Fake Sputnik Capsule – Berlin
Wacky Travel News that’s out of this world – (as is the totally inappropriate commentary that follows).
December 03, 2013 Edition
Meet the American Nomads of Walmart’s Plentiful Parking Lots
BY JAKOB SCHILLER
“We sold everything we have and decided to find, as we put it, our American dream,” says Josiane Simpson. She, Jared Holfeltz, and their son Gabriel are currently living out of their car. Jared Hopes to start a contracting business helping rebuild after natural disasters, but he recently hurt his wrist working a construction gig. So their dreams are on hold for a few weeks until his wrist improves.
If you’ve ever tried to sleep in your car on a long trip without planning ahead, you may have run into the law at some point. Each U.S. city has a different policy and tolerance for car-sleeping and it’s hard to find a legit spot if you don’t know where exactly you’ll be stopping.
What you can count on is one of Walmart’s over 3,000 stores being nearby. The company’s policy of allowing overnight stays in their parking lots is intended to boost sales, but has the tangential effect of creating a subculture around its locations (though they’re still at the mercy of local laws).
The two separate Walmart parking lots in Flagstaff, Arizona are specifically known for their long-term residents, and this past summer photographer Nolan Conway spent several days making a series of portraits of both the overnighters and the people who call these asphalt grids a temporary home.
“Flagstaff is the one place in Arizona where it’s not too hot in the summer and a lot of people who live in their cars or RVs stay there,” he says.
Conway’s portraits capture a broad and varied slice of America. He photographed people like Leroy Morris, who parks his RV in one of the Walmart parking lots every summer. Morris is a retiree who lives off Social Security with his dog Maggie as his only companion, but he says his years on the road have been the best of his life.
Then there’s Sheldon and Jackie Britton from Phoenix who were on their way to Milwakee for Harley-Davidson’s 110th Anniversary. Their tricked-out and enormous fifth wheel had almost every amenity of a normal house, including a full-size walk-in closet and a set of china.
The younger people Conway photographed were usually on long road trips. Caleb Goodaker-Craig from Austin, who is pictured sleeping under a tarp on the asphalt, was on an 11,000-mile solo bike trip. Dave Gooding, Liz Deno, and their dog Shaggy were on their way from Georgia to Montana.
“It was definitely a diverse crowd,” says Conway.
Sometimes managers will say no to campers because space is limited. Conway says he’s unsure what the exact rules were for the Flagstaff Walmart parking lots but there were stories of the police coming and telling all the long-term campers to leave.
Conway says he first tried to make the Walmart portraits in another city during the winter but was routinely turned down. In Flagstaff people seemed more amenable, partly because it was summer and they were outside and more approachable, but also because these parking lots had so many long-term residents that they developed relationships and interacted on a regular basis. Their dogs would play together and residents shared meals and holidays.
“There was definitely a sense of community,” he says.
WOEFULTOURIST says, “While he certainly understands the excitement of shopping at Walmart, he’s not so sure he would actually want to live there.”
Japan’s ‘carnal desire’ shortage
By Mark Halper | November 1, 2013
Sorry to perpetuate a stereotype here, but it’s fairly well recognized that teenage boys think predominantly about one thing.
Leave it to Japan to break the mold.
Many young men there are retreating into an obsessive world of computers, gadgets, comics, cartoons, and animated video. In the process they seem to be losing the old natural urge, the BBC reported in a recent feature story.
“A survey by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in 2010 found 36 percent of Japanese males aged 16 to 19 had no interest in sex – a figure that had doubled in the space of two years,” the story noted.
There’s even a word for this cliché-breaking group of celibate cyberites. They’re called otaku, which the New Oxford American Dictionary defines as “a young person who is obsessed with computers or particular aspects of popular culture to the detriment of their social skills.”
The BBC noted:
“They are a generation of geeks who have grown up through 20 years of economic stagnation and have chosen to tune out and immerse themselves in their own fantasy worlds. Kunio Kitamara, of the Japan Family Planning Association, describes many young Japanese men as ‘herbivores’ – passive and lacking carnal desire.”
It’s not uncommon for otaku men to believe that they are in a relationship with a virtual girlfriend.
There’s no age limit to this club either: In the BBC story, two men 38- and 39-years-old, describe how they take female characters from their Nintendo games on dates to the park.
The abstinence is part of the reason why Japan is facing a possible population shrinkage of a third by 2060, the article noted.
Maybe that’s the solution to keeping our planet sustainable: Reduce the global population by getting close to our Game Boys.
WOEFULTOURIST says, “If computer geeks stop breeding, does that mean within a couple of generations they’ll be extinct? Or will those nerd brains simply find a way to clone themselves and continue to live on forever, like their favorite 3-D, animated characters?”
Venezuela’s government seizes US-owned oil rigs
Associated Press By Joshua Goodman
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela has quietly seized control of two oil rigs owned by a unit of Houston-based Superior Energy Services after the company shut them down because the state oil monopoly was months behind on payments.
The seizure took place Thursday after a judge in the state of Anzoategui, accompanied by four members of the local police and national guard, entered a Superior depot and ordered it to hand over control of two specialized rigs to an affiliate of PDVSA, the state-owned oil producer.
PDVSA justified the equipment’s expropriation, calling it essential to the South American nation’s development and welfare, according to a court order obtained by The Associated Press. Company workers were instructed to load the rigs, known as snubbing units and used to repair damaged casing, onto trucks to be deployed at “critical wells” elsewhere, according to the document.
“It was like a thief breaking into your house, asking for the keys to the safe and then expecting you to help carry it away,” Jesus Centeno, local operations manager for Superior in the city of Anaco, said by phone. “Their argument was that we were practically sabotaging national production.”
While the late President Hugo Chavez liked to grandstand on national television, ordering troops to seize everything from supermarkets to foreign-owned oil companies, his hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro, has avoided any additional expropriations six months into his rule.
Instead, even while attacking the country’s business elite for allegedly hoarding toilet paper and other basic goods as part of an “economic war,” he’s insisted Venezuela is open for investment and is seeking to boost production of oil that accounts for 95 percent of exports.
Neither Maduro nor any government official has publicly commented on the seizure of the U.S.-owned rigs. A spokesman for PDVSA in Caracas declined to comment, saying he was unaware of the case.
Oil companies are weary of working with PDVSA, which has accumulated huge debts to service contractors on whom it depends to develop the world’s largest proven oil reserves.
Centeno said Superior stopped servicing PDVSA in July after negotiations broke down over millions of dollars in unpaid bills stretching back to December. Removal of the equipment will take a few days, so Superior is also feeding and sheltering the police officers and PDVSA crew on site, he said.
Superior is a publicly-traded oil services company with more than 14,000 employees worldwide and $4.5 billion in annual revenue.
Greg Rosenstein, a spokesman for Superior, did not return an email seeking comment.
WOEFULTOURIST says, “To summarize, Venezuela doesn’t pay you for your services so you stop providing your services. Venezuela then confiscates your property, makes your people dismantle your equipment, then forces you to feed and house their people who are on site supervising things. Welcome to their version of a business friendly country.”