There is an awesome article about travel by Kelly Westhoff in today’s Huffington Post – here’s a choice quote:

“When I land in a foreign city, suddenly, every ounce of my being is alert. Talking is a challenge. Flushing the toilet is an adventure. Buying a package of gum can become a 30-minute ordeal in which I must pay total attention. Foreign travel is a full-body workout, and I love the rush. It makes me feel bold. It makes me feel smart. It makes me feel like I’m finally pooling all my schooling and talents and skills into a concentrated, combined effort, that I am being–to steal a line from the army–the very best I can be, and I can’t help but think it pleases the divine to see me living in the moment and not zoning on the couch.”

You should go read the rest now.  Kelly also writes for Global Roam Ink, a site that promotes an interest in travel as an educational experience – it is aimed at teachers (there are lesson plans and such), but I think it appeals to anyone who loves to travel and read about others’ adventures.

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The Knight News Challenge, which I wrote about way back in September 2007, recently announced the winners ($5.5. million was awarded to sixteen projects around the world). 

Check out the winners here.

Congratulations to them all!

Sometimes you come across lessons or tips in the least likely places.  For instance, check out this scene (here is the video clip) from the 2007 film American Gangster:

Frank Lucas: What is that you got on?
Huey Lucas: What? This?
Frank Lucas: Yeah, that.
Huey Lucas: This is a very, very, very nice suit.
Frank Lucas: That’s a very, very, very nice suit, huh?
Huey Lucas: Yeah.
Frank Lucas: That’s a clown suit. That’s a costume, with a big sign on it that says “Arrest me”. You understand? You’re too loud, you’re making too much noise. Listen to me, the loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room.

So how is this related to marketing? 

For those who haven’t seen the movie, Frank Lucas (played by Denzel Washington) is the mastermind of a massive heroin-dealing operation – he is smart and a self-made man, albeit one that deals mostly in illegal activities (kids, don’t do drugs).  Anyways, during most of the film his style is subdued and quietly confident, nothing flashy or blingy.  He had a certain elegant power and he did not need to be the center of attention.  And his downfall begins when he forgets his own advice and wears a showstopping chinchilla coat and sits ringside at a fight, and therefore catches the eye of law enforcement, and it all goes downhill from there. 

Of course, part of the reason that Frank Lucas didn’t want to draw attention to himself is because he was doing things that were illegal; also, his product was the sort that sells itself.  But when he says that “the loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room”, well, he has a point.  The product that has the most gimmicks or the person that is always trying to “network” and to brand him/herself and generally makes it all about them – the loudest ones in the room – are usually the least useful (the gimmicky product) or come across as pushy or desperate (not exactly attractive qualities). 

Obviously this doesn’t mean that all marketing or promotion is bad, or that you should rarely speak, but rather that there is a lot of power in simply having a superior product, a better price, or an impressive skill set (Frank Lucas’s product, “Blue Magic”, was both stronger and cheaper than the heroin currently on the market).  Granted, heroin is dangerous and addictive and such, but the concept can be applied in a positive fashion. 

There is a lot of noise out there about advertising, branding, marketing, search engine optimization (as well as a lot of sites that are basically well-optimized ad-stuffed crap) and other forms of promotion – some of it is valuable and a lot of it is bullshit.  The good advice tends to focus on adding value and telling people how you can improve their lives in some way; the bad advice tends to focus on simply getting attention.  Well, the loudest or flashiest person in the room gets attention too – but if it is not positive, then what is the point?

Stop what you are doing and go read this poem by Robert Bruce (and check out the rest of his site – KnifeGunPen – while you are at it, his work is fantastic). 

If you are an artist or writer with a blog or website (or thinking about creating one), check out his guest post on Problogger: 27 Thoughts On Blogging For The Artist.  My favorite one is “If you’re thinking about SEO while writing your digital novel, you’re already screwed. Quit now.”

Hat tip to Chris Guillebeau for introducing to his work with this interview.

This article – Pax Corelone – by John C. Hulsman in The National Interest is kind of awesome.  He looks at the American presidential race through the lens of the The Godfather.  According to him, the U.S. is currently in the position that the Corleone family was when Vito Corleone died (he is representative of America’s post-Cold War hegemony) – after all, the attack from the Sollozo family that led to his death was sudden and seemingly out of the blue (being too secure in ones position can be dangerous). 

So what happens now?  In the Godfather, the Corleone heirs had three potential strategies – Tom, the family’s lawyer who had a diplomatic, “let’s talk it out” outlook that is similar in philosophy to the modern Democratic party, Sonny, the hothead eldest son who favored a “shoot first, ask questions later” response to the Sollozo threat (hmm, which party/politicians share that mindset?), and Michael Corleone, who eventually saves the family thanks to his ability to adapt to the new multipolar world.  He was a realist.

“Viewing the world through untinted lenses, he sees that the age of dominance the family enjoyed for so long under his father is ending. Alone among the three brothers, Michael senses that a shift is underway toward a more diffuse power arrangement, in which multiple power centers will jockey for position and influence. To survive and succeed in this new environment, Michael knows the family will have to adapt.”

At the end of the piece Hulsman asks the key question – is there a Michael Corleone in the race?

“Can any of the candidates vying to become the next president of the United States match Michael’s cool, dispassionate courage in the face of epochal change? Will they avoid living in the comforting embrace of the past, from which both Tom and Sonny ultimately could not escape? Or will they emulate Michael’s flexibility—to preserve America’s position in a dangerous world?”

That’s the gist of it, but you should really go read the whole article, because it is excellent.

Global Voices Online has been one of my favorite sites for a while now.  It is a nonprofit project that “seeks to aggregate, curate, and amplify the global conversation online – shining light on places and people other media often ignore. We work to develop tools, institutions and relationships that will help all voices, everywhere, to be heard.” 

They translate and share posts written by wonderful bloggers from all the world – it is one of the most remarkable examples of citizen journalism on the web, in my opinion.  The founders also started  Global Voices Advocacy (which promotes free speech and defends bloggers from censorship) and Rising Voices (an outreach program that provides knowledge and resources to activists and citizen journalists in under-represented communities). 

The purpose of this love-fest is to point out the upcoming GlobalVoices Summit being held in Budapest at the end of June.  Now, I can only wish I was actually attending, but I’m sure it will be an amazing event – and that there will be lots of fantastic commentary on the conference blog.  Here’s a quote from the site:

“The Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2008 will explore topics around the theme “Citizen Media and Citizenhood”, and address fundamental issues surrounding the actual and potential role of citizen media producers in the public life of the countries they live in. As the Internet and the increasing accessibility of citizen media tools offer growing numbers of people throughout the world the means to distribute information globally, how does this affect or change the ways in which people participate in public life? Can citizen media make people better citizens? How can citizen media help affect lasting social change?”

Personally, I believe that citizen media and blogging is incredibly important; after all, even the most intrepid reporter can’t cover everything, and besides, there is something very powerful about an individual or group telling their own story. 

 

The very best time to visit the Alhambra is midnight. 

The tourist hordes have left, the sun has set, and the palace is painted with delicate brushstrokes of light.  During the witching hour everything takes on a more mysterious quality, and if you find the right quiet corner, you can take a mental journey through the centuries and listen to the stories that those intricate tiled walls have to tell.

The Alhambra

Perhaps you will meet some friendly ghosts?  Or you might hear the long lost echoes of the poems carved into almost every surface.  You may come across a charming stray cat who has made the palace his home.  A wise choice indeed. 

Brave New Traveler has an excellent list of the thirty songs that capture the spirt of travel, and while they’ve got most of the great ones – Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude by Jimmy Buffett (actually, any Jimmy Buffet works), Marrakesh Express by Crosby, Stills & Nash, America by Simon & Garfunkel, and many more (along videos for all of them), there are a few that I just have to add.

Southern Cross by Crosby, Stills & Nash – How could they not include this one?  I consider the ultimate inspiring traveller’s anthem (to point out the obvious).

Running Down A Dream by Tom Petty– Because some of the best moments happen when “you’re workin’ on a mystery, going where ever it leads”.  Perfect for those who wander are but are not lost.

Buenos Aires from Evita – I know, I know, it’s from a campy musical, but just listen – it is filled with anticipation and the delicious excitement of arriving in a big new city that you’ve been dreaming of visiting for years. 

Boots of Spanish Leather by Bob Dylan– On a more melancholy note, this song captures the sadness of separation and the feeling of leaving loved ones behind, in that sparsely beautiful way only Bob Dylan can.

End of the Line by the Traveling Wilburies – Its just a great feel good road-or-train trip song.  And any group that has George Harrison, Tom Petty, and Bob Dylan is worth a listen. 

I Can See For Miles by The Who – It calls to mind epic vistas and miles of stunning scenery (yes, I know that is not really what it is about).  Quick story: the last time I listened to this song was in Spain, on a train speeding towards Granada, and I woke up just as the sun was rising over the fields.  There were miles and miles of lush olive trees in every direction framed by the still snowcapped Sierra Nevadas.  It was just a perfect moment.

Mexico by James Taylor – This one should be self-explanatory.

A Horse With No Name by America – This song always reminds me of being out in the Sahara desert exploring and channeling Indiana Jones, or driving through the Badlands in South Dakota.

Desolation Row by Bob Dylan – No other reason except that it’s a simply incredible song.  And if you’re on a long flight or ride, you can try to interpret the lyrics.  A song and an activity.  Brilliant.

Peace Train by Cat Stevens – It is not so much about travel per se, but it seems to go with the idea of traveling and learning about other lands and cultures. 

What songs would you add to the playlist?