Virgin Atlantic: Vancouver is out, Detroit is in

Virgin Atlantic abandons Tokyo and Cape Town for more US flights

Virgin Atlantic is ditching its flights to Tokyo, Cape Town, Vancouver, and Mumbai; instead doubling down on its US service.

Instead, Virgin will fly daily to Detroit, as well as providing additional flights to Los Angeles and New York; all out of Heathrow.

(Virgin has been flying to Tokyo for around 25 years; to Cape Town for around 15 years; and to Vancouver for around 15 seconds.)

The Vancouver service will end on October 11 this year, the statement said, the Cape Town flights on April 26 and 27 next year, and the Tokyo and Mumbai flights on January 31 and February 1 next year.

What a shame. LHR-CPT was an awesome flight, circling around the tip of Africa to land in Cape Town in the early-morning sun.

Aside from shedding a few destinations, Virgin is implementing in-flight WiFi and installing new airport lounges for its more loyal customers.

In my experience, Virgin does not compete on price –– indeed, it’s usually more expensive than its competitors. However, Virgin understands service far better than do most other Western-Hemisphere carriers.

Flying Virgin out of the US has always been less sucky than flying with a US-based carrier. Branson’s airline is at an Asian-airline level of having its shit together. Now, if only it can turn a profit…

Virgin Atlantic is almost evenly shared between the Virgin Group and Delta Airlines. Virgin Atlantic has not been profitable for the last two years.

Hello Kitty is a cat… and much, much more

The kawaii-osphere exploded when the LAist published an article declaring that Hello Kitty is not a cat. I’m sure they didn’t mean to cause an international cat-panic, but they did… and some context is missing from Sanrio’s description of their flagship… cat.

Kotaku sought –– and recieved –– clarification:

When Kotaku called Sanrio’s Tokyo headquarters today and asked whether or not Hello Kitty was indeed a cat, a spokesperson explained, “Hello Kitty was done in the motif of a cat. It’s going too far to say that Hello Kitty is not a cat. Hello Kitty is a personification of a cat.”

Hello Kitty and her cat are like Goofy and Pluto: they’re both the same animal… but… different.

Sanrio told the Kotaku blog that Hello Kitty is 擬人化 (gijinka), an anthropomorphized version (of an animal or thing).

I would take this description further; further perhaps than would make Sanrio comfortable.


Hello Kitty (ハローキティ) is a 化け猫 (bakeneko), an old and powerful cat that can take humanoid form and exact revenge among humankind. Hello Kitty is 40 years old, by the way. More than old enough to assume the powers of the 化け猫: opening doors by herself, placing thoughts into people’s minds, getting them to do her bidding. Look at Hello Kitty merchandise sales, and you will find that my case is solid.

Hello kitty character portrait.png
Hello kitty character portrait” by Official Sanrio website Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

In any event, I asked the cat herself for clarification as best I could; my Japanese isn’t super-hot.

Incidentally, if you read Hello Kitty’s driver’s licence, it would read “キティ・ホワイト/Kitty White”. Perhaps she’s a distant relative of Walter.

In case you were wondering, Doraemon is most assuredly not a cat. He is a robot from the future. The more you know.


Flight diverted over Knee Defender scuffle

FA United Airlines flight was diverted due to a fight over the use of a Knee Defender. This fight was not between children, but between two grown-ass adults.

Obviously, if you use a device to prevent the seat in front of you from reclining, you’re acting like an entitled and selfish brat, albeit probably a brat sucking on his/her own knees.

That a product like the Knee Defender even exists should serve as a wake-up call to those designing coach-class cabins.

Never mind “should”, it is a wake-up call… though I have no reason to believe anyone on the other end is listening.

Note that the Knee Defender isn’t banned by the FAA… but it’s banned by many airlines, for achingly obvious reasons. Oh, and the dude who Knee Defended (can we verb this?) was sitting in Economy Plus, which ostensibly provides a more comfortable experience.

Nobody was arrested, which is refreshing .

Take note, though, carriers: this is how cruddy flying with you has become.

United Airlines’ new safety video made me smile

I reckon United did a really good job with their new safety video, which you can watch below. The location switches keep us watching.

Extra points for the James Bond reference and judicious kangaroo usage.

I wish that the demonstration plane could have been displayed solely in papercraft, but it would have been too hard to see what the flight attendant is talking about. Overall, it’s the best North American safety video I’ve ever seen. Hey, it’s tough to beat Air New Zealand.

Kumamon Invasion: Japan’s Cutest Bear Goes West

Kumamon is coming

This just in, via AkihabaraNews: Kumamon is officially going international. The permanently-surprised anthropomorphic bear has gotten his work visas approved, and you will soon see his visage in its officially-licensed form.

Kumamon (くまモン) is the ursine representative for Kumamoto prefecture, whose weapons-grade cuteness has made him the most popular mascot in Japan.

He’s been mathematically, geometrically, and in all ways scientifically engineered to make you smile, and they sure did the math right.

Soon Kumamon will be loosed upon the world: a grinning, rosy-cheeked marketing rampage.

かわいい in Hawaii.

くま in Parma.

Bear in… Val d’Isere.

I featured Kumamon in my ProductYVR talk on the faces of cities and systems, and the value of generating goodwill by making something lovable.

Kumamon has existed outside Japan for a few years, but only as an out-of-context meme.  Now Kumamon is coming for real: prepare for a cuddliness not seen since Hello Kitty.

Next Music from Tokyo 2014: Photos from Vancouver J-Rock Show

Japanese indie rock invades Vancouver

Japan grabbed me in a way I had not experienced for many years. Since visiting last autumn, I’ve been aching to go back.

However, last night Japan came to me.

Next Music from Tokyo is the brainchild of  Toronto anaesthesiologist Steven Tanaka, who puts together this microfestival by himself.  This is the sixth year of the cross-Canada tour, and my first. I cannot recommend Next Music from Tokyo enough, even though I understood less than 1% of the lyrics.  The musicianship was superb, and the energy electric.

My photos from the show weren’t all that great: all I had to shoot with was my duct-taped Nexus 4. However, I shoot photos the way that Nate Dogg suggested smoking weed, i.e. every day. So here are a few images.

Here’s Emi Ohki, vocalist and bassist of 宇宙コンビニ (Uchu Conbini). She is so awesome.

Emi Ohki

Here’s Sato, guitarist and vocalist of きのこ帝国 (Kinoko Teikoku), showing Vancouverites how it’s done across the Pacific.


Here’s Shigeaki Taniguchi, bassist of きのこ帝国 (Kinoko Teikoku), doing a last-minute tune before facing the crowd.

Shigeaki Taniguchi

A perhaps-too-artsy image of Jizue in action.

Voteman: Denmark’s insane voter engagement plan backfires

Will you vote in the European Union election? No? Well, what if a deranged S&M Brock Samson forces you to, on pain of decapitation?

This is not a hypothetical question.

After unleashing Voteman, a dolphin-riding  steroid freak whose fashion is based on 1980s Castro District, Danish Parliament was forced to rein him back in.  The random violence and sexism negated any potential cleverness in the eyes of Danish voters.

This only makes one wonder why a nation’s parliament thought that Voteman would be a good idea in the first place. We may never know… but one thing we do know is that someone in Danish government is a Venture Bros fan.

Air Canada passengers furious at getting bumped to Rouge

Did you get Rouged?

It’s like Air Canada has a special division tasked with creating its own marketing nightmares.

In this case, that means switching passengers from regular ol’ Air Canada flights to Air Canada Rouge flights… without warning or fare adjustment.

Passengers think it’s pretty shady, according to the overwhelmingly-negative Rouge reviews on Skytrax. It’s not bait-and-switch exactly, but actually something worse: passengers already bought the ostensibly-better product, but were delivered the lesser product.

Air Canada Rouge is like AC’s own little RyanAir project: it offers fewer amenities, and the legroom is best described as two-dimensional. (However,  AC saw fit to kit its staff out in some snazzy Fluevogs.) In return, Rouge’s fares are meant to be marginally less expensive than those for normal AC flights.

This all goes out the window, though, when you pay for a regular AC flight (and maybe select a few upgrades) but find yourself squooshed into a Rouge plane instead.

You got Rouged, dude. You got Rouged.

Another poster coined a new term against the airline, saying, “I got Rouged.” On Air Canada Rouge’s Facebook page, complaints are noticeably absent, but elsewhere on social media, customers are complaining the company is deleting Facebook posts that criticized the service. CBC News also observed that dozens of critical posts spotted on Friday had been deleted from the Rouge Facebook page by Monday.

Indeed, Air Canada Rouge’s Facebook page looks oddly clean, like a model home.

Not so on Twitter.

What a shame. Flying in Canada is weirdly expensive, largely because we have only one airline that flies nationwide. It’s like that bloated python that’d never survive in the wild.

There is definitely a place for a low-cost carrier in Canada, but here’s the thing: people need to know that that’s what they’re booking.