The Berlin Wall: When Current Events Become History

Starting around the second grade, we were required to go through the newspaper every weekend and find “current events” stories that we’d cut out and tape or staple to pieces of looseleaf paper and present in class. It was 1988 and some of the first news that I recall paying close attention to was the Bush/Dukakis election (although I have very clear memories of the Oliver North trial and asking “what’s a contra?”) and the summer Olympics (remember when both Olympics happened in the same year?).When I think about, say, the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco and Oakland, or the Exxon Valdez oil spill, or Tiananmen Square, I can see those newspaper clippings.

Courtesy of AP

Courtesy of AP

And yet I have such vivid memories of sitting with my sister and parents and watching the news reports of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. Even at eight years old, there was a sense that history was happening. Having been born into a world in which the USSR, the Berlin Wall, the Cold War, and East Germany were things that just…were, it was surreal to imagine the world being different. I had never existed in a world in which East Germany was not a place. It was hard to imagine that the Berlin Wall had only been up for 28 years at that point. To my eight-year-old self, that was so long ago that it was history and always had been and always would be. Continue reading

I Want to Kill My Best Friend (and Other Complications of Parenting)

I don’t remember the first time he said it. But I do remember how enraged I felt as the baby was screaming, our sanity was departing, and my husband uttered the following words:

“Maybe he’s hungry.”

I wasn’t holding anything sharp at the time, which is obvious because I am not writing this from a women’s penitentiary. But I unleashed a verbal barrage, of this I am sure. My well-meaning partner was just looking for a solution, as men do; he’s a problem-solver. But the solution he offered were my boobs, and I was all, “My body, my choice! P.S. I’m going to KILL YOU.” To him, my fury was an overreaction. To me, in my hormone- and exhaustion-addled state, it made perfect sense. After all, with three words my best friend had just attacked my intelligence (Thank you! My tiny little woman brain never even thought about hunger!) and my love for our child (I thought about hunger and decided I’d rather let him starve). It’s the Stevie Wonder of insults, doled out as advice by people who are blind to its infuriating qualities–like those who ask me, the now-mother of two, if I’m going to “try for a girl.” Because my life will just be forever incomplete if I only get to buy tampons for myself from now on. Continue reading

Creative Impact: Caryn Cramer

Creative Impact is a new series profiling creative people who are using their vision and skills to improve the world around them. DC-based interior and textile designer Caryn Cramer provides a window into her process and perspectives.

Verena Radulovic: What does being a designer mean to you?
Caryn Cramer: For me, being a designer is about helping people live better.

VR: Why is design important in our lives?
Design has the power to affect so many aspects of our lives – our productivity, focus, energy levels, moods, happiness, relationships to others. I think a lot of people aren’t really conscious of the extent to which the colors and textures and architecture we interact with in our built environments affect us on a daily basis. It’s amazing how we can take direction and cues from these things. Lots of studies have been done on how an office’s design, from its cubicles to group tables, either promotes or kills teamwork, productivity, communication, etc. But many people don’t think as much about how even in your home life, design affects you profoundly. Maybe some people feel fragmented and isolated in very chopped-up spaces or others too exposed or unable to sleep well in a wide open loft. I wish more people paid attention to that. Being in a space that is transformative for you affects the depth of your being. I’m very intrigued by that. Sometimes the first step to getting into the design process may seem shallow to some people – upholstery fabrics, throw pillows, a bedspread. But to me, all those things affect people deeply.



VR: What other designers inspire you and why?
In textile design, I am very inspired by Maija Isola, who was a painter and a textile designer from Finland, and by Josef Frank, an Austrian-born textile designer who relocated to Sweden. There’s something very powerful – almost political – about their work: coming out of World War II, their patterns and colorways brought joy, exoticism and dreams to people during a rather depressing post-war time. Their work is filled with fantasy and fun – a visual laughter – and they affected people’s mindset by spreading positive energy that needed to be spread in Europe.

Continue reading

Let’s All Just Take a Break, Okay?

Guys, I’m worried about us. We seem to be really struggling to get out of the doldrums that have been 2014, and it’s really starting to impact us physically. We’re having trouble making eye contact, we’re mumbling when we speak, and there’s a lot of uncontrollable sighing. It’s concerning.

It’s not that we don’t have a lot to worry about. This year has been one thing after another. Missing/missiled planes. Tense relations between all countries, even supposedly united ones. Stalled and bickering politicians. Droughts. Floods. A terrible winter. Promises of more terrible winters. Beyonce and Jay Z divorce rumors. The inexplicable disappearance of my favorite potato chips from every bodega in NYC. And have you even really processed the death of Jan Hooks yet? Even the new Bill Watterson comic is a little defeatist.

“‘Copyright 1968.’ Hmm, determined or not, that cat must be long dead. That’s kind of a downer.”

Continue reading

The Nightman Cometh: How to Survive Seasonal Affective Disorder

This past weekend was the celebration of our ancient biennial tradition (since 1918) of Daylight Savings Time, wherein every fall we set our clocks back one hour at 2:00 AM to travel back in time and relive that magical hour between 1:00 and 2:00 AM. Major pros: an extra hour of sleep, extended last call at bars and/or restaurants, and non-DeLorean induced time travel. Major cons: it gets dark at, like, 4:30 PM. Even for night owls like myself, this early darkness can lead to the dreaded Seasonal Affective Disorder (aptly abbreviated SAD), where people are consumed by nocturnal grouchiness and plants struggle to photosynthesize. Since it seems like we have to go through this every year, here are some tips on how to survive the dreaded SAD.

Vitamin D
People are a lot like plants, except we can water ourselves (mostly) and don’t go well in salads (again, mostly). Plants need sunlight to survive so they can photosynthesize, thereby producing oxygen so humans can live and then keep forgetting to water them (thanks plants!). Humans, too, need sunlight. Without it we become vitamin D deficient, which leads to a ghastly pale complexion, decrease in loss and appetite, delayed backaches, and in rare cases, an erection that can last more than four hours (if so please consult your doctor).Your local drugstore should have Vitamin D in stock, so load up on that so you’re not vitamin D-eficient (pun!)

Go West South, Young Man
According to my exhaustive research–I beat up a meteorologist–the days get “shorter” because of some combination of the earth’s tilt, sun’s rotation, and moon’s negligence. So if you want to escape the shorter days, pack up and move somewhere in the Southern hemisphere where night is day, up is down, and a horse is still a horse (of course). Caveat: apparently the earth keeps tilting and the sun keeps rotating, so at some point it’ll be winter and SAD season there. But if you move to a place like Australia it’ll be upside down SAD season, which I’m not sure is any better than right-side-up SAD season. It’s probably the same when it falls on Opposite Day. Whatever. Continue reading