Playing favourites

When you google something and pick Wikipedia, as it was the first link on the results page, and then click on one of those references at the bottom of that Wikipedia page, and from there go to YouTube to see an interview with the guy who wrote the paper that was referenced, and then google something you have read in the comments of that video, a week later you might be hard pressed to pinpoint the location of a particular sentence in all the things you’ve seen and all the pages you’ve been.

I asked Google to explain to me why, at least in my supermarket, Heinz ketchup in glass bottles is cheaper than the same Heinz ketchup in plastic bottles. What I really wanted to know, however, is why they didn’t include long necked spoons with the glass bottles –  but I figured being born in continental Europe and having been exposed solely to ketchup in plastic bottles as a child, I’m in no position to ask Google such culturally sensitive questions, and proceeded by condensing my question about pricing into the search box.

20 minutes later I still didn’t have any answers concerning Kraft Heinz Company’s ketchup bottle pricing strategy, but I learned that salt systems in swimming pools are actually chlorine generators, using a process called electrolysis, and thus are not chlorine free. I also learned that McDonalds’s burger patties are guaranteed 100 % beef since 2011 – before that they might have contained something know as „pink slime”, and that „barley”, the grain, is called „Đại mạch” in Vietnamese language.

Somewhere in between finding those vital bits of information, I stumbled over the class notes of an art student. He quoted his beloved teacher like this: „The first 5000 paintings you’re going to make are just to flush out your system, to get all the bad stuff out of you. Only after that you will produce real art.”

There’s no way I could find that story again to quote it properly, but that’s the gist of it. It sounded a bit similar to the »10,000 hours of practice« rule that made Malcom Gladwell’s bestseller „Outliers” the most quoted book at the time, and stood in stark contrast with any proud parent delighted over their child’s first drawings. But then again this quote resonated with a childhood memory by David Sedaris, reflecting on how parenting was done 50 years ago: „Our artwork did not hang on the refrigerator or anywhere near it, because our parents recognized it for what it was: crap. They did not live in a child’s house, we lived in theirs.”

What I really want to say is, „I don’t know if these blog posts I’m writing, one every day, are any good.”

Nevertheless, for me they are the means and measure of an interesting improvement process: I am writing something every day. That alone is an achievement. I have the feeling, or at least I have the idea (which probably is the lesser version of a feeling), that with every blog post I’m getting better at writing. I’m getting better at the craft itself. And all of this in English, my second language. One day, maybe when I have done 180 days, I will re-read the whole thing, and see how I’ve done.

180 days! strikes me as a huge streak right now, unattainable almost, but I figure it will take a serious commitment to not only substantially improve my writing skills, but also to upgrade my endurance, output volume, and most importantly, my skills for telling apart good from bad writing.

I assume writing can’t be that different from movement. We need to improve all: the ability to observe, to feel, to sense, to recognise, and to put labels and names on movements, and on movement qualities, in order to improve the way we move – and ultimately: the way we act.

Meanwhile, as much as I love writing these blog posts, I should, I need to, I have to! also attend to my other projects and client appointments. While blogging is just for my own development and learning, my other projects feed me, pay the rent, and actually help people. Yet at the moment they definitely see a lot less progress and a lot less dedication.

Why do I favour blogging?

27 years to go until species extinction

„I taught for thirty years in some of the worst schools in Manhattan, and in some of the best, and during that time I became an expert in boredom. Boredom was everywhere in my world, and if you asked the kids, as I often did, why they felt so bored, they always gave me the same answers: They said the work was stupid, that it made no sense, that they already knew it. They said they wanted to be doing something real, not just sitting around. They said teachers didn’t seem to know much about their subjects and clearly weren’t interested in learning more. And the kids were right: their teachers were every bit as bored as they were.” – John Taylor Gatto, Weapons of Mass Instruction

K. Deutschländer states in his medical compendium „Orthopädisches Schulturnen”, Leipzig 1929, „The bare figures show that not even three-tenths of our adolescents are endowed with a normal posture.”

Almost 40 years later, 1967, Karel Lewit testifies in his book „Manuelle Medizin”, Elsevier Germany, 85 percent of children enter preschool with good posture and a normal spine shape. This figure is down to 34 percent for children in elementary school. In some modern studies (e.g. „Spinal Deformities with Students in Classroom Teaching in Urban and Rural Areas”, 2018) this figure of structurally healthy children is down to 2 percent.

Figures may vary, however, the majority of very recent studies find that around 50 percent of children acquired poor posture and spine deformities while in elementary school.

What is happening in our highly acclaimed Prussian education system? Isn’t it designed to produce good soldiers and strong, albeit replaceable, office and factory workers? Is it failing in every aspect now, even at its original purpose?

And more importantly: these are merely the visible, measurable, physical damages and deformities.

How many children suffered severe mental and emotional damages, crippling deformities in motivation, participation, contribution, creative expression, in and from school? Damages and deformities that will impede and haunt them all their lives? Is anyone even questioning schools on this?

The apocalypse has a new date, 2048 (Worm B., Science, Nov. 3, 2006; vol 314: pp 787-790). That’s when scientists predict that the Marine ecosystems are finally collapsing due to overfishing. And when the Marine ecosystems collapse most natural ecosystems will collapse with them. And despite our best phantasies, unlike cockroaches, humans can survive in underground bunkers only that long.

That’s just one example, one random out of many examples, to which I could ask:

Should we all sit in silence, just like we learned to do in school?

Should we, woefully or cheerfully, participate in whatever is happening around us, just like it is expected from the good school children, and the good teachers, and the good school management alike?

Or could I ask: how would I move, what would I do in life, if I hadn’t been streamlined, normalised and injured in school? Or, at least, if I hadn’t suffered that much; what if I would be able to recover from it? How would I feel, think, and act?

What kind of person would I be, if I hadn’t planned a life that needed the certificates, if I had escaped school a bit earlier?

I was halfway through his essay before I even noticed that I was reading it

It was one of those headaches that befall every coffee lover. The morning coffee is delayed because of an urgent meeting or the secret Nespresso emergency stash was silently emptied by someone else—or maybe you missed it altogether. Maybe you drink it two hours late, or maybe you drink it on time but your usual blend wasn’t available. When it happens to you it’s a national tragedy—Why isn’t the Department of Health all over this? you wonder.

I wonder: „What are the elements of a successful first paragraph?” Is there a formula to it? And while we may look at the best for inspiration, what are the ethics involved? What passes as „inspired by” and after what point would readers send a copycat straight to hell?

“It was one of those headaches that befall every airline passenger. A flight is delayed because of thunderstorms or backed-up traffic—or maybe it’s canceled altogether. Maybe you board two hours late, or maybe you board on time and spend the next two hours sitting on the runway. When it happens to you it’s a national tragedy—Why aren’t the papers reporting this? you wonder.” – excerpt from David Sedaris, “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls”, from the essay ”Standing By”

Breathing passions and obsessions

Frank Smith starts his book „Understanding Reading” with two highly contrary quotes from two professors at university schools of education, experts in the field, with access to the same professional literature and with the same professional concerns. I quote abridged:

Reviewer 1: „Frank Smith’s research is a straightforward, compelling presentation of approaches to reading and writing that are meaningful and salient to children.”

Reviewer 2: „Either the author is not familiar with the current research literature, or he deliberately avoids citing evidence that is contrary to his point of view. This book is a recipe for disaster.”

Hear, hear, reviewer 2. I’ve read about this breed of negative passion before. But it was not about education, politics, financial interests, or people passionately sabotaging each other on the grounds of, because they believe in, two dissimilar invisible, inorganic, mute deities. It was in a flyer about the dangers of dairy, which someone passed to me in elementary school. I was around 10 years old. I shelved the text, not knowing what to make of it. Why the strong language? Took me two decades to find out what it meant.

The first time I’ve become aware of the impact of this harsh, hostile type of criticism, opposition really, was in a book called „Atemheilkunst”, by Dr. Johannes Schmitt. I found it when I was 14 years old, or 16; The year was 1988, something like that. I realised that there’s a deep chasm in society. Always has been. How can anyone not have been aware of it all the way into his early teens? I really did grow up in the forests on a mountain.

Dr. Schmitt’s „Atemheilkunst” was the only serious book on the science of breathing I could find. A heavy brick of a compendium, encompassing 656 pages, published in 1959. The book presented the then state-of-the-art medical research about the mechanics of breathing, as well as the effects on posture, performance, hormonal balance, emotional health, and how various breathing techniques can be used to

  1. Manage and even reverse severe scoliosis and deformities of the spine and chest,
  2. Improve performance in sports and fine arts.

There was one chapter dedicated to research in schools, and how prolonged, slouched sitting severely handicaps breathing and posture, and thus causes lasting physical harm to children. It had several chapters on the history of breathing practises in various cultures, and religion. Certainly one of the top most interesting and eye-opening books I’ve read as a teenager.

Dr. Johannes Schmitt didn’t have it easy. During the Third Reich Dr. Schmitt became victim of an attempted assassination; in 1934 he was arrested and expropriated of his clinic in Munich, Germany. From 1941 onwards he was imprisoned in the concentration camp Sachsenhausen for several years. After the end of the war, Schmitt won his clinic back against the resistance of the provisional city administration of Munich. As head of the clinic, he further developed his breathing massage, breathing gymnastics, and in his breathing therapy. Ultimately, he ran his clinic with great success until his passing in 1963.

Dr. Schmitt received a lot of negativity and opposition during the making of his book. In the previous century the contrary views and ideas on „how to breath correctly” and „how to teach breathing” and „what can and cannot be achieved with breathing” spurred heated, hostile discussions amongst professionals and laymen alike.

I don’t have the physical book around me anymore to quote you the exact details, but recalling from my memory Dr. Schmitt testified in his foreword: he had almost finished writing his book, when his apartment burnt down; the fire destroyed the script. If something severe like that would have happened to me, I guess I would have called it the end-of-an-area and moved on to another profession; plus, for a change of air, relocated to another country. Probably would have started wearing a Groucho Marx-like moustache and cargo pants – just to make myself laugh more often. Dr. Schmitt, however, who survived imprisonment by the Nazis, started again from scratch. He wrote the whole book again. 656 pages on the science of breathing. And finally got it published in 1959.

Doesn’t this blow your mind, too? Believe it or not, in the past people got that passionate on the topic of „breathing”. I’m not even talking about religion or politics. Or maybe, „breathing” IS religion and politics.

Nowadays, when I look at the millions and millions and millions of views neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman gets on Youtube on his speeches about breathing and its influence on mood and hormones, or if I think about the teachings of iceman Wim Hoff in this regard, I assume „breathing” still is a very hot topic.

But actually, what I’m on about in today’s blog post is not the topic of breathing, but the chasm in society. The passionate, open aggression towards other people and their viewpoints, and the defence of oneself, and one’s own viewpoints, with no inclination towards reconciliation. Over some topic. It is not limited to or safely contained in „a few uneducated savages fighting over their totems”, as one might hope. Aggression might errupt over any topic that is dear to anyone’s heart. This behaviour is woven into the human soul, just like a jolly old fungal organism is woven into the forest soil.

Tomorrow I’ll find something better.

How I would start

If I would be a Physical Therapist… and had to design a movement based training program… I would either start with solutions to common problems, or more systematically with child developmental patterns. 

Flexion. Extension. Rotation.

I would look at early childhood reflexes: the asymmetrical tonic neck reflex, the righting reflex, the withdrawal reflex, postures and responses to the fear of falling. And then progress to lessons that bring students up to sitting, standing, walking. I would certainly also look at object manipulation and handling. Walk along the lines of Occupational Therapy. I would probably have reading, writing, and anatomy on the curriculum as well.

But I am no Physical Therapist. 

I would not design a training program like that. And I would certainly not start with sucking-like-a-baby or several days of curling-up-like-a-hedgehog lessons.


I would probably start with focusing on abilities. And how to improve the seemingly un-improvable. I would – probably – start with the ability to sense the pull of gravity. Explore deeply what we’re working with, here on Earth, as upright walking mammals with a head that’s sticking out of the torso, arms, legs, bones, the ability to feel, improve, fall and rise again, and all that.

I would start on the floor. I would – probably – start with rolling from side-lying to lying on the back. And the other way round. And, the other way round. A roll over, not a push over. Staying as close to the floor as possible, at first. Postpone reach-ups to a later date. Start with rolling the eyes, the head, or start with rolling one leg, bending one knee. Or start with reaching like a skeleton, but in side-lying. I can think of 20+ different lessons from the top of my head.

I would work-in moments for improving the ability to sense, put-that-into-words, judge, and improve orientation, timing, movement quality, how things connect and don’t connect. Experience how the use of one shoulder, one leg, one arm, one side is as different from the other, just as our use of one hand is different from the other (right handed, left handed). And all that.

This is the best part: these lessons are surprisingly easy to do, the positions and movements available to almost everyone. They do feel extraordinarily good, and they leave you feeling extraordinarily well. Curious. I have learned something. I want more. Not only physically. These moments also give us a feeling of being acknowledged as individuals, respected, and being in the right place. 

Plus, it immediately gives students something interesting, fun, engaging, to work with. A movement progression, growing in subject matter as well as difficulty. Something to practice at home. Something to get better at. They might even want to share what they’ve just learned with their own folks, or their own students.

In fact, creating own versions of the lessons, sharing them, and talking about them would be part of the curriculum.

That’s how I would start.

I scratched an itch I could not scratch

„Wolf Haas is an Austrian writer. He is known for his crime fiction novels, four of which were made into films. He has won several prizes for his works, including the German prize for crime fiction.”– Wolf Haas’s page on Wikipedia

„Wolf Haas attributes his success to the unique way he tells his stories, rather than the stories themselves. ” – Study of Silentium, Master of Art Thesis by Paul Geisler

„In the first novel, I was so occupied by this newly discovered language that I didn’t really care about the plot. With each subsequent book, I’ve paid a little more attention to it. As far as I am concerned, plot and language are best balanced in the last two novels.” – Interview with Wolf Haas in „Die Welt”, 2011

A fancy rooftop bar & restaurant, in the city centre. Its first opening after the most recent COVID-19 lockdown. Like what seemed half the users of facebook, we too were waiting in line for an elevator to take us up. There were 3 girls with headsets, 4 guards, 8 elevators. But only one elevator seemed to be in service. The line spawned in front of the elevators, crossed through the entrance hall, which was marble-floored, marble-walled, and big enough to could have housed an Italian Cathedral, threaded itself through the blocked up rotating entrance doors, and when you were still waiting outside you could as well have been lined up for next year’s iPhone and it’d been faster to get one of those.

It was a long line, well presentable. I-have-been-in-the-upscale-office-all-day, smart casual, and dressed-to-impress were the looks. People were either waiting politely in silence, or whispering, or chatting cheerfully–with their voices down as not to bother the other nicely lined-up guests.

But there’s always that one guy. You know who. You have seen and heard him many times before. That one guy speaking loudly enough so that he could be having his conversations across the entire length of a football field. That one guy with a slightly concerned yet cheerful face who chats up anyone.

„Been here before? Oh, the view, fantastic!”, brushing through his thick hair with a big gesture, „Yeah, definitely. As a matter of fact, the first modern hotels were Inns in medieval Europe. Mid-17th century, mostly for coach travellers. People with big money…”, serious eye-balling now, will we silent people understand? „Mid-18th century onwards… at the earliest…”

Quite frankly: this archetype of a guy has an annoyingly active presence. But with a smooth, could-be-rather pleasant, strong voice, easy accent, unintended humour, and compelling short stories. Yet when he’s standing next to you, you would rather lower your head in order not to draw his attention.

This is the guy, who as a child, did not fall into The Word Gap. He was the child that got exposed to 40 million words more than the least cared for children. In his world, words, conversations, language, are as available as American Dollars are to Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos. And by constantly talking, to whomever, he just keeps getting ahead of everyone else.

The crime stories of Wolf Haas read like as if that guy sat down with you over a casual drink, and is giving his very best efforts, at the height of his skills and his best knowledge, to tell you what happened.

That’s how smooth Wolf Haas’s narration flows. His stories are charged with references and credible details, impressive knowledge of local customs and circumstances, things that catch and hold attention. His written language is like spoken language. It’s full of colloquialisms (but no swearing), skipped words, half finished sentences, common phrases, catch phrases, and phrases to catch attention. Ok, here’s the best part. This is very interesting. That’s the important point. To understand this you need to know… He’s using these elements like Fast-Food restaurants are using salt, sugar, and frying oil. Put in enough of that and you can swallow anything. And – if on top – you have the right recipe for your sliders and burgers, then they will never get old.

However, there was something that puzzled me deeply. I watched a dozen or more interviews featuring Wolf Haas on Youtube. My problem was this: He’s quiet. He holds back. He crosses his legs and holds his head to the side with low muscle tone. He’s polite and almost shy. He waits until the interviewer finishes his question and then starts thinking about what he could answer. And halfway into his answers he would pull back and try to rephrase, respond to the interviewer’s facial expressions and body language. According to what I’ve seen on Youtube, Wolf Haas could definitely NOT pull off his written voice in actual speaking. Not by a long shot.

How does this match together?

This really bothered me. It bothered me over the course of a couple of weeks. It was like an itch I couldn’t scratch. I just could not match those two (completely different) sides of him together. How could such a quiet scholar, a meticulous craftsman, a former advertisement copywriter have such a powerful, fearless, highly entertaining written voice?

And then, as it is with many such things, it came to me suddenly. It was hot and dry all day, late afternoon already, I was driving and forcing my scooter through a difficult traffic situation, and while I pulled hard to the left, to avoid colliding with a wrong-way-driver from the right, I suddenly knew how Wolf Haas did it.

I wanted to end today’s writing on the previous paragraph. Leave you with this. But I can’t help but to share my epiphany. He might have done it like this:

Wolf Haas found himself his favourite „that one guy”, maybe knew him all along, distilled his distinct way of telling stories, and on that base modelled his narrator. Just like Richard Bandler and John Grinder model people. Model characters in a novel, certainly, but model the narrator? What a concept! What a twist! Wolf Haas is not only a courageous hero, but also a narrator-modelling genius.

Your left side is my right side, when I stand facing you

I was driving down a narrow two lane street. The car in front of me was going slower and slower and slower. Then it blinked to the left while pulling over to the right, and came to a halt at the right side of the street.

Why did he blink to the left when he pulled to the right? I figured the driver used his signal lights NOT to indicate that he is going to the right, but to signal me that I shall pass him on his left side. 

Interesting. „Creative use” of his car’s turn signals. Made me question traffic rules and our common agreements on the use of traffic signals altogether.

I notice something similar in movement classes. 

When we are standing, or sitting, then everyone is very clear about:

  • Up is where the head is.
  • Down is where the feet are.
  • In the back is where the back is.
  • In front is… in front.

However, I often start my movement classes with lying down on the floor, supine in a horizontal position, lying on the back with legs extended. In this position, suddenly, the „creative use” of directions starts:

  • Up is suddenly no longer where the head is, but where the ceiling is.
  • Down is no longer where the feet are, but gets reassigned to where the floor is. 
  • In front is where the ceiling is. Double tap here. 
  • In the back is still in the back, but now that’s also where the floor is. Two is better than one, huh?

Maybe that’s not even a re-assignment of directions. Maybe that’s how many of us see the world, our position in its coordinates, the sky is up and the floor is down, always, invariably so, not coupled to our own orientation.

But how can I lead a beginners movement class, when a good half of my students erased two directions from existence?