Dinner for one or how to lose a superhero

This is something about a hero of mine. A person that I spend most of the New Year’s Eves of my life with, a person that shaped me more than any comic superhero ever has and will be. My beloved Grandma!

Sometimes life hits harder than Superboy’s punches that bring heroes back from the dead. I wish I could punch reality and bring you back. At almost 90 years you went to sleep without getting up again. You will always live on in my and everyone’s memories.

I will visit your resting place this winter, until then, here are some words from me to the world that will not do you justice but give a glimpse of what was and will live on:

Every weekend of my youth I had sleepovers at your place. I was the (hopefully funny) chubby kid in school and that was porbably because every Sunday morning I got up early, I believe 6:30 am and gave myself the full dosage of X-Men, Power Rangers (later on), Hulk and sometimes the weird cartoons that aired before that, I believe Captain Planet and that weird one with a ship’s captain trying to safe the environment. Sometimes I got up so early that the screen showed the no signal screen and/or later the credits of who dresses up the news anchors and a lot of staff and stuff by Endemol. Then you got up and made me coffee and after breakfast fed me whatever I wanted, mostly pancakes and loads of them, which led to me being chubby and maybe all the chocolate inbetween and cookies and everything up to lunch and after that. It was love that filled my belly.

You have also always been an avid reader, even until your last days. All of Paolo Coelho, The White Massai and tons of other books you devoured. Me and my sister at some point doubted you actually read all these books and questioned you and you replied with Wikipedia like knowledge without knowing what Wikipedia is. You win!

When I was 3, 4 or 5 you read that bird book to me and I somehow was able to name all these birds from the pictures alone. So you gave me superpowers. Obviously now I am super bad at telling birds apart nor would I be able to name more than 3 birds out of that book on the fly, but I still read and will continue to do so.

One day you had to cut me out of my winter overall because it froze shut after playing in the snow all day. Not long after we found several cans of what we, as kids, believed to be ooze that might have gotten us Ninja powers, what it got me instead was my hands glued together. Nothing you couldn’t fix, it took a chunk of butter, warm water and time and again love, something you had in throngs.

Another time you washed and scrubbed the back of my hand until it hurt until we both realized that I was just incredibly tanned.

Going to find mushrooms in the woods was one of my favourite things to do and you were the best to find them with. You pretended to not see some of them (I know that now) and made me win all these ‘competitions’.

At age 14 I dressed up as ‘Dolly Buster‘ for the German version of the carnival and complimented me on my fantastic legs with the advice to ‘be careful not to get touched, because I could really pass as a girl’. Haha! It was the most lucrative going from house to house I remember. Don’t judge me, Dolly Buster was a legend in late night German TV and always a good laugh in her German SNL parodies.

Never really bringing girls home you assumed that I was gay and even that was completely fine with you (You know that we lived in years way after the 80s. You told me to please bring however I am seeing next time I visit from China or whoever I am dating. Regardless the gender.

But most fondly I remember the New Year’s Eves. Sitting there until way beyond my bed time, you have had one glass of sparkling wine prepared for me. We were sitting there, waiting, eating, talking and watching ‘Dinner for One’ a classic and most repeated sketch on TV, that I to this day laugh about and enjoy. Watch it here:

There is even a Netflix contemporary version here…

We always had a dinner for two and then you let me light all the fireworks and the next day go out and collect misfired fireworks or some that haven been lit that I set on fire with my friends. Safe!

You have always been nothing but amazing to me and you will forever be. Rest in peace Omi!

Periphery in Shanghai or how to not handle a bad situation

Let me start this with: I was stoked! We don’t get a lot of great bands here. Let alone such a highly technical and mass appealing band like Periphery.

I came across them years ago while writing reviews for a now unfortunately discontinued German e-zine. It was a great time.

Periphery are a highly technical Djent band from Washington. They are great – listen to this and this. Opening act was Abstracts from Japan and they killed it. Fantastic sound, fantastic energy and amazing vocals. Basically Architects meets Structures meets Counterparts. It was seriously worth the ticket price 220 RMB or around 30 Euros.

Abstracts – the band that saved the night and concert

Then Periphery came on with good news and bad news and as everyone knows: people wanted to hear the bad news first (we never got to hear the good news, but I guess it was that they played in some way). They are terribly sick and there will be no lyrics. There was no ‘being sorry’, so they started playing and it was great, they handle their instruments well, they obviously are seasoned and great musicians.

The band without the singer and Jake not pictured

I was bamboozled with having requested to sing every note and word along. I don’t know most of the lyrics of bands I adore (apart from Manowar, who are also responsible for my English, but that is a different story) or bands I covered and screamed for, let alone a highly technical band with that kind of lyrics and vocal style.

Surprisingly people tried really hard and partly succeeded in the song Merigold. What they got was that they could do better and later that they don’t measure up to the excitement of Hong Kong – really?

I can think of multiple ways to make the concert still work somehow:

  • have a fan come on stage and sing
  • as band, sing along (at least for parts), it baffles me that this seemed not to be in the realms of possibility
  • have the recording or vocal track play in the back and play along (obviously you can do that)
  • get the Abstracts guy to do some of it or a Roadie
  • hum, step away or sing/scream parts or explain what are the words (every band I played in knew parts if not all of the song)
  • have someone scream whatever along the way
  • have someone randomly freestyle on what you play

Look, you are not a post-rock band nor a Killswitch Engage where people are entertained solely by the music nor do they have a chance to even remotely (in China) know the lyrics and notes of every single song. What were you thinking?

I could have excepted everything that happened but lost it completely at the encore, the fact that you played that stuff, to wait and have people ask for it (I have been there and we have planned it) was sooooo out of place, people actually asked and chanted for it and you got it. And asked for even more… I couldn’t believe it. Play the tight set, apologize and walk off. Or have the grandiose (I am serious) opener lead the show, play 20 minutes of your best songs instrumental, apologize and introduce them to a band that is amazing and came with the energy of a thousand suns. Let them shine and be humble.

Instead we got someone who was in the unfortunate position to break the bad news and I understand that working in customer service who gets riled up and antagonizes the crowd with everything he says. I feel sorry. I feel sorry for the 3 dudes who clearly tried and had fun and played everything with passion and sincerity and every one of them would have probably been a better spokesperson than Jake (I think that is your name and I am really, from my heart of hearts sorry to critique you that way, but that came off as arrogant and completely misplaced).

It was immature. I understand people shouting negative things and I am surprised not more people have left early. I am hands down amazed by the people that were okay with all that and kept asking for the next song and clapped, I tried and did so first too.

Again, I am glad I was there, I would have missed out on Abstracts and I understand that a refund was probably not in the books, nor would I have asked for it. I also do understand and appreciate that the band played, but man, this was so badly handled, I have trouble finding a lot to redeem that and I leave this with a sad feeling. Something seemed off and I hope the singer is okay and recovers but on the top of my head I can think of at least 3 or 4 ways how that could have went a different and better way. You can do better and I saw the disappointment that you were aware of and maybe you were all a bit sick but you powered through but not in the smartest way.

A couple of years ago Deafheaven played here and I think for a whole song (it was one of the first songs and I don’t think the screamer was sick) the microphone gave up completely. The singer shouted over it and played along for the whole song, not missing a scream and it was not audible but dayyum, it impressed me and that act alone made me hear the words in my head.

I feel bad for the band trying so hard and clearly being passionate about it, but Jake my man, I am disappointed and I hope one day there is at least that one word ‘sorry’ that could have made it all bearable…

The man that brought me to China

I wanted to become a Shaolin monk when I was 12 to 14’ish…

No jokes! I have written about this before, but I would like to take some time and elaborate a bit more.

I’m from a little town in the Ore Mountains in Germany and a bit earlier, if I remember correctly it was when I was 11 years old, I joined the young firefighters in our village. I wanted that so much, that I annoyed everyone so much, that they let me join at age 11, officially it was 12. This little dragon was my idol (an Italian cartoon I just learned).

So I was the kid that at that age told everyone dirty jokes (for real!) and bullied one of my childhood friends a lot. We know laugh about that. Kids are horrible to each other but I think we just wanted that kid to be more like us. At one point we even did one of those make-over shows, without these shows being a thing, where we dragged him to get a haircut and pick ‘cooler’ clothes from his closet and bought him how to ride a bicycle, which ended with him trying on his own, riding down the neighbours driveway, crashing into the neighbour’s kids scooter and landing, breaking his fall with his wrists and two wrists in casts. This guy never really had it easy. I believe months later he came to school with a duck face, before that was a thing, a wasp got him on the upper lip. We had a laugh. Kids are terrible. Shortly after that, we learned how to solder (I actually did not, I believe, because I was in the artsy group, so I learned acting and playing keyboard and stuff, while my friend really liked it when the teacher showed him how to play and touched the back of his head with her bosom – but that is another story) and he tried to cool the thingy blowing air at the iron and someone slightly pushed him, so back was the duck face but different. Oh boy! My dad thought him how to swim, while we annoyed splashed water on him and had a laugh. Man, kids are really terrible.

Let’s get back to the cast(s). There is a man that found himself countless times injured and in said casts. A man that finally got an Oscar he so well deserved, the man that brought me to China. Jackie Chan

ASH’s Kung Fu and the end credits of the fantastic and first big American movie Rumble in the Bronx with a superb soundtrack, a movie that made me fall in love with the idea of living in America (I have never been) and idolise this man even more).

At the age of 13 or maybe 14 there wasn’t a weekend where I didn’t watch one of his movies. Countless times I have rewatched ‘Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow’ my then favourite movie with him, which is now toppled by the non-aging movie ‘Wheels on Meals’ that came out when I was born. If that isn’t a sign?

Jackie Chan is unfortunately not the idol he is or was to me here in China. He gets flag for some stupid stuff he said in recent years and maybe rightfully so, but you can google that yourself, I want to keep this more on the positive side. Just to name some, he said his son was rightfully imprisoned for weed consumption and possession, he denies one of his daughters I believe, he said stupid things about the US, about Taiwan and was turning his alliance like it suited him, but again, how much of this is really him. I like to think better of him.

So there was I, doing the Snake Kung Fu expressions, dreaming of leaving the village behind and living in the mountains in China where everyone knows how to fight and everything is a bit goofy and weird. A van Damme poster on the door to my room and countless VHS tapes with Jackie Chan movies, every other weekend a VHS rented to devour and practice some of the moves in front of the TV.

The movies are kinetic. You feel every fall, every punch and swift kick has a weight to it and sometimes lands for real. You feel that when you watch most of those movies. It’s entertainment in it’s purest form, it’s fascinating and magical. It’s an art and the danger is real. The stuntman are outstanding and you cringe sometimes watching this. For a good while I was going back to find an older article with the following video, but I wasn’t able to find it, so here it is again, no one made a better list, thanks Angry Video Game Nerd!

I believe this is all you have to see to admire the athleticism and genius that is this man and his team. Maybe while you are at it and you can’t get enough – watch this video by the great Every frame a Painting on what makes Jackie the man of Action Comedies.

After years and years of admiring the movies and eventually moving to China, accidentally I see Jackie Chan in person, 5 meters away outside of Chunking Mansion in Hong Kong promoting a movie and the magic was there again.

Say what you will about his personal life and think what you want to think of him as an actor. I would like to leave you with the following scene that made me cry and hopefully will do the same to you. He is not that good of an actor for it to be staged (I find that insulting if you think it is) and I thank this man for many good hours of my life, all the good that came out of him making movies with this dedication and wish for more people like him: