Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

Ha! Cheesy!

You now have that song stuck in your head.

It’s that time of the year where I miss Germany the most. I think it is like the 4th Christmas in China or so out of 6. Not so much this time around. Let me elaborate why that is.

I basically come from a place where Christmas is something special. Isn’t that everywhere? Yes, you might think so, but in the mountains and the small area where I am from: one could say that Christmas is the front and center of family life. That one time in the year where it matters most to sit with your family and/or friends who are basically family too, the family you chose.

Here is a great and short video explaining what my hood is all about on Christmas:

Christmas here in Shanghai can’t compare and that is great. I don’t even see a lot of Christmas decorations apart from gaudy ones in malls. So I am not missing out, even if there would be more, nothing would be so authentic and homely.

It’s a festival of lights and there is tons of lights here as well and but it’s way different. I miss out on the family and friends in Germany and I love them dear but I am glad that Christmas here doesn’t come close, so I can celebrate however I want.

We do have a ‘Raachermannl‘ the traditional smoking wooden figurines that are powered by a cone of incense. Since everyone seems to know and love Rammstein, here is their version(s) of the figurine:

So born and raised in a 1600 (roughly) people village in the mountains, here is my little part in spreading a bit of the culture. I will probably be off for a bit, play games, chat with friends, Skype the family on Christmas and on the 24th I will think of everyone I hold dear and eat until it hurts and look at different lights, lights that also guide me home like the miners. Lights that are representing people and families that share different traditions that I can take part in or not and you can do so as well. Broaden your horizon and ask what traditions your friends hold dear. Learn, take some of it with you, adapt what you want and have a merry Christmas no matter where you are from and love your family and/or the one you cho(o)se…

I love you for reading this and I hope you enjoy, love and burn a bit with me, even if it is just a tiny candle. We share a laugh, a goof, a gaff, a smile, a adventure, a hug, a lightbulb, a lighter, a workplace, a hobby, a taste, a meal, a friend, a friendship, an idea, a bed, a roof or a big ass pulsing heart in your chest. Do something good and be nice for once!

There is smart and there is stupid smart.

I don’t mean stupidly smart – that exists too. I mean stupid but/and smart.

Lately I enjoyed the whole second season of Ash vs Evil Dead and that is an example of stupid smart. One could say it is goofy, dumb, funny and groovy and one would be right. It’s not for everyone but it’s smart in how stupid it makes me for the 30 minutes it runs per episode and takes me on a gory ride of fun. It is however, not stupid in a The Walking Dead kind of way, where it makes me stop watching, it makes me come back for more because it tricks me in this stupid smart way.

The main character played by the best B-movie actor of all time Bruce Campbell – Ash is a main character that surprises you with his unreliability of being stupid, being underestimated and cocky. In the season finale and I am not spoiling much and this is a show that won’t be hurt by spoilers regardless, there is a scene that had me face-palming myself and shake my head smilingly when he punched an old locked up woman in the basement of the cabin of the movies, because he thinks it’s a demon and and it’s funny, because I thought she is clearly not and it’s not right to punch an old woman that is in shackles and afraid right in the face and it’s weird how she doesn’t get insanely outraged or sad about that act (it’s a funny show – believe me and read on). Knowing by that point that this is an oddball of a show with a special, self-aware humour, this in itself, is not surprising and knowing Ash is a overly confident moron, I thought, he is clearly wrong here and even with the woman not acting like I think a person in real life would (because it’s movie/TV magic). I was led to believe she is not a demon and this is not right. The show turns all this on it’s head and spits it back, AND it turns out after Ash gets distracted and unshackles her, because bigger problems seem to arise, it happens: she disappears and IS ACTUALLY A DEMON/DEADITE. I giggled and felt a bit stupid but not tricked in a bad way.

The series surprises. It pulled that exact stunt or similar set-ups a couple of times before. It’s unreliable and goes meta with the viewer being tricked by thinking yes, this is not how a person would react and bring you down to the characters ‘stupidity’ and the over-the-topness of it all adds up to being excited by what is then naturally (or unnaturally) happening. It’s stupid and knows the viewers know and then plays with it and confronts us with a Schrödingers cat situation where anything could happen and we are surprised either way. It’s fun, it’s stupid and it’s smart.

Now compare this to almost every single TWD episode where I facepalm myself for watching characters that are supposed to be real and a show that is not self-aware and devoid of humour (apart from a Laurel and Hardy duo that is now devoid of the more serious guy that the other guy bounces off of) make decisions that make me shake my had not smilingly for stupid decisions from seemingly smart people. Let’s name a few: ‘Let’s split up.’, ‘We do this alone.’, ‘We can/can’t kill this character.’, ‘We don’t need more people.’ and ‘Yes Rick.’.

One show is stupid, aware of that and therefore smart, the other show is stupid, but not aware of that and not smart. I, the viewer am being tricked but once in an exciting and entertaining way and once in a very dumb way (and also to make you tune in after a 1 year break to find out who died!).

Enough of this. Back to philosophy:

I have finished Bioshock: Infinite this week. The game does something very similar, being a sequel to the original Bioshock game and therefore the also great System Shock (2) that also happen to share the same twist. You, the player are aware of a twist coming and then it comes and it is glorious. It’s possibly one of the best endings in a game ever. It’s touching, it’s philosophical and smart.

Let’s end this with the stupidly smart and great person Werner Herzog and this list (read Number 5 if you don’t read whole short articles). Please watch his movies and listen to his German accent or watch a producer being shouted at by the late and equally great but very different Klaus Kinski and be the calm that only Werner can show, even when being shot.

Gaming is good…

… everything other than being passive is.

I haven’t posted that regularly recently. I usually need a bit of anger or something that bothers me to write. There is less of that in my life now. Lifting my Macbook onto the desk that I use basically only for writing and serious stuff feels good. Words flow.

Shanghai is being great, a lot of things are improving. I am improving, there is no end to that until it ends and that is so far in the future, we probably will have real-life Westworld.

That show is the bomb, I think I mentioned it before and have to say it again: it’s cinema on the small screen and the most expensive looking TV show there is at the moment. It’s also the best thing since Breaking Bad. Watch it! If you don’t – you miss out on having your mind tickled and talking to people like Lost was ever any good (you can possibly tell I never got into that). It’s one of the show that you want to talk about with other people, a show that you will possibly dream of in one way or another and it’s a show that you want to enjoy every second of and makes it worthwhile. I don’t miss the show with dead people walking and fake-out cliffhangers, lame episodes in the middle and characters that make dumb decisions and characters I don’t care much about anymore at all (and it seems I am not alone).

It’s something active, it’s not mindless zapping through what is on TV and just watching something while cleaning the house or putting chips in you mouth while leaving crumbles on your couch (I am not condemning anyone who does that and watches Westworld though). It’s the best kind of TV.

Life throws stuff in your way. Every day, it’s not always fun, but you can make the best of it. You can act, you can choose before something is chosen for you. Choose what you watch, choose what you consume and chose how you react, how you get up, how you do things, how you look at things – then you change the world, then you decide, then you are in charge and you can change the world. Your world changed for the better – every day a little bit. My friend Ramsey wrote this splendid article about Protein (totally unrelated but as much worth a read as it is to give Westworld a watch, everything he writes there is great and I know for a fact that he agrees that change happens through repetition through doing it over and over again and have a positive outlook). I just hope VeganGains will not be onto Ramsey next – haha! While we are on that topic, please have a laugh here about how many days are in a week.

Coming full circle and back to the start. Why is gaming good? Because I say so! Because I got an Xbox 360 now and through Chinese magic there are tons of games that can immerse myself in, like I did before with my Raspberry Pi and Playstation and SNES games from my childhood, but this time with better graphics. I also learned that the AV cable makes your games look like you have a Playstation 2 and then you get an HDMI cable and I am too awestruck to tell the difference between that generation of consoles and the latest. Nah, gaming is great because it is active.

You don’t sit there passively and have something numbing you. You take part, your hand and eye coordination gets better. Your problem solving skills get a workout. Your willpower can grow. You can relax while immersing yourself in different worlds. I dream better – meaning my dreams go nuts, I ride dinosaurs and shoot laters and I am saving the world with my friends (apparently you can do that online now too – for me it happens in my dreams). I was a bit said to see that the couch co-op is somehow on the way out, sadly, it seems. That doesn’t hold me back from playing Borderlands and old split screen titles with friends or my girlfriend.

It’s the active part. Games are great. Games are as active as books. Reading a book is better than watching dumb cable TV. I probably don’t have to explain that or silly game shows or ads.

Having a beer walk to go from store to store and exploring the city is better than having a beer alone. Biking to work is better than taking the subway and waiting for said subway. Taking the stairs is better than taking the elevator. Writing a blog article is better than not writing something down and forgetting about it. Being strong is better than being weak. Being pro-active is better than being re-active. Gaming is good and so is life.