Live In-Flight Entertainment: Pure Genius Or Terrible Idea?

virgin atlantic plane
Peter Russell, Flickr

It’s always a little annoying when you get on a flight and realize you’ve already seen all the movies and TV shows on offer, so it may come as a relief to learn that one airline has found a way of keeping in-flight entertainment as fresh as possible: put it on live.

Passengers traveling on certain Virgin Atlantic flights in the UK will be able to listen to live stand up comedy beginning this month, with music acts set to take place on flights starting September. The airline, which is known for its gimmicky schemes, says the details about which flights will have performances will stay a secret because they want to create a “one of a kind” experience for passengers.On the one hand, it’s a genius idea – you hop on what would otherwise be an uneventful flight and get to enjoy a well-known comedian or band for absolutely free. On the other hand, it could be one of the worst ideas in the airline industry since baggage fees were introduced. I mean, what if you were planning on sleeping or knocking off some work during your flight? And too bad if the comedian’s sense of humor grates on your nerves or the music isn’t to your liking, because you’re buckled in with nowhere to escape.

And then of course, there’s the issue of comedians bringing up sensitive subjects during their routine. What if they start joking about security or terrorism for instance? Is that okay or do they get booted off the flight? There are numerous cases of passengers being escorted off planes because of comments they made in jest, so where do you draw the line?

Northern Nights Music Fest To Go On, In Spite Of Itself

Michael Dolan/Flickr

Northern Nights Music Festival is a three-day celebration of music, art, food and local culture set to run from July 19 – 21 at California’s Cook’s Valley Campground. Host to various acclaimed music festivals for decades, thousands of visitors attend events in the area every year, making concert tourism a big part of the local economy. But some local residents don’t see it that way. They want more time between events, environmental impact studies and more control over concertgoers.

Describing the Northern Nights Music Festival as a “blowout of alcohol and drugs,” Mendocino County Board of Supervisors chairman Dan Hamburg publicized his stance. “There’s something about us welcoming in a rave that scares me,” Hamburg said in a WilItsNews report.

Still, there’s big money at stake with tickets for the three-day event selling for $160 per person and thousands expected to attend. To satisfy officials, promoters have promised to be sure the environment is respected by roaming the adjacent river for campers, educating festival goers on where and how to shower, use the toilets and park their cars.

In response to neighboring landowners and their concerns, the stage and speakers will be directed away from them and a blocking sound wall will be built. To comply with permit requirements that loud music stop at 2 a.m., concertgoers will be given wireless headphones for a “Silent Disco.”

Get Warm, Get Lucky: Gadling’s Exclusive Summer Playlist

Alessandro Oddi, Flickr

Just in time to officially celebrate the summer solstice comes the Gadling Exclusive Summer Playlist. You might have had the new Daft Punk album on repeat for the last few weeks now, but it’s time for something new, so the Gadling crew got together and compiled all of our favorite warm weather songs the perfect summer playlist. We do of course kick off with Daft Punk’s insta-jam “Get Lucky,” because for summer 2013 there’s just no other choice, and then we work our way through 67 more songs, all intended to keep your summer days chill and your summer evenings rocking.

Just like summer, or a good ice cream stand, there’s a little bit of everything in this playlist. A little funk, a little country, a little Euro, a little reggae, a little indie pop… you get the idea.

Perfect for: road trips, afternoon lemonade drinking, taking the metro in a new city.

Listen to the full playlist on Spotify.

Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield Makes First Music Video In Space


It’s official. We Canadians rock. If William Shatner and Bryan Adams aren’t enough for you, there’s Chris Hadfield. He’s an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency and has become hugely popular with his videos about life aboard the International Space Station, answering such profound questions as how to cut your nails in space.

Now Hadfield is coming home. He’s turned over command of the ISS to Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov and will be departing on a Soyuz module, which will land in Kazakhstan today at 10:31 p.m. EDT. As a final sendoff, he’s made the first music video in space, a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” Hadfield isn’t a bad musician, and the video has beautiful visuals of him on the ISS.

Put it on full screen, sit back and enjoy. It’s a great day to be Canadian.

Fiddles, Bagpipes And Empty Beaches On Cape Breton’s Cabot And Ceilidh Trails

cape bretonAfter driving for miles on a dirt road through the pitch darkness and seeing no signs of life anywhere, I was certain we were lost. It was a perfect early August evening in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and we were looking for the Thursday night square dance in Glencoe Mills, a blink-and-you’ll-miss it hamlet in Cape Breton’s untrammeled interior. The road was so dark and so eerily quiet that when I finally saw another car coming towards us from the opposite direction, I flagged the driver to stop.

“You’re almost there,” said the old man.

“But how will we know when we’ve arrived?” I asked.

“Oh, you’ll see all the cars,” he said.

And he was right; the whole area was so eerily silent because on Thursday nights in the summertime, almost everyone within a 20 mile radius descends on the community center in Glencoe Mills to dance to traditional Gaelic fiddle music. We paid our $5 entry fee and stepped into a large hall that was filled with men, women and children from age 5 to about 85 dancing in pairs and in big circles as a band on a small stage played soul stirring traditional Gaelic fiddle music. Almost as soon as we sat down, a man in his 70’s came over and swept my wife onto the dance floor, where she remained for most of the night. On Cape Breton’s Ceilidh Trail in the summer, the music and the strong sense of community are infectious, and there are no spectators, only participants.

As the weather finally warms up and I start to think about where I want to go this summer, I can’t think of another place in North America I would rather return to than Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. With dramatically situated sandy beaches, fresh seafood, scenic drives, great hikes and a rich musical heritage, it’s easily one of the continent’s most distinctive places, blessedly devoid of tacky strip malls and hi-rise hotels. From the U.S., Cape Breton isn’t that easy to get to- it’s a three hour drive from Halifax to the south end of the island-but the payoff is that it’s far less crowded than the Maine coast and other coastal retreats on the eastern seaboard in summer.

In the southwest corner of the island, you’ll find the Ceilidh Trail, (pronounced kay-lee) Cape Breton’s music heritage trail, where you’ll have a blast taking in ceilidhs and square dances in the summer. Ceilidhs are social gatherings and in the Cape Breton musical parlance, the term is usually synonymous with a concert. The square dances are, in my estimation, more fun because they feature live music but also plenty of dancing. From mid June through the end of August, you can take in ceilidhs and square dances nearly every night of the week, and you should plan your itinerary around the music calendar.

We spent a few nights in Mabou at the Mabou River Inn ($110-170 in the summer, less offseason) and found it to be a comfortable base for exploring the Cape Breton music scene, which is reflective of the region’s rich Scottish heritage. The Red Shoe Pub in Mabou has great food and even better live music nearly every night of the week in summer and during the annual Celtic Colors festival each October, when hundreds of Gaelic musicians descend upon Cape Breton for a nine-day celebration of traditional Gaelic music and culture.

There’s a square dance in West Mabou on Saturday nights year round, but the other dances are only held in the summer. The Normaway Inn in Margaree Valley has square dances and concerts on Wednesday night in July and August, and on Friday nights from June 28-Ocobter 20. Other than those dances, the best ones are Thursday night in Glencoe Mills and Friday night in Southwest Margaree. (And there are great ceilidhs in Mabou on Tuesday nights and in Judique on Wednesday nights).

West of the town of Mabou, you can hike along the coast in the Cape Mabou Highlands area, with is lovely. The Ceilidh Trail ends just up the road in Margaree, and that’s where the scenic Cabot Trail loop begins. The trail loops around and through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park and features dramatic cliffs and Kodak moments around every bend.

cabot trail

As you head north, the linguistic terrain transforms from Gaelic to French. Nova Scotia was the epicenter of a larger maritime territory French migrants called Acadia. Their descendants still live in a string of villages north of the Ceilidh Trail – Belle Cote, Terre Noire, Cap Lemoine, Cheticamp – and speak a peculiar French dialect.

We stayed in Cheticamp, then drove clockwise around the trail, staying near Ingonish, which has a nice beach, and in Baddeck before heading back to Halifax, which is also a great place to spend a couple days. In many ways, Cape Breton reminds me a lot of the Scottish Highlands, only with better weather, less unintelligible accents and colder beer. (No knock on Scotland, of course, which I adore) You won’t find scorching hot weather, even in July or August, but when we lived in sweltering D.C., the 70 something temperatures we found on Cape Breton felt like a gift from God.

Note: There is no better primer for a trip to Cape Breton than picking up a copy of the Smithsonian Folkways album “The Heart of Cape Breton (Live).”

[Photo credits: Dave Seminara, Flickr users Kennymatic, Kirk Stauffer, and Jimmy Wayne]