Shaolin Flying Monks Theatre in Dengfeng, China

Shaolin Flying Monks Theatre in Dengfeng, China

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One of the newest additions to China’s historic Shaolin Monastery, one of the world’s largest schools of Buddhism and Kung Fu, is a massive, wind-spinning levitation machine. The contraption provides monks with the optimal spiritual experience: letting their spirits take flight—literally.

Unlike most theaters, the appropriately named Shaolin Flying Monks Theatre is not a haven for acting, but rather the art of flying. The glass wind tunnel in the center of the amphitheater is powered by massive air flow engines, which allows the Shaolin monks to hover in the air in perfect levitation. The stage’s perforated surface quiets the engine room’s roar, enabling the monks to float atop the wind tunnel in absolute tranquility.

The Shaolin Flying Monks Theatre sits atop Shaolin Monastery’s Cypress Hill. The futuristic, 230-seat Colosseum was designed by the bold Latvian architectural firm Mailitis Architects and symbolizes “mountain and tree,” portrayed by the theater’s protruding facade and its mushroom-like glass levitation chamber, respectively.

Visitors can witness the levitating monks by attending shows held inside the theater every week. And sometimes, to the pleasure of daredevils and seekers of inner peace alike, the general public is allowed to step inside the levitation chamber as well.

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April 24, 2017 at 08:24AM

The Top 10 Secrets of Astoria Park in Queens, NYC

The Top 10 Secrets of Astoria Park in Queens, NYC

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Image via NYC Parks and Recreation

As one of the largest green spaces in Queens, Astoria Park is a scenic getaway located in New York City’s most diverse borough. Sitting along the East River, the 59.96-acre recreational space offers access to outdoor tennis courts, playgrounds and multiple trails, in addition to “shoreline signs and sounds” that make it a popular a destination year-round. Beyond its attractions, however, it also harbors some interesting secrets, from its ties to the Olympics to its lost stream.

10. Astoria Park Contains the Oldest and Largest Swimming Pool in New York City


Image via NYC Parks and Recreation

Astoria Park is equipped with one of the most popular swimming facilities in the country, which also happens to be the oldest and largest swimming pool in New York City. Planned by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, the outdoor pool is 54,450-square-feet and measures 330 feet in length.

Harry Hopkins, the administrator of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which provided the labor to construct the pool, described it as “The finest in the world.” According to NYC Parks, it has been said that it was intended to be the “grandest” of the eleven pools Moses intended to install throughout the city in the summer of 1936 — possibly because it provided the best view of the Triborough Bridge, which was completed in the same year.

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April 24, 2017 at 08:07AM

Rapidan Camp in Syria, Virginia

Rapidan Camp in Syria, Virginia

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The Hoovers' "Brown House."

When President Herbert Hoover and his wife Lou sought refuge from the bustle and heat of Washington, D.C., they were taken to a rural area nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, near the headwaters of the Rapidan River. Smitten with the place, the Hoovers immediately purchased 164 acres of the property and began planning the construction of the presidential retreat that would become Rapidan Camp. 

First Lady Lou Hoover took charge of planning of the camp, and U.S. Marines provided much of the labor under the auspices of a training exercise. This arrangement provoked a minor scandal and Hoover was forced to issue a statement stating that he would reimburse the federal government "for every nail and stick of wood."

As Rapidan Camp neared completion in September of 1929, it had grown to encompass a complex of 13 cabins, supported by purpose built electrical and highway infrastructure. Streams were diverted into idyllic, artificial waterfalls that flowed beneath footbridges and into well-stocked trout ponds. The Hoovers’ personal cabin was named the “Brown House” in woodsy contrast to their home in the city, the White House. In order to stay up to date with the news and current events, mail and newspapers were dropped into the camp daily by airplane. 

Alas, 1929 was not the best year to build a new presidential retreat from a public relations perspective. Seven months into construction, the New York stock market crashed and the nation plunged into the Great Depression. Hoover’s frequent weekend jaunts to Rapidon with his friends and political elites reinforced the negative view of his inaction on the economy. 

Hoover compounded the problem with a tone deaf publicity stunt in 1932, inviting members of the press along on one of his trips to Rapidan. He had hoped that the press would see him relaxing at the retreat, leisurely fishing and taking strolls around the property, and report to the public a softer image of the President. Instead, he came across as out of touch with the disaster facing average Americans, removed and ambivalent from their situation by his wealth and position of power. That November, he was swept out of office by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in one of the largest electoral college landslides in U.S. history.

After leaving office, the Hoovers donated Rapidan Camp to the federal government, but President Roosevelt visited just once and found it too rugged for his wheelchair. Roosevelt subsequently had another rural presidential retreat built that was more to his liking, in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland. It was called Camp Shangri-La, later renamed by President Eisenhower to Camp David. Rapidan Camp largely fell into disuse.

In 1946, the Boy Scouts of America were granted a 20-year lease to operate a summer camp on the site, but withdrew from the lease in 1958, citing rising maintenance costs. In 1960, the government demolished many of the crumbling buildings in the camp. Still, despite its shabby state, several high-ranking government officials have chosen to stay at Rapidan Camp over the years, including President Jimmy Carter, Senator Ted Stevens, and Vice-Presidents Walter Mondale and Al Gore.

The Rapidan Camp was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1988, and in 2004, Shenandoah National Park restored the property and its three remaining cabins and began offering guided tours of the cabins. To this day, like in Hoover’s time, the streams around Rapidan Camp are renowned for the quality of their trout fishing, though park regulations put some restrictions in place, including only allowing catch-and-release.

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April 24, 2017 at 08:05AM

Rapidan Camp in Syria, Virginia

Rapidan Camp in Syria, Virginia

http://ift.tt/2pWq6WT

The Hoovers' "Brown House."

When President Herbert Hoover and his wife Lou sought refuge from the bustle and heat of Washington, D.C., they were taken to a rural area nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, near the headwaters of the Rapidan River. Smitten with the place, the Hoovers immediately purchased 164 acres of the property and began planning the construction of the presidential retreat that would become Rapidan Camp. 

First Lady Lou Hoover took charge of planning of the camp, and U.S. Marines provided much of the labor under the auspices of a training exercise. This arrangement provoked a minor scandal and Hoover was forced to issue a statement stating that he would reimburse the federal government "for every nail and stick of wood."

As Rapidan Camp neared completion in September of 1929, it had grown to encompass a complex of 13 cabins, supported by purpose built electrical and highway infrastructure. Streams were diverted into idyllic, artificial waterfalls that flowed beneath footbridges and into well-stocked trout ponds. The Hoovers’ personal cabin was named the “Brown House” in woodsy contrast to their home in the city, the White House. In order to stay up to date with the news and current events, mail and newspapers were dropped into the camp daily by airplane. 

Alas, 1929 was not the best year to build a new presidential retreat from a public relations perspective. Seven months into construction, the New York stock market crashed and the nation plunged into the Great Depression. Hoover’s frequent weekend jaunts to Rapidon with his friends and political elites reinforced the negative view of his inaction on the economy. 

Hoover compounded the problem with a tone deaf publicity stunt in 1932, inviting members of the press along on one of his trips to Rapidan. He had hoped that the press would see him relaxing at the retreat, leisurely fishing and taking strolls around the property, and report to the public a softer image of the President. Instead, he came across as out of touch with the disaster facing average Americans, removed and ambivalent from their situation by his wealth and position of power. That November, he was swept out of office by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in one of the largest electoral college landslides in U.S. history.

After leaving office, the Hoovers donated Rapidan Camp to the federal government, but President Roosevelt visited just once and found it too rugged for his wheelchair. Roosevelt subsequently had another rural presidential retreat built that was more to his liking, in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland. It was called Camp Shangri-La, later renamed by President Eisenhower to Camp David. Rapidan Camp largely fell into disuse.

In 1946, the Boy Scouts of America were granted a 20-year lease to operate a summer camp on the site, but withdrew from the lease in 1958, citing rising maintenance costs. In 1960, the government demolished many of the crumbling buildings in the camp. Still, despite its shabby state, several high-ranking government officials have chosen to stay at Rapidan Camp over the years, including President Jimmy Carter, Senator Ted Stevens, and Vice-Presidents Walter Mondale and Al Gore.

The Rapidan Camp was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1988, and in 2004, Shenandoah National Park restored the property and its three remaining cabins and began offering guided tours of the cabins. To this day, like in Hoover’s time, the streams around Rapidan Camp are renowned for the quality of their trout fishing, though park regulations put some restrictions in place, including only allowing catch-and-release.

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April 24, 2017 at 08:03AM

United Victim’s Lawyer Will Also Represent the AA Stroller Woman

United Victim’s Lawyer Will Also Represent the AA Stroller Woman

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It’s been just about two weeks now since #BumpGate first made headlines when passenger Dr. David Dao was forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight. And just this weekend, American Airlines made news when a flight attendant allegedly nearly hit a baby with a stroller, causing a chaotic scene on the plane. The one thing tying the two incidents together (besides the fact they were both on an airplane)? The lawyer representing them.

This morning, Thomas Demetrio, the lawyer representing Dao, confirmed on the “Today Show” that he’ll also be representing the mother who was seen crying on a plane after a flight attendant allegedly nearly hit her and her baby with a stroller. Demetrio said that the woman contacted him, and he also confirmed to the “Today Show” that neither the woman nor her baby were actually hit by the stroller.

During this appearance, which followed a press conference from the lawyer and Dao’s daughter last week, Demetrio said that Dao is not in talks to negotiate a settlement with United, but the party does plan on filing a lawsuit. As for the AA/stroller case, however, Demetrio said he doesn’t know yet if there will be a lawsuit. Since the incident, AA has responded and apologized to the passenger and suspended the flight attendant in question.

As TPG says, all of these incidents could be the result of Mercury being in retrograde. And it looks like Thomas Demetrio will be a busy man because of it.

Featured image of Thomas Demetrio courtesy of Scott Olson via Getty Images.

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April 24, 2017 at 08:00AM

JetBlue Ventures backs Recharge pay-by-the-minute hotel platform

JetBlue Ventures backs Recharge pay-by-the-minute hotel platform

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Recharge, a mobile app that lets users book hotels outside of the traditional timeframe, has caught the attention of JetBlue Technology Ventures.

The airline’s incubation project, launched in February last year, has made an undisclosed investment in the two-year-old startup.

The company has previously raised $2.3 million in seed funding from Binary Capital, Eniac Ventures, Expansion Venture Capital and Floodgate.

The new funding coincides with the company expanding from its launch destination in 2016 of San Francisco to New York City.

It currently works with around 30 four and five-star properties.

Fellow startup with a similar idea, France-based DayUse, raised 15 million in January 2016 and has since expanded to US, Brazil, Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Australia and Argentina.

Other companies that have received funding from the JetBlue division include airport transfer search engine Mozio, which secured $2.5 million from the fund and other backers in July last year, as well as an undisclosed amount in Flyr a few months before.

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April 24, 2017 at 05:31AM

Will I Get Hotel Points and Elite Benefits When Booking at Amex Travel?

Will I Get Hotel Points and Elite Benefits When Booking at Amex Travel?

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“Reader Questions” are answered three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.

American Express Travel has gotten more useful lately, so TPG reader Nicole sent us a Facebook message to ask what hotel benefits she can get when booking with it…

With the new 5x Amex points on hotels booked through Amex Travel, is it still possible to earn hotel loyalty points when booking that way?

TPG Reader Nicole

Thanks to recent enhancements rolled out by Amex, cardmembers with either The Platinum Card from American Express or The Enhanced Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN can now earn 5 points per dollar when booking not just airfare, but also prepaid hotels through Amex Travel. While this is great for earning extra Membership Rewards points, are you giving up anything by booking your hotel reservation this way versus doing it directly with the hotel?

Amex Travel is essentially an online travel agency just like Expedia or Orbitz, and when it comes to travel agencies, there are very different rules for airline bookings versus hotel bookings. With the airlines, it usually doesn’t matter where you book a flight — you’ll earn miles and get your elite benefits just as if you’d booked directly with the airline (with a few possible exceptions if you find yourself with a “special fares” ticket). So there’s not much downside to booking airline tickets with Amex Travel, and with the personal Platinum, you can even book directly with an airline and still get the 5x anyway.

But hotels are a different animal. Most major hotel chains — including Hilton, Marriott, Starwood and IHG  — won’t award points or honor elite benefits when you’ve booked your stay with a third party such as a travel agency or booking portal. Up until recently Hyatt was a partial exception to this rule — you wouldn’t earn points for a stay booked with a third party, but you could still get your elite benefits honored. But when the chain introduced its new “World of Hyatt” loyalty program in March, it added the following restriction into its new terms and conditions:

IMG-hyatt-in-hotel-benefits-tandc

And just to clarify, the definition of “Ineligible Rates” is…

IMG-hyatt-ineligible-rates-tandc

So Hyatt’s out as well. In the old days hotel chains were more lenient about this restriction, but they’ve mostly tightened up their systems and rules now. Of course, after booking your stay with Amex Travel or another travel portal, you can always call the hotel and ask for your loyalty number to be added to your reservation and see if you get credit or elite benefits anyway. But you definitely shouldn’t expect them — if they show up, it’s a bonus.

One other note: Amex Travel is separate from Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, which is an exception to the third-party booking rule. In most cases, reservations made at Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts are in fact qualifying-rate rooms and will earn both hotel points as well as get elite benefits honored. But don’t confuse these two very different American Express programs.

So when booking a prepaid hotel at Amex Travel, you’ll have to decide if the extra Membership Rewards points are worth more to you than the hotel points and elite benefits. Thanks for the question, Nicole, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

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April 24, 2017 at 05:09AM

News: Arabian Travel Market 2017: Kamark to take up equity partners leadership at Etihad

News: Arabian Travel Market 2017: Kamark to take up equity partners leadership at Etihad

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Etihad Aviation Group has announced the appointment of Robin Kamark as chief executive, airline equity partners.

He will be responsible for leading and developing the group’s minority equity investment strategy, which includes stakes in airberlin, Alitalia, Jet Airways, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, Etihad Regional and Virgin Australia.

Reporting to the group president and chief executive, Kamark takes over from Bruno Matheu, who has held the role since May 2016, and is leaving for personal reasons. 

Kamark is a 17-year veteran of the airline industry, rising through a range of strategy, commercial and general manager roles at SAS Group to become chief commercial officer.

For the last five years, he has been executive vice president and chief commercial officer of Storebrand ASA, a leading Nordic financial services business.

Mohamed Mubarak Fadhel Al Mazrouei, chairman, Etihad Aviation Group, said: “Etihad Aviation Group continues to invest in world-class talent at the most senior level, building our executive team to lead the business into the next stage of its development. 

“Robin is a well-respected leader in global aviation, with wide-ranging experience at SAS Group.

“He performed important roles in the restructuring of that airline and has broadened his experience more recently in financial services.

“Our equity partner strategy continues to be an important element of our business model, and Robin will drive the strategy by adjusting and progressing our approach.

“We would like to thank Bruno for his sterling efforts over the last two and half years, as we have built and consolidated our equity partner approach.”

Kamark will lead strategic developments to optimise business performance, revenues and cost synergies between Etihad Airways and its equity partners across the world.

He will also provide strategic leadership for airline partners where Etihad Airways has management responsibility.

Kamark began his career in finance roles in the manufacturing sector, following his military service, before joining SAS in 1995. 

He will take up his new position in October 2017.

He said: “I am grateful to the Board of Etihad Aviation Group for their confidence in me. This is an exciting role, offering the opportunity to develop and refine an important element of the Group’s strategy.”

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April 24, 2017 at 04:55AM

Mark Ulriksen’s “Strike Zone”

Mark Ulriksen’s “Strike Zone”

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“There’s drama inherent in every pitch,” Mark Ulriksen, the artist behind this week’s cover, says, about the baseball season. “For the next six months, there’ll be a cast of characters,” he says. “You follow your team with the kind of rapt attention that you would a good book. When fall comes, you get a grand finale. Last year, it all went to the Chicago Cubs. This year, who knows?”

See the rest of the story at newyorker.com

Related:
Revisiting Jackie Robinson’s Major-League Début, Seventy Years Later
Cover Story: Abigail Gray Swartz’s “The March”
Martin Luther King, Jr., on the Cover of The New Yorker

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April 24, 2017 at 04:31AM

Saturday Night as an Adult

Saturday Night as an Adult

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We really want them to like us. We want it to go well. We overdress. They are narrow people, art people, offhand, linens. It is early summer, first hot weekend. We meet on the street, jumble about with kisses and are we late? They had been late, we’d half-decided to leave, now oh well. That place across the street, ever tried it? Think we went there once, looks closed, says open, well. People coming out. O.K. Inside is dark, cool, oaken. Turns out they know the owner. He beams, ushers, we sit. And realize at once two things, first, the noise is unbearable, two, neither of us knows the other well enough to say bag it. Our hearts crumble. We order food by pointing and break into two yell factions, one each side of the table. He and she both look exhausted, from (I suppose) doing art all day and then the new baby. We eat intently, as if eating were conversation. We keep passing the bread. My fish comes unboned, I weep pretending allergies. Finally someone pays the bill and we escape to the street. For some reason I was expecting snow outside. There is none. We decide not to go for ice cream and part, a little more broken. Saturday night as an adult, so this is it. We thought we’d be Nick and Nora, not their blurred friends in greatcoats. We cover our ears inside our souls. But you can’t stop it that way.

See the rest of the story at newyorker.com

Related:
Mark Ulriksen’s “Strike Zone”
This Week in Fiction: David Means on Stories of Homelessness
Cartoons from the May 1, 2017, Issue

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April 24, 2017 at 04:31AM