VIDEO: Mad Men high-speed rail travel PSA

“Would you rather fly into Queens or take the train into Manhattan?” is just one of the great would-be ad taglines in this PSA starring Mad Men actors Vincent Kartheiser and Rich Sommer to promote high-speed rail in America (we’re hoping for a sequel with a Simpsons‘ Monorail-esque jingle). They also argue for the simplicity and convenience of

train travel and how you can save time, money, and aggravation. All of these points were true about the importance of a high-speed rail network in 1965 and they are even more true in 2011, so let’s make it happen!

Learn more on how to support high-speed rail at and vote for the video on

Venezuela: Simpsons unsuitable for children, replaced with… Baywatch???

The Simpsons is such a TV-institution that it is pretty much enjoyed all around the world. If you think Homer is amusing in English, just try him in Danish. But not everyone finds the classic dysfunctional family humorous. In Venezuela the TV show has been dropped from morning television because it was deemed unsuitable for children.

The BBC reports that Venezuela’s TV regulator finds that the show sends “messages that go against the whole education of boys, girls and adolescents.” Which show does a better job of sending positive messages to children? The bikini-clad, silicon-stuffed ladies of Baywatch apparently. That is exactly the show that Caracas TV station Televen decided to replace the mid-morning Simpsons slot with.

The Simpsons might make it back onto Venezuelan TV, just later in the evening. That way children can have their morning cereal with suitable half-naked American women instead of the unsuitable deadbeat, donut-eating father who says “doh” a lot. We wouldn’t want children growing up with a bad example now would we?

GADLING TAKE FIVE: Week of October 13-19

If you missed that big things happened at Gadling this week, then all I have to say is, “Where have you been?” Gadling has a brand new look and we’re enjoying it. It’s kind of like a shiny new toy. Wow! What does this drop down menu do on the left? The information we used to have is all here, it’s just relocated and gussied up. Also, perhaps you’ve noticed the slight name change. Instead of the heading “Gadling: The traveler’s blog,” we’re “Gadling: go there.”

Here our some of the offerings we’ve dished up this week that hopefully will help you go there where ever that may be. Hey, and if you’re not going off on some huge whirlwind mega trip, that’s fine by us. Sometimes, it’s the close to home treasures that are worth writing home about.

Abha Malpani, who just joined our Gadling forces this week, has some ideas for the best places to hook up with someone if you are so inclined, while Catherine’s got you covered when it comes to avoiding tourist traps. Grant knows just where you can get your hands on some of the best street food in Europe, and if you have a sweet tooth craving, check out Martha’s top places in the U.S. for a sugar fix ideas. To help you gather a bunch of facts that might come in handy at a party, or on a bus, or on an airplane –or just to amuse yourself in the privacy of your own bathroom, pick up a copy of Take Me to Your Leader. Kelly’s always dishing up good finds with her One for the Road Series.

Okay, that’s five and I still haven’t mentioned Matthew’s wealth of Japan know-how this week. Lastly, don’t miss Neil’s post “Visiting an American embassy, Simpson’s style.” Perhaps, you can relate.

Big in Japan: The Weirdest Japanese TV Show You’ll Ever See

While everyone in America is arguing over whether or not Kid Nation is innovative and groundbreaking entertainment or cheap and exploitative thrills, it seems as if the Japanese have once again bested us.

Don’t believe me? I promise you – you’re in for a surprise!

Click on the video above for a little preview of a popular Japanese game show known as Haneru No Tobira, which I believe roughly translates to ‘Human Tetris.’ Although this clip defies mere explanation, the idea is simple.

Contestants stand in front of a moving conveyor belt, which transports life-size blocks with cut-away human shapes. Unless they want to be knocked off the platform into a pool of icy water, contestants have seconds to contort their bodies into the appropriate shape so that they can pass through the block unscathed.

So now that you’ve all seen the video and are no doubt utterly confused, I suppose I should offer some sort of cultural explanation as to why Japanese TV shows seem to be anchored in another reality. Truth be told, and in light of the fact that I have an anthropology degree from a rather prestigious university, I have no freakin’ clue.

Of course, in times of confusion and doubt, I always turn to the great archive of cultural knowledge that is The Simpsons. Weaned on America’s favorite nuclear family since I was but a wee Japanophile, the early seasons of The Simpsons did more for my personal development than any other institution of higher learning.

With that said, do you remember the episode entitled Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo, which was the finale of the 10th season? After besting the Flanders by picking up the mega-saver tickets at the Springfield airport, the Simpsons fly to Tokyo for a Japanese-style family fun vacation.

Interestingly enough, Wikipedia reports that a Japanese dub of this episode never aired in Japan. Although the series was running concurrently in Japan, the TV censors banned the episode because of the scene when Homer throws the Emperor into a pile of mawashi or sumo thongs. In fact, Sanrio also objected to episode because of the depiction of the Hello Kitty factory as a giant smoke stack fueled by truck loads of stray cats.

Anyway, let’s get back to the original question at hand, namely why it is that Japanese TV shows seem to be anchored in another reality.

In the climax of the episode, the Simpsons appear as contestants on a TV game show called The Happy Smile Super Challenge Family Wish Show, hoping to win plane tickets back to Springfield. As serious Simpsons aficionados such as myself quickly recall, the show was hosted by a rude and violence-bent game show host named Wink, who was voiced by George Takei of Star Trek fame.

At the start of the show, Wink offers the Simpsons a quick and simple explanation of why Japanese TV game shows are so cruel: “Your shows reward knowledge. We punish ignorance.”

Ah – so! Hey, it’s not groundbreaking cultural commentary, but it’s the best got!

Anyway, feel free to offer your ideas as after five years of living in Japan, I still have no idea what’s going on when I turn on the TV.

Kenyan Carvers Like the Simpsons Too!

Crafty Tribes people in the remote village of Tabaka in Kisii, Kenya have found a way to cash in on a phenomenon thousands of miles away — British buyers have contracted them to produce traditional carvings which will be sold in craft stores across the UK. But while the methods are traditional, the carvings are of very un-traditional figures — everyone’s favourite dysfunctional family, The Simpsons! 12 different models in all will be produced, including this one of Marge.

Here’s the thing: The carvers hadn’t even heard of Homer and Co. before being asked to immortalize them in stone. But they’re sure to have a great first impression of the Simpson family — the carvings are earning them 6 times their regular asking rate. And with all the Simpson’s-mania that’s going on right now, I can see why.

Thanks to Marilyn at Intelligent Travel for the great tip!