Guess who’s back

Guess who’s back, back again! It’s been over six months since I’ve last written something for one of my own sites – I’ve blogged over at uncanny.ch (Book Club), at sczollikon.ch (Football Club) and at webrepublic.com (Work… Club?!), but not on one of my various properties around the internet. But today, I really felt like I wanted to write, even though I don’t really know about what.

What better time to resurrect my old personal blog, on which my last post describes my budding infatuation for Doctor Who, which has blossomed into a steady relationship with the twelfth incarnation of its titular character. The BBC show has become one of only three series where I feel the need to catch up with every episode immediately (Sherlock and Game of Thrones being the other two). I can only recommend anyone to watch the fantastic 9th season of Doctor Who, which has to be my favorite in years thanks to the stellar acting by Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman and their guest stars like the incredible Maisie Williams. If you like Fantasy, Sci-Fi and good television, you should start watching this show.

Another show to watch? Master of None, the new Netflix show by Aziz Ansari – one of the funniest and realest shows I know. It’s fast-paced, smart, diverse and really captures the “zeitgeist” of modern day life for us spoiled twenty-somethings. It’s also made me want to start watching Parks & Recreation to see more of the great Mr. Ansari.

Well, my urge for writing has been stilled for the time being, but there is one more thing for you to watch – this aftermovie of Sziget 2015, one of the best music festivals in the world, gives you a glimpse of how I spent one incredible week this summer.

Until I write again (which may or may not be in 2015), as always, I remain

sincerely yours,

Albert

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The Doctor is in

When I was in my first year at university, every evening of the week was characterized by the different series I followed: Entourage, Chuck, White Collar, Californication, One Tree Hill (when it still involved Basketball), Psych, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory and many more (including a few guilty pleasues) were a mainstay in my weekly routine. However, as I got older, my interest in TV shows waned and nowadays, the only two shows I follow regularly are the magnificent Sherlock and the brilliant “Game of Thrones”. But on August 23, when Peter Capaldi officially takes over the reigns as the Doctor, a new show will have firmly landed on my weekly schedule: “Doctor Who”.

Since the final of the football World Cup last Sunday, I’ve finished almost three seasons of the BBC series and these are some of my impressions thus far.

Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant are fantastic.

Both of them bring different attitudes and characteristics to their titular character who has a history stretching back to 1963 and including 8 previous incarnations. Their charisma is palpable and their acting fantastic. A more in-depth looks at the different doctors and their stories (including Matt Smith whom I haven’t reached yet) can be found on uncanny.ch (Doctor Who for Dummies by Viola).

There are a lot of filler episodes, but the good ones are absolutely brilliant.

In both seasons, I found myself wanting to skip episodes or finding them somewhat unsatisfactory after finishing them.  The story arcs spanning the whole season were interestingly done, full of hints and allusions that clear up in the season finales, but still felt somewhat weak and irrelevant. This in turn led to the presence of filler episodes. However, thanks to its unique blend of humor, action and drama, the strong episodes will stay with me for a very long time. When the show is at its best, you really feel that the whole world or at least a personal destiny is in grave danger. My favorite episodes include a visit to Renaissance age France (an era I adored growing up thanks to Alexandre Dumas), an epic Battle in modern-day London including two menacing alien races and a little visit to the Moon.

It’s a great time capsule.

The first thing I thought when watching the pilot episode “Rose” was: this looks old. But with every passing episodes, the production design improved and it’s great to see the evolution of time throughout the long-running show. Seeing Rose, the wonderful companion of both Doctor number 9 (Eccleston) and 10 (Tennant), use the Samsung flip-up phone I owned back then, definitely wrapped me in a blanket of nostalgia for a moment.

Now I’m halfway through the third series (the British word for season) and I can’t see myself stopping again. I’m especially looking forward to the time Steven Moffat takes over as showrunner to see if the season-long arcs and connectors get stronger.

Check back here for more posts on Doctor Who as I progress with my marathon sessions, and until then, I remain

Sincerely yours,

Albert

Vlog #2: It’s Complicated

This week I finally recorded and uploaded my second Youtube video!

I talk about It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by danah boyd, which is a fantastic book on social media and youth culture.  Check out my commentary down below!

I’m still learning this whole video business, so if you have any kind of feedback, please let me know!

Have a great start to the week and Happy Easter!

Sincerely yours,

Albert

Short Story: Balling

He was lying on the bed of a suite on the 23rd story of a five-star hotel in Manhattan. Far beneath him, the cars and busses rolled past hurried workers and slow-footed tourists. The buzz of the city that never sleeps filled the air of this clear night. The stars however, remained outshined by the bright lights of the man-made monuments of engineering New York City was home to.

She was sitting on the large mahogany desk and sipping on a glass of bourbon. The desk was an impressive piece dating back to the 19th century and rumored to have belonged to Governor Grover Cleveland before his ascend to the presidency. But even the most devout admirer of antique furniture wouldn’t have been able to avert his eyes from the lady lounging on it.

He opened his eyes just enough to make out her silhouette, attempting to figure out if she was indeed real or just a piece of his vivid imagination, ready to disappear into thin air in an instant. His imagination had always been at hand to play games with his mind and at this particular moment of time, he was dreading to discover that all had been but a dream.

She was staring at her glass as if it contained the answer to the all-important question of the meaning of life. And to her, maybe it did. She took another careful and measured swig of bourbon. She pushed a wisp of a long, blonde hair behind her ears before looking up and staring at the replica of an Andy Warhol painting above the bed.

He closed his eyes again and dozed off. This time, he was sure he was dreaming.

The sun was shining down on him and the voices of excited teenagers, playing children and concerned mothers was ringing in his ears. Central Park was filled as was to be expected on a beautiful Summer day. He was lying on the freshly-cut grass on one of the lawns with two elderly men sitting on a blanket nearby listening to the radio broadcast of the Yankees game (they were leading by two runs with one inning to go). And there she was.

She was shooting free throws on one of the nearby courts, hitting them with passable accuracy. Next to the hoop was a speaker blasting a playlist playing the Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Phoenix and Jay-Z. Her focus however, seemed to be completely taken by getting the ball into the hoop. She kept her eyes on the rim, kept her elbows straight and then released the ball towards her goal in a perfect arc. After every shot she made, a faint smile appeared on her face. When she missed, a look of despair and dejection appeared on her face.

At first, he just glanced over after hearing the rhythmic bouncing of the ball on concrete. But then, when everything else in the park failed to capture his attention, he couldn’t help but continue to watch the stunning girl so fully absorbed by practicing her free throws. He tried to work up enough courage to go and talk to her, wondering which words would have the effect he wished for. Just as he got up to walk over, the sound of laughter pulled him out of his dream and back to reality.

She was still sitting on the desk, but this time she was smiling and giggling. Dawn had reached New York City, with the first rays of sunshine illuminating the hotel room. With the morning, a different kind of mood had taken hold of the woman. The glass of bourbon had been replaced with a little black notebook, which she was reading intently and with the same focus she had shown on the basketball court.

He opened his eyes fully and took a moment to get used to the sunlight filling the room. He stared at the girl in front of him and a smile appeared on his face. The last night now seemed like a distant memory destined to float away in due time.

She finally noticed his awakening. A final laugh escaped her throat. She leaned back and looked at him in silence. As so often, she didn’t know what she wanted to say. Instead, she grabbed the tiny black notebook and began to jot down something. The strokes of her pen flew over the paper.

He watched her start writing and closed his eyes again. The more often he opened his eyes and saw she wasn’t gone, the more he was convinced that she wasn’t gone. He slowly counted to ten and then opened them again, focusing at the desk.

She wasn’t there. Nothing but emptiness was to be found where she had been sitting. However, the tiny black book had been thrown onto the bed. Frantically, he flipped through the pages, skimming through the back-and-forth banter of their early courtship until he reached the last page of the book. His eyes devoured the content of her writing.

He sighed. After pulling on his clothes, he took a moment to gaze upon the city where dreams came to come true or die.

He opened the closet, grabbed the basketball hidden inside and turned around.  With a hint of hopefulness in his voice he said:  “Are we leaving?”

Behind him, she looked at him with her bright, blue eyes peering into his, and smiled.


 

That’s it for today. I’m always looking for feedback, so please hit me up on Twitter or in the comments section!

Sincerely yours,

Albert

 

 

 

News, Announcements and Cookies

Hello everyone!

It has been really quiet on this blog for quite a while and I’m sorry for my sudden and inexplicable silence. However, it isn’t as inexplicable as it seems as I’ve been really busy in the last two months since my last post.

The biggest and most time-consuming project was the launch of Mirage Boulevard. You might ask: “What is Mirage Boulevard?”

Mirage Boulevard

Mirage Boulevard (mirageboulevard.com) is the new website my friend Oliver Aeschimann (oaesch) and I started. It’s a German language online magazine focused on bringing you high quality reviews and articles on the world of movies, television and literature. Thanks to the help of our friends we have been able to push out content on a fairly regular basis. Please check it out!

A few days ago, “An Elusive Hero” was able to celebrate its first birthday! I want to thank all visitors who have read my posts so far.

This leads me to the announcement hinted at in the title: Thanks to the new project mentioned above and a wonderful new job in the world of online marketing, I’ve decided to narrow down the scope of this blog.

In the future, I’ll focus on my fiction writing here and hope to bring you new chapters of “An Elusive Hero” on a regular basis in the near future. For that, I’ll be relaunching this blog in the next few months including updating the design and functionality of it all. Stay tuned!

My normal commentary on pop culture and television will fully move to my YouTube Channel, where I hope to publish videos on a regular basis as summer and spring approaches.

I haven’t thought about the future of my posts on Switzerland and Zurich in depth yet. Either they’ll make an occasional appearance here or maybe I’ll outsource them completely to another platform.

As you can see, a lot of exciting changes and reboots are planned, so keep on visiting. And like I promised in the title, here is a delicious batch of cookies. (I also wanted to check out the new embed feature of getty images)

Hope to talk to you all soon!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

On Building a Mind Palace

Last week I wrote in length about my favorite show on TV: Sherlock. My obsession with the detective is not quite over, as today’s article looks at what I learned from the detective. I also have a Youtube video on the Arthur Conan Doyle stories planned before I finally accept the fact that Sherlock is back on a hiatus of undetermined length.

What I learned about on Sherlock and what I found endlessly fascinating is a memory technique Sherlock Holmes uses when he tries to remember something crucially important hidden somewhere in the depths of his mind. On the show, it is called “Mind Palace”, while the term used on Wikipedia is “Method of Loci”. The word Loci does not have anything to do with the tumblr/Internet icon Loki played by Tom Hiddleston in the Marvel universe movies, who coincendentally shares a lot of the fans of Benedict Cumberbatch. Instead, it derives from the Latin word for location. The method is not only used on the show, but also by various memory contest champions.

I would love to show you show how Mr. Holmes uses his Mind Palace as I find them the most interesting and visually stunning scenes on the show, but I can’t do it without spoiling the show for anyone. Feel free to search for them at your own risk.

So, how exactly does the method of loci work? In short, you memorize the setting of a specific location. When you’re clear on how your mind palace (or whatever you choose your location to be) looks like, you can start associating things you want to commit to your long-term memory with these locations. Should you need to retrieve the information, you can visualize walking through your mind palace to the specific spot and memory.

Obviously, I’m not a trained specialist. Thankfully, I’m not a hyperintelligent detective with possession of state secrets, so I can share a bit of the process I’ve been going through the last days to design my memory palace.

I started out with imagining a forest. First, I tried to bind memories, names and faces to branches of trees, which would then have been interwoven with each other. Soon enough I discovered that my knowledge of trees was limited and I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. As a device for remembering things, it would have failed almost immediately.

The second idea I had worked a lot better and serves as the basis for my mind palace (even though the palace is more of a shack right now). I started out with imagining a classroom with an infinite amount of rows. Then I started placing acquaintances at the desks. People I meet on a regular basis are in the first few rows, as I need access to that information regularly. People I see once in a while are seated a bit further back. Then I stuff their desks with information I’d like to know about them such as maybe their favorite book or movie.

After I starting filling up the classroom (which will probably take the longest to fill), I decided to expand the school by imagining different areas. Since I love movies, I thought of the cinema Metropol in Zurich and started placing movie posters at the walls. For instance, right next to the entrance is the poster of Gravity and some of the key info I remembered from seeing it and its IMDB page. Alfonso Cuaron directs and writes, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star, Ed Harris provides the voice and as a fun fact that the movie is exactly as long as the ISS takes to circle the Earth.

I did a similar thing formy sports interests, even though I’m not as far with that yet. For sports, I go back to the football pitch of my old high school and picture the sports stars sitting on the bleachers. It hasn’t worked perfectly yet, but I’m working on refining the details and on expanding my capacity for memories.

Obviously, I’ve just started to use this technique and have filled my locations with superficial knowledge that I’ve read or heard fairly recently. In the future however I’m sure I’ll be able to commit more experiences and facts to my long-term memory in a clearer and more efficient way.

If you have any comments or questions, please let me know in the comments or on Twitter! As always, please like, share and subscribe. See you on Thursday.

Sincerely yours,
Albert

 

Chapter 32: Running and Hiding

The first 31 chapters of “An Elusive Hero” can be found here.

Laurenar immediately bolted ahead of me. We didn’t head up the staircase I had come down, but instead slipped through a hidden door behind the stairwell. It was interesting to see him move without his restrictive, silver armor. Only clad in a linen shirt and linen pants, he was extremely nimble and quick on his feet. I almost struggled with following him. My actions had left me exhausted and woefully out of breath. Thankfully, we couldn’t just barge through the fort, but instead needed to take some careful and planned steps.

The corridor we walked through was dark and narrow, as one would imagined the hidden ways of an old fort to be. However, my surprisingly loyal sphere of light provided us with enough assistance to make our escape easier. Laurenar kept on heading through the tunnels with fierce resolve and determination.

“Do you know where we’re going?” I asked him, slightly worried about being trapped underground for the rest of my life.

“Yes.”

It was good to see that his captivity hadn’t changed him all that much. He was still as tightlipped as ever. And the knight did have a plan. There were not many paths to choose from in the darkness, but Laurenar never skipped a beat, gliding through nooks and creases effortlessly and urging me to keep up with him.

“Your command over the light is impressive.” He said, while signalling me to wait.

I looked at him stunned and surprised. In front us was a slim door and he was peering through a tiny opening to make sure we could slip out undetected.

“Does Seraphina know about your powers?”

“No, she wasn’t captured with us and I only started using this sphere in the cell.”

“Interesting.”

I hadn’t thought about Seraphina in a while. I was sure she would ride through the gates of the fort to save us, but so far nothing had materialized.

“What happened to the rest?” Laurenar wasn’t looking at me, but still examining the environment beyond the door.

“Tyler got away and hopefully went to find Seraphina. Michelle and Drake were injured and captured. But they were led away from me. I don’t know where they are held.”

The knight nodded and tightened his grip on the sword we had stolen from his unfortunate guard. “Did you meet the Chosen One?”

“Yes, I did.”

“What do you think?”

“He has a lot of power, but a lot of it seems to be showmanship.”

Laurenar nodded again and flashed a rare smile.

“You’re smarter than I thought you’d be.”

I felt myself blushing a bit. Of course, he was right. When I had arrived in Illusio, I couldn’t even hold a sword correctly. Now, I had just secured my first victories in fights and freed a captured hero. Not bad for a soon-to-be college student. But we were not in the clear yet. Laurenar was still observing the outside world, while we were stuck in the darkness.

“Where are we? What are you looking at?” I whispered, increasingly curious about our exact whereabouts.

Laurenar smiled again. “We’re under a stairwell in one of the main corridors of the pentagon. But the fort is a maze. I can’t say where exactly we are without being outside.”

“Then what are we waiting for?”

“A sign.”

He smiled at me reassuringly. Maybe captivity had in fact changed him a bit. What kind of sign were we waiting for? I looked at him and hoped to find any clues in his expression, but he had turned around again and patiently resumed his observation. If we were still inside the pentagon, we would need a lot of help to escape the walls of the fort. And would we just leave Michelle and Drake in here? Michelle had done so much to help and support me during my journey that it felt wrong to leave her here. We would have to come back later. Hopefully, we wouldn’t be alone, but with an army at our backs. I had to remind myself that I hadn’t escaped yet. Laurenar and I were stuck in dark corridor beneath a stairwell with the whole castle looking for us.

That’s when the sign Laurenar had waited for came. Three loud and roaring trumpet blasts travelled through the castle, sending the guards walking through the halls into full-blown panic mode. Their leisurely and methodical pace used to look for the knight and me had been replaced by sprints to the nearest doors and weapon chambers.

“What was that?”

“Our sign.”

Laurenar laughed quietly and motioned me to follow him as he burst through the door. He swiftly manoeuvred us into another dark corner. I motioned my sphere of light to become as small as possible and continued to be dumbfounded.

“What does it mean?”

“The Fort is under attack.”

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Thank you very much for reading so far. I hope you have a great Friday and wonderful weekend. If you’ve enjoyed the story so far, don’t forget to like, share and subscribe!

Sincerely yours,
Albert