Nosferatu (1922) with English captions

Halloween isn’t really widely celebrated in Germany, but it has been gaining some ground over the past few years. When I first moved here, it wasn’t really a thing outside of a few expat circles, but I’ve seen more and more decorations go up in shops and restaurants, costumes for sale, and even posters for costume parties. This year, my local Lidl even had Halloween candy for sale. I’m not sure if it’s a touch of Americanization or spillovers from the international community living here, but I kind of like it. Sadly, there will be no costume parties for me this year. I have a bad cold, so I’m spending my day watching scary movies and drinking ginger and garlic tea.

Anyway, because it’s Halloween, I thought I’d post one of the most famous German movies of all time, “Nosferatu.” F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent film is pretty much “Dracula,” but the studio couldn’t get the rights to “Dracula” at the time. See, in 1922, Bram Stoker’s novel was just 25 years old, so it was still under copyright. Stoker’s widow, who managed his estate, didn’t want to give Prana Film the rights to the original book, so the company just changed the names and a few plot details such as the setting and time period. Although that might sound like a recipe for a terrible, cheap rip off, “Nosferatu” is a fantastic German expressionist classic. Watch it for the amazing cinematography, creepy costumes, and dramatic silent movie acting.

*Note: this version uses the “Dracula” character names, but the original version of the films changed them. So, Dracula should technically be Orlok, Jonathan Harker should be Thomas Hutter, Mina should be Ellen, and so on. I prefer the original, but I also wanted to post a video from a credible channel. “Nosferatu” is public domain in most countries, but is still under copyright in Germany and most of Europe. Viewster is a legal video streaming service based in Europe, so I’d assume they had permission to upload this movie.

About these ads

I’ve had this rant on my mind for ages, but never committed it to writing. Every time I leave the house, I’ll see something that reminds me that, “Oh yeah, I wanted to complain about this on my blog,” but then I get home and get distracted with other things. Today, I didn’t leave the house at all, but I did remember that texting and cycling annoys me, so here we go.

Why, oh, why do people do this? It’s both dangerous and annoying. We get it drilled in our heads time and time again that we shouldn’t text and drive but somehow it’s ok on a bike? The answer to that is that it’s not ok. If you do it, you suck. Are you in such a hurry that you can’t pull over to the sidewalk to write your message? Are you that hooked to your phone that you’re willing to endanger your own life and the safety of those around you? Are you even thinking about the consequences when you do it? If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” you need to get your priorities straight.

To start with the less serious issue here, it’s annoying as hell for other people on the road. When you text and cycle, you bike like a drunk person, only much slower. Steering with one hand, holding a phone, typing on a touch screen, and pedaling are too many tasks to do at once, so it makes you meander across the road or lane. Plus, since your attention is elsewhere, you are slow. It’s hard for anyone cycling behind you to pass you, because you take up the entire lane. Everyone else on the road has to watch out for you, because you’re not watching anyone else on the road.

But to get more serious here, texting and cycling dangerous. Cycling is something that requires your full attention; drivers aren’t always looking out for you, so you’d better be looking out for them. If you’re texting, you can’t do that. You could get hit, and it would totally be your fault. On top of that, you’re also putting other people at risk. Bikes aren’t as large and powerful as cars, but you can still hurt someone if they dart out onto the road in front of you. Yes, they probably shouldn’t be doing that, but what if they’re a little kid or a pet? Sometimes, people and animals end up on the road when they shouldn’t be, so you should be watching out.

So, leave you phone alone for a while and keep your eyes and full attention on the road. If you need to text someone that you’re late or spend some quality time with Google Maps, pull over and do it off of the road.

It’s that time of year again: my Facebook feed is filling up with all things fall and the blogsphere is waxing poetic about autumn. If the Internet is true to life, then fall is almost everyone’s favourite season. I don’t understand it at all.

I’ve always been a summer child. I was born in summer, after all. Each year when the spring equinox rolls around, I feel like a weight is lifted from my shoulders. The autumn equinox, on the other hand, has the opposite effect. It’s just a reminder that things will be dark and cold for the next half year, and I don’t like it at all.

Many people like fall because of the colours of the changing leaves. I do see the beauty in it, but it also feels a little bit sad to me because I know the leaves will fall soon and nature will go to sleep for a few months. Spring is also a colourful time of year, and the tulips and daffodils that peek out of the ground carry the promise of growth, greenery, and warmer weather. To me, both times of year are beautiful, but one is more of a melancholic beauty and the other is a joyful kind of beauty.

I don’t like fall clothes. In all my years on this earth, I’ve never truly mastered knitwear and layering. I feel more comfortable in light fabrics and bright colours. Give me a silk sundress over a wool coat any day. I also feel like spring and summer fashion is a lot more low-maintenance. I don’t need to spend extra minutes layering on coats, scarves, gloves, and hats every time I go out; I can just slip on a pair of ballet flats and walk out the door. I’d be happy to never look at another pair of boots again if it meant that I could always be that lazy and still stay stylish.

I get why most people are happy about the end of hot summer weather, but I don’t share that feeling. My ideal temperature is around 27 degrees, so cooler weather means less comfort. BBQs and weekends at the beach are always things I miss around this time of year. Plus, fall is really dark. Why do people want to trade bright, long days for short, dark ones?

The season isn’t a total loss. Thanksgiving and Halloween are always lots of fun, and pumpkins are in season. Still, I’ll be patiently awaiting spring.

Thanksgiving Weekend is well underway in Canada and like many Canadians abroad, I’ve appropriated the holiday in my new country. In typical Thanksgiving fashion, we hosted a small dinner for a few friends last night and went to bed with (too) full bellies. Still stuffed from the night before, we spent much of the morning and early afternoon watching YouTube videos. My boyfriend wanted to revisit shows he watched when he was growing up and ended up putting on this video.

It sort of struck me that we were watching this account of growing up in post-war Germany while we were so full from the night before that we couldn’t even eat breakfast. If Thanksgiving is a time to feel thankful, I sure did feel thankful. By today’s standards, we don’t have a lot of money, but when I thought about it, I realized how incredibly rich we are. We have a secure roof over our heads. We have enough to eat and if we put a little bit aside, we can even throw a feast every once in a while. We have relatively nice clothes in very good condition and can replace them when they break. We live in an incredibly stable place with great access to education, health care, and social support. We might feel some ups and downs, but compared to most people throughout history, we pretty much live like royalty. I also definitely feel lucky that I didn’t have to endure the aftermath of a war.

This video isn’t as lighthearted as the others that I’ve posted so far, but I didn’t set out to make “German Video of the Week” a slamfest on Schlager culture. I wanted to post the various facets of German culture. This is definitely part of the history here and it’s an interesting thing to watch. It’s in German, but if you’re learning, it’s fairly easy to understand. The program was intended for children, so the language is straightforward. If you don’t speak German, I still recommend watching it. I think you can probably follow a lot of it through the visual parts of the show.

IMG_2290.JPG
I’m down with the “reuse” part of the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra.

When I was 23, I bought myself a fake Christmas tree. I think real trees look a lot nicer, but though there’s nothing quite like that real pine-y smell that fills the living room over the Christmas season, I opted for a fake version that I could store in the cellar during the other 11 months of the year. Partly, I made this decision because real trees are pretty expensive and for around the same price, I could get a “tree” that I could use over and over again. But, a larger part was because I thought it was a more environmental choice. I was wrong.

Making choices is a big part of living a more sustainable lifestyle. Sometimes, it can feel like an uphill battle, because it feels like you’re surrounded with things that involve pollution, exploitation, and long-haul transportation. It feels like no matter what you choose, you’re contributing to the problem. Some people get overwhelmed and turn a blind eye, whereas others struggle through it. Personally, I feel that a middle road is the best approach for me. Obviously, I can’t avoid harming the planet 100 percent of the time, but I can cut back my impact. This is a learning curve and I’m always learning about new ways to lead a greener lifestyle.

One of the biggest things I’ve done is try to reduce my consumption and the subsequent waste of that consumption. To avoid throwing things out or buying new things, I often use reusable products. Still, “reusable” doesn’t necessarily mean sustainable, because some products involve far more energy to produce than they’re worth. Over an entire life cycle, they still involve more resources than using disposable products over that period of time. If you’re struggling with the reusable vs. disposable issue, here’s a handy guide.

Cups, Mugs, and Glasses

It takes fewer than 40 uses for a reusable cup of any material to break even with disposable paper cups, even when you throw washing the reusable cups into the mix. Ceramic mugs take the longest to break even at 39 uses. Plastic travel mugs take only 17 uses to break even. That means that if you go to Starbucks twice a week, it only takes a couple of months to make your reusable travel mug more responsible. Reusable cups and mugs take longer to break even when you compare them to Styrofoam cups, but considering the fact that Styrofoam takes forever to break down, I think the overall impact of reusable cups is still lower, especially if you use them for years. Most coffee-to-go comes in paper cups, so get yourself a travel mug or two and hand it to the barista when you get coffee on the go.

Water Bottles

I think most people are pretty familiar with the fact that reusable water bottles are better than disposable ones, but I’ll still say it: reusable bottles are better. Plastic takes a lot of energy to produce, so throwing it out after a single use is not green. I know some people are thinking “but I recycle my water bottles” or “but I reuse my water bottles” but neither of those are great options. Recycling is usually better tha throwing things away, but it still takes energy. In comparison, washing a reusable bottle doesn’t have much of an impact. If you reuse your bottles, you shouldn’t. They are not designed to withstand several uses and break down faster than bottles designed to be reusable. This can cause bacteria to grow in the little cracks that form in the plastic.

Grocery Bags

Recently, California became the first state to ban plastic bags. A lot of people gave them a big pat on the back, but others were a bit more critical. Some reusable bags have to be used a lot to break even with single-use plastic bags. Cotton is the least sustainable reusable choice, as it requires a lot of water and energy to produce. You have to use a cotton bag 131 times before it breaks even with a plastic bag and more than that if the plastic bag is reused a couple of times or used as a garbage bin liner. Other materials only require a few uses to break even, so they’re a much better alternative to disposable plastic bags. Overall, reusable bags are still better, but you should make sure that you reuse them enough to make it worth your while and you should only use cotton bags if you plan on keeping them for a few years. Personally, I have had most of my reusable bags for years and I use them a lot, but I also seem to acquire reusable grocery bags. They just appear out of thin air and sometimes I don’t know what to do with them. It’s definitely something to think about.

Christmas Trees

A couple of years ago, I learned to my dismay that real trees are almost always more sustainable than fake ones. First of all, trees absorb carbon, so tree farms are fairly neutral in terms of carbon emissions. Because trees grow in a good chunk of the Western Hemisphere, they’re also usually growing in similar conditions to their natural habitat. That means that they don’t require all that much energy to produce in the first place. Second of all, most trees come from close to home, so they don’t travel very far to get to your house. Finally, most fake trees are made of plastic, which has a pretty high carbon footprint. It can take over 20 years to make the environmental impact of a fake tree as low as that of using real trees for the same amount of time.
If the trees in your area have to be shipped in from somewhere far away, then a fake tree can be a better bet if you use it for many years in a row; otherwise, opt for a real tree. If you do have a perfectly good fake tree and want to switch to using real ones, find it a new home instead of tossing it.

Napkins

Reusable cloth napkins may seem like a better choice than disposable ones, but the issue is actually kind of complicated. Cotton is not a “green” fabric and as many cloth napkins are made of the stuff, they can have quite the impact. Reusable napkins also tend to get dirty quite quickly, which means that you have to wash them a lot. Still, paper napkins also require a fair bit of resources to produce and transport and create a lot of waste. In restaurants, paper napkins are usually the better choice, because reusable napkins take too much wear and tear and usually end up damaged before they break even, and napkins must be washed after every single use. However, you can tip the scales in your own home to make reusable options more sustainable. Wash napkins in cold water, hang them to dry, and don’t wash them unless they’re actually dirty. You can make them even greener by choosing linen or polyester fabrics.

How Can You Make Reusables Even Greener?

As you can see above, reusable usually comes out the winner, although there are a few exceptions. Because reusable items get greener with each use, there are a few things you can do to help reduce your footprint.

Buy Second Hand

You can find most of these and other reusable products in thrift stores and garage sales. Cotton grocery bags and napkins are a lot “greener” when you stretch them out into a longer life cycle. If you really must get a fake Christmas tree because of your budget or because your apartment doesn’t allow real trees, look around for a used one. I got my first Christmas tree for free at a yard sale. I originally took it as a joke because the house I was renting had a weird window looking into the storage room (which used to be a carport) and I wanted to decorate it as a Christmas scene as a prank on my roommates, but I ended up using that tree for 3 years.

Donate

If you’re bored of a perfectly good reusable item, donate it or give it away instead of throwing it away! That way, you continue its life cycle.

Get Crafty

If you sew, use fabric remnants to make things like reusable placemats, napkins, coffee sleeves, and grocery bags. I’ve made some pretty nifty things over the years using fabric left over from clothing projects.

Upcycle

Repurpose old or broken things into other things. You can turn old tees into carrier bags, jeans into placemats and pot holders, dress shirts into napkins, and so on.

Sometimes, German-speaking artists tend to tackle the spread of American culture by blending it with traditional culture. Andreas Gabalier is an Austrian singer who blends a ’50s rockabilly style with Alps folk culture. He’s pretty successful in both Austria and Germany, but I only discovered his music a few weeks ago.

I got the whole idea for “German Video of the Week” while I was watching a music program on ARD that was hosted by Mr. Gabalier. He was wearing Lederhosen and a leather jacket and had a group of background dancers in Dirndls and leather jackets. The program featured various German musicians (most of them were Schlager musicians) singing ’50s rock hits and incorporating ’50s aesthetics or musical influences in with their own music. It was oddly catchy and I couldn’t stop watching, even when my boyfriend walked in the room and critically asked me, “Why are you still watching this?” At one point, Gabalier did a hip shaking contest with another, older singer (I wasn’t paying 100% attention, so I can’t remember which one). The whole Elvis dancing in Lederhosen thing was one of the craziest things I’d ever seen and I really wanted to share it. I couldn’t find a video, but a friend found this performance for me. It’s pretty representative of the program I saw on TV, Elvis dancing, Lederhosen, and all. Thus, “German Video of the Week” was born.

Because Gabalier is Austrian, I didn’t want to confuse people by posting this video as my first “German” video of the week. So, I’m posting it today. If you don’t want to watch all 8+ minutes of the video, you can find the Elvis dancing about 4:40 minutes in.

vegan

Words can’t describe how much I dislike this image. If you share this post based on this picture alone, please be aware that you are totally ignoring the intent of this post.*

Like most young city girls and most people from the west coast, I know a lot of vegans. I also follow a lot of left-wing media outlets on Facebook and Twitter. With those two combined, I see a lot of posts about veganism come up on my feeds. Now, I’m not a vegan, but I find most of these really interesting. I’m really concerned about the environment and even though I still eat meat, eggs, and dairy, they help me make better choices. Plus, my vegan friends tend to share some really great recipes and gardening tips.

That being said, occasionally I see something I’m less keen on. The photo above is one of those things. A number of friends shared it and I started to make some comments, but then stopped myself. I decided that the whole issue was something I’d rather blog about. I hope none of those friends takes offense to this post (if any of them read it). I’m not trying to attack anyone for his/her views on this; I just want to share my own take on the issue.

Basically, I find images and statements like this really unhelpful. I know that it must be hard to be vegan because people get pretty judgmental about it, as if someone cutting animal products out of his/her diet is some kind of personal affront. Still, two wrongs don’t make a right and these statements are judgmental in the other direction. The people who make them don’t know why various people choose to be omnivores. Yes, a lot of people simply refuse to give up meat, but there are a lot of other reasons behind the decision to continue eating meat. Personally, I have a very serious legume allergy that makes eating meat alternatives very challenging, and I feel that most that are available to me aren’t all that environmentally friendly ¬– most have to get shipped halfway around the world to get here and many take up a lot of resources to grow. Legume allergies are quite common, so I’m not alone. Some people may continue to eat meat for economic reasons. Although plant protein like beans and lentils are really cheap, a lot of baking options are absolutely not.** Judging people for not giving up animal products is somewhat a question of privilege. The point is that people may have reasons for choosing their diets and making blanket statements about them isn’t really helpful.

Environmentalism is about making choices that promote sustainability and promoting awareness about environmental issues. Considering that, omnivores can absolutely be environmentalists. Veganism is a choice that many people make to help reduce their environmental footprint, and it’s a very good choice overall. Raising animals takes up a lot of resources, so cutting animal products out of your diet definitely helps the planet. Still, it’s only one of many environmental choices you can make. I don’t own a car, cycle almost everywhere, take the train whenever possible, reuse things, and avoid buying new products whenever necessary, among other things. I’ve also cut my meat consumption drastically over the past month and made an effort to choose better dairy and egg options. Other people make different choices and I’m ok with that, as long as they make some sort of effort and take steps to lead a more environmental life. About a week ago, I read an op-ed piece about how people often call vegans hypocrites when they make less environmental choices in other areas of their lives.*** The point was that it’s not really fair to expect vegans to be perfect based on their decision to eat a more sustainable diet. I think that’s a totally fair point and the same should apply to all environmentalists (in most cases, at least – some people are truly hypocritical).

Perhaps, instead of excluding omnivores from the environmentalist community, critics should keep spreading awareness about the impact of factory farming, the energy that goes into raising beef, food wastage, and overconsumption. Personally, posts like this have helped me make better choices in my diet, even if I can’t totally cut out meat. They might help other people do the same. These types of messages tend to be a lot more inclusive, and people are generally more willing to accept inclusive messages than ones that they feel totally exclude them.

*I got this image from this Facebook post. I wanted to share it because I wanted to publicly comment on it, but I don’t know who owns the content here. If you are the owner of this image and want me to take it down, please contact me and let me know :)
**This might be a different story in different places, but I can tell you that both here and in western Canada, this is absolutely the case.
***For the life of me, I can’t find this piece again. If anyone knows what I’m talking about, please send it to me.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 801 other followers