When Kickstarter first came out, I was pretty excited. A whole platform dedicated to helping artists and entrepreneurs fund their dreams? What’s not to like? A lot, as it turns out, because like everything good on the Internet, there are people who seem hell-bent on ruining it.

Today, a story on Jezebel popped up on my newsfeed. Apparently, some guy in Seattle is trying to raise money to create the world’s largest dick drawing. As of right now, he has achieved almost half of his $100 goal.

I get that for every hack trying to raise money to draw dicks or make potato salad, there are countless artists and entrepreneurs trying to raise money for their next professional endeavour. Still, these stories bother me. There seems to be more of them popping up. I also think some of these Kickstarter pages will spawn more ridiculous Kickstarter pages in the wake of their success. Part of me hopes that the novelty of practically burning money on potato salad and the like will die down, but another part of me doesn’t trust people all that much.

Why do these offend me so much? Because it’s hard being in an artistic profession and it’s rough starting your own business. People who strike out into that world need all the help they can get. Every dollar spent on that dick picture is a dollar that isn’t going to someone’s album or clothing label. That’s what offends me. Hell, even funding a genuine, yet slightly ridiculous product like the Grilled Cheesus Sandwich Press is a huge step up.

I realize that most of these “projects” start off with modest goals, but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t throwing ridiculous amounts of money at them. The Potato Salad Kickstarter aimed to raise a measly $10, but ended up raising over $50,000 (to date…the project is still going on).

Look, Kickstarter is not a place to raise money for your party, your vacation, or your ridiculous doodles; at least, it shouldn’t be. I also judge you if you burn your money on these projects in an aim to be a lemming or draw attention to yourself. If you want something to follow, take part in a social cause or Twitter hashtag movement or something. If you want to draw attention to yourself, start a blog *wink, wink*.

Just stop it, ok?

About these ads

You’ve probably seen these pictures circulating on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and the like. They’ve been circulating for a few years, so you’d have to be living under a rock not to. If you do reside in rock territory, here are a couple of examples:

Real men go for curves
Unfortunately, this is not “body positive”.

When did this become hotter than this
I really do hate this meme.*

Anyway, the basic messages are that “real women have curves”, “men prefer curves”, and that hourglass figures are hotter than waifish figures. These posts are supposed to be empowering, and I’m sure that they are for many women out there. The problem is that they are definitely not empowering for everyone. If “real women have curves”, what message does that send to a woman with a petite figure? A boyish figure? A lithe figure?

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s important that we keep talking about how the media represents weight. The average fashion model weighs 23 percent less than the average woman, as opposed to 8 percent less in 1975. Models are still going to extremes to keep their weights down. Tabloids love to talk about which celebrities have cellulite one week and which look like they have eating disorders the next. Eating disorders and body image struggles are very real issues for teens and young women and a lot of that has to do with the unrealistic ideals that are perpetuated in the media. By all means, we should be representing a broader range of body types and we definitely should stop having such a narrow definition of beauty. I just don’t think putting other women down is the way to do that.

Anyone who has ever been to high school (so, everyone) knows that put-downs are a classic “mean girl” technique. A girl bully tries to feel better about herself by making another girl feel bad about herself. The problem is that it doesn’t really work. Making someone feel bad about herself might bring about a moment of satisfaction, but it can’t really change how you feel about yourself. It’s sort of what “Mean Girls” was all about (I love “Mean Girls”).

Now, I don’t think that the women who create and share these images are intentionally attempting to make other women feel bad about themselves. I think they are genuinely trying to spread positive attitudes about body types that are not widely represented in the mainstream media, albeit in a misguided way. The problem here is that you can’t really spread a “body positive” message whilst simultaneously spreading a negative message about someone else. If “curvy” becomes the new ideal, what happens to all of the women who are naturally thin? Are they supposed to feel ugly because of their natural figures?

“Real” women come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Changing our definition of “beauty” is not going to change that. There will always be curvy women and there will always be skinny women, just like there will always be short, tall, younger, and older women, and everything in between. Creating a new ideal is still promoting one body type over others and still excludes anyone who doesn’t fit into that ideal. How about we embrace a wider variety of bodies as “beautiful”? How about we take a cue from Naomi Wolf and stop perpetuating “The Beauty Myth” all together?

*I’m not sure of the original sources of these images. They’re widely circulated memes.

Actually, I do need feminism
I hope you can appreciate the sarcasm.

I have kind of a love-hate relationship with the Internet, but one of the things I love about it is the scale of awareness it can bring to social causes. Although “liking” is not the same thing as helping, I think that being aware of social and political issues is better than being totally ignorant of them. Information can spread like wildfire on social networks and people tend to jump on bandwagons; if this tendency can be used for a good cause, then that’s fantastic.

In that vein, I love what the Internet is doing for feminism. I see articles about feminist issues circulating my feed on a daily basis. Campaigns like #YesAllWomen and The Everyday Sexism Project have made major roads in spreading awareness about issues and problems that women still face on a regular basis. I think all this information is doing a lot to dispel the myth that feminists are man haters, and it has done a good job of showing the world that we still have a long way to go as far as equality is concerned.

Still, despite all of the awareness, there are still a lot of people out there who seem to totally misunderstand what feminism is all about. The “Women Against Feminism” Tumblr/Facebook pages and Twitter tag makes that painfully clear. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically a bunch of photos of women holding up signs that say why they don’t need feminism (like my pic above, but real). Most of them make statements that they need feminism because they respect all people regardless of gender, they don’t feel like victims, they feel more comfortable choosing traditional gender roles, they think we’ve achieved equality already, or they feel that feminism ignores the problems that men face. Of course, there is plenty of other statements on the pages, but most fall under one of those categories.

Now, there’s been a lot of backlash against “Women Against Feminism”, but I’m not going to join that tune right now.* However, I do want to say that it makes me sad, because these women totally miss the point about what feminism is and what the movement is fighting for.

The vast majority of feminists (myself included) believe that feminism is a quest for equality. That’s pretty much it. There are a lot of voices out there and a lot of differing opinions on what equality should look like and how to achieve it, but that’s pretty much the message at the heart of it.

To me (and to quite a few other feminists), the biggest reason we haven’t achieved equality yet stems from the fact that things that are traditionally considered “feminine” still play second fiddle in the public sphere. It’s sort of like saying, “Yeah, you can be equal players in our game, but you have to play our rules.” Women still face a pay gap, which is largely due to the time we take off to have children and to take care of them. Women are still less likely to rise to the top of the career ladder for the same reason. On top of that, there are issues like lingering discrimination at work, harassment, and violence against women. Contrary to the “Women Against Feminism” ladies, speaking against these issues is not about playing the victim; it’s about empowering ourselves to no longer be the “other” in society.

Many feminists feel inequality victimizes men as much as women, because it’s the sort of mentality that keeps them from being able to openly express their emotions, take parental leave, be active fathers, and that sort of jazz. There is a big focus on stressing the importance of men taking bigger roles at home so that everyone can actually “have it all.” These feminists tend to support parental leave, reduced working weeks, and more support for families. To say that feminism ignores men’s issues is largely false.

This isn’t about women’s interests taking precedence over men’s and it isn’t about dropping traditional gender roles entirely. It’s about breaking down the narrowly defined concepts of what women and men should do and, for that matter, what it means to be a woman or a man. Some women want to stay home with their children, and that’s totally fine, but some men do as well and they should be given that chance to do so. Some women want to spend a good chunk of their time and energy on their careers, just like men are expected to do, and that’s fine as well. Most people just want to balance their home and work lives to the best of their abilities.

I can’t speak for all feminists, because there are a lot of different types of feminists out there who think lots of different things. However, I can say that those of us who think this way are not a minority by a long shot. There are entire countries that think along these lines. These are not marginal opinions in the whole scheme of the wider movement.

These women might not feel that they need feminism, but I think they should think twice and do some reading before speaking out against a movement they don’t really understand.

*Correction: I don’t want to join that tune right now, but I guess that’s what I’m doing.

Outdoor Bed
You could always just move outside, but I’ll try to offer more practical advice.

It’s that time of year again. Summer is upon us in full force, so friends all over the Northern Hemisphere are complaining about how hot it is outside. In North America, most people seem to deal with the heat by switching on their air conditioners, but AC isn’t really something people in Europe use. Grocery stores, malls, and some public transport vehicles have it, but most offices and homes skip it all together. It probably has something to do with the fact that electricity is much more expensive here, but I fully support Europe’s non-air conditioning ways. When I was growing up in British Columbia, few people had it (clearly, that has changed), so I’ve gone 30 years without it and still lived to tell the tale. I also have more money in my pocket and I can be smug about how much “greener” skipping AC is.

I have to admit, I deal with the heat much better than most people. I have less body fat than the average woman, which probably helps me quite a bit. I also have an aversion to cold, so the opposite of cold is somewhat comforting. Still, I think part of the reason I can deal with heat is that I work with it rather than against it. The key to beating the heat isn’t really beating the heat at all – it’s accepting the heat. So, without further ado, here are a few tips to help you get through the summer.

1. Drink loads of water. I don’t mean Coke, juice, or that weird flavoured water – I mean plain water. If you are not drinking at least 2 litres of water per day, you’re doing summer wrong. Get a water bottle, fill it up, and keep it with you at all times. Sip at it throughout the day and refill it when it’s empty. Also, avoid the temptation to drink ice-cold water. Although any water is better than no water, your body absorbs it easier if it’s room temperature.

2. Dress properly. If you are wearing leggings, go change immediately. I don’t care how much you don’t like your legs. You are sweltering in stuffy synthetic fabric. If you don’t want to show off your bare legs, wear a long, loose skirt, a loose pair of pants, or something else that lets your skin breathe. I know that what’s fashionable isn’t always what’s comfortable in summer, but the same is true for the dead of winter and most people have no qualms about layering on wool sweaters. Do yourself the same favour for summer. Wear light-coloured cotton clothes that don’t fit too tightly. And for the love of all that is holy, leave anything black in your closet.

Eat spicy food. Seriously, there’s a reason why pretty much every hot country has a lot of spicy dishes. Spicy food makes you sweat, which helps you cool off. In that vein…

Embrace the sweat. Pretty much everyone has told me that I probably like the heat because I don’t sweat. WRONG. I sweat like crazy. I just don’t mind sweating. If you get past the idea that sweating is gross, you can deal with the heat a lot better. Trade in your antiperspirant for aluminium-free deodorant. Wear cotton clothing and accept that you might get a bit damp if it’s hot out. Sweating isn’t gross; it’s your body’s natural way of cooling off. On a 30*C+ July day, it’s perfectly natural to start sweating. Stop worrying about it and let your body do its thing.

Eat lighter protein. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, this isn’t really an issue for you. You already eat light protein. If you eat meat, opt for fish and chicken instead of beef or pork. You can even take a cue from the veggies and eat some beans and lentils. I know that red meat is popular for barbecue dishes, but save it for special occasions.

Sleep with the windows open and close them during the day. This might sound crazy, but hear me out. If you open all the windows at night and let cool air in, then close them, you can trap all of the cooler air in your house. Of course, this only works if you have some heavy curtains to do the trapping. If you just can’t handle the heat and no amount of spicy food or cotton clothing helps, this is the trick for you.

What do you do when one of your favourite articles of clothing looks kind of ridiculous?

Part of the explanation for this odd choice lies in my childhood. Just before I turned five, my Oma made me a dirndl. It was red with coloured flowers and had a white broderie anglaise shirt and matching apron. I loved it. I wore it to my fifth birthday party, my school pictures, and every other chance I got. I was very sad when I outgrew it, but quickly got over it when a frilly flower girl dress took its place. I guess that, given my favourite childhood dress, it’s not surprising one of my favourite dresses is a red, floral-print dirndl.

Five
Here is a picture of my childhood dirndl

I made my dirndl just over a year ago. It’s not the most obvious looking dirndl ever; it doesn’t have any laces up the front and I rarely wear it with a traditional blouse or apron. I find it oddly comfortable and often wear it at home like some people wear sweatpants at home. I generally find full, knee-length skirts very comfortable in the summer, because they’re pretty much the closest you can get to wearing no pants while still remaining clothed. Still, despite its lack of laces or apron, it does look like a dirndl. When I put it on this morning, my boyfriend called me “Rotkäppchen” (Little Red Riding Hood). I’ll wear it around the house, but I feel weird wearing it out and about. I’m not in Munich during Oktoberfest, so it’s a strange clothing choice for a summer day in Berlin. Every time I wear the dirndl and have to run errands or go out somewhere, I’m faced with the same dilemma: do I change, or do I keep wearing it? I don’t really want to change, because it’s comfortable and I like it. But I do care what other people think to an extent and I don’t want to be the weirdo wearing folk dress for no reason.

unfinisheddirndl
I don’t have a picture of the finished dirndl, but here is a photo I took while I was working on it.

One of the hardest things about moving to a new country is leaving behind the entertainment you enjoyed at home. Sometimes it’s nice to just kick back and binge-watch your favourite shows in your native language and in Germany, that can be surprisingly hard to do (legally, anyway). Nearly all TV shows are dubbed and a lot of popular series take ages to reach this side of the world. To make things worse, you can’t access US and UK streaming services like Hulu from a German IP address.

One thing you will quickly notice when you get here is that Netflix doesn’t operate in Germany. Apparently, it will launch here in September of this year, but until then, we are still Netflix-free. At the moment, the market for streaming services is pretty fragmented, which means that you get a pretty large selection of services offering a lot of different things. Generally. There are a number of “premium” services that charge a small fee and differ in terms of quality, alongside several free, ad-based services available.

All in all, most services rely on dubbed content. This doesn’t tend to bother me so much and I enjoy most dubbed movies and shows as much as I enjoy the English originals. You do get used to it and it’s a great way to learn German. In some cases you lose a lot in translation (word-related humour, Oscar-worthy performances, etc.) but most movies and shows translate decently and most don’t feature amazing enough acting to get bothered about. I do encourage you to use German-language content to improve your German skills, but I’ve tried to make a point of mentioning services that have English-language content. Some of you probably don’t speak German at all and sometimes it’s nice to have a taste of home.

Disclaimer: the opinions here are entirely my own. I was not paid by any of these services to write reviews. I just wanted to provide a helpful guide to other expats and newcomers to the country. My opinions may not represent everyone’s and any info can be subject to change.

Watchever

Watchever is by far the best service available right now in Germany, though we’ll see how it stacks up once Netflix launches. As it stands, I think it could be a serious competitor. I tried out Watchever last year and was pretty impressed with its offerings. It had a good list of movies and shows and most titles were available in both English and German. Most content wasn’t that recent by North American standards, but it was about as recent as you can get in Germany. I was impressed with the fact that it managed to have the final season of “Breaking Bad” shortly after it aired in the US. I think it’s probably comparable to the Canadian and UK versions of Netflix in terms of access to content.

Maxdome
I got a trial for Maxdome a little over a year ago, and I can’t say I was overly impressed. That being said, that was a while ago and from the looks of things, the service has improved. Maxdome lets you rent videos individually and also offers a subscription package that lets you stream movies in the package for free. I’d say that Watchever’s selection is generally better than Maxdome’s package selection, but the latter isn’t a terrible service when it comes down to it. It’s also useful if you don’t want to subscribe to a streaming service and just want to watch the odd movie in English.

Amazon Instant Video

I used to have a LoveFilm subscription way back when sending DVD rentals through the post was still an innovative idea. I ended my subscription when streaming started to take over, as I wasn’t really thrilled with the selection. Amazon owned LoveFilm and now it has absorbed its instant video service into its own Prime service. You have to have a Prime account to access Amazon Prime Instant Video. I already had one, so I decided to check it out. The selection has not improved much since its LoveFilm days; the movies and shows are decent enough, but there are very few recent titles available, even by German standards. There is also next to no English-language content on the platform, which makes it less appealing to expats. I still use it because it’s free with my Prime account and it’s there, but I wouldn’t decide to get a Prime account based on this service.

I think you can also rent some titles individually and buy digital licenses through Amazon’s regular service, but I’ve not yet tried to do so.

Sky Snap

Sky Snap is run by Sky, so you get a discount on your registration if you are a Sky subscriber. I am not, so I took advantage of its free trial offer.* It has a decent selection of quality TV shows and movies, but the titles are all a bit older. If you are looking for more recent content, Watchever or Maxdome are better bets. It does get some brownie points for offering its content in English and German. My overall verdict here is that if you subscribe to Sky and just want to watch the occasional movie, then this service is passable. Otherwise, I’d skip it.

MyVideo

MyVideo is a free, ad-based streaming service similar to YouTube and DailyMotion. Anyone can upload videos, but it also has contracts with ProSieben, Sat1, and several other private networks. Most of the content is the same schlock you watch on German TV; basically, a lot of horrible reality shows and soaps. I also find the that the ads are really annoying. Still, there are some decent shows on there. I like some of the German comedy programmes like “Switch Reloaded” and “Knallerfrauen.” There is also quite a bit of anime and I find that most of the dubbing on anime is better in German than it is in English (I usually watch TV while I do crafts and things, so I don’t have much interest in Japanese originals).

Viewster

Viewster has a fairly small selection and a lot of it really sucks, but it is free and the ads are less annoying than those on MyVideo. The upside to Viewster is that most of the content is in the original language, which means that most of it is in English. There are a few good British shows on there like “Black Books” and it has a treasure trove of classic cartoons.

YouTube

I tossed and turned over including YouTube on this list, because everyone knows what YouTube is and what to expect from it. However, there are a few Germany-specific issues that I wanted to address. First of all, don’t expect to watch music videos on German YouTube. GEMA has a long-standing dispute with Google over royalties and it has blocked a good chunk of music from the platform. A lot of web series are also blocked, which is no fun. Still, you can access a good chunk of content. I usually get my “Saturday Night Live” and “Conan” fix through YouTube.

If I remember, I’ll add Netflix to this list when it comes out in September and review how it stacks up compared to Canadian Netflix and local streaming services here (I don’t think it’s fair to compare it to American Netflix, because most international services can’t really stack up due to licensing issues).

If I forgot any services, contact me and I’ll add them to this list!

*Free trials are very common in Germany and pretty much all of the paid services on this list offer them. I just wanted to make a note to remind you to cancel subscription before the end of the month if you decide not to continue the service. Germany uses automatic billing, which caught me by surprise, as it’s banned in Canada. Companies are not required to give you any notice that your trial period is over or to automatically cancel it and most will simply start charging you after the trial is up.

20140321-130907.jpg
Ignore my massive hair. I’m still getting used to my natural curls, which came back rather unexpectedly.
Like many people in their late 20s, I am going grey. I found my first grey hair when I was 21. I promptly screamed, then cried, and I’ve been dyeing my hair ever since.

Recently, I’ve had a growing concern for the things I put on my body and down the drain. On the body side of things, I have a large number of allergies and I’ve noticed that my skin is increasingly irritable. On the drain side of things, I want to make a conscious effort to use products that won’t harm the environment. I also find it important to buy environmentally and socially sustainable products.

Keeping in line with that concern, hair dye didn’t seem like the best product. I used to get my hair dyed at a salon, but my student and post-student budget no longer allowed that. Home hair dyes always left a burning, itching feeling on my scalp, which can’t be good. I decided to give them up, but letting my hair go grey didn’t feel like an option I was willing to try at 29.

Enter the world of natural hair dyes. Henna is the most popular choice amongst the crunchy, but I wasn’t sold. I dyed my hair with henna when I was a teenager and my stylist at the time gave me a huge lecture about how horrible it is for your hair. This may or may not be correct, but it is pretty permanent and the selection of colors here in Germany is limited. In addition, I still have to do some research on its sustainability. This is hard to do, because those who love it rave about how “natural” it is and those who hate it, well, hate it. I might still give it a try, but I wanted something to tide me over in the meantime.

I read a few blogger accounts of dyeing hair with coffee. I thought, “This one can’t hurt. I already drink a fair bit of coffee and have a constant supply of grounds.” I decided to try it.

It worked – sort of. It gave some coverage to my greys, reducing their appearance. However, it didn’t mask them completely. I’ll give you a run-through of the whole experience.

The Recipe:
Several blogs recommend mixing a cup of conditioner with 3/4 cups of brewed coffee and 2 tbsps of grounds. This seemed like it would be runny and would produce an extreme amount of “dye” for my shoulder-length hair. Another blogger recommended leaving out the brewed coffee as it made the mixture too runny, but I felt that just grounds and conditioner would be too pasty. I just ended up plopping some conditioner I had in the back of my closet (I normally condition my hair with apple cider vinegar) with a couple of tbsps each of brewed coffee from the bottom of the pot (classy) and the grounds left in the machine. It seemed fine, so I used it.

The Method:
I mixed everything in a bowl in the kitchen, then went to the bathroom and applied it to my hair. I covered my hair with a bag and let it sit for just over an hour. I rinsed it out in the shower. It took quite a bit of rinsing to get it out.

The Pros:

  • It’s all natural and recycles stuff I use in my kitchen.
  • It makes your hair smell wonderful.
  • It doesn’t irritate your skin.
  • It will not stain your skin at all.
  • It does colour your hair.
  • It doesn’t dry out your hair or leave it looking fried.
  • It’s super cheap.

The Cons:

  • Its coverage is kind of minimal.
  • It doesn’t last very long. I suspect I’ll have to repeat the process within the next two weeks.
  • It takes a long time to set. You need a good block of time to sit around the house with a bag over your hair.
  • Goodness, is it ever messy. It’s probably not worse than henna, from what I read, but you will get grounds everywhere.
  • It’s hard to rinse out.
  • You will shed coffee grounds for a while afterwards.
  • You may need to apply your “dye” twice in a row.

It may seem like the cons outweigh the pros, but most of the cons are fairly minor. It’s messy, but it’s easy to clean up. You need to apply it more often, but it’s not hard on your hair. You get the idea.

A few tips:

  • For the love of all that is holy, apply it over the sink or in the tub. You’ll find the cleanup easier if you can just wash away the grounds.
  • Coffee can stain fabric, so use an old towel to drape your shoulders or wear an old or black shirt.
  • If you use homemade shampoo like I do (I wash my hair with a mixture of baking soda and water), you may find it hard to rinse out your hair. Don’t be tempted to use normal shampoo like I was. After over a month of my homemade shampoo routine, it made my scalp itch and flake like crazy. The second time I applied it, I rinsed it out using conditioner, which was much kinder to my skin.
  • Make sure the conditioner you use is eco-friendly. I’m just saying this because, if you’re considering this, there’s a good chance that you care about this sort of thing. I’ve noticed that a lot of conditioners contain palm oil, which can be problematic.
  • You may want to warn your boyfriend/husband/roommates/family that you’re trying this.
  • You can only do this on brown hair. It will not work on blonde, red, or fully grey hair. Worse, it may just make your hair look dirty.

The verdict? I’d try this again. I might seek out a good permanent solution, but it works as a good temporary way to hide my greys.

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