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A Christmas sermon. Or: a review of ‘Black Mirror’ Season 1 Episode 2

This episode of the dark utopian technology-critical BBC series showcases the absurdity of capitalism in its essence: it doesn’t matter what you want and who you are – if people like one of your talents, and you practice them, you will become famous. And might have shit loads of money.

The story goes like this: in a future world, people have ‘credits’ like in a computer game. There are fast people which are the bottom class of society. Then there are poor fellows that need to go on spin bikes the whole day (like in the Hamsterrad, the German version of the rat race) in order to ‘earn’ credits. Eating unhealthy consumes a lot of credits, also if you want to skip ads when watching (which is forced! there’s a sensor to check if your eyes are open) anything anywhere, you need to pay with credits.

Then there is this ‘xyzzy got talent’ show. You need to buy a ticket for 15,000,000 credits (which seems a lot) and then you are admitted but might need to wait for over a week until you will eventually get your chance.

One day, the protagonist hears a voice singing while washing his hands in a unisex washroom and find it’s the new girl he saw in the elevator and the spinning club since a couple of days.
She does origami and folds fabulous little penguins from the lunch wrap paper. They start talking and the protagonist offers to gift her a ticket to the talent show. She evidently hesitates but finally accepts it. They go to the show, hold hands for the first time in the elevator, she sings with a stunning voice but since there were enough brilliant singers, they ask her to go into the adult entertainment industry. She cries but accepts.Our protagonist is devastated and since he has almost no credits left, he cannot skip the new ads with his girl in the porn industry. He goes mad, smashing the screens that surround his bed and he finds a big glass splinter.

This event sparks a dedication in him: he does everything to reach 15,000,000 credits again with very hard work and saving credits wherever possible. Once on stage, he does a short dance performance and then pulls out the glass splinter, which he holds to his neck. If anyone would move closer, he’d kill himself. What he wants? He wants people to listen. Then he sums up the state of the world perfectly: the absurdity of spinning to earn credits to spend on things no one needs – everything is artificial. Even the food. Nothing is real. Nothing is authentic. Only feelings. Love. Pain. Anger. Hate.

Then the unimaginable usual happens: they like his voice and his authentic words and say they can imagine him hosting a vlog – twice a week.
The episode ends with his old spinning group where one guy watches our protagonist’s vlog. Then we see the new ‘home’ of our protagonist which shows a sterile but big apartment with a nice artificial view and orange juice – or something that looks like orange juice.
Now what do I think about the show? Well. It’s a gloomy image of a future world. But actually it’s a ‘mirror’ of our world today. The rat race. Buying things that usually we don’t really need. But society, group pressure etc tell us we want it. Or it’s cool to have it. Or whatever. So basically we see our reality in a little futuristic-looking and exaggerated way. Then the summary of capitalism.

So far so good. But then? What is the right thing to do? Find your talent and start making money with it?
Depends on what you want. A lot of people want money. Or the things or ‘freedom’ that comes along with money.

Let’s check an example: A friend of mine that I got to know while playing computer games excessively during teen years, has been writing songs and rapping since more than 20 years now. He mastered his technique, had to overcome massive blows in life and is still struggling.What does he want? Get signed by a label in order to get a steady income and support by professionals? Or does he just want to write songs and share his thoughts with people? Or maybe shake up people’s minds and make them realise what ‘living’, ‘humility’, ‘moral’ and justice mean? Maybe even change the world?

So I guess once again the most important question is: what do YOU want in life? Money? No, what would you buy with the money? Cars? Drugs? Sex? A garden? A well in Africa? Or do you want to be famous? A celebrity that everyone knows and loves. Or hates. With everything that goes along with it? Or do you just want to live your live, have enough but not too much? Maybe a family, maybe not? Kids? An own house? All is possible.

Or do you want to change the world? Then it’s a little more difficult. And it depends on timing, luck and current societal movements.
But whatever your inner desire: you have an impact. On yourself. On your environment: the people you interact with on a daily basis. Doesn’t matter whether it’s eye contact and some friendly words with the lady at the counter in the supermarket. Or whether it’s being there for people who are near. Who are important to you.
Because one thing technology can never (really?) provide: the feeling that you care for someone. That someone cares for you. Is there for you. Listens. Talks. Laughs. Cries.
Some call it love. Whatever. You get it.

A big THANK YOU to all my family and friends

Sometimes in life there is this feeling: life is good. I am happy. People around me are happy and healthy.

This is the feeling I have at the moment: I have an amazing girlfriend, I have a good job, my family is all more or less healthy, I have many friends and people that I admire a lot – and that includes people from all times during my life: best friends from before kindergarten, friends from my home village and school time, people from university and people from the last town that I spent 7 years living in. And it also includes many people in the new city and country where I’m currently living – I cannot put it in words how grateful I am and how lucky I feel to have exactly those team mates in the office and exactly those friends outside work.

So here it goes: a big THANK YOU to everyone in my life 🙂

As usual there is also something else in my mind: if life becomes too perfect,  it cannot continue like that – sooner rather than later something very bad will happen.

So far nothing has happened and a good friend of mine told me: don’t worry – keep calm and happy and simply carry on enjoying life.

Cheers!

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Pizza Potluck Party #2

Pizza Potluck Party – what the heck is that all about? 4 things:

  • I prepare pizza dough
  • I prepare tomato sauce
  • I have some cheese
  • you bring whatever you want or cannot imagine to work as a piza topping

We’ve done that in the past where we created one sri-lankan-german pizza with combining a sausage crust, lingus and pineapple on a pizza… mmmh still mouth-watering when I just write about it.

This time one amazingly awesoe person started to prepare an 18hour apple-wood smoked pork shoulder to have some pulled pork for the pizza. I mean: some people (including me) would already die for ONLY the 18 hour smoked pulled pork. But coming back to the pizzas – here are some of the creations from that evening:

  • Lingus (raw lingus but also fried lingus, chilies, onions), pineapple, corn and red birdseye chilies
    DSC_1151
    DSC_1154
  • Meat lovers 18 hour smoked pulled pork pizza: the friend lingus combination, pulled pork (only to be added at the very end or last 2 minutes in the oven!), some birds eye chili or orange habanero
    DSC_1144
  • Pulled-pork at its best: mango, coriander leaves, orange habanero and pulled pork
    DSC_1140
  • For salmon lovers: corn, mango, a mixture of joghurt (better results expected with creme cheese) with salt, long pepper and slightly smoked salmon (to be added at the very end, once the pizza is out of the oven already for 2-3 mins)
    DSC_1148

Other hints for pizza stuff: I use the dough recipe from Jamie Oliver who combines e.g.

  • 400gr of wheat flower (ideally italian typo 00 but any bread flower will do)
  • 100gr of semolina
  • dried yeast (1 pack)
  • 1 tblsp brown sugar
  • 1 tblsp fine sea salt

And you HAVE TO buy a stone for making pizzas. Just try it once and you will never want non-stone pizza again. The thing is: pre-heat your oven with the stone to the highest temperature your oven can do for 45 mins and then your pizzas will be ready in max 8-10mins.

Buon appetit.

Welcome to Dubai

So far my experience here with the police was good. Only the procedures are sometimes a little annoying (then again, I dont want to know how annoying they are in Germany…). But now I got surprised a little.

This morning when I was commuting, I had a chat with a colleague about the police, how friendly the Dubai police is as long as you stay calm and relaxed.

Then I got a text message from Dubai police saying I got fined on September 1st and need to pay 200 AED (50Euro). I didn’t really recall doing anything wrong (except for exceeding the speed limit by 20km/h probably…).

Then I checked it on the internet and found that:Inquiry and Payment of Traffic Fines - Google Chrome_2015-09-09_10-44-55

And when paying it, another 10 AED ‘Knowledge Fee’ was added. Knowledge what? Are they teaching me a lesson?

“it’s how they recover their investment on IT”
Well. Thanks. Welcome to Dubai.

Yet another weekend in the desert

Another idea of  life in Dubai.

On Thursday (which is the last working day in the week) you can first sip a Desert Donkey at Fume in Pier 7 (did you know that vodka, raspberry, coriander and chili make a grand cocktail?), then have dinner followed by a power nap before you cab to Media One Hotel to get into Level 41.

Of course there is someone who has a table behind the dj, so no admission and some drinks for (almost) free. Then again you get reminded that you’re in Dubai when you order 5 shots of tequila and are asked to pay 250 AED / 62,50 Euros. The music was cool but at some point the club seemed quite empty. As it turned out, all people went two levels up 41 levels down and then 43 levels up to get to Q43. When we wanted to follow them, we were not matching the entry criteria (couples / women). So we took some more free rides with the elevator. When leaving level 41 (it closes at 3pm), we had a really tasty hotdog (‘beef sausage, like in Germany!!’ ???) from an Irish guy. After that nothing much happened. Some rumors say a sort of parade on JBR happened but I didn’t get any confirmations for that.

On Friday you can do some shopping, cooking, eating before you invite way to many people to your apartment to eat & drink together. Who would have known that it would turn into a concert with a live acoustic guitar player (thanks!) using an some pill packing as improvised pick and a youtube dj showing that Bon Jovi actually had some really cool stuff. Ah and of course if you didn’t prepare enough food, your guests might end up ordering at burger fuel. The healthy burger of course – avocado, mango, no bun. However, avocado and mango could not be found and led to a huge investigation case.

On Saturday you can start cleaning your flat, do some cooking for everyone who couldn’t make it out of your apartment before you head off to a mixology session. So you learn how to mix cocktails and you can drink them – that’s what we expected. As it turns out, you are shown how to make 4 cocktails, before you can try to create one yourself (but they will pay a lot of attention that you really use that measuring glass!!). Since you could get 5 cocktails for 150 AED, it was a fair deal. And our group was really cool, thanks again for that. And I learned that every 5 star hotel actually has a wheelchair, in case someone gets sooooo tired that it’s easier to carry them out in a wheelchair. A wheelchair. Seriously?!?!? And no, just for the record: it wasn’t me.

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Only in Dubai

So I invited some friends and went shopping for food. Took a cart because it was a little more than usual. I asked the packer guy whether I can take the cart.
‘No’.
‘Do you do delivery?’
‘Walking or car?’
‘Walking.’
‘Sure.’
‘How much is it?’
‘Nothing, I will come with you, no problem.’

It felt so wrong walking next to the guy pushing the cart. To my building. Into my building. Into the elevator. WTF?! Almost invited him to the party.

Aaah and for everyone asking ‘why can’t we have the same in our country?!’. Well it’s because of non-wage labour costs. This poor fellow earns probably nothing. Or a little more.