In Which Yours Truly Almost got Caught Up in the Bystander Effect

The Bystander Effect is an interesting phenomenon, in which people become less likely to do the right thing if there are more people present*. In short, everybody thinks that if there was something that should be done, somebody else would already have done it, resulting in nobody doing anything. This is why in an emergency you never say “somebody should call the emergency hotline”, but “You there in the red jacket, call the emergency hotline”.

Today we went for our usual walk at our usual lake. The weather was lovely. Temperatures had risen to 4-5° above zero, sun was shining, no wind.

©Giliell, all rights reserved           The picture is from January, I didn’t take the camera today

Before the current cold spell (and we got off lucky here with -10° C at the lowest) we had lots of warm (+10°C) rain, so when I went to the lake on Wednesday it was still completely open. It froze over since, but of course not completely, and I will not speculate on the thickness of the ice. But when we arrived there, there were people on the ice. Mostly young men (who else…) but a few people with small children as well. Everybody around exclaimed “are they mad???”, but nobody did anything. And… neither did I at first. Because there are so many emotions at once. Disbelief, worry, anger (how stupid can you be, how dare you take the children), but also fear about what will happen if I do something (Including the fear of being accused of wasting emergency service time) and of course the idea that you don’t tattle to the cops. Mr was exactly the same. When I said “I should call the emergency hotline” he was “yes, you should”. Not calling it himself.

Well, I did. It took some time until I got to the person who was responsible, who apparently hadn’t left his office in a while, because he asked me “how many people were there” and I said “about 10” and he said “not at the lake, but on the ice” as if you could find a nice quiet place right now with only 10 people in sight. We walked away after we informed the emergency hotline, because there was nothing left to do. If they’d fallen in, we couldn’t have done anything, so we went to the woods where there are less people.

At least when we returned, the Office of Public Order was there and yelled at people who still thought it was funny to step on the ice but on the other side of the lake. Dudes, when 100 people around say that you’re a fucking idiot, you’re probably not some edgy rebel fighting against the forces of evil. Chances are that you’re just a fucking idiot. Mr said I’d probably saved a life today, but I’m pretty sure the person whose life I possibly saved is pretty angry with the asshole who called the cops. As they say, there’s no glory in prevention.

 

*Though, as numbers increase so does the likelihood of somebody finally doing something

 

The Art of …

… modern American Artist, Frank Morrison

Morrison began his career as a graffiti artist but has become known for his work portraying black culture. According to the artist’s web site,

Morrison strives to capture people as they are, translating emotions through his paintings and leaving a memoir of our life and times today. His work depicts African-American livelihood in a way that is both familiar and comforting to those who often feel histories have been forgotten and culture has been usurped.
Citing both Ernie Barnes and Annie Lee as forebearers of this tradition, Morrison remarks on his practice, “My work dignifies the evolllution of everyday, underrepresented people and places within the urban landscape. I seek to both highlight and preserve the soul of the city through the lens of hip-hop culture and  urban iconography. I want people to experience the visual rhythms that choreograph life for the average, everyday person.”

Picture That, by Frank Morrison. Image from Afropunk

“What!” by Frank Morrison. Image from Afropunk

The Art of …

… posters, by Ridwan Adhami, Shephard Fairey, Jessica Sabogal, Ernesto Yerena, Delphine Diallo, Ayse Gursoz, and Arlene Mejorado.

They were  commissioned by The Amplifier Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises the voices of grassroots movements through art and community engagement.

Today seems like a good day to wave hi to the U.S.A. and show off some of her best modern artists.

 

Poster series We the People by various artists. Image from NBC, courtesy of The Amplifier Foundation

“American identity starts with Native resistance. In this artwork, Ernesto Yerena honors Helen Red Feather of the Lakota tribe during her bravery and resilience at the Standing Rock reservation in 2016. She was originally photographed by Ayşe Gürsöz while protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.” Words and image from The Amplifier Foundation.

Ridwan Adhami decided to photograph a Muslim woman wearing an American flag as a hijab for the five-year anniversary of 9/11. They stood at the site of the World Trade Center, capturing the iconic image, without knowing just how far it would eventually go…More than a decade later, Adhami and Shepard Fairey reincarnated the image for Amplifier’s We the People campaign. As the Trump administration’s Muslim Ban continues to wage a war on Islamic faith, the artwork’s message will keep ringing loud and clear. There is no room for fear, only freedom.” Words and Image from The Amplifier Foundation.

“This piece from artist Jessica Sabogal focuses on the love, affection, and inspiration that will continue to persevere through the darkness.”Words and image from The Amplifier Foundation.

“At a time of so much discrimination and injustice, this photograph taken by French and Senegalese artist Delphine Diallo and converted into an illustration by Shepard Fairey reminds us of the power of youth and the world we’re building around them.” Words and image from The Amplifier Foundation

“…this photograph taken by Arlene Mejorado and illustrated by Shepard Fairey is a crucial part of the We the People campaign. Mejorado, a photographer and documentary-maker from California, describes herself as “the daughter of migrants, brown, queer, multi-ethnic, and aspirant of beauty and truth.” The image depicts Xicana activist Maribel Valdez Gonzalez, described by the artist as “an incredible queer, first gen, muxerista, educator who constantly pushes my politics.” The final artwork was carried by thousands at the Women’s March for the 2017 inauguration.” Words and image from The Amplifier Foundation

Jack’s Walk

Modern Warfare by Chase Meuller

This morning Jack and I came across a pile of papers scattered on the sidewalk near my house. This isn’t unusual. We live near a high school, and I often find littered test papers and assignments on my lawn, but this pile was pristine and on examination looked lost, not tossed. There were a few job applications and several pieces of art, including the one above. Luckily, the young man’s name and phone number were on the applications, so I phoned him to let him know what I’d found. He hadn’t known he’d lost the papers and was quite glad to hear from me. He was very polite and thankful, and we made arrangements for him to stop by tomorrow to pick up his things. This piece of art appealed to me, and I asked him if I could post it. He’s given me his verbal approval, and so I present to you the artist, Chase Mueller.

Good Luck with the job search, Chase.

Slavic Saturday

Some trivial trivia about Czech beer.

The juvenile joke about feminism aside, it is indeed true that one of the persistent gender-assigned “roles” in the Czech republic is that men drink 0,5 l beers and women drink 0,3 l beers.

I did drink a fair amount of beer during my studies in Pilsen, but I have never heard the terms “šnyt” or “mlíko” shown in this video. That leads me to believe that either they are relatively new, or they are Prague-specific.

Holidays: de fiesta 2

To us, the highlight of the festival was the “Dance of the Dragons”. Groups from the city itself and the surrounding communities would come with their dragon figures and “dance”. They put fireworks into the mouths and talons of the dragons and danced through the streets with everybody following them, with bands and music and everything.

It was an amazing experience. Only the pics are bad and in between my batteries gave out.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved Whoever the person inside is, I hope they got a nice beer or beverage of their choice afterwards. Or a dozen. They deserve it.

©Giliell, all rights reserved Music band

©Giliell, all rights reserved Breathing fire

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved Many kids were dressed up as devils and well protected with ear protection.

 

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

And a gif. It was easiest to post it to Twitter

 

The Art of Book Design: I am a Cat

 

Natsume Soseki. I am a Cat. (1906) First English translation published in 1909. Translated by K. Ando and revised by K. Natsume. Tokyo, Hatori Shorten, 1906-1909.

This classic book, written by one of Japan’s most celebrated novelists, is a satire of Japanese society during the Meiji period (1868 – 1912) when western customs were first being incorporated into the country. It’s written from the perspective of a supercilious and eloquent housecat who humorously comments on the people and events that fill his life.

I couldn’t find a copy of the book for you to read, but it’s been reissued many times (and in many languages) and is available at most major booksellers. If you’d like to read a few quotes before deciding to buy, the site Cocosse-Journal is the place to go. I’ll share just this one quote from the book:

“Thus, as I review the list of my friends and acquaintances, most of them emerge as stained with
 maniac stigmata of one sort or another. I begin to feel considerably reassured. The truth may
simply be that human society is no more than a massing of lunatics.”
                                                                    – from I am a Cat via Cocosse-Journal

Cover photo via: Old Timey Cats

Is This What The Bullies Want?

I am beyond saddened by this news story in yesterday’s Toronto Star. A 9 year old girl in Calgary, a recent legal arrival to our country from Syria, has committed suicide. The paper reports:

 

A Calgary Syrian refugee family is dealing with the tragic death of their 9-year-old daughter, who died by suicide after being bullied at school. Amal Alshteiwi is shown here in a screen capture of a YouTube video. (SCREEN CAPTURE)

 

A Calgary Syrian refugee family is dealing with the tragic death of their 9-year-old daughter, who they say died by suicide after being bullied at school.

Aref Alshteiwi discovered his daughter Amal’s body March 6, according to Sam Nammoura, co-founder of Calgary Immigrant Support Society. Nammoura has worked with the family, and details of Amal’s death were relayed to him by the parents.

Police conducted more than a dozen interviews following Amal’s death, and found no evidence of foul play, according to Calgary Police Service media relations.

The family escaped war in Syria more than three years ago as government-sponsored refugees.

Amal’s parents told Nammoura that Amal had been coming home from school upset, telling them she was being bullied. She had been fine until around six months ago, they told him, when she moved to a new school and began having issues in math. Nammoura said they told him that’s when the bullying started — Amal was called stupid and ugly on a daily basis by several classmates.

The parents told Nammoura they raised the issue with the school, but that their daughter didn’t get any help. She went to school happy, they told him, and came home sad. However, Nammoura wasn’t aware of the issues Amal was having until after she died.

In an emailed statement, the Calgary Board of Education said it is working with the school’s staff and students “to try to understand if there were concerns or issues.”

“The school is closely working with both students and families to heal from this tragic event and come together as a community,” the statement read.

The family eventually moved schools to try to get Amal away from the bullying. Before she left, Nammoura said Amal was told by her bullies that moving wouldn’t fix anything.

Four days after she switched schools, Amal’s father found the girl dead in her room.

Story by Rose Saba, Star Calgary

She’s a beautiful girl who had a whole life ahead of her. She’ll never get her first kiss or go to the prom. She won’t graduate high school or go to college or fall in love and have children of her own. And she isn’t unique. This is what happens where hate lives and it sickens me. Is this what the bullies want? Are there really people in my country who would celebrate this loss? It is my hope that the the people who bullied Amal feel shame and remorse at what has happened and will carry that forward instead of the hate. Some will, but much work needs to be done to remove this cancer of fear and hate of otherness from our society. Lives are depending on it.

Ruheforst Mushrooms – part 5

Today we have the last of Avalus’ photos from the natural burial forest, ending fittingly with a view of the forest itself. These burial forests are not only natural, but also safe and life sustaining. They’re one of nature’s best ways of recycling and there’s a growing demand for this type of burial option. One of the other big benefits of natural burial is that it is much more cost effective than the traditional care offered by the funeral industry of today.

My thanks to Avalus for his wonderful tour. I’ve enjoyed walking through the forest with him and seeing the myriad of fungi that grow here.

A “Hexen-Röhrling” (lit: witches-boletes), probably a Rubroboletus rubrosanguineus. ©Avalus, all rights reserved

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Funeral Care is Changing and Becoming Green

 

There’s a growing movement to wrestle death care away from the needlessly expensive hands of the Funeral Industry and to return to simpler methods of care and burial of the dead. The Order of the Good Death is an international organization committed to helping people find safe, green, affordable and natural options for burial. The Order is young, but growing quickly in part as a response to the startling statistics about our modern burial practices.

“American funerals are responsible each year for the felling of 30 million board feet of casket wood (some of which comes from tropical hardwoods), 90,000 tons of steel, 1.6 million tons of concrete for burial vaults, and 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid. Even cremation is an environmental horror story, with the incineration process emitting many a noxious substance, including dioxin, hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, and climate-changing carbon dioxide.” via Just How Bad is Traditional Burial?

One of the primary chemicals used in embalming fluid is formaldehyde, making all those gallons of embalming fluid highly toxic. Practitioners are required to wear full body and face protection and the chemicals aren’t always safely contained in our modern sealed caskets and concrete vaults. Flooding, earthquakes and even simply shifting ground can allow embalming fluids to leach into the soil and ground waters.

Cremation isn’t much better, releasing many dangerous pollutants into the air. There is, however, a new technology available called Aquamation which chemically breaks down a body using Alkaline Hydrolosis. The process is simple and transformative according to green funeral director Jeff Jorgenson

The AH process is that of heating a solution of water and sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or potassium hydroxide (KOH), which breaks down the complex molecules that make up the soft tissue of a body. In most human AH machines, this solution is pressurized and heated well above the boiling point of standard atmosphere. This high pressure/high temperature accelerates the breakdown of these complex molecules to a liquid. What remains are just the bones of the deceased, which is the same result you see with cremation. The process in human machines takes around three hours. Most animal AH machines however, this one included, do not use pressure for the process and thus, the temperatures used in the process are far lower, and that equals a longer processing time. This longer process means that you must perform multiple aquamations in one cycle to make it viable…

The water at the end of the cycle then gets discharged into the sanitary system like all other waste water. I would like to take a moment to explain that the liquid that is discharged is nutrient rich and safe enough to use in the garden for all of your vegetables. In cremation, all the tissues and liquid are vented up the chimney in the form of particulates and steam. In the both cremation and AH, what is returned to the family is simply bone and trace materials.

Aquamation is new technology and it may take some time before it becomes widely available and accepted. For those who want a more natural disposition of their dead there are green cemeteries popping up where bodies are simply buried in the soil with only a natural shroud or a biodegradable coffin. There are also now burial suits that turn bodies into clean compost. Decomposition is natural and safe. There is also a growing number of funeral directors who will assist you to be involved in the care of the body at your own level of comfort. That may be as simple as helping to wash and dress the dead or as complex as keeping the body at home and arranging for transport and burial. It is not a legal requirement that bodies be embalmed and it is perfectly safe to keep a body at home for several days with simply ice packs to slow down decomposition. 

A home funeral is what used to be called”a funeral,” since all funerals took place in the family home. Nowadays it means choosing to keep a body at home after death, as opposed to having the body immediately picked up by a funeral home. It is a safe and legal choice for a family to make!

Now, an important caveat is that each US state (for instance) has different laws – some states require you to hire a funeral director to file a death certificate or to transport a body.  This won’t effect the keeping the body at home part, but the funeral director will need to be involved in the process.

To find out what the home funeral requirements are where you live, you can find more detailed information here.

And if you’re interested in the requirements around embalming, burial, and cremation, read your consumer rights listed by state.

I encourage you to visit the Order of The Good Death. The site is full of resources and interesting articles about this growing trend in after death care. They also have information to help you begin conversations about planning for death and advanced directives. Death is a natural and inevitable part of life. There’s no need to fear talking about it.

I’d also like to thank Avalus for prompting me to write about this. His photographs of mushrooms in a natural burial cemetery peaked my curiosity. We’ll be sharing Avalus’ mushroom photos daily over the course of this week and I encourage you to check them out, too.

 

 

 

Ruheforst Mushrooms

From Avalus, information about a growing trend and a warning about climate change.

Maybe a bit macabre, so a foreword.

 Graveyards, Mushrooms and climate change, perhaps.

 In Germany there is a growing trend to be buried in a “Ruheforst”, (resting or still forest) instead of a usual graveyard. There your cremated remains get buried in a bio-degradable urn next to a tree of your choosing. There are no graves, no large markerstones, just an open, tended-to forest with many small paths and plaques on some trees. Some persons I know rest in such a place in the palatinate forest near the town Bad Dürkheim, so our family visits them every so often. Now to the bit macabre bit: It’s also a prime mushroom hunting place with usually plenty of different bolete species and other edibles. One of my grandmothers is sure, the ‘shrooms are nourished by the dead and refuses to eat any. I think they are so plentiful because by opening the forest, the trees left standing are getting more light and nutrients and so can give more of these nutrients to their mushroom-symbionts.

This year however, there were hardly any mushrooms of any kind there. The ground was very dry and most of the threes had small leaves. Instead, signs warning of forest fires were a common sight.

I did not pick up any of the edible ‘shrooms I found, but only took photos.

I have no idea, but I admired its roundness. ©Avalus, all rights reserved

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