Saturday, November 9, 2013

Movie Review: The Eagle (2011)

How far should one go to recover a man's honor? For Marcus Flavius Acquila, a centurion, the answer was to go to the far northern end of the Roman world. We rarely talk about honor in our modern society today, it seems to be a quaint idea in today's jaded and brash culture. But in ancient Rome, family honor counted and one's place in life depended on it. The movie is set in second century Britain, where Marcus takes charge of a garrison in a remote Roman outpost, defending it against the surly and resentful natives. Marcus, asked for the command because he wants to find out what happened to his father and his command of 5000 centurions, a whole Roman league, that vanished in the wilds of Scotland, never to return and thereby tainting his family's honor. He soon experiences battle with the British barbarians and understands what his father and his men must have encountered. Wounded, he is sent home to recover, is recognized for his bravery and leadership by the Roman Senate, and to his great disappointment, discharged. Stung by a remark made by a young, insipid politician, he is determined to regain his father's and his family's honor by retrieving the lost league's battle emblem, a golden eagle. He is reluctantly aided in his quest by a British slave and together they discover the truth of the mystery of the lost 9th Roman League.

Relative newcomer, Channing Tatum, does a fine job of playing the haunted and determined Marcus. He is joined by the very talented, Jamie Bell, who plays his slave, Esca. Marcus saves Esca's life. Beholden to Marcus, Esca pledges his loyalty. Together they ride past Hadrian's wall into hostile territory of the British barbarians where Marcus must rely on Esca to find out what happened to the 9th Legion. During their journey, they come to a fragile truce and slight understanding of how their respective cultures have impacted the other's lives personally. Esca was the son of a tribal king who was killed during a fight to defend their lands against the Romans and was captured and brought to Rome as a slave. He hates the conquering Romans for violently disrupting his way of life.

The quest is frustrating and a fight erupts between the two when members of a fierce tribe come upon them. Marcus finds that they possess the golden eagle, steals it, and manages to successfully fight off the tribal warriors who come after them. The movie ably conveys the reach of Rome and how its famed Roman Legion is representative of Rome's high culture and civilization but at the same time is the cause of destruction of non-Roman worlds and peoples as it conquers new lands. There seem to be some political overtones as the Romans seem to be played by Americans or at least actors with American accents while the barbarians are played by Britons (what a role reversal!). However, the movie doesn't get very political, what it does well is to narrate a violent story of a clash of cultures and how those cultures are inherently more similar underneath the veneer of customs. It has the usual swordfights and clashes but it is not very bloody although you do glimpse a severed head. I thought the costumes and customs of the British natives were particularly interesting. The soundtrack has music that is reminiscent of what might be ancient Scots music. The movie is adapted from Rosemary Sutcliffe's novel, The Eagle of the Ninth, and runs approximately two hours and ten minutes and you find yourself totally immersed and learn a lot about the ancient Roman world and Roman Britain.

Originally published March 1, 2011

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Duo vs Solo Travel

When I travel I envy couples. I think traveling as a twosome saves so much money. Couples never have to worry about paying the single supplement when they book a cruise or a travel package. As a solo traveler I have to have my boyfriend or I have to coordinate with another friend to travel with and book a room in order to avoid paying as much as 50% more of the standard price because of the single supplement.

Meals at restaurants can be so much cheaper. Not only are two people paying for the meal, but there's usually some special that involves a meal for two. Portions can be so huge that I usually end up tossing the whole thing if I don't have a fridge at the hotel, if I do have a fridge it'll sit there for days because I hate eating leftovers. However if there are two of you, you can actually order an appetizer and one entree and split both. You also have the option of ordering two entrees and sharing so you can enjoy two different dishes (at this point I'm assuming the woman's married the guy because he knows how to share his food). If I were to suggest that with the solo stranger at the next table, two things will happen. If the stranger is a woman, she'll just look at me like I have two heads and decline. If the stranger is a guy, he'll think I'm a pro and he will gladly pay for dinner and the night (now remember, I want to save money not make money). So I'm usually stuck with one entree and that's fine, except I end up wanting to try two dishes instead of one and I get real curious about the one I didn't order (can you tell I'm indecisive?). In addition, restaurants usually have some kind of prix fixe meal for two people that gives couples a good deal and nada for the solo eater. I have to look for the early bird special; no matter it's good preparation for retirement.

Couples also save when it comes to renting a car. As a solo traveler, I don't get a discount because one butt is using the seat, I must pay for the whole car.

But even outside of the financial advantage, traveling as a couple seems so much better. One person can check in while the other person is parking the car. At a fast food place, one person can hold the seat while the other person gets lunch. It is so annoying to go around looking for an empty table while you are carrying your food. Not to mention that it's a lot safer to travel when there are two of you instead of one. When you go on a theme park, attractions are usually made with two people in mind. Solo travelers usually sit with a stranger or an empty seat.

Additionally, you always have someone to talk to and laugh over (and sometimes argue with) the things that you have seen and places to go. I can argue with myself but it will look stupid (not to mention deranged). Best thing of all you have another person you can reminisce your travel travails and look back at fondly.

Don't get me wrong, being a solo traveller I can go wherever I want to go without consulting another person regarding their schedule or their aptitude. I seem to have a much easier time talking to people as a solo traveler. I have so much freedom and spontaneity and I can do what I want to do and I value that immensely. But I really wish things were a lot cheaper for us solo travelers.

Original publication date:  August 13, 2009

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Blame President Obama for the Delays in Air Traffic

The sequester was his idea after all.  Obama in one of the egregious examples of poorly thought out solutions, wanted to increase taxes and a higher debt cap but didn't want to cut anything from the budget.  Well of course the Republicans wasn't going to allow the increases without cutting so what did Obama do, he proposed the sequester.  The Republicans agreed to it and this is how we end up with all these flight delays.  And it doesn't have to be this way.  Obama had sent out a missive to all the agencies that when it comes to the furlough, they were to make it as painful as possible.  It's ridiculous.  The sequester is basically a 5% over a ten year period.  This was done to lower our debt by 1 billion dollars.  Well guess what, under Obama, the government has overspent one billion dollars each year for the last three years.  So whatever the sequester was designed to do in lowering the national debt, the Obama administration has made sure that the debt has increased.  It's all politics and every traveler out there should let the Obama administration know that this sort of nastiness from the supposed leader of our country would make things difficult for us so that he can make a point.  Go to the White House website and make your displeasure known.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Samoa Air Fares Depend on Your Weight

Okay, I knew that some airline would eventually start charging you depending on your weight but I didn't know it was going to happen this quick.  Ever since a Norwegian educator said that the best way for airlines to prosper was to charge by the weight, there was a lot of discussion if the major airlines would do something like that.   Well now it has, Samoa Air.  Now Samoa Air is not a major airline for me but it is a major airline for Samoans.  When you buy a ticket on Samoa Air you have to include, not only pertinent identification details but also your weight and the weight of your bags.  Then based upon your weight you will prepay the ticket based on the rate per kilo plus the length of the flight.  When you get to the airport to check in with an airline, you and your bags get weighed to make sure that you paid the right fare if not you cough up the difference.

I agree that it's the fairest way to be able to charge for the ticket but I'm not sure people want to do things that way.  It will be interesting to see how this airline might influence the other airlines as time goes by.

Friday, March 29, 2013

American Airlines Allow Passengers without Carry-ons to Board First

Airlines are trying to figure out how to reduce boarding times so that get their planes out faster.  With more passengers taking along large carry-on bags because they don't want to spend money to check their bags, boarding times have gotten a lot longer.  Some airlines have come up with creative ways of trying to shorten the boarding time.  Spirit Airlines is notorious for charging $100 for carry-on bags to encourage passengers to check in a bag.  US Airways is willing to check your large carry-on bag for free at the gate.  American Airlines is trying out a new boarding process where it will allow passengers who don't have carry-ons to board before passengers with carry-ons.  First, American will board First Class passengers, then the elite passengers who are frequent flyers and have achieved some sort of status, then passengers without bags.  Finally if you have a carry-on, you are allowed to board last.

I agree with this.  I'm tired of waiting for passengers with carry-on bags delaying other passengers to get to their seats because they can't find overhead space.  I prefer going to my seat and sitting down and letting those passengers fight it out for luggage space. I've never understood why so many people were either too cheap or too attached to their luggage that they can't check it in.  And I'm talking about people who have bags that really should have been checked in, in the first place.  If this new boarding process works for American Airlines, it'll be a different world for passengers without bags and passengers with bags.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

LATAM is now part of oneworld

The merger of two of South America's biggest airlines LAN Chile and TAM Brazil becomes the powerhouse LATAM and it has chosen to become part of the oneworld frequent flier alliance.  This is a big deal because it strengthens the travel opportunities for oneworld, the weakest alliance of the three major frequent flier alliances.  The other two are Star Alliance which is headed by United and Skymiles which is led by Delta.  American Airlines along with British Airways leads oneworld.  While it is a coup for oneworld, it is a blow to Star Alliance because it loses TAM.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Are You OK with Tagging Your Own Bag?

We all know that we can check in at home or at a kiosk in the airport to get our boarding passes but we still have to see an agent to tag our bags.  Now American Airlines is expanding the program at Reagan National Airport in Washington DC where you can also print out and tag your own bag.  It first started in Orlando International Airport in November 2012.  American was not the first airline to start this process, Alaska Air launched a similar program out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in May 2012.

Delta is testing out their own program in Atlanta and Las Vegas.  An American Airlines spokesman said that it speeds up the check-in process much faster.  I guess we won't have a chance to talk to a customer service agent any more.  It seems customer service gets less attention nowadays in the new American Airlines.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sequester will Cause Flight Delays

The FAA chief Michael Huerta said the sequester was going to cause 90 minute delays at big hubs like Chicago and New York City because he'll have to furlough air traffic controllers.  Really?  He must be a bad administrator if he can't find a way to make the budget cuts work to continue to make the agency operational.  For crying out loud, you take money away from agencies and they immediately threaten your safety.  What the heck is it with these departments that they can't find a way to reduce their budgets by a measly 5%?  Why do they always say they have to lay off workers?  Why isn't it that these stupid government bozos can't find a way to run their departments so that it's more financially efficient?  Corporations and small businesses have been finding ways to save on expenses because it makes a difference to their bottom line.  But these big shot government agencies can't seem to do it because they don't have to worry about making a profit, they think they can always tax the public even more.  For once I wish those bozos in Washington would think about the taxpayers instead of always spending our money.