Going Across

When I was 5 years old, the first wave of skateboarding came from America to Germany. Skateboards were weird, my parents didn’t understand and skateboards were expensive. They usually had plastic decks with super wide wheels. And most importantly, I wanted one so bad. Not that I had any idea on how to skate, but seeing the kids that had skateboards skating down the hills around the lake in our neighborhood (this was before we moved to the island). Anyway, a skateboard was not in the cards and so I had to ask the other kids whether I could try, too. I took to it like a fish to water. Not wild stuff with bowls and pipes, but more of the soul-surfing style, where you just go and float and carve and do a spin or just roll around on your rear truck, just because you can.

When we had moved two years later to the island, I made friends with a guys. who had a very handy granddad, who had a jigsaw. My parents had also a bunch of wood from an old closet that was left over from our move. I repurposed an old roller skate of mine, by separating it and hence I had two trucks. I found a piece of solid wood, cut it to length and after attaching my makeshift trucks I had my first skateboard. That’s when I fell in love with going across. The nice thing about the skating motion is that one can fall, chest or back forward, into every turn – there is so much excitement and freedom in that motion. A few years later I build my second skateboard. This time my buddy’s granddad’s jigsaw  and my parents old closet enabled me to make a nice board with plenty of flex. I set the truck – this time from an old disco roller, again repurposed – to super soft, so that I could really carve like wave riding…in my mind I was going bottom-turn, cutback, bottom-turn, cutback, bottom-turn, cutback and so on – those were great Summer days. All this time I also played roller hockey and pond hockey (when the lakes froze in winter), but going across on my skateboard was always a place I felt comfortable, safe, just me…it was great.

Then came snowboarding in 1985, we were skiing in Italy and there was this kid, that just fell the mountain down on a Swingbo and on a snowboard. Well, you can image, that I had to make contact. 9 months later I built my first snowboard. Not a shred of an idea about laminating – this can’t be dangerous, I can laminate epoxy in our central heating area, despite a total lack of ventilation. Being an engineer in the making and wanting to be cutting edge, I added a 10cm wide 1m (my wallet didn’t support more) long pure carbon strip to the bottom, so that the board would be “grippier” on groomed slopes…or sol I told myself. In the depth of my subconscious, I just wanted to have a piece of carbon on my board. Again, every time I ride my snowboard I have this great feeling of being one with nature and of freedom and carelessness – especially as I get older, going across is my Peter Pan vehicle, I feel like the five-year old who asked the other kids whether he could ride their skateboard.

Then came graduate school in San Diego. I lived in Pacific Beach, just minutes on foot away from Tourmaline surf park. A friend of mine and I started wave riding on 8ft soft top boards. And again, there was this feeling of being one with the surroundings – me and nature back to the essentials.

Then there are the years in Minnesota, where my going across time shrunk down significantly. Although I bought another skateboard to go grocery shopping with, it just  wasn’t the same. And the few times we went snowboarding didn’t fill the hole either. I started x-country skiing which is a great work-out and I have had many great experiences, the motion, too, is very fluid,but your whole body is facing in the direction you are moving – so, not quite the same.

Then came our move to Bangkok, where I started kiteboarding in December and that closed the circle for me. It unified all the good that comes from going across on a moving terrain, that is forgiving if you fall. Plus you have an insanely strong power source – wind – to add the great element of speed. How much better can it get. I don’t know, but I do know that I  have had this feeling of being complete and carelessness and that’s worth a lot.

Setting up – wind, waves, sun and beach babes, you see where I am going with this.

Getting ready to launch – checking the wind and traffic

Picking up speed to go crosswind or up wind – either way, there is already a giant smile on my face, trust me.

There is barely a thing a too much power. In order to maximize power when you go up wind, you fly the kite in slow sine curves up and down. More power = more speed = wider smile.

The face of hard-earned happiness – let’s go again.

The result of last weekend, were three days on the water, four raw blisters on each hand and a raw blister on my left foot. Lessons learned: Saltwater burns like a bitch on open blisters. However, it doesn’t burn as much, if you just ignore it.

Take care and nourish that five-year old within you as often as you can.

Markus \m/

 

Progress

Third post in less than 24h, I must have time on my hands, no life, bored out of my mind or simply this pressing desire to share my observations ….any which way, it’s all for your benefit.

A few month ago, I posed a photo of a big digger next to where I work. I told you that the field next to our factory was – well a field with grasses and lots of swamp land, where lizards, snakes and butterflies lived. The field fell victim to progress. It was mowed down and ploughed and right now it is in the process of desertification. Hard, cracked, dried up dirt surface void of any life, that just sits there idle backing in the sun. The same thing is happening to vacant lots in Bangkok – yes there are a few fairly large lots. There is a large lot at the Ploenchit BTS station, where I leave from every morning with the car. The images of the bad-ass baby and the four-eyed face, I posted last week were taken there.  This lot, too, was given it’s downtown location full of life – not anymore. Progress moved in as well. You may ask how I know that it was full of life … let’s say, I had an emergency, that required me to venture behind the abandoned building into the grasses in order to relieve me of said emergency AND there was a lot of commotion in the brush. When I see vacant lots prepared like they are in this images, I can’t help but think of rainy season. Another piece of land that acted as a sponge when it floods lost. Which means more flooding. We have not been flooded at work, although we have had a few good downpours during the rainy season. Bangkok is different, when it rains it floods. Sewer system is not so great, being that the city is 3m/10ft above sea level. So the more we cement and black-top over the less opportunities the water has to be absorbed, the more the danger of flooding increases.

I also saw a cable guy fixing the cable, ’cause that’s what they do – fix the cable (just watch the Big Lebowski – Cable guys fix the cable, regardless what it may look like.). It was a two-man job. One guy was up 6m, on top of the pole, entangled in the cables, fixing said cables, while his buddy stood guard watching the cable guy work. Thailand is in certain aspects like watching a train wreck. There is high-tech, definitely, but it is implemented and maintained in archaic ways, that are more reminiscent of the dark ages or more positively Simpler Times.

Moving on, as progress permeates Thai society, the problems that creep up on people are the same that western societies have experienced for a much longer time. Parents being torn between work and family especially children and a widening gap between “Haves” and “Have-Nots”.

Parents working long hours have less time to spend with their children. Work in the big city is a necessity, the lure of making a decent wage is what lures people from the country into cities. Because there is an oversupply of labor, wages drop and people have to work even longer hours to make it. There are pockets where Thailand or any south-east Asian country is so twenty-first century, with all the gadgets, luxuries and amenities, but there is also a flip-side, where Thailand is just barely entering the twentieth century that had all the abuses and exploitations of people. I am not calling for social revolution, but I find it amazing, that as people we are clearly not able to learn and we keep repeating the same mistakes over an over. The day before yesterday it was feudal Europe with a sense of entitlement of a few supported by the catholic church. Yesterday, it was America with the pursuit of the elusive American dream, today it is South-East Asia and tomorrow, it’s may be going to be Inner Mongolia. Just a thought.

A jaded person could argue, that this woman and child have choses the “easiest path” to make ends meet – begging. That is a possibility, but there are also other possibilities.

These three Children were left on a few blankets, with the oldest boy watching over his younger siblings. The cup is for alms. I find this image very sad, because at their age you and I were in bed and so are likely your children. As a society and as a people we are accepting that these children will start way back at the end of the field, thus no having equal opportunity.

And then, there is this little sleeping beauty. I assume, that she is probably bored out of her mind and apparently tired. I took this image at about 11:00pm and Chinese New Year was still going strong – for the fifth day.

I have wrestled with the idea of talking about some of the bad things I see here and whether I should show images, in fact whether I should have taken the images to begin with. But I think, in the end, I can talk all I want, unless you see it, it’s just another blog entry. I think, when we plan for progress, we have to expand our list of stakeholders and consider how they are impacted. What are the hidden costs of progress?

Take care

Markus \m/

News From Chinese New Year

A week ago, was Chinese New Year. The Chinese are a populous nation and thus they celebrate for a whole week, so everyone of the 1.3 billion Chinese gets a chance to celebrate.

– On a side note: This reminds me that unlike Americans you don’t hear Thais of Chinese decendency claim that they are Cantonese or Xuanese or whatever Chinese. How many of you my readers have told others that you are German, Irish (love that) or Polish, although you yourself are at least 5th generation American. No offense, I think it’s cute! When I think of Irish, German or Polish, I think of friends of mine who speak ‘merican !-), and only know the basic curses of their respective old country. Ah swearing the one language that unites us all.- C’mon guys no offense. –

New Year in China is less a single event but more of an entire period.  We went there with our neighbors. We took the MRT to Hua-Lompong and then walked into Chinatown. The place was hoping – I kid you not.There was even an apparently super popular Thai band, because all the locals screamed as if it were the 80’s and New Kids On The Block was playing – Craazzeeyyyy!

Anyway, let’s cut to the chase and see some pictures.

As you can easily see, the place was packed with people shorter than 5 feet, that love to bump into people of any size. We successfully avoided any groping action.

Walking through the masses, one has two options. Either you get dab-smack in the middle of it all and sweaty bodies and dirty hands push and shove or you walk along the shore of the river of people and bump into one of the many mobile BBQs. This nice lady was grilling chicken satays with Bangkok’s special BBQ ingredient – car exhaust and sut, a wining combination.

Of course not all eateries are mobile kitchens, there are also permanent brick and mortar restaurants in China town, that serve – you guessed it – Chinese food…and they love to brag about their fares, for everyone to see. “Yeah, this one’s looks delicious, but no definition in the wings. The one behind it has nice breasts and a long neckline – not so sure about the legs, though.” Like the ducks were Supermodels…nah Pin-Ups, beautiful succulent pin-ups. How degrading.

As with any Chinese celebration, at least as far as our conditioning through Hollywood movies goes, there has to be a dragon and he makes his appearance right now.

Don’t get me wrong the dragon was great, especially as it passed us by and was writhing and moving a really cool sight.

As humans we are really peculiar, we love to collect stuff. Sometimes it’s great stuff, like old functioning cars or records or some people even collect bicycles. But sometimes we also collect stupid – no I shouldn’t judge, but I think I can say “weird” stuff, like Coke Cans (me in my teenage years and my parents threw it out without ever telling me. They admitted to the deed around my wedding day. Just writing this still outrages me. “it collected dust and was an eye-sore”, the parental justification). Well, and some people collect the little hard liquor bottles – they used to serve on airplanes, when airlines still cared for their customers – and sell then on Chinese New Year.  But who gripes? – we move on to the Barbie Beauty Pageant or so it appeared.

You see how she is styled so she lifts here hand in that insane Beauty Pageant style – right now in the world there are thousands of overzealous moms living vicariously through their 3-year-old daughters pushing them to realize their burst dream bubble of attaining beauty “Queendom”, instead of letting them be little girls – like my friends little girl Emma. Emma can be the devil, but she has one nice childhood and yes I have a soft spot for her and her disarming smile when she has her thumb in her mouth.  But I digress. Because there are also other sight. Sight of people bored with Chinese New Year – couldn’t care any less. “What’s the big fuss about? Just leave me be and don’t interrupt me while I am playing.”

That’s the life of a child – not a worry in the world, except to make it up to the next level in your video game.

As we were walking back to get home because we had had our fill of being in the masses I accidentally took this image of being underneath all the balloons.

Alright gang, be good to each other and do good. I mean it – not just saying it – really try it.

Take care

Markus \m/

GirlTalk – All Day: Will Change Your Life!

Alright, I have this piece of a song buzzing through my mind. I think it is a song from Outcast where Andre 3000 sings about “Looking at the ground, looking all around,  that’s why we’ve got haters, haters everywhere around”.

But this is only a fraction of the story. I was skyping with y friend Joe last weekend and he made me look up GirlTalk on Google (http://illegal-art.net/allday/) and look for the free album download “All Day”. The album is a bit unique – one song 71 minutes, boom there you have it! Supposedly the guy sampled up to 3000 songs and layered them in up to eight layers in a few sections.  Yes, the name GirlTalk is the artist’s name of a DJ from Pittsburg.

Anyway, the piece starts with Jay-Z and Black Sabbath and then blossoms and flows from there. In between, T’Pau, Usher, Van Halen and John Lennon make appearances. It is all a beautiful flow, that actually reminds me of “Smetana’s: The Moldau”. I gave the song to a few of my engineers and friends here. Everyone loves it so far. It has enhanced creativity, improves the mood and cures especially in-grown toe nails – simply amazing and amazingly entertaining. Now go download it and enrich your life.

 

Just A Short Photo Summary

Dag nabbit, I just noticed, that last week’s post did not publish. Sorry for that. Enjoy, even when it’s last week’s news.

Markus \m/

Whoohoo, the week is over and tomorrow we are going to Hua-Hin. Wind forecast is good, kite is packed, board shorts I wear already, just this quick entry and then it’s off to bed until we leave at 7:00AM – whoohoo.

Alright, I started noticing that although America is 9000 miles away, its influence is clearly visible, one just has to look. Of course there is the usual stuff from the entertainment machinery that just carpet bombs the globe . But there are these little independent artistic manifestations, that clearly show influence of American off-mainstream culture – Graffities.

There is this four-eyed face. It reminds me one hand of a scene in Pirates of the Caribbean, where Jack Sparrow is the King of a native tribe and has all there eyes painted on his face. But on the other hand, I always have to take a second glance because the four eyes on an single face confuse my mind, especially from farther away in the morning when I am not, yet, fully awake.

Right next to it is the mean baby face, that I find sometimes disturbing to look at. I still think I need to try to find a resemblance of the face to Jabba The Hutt or Yoda.

The third and last Graffiti is of President Obama. I find it particularly interesting, that the president of a foreign country is so popular, that people risk going to jail …a Thai jail for that matter… when graffitying his image on buildings. Interestingly just like at home, not everyone loves Obama in Thailand, either. I must say, though, that I have not seen any images of any other US presidents or French, English or German political figures. So, regardless of whether President Obama inspires the masses abroad or whether he is just a pop cultural icon while alive, kudos to the man for stirring a strong emotion in people.

We went to ChattuChak Weekend Market last weekend, where I found this mannequin, that reminded me of the Joker (of Batman fame). I did not know the Joker was a family man, but apparently his wife is modeling women’s clothes at Chattuchak market. Now considering that Mrs Joker apparently works in Bangkok and Mr Joker in Gotham City, it is no wonder that he is a bit off kilter, with the separation and all. Never anybody home he can talk to when he comes home after a long day of causing mayhem.

And here is finally is your long-awaited moment of Zen for the weekend – SuperBowl Weekend, right? So go ahead and enjoy the commercial, your friends and the food and drink.

Have a good weekend and be good.

Markus \m/