Yeah, this one kind of resonates a lot of the time...
The Tennessee Williams Festival takes place in New Orleans every spring, and is a literary celebration of the life of the great writer. It's a nominally academic affair, but culminates in a wonderfully dramatic competition. The Stanley and Stella Shouting Competition has people competing to recreate the famous scene in A Streetcar Named Desire where Stanley Kowalski screams forlornly for Stella to come to him. Marlon Brando gave it his emotional best in the film version. Here's footage of this year's challengers:
After weeks of celebrations here in New Orleans, St Patrick's Day is finally here. It's very much the Charlie Sheen of national holidays, isn't it? Not everyone who likes St Paddy's Day is an douchebag, but all douchebags love St Paddy's Day. An equation that applies equally to the film The Boondock Saints. In honour of the occasion, here's Shandy Pockets' favourite Irishmen, the Rubberbandits, with their guide to London.
Poor The Tourism Authority of Thailand. They should really stop trying to Make Social Media A Thing for them. After the perma-cringe of I Hate Thailand, which itself followed the bizarre and insulting Extreme Makeover promotion, they've maintained the weirdness levels of their sinister series of invitations with 'Love En Route'.
To save you a click, this NINETEEN MINUTE promotional film follows the whacky adventures of an unnamed American who travels to Thailand to forget an unspecific episode of heartbreak, ostensibly by stalking a young Thai woman (Pim) and vaguely coercing her into the world's most awkward friendship.
Yes, to get over what was presumably a recent failed episode of stalking in some other country, the American starts to show up at each place that Pim takes a photo of and via the medium of pained expressions and never leaving her alone, somehow worms his way into her affections. Because what unaccompanied female traveler doesn't like an entitled dreamer plotting her every move without her knowledge, tracking her down and then forcing her to talk about her emotions while staring at rural mist?
Hey, ladies. THIS GUY:
He's like Christian Grey for the backpacking community - instead of bellying up to the DIY store you work at, he'll be peaking at you from behind a reclining Buddha and driving his Volkswagon Pass-Ag straight into that holiday you planned so that you could take time to yourself and reflect for one minute. Sadly, The Need With No Name has decided, from the soulless luxury of his Bangkok hotel room, that "It would be nice for us to meet". So that's THAT settled, then!
Shifty Shades of Grey sets off in hot pursuit, finally tracking her down on a boat where he can sidle up to her in full SCUBA gear. He asks if she's the owner of the Instagram account (of course let's presume she speaks English, not sure what his plan was if she didn't) and EVEN IN THIS FANTASY WORLD she tells him she isn't because everyone on the project presumably feels we at least need a nod to how insanely creepy this is. He's got the wrong girl. Only he knows he hasn't because HE KNOWS EVERY LITTLE DETAIL ABOUT HER AND PROCEEDS TO PROVE IT.
Thai boat operator, one of he few voices of reason in this film, calls laughing boy out, but only so he can go on to defend himself. "I'm not a stalker. I'm a follower," he says, quickly avoiding eye contact. The first phrase he then asks the boat guy to teach him in Thai is, "Come with me and you will be safe". He practises this before invading her space, captive as she is on the boat.
We then learn that Pim is on her trip to remember her recently dead sister. We see Pim pour her sister's ashes into the sea, and then enjoy 1.3 seconds of quiet spiritual reflection before Stalking Heads is all I FOUND PLACES FOR US TO GO FOR DINNER YOU HAVE TO COME WITH ME NOW YOU WILL BE SAFE. He then manipulates a crowd of street urchin children and says his outrageous Thai lie about not flirting. Art direction note: Pim has now taken to wearing an Iron Mike Tyson t-shirt, a particularly worrying development. By monopolising the only car out of town, our hero has in any case inserted himself into Pim's journey of remembrance, and off they go hiking, presumably because at this point it's way too tiring to resist.
En route they stare into rural mist and Pim cries about her sister and he casually takes a surreptitious photo of her crying. But it's OK because NOW YOU WILL BE SAFE and Pim realises she is in love while a baby elephant holds her selfie stick. Our hero's feelings are more ambiguous, though he does say he thanks Pim for helping him fall in love with Thailand, so she does get SOME credit. Just time for a balloon ride before the denouement of awkward at Bangkok Airport, where Pim's feelings are winkled out with the now-customary levels of tact.
Put on the spot, Pim Cup impressively stays strong and keeps her counsel for all of a minute before blabbing it all out in a soppy Instagram post to give our now-departing Man in a Cyan Star Trek Uniform justification for the entire trip, and presumably the impetus to go ahead and stalk other vulnerable women the world over. How do you say COME WITH ME NOW YOU WILL BE SAFE in every language, Google?
Full disclosure: I really like Thailand.
I’ve travelled there around 20 times, seen most of the country, had some really memorable experiences and promoted it in countless travel features as somewhere I recommend – I was even recognised by the Thai government for doing so and was given an award which, though relentlessly waning in relevance, is something I’m still proud of.
This video recently came out. It has been hailed as a masterstroke of reverse psychology and an impressively inventive way for travel marketing to go viral. It’s also been panned as cheesy, patronising and portraying a fantasy world.
Shall we watch?:
I think it’s important to remember the context here. Thailand is a recently-converted military dictatorship. It’s fine, I think, to approach this with a ‘love this country, hate this nation’ attitude, but the sub-plot is worth bearing in mind. The country is also reeling from the murders of two young backpackers – a horrific incident that was bound to have implications for tourism there.
Context aside, I think it’s a tweak heavy handed, especially considering the agency (and the Tourism Authority of Thailand) chose to film it in a way that looks as if they’re trying to disguise the source of the film. I’m sure they hoped that some people would watch it and think it was user-generated (no obvious branding/logos/mystical eastern soundtrack).
Fair play: for an official tourism video, it actually IS pretty edgy. How many promotional films for destinations have you seen where the lead guy says the word “fucking” in the first 30 seconds and then goes posh-white-boy raggo on a passing taxi with a brick? Is this a sly dig at foreigners by the Thai authorities (because if so it’s probably a fair one – I’ve been to Phuket and it’s essentially Magaluf in the tropics).
There are obvious signs – the way the camera switched to a third person filming things, the dodgy acting, the fairytale romance – but it’s a laudable attempt, especially considering the absolute excrement that tourist boards have been cinematically responsible for.
I think my problem with it is more with the subtle messages. Reddit user astronoob summarises the narratives of the video with impressive accuracy:
“I hate Thailand because I didn't keep track of my belongings! I love Thailand because I showed this hot woman my dick and now we're totally having sex!”
Hey, at first that island girl is all straw-haired and rural-looking (giveaway cheekbones, mind), and then in the end she’s made up and chic and talks great English and kicks water at his camera like a true Manic Pixie Dream Girl. James don’t care she endangered his GoPro! He’s in love!
“I lived the way of the Buddhist.” Ehhhhhhh….let’s just leave that there.
And I’m not sure how James is staying there for two years in what looks like a pretty casual teaching job. I might be wrong but I think those freshly-tightened visa laws make that a logistical impossibility (unless he’s building up to burning that passport as he looks at it wistfully).
Is it even possible to promote an entire country without inherent cheesiness? Maybe it’s not. Maybe James and the Giant Beach is as good as it gets. At least there’s some curse words.
I love Thailand. I lost my bag there once. I just kind of hated myself for being an idiot. I’m glad it worked out differently for James, though. He seems like the kind of entitled farang things WOULD work out like that for. Now he's a Buddhist, I'm sure he sees things this way, too. We can only hope.
If you've ever traveled in London and taken the tube from Leicester Square to Covent Garden, you'll know from bitter experience that you should have walked because of all the locals that will tell you that you should have walked because it's only one stop and it's actually quicker to walk, actually and YOU SHOULD HAVE WALKED YOU KNOW-NOTHING CRETIN. In short: you should have walked. Well, the next time anyone tells you that they got the tube from Mansion House to Canon Street, you can tell them with no small amount of smugness: "Oh, you should have sprinted with such lung-busting effort that you got to the station marginally slower than the tube but with just enough time to collapse through the doors in an exhausted heap YOU REALLY SHOULD HAVE SPRINTED." That said, this is still pretty cool.
What an incredibly strange week it’s been for travel-based social media. Yesterday’s Twitter insanity over the United Airlines porn surprise saw every conceivable joke made in around 4 minutes flat, everything from black box recorders to missing Malaysian Airlines planes to the alternative ending to ‘Lost’. We at Shandy Pockets were responsible for a VERY childish remark about holding patterns.
If this storm in a diva cup somehow passed you by, the beleaguered airline somehow posted a response to a customer complaint that was accompanied by a young woman, resplendent and nude on a hotel bed with a model airplane protruding from her, well, front bottom. The story, complete with NOT SAFE FOR WORK photos, is summarised HERE.
Some wits suggested that this was a knowing marketing response to all the headlines that American Airlines had been making as they had a 14-year old girl arrested for tweeting a fake bomb threat. The young Dutch girl, known only as ‘Sarah’, had set up a fake account and made the unwise decision to write: ““Hello my name’s Ibrahim and I’m from Afghanistan. I’m part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I’m gonna do something really big bye.”
So far, so ill-advised, BUT the world’s teenagers saw this as an opportunity to jump on the bandwagon, and suddenly dozens of threats started to appear on Twitter. These seem to be basic teen idiocy rather than a coordinated, socio-political campaign in support of ‘Sarah’, but given that the airline and authorities have to take each threat seriously, there’s a rather wasteful amount of time and manpower being stacked up this week.
On a lighter note, this astonishing video was hastily removed by Singapore Tourism, and rightly so. We’re just glad someone captured its glory before it disappeared.
It’s been a proud last week for the travel blogging community. See how big and important it’s become!
Firstly, let’s welcome the esteemed movie of our travel blogging lives, American Blogger. OK, strictly it’s just about blogging in general BUT the dude does travel around in that sweet AirStream and meets a cross section of lifestyle bloggers.
Who happen to be his wife’s friends. Well, the best looking section of his wife’s friends. Well, her white friends. Well, her young white friends. It’s a line up of affluent eye candy, is what it is. I don’t doubt that some of these ladies can write, but when you take them in all at once, as in this now infamous trailer, it’s an overwhelming conveyor belt of suburban blandness that somehow also manages to be preciously pretentious.
Take your affluenza shots before viewing.
Added to this is an astonishing response by one Mr J Blair to the curious case of his girlfriend’s missing purse (via Mr David Whitley, many thanks for bringing it to Twitter’s attention).
Seems that Mr Blair’s “backpacking girlfriend” misplaced some cash during her stay at a Japanese hotel in Okinawa. Who knows what transpired, but what followed was this incredibly over the top tirade of don’t-you-know-who-I-am-ness.
The open letter is essentially just a massive list of Mr Blair’s achievements, not to mention the kracken-raising-esque threat of action from that most shadowy of all evil empires, the Professional Travel Blogger’s Association. No-one takes on the PTBA and lives to tell the tale.
The lexical petulance ends, rather bafflingly, by quoting Noel Gallagher, lead songwriter of popular beat combo Oasis, and patron saint of customer service in the hospitality industry.
“Your destiny will keep you warm.”
If that’s not a hint at sinister repercussions, we’re not sure what is.
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