Christmas ? Am I too grumpy for that ?

It’s this time of the year again.

Or as I prefer to call it December.

The Christmas season is every year more and more annoying. Maybe it’s just me getting grumpier and grumpier the older I get.

I have the feeling the stuff is every year a bit earlier in the supermarkets. In Belgium the school year starts in September. Which means from August on you can find the stuff that the kids may need for the new year of school. This lasts till mid-September and latest beginning October the Christmas stuff appears. Starting with cakes and cookies, then the decorations and then the offers. All the stuff that you could give as a present to someone that you might (better might not) like.

And it’s really for everything. Mobile phone Christmas offers. (49€ for a Smart phone, if you sign a contract for 20 to 30 Euro a month). With some basic knowledge of calculating you should see the ‘offer’.

What has all this stuff to do with Christmas ?

Christmas is basically a Christian festivity. Celebrating the birth of Christ. And for this reason the people are giving presents to their loved ones.

When I was a kid (second third of the last century) it was a bit less materialistic. There was the 6.December. A bit of chocolate, some nuts and an orange or two. Today kids get already for this pre feast more than we were getting for Christmas. At Christmas the kids in my family were getting a toy or two and maybe a record and a book. That was all.

And we were happy with it. Try that with kids of today.

Nowadays the love is measured in the monetary value of your presents. Ten year old will get the latest Iphone. Do they need it, hell no. If they don’t get it. All hell will break loose cause all their friends have one. Books not necessary, kids don’t read any more. Try some chocolates, nuts and oranges and they will hate you.

Listening to the ads on the radio. You know where they get the idea from. It’s consume, consume and consume a bit more.

Where’s the Christian point in that ?

Regarding the story mentioned in the bible about Mary and Joseph. They won’t be accepted in central Europe. As it was already said in Bavaria the boat is full.

Christian ?

Christmas has become a festivity for consumers and marketing.

It’s not something that should shock you if you hear that the day with the highest suicide rate is Christmas.

Will humanity one day change ?

I doubt

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate and to those who aren’t.

It will go over like every year. And no this year I won’t watch ‘Gremlins’ the twenty-forth

Spirituality? Beliefs ? From a not cat point of view

And it’s every Friday the same.

What will I write about today ? Books ? Done. Music ? Done. Both topics I only scratched the surface. There’s more to be said. But not today.

As the cat, the one who’s ranting every Monday is in deep contemplation mode. Searching an idea for his 9th delivery.

I guess, I’ll take the liberty and use one of his topics and tell my point of view on spirituality.

In case you are wondering. No, it’s not him writing his notebook. He’s just dictating it and I’m his faithful secretary.

My spiritual journey. Sounds much too big, too important. But I haven’t found a better expression.

I was born the year ‘The Beatles’ did their last official live performance. No, not the one on the rooftop. That was in ’69. It was earlier.

I was baptized three days later (no one asked me about it). Grew up in a non-religious family. But my passport said catholic.

While I was in primary school, religion was taught once a week by the local priest. The first who made church unbearable for me. If you are teaching kids at age of eight to ten years, get fucking used to the fact that these kids are noisy. That they might have a problem sitting quiet for forty-five minutes? Throwing your keys at them is not suitable for a teacher, less so for a priest. Shouldn’t a catholic priest have read and maybe even incorporated the teachings of Jesus ? At the age of thirteen or fourteen, as soon as I was allowed to, I declared that I’m no longer willing to attend the classes of religion at school. It was unfortunately not possible before.

Later in life I just ignored anything that was loosely related to church, beliefs, etc.

It all came back at thirty-five or something. There was no reason that I can remember

First I had to leave the Catholic Church completely. This included a visit at the town hall and a signature. Luckily that was all. In other towns or villages in Germany you have to explain why you want to leave the church. Although it’s neither the role nor the business of the official to ask or inquire you about that. Officially church and state are separated in Germany. It’s even mentioned in the so-called constitution (Grundgesetz). As my non-wife is French I know how this is working in France. There’s no Kirchensteuer and no one is interested in your religious beliefs*. If you want to give money to the church you can do so. It’s completely your decision. No idea if you could deduct the sum that you are giving from your taxes or not. In Germany you can.

After I’ve left the Catholic Church and kind of Christianity. I didn’t feel a relief or that something concrete was missing. Just an interest in other forms of religious or spiritual beliefs. Due to some of my reading there was something in the back of my head. My father had introduced me to the books of James Clavell. And in his most famous book (Shogun) there are parts about beliefs. The difference between catholic and protestant. And the more important part that the heroine is catholic and Shinto. And that this is no problem from her Japanese point of view. In the follow up book (Gai-Jin) Clavell talks a bit more about the Zen approach of a Samurai.

Zen is just one form of Buddhism. Curious as I am I wanted to know more. Herman Hesse wrote a nice book called Siddharta, which I’ve read.

OK, this looked interesting. I don’t have to believe anything. Someone shows me the way, I can follow the way and see what I will find.

That sounds more like me.

.Fortunately we have the web. A lot of information, good ones and bad ones. I found some that are as good as I need them at the moment (Lion’s roar, Tricycle, Buddhismnow, etc.)

And certainly others more from the, at the moment en vogue, side of Mindfulness. Pay xx$ and you will sleep better, have more success, have better sex. But first GIVE ME MONEY.

My journey, my search is definitively not yet over.

novice meditating

But hopefully I know which way to take.

And i have a furry Zen teacher

Namaste

On music

The advantage of having only three subscribers to my blog gives me the possibility of writing about whatever I want to. I sincerely hope that I won’t loose one of my subscribers in doing so.

Today, I’d like to take about the music I’m listening to. I can’t talk about the music I’m making cause….this does not exist. I’m singing under the shower only and can’t play an instrument (Can’t paint either). Don’t want to insult people.

Nowadays, most of the time, it’s the radio. One station in Belgium, Classic21. Only one exception, there is one DJ I simply can’t stand. Every time he’s on I HAVE TO switch of the radio and listen to one of my CDs. I won’t tell his name but he’s on Sunday afternoon and Thursday evening. Not that I don’t like the music he’s playing I just can’t stand his voice and his way of talking, I can’t. I just can’t, not even for five minutes.

Do I have a taste in my music, sure mine. Which means: Blues, classic Rock, Punk. A bit of Irish Folk (Dubliners and the fantastic mixture, The Pogues) A lot of Van Morrison. A bit of Jazz. And more and more classical music. Started with mostly piano music and meanwhile I’m capable of listening to violin. Even to some, not many Operas.

How did all of that start ?

The first thing I can remember is a photo of me taken one Christmas Eve. One of my presents was Queen: Jazz. I still own this vinyl although I don’t have a turntable any more. As I can’t throw away books, I can’t throw away my records either. Flickering to the box where my records are stored. I can find Beatles, Kinks, Queen, Springsteen, Bob Seger., U2 (although I can’t stand their new stuff, don’t think it’s the music. Must be something else). No Led Zeppelin (My alarm is Kashmir and although they say if you want to hate a song make it your alarm, it’s not working for Kashmir!) No Blues, No classical music.

The first CD I ever bought was Alchemy from Dire Straits. The first Blues was ‘The best of Muddy Waters”. The first classical ? Tchaikovsky Piano Concert No. 1.

When I’m writing I can’t listen to Punk but a nice Classical CD makes the ink flow. Bach, the Brandenburg Concertos, works wonders if you’ve no idea what to write (not always but most of the time). It even helps cooking; OK, for Christmas cooking it has to be ‘Christmas with the Rat Pack’.

In the end I don’t think I could listen to any text based music while I’m writing. And as I choose my music now more than ever based on the lyrics. This leaves me with either classical music (instrumental) or Jazz.

Do I still buy music ? Less and less, I’m just not OK with the prices they ask for a simple CD. Streaming music ? I never spent a thought about. Internet based radio ? There was something like Free or Last FM I used for a while, should give it another try if it still exists. Can’t even remember why I stopped using it ?

Am I influenced by the music I’m listening to? By the books I’m reading? Certainly, but I think mostly by the fact of no longer having TV !

As an example of the text based music, a small except from…Just guess.

“You’re a bum
You’re a punk
You’re an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it’s our last”

Awesome that guy. The only singer I know you have problems to understand the announcement but no problem when he’s singing. And the only one who finished his concerts completely hammered. The other members of the band excusing themselves that the concert HAS TO be over. One bottle Jack Daniels in 80 minutes.

And now I have five hours left until the Flamenco concert of this evening. Should be nice although it’s in a church….

On being German and why I’m not proud of it #history

Preliminary remark : I read a lot about blogging and how to attract people to read and follow your blog. One of the main points always is:

You should have a theme and stay with this theme. (Looks like this is a bit against my nature, never mind.) The purpose is that this way you should not loose readers.

At the moment I have two subscribers to my blog (Thank you very much, both of you !)

So If I jump from topic to topic I don’t risk loosing may readers. If you haven’t many you can’t lose many. (I hope my two stay !)

It might be necessary to start with a second remark before hitting the topic. Here we go.

I am nearly fifty years old. From a political point of view at least a bit left of the middle  and more important for today’s topic. I am German.

At the beginning of this week, while I was preparing breakfast for Milady (6:30 in the morning). I was listening to the news on the radio and heard the Prime minister of Israel ‘claim’. It wasn’t Hitler alone who was responsible for the Holocaust. That it was the idea of the Mufti of Jerusalem. I forgot this rubbish during a busy day.

In the evening I was too tired to read or doing something productive. So, I decided to relax I could look at some videos on Youtube. Without really thinking about it I searched for ‘Schindler’s list’. Having found it as a whole film, quite a surprise to be honest. I clicked on it and in the recommendations I found another film that I always wanted to see but never did.

‘The pianist’. Great something for a silent evening at home while Milady is attending her sewing class. Started the film and was kind of hooked.

I couldn’t finish the film. Milady came home earlier than usual and there were still some things to discuss. So I had to postpone the last 45 minutes of the film to the next morning.

As I woke up the next morning there was something running through my head. Not clear what it was. After breakfast and Milady’s departure to work I finished the film. It was quite impressive with a very good performance by Adrien Brody.

I had a little coffee break. And during this break I found out what was the puzzling thing in my head.

When I grew up there was a TV series about the same topic. A quick search at Youtube and I found the 1978 miniseries ‘Holocaust’.

Again I clicked on it. And yes, this was the series that started my interest in history in general and of this period in German history in particular.

Although there are points of critic to this series it has marked me.

Profoundly, I’m afraid.

25 years after the series was broadcast there are still a lot of things that I don’t get about my home country.

Let’s say I do get why and how the Nazis raised to power. I am able to explain myself that the Nazis had the idea of exterminating the Jews (and the sinti and others).

What I still don’t get is how they found so many willing to do the ‘dirty work.

How so many well-educated Germans committed atrocities that made (and still make) no sense at all to me ?

The leaders of the notorious ‘Einsatzgruppen’ were all very well-educated men (finished university studies,  a singer at an opera, etc.). Sure, there were sadistic criminals amongst those who committed these atrocities. But the majority of them were normal Germans. Well-educated, loving fathers and husband, just regular Germans. And these men committed atrocities that are not even easy to understand. Neither easy to explain.

Why ?

Twenty-five years after I’ve seen the series for the first time I cannot in the slightest way understand why and how they were able to do such things.

At the beginning of 2015 I watched ‘Im Labyrinth des Schweigens’. A German film about the people who made the inquiries to start the first ‘Auschwitzprozess in Frankfurt.

There were some explanations about why it took so long? Why it was (and still is) so complicated to bring the (now the last surviving) offenders to justice. A short time after the war it was politically impossible  to prosecute.

The new enemy, new threat was the Soviet Union. And Germany was necessary as an ally against the evil from the east. Germans wanted to be and have calm. They had lost the war (that they have started). Were much too busy coming back to wealth and power to take care of their ‘unfortunate’ history. A famous German saying at that time (and still today) is/was: “Man muss auch ‘mal einen Schlussstrich darunter ziehen. “ “Which translates loosely to: You should draw a line under it and go on.

There was no so-called ‘Aufarbeitung’. Those who survived either were back in their old positions. Or just wanted to forget what had happened, what they had done. They had to deal with those who fled from the east. Those who came back from PoW camps (the last from Russia in 1952). Nothing of that helped the Germans to deal with their past properly.

“Yes, there were bad things that happened during the war. Always the bombings, it wasn’t easy to rebuild after ’45.”

No one wanted to know what had happened, why it happened and who was responsible for it ? The standard answer was: “The Nazis did a lot of bad things. It was all done by the Nazis. We knew nothing about it.” Between 33 and ’45 Germans were either involved or looked away. And nothing changed in the ‘50s.

In 2014 Germany won the soccer world cup and I was frequently asked: “You must be proud, aren’t you ?” Why should I be proud ? I haven’t played and German I am by pure coincidence. So why should I be proud of it ?

And this is still the question. Proud of what ?

I can only be proud of something I’ve achieved myself. Proud of living in a country where they don’t speak my mother tongue. Proud that my non-wife still accepts me after fifteen years.

But proud of being German ?

Expatriate in Belgium

In July 2008 I finally followed my non-wife to Belgium. At 42 I left my home country to live in a country with another language.

Not even the mother tongue of Milady, she’s French. Belgian French and the French spoken in France are still 2 different languages.

The area were we are living (approx. 40 km south of Brussels) is calm, quite nice but too windy for my taste. But you get used to nearly everything.

What I really like about living here are the people of Wallonia, in general friendly, open minded. They love eating, partying and complaining about their government, if they have one. They just like to live.

What I don’t like:

-Having grown up in the tidiest part of Germany (30 km south of Stuttgart, the part where “Kehrwoche*” was invented) It’s just dirty here. As I’m a runner I spent quite some time on foot in the countryside. It’s horrible what you have to see on the side of the roads. Empty beer cans, empty packs of cigarettes, bottles, etc. I once saw a used diaper on the pavement. It’s not that there are no dustbins. They just don’t give a f.. .

-Smoking: I’m still a smoker but what you can see here is just I can’t believe it

People arriving on the parking of the supermarket, longest possible distance to the entrance 8 metres. The first thing they do when they leave the car, lighting their cigarette. If you happen to stay in the parking. You could see them leaving the supermarket and lighting another cigarette for the horrible distance of 8 metres.

-Mobile phones while driving

It’s forbidden in Belgium, too. But no one gives a fuck. I once did my shopping on foot, was passed by 4 cars. Every driver was on the phone. There are a lot of cats on the roads and the area is inhabited by mostly elderly people. The school is 400 metres from my home. They just don’t care and the police doesn’t give a … Police prefers to take care of bad parked cars. I once paid a fine of 100 Euro cause my car was parked half on the pavement. Enough space for pedestrians (even with a pushchair) but the rules say 1 metre and it was only 90 centimetres.

So, what I’m complaining about ?

Idiotic human behaviour and the police, I’m getting old

  • “Kehrwoche” is kind of sacred in Baden-Württemberg. It means: Imagine you’re living in a building with 4 parties, every 4 weeks it’s your turn to a)clean the stairs inside the house (even if you’re never ever using them) b) clean the pavement in front of the house and c) if there are shared rooms in the house like for washing machines you have to clean them, too. Which means it’s very clean, the dirty stuff stays under the surface !