Ava DuVernay’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” Reviewed

Ava DuVernay’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” Reviewed

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Madeleine L’Engle’s novel “A Wrinkle in Time” wasn’t part of my
childhood—I only caught up with the book recently—but I wish it had
been. My encomium to a classic is hardly needed, but L’Engle’s creation
of complex but fantasy-tweaked kids facing fantastic settings and
situations that are extravagant but coherent, enriched by a heady blend
of science and spirituality, is a spark to imagination that’s all the
more potent for its introspective, psychological specificity. Ava DuVernay’s film adaptation of it, which opens tomorrow, catches the
sense of exhilaration and wonder that arises from the story’s elements
of fantasy. She builds the entire movie around a core of dramatic
intensity that differs significantly from that of the novel but
nonetheless gives rise to several emblematic images (many quite simple
and detached from the realm of intergalactic adventure) that resonate
beyond the confines of the story. But the script (by Jennifer Lee and
Jeff Stockwell) dulls the sharpest details and eliminates the most
idiosyncratic aspects of the novel, including most of the fascinatingly
intricate world-building; what remains is a story that delivers
emotional moments and delightful details that only vaguely cohere.

The story is centered on the children of the Murry family and, in
particular, Meg (Storm Reid), who, in the novel, is about thirteen, and
seems to be about the same age in the film. Meg is a middle-schooler
with trouble at home and trouble in school. She’s being raised by her
mother, Kate (Gugu Mbatha-Raw); her father, Alex (Chris Pine), seen in
flashbacks, hasn’t been seen or heard from in four years, and his
absence is the subject of derision from classmates and gossip among
teachers, all of whom mock Kate and Meg for their belief that he’ll
eventually come back. A smart student, Meg has let her grades and her
attention slip and started acting out violently in school. Her
hyperintuitive younger brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), who was
adopted soon before Alex’s departure, also maintains confidence in his
return.

A strange visitor, Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), dressed in windings
of white sheets, turns up at the Murry house. She meets Meg, Charles
Wallace, and Meg’s classmate Calvin (Levi Miller), a loner who attaches
himself to the siblings. They’re soon joined by two other
superpowered women: Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), who speaks in a virtual
encyclopedia of aptly chosen literary quotations, and the mighty and
colossal Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), who shrinks herself to human scale
for the sake of good company but retains her universe-shaking powers.
Together, they propel the three children and themselves to distant
planets—Uriel, Orion, Camazotz—via a turn of magic that’s also a turn of
science, travelling billions of light-years in seconds by
“tessering”—passing through a tesseract, the titular twist of the laws
of physics, which is also a convergence of space. The reason for the
journey is to find and rescue Meg’s father, which requires combat with a
satanic figure—an enormous, tentacular black monster that pursues the
children throughout the film—and an ultimate agent of evil called only
“It.”

Whereas L’Engle’s book is replete with explicit Christian citations, the
movie offers no overt religious references, not even any overt
spirituality (other than a passing reference to faith “in who you are”).
To balance this elision, the screenwriters also elide the book’s most
conspicuous and dramatic elements of science (including some
fascinating, comedic drama about a trip through a two-dimensional space)
and, even more important, its elements of social science. L’Engle’s
Camazotz is a technological dystopia, a place of wonders that’s also a
place of cold uniformity. That uniformity is briefly displayed in the
movie (not nearly on the colossal, Busby Berkeley-style scale of
imaginative vision that the book suggests) and it’s, above all, never
explained. The Orwellian element of Camazotz (with L’Engle’s drolly
literal rendering of its mastermind) is gone from the film, and with it
go some of the book’s most spectacular elements of speculative fantasy
and most important character details, such as the significance of the
mode of combat that the children deploy against the evil forces. On the
other hand, the movie offers something else altogether—not a contest of
global and historical forces but, rather, their convergence in the
emotional life of one teen-age girl.

The center of the film is Storm Reid’s portrayal of Meg, a coup of
casting that’s crowned by DuVernay’s direction of her. Reid is a rare
departure from the usual run of exuberant and perky kids (of both sexes)
who tend to inhabit children’s films. There’s a mask-like implacability
to Meg, an approach to the world that, for all its anger and
frustration, doesn’t dare reveal itself fully, even to Meg herself. Her
stifled pain—at her father’s absence, at the gossip it sparks, at the
mockery and ostracism that she endures from the popular girls, with the
more perfect wardrobes and the more glittery manners, such as her
next-door neighbor, Veronica (Rowan Blanchard)—compacts itself into an
opaque expression and a far-reaching gaze.

The movie’s looming, tentacle-swarming monster is a king-size troll, a
provoker that seeks its opponents’ points of vulnerability. But coping
with pain, mastering pain, overcoming pain, and using pain to fight its
source is the very core of the film, as suggested in an aphorism from
Rumi that Mrs. Who cites twice: “The wound is the place where the light
enters you.” But, as if in order to put forward this lesson with a sort
of quasi-universality, to insure that more or less any kid can identify
with Meg, she and the other protagonists are rendered as nearly
trait-free. The casting of the movie is refreshingly varied, though the
film makes no allusion whatsoever to the significance of its diversity;
for all the film’s talk of faith “in who you are,” the identities of its
characters play no role in the story, and its lack of inner
construction—of definition of the characters along the lines of the
novel, of inborn idiosyncrasies and abilities—is among its weaknesses.
Meg’s brother, Charles Wallace, as written by L’Engle, is a sort of holy
fool, a conspicuous exception among children, a prophet or seer endowed
with great powers, while Meg is an ordinary type of math-and-science
prodigy, distracted and adept, for whom he’s a source of delight,
complicity, and trouble. In the movie, that distinction is far less
clear; Charles Wallace has only a vague kind of intuitive gift, and
merely comes off a bit charmingly odd. The movie is filled with other
vague relationships, vague doings—albeit all realized with verve, with
purpose, and with some giddily psychedelic imagery.

The problem with the movie’s adulteration of the novel is above all one
of an excess division of labor. For all the intellectual focus of her
direction, DuVernay is, as proved by “Selma,” an equally imaginative and
analytical screenwriter, and I wish that she had had as free a hand in
the crafting of the story, the adaptation of the novel, as she did
there. She isn’t credited as the screenwriter of “Selma”; Paul Webb is,
but she estimated that she rewrote “about ninety percent” of the script. (Webb disputes this
characterization.) There’s another—stronger, more detailed, less
sentimentalized—adaptation of L’Engle’s novel struggling to get out of
the one that’s onscreen. There’s also an element of political humor
that the premise suppresses—imagine hoping to bring Dad home after a
four-year absence just to tell him, “Guess who’s President.” It invites
a sequel: “Return to Camazotz.”

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March 7, 2018 at 10:59PM

Virgin Atlantic Splits Economy Class Into Tiers

Virgin Atlantic Splits Economy Class Into Tiers

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On March 7, Virgin Atlantic announced that the airline will split its economy class into three tiers:

“Economy delight” offers passengers three inches of additional legroom over the other two options with a 34-inch seat pitch; priority boarding; checked luggage; and arbitrary seat selection.

“Economy classic” provides, well, the classic experience, with checked luggage and seat selection privileges but a standard 31-inch seat pitch and no priority boarding.

Finally, “economy light” makes travel “affordable and accessible for millennials, and customers jetting off on city breaks” by removing seat selection and allowing only carry-on luggage.

All economy travelers will share the same dining experience, with three-course meals as well as complimentary drinks and snacks from UK-local brands when possible. In addition, each economy row seat will now include a personal USB charging point, with high-speed WiFi available on every route.

Meanwhile, the erstwhile “premium economy” class will remain the same, even though getting renamed simply “premium” class, with top-tier “upper class” also remaining intact. This means the airline now offers a total of five service tiers.

The split, which will retrofit each plane with up to 36 larger economy delight seats, represents Virgin Atlantic’s biggest change to its economy class cabins in more than 10 years, according to CEO Craig Kreeger.

The updates are part of a $417 million investment designed to address the challenge of competing against low-cost, long-haul carriers such as Norwegian Air. For many years, Virgin Atlantic has competed against British Airways for long distance passengers traveling out of London. But as newcomer Norwegian continues to develop its base of operations out of London Gatwick (LGW), British Airways and other carriers have been forced to lower fares in order to keep up with customers who favor the budget airline’s price point.

Additional features of the new program include automated bag drop at London airports, beginning with four kiosks at London Gatwick this summer, followed by 18 kiosks that will be added in London Heathrow (LHR) come Winter 2018.

Furthermore, Virgin Atlantic will add 12 new Airbus A350-1000s to its fleet beginning in Spring 2019, which will be pre-designed with the new economy-class layout. Finally, Virgin Atlantic has partnered with a Brit candlemaker to create a signature perfume called “Air.”

All images courtesy of Virgin Atlantic

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March 7, 2018 at 10:43PM

Extremism, the Mainstream, and the Primary Results in Texas

Extremism, the Mainstream, and the Primary Results in Texas

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There are big political races and small ones; intensity is not evenly
distributed among them. In the days before Tuesday’s primary elections
in Texas, the race for the Republican nomination for judge (in effect,
the chief executive) of Bastrop County—the far suburbs of Austin,
usually reliably Republican territory—became especially heated. The
incumbent was a relatively mild-mannered man named Paul Pape (pronounced “poppy,” like the bagel topping). His challenger was a
retired Air Force officer and Ron Paul enthusiast named Don Loucks, who
for years had been writing a Thursday column—titled “Don’s Thoughts”—in
the local paper, the Bastrop Advertiser.

Loucks’s thoughts, at least the ones he curated for publication, had a
careful, readerly tone, but also echoed the preoccupations and extremity
of conservative talk radio. In one column, Loucks insisted that, under
apartheid, South Africa had been a “powerful nation with a thriving,
diverse economy” but that after the white government lost power,
“societal descent set in.” This summer, after a neo-Nazi rally in
Charlottesville, Virginia, was interrupted by a counter-rally, Loucks
wondered, “Why were the Unite the Right described as fascists and
neo-Nazis when Antifa was following the Brown Shirt script from 1930s
Germany?” He once argued that Christian immigrants assimilated more
naturally into American society than Muslim immigrants, because America
was “founded as a Christian nation. It’s who we are. It’s that simple.”

After Loucks declared his candidacy for judge, his column became a
fixation for a Bastrop resident and retired firefighter named Vic
Vreeland, who had started subscribing to the Advertiser after Rachel
Maddow
, the MSNBC host, had implored her viewers to support their local
papers. It seemed to Vreeland that Loucks had been, in his weekly
column, obliterating the line between what was part of normal politics
in Bastrop County and what was fringe. Vreeland decided to start a Web
site, which he called Know Loucks, to alert the rest of Bastrop County
to this issue. Vreeland was not shy. On the Web site, he said that
Loucks shared the views of “white supremacist organizations like the
alt-right movement, skinheads, the Ku Klux Klan.” Loucks, Vreeland
wrote, “adheres to the tenets of fascism.” Vreeland compared Loucks to
Donald Trump, and Trump to Hitler. He bought Facebook ads to make the same
points to people who lived in Bastrop County. “I’m like the Russia
bots,” Vreeland told me on Tuesday.

Political language has loosened over the past three years, and it’s no longer
uncommon to hear officeholders and office-seekers denounced as white
supremacists, as racists, as misogynists. (In January the New Jersey
Democrat Bob Menendez, no one’s idea of a radical, denounced an
anti-immigration Trump ad as “more racism, more xenophobia, more white
nationalism.”) One way to view Vreeland’s Web site was as a form of
industrious flailing, to find a label that would still disqualify
Loucks—that would stick. Vreeland had done some volunteer work for Pape,
the incumbent, but he thought Pape was too soft on Loucks. Loucks had
been going after Pape, calling him a “tin-pot dictator,” and, at a
candidate forum last week, the judge’s calculations appeared to change.
Pape denounced Loucks as a “far-right radical” and a “right-wing
extremist.” The Advertiser registered the disjunction in its headline
“Claims of Radical Politics, Dictatorship Surface in Bastrop Judge
Race,” over twinned photos of the candidates—two serious, balding white
men. At the charge that he was a “far-right radical,” Loucks did not
seem to take offense. He told the paper, “I suppose I should consider
that a badge of honor.”

The 2018 election season has now begun. General elections capture the
balance between the parties; primaries define the ideological field. The
results that came in Tuesday night from across Texas suggested that the
fractiousness within the Democratic Party has not disappeared: the
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, clumsily, had intervened
in a
primary
in
the Houston suburbs, coming out against an insurgent progressive
candidate named Laura
Moser,
and the pattern of results last night suggested that this had backfired;
Moser and the Party’s preferred candidate, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, will
now contest a runoff. Congressman Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat from El
Paso, won his party’s Senate primary easily, and will now challenge the
incumbent senator, Ted Cruz, in the fall. O’Rourke has
attracted national attention, but Cruz looks to have a formidable hold
on his seat. Democratic turnout in Tuesday’s primary was strong, though
perhaps not as strong as the Party would have liked. And beneath the
partisan rebalancing is the matter of whether the extremism of the early
Trump era is an aberration or a permanent feature—whether Democrats will
have the leverage, or Republicans the inclination, to reënforce a taboo.

In Bastrop County, Loucks was not a figure from the social fringe.
He had been active in local politics for a decade—he had once been a
county commissioner, and his wife holds an elected office, too—and in
his campaign he liked to criticize Pape for being too cautious about
development in the county and to talk about improving Bastrop’s
emergency response. “I’m a conservative, but not a nut conservative,”
Loucks told me when I reached him by phone, just before the election.
But then there was the evidence of those columns.

In a small county, it’s a little easier to do: an established politician
can wield significant influence, and an outraged blogger can help to
shape a race. Loucks lost the race last night in Bastrop County, by
fifteen hundred votes—sixty per cent to forty per cent, just about. “I
am going to want to forget about it as soon as possible,” Pape had
e-mailed me, shortly before the vote. Vreeland could remember a time
when Bastrop had been Democratic—the only Texas county out of two
hundred and fifty-four to go for Michael Dukakis. Shortly after the vote
tally was final, Vreeland texted me, “Feels good & like I have my county
back.”

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March 7, 2018 at 10:38PM

TSA Shifting Focus to Public Areas Outside Security Checkpoints

TSA Shifting Focus to Public Areas Outside Security Checkpoints

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The nation’s aviation security forces must shift their focus away from checkpoints and toward public areas of airports to adapt to a changing threat exemplified by a spate of recent attacks, the agency’s new chief said.

David Pekoske, a former vice commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard who took control of the Transportation Security Administration seven months ago, also called for the agency to become more entrepreneurial and to adapt faster to the shifting risks from terrorists.

“We can no longer focus only on preventing the bad guys from getting into the secure area of an airport,” Pekoske said in prepared remarks for what was billed as the first-ever state-of-the-TSA address on Wednesday in Washington. “More and more we must focus on both sides of the checkpoint and in the public areas where airport and surface transportation systems intersect.”

Public Areas

Since the TSA and other countries’ security agencies have beefed up airport screening following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, terrorists have increasingly turned to areas where people aren’t screened, such as baggage-collection zones or check-in areas. Twin attacks in Brussels airport and train station locations in March 2016 using that tactic killed 32 people and three attackers.

“We face ambitious adversaries who are continuously looking for a point of attack and waiting for their opportunity,” Pekoske said. “Our job is to make sure they never have that opportunity.”

The administrator’s speech was short on specifics and contained no new screening protocols.

The TSA leader said the agency needed to “empower the public to see themselves as part of the security solution and as recipients of a secure system.” He said he was trying to get TSA to assess threats and to alter security strategies faster.

While he stopped short of calling for what could be a multibillion-dollar investment in new X-ray devices that see bags in three dimensions, he said his goal was to get screeners better tools.

“Aviation and surface transportation hubs remain highly prized targets for terrorists,” he said. “Their modes and methods of attack have evolved and become much more decentralized and opportunistic than ever before.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Alan Levin from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Photo Credit: After attacks in Europe, the TSA is looking for ways to better protect the areas outside an airport’s security checkpoint. Bloomberg

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March 7, 2018 at 10:34PM

“Cocaine & Rhinestones,” An Addictive, Sparkling Podcast About Country Music

“Cocaine & Rhinestones,” An Addictive, Sparkling Podcast About Country Music

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In 1975, Loretta Lynn, by then an established country singer-songwriter
for more than a decade, released her single “The Pill.” At that point,
Lynn had won hearts and raised eyebrows with songs like “Don’t Come Home
A-Drinkin’ (with Lovin’ on Your Mind),” whose themes are self-evident,
and “Fist City,” warning a woman to stay away from her husband. (“You’d
better move your feet / if you don’t want to eat / a meal that’s called
Fist City.”) “I was the first one to write it like the women lived it,”
she has said.
“The Pill,” which she didn’t write but performed with gusto, is a wife’s
celebration of freedom: “I’m tearin’ down your brooder house, ’cause now
I’ve got the pill.” The song—like several of Lynn’s singles—was banned.
In “Cocaine & Rhinestones,” an
opinionated, feverish, wildly entertaining podcast about
twentieth-century American country music, written and hosted by Tyler
Mahan Coe, we learn why, from a progressive guy with an arsenal of
doggedly presented research.

Coe, thirty-three, grew up in country music; his father is the
outlaw-country artist David Allan Coe. In childhood, Tyler
travelled with his dad’s band; in young adulthood, he played rhythm
guitar in it. He now lives in Nashville. When I asked him how he turned
out so centered after a peripatetic upbringing among outlaw-country
musicians, he paused and said, “Well, I’ve done a lot of acid.” Also,
books: as a kid on the road, he’d disappear into stuff like James
Clavell’s “Shōgun”;
he’s still an obsessive reader, often of the kinds of books that have
never been digitized and may never be. “Cocaine & Rhinestones”
references a thorough bibliography. For “The Pill,” this includes Lynn’s
memoir, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,”
and the collection “Feminists Who Changed America, 1963-1975.”
(Coe, who is currently working on the second season of the show, was
recently invited to use the archives in the Country Music Hall of Fame,
where, he wrote in an e-mail, there “are at least 500 unwritten books in
that data and probably closer to 1,000. . . . Half or more of those books
will not be written.”)

The podcast has a distinctive, essayistic sound, narrated entirely by
Coe and delivered in a tone somewhere between that of a news anchor,
Jonathan Goldstein on “Heavyweight,”
and a prosecutor delivering a closing argument. I often laugh while
listening, admiring his zeal. In the “Pill” episode, Coe begins by
talking about the “Streisand effect,” in which an attempt to stop the
public from being exposed to something makes it go viral, and goes on to
discuss the Comstock laws, on obscenity; the history of contraception in
the U.S.; a bit of Lynn’s biography, and the lyrics and authorship of
the song—all to set up why “The Pill” was banned. “I’m about to prove it
wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to a country song about birth control,” he
says. He proceeds forensically, playing clips of songs by men about
birth control and abortion. “Pretty gross,” he says of a callous Harry
Chapin lyric. “But it was not banned.” None of the men’s songs were.
There’s a double standard in country music, he explains: “Men have to go
way over the line. All women have to do is get near it.” He plays
samples of banned songs by women, including Jeannie C. Riley’s hit
“Harper Valley P.T.A.,” about a mother telling off a bunch of small-town
hypocrites. (Mind-blowingly, Coe gives that song a three-episode deep
dive later in the season.) By the end of the episode, he’s proved his
point, case closed: “Female artists have their songs banned simply for
standing up to society, or for fighting back.”

A primary thrill of listening to “Cocaine & Rhinestones,” for me, a
classic-country fan of modest insight—I love Hank Williams, Sr., Johnny
Cash, Loretta Lynn, and Patsy Cline; I’ve watched a few bio-pics; as a
kid, I was fascinated by “Hee-Haw”—is the education it provides about
other, less familiar artists, whose music is immediately, viscerally
appealing. (Plenty of music lovers know all about the Louvin Brothers and Doug and Rusty Kershaw;
I did not.) Another is that it provides cultural context; each story
reflects larger themes about the artistry and business of country music.
And Coe’s writing—like a good country song—is provocatively zesty.
“Those bastards” deregulated radio in the Telecommunications Act of
1996; Buck Owens’s vocal delivery is “stabbed-in-the-back-sincere”; a
racist song about the horrors of school desegregation “ends with a
chorus of, I assume, ghost children, singing ‘My Country ’Tis of Thee.’ ”

In one of my favorite episodes, about Bobbie Gentry’s eternally
mysterious “Ode to Billie Joe,” from 1967, Coe says,
“You can tell it isn’t going to be a normal song right away, from those
wheezing violins on the intro.” The arranger “was working with an
unusual crew of four violins and two cellos.” One of the cellists
plucked his notes, “while the rest of the strings weave in and out in
response to the unfolding drama.” The end is “cinematic”: the strings go
up, “with the narrator going up on Choctaw Ridge to pick flowers,” and
down, “when the narrator throws the flowers down off the bridge.” We
hear them, falling and eerie, and they give us chills. In the past, I’d
tried to resolve my intense feelings about “Ode to Billie Joe,” a staple
on my childhood oldies station, by trying to figure out what the
narrator and Billie Joe were throwing off the Tallahatchie Bridge; by
reading about Gentry; and even by watching the horrible 1976 movie made
to capitalize on the song’s success. None of that was remotely
satisfying, but listening to the “Cocaine & Rhinestones” episode is: Coe
both celebrates the song’s mystery and provides insight into its strange
power.

I asked Coe about his style; he doesn’t sound like many other podcast
hosts. “I would describe it as ‘performative,’ ” he said. He was
influenced by “the Radio”—dramatic radio shows from his
childhood—“specifically Paul Harvey, ‘The Rest of the Story’ ”—which, when I
heard it in the eighties, felt like it had been beamed there from the
forties—“and Art Bell, the guy who does ‘Coast to Coast AM,’ which has gotten
super political and weird now, but when I was a kid it was on AM radio
overnight, which meant clear airwaves; you could pick it up in most of
the country.” Bell had a “weird voice,” Coe said, and listeners would
call in to talk to him things like about ghosts, alien abductions, and
telepathy. “We had a driver who loved listening to it,” he said. “You’d
be driving through the night to the next town, through the middle of
nowhere, just the headlights on the road ahead of you in the complete
darkness, and all these adults are on the radio having these
conversations about this stuff, and they sound dead serious.” That mood
made an impact. On “Cocaine & Rhinestones,” he wants to evoke a sense of
it. He records his vocals overnight, in a basement, when it’s quiet
outside. “Just me alone in the dark, talking into a microphone,” he
said.

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March 7, 2018 at 10:10PM

Boeing 737 Breaks Its Own Record as 10,000th Aircraft Rolls Off Assembly Line

Boeing 737 Breaks Its Own Record as 10,000th Aircraft Rolls Off Assembly Line

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The 737, Boeing’s short- to medium-haul workhorse, broke another record today, as the aircraft manufacturer rolled out its 10,000th aircraft of the type.

 

The rollout is quite the accomplishment for Boeing, particularly its engineering and design teams that have molded the 737 across more than 10 different versions, over the span of some 50 years. Over the decades, Boeing has revisited, revamped and re-energized the 737 program, introducing better fuel economics, state-of-the-art cockpit avionics and a (mostly) improved passenger experience.

The lucky 10,000th plane? A 737 MAX 8 destined for Southwest, a fitting customer for this achievement. Southwest, founded in 1967 (the same year the original 737-100 flew its first flight), operates the largest fleet of 737s of any carrier in the world. In fact, the airline has never purchased any other aircraft besides this trusty narrow-body. Southwest was even the launch customer of the 737NG — Boeing’s 1993 revamp of the 737 program, when it introduced the 737-600/700/800/900 types, complete with glass cockpits and modernized onboard equipment (like digital screens instead of analog indicators). Since taking delivery of its first 737 MAX last year, Southwest has more than a dozen in its fleet and plans to use the type on its highly anticipated routes to Hawaii.

It’s no easy feat getting to 10,000 aircraft. Boeing’s dedicated 737 facility in Renton, Washington, pumps out some 47-52 jets per month, and the aerospace giant hopes to increase that number to more than 60 jets monthly in the next two years.

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March 7, 2018 at 09:46PM

You Can Go on a Free Tour of Europe — and Actually Get Paid for It

You Can Go on a Free Tour of Europe — and Actually Get Paid for It

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We know you’ve been wanderlusting over Brian and Zach‘s Instagrams recently — and now it’s time to build up your own.

A European travel company called Busabout is looking for four “travel addicts” to assemble the “ultimate travel squad” this summer. You’ll travel Europe for three months and document every step of it on their social media and blogs. It’s going to take a lot more than just a love of travel to land one of the positions, though, because let’s be real, everyone and their mother is going to be applying for this gig. Here’s what they’re looking for:

  • An Instagrammer who will go the extra mile to “do it for the ‘gram” — and of course, they’ll need to have killer captions.
  • A YouTuber who lives to tell stories and share experiences, with excellent attention to detail.
  • A blogger who’s crazy about writing and loves to do so even more than they love to travel.
  • A Snapchatter/Instastory-er who is spontaneous and loves to share stories in real time.

If you do end up getting hired, you’ll be whisked away to TPG-approved destinations like Paris, Florence and Barcelona, and you’ll travel door-to-door on Busabout’s private coach network. Emirates first this is not, but traveling around Europe while getting paid for it is a win in our book.

Just be sure to have a valid passport or visa, and double check that you’re available to travel for 90 days this summer. Applications are open until April 17 at 11:59 p.m. GMT, and winners will be announced on their website in May.

Photo by Sebastien Gabriel on Unsplash

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March 7, 2018 at 09:16PM

Is Martin Short the Greatest Talk-Show Guest of All Time?

Is Martin Short the Greatest Talk-Show Guest of All Time?

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In a recent
conversation
with Vulture’s great interviewer David Marchese, the actor and comedian
Martin Short talked a bit about the process he goes through when
preparing to be a guest on a late-night talk show. “What I do for a
typical talk-show appearance, and I’m not exaggerating, is I’ll send in
something like 18 pages ahead of time,” Short said, adding that he then
spends at least ninety minutes speaking with a show’s producer, cutting
down his proposed material and shaping it into a conversation he’ll have
with the host. What looks almost like an organic chat on TV is really a
tightly choreographed two-man bit, with Short doing, as he puts it, “an
impersonation of myself being relaxed.”

He’s not alone in preparing meticulously. During his last appearance on the
“Late Show with David Letterman,” in 2015, Short told a story about how
his friend Steve Martin would call him, from time to time, to tell him a
joke that he was readying for a “Letterman” appearance that was still months
away. (And less fastidious guests are compelled by most late-night shows
to at least have their material vetted before they appear.) Yet one gets
the sense that, of all his peers, Short is the hardest-working talk-show
guest in the business—and, as a result, he may also be the greatest. He
has starred in movies, sitcoms, variety shows, and stage performances, and he
even, for a season, hosted his own talk show. He’s won an Emmy and a
Tony and nearly every award that Canada gives
out
. Yet,
despite his wide success, some of his greatest comedic triumphs have
come while yakking with talk-show hosts.

YouTube is full of Short’s talk-show appearances, dating back to his
first spot on “Letterman,” in
1982
, and regularly I find that
I’ve killed half an hour or so watching his old clips. Short, who is now
sixty-seven, has always been tirelessly boyish and energetic, and has
made several generations of hosts lean back in their chairs and laugh.
He cracked up Carson. He’s
cracked up Leno. And
Conan.
And Fallon. He’s funny
anywhere, even in places where laughter is hard-won, like on “Regis and
Kelly
” or Chevy Chase’s
short-lived talk show.
He’s even funny when he’s
hiking
. Of all the truly
great modern talk-show guests—a list that includes Amy Sedaris, Norm
Macdonald, and just a handful of others—it is Short whose clips I return
to time and again. Mostly, I think, it’s because his talk-show persona
is the purest, the most attuned to and at ease with the restrictions
and comedic traditions of the genre. Nobody tells a vacation story, or a
holiday story, or an awards-show story, or a recollection of some
industry folly better than Short does. He sings; he dances; he does
broad physical comedy; he tells the best one-liners.

Short has always understood that being a talk-show guest is itself a
performance, a role to cultivate and refine. The persona he has settled
into is that of a self-assured but ever so slightly bitter show-business
insider, a breezy phony, a Hollywood jerk. He walks onstage wearing a
little smirk, and then makes a show of basking in the applause of the
audience. He repeatedly refers to the “Daytime Oscars” he’s won, and
makes passive-aggressive jokes about the fact that the show didn’t send
a car for him, or about the cash bars that his rich Hollywood friends
have at their parties. Sometimes he channels the louche vibe of a lesser
Rat Packer. Other times, he drifts off into a Norma Desmond,
faded-grande-dame kind of thing. He often seems to be doing two or three
impressions at once. He likes to open his appearances with a series of
rim-shot jokes made at the expense of the host, in the style of Don
Rickles. “You look sensational,” he tells
Letterman
. “Is it the kale
enemas?” To Jimmy Kimmel:
“Every time I’m in your company, I’m whelmed.” To Conan
O’Brien
: “You look like
the film negative of ‘Django Unchained.’ ” To Jimmy
Fallon
: “I bet you’re the
only late-night host that goes to a pediatrician.” The jokes, rehearsed
and not always original, nonetheless always kill, and they provoke glee
from the hosts, who take obvious delight in being roasted by Marty, as
they all call him.

Short’s bluster is tempered by what, one senses, is his realer
personality, characterized by Canadian self-deprecation and downright
decency. In 2012, during Short’s appearance on the boozy fourth hour of
the “Today” show, the host Kathie Lee Gifford asked Short how he and his
wife, Nancy Dolman, kept the spark alive in their marriage, and went on
to ask several more questions referring to Dolman in the present
tense—unaware that she had died of ovarian cancer, two years earlier.
Short appeared briefly taken aback, but managed to smile while answering
the questions as best he could—waiting to correct Gifford until they
were off the air.

Nowhere was Short in better form than in his fifty-plus appearances on
“Letterman.” This owed, in part, to his longtime relationship with
Letterman’s bandleader, his fellow-Canadian Paul Shaffer, whom he would
relentlessly tease. (“Paul looks like the maître d’ on a spaceship.”)
But mostly his Letterman appearances thrill because he so clearly has
the number of the host, a notoriously hard nut to crack. Short makes
Letterman laugh—really laugh, that great cackle—and this endorsementspurs the audience to even greater laughter. The talk-show guest is, in
a way, a supplicant—seated lower than the host, with just a few minutes,
between commercial breaks, to make a good impression and plug whatever
he came to plug. It’s a frankly ridiculous situation, and faintly
demeaning—a dynamic that Short at once embraces and mocks. Being a guest
suits his seeming need to impress, to relentlessly wear down an
audience, to paw at a person sitting a few feet away until he forces a
laugh. Short is endlessly charming, but the characters he plays are
often pests or interlopers, grating and bizarre, and this friction,
packed into a few minutes, yields a perfect whirlwind of knowing wit and
wild abandon.

The last thing Short ever did on “Letterman” was sing a song. With his
body arched back and his legs spread wide, he belted out, “It’s the end,
my pretend show-biz friend, farewell! We’ll meet again, someday, in
hell.” Short told the audience that he had planned to deliver the number
as a eulogy at Letterman’s funeral. But since Letterman was quitting
television, he added, he probably wouldn’t show up when Dave actually
died—“unless, of course, I have something to promote.”

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March 7, 2018 at 09:06PM

Hawaiian Airlines Makes $2.8 Billion Boeing Dreamliner Deal

Hawaiian Airlines Makes $2.8 Billion Boeing Dreamliner Deal

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Hawaiian Holdings Inc. handed Boeing Co. a victory by selecting 10 of the planemaker’s 787 Dreamliners and canceling a deal for a competing model from Airbus SE.

The airline signed a non-binding letter of intent for the Boeing 787-9 jets in a deal valued at $2.82 billion at list prices, passing over Airbus’s A330. Hawaiian expects to use the planes for flights to Asia and long-haul service to the U.S., spokesman Alex Da Silva said Tuesday.

Hawaiian originally had ordered six of Airbus’s A330-800 model before canceling that deal and considering the Dreamliner and the A330-900 for its long-haul needs, Da Silva said.

The first Dreamliner delivery is expected in early 2021, Hawaiian said in a statement, confirming earlier reports that it would switch to the Boeing plane. The airline has purchase rights for another 10 of the long-distance jetliner.

“The Dreamliner combines excellent comfort for our guests with fantastic operational performance, and will allow us to continue modernizing our fleet into the next decade,” Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO Peter Ingram said in the statement.

The company expects to sign binding agreements with Boeing and General Electric Co. in the second quarter of this year. Hawaiian has chosen GE’s GEnx engine to power the aircraft.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Michael Sasso from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Photo Credit: Hawaiian Holdings Inc. handed Boeing Co. a victory by selecting 10 of the planemaker’s 787 Dreamliners and canceling a deal for a competing model from Airbus SE. Marlene Awaad / Bloomberg

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March 7, 2018 at 09:02PM

Live Like Ancient Royalty at the Aman Summer Palace in Beijing, China

Live Like Ancient Royalty at the Aman Summer Palace in Beijing, China

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Aman hotels are known in the travel world as being the best of the best. I had wanted to stay at the Aman Summer Palace in Beijing, China, during a recent trip to Beijing with my parents, because my first trip to an Aman resort, the Amanyara in Turks & Caicos, was nothing short of magnificent. For my first two trips to Beijing years back, I’d stayed at the St. Regis and the W Beijing, which were both amazing, but the Aman Summer Palace was in a category all its own. After all, it’s the choice of celebs like Katy Perry and Maria Sharapova when they visit the Chinese capital, so I knew it had to be incredible.

Booking

Aman resorts aren’t cheap, but they are the cream of the crop when it comes to luxury. Since the Aman Summer Palace is a member of the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program, I figured it would be a good way to get added perks, even though it was an expensive rate.

I used my Amex Centurion to pay. My room, a Deluxe Pavilion for just over $2,000 per night, came with two bedrooms and a shared living area. It included daily breakfast, complimentary Wi-Fi, a room upgrade (which I ended up getting), a guaranteed 4:00pm late checkout, a 50-minute massage for two people per room and a $200 credit for food and beverage or spa visit (assuming you paid for at least a two-night stay; I stayed three nights).

Location

The Aman Summer Palace was about a 40-minute drive from the city center, on the edge of the grounds of the UNESCO World Heritage site the Summer Palace. Now a popular tourist attraction, the Summer Palace was once a retreat for Beijing’s royalty. It’s a collection of gardens, lakes and palaces designed in a traditional Chinese layout, creating harmony between architecture and nature. I loved staying on the grounds of this beautiful green space, and it was relaxing to be set apart from Beijing’s hectic city center. Every aspect of the property radiated tranquility and serenity.

Check-in

Obviously, getting a room upgrade wasn’t a guarantee, but I was excited to hear at check-in that there was one available. We’d have even more space in the Courtyard Suite, giving both my parents and me a separate bedroom, living space and bathrooms but connected by a hallway in a beautiful private pavilion. I felt like I was in a palace.

Courtyard Suite

Our building was a freestanding, private Chinese palace, making me feel like ancient royalty every time I entered. Past the entrance was a small hallway and room with a desk, and if you turned left, you’d enter what were my parents’ quarters.

To the right were my quarters, which included a small office, where I prepared and drank my tea each day, a living/dining area, the bedroom and the bathroom, which was enormous.

It was wonderful to simply have so much open space to enjoy. My parents especially loved the high ceilings and soft bedding.

The suite decor was beautiful but very minimalist— the wooden carvings, bamboo blinds and hanging scripts with Chinese writing gave the room a regal feel. Aman didn’t miss a detail — fresh orchids and complimentary water bottles were carefully placed around the suite. To enter, you needed to cross through a beautiful courtyard garden, and it was all so serene.

The rooms also came with Wi-Fi, a TV, safe and sound system. They were equipped with air conditioning (which I didn’t use, as it was winter) and heating — even under-floor heating — which was a real luxury after getting out of the bath or shower since it was chilly outside.

The bathroom was massive and came with all the bells and whistles. The freestanding bathtub was fantastic, and the shower passed the TPG shower test. (I’m six feet, seven inches.)

The only thing I didn’t like was that all the toiletries came in clay pots, which was a pretty design touch, but not great when it came to functionality. It was virtually impossible to get the shampoo out, so I needed to really shake it. If it were to slip out of your hand in the shower, it would shatter, which almost happened to me a few times. I love the concept of chic design (especially when it’s eco-friendly, like reusable containers), but it should never interfere with functionality.

Food and Beverage

Breakfast at the Aman Summer Palace was fantastic. I was able to sample both the Chinese and American breakfasts and was pleased with both. It was interesting, though, that breakfast was included, but I was charged $6 for a bottle of sparkling water.

One night, we ate dinner in the restaurant, ordering traditional hot pots, where you cook the raw vegetables, chicken and seafood in steaming pots of broth.

The restaurant ambience was upscale but unpretentious, and a mandolin player provided music as we ate. While most of the reception staff spoke English, the dining staff didn’t, so we did have a few small communication bumps. But they were really nice, so that made up for it.

The staff members, in general, were extremely friendly and accommodating. Every detail was attended to, and they were flexible when we needed to change our dinner reservation or move the times of our massages. They really thought of everything — they brought hot tea to us each night and left small gifts like Chinese fans, bookmarks and masks by our beds.

The last day, we had to leave to catch our flight at about 5:00am, and the restaurant prepared us breakfast boxes to go. We even got hot towels handed to us every time we entered the property, which was comforting and warm after chilly days exploring with our guide, Summer.

Amenities

The spa was one of the favorite parts of my stay. Although my massage wasn’t the best I’d ever had, the spa was stunning — located in its very own beautiful pavilion. My mom had a hot-stone massage, which she said was fantastic and warm after a cold day exploring the tourist attractions of Beijing.

The hotel also had a movie theater, which was a pretty cool amenity.

I didn’t watch a film, but I made it a point to try out the seats, which were almost lie-flat. It was basically the business class of movie theaters — my kinda space!

Swimmers could do laps even in winter in the indoor pool, but I was too busy eating duck and dumplings for any of that.

Bottom Line

Although the Aman Summer Palace was a splurge, it’s definitely a TPG-approved splurge. This hotel gets everything right down to almost every last detail: Unique, spacious rooms, fresh flowers and delicate pots of hot tea after a cold day. Staying here really made this Beijing trip special for both my parents and me — it transported us to another time However, a stay in summer may be a better idea — if not, be prepared for cold and windy weather.

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March 7, 2018 at 09:01PM