A lot of people don’t particularly like being on an plane. Perhaps it’s the claustrophobia, or the smell, or the fear of imminent death. Others, however – and which camp you fall into tends to correlate with the class you’re seated in – rather like it. Indeed, some want to recreate the conditions on the ground. Not so much the queue for the loo and increased risk of tuberculosis, but the movie-watching bit.
A new partnership between Qatar Airways and Novo Cinemas will allow film lovers in Bahrain and the UAE to watch a choice of titles on an iPad from the comfort of a reclining leather plane seat, as flunkies proffer fine dining – while going absolutely nowhere. This is not a five-star experience. It is not even six. This, they promise, is seven-star stuff.
I say film lovers. A few years ago, one might have questioned whether a bona fide cineaste would choose to view a movie on a screen as big as a flannel while being endlessly badgered about hummus. But no longer. We are increasingly only happy watching films in conditions of considerable luxury. The massive spike in cinema attendance in China has been in part put down to people simply wanting to while away a few hours in the air-conditioned comfort of a multiplex throne.
It’s not just cosseting. After all, sound quality on a plane isn’t always ideal – one supposes the seven-star experience won’t stretch to a simulation of the deafening drone you get 30,000 feet up. It’s also distraction. For, despite the hoo-ha about virtual reality, immersion is not what people want. Rather, we want the opposite: snacks and massage and for all our needs to be simultaneously sated.
That is why the proposed new iPhone mode for use in a cinema will eventually win the backing of everyone, everywhere. The movie is a sideshow; the real performance is your own.
Beware bleeding burgers
Fifteen committed carnivores came to my house the week before Christmas. And, before lunch, they absolutely hoovered up some Quorn cocktail sausages, while actual pigs in blankets languished fattily on the platter. Maybe it was the novelty of the things? Or perhaps the fact they don’t just taste surprisingly nice, they feel it too. For the uninitiated, biting off a bit involves a ripping that’s highly satisfying round the teeth. And remember: with faux-flesh you don’t have any fibrous fallout.
But despite this primal appeal of most meat alternatives, the makers of a new vegan burger that “bleeds” beetroot juice may, I think, have gone too far. In almost every situation, the red stuff is rarely a good sign – and many veggies would be keen to dissociate their food from the act of killing. Substitutes should be sympathetic alternatives, rather than actual pretenders.
In Germany just before Christmas, there was upset after the agriculture minister proposed a ban on terms such as “vegetarian schnitzel”, which were, he felt, “misleading and unsettling”. People have long sought to legislate against what frightens them. But I can’t think of anything freakier than a veggie burger that acts like it’s dying.
Some of our finest inventions were accidents: microwaves, pacemakers, Teflon, Play-Doh. We can now add dental regeneration, as scientists trying to find a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease have alighted on a new way to naturally regrow damaged teeth. Geriatric medicine offers a bounty of riches. The origins of hip protectors – sponges that reduce the risk of fracture after a fall – lie in continence pads becoming dislodged. Viagra was originally designed as a cure for angina.
As those people forking out a fortune to watch a film on a stationary plane seat know, the journey often beats the destination.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010