Sunday, 4 May 2014

The Pick-Up Theorist on Etsy

Happy birthday, Audrey Hepburn!

Audrey Hepburn was just such a great human being and a huge inspiration. Not only did she look marvellous all of the time, which is pretty damn important if you're asking me, but she was also absolutely lovely all of the time, which is even more important, and just appreciated people and being alive so much. One of my goals in life is to look as good as Audrey in a trench coat and to also desire to snack on dark chocolate only. And maybe to get my very own google doodle one day, even if that involves some very elaborate hacking. Happy google doodle day, Audrey, the force was definitely with you.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Comment: It is hypocritical to advocate a safe space whilst wearing Soviet symbols

Using Soviet symbolism to display Socialist beliefs is an abuse of Western European privilege, discounting the distressing experiences of Eastern European people under Soviet rule in an either ignorant, or simply quite arrogant, fashion. 
Student life and Socialist inclinations go together fairly well. At universities all over the UK, there are Socialist societies, events and publications, as well as plenty of opinions on the topic; some moderate, some rather radical. This is a good thing; debate is crucial for a healthy academic environment. Yet, some ‘comrades’ like to take it a step further, as using Soviet symbolism appears to also be en vogue, whether it is the casual red star pinned to a bag or jacket, or the more controversial hammer and sickle. A pure history lesson doesn’t seem to convince that this is neither tasteful, nor is it appropriate. So maybe a slightly different approach will at least lead to even just a few re-evaluations of fashion choice; in the least superficial way possible.
It’s no secret that Socialism and feminist activism also appear to go together quite well. It was on feminist websites where trigger warnings first appeared. Trigger warnings are an important tool for feminism and safe spaces in general; they can ensure that those with a past they would rather not be reminded of don’t have to accidentally remember nor relive any traumatic experiences. The point remains that, if for you, Socialism and feminism go hand in hand, and if you are convinced that you subscribe to a belief system which respects people as ends in themselves, and aims to supports those in need, then there is simply no justification for using Soviet imagery. This is not to say that Soviet symbols should come with a trigger warning, but if worn by someone who agrees with the general idea behind trigger warnings, then their use is highly hypocritical.
Communism in Eastern Europe involved a lot of suffering rather than egalitarian fun; the rationing of food, gas and electricity are but a few examples. In Romania, both contraception and abortion were strictly forbidden under the Communist regime. One important idea behind trigger warnings is that all emotions are valid. One could certainly choose to start explaining why all of this has, actually, nothing to do with the Soviet symbols themselves, which are simply convenient to use – or just choose to accept that casual usage of oppressive symbols is not a particularly sensitive thing to do.
This is not about criticising anyone’s right to indulge in Marxist philosophy, or even aspirations towards a Socialist utopia. The hammer and sickle, however, while merely a hip accessory to the fashion-conscious leftist, is a symbol of pain for many people who had to endure a Soviet regime and should never be treated as harmless fun. It’s not that one shouldn’t be allowed to use Soviet symbolism; everyone should have the choice.  It’s rather that one should choose not to; if not out of common sense, then at least to avoid the hypocritical act of advocating trigger warnings whilst proudly wearing symbols for oppression.
To be taken more seriously, therefore, student Socialism might want to check its Western European privilege before sticking a Red Star to a MacbookPro.
Originally written for The Student

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Summer is coming

I apologise for my lack of posting, this is going to change very soon as my last deadline is on Thursday and I will have plenty of time for all the nice things in life afterwards. I also decided to spend my last money on a Canon Powershot SX50, which I am really very excited about as this will mean lots of pictures - I'm seriously considering making this more of a lifestyle and fashion and general musings blogs since that would give me a good additional justification for my addiction to all things pretty. Other things I am excited about: The Pick-Up Theorist is going really well, and I've ordered the first bunch of postcard prints. I also cannot wait to go back to my summer job this July, get really tanned and see all the lovely people again.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Natalya Lobanova - Happy 2 B Sad

Natalya Lobanova describes her work as “mostly doodles on pastel paper”, and while that is without doubt very accurate, there is a little more to it. Born in Kazakhstan, she grew up in London and moved to Edinburgh in 2011 to study Philosophy and Politics. Lobanova draws - she draws everyday situations, she doodles imaginary scenarios and illustrates thoughts, and she is excellent at what she does. It didn’t take the blogosphere long to catch wind of her artwork once Lobanova began posting her art online. She then started her art project, the blog happy 2 b sad, in 2011; a collection of her work, it features mostly pen on characteristically pink paper.

Before coming to Edinburgh, Lobanova did an art foundation at Central Saint Martins in London, specialising in painting. Are there certain advantages to being an artist who does not study art anymore? “A degree in art essentially buys you the time to do nothing but art, which is actually a huge privilege and amazing thing to do”, she says. ”It also buys you the opportunity to surround yourself with amazing, creative people. But in my experience, it can also be a bubble and you forget that the outside world exists. On a personal level, I think it was very good for me to attend an academic University and be a little outside of my comfort zone and study things that I don't feel I naturally excel at.” Lobanova adds: “Also, I don’t have to deal with crits or having to explain why I chose pink paper to do my drawings on. It was the only paper I had at the time, okay?” 

Yet, balancing art and academia can be challenging at times: “I'm really lucky to have been able to keep the ball rolling whilst doing this degree because even when you find the time to make art formally, once you're out of the habit it just sort of slips out of your life, even if you're a naturally creative person. Your creative energy is used up in different ways.” Has her degree in Philosophy and Politics influenced her art? “I don't feel that it's explicitly influenced my art”, Lobanova says, “I don't actively try and keep my degree and my artwork separate but I wouldn't want my work to have too many inaccessible obscure academic themes. I don't want to alienate people.” Her work is witty, it is pretty, and it does not pretend to be something it’s not – it is easily accessible; it’s user-friendly, and proudly so. And whether she lives in London or Edinburgh, “every place is a good place to make art”, Lobanova says.

Lobanova’s first exhibition, a solo-exhibition, took place at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, US, last fall. Her second exhibition just started in Tampico, Mexico, sending happy 2 b sad on a physical journey around the globe following the virtual one. Does she have any concrete plans for where she would like the future to take her? “You can't really plan an artistic career, you just do all you can and hope for the best. I've been really lucky. My plan is to just do as much as I can”, Lobanova says.

Talking about the creative process, she explains: “Sometimes I crawl out of bed in the middle of the night to jot something down and other times I just sit down and decide to make some art. I wouldn't say either process is better than the other, I just do whatever”, and she adds, “That’s a technical term”. Introspection or interaction, which inspires her most? “I think my drawings are the wittiest fragments of my inner monologue, so I suppose it's both”, Lobanova explains.

The Internet has undoubtedly played a big part for her art – how does she see its role in the art world? Lobanova says, “I think it's amazing because in some ways it's socialised the art industry - you don't necessarily need to know anyone to enter it and to gain momentum. It's made it more accessible. I think if it were not for the Internet, I would feel entirely disassociated with the art world”. Yet, at the same time, “this constant source of information and stream of images and super quick moving 'trends' in art can distract people from making artwork that it genuine to themselves”.

Does she have any advice for anyone who would like to express themselves visually, but who has never experimented with art before? “You have nothing to lose by trying”, Lobanova says. “If you do it and it's rubbish then no one needs to see it”, and she adds: “Or maybe you're just really ahead of your time and your work will be rediscovered posthumously and that will be your legacy.”

Find Natalya's work at

Originally written for The Student.

Monday, 17 March 2014

The Pick-Up Theorist

My little project, the Pick-Up Theorist, is really kicking off - if you're on Facebook, like my page if you want to; it would be very much appreciated.

Monday, 10 March 2014

You can regulate my heart anytime

Everything is a bit busy at the moment, so I have once again turned to arts and crafts to calm my nerves. More to come very soon, hopefully; I bet you kant wait. Now that it's slightly warmer outside (as well as inside), I can actually bear the thought of cutting paper and glueing things together using my bare hands, potentially soon even at my lovely desk rather then in bed where I still spend most of my time at home due to its natural and irresistible cosiness. I have an idea for a new project too, but I'll keep the philosophical theme going for a little longer. 

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Hello March

One of the many amazing things about living in Marchmont is having any produce you need readily available at your doorstep. Eddie's Seafood Market quite likely sells the best fresh fish in town, and according to my flatmate Kima, salmon bought there is even better than Norwegian salmon. I've never had Norwegian salmon but I do trust her judgement. Also, if you're roasting salmon in the oven, add some vegetables, and throw in some almonds halfway through too - they are going to taste heavenly.

I've never really had sweet potatoes until a year ago, but since then, baked sweet potato fries have become a bit of a kitchen staple. I always add smoked paprika, some Italian herbs and sage, but they taste good with pretty much anything. Have with greek yogurt, feta cheese, and olives for additional perfection.

I'm hopelessly in love when it comes to anything arts and crafts so I could not resist when I incidentally walked into Paper Tiger on Lothian Road and spotted these pretty stamp sets. I've wanted alphabet stamps for a while now so I don't regret taking them home very much. I might have to go back soon too, seeing as one of the two ink pads is actually blue when I meant to purchase a black one. Oops. You will be all relieved to hear that until then, the blue pad will do just fine though.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Humans of Edinburgh - One Story at a Time

I see a lot of young men these days are growing beards,
So I would like to declare that I've worn mine for years,

I used to shave it now and then to ward off paedophile fears...

But now i keep it nice and long to spare my wife from tears.

Ollie Buchanan's favourite thing about Humans of Edinburgh is definitely “speaking to strangers with a reason for doing so. It's something that you never have the chance to do without something like this”, he says, calling it “an honour to get an insight into people's lives through a photo and a quote”. And luckily, Humans of Edinburgh, the street photography project started by Buchanan and his friend and business partner Zishan Ashraf in January 2014, extends the honour of experiencing Edinburgh's streets 'one story at a time' to everyone eager to connect through social media. In short, Ashraf and Buchanan approach strangers on the streets of Edinburgh, and later choose a picture and an accompanying quote to share with a constantly growing fan base. Buchanan takes the pictures and picks quotes, and Ashraf is responsible for sharing and promoting the work on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Buchanan admits, “I don't think my photography alone would be on nearly half as many likes without his skills in facebook marketing”- after all, know-how is key in the age of social media.

Having grown up together on the outskirts of Edinburgh, Buchanan, a student of English at Stirling University, and Ashraf, who runs the online delivery service IamHungover, have known each other since school. The project, inspired by Humans of New York, was initially started as a side project, but it certainly looks like it is here to stay. Whilst browsing street photography from all over the world is entertaining, it's just that little bit different when you recognise the streets and corners from your way to class or work, and the stories you read are those of people whose paths you might well have crossed before without knowing. Buchanan himself has a similar explanation for the unexpected success of Humans of Edinburgh. “People seem to have lost the attitude regarding art where posh, expensive looking things are attractive. Nowadays, I think people's primary reason for looking at art is to see something relatable”, he says; and quite clearly, people from Edinburgh do relate.

Ashraf and Buchanan offer a compelling contrast between busy street life and just taking a minute to stop and listen; between the anonymity of a capital city and intimate thoughts shared with a total stranger, and thousands more online. Buchanan explains, “It's a very personal process – sometimes, I feel like I'm delving too deep with questions I ask, but then I'm surprised and reassured by how open the person is in responding. I think there's something therapeutic in sharing something personal with a stranger”. Ashraf has just bought a new camera too, but until they will be able to split the photography, Buchanan is “more than happy” doing the photos by himself. Buchanan, a self-taught photographer, credits one of his teachers from school for sparking his passion for photography. “I will always remember him”, he says, “I don't think I'd love photography as much as I do had he not started me out.” He still has the camera his teacher convinced him to buy many years ago; it's the very camera he uses to capture the Humans of Edinburgh on film. Does he encounter difficulties when approaching people for their picture? “A lot of people said no to having their photos taken first, but once the project grew, people now generally know about it and are happy to be featured”. Unsurprisingly, “some people are often very reserved in their quotes”, but luckily, from art school students who can't come up with anything pretentious to say, non-couples, accidental pug-owners and even the occasional tram fan, it's the everyday aspect that makes Humans of Edinburgh so special. The project manages to put the human back in Edinburgh, a city with such breathtakingly beautiful scenery that it is easy to forget that it is populated by actual human beings with real stories to share.

One thing Buchanan would rather not reveal are his favourite photo locations in Edinburgh: “I have a few favourite spots to shoot in, but I like them being secret”. But he'll gladly tell us his favourite thing about Edinburgh, “Palymra, the Shawarma restaurant. It's really, really perfect”, and share a tip for budding portrait photographers: “Practicing portrait photography on people you're comfortable being around is the key to being good at it. Once you master it, it's like taking the same photo every time, except with different people.” The same photo, but with different people – that's Humans of Edinburgh in a nutshell for you. Follow their journey through everyone's favourite Gothic Capital city on Facebook, tumblr or Twitter.

Written for The Student, the UK's oldest student newspaper. 

Monday, 24 February 2014

Instagram your Fun, February

February has been pretty busy. I don't really mind (meaning, I actually love it), the more I have to do the more I get done (this is law), but it can get pretty intense at times. So I decided to make working a bit more fun and give Muji some of my money once again. My favourite paper for scribbling is finally back in my life. And it still absorbs the ink so incredibly well. The little things in life.

I love having the kitchen table to myself from time to time and excessively organising my life over lunch. I haven't been particularly exciting in the kitchen in 2014 so far, I tend to stick to what I know and like (and what I can make in 15 minutes or less ideally using a maximum of two pans). I want to start cooking new things again as soon as I get a little break from course work, and rediscover my passion for food blogs. I used to be obsessed. I don't understand what happened.

I started going to the gym in the morning and it actually works surprisingly well for me. It leaves me with a sense of accomplishment before 10 and my body feeling amazing, so everyone is a winner basically. Plus, these days, Edinburgh weather tends to be lovely in the morning and then turn really ugly, so it's nice to get a bit of sunshine occasionally. So far 8 is the earliest that I have managed to leave the house but I firmly believe that I could push this 15 minutes back still. Maybe. Soon. 

Who doesn't love a late breakfast? Brunch is the best thing. Apart from that, I have a few pretty exciting ideas. I've got one more assignment to hand in tomorrow, and then I can try and figure out how to best approach everything I've got planned out in my mind. 

Also, it was my dad's birthday on Saturday. My mum and dad are my heroes, so he's kind of a big deal. And not just because he's the best father any girl could wish for.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Because the internet, pt 2

It's no secret that I chose to spend the last weekend binge watching the newest House of Cards season, and I finished successfully on Sunday night not really knowing what to think or feel. Basically, I loved it, and I also hated it, because it is really disgusting, but disgustingly good too. It also broke my heart numerous times, but no big deal. I even got a Netflix account, which I should probably delete before my free trial runs out, but it is also very tempting to keep it considering all the fun that could be had. I see what you did there, Netflix. This is why I should never give in to the temptation of free Graze box trial subscriptions either, or, alternatively, this is why I can't have nice but only temporarily free things.

I don't want to spoil season two for anyone though, because everyone should watch it and hate to love it just like me and feel all dirty and morally corrupted because you are STILL looking Frank Underwood straight in the eye when he's talking into the camera. So instead, I will once again link you to some of the internet content I've stumbled upon - some of it related to House of Cards, some of it just very interesting really. Amanda Marcotte argues that HoC has gone "full feminist" in its new season, while Marin Cogan discussed "the psycho-sexual ordeal of reporting in Washington" as a political reporter for GQ a year ago (it's still a pretty good read today).

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about ‘Straight Talk’ the Princeton Mom Should Give to Young Men but if you take it as what it is (a response to dubious Valentine's Day Straight Talk for college girls), it's a pretty entertaining reality check. Also, for more higher education chat, this is a surprisingly useful list of 31 Things I’d Have Told Myself Before College. Most of these lists are silly sentimentally regretful musings (think Thought Catalog), but Medium does original quality content pretty well.

Speaking of Medium, I love reading about fitness online (this is no secret either), so I've enjoyed these little more or less uncomfortable truths (not that uncomfortable, but who can resist motivational posts), and I've been reading about circuit training too which I think might be my perfect workout. Getting really sweaty, but without the treadmill agony and crippling self-doubt, and the opportunity to include some serious jump rope fun and look like an idiot - what's there not to love? I also might be slightly enamoured with the guy running I'd go Paleo for you anytime, Steve Kamb, even though I love cheese so very much.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Instagram your Fun, January

I know Instagram posts are not particularly exciting, but I keep forgetting to take my camera with me and it's nice to have at least a few pictures to illustrate your words with, filtered or not. 

I'm doing a course on Youth Culture, Media and Society this semester and it is actually as fun as it sounds. Since my other courses are on Statistics respectively autonomy, liberty and political theory, it's nice to read about something which is both interesting but also very entertaining (not that the concept of freedom isn't entertaining, but on a somewhat different level). 

I've started watching House of Cards and I absolutely love it. I don't even mind that it isn't particularly romantic. I also need to start doing more creative writing. Creative writing is the only kind of writing that I know I will always do in German, no matter where I'll end up living. I don't quite know how to describe it but I feel like different languages give you access to different parts of yourself - I can do pretty much anything in English now, but I don't know if I can or want to tell stories in English, and at the same time I feel like I am losing little bits of German with every day that I don't live my life in German. I'm a very confused girl, linguistically. Apart from that, I'm fine though. 

My mum sent me a few things and also my all-time favourite German food. I wish I could say that I'm being responsible about this and saving it all, but I'm not. You beautiful little Schupfnudeln. They're fairly similar to Gnocchi though, so I think I'm safe in the long run. 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Presentation of Self on Tinder

As a Sociology student, I'm very interested in everything new and shiny that everyone else seems to be doing, so naturally, I was fairly curious when I heard about Tinder. You can excuse a lot of things if you're studying Sociology, it's brilliant – people watching at parties is probably my favourite out of all these and excellent to make me feel amazing about my introverted nature, but downloading a mobile dating app based on society's tendency to judge a book by its (selfie) cover is pretty good too. The Presentation of Self in Everyday 3G, if you know what I mean. Goffman applied to virtual realities is pretty much a hit.

If you don't know what Tinder is, this is what you certainly don't need to, but might want to know: Connecting to your Facebook account and tracking your location, the app will present you with eligible bachelors and potential best friends in your area, and you can then choose to gift them with a like (swipe their picture to the right) or ignore the poor souls (swipe to the left). You better double check this information though, it might well be the other way around. Tinder will only notify you if you are a mutual match though, so no hard feelings and sleepless nights crying over strangers with an iPhone who didn't like you back. You can then get in touch, arrange a meeting, and live happily ever after. In order to convince others of your dateability, you can select a few pictures (this is an art in itself), write a few sentences about yourself, and potential matches will also see any Facebook interests that you two share. This last point might be crucial (spoiler alert: it's not).

The first time I downloaded Tinder, I was studying for my last exam and under the impression that I had already watched every single bit of quality television out there. While this was obviously not true and I discovered both House of Cards and Masters of Sex soon after, it seemed like a compelling and powerful argument at that time - or at least a valid excuse. I was on Tinder for about two minutes. Then I stumbled upon one of the trainers at my gym, panicked (but thankfully not enough to swipe to the right), and deleted my account.

I didn't delete the app though, and signed in again a few weeks later to show it to a friend from home. This time, I chose to do everything by the book. Apparently, the perfect selection of pictures will prove that you possess the following qualities and are thus very datable: You're obviously good-looking (duh), you love working out (extra credits if it's outdoors, both skiing and surfing are said to work quite well), and you love to party and just generally have a good time. Aiming to show my true self to every male Tinder user between 23 and 30 within a radius of 20 miles, I chose a profile picture which would reveal my deep passion for arts and crafts and social theory. I also added my most recent Facebook profile picture to my little picture collection which everyone brave enough to face the intellectual sass and click on my Tinder profile could then take a look at. This is my personal recipe for success:

I don't think I've composed a short description of myself, simply because I don't think anyone needs to know anything that my pictures fail to convey – show, don't tell, has always been my motto. So far, I have acquired something along the lines of seven mutual likes. I am very pleased with that number, considering I have a self-made card as my profile picture and like approximately one in forty people – mainly those without crazy party pictures showing them living it up (ain't nobody got time for that), but preferably those with puppies in their pictures so we can become great friends and go for walks around Arthur's Seat discussing the futility of Tinder.

These seven matches also may or may not include one accidental match. I feel very bad about that and hope that someone has also accidentally liked me, to balance out the negative karma. He messaged me too, but I have been too horrified to open the message so far. Now, every time I log onto Tinder, it tells me that I have a new message – both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. One of my other matches actually got in touch too, wondering if he was right to assume that I was not from Scotland. Fair enough, I thought, I would respond to this enquiry truthfully. Unfortunately, the next question was whether I “had done anything fun lately”. I'm not entirely sure what he is expecting. I don't think I will reply to that anytime soon.

To wrap up these musings, here is a list of my five favourite Tinder picture prototypes: 1. The one where he is doing something crazy on a night out, having a blast. 2. The one where you can't tell which one out of the twenty guys in the group picture he is (Hint: Probably not the one you are hoping for). 3. The one where he is posing inbetween two ladies, potentially also on a night out (Such a catch!) 4. The one where he is taking a topless mirror selfie (sounds too good to be true, but it is very much reality), and last but not least, 5. The pensive look out of the window into nature, and potentially your soul.

To end on a positive note, I will probably like your profile if you can pull off a kilt and lack picture prototype 1 to 5. If there is such a thing as Tinder law, this is it. But to be honest, it is probably time to end this fun social experiment anyways.  

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Emotional Baggage does exactly what it says it does; you can either check in your own emotional baggage or carry someone else's, replying to their message with a song you think might help them and some words of advice, or simply a few nice words. It's completely anonymous and I think it's a lovely idea. Share the music love.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Nice things, January edition

The lovely small leather bag used to belong to my mum; it's got a stubborn zip but is well worth the hassle because it is just so pretty. I've had a silly cold, so I've been treating myself to some fun medicine to get healthy in time for uni, and the Lush rose shower gel is very nice indeed (just as expected). I finally invested in the Herschel Retreat backpack in rust, and I'm so pleased - this is the first backpack I own which can actually handle the Scottish rain (or at least I hope so). It's beautiful, robust, perfectly sized and has the softest laptop sleeve inside. I wouldn't mind being a laptop if it meant travelling this comfortably. 

I'm madly in love with these boots from Shelly's London, and after breaking them in properly, they are actually comfortable too - such a jackpot. I was so pleased when they arrived just in time for my trip home in December and have rarely taken them off ever since - yet, there unfortunately are some occasions when platform boots aren't quite appropriate. This Japanese patterned paper collection is beautiful, and perfect for scrap booking and collaging, and I also rediscovered my old water colour set at home and brought it back to Edinburgh with me. I've been in love with LancĂ´me's Hydra Zen since I got the tinted moisturiser and the moisturising cream for my birthday; they smell amazing and just feel so lovely applied to my face - same goes for the Blush Subtil palette. And finally, I'm looking forward to structuring my life with the help of Moleskine, and tips from this lovely book. I am obviously more than ready to sharpen my creative mind.