Shoulder Monster for Halloween

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A little something for Halloween. This “shoulder monster” used to be a prop for the German Goth-Rock Band “The House of Usher” whose lead singer Jörg Kleudgen has been a friend for many years. Some time ago he decided to unclutter his house so that the little shoulder monster found a new home with me.
The image was done in the so-called wet plate collodion method, a photographic method that is 150 years old. NO digital  alterations were done to this photo. If it looks like those glas plate photo from the American Civil War era it is because it has been created in exactly the same way as during the American Civil War Era! Who needs Photoshop anyway?

I was not amused when I learnt about my shoulder monster’s digestive problems!

On Neil Gaiman, and, Why you should read fiction!

I was about 17, Soundgarden’s Superunknown was on repeat in my CD player and Doom II  installed on my 486 PC, when I discovered Neil Gaiman. I don’t remember whether I first bought the beautiful German edition of “Death: The Cost of Living”, or, whether a friend who was a fellow gamer in the role-playing group I was game-mastering back then lent me his original Sandman comic books first. Whichever way, I was hooked on Gaiman’s work and I am to this day.
I know, he has become immensely popular since then, a cult figure who has more than 1.6 *million* followers on Twitter (including myself). It is easy to get into the “I was a fan before he was so popular”, or, “he was so much cooler when he was still underground“. I won’t do that, because, quite frankly, I still love and enjoy most of what he does and why should it affect my enjoyment when other people like the same things that I do? Of course, I would not postulate that everything he touches is automatically top-notch or gilded simply by virtue of being produced by Neil Gaiman. This is what happens frequently within cult followings of artists. It’s sad, because very often it will backfire and end up in people disliking someone’s works, just because they don’t want to be fan boys like everyone else. It is not fair to the works of an artist  either way.
When I got his most recent book The Ocean at the End of the Lane I dreaded reading it for a couple of weeks. Firstly, because I wanted to be able to read it in reasonably long installments and secondly because I have been disappointed so often in the last few years: There were several books or music albums by artists that I liked and was so much looking forward to. Books and albums that I so much wanted to like, and which had then left me with, not always with real disappointment, but often a deep feeling of “meh”. I so wanted to be able to be excited about something again, to be… touched, or moved, for want of other less melodramatic words.

I liked The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It’s a quiet book, and not a big millennia-spanning -continent-shattering-fantasy-epic monster of a book (some of which I read and enjoyed, mind you). Of course, it’s a Gaiman, and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. But it is also quite different from his previous works. Was it what I expected? Yes, and no. Which is a good thing, I reckon.
I also know that an informed and enlightened reader should be able to differentiate between the author and the work. I admit that I am not always able to. One of the reasons why, to my shame and most likely my loss, I have yet to read anything by Stanislaw Lem is that many years ago I read a few interviews and maybe glanced at an essay by him in which he came across as unbearably snobbish and arrogant, as if there were only two SF authors worth reading: Philip K. Dick and Stanislaw Lem (maybe in reversed order). I was young and probably doing the man injustice, but for years I could not help myself. I could not bring myself to read anything by Lem. Oh, I do own books by him, but they are waiting, unread, for the day when my equally arrogant teenage self will finally forgive him.

Gaiman, on the other hand,  is also one to voice his thoughts outside of his fiction. Often witty, and wise, and… humane.  Plus, he never comes across like an arrogant snob. [Mind you, I have seen him do a reading once. He can be absolutely terrifying when mobile phones go off and photographers keep clicking away when he is in the middle of  reading.*]  In fact, he often says things in his non-fiction that touch me, and make me stop and think, and in a weird way re-assure me that the things that I loved, and cherished, and made up a big part of who I was and who I became since I was the boring smart kid who studied English harder than anyone else in class because I wanted to be able to read AD&D rulebooks, are still okay to love and cherish even if in different more mature ways. Thank Goodness, I am not that kid or teenager anymore, but I can still see a direct line from that 12-year-old to the thirty-something-old me. In a way, I find that highly comforting.

Why did I go on this rambling, nostalgic Portrait of the Blogger as a Young Nerd? Well, first, it’s what the cool kids used to do in the blogosphere, ages ago, back in 2005 or so. (I never was the cool kid and never caught up it seems.)
Secondly, because I have just read one of those Gaiman non-fiction pieces, that make me realise that the man I am today can still agree with the author who took him to weird headspaces when I was a teen.

Neil Gaiman on why should, nay, must read fiction and encourage others to read fiction. Go read it. And then go and read some fiction.

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*The guy, whose phone went off was mortified. He was telling his friends that it was his work phone which he had forgotten to turn off, because who would call him on his work phone on a Friday night anyway? Poor sod…

To the photographer: That’s when you should consider getting a quiet rangefinder camera! Leica for the win! ;-)

Drachenväter, oder, Ich werde alt

Woran merkt man, dass man alt wird? Klar, auch an den grauen Haaren, aber die kriegen manche Leute (so auch ich) bereits in ihren 20ern. Aber wenn die eigene Kindheit und Jugend kulturgeschichtlich in einem Buch aufbereitet wird, ist das ein ziemlich untrügliches Zeichen.

“Drachenväter” ist ein geplantes Werk über die Geschichte des Rollenspiels, das zurzeit noch nach Crowdfunding sucht. Ich bin mir nicht ganz sicher, ob ich den Titel irgendwie doof finde (wobei mir spontan auch kein besserer einfällt), aber intererssant klingt es auf jeden Fall. Ich denke mal, ich werde mich an der Finanzierung beteiligen.

Näheres dazu gibt es hier: Drachenväter auf Startnext

The Secret Project is dead! Long live the secret project!

[Scroll down for English version]

Nachdem sich mein Blog thematisch in den letzten Monaten hauptsächlich mit der Photographie beschäftigt hat, ist es nun an der Zeit wieder mal ein Update  zu meinen schreiberischen Aktivitäten zu bringen. Im letzten Jahr habe ich zwei Projekte, spaßeshalber als Secret Project #1 und Secret Project #2 tituliert, angekündigt.
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On Quitting Facebook

On Quitting Facebook.

Recently, I have decided to quit Facebook. In fact, I have been pondering it for a very long while, but now is the time. 
I am not telling anybody else what to do. Facebook (or any other social network) can be fun, and useful, and awesome. If that is the case for you, by all means use it!
Personally, I feel that I don’t want to be part of it so much anymore because I have felt an ever increasing loathing against it. Ironically, even though (because?) I have been using it quite a lot.

Dear All,
I will be quitting Facebook sometime around the end of the month. The reasons for giving this “notice” is simply so that those of you who don’t have contact details of me and want to keep in touch have ample time to do so.
Social Media can be fun and useful. It was great to keep in touch with people at home when I was living abroad, and to keep in touch with my friends abroad when I was back home. And I am not saying that any of *my* experiences are relevant to anybody else but me. (Meaning I am not telling you that FB is the devil and that you should leave it as well.)
Personally, I find Social Media interaction increasingly shallow. I have 137 “friends” on Facebook, which seems to be even a relatively small number compared to other people I’ve seen. But even with this relatively small number I must say that I don’t know a good deal of them. No offense guys, but I have accepted friend requests of people I’ve met casually at a party out of politeness. It’s not that I don’t like them. But I don’t know them well enough to like them neither. Has FB managed to get to know us better? No.
Has my social life been improved in recent years by using “Social Media”? Nope. In fact, my social contacts have decreased. There are many reasons: stress at work, living in a different place, earthquakes, meteor showers, yaddiyaddiyadda… I am not saying that FB is the “reason” for this. But it doesn’t help. It makes me lazy. Why call you for your birthday when I can “write on your wall”? Why take the time to make a video call when I can see your kids on the pictures you post? And why make the effort to come and visit you when I can like that you liked the fact that I liked the post of someone-fucking-else?
In contrast to not giving me much, there is the downside of what it takes. I think I wouldn’t mind someone using my pictures (i.e. the ones that I shoot) because I’d be flattered. But I’d like to be asked whether I am okay with the service or product that FB would like to use them to advertise for. How can I be upset about governments snooping into my affairs when I am willingly giving away so much? And finally, I have to admit, it is just a huge time eater. How many times a day do you check Facebook? Maybe once or only every couple of days? Well, I do it too often. It has become a mindless automatism. It’s a bit like smoking: It was kinda fun in the beginning but then it just became hollow habit. In the end I was glad that I kicked it.

I have a blog, that frankly is only relevant if you are a film photography and/or roleplaying/fantasy/SF nerd, but it’s there. I am on Flickr and Twitter, on Xing and LinkedIn. I have three personal and one professional e-mail addresses. I don’t use Skype as much anymore but it’s still there. I am using WhatsApp. I have a landline and a mobile phone number. I have *two* physical addresses for Fuck’s sake!
If you want to keep in touch that means there are plenty of opportunities to do so. I might contact a few of you guys in the next weeks to get some contact details of you, in case I don’t have them or they are stuck in my old phone. I will not be in touch with every one of you every single day. One-on-One communication takes more time and energy than just broadcasting some witty comment, funny link or status update. I won’t always have that time or energy. But by all means, if you miss me and feel that I have been neglecting you too much, please feel free to poke me (see what I did there?)!
But I’d rather have more meaningful Social without the need for so much Media.