Littering almost Killed my dog… again. 

So, there is no shortage of littering in the neighbourhood where I walk my dog, Riker. There are loads of festivals, carnivals, concerts and tourist attractions in the area all year long and while the need to do so is rage inducing, I have become quite adept at playing “dodge-the-death-pile” with Riker.

There have been overflowing garbage cans, garbage cans with holes in them or sometimes just not enough garbage cans for the amount of people (read trash) coming into the area. What ends up on the street and in our path when that happens? Well, next to the seemingly harmless paper wrappers and plastic bottles, there are used food containers (usually with left over, dirty, dangerous food waste) such as,  but by no means limited to: fish, sausage, bread, bubble gum, chips, crisps, chocolate and of course empty or even shattered alcohol bottles, the smell of which attracts dogs who don’t realize that both alcohol and glass can kill them. So we do our best to dodge these disasters.


But there doesn’t have to be an event for regular old ignorance to rear its ugly head and become the unwitting assistant to a swift doggy demise. Tonight’s attempted culprit? An entire bar of chocolate.

We were walking home along the back of the Odyssey Pavillon, when Riker went sniffing through what looked like fallen leaves. I had to bust into a sprint to get to him (he has an 8m long leash to allow for playing) when I saw one of the “leaves” go straight into his mouth. As I caught up to him he seemed super excited and anxious to stop me from wrestling what ever sneaky treat he’d found away from him. He jumped and twisted and even tried snapping at me, but that meant he had to open his mouth and that was just enough for me to get my hand in there – I had to go all the way back to his throat and I pulled out this monstrosity:


Here is the bar next to my hand for reference:

Do you know what chocolate and sugar do to dogs? If so, you’ll understand my horror… if not… let me break it down for you real quick:

“A small amount of chocolate will probably only give your dog an upset stomach with vomiting or diarrhea. With large amounts, theobromine can produce muscle tremors, seizures, an irregular heartbeat, internal bleeding or a heart attack. The onset of theobromine poisoning is usually marked by severe hyperactivity.

In large enough amounts, chocolate and cocoa products can kill your dog. The toxic component of chocolate is theobromine. Humans easily metabolize theobromine, but dogs process it much more slowly, allowing it to build up to toxic levels in their system.”

http://www.hillspet.com/en/us/dog-care/nutrition-feeding/is-chocolate-bad-for-dogs

And sugar:

Xylitol – A sugar alcohol found in gum, candies, baked goods, and other sugar-substituted items, Xylitol, while causing no apparent harm to humans, is extremely toxic to dogs. Even small amounts can cause low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure, even death for your pup.”

http://www.caninejournal.com/foods-not-to-feed-dog/

So yeah – leaving that lying around is DEADLY!!!

Here’s the deal, if you litter, not only are you an asshole who doesn’t care about societal norms and the environment, but in 99% of cases you are endangering animals, including other people’s pets. End of. No excuses.

Oh, it wasn’t you? You think your kid dropped it? I’m sorry if this is a little blunt for you, but if your offspring is too uncoordinated to eat and walk at the same time (or too little to just not throw junk out of their buggies) they shouldn’t be eating junk while travelling then!!! By all means, give your kids snacks if they’re hungry; apples, bananas, carrots, celery sticks… you get the picture?

If you insist that they DO need to be eating sugary junk while in transit, through shared public spaces, fine, but you better watch them like a hawk and pick up any mess they make. I pick up my dog’s faeces for the greater good of society around me for crying out loud, you can bloody well pick up any garbage your mini human throws around. It’s not just dirty, it’s bloody dangerous and yes I am swearing because I am f*cking livid!! If I hadn’t have wrestled that piece of garbage out of my dogs throat… omg … the possible consequences aren’t even thinkable!! Why did this happen? Because someone was an ignorant asshat!

Just know this: if you litter, you’re an asshole. If you encourage children to litter, you’re an even bigger asshole, nay a cunt even, and if I catch you doing either, I’ll make sure to publicly shame the shit out of you. We clear on that? 😡

Holy crap…

Now, to watch my poor puppers for the next couple hours to make sure he has no side effects from what ever he did manage to swallow. 😢

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Control your dog!

So, there are unspoken but universally accepted rules to owning and walking a dog. Most of them, I thought, were inherently obvious such as “pick up your dog’s mess” and “keep your dog under control”. Apparently these things are not as obvious to other people as they are to my dog owning friends and myself, though. 😦

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Here is today’s tale: There’s this lady in our neighborhood in Belfast, with an oversized white fluffy dog; I know its name but for privacy reasons let’s just call the dog “D”. It’s a giant teddy bear of a thing, I can’t quite judge it’s breed, but he’s friendly as all things; he just has zero manners and she is 100% NOT in control, always getting dragged behind him like a rag doll.

A few weeks ago there was an incident where he was so rambunctious, that he tore his own leash, leaving her to wrestle him by the collar. My Derek, being the gentleman that he his, leant the lady our spare leash and told her to just bring it back once she’d bought herself a new one. She was all grateful, we got the leash back, no problem – end of that story.

However today, as in 30-ish minutes ago, I was walking Riker and saw her; today I have lots to do and do not have the patience for the leash tangled mess that always happens whenever we bump into them so I choose a different route. At the local main attraction though, where all the dogs go walking, I’m talking to my Mum on the phone, via my headset so that I have free hands for puppy, when suddenly my headphones are ripped out of my ears by Riker’s leash getting tangled in them as he tries to hide behind me!!!!

“D” was OFF LEASH and his never-in-control owner was about 60m away, near the street! Now, “D” wasn’t being aggressive or anything, but he’s 4 times the size of Riker and off leash, trying his best to get his nose right up in Rikers ass for a good sniff! Riker can’t get away fast enough and I’m completely tangled in leash, cable and foreign fur!!!

I call out to her asking for help; her reply? “Just stay still! It’s what dogs do!” I yell back that she has to control her dog and come help me, she says “I am!”… (?) … She then gets to us and pulls her dog away, so I say “if you can’t control your dog he belongs on a leash, that’s why mine’s not allowed off leash yet!” What does she reply? “Well maybe you need to train your dog better.” with a sneer.

Excuse me? I need to train MY dog better?? We just got accosted by YOUR beast and it scared the wits out of both my Riker and me!

She then has the audacity to pull her dog away, proclaiming loudly for all to hear “come on “D”, clearly that doggy’s not allowed to play.”

It took all my self control to not to start an all out screaming match. I was livid; still am!

I knew I was going to get ugly if I stayed, so I stormed away, cutting poor Riker’s walk short.

How dare she? Clearly she didn’t recognise me or Riker, because she normally plays all cute and coy when we meet her… good to see what people are really like when they don’t know who you are!

Lessons learned? Other people are still assholes; don’t let a coy misdemeanor fool you.

Please please please, if your dog can not be vocally controlled leave them on their leashes. It’s not safe for them (traffic, rivers, other maybe not so friendly dogs or dog owners) and it’s dangerous for other dogs and people. Some people and other dogs, can be terrified by your dog, have allergies or react aggressively in defense.

Please remember that not all dogs like to be approached like that! I’m lucky because Riker is very social and he didn’t react aggressively but that could have easily turned ugly and I blame her 100% for all the risk!!!

Here are two great little posters I found online that outlines safe dog approach rules, if you’re a dog owner, or live near dogs, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with these guidelines.


I really hope that this insane lady, gets a better grip (literally) on poor Big “D” before something awful were to happen to him. I am terrified that he might run into traffic, or the water or antagonize the wrong dog… it’s not his fault his owner doesn’t know how to handle him. 😦

Riker and I are now curled on the couch, where he’s sleeping off the small shock.


Thanks for reading and thanks for being responsible dog owners. xx 

What a year….

What a year it’s been; plenty of good lots of bad & sad and here I am, in December, facing down what’s supposed to be my favorite time of year, hiding under a blanket with my (albeit concerned looking) puppy and a bottle of fruit wine trying to remind myself that I’m an adult… but I can’t really hear myself through my childlike sobs. Yikes.

So I think I need to write all of this down, the good, the bad and the ugly to get some perspective. And then share it with all of you guys. Because heck, if a gal can’t share her deepest and most time consuming thoughts with an internet of strangers, then with whom else? Right? 😉

So, to start off with, I am concerned about the planet as a whole and my absolute inability to do anything about it. I am concerned about the bleak future we’re facing. The refugee crisis, the countless humanitarian crises, harmul hardcore feminism, persistant anti-LGBT laws in areas as advanced as the European Union,  Brexit, Putin in the East, and the West condemned to a minimum of 4 years of Trump; all while we’re doing fuck all about global warming, the inevitable food and water shortage and the epidemic uprising of diseases such as cancer. image1

All of this floats through my brain at one point or another, during almost every waking minute of every waking day. Not all at once mind you, and usually more like the faint buzzing of bees in the background of the garden of my mind, rather than the shredding lawnmower at the front and center of it, but they’re always there and manage to remind me that there’s nothing I can do about them being there. This scares me.

It scares me, because it’s the world I live in, and whenever I may die, whether I have the privilege of dying of old age asleep in my bed, or if a freak accident or illness were to take me sooner, it’s the world I’m leaving behind for generations to come. Maybe I’ll have kids someday. Maybe my brothers will. Some of my inlaws already do, I have two beautiful nephews, and two wonderful goddaughters for whom I want to create a better world. And I don’t know how to. I feel tiny, powerless and insignificant to change anything.

That being said, there are also the mundane pains and sorrows of my every day life, which seem almost childish and selfish to linger upon in the face of such global catastrophe, but I live with them every day. So affect me they do, and face them I must. (If you were wondering, these ones are the lawnmower and his buddies, the leaf blower and weed whacker.)

It’s been a long year. I’m 26 years old, almost 4 years married, have a dog and live in a nice apartment. However, this year has raced by so fast… painfully fast even; and it’s the first time that I’ve understood what my parents meant when they told me as a child to appreciate the time I have because soon it will be racing by.

I feel old. Not in the “god I’m almost 30” kind of way, I hear 30 is supposed to be an amazing age and I’m actually greatly looking forward too it. No, I feel old physically and mentally… wishing there were more hours in the day for me and what I want, rather than spending my precious hours on the futility of the rat race.

The fact that I never got on with kids my age as a child has come back to haunt me as an adult. It turns out I still don’t like most people my age.

Other 20-something year olds take themselves one of two ways: either far too seriously (making me feel aloof and childish for loving board games and video games so much) or they’re all free spirited go getters with no semblance of what a consequence might be, and stay out till obnoxious times of night drinking dizzying amounts of alcohol that make me tap out before they even think the night has even begun. This also means that I’m struggling to make friends.

 

I have several great acquaintances in Belfast, but no one that I could call up whenever to just hang with; not like my besties back home. My husband hasn’t really found anyone like that either. The one or other beer buddy, sure, but not the types of friends you can rely on at a moments notice.

 

We’ve been here almost 3 years, and we’re incredibly lonely. With barely enough time to spend on one another and our family never mind trying to go out and make friends.

That leads me to my professional situation. I’ve found myself stuck in an industry that I don’t much enjoy, with rules, regulations and goals that definitely do not align with my own, but due to my lack of a university education I am lucky to be where I am at all. I am stuck. Good and properly glued down. I come home and I’m exhausted, mentally and emotionally and haven’t the energy to as much as do the dishes…. I’ve even cried myself to sleep more often than I would really like to ever admit.

This leaves my personal life a bit of a shamble… I’m not caring for my home properly, leaving laundry to pile up like small mountain ranges and dishes to run wild in the kitchen, like dirty pasta sauce crusted monsters. That of course has the side effect of my not caring for myself properly either. Think there’s time for the gym? LOL

I did great on Weight Watchers earlier this year, losing almost 20lbs and being well on my way to looking fab, but I felt like shit. That always happens to me by the way… I hate the way I look and feel, so I go on an extreme diet… I’ve lost 20-35 lbs three separate times in my adult life now, just to then crash and burn like an emotional wreck. I end up missing a casual beer, pizza night and popcorn at the movies… being perpetually hungry and “that girl who only eats salad” makes me feel like shit… so then I convince myself that I don’t need to diet at all, and that it’s okay to love myself the way I am and then what happens? I yo-yo right back up and past my original weight… I have never weighed as much as I do right now, and I hate myself for it. Yes I do. I loathe the situation I am in. I just can’t figure this out and I don’t have the time to figure it out any better either!!!

I try my best to be confident and bright, my darling husband always says the one feature he likes about me even better than my eyes and boobs (lol) is my confidence… so I try my damndest not lose that. I’ve spent a fortune on bigger, better fitting clothes, in flattering shapes and colours, have been getting my hair dyed and regularly boost myself with my favorite makeup routine.
But then I see a mirror. Or a photo from a party where I am literally 2 times the size of every other person in the photo with me… and despite my best efforts, and investments, I feel the icy grip of self loathing upon my heart.

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To be honest, I’ve been restricting again lately… not eating during day, to prove to myself that I’m in control, just to then lose the battle with hunger at night and completely overindulge. I can always try again tomorrow, I tell myself. Trust me, it sucks.

All of this, and some other things that I don’t think need to take up more space at present, have lead to me being quite down this Christmas season (don’t even get me started on the fact that I desperately miss my younger brother who moved away with his wife… it’s the first ever Christmas in my life that I am spending without him, and even though he’s a pain in the ass at times, I miss him fiercely and have been very sad about it at all attempted traditions this year. 😦 ) (In the bad metaphor of my mind’s garden, that’s the hole in the corner where once a great tree stood… it’s been moved to another park and now the gap is achingly obvious.)

The tree is up, the candles lit… but it all seems very half hearted. I’ve not decorated the rest of my apartment properly, and I’ve not even bought a single present! Usually I am DONE by now, but I’ve not even started!! I haven’t baked a single minced pie (I’m afraid I’ll have a “snaccident” if I do) and I’ve not even put in the effort to watching a single one of my favorite Xmas movies. 

 

ALL Of THAT being said, I also had some great things happen this year, so now that I have vented some of my biggest heartaches off my chest, I want to share some of the amazing things that happened, that I am truly grateful for and will hopefully get me back in gear in time for Christmas in 2 weeks.

image6I have an amazing husband. He loves and supports me through everything and I think we’ve really found our stride this year. He knows that I’ve been struggling a little, with how untraditional and sometimes “unromantic” we have been (based on the classic template) but, funny story, we found a YouTube video that gave us some serious perspective. I know right?? I’ll share it for you here: https://youtu.be/jltM5qYn25w Let’s just say it showed us that we’re the new kind of romantic, and have our very own way of bonding over things and that’s okay. More than okay, I genuinely believe it’s helped us be the best us we’ve ever been.

We have Riker, our pugalier puppy. He’s a gem and a pain in the ass, but I wouldn’t be without him. He’s my companion on days such as these, when Derek’s at work and I don’t want to be alone. He gets me out of the house and is my snuggle bug. (He also drives my parents crazy and ate the leg off of my new dining room table when we first got him, but hey, no one’s perfect. 😉 )

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We have made our apartment our home. When we first moved in, it felt like a huge hotel room, but just that, a rented space… someone else’s space that we were borrowing. It took almost two years, but now when I come home it’s exactly that – coming home. And I love every awkward little inch of this space. It’s our first family home, Derek, Riker and I, and I love it.

I have a job. I don’t have to be in love with it every day, but I have the good fortune of being employed, and being able to bring home a generous paycheck (for an uneducated hick 😉 ) and I’m grateful for it.
We’re about to go on vacation. Derek’s family invited us to go to Mexico with them for the new year, and it’s going to be glorious. My inlaws are quirky (whose aren’t?) but I love them to bits and can’t wait to see them and spend time with them and see how happy my hubby is when he’s with them. mexico

And I have my family. Through thick and thin, crazy and crazier, madness and insanity. They’re mine. They’re generous, loving, welcoming people, with hearts of gold and sparkling humor. I don’t know what I would be without them, and I’d rather not think about that. 

So that’s it… those are (almost) all the things that are battling in my head for attention right now and also, the long list of reasons why I haven’t blogged in such a long time.

I’ve been battling my demons and didn’t feel like it was genuine to be posting my thoughts on recipes and travel destinations when I wasn’t really feeling it.

Huge shout out to my dear friend Richard who took it upon himself to write to me the other day, asking when I would blog again because he missed reading my posts; I am not sure this lengthy, self centered, sob-story rant is what he had in mind, but hey, his encouragement helped me take the time to sit down and type this and hopefully find my new blogging groove. So thanks buddy.
I hope if find my Christmas spirit, preferably before the end of the season, and I just want to thank you all very much for letting me download and deal with my feelings in such a weird way. It’s oddly therapeutic.

Hopefully I will be back soon, this time with proper happy posts concerning travel, recipes, Disney dissections and of course the occasional rant.

Thanks all! xx

10 ways to be more connected

According to the official German language dictionary Langescheid, the German “Youthword” of 2015 is “Smombie” ~ Smartphone Zombie.

This is interesting since my father and I have been having some interesting debates recently about the rise of disconnected-ness among people these days, brought on by the rise of “smart” (or web enabled) technology.

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 10.09.11 PMNow, I am not blind and definitely do see the “zombification” of my own, as well as older and younger generations and I too am concerned, however, I genuinely believe that the technology itself is not to blame which is why I get so easily frustrated with this topic. I believe that the technology itself it’s wonderful (I wrote a whole poem about it), so let’s not dwell on that.

I don’t ignore my surroundings because they TAUGHT me that that would be rude. I am 25 years old (and married) and I still ASK before I put both of my headphones in on a lengthy family road trip, because they insisted on that when I was younger – and it stuck.

You know what else stuck? No phones at the dinner table. If mine was out it was gone… I was taught the art of making conversation and keeping eye contact. Also, when ever I had friends over, sure we were allowed to watch movies and play video games but eventually my parents physically turned the TV off and sent us playing outside or with toys. I am surrounded by the same tech as many others but I was raised right.

IMG_5998Maybe, today’s youth just aren’t being raised the same way but it’s also hard for parents to crack down on something that they themselves do all the time. The amount of adults I have seen who will blatantly text the whole way through a coffee date, permanently check their Facebook while visiting with friends or just can’t stop playing what ever the newest Facebook game is (Candy Crush, Farmville etc) while they’re supposed to be watching a movie together, is absolutely mind boggling to me.

The main point I am hoping to make is that I believe that bad habits, poor examples and lazy parenting have lead to our tragically disconnected state.

That being said, here are my top 10 tips to reconnect. You don’t have to try all of them, but I am hoping they will help. 😀

At home/personal space

  1. Enjoy the real world for at least an hour in the morning before you “plug in”. 
    1. Have a morning routine such as kissing your loved one(s), having coffee/breakfast, brushing your teeth and getting dressed ALL BEFORE checking your Facebook/Twitter etc. You may be surprised at how much more awake and aware you’ll feel if you day starts in the real world.
  2. Ban Phones/Tablets from the Breakfast/Dinner Table. 
    1. You could make it a game, there are plenty of suggestions for this on the web, or you could just all grow up and leave them well away.
  3. Introduce new hobbies/join a club. 
    1. IMG_3527A lot of the time we spend on Social Media is to fill the empty time in which we’re doing “nothing”. Having a hobby, be it knitting, sewing, puzzling, reading, scrapbooking, playing sports, learning a new language or just playing with the dog will give you something tangible to do, that you can enjoy on your own or even share with those around you.
  4. Limit Screen time – TV/Video Games/Tablets for EVERYONE.
    1. A lot of my time on the internet is spent doing nothing. As in I am just bored and clicking through YouTube, Blog Pages and social games to take up time. This is neither constructive nor healthy, so I suggest limiting screen time. If we only have 2 hours (for example) a day to be on Facebook, YouTube, blogs etc. we will really DO what we want to DO. Message the people we want to message, watch exactly those videos we really want to watch (recipes, DIY’s, romantic proposals 😉 , sports instructions etc.) and at the end of it, we won’t feel like we just “wasted” two hours of our day. We actually DID stuff, stuff that we wanted to do.
  5. Introduce Game Nights (no tech).
    1. Card games and Board Games are amazing. From Chess to Monopoly, through Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride, Yahtzee to Cribbage, there are countless amazing games out there that families and friends can play together without touching a screen. The trick is finding a game that everyone will enjoy, and once you do, you will have hours or hilarious (and connected) fun. IMG_4516

In Public Spaces

  1. Be aware of your surroundings, maybe even unplug once in a while (earplugs, where’s your bag?)
    1. Don’t walk/cycle/drive and look at your phone at the same time. Also, take out at least one earbud (if not both.) Having earphones in and music blaring stops you from hearing things like bike bells/sirens and also people when they say things like “excuse me” “pardon me” or “sorry” when they try to get passed you.  (Who knows you might even notice something beautiful like bird chirping or children laughing. 😀 )
  2. Smile at people you interact with (servers, people who hold the door for you, stranger passing on the street.)
    1. Your waiter/server is a person, look them in the eye, smile, respect their presence and their job. They’ll have a better day for it, and chances are you’ll even get better service for being such a swell human being. 😉 Sometimes a smile is all you need to brighten your own day and someone else’s, especially on a stressful Monday morning. Also, smiling is healthy, ask science.
  3. Keep an eye out for someone who may need your help.
    1. Same as a smile, a simple gesture of helping someone can go a long way. Whether you reach something from a high shelf at a grocery store for someone, hold the door open for someone whose hands are full, help a lost looking tourist find their way around your city  or help a senior cross the street, you will have a lasting impact on that person’s day. There are a lot of us on this tiny planet, and if we just all watch out for one another a little bit, we can make it a better place. (Excellent video on the topic here: https://youtu.be/nwAYpLVyeFU)
  4. Respect Public Spaces.
    1. Swearing can be fun, and sometime necessary, but we have this common agreement to not do it in public and especially not in front of children. Also, we really shouldn’t spit, “air-blow” our noses, litter, leave gum, graffiti or in any other way deface public spaces; these may all seem really obvious, but when we’re all so wrapped into our own little bubbles, it’s easy to forget our manners. These are shared spaces and we share a responsibility to keep them safe and clean – that includes not blasting music so loud that everyone else has to hear it and not being an obstacle to other people by just being unaware.
  5. Really explore some local gems. 
    1. IMG_4427Get to know your home town/area. Don’t just sit at home trolling the Web all Sunday long, get out of the house and explore. Invite friends, or go on your own, but try that new local coffee shop, check out the farmers market or try a new restaurant. Does your city/town/village attract any tourists? If so, ask yourself why that is and go see the local tourist attractions. Maybe you could even take a day trip to another fascinating local town to see what they have to offer, either way connect with your surroundings.

These obviously aren’t the be all and end all, and they might not work for everyone, but I think they’re a great place to start.

Take care. xoxo

 

Unacceptable Halloween Costumes

With Halloween well and truly behind us for yet another year, I figured now would be a good time to discuss some of the oddities that I cam across during this year’s frivolities.

Now, admittedly I am still a little hazy on how Halloween as we know it today (including trashy costumes & trick or treating children,) evolved from the Celtic feast of Smahain. Obviously I know the history of how the Christian Church adopted and twisted other cultures’ sacred holidays in an attempt to more easily coerce and subjugate them to their ways, which is how we etymologically ended up with “All hallows eve” which of course became Halloween, but how did the rituals and terrifyingly ghoulish costumes that were meant to scare away the ghosts and demons to ensure a safe and prosperous year ahead, get replaced with a sugar and/or alcohol fuelled extravaganza, observed in cheap knock off costumes of cute princesses, sexy professions and stolen cultures? *sigh* That would make for interesting research; I will have to do that some day.

Until then though, I would like to take this opportunity to call to mind the post I wrote a while back about cultural appropriation and how we, as a general “western” culture, tend to overuse that term to a ludicrous extreme in the name of political correctness.

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I ended up dressing as Jack Skellington from the Nightmare before Christmas by the way.

I still very much agree with what I wrote then, however, I came across some very grotesque and horrifying costumes in the store where I tried to shop for my own cheap and cheesy Halloween costume, and that inspired me to take another look at the “blurred lines” that I was referring to there.

Now, I have to admit that, as far as costumes are concerned, the line is very clearly not as blurry as I thought, and even though I am going to take the time in future to try to find some of these lines with the help of my many amazing international friends and acquaintances I am going to focus on two costumes that directly reference my home country Germany, and trust me when I say it’s not pretty.

IMG_4601IMG_4606Let’s just get straight to the point shall we? Do I love it when people from other cultures/countries wear a cheap Dirndl or Lederhosen to specifically dress up like a “bar wench”, “beer hall guy” or “booby waitress”? No, I don’t love it, but I also don’t hate it. It causes no harm and Oktoberfest, which is where most people know these costumes from, makes my home country of Germany an astonishing average of more than €1.1 billion (£863 million) every year. (And that’s only the total for Munich alone, not counting the many travellers who will include the Oktoberfest in a lengthier Germany holiday itinerary, leading to even more revenue.) So, on the contrary, if those costumes encourage more people to want to wear them (or the real ones) on a holiday to Germany the following year (and maybe even learn a little about our culture as an added bonus) that’s pretty much the opposite of harmful.

However, next to peddling these atrociously silly looking wench costumes, they also sold this:

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Yes that’s what you think it is… Let that sink in for a moment. Zoom in if you need to.

In case you refuse to believe your eyes (as I first did) it says: Gestapo Officer.

Gestapo… the Geheime Staatspolizei – the Secret State Police of the Nazi German government, run by Heinrich Himmler under order of Adolf Hitler himself. The organization existed from 1933 to 1945 during which time they directly participated in heinous war crimes including the unfathomable murders of over 1 million Jewish people. Most of their officers were tried and convicted of being war criminals after the war was over, and the organization as a whole was declared a chief institutional perpetrator of the holocaust.

This is not a costume. This is not funny. This is despicable.

You do not dress as a war criminal. You do not dress as a Gestapo Officer. You do not dress as Adolf Hitler. You also do not dress as any other known real murderers, psychopaths, terrorists or tyrannical dictators. These people and groups have left/are leaving immeasurable scars on societies and humanity and using them as a cheap “shock and awe” costume disrespects everyone they have affected, injured or even murdered from the individual victims all the way up to whole groups of society.

Let me make this clear: If you wear this, you are an asshole. A grade A, ignorant and horrific asshole.

Also, if you sell this – you are the most shameful scum of the retail world.

Dress as a ghoul, a ghost, a vampire, a zombie, a banshee, the Lough Ness Monster, a Yeti or any of the other 1000’s of mythical creatures you can choose from for Halloween, Karneval or even your fancy dress party, from the countless cultures around the world.

If you’re into sexy kittens or buff firefighters instead, fine, *eye roll* be that too! But for the love of humanity do NOT be an dick (or a cunt in the interest of avoiding rampant sexism).

Unless you want to literally dress up as a dick or a vagina; those costumes really do exist but at least they are just vaguely uncomfortable and awkward, with the added bonus of being offensive only to prudes; so please feel free to dress up as a literal dick or cunt, but please do not be one.

Are we clear? Good….

I absolutely hated finding that disgusting costume in the shop and I hated having to write about it just because it exists and it’s made me very angry (and hopefully made you, my dear readers, a little more aware of what’s out there and what really isn’t acceptable so that you can avoid stores that sell such trash and avoid dicks and cunts who dress like them). That being said… I wanted to leave you with a laugh or at least a cringe, so with no further a ado, the aforementioned penis and vagina costumes. 🙂 Enjoy. 😉

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Problems with the Bechdel Test

While wading through some message boards and comment sections of the internet, which is a messy business in and of itself, one can almost guarantee that where ever movies are the subject of discussion, sooner or later someone will bring up the “Bechdel Test”. It is the accepted measure to which “we” hold movies to establish whether or not women are being fairly represented in that particular work. One then, usually, has to sieve through the mindless drivel that is the sexists to a fro between self proclaimed feminist champions and non-feminists (for the sake of being polite?) in the inevitable battle of those who clearly have too much time on their hands.

Now, it is no secret that Hollywood and many of it’s international movie making colleagues, have a really bad habit of misrepresenting almost any group that isn’t comprised of white, heteronormative males and as a society and a culture, this is an issue that we desperately need to address. The “token” _____ character (as in token woman, token ethnic sidekick and token LGBTQ character just to name a few) need to stop being used. They shouldn’t be afterthoughts, set pieces, and punch lines but instead need to be fully represented as the complete human beings that we all are. (That is not to say that men in movies don’t also suffer from severe stereotyping and unrealistic expectations, but let’s tackle one issue at a time here… so today, I’ll stick to women.)

That being said, the “Bechdel Test“, which was devised, almost somewhat by accident, by American cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985, is in principal, this simple rule: does the movie feature two women, who have names, and who talk to each other about something other than a man?

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It seems pretty straightforward and has also become “the standard by which feminist critics judge television, movies, books, and other media”.[reference]

Primarily, sure, it seems like almost any movie should be able to deliver that. How hard can it be to have at least two, named, women talking to each other about something other than a man? And yet it’s indeed alarming to see just how many classic and popular movies fail this simple test.

That leads me to my main thought though; as surprising as that fact might be, my personal problem with this test is, that, in a nutshell, I think it’s useless as a measure to truly grasp a single movie’s representation of women.

I do not for one second believe that this overly simplified rule actually allows for he assessment of whether or not a movie is sexist, inclusive or empowering. So, I do not believe that a movie that does not abide this rule is inherently “sexist” or “disenfranchising” to women, and I am also very certain that just because a movie passes this test, does not mean that it actually has well rounded and properly represented female characters in it either.

Let’s take a look at one of my favourite movie series of all time as an example: Harry Potter. (7 out of the 8 movies pass according to bechdeltest.com by the way.) What inspired me to write about this topic at all, was a conversation that I had online last night about the Bechdel Test in relation to “Deathly Hallows Part 2”.

This movie passes the Bechdel test, but most “hardline” guardians of the rule believe that it shouldn’t be allowed to pass. There are three scenes that include a female character talking to another female character about something other than a man. List here:

The first one is a young Petunia yelling at her sister Lily: “You’re a freak Lilly. I’m going to tell Mummy.” in reference to Lily’s use of her magical abilities, the ones that Petuina didn’t have. (See the scene here starting at 1:05 -> https://youtu.be/LHolRZeQNG4)

The second features Minerva McGonagall and Molly Weasley as they prepare for the Battle of Hogwarts and Minerva declares: “I’ve always wanted to use that spell” when she has just commanded an army of stone soldiers (who only a moment previously were inanimate statues) to defend the castle. (Watch it here starting at 0:20 -> https://youtu.be/5XxfBDkCiVk)

Finally, Molly Weasley, who has just lost a child in that battle, protectively steps in front of her daughter, to fight Bellatrix and screams: “Not my daughter you bitch!” before obliterating her in a fierce magic fight. (Watch it here: https://youtu.be/Oybz5Q-If9M)

Now, the aforementioned hard line defers of the rule proclaim that none of these should count as a pass since in neither of these scenes the women talk “to each other” (it’s just one woman declaring something to the other). What nonsense.

Let’s dissect those scenes a little bit, and whether they truly need to meet the Bechdel Test standards for the women in those scenes to be considered real and well rounded characters.

Would Petunia’s fear and simultaneous jealousy of her sibling been any less real or deep, if Lily had been a boy? Would it have made a difference to the tale told in that scene, if Lily had answered in some way? We all know that Petunia grew up to be a terribly fearful, spiteful and bitter woman, who was afraid of anything different and yet  she is secretly, devastatingly jealous of the life her sister had. That anger turned back to fear when Harry arrived and she did everything she could to squash the magic out of him, in the hopes that he wouldn’t also be a “freak” like his mother. That childhood scene carries so much emotion and depth, especially to those who know the whole series, that it doesn’t need anything else, and yet, if Lily had been a boy, this scene would have failed, despite the real pain Petunia was feeling.

Minerva McGonagall has been an incredible role model throughout the entire series. Stalwart and strong willed, with a cool head and open mind she is as fine a leader and teacher as Hogwarts could ever ask for and I would even tend to say that she is an even better role model than many men in the series. In her above mentioned scene, we see a silver lining in her darkest of days, one could even call it a sense of childlike joy, cracking through her tough facade, even for just a moment as she gets to finally use that spell. Would that moment, that pure joy at doing something awesome amid the chaos, have been any less endearing, sincere or touching if she had said it to Neville, Ron or Hagrid instead of Molly? I most certainly don’t think so.

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Molly grieving with Ron for his brother Fred.

Finally, Molly and Bellatrix. Dear mother Molly, the woman everyone wants to have looking out for them. She has been a quintessential part of the Harry Potter series since day one. A true mother and housewife by choice, she has just as much brain and brawn as any of her male counterparts, and the heart of a mother to add to it.When she selflessly stepped into battle with one of the most notorious, criminally insane, mass-murdering lunatics of her time to defend her baby, would that have been any less powerful, any less heartfelt, any less brave, or any less real if she had been defending a son? Think about it; if she had been defending Ron instead of Ginny this scene would have failed!! How on earth can that be? Is the implication here that daughters are worth more than sons? If you genuinely believe that to be true, then I invite you to go tell any mother that one of her children is somehow worth more than the others based on their sex and I’ll wait here, as you get driven to the ER to get what ever implement she got her hands on first extracted from your chest cavity.

Not tempted to try? Good – let’s move on.

All of this being said… these scenes just barely passed the “Bechdel Test” and yet the qualifications by which they passed have absolutely no bearing upon the content of scenes or the strength of their character.

(BONUS ROUND: Was Narcissa less of a woman as she defied the single most terrifying monster in the HP universe to save her son Draco, just because she talked to a man (Harry) about her son? Is Hermoine less of a genius wunderkind, or less of an incredibly loyal friend and brave fighter, just because her two best friends are boys and so most her time is spent with them? And what about Tonks? Was her sacrifice to give her son and her community a better future any less noble just because she died at her husband’s side rather than with other women?) You see where I am going with all of this don’t you?

The Bechdel Test is not, in any way shape or form, a fair way to determine whether female characters are truly represented in movies.

I believe that a character is defined by themselves, their own actions and their own strengths, regardless of their surroundings. Making the decision as to whether a movie is female friendly based on the surprisingly sexist notion of who those women should be allowed to talk to and what they should be talking about is incredibly disjointed.

There simply must be a better way to examine the balance and fair and realistic representation of women in movies. Instead of the quantity of screen time, what about the quality of said screen time? Regardless of whom the character was talking to, or about what, we should ask ourselves was the scene earnest and the characters well rounded, or was the woman (and her lines), just thrown in as an afterthought?

I’d rather see a movie with no women in it at all, than one where 2 women were crammed in as the last minute, as token females, to pass this very arbitrary test.

As I so avidly pointed out with the Harry Potter examples, it’s not about who they talk to, or what they talk about – to me it’s about it being genuine, well rounded, relevant and authentic. Whether the woman is talking to a another woman or a magic teapot and whether that conversation is about a man or a toaster, I don’t care as long as it’s real.

In closing, I would like to provide you with some alternative “movie tests” that you could read up on if you like. The Russo Test is like the Bechdel Test for the LGBTQ community, except one of their requirements is that “the character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect”. Now that makes sense! I also like the “Sexy Lamp Test“. Comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick suggested this test saying that: “If you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.”

There are countless movies that fail the Bechdel Test, that (each in their own way) have awesome, amazing, funny and well rounded female characters and I will leave you with a list of those I found most surprising. I like/love all of these movies and believe that classifying them as somehow being “sexist” or “misrepresentative of women”, just for not passing this test, is unhelpful and plain wrong:

  1. Home Alone, 1990 (What won’t his mother do, to get home to Kevin?)
  2. Aladdin, 1992 (Jasmine was pretty clear in wanting to choose her own life and not letting herself be controlled.)
  3. The Pagemaster, 1994 (Fantasy proved hands down that “fantasy” is not gender specific, and that she is tough as nails.)
  4. The Hunchback of Nortre Dame, 1996 (One word: Esmeralda)
  5. Shrek, 2001 (Really? Fiona isn’t a powerful female character? )
  6. Lord of the Rings, 1, 2 and 3 (Eowyn and Arwen must have been figments of my imagination… the one defied death to save an army and the other faced mortality to be with the one she truly loved, but that’s not strength I guess).
  7. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, 2001 (wait… what?)
  8. Mr. & Mrs. Smith, 2005 (super powerful female spy anybody?)
  9. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2005 (… nope …)
  10. Ratatouille, 2007 (“Keep your station clean, or I will kill you” – Chef Collette)
  11. Wall-E 2008 (BTW I just want to mention that Wall-E failed to be “female friendly” while in that same year “Twilight” passed!!)
  12. Avatar, 2009 (Yes, James Cameron’s Avatar the one with the kick ass female warriors and whose society is a religious matriarchy is not female friendly…)

You know what … that’s enough for my nerves… that’s 12 examples (I skipped so many) and I didn’t even reach the 2010’s …  you can read them all for yourself here: http://bechdeltest.com/?list=all 

It would also have been fun to comprise a list of movies that passed, but have terrible female representation… but I will leave that for another day. xoxo

Cultural Appropriation?

There has been a surprising increase lately in conversations (or online shouting matches) about the horror of cultural appropriation; usually these derail into fantastical examples of Godwin’s Law and leave the rest of us to scratch our heads in disbelief.

Now a quick dip into Wikipedia shows that cultural appropriation is generally defined as the “adoption of elements of one culture by members of a different cultural group, especially if the adoption is of elements of a non-dominant culture by members of the dominant culture” and that this is a bad thing because it [cultural appropriation] “differs from acculturation or assimilation in that “appropriation” or “misappropriation” commonly refers to the adoption of these cultural elements in a colonial manner.

Now, I am a stern advocate that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it, and as such, it is important to note that for many years it was considered perfectly normal for “the imitator, “who does not experience […] oppression […] to ‘play,’ temporarily, an ‘exotic’ other, without experiencing any of the daily discriminations faced by other cultures” and that this was, at that time, inexcusable and downright wrong.

Of course there is a fascinating and full article on the subject, including examples from art, iconography and adornment on wikipedia, and I encourage you to check it out.

That being said, in today’s global world, most of us are doing our very best to not be “colonial” “culturally dominant” or “oppressive”, but rather inclusive and equal. Do we still have major problems with racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia? Absolutely! But I sincerely believe that we’re not going to solve those problems by creating more artificial divides.

Most people living in the Americas for example, have multi cultural backgrounds, whether they actively acknowledge that or not. The majority of the people living on those continents are the descendants of immigrants, who arrived either voluntarily and forced since the 1600’s, but either way, the chances of anyone being able to trace their roots back through just one culture  and one country until records go no more is almost impossible.

Of course we can not forget what happened in history, but I refuse to succumb to historic guilt. I deliberately say “historic guilt” instead of “white guilt” because if I had to apologize for the sins of every culture I descend from, I would never leave the house for shame. I was not there. I didn’t do it. I will not be guilted.

dressI myself am half German and half Irish (with the right to a British Passport since my Mum was born in Northern Ireland), and that’s just the parts I know about. Chances are if I dig into my family tree some more, I will find immigrants from yet more cultures on either side; for example I’ve been told that my Irish family tree has been traced back as far as the vikings. So I guess that also makes me part Norse? My husband is another brilliant example, his father is a white Canadian with family ties leading back to European roots most of those, with exception of the French ties, are unknown to us; and his mother’s family are Asian. Our children will (at the very least) be German, Irish, British, French, Asian-Canadians … now which culture are they expected to settle on?

That being said, what inspired me to even think about this very sensitive topic, is the recent case of several famous music festivals in Canada banning the wear of indigenous feathered headdresses. I can’t help but disagree with the decision and many people have already labelled me a clueless racist for it. (Which in and of itself is racist by the way.) I don’t disagree with it because I don’t appreciate how culturally valuable the headdress is, or from some sort of ignorant disregard for the ongoing unbelievably poor treatment of Native Americans and Canadians, but because I refuse to see one culture as more valuable than another. There, I said it.

In todays society, I do not find it appropriate to cry cultural appropriation, a very clearly negative accusation, when someone wears a feathered headdress, dreadlocks or a sari, while at the same time it’s 1) perfectly fine to dress up as a sexy German bar wench at Halloween, 2) wear green & get stociously drunk while pretending to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day and 3) celebrate Chinese New Year with cheap fortune cookies and chopsticks in one’s hair.

Yeah… those are a thing….

All cultures are special. All cultures are unique. All cultures deserve to be respected. And in my personal opinion there is no one culture who is more important or more entitled to “protection” than  another. Which is why it is almost impossible to draw a line of what is “permitted” and what isn’t. Cultures are not property. They do not belong to only one group and if they did, we would have an incredibly hard time dictating global rules for what can and can’t be worn/displayed/enjoyed etc.

Let’s just presume for a moment that cultures were actually treated s property, the property of those who belong to that culture. How would we go about that? Well for starters we would have to forbid the wearing of ANY and ALL cultural dress, if you can not prove that you are part of that culture. No Dirndl or Lederhosen, no Irish dancing dresses or Aran Jumpers, no Berets, no Kilts, no Salsa Dresses, no Qipao, no Kimono, no Sombrero … and on and on it goes. (There’s a comprehensive list of international cultural attire here: https://goo.gl/t01Vkj) Where does it stop? Where do we draw the line? Does it stop with cultural attire?

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 12.20.21 PMOf course not, since cultural appropriation also incorporates music. Yes music! Can you imagine a world where instruments are segregated? Only Europeans are allowed to play the guitar and the piano, almost any “classical” instrument for that matter; bodhrans are reserved only for the Irish, bagpipes for the Scottish, cajòns for Peruvians and the Didgeridoo only for indigenous Australians. (Who own’s computer and techno music then, by the way? Just out of curiosity…)

The next big one of course is religion and spirituality. If we are going to say that one religion or spiritual branch is more sacred and valuable than the other, and that it’s practises and symbols (such as the feathered headdress) are not to be worn or used by other cultures, well then we have a problem that dates back thousands of years and needs to have an end put to right now. (<- sarcasm)

treeIf you are not a christened Christian: no decorative crosses, easter celebrations or Christmas for you. While we’re at it, there should probably also not be any non Celtic Shamans or pagans, if one is not Asian is some way then Buddhism is not for them either, and of course there can’t be any Islam, Judaism or Hinduism outside of their own respective countries, cultures and races. Needless to say this would also mean no Yoga, Reiki, hot stone massage, Thai massage, acupuncture or herb-lore outside of their own respective boundaries either.

Am I the only one who sees how stupid that sounds?

We are a GLOBAL world. Yes, we have shared a past that is overflowing with racism, xenophobia, cultural crimes, atrocities and more but we are not going to heal these wounds and stop them from ripping open again, by continuing down a path of cultural segregation.

We need to work on our tact – absolutely. I know that it can be hurtful seeing someone taking something special to your culture and just messing with it as if it were a play-thing.

For me personally it’s not the headdress, but it’s exhausting to hear the Irish be the punchline to every drunk joke; seeing the whole world get putridly intoxicated on March 17th pretending to be oh so very Irish by being belligerently inebriated (thanks for that stereotype) while completely ignoring the very deep and dark history of the named St. Patrick himself.

It’s embarrassing to see people squeeze themselves into cheap and flimsily made Dirndl costumes or imitation Lederhosen for the other big annual European piss up, Oktoberfest. Those are both a very old and interesting cultural dress, expensive to make and to own, and yet they are only ever used as the “bavarian bar wench & her boyfriend” costume when Oktoberfest rolls around. Show of hands for anyone who actually knows the history of this event? … … …

Thought so… for those who care to know, it started as a royal wedding, with adjoining horse races and beer and wine tastings, that ended up getting repeated as an anniversary and cultural celebration in the same filed (named after the bride) every year there after and evolved ever further. Today it even concludes with celebrations of the day of German reunification …  but thats okay, who cares as long as we can all get drunk, right? *eyeroll* History this way -> https://goo.gl/eU0snz

Of course there are so many more examples such as Chinese New Year being celebrated around the world with oh so many stereotypes (as already mentioned) as well as the world having a surprising amount of bagged and tagged stereotypes (not good ones at that) for the French.

But with all of this in mind, do I want to ban any of it? OF COURSE NOT! How is anyone going to learn the true history of St. Patrick, Oktoberfest, the Chinese Lunar Calendar and Bastille Day if we don’t have open conversations about them? The Claddagh, the Dirndle, the Qipao and the Eiffel Tower aren’t just symbols and adornments, they have history and meaning. History and meaning that is best shared, learned about and appreciated.

I sincerely believe that all cultures deserve to be maintained, kept alive, appreciated, admired and most importantly respected and that also means sharing them with others, so that our beliefs, our ideologies, our songs, our foods, and our languages do not become forgotten bygones.

The future is in a cultural equilibrium not in cultural segregation.

So no, even though I think we need to have a serious conversation about respect and appreciation, I really don’t believe that outright banning the headdresses (or any other cultural anything for that matter) is the right move – at all.

I just hope that with this, I can spark some enlightening, helpful and maybe even multi cultural conversation.

As always, thanks for reading. Take care. xoxo