The Slow Typist

This is the first post I have ever written using my phone. Well, I’m writing it now.
The reasons for this are plentiful: for once, I love my laptop and I love tying away on it. Also, I am excruciatingly slow when I type on my phone and it requires my undivided attention. If I want to send someone a message while I’m walking somewhere, I have to stop so I don’t fall over or walk into a street lamp.
Another issue is that I message and type in more than one language and although my autocorrect is in English, I have it set so that it remembers words I use. This slows down the process even more as I can’t rely on my phone to autocorrect “im” to “I’m” because it knows the word “im” from my German correspondence (it means “in”).
So why am I changing my ways all the sudden? Well, I have recently come to rely on my phone more and more as my Internet is constantly down and I have grown to love it. So here we go. I’ve just taken this relationship a step further.

B x

The Orgastic Future That Year By Year Recedes Before Us

It was by accident that I had never read The Great Gatsby. Half a decade ago, an obsession about this book seemed to take hold of my closest friends, but bypassed me for some strange reason, and then again a few years later, other friends were hit by the wave (they were studying it in English Lit) and at around the same time a new film adaption of it came to and went from the cinemas.

That I have not seen this film is another small wonder. After all, it had all a film needs to lure me into the red velvety seats: Some famous director (Stephen Spielberg? No?), Leo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan and Kanye West and all my friends raved on about it. I can’t actually remember the exact reason why I did not see it, but I suspect that it was an accumulation of factors (no money, all my friends had already seen it, had to study or at least pretend to do so, or really anything along those lines).

I finally did it now. Read the book that is, not watch the film. Usually when I read so-called “classics” that I have heard so much about before even opening the book, I have a repertoire of three possible reactions:

  1. I love it.
  2. I don’t love it. This can mean both indifference and a proper dislike.
  3. I love it but still close the book with a disappointed impression.

Gatsby was the latter. Most people will agree with me that there are some undeniably brilliant qualities to this work: I mean, just how it is written. Fitzgerald generally has a way of being ridiculously quotable, but he’s definitely grown beyond himself in Gatsby. And it’s not even the main plot that makes you think “this is so true”, but the detailed descriptions. Take the descriptions of the first of Gatsby’s parties that our narrator attends. Even though this is a posh, sophisticated party set about a century ago, there are so many parallels to parties I’ve been to (that were improvised, featured cheap liquor and 90s music), or maybe just universal truths. Here are my five favourite quotes from that passage:

The bar is in full swing and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside until the air is alive with chatter and laughter and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.

“(…) I’ve been drunk for a week now, and I thought it might sober me up to sit in a library.”

I had taken two finger bowls of champagne and the scene had changed before my eyes into something significant, elemental and profound.

“And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”

I was alone and it was almost two.

But then, marvelling at all this brilliance, as mentioned before, I was also stuck by some disappointment. There’s really only so much praise that a book of 50 000 words can sustain. The hype, the myth about this book as long outgrown it’s physical presence, the ink on the pages. This, of course, I can only judge from my point of view, which, in this case, is that of a leisurely reader. From the point of a scholar, or even just a year nine studying this book in class, I can only suspect how amass of literary devices and quirks the work is.

Here, as a way to end perhaps, is the quote that I think sums up the book best (back in my days of literary analysis and interpretation, oh boy, the amount of meaning I could have read into this one sentence…):

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…

B x (this post was part of an “Around the World Reading Challenge” I’m doing. Read all about it here!)

A Guide To Being Hungover

As you might be able to guess from the title, this is going to be a post about being hungover, because frankly, I am just very very hungover on this wonderful morning.

Usually when this happens I just sink into bed and sleep for a day or two. Unfortunately I have a driving lesson today (in about three hours…), so that is not really an option. On the other hand, I have had some very very productive days after nights of very very heavy drinking.

So, today, I will have to create that atmosphere of wellbeing and sunshine and lollipops. Please feel welcomed to accompany me on this journey.

Let’s first recount the events of last night and the events that are meant to be happening today: I have that sometimes quite comforting habit of memory loss. As soon as I have more than two glasses of wine, I can’t count on being able to remember anything that happens afterwards. Bad choices, therefore, are often just forgotten. On the other hand, it can be quite unnerving. Today it proved to be the latter. My memory skips about five hours and continues with me walking in the middle of nowhere, whilst crying “I just want to go home”.

Getting home, then, proved a full-grown odyssey. I had no idea where I was, the battery of my phone was dying and I was so, so cold. I finally fell into bed at 7 am after a series of walking in circles, taking busses that took me even further away and smoking as a way to guard me against the cold (it does not work, believe me).

Now, let’s face today. I’ll have to get through my driving lesson alive. Also, I have no idea where my bike is. Gonna have to do a bit of a search. I just hope it is still somewhere near a place that I can remember being at. Given how far away I found myself when I regained consciousness (that’s probably not the right word), I might have to face the fact that my beloved bicycle is infinitely lost.

Oh, and (last but definitely not least), I have a Skype interview at seven tonight. As a lovely add-on, my internet is once again not working, so I’ll have to go find a quit secluded spot at the library to skype at. Ugh.

Now, here are my seven steps to sobering up and dealing the next few hours:

  1. Drink 3 litres of tea. Drink it hot and drink it fast. As I’m sure you know, symptoms of a hangover are usually related to dehydration. The best choice of tea is German, of course, as all the things connected to what you do before, while and after drinking very very much: Ostfriesen-Tea. It’s a really strong black tea and, handily, you can buy teabags that make a whole litre of tea. After these three litres, other drinks might be considered: Hot chocolate, coffee, you name it. If you’re not much of a tea person, I recommend drinking 3 litres of iced water.
  2. I recommend a traditional Northern German dish: Labskaus. I will not elaborate on what this is (google it if you must), because it is one of those dishes like taramasalata: So yum, but better if you don’t think too much about what it is in particular. Otherwise, of course, any other hearty, easy to make and easy to eat meal is fine (soup is the logical choice).
  3. There is nothing better to distract you from how everything is spinning and the disgusting taste in your mouth than well-beloved comedy. The better you know it, the better a choice it is. Make sure you always have a boxset around.
  4. Check your phone. After a period of charging, it is the time to set your affairs straight. If you have the habit of drunk-texting, now is the time to send those awkward but necessary follow-up messages, any apologies should be made as soon as possible. Also, I usually have friends with better memories that can help me re-establish the previous night.
  5. Search for things. The sooner you find them the better: you won’t have to worry anymore and the longer the wait, the higher the risk you will find your possessions damaged or not at all. This is especially true for contact lenses.
  6. Brush your teeth, have a shower, clean up vomit if necessary.
  7. Go for a walk. Well, right now I can’t really walk because I dragged myself through the landscape last night, but if I could, I’d go for a walk. Fresh air is a miracle when it comes to the consequences of extensive liquor consumption.

I gotta be off then, people, I’ll get started on that third litre of tea.

B x

Weekly Happiness Update I

Over the last few weeks I have greatly neglected my happiness project, and, surprise surprise, I am considerably miserable. To be fair, I don’t think the neglect is the primary reason for that. I’ve known myself for almost nineteen years now, and I know I’m at my best when I’m sucked up in routine. After the semester is over and the next one isn’t starting until April, I’m pretty much free 24 hours a day. On the other hand, I have driving lessons and physiotherapy during the week and have to stay here for most of the holiday.

So, yeah. Only a week after my last exams I have turned into a bit of a sloth. Of course I had great plans for my newly gained free time, but… You know how it is.

Really it is not much of a secret about how this happiness project works for me, and why reading self-help books really do work: It is not because these include life-changing advice, but because they really just remind us of what we already know. I know that not showering for days and days decreases my happiness considerably and that I feel a lot better when I drink more than two litres a day (tea, that is, not alcohol).

So, anyways, it is time I take up my happiness project again and stop being miserable when it is so easy not to be. I’ll need to update my resolutions to my current situation and then implement these accordingly. I’ll do that right now actually, after I do the dishes (Happiness Secret #482: I’m happier when I’m not surrounded by dirty dishes that stare at me guiltily.).

You’ll hear about those next Sunday!

B x

Broad City Bitch, Broad Broad City Bitch

I love love love Broad city. And somehow, I seem to be anything but alone with this sentiment – everyone loves Broad City. I still have to warm up to the fact that this kind of humour has shuffled into mainstream culture. I mean, I love it, but it does take some getting used to. As a quirky web series it would not have surprised me, but TV?? The times are a changin’! Good for them.

There are so many reasons why I love this show and why I hence love that so many other people love it too. For once, I love that Broad City does not try to generalize. I mean, it shows the lives of two friends in New York, but unlike other series set in NYC, it does not try to ‘depict a generation’. I mean, that is just bullshit. Take Sex In The City, for example: It too displays the lives of friends in the city, but it also tries to make a broader statement about life in the city as a single woman in her thirties, which, for most single women in their thirties, was probably not a very accurate portrayal of their lives.

Even the more recent and heavily praised shows, like Dunham’s Girls, seem to want to make a statement. Surely, they are funded on some actual developments, like the financial dependence of graduates on their parents, but I think sometimes the goal is better reached by not explicitly trying to depict some deeper truths about society.

After all, society is an assembly of microcosms, of people living in their own worlds, of perspectives. And I think if we had more shows like Broad City, shows that depict the characters’ world and perspective without zooming out and trying to establish a bigger picture, we would be tempted to draw that bigger picture ourselves, out of what we have seen, and maybe not only the TV program would be better, but also the world we live in.

B x

You Had Better Not Meddle With Little American Girls – My Thoughts on James’ Daisy Miller

Inspired by Azar Nafisi’s memoir ‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’ I got Henry James’ ‘Daisy Miller’ from my local library. To get to the point quite quickly, my final judgement would be this: I liked it, found it a stimulating read, but don’t believe it has left a lasting impact on me.

Easy as that. What I liked about it was the conciseness: Unlike many other classics, James cut the chase and did not linger too long on a plot that is only able to cover the number of pages it does cover. The resulting shortness of the book also allowed me to read the novel in one sitting, which gently fostered my reader’s pride.

Then, Daisy Miller satisfied what is most important to me in a book: I want it to make me think about things, not only in the context of that fictional scenario, but also in relation to my life and life in general. Pretty much every character in that book left me conflicted. As a generally conflicted little feminist, I was outraged about the narrator’s stance towards Daisy, but also about Daisy herself. Part of me has always held a grudge against incredibly pretty characters, whether in books or films or real life, I don’t know whether this is caused by jealousy or a feeling of inferiority, but it is definitely there. This was only enhanced by the fact that that there was a male narrator constantly appraised her candor, which, again, as a little feminist led to some conflicting feelings about my own feelings.

I mean, do I dislike Daisy because I think she is an easy girl? Because she challenges the conventions? Because she is so unwittingly dependent on male recognition and company? And what kind of person does that make me? Am I really as liberal and progressive as I like to think myself to be?

So many questions – point to James. Still, even though it has only been a day since I read the novel, I have not found myself thinking back to these questions or Daisy Miller.

So, overall, three stars out of five to Miss Daisy Miller.

B x

Around the World Reading Challenge

Yes, another list with books on it, but I promise this one will be short: 6 books.

Inspired to do this by Booking It I chose 6 books from (well, more ‘related to’) 6 continents. Officially the challenge was set for all of 2015, so I could just look at the books I have read this year and tick some continents off the list. However, I chose to take the challenge as an inspiration to make a (very small) reading list.

Still, I will be posting my opinions and impressions about them here, as proof that I did it and of course to share my excitement, disgust and all the other emotions caused by some ink on some paper. Here is my list:

Africa: We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo – I’ve had this one on my ebook reader for a while now and have not yet gotten around to reading it. Now’s the time!

Asia: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie – Also, I have to admit that I haven’t read a single book by Rushdie (although I have referred to his work extensively in one of my academic works… oops!). If you now rush to say that he lived most of his life outside of Asia, so be it, I’m reading this novel anyway.

Australia: Autumn Laing by Alex Miller – Australian literature is a true weak spot of mine. This too shall pass!

Europe: The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho – I know, I know, he’s Brazilian. BUT, the Camino de Santiago is quite clearly in Europe, so I win.

North America: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Another supersupersuper well-known novel I haven’t read and it will also be the first book I’ll tackle in this challenge.

South America: Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa – I lovelovelove his other novels, so this one is a must.

B x

I’m Borderline Happy And I’m Borderline Sad

There’s this song that I’m obsessed with. It is just SO GOOD. I’ve been listening to it on repeat for more that an hour (my flatmate must be a bit creeped out…).

How can I describe it. It is just so happy. It’s the kind of song that you want to listen to while driving or cycling. It’s the song you want to dance to in a bar. It’s a song that forces a smile on your face and is destined be end up stuck in your head for the next few days. It’s the song that makes you turn up the radio’s volume. It’s the song you want the guy with the guitar to play when you sit around the dying bonfire at the end of a party.

Here it is:

I stumbled upon it on Triple J’s Hit List which is just brilliant (you can also follow it on Spotify, it gets updated regularly), and because I have decided to do a music feature very very soon (yah, that promised editorial calendar is still very much non-existent) I thought maybe it would be a good thing to start practising. Turns out writing about music isn’t that easy.

Happy listening!

B x

The Tinder Bases

I have never understood ‘the base system’. Firstly, that is surely connected to the fact that I have no idea how baseball works (I assume it is related to baseball…), but it is also because I, when I finally felt I did not risk being uncool by asking people what they meant when they said “Taylor and I went third base” (see what I did there – gender-neutral name!), people started explaining the base system to me, but somehow, their answers differed quite a bit.

Also, I never really saw the need for it. We live in the age of over-sharing and if someone really wants me to know what they did with Taylor, they might as well go ahead and tell me in plain old English (or German or Spanish or Danish). The other issue I have with that whole idea is that, let’s be honest, there is no set order for all these shenanigans. I mean, really. (Once we’re on the topic – isn’t it way more intimate to put someone else’s parts in my mouth that in my lady hole? I mean, my lady parts are somewhere down there, but my mouth is in my face! Near my eyes and my nose and my brains!)

So, anyway, sometimes I do notice when things tend to occur in a sequence, and it makes me very happy. Spotting patterns is a major past time of mine, so you’ll understand my excitement.

And now let’s get on to my discovery (or invention – that’s always the question, isn’t it?): There is a pattern to people’s interactions on Tinder, that infamous dating/hooking up app.

Here in Germany things are always a bit late. Blockbusters, for example, and fashion, and also pretty much everything else (when my friends from the UK came visiting they said they felt like they had been transported back into the 80s, because of the way some people dress and the colourful, cheap advertising). Here, Tinder is still quite a new thing. It started dawning on people about half a year ago and is still being discovered. Therefore, it is always a hot conversation topic. From these conversations (and, yes, also from my own experience), I deducted the Tinder Base System:

1st Base: Messaging On Tinder – You’ve been swiping, you have been matched and have now started a dialogue. Yet, it is still very, very informal. All you know about that other person is their (supposed) name, their (supposed) age and some pictures that don’t really hold up as airtight evidence. On the other hand, if they get creepy or annoying or whatever, you can unmatch them in a second, and don’t have to worry about them ever again.

2nd Base: Messaging On Whatsapp – You’re still messaging! This is a new level though, because you have passed the first hurdle and exchanged numbers. This, of course, is another tiny commitment, because you (and they also) have now invited them into a part of your actual real-world life (after all you use the same app for messaging friends, family, colleagues). And, other than when you give someone your number in a bar, chances are they are actually going to message you (seeing as they have already done so). The downside, on the other hand, is that they now have your number – your actual real life number – and if they turn out to be too attached/potential mass murderers/just not your type, even if you block them on Whatsapp they can now text and/or call you.

3rd Base: Speaking On The Phone – This is an optional step and often left out. If someone wants to speak to you on the phone before meeting you in person, they probably (unless phone sex is involved) see Tinder as a dating rather than a hooking up app.

Home Run: The Meet-up – Depending your intention and their intention this might be a romantic date in a cafe or any sort of copulation in any sort of place (or both). In any case, the app has done its job: It has connected two people who otherwise probably wouldn’t have met.

What do you think of it? Invention or discovery?

B x

Lies We Are Told

This is a topic very dear to my heart. It is about education, but it is really not political. Maybe a bit idealistic, but not too much, I promise. There’s this thing that bothers me: In school, sometimes, I was taught things that were simply wrong. And not only once, but repeatedly. From time to time.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed school and while I see now that many of the things that I was taught were probably quite useless, I do see the merit of being taught what I was taught: Especially during the last two years, while I was doing the IB Diploma Programme, the skills I acquired were more central and more important than I could see at the time, while I was all focused on the specific content.

And I understand that sometimes we are taught simplified versions of the material, like middle school students who were taught the lock-and-key models (we’re talking biology, guys – enzymes), although the induced fit, which we were then taught a few years later,is the more widely recognised model these days. I am sure there is an even more complicated model that university students are then taught. This I am okay with (to a certain degree).

What I am not okay with is when topics very close to life are taught in a fashion that maybe relates back to the teacher’s disinterest or what it says in the textbooks, but does simply not convey the reality of life. I don’t know, maybe the teachers can simply not relate to those adolescents sitting in front of them, or maybe they don’t care enough to empathise.

When I was around twelve years old, we had some sort of sex ed. It was a very informal affair, after all we grew up at the age of the internet, had all seen copulation filmed by a webcam before and had learned the meaning of words like ‘bukkake’ from our peers. It was certainly not the age of innocence. The only thing that we maybe needed to learn more about was long-term protection, but I’m pretty sure we were all familiar with how to use a condom (curiosity is powerful!).

On the other hand, we knew very little about the meaning of the word ‘puberty’. Surely we had heard out parents throw this word around casually, but it had seemed more like an accusation or an insult. We had literally no idea. This was where the sex ed could have become an enlightenment and relieved us of our ignorance. Sadly, however, it did not. We learned loads about STDs and pregnancy and menstruation, and they squeezed in the topic of ‘puberty’ somewhere at the end.

This is where my rage stems from: In a few sentences we were told that puberty lasted from ages 12 – 16 for girls and 14 – 16 for boys usually (‘that’s why you girls will be mature earlier!’) and that it came with unpleasant surprises: greasy hair, sweat, pubes, spots, moodiness and all of those pleasantries. That was that. I can still remember putting my hand up reluctantly and asking whether that meant this ordeal would be over when I was sixteen. The teacher answered that this was not an exact date and that it varied with everyone, but yes, puberty would end.

Around that time I also read a book that my mum brought by – ‘My spot and I’ (literally translated by German author Ilona Einwohlt. It was basically a novel about a teenage girl with little intersections of facts and knowledge about hormones and all of that. I knew a lot about puberty. I was ready for it.

Puberty itself must have come and gone without much of a hassle. Surely I had some spots and I continued growing, but it was all quite a mild transition.

Here is what I’m angry about: Both sex ed and this book (especially this book) gave the impression that puberty was an unpleasant four-year period that, at the end of it, would leave us as fully functional adults both physically and mentally. That, as you might know, is simply not so. People have spots even after they turn 18. This might seem trivial, but I simply did not know. Nobody ever told me. And now, every time I detect a tiny little crater on my face, I think back to sex ed and that book and I wish they had told me. I wish they had prepared me for the fact that I would not leave school as a fully assembled person, having all my shit together and flawless skin. We continue to change and to learn and that is a good thing, really. But I might have needed some time to adjust to this mindset.

B x