Life can end at any point.
Any time, any place.
I used to think that people died of diseases, or of old age. I assumed, but did not truly believe it. As a child, I remember stealing a knife from the kitchen and keeping it under my pillow. Just in case someone would barge in our house and try to kill everyone. Unlikely. But my imagination never let me forget. Especially at night. I grew up afraid of dying in my own home, killed somehow. But years passed, and as a young woman who takes care of my body and my mind, I swapped the knife for a rape alarm and a criminel identifier (old habits die hard), and went ahead assuming I would not die for a long time.
But then recently my home has been hit hard three times in the past year and a half, and people died at a concert. They died celebrating Bastille Day. They died writing a journal everyone reads.
And the fear came back in earnest.
I can die anywhere. Taking the RER. The metro. Dining at a brasserie. Going to a concert. Driving my car. Walking along a path. Going for a run. If the recent events have shown something, it’s that death can be anywhere and there is nothing you can do about it if you’re in its way.
So what now?
Do I stop doing everything so I can live a long, unfullfilled life? Do I cower in fear? Do I give up?
I think, all these deaths have provoked something in me. A want to live more. A need to be unafraid.
I spent a lot of time repressing my feelings, afraid I would get rejected, afraid it would do this or that… but kind words can never hurt anyone, and we should all spread more love to counteract the horrible, terrible things happening in our world. So what now?
What if you do get rejected? The worst that can happen is they say no, and you learn to move on. There is no bad scenario.
What if you aim too high and fall down hard? Again, as long as you breathe you can ajust your aim and try again and lower your expectations of instead aim even higher and keep falling until you succeed.
What if? What ifs are the bane of everyone’s existence. Many authors figured it out long ago: What ifs are evil.
“You’re worried about what-ifs. Well, what if you stopped worrying?”
― Shannon Celebi,
“Live your life without ever having to ask, ‘What if?”
― Ken Poirot
And so I have decided to strip myself from my fear.
What if I die today? What if someone does get inside my home? What if a guy decides to blow up in the same train I’m taking to go to the movies? What would my last thought be? What is the worst thought I could have in my last moments?
“Shit, I should’ve done that”. “Shit, I didn’t apologize about this”. “Shit, I forgot to say that”.
We are all ashes and dust. This world is heavy and wonderful and dangerous. Fear nothing. Be fearless. Take everything the world gives you, for it will all take it back, eventually. Maybe tomorrow.
Make plans for the future, but also make plans for now. Tomorrow. Next week. The present is all that you have with absolute certainty. Make it count.
This is my 2016 Goal: Say the things I keep inside my head. Be simple. Be real. Don’t mess people around. I could be gone tomorrow, and the last thought I want to have is “Well, at least I’ve done good things. Well, at least I’ve told NoName about my feels. Well, at least I didn’t keep fighting with my parents. Well, at least I kept putting efforts into all the people who mattered in my life.”
This is what I want. To be able to die at any moment and have the least regret I can.
It’s a journey. But I am willing to give it a go. For the time I have left, no matter how long, I want to make it count.
I was not meant to read this book. I stole it from my sister’s shelf in her bathroom. You know, that place where you put magazines, a Sudoku book with a pencil but not an earser (dammit!), books you read the back cover hundreds of time but never actually start?
The title drew me in. I opened a random page, and poetry jumped at me. So I stole it, and started reading it on the RER on my way back to England. I had to stop.
This book could not be read on the train. This book had to be read in a place where I would be able to break down fearlessly.
So I landed, sat in my bed in a comfy shirt, with a cup of tea, and read it in one go. It is quite a short read, only a few hours, as the book is only about a hundred pages.
Now, if you know me, you know I hate France. I refuse to read in French unless it was originally written in French, I refuse to watch translated movies because, well, I have a weird aversion for anything French.
This book may have been my way back.
The poetry in the sentences, the way the story begins with the end and draws us back to the beggining, the fact that it was a biography of sorts and not an invention made it so much more powerful for me.
This book packs a punch and will leave you crying on the floor and depressed for a few days. Which is why you shoud read it. Because it makes you FEEL so much. I love feeling things through words, because those words were felt, written, and the feelings somehow travel in the book and punches you in the face when you open the book.
What is the story? Well, you know you’re in for a ride when you realise that page 1 tells you that the main character has lost his precious person. And then proceeds to take you through their first encounter, all the way to his lover’s last breath.
Now, I am not partial cancer stories, as they are often overdone and do not feel ‘real’ but ‘made’ for the reader.
The fact that David Lelait is the main character, and that everything he says are words he wrote while the story was happening to him made it special. And the poetry, ah, the poetry.
I cannot stay away from a well-written work of art.
And neither should you.
Ah, yes, I do love a big bowl of nicecream.
What is nicecream, I hear you ask? It is a trend/breakfast/lunch/dinner that is both healthy, filling and delicious. I have been having it everyday for two months. And I am starting to get bored, but mostly because I have tried every combo I could possibly think of. I will stick to green juice for a while and I am sure the crave for a nice bowl of nicecream will come back in time.
I want to discuss nicecream, however, because it is esthetically pleasing to the eye and makes my stomach feel good. Hopefully yours will, too.
Here is how you do it: You freeze bananas. You blend bananas (in a high speed blender, a food processor, whatever works for you. I have invested in a high speed blender, but I also used to manage a fair blend in a poor food processor, as long as I cut my bananas quite small and stay patient).
Blend the bananas, as I was saying….
Why should I start my day with bananas?
-The potassium in them will help lower your blood pressure. The fibre in them will be fantastic to prevent that stroke you might worry about. And will also make you go to the bathroom. Clean that intestine, you know.
-The bacteria in them will enable your gut to actually absorb nutrients (such as calcium, which you won’t find in milk. Do not drink milk).
-Fruits are the best way to gently wake up your stomach as it possesses natural sugars that will give you energy and protect your stomach. Bananas in particular will release quick-release AND slow-release sugars in your system, so you’ll get an energy boost in the short AND long term. Talk about a fruit that keeps getting better.
That is all. I will let you discover for yourself what works best for you (cough-chocolate-cough).
Get blending, and speak later!
It is incredible the amount of information you can get by being here and being silent while someone vents to you about their problems. Don’t talk. Listen carefully. To the tone of their voice, the way their breathing speeds up when they get to the centre of the problem. Stay calm and listen.
By staying calm and listening, I became the person people came to in order to speak about their intimate problems.
And I think it is very important for me to share what I have learnt so far.
If you are in a couple:
If you feel the love, show the love.
Nothing and no one should ever be taken for granted. You probably never should take anything for granted, but that applies even more so for a human being you love. Granted means forgetting. Forgetting that they have a right to leave you, that they have a right to feel sad you don’t show affection as you used to, that they are not just another object in your house that you get to talk to or use sometimes and put in corner when you’re busy.
Most people thrive on affection. Little gestures can make someone’s day. A brush on a hand on your lover’s back, a smile and a kiss, holding hands, sharing a private joke, throw cake batter at each other, wake them up with breakfast, whatever tickles your fancy.
Show the love, dammit! If you’re lucky enough to love and be loved in return, hold that knowledge and cherish that person every time you get the chance. Finding love isn’t a given. It’s a chance. Be grateful.
If you feel the love, talk it out.
A couple can never work without words. Words are the cement holding the bricks of your story. Tell you partner you love them, but also tell them when they’re being stupid or unhelpful.
The reverse is also true: listen to your partner’s voice. It’s not just background noise. If your partner seeks you out to talk something out, it probably means they’ve been holding it in for while. Take five, sit down, listen, and come to a compromise or a solution. This is the person you love. You can, and should take time to work out things that may not be working. And perhaps you didn’t notice some things weren’t working. That’s okay. Most things can be fixed if worked on.
If you feel the love, work on it.
Imagine your love as a garden. No garden has ever thrived on being left alone. What happens to a garden when abandoned? It grows weed, , some plants you forgot to water die out, and you can end up with a jungle. Hard to make your way through a jungle without a machete and some serious determination. That doesn’t have to happen if you take care of it a little every day. Weed out of the weeds, trim the plants, water the roses. Work on your couple. That can mean various things for various couples, but as long as you take care of each other, compromise without losing yourself in the process, then there is a solution.
If you feel the love, feel the love.
You can love someone and not be in love with them. You can start by being in love and fall out of love. You can love someone fiercely and not be in love with them. That’s okay. Analyse yourself. Do you love them? Do you really love them? Or are you with them for all the wrong reasons? Because it’s comfortable, you’ve been with them for a long time, because you’re scared of being alone, because you have kids, because you feel like you’re not worth anything if they don’t love you, because you know nothing else… Be sure you love them for them, because they make you want to better yourself, because you love them more or as much as you love yourself.
If you feel the love, don’t change yourself.
If you love someone, don’t change for them. They should fall in love with you, and you should fall in love with them as they are. Some things will have to change to accommodate your life together, but the price of a couple shouldn’t be the loss of one of your partner or your own personality.
But the most important thing is, if you feel the love, make sure you love yourself when you’re with them.
You are the one person you will have to live with for the rest of your life. No one else is a fixture in your life but yourself. Make sure you can look at yourself in the mirror and think “I’m enough all by myself, and I love myself”. If you can say this and love someone else just as much, put a smile on your face and keep it on. Go gardening and smell the flowers.
Lonely people have always existed, and in the past few years I have found myself to be a part of this category.
Now, lonely and alone don’t mean the same thing. You can be alone and lonely, but you can also be surrounded by people and still be lonely. Alone depends on the number of people around you. Lonely is its own little monster. It shows up, drags you down, and makes you feel all alone in the world behind the fake smile no one seems to see through.
Being alone is lovely. You get to think, listen to music and dance in your underwear, watch a great movie and eat all the pop corn by yourself (#NoShame), read an enthralling book (in one go) and no one bothers you.
So since I appear to have gotten a master’s degree in loneliness, here are my top tips to be comfortably lonely.
Tip #1 : Go to a coffee shop. Not an industrial one like Starbucks. Scout the city, find a place where people aren’t in a rush. Take your time ordering a drink, ask the barista what he recommends, find something you haven’t tried before. Sit at a comfortable in the corner and people watch. Observe and invent people’s life. Smile at them, then pretend you’re busy so he/she doesn’t think you’re a stalker (unless you are, which is another issue entirely). Bring a journal and write your feels in there. Leave it for someone to find. Listen to music way to loudly and have no shame, mouth the lyrics and shuffle in your seat. Hum for a while, with various speeds and rhythm. I promise you can cheer yourself up. Just get out of the house, befriend the barista and entertain yourself around other people. The little interactions are like an aspirin against a headache. They almost always work.
Tip #2: Train for an athletic event. Anyone can train for a marathon, or a triathlon, or a race. A race is basically a little marathon, it’s only 10km, which you can walk if you feel like it. Why does it help? Because endorphins are great to give you a high and make you feel happy. But also because having an athletic goal gets you out of the house. Run a little, run a lot, walk around if you want, put on some music and move. It takes away a good chunk of time you would be spending feeling lonely. Exercise, in any form, takes time and makes you feel like you are accomplishing something, like you are working towards something. Not to mention the day of the event, where you get to meet great people (don’t take your headphones, I swear you can talk to anyone at a race), have free food and drink (and sometimes massages). For a day, you’re not lonely, because there are hundreds or thousands of people who trained for the exact same thing. You are a part of a group. For a day, sure, but maybe you’ll make friends for life? Encourage people, wave at the people on the sidelines and randomly yell at someone that his/her costume is amazing (there always are people in costumes cheering you up). Those events are all year long and perfect to shake off the lonely monster from your shoulder. After all, you’re running faster than him.
Tip #3: Bake the shit out of every complicated recipe you’ve seen on Bake Off. Watch food networks, find a really complicated recipe that looks delicious and spend hours trying to make it as perfect as the recipe. Put music, your favourite apron (go buy a favourite apron if you don’t have one) and destroy your kitchen floor like it’s nobody’s business. The messier, the better. Eat the raw batter, use fancy kitchen instruments like dinosaur cookie cutters to cut your eggplant or your sweet potatoe… or your cookies.
Don’t clean it right away. Sit down and eat the food while it’s hot in front of your favourite TV show.
Tip #4: Concerts. Go to concerts or festivals by yourself. If you’re ashamed to say you went alone, say that you lost your friends in the crowd. But frankly, if you tell it like it is, chances are you’ll get invited to a party or to share a beer with a bunch of people you don’t know. Feeling shy? You’re all here for a singer. Talk about a conversation starter, you all like the same person. Done. Conversation starter. If that doesn’t happen, go in the centre of all the fun and jump and sing with everyone. However, don’t drink people’s drink. Take care of yourself.
Tip #5: If one evening you feel very lonely, go get this book you’ve been meaning to read but haven’t. Put on some calm music like The Civil Wars, settle down with a cup of tea/coffee/wine and read all evening until your eyes start to close by themselves. Give in. Don’t even brush your teeth, no one will know. Don’t forget, books are temporary friends forever. They won’t replace the real thing, but they’ll do the trick for a little while.
However, if you feel lonely, I hope it’s only for a little while.
It is so easy to close your eyes and imagine a perfect universe.
The fact is, you can create what you wish to see, and let yourself play make belief, but people will are always here to rain on your parade.
Today, those people are vegans.
Vegans are the worst.
They will nag at you and tell you all about the horrifying conditions of animals in our society whether other people want to hear it or not, and God, will they ever stop talking about animals?
I am a vegan.
I learn everyday more and more about the industry and the terrible things that we use animals for, and these are a few reasons why we can’t seem to stop talking about it.
- Die. Everyday, millions of animals (MILLIONS!!!!) die a horrible death. Each year, humans are responsible for 150 000 000 000 of deaths. That’s 5 000 sentient beings killed each time you take a breath. The argument against is that humans need animals to die for us to live.
The truth is, we shouldn’t be alive. At least not to this extent. We used to make 2% of the population on Earth while animals used to make 98%. We have managed tor reverse it so that animals make 2% and we make the rest. Where are they all? Where are the 96% animals that should be somewhere on Earth? They’re dead. The proper term is extinct. Everyday we endanger dozens of species and every day two species disappear (read: kill). If we need meat to live, then we certainly don’t need as much as we are raising. But mostly, we don’t need meat to live a healthy, happy life. We’re just used to it. Throw in potatoes, meat and done, you’ve got yourself a meal. It’s easy. Convenient. Killing animals is convenient. However, a cow escapes from a slaughterhouse and watch as hundreds of people cry for justice, for the cow to be left alone. Isn’t that a little ironic? So, as long as you don’t see the walking dead, you don’t care how they end up on your plate?
- It doesn’t do your health any good. Eating meat or dairy isn’t the way to go if you want to stay healthy. Ideally, 12oz of dairy is the amount a week that you should be consuming, if any at all. That’s a 1/3-cup. It doesn’t help with osteoporosis, on the contrary. The less dairy you eat, the better your bones will feel. It raises your IGF-1, which has been known to cause cancer. It’s also not a coincidence that 75% of people worldwide are lactose intolerant. They’re not intolerant, they’re normal. Dairy is fatty, full of cholesterol, and it doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to a baby calf meant to grow to a full size cow. No dairy product is meant to help a kid grow into an adult. A baby cow is three times to size of a baby!
- They’re used for testing. Animals are shaved, prodded, cut open and then thrown into a pile of dead bodies after unsuccessful trials. Just a list of things tested on animals or have animal products : Plastic bags, tires, glue in musical instruments, fireworks, fabric softener, toothpaste, shampoo, conditionner, white sugar, post-it notes, condoms, Mars bars, pet food, contact lenses, diapers, and many other things. Some of the reasons vegans are upset is because we do not need to use animals for some (read: any) tests made to “help” humans. The thing is, these animals aren’t ours to take, kill or breed. They’re there for their own reasons. (http://www.crueltyfreeinternational.org/en/the-issue/animal-tests-and-alternatives )
- Some people assume that being human is a good enough reason to mass murder. But some also assume that some species are better than others. When asked, lots of people will tell you they find it unacceptable to test on chimps, but will find it perfectly acceptable to test on mice. The different is nowhere to be found. Mice are as valuable as chimps. They breathe, feel pain, and shouldn’t be tested on. Period. Why would a species be more important than another? Why is it acceptable? Isn’t it the same as saying you can’t rape a child but can rape an adult because of what they were wearing? Aren’t both as important? Isn’t it unacceptable in both cases? So because of a height difference the situation can be adapted? No.
- You can create fake wool, fake meat, fake egg, fake EVERYTHING. Vegans don’t miss much because we can find everything that you guys eat without the added death, carbon print, suffering and destruction of our planet. We do it for the animals, the environnement, many reasons. Why don’t you? Because it’s tasty? Because dead tissue is Yummy?
- It is unnecessary. You don’t love meat. Unless you eat meat raw, as it is, with the blood and guts, you don’t love meat in its natural state. How can it be natural for us to eat it if we can’t bear the raw taste of it? My guess is because they were never intended for us. Reach up, reach down, they are so many options of fruits, veggies, and even now vegan meat, milk, cheese, whatever your heart desires. You don’t need to kill animals to get your fix.
- Cows get raped, their kids get ripped away from you. Piglets are castrated. Chickens get their beaks cut. Male chicks get ground alive because they don’t matter. It goes on and on. All is done without anesthetics.
- We do enough destroying each other, why do we need to include animals in our path?
- We destroy the environnement, the best places on Earth, the lung of the planet, to grow feed for factory farms.
- Animals have no voices, but they have a capacity to feel pain. We can be their voice. We have to be.
- I used to get it. I don’t anymore.
But that isn’t even the only problem about veganism. The problem is that as you go, you gather information, you gather knowledge, you gather uncomfortable truths you try to tell other people about. And as you go, you are met with people who won’t listen, or care, or understand, or believe, and some of that you can’t do anything about. It brings you down and makes you angry, because you have the studies, the scientists, the knowledge with you, but sputter and cannot get the knowledge out as you get more and more uncomfortable because you understand, you can’t change everyone.
You can change a few, maybe. But you can’t change everyone.
And I can’t speak for everyone, but I cannot stop talking about veganism because I am outraged, and I want everyone to be on my side. Who doesn’t want to have everyone on their side?
I guess, I’m just trying to make the world a better place.
A place where we don’t kill, we don’t destroy.
A place where I can wake up and think,
“Maybe, someday, I’ll have children. I’ll show them the glaciers, the green grass, the Amazonian forest, the rhinos, the lions and other animals we didn’t exterminate in our quest for more more more more, and I’ll say, ‘Kids, this is our planet’, and be proud.”
Transgenic art is a new form of art that is being used more and more as artists start to experiment with life.
Our generation is unlike anything the world has ever experienced; we are more connected than ever and technology has made its place in so many aspects of our lives we wouldn’t know how to live without it. As we know, artists tend to make statements about the world we live in, and what could be better than to comment on all the transgenic modifications our world is being submitted to? We have GMOs, experimenting with clones, and it doesn’t seem to stop pushing forward, streching the line of the ethical. Artists, by using the medium of bio art, can recieve loud responses from the work they create, such as GFP Bunny, a fluorescent bunny created by Eduardo Kac. The critics were mixed, and a lot of people were shocked that humans had used an animal for art purposes.
Of course, not all bio art is concerned with animals, as we can see with Edunia, a genetically modified flower that contains both the flower and Kac’s DNA. But Kac takes responsibility for what he creates. Alba still lives with him, and so will the other creations he will make, such as the project of GFP-K-9, a fluorescent dog. Ethically, it appears fair : If you must create a new art form, you must care for it afterwards.
Transgenic art deals with artificially controlled beings, whether animal or mineral, which’s genetic sentence is transformed by humans. As Eduardo Kac mentions, there must be a connection between ” the artist, the public and the transgenic organism”. Peope must be willing to understand what is being played with in bio art. It is not entertainement, it is pushing the limit of the possible.
It is art beyond what we can see, that still impacts the final “product”. For instance, Alba, the rabbit who’s genetic sentence was modified, that resulted in her glowing in the dark.This shows how everything we touch can be modified to our needs, or our pleasure. I do not agree with any of those methods, but I understand the reasons behind the art. It is a statement that is loud and clear, we are in control of everything. We are at the top of the food chain and can play God. Because it is essentially what is being done in laboratories every day. People play God and artists showcase the creations they make in a performance to allow the audience to comment and react in many different ways to the creation.
It can both offend and/or notify people of what happens behind closed doors, as no one is truly aware of the exact manipulations that take place… in a place where there are no rules or ethics. Artists therefore create something that scientists and slaughterhouses don’t : anger. People will start to comment on the fact that they shouldn’t have the right to do such things, to play with animals that way, to strip them of their rights…
Jennifer Hood mentions in The Ethics of Transgenic Art that “the line between art and science is blurred.” I have to agree. If artists can play with genetics, then where does it stop? Can we all create our own fluorescent beings in our gardens? Why would anyone stop us? We are all manipulating animal life in one way or another, if it is for livestock, where we breed and breed and breed the unwilling animals to have meat, if it is for progress, where we create monsters to see if we can, if it is for medicine, so we don’t have to test it on ourselves first, if it is for clothes, even though we have no need for leather or fur anymore, if it is for entertainemeny, I mean, who doesn’t like a good horseback ride, or elephant ride, or ostrich ride, or donkey ride, if it is for eggs, because we cannot restrain ourselves from that good old butter and sunny side up eggs… The list is never ending, and it doesn’t seem to bother most of the public. We might wonder why. I think the best way to explain it would be to take the example of a mermaid. If we found one in the ocean, an educated guess would be that humans would take it and try to interrogate it. But as it is a non-human species, we wouldn’t understand it. We would therefore feel enclined to disregard who they are as individuals for entertainement purposes (put it in big aquarium, perhaps?) or “educational” purposes (Look at that, it is a mermaid… it used to be free and now it’s not… It used to live in the ocean, used to travel miles and miles a day, and now you can look at it… as it slowly lets itself dies from depression) and even maybe under means of conservation (We must protect the mermaid!… as we exterminate the Amazon, home for so many species that everyday, more than 2 are eliminated and more than 20 get into the eternally growing list of endangered species… But we must eat meat, we must continue to destroy the planet! Onwards! Save the mermaid! As we fish sharks, dolphins and whales when trying to get tuna, due to the massive fishnets that gives no respect to any living beings in the ocean… except this one mermaid).
The catch is… mermaids aren’t real… but all the other non-human species we use in everyday life are.
Foreign films have a tendency to pass under the radar in english-speaking countries. Why? Because we already have the original versions of the Hollywood blockbusters. Why would we need anything else than what Hollywood gives us?
Well, as a French student, I will let you know what I have observed. People cannot be bothered with subtitles. It appears sitting in a room with images and text going on at the same time is difficult. Your point is invalid. If you are watching Games of Thrones, The Hundred, etc, then you can do both. Granted, it is an effort. But you are passing by some really amazing stories that have nothing to do with saving the world, or BDSM. Foreign movies often have less budget to create some epic scenes, which means they actually have to find content to entertain us with. Many movies that have never made it past the English Channel (aka La Manche) can be recommended. Just this Christmas, La Famille Bélier hit the screens with a touching story about a teenage girl discovering she has a gift for singing… problem is, her entire family is deaf, owns a farm in the middle of nowhere and cannot comprehend her newfound passion. A few months ago, Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au bon Dieu? made the entire audience burst into laughter, not unlike Avis de Mistral or Eyjafjallajökull, with Dany Boon (our famous comedian you all saw in Bienvenu chez les Ch’tis?).
Foreign films have a lot to give, and though we do not always share the same humor, there are plenty of choices to please everyone.
Another observation I made concerns the openness of a country to foreign movies. In France, we get about half of our movies from Hollywood. The other half consists of both french and foreign movies from all over the world. Since coming to Exeter, a year and a half ago, I have barely seen any posters for foreign movies. It’s just not in your culture it seems. The question is, did the theaters used to offer diversity and had to stop because the screens were always empty, or did it just never happen?
You would think all movies that do not come from Hollywood can be swiped under the rug because they don’t matter, but it isn’t true. Foreign movies have as much to offer as Hollywood, if not more, because they truly have to fight to get screen time. Money being an issue, only the best of them get out (I will admit, some are not worth it. But you should make up your own mind). And, when they do get out, and the box office explodes with Euros, then sometimes America and the United Kingdom will screen it (Amélie Poulain for instance). But you are missing so many other fantastic movies that should be in your repertoire. Internet is your oyster, and you can find all those movies online. I highly recommed all the titles I mentionned, but I also encourage you to look up more titles from all over the place (Wadja from Saudia Arabia is poignant) to discover that all countries have some great films to show the world. They just don’t have the means to.
So for this World Cinema Week, jump on the occasion and visit the cinema. Chances are, you won’t regret it.