Friday, June 29, 2007

I was reading a copy of Yen magazine this morning and they had a few pages dedicated to the need to eradicate the use of furs, leather, etc and how evil the industries are, yada yada.

Of course, the fur and leather industries aren't generally well-known for their loving, kind treatment of animals, but there are some farms that are better than others (and ironically, you often have to be careful of fake fur if it comes from China, because it can be cheaper to kill cats and dogs and use their fur as "fake" fur. Nice).

So anyways, it gets to the fashion shoot pages.

My first thoughts were, "Either the editors of this are daft w@*&#%s or are being ironic with those leather shoes, boots, cuffs and belts..."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More around Berlin.

Well, folk me

Apparently folk fashion is making a comeback (possibly after having been on an extended caravaning holiday to Bega).

I *knew* I should have bought that folksy shirt last Friday. But no, I resisted and now what do I find?

Well... That I've probably saved myself from looking psuedo-ethnic-hippy and fitting in, fashion-wise, around here all together too well. Also, there would have been repair work I'd have had to do to the shirt.

There's already a lot of things on my "to repair" list, so by the time I'd fixed it, folk would be out of fashion and the Tudor ruff would have made a reappearance. On the bottom of high-waisted leggings attached to an incredibly over-sized bag with an Olsen twin in it.

Aside: I note with interest that the "new romantic" fashion looks heavily influenced by dresses and so on from the 1970s. Except not in mission brown.
I miss smoking.

Now, let's get one thing clear. I've never smoked in my entire life, so I don't mean I miss me smoking. Nope, not even as a teenager doing the ooooh-rebellious-smoking thing (and I've not managed to set myself on fire yet, either).

What I miss is the way Germans smoke. Mainly because it made me laugh.

Here in Australia, often people mostly smoke in a way that's as surreptitious as possible, sneaking in a cigarette while looking around in a way that seems to imply they're expecting someone from the anti-smoking lobby (or just a random passer-by) to leap out and randomly assault them with a fire extinguisher.

After all, smoking is pretty restricted here and it does seem like not all that many people do it. Although, admittedly, our population is about one quarter of Germany's. Smoking in public areas has been banned in South Australia for ages, I think the laws restricting it more are starting soon (or have started) in Victoria, etc. Not many places allow it freely.

In Germany smoking is free-range, and lots of people do it. And it's done in the least surreptitious way possible, more like, "Yes. I am enjoying zis zigarette. Und ven I finish it, I might just have anozzer." *insert long, pleasure-filled draw on cigarette* "Und... I vill enjoy zat one too. If you don't like it, I shall extinguish it on your tongue."

Should have bought a gas mask from the Russian guys in Berlin, though. The smoking in restaurants is a bit gross. But the "smoking stations" at airports and train stations were amusing.

I think if you had to put up with it long-term, rather than simply on holidays, it would have become something really irritating. So hurrah for being back in Australia where smoking is a social evil!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

For something different, although still somewhat sombre, another photo I took of the Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas in Berlin. I think the overwhelming first impression was of coffins, then that thought gave way to pondering past horrors and loss.

Wandering around the memorial, considering it all, eventually led to being curled up on one of the slabs, crying onto my Mum's shoulder, because what happened to anyone Hitler wanted to get rid of was so horrible, the bravery of those who resisted and saved people's lives, the massive losses of life relating to war, potential snuffed out, future generations never given the chance...

And that human nature hasn't learned...
I'm really not sure what to think of the "send in the troops" solution to the problem of child sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities around Australia. Teams of troops and police being sent to the Northern Territory as part of the crack-down within days has led to a number Aboriginal and community leaders and groups delivering an open letter to the PM to ask if the methods for intervention could be changed (in some ways, I can see why people are seeing this as a rather scary response - imagine if the army was coming to sort your community out!) (also, it seems divisive).

I don't think anyone would disagree with there needing to be something done about the abuse of children in any community. But maybe something could have been done a little earlier instead of waiting for an election. I mean major crisis. I remember watching Lateline last year sometime before my ABC reception died (so it must have been early last year) and a woman talking about a study into abuse in Indigenous communities and how it had been found to be a major problem.

Nothing was done back then, by either State, Territory or Federal governments but bickering. This is something that should be above politics, though, and using it as a political tool of some variety just seems very cynical indeed... Particularly when it comes after years of sitting-on-hands (all while pointing fingers - most uncomfortable!!!).

The chief executive of Anglicare Australia, Dr Ray Cleary, has asked why it's taken so long for the government "to recognise something that the wisdom and experience of agencies like ours have been saying for 20 years." So successive governments have obviously failed to do something about the problem. After two decades of aid agencies acknowledging problems in Indigenous communities, though, you sort of think, "Well, why hasn't someone been listening and doing something about this??"

And this sudden reaction seems half-baked at the best, particularly when there seems to have been no real consultation with health professionals, governments, councils, Aboriginal leaders, etc. Okay, I hear you say abuse needs a quick reaction initially to help the people who are in the situation of being abused. Yes. But how to do it in consultation with Indigenous leaders and all without seeming like whitefella comes in, makes all the rules, rides out feeling brave and heroic while not much changes? Particularly when we have the history we do with the Stolen Generation and generally treating Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders as second-class citizens?

You also have to ask where the funding will come from, where the extra doctors necessary for the health checks for all children will come from (considering the current rural doctor crisis), how this will impact the police forces, just how banning alcohol and pornography and making the Aboriginal people clean their houses is going to stop children being raped?

Indigenous Affairs Minister, Mal Brough, reckons this will take about five years to sort out. There's more about that by Tim Colebatch here.

Little Children are Sacred is the report that's put a fire under the PM and it makes it pretty clear that this isn't something that will just be able to be cleared up nice and quickly - it's more likely going to take decades. The report says that sexual abuse is something that's often the result of social breakdown and wouldn't this imply that society will need to be rebuilt? The report itself says: "Put simply, the cumulative effects of poor health, alcohol, drug abuse, gambling, pornography, unemployment, poor education and housing and general disempowerment lead inexorably to family and other violence, and then on to sexual abuse of men and women and, finally, of children."


All of those things need to be worked on... Rebuilt, repaired, re-educated... And with cooperation and input from the Aboriginal communities. And it's going to take money, time, effort, willingness to change, etc, not just the army in there for five years and some health checks (plus making sure your house is neat). You can't just treat the symptom here, but have to work back through all of the problems that tumble into line behind it. And arguing that Aboriginal people just need to get some jobs is just blah. Rural employment is hard enough to get in most areas. So they should move to where the jobs are is the next argument. But how do you get a job without skills, education, etc? Unless you get one that pays you less than being on the dole and means you're away from your ancestral home.

Ugh. It's depressing. The cynical, tired side of me says it's still political points-scoring, more likely to further alienate the Aboriginal people and like the 2007 version of Children Overboard. Is the rest of the electorate going to see it as such? Who knows. There are more than enough people out there already prejudiced against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Okay, I think I can't ponder this more at the moment without my brain wanting to explode, so you can check out more thoughts about this that I've found interesting here, here and here.

Also, the Northern Territory Government's Inquiry report into child abuse can be found here (download the PDF file). Although the report is long and depressing, the section on Myths (4.2) is particularly interesting, noting that the perpetrators are a mix of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. So what does this mean for the communities and Aboriginal people themselves, who seem to be the ones blame is being apportioned to? Hmm.

Scents and Scentsibility

Last night I was having some aimless time in the bathroom trying to organise things but not really succeeding.

Most of it involved putting perfumes into order (there are quite a lot now, with the most recent additions to the collection being the three I bought in Germany and then another since coming home).

I sprayed on a little of the newest one and suddenly I was back in Germany in a small town called Schwendi, in the town's Schlecker (I love their supermarket names. Nay, their supermarkets! They have nothing in them that you'd expect in a supermarket and everything you wouldn't! 'Tis like magic). That was the first place I tried the perfume on and didn't buy it there when I should have... (and ended up buying when I got home)

But the memories!

It was almost like I was seeing everything again from the day in my mind's eye. The discovery that pear and apple juice in their otherwise-attrocious sparkling mineral water made it delicious. Helping to clean the rooms hired for the reception in the castle thing there (and how dusky and cold it was compared to outside). The 1970s design of Andrea's dad's house. Meeting the families of our friends (and Tobi's oldest brother saying, "I will prefer to address you by the German version of your name"). Nivea Creme in lovely blue tins. Making the effort to speak German (with strangers), Spanish coming to my mind more rapidly. Perfect weather. The smell of cows. Andrea's dad having the same name as my grandpa. The Autobahn. Being very content.

It's amazing how a scent can do something like that. And it doesn't have to be perfume. Stuff like freshly-mowed grass or foods or paper or books or rain on hot asphalt or anything really. You smell it and bam, back comes a memory of another place or time or person.

Then again, there's just some scents that are perfume-only and can be most fascinating. Like Bvlgari's Aqva. Or Dior Higher. Men wearing those just smell too good! I'm sure even James Packer could seem attractive while scented-up with either of those. Or maybe not. No, it'd have to be not. I still have eyes.

Monday, June 25, 2007

I'm still waiting for the parcel I sent home to myself while on holidays to arrive - so not happy about it apparently having disappeared with a pair of my boots, two shirts (both good ones), a bag and a whole lot of chocolate!


If they don't arrive this week (already a week longer than they said it should be for arrival), I think I'll cry and then see if there's any way possible of finding out just what the heck happened to them.

But dammit. I want my things!!! There's probably some guy in customs at the moment eating my chocolate and parading around in my boots and shirts, totting around the bag!


That may just be my vivid imagination, though.

In other thoughts, one thing I was really hoping to get in England was a perfume called Inis. You wouldn't believe it, but every place I looked for it had recently sold out of it, was waiting for the next lot of it to come from stockists, had discontinued stocking it just last week, blah blah.

Of all the times for that to be the case!

Oh well... Guess there's always ordering it online to resort to...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

This monastery in Blaubeuren, near Ulm in Germany, was the first place we visited as tourists while staying with our friends. Not only was the area gorgeous, but the monastery itself - dating from something like 1085 - was exquisite. It felt so peaceful being there and the elegant simplicity of the artworks and architecture provided a perfect environment for reflection (and somehow it all drew your eyes upwards).

Add to that the visit to the Ulmer Münster, St Georg's church, Marienskirche, other beautiful churches around Germany, gorgeous cathedrals in England... The amazing works of art in terms of statues, paintings, just the simple decorations; the way the architects of the buildings manage to create spaces that feel truly peaceful and sacred (and jolly cold on occasion... but that's the magic of thick stone walls).

Then visiting the Pergamon and Altes Museums in Berlin, there was some amazing artwork from religions from even longer ago. Statues, vases, carvings, scrolls, special holders for sacred texts... Expressions of personal and public faith, people using their talents to glorify what they believe in.

Religion has created so many beautiful things.

And then it's also been so wrong sometimes. I think people like to seize on the wrong things and use them as their reasons for avoiding religious experiences, which can be beneficial. But even for me as a Christian, there are a lot of things I'm not comfortable with in Christian history - there seemed to be a lot of smiting going on and the use of a particular denominational belief to go wild on hating others from another denominational belief (and then add the way women tend to get the rough end of the stick courtesy of religious leaders going, "My God, it's a woman! Shouldn't she be back in the kitchen!?") (and Christian fundamentalists).

The recent honours given to Salman Rushdie by the Queen that have irritated peope in Iran, etc because they feel that The Satanic Verses were an insult to the prophet and the way in which the honours have renewed their flag-burning, fatwa-issuing desires have made me wonder how often religions - and no, I do not mean only Islam, even though the reaction of people in Iran has triggered the train of thought - are used to destroy rather than build up.

While we were in England, we went to Winchester Cathedral where the guide told us about how the Puritans came through and smashed the windows in the church, dug up and desecrated the graves of the Saxon kings and generally tried to wreck as much as they could because they thought icons, memorials, statues, etc were bad and their way of worship was the one true way. By getting rid of the windows that showed scenes from the Bible, destroying statues and so on, they were "purifying" the church.

One cannot help but feel angry about such desecration. I think people doing things like that says more about their own problems with faith and religious experiences than it does about those they're trying to make see the errors of their ways. If people feel so insecure knowing that there are other forms of worship out there or that people don't believe as they do or whatever it might be that they have to go out and act violently, how can that be expected to reflect well on their "faith"?

Reading more about the way in which people sought freedom with puritanism actually ended up being more repressed than ever, particularly with those who moved to America (witch trials anyone?), also raises questions about the way in which the beauty that can be part of religious experience can be utterly annihilated by a few people being morons.

And that's not something that's just confined to the past and no religion has a monopoly on it. There's fear of other expressions of faith and the desire to destroy the "foreign" or "other" things. Maybe that says more about our conditions as humans than about our religious experiences, though.

It's a shame that there's not more of an effort to stop and look at the potential for beauty.

Things that amused me...

> It instantly made me think of that old saying, "Does a bear s**t in the woods?" The answer would have to be, "You'd think so, but he'd probably be a bit wary of German toilet paper, which resembles sandpaper in terms of texture and isn't the sort of invigoration everyone appreciates."

> The British outdoor-reared sausage. I don't know why but I immediately thought of sausages roaming freely across the fields accompanied by "Borrrrrrrrrrrn freeeeeeee!!" all shot in slow motion. But then again, I probably have had too much of The Goodies.

> The ice-cream in the middle of the bottom row's name says it all.

The Frozen Chosen

So. From 30+ delicious Summer temperatures in Germany and England to brrr-inducing weather here and snow today! Had to go up at lunchtime (well, who wouldn't!?) and it was loads of fun. I *heart* snow THIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIS much! *stretches arms far apart*

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

More Berlin

> Near the Brandenburg Gate. For a small fee, these guys would give you either a Russian or American Berlin Wall-era passport stamp.

> Statue at the front of the Altes Museum.

> Hammer and anvil on glass at the front of a disused Soviet-looking appartment building in Berlin.

Photos from Berlin

> Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas in Berlin. I bawled my eyes out there in public, which made other people stare at me curiously. The memorial consists of a 19,000 square meter site covered with 2711 concrete slabs.

> Berlin Wall remnants in Potsdammer Platz.

> Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas. Maybe it made me cry because it was so horrible that all of these people were murdered without the country standing up for them and saying, "Enough!" Maybe it was because I was wondering whether I'd be brave enough to help rescue others. Maybe it was for those who lost their lives, those who were never given a potential for life...

Random images from Ulm (part 1)

Um Ulm herum...

> Ducks!

> A statue of King Wilhelm (I think it was??) near the church where Tobi and Andrea got married.

> Mehr Bildung für Faschisten. Very random, but I had to take a photo of that. It was on a lamp post on a path that ambled past the Danube.

> The Ulmer Münster, which features the tallest church spire in the world that apparently takes about an hour and a half to two hours to climb, apparently ending in a narrow staircase. No thanks... The church is beautiful, though, both inside and out.

> Roses in a rose garden near the Danube. Tobi teased me mercilessly about taking photos of flowers all the time on holidays (including telling his brothers, in German, all about me snapping lots of flower pics and looking surprised when I just said, in German, that flowers are beautiful and deserve to be photographed ;).

Monday, June 18, 2007

Because you can't go to Barvaria as a tourist and not go to Neuschwanstein...

The top two photos are of the castle (which you're not allowed to take photos inside of, so everyone snaps off about 300 photos of the outside, the mountains around it, trees, other tourists being tourists, etc) and the bottom one is the view straight down from Marienbrücke, the bridge that runs across the Pollät Gorge behind the castle.

We walked up the back Summer-route only way to the castle, through forests, up steep steps, along a little metal bridge on the gorge wall, following a rushing stream and featuring very few tourists indeed. The walk that way is meant to take around an hour to do, but we managed it in about 40 minutes. And by the time I got to the top, I was thinking, "Lord have mercy, not a good idea only three weeks after major surgery!"

But it was all good! You know how it is when you see beautiful things. It takes away any whinging you might have thought of doing about how hiking is unpleasantly hot-and-sweaty making.

Thankfully there was some time to rest when we arrived at the castle, as our tour didn't start for another half hour or so. We were in the 463rd tour group for the day. No, not kidding there. And I'd say there would have been another 463 tours after us, too.

Our tour group featured some tourists who could only be described as stereotypical American tourists, which did provide some amusement for the rest of the people in the tour group (including a large number of non-stereotypical American tourists, I might add). Of course we were all on an English-speaking guided tour. After the guide, who did have a German accent to her English but was perfectly easy to understand, had led us through the first room, an American lady behind us said in all seriousness to her companion, "But I thought we were on the English-speaking tour!"


The castle inside - what's been completed of it - is gorgeous. Decadant, Wagnerian, intricate, painted and carved and gilded from a to z and the silver swan tap in Ludwig's bedroom that was fed by a spring 150 meters above the castle is worth the hike just to see.

Aaaaaaaaaand then the seriously steep hike up to Marienbrücke. So much hiking. No wonder none of the Germans are fat! But the view from the bridge is fantastic and probably the position the castle's most photographed from. And then down the steep, steep mountain to the touristy shops at the bottom to buy a reviving ice-cream and many touristy things like postcards and a Neuschwanstein keyring, made in France.

Which seems somewhat odd...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Why we didn't end up going to Rostock...

Very touristy, of course, to go to Stonehenge, but we weren't too far from it and it was on our way to seeing some family heritage stuff.

The strangest thing that happened there was standing near a guy and his mother, both of whom were talking in Russian with Russian accents (of course), and then him turning to me and saying in the most Cockney accent, "Would you mind takin' a photo of me and me mum?" 'Twas kind of hard not to look surprised... But I took a couple photos for them.

Stonehenge was really beautiful, though. There were lots of tourists there, of course, but somehow it had quite a strong spiritual feeling to it of some variety. Must have taken a lot of effort to put together and it's a shame that there's parts of it missing. Would have been interesting to see in its fullness.

The Fur Hat

I bought this simply enormous hat in Berlin at a stall run by a number of Russian men, selling all sorts of Soviet-era memorabilia from Babushka dolls to gas masks to Stasi hats to various furs.

And I did think of Taylor when I saw the hammer and sickle caps. But never ended up buying anything like that. Although I guess I would have looked somewhat less ridiculous wearing a Soviet military cap than a fur hat that's big enough to appear to be eating my head.

Oh well!

With the weather that I've come back to - like it being 5 degrees when I arrived at Melbourne airport on Friday - this kind of hat is definitely a welcome addition to life and makes things so much warmer. And isn't there talk of snow tomorrow down to 600 meters or something? Brrr.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Things I Love About Germany

> European down-filled pillows.

> Hot German men.

> The amazing countryside - green, lush, beautiful trees, rivers, cute little villages, all so post-card perfect.

> The history - everything has something historic connected to it almost. And there are so many old things! And so beautiful. Such wonderful artwork. The old buildings really are amazing.

> The bread. I cannot emphasise this enough. The bread is like multiorgasmic tastebud orgies of goodness.

> Getting to spend time with local people not as a tourist but as a friend; getting to know others, sharing time with them and having lots of fun.

> Laughing so hard and so long my face hurts.

> The fact that you're meant to drive like a maniac on the Autobahn. My favourite!

> Shops. All so interesting, little supermarkets that have strange assortments of things that make no sense, really cheap clothing and shoes, perfume at reasonable prices, bakeries with breads, cakes, etc. Oh! And scooters at the supermarket in the mall. For sale. At the supermarket! Awesomeness. I love scooters.

> Nice cars. Nice fast cars. Although the thing about almost everyone having two-door cars is a pain. There's no elegant way to enter or exit them if you have to sit in the back seat - you've got your arse sticking out awkwardly either way.

> Tod im Arsch. Hui. Tschüß. Also... Tod im Arsch is the best. Hummeln im Hintern is also good. Finster. Servus.

> Shoes for €12. Brand spankin' new ones. For €12. For reals!!! They have jeans here for like €4,50. So cool.

> Chocolate. The chocolate here really is that good. And was on sale for 59 cents a block. I know!!! While in Australia we're paying like $4 a block! Insanity!!! I want to live in Germany!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Yay, I'm in Germany!

And I'll write more when I can think of things to say in a cohesive fashion. It's been really busy since we got here, but so much fun. The people are friendly, the food is fantastic, the countryside is amazingly gorgeous, the men (up to around the age of 35) are seriously hot and it's all very, very good.

Seen so much and taken a ridiculous number of photos. Hurrah! And now I have to hurry up and get ready for the wedding and have some breakfast and so on.