About Clemens P. Suter

Clemens P. Suter is the author of post-apocalyptic and dystopian adventure novels. Visit this site to learn about his novels, paintings and travel.

The Experience of a Lifetime – Airtravel Back Then and Now

I just returned from a business trip Germany to Kansas City, and as I sat on the plane, it suddenly occurred to me that I must have witnessed this utterly stupefyingly safety pantomime over 400 times. That’s a whopping 1000 or so minutes shaved of my life, thank you FAA and EASA. And it doesn’t help either: just ask a colleague or fellow traveler to repeat what’s in the safety instructions and what to do if the plane must land on the Hudson River, and you will only get back embarrassed smiles. I can guess what passengers will do if a plane makes an emergency landing: I suspect some will continue to push and shove to get to the exit first – countermeasures to that are alas not in the instruction booklet.

OK, I’m exaggerating. Mostly I feel sorry for the crew that needs to go through the exercise, while the passengers are staring into their smartphones and picking their noses.

It’s not that I fly excessively, but thanks to my adventurous parents I had an early start getting airborne. I recall times when air travel was still special; reserved for a few businessmen or tourists that were a bit better off than the ordinary citizen. The countries were more exotic then: half of the world was out of bounds being communist and therefore utterly boring, and many of the other countries had no infrastructure to support any mass tourism. Nowadays, if you haven’t visited Iceland, the Arabian peninsula, Chili, the Congo or Detroit you do not count as a well-traveled tourist. And in every country you can buy exactly the same stuff these days. I know a Japanese couple that vacations every year in Tuscany, Italy, and friends of ours from Switzerland have been traveling with a camper through Yellowstone – every summer, eight years running. Get a life and stay at home folks.

But I’m getting distracted. Back then (I am talking about the seventies and eighties) if you entered an airplane, smoking was naturally not allowed. In the non-smoker section and until after take off that is, after that you could light up your cigarette, cigar or even pipe; and relax. The ashtrays in the armrests was emptied continuously by the crew, since air travel makes nervous (surprisingly very few people are aware of this observation), and together with the cheap cigarettes bought in the tax-free shop, the soothing effect of a relaxing smoke could be enjoyed intensively.
The smoky air and the lack of water offered (in those days nobody realized that dehydration is an unpleasant accompanying effect of air travel) put a terrible strain on travelers, leading to colds and coughs. My mother suffered from asthma, so we usually sat in the non-smoking section; enjoying the recycled, second hand smoke coming from the vents.
Halfway during the flight, a movie screen was lowered in the front, and a beamer came out of the overhead. One or two movies were projected on the screen to keep passengers occupied. These systems regularly crashed, so sometimes there was no movie to watch at all but in that case we could revert to six radio channels. After an intercontinental flight you knew all the tunes by heart and singing along wasn’t a big challenge.
The door to the cockpit was unlocked and even stood open sometimes (thanks, Osama bin Laden, for putting a stop to that ridiculous practice) and the captain regularly walked through the cabin to chat. if you asked the stewardess (no stewards then) you could actually go to the cockpit and the pilot would explain the instruments and the basics of aviation.
Due to security, you had to arrive at the airport early: for intercontinental flights this meant at least 45 minutes before takeoff. For domestic flights three minutes sufficed. Security checks consisted of a quick look at your passport,  hand luggage wasn’t scanned, and I recall passengers sitting on the plane with taped-up carton boxes and the like; anybody’s guess what they contained. Customs usually took those boxes apart after landing; I once witnessed the extraction of a 6 pound freshly caught fish from such a package (its freshness clearly debatable after an eight hour flight). Once, on a flight in the USA, a gun was confiscated. This didn’t upset the passengers too much, after all, in the lines for passport and customs checks we all enjoyed a relaxing smoke, ashtrays were available next to all waiting lines, so we didn’t need to flick the ash on the floor. We did throw our cigarette buts on the floor, I recall that a lady once scolded me and a cousin, stating that this practice was “frowned upon” in US airports. I was young and very much ashamed, I do recall that.
On most flights you had to pay for alcoholic beverages (but even as a teenager I could buy beer or whiskey, if my parents agreed, which they did). At the airports there was very little distraction: the tax free shop and one restaurant was all that you could visit, if those were available at all. Many terminals were rather empty buildings; a counter and uncomfortable metal chairs.
A few things didn’t change over the years: the aircrew was just as polite back then as now, which is surprising in light of the extreme stress due to higher numbers of passengers and increased security measures these days. There are a few more female pilots and a few more male stewards, but there is still a way to go on emancipation of the sexes in the transportation industry. The passengers are the same too: most compliant to the unnoticeable, a very few very obnoxious – usually explainable by higher levels of flight anxiety.

And United Airlines back then was just as ba… – but don’t get me started on that tangent.

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The Author Clemens P. Suter enjoying early days air travel

The Author Clemens P. Suter enjoying early days air travel

My Aunt Denise‘s close encounters

I have already reported about my aunt Denise and her slightly skewed view on life. Here’s another gem that she shared with us during one of our family get-togethers.

“I was shopping in our local supermarket, when I encountered in one of the isles this little man, oh, he couldn’t have been more than five foot tall. He was in his fifties, with a tidy beard and shirt and necktie. He stood on his toes, trying to get to the bottles of barbecue sauce on the top shelf, but they were just out of his reach. I hesitated, but then I stepped up to him and asked him whether he needed help. Was that wrong of me?”

We, her audience, couldn’t agree on the matter. Some said that it was fine to help other human beings, whereas others insisted that in this case offering help might be perceived as an insult – being of short stature should never be regarded a disability.

“Well in any case,” continued aunt Denise, “The man looked up at me with a stern look on his face, but he didn’t reject my offer. He pointed at a particular brand and in a surprisingly deep voice stated ‘I need that one there’.

“So, just as I used to do with my two sons when they were small, I stepped behind him, put my hands underneath his arms and lifted him up, so that he could get the bottle that he needed.”

By this time, aunt Denise’s audience fell silent and some eyes suddenly opened wide.

“What happened then was unbelievable. The little man began to sputter, kicked his legs, and squirmed so violently that I had to put him down. I almost dropped him to the ground! He was quite upset, saying words like ‘Unbelievable’, ‘I strongly object’, ‘Never been treated in this manner!’

“I was flabbergasted! Here I was, trying to help a fellow human being; acting as a good citizen, and this was the gratitude I received! Let me tell you; I gave him a piece of my mind then and there!”

Read more here.

Let me tell you a secret.

This summer was amazing: June, July and August, the sun beating on the Rhine valley like god’s anvil, the temperature hardly ever dropping beneath the thirties in daytime. No rain, the cistern ran out of water quickly and we had to install more wine casks as raincollectors to water our tomatoes and fruits.

The local swimming pool was crowded every single day, the nights too hot to allow restful sleep and the farmers complained that the absence of rain was going to ruin the harvest.

This brought back childhood memories. Let me tell you a secret, that may proof valuable for you.

Many, many years ago, when I was still a very young boy, my father arrived home one night accompanied by two men carrying a big box. The box was put on the table and unpacked. It contained the very first television set that my parents had bought with their meager  income. Mind, this was the time when most people still spent the evenings listening to the wireless.

The men installed the television on a small table and left. My father switched it on. My mother, my sister, my brother and I looked eagerly at the screen.

Only atmospheric disturbance was visible: a gray soup of signal accompanied by a fizzy hissing sound. My father played with the two antennas, moving them from left to right and back again. Suddenly a voice appeared from the ether, and after some more fiddling, a human face emerged out of the signal swamp.

My father lowered himself next to us on the couch. The five of us stared at the man; the first person we had ever seen on a television.

The man wore a dirty blue cap. He was standing in the middle of a field, obviously a farmer. Another man, outside of view (we could only see his arm and hand) held a microphone under his mouth.

“What will happen…,” said the invisible man, “If it doesn’t rain within a few days?”

The farmer looked at the sky, at the ground and started a long explanation in an exotic dialect that we could not understand. But his facial expression and voice made clear that the end of the world, if not of all times, was closing in on us.

We watched his narrative for five minutes. Then my mother said: “What’s on the other channel?”

My books: www.clemenssuter.com/books

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My favorite joke – “airplane crash” adapted to modern times

Donald Trump, Erdogan, the Dalai Lama  and a backpacking student are the four sole passengers on a plane crossing the ocean. Suddenly the pilot appears and says: “Sorry guys, both our wings fell off, engines gone, tail on fire: the plane is going to crash. Only four parachutes on board, I’m taking one, so goodbye and good luck.”

And he pulls open the door and jumps out.

The four passengers are stunned. Erdogan is the first to move, grabs one of the three remaining parachutes, straps it on and says:  “Guys, as the leader of the great Osman empire I have a responsibility for all Turks, and you will understand that it would be a terrible loss if I would die.” And out he jumps.

Donald Trump quickly grabs one of the two remaining parachutes, and shouts: “I am one of the greatest presidents and businessmen of the world, so true, I had the largest audience ever at my inauguration, I have big hands, the Democrats are to blame and I leave you with one parachute. So SAD !” And out he jumps.

Says the student: “Well, it seems only one of us can survive. Why don’t you take the last parachute?”

Says the Dalai Lama, with a twinkle in his eyes: “Don’t worry, son. Mr. Trump took your backpack.”

www.clemenssuter.com/books

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Tips to Survive the Apocalypse. Some highly ineffective recommendations.

John Harpsicord*), a follower of this blog, asked: What about the name of this blog dude! “Survive the Apocalypse” – I can’t find any apocalyptic content and no survival tips. Huh? WTF is that all about? Confusing.

Well John, at face value you do have a point. So let me explain why in fact this blog is ALL about surviving the apocalypse suggestions.

Once the apocalypse strikes – which may happen earlier than you think, through a deadly combination of global warming, over-population and some completely inept political leaders (so sad !) – there is very little that we can do. Stocking up on emergency food, baseball bats and pepper spray may sound like a sound strategy, but in reality you won’t know what has hit you. So the best survival strategy is… enjoy life while you can! Take life with a grain of salt and a lot of humor, because none of us know how long we or good ol’ Earth will be around.

The apocalypse does make for some great reading, as reflected in my adventure novels (curious ? Look here www.clemenssuter.com/books), and you can find a lot of information about these books on this blog, which is another explanation for the name.

And finally: aren’t we all, in one way or another, surviving our own personal apocalypse each and every day? Life can be tough as shit; and most confusingly, it is also absolutely beautiful. That’s what I try to bring across in my books and in the title of this blog: the negative of the Apocalypse and the beauty of Survival. Yin and Yang. And the confusion of it all: there are no easy explanations, life is complex and unpredictable.

*) name (slightly) changed

Photo by Charles Deluvio

Survive the apocalypse with appropriate headwear. Life is a contradiction and can be confusing as hell, so better enjoy it while you can (Photo by Charles Deluvio)

 

 

Shocking appearance in my dinner: Egg horror strikes again.

Is my kitchen HAUNTED? I have reported in the past about miraculous appearances in my evening dinner: especially in my fried eggs. See for instance this past blogpost.

I now report on a more shocking appearance. Is this the Creature of the Blue Lagoon in my eggs and fries? Vincent Price? Quasimodo? WHY?
Creature of the blue lagoon

Egg of horror

Top five ideas for your blog and self-publishing novels.

Carly, a regular reader of this blog, asked: “Why don’t you add ads to your blog? You create such great content; why don’t you monetize?” This got me thinking. I’ve been blogging for 10+ years, and here are some observations on how I’ve faired.

1. The number of visitors to my blog continues to increase month by month and year by year. Occasionally I have included ads in my blog, and in total I have made about… $13. Why is that? My blog focuses on content that I personally like. This is not mainstream content, it isn’t about gossip, sex, politics, current affairs, or even any one single topic. I’m presuming readers like to read the posts, but find ads distracting. Therefore, monetizing the blog through ads doesn’t add any value, neither for me as a blogger and author, nor for you as a reader, probably.

2. I have invested months in studying and implementing SEO, and I follow most of the rules in the SEO rule book – if that is possible (it is easy to overlook some important setting). The effort is considerable, yet Search Engine Optimization is a very intriguing topic that you will need to consider if you own a blog. In reality, 90% of the referrals to my blog arrive from my “Two_Journeys” Twitter channel, 7% from the “Clemens P. Suter” Facebook Page, and the other 3% from other channels – including search engines! By the way, my follower numbers on Twitter increase day by day, yet the number of followers on Facebook remains the same year over year.

3. Blogs compete for attention, and as more and more people are blogging, the tougher it gets to stick out from the crowd. I try to focus on content and less on the methodology and possibilities to monetize. My main purpose is to make potential readers aware of my books, and for that the blog is useful; a single site to attract people to, and bring them here.

4. Talking about selling books. I write adventure / SciFi stories (again see here) and self-publish. Here’s a very Intriguing Observation: >95% of my books are purchased as eBooks on iTunes. All other eBook formats such as Kindle, Kobo, and for other eBook readers, as well as paperbacks make up the other 5%. I suspect this skewed distribution across these channels has to do with the genre; I have no other explanation – perhaps you have an idea. Interestingly, every second person that I meet tells me that they prefer reading paperbacks: well dude, dudess; it’s not reflected in my sales😜. I am curious to hear your feedback or experience with this.

5. I’ve said it before: nowadays anyone with a laptop can be an author. Writing has been democratized, which is absolutely marvelous. At the same time, digging into to the ever changing landscape of online marketing is very rewarding too. Enthusiasm for the written word – perseverance – the motivation to try out new things – these are the ingredients that will help you be an author for a long time.

Hmm, perhaps I should add some ads to  this blog? What do you think?

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Two men reading one of my eBooks on their smartphone. Hot stuff!

 

Celebrating the 2010 release of my novel Two Journeys with a limited edition coffee mug.

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This special commemorative coffee mug can be filled with 350ml of hot coffee, even steaming hot: it is fully temperature resistant. All types are supported: latte, cappuccino, koffie verkeerd or macchiato; its smooth surface even protects against the oxidative effects of Devil’s Brew.

FAQ

How does it work? The mug comes with two holes: one hole (at the top) is used to both add and extract the coffee. The hole on the side is used to insert two fingers so that the mug can be lifted. (Confusing the two may lead to damage and/or injury.)

Can the mug be used for tea? Yes.

How about the artwork? Find the cover of Two Journeys on the front, and a mysterious QR code on the back! Where does it lead, you will wonder? Which miraculous domain of the internet?

Learn more here: http://clemenssuter.com/books

 

The Secret Art of Whistling

“Stop whistling, Clemens. Only laborers whistle,” my great friend and teacher C used to say. C was Austrian, and like many citizens from that cutlet-shaped country,  leaned towards eccentricity. Highly sympathetic, but thank you for the advice. Meanwhile I am glad I listened to most of C‘s suggestions, but ignored this particular one.

Many years later I had an eye opening experience with music. As a birthday present, my wife gave me a weekend-long harmonica training. A crash course with a professional harmonica teacher, Dale King. At the end of which I walked from the experience with the rewarding conclusion that I would never be able to play ANY musical instrument. Except for a CD player or smartphone, my limbs, fingers and lungs are unable to extract any melodious or rhythmic sound from any instrument. Problem solved.

There is some truth in the statement that everybody can and should sing, but being modest for once, I admit that my singing capabilities are limited.

But I can whistle. The tunes that Yehudi Menuhin squeezed from his Stradivari after long years of tortuous practice, effortlessly leave my two lips with no practice at all.

Whistling – it truly seems to be a secret art. I couldn’t find any article or reference  about the effect of whistling on well-being, physical health, war and piece, the economy or whatsoever. There are no lists of famous Hollywood actors, historical figures or politicians that indulged in this activity.  Did George Washington, Caligula, Margaret Tatcher or Jennifer Anniston ever whistle? The history books remain stumm.

But I LOVE it. In fact, I will now render Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. Beats my vocal version by a length.

Read more here: http://clemenssuter.com/books

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