Them German Signs
Evil Schemes, Photography, Thoughts, Urban

How I Dealt With My Crazy A-Hole Roommate

German dogs are extraordinarily well trained and are allowed to go pretty much anywhere – restaurants, shopping malls, trains, even movie theaters. No one is ever being yanked by their dog down the street screaming at them “NO PULL! NO PULL!” Most dogs I see are off-leash in the middle of the city, cheerfully sniffing and peeing on everything they can right next to busy streets.

One thing Germans do not do well is pick up their dog’s poo. I have become something of an expert poo-dodger, because not only do Germans not pick up their dog’s poo, they also seem to have no problem with their dog squatting and taking a huge dump right in the middle of a sidewalk. Sidewalks are almost certainly German dogs’ preferred place for dumping. Which means when you’re walking cheerfully along, enjoying the beautiful, fresh-smelling day, you’re rather likely to step in a nice juicy one if you haven’t yet developed your expert poo-dodging skills. (It’s all about the peripheral vision, guys. Just gotta hone those periphs.)

There are still signs around like in the States asking people to please DON’T LET YOUR DOG CRAP ON THE SIDEWALK OR IF YOU DO, PICK IT UP FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. But, being German, they are way more explicit. Instead of a nice vectorized vague form of poo with an X over it or something like that, they have this:

German literalism at its best.

German literalism at its best.

My original plan with the Roommate was to collect some juicy sidewalk poo and then get imaginative.

The whole put-it-in-a-bag-set-it-on-fire-on-the-porch-ring-doorbell-run trick doesn’t work here, because we live on the top floor in a building full of apartments and Roommate would never go all the way down the stairs just to see why someone wouldn’t stop ringing the buzzer. I had to think of other options. I literally spent a good hour or two gleefully outlining all the devilish things I could do with this poo. I could just leave it in the bag and hide it under his bed, so it both attracted vermin and made everything smell. I could find a blender, blend it so it was nice and liquified, then pour it into the delicate inner workings of his Playstation. I could also do less destructive things, like take his collection of DVDs, put them on a spool so they’d be safe, and then pour the liquified dog poo into the empty cases. It would both smell awful with seemingly no origin, and the next time he wanted to watch one of his DVDs he’d open the case and instead of the Matrix there’d be POO!

I’m still rather proud of that one. Thinking about it induces instant maniacal giggles.

As soon as I found out I’d be moving out in a month 90% of my rage melted away. Really the things he had done weren’t so bad. Wasn’t I supposed to be the bigger person? The Boyfriend also urged me to step back and view his life from a larger perspective, trying to convince me there was nothing I could do to him that he hadn’t already done to himself.

(Except replace his German copy of Dude Where’s My Car? with dog crap, he probably hadn’t done that).

But it didn’t really work, because I wasn’t after vengeance – I was after justice. Justice, for the time we asked him to please wash the pan on the stove full of his old food because we needed to use it to cook ourselves, as there are five people in the apartment sharing two pans, and he tried to get us kicked out (Thankfully the other roommates responded with, ‘Um, hell-to-the-no.’). Justice, for the times he told me I needed to take out the paper trash because it was attracting flies, when a square yard of the kitchen floor was covered in his half-empty beer bottles that were literally full of flies and I took out the paper trash once a month anyway

Justice, for the time he skipped his cleaning week and didn’t clean for two months, then tried to criticize me for my cleaning ability. Justice, for drinking all our expensive liquor with his friends without asking for permission, and then when I confronted him about it, leaving a 10e bill on the table without apologizing – when he knew the bottle cost 30e! 

The worst was when I decided to play a game called ‘Let’s See How Long it Takes Roommate to Take Out the Trash’ (because in addition to never taking out the trash or put back the dishes from the dish washer, he also never bought household items like toilet paper, soap, trash bags, washing detergent, sugar, cleaning spray, etc.) and nine days later he moved the trash from our kitchen to the apartment stairwell so the whole building smelled like ass, then three days later he finally took it out to the garbage can in the courtyard outside, and then he never put in a new trash liner. Boyfriend and I were keeping our trash in little tied bags in our room and then taking it out every morning. Have no idea what Roommate was doing. Eventually the good roommates returned and put a new trash liner in and bought all the other household things. But Asshole Roommate still never bought anything or took out the trash

And justice most of all for being super nice about it, for taking deep breaths and walking away when I most wanted to shriek and punch the wall, for never confronting him until he confronted me or the Boyfriend. I even tried just cleaning after him, in the hopes that if he saw that everything was always super clean he would start feeling guilty, and we would build a sense of goodwill and mutual understanding and help maintain a clean kitchen where everyone could cook when they needed without having to wash other people’s dirty dishes.

Did I mention he tried to get us kicked out of the apartment because we were dirty?

As you can tell, I’m still a little upset about it.

So, in an effort to stem the utterly psychotic, mass-murdering rampage rage building inside me, I decided to take the thing that most ruined my day – Roommate being an asshole and feeling like I am living with a giant spoiled toddler I can’t discipline and who slams doors and blasts music and is generally rude – and turn it into an art project.

This photography series is called Demon, Thy Name is Hypocrisy, and was gathered over the past week and a half. I only ever take pictures in the morning, giving him 12 – 24 hours to clean before grabbing my camera.

After deciding to turn Roommate’s messes into photographs, my attitude completely changed – I was almost excited for a particularly glorious mess, because it meant more photography opportunities. Forcing myself to find the beauty in something that so infuriated me sucked out the anger in a weird sort of way. It was hard, obviously – these photographs aren’t my best work, for sure – but it helped me let go of my anger. Now instead of determinedly imaging all the ways I could use dog poop to make Roommate’s life miserable, I began to view things with a sort of smugness – he thought he was just pissing me off, when it reality, he was helping me. And he was probably more upset about me than I was about him. Eventually the smugness wore off, and now I’m more at the just-shake-your-head-and-go-get-your-camera stage — which is a healthier place to be I think.

I know this strategy might not work for all situations, but when you’re really angry and you can’t do anything to change anything, that anger hurts yourself more than anyone else. Thinking of a way to repurpose the awful into something you enjoy, forcing yourself to be creative in finding ways to manipulate it to your own advantage, can help let go of those damaging emotions.

I’m happy to say that Boyfriend and I are moving into our own place this weekend, and I hope to never have roommates again. HAZAH!

And in case you were wondering, this is where the German government hopes people will put their dog poo instead of leaving it in the middle of the street. Look how friendly and perfectly unused it is.

poo bucket

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Donbas Battalion Flag
Thoughts, Ukraine, War

The Tragedy of the Donbas Battalion

Last November, I went to the Netherlands to visit a good friend of mine who then became my boyfriend, and who just happened to be Ukrainian. He introduced me to a whole new world and a whole new kind of people, and I was delighted to be largely embraced by them. Within that two week trip, I went from knowing one Ukrainian to knowing at least twenty, went to a Ukrainian wedding where I communicated to the non-English speaking family members of the bride and groom through Anna Kendrick’s “Cup Song” (it was just as strange and awesome as you might imagine, and afterwards they drank Scotch and toasted to America), and watched the protest on Independence Square in Ukraine begin.

I won’t reiterate what happened here. If you don’t know, Vice News has a great summing up of the protests, why they began, and how they ended. All I will say is that, despite rampant disorganization and some trying, and nearly succeeding, to take advantage of the confusion, it was a glorious example of a people coming together to rise up against an oppressive government, and successfully overthrowing the figurehead of that government, at the least. (It’s my belief that the true master of Ukraine’s previous regime was Russia, and the war in the East is only a natural progression of what started last November – first the puppet, now the puppet master. But that’s just my opinion.)

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7e6B64Iqqg]

I was first introduced to the Donbas Battalion by Vice News three or four months ago. I was perhaps a little too excited to see what I thought of as the beginning of the unspoken-resistance. In my mind, the war in Ukraine was still something to be discussed over dinner, analyzed, and argued about, and doing so had not taken on the dark, iron-in-the-back-of-my-throat tinge that it does today. The Donbas Battalion was one of the first pro-Ukrainian militias formed in a part of the country where the only news was about pro-Russian militias, whose media-presence sounded a bit like,

“By the people, for the people – your friendly neighborhood pro-Russian militia!”

The Donbas Battalion was formed out of a few angry Ukrainian patriots and led by a man named Semen Semenchenko. They took down Russian flags and put up Ukrainian ones at the local government offices. They went to the local police station and shamed the police, screaming, “There are 300,000 police in this country and no one is protecting Ukrainian speaking people! Who is the guest here – us or you?” They were one of the first civilian-organized volunteer militias, stepping up where the Ukrainian regular military couldn’t. I was elated.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KFGgKPrWfY]

The Donbas Battalion continued to grow, both in numbers and popularity. They were in many of the eastern fights, sometimes critical in the success of battles over crucial territory. They were in Sloviansk, Donetsk, and Luhansk. They, and battalions like them, were the only fighting force in the east against the ‘rebels’ for months, and continue to bare the brunt of much of the fighting going on now.

A few months ago, 55 year-old American investment banker and West Point graduate named Mark Gregory Paslawsky went all the way to Ukraine from Manhattan to join the Donbas Battalion.

His story sounds a little like mine, taken to a whole new level – frustrated and helpless just watching people cry out for help, compelled to try to do what he could.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/21/world/europe/an-american-voice-on-ukraines-front-lines-goes-silent.html?_r=4&referrer=

He’s dead now. As are the vast majority of the Donbas Battalion.

I’ve been obsessively following #Ukraine on Twitter for months now, and the ‘news before it’s news’ thing never hit home until week before last, when I read live Tweets from civilians and journalists crying out about the besieged city of Ilovaisk. The Donbas Battalion was there for a month or more, desperately holding out against increasingly superior opposing forces and begging the Ukrainian government for reinforcements.

Paslawksy was killed on August 19th. Reinforcements never came.

http://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine/abandoned-donbas-battalion-fights-on-361886.html

Then, a proposal – the remaining fighting men in Ilovaisk would surrender, as long as they were given a safety corridor on which to retreat.

It was agreed. The Ukrainian men surrendered Ilovaisk to either Russian-military-backed rebels, or the Russian military itself depending on who you ask, and left down the safety corridor, where they were ambushed with vastly superior fire power and brutally killed nearly to the man.

The extent of the damage still isn’t known, at least not by me and my news sources. But it looks like hundreds dead, killed in out-right betrayal by a military no one acknowledges is even there. I can’t find out if Semen Semenchenko is alive or dead, but nothing has been heard from him for weeks.

Here’s a terrifying statistic from the Kiev Post article:

“On Aug. 21, the Interior Ministry reported that 25 percent of all those from special battalions killed since the anti-terrorist operation began had been killed in Ilovaisk.”

And here’s Vice New’s coverage of the remains of the ‘safety corridor’ itself. (Warning: extremely graphic.)

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4r_Nf2VK5_4]

And here are interviews with some of the survivors.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/09/06/anatomy_of_a_bloodbath_ukraine_volunteer_battalions_ilovaisk_donetsk

And both a summing-up of the current situation in Eastern Ukraine and another explanation of the Battle for Iloviask from a German perspective.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/russia-expands-war-in-eastern-ukraine-amid-web-of-lies-a-989290-2.html

The struggles in Ukraine have affected me more deeply than I can describe. I have sat in front of my computer, reading or watching the latest news, with my hands over my mouth and tears on my cheeks more times than I can count. I watched the protestors in Euromaidan and their desperation to form a better country, a better life, and I saw my own face and those of my friends. I watched the men creating their own civilian-led battalions during the almighty panic and confusion after ousted-President Viktor Yanukovych fled and Crimea was invaded, and their faces were the faces of my boyfriend and his friends. I watched the shattered homes and starving, dying civilians in the now war-torn east, furious over the deaths of innocents that no one could explain, and I saw the faces of my boyfriend’s parents, who are still in Ukraine, and sometimes, the faces of my own family.

To say I am losing my faith in humanity would be incorrect. If anything, my understanding of our resilience and our capacity for hope grows by the day. I am realizing, however, how terrible a place the world can be in a way history books and the most heart-wrenching war movies never taught. The despicable pointlessness of all these deaths is what hits hardest – the knowledge that there will never be justice for most of the dead, and for the vast majority of the world, not even the faintest awareness of their sacrifice.

But I am also learning, more deeply every day, that some things are worth fighting for.

Some things are worth dying for, even if no one ever knows about your sacrifice.

Because that’s the only way the good things, the right things, can ever become reality. Through tenaciousness. Through sacrifice. And never, ever giving up hope.

Слава Україні! Героям слава!

Rust Cohle, from one of the best examples of film ever made, True Detective.

Rust Cohle, from one of the best examples of film ever made, True Detective.

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What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Love At 17 - Header
Love, Thoughts

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Love at 17

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These are the things I’ve found to be true, with my vast experience of three boyfriends and 22 years on this earth. I say ‘him’ and ‘guy’ and ‘man’ because I happen to be straight, but feel free to change these words and others to fit whatever kind of love you’re living. These are also just my theories so far – maybe I’ll change them as I get older. Even so, I wish I could sit down with myself at 16 or 17 and had a little chat.

Him

You have to find the right guy to find the right guy, right? Not just a guy. Most people have a list of positives and negatives they look for in a man which might involve things like ‘doesn’t have sex with other people’ or ‘has abs.’ But I’ve found that most of the preferences on these lists are basic attributes rather than the deeper traits that cause these attributes. Behaviors and appearance can, and will, change. If you want to be with someone, you need to step back and ask yourself if you really love him, or his attributes.

Self-esteem.

I put this first because I find it to be the single most important thing to any sort of mentally healthy person, not just dating-material. There is a difference between self-esteem and arrogance as well; oftentimes people who are aggressively arrogant or confident in themselves are using this as a defense mechanism to hide their insecurities. Self-esteem isn’t about having no insecurities – it’s about dealing with them in a mature way.

A man with high self-esteem is relaxed in his confidence. He doesn’t have to prove himself to anyone but himself, and he often has a personal standard against which he measures his actions and successes. He doesn’t let winning or losing get to him very much regardless of how competitive he may be. He’s never going to reveal an inability to make large decisions, or an inability to let you make large decisions. He’s unlikely to get defensive when questioned or criticized, and he’s able to learn from his mistakes because self-esteem often comes hand-in-hand with self-awareness. He will never feel threatened by your accomplishments. And he will never, ever, end up in the same apartment in the same small town till he’s 30 only interrupting his nightly video-game binge for a snack and cigarette run then sleeping all day.

It’s my personal theory that all problems can be traced to insecurity and fear of those insecurities being exposed. Good self-esteem is the ability to be voluntarily vulnerable. And it is rare, and it is priceless.

Now an axe murderer can also have good self-esteem, so obviously this isn’t everything. But without it, there will be inevitable, and possibly insurmountable, problems.

Self-Esteem

Kindness.

This is the anti-axe murderer trait, and it doesn’t mean he has to go volunteer at a homeless shelter or hand-feed lost baby raccoons (which are adorable, by the way, and will also destroy all your shit). But kindness in a man with high self-esteem is safety. If deep down you are confident he would help a stranger in need or not hurt someone to get what he wants even though he could, simply because he needs to and wants to and not because he is attempting to present himself in a certain way, then you have found someone trustworthy.

There are many kind men with low self-esteem, but fear can make the best person an animal in the right situation, and while you may be able to trust this sort of man not to hurt you deeply, I don’t think you can trust him not to hurt you.

Respect.

This is unique to you, because some people respect things another person wouldn’t. You’re in to the businessman-type? Then you respect professional progress and respect from peers (probably also like how he looks in a suit …mmmmm suit). Like the artistic types? Then you probably respect expressiveness and his ability to devote himself to his passion. You think parkour is just the best thing ever, not just because that kind of agility is sexy, but because you respect the dedication and effort and reckless courage it takes to do it well. Whatever it is, you respect him.

Lack of respect is the death of connection. Find a man who embodies the characteristics you respect, and not a man who embodies characteristics you think you want or other people want. You like a guy who cleans? Then find one who strives for self-improvement, regardless of whether or not he cleans. And if having abs, or being a good singer, or having black hair and green eyes are at the top of your list then, well… maybe you’re not ready for a relationship.

Respect2

Passion.

Passion is very closely linked to respect for me. Find a man who doesn’t just enjoy things, but who has passion and goals related to his passion. If he just wants to build the best most beautiful miniature boat in a bottle that he is capable of building – then hell yeah go build that tiny boat man! There is a huge amount of people floating around without passion. Don’t let the man you choose be one of them. Lack of passion can be testament to lack of self-esteem, and lack of passion means for me, no matter how I fight against it, lack of respect. And no man deserves to have a woman who doesn’t respect him.

 

You

So you’ve found someone not just that has passion and self-esteem, who is kind and you can’t help but respect, but you’ve also fallen in love. Now comes the most important part.

Respect.

Yep, again. He has to respect you. He has to take your passions seriously. He is supportive of your good ideas and talks to you about your bad ones. He both tells you when your skirt is too short and when you look particularly beautiful. He tries the things you suggest. He never rolls his eyes, interrupts you when you talk, or has to be drug to meet the girlfriends. Whatever it is that you are, your unique passions and abilities, he respects, whether you want to be CEO someday or ‘mom.’

Love.

The way I described respect, I guess you could confuse that with love. But love isn’t that easy to define. Love is a magic floating ball of madness and makes your whole being hum with no warning and no control when he is near, or when you think about him, or when you remember he exists (not that you’d ever forget). Love is what makes you respect something you may have specifically thought was stupid before. Love is what transcends a wonderful friend into… well, your love.

And you have to love your man! He can’t just fit into a perfect idea of what you think you want or what you’ve always imagined you should have. Trust me, I’ve been there. And I was wrong. And some women get married to these perfect men that, despite being perfect, they don’t love. I can’t say that they’re unhappy or they made a mistake, but I couldn’t live like that.

The awe-inspiring Joan Harris from Mad Men played by Christina Hendricks.

The awe-inspiring Joan Harris from Mad Men played by Christina Hendricks.

On the other side, a word of caution: love is not enough. If he is capable of cruelty; if he is defensive and frightened; if he has no passion; if he does not respect you – then love is not enough. Mutual love is a precious and transformative power that must be cherished and nurtured. But if your relationship is hanging on your love, and your love alone – then it is not enough, no matter how strong, and it never, ever will be.

You have to ask yourself – are you mistaking respect for love? Are you mistaking having someone to tell his secrets to, for love? Are you mistaking someone to have sex with, or do the dishes with, or do fun things with, for love? Because it’s not. And you know it isn’t – and someday, you’ll know what love is, and you’ll wonder how you ever thought those other things meant he loved you.

Love

Passion.

This doesn’t really have anything to do with relationships, and also everything to do with everything. When a Greek died, they didn’t give an obituary – they only asked did he live with passion? Ask yourself this question, and if you can’t answer right away, with confidence, then you need to figure your shit out. Because you only have one life to live and not doing what fulfills you is not worth it. You are more capable than you realize. Life is less structured than you realize. You are free to live the life you’ve always dreamed of. Find what makes you happy, and then do it.

Passion

Perspective.

If you find someone you think you respect, and you think you love, step back and really ask yourself is he the best, or is he the best so far? Be ruthless. Are you dismissing the things about him you don’t respect and purposefully playing up the things you like? Are you convincing yourself that he needs you, that you are the only one who can help him fix his problems? Have you ever made an excuse for him? Are you settling for less than the best you can imagine?

If you’re imagining a man who has self-esteem, kindness, passion, and respects and loves you, I am telling you right now – he exists. He may not look the way you imagined, or do the same things the way you imagined, or be in the same town as you are right now – but he is out there and if you don’t give up you will find him. That’s it. You just will. He could even end up being Ukrainian and two years younger than you. Who knows? The point is, if you settle for less then you will never find better – but if you keep looking, at least there’s a chance. Do not close yourself off to every other wonderful possibility and twist of fate that you can’t yet see.

Perspective

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Remember Why You Started FI
Inspiration, Thoughts

Almost Forgot Why I Started

I’ve been gearing up for this for a while now. First the idea, then the acknowledgement that the idea is good, then the loose plans for implementation. Work, school, the drama of family and friends strives passionately to intercede, until months have gone by and still all I have is an idea. A good idea. In theory. In theory it is a good idea. But I’ll never know if it’s actually a good idea or not if I don’t do something about it.

So what I did, entirely through happenstance and without any pre-planning, is reread the worn, thin paperback that started everything. It wasn’t the same book, but the same edition, and it smelled exactly like 50 year-old pages and all the dreams that had shaped the days of my lonely, desperately imaginative childhood and, consequently, my entire character. I saw again in my mind’s eye the dragons, their brave and valiant dragonriders, the alien world with its Holds and Weyrs, and I understood a hundred new layers to words I had always held dear but hadn’t really known.

This is what movies should be. This is the movie I want to make.

This reaffirming experience happened at just the right moment; I’ve just moved to Germany from my hometown in New Mexico after completing my Bachelor’s in Digital Film Making, a path I undertook as a child madly determined to share the awe she felt when reading Dragonflight in a way the whole world could understand. Somewhere along the way, my childhood dream of dragons began to seem, well, childish. The world was a lot larger and scarier than I had ever anticipated, the goal I had chosen continually more distant and complex than I had realized. Maybe I could just be a director. Or a screenwriter. Or an writer of novels. I had a chance to inspire awe in those more attainable, but still challenging, ways. Those options were not unworthy of my ardor – they were just more practical.

Well, you know what? No.

do want to be a director and a screenwriter and an author. I also want to be fluent in German and Russian and to be able to do yoga poses based on hand-stands. I want to win things, and go places, and be consistently inspired to create. I want to nurture this glorious love I have been given, be the best mother I can be someday, and wear pencil skirts and heels to buy groceries like a rockstar corporate queen. I want to reach some blinding plateau of being that melds self-awareness with self-expression. I want to become a Diamond level Zerg player of Starcraft II, and also a master chef. And learn to sew spandex. I hear that’s hard.

But these things are things that I want, and what I want isn’t good enough. What I want is not what I need, not what drives me and what has driven me for the past 12 years, through the fiery hells of puberty and high school, through college, and all the way across the ocean. What has driven me this far, and what I almost lost sight of, was the first time I really felt awe, deep in my bones. The desperate need to share that awe. And the only medium I have found to be worthy and capable of transporting that awe – dragons.

So I took this little Japanese man the Boyfriend gave me before we stared dating, and I colored in his right eye. Boyfriend tells me he was blessed in a temple, and he will stare at me every day missing his left eye until I succeed in my goal. Then I’ll draw in the other eye. I will sit down at the premiere of my long-awaited dragon movie, be it five or fifteen years from now, and after the credits have rolled I will pull this little Japanese man from my purse and color in his other eye. Boyfriend also tells me that the way I drew in his eye makes him look insane and a bit like an axe murderer. Good. It will take an axe murderer chasing me to keep me running up this mountain, every day, until the job is done.

And that is why I started this blog. It’s going to be a long, long journey. It already has been. But I have a Bachelor’s degree in film and Dragonflight has been stuck in development on IMDb for seven years, so things aren’t as bad as they could be. I’m 22 years old and I am rededicated and just as tenacious as I was as an 8 year-old.

The idea has been formed. The idea is good. Now: DO.

d2

See? Intimidating.

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