On traveling

So here is the thing about traveling and me: I don’t wike it.

Really, I don’t really like it. Growing up in Eastern Germany and pretty poor, I sometimes heard: ‘You know what, why travel to other countries when spot X in Germany just a couple of 100 kilometers or less can be so nice.’. I never really listened nor believed that. I still don’t really do, but here is the thing:

I fall in love with places and a holiday sometimes isn’t enough. May that be a week or 2 or maybe a couple of weeks. I like to be an stay in places and get used to them and build new routines.

There are all those memes that flood your and my Facebook how traveling is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer. But what if you can stay in that place, what of you can make it work there and what happens when every day feels like that kind of traveling. This is what I try to do. Get used to the place, hack it, make it work for you and feel as comfortable and at home as you possibly can.

It’s like in MMA or on BJJ when you learn to get comfortable in uncomfortable situations ) not that those living situations can be as uncomfortable than getting mounted by Brock Lesnar, like Mark Hunt experienced in UFC 200. By the way Brock Lesnar looks fitter an faster now and found myself in a bit of awe when he just rips legs away for double leg takedowns.

Anyway, you can make it work. If you are in a small rural environment or in the suburban sprawl and you feel okay, you can make days feel like a holiday and develop yourself without the need to get away for 2 weeks in a year just to forget about your worn in life.

Play the game so the environment favors you or try to make that environment favor you, because if I can do that you can and you don’t always have to follow the status quo – question it. Question everything. Even this!

The age of (super) heroes

This year there is a lot of dying going on. The 27 club did not get any new members unless you are familiar with Viola Beach (which I am not).

David Bowie, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Lemmy Kilmister, Bud Spencer (Carlos Pedersoli) and Alan Rickman are no more – may they rest in peace. You might think that this seems to be a particularly bad year in terms of idols dying. It’s not, we are biased and the celebrity culture just went into full swing in the 50’s, so we feel like the world is crumbling.

This is might sound like a really negative way to lead into an article, but nothing lasts forever, the world keeps on turning and for me and many other super hero fans this must (or should be) the greatest time to be alive.

It is the year where arguably the biggest DC super heroes were seen together on the silver screen. It’s a time where a super hero movie would function even without costumes as a marvelous movie and by that I’d like to take Captain America: Civil War as an example. It is a time where there are hours upon hours of super heroes on TV (and I watch/have watched them all).

Growing up having weekend sleep overs at grandma’s and getting up at 6am to watch X-Men with the best cartoon intro ever (only topped by the Japanese versions intro), Hulk, Spider-Man and his friends.

Now in China I just had the pleasure to finish the Ultimate Cut of Batman v. Superman. Let’s just say that they had that in the  DVD-shop here.

Yes, it’s still not a masterpiece but it makes a good movie and a great set up for the Justice League and all there is to come. The extra 30 minutes add in the best way possible, I found myself on Superman’s side a lot more and even Lex’s plan made more sense. In a addition to that there is a bit more blood, some arm’s more are cut off or broken but I am sure that this would have made for a better experience the first time around.

I am excited for the DC movie universe and can’t wait for the next few movies.

Civil War was great: touching, funny, every single character had a good arc, a couple of wow-moments and was all around probably my second favorite Marvel movie to this day. Number One: The Winter Soldier. I count Deadpool as FOX and that one would win over there.

In comparison to Civil War the Justice League set up wins in the music department and has Batman. Batman trumps every other hero. And Zack Snyder is really not that bad, I would say he is great. That boy has the visuals down to a T and man, can he direct a Batman fight scene! (The Rescue) No one before him was able to show that in live action.

I frequently watch the ‘Everything wrong with …’ youtube channel and found out that they also feature a more positive version, they take movie where people are on the fence and explain why it actually is good. And you should definitely give the one about Suckerpunch a try and after watching that please try to argue again that Zack Snyder can’t do interesting stories. Yes, he talks funny, he comes off as a bit of a douche, says ‘like’ a lot, like Justin Bieber (you know I do like that boy too) and needs a hand with the general story, but I find he is one of the strongest visual directors out there.

 

If you ask me about the TV-shows that is tougher. Arrow is on a downward slope starting from season 3 onwards and probably not worth watching unless you are a hardcore fan. The Flash is really, really strong and is genuinely funny and the scenes between Barry and his two dads are nothing short of amazing – they really pull my heartstrings. Legends of Tomorrow is good fun, but skippable if you ask me. Supergirl is surprisingly good and fun. Agents of Shield I stopped watching but it might have gotten better (opinions?). Constantine was fun until it got cancelled, but a bit all over the place and with weak spots that showed (the actor was not one of them). Daredevil is the best superhero TV show, Jessica Jones was very, very strong. The latest addition is Preacher and hot damn is that fun – especially the first two episodes (it has also been officially renewed for season 2). Hope I didn’t forget something…

And you know what? Doom is back and Quake and Fallout is in full swing. What a time to be alive!

Relaunching this blog and myself

It’s been 5 years in China by now, a bit more actually. It’s been a weight that was fluctuating for the longest time. It’s been constant food from restaurants for lunch and a loss of adventure. It’s been a loss of healthy habits and getting comfortable with something stable that I should have known it’s not.

When you’re finished changing, you’re finished. -Benjamin Franklin

And finished I am not!

Here is to a new beginning. Picking up a habit that I had – for 2 years constantly and then for like 6 months out of China again. I blog. I blog about change and I blog about me. And you know what? I blog for myself. For myself to remember what happened to smile and smirk about the adventures that happen and happened. To have a constant memory and to maybe make you smile and in the constant flux of youtube stars – I want to be the one that writes. That writes old school – like on a blog in the early 2000s.

Here is how to do that and why it is good for you. It’s also not my first language – so it helps even more.

Sitting here and writing this I already feel great. I feel like words are springing out of my head and make space for happiness.

I have started meditating and am still looking for the right app or setting to keep this going. It’s great! Try it at the right time. When that is you ask me? I have no idea. I tried and dropped it so many times, but what helped me the most to at least semi constantly keep this going is to keep it short. 10 minute meditations are a thing and how doesn’t have 10 minutes. 10 years ago I was trying (without any knowledge about meditation at all) to jump right into binaural (more on binaural stuf on this website that looks like from late 90s geocities) mediations that go on for 45 minutes to an hour and keep that going, while learning to lucid dream and experience myself out of my own body. I fell asleep a lot and have not achieved a lot.

I stopped smoking and got a ‘mouth fedora’ how some people call them – a vaporizer. Two to be precise. It has been 8 months with only a handful of days where I fell back into the old habit. Shout out here to my friends at Shanghai vape especially Sean and more on vaping in Shanghai here.

I started reading again due to a Kindle and the German amazon store and I get books for free or heavily discounted via Bookbub and so can you.

I have moved and have a cute garden on the balcony that now features small tomatoes, mint, basil and thyme an I do a mix of a morning exercise that is a botched version of my MMA trainer‘s warm up and some DDP yoga.

There is even more change on the horizon and the most recent one is to have picked up writing and blogging again, but I’ll keep that for the next time.

Let me end this with something that is inked onto my skin:

Be the change that you wish to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi

(Dino) Parks and Recreation

Turbulent weeks went by, with no chance to blog.

I was Batman (and this guy is when he is cosplaying and probably the king of all cosplayers) and holy hand grenade was Arkham City awesome. The game is bigger, better, faster and more Batman in every single way than the already nothing short of awesome Arkham Asylum. While I haven’t had the chance to play Origins, I guess that one is somewhere in-between, I cannot wait for Arkham Knight, that my friend here in China soon gets to play (games are 300 RMB). I will go and get it once I have an XboxOne and live in Hong Kong in the meantime it’s going to be iPad games and classics on the Mac, but boy wonder was I Batman for a couple of evenings and will be again… Being Catwoman was almost more fun though. Heathen!

I have also been to my favorite city and you know that by know: Hong Kong. It was amazing what an effect 4 days there can have on me. I think I lost 3 kilos, I met friends, I had beers, we hiked, it motivated me, it changed me and I have something to work towards to. It did half of those things to my misses as well.

And while some shows kept me occupied: like the pretty bad season 3 of Arrow, the awesome first season of Flash, the best season of Vikings, a very solid fifth season of Game of Thrones, a very good season 3 of Orange is the new black with the possibly best ending for that show so far and the good old Parks and Recreation whenever a laugh is needed at season 3 at the moment. Thank you China for having all those shows at hand for a small penny. I might take those seasons apart in a future post, but maybe not. You can always ask 😉

Speaking of parks. I saw Jurassic World last Friday. It was good, it brought back the old theme song and inexplicably the idiots in the movie thought it was a good idea to open the failed theme park of Jurassic Park as Jurassic World. Have they not seen the first movie or heard from those ‘scientists’? Anyway I found it good and sometimes, somebody else already put your feelings into words, so did the commenter Peita D on Screenrant:

I will admit that Mad Max Fury Road may have forever ruined any action movie for me – the bar has been set so high now in terms of ninja techniques of storytelling – show don’t tell – and letting the world enthral you rather than spending time ‘world building’ . It may be to soon, I may not have recovered from the amazing stunt work and cleverly integrated CGI to cope with a water dinosaur that in fact caused me to laugh at the end rather than get a real ‘fright’.
Worth seeing at the cinema, but not worth rushing out to do so

So yeah… Mad Max: Fury Road is mind-blowing and even now that 2 weeks or so have passed, it is well up in my top ten and probably dethroned Termintor 2 as the best action movie for me. It’s that good. It’s loud, it’s crazy, it’s an adrenaline fueled post-apocalyptic rollercoaster ride in an incredible world where everything naturally falls into place and even the 3d was subtle but worked and I am usually not a fan. Seriously the movie is out of this world in terms of style, story, action and pace. Do yourself a favor and watch it in a cinema. I might throw superlatives around lightly but in that case: please believe me!

This week definitely just this short update, because I am Batman

On Sunday a friend of mine lent me Batman: Arkham City for the Playstation 3 (that I don’t like, but my girlfriend’s brother lent us) and I am busy being Batman.

In Germany I used to have a Xbox 360 that I currently lent to one of my best friends and the predecessor of Arkham City – namely Arkham Asylum is the one and only game I absolutely destroyed.I got every trophy and all that shizznit.

So I am back to being Batman and don’t have the time to destroy it but I am going to thoroughly enjoy it until we have to give the PS3 back.

In the meantime listen to this good song, from the not so splendid Batman: Forever movie (really Batman and Robin is godawful, but this one is enjoyably campy), with a pretty great soundtrack (I am not joking) and a great video:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zuy4828wpvg]

The age (r)evolution

Inevitably we are going old. Wait a second before you call bullshit!

I am 30 at the time of writing this and I feel like 14. Okay I admit, I feel 22, but again, I am in pretty good shape, but I don’t take myself as serious anymore. I don’t fight other people’s wars no more. I my early twenties I was deeply involved in the Hardcore/Metalcore scene (the addition of everything after the slash would probably already get me into trouble with the scene police), I was writing reviews and going to a concert every weekend. I cared deeply. Whenever someone wrote something about my favorite band or my group or my scene I went into Captain America shield up defense mode and fought. With words, on the internet with a neckbeard. Nowadays I keep that neckbeard shaved and trimmed and I don’t care about the scene anymore. I care about me and my friends. I still listen to the music and enjoy it and at the same time I am listening to Justin Bieber or something else super popular and damn it, who can tell me that I shouldn’t enjoy that?

At some point I realized that this is not as serious. Please don’t get me wrong, I still love music, absolutely adore it and probably couldn’t life without it, but it’s not that serious.

That made me laugh, but it’s not how I feel. I am just happy that I am not in the 20’s anymore. Don’t let anyone tell you it get’s worse. Everything get’s better and you look at things differently and it’s totally cool.

I came up with the idea to blog this when I was reading this lifehacker article. It is really not that important what other people think about you. Life the way you want and you pick up the ones that follow along and the ones that knew it all along stick as well, but you don’t have to mend and break yourself over it.

With 30 if I would try to become Batman, like really, really hard, it would take me until I hit 48 optimistically. So glad I am Batman already. Dodged that bullet!

On my old blog, that was all in German and the under www.burntobealive.de I put the evolution of Slipknot in juxtaposition to me growing up. Today I keep that shorter and do the same thing with a band that sounds like it went back to the roots.

Here is one of my favorite songs ever, with a song, that I interpreted for a creative course:

Atreyu – Ain’t Love Grand (2002)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_uCad0prLQ]

13 years later they come back with pretty much the same sound and I find it great. I love all of their stuff and some people really can’t get over the evolution (the old, old stuff compared to the stuff before 2015) and then back to this:

Atreyu – So Others May Life (2015)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhKKco3t_Ro]

It’s all there. It’s not as polished. It has the pig squealing like vocals and the unique singing voice of the drummer. Always have a soft spot for bands with the drummer singing. In the time in-between those two songs Atreyu got more straight forward rocky with amazing hooks and straight forward singing, but I like the contrast here and I am glad they are back with the old sound, not that there was anything wrong with everything between the two songs.

Again, don’t be afraid to go back to what works and just take baby steps towards becoming Batman and a better version of you. Maybe you want to start with nutrition and you want to print this out and hang it on your fridge, not because it is perfect, but because it’s a good guideline and might make you better and maybe, just maybe, you are 30 or close to it.

Everything in it’s right place…

So this post has been inspired by a friend of mine and trainer Niels, who also blogs (in German) and wrote this specific piece – about the magical places. Niels is in New York at the moment and I’ve learned a thing or two about MMA from him, don’t know if he remembers me much, but that is beside the point. I might feature a couple of blogging friends here, now come to think of it.

I believe that we all, be it on travels, in your car on the way somewhere, hiking or biking you will sometimes (given you have a soul) encounter a strange feeling. The feeling is not anger at the honking taxi driver that just overtook you to turn right, just after that (that was yesterday). No, the feeling is something more substantial. It’s the feeling of being there and just there, an indescribable feeling that I am trying to put in words. It’s magical, it’s magical in the sense of a Disney Zoetrope, that I saw in the Hong Kong Disneyland, but let’s see that in action in California instead, because I can’t be bothered to find the video I took. You see: magic happens and it doesn’t wait until you find a video. I’m getting side tracked here. Sometimes you just know when you are home, sometimes you have a gut feeling about a place and then more good than bad things happen.

There is a couple of places that went through me like a Kundalini experience. On my very first day in Shanghai in the late summer of 2009 I was having a cold beer and walked two blocks from the hotel I was staying for the first two weeks, I ended up on Nanjing road (close to the East Nanjing Road station if you are familiar with Shanghai) and wow, it overcame me, I was pumped with energy and just felt that this is the right time and place. It then became home for a year, a year of studying at Tongji University and working at the Expo 2010, 10 years prior I saw a show at the 2000 Expo in Hannover Germany and and jokingly said, I will be at the one in China in 2010 and who would have thunk? I was found myself there and then. Everything in it’s right place.

Another place that felt just like in the old Hong Kong movies and was magical from stepping foot on the ground was… drumroll… Hong Kong. Just the right mixture of modern and tradition, old and new, order and chaos. More about those two places in the last blog post here.

It doesn’t have to be a city, it doesn’t even have to be physical place. I’m not going to judge you if you meditate and meet you spirit animal in your head, that is just as good. And if you don’t mediate or never tried it, then sit down for 5 minutes tonight and give it a try!

Again, sometimes it is a city, sometimes it is that place that you sit down on a bench when you have a beautiful view over your little mountain village and talk to your best friend and sometimes it is home and for the lack of better words:

Heimat ist kein Ort. Heimat ist ein Gefühl

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApraCgT10IE]

Home is not a place, home is a feeling. You know it when you feel it and there can be countless such places. Find them!

Should I stay or should I go or a tale of two cities and 2 Shanghai spots

I live in a country that basically forces you to use apps like ‘Airpocalypse’ this pokes a little bit of fun or that horrid air that you breath in on a daily basis. It’s a country of internet censorship and chaos. It’s love-able though, because it’s so random. For someone contemplating to leave, this might be of help, but that is not me, I am in that place where I am neither in the honeymoon nor do I hate the place – everything is pretty level-headed and balanced more or less (as much as you probably can).

It’s a temporary place, but you get attached to Shanghai, but somehow I think Hong Kong might be the next logical step. Let’s see when that happens. I can’t even explain why I love Hong Kong so much, but again, it is the main star in a lot of movies and the reason I came to Shanghai was pretty much Kung Fu movies and then the realization that people (unfortunately) don’t solve there differences with Kung Fu when they got underpaid for rice wine here, so the study of Chinese and Economics helped a bit to ground my reality. So here I am.

Let’s have a quick look at how good those two cities look at the silver screen, here is Hong Kong and here is Shanghai, Shanghai is missing Spike Jonze‘s ‘Her‘, but the Hong Kong list wins out with some amazing flicks, definitely watch ‘Infernal Affairs‘ and the brilliant old school heroic bloodshed classic ‘The Killer

There is amazing stuff to do in Shanghai and sometimes you just have to open your eyes. Get ready for some really touristic tips as I have guided some friends and friends of friends through the city over the years:

This weekend I came to enjoy the what I would call ‘private cinema‘ and man, that is a blast. In HongKou district not far from my good old Zhabei district (where I used to live for the longest time). Who in Shanghai hasn’t head the phrase ‘Zhabei the place to be’, eh?

So this cinema is located on the third floor of the One Prime Mall on North Sichuan Road. Look out for some Avengers posters and some KTV looking rooms, as well as a booking counter that looks like a Hawaii bar. What you can do there is find a room for 4 people (up to 11) and have a seat in some super comfy 90’s massage chairs (that vibrate to the sound) and hopefully you brought enough beers and food to go with how ever many movies you want to watch on a massive screen with your friends. It’s nothing short of awesome and I did actually like the 3D effect in there, so make sure to try that out. We were watching Kingsman: The Secret Service – a really recommendable spy action flick with great leads and memorable action scenes and Prometheus – a movie I somehow have not had the opportunity to watch and that I enjoyed, but it is kind of slow and I wish there was more that the movie had to show in terms of character design, but again, this movie got way to much flak at the time it came out, for no reason at all.

Another secret tip lies deep within the the famous YuYuan garden, while you will be able to find the garden itself in every guide about Shanghai, there is not far from the temple and right next to the shadow play theatre, a little shop where you can take pictures on a rickshaw in historical clothes, usually you see a crowd gathered there and a few flights of steps lead up to that place, so head up those 5 stairs and enter the elevator on the right to the top floor, don’t worry, usually people just wonder what you do there, but it seems to be an elevator nobody uses. Anyway this leads to the quietest place in this busy tourist hotspot with the best view, you will figure the rest out and I feel okay with disclosing this awesome spot here and hope not every guide will pick that up…

Enough with the tips and have a look what’s trending on Twitter, people disclose their salaries, mostly in tech and in the US, but it’s definitely interesting and refreshing. Apparently the ball began rolling with this article. I will have a work related post coming in the future, so this is how I tie this up and as you can see there is always a thin red line through those articles, there is mostly something about Batman, a lot of me and a little dash of hopefully helpful or insightful information.

Get your towels ready – it’s getting hot!

Summer is officially here. Shanghai has basically two seasons. There is winter: roughly from end of November to early April and then there is summer: basically the rest of the time.

Currently it’s spring I would say, that lasts like 2 weeks, it’s pretty summerish already. Again I won’t really complain about that, because the summer is actually pretty good I find. But holy bat mobile is the winter here horrible.

I am from Germany, or to be more specific The Erzgebrige, that is where Elves, Wolves, Vikings and Gnomes and though it’s not Novosibirsk it can be easy -20 Degrees Celsius – yeah, that is cold, but we still manage to run around in the security and warmth of our homes in T-shirts. Flats are insulated properly and almost every place that is not outside is actually enjoyable. According to this cute website it is also Santa’s Workshop in Germany.

Shanghai is not that cold, technically that is. The coldest it gets here is around 0 Degrees Celsius, sometimes a tiny bit colder, it might even snow a day or two, but man, the humidity and the non-insulation of buildings, the gaps between windows and the wall they are installed in, the slits under doors and no central heating make this a tough time to be around for. It’s pretty bleak and all the grey comes to shine (or be dusty) and there is hardly a place to go back and replenish your body in a T-shirt or less.

Let me wipe those crocodile tears of fake complaint away. It is nice and hot now and I prefer that over the bone chilling cold any day. Yesterday in training I think I lost a good 2 Kilos of water (got it back in refreshing beer afterwards). So this is where I wanted to go with this post. Don’t be afraid to sweat, to put in some work, to do more, to step out of your comfort zone. Starting to blog again was damn hard, it took me about a year of planning, but it doesn’t get any traction until you actually start to write and stop listening to those whiny violins and devils that tell you to plan even more, it will never be good enough and that there are more important things at that very moment. You gotta break a sweat and take the heat or cold for a while (whichever one you dislike) and put yourself out there.

For a good mix of hot and cold and the heat/intensity of human energy and channeling rage and the depressive state of New York in the 80s that gave life to the Hardcore Culture, please do check out this awesome documentary about New York Hardcore (via Nerdcore). Even if you have nothing to do with this kind of music, check it out, it’s well worth seeing (side note: my girlfriend sat trough it and learned a thing or two).

Tomorrow Killswitch Engage will be here and I will be there to see those guy rocking (again!), for the fourth time I think. They are amazing, always balancing on that blade between hardcore and catchy pop melodies.

Have a taste:

“All that we suffer through leads to determination.
The trials we all go through gives us the strength to carry on.
Something within us burns, desire feeds the will to live.
A reason to believe I will see redemption.”

In the end it all comes around again. Something within us burns, it’s that burn you need to feel alive.

Noisecore and other distractions

China is loud! Like woken up at 7am in the morning to the sound of a jackhammer on Sunday loud.

Good thing is, you don’t have to care as much either. So if you feel like blasting Death Metal after 10pm then that is mostly an okay as well. That is fun, because in good ol’ Germany people might complain if you take a shower after that time – insane and totally uncool.

So yeah, thing can get weird. Obviously the subject of ‘noise pollution‘ is something that doesn’t really come up. Why? No why!

This leads me elegantly to noisy music or what can be seen as such. Recently Black Metal spiked in popularity again, especially with one band: Deafhaven. Not only did they deliver one of the highest ranking albums in 2013, they topped the Rock Charts with Sunbather and all of that with a pink album cover. Get it? Black Metal and a pink album cover – we are going places.

In May last year I went to the concert here in Shanghai and it was impressive.

Have a taste of the music:

It is Sludge influenced black metal with beautiful melodies and a beautiful cover. What is not to like?

And here is my brillant lead to other distractions. Because what I like to distract myself from work with and to stay healthy and relax is martial arts.

Currently I am training here – Shanghai JX Fight Club with the man Ramsey Dewey.

Not only is it the best martial arts gym price wise, it is also the one with one of the nicest characters all around. I can be a handful and joke all the time (until I am exhausted or got punched in the gut) and Ramsey is just always positive, comes with free life advise and a crazy amount of wisdom when it comes to fighting. So come around if you are in Shanghai!

Before that I had a great time with the awesome people in Munich MMA complete with pink shirts and an owl as a mascot. See – there is a pink thread through this post. Those guys are great as well and rest assured neither there nor in Ramsey gym you will find aggressive assholes – only fun, exhaustion and a good vibe.

We are coming full circle here, because yesterday my MMA trainer Ramsey also dances. He is basically like Jean Claude Van Damme, but cooler. There was a contemporary dance show in the little art district M50 not that far from my house.

The show was first a slideshow of seemingly random Chinese movie scenes, like Kung Fu movies, the Monkey King, a girl picking flowers and all this underlined with a distorted guitar and effects distorting and repeating the images seemingly at random. It was intense and reminded me of that Deafhaven concert – since one of the supporting bands was displaying a similar video weave in the background and the music they played reminded me strongly of that.

This is how that looked:

Random Clips

 

Later on Ramsey and female dancers came on, again to some weird music and they were dancing and performing a ritual, maybe they got baptized, maybe they became initiated to worship aliens or maybe they were abducted or hypnotized…

I can just give you a tiny glimpse here:

Ramsey      Wicked

 

So what I take away from this is: move more and think more. It’s good for you!