Readuponit: Travel and voracious reading

Max Hartshorne, travel website editor, sharing some of the stuff I read, hear and see with you. Updated every day. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Singing to the Belugas in Manitoba

by Max Hartshorne on September 26, 2014

Belugas in Manitoba.

Belugas in Manitoba.

Every day I go down to my office I open up a the equivalent of a chocolate box–a new story to publish on GoNOMAD. It’s so varied, there are so many different stories, I never know what I’m going to get. That’s what makes being an editor such fun.

Did you know that beluga whales can turn their heads and look at you? Richard Bangs wrote a story for us about how in Hudson Bay, north of Churchill, Manitoba, he rode with a local guide in a speedboat and then had him tie his feet to a rope and donned a mask and snorkle. Then he began to sing to the belugas!

“This seems crazy. In the stern of a Mark V Zodiac on the Arctic Sea I’m slipping into a dry suit, fitting into flippers, and adjusting a snorkel mask. Then Terry, the guide, instructs to jump overboard and turn on my belly, feet facing him. Once so positioned, he slips a lasso around my ankles, fires up the 60 hp Mercury engine, and pays out the line. “Don’t forget to sing,” Terry yells.
“What kind of music?” I garble.

“Try your national anthem, as long as you’re not from a whaling nation.”

So as I’m being dragged, backwards, through the cold water, I begin my playbook…Francis Scott Key, Tom Waits, Paul Robeson, Leonard Cohen, Barry White…but nothing happens. Then I remember Terry saying that women, with their higher voices, seem to get the best results, and so I switch to The Four Seasons and Michael Jackson, and boom….suddenly the space in front of my mask is filled with belugas, dancing, squeaking, chirping, and grinning at me.

Read more at http://www.gonomad.com/component/content/article/61-alternatives/animals/5709-manitoba-beluga#

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Tony’s Kindness Brought Out a New Lady Gaga

by Max Hartshorne on September 21, 2014

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga

Tony and Lady

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett have 60 years separating them, but they’ve become fast friends and have gone on several successful tours together and just released a new album. In a touching interview in Friday’s WSJ, Marc Myers interviewed Lady about how Tony Bennett has affected her life, her attitude and her music. He comes out sounding like  prince–a gallant echo of a gentler, nicer time. Here’s how Lady described one of their first meetings.

“I was starting to think there was no elegance left in the industry, no charm. I thought there was no gravity, no authenticity. And then I worked with Tony. When I walked in to the studio, everyone stood up for me and he was always dressed so beautifully and told me I looked lovely. I’ve never been treated that way. It was Tony’s kindness that made all that jaded, aggravated and cynical part of me that had grown over the years dissipate. Now there’s just beautiful.

“The pop industry is like a tabloid now. There’s just no integrity and it’s extremely controlled and manufactured. There’s a lot of farce and not a lot of authenticity. So for me, singing the Songbook was freedom. Tony doesn’t think I’m crazy. He thinks I’m old school. He really understands me He helped me make it through one of the hardest times in my life so far. There are a lot of sharks in the pop music industry. I was kind of damaged and faced all these challenges behind the scenes with people betraying me and things like that. I’m so much more satisfied with music now.

Lady Gaga said she plans to release a jazz album every year, forever. Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga’s new album is called Cheek to Cheek. 

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China’s Dirtiest City’s Biggest Polluter

by Max Hartshorne on September 18, 2014

In China, there’s a revolution brewing, and it has nothing to do with the Communist party.  It’s about the foul air that more and more is causing the Chinese to wheeze and causing Western executives to either turn down assignments to work in Beijing or demand huge amounts of hazard pay.  In a story in  yesterday’s WSJ, titled “The Biggest Polluter in China’s Dirtiest City,” one of the country’s top coal companies faces a dilemma, because they’re also the top employer in Xingtai as well.

A photo showed commuters riding their bikes and motorbikes in a thick haze of coal dust and ozone pollution, in the city where Jizhong Energy Resources has 50,800 workers. Many of them wash dirt and grit out of big piles of coal, and many said they haven’t been given bonuses in many months because of the pressure the company faces to lower its terrible soot output.

Gardens that people plant are layered with coal ash, and they complain that nobody wants to buy their crops. Jizhong operates six large coal mines that together with the dozens of related facilities give Xingtai the dubious honor of China’s worst air. To compare, in the US, Fresno, California has an average fine particulate matter of PM2.5 a level of 18 micrograms per cubic meter.  In Xingtai that number is 150. But the government is working hard to change this, to their credit. In October they began rewarding citizens who report environmental violations. The Jizhong company has installed desulfurization equipment in all its power plants in 2008 and 2009 and when two of the plants still failed air quality tests the company has said they would shut them down in 2016.

The company has taken a big hit with the lower price of coal and for having to lower emissions–their profit shrank 93% from last year to today. With so many local people depending on the polluting company for their paychecks, it’s a constant battle, but in the end everyone realizes that things have to change drastically or no one will be able to breath.

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Isla Holbox, the Lovely Opposite of Cancun

by Max Hartshorne on September 14, 2014

We spent a few days mostly inside the Moon Palace convention center just below the Hotel Zone in Cancun, and after all of the work of our TBEX meeting, it was time for a change of pace. So we packed in to a van and drove two hours to the northwest to a ferry that took us out to an island with no cars, very few televisions, and the sea surrounding us all around.

It’s one of the shallowest seas I’ve ever seen…people were hundreds of yards off shore walking in light blue water up to their ankles! This small island is only 16 x 1 kilometers, a narrow strip located in a sandy basin. Most of what people do here is lie around and relax, besides the 28 hotels’ wifi, there isn’t a lot of media to entertain us.

My friend Tim lives in Mexico and told us last night about how loud everything is there, it’s a constant cachaphony, a symphony of sounds, from loud radios, to blaring car horns to trucks with speakers mounted in top blaring out news of an upcoming concert or a plea to vote for someone.

Isla Holbox is simple. A place to chill out.  Scandinavians love coming here and in February they are one of the top visitor nationalities. More than six thousand people can show up here, but most of the time it’s only the 1000 or so locals. Tomorrow we are going to swim with giant whale sharks in a protected environmental sanctuary.  One of our hosts has been involved with helping to restore and preserve flamingoes. Barbara, who owns a hotel here, told us that five years ago there were only 10,000 of the birds, today there are 50,000.

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TBEX Excitement Is Contagious Here in Cancun

September 13, 2014

Tweet I’m with my peeps, my tribe, my travel buddies from all over the world, who are assembled here in Cancun to share their success, their tribulations, their glamorous stories of exotic travel and their frustrations  as they navigate new channels.  It’s always an exciting time and I am always glad I made the effort [...]

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Getting Help: Using Interns, Salespeople and Virtual Assistants to Grow Your Business

September 12, 2014

Tweet I flew to Cancun this morning, and when I arrived I was in the thick of TBEX, the Travel Bloggers Exchange that brings more than 1000 travel writers and bloggers under one giant roof.  I was glad to feel my knee pretty much return to normal after my fall the other day.  Lots of [...]

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