance wrapped up in a nice Austrian bow.

The city takes pride in those traditions — whether it be the Christmas markets, the centuries old cafes, the classical concert halls or the wiener schnitzel. The best place to honor those traditions, and maybe start one of your own, is to ride the 120-year old ferris wheel, the Riesenrad.

Not only is it one of the oldest and, at one time, tallest ferris wheels in the world, it features prominently in two classic movies, The Third Man and Before Sunrise.

As a student of film, The Third Man is one of my favorite movies of all time. It captured the spy world quality of post-World War II Vienna with its dark shadows, mysterious men and bombed out buildings. The eventual meeting between Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton on the Riesenrad underscores the themes of the movie — there’s new world where money can be made. You can’t help but to look down onto the Prater amusement park as Welles did. Hopefully, you don’t think what he thought.

Before Sunrise tapped into the Riesenrad’s romantic nature as a chance meeting between two college students turns into a day-long love affair. Unlike Welles and Cotton, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke admire the view of Vienna and kiss.

My experience was a bit of both — admiring the view, appreciating the history of the attraction that dates back to the 1890s and thinking that this would be a great place to do some spy work and recon. The carriage creaks, squeaks and sways as you rise above the city at about 212 feet.

It’s reassuring that millions of other visitors have had the same experience. Local families bring their kids as their parents did when they are young. First time visitors as myself vow to come back if I ever find myself back in Vienna.

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