Star Wars land

Disney is planning something big to mark the conclusion of the current Star Wars trilogy. How big? The size of a theme park.

On a call with investors, Disney CEO Bob Iger on Tuesday revealed that the 14-acre Star Wars Land attraction at Walt Disney World in Orlando will open in 2019, the same year as Star Wars Episode IX, the final chapter in the current “Skywalker Saga” arc of the beloved space opera.

Construction started on the Hollywood Studios attraction last April, following its August 2015 announcement. Until Iger’s statement on Tuesday, Disney had remained quiet about the attraction — which will be paired with a similar one in Disneyland Anaheim — beyond the release of concept artwork last summer. While it’s still unconfirmed just what the attraction will include, a Disney Parks blog post promised “guests will get the opportunity to pilot the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy” after climbing on board a full-size replica of the Millennium Falcon.

That wasn’t the only Star Wars information Iger dropped during Tuesday’s call; the exec also revealed that he’s already seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi ahead of its December release, telling investors that Rian Johnson’s follow-up to 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be a great next installment to the Skywalker story.

Iger also teased the upcoming Avatar attraction, saying, “This is a very big land with unique design and architecture that really does make you feel like you’re in Pandora.”


NOT Holding the line, anymore

If you hate hold music, you’ll love this.

Boston-based startup GetHuman on Wednesday unveiled a new service that lets you pay $5 to $25 to hire a “problem solver” who will call a company’s customer service line on your behalf to resolve issues. Prices vary depending on the company, but GetHuman offers to fight for your airline refund, deal with Facebook account issues, or perhaps even prevent a grueling call with Comcast to disconnect your service.

“These customer service procedures have become these long obstacle courses for us,” Christian Allen, GetHuman’s CEO, said in an interview. “We avoid them, we procrastinate, and in some cases we don’t do them at all.”

Allen knows the struggles with customer service all too well, after he put off canceling a hotspot service through a wireless carrier. When he finally got around to making the call, he was bounced around and ended up stuck on the phone. Three months later, he had to go through the whole process again because the service hadn’t been canceled the first time around.

“I spent three hours of my life to do this really simple, binary decision,” he said.

GetHuman can work as a consumer’s assistant, Allen said, but some companies do require more authorization than others.

GetHuman started as a company phone directory that helps people find shortcuts to a live person. But after realizing that getting people the right numbers was only half the battle, Allen said, GetHuman decided to start a pilot of its new “problem solvers” service late last year, saying it has already served nearly 10,000 people. The eight-person shop now has five full-timers whose primary job is working the phones trying to resolve other people’s customer service issues.

Allen says his employees are “experts” at this kind of work and he plans on hiring two more callers soon.

There are a few similar services for navigating the maze of customer service, including FastCustomer, which focuses more on saving you from waiting on hold.

Not everybody sounds so thrilled by GetHuman’s new service, though. Time Warner Cable, whose new ad campaign jokingly addresses its poor reputation with customer service, said it would still like to hear directly from its customers. But you don’t even have to call. They have 24/7 online chat support and the MyTWC app.

“Spending your money on a third party who doesn’t know you versus clicking on an app that lets you do self-service seems like an easy choice to us,” TWC spokesman Bobby Amirshahi said.


What you should NOT do in the USA…

A person who is not an American needs to be careful about making sweeping critical comments — “You Americans…” Think how you would react if someone, even a friend, criticized a member of your family. Americans often rally together when they feel attacked. Let an American offer the criticism.

Do not expect that you know Americans from movie or television stereotypes. Most Americans do not hunt, own guns, attend fundamentalist churches, or go to NASCAR races, for example. There are many variations in accent, political inclination, and opinions.  Being open to surprises rather than “knowing” everything already is usually a good approach when traveling.

Do not assume that ethnic minorities do not see themselves as “Americans” — you will risk appearing patronizing and insulting.

Many words that might be acceptable in other languages are considered improper — a sign of either ignorance or a lack of cultivation — in general company.  Do not use obscenities to service personnel, police officers, teachers, or strangers.

Most Americans will respond to a person who is lost and needs directions. Tourists are often pleasantly surprised by the conversations that they have with Americans.

Do not ask personal questions of others — money is not (however it may have been in the past) an easy topic to discuss; never ask someone how much he or she makes or if they are “rich.” Sex, health, weight, and other personal topics should not be brought up except among close friends — and even then there are limitations. Avoid religion and politics, except as an abstract or academic discussion.

Never use a racial or religious epithet or make jokes about a group of which you are not a member. Do not point out people who look “different” or stare at them.

There is an acceptable physical distance to keep. If you are forced (e.g., in a crowded elevator) to be closer, do not make eye contact. Keep your hands to yourself.

Smoking is not allowed indoors in many places, or outdoors (NYC parks, for example). It is not considered sophisticated or “liberated,” anymore.

Do not ask too many questions about a person’s family.

Do not assume, as one foreign visitor once told me, that all Americans had ancestors who were criminals that were shipped here (!).

Do not harp about how the Chinese are taking over America and will rule the world — just like the former Soviet Union, or Japan, or a United Europe was supposed to do, not that long ago. Furthermore, most Americans do not want to rule the world — just talk to some real people and you can find that out. American nationalism can sound childish, like sporting chants, but it is not as serious as Nuremberg rallies or North Korean propaganda.


Iconic kiss

George Mendonsa, a 92-year-old veteran from Rhode Island, says he’s sure it’s him

When Alfred Eisenstaedt took a picture of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day, on Aug. 14, 1945, he knew he’d captured something special. But he likely didn’t realize that the photo would become one of the most iconic images of the 20th century—and one of its most enduring mysteries.

Though the identities of the sailor and nurse have never been confirmed, George Mendonsa, a 92-year-old veteran and retired fisherman, has no doubt the man in the photo is him. “I haven’t found a person yet that I haven’t convinced,” he told CNN, explaining that his large hands, a scar on his brow and his distinct memory of that moment are confirmation enough for him.

Extract from the Aug. 27, 1945, issue of LIFE. “In the middle of New York’s Times Square a white-clad girl clutches her purse and skirt as an uninhibited sailor plants his lips squarely on hers.