My REDAlert #5 guest Christopher Allen comes from the US, lives in Germany, has a strange connection with New Zealand and his wonderful blog I Must Be Off! has RED photos from – well – almost everywhere! Weirdly though, we DO have common ground! See if you can spot it!
RED: Hi Christopher! I’m honoured that you’ve agreed to be my REDAlert #5 guest.
Christopher: Hi, Red Nomad OZ! Thank you for inviting me to do this interview. These questions are great.
RED: HHHMMMmmm… will you still be saying that at the end of the interview, I wonder?! How important is REDto your blog?
Christopher: About a year ago, I Googled I Must Be Off! through the image color filter. There was a lot of deep blue and green because I hike—and a lot of RED.
RED: If I could work out how to do that, I suspect I’d find more BLUE than RED on my blog! LOVE your blog nameI Must Be Off!– is there a story behind it?
Christopher: I’ve lived in Germany for almost 20 years, so the language has seeped into my thoughts. A famous German comedian wrote a book called “Ich bin dann mal weg. Meine Reise auf dem Jakobsweg“ (I’m off now for a while. My journey on the Jacobs Trail.) It’s a travelogue that’s supposed to be funny, poignant and entertaining, but it turned out to be merely a vehicle for the author to show off how many languages he speaks. I like the comedian but felt the book was weak.
Turkish Bazaar Ceiling
The title, though, was sitting there relaxing in my subconscious for a while until I needed a name for my blog. I was thinking of the German travelogue, but “I must be off” refers to both my need to escape and my obsession with travel—which is more than just a bit crazy.
RED: Cleverly ambiguous! Which country has the best RED stuff?
Christopher: I love these questions! I give Turkey twelve points. On the Turkish Riviera, there’s a little old man sitting on every corner squeezing and selling his pomegranates. It’s the reddest fruit ever, and it’s full of Vitamin C. There’s also a US-American of medium build wearing sunglasses and probably a red shirt drinking the juice. Me.
Other than the flag, where else can RED be found in Turkey?
Christopher: One of my favorite pictures is of a bazaar ceiling in Istanbul. It’s an incredible design of RED bricks. My eyes are drawn to patterns like this. The ceiling in the bazaar is enormous and of course a work of art. I tried to get as much as possible in the photo without including anything else.
Christopher’s RED flower pic – Rio de Janeiro
RED: And you’ve succeeded! This is a very exotic looking flower. Where is it found?
Christopher: I take way too many pictures of flowers, so I’ve been told. They’re more like flower portraits than pictures. This particular flower lived in the Botanical Garden in Rio de Janeiro. I liked the way the light hit it. It was so hot that day.
RED: Snap! But my shot (see below) was taken in the Cairns Botanical Gardens, in northern Australia! I won’t ask readers to compare photos – I know who’ll come 2nd – but it’s interesting that these nearly identical flowers are so far apart!
What else is Brazil known for?
Christopher: Once, I drove all the way from Rio de Janeiro to Salvador da Bahia on the most dangerous road in the world!
RED: I hope the RED flower made it all worthwhile! Which destinations draw you back?
Christopher: Alsace, France is one of my favorite places. It’s only a three-hour drive from my home in Munich, so I do a wine-run at least twice a year. People think it’s quaint rather than exciting, but they haven’t been to Alsace during the wine festivals or during Advent when the town of Ribeauvillé transforms itself into a medieval village.
RED: Give me ‘quaint’ over ‘exciting’ any day! Especially when there’s wine involved … What about outside of Europe?
Christopher: After touring New Zealand in 2005 for twenty days, I knew I’d be back as often as my travel budget would allow. My connection with NZ is so strong that I’m now a part of An Aotearoa Affair. I’m hosting the carnival in May – the theme is “Bi” – so if anyone is interested in participating, contact me for details.
Red’s Red Flower pic – Cairns Botanic Gardens
RED: I was born in New Zealand!! And I’m sure NZ wine plays a part in the NZ connection … What inspired the recurring RED motif in your wonderful 1st prize-winning story‘Red Toy Soldier’? I loved it!!
Christopher: I woke up one morning with the title in my head: Red Toy Soldier. I’d wanted to write a story about a woman whose father had always wanted a boy, but I’d never had a starting place until the title arrived.
RED: RED seems strangely appropriate for the themes of abandonment and betrayal experienced by all the characters in the story – is RED a negative colour?
Christopher: It’s the connection between Joey’s red hair and the color of the toy soldiers her father gives her that sets the semiotics in the story. If the two characters were to have a beautiful, healthy relationship, the color would be positive—but of course Joey and her father are broken.
RED: Why does RED elicit such strong responses from the main characters?
Christopher: Joey changes the color of her hair as an adult to make a clean break from her father, whose hair is the same fiery red. She also transforms herself into the archetype of femininity. I think the color red is symbolic of heat and drama and feelings that consume, like hate and love.
RED: No, it’s not for the fainthearted! What’s your most memorable RED experience?
Christopher: When you think of “worst RED experiences” you have to think of blood. In 1984 I was driving home from a gig in St. Louis when I started feeling sick. I asked my girlfriend to pull over. On the side of the interstate in the dark, I threw up in a large way, got back in the car and felt better. Five minutes later, I threw up again. And then every five minutes thereafter, I threw up—always in the dark—until we reached the emergency room in Nashville . . . two hours later. When the lights of the hospital lit me up, I looked down to see that the front of my shirt was completely covered in blood. The doctor told me if I hadn’t come straight to the ER, I would have died that night. The next morning when I woke up in the hospital and looked at myself in the mirror, I saw that all the blood vessels in my eyes had burst and that the whites of my eyes were blood red.
RED: AAAARRRGGGH! I’m surprised that didn’t put you off RED for life!!
Christopher: I’m still here! RED has become such a natural part of my life, I forget to notice it sometimes. There’s a ladybug on the lamp next to my computer to remind me to be thankful. There’s a piece of art to my left—a red piece of volcanic wood made to look like a painting—that I had made from the scraps left over from the volcanic wood panel in my kitchen. On the wall to my left is something I painted, and it’s red. I just walked into my sunroom and had to smile. All my furniture is red, and this is the place in the house where I feel energized. After a lot of reflection, I’d have to say that life itself is my best RED experience.
RED: Words to live by! You’ve titled this photo ‘Indian Chandelier’ – and I love the colours and angles! Where was it taken?
Christopher: It’s in an Indian restaurant in Derby, UK – the only reason I’ve named it “Indian Chandelier”. The restaurant owner probably bought it at IKEA! This is a great example of when my friends say to me, “Great God in heaven, Chris, why are you photographing that?” The angled shot has more movement, and I like the contrast between darkness and light.
RED: As do I! Your photos are amazing – what’s your best tip for an amateur like me?
Christopher: I’m not a professional photographer, but I enjoy viewing the world from different perspectives. I like to compose a shot, and I think I have a feeling for what makes a good one.
RED: You think?? We KNOW!!
Christopher: I see people taking a hundred shots of mountain landscapes, and I think Really? A hundred? These are such boring shots. Mountain. Mountain. Mountain. Out of focus mountain. Mountain. If I take a picture of a mountain, there needs to be something in the foreground that complements the mountain. I (try to) take pictures of things that will appear dramatically and make an impression (and that have made an impression on me). The color RED almost always does this.
Red Bus, Banff National Park, Canada
RED: (*thinking* well, you’ll LOATHE the endless tropical island shots in my last post…) And then they load all 582 mediocre shots onto Facebook! But I’m glad you didn’t edit out this marvellousRED vehicle!
Christopher: Great bus, huh? This hotel on wheels was parked at Moraine Lake in Banff National Park. It’s the first time I’d ever seen anything like it. Apparently there are bunks in the back of the bus for the passengers. This is perfect for people touring the national parks of British Columbia and Alberta—well, “perfect” if you want to spend your holiday in a bunk.
RED: It’s a cross between fantasy come true and my worst nightmare!! What kind of blogs do you like reading?
Christopher: I read fellow authors’ blogs and fellow travellers’ blogs (http://www.travelblogexchange.com/) mainly. I know this seems a bit schizophrenic, but my life is about writing and travel—and I haven’t ruled out mental illness!
RED: If you were head of the blog police, what would you change about blogging?
Christopher: Hmmm. Well, a blog should be what the blogger wants it to be. If he/she isn’t interested in keeping readers, anything goes. That said . . . Sheesh, when someone goes on and on and on and on without a point (that I can see), I get irritated and leave.
RED: Aha! Only two people in the entire world know how much editing went into THIS interview!! What makes a good blog?
Christopher: Informative, entertaining, colorful, inspiring and well written—but not long. And if they are long, they’d better be incredibly informative, entertaining, colorful—you get the idea.
Tiled Roof, Croatia
RED: I’m on it … Have you added ‘Croatian roof-climber’ to your repertoire of blogger, photographer, writer, teacher and traveller?
Christopher: This is a rooftop in a village where some of the houses are actually below the path up the hill, which enabled me to get a close-up shot.
RED: The texture is marvellous!
Christopher: Texture and pattern (and the contrasts between) are so important in the pictures I take—and in the stories I write. In fact, I need pictures to tell a story. In this photo of a simple rooftop—it’s someone’s home—I see a family who replaces tiles only when they have to. New tiles among the old tell me the family clings to the past for one reason or another, whether it be love for the past or a distaste for modernity.
RED: I don’t know a lot about Croatia. What’s one thing that surprised you about it?
Christopher: Everyone still smokes! It’s mind-boggling, but our waiter in a fairly nice restaurant in Rijeka was smoking as he took our order. I found that odd.
RED: Really? Haha, only kidding! Yes, that IS odd!
Christopher: One (serious) thing about Croatia that most people don’t know: Croatia produces excellent wine.
RED: No way! I’m sensing another recurring theme … which brings me to this great RED photo you’ve imaginatively titled DSC01526! What is it?
Christopher: Ha! Another great example of when my friends stare at me and think Chris has lost his mind . . . again. Imagine the scene: We’re sitting at a cocktail bar on Phuket (Thailand), enjoying “a few” (RED: *snorts*) sugary drinks. The evening is beautiful, warm. We all feel so grateful for the adventure. The stirrers are twirly and colorful and the tablecloth is red. As stirrers accumulate, I start building things and snapping photos. The feeling of this series of photos is drunken and bathed in red.
RED: That’d make many Aussies feel right at home!! And now, your photo of the RED MAN is the ULTIMATE REDshot! Tell us in 15 words or less what it’s all about!
CA not jumping in NZ!
Christopher: Wait. Are you referring to this shot of me?
RED: (*thinking quickly* no, I was referring to the RED MAN statue at start of post. But I’d better keep him sweet and agree!!) Of course I was! But why not give me 15 words or less about this photo AND the REDMAN photo?!
Christopher: REDMAN: Vancouver. Part of set of sculptures. Single subjects (flowers, faces, etc.) beg to be photographed.
About me: Standing atop a volcano in New Zealand. Not preparing to jump.
RED: Haha! SO glad you didn’t jump!! Do you have any final REDwords of wisdom for my readers??
Christopher: The color RED to me means life, which I’ve learned to appreciate. Life is not always pretty, but is always instructive.