Tag Archives: Creative Expression

Berlin love: bite-sized edition

25 bits & pieces I love about Berlin, in no particular order:

1. The prevalence of mineral water. Bubbly trumps still H₂0, every time!

2. Transportation is always on time. Planning is possible!

A bus stop in Lichtenberg, Berlin.

Accurate to the minute! A shock coming from Thailand where the answer to “what time is it?” is usually “mango sticky rice.”

3. … And astoundingly cohesive! The underground, trams, and buses all work together to get you basically anywhere.

People walk along Berlin's busy streets.

Places to go, people to see. You know the deal.

4. Kino culture. The cinemas are unique, historical, and oh-so-cool. Come warm weather, open-air cinemas spring up, screening classics like To Catch a Thief and Bonnie and Clyde.

5. Green spaces everywhere. Parks, rivers, places to jog, or chill with the family — natural spots scattered throughout the city dedicated to hanging out, drinking beer, and barbequing with friends.

The river by Maybachufer, Neukölln, Berlin

Sitting by the river drinking a beer or mineral water = lazy summer days in Neukölln.

6. The city is extremely bike-able (from spring to fall, at least). Cruising along bike paths from one end to other is delicious.

A woman in red bikes in Berlin.

Two wheels are better than none.

7. Drink to relax, not to get drunk. Having a few beers throughout the day is totally kosher. For the most part, people handle their alcohol maturely while out and about.

8. Konzerts. You wanna see [name your favorite band] play? Chances are they’ll be coming through at some point.

A band plays in the courtyard of an exhibition opening.

Some awesome British band rocking the gallery.

9. Startups. Have a business idea? Try it out here. Still cheaper than NYC, Silicon Valley, or Singapore, Berlin’s attracted a slew of successful startups in recent years (SoundCloud, etc.) with its try-anything-once vibe and creative energy.

10. Infamous clubs. For unparalleled atmosphere, nightclubs like Berghain reek of decades of debauchery.

A disco ball is lit from aside.

Dance, dance, dance to the radio…

11. Art galleries. Duh!  The old and new national galleries; museums ranging from cult to classic; clean, contemporary art spaces; avant-garde hole-in-the-walls; collectives and co-ops; and on and on. Take your pick; pick your take.

Two people look at art at an exhibition opening in Berlin.

“Is that art?” “I have no idea.”

12. Feeling kinky? Up for some sexual exploration? There’s probably a workshop, club, or meet-up for it, with a supportive, open-minded community waiting to welcome you.

13. Understated day-to-day life. Aside from a few obvious social scenes, people generally keep to themselves — they don’t scream and shout about what they’re doing. Life happens; let’s move on.

A street-side scene, downtown Berlin.

Keep moving; nothing to see here.

14. Accepting. No one’s going to give you shit for being yourself.

15. Summer snow! Seriously: pure magic.

A dusty dandelion in grass.

Soft dandelion dust ends up drifting everywhere in the air.

16. High quality food. Bread, cheese, meats, produce, etc., have to meet high standards to be sold. The difference is taste-able.

17. Endless days. Starting near end of May, the sun stays up forever. I’m writing this at 9:45 pm — and it’s still light out. (June 08)

Sunset and highrise, Berlin.

Sun-setting sky at almost 10pm, Mitte, May.

16. Female tech scene. With Berlin Geekettes headquartered, there’s an uber supportive environment for women wanting to delve deeper into coding and the like.

18. Culture. In addition to Berlin’s rich history, the distinctly international mish-mash of artists makes for a limitless global fusion of creative expression.

A butoh dancer performs.

An impromptu butoh performance with live DJ.

19. It’s okay to walk around with earbuds in. While this feels socially impolite in Asia (my personal feeling), everyone has their music on here.

20. Despite its size (over 3.5 million people), it’s a quiet city. Possible to hear yourself think on streets and even buses.

A woman goes down the U-bahn stairs in Berlin.

Wandering the city is peaceful, even when the mind is combating clutter.

21. German is a sexy language. Yum. Fantastisch.

22. Fashion inspiration. There’s a crazy high percentage of stylish people, often incredibly beautiful to boot! Soak it up.

Some fashionable folks at the K-W Berlin Biennale opening.

Pulling off a leopard-print hat is not the easiest thing to do. Berliners can.

23. “I’m sorry” is virtually non-existant in casual conversation. Being a Canadian woman, I’ve a habit of saying those two words approx. 100 times/day. So, sigh of relief: no saving face, no placating, no people-pleasing. One of the reasons shit gets done so efficiently here.

24. Environmentally friendly. Different bins for paper, plastic, organic, and other — recycling in Germany is not for the faint of heart, and a win for mother earth.

Sun shines in Berlin.

Clean city streets, waste bins on every corner, organized recycling… all that’s missing is a system for shoveling snow from walkways in winter.

25. The air is fresh. So fly high…

A projected image of a woman swinging with shadow overtop.

Swing ’til you fly off. Berlin will catch you.

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A little girl connects with someone outside.

Can you handle it?

As I watched this video (below) with my jaw half-dropped, I wondered how many girls will look at this without blinking an eye?

When the main words in a song are “video phone,” and there’s a woman — actually, two — writhing around with virtually nothing on, stroking giant, plastic, phallic guns, purring “if you want me, you can tape me on your video phone,” I have to wonder how desensitized North American teens are to this BS — and how many will look up to this ‘superstar’ and want to emulate this crock of crap.

I’m a huge fan of catchy pop tunes, and I love a good dance number as much as anyone, but this is beyond. Utilizing video — perhaps our most powerful medium for conveying information and ideas to the masses — to create epic works of socially constructed, gendered lies is criminal — this is the Male Gaze, personified. (Literally: there are men with video cameras in place of heads.)

I realize that there are SO many videos like this, and ones that are much, much worse; I simply haven’t paid attention to any of them for such a long time, and watching this one today, after several years of cleansing my palate from mainstream junk, set me right off.

Well, onward. It only fuels my fire to move forward with my own aspirations of making video and films filled with conscientious, positive content that lifts women (and men) up, rather than dragging us down to this tickity-tack level of lo-fi kitsch so glaringly deprived of any wit, intelligence, or style — and, ultimately, respect.

The medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, of any extension of ourselves – result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.

Marshall McLuhan

Boda boda Synergy

boda boda

Whilst still in Kampala, I take boda bodas (motorcycle taxis) most places since the matatus (public van taxis) are challenging for sensitive-eared individuals like myself.

Boda boda drivers range in skill. Some are horrendous, some are pretty okay, some are damn feisty (= good). Kampala city streets are dog-eat-dog, so you better be on the back of someone’s bike who knows what they’re doing. (Note – there are almost no female boda drivers.)

Understandably, finding a trustworthy driver is imperative. Log his number in your phone, call whenever you need to get out and about. I’ve found two I actually feel sort of safe with so far – Jimmy and Godfrey. I’ll never forget their names for the rest of my life… I depend on these boys to navigate me through the treacherous traffic, potholes, the riff-raff, the mishmash.

Boda boda synergy

I sit on the back with my headphones in ears – auditory distraction is necessary to keep my mind off the reality of the road insanity. Sunglasses on. Helmet, check. Foot on rests, one hand on the cool rear metal bar, the other varying between my thigh and the driver’s stomach depending on the terrain. Tap tap, my fingers drum lightly to the song.

We go. It’s sort of intimate, in a removed kind of way.

If my go-to boys are busy, I’m left to my own devices, meaning I do a split-second assessment on every passing boda driver who whizzes by. The routine becomes disheartening pretty quickly, and eventually I tire of standing on the side of the road with dust flying everywhere, battling the “muzungu!” chatter in my ear. Resigning to pick the next one that slows down and doesn’t have cracked mirrors, I cross my dirty fingers.

All this does is make me want to ride on my own again. Too chicken to do it without insurance for the time being.

Photographically, I’m in process of figuring out how to show this feeling of flying through the air on two wheels with an engine in between and you on top with wind shooting past and trees zipping by in your peripheral vision and feeling the control and the power and the risk and the autonomy and the vulnerability all at once. The freedom, the stillness in movement.

Boda boda synergy

Inside the chaos, be still…

I love motorcycles.

Opposite Ends

Super excited to share two recently published articles – on opposite ends of the content spectrum no less!

I had a lot of fun writing for Yeity because their style is sarcastic and cheeky. Site tagline? Travel that will put hair on your snatch. Ha! It felt good to vent about my experience jogging in Kampala and share some pics. Here’s a peek at what running through town looks like:

A little bit hectic, a little bit rock n' roll...

A little bit hectic, a little bit rock n’ roll…

And now for something completely different…

My favourite Kampala-based publication, Start Journal, is an arts and culture magazine a bit outside the box in terms of content. It publishes many local Ugandan writers’ work on happenings in the art scene here, The criticism in it is meant to question the social-political context in which art (all types) are created.

 And yet, like so many other dictators, not only was Amin a frightening, deeply disturbed man, but he was also effortlessly capable of ineffable charisma and charm. The president clearly enjoyed putting on a show.

The Bad and the Beautiful is my review of the filmic portrayal of former president and mass-murderer Idi Amin Dada in The Last King of Scotland and General Idi Amin Dada: A Self-Portrait. The piece is the result of a discussion on this topic with some of my fellow cinephiles here at 32 East. My essay ended up also being influenced by David Foster Wallace’s brilliant write-up of his experience on the set of David Lynch’s Lost Highway. That is – literally – a topic for another post.

“Art film is essentially teleological; it tries in various ways to “wake the audience up” or render us more “conscious.” (…) An art film’s point is usually more intellectual or aesthetic, and you usually have to do some interpretive work to get it, so that when you pay to see an art film you’re actually paying to work (whereas the only work you have to do w/r/t most commercial films is whatever work you did to afford the price of the ticket).” -D.F. Wallace

Voici mon secret

“Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince

“Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” 

Here is my secret. It is very simple. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; What is essential is invisible to the eye.

– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince [The Little Prince]

Hold on

Hold on

Hold on… to yourself, love, hopes, dreams, compassion, empathy, boundaries, truth, your heart

Let go… of fears, attachment, stories, negativity, unnecessary dust bunnies that linger in the mind

Relish… clouds floating by, with their perfect ephemeral state, perpetual change, and light beauty

Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye. – Helen Keller