i spy ifly

iFly is a neat new online travel magazine from Dutch airline KLM.  What sets it apart from its dowdy paper cousin, the in-flight, is more than just a half-finished Sudoku. Namely it’s an almost Ipadian reliance on words and images cleverly integrated with video. The opening spread features German photographers Censi Goepel and Jens Warnecke, who work in situations where most refuse to go because they are either too cold, too dark, or too rainy. During a long Norwegian winter in a VW bus the duo tried to capture a flame with an extremely long shutter time. It became the basis for a career revolving around images with amazing light effects, a handful of which are featured here. There’s also a video profile of Berlin’s quirky Propeller Island City Lodge, a hotel and art installation rolled into one. A 360-degree interactive tour of a single square in Florence merges cleverly with a jaunt across Scotland by car – coupled with a chance to win your own Scottish adventure. And if you’ve ever been curious about the evanescent magic of traveling through the universe, there’s an inquisitive interview with Dutch Astronaut Andre Kuipers, too. Naturally there’s also the requisite arrivals and departures information for the airline; however, if you’ve never flown through Amsterdam Schiphol this section might actually make for the most interesting reading of all: check in for your flight on KLM’s mobile app then speed through customs to a picnic in the sun, replete with butterflies, in the new grass-filled Airport Park. If culture is how you’d rather while away your layover there’s a Library with books in 29 languages and a collection of Old Master paintings awaiting discerning eyes at the Rijksmuseum Schiphol. Leave it to the ever-practical Dutch to turn one of the most stressful aspects of modern life into one of the most relaxing – not to mention re-imagining how we read and think about it, too.



ich bin ein berliner

If you’re lucky enough to be in Berlin this Saturday, I am gnashing my teeth in jealousy.  January 30th is Lange Nacht der Museen – or The Long Night of Museums for those who don’t Sprechen sie Deutsch – a highlight of the cultural calendar in a city that takes its Kultur very, very seriously.

About 60 museums and galleries across the city  – including the incredible Museumsinsel, or Museum Island, in the former East Berlin, Deutsche Guggenheim, and Schloss Charlottenburg, to name but a very few – open their doors late into the night, giving visitors an all-you-can-see buffet-style evening of exhibitions, guided tours and special events.  This year’s theme focuses on Berlin as a capital city of science and each location will offer a site-specific program dedicated to that theme in addition to their regular exhibitions.

Although many museums are within walking distance of the central City Hall meeting point, many more are spread out across the city.  Practical as ever, free shuttle buses are on hand to help you navigate your way between museums and see as much as possible. Best of all, every bus is manned by a blond, blue-eyed steward who’ll answer all your questions.  OK, maybe that last line is a bit of wishful thinking — however the all-incluseive €15 ticket price is not.


at the movies: a single man

Isherwood Watching Tom Ford’s directorial debut, A Single Man, put me in a Berlin-flecked, Isherwood state of mind last night.  (by the way, not only is the film as beautifully shot as you’d expect, but Colin Firth’s performance as a man come undone by the death of his long-term partner is wrenching – especially when Ford allows the camera to linger on the actor’s face in extreme close-up.)

I’d never appreciated Christopher Isherwood until relatively recently.  I was in Berlin for work – my first trip to the sprawling German capital – and was staying in Schoneberg, the old, leafy “gayborhood.” In search of breakfast one morning, I literally stumbled upon the house where Isherwood lived and worked on Nollendorfestrasse.  The building served as a model for what is perhaps his best known work, Goodbye to Berlin, which was subsequently adapted into a play and later the film, Cabaret.  Trying to decipher the plaque that marks the structure, it struck me how Isherwood was part of the gay pantheon, and yet I knew almost nothing of his work – only a few prurient details regarding his personal life.

I picked up a copy of The Berlin Stories soon after and was surprised to find a fresh, modern style of writing that would be ripped off and imitated frequently throughout the 20th century.  The narrator functions as a camera – hence I Am A Camera, duh – observing the world around him in documentary fashion; and even more interesting (to me) the narrator’s true journey happens in camera; that is, in a private place – secreted away from the action.  (I could pun on this for a while, so I’ll just put it out there how the word “cabaret” derives from the Latin “camera,” too.)  Isherwood’s style of writing fundamentally altered our perception of how fiction could function, so it’s a shame he remains so under-appreciated.  I hope the success of Ford’s film might pique a renewed interest in his oeuvre.

In addition to chancing upon Isherwood’s house, I also found myself living smack in the middle of Folsom – Europe’s largest gathering of leather enthusiasts.  Somehow it seemed fitting that in the middle of this subdued residential neighborhood one taboo was being brought into the daylight while down the block an English writer was doing very much the same thing some 75 years earlier.



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