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21st Century Dating Problems: #1 – the male introvert

19 May The port of Reykjavik at night

Approaching the 40-year landmark, and still being single. For some people this may not constitute a situation worth acknowledging. People fall in and out of love all the time, so what’s one more piece of dead weight?

As you can tell I am still trying to justify the existence of this blog to myself. But there are a couple of topics that I want to talk about, such as ‘women’ or ‘dating’, in the 21st century. I know, for some of you that’s already setting off alarm chimes: singling out women as a blog topic – isn’t that sexist?! Yeah, kinda. By definition any unweighted discussion of one sex can be considered sexist, meaning as soon as you mention ladies having vaginas you can rank yourself among the world’s leading sexists, together with #TheDonald, and that creep who always preys on co-workers bending over at the water fountain. The borders of what constitutes sexism have become so transparent that no-one can ever be safe again from being called gender-inappropriate, just for stating that women bear children. So, in all honesty: if you read any verbal attacks on any gender into my writing, please read again, because I definitely don’t mean to offend.

OK, now that we have lost 98% of all readers to a) a trolling frenzy about sexism, or b) boredom, we might as well start on our actual conversation topic – me. Yes, I really am that selfish. There is no other person I know better than myself, so it just seems like a very obvious location to start with.

 

“Hi, my name is Goemon, and I am single.”

I really hope you just said “Hi Goemon”. Otherwise I will feel very silly and underappreciated in this virtual self-help group.

For some people being single is normal. Afterall, we are born with that condition. (Excepting twins, but they have other troubles.) Some people have wild sex adventures with random strangers every weekend. Others date one person a year, just to prove they are still capable of faking affection. Others live in a happy relationship with their (in)significant other(s). [Four groups in one sentence – feel the power of parentheses!] Those people have their own problems and will not be mentioned again. Remember: this is about me.

I am approaching the 40-year landmark. (No, I’m not telling how far.) At that age the average first-world citizen has already broken up with more people than they met in first grade, and are either happily married, or are trying to pay off that divorce lawyer. I haven’t had any of that, and I feel somewhat left out of what I consider an integral aspect of the human experience.

I never had any kind of romantic relationship, and not for the lack of trying. I tried most of the regular approaches that people use to appropriate a partner. So far, dating websites have only proved themselves a massive waste of time. And my attempts to date lady friends have only made obvious that women don’t want to be any more than friends with me. I’m actually happy with that. A good friend counts more than a failed lover. Ship-wrecked romance is not a topic you want to associate with any specific person. It makes conversations at dinner gatherings very awkward.

A sceneic view of Molde Fjord, Norway

On a good day this photo of Molde Fjord is a good approximation of myself: small islands, distant from main humanity.

The typical approach

I have not tried chatting up women in bars and clubs, even though society preaches those rooms as the number-one pick-up parlour. As an introvert I just can’t handle that type of situation. Many people still mistake this as “being shy”, and solve the equation by being “more outgoing”. Those people don’t know what they are talking about. I’m not just shy. I am introverted.

I don’t have problems asking a female songwriter for an autograph. I don’t have difficulties chatting to fellow pub visitors about the latest developments in the Spiderverse. And I love giving academic talks to dozens of people I never met before. I thrive on intellectual intercourse, and have no adversities about any kind of conversation with anyone.

Unless it involves me. That is literally the only topic I can’t handle in conversation. [You see why this blog is about me now, don’t you?]

 

I am an introvert.

I can talk to you about my political position, or the ontogenetic development of male genitalia. But if you try to talk about my personal feelings and thoughts, you will hit a brick wall. Don’t try to peak over it. Few people have ever caught a glimpse of the other side, and I am determined to keep it that way. And if you try to pry a hole in it, security will escort you off the premise, and add your name to a black-list of people who are banned from personal conversation.

Introverts don’t talk about their feelings. Not to you, or anyone else. If you think that’s a ‘problem’ that needs to be ‘solved’, I can’t help you. You can either accept me as I am, or go and play with other kids. There is no third option.

As long as I can remember I had difficulties talking to people, and I always interpreted this as shyness, while others thought I tried to be disrespectful and exclusive. None of that is true. I am a perfectly adorable humanoid, just like anyone else. (Except for Donald J.; he’s a lump of poo.) What prevents me from socialising with others is not shyness, but my inscrutable inability to present my own inner self to a public audience. It took me some thirty years to develop a work-around. It’s based on the understanding that social conversation is not about me, but about the general idea of being together, and sharing words. You don’t need to reveal yourself to be sociable. Just talk about the weather, if that befits you. That is already sociable. Be aware of your surroundings, though. Weather talk is really fun in Alberta; not so much in England’s capital.

A bar aboard the ABC RypMeOff

My work as cruise photographer involved loads of social interaction. I can do that, just as long as it does not involve me personally.

Where was I going with this? Oh, yes, the direct conversation.

No, introverts don’t usually do that, and I personally definitively don’t. I can’t talk to women if I have a personal or romantic interest in them. It’s like talking about my feelings, just in this case I am actually blocking my own attempt to communicate.

Telling a woman that she’s beautiful basically reveals that I like her. And personal feelings are something I don’t disclose to strangers. Not for fear of being rejected, but simply for the fact that I can’t talk about my feelings to a person I barely know. Thus, me telling a lady that she’s cute is equivalent to you telling the supermarket teller about the recessed growth of your anal cancer. It’s deeply personal, and therefore not done.

 

That’s really all I wanted to say. Just a brief introduction of me and my situation. I am introverted, and therefore don’t talk about my feelings, including who I do or don’t have any romantic interest in. Should your significant other try to knock any of these findings over your head, merely remember that this entire blog is about me. You don’t need to associate yourself with my problems. Unless you really want to. In that case – welcome to my world of wordy disappointment.

 

Also, here is a cool website about introverts, just in case you feel yourself alone with certain problems: https://introvertdear.com/what-is-an-introvert-definition/

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Return of the Chinese Landlord – Mike Chen’s AirBnB

4 Jan Mike Chen's Kitchen

I have been travelling with AirBnB for several years, and have made the obligatory good and bad experiences. But sometimes life still surprises me with a kick so low that it is more entertaining than hurtful. This is one of these stories, and I take it as occasion for a thorough review of Mike Chen’s AirBnB situation in Toronto, Ontario.

Personally, I don’t have high expectations when it comes to cheap lodging. All I really want is a place to cook my meals, a place to consume them, one to rest my weary body, and safe shelter for my stuff. My needs actually boil down to a clean kitchen and a clean bed room. As simple as that might seem, Mike Chen was able to disappoint on all accounts.

Mike Chen's AirBnB Rental

It looks continuous, but every store front signals one separate building. One of these five buildings is Mike’s rental place.

The Room

Let’s start with the room, because it’s the most obvious and least accessible flaw of this adventure. The mid-sized bedroom was relatively well maintained, and although both the fake hardwood floor and the old mattress were a bit squeaky, the general set up was neither uncomfortable nor out of the ordinary. The panorama was somewhat squandered by the old dresser-drawer with one out of three drawers missing. The absence of an actual dresser, and its replacement with a slightly worn display case increased the impression that the furniture was either hauled in from various yard sales, or had been acquired by a very skilled dumpster diver. Surprisingly, none of the furniture was actually dusty, except for the top shenves. You know – the places Chinese people can’t reach.

The shear fact that the heating vent in the ceiling was bisected by a hastily painted dry wall made it clear that this room had been added as an afterthought. The Chinese landlord also had also inserted a drywall ceiling, so as to block the sky light which would otherwise have provided a natural light source for my dark and sterile cell.

These general circumstances could have made my stay dull and solemn, but luckily the neighbouring house featured a constantly playing radio. Not loud enough to make out words, but sufficiently loud to recognize any song that you know. The radio literally never stopped playing, and it is only due the loud heating vent in the ceiling that I enjoyed times of relief from enforced radio play. The single small window of the room led out to the hallway, so not only could I hear all the other tenants passing by my room, I was also able to partake in their cooking efforts without ever getting up from my gnarly old chair.

Mike Chen bedroom

This bed room is not great. It’s also not unusual, or bad. Just normal, windowless Chinese rental.

Bath Room

Mike Chen Bath Room

A layer of dust, carbonate, and soap covers most surfaces to varying degrees. The top shelves in particular, because Chinese arms cannot reach there.

As in any other Chinese rental the bath room was plastered with notes, printed in surprisingly good English. One note asked “guests” to avoid flushing toilet paper down the drain, which provides you with a pretty accurate idea of the state of the draining power of said toilet. It also tells you something about the olfactory features of the bathroom: when you toss used toilet paper into the garbage bin, it is bound to develop a characteristic odour, reminiscent of any unsanitary Porter Potty or Forest Loo. Luckily, everyone ignored the paper warning.

However, in order to soil toilet paper with your rectal waste products you first have to find some, because the Chen House is one of those bring-your-own-paper rentals (which, obviously, you are not informed about upon booking). Needless to say that the bath room did not come with soap, towels, or any other kind of toiletries. The only gifts offered by management are two carbonate-encrusted drinking glasses on either side of the sink, so you could disgust the hell out of your tooth brush, if need be.

The absolute highlight of the bath room was the note on the inside of the door, saying “please help keep this bathroom clean”. A laudable notion, only betrayed by the crust of calcium carbonates covering the walls of the shower, the layer of grime on both of the cup boards, the dirt that freely floated across the floor, and the various pale greys that seemed to cover both waste bins AND the sink itself.

Mike Chen's Toronto Bath Room

Except for the floor very few surfaces in this bath room get cleaned regularly.

Cooking time

To me the ability to cook my own meals represents a vital part of the AirBnB experience. I always carry a set of bamboo cutlery, but for the actual process of food preparation I need to scout for rooms that feature a fully functional kitchen. I can’t afford to go out for three meals a day, so, yes, the kitchen matters.

Hood Fan cover at Mike Chen's

Someone actually tried to clean the cover of the hood fan. Why did he/she give up after 30% completion? Did the cleaner die or despair? We may never know.

Admittedly, Mike Chen’s place offered the most elementary equipment, such as microwave, fridge, stove, and a variety of utensils. The state of those items, however, was more than sketchy. The stove was functional, and after a quick clean-up it was ready to oblige my wishes. Yet, finding the appropriate utensils, even to cook up ordinary oat meal involved a laborious journey through the house, because the many shelves of the kitchen were nearly empty, and what little utensils were available, needed to be cleaned in order to avoid at least the most common diseases and infections.

Overall, the second floor contains six bed rooms and two kitchens, and I had to search both kitchens to collect enough equipment to start meal preparation. After finishing my breakfast I stored the pot, the plate, the chipped ceramic bowl, and the metal spoon (the single available piece of cutlery on the ENTIRE SECOND FLOOR!) in my room, so that I would not have to invest the same cleaning efforts before starting my next cooking adventure.

I don’t even want to talk about the greasy microwave, or the grimy fridge. The photos I took of the kitchen should be sufficiently scary to put you off food for a while, and induce a month-long diet on freshly trimmed tree bark. And if you lack the ability to see with your eyes, be assured that the smell of the fridge easily signals its willingness to spread diseases that the Western world has deemed extinct since the dawn of penicillin.

The general ambient of unease was artistically underlined by a variable mixture of dust, grease, and brown sauce that covered the shelves and doors of all cup boards. All this invites the general viewer to give the kitchen a thorough scrub, but with only two cleaning cloths and one towel available this effort would be rather limited in its scope, especially since all three of these rags are rather rigid, indicating that the cleaning cloths themselves have not undergone laundry for a little while.

Mike Chen's Kitchen

The remaining shelves of the kitchen are emptier than these. All are dusty and greasy, though.

Smelly Time

Talking of odours, there are a few rather uncomfortable issues to mention. Firstly the heating vent appears to feature a mediocre amount of dust, and after every heating cycle the room smells like an old sack.

The ancient hole in the wall, containing the aforementioned switch and fuse box, added to that problem. The space between the walls smelled of cold, old smoke, like a pre-war casino that has recently been unearthed by the world’s least ambitious archaeologist.

My hosts did not leave the place unsanitary, though. At least once a week someone came around, swept the floor, and infused some part of the common area with an unhealthy load of bleach. Given the choice between cockroach and airborne carcinogen I would not quite know which way to lean, but note that one can clean a bathroom without making it stink.

Now, all of that would be alright, if you could open a window, and swap the dusty, smoky, bleachy air from indoors with the dusty air from the street. But since my only window went out to the hallway it rather conflicted my nose further with the smell of cooking. At least most of the other tenants used the hood fan when they fried their morning beef, so the overall mixture was never overwhelmingly terrible.

Mike Chen hallway

During summer tenants can slouch on this dusty sofa, and stare at the twenty year old TV across the hallway. Why my room did not incorporate the rest of that sky light is beyond my understanding.

Been there, haven’t done that

Fridge filled with decaying stuff

This fridge does not contain the food of two AirBnB guests. This fridge is the result of at least half a year of ignorance.

 “Hold on!” I hear you screaming. (A remarkable feat, considering that I am writing this blog in your absence.) One might actually be inclined to believe that all of these flaws result from a temporary lack of enthusiasm regarding the health and safety of this Chinese rental dive. However, one would incline the wrong direction – the depth and extent of the dirt covering nearly every surface of the common space indicates that neither kitchen nor bath room have seen any domestic cleaning in half a year or longer.

Back when I lived in Calgary, Alberta, I supervised a house that had long-term tenants as well as AirBnB guests. From that experience I know what effort is involved in maintaining a house, and what it takes to keep its tenants happy. Ten minutes of cleaning every day already suffice for keeping most grime out of the common area. And even if you’re too lazy for that, one hour a week will keep kitchen and bath room in good shape.

My kitchen was always stocked with utensils, dishes, and a huge load of pots and pans. When someone didn’t have time to clean a bowl right away, or broke a plate, or lost a spoon, that accident never impeded on anyone else’s ability to cook, because there were always enough utensils left on the shelves, and those were always clean. Even today you can purchase a box of kitchen utensils for $10 at thrift stores or yard sales, so even IF your guests steal some cutlery, you still have plenty left.

Furthermore, having basic toiletries and cleaning equipment readily available under every sink makes it much easier for your guests and tenants to remove any dirt that threatens to destroy their comfort. The absence of buckets and clean rags made it impossible for me to give the dirty surfaces the scrub that they needed. The general state of Mike Chen’s AirBnB rental showed that little to no effort had been spent over the past year to relieve any surface of its unsanitary load.

Goemon's kitchen in Calgary

This was my kitchen back in Calgary. Mark the absence of grime, and the availability of clean equipment.

 

Chinese Paranoia

The signs of sketchy accommodation were visible from the beginning. When I told Mike via AirBnB about my potential arrival time on Saturday evening he did not reply to my electronic message. Instead, I found his front door locked and unattended. If it hadn’t been for a friend helping me with my luggage, I might have stood in the cold in front of that building for hours, because it took several phone calls to get someone to open the door for us. It is always problematic, if the landlord does not actually live at the premise, and does not have a suitable person to safeguard the front door in his stead.

It is also rather unusual for an AirBnB host to demand payment of a $100 security deposit, particularly if this is not mentioned in the online description. But it did not even stop there. When Mike’s mom finally arrived at the premise, and handed me the keys, she asked me to fill in a guest book with personal information, such as passport ID and phone number. I’m surprised she didn’t ask for my SIN card! When I asked if I could take a photo of the “guest book” she did not even hesitate to open it again, thus revealing a page filled with the personal information of a long train of other “guests” in her house. If anyone needs phone and passport numbers of international visitors to Toronto, give me a call, and we can strike a deal!

Cleanliness is not a Chinese invention

The whole affair is colourful and smelly. Much like this microwave.

Chinese Rental

Imagine you just got off the airplane, after six hours of flight and one hour of travel through a foreign city. When you arrive at your chosen dormitory you find it locked and in the dark, and without door bell. So you call up the land lord, and for twenty minutes you wait in the tea house next door for the arrival of keys. When the Mistress of Keys arrives she asks you to sign a contact sheet that contains the phone and passport information of various other tenants, and she has no issue with you photographing it. Your room features slightly broken furniture, and a whole in the wall that a house keeper needs to access infrequently in order to restore power to some rooms. When you try to relieve yourself of the burden of a long journey you suddenly realise that the toilet comes without paper, and somehow you need to clean out your crevices without leaving the unsanitary bathroom or clogging up the toilet drain. When you waddle back to your room, to carefully claim the soap from your luggage, so as to clean your welting fingers, your gaze falls upon brown pots and plates that suggest nobody has taken care of this property since at least the winter before. Welcome to Mike Chen’s Toronto!

In conclusion, the whole set-up of the house screams “Chinese Landlord Trap”. The building looks like it was built as a restaurant, but the new Chinese owners then employed drywall and a bucket of paint to compartmentalise each floor into rentable rooms. They did not quite maximise the use of space, which I am thankful for. I know Chinese landlords who would have cracked another two or three rooms out of that second floor.

In good Chinese tradition the landlord does not actually live near the property, and maintenance visits are so infrequent that you should be thankful to enjoy clean floors, and a continuous supply of warm air and hot water. Anything else would require the occasional wet cleaning cloth getting rubbed over dirty surfaces, but that is already too much to ask of someone who really just wants to make money off a property. The front of the building does indeed feature a shop of some sort, but for the entire duration of my stay I only saw the shop open when one of the tenants moved in or out.

As a result you receive living space that barely scratches over the minimum requirements of any Health & Safety inspector. There are no bed bugs or related vermin, and I guess the accessibility of emergency exits does not matter as long as you avoid setting the house on fire. But for my understanding of comfortable housing this residence falls a few miles short of its target, just about out of sight of anyone who likes to cook, or breathe deeply, or who sleeps uneasily, or people who don’t want to remove the soggy hair sieve from the bath tub to drain water from the shower.

Encrusted pot at Mike Chen's

Crusty black bottom line: the terrible state of Mike Chen’s rental place is not a temporary accident. It’s the result of considerable neglect.

PS.: As a matter of completeness I should mention that the floors of the house were relatively clean, and no bugs or related parasites could be sighted. Unsurprisingly, considering the weekly force of bleach that was employed on key aspects of the house. However, why the person who wiped the floors lived in complete ignorance of the rest of the house is beyond my comprehension.

Also, the host was readily approachable (via digital message), and when I asked for a one-day extension of my stay it was granted within twenty-four hours. My damage deposit was returned without hesitation, and the web camera that was mounted in the kitchen made me feel a limited amount of security.

Sonderfall Maaßen: mach die Hobby-Paranoia zum Beruf

27 Sep

Eigentlich wollte ich ja nichts mehr über den Wahlkampf zum Bayerischen Landtag 2018 schreiben. Aber dann wurde dieser Maaßen befördert, und in Folge totaler Blamage aller beteiligten Parteien sehe ich mich nun genötigt erneut zur Tastatur zu greifen.

Dabei fing doch alles so harmlos an. Ende August kam es im groben Rahmen des Stadtfestes zu Chemnitz zum Handgemenge, wobei ein Deutscher erstochen wurde. Die Polizei nahm daraufhin mehrere Tatverdächtige fest. Das hätte es eigentlich schon gewesen sein können, aber wie sich herausstellte waren die Verdächtigen nicht deutschen Ursprungs, und das führte spontan zu Komplikationen. Denn hierzulande werden echte Deutsche gefälligst von echten Deutschen erstochen. Anstatt also die Polizei einfach ihre Arbeit machen zu lassen griff man in Sachsen eine handfeste Tradition im Namen des Fremdenhasses randalierend durch die Straßen zu ziehen. Also wie in Bayern, nur halt mit mehr Gewaltbereitschaft. Da haben unsere Ost-Nazis einfach demografische Vorteile.

Chemnitz via Getty Images

Nazis brauchen eigentlich keinen Grund um ihre Dummheit auszuführen. Aber wenn sie einen finden feiern sie eine schöne braune Party. via Getty Images

Im Rahmen dieser spontan zusammengeflickten Demonstrationen kam es zu unschönen Szenen bei denen anders-aussehende Mitmenschen durch die Straßen oder von Plätzen gejagt wurden. Auch das ist im AfD-geprägten Raum kein Novum mehr. Seit Jahren kursieren im Internet Videos die dokumentieren wo und wann Ausländer von Rechtsextremen angepöbelt oder angegriffen werden. Was genau also den Oberaufseher des Verfassungsschutzes, H-G Maaßen, dazu veranlasste sich ein einzelnes Video vom 26. August herauszunehemn und dessen Echtheit in Frage zu stellen lässt sich nur schwierig aufarbeiten. Vielleicht war ihm ja einfach nur langweilig. Jedenfalls ließ sich Herr Maaßen gut zwei Wochen nach der initialen Messerattacke dazu verleiten vor die Presse zu treten und die Geschehnisse zu kommentieren. Vor den Ohren des hochseriösen Boulevardpapiers „Bild“ sagte er: „Nach meiner vorsichtigen Bewertung sprechen gute Gründe dafür, dass es sich um eine gezielte Falschinformation handelt, um möglicherweise die Öffentlichkeit von dem Mord in Chemnitz abzulenken.“ Auf die angeblichen „Belege“ die der verfasste Schützer dabei zitiert warten wir bis heute vergeblich. Vermutlich weil er sich die genau aus der braunen Soße gezupft hat die auch seinem Chef, König Horst, als primäre Ideenquelle dient.

Jetzt kann man lange und ausdauernd darüber diskutieren, welche Personengruppen hierzulande Interesse daran hätten von einem „Mord […] abzulenken“. Da diese Art Vertuschungstaktik traditionell in den Arbeitsbereich des Verfassungsschutzes fällt, könnte man zudem meinen, Maaßen fühle sich einfach in der Befehlskette übergangen. Aber diese Diskussion hilft uns überhaupt nicht dabei zu verstehen, warum Maaßen lieber Verschwörungstheorien aus der Taufe hebt als zuzugeben, dass es in Ostdeutschland eine rechte Szene gibt. Es gibt bei uns im Osten viele gewaltbereite Nazis. Das ist schon lange bekannt, nicht erst seitdem der Verfassungsschutz erfolglos versuchte die NSU-Mordserie zu vertuschen. Rechte Gewalt lässt sich einfach nicht schönreden. Wegreden schon gar nicht. Herr Maaßen sah und sieht das anders, und genau darum riefen führende Politiker umgehend nach seinem Abgang von der politischen Bühne.

HG Maassen via Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz

Würden Sie von diesem Filz-Igel eine Verfassung kaufen? Mir fällt jedenfalls kein öffentlicher Posten ein an dem ich dieses Gesicht gern sehen würde. – Foto via Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz

Dem Superminister für Heimat, Inneres und Bau (letzteres gibt mir bis heute Rätsel auf) war es jedoch wichtig seinem geistigen CDU-Genossen den Rücken zu stärken. Selbst nachdem Vertreter seiner eigenen Partei Kritik an Maaßens Verschwörungs- und Vertuschungstheorien äußerten blieb König Horst bei seiner strittigen Meinung, dass Maaßen richtig gehandelt habe. Als dann der öffentliche Druck zu groß wurde um den obersten Verfassungsschützer im Amt zu halten, setzte sich Seehofer fix für eine Beförderung desselben in sein eigenes Ministerium ein: Maaßen sollte bei 20% Gehaltserhöhung Staatssekretär im Innenministerium werden. Selbst der SPD, welche ja in den vergangenen fünf Jahren nie mit Kritik an der Regierungsführung sparte, leuchtete diese Beförderung sofort ein. Frau Nahles, die Vorsitzende des inoffiziellen Merkel-Fanclubs, stimmte dem Versetzungsvorschlag umgehend zu. Über den enormen politischen Spagat der die SPD seit Jahren dazu befähigt die Regierungsführung zu kritisieren und selbige gleichzeitig zu unterstützen wird an anderer Stelle zu sprechen sein. Soviel Zeit haben wir heute nicht.

Frau Nahles jedenfalls begründete ihre Zustimmung zum Beförderungspakt mit einem drohenden Bruch der Koalition. Wozu wir eine Koalition überhaupt brauchen die sich nur mit sich selbst beschäftigt, und die ständig irgendwelchen Landtagswahlkämpfern Geschenke überreicht, sei mal dahingestellt. Was wir aber auswerten sollten ist die Sinnhaftigkeit einer Regierung die Verschwörungstheoretiker mit Beförderungen belohnt.

Warum kann der HG Maaßen eigentlich nicht einfach seine Arbeit machen? Seine Äußerungen im Rahmen der rechtsextremen Übergriffe rund um Chemnitz tun überhaupt nichts zum Schutz der Verfassung. Schön wäre hingegen, wenn der Verfassungsschutz mal hart durchgreifen würde gegen Nazis und Rechtspopulisten, also Leute die aktiv die Integrität des deutschen Staates gefährden. Glattrasierte Demonstranten die den Hitlergruß winken – sofort inhaftieren. Menschen die verbal gegen andere Menschengruppen hetzen – sofort einsperren. Aber da fühlen sich zu viele Politiker des deutschen Bundestages vermutlich selbst angesprochen, weswegen eine entsprechende Regelung hierzulande in absehbarer Zeit nicht greifen kann.

Indes hat Frau Merkel nunmehr eingesehen, dass sie selbst in dieser Affäre nicht schnell und hart genug durchgegriffen hat. In einer Pressekonferenz am 24.9. merkelte sie an, dass es irgendwie doof sei, wie die Koalition total am Volkswillen vorbei entschieden hätte. War ja auch nicht zu erwarten, dass der Pöbel sich einer eigenen Meinung zur Unfähigkeit der sie verwaltenden Regierung erdreistet. Frau Merkel hat jedenfalls eingesehen, was ein Mensch der komplette Unfähigkeit im Amt beweist nicht verdient: eine Beförderung. Jetzt gilt es ihrer Lobbyisten-Clique klarzumachen was er stattdessen verdient: einen saftigen Rausschmiss.

Wäre ich Sicherheitsbeauftragter eines Mechanikerbetriebes, und unter meiner Aufsicht fiele einem minderbemittelten Arbeiter der Schwingschleifer auf den Clownsfuß, und ich stellte mich unaufgefordert vor die Presse und sagte: „die Juden warn’s.“ Dann stünde ich am Folgetag mit einigen anderen schwer vermittelbaren Trotteln vor dem nächstgelegenen Arbeitsamt.

Wenn ich aber als Präsident des Verfassungsschutzes anstatt meiner Arbeit nachzugehen wilde Theorien verbreite, über die Inszenierung einer rechten Szene durch linksradikale Verschwörungsgruppen, dann schafft man für mich einen Posten als „Sonderberater“ im Innenministerium. Im Grunde ist die Botschaft aus dem Ministerium doch folgende: „Diese weltfremde Paranoia ist so ausgefallen und für unsere eigenen Zwecke zielführend, davon brauchen wir unbedingt mehr. Zukünftig machst du das hauptberuflich.“

Vielen Dank an die SPD, für ihr gewohntes Stammeln und Schweigen zu Themen die Wählen bewegen. Danke an die CDU für die Bereitstellung des Streitobjektes. Und Danke an die CSU für die bedingungslose Unterstützung realitätsferner Verschwörungsphantasien. Weniger hatten wir von Euch auch nie erwartet.

Urheberrechtsverletzung

Ich schätze ja bis Ende des Jahres ist der Herr Maaßen entweder von der öffentlichen Bühne verschwunden, oder in die Parteipropaganda der CSU integriert. Er passt da einfach rein. – Bild via paolo-calleri.de

Cruise Photography Aftermath

6 Jul Globe Monument at the North Cape, Norway

It is Thursday, and I have to re-adapt to a world where this (and the time of day) are meaningful information. The first novelty after returning home was the simple fact that the day consists of three meals, and none of them is rushed. And when I require additional sustenance, I can simply grab a snack item or a glass of water from the kitchen. And when I need to sit down, I sit down, and continue working. Things that are so normal for most folks, and are usual even for employees in any sweat shop or burger parlour, these things are virtually impossible during work hours with ABC Cruises.

A sceneic view of Molde Fjord, Norway

Cruise advertisement is usually full of blue skies and greeen lanscapes. The actual job, however, is not.

I am happy to leave ABC Cruises behind, not just my position as cruise photographer, but the entire ordeal of working for a company that puts financial profit above everything else, be it physical health, public perception, or simple integrity. I worked for one of the biggest cruise companies worldwide, and probably the fastest growing one. Their impact on sea tourism is beyond measure, yet they seem to lack the basic ethical responsibilities necessary to take a leading role for the market. The officers are almost exclusively Italian, indicating that it is nearly impossible to acquire a high-ranking position without kissing ass. You can think of that what you like, but I doubt that being a great kisser qualifies anyone to lead the fate of a multi-Billion Dollar company, and particularly that of its hundreds of thousands of employees.

Now, why am I even writing this blog? (Why do you keep reading is the more interesting question, but that’s none I can answer.) My motivations are three-fold: 1) I use writing as a way of stress-relief; 2) I want to warn people who are toying with the thought of becoming a cruise photographer about the actual perils involved in the job; 3) there is a slim chance that someone at ABC Cruises will read this, and improve working conditions for their crew, as well as care for their paying guests.

To date I wrote more than sixty blog posts about my experience as cruise photographer, over eighty pages of text contemplating my existence, and that of my chosen path. It was an interesting ride, but I am glad that it’s over. In order to provide a comprehensive overview over the reasons for my decision to stop working for ABC Cruises I hereby provide you with my complete list of pros and cons for signing off.

Spitsbergen is not actually THAT cold in spring. But tensions aborad the ABC RypMeOff chill most photographers to the bone.

The working climate aboard the ABC RypMeOff was often frosty

Reasons to sign off

  1. The pay is inadequate to my work load and stress, and much lower than promised (I am paid about one quarter of the original figure).
  2. The food is of mediocre quality. Too often the healthy vegetarian choices are limited to options such as rice and fruit, which lack the nutrients and minerals that I need to sustain a healthy body.
  3. Spare time is often scattered throughout the day, due to training sessions, buffet times, drills, laundry visits, and other small jobs that require my attention, and are badly synchronised with one another.
  4. Job time, however, is filled with boredom, as I stand in my photo studio for hours, waiting for hotel guests who don’t even want their photo taken.
  5. Similarly, I am sleep-deprived, because I go to bed after midnight snack time (2 A.M.), but get up around 7 A.M. to enjoy port time, or get ready for work.
  6. Overall, I lack exercise, physically and mentally. I spend six-hour blocks standing in a portrait studio, only interrupted by two short food breaks. My knees hurt really badly as soon as I try to actually bend them. After six weeks my legs joined that club of complainers, because I don’t get to stretch and exercise them often enough.
  7. Internet access is so bad that I rarely get to successfully send an e-mail, particularly when I try to send attachments. It’s also expensive. Which I understand, because otherwise crew would likely abuse the narrow bandwidth provided by the satellite dish; but there are other ways to limit bandwidth that would not make the web experience ridiculously slow and unreliable.
  8. The crew predominantly converses in Italian, Portuguese, or any Balkan language. Barely anyone speaks the Queen’s English, making it difficult to communicate, or at least have a halfway pleasant conversation.
MSC Preciosa 72

Behind all the glamour with ABC Cruises there are rather dirty work practices.

Reasons to remain with ABC Cruises

  1. More trips to Iceland are coming. (With many repetitive Norway cruises in between.)
  2. I could go spot some whales with Stefanie. (But only if I am actually allowed to leave the ship, and spend more than two consecutive hours outside, which there is absolutely no guarantee for.)
  3. Maya Buffet is really tasty, and offers a great choice of unhealthy food items. (But hugely interrupts the flow of the day, because to me it is only available on port days, and only for a narrow time window.)
  4. I learned some interesting things about portrait photography, and would undoubtedly learn more. (But rarely get the opportunity to practice those skills.)
  5. See the world (and watch it through a cubby hole, because we are not allowed to show ourselves aboard the ship when we are not working.)

 

As you can see the list of reasons for staying with ABC Cruises is not only much shorter than the leave-list, it also features hidden obstacles in every positive argument. I am a realistic person, so you would naturally expect a certain degree of negativity, but ABC Cruises really seems to be bent on making you labour and suffer for every positive experience. I just have too many good alternatives to consider any cruise job that is not labelled “musician”. In Germany I could flip burgers full-time, and not only make more money than I did with this multi-Billion-dollar tourism trap, but also have more time for myself, AND spend that time any way I please. The concept of individuality seems so foreign to my former bosses that one wonders if any of them ever was descended from a human being, or whether cruise managers are cultivated in a special lab in Geneva. Given these ludicrous working conditions I made the executive decision to leave ABC Cruises behind.

Invergordon via MSC 2-31

Cruise Photography is dead to me. But maybe it still sounds like a challenging work place to you.

According to our more seasoned colleagues the working conditions aboard this vessel are particularly dreadful, and previous contracts featured better management as well as more spare time. Thus, there is hope that things might improve, if one was to skip ships. Mateja actually has similar doubts about her occupation as I, but she first wants to try a transfer to a different ship before quitting the job completely. I had that option as well, but leaving the ABC RypMeOff was relatively easy for me, compared to other vessels of the same company. Their other ships cruise around the Pacific, or the Atlantic, or make five-day cruises around Japan. That would be interesting to see, but ABC Cruises demands that every employee who terminates their own contract should pay for their own trip home. In Germany that cost is a €50 train ticket. In Japan that would be a €1,000 flight. That means, pulling out early was way cheaper than trying to fumble my way through the peculiarities of a different ship, with a different team and manager.

I have little doubts that this was my last encounter with ABC Cruises, because I put little faith into my application as cruise musician. For the moment, I am just glad to be back home, where I am able to eat and live a healthy life. And photos I take only for pleasure. My own pleasure.

Almost free of cruise jobs

4 Jul Jurassic Park - A Fallen Kingdom

Even on our very last day the managers won’t give us time to breathe between photos. Granted, with four photographers leaving the ship there is a distinctive pressure on this department. We can’t uphold regular services with one quarter of the team packing their bags. Still, security will stop offering pre-checks around midnight, so we actually need to get packing very soon, if we don’t want to spend the next day in port, waiting for two of the security lads to come around checking our bags.

Since I already booked a train ride home, I am bound to a certain schedule, so the lack of diligence displayed by Manager Ash is unnerving me. Around 21:30 o’clock he finally judges that I bugged him often enough, and with a confused look on his face he sits me down to explain the ratings in his evaluation sheet. I don’t actually care what it says, because I will never return to this company as a phototgrapher. However, in order to maintain my hiring options with other departments I have to give him the impression of being deeply involved in the process.

Cruise Photography during embarkation

Oh, how I will miss this tristesse, the daily idiocy and chaucinism of the cruise …

With great delay I am released to return to my tiny cabin, where I pack up the photo gear that still needs to be returned and catalogued. Since I am a well-organised person, I simultaneously pack up my own luggage, despite being unable to pack some of the practical gear, such as my pyjama, or any of the food supplies. Those will all have to go into my carry-on luggage, not just because I still need that stuff, but because deep frowns will crease the faces of security personnel, if they find food, and several of the other items in my suitcase. Please recall that opened food packages or even fruit are not allowed in personal possession.

Anyway, about a quarter to midnight I manage to drag my suitcase down to the security hall, where personnel opens and deep-checks every bag we bring. Apparently they have plenty of comrades ready to work on my luggage, because I am one of very few crew members left. Most of the other departments gave their crew members considerably more time to pack & check than our photo manager. But I won’t hold that against him. Just note that once again the photo department draws the shortest straws possible.

After about ten minutes of searching I am released, which means I spend until half past midnight re-packing my suitcase. (The security goofs literally peaked into the tip of every shoe.) My family load of undergarment, shoes, and uniform pieces barely fits into this case, especially with all the add-ons that I had to purchase aboard. Finally all the hours that I spent on the lavatory pay off. Playing Tetris on my old Game Boy was an excellent preparation for this task. In any case, security is somewhat happy, and tapes my suitcase shut with some of the most sticky tape imaginable. The world would be free of mosquitoes, if you applied even one role of this guff to an African village.

View from deck of the ABC RypMeOff

I thought about pulling a “civilian prank” on my last day at work, and just launge on deck with the passengers. I did not have time for it, though.

And off we go – civilian Goemon is back on track, ready to take a last sleep in his funky old cabin, dreaming of freedom, and peace in our time. The ladies that are leaving our department are off to the Crew Disco, for a last night of smoking and drinking. I for my part am happy to never again having to fake interest in that smoke-filled mouse hole that all the sleep-deprived addicts seem to be so crazy about.

Stavanger, and a quality rain

3 Jul Tightly packed houses and overgrowth in Stavanger, Norway

Life aboard has become much more enjoyable, now that I stopped caring about how the managers perceive my work attitude. Admittedly, their interest in me has also dropped dramatically, once they realised that this was my final cruise. They rarely bother me with their flatulent demands anymore, and even the South-African nut-job Henry has lost interest in “helping me” to fit in with the job.

Thus, I am more relaxed than usual when we arrive in Stavanger this morning. Even though it is raining quite heavily I have set out to enjoy my stay in this picturesque Norwegian town. After all, this is the final port along my journey as a cruise photographer. I told our managers that I hope to return to ABC Cruises in the foreseeable future, but as usual I concealed the greater truth from them. I simply don’t want them to write me a bad report, because I want to maintain the option of returning as a cruise musician. However, I have no intention whatsoever to return to this laughably stupid work as cruise photographer. The discussions I had during these past few days have only added to my conviction.

Photo Gallery aboard the ABC RypMeOff

This is a nice enough place to work at, but after two months I am really sick of this sight.

For example, a few days ago our managers discovered the topic of Image Counts. Well, more likely the topic was pressed upon them by the fleet managers, but nevertheless it is now a subject of great dispute. Image counts are now officially a measure of success. The overall image count per passenger is rather poor in our team, compared to that of other ships in the fleet. One reason might be that nobody in this team gives a shit anymore. The company treats us so poorly that even the veteran shooters have stopped spending any real effort in attracting passengers once they reached two hundred photos, which is pretty much the minimum requested by the bosses.

This is just another kink in the penetrable armour of missing logic that surrounds ABC Cruises. Quantity over quality. I think Stavanger knows this already, and instead of greeting us with real quality weather, it gives us a quantity downpour. That is a bit disappointing, considering that even our passengers have barely twelve hours to inhale the beauty of our last Norwegian stop. But I guess Norwegian flowers need water, too, and so I endure the cold wetness of my socks without complaining.

Tightly packed houses and overgrowth in Stavanger, Norway

Tightly packed houses and overgrowth in Stavanger, Norway

Stavanger rewards me with some of the most beautiful parks and cemeteries in my memory. The lush green meadows are lined with rows of flowering shrubs and stout brown trees, which stands in stark contrast to the crowded rows of picketed houses. The inner city, in particular, shows little sign of greenery aside from the odd moss that infests the walls and cobblestone roads. The white houses stand back to back, with their front door on the sidewalk, and barely enough space between them to see the sky when you lean out the window. No wonder Norwegians are such a happy people – you can’t enjoy greenery without visiting the park. And because all the other townsfolk live with the same perilous lack of greenery in their non-existent back yard, people are bound to meet, socialise, and promise each other to not commit suicide over the extensive length of the dark winter. Since half the parks seem to be cemeteries this should also level people’s expectations towards death.

Anyway, even on a cold and rainy day Norway features plenty of fancy houses, cute ducks, and green lawns. If you don’t believe me: I got photographic evidence. Look at my photo album of Stavanger!

Bergen, and the hardship of pasta

2 Jul Aerial view of part of the port in Bergen, Norway

I just have to give a shout-out to Marcio, our Human Resource Manager, who takes every complaint serious, and tries to resolve it in a professional manner. (The fact that such behaviour is noteworthy provides should actually be enough of a reminder of how terribly distressing life is aboard the ABC RypMeOff.) A month ago I wrote Marcio a short essay in tightly-lettered words on the back of a complaint form (the front was too short), discussing six points in which the chef of the staff mess fails to deliver nutrition and quality, and naming a few possible fixes. After two weeks we had a meeting with the head chef, and ever since then it’s been pasta time.

You know me as a constant complainer, so you’re not even surprised about the length of my letter. However, Marcio was not prepared for my onslaught of words, so he went through great lengths of political yarn to find a solution. My main concern was the general lack of vegan meal options at the buffet, as well as in the crew mess. Half the meal options contain meat, most of the rest is fried in butter, just to add that extra level of salt and cholesterol. On top of that there are rarely ever fresh and ripe fruit available. The head chef tried to comment on my perceived misery, but did not quite persuade with his arguments.

Aerial view of part of the port in Bergen, Norway

Bergen is a nice place. If you like fish, you will love it here.

Firstly, both the ingredients and the recipes for the various kitchens aboard are prescribed by cruise management in Geneva. The head chef just passes on the orders, but apparently is not allowed to change any of the routines. That means we are stuck with the salty, fatty menu that ABC Cruises provides; it won’t change in the foreseeable future. I guess the people that prepare our meals have about as much experience as chefs as I have as a photographer, meaning that upon applying for the job they had enough confidence to microwave a lasagne, but not enough to eat it.

Upon hearing about my perils of finding a decent meal aboard this vessel the head chef granted me the gift of making special requests to the staff in the crew mess, who would then grab me a meal right from one of the kitchens that supply the restaurants. I only utilised that possibility once, because the restaurant times don’t align with my schedule, making it all but impossible to acquire a meal from there within the half hour dinner break I am given. A bloody pointless solution, isn’t it?!

Instead, ever since that meeting with Marcio I have been eating pasta and tomato sauce, for nearly every lunch and dinner aboard. That particular menu item is readily available, because the kitchen can cook it up in about five minutes, so it is a very reliable alternative to the beefy sausages and buttered potato cream that the mess usually provides. Since this food source is nutritious as well as delicious, literally half the photo team has joined me on my quest. There it is, the culinary delight of the cruise photographer: pasta, with tomato sauce.

A bar aboard the ABC RypMeOff

The restaurants of the ABC RypMeOff all look very fancy, but the food in the staff mess is far less glorious.

But why did I even have to write a complaint for this? Why can’t ABC Cruises just offer decent food three times a day? This all feeds into the main problem with employment aboard the ABC RypMeOff. [Here we go again. Stuff your ears everyone; Goemon found a reason to rant.] My overall criticism with ABC Cruises is not that life aboard is so difficult. I certainly had demanding job positions before I started working for this company. Rather, this job is needlessly difficult. It would not take much to improve on the food situation, yet nobody seems to care enough to even complain about it. The manager could offer words of advice and reassurance, instead of calling the entire team an “embarrassment for cruise photography”. Security could improve comfort by enforcing the smoking ban, instead of smoking in their own cabins. ABC Cruises could order the chefs to heat the dishes at the buffet to anything above room temperature, instead of asking its crew to meet every complaint with a smile. Just imagine how many passengers are not even complaining anymore, because they know from experience that the company does not give a penguin’s poop about customer concerns!

Anyway, pasta is cool, ABC Cruises sucks, and Bergen is a cool Nordish town. Here, have a look yourself in the updated photo gallery!