Tags Posts tagged with "inspirations"


0 450

Did you know that you can fly on a double-decker plane from five cities in North America?

No, the iconic 747, with its distinctive hump and short business-class cabin towards the front isn’t the double-decker plane I’m referring to. I mean the world’s largest airplane, the Airbus A380, which can seat between 525 (typical 3-class configuration) and 850 passengers (all-coach configuration) on two levels that run the length of the aircraft. Ten airlines currently operate this behemoth worldwide, eight of which fly routes to the United States and Canada, and ten additional airlines have ordered the type.

Despite appearances, the Lufthansa A380 is bigger than that Air France Boeing 777. Kohei Kanno/Flickr
The Lufthansa A380 is actually bigger than the Air France Boeing 777. Kohei Kanno/Flickr

Dubai-based Emirates owns the largest number of A380s—64 in all—and is awaiting another 76 on order from European manufacturer Airbus. The other operators of the type include Air France, Korea’s Asiana Airlines, British Airways, Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, Korean Air, Germany’s Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, Australia’s Qantas, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways International, all of whom have decked out their premium cabins (read: not economy) with such wonders as shower stalls and bedroom suites with minibars and vanity lights.

Inside the Emirates A380 shower spa. PYONKO OMEYAMA/Flickr
Inside the Emirates A380 shower spa. PYONKO OMEYAMA/Flickr

Even if you’re typically fly economy class, the seat width and pitch (how far you can lean back) on this great whale are a couple of inches greater than that of a typical 747, especially on the Singapore Airlines A380, which offers coach passengers two full meals and a snack, with menus and real cutlery, on their transatlantic flights.

If you fancy a ride on the world’s largest passenger aircraft, don’t fret about cost. Coach fares for transatlantic flights from North America start at about $550 round-trip and transpacifics from $650, depending on the season, and there is no price differential among aircraft types. Just make sure you choose the route with 388 listed as the aircraft, and you’ll be in for an amazing ride.

The A380 currently plies 22 routes from eight North American gateways:
Air France: New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to Paris
Asiana Airlines: New York and Los Angeles to Seoul
British Airways: Los Angeles and Washington to London
China Southern: Los Angeles to Guangzhou
Emirates: Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and Toronto to Dubai; New York to Milan
Korean Air: New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta to Seoul
Lufthansa: Houston, Miami, and San Francisco to Frankfurt
Qantas: Los Angeles to Sydney and Melbourne
Singapore Airlines: New York to Singapore via Frankfurt and Los Angeles to Singapore via Tokyo


0 215
"Meal Time in the Girls' Hostel," South Africa (Image source: https://murraymcgregor.wordpress.com/)

Sixty years ago, the United States Supreme Court struck down racial segregation in American public schools. “[S]eperate educational facilities are inherently unequal” wrote the court. The case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, set the stage for the dismantling of legal segregation, culminating a decade later in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The year before Brown, literally halfway around the world in South Africa, the winds of change were blowing in the opposite direction. According to the mind-blowing biography Mandela by Martin Meredith, which I’m now reading, “natives” (i.e.: blacks) were no longer to be educated in a way that would cause them to have any expectations of life in “Europeanized,” urban environments.

Under the terms of the Bantu Education Act…introduced in 1953…[a]ll schools, whatever their status, would have to be registered by the government. No private schools would be allowed to exist without government approval. Control of schools would pass not to the Department of Education but to the Department of Native Affairs. Introducing the new legislation before parliament, [soon-to-be Prime Minister Hendrik] Verwoerd was forthright about its purpose: ‘Natives will be taught from childhood to realize that equality with Europeans is not for them.’

In fact, Verwoerd proved steadfast in his belief of African inferiority:

There is no place for [the Bantu] in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour … What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice?

The Bantu child is an “it”?! Segregationist education policy, only one part of South Africa’s heinous Apartheid system, remained in place until 1994.

I am rapt by South African history and its relationship to American history. In 1953, my mother was 15 years old and my father, nine. Both of them would have been been educated under the Bantu system. Despite Brown, they both graduated from segregated high schools, as did I.

"Black Schoolroom," United States (Image source: http://readcontra.com/2014/05/why-white-people-matter-the-american-school-system/)
“Black Schoolroom,” United States (Image source: http://readcontra.com/2014/05/why-white-people-matter-the-american-school-system/)

0 201

Arguably America’s must beautiful city, San Francisco has long lured travelers with its stunning scenery, fresh air, striking bridges, and – as these vintage travel posters indicate – the exotic delights of Chinatown. While the themes may be repetitive in this modest compendium, the charms of the City by the Bay never get old. When you go, don’t forget that flower.














0 66
8 Hrs at LAX. Image composed by Mike Kelley.

By now, it should be no secret that Fly Brother is an aviation geek, particularly when it comes to airports and airlines. Even as a kid, I collected Wooster snap-fit model airplanes, memorized airport codes, read the OAG, designed my own mega-airport in the mold of Hartsfield-Jackson (only with more runways, more concourses, and serviced by every major airline on the planet), and created my own version of Monopoly in which players snapped up hub airports in lieu of streets.

Now that I actually work out on the ramp, stacking bags and voguing with glowsticks and whatnot, I can’t help but watch these videos and pay attention to the littlest details, like the baggage carts whirling around the planes and the tiny but powerful tractors that push the planes back from the gates. Here are a few of my favorite time lapse airport operations videos (and a stunning computer-generated map of air traffic flow over northwestern Europe). The music on the Paris vid is particularly fly. Enjoy!

3 112

On a plane over the Atlantic Ocean, I watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the modern film adaptation of a Depression-era short story about an unremarkable everyman stricken by sporadic daydreams of heroism. In the story, mundane tasks inspire epic flights of fancy in the mind of the protagonist, who appears zoned out to the rest of the world. The film, however, takes a mild-mannered photo developer for Life magazine out of his fantasies and sends him on a dizzying adventure to Greenland, Iceland, and Afghanistan. Actually, the film takes us along for the ride.

To be certain, seeing Walter Mitty, mousy and unsure, morph into a ruggedly handsome philosopher-hero is to witness Hollywood cliché. And it’s easy to dismiss as corny the abridged Life magazine mantra displayed throughout the film (see image above). But on that airplane, I drank in every panoramic mountain vista, swam in every lush measure of the soundtrack, and swallowed whole each word of that mantra, because I am a true believer. I know first-hand the power of travel, of conquering fear, of exploring the unknown, of accomplishing the extraordinary. But more, I’ve been blessed to interact with, to be drawn closer to other people who also know this power intimately. Extraordinary people who give little girls the world in the form of a small, blue, 32-page book with an eagle on the front. People who coach men on becoming better men, who kayak down the coast of Texas in search of solace and solitude, who supply menstrual pads to school-aged girls in developing countries, who move to New York then Buenos Aires then Boston when the mood strikes, or whose hobby is slowly but steadily becoming a profession. People raising their biracial daughters or autistic sons as single mothers in foreign countries or foreign cultures, who unexpectedly fall in love with a certain city and then make that place home, who connect compatriots worldwide, who capture the essence of life for posterity. People who do oh so many more extraordinary, epic things.

The examples are all around us; it’s really no secret at all. An epic life, an extraordinary life isn’t just for the movies. And it isn’t just for people who throw off the yoke of conventionality to go live in Bali and trade stocks over the Internet. It’s about recognizing epic moments that already happen in your life – running on the beach, hugging a loved one, laughing with friends – and embracing them, then devising a way to maximize the frequency and duration of epic-ness in your life. It’s not always easy, and right now, it may only be five minutes a week. But in a few weeks, months, years, extraordinary could be your new ordinary. Walter Mitty reminded me that, despite my own fears, inadequacies, conflicts, or difficulties, extraordinary is already my ordinary. I plan on keeping it that way.

So, who’s down for a trip to Greenland?

Rifling through dusty and forgotten things back at the homestead in Jacksonville, I ran across my old CD collection. With over 400 discs, you could say that I was something of a music junkie, but music had been my way of traveling by proxy for years. One of the flyest standouts in my collection is Jazzanova, a Berlin-based collective of DJs and musicians that has been expertly mixing sounds and cultures since the mid-90s. Jazzanova defies categorization, at once jazz, soul, electronica, and house, but it’s the perfect accompaniment to a long drive, a chill evening at home, or an international flight. Have a listen and get lifted:

And then, there’s the live show:


‘Tis the season for chilly, grey, rainy weather across much of the Northern Hemisphere, and as a Florida boy, I’m ill-equipped to handle too much gloom for the next few months. Music, however, can often make an uncomfortable experience much bearable, and these icy little numbers—at turns melancholy, ethereal, moody, blue—allow me to embrace the cold, where ever I may be (and yes, it can get chilly in Brazil, too). That said, here’s hoping for an early spring!

What’s on your chilly weather playlist?

2 82

On October 19, 1927, a tiny seaplane flew mail for the U.S. Postal Service a quick 90 miles, from Key West to Havana, in a little over an hour. Within the next few decades, the company that sent that air mail to Cuba would be the first to launch commercial airline service across the Pacific Ocean, the first American carrier to fly jet aircraft, the first airline to use a custom-built computerized reservation system, and the first airline to fly the Boeing 747. This company founded the internationally renowned InterContinental hotel chain, built the world’s largest commercial office building when it opened in 1963, and connected 86 countries on 6 continents by 1968. This company transported Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor and Sean Connery and The Beatles. Towards the end of its life, this company facilitated economical air travel for the common man. But for the first half of its life, this company—Pan American World Airways—ushered in the Jet Age, created the Jet Set, and epitomized the glamour, sophistication, and absolute magic of intercontinental air travel.

Pan Am, sadly, ceased operations in 1991, after 64 years. And like a screen legend from the Golden Age of Hollywood, all we have left to remember her by are a few well-preserved artifacts, fading memories from previous generations who experienced her at her most vivacious, and flickering images that captured her at her peak—bittersweet reminders that the Golden Age of Travel, or at least the one we choose to imagine, is an era long passed.

For more colorful history, read about Pan Am’s first black pilot, Marvin Jones, and one of Pan Am’s “Black Birds,” Dr. Sheila Nutt, both part of a select group of black flight crew members hired after 1965. And if you’ve got an hour, take a gander at this phenomenal BBC documentary about Pan Am, which tells the story of the company’s rise and fall, the stringent physical standards for stewardesses, salacious tales of flight crew sex lives, and includes commentary by the pilot impostor who wrote Catch Me If You Can:

Jogja Hip Hop Foundation

It’s old news that hip hop has gone global, but there are still a few sleeper spots where local incarnations of the genre haven’t yet gotten the acclaim they deserve. The hip hop scene in Indonesia’s second city—Yogyakarta, aka “Jogja”—is not to be messed with. Melding multilayered rhythms from the traditional music and dance of Java (the isle on which Jogja sits) with American hip hop beats and melodious Indonesian rhymes, we’re talking sumptuous, exotic island flow coming out of the world’s most populous Muslim country. Lyrics are often remixed classical Javanese poetry and the ladies have their say, too. The videos below include a couple of head-boppers I dug up online and the trailer for a documentary produced last year on the scene, Hiphopdiningrat, featuring the Jogja Hip Hop Foundation. Check the site for a few more underground tracks and ride out, Java-style.

Shouts to ChaCha in Jakarta who put me on to the riddims.

1 69
Rodrigo Soldon/Flickr

Most major news outlets report about Brazil’s economic growth, income disparities, racial issues, beaches, soccer stars, and World Cup preparations in random, infrequent bursts. Now, two journalists with feet on the ground and caipirinhas on the brain are weighing in on the economic growth, income disparities, etc., etc., on their own blogs.

Yes, everybody and their mama who ever spent a week on the beach in Rio or ever took a guided favela tour has a blog about Brazil. But these guys are oftentimes the go-to sources for reliable facts and insight that those major news outlets rely on when reporting on the country. So, for the most part, dear reader, you can turn to this pair of muckrakers for consistent, insightful commentary—in English—on that enigmatic, entrancing South American powerhouse in the tutti-frutti hat.

Sir Andrew Downie (he’s not really a knight, but he’s got a courtly disposition and “Sir” just sounds cool in front of his name) has been writing his eponymous blog for a while now, having moved to Brazil last century, I think. Originally from Scotland, Downie has worked as foreign correspondent in Haiti, Mexico, and now Brazil for the New York Times and Time magazine, among other outlets whose names do not necessarily incorporate the word “time”. Read his blog for World Cup drama and rants about Brazilian customer service.

Sir Vincent Bevins (why not?) just recently started writing the English-language blog for Brazil’s largest daily Folha de S.Paulo: the succinctly-named From Brazil. The native of La-la Land has lived in London, Berlin, and São Paulo and writes for the Financial Times and the Los Angeles Times, among other Times. He also hangs out with models in Rio and Reykjavik. No lie. Read his blog for reports on gender equality and humorous English gaffes.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print. Well, from Brazil—in English—anyway.