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The Girl with the Daffodil Tattoo

A Welsh girl let loose in a wild world

Tag

anti capitalism

Desk tidy

You will need:

Materials:
Boxes (choose your sizes to suit your needs)
Clean cans/jars
Drawing pins
Strong tape, preferably clear

Tools:
Box cutter
Long ruler (optional, but useful)

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This project is super simple. Just remember to work with the shape/stength of the boxes you have at hand. Happy crafting!

Cardboard notice board

You will need:
Command strips
Cardboard box
Box cutter

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Limits:
Your imagination

American Sniper: 0/5 The Worse Film I’ve Ever Seen

I had reservations about watching American Sniper. I worried that I wouldn’t enjoy it because of American propaganda, but I got lucky; this film has a lot more wrong with it than skewed ideology.

No Female Soldiers/ Soldiers of Colour

Women make up 14.5% of the active-duty force (according to CNN), while African American soldiers make up around a quarter. So with almost half of soldiers on active duty being made up of women and African Americans, you would think any modern war film worth its salt would try to accurately represent that, wouldn’t you? Well, you would be wrong.

Mental Illness/Masculinity

Men are at four times more risk of suicide than women. Some psychologists argue that this is because of hegemonic masculinity, which demands a “tough guy” front from men, who are conditioned from an early age to not talk about their feelings, leading to them not being able to ask for help later in life.

I found it completely irresponsible, that this film portrayed Chris Kyle (who seems to be suffering from classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress), as some sort of “strong silent type”, who’s miraculously cured by a 20 second scene with a psychiatrist who tells him simply to “help others” in order to recover. I don’t know whether this is Clint Eastwood’s old school portrayal of masculinity, or whether the problem comes from the autobiography that the film is based on.

Portrayal of Iraqis

Opens with “call to prayer”, which is normally played in Mosques.

Iraqis are referred to as “savages” by American soldiers.

Characters proclaim: “We’re not fighting for this dirt”

Brutal, unnecessary violence from “bad guys” (such as the scene where the enemy leader uses a drill on a child and then shoots both the child and the father), whereas American soldiers are depicted as just “doing their jobs”/”protecting themselves”.

The film depicts roughly 1 American soldier dying to 6-10 Iraqis. In actual fact, during the whole war, 4,500 American soldiers have been killed,  and 450,000 Iraqis, meaning  that a more realistic ratio might be 1 American soldier dying for every 100 Iraqi deaths.

Badly Made

-Comedy baby doll, completely obviously fake.

-Sound, in general. Car noise random and too loud.

-Wooden characters.

-Doesn’t hold together.

-Passage of time only shown by size of children (not by any changes in adult actors)

-Only one female character.

-Only one black actor.

Impressions of New York

While I was in San Francisco for a week in January, I was offered a 4 week job in New York, travel and accommodation included, to facilitate some fundraising events. It was an opportunity too good to miss, so I spent between February and April teaching English “intensives” in my house to make ends meet, then off I went to New York, jokingly warning my boyfriend: “Maybe it will be so great I won’t come back!”

As I sat on the train from the airport into Manhattan, I listened to people around me talking, and it suddenly hit me: I was in New York, surrounded by New Yorkers. It was a surreal moment!

I arrived in the East Village, where I was staying. I loved the winding streets, the dark red bricks of the buildings, the crisp air, the people and their dogs, the hipsters and their cool clothes. I loved the quiet diner where the waitress called everyone “baby” in a loud, sing song, nasal voice.

During my month of work I had plenty of time to see various parts of the city. My first general impressions was of the crowds, and of a strong sense of order and things running like clockwork. For example, any medium sized supermarket you went into would be FULL of people, but the line ended with a screen that had a number on it, telling you which cashier to go to (“39, blue”), and this process moved really quickly. Coffee shops were full of people in their own little bubble worlds, staring at their phone/tablet/laptop. Manhattan had a real, urban feel to it, and any green space, big or small, was densely populated with people trying to take a restful moment.

I suppose people love New York for two reasons. Firstly, the city itself feels generally familiar, as so many series and films are set there. Secondly, if you like the “new, hottest” trends in fashion, theatre, film, and art in general, it’s a place you might love to visit or call home. Casually walking down the street, you might see properly famous people. But for me, there was one major problem.

In some ways I love the states. America has always seemed to me to have this “get up and go” quality about it. People seem to be more positive, to reach for the sky, to start their own businesses… An American doesn’t have a sporting hobby. They regard themselves as proper athletes. Look into their eyes, and you’ll see that the sky is the limit.

However, what happens to the people who don’t get a good start in life? The children whose families don’t have the means to send them to private school?

A friend of mine mentioned how they almost never took the subway. I started to see why. Putting aside the alien feel of the maps and signs, the clammy humidity of the dank tunnels was pretty off putting. Then you have the dirty trains themselves. But worst of all is the homelessness. I realised that I had never been in a city before where the contrast between rich and poor was so incredibly stark to me. One night I went to a party at a 5 story town house near 5th Avenue that had an original Toulouse-Latrec on the wall, rooms that had appeared in interior design magazines, and a Philipino family that lived and worked there as permanent domestic assistants. Then I walked home, streets full of piled rubbish, trash encased in black bags, vulnerable members of society under blankets to keep warm.

Just as people were everywhere, so the homeless were to me, seemingly everywhere. Some were clearly suffering from mental illness, others were just suffering. It was a constant reminder to me of a by product of capitalism; this idea that we have what we have because we “worked” for it, implying that *they* somehow didn’t, are in some way undeserving. I think back to my own childhood, where we couldn’t afford to heat our house in winter, where money was an ever present stress and worry, where I started to clean hotel rooms at the age of 13 years old, and I think: “What would have happened to a child like me, growing up in the states, where education and healthcare are businesses to be bought? Would I have slipped through the cracks and become homeless?”.

I was reminded of the Mommas and the Poppas song “I used to live in New York City. Everything there was dark and dirty”. Those lyrics suddenly slid into focus for me. Here was a city that was the capital of capitalism, where the rich lived in the city during the week and then drove to their second house in the country at the weekend to relax. I realised that I would never earn the kind of money to be happy in New York, and I didn’t want to.

One thing that surprised me was how polite and friendly people were. They see you doubting which way to go coming out of the subway, and they ask if you need directions. My friend who grew up there told me that that was a “post 9/11” thing, as if that event had rocked the collective consciousness of that city.

I missed Bilbao. I missed the trees. I missed the hills. I missed the slower pace of life. I missed walking to where I needed to go in the city. I missed the cultural centres. I missed the free bike system. I missed the kind Basque people, gracious and welcoming and quietly proud that a foreigner might come to their city. I missed wearing my hiking boots to go out for a drink and no one batting an eyelid.

Why recycle and upcycle instead of buying on the highstreet?

In the past 5 years, I’ve lived in 23 houses, in 5 countries, and 4 continents, and if I have learned one thing, it is this: EVERYTHING IS RENTED.

If you buy something for 6 euros/dollars/pounds, and you are able to use that thing for 6 months before it breaks or you are leaving and it doesn’t fit in your back pack, then you have rented that thing for 1 euro/dollar/pound a month.

Technology is both a blessing and a curse. It allows mass production in a way never before possible, yet on an individual level it deskills. Why learn how to make pastry if you can easily buy it from the supermarket? Why learn how to make anything at all then.

Society is built upon exchange; we give our hard earned cash for goods and services. I can’t make cloth, so I pay for it. But what are the conditions of the workers? Does the company pay the workers a living wage? Does the factory employ women and give them economic independence? Does the item require a raw material that people are murdered for? (Iraq and the war for oil, minerals sold by militants in the Congo for Iphones). Can I live without this thing? Can I make it myself? Can I buy locally?

Money is power, and our choices as consumers affect the actions of big business. Guilt and “oh dearism” can make us think “there’s nothing I can do. Both options are bad. Christmas is so stressful. I’ll just buy all the presents from Amazon”.

I believe we can make a difference by becoming aware of global problems, and not accepting how consumerism/capitalism teaches us that buying things is so important. We can make them too, and we can use recycled materials. Every time I make something, it makes me feel happy, satisfied in my own handiwork. The only limit is your imagination.

What am I going to be when I grow up?

After college, I worked for 3 years as an English teacher in Spain, with limited success. I love working with kids, but exams, paperwork, parents, school politics… I realised it isn’t for me long term. So what’s next?

Whenever anyone asks me that, I say simply “I want to be part of the solution, and not a part of the problem”.  But what does that actually mean? I’m not interested in makes of clothes and electronics, or other status symbols. Here’s a random list of words that would make for a satisfying job for me:

education, the environment, theatre, production, storytelling, edutainment, food journalism, writing, university teaching

I think I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that I will probably never make a large amount of money. I don’t see the point in spending 60% of my time doing something I don’t like and I don’t believe in, that isn’t benefiting the world in some way. This issue has come to the forefront of my mind after meeting many people who are dreading going back to work after their few weeks of fun in the sun.

A good friend of mine once advised me: “Do what you love, and the money will come”. Fingers crossed that if I keep doing what I love, some form of paid work that is satisfying will come along, and that I will always have enough money for the essentials.

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