Monday, 12 May 2008
One of the benefits of travel is that it makes you appreciate the place you came from. But another byproduct of travel is that it makes you question the place you came from. While it may be true that there's no place like home, it's also true that home can sometimes use a little improvement.
That's what I decided after spending the weekend in Berlin. Clean, efficient, cosmopolitan--the antique intermixed with the modern. A subway, trams and bicycle lanes. I think Washington could benefit from a bit of Berlin style.
It probably helped that the weather was great. All of Europe seems to be gripped in the throes of beautiful climes. Parachute anywhere from London to Gdansk and you'll find blue skies and warm temperatures. But it was more than that. I find Berlin incredibly art-directed, with an attention to style that stretches from the way its people dress to the typefaces of its street signs and posters. I suppose it might grate after a while--perfection can extract a painful price--but thinking of the room Washington has for improvement, Berlin definitely had some appeal.
I compared the shopworn and crowded Smithsonian museums to the tidy German History Museum. It was wonderfully empty, leading me to wonder if that's because the Germans already know their history, don't want to know their history, or just would rather spend a gorgeous spring day outside rather than in.
It was probably the latter. That impulse is the same wherever you come from. And after we'd returned to England and were on the coach back to Oxford, I was reminded how achingly green and beautiful this country can be. The verdant landscape rolled by outside the window looking like a ripe fruit begging to be bitten. That's what nine months of rain does. What am I doing sitting here?
Mother of an Invention
In honor of Mother's Day, The Washington Post Magazine yesterday published my story about Daisy Breaux and W. Clark Noble, a pair of wacky characters from the 1920s who attempted to build a memorial to America's mothers. The final design looked like something from Batman's fevered imagination and the whole thing ended just the way we journalists like it: in recriminations and lawsuits. I'll be answering questions about the story online today at noon Washington time; that's 5 p.m. England time. Click here to join the conversation at washingtonpost.com.
Kyle MacRae founded Scoopt, the service that pioneered putting citizen photographers together with newspapers and magazines. Now he blogs about citizen journalism for the Frontline Club. I provided a guest post last week outlining some of my thoughts on the issue. Honestly, I'm beginning to think that the whole thing is becoming less consequential to the mainstream media, not because it isn't important but because so many things are battering newspapers, for example, that they barely have the time or energy to think about it.