Cold War theme park?
“This week marks the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall, a date the city is commemorating in extremes,” says Der Spiegel. “Creative entrepreneurs and senior government officials are addressing the Wall and its consequences in very different ways, with kitsch and serious remembrances often featured side-by-side. … East Germany is being reborn as a tourist attraction. In a number of central locations, its former capital has the feel of a big amusement park, like some tongue-in-cheek Haunted Mansion in which the ghosts of the past entertain the tourist audience – with the friendly support of people who dress up as Mickey Mouse, Indian chiefs and Darth Vader from the Star Wars saga and routinely pose for photographs in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Business is so brisk that politicians and conservators are seriously discussing whether Berlin is turning into a Cold War Disneyland.”
“Music fans who took souvenir T-shirts from a rock festival in Gera, eastern Germany, have discovered they hold a secret message,” reports BBC News. “The so-called Trojan T-shirts bore a design of a skull and right-wing flags and the words ‘hardcore rebels.’ But, once washed, the design dissolves to reveal a message telling people to break with extremism. Some 250 T-shirts were donated to organizers, who handed them out at the nationalist rock festival in Gera. The stunt was organized by a left-wing group called Exit, which seeks to reduce the influence of the right-wing in Germany.”
Spotting crowd crushes
“A system to spot crowd congestion might have averted a crush at a music festival in Germany that killed 21 people and injured more than 500, researchers say,” reports United Press International. “Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems said the disaster might have been avoided if security personnel at the Love Parade festival in Duisberg last year had been able to detect the dangerous crowd buildup and taken action to disperse people before the tragedy struck. Researcher Barbara Krausz has developed a camera and computer system based on one simple observation: When people become trapped in a highly congested area they sway from side to side in an effort to keep their balance.” When the system analyzed available footage of the festival, it produced its highest alert about half an hour in advance of the disaster.
Librarian to the homeless
“Every Wednesday and Saturday, Portland, Ore., residents can spot Laura Moulton fiercely peddling her bike as she tows along a wagon of books,” says The Christian Science Monitor. “When she arrives at her destination, Ms. Moulton parks, opens her wagon and sets up for her four-hour shift. ‘There is at least one guy waiting every Wednesday morning to greet me, get his book, and head out,’ she says. Ms. Moulton is Portland’s mobile librarian. Since early June [she]has been bringing books to the public with her library-on-wheels Street Books, an outdoor library for people who live outside.” Ms. Moulton, a novelist and mother of two young children, brings about 40 or 50 books with her for each shift. But she says her basement is full of paperbacks that have been donated to her since the project began.
Writer at the airport
“This month the best-selling ‘lad-lit’ novelist Tony Parsons becomes the second author to take up the airport operator BAA’s invitation to spend a week at Heathrow,” says Abu Dhabi’s The National newspaper. “In fact, he’s there right now, observing stressed holidaymakers and bored business travellers, eagle-eyed security guards and overworked cleaners, as he works on a new book, Departures: Seven Stories From Heathrow. ‘I think airports are places of huge human drama,’ he said to the gathered press as he arrived [last]Wednesday. ‘I still feel a sense of wonder about flight.’ Mr. Parson’s obvious enthusiasm may have had something to do with the flat fee he will receive from BAA – plus the commitment the airport operator has made not to meddle with the finished text. … ‘As a writer it’s an absolute gift,’ said Mr. Parsons’ predecessor, the philosopher-writer Alan de Botton, of his residency in 2009. And though Mr. de Botton took it rather more seriously than Mr. Parsons – actually setting up a desk in Terminal Five at which he switched on his laptop and wrote – there were drawbacks. ‘I do get asked where the toilets are,’ he told The Guardian newspaper at the time.”
Mile-high Sex Ed
“Qantas passengers might now have a reason to stay awake on long-haul flights,” reports Aol.com. “A documentary about the female orgasm is now available for viewing on all of the carrier’s international flights. The French film, The Female Orgasm Explained, seeks to show the intricacies of the female orgasm and features old pornos, graphics and sound effects. According to a Qantas spokesperson, the documentary is the most popular selection on in-flight channel The Edge.”
Thought du jour
“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”
– Nelson Mandela (1918- ), South African statesman and Nobel laureate