rolling with the haters, and begging for feedback or questions

on the road to Renée and Ken Fowler’s ranch outside of Llano, Texas right after the memorial for my mother Martha Frances with my wife Miriam and the #progeny off camera (mit Absicht)

While not getting too specific about who it was who irritated me the other day, while I was doing this roku account on twitter, I’d like talk about criticism and how I’ve chosen to use social media. To be clear, I’m neither a good American nor a well-integrated German visitor. Other expats or immigrants or whatever you want to call those of us who’ve moved to Germany and chosen to make a life here, seem to have accepted things about living here that still make me bristle.

Oh, and I see that one who offers unwarranted criticism, that’s offered as helpful or thoughtful, but is more likely a backwards and passive aggressive attempt at a Besserwisser (know-it-all) feeling better about one’s own situation and/or life, should perhaps look into therapy or grow a thicker skin before logging on.

They’re what the kids, or at least the Millennials, would call ‘haters‘, and I pay them as little mind as I can manage. It’s a good way to deal with criticism online. You’ll certainly face some, or a lot of it, the longer that you work or play in the digital realm.

The most important thing to know about me on this subject of using social media is that I think of myself as two Americans mixed up in one complicated ex-pat. My family moved from West Texas after my birth to Munich, which curiously makes Bavaria my second, or adopted, home.

Then we unfortunately went back to Texas, and this time in the southeast part of the state along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico to the then fifth largest city in the United States. The City of Houston was still a cow town upon our arrival, and the annual Livestock Show and Rodeo was just one reminder that this place wasn’t like Munich or Zürich or even London, which were places I’d seen with my young, impressionable eyes.

My relationship with Germany wasn’t complicated then, as I was a mere child and all of my frustrations with mid 70s metropolitan Houston were easily written off by my thoughts that, ‘One day I can leave this humid, depressing place and go back to Germany‘, which was a sort of Garden of Eden. That was how I saw Munich or Bavaria in the early 70s, and that option of ‘going back home’ was always, or at least often, part of my fantasy.

What wasn’t to love, by the way? It was a colourful and beautiful city, my parents were casual drug users and drank a lot of beer. As a result, it was easier to live in the liberal, relatively open-minded capital of Bavaria than it had been to live in the dry (alcohol-free), desert-like metropolis of Lubbock. On the high prairie in the part of Texas that you think of if you’ve watched John Wayne movies, or that Rock Hudson/Elizabeth Taylor/James Dean film Giant, my family felt more free outside of the ‘Land of the Free’, which is still my perspective of when I think of West Texas.

I’ve got a complicated relationship with both the word ‘freedom’, as well as the whole concept of ‘The American Dream‘, but this isn’t therapy. I’ll just share this generally, and depending on what feedback I get from this post, I could imagine writing more about those things at some point in the future. If you want to read more about my perspective on either of these things, the proverbial ball’s in your court. You’ve got to get off of your arse and say so in the comments.

To wrap up my point here, though.

My writing always has my clients in mind. While I do it in quite an Anglo-American manner, it’s purposeful that I’ve chosen not to blog or use social media the ‘German Way‘. Again, I’ll go deeper into how different cultures use online platforms and the intercultural differences at a later date.

Interested? You know what to do.

Make a comment below, rather than on LinkedIn or Twitter. I’ve started the conversation and you, my readers, have more influence than you realise.

Say something.

What about this post or any other interests you?

More importantly what have I written that you want to know more about?

Show me you’re here and reading my scribblings, would you? I see the metrics, so I know you’re lurking.

Do me a favour and help me build an audience by saying what you’d like to see more of.

Please.

Pretty please.

Featured

getting the band together again

in sunnier times

Jarrod’s not playing, so it might be weird to keep calling it Old Braunfels. Who knows, though. It’s a good name for a band in Munich, whose members predominantly come from Texas.

Playing the guitar surrounding by sixties design wallpaper in Lisel’s front room

However, we’ve got something else going on and Vancouver Michael will most likely have a considerable impact. Nina Kuhlig, who you might remember from the Blue February show two years ago will sing some originals, as well as one or two classics.

Have you ever noticed that the best songs tend to be sad and full of human suffering? We’ve noticed it, as well. We LURVE those songs.

The evening will be chock full of melancholic love songs. We’d love to have a place for lonely Valentine’s to congregate and revel in their plight.

We might even be able to entice Carlos Köhler, who was with us a few years back, to bring his bass up on stage and play with us. He’s one of the best local bass players I know, so it’d be a treat. We’ll see.

You want to see it, leave a comment below with your email and we’ll put you on the mailing list. Check it out!

we’re getting the band together again

Summertime…

…and the living is easy…

This photo isn't from the summertime, but I'm sitting here imagining living closer to old friends like Marin in the photo or so many other friends from high school. Or in this case as far back as middle school. Marin and I met while riding the bus to Lanier Middle School, and that's where I met Casey, too. She's made a life for herself & her family in Lubbock, Texas. That's far from everything, by the way.

Why do I dislike summer? Sometimes aggressively, even. What's my problem?

The usual stuff. It's too hot. I'm busy with both work and private life. It's manageable.

Wonder if I could ever withstand a Texas summer again. Hope I never have to find out.

Texas is for Lovers

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Texas is for Lovers

In Notting Hill in London, there’s a shop, that’s been written about here before called the The Idler Academy of Philosophy Husbandry and Merriment, and I made the voyage to its doors. Upon arrival, I sat amongst the tomes and looked across the room to see the above.

A man wearing a shirt that said ‘Texas is for Lovers‘. A bit innocuous, you say? Well, that’s not quite how I see it.

There certainly are plenty of lovers in Texas, if you want to include all the baby daddies and ne’er-do-well deadbeat fathers that the place is littered with. I can already hear the protests from both Texans and friends of Texans saying things like, ‘But lahikmajoe, what’re you talking about? There are good fathers there in the Land of Lovers, as well.

Well, I suppose I’ll give you that.

However, this marketing campaign that the authorities in Texas have devised to make themselves appear more amorous than they really are is not only false advertising, but it’s rather unbecoming. What if a poor, unsuspecting soul were to read the message on that t-shirt and actually make his way to Texas in search of All the Lovers.

Those Texas Lovers of the infamy decreed on the Shirt in Notting Hill.

What about that?

You hadn’t thought of that, had you?

 

 

 

Bagpipes with a side of Salsa

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While I was travelling, I had times when I was regularly posting things here (lots of family and galavanting) and on the teablog (tea shops in southern Spain) and on tumblr (when I really didn’t have time to write much), but there were also times when there was just ‘too much living goin’ on around.’ I had to see what I could see. That’s a direct reference to a Lyle Lovett song, so I’ll incude that here:

And there were so many things going on….I’d regularly stumble over to twitter, make oblique references to noteworthy adventures, and then promptly move on to something else. That means I’m planning to periodically return to stories about the trip. If there are photos, I’ll be sure to include them.

For example, the photo at the top of this post demands some sort of explanation. I wish I had one. Those are bagpipes. Real bagpipes. No photoshopping here. And that man is not a Scotsman. He could be Hispanic. Or an American Indian. Or I suppose he could be a Pacific Islander or a number of other possibilities, but I’m going to stop before I dig myself a hole.

He’s not Scottish. That’s my point. He also looks as if he’s been working all day in a blue-collar job still in his work shirt. After a long day in the factory, what else are you going to do but go play your bagpipes on the streets of downtown?

My mother had had a wonderful evening on the Riverwalk in San Antonio, and we went up to street level to make our way back to the hotel. As we turned a corner, there was this guy playing his bagpipes. Like we were at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

But we weren’t. We were in Texas. Now, I should say that I saw bagpipes when I was a kid. It’s not like they don’t let any bagpipes out of Scotland. There are Canadian pipers. And Aussie pipers, as well as Kiwi pipers. There are very serious pipers all over the world.

However, I still think of them as having some sort of connection to Scotland. Your parents are from Aberdeen, or something. This guy’s parents were most likely not from Aberdeen.

Incidentally, bagpipes are called a Dudelsack in German. I know some of you who will almost certainly appreciate that little tidbit.

Texas Shaped Stuff

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The entrance to the Walmart in Kerrville, Texas

Here it is – what you’ve all been waiting for. The Texas Shaped Stuff post. It’ll be a mix of products that are both in the shape of Texas, as well as those that use either the state flag or the shape of Texas in their advertising.

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When you’re buying sausage, don’t you feel more secure if you see the little shape of Texas? I’m still not sure about this one.

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When I posted this elsewhere, someone mentioned that this hot sauce isn’t even produced in Texas. I suppose Texas Pete would rather we not talk too much about that.

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The German here (Oma is German for ‘grandma‘ and Opa means ‘grandpa‘) mad me smile. And I like both Habañero peppers and garlic. Wait, I can get bother together? All the better.

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Hot sauce. The mild one’s for Wannabe Texans and the Medium for Naturalised Texans. What do you think about that?

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And more meat? There’s always more meat. In Texas, there’s rarely a lack of meat. And if the shape of the state of Texas is on the package, it’s more likely it’ll sell.

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And once you’ve got all that meat, you really need the grub rub. How long since you’ve had your grub rubbed? That very well may be too long.

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I’ve poked a bit of fun, but here’s a product I actually like. When I’m in Texas, I drink Texsun stuff happily.

Who doesn’t need a Texas thermometer?

Larry’s Bag-of-Smoke could’ve been NSFW, but it’s not.

and a Li’l Texan sippy cup

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Finally, a Texas shaped waffle. It looks somehow tastier than your typical waffle.

(update: my friend Cay sent me a photo of this, and I thought it really belonged here…enjoy)

Kathleen and a Texas-shaped jello salad

how to sell to Texans

no basement in the Alamo

No idea how true this story is, but I think it introduces what I want to talk about perfectly. There’s a national supermarket chain in the US called Kroger, and they’re based in Cincinnati. At least they were when I still lived in America, and as much as somethings have changed, I can’t fathom Kroger moving their headquarters.

Purportedly, they desperately wanted to compete with a Texas-based ice cream brand, so Kroger came out with its own brand called Texas Gold. It had nothing to do with the Lone Star State. It was a blatant marketing ploy and it worked. Some people in Texas broke away from their brand loyalty and bought this creation.

It wasn’t bad ice cream, but it wasn’t that good either. It’s advantage? People in other parts of the country didn’t mind eating Texas Gold, and more importantly, people in Texas reached for it merely because of the name.

So, when I get back home to Munich, I’ll add my favourite photos of Texas Shaped Stuff and Texas-Centred Advertising. I’m sure you’ll love it.

ginger and cheese

Texas-shaped biscuits

There’s a blogpost about products in the shape of Texas that’s coming up. I assume I’ll keep seeing things I want to include as long as I’m here, so I’ll hold off on publishing it until later in my visit. It’s going to be both intriguing and educational. You like that, right?

However, today we have something related but not quite exactly the same. First of all, I found ginger snaps in the shape of Texas, and I had to have them. For putting in my mouth and eating reasons. To be precise, they’re called ‘Texas Snaps‘. Well named, eh?

So, I purchased them and was on my way. As is my wont. All was right with the world.

Then my mother suggested something that would change existence as we know it. Exaggeration? I think not.

ginger snaps and blue cheese

She said, ‘Try those ginger snaps with blue cheese‘. Wait, what? Those two things don’t go together. They’re actually diametrically opposed. Like some land of ginger thins whose inhabitants could never imagine any sort of cultural exchange with another land of people, who happened to be engaged in the enjoyment of curiously mouldy cheese.

Those two lands would never get along. There are universal laws, after all. We can’t be interfering with the ways of the heavens. Well, not without consequences.

But my mother is a smart lady. This isn’t her proverbial first rodeo. Would she steer me wrong? Not knowingly, she wouldn’t. So I sat down and had a cautious look at a plate of very delicious blue cheese. Then I opened the Texas Snaps. With aplomb. One shan’t forget the aplomb.

I spread a bit of cheese on the wafer, then popped it in my mouth. And the result?

What do you think? It was really quite good. Did you doubt my mother? Did you really?

One does such a thing at his peril. Going up against the mother of ol’ lahikmajoe is akin to battling Grendel’s mother. Not something I’d recommend.

Grendel’s mom

(photo credit: Emily L. Hauser – In My Head)

The Ranch

Image

The way the Germans see The United States in general and the Americans in particular is a much more nuanced story than I could ever fit in one measly blogpost. And to be upfront about it, I’m normally drawn to the more critical and even confrontational views. It’s too easy (and naive) to believe everybody loves the Red White and Blue.

Nevertheless, when I’m minding my own business and going about my typical day, I’m often a bit taken aback when I encounter people who have very positive impressions of my homeland. In my own strange and tortured way, I like where I came from and love some of my countrymen/women very deeply. Having said all that, I don’t advertise it.

Some Germans find out I have family in Texas, and suddenly they have a volley of questions that come barrelling out of their mouths. Did you grow up with horses? Uh, no. My grandmother had a farm, but it was truly agribusinessDid you wear a cowboy hat to school? I most certainly did not. What’s a real rodeo like? I assure you, a real rodeo is nearly as alien to me as it is to you.

Imagine my surprise when one of my clients asked me about the song I Like Beer. It won’t surprise you to know that I had no idea what she was talking about. None. Where on earth had she even located such a song of questionable quality/taste? Well, she was only too happy to inform me about the The Ranch. It’s a terrestrial radio station in the States, but you can also listen to it live-streamed anywhere in the world.

A few other titles that may or may not surprise you:

‘She’s Cold as the Beer She’s Drinking’

‘Barmaid, Pour Me a Vacation’

What do I think about this? I’m conflicted. It’s a little weird. Some Germans, as well as many Bavarians, have a rather idealised picture of life in Texas. I don’t want to dissuade them from thinking people are living a life of freedom-loving badass-ness. There are certainly plenty of people in Texas who believe that’s what they’re doing.

And I don’t want to give the impression that the perspective the Germans have isn’t nuanced. When it comes to geopolitical issues, postwar Germans are actually quite adept at such nuance. They see the American brand and know that some of it is bluster. Some of it is nostalgia. Many older Germans remember soldiers handing out chocolate bars as they liberated the war-ravaged cities. Those old-timers would likely say that that’s definitely something to be nostalgic about.

But what do I think about The Ranch providing the people of my adopted country with a slice of Americana? Still not too sure about this one. Luckily, I know some of the people who read this blog will have some clever answers for my dilemma.

I’ll leave you with the lyrics to Kevin Fowler‘s ‘I Like Beer‘:

She was alone at a table for two
I said, Now's the time to make my move
So I got me a beer and I bought her  ... on the beach

She saw that umbrella stuck in the glass
That chunk of pineapple made her laugh
She took the beer from my hand and said thank you, man
I didn't take her for the longneck kind
She said boy have you lost your mind?

Chorus
Hell yeah, I like beer
It gets me grinnin' from ear to ear
Not just every now and then
I'm talking 365 days a year
I can do it around the clock
I don't like it just a little, I like it a lot
Even hot hell yeah, I like beer

Ooh, I love it

Yeah, it's good for your heart, it's good for your mind
It's good for gettin through a lonely all night
Everybody knows you shouldn't drink too much
So why does it always seem like it's enough

Chorus
Hell yeah, I like beer
It gets me grinnin from ear to ear
Not just every now and then
I'm talking 365 days a year
I can do it around the clock
I don't like it just a little, ooh, I like it a lot
Even hot hell yeah, I like beer

Everybody now, come one!

Chorus

Yes I do
Hell yeah I like beer

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