Memento mori

Cemetraries are some of my favorite “hangouts”. They provide solitude, good perspective on many aspects of life, memories, tell stories and also say a lot about the local culture by how people treat their ancestors. Military graveyards additionally remind us of the nonsense and horrors of war. There is many of all this on the Capuccini Naval Cemetary. But what is special for me, is that here lies Henry Ernst Wild who survived the Shackleton expedition and then died of typhoid in Malta.

Capuccini Naval Cemetary, Kalkara (Malta)

Capuccini Naval Cemetary, Kalkara (Malta)

"Wenn wir Glück haben, endet es am Strand"

Today is my 53th birthday and I spend it on sunny Malta. In the morning, I went running at the sea and stopped at my favorite cliff at Fort Ricasoli. Living at the sea, is nice. Yesterday, after a horse ride along the northern rocky coast and dinner in a hut at Golden Bay, I was introduced to a German poem by Bernd Begemann called “Wenn wir Glück haben, endet es am Strand” (If we are lucky, it ends on the beach). It was inspired by watching an old and nearly anachronistcally elegant Maltese couple which came to enjoy another day’s ending here quietly together.

“ […] Wenn Wir Glück haben
endet es am Strand
du hältst meine Hand
und wir sitzen dort im Sand
auf unseren Campingstühlen
mit einem guten Gefühl
das die Zeit überstand
wenn wir Glück haben
sind wir zusammen […] ”

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Silkroad at the door step

Malta's night temperatures drop to 6°C currently. Even I caught a cold, which does not happen often. All are hugging their water kettles and drink tea. You may laugh, Malta is made for summer. Though I do like the winter here. It's more quiet. Today while going for a walk I noticed a Chinese ship calling in the docks for maintenance. The Chinese New Silk Road is closer than you may think.

View on the Malta docks from Senglea

View on the Malta docks from Senglea

New Year Walk

Like every year, also 2019 started with a long walk. This time it was from Kalkara to Marsaskala, along the rocky coast and back; a bit more than 20 kilimeters. As of the strong wind from the New Year's night, the sea was rolling on the roks with high swell and in its typical turquoise color for sunny days in Malta. There is no better way than starting a new year like this. 

The long stretch of rocky coast from Kalkara to Marsaskala. 

The long stretch of rocky coast from Kalkara to Marsaskala. 

Coastal watchtower

Coastal watchtower

Sea rolling in on the watchtower

Sea rolling in on the watchtower

Sad news from the Strasbourg Christmas Market

I am sadened to hear the reports on yesterday's terrorist attack on the Christmas Market in Strasbourg which left 3 dead and 12 injured. I was there myself on Saturday, like all others enjoying the beautiful city, the market and the peaceful Christmas time. On entrance to the city center, bags were checked on the bridges. But to my surprise, we could just go in by tramway without being checked at all. I even made a bad joke on the "Frenchness" of the security concept. Now I regret, that I only made a joke and did not act on this by reporting it to the officer in charge to close such a loophole. I hope those hurt, of which 8 are in a critical condition, recover soon and get well again, and those who lost their lives, rest in peace.

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Museum Concert in the Old Opera, Frankfurt

The Old Opera House in Frankfurt is one of the landmark buildings. In 1987 the Opera caught fire and it took 3 years and 200 Million EUR to rebuild it from the ashes of what became the largest such disaster since World War II. The fire was set by a homeless who broke into the building through a side window. Frustrated that he did not find food, he gathered some newspapers and burned down the building. Now, what looks old from outside, is just the plain opposite when you enter. It's more modern than the New Opera of town, with excellent seating and acoustics.

Last Monday, I was in the 4.th Museum Concert directed by Tung-Chieh Chuang with the Frankfurter Opern- und Museumsorchester (Frankfurt Opera and Museum Orchestra) and Kian Soltani cello. It was Georges Bizet Symphony in C Major, Camille Saint-Saëns Cello concerto Nr. 1 in a minor op. 33 and after the break Igor Strawinsky Petruschka (in the 1947 edition). It was nice and I really enjoyed the evening. Such concerts are more "meditative" than opera and a good start into the week.

Snapshot of the interior of the Old Opera House Frankfurt, taken during the break of the 4th Museum Concert.

Snapshot of the interior of the Old Opera House Frankfurt, taken during the break of the 4th Museum Concert.

Asshole Management

Asshole Management is an art form by which subjects are neutralized effectively, while resources employed in this process are kept minimal. Here “a person counts as an asshole when, and only when, he systematically allows himself to enjoy special advantages in interpersonal relations out of an entrenched sense of entitlement that immunizes him against the complaints of other people” (James, Aaron. Assholes: A Theory (pp. 4-5). Nicholas Brealey Publishing. Kindle Edition).

From this, we can already conclude that assholes cannot be ignored, because then they expand. They further cannot be educated, as they do not follow logic or moral arguments. Should an asshole recognize you as somebody who can provide any kind of advantages to him, you can also not walk away, as the asshole will follow. Assholes need to be dealt with.

There are a few ways to deal with them effectively. Counterintuitively, it needs to encourage them to become even bigger assholes. You can achieve that, by giving them the sense that they are actually entitled to even more. Then let him engage with a second asshole, who objects to that entitlement. We call this, the anti-asshole. If managed well, the two assholes will engage in a personal war. The energy released in such asshole-anti-asshole reaction may be quite high so that it is recommended to contain it in a confined physical and social space. In the end, it is a process of asshole fusion and is better kept in a safe reactor. Make sure all resources assholes need, are available in the reactor. But the reaction should also not be too efficient, because we need both of them to melt down in the process. Residual assholes, which did not burn down completely, will have to be treated as toxic waste.

If you run short of anti-assholes in your environment, there is a second strategy: catalyze the asshole’s energy towards self-destruction. Again this needs encouragement and making the asshole believe, he is capable to perform things which he truly is not. An asshole which really believes he is above the law, biology, and physics is a quite vulnerable creature. The asshole will self accelerate fueled by arrogance, greed, adrenalin, and testosterone. But if it bounces randomly against close obstacles, it may not reach fatal speed. It needs undisturbed egocentricity to maximize the speed before a clearly defined impact. You need to pave the runway to hell. Again, the energy released when assholes hit the target zone, may be quite high and should be evacuated.

There are different kinds of assholes, which need slightly adjusted management. But there is one asshole sub-species, which is extremely hard to deal with. It’s the “victim asshole” (VA), which pretends to be disadvantaged to achieve advantages. The first problem here is, to discriminate between people who really need our help and VAs. I have been thinking about VA quick tests, but none of them had significant results. More research is needed here.

Short Malta stopover

It was only a short week in Malta and I was lucky that I could catch up with some friends. Though I regret that I could not see everybody I wanted. It was just a short stopover and there is more time "on the rock" to come. Ample rain of the last weeks, turned the open lands of the little mediterranen country into a green and lush scenery. Again my personal autumn was prolonged for another week by this trip. When I arrive in Germany in a few hours, it will be winter-ish. For those, I missed this time, see you in December and keep well until then. 

My favorite "secret garden" in Zab bar. I recorded some videos of it from my drone and will cut it when I am back to my laptop.

My favorite "secret garden" in Zab bar. I recorded some videos of it from my drone and will cut it when I am back to my laptop.

Creativity is also overrated

The term "creativity" seems to be used like what we call "innovation". It's more about churning out new products and creating markets than working on substantial breakthroughs. And that's understandable, when you consider the economic pressures most artists are under. I am thinking a lot about crossfertilization between arts, science and engineering. But it would have to be on a more fundamental level to be fruitful. 

Yesterday's venue of the "Malta Creative Collective" (MCC) was the old Citylight Cinema in Valletta. It was a really beautiful discovery for me. Here, I was told, they already played silent movies in the 1930s.

Yesterday's venue of the "Malta Creative Collective" (MCC) was the old Citylight Cinema in Valletta. It was a really beautiful discovery for me. Here, I was told, they already played silent movies in the 1930s.

Commuting to Valletta through the Grand Harbour. 

Commuting to Valletta through the Grand Harbour. 

Tainted skin

Once you have a phobia in your mind, it's really hard to get over it. Recently, I returned my food in a restaurant, because the waiter was tattooed. I just could not eat it anymore. Then last weekend in Munich, a tattooed guest entered the hotel's breakfast room, which made me feel so noxious, that I turned away - just to see another one who had human corps parts, like skulls and bones, impregnated on his arms. I know, I have to overcome this one day, but eating and tattoos just don't work together for me. Don't get me wrong, people can of course decorate their bodies as they wish. It's up to me finding a way, not to feel disturbed by it anymore. 

Somehow, in my mind it has solidified that non-tribal tattoos are related to gang membership, prostitution, drugs and inmates. In the best case, they maybe English servicemen or other kinds of hooligans. That's why I understand, that in Japan non concealed tattoos are banned in many public baths and gyms. People are just scared of them, and definitely don't want to share the water with somebody who they think maybe infected with all kinds of bugs. It's perceived as dangerous, dirty and filthy.

Even I catch myself, that if I spot a person with a tattoo, I may watch every move more carefully, like it would be a roaming Pitbull Terrier on a children's playground. It's just hard wired by now.  Of course, not all Pitbulls are vicious, and neither are all tattooed people. It's nonsense, I know. I am also not a wussy, as I have worked with people suffering leprosy and others terribly disfigured and sick. We even shared the canteen and it made me no trouble at all. Perhaps it's the environment which makes the difference. I heard that you can overcome phobias by confronting them. Should I go to a tattoo shop one day and try and eat something in there?  For sure, if I manage that, I can overcome anything.