Travel Newsstand for August 2-16 2018
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Read all about it! Lucille Ball comes to the rescue of Jamestown, New York. The big media noise over the federal "Quiet Skies" program. The case of the copycat wine suitcase. Malaysia Flight 370: No aircraft, no answers. The tourist police of Venice. The erotics of anonymous hotel space. The cows of Cambridge, England. And much more.

Lucille Ball Comes to the Rescue of Jamestown, New York
First, the geography: Jamestown, in upstate New York, is closer to Cleveland (145 miles) than Manhattan (400 miles). Next, the history: Almost nothing has happened in the hardscrabble city of about 30,000 since the place, once upon a time, was called the "Furniture Capital of the World." The closest most current travelers get to the community on the eastern shores of Lake Erie is when they go to summer events at the nearby Chautauqua Institution. But Jamestown has one thing going for it besides a good Hampton Inn: Lucille Ball, the flame-haired comedian born in the city in 1911 and raised in nearby Celoron. If Celoron seems to ring a bell, it was famous for about 10 minutes several years ago when a "scary Lucy" statue infuriated Lucy's legion of fans. Lucy's prominence in comedy is already memorialized in Jamestown with the 22-year-old Lucy Desi Museum, which celebrates the couple's groundbreaking work on television and movies. Now comes the big time: The National Comedy Center, a massive new operation with 50 immersive, interactive exhibits that aim to do nothing less than tell the history of American comedy. (The museum promises to tell the story of "comedy's great minds and unique voices, from Chaplin to Chappelle.") The Center opened to the public this week and The Wall Street Journal offers the background and development of the $50 million facility, which Jamestown believes will put it back on the map.

The Big Media Noise Over the Federal 'Quiet Skies' Program
You've surely heard the long--and most would say, sordid and nasty--tale of "Quiet Skies," the until-now secret scheme that has U.S. air marshals shadowing innocent flyers. All of the media stories spun off reporting done by the Boston Globe, the newspaper that broke the details. The deeply researched and richly detailed story by Jana Winter explains the totally random nature of the marshals' actions and bizarre pattern of what they note about traveler activities on flights. To be honest, I'm not sure the story matters much because, legalities and creepy federal activity aside, it's hard to understand how any of this truly matters. Do you really care if a sky marshal keeps track of your in-flight sleeping habits or watches what you do? After all, an aircraft is public space and the expectation of privacy is slim. Is it wrong for the government to profile innocent flyers? Sure. Does it surprise you? Probably not. Either way, the American Civil Liberties Union takes note of the Constitutional issues that Quiet Skies raises.

Luggage Lore: The Case of the Copycat Wine Case
Wine connoisseur, journalist and JoeSentMe.com member Gary Thomas wrote a piece for Palate Press two years ago that I wish I'd seen at the time. Gary discusses the matter of traveling with wine and the cases and bags available to protect the bottles. One of Gary's favorites: the VinGarde Valise (left), a polycarbonate suitcase with foam inserts that protect a dozen bottles. "It is a joy to maneuver in airports or train stations," he wrote at the time. Thomas recently updated his piece. Besides finding an updated version of the VinGarde, Thomas also found a disturbing copycat sold by Wine Enthusiast, a retailer that targets wine fans. In talking to VinGarde's creator, Barry Wax, Thomas discovered the background of the copycat case. "We heard of a factory in China that was making a similar product, six or eight months ago," Wax said. "We had no hint this was coming down the road. We were shocked." After a complaint from Wax, Amazon.com removed the Wine Enthusiast version of the case. Thomas deems both cases, which sell for $299, worthy luggage for the wine fanatic. However, he concludes that the newest VinGarde Valise "does come across as the better pick."

Malaysia Flight 370: No Aircraft, No Answers
When Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared from radar screens more than four years ago, I warned you not to listen to the media speculation. And, I explained, we wouldn't learn anything until the plane was recovered and the "black boxes" retrieved. Neither the aircraft (save for some debris) nor the boxes have ever been found and that explains why this week's official report on the incident came to no conclusion. (You can read the report for yourself by downloading the PDF version here.) Of course, leave it to Fox News to play up the terrorism and conspiracy theories. Reuters explains that the controls of the Boeing 777 were deliberately manipulated, but notes that the 19-member panel could not place blame or determine any definitive conclusions.

Tight Connections ...
      Sex and Hotels Slate.com reprints a "lost" essay by Geoff Dyer that celebrates sex in hotel rooms. He discusses "the erotics of the anonymous space, where everything is clean and begs to be defiled." Um. Okay.
      There'll Always Be an English Cow Cambridge has beautiful parks and famous institutions of higher learning. And it also has cows. Lots of cows. Cambridge residents (most of them, at least) like it that way.
      The Sandwich Police of Venice Venice has been struggling with the tourist hordes for centuries. Now the city fathers have stewards who police visitors and politely demand they don't sit on the steps or--horrors!--consume sandwiches on the steps. The Guardian reports on the 15 locals who watch the canals and squares for tourist crimes. -- Joe Brancatelli

This column is Copyright 2018 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2018 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.