5 Reasons Why 2018 isn’t as Bad as it Seems

Written by Chad Echakowitz

pexels-photo-1167028.jpeg

 

We’re six months in to 2018 and my goodness… What a year it’s been. Let’s be honest, 2018 has been a long, stressful year filled with lots of downers: multiple mass shootings, the return and open expression of Nazis, terrorism, and so much more. So what should we be thankful for this November when Thanksgiving rolls around? Right now, it doesn’t seem like much.

Well today is the day we turn this year around, ol’ buddy, ol’ pal. While 2018 has been the hurricane Catrina of shitstorms, there have been some pretty swell moments too. Here are just five of those swell moments to make you think, things could always be worse.

1)    The (Alleged) Golden State Killer is Finally Caught (April 24, 2018)

 Courtesy of   Oxygen

Courtesy of Oxygen

The Golden State Killer, also known as the East Area Rapist, also known as the Original Night Stalker, also known as the Vasalia Ransacker, also known as the East Bay Rapist, also known as the Diamond Knot Killer was an evil man (as his multiple monikers would suggest). Between the years of 1974 and 1986, he committed at least 12 murders, 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries in California. He was able to evade police, detectives, and the common sleuth for the last 30 years.

That is 30 years of police in utter purgatory, which lead to many failed marriages, countless victims who never got closure, and whole families ripped asunder while the man who committed these atrocities saw the turn of three decades as a free man, unaccountable for his crimes.

Then, out of nowhere. A name emerges in 2018. Joseph James DeAngelo. Joseph was arrested on the 24th of April and charged with the crimes associated to the Golden State Killer. DeAngelo’s DNA matched the DNA evidence left by the Golden State Killer. It is important to note that he has not been convicted yet, and he is innocent until proven guilty. Until such a time, we can only allege that he is the Golden State Killer.

Regardless of whether he is or isn’t this evil beast that haunted California in the 70’s and 80’s, it is an encouraging fact that this 30 year old crime is the closest to being solved that it has been in a long time. Finally, victims can have peace, families can have answers, and law enforcement will rest easy, knowing another bad guy is behind bars.

This is an uplifting moment in 2018, not just because an evil person is behind bars, but because it gives us hope. Cold cases are awful because there are no answers, there is no peace. This case gives us all hope that there is no time restrictions on finding these criminals. If we can find Joseph after 30 years, there is still hope for other cold cases.

 Sketches from some of the victims of the GSK

Sketches from some of the victims of the GSK

Joseph was caught using a relatively new technique of tracking people through ancestry websites. They were able to locate him using a process-of-elimination-style investigation of DNA obtained from a member of family. This technique will have a huge benefit to cold cases as ancestral DNA can be collected relatively easily creating matches through bloodlines to find criminals that have long disappeared. Science and technology drive progress and hopefully, the stack of cold cases will start to diminish.

 

2)    Los Angeles has instituted Parking Metres that Provide for the Homeless (February 8, 2018)

This isn’t a novel idea by any means. It has been instituted in other cities from as early as 2014. But what makes this a 2018 good thing is that the idea is spreading. It raises more awareness across the world and shows how easy it is to give back to those less fortunate.

 Courtesy of the Flintridge Centre

Courtesy of the Flintridge Centre

Downtown Los Angeles has set up six parking meters which will use the funds it receives to help the homeless in the surrounding areas. The initiative was set up by the Flintridge Centre, as well as Los Angeles City Council member Jose Huizar and her offices, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis. While there has been mixed feelings about the idea, with some thinking it doesn’t truly engage with the problem of homelessness, and others saying it isn’t actually feasible, it has still received a wide acceptance and favourability with the public.

This initiative shows us that there are people in power, elected officials, who are trying to make a difference for the better, who look at the less fortunate and want to make their lives easier, instead of harder. There is still kindness, and charity and compassion, even here in the depths of 2018.

 

3)    Chinese Scientists have Successfully Cloned the First Primates (January 24, 2018)

Some may say this is a bad thing and doesn’t deserve a place on this list, but those people are focusing on the repercussions that such a feat may cause, and not the scientific wonder that is this achievement.

To clone something is hard. Like really, really hard, you guys. The first successful cloning experiment was only completed in 1996 (Dolly the sheep) and since then, we have only been able to successfully clone a handful of animals. 

 Courtesy of   Smithsonian.com

Courtesy of Smithsonian.com

This is the fist time ever that primates have been cloned using the same method that scientists used to clone Dolly (Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer, or SCNT). Before this, the longest primate pregnancy from cloning was 80 days. This is a breakthrough in modern science and opens our world to opportunities previously thought impossible. Whether we should take advantage of these opportunities or not is a very different story, and falls deep within the realm of bioethics, a subject we are not going to get into here.

But if we look at this cloning for what it is, creating identical life through scientific methods, it is truly awe-inspiring. It has taken dedication, determination, focus, intelligence, creativity, and so much more just to do this. And that is what being human is all about. We thrive to live in the what if. We love the hypothetical. And we adore making it a reality.

Without getting too much in to the politics of cloning, such breakthroughs can also lead to human organ growth to help save people’s lives, as well as expand research into diseases which cause progressive cell death, such as MS and Motor Neuron Disease. Through this new science, we could end up saving countless lives.

 

4)    Saudi Arabia goes to the Cinema (April 18, 2018)

In the 1980’s the government of Saudi Arabia banned the viewing of films and going to cinema on moral grounds, backed by extreme religious groups. For the past 30 years, The Saudi Arabian people have been unable to see such classics as Jurassic ParkInceptionGremlins, and everyone’s favourite, When Harry Met Sally.

But times have changed and earlier this year, the ban was lifted, and the new cinemas, now open to everyone, premiered with the greatest movie of this year, Black Panther.

GettyImages-864751608-920x584.jpg

This is such a monumental event because it sees a change in the passage of time, from the old, archaic rules which are now redundant, to new, more practical ways of life. Times change and the people have to change with them. This is a great step forward for the people of Saudi Arabia and their ability to express themselves. It is a freedom unfelt for the past 30 years. And what a way to break the cycle: with Michael B Jordan’s sexy body smoldering on their screens.

 

5)    Ireland Goes Pro-Choice (May 25, 2018)

Abortion is an extremely controversial topic, and something we don’t need to get into here. But on the 25th of May, Ireland, with a resounding 66.4% in favour, repealed the eighth amendment of the Irish Constitution which made abortions illegal.

 

This is a gigantic step forward for Irish women, not because they now have the right to have abortions in their own country (instead of having to travel overseas, often alone without proper help, support or supervision) but it is because they have the choice to have an abortion or not. This isn’t an issue of pro- or anti-abortion, this is an issue of allowing a woman to have the right to choose what to do with their own bodies.

This is also a public health issue. The new law will mean that abortions will be governmentally regulated, ensuring a higher standard of care for women going through abortions. This substantially cuts down the risk of death from backstreet abortions and related pregnancy illnesses.

stream_img.jpg

In an age where equality and autonomy of self has become emphasized, this vote is extremely important in recognizing these concepts and bringing them into reality. This is a clear sign of progress. We are moving forward. The people are listening.

There’s a lot more to be excited about, of course. People stood up against inequality, prejudice, and the murder of innocent people. Big businesses are starting to be held more accountable for their actions. And we all got to enjoy the union of Prince Harry and Meghan Merkel. There is no denying that bad things have happened too but we need to acknowledge that, even though things look pretty bad right now, there is always light to push against the darkness.

I am Sexist

Written by Chad Echakowitz

the-uncomfortable-truth-about-sexism-in-tech-outnumbered-e1446508375706.jpg

Two days ago I exhibited sexist behaviour towards a coworker. Well, I guess it was two coworkers, since sexism cannot truly have only one victim because one treats a woman (victim A) differently to a man (victim B). One could say that the woman is the only true victim because, in many cases, she is the one undermined or disadvantaged. This is not one of those cases.

I went to ask my female colleague a question to try and resolve an issue I was having. I adopted a certain persona: charming, sweet, and a little flirtatious. I did this because I believed this would yield a more positive result to my issue. I did this because she was a woman. She couldn’t help me and pointed me in the direction of the person who could, the man who sat opposite her. Immediately, my persona changed. I was more masculine and direct. I did this because he was a man.

To give some context, my workplace thrives off a very relaxed atmosphere. Everyone gets along well and there is rarely animosity between any two members of staff. It is a predominantly sales-based workplace, and such environments tend to be male-dominated, as has been demonstrated by a number of statistical analyses.

When I apologized, the woman whom I felt I had wronged said, “This is [company name]. There’s no need to even think like that. There’s no need to be sorry.” I had pulled her aside and said I was sorry for being sexist towards her. She had no idea what I was talking about. She didn’t even remember the event. I wanted her to know I had treated her differently because she was a woman because, at the time, both of us didn’t even realize that it was happening. She smiled and said I was being silly. That she didn’t even think it was sexist and she wasn’t hurt or offended. This encounter has made me realize a couple of things.

First was the complete obliviousness to the situation. The fact that she didn’t even realize I was being sexist, coupled with the fact that I didn’t even recognize what I was doing at the time, is deeply alarming. Sexism is so inherent in our society that had attention not been brought to the situation, it would have gone unnoticed and such behaviour would continue. Some would say it would be unnecessary to bring up every little sexist action in every situation, but that is the only way we can cure this systematic prejudice. There is a right way and a wrong way to do it, of course, and I’m not saying I have all the answers, but we need to talk about these things openly, whether it’s uncomfortable or not.

This event has shown me how systemic sexism is, and how easy it is to fall into such behaviour. We are all guilty of being sexist or prejudiced in some way. It is systemic and no matter what, we cannot run away from it right now. This event has made me re-evaluate my actions and my beliefs. It has made me check my privilege. I will now be more aware of how I behave to women and ensure that the way I act with women and men will be equitable. In order to be equitable, we need to recognise past injustices and acknowledge present skewed behaviours.

A lot of people will read the anecdote above and say that I had no reason to apologise. If she did not realize I was being sexist, then I am absolved of any guilt. Luckily, no one got hurt. Luckily, no one was disadvantaged by my actions. But such actions still need to be corrected. Any and every act of sexism, whether it hurts or disadvantages someone or not, needs to held to account. This is the only way we can stop sexism and its systemic hold. Sexism, and every type of prejudice, needs to be treated with a level of meticulousness akin to the Broken Window Theory. Only then can we fight the systemic nature of prejudice. Next time my colleague and I will hopefully be more aware of any prejudices around the office – or anywhere for that matter – and try to correct them. Speaking up is an important act in fighting prejudice. Speak up when it’s difficult. Speak up when it’s awkward. Speak up because you can.

I fucked up. There’s no better way to phrase it. I did a thing I hate to see others do. And so, because I did wrong, I needed to apologise. I needed to repent. Her forgiveness was only part of the solution; it was an apology to myself too for not being as considerate and aware as I should have been. Only through self-reflection, and expecting a higher standard of oneself, will we be able to reduce such prejudice. Don’t let yourself off the hook. Be better. You have an obligation to be better because you are the conduit for a more equitable future. Only through your actions can you make the world a better place and being easy on yourself, by not reflecting on holding up your demons like the proverbial albatross, defeats any notion of a future without such prejudice.

I was sexist. I’m sure there will be times in the future where I will be sexist again. I will probably be racist in the future too, like I am sure I have been racist in the past. I have my prejudices. I am aware of them. I will always be apologetic of them because no human should be treated differently due to arbitrary standards set by an archaic system which encouraged oppression and domination until it was considered normal. Moving away from such a system is ugly. It hurts and it’s going to suck a lot more that it already does. But in order to cure a festering wound, one needs to clear away all the muck and sepsis, to scrape away the dead tissue. But after all that pain, there will be healing and things will get better.

5 Table Top Games so Good, You'll Want to Throw out your Playstation

Written by Rachael Cheeseman

Okay, maybe not literally. After all, the lifeless bodies of your enemies aren't going to teabag themselves. I don't expect anyone to start turning their backs on the golden era of video games that we're living in, and I'll be as excited as everyone else when Call of Duty: Modern Ancient Nuclear Sci-Fi Warfare 85 comes out. But what most people seem to be completely unaware of is we are also living in a golden age of board games. Now, I know that at the mere mention of the words board game some of you will be experiencing Vietnam style flash backs of being systematically and viciously destroyed in Monopoly, or of blazing family rows over how the answer on the Trivial Pursuit card can't possibly be right. Take a deep breath, we've all been there and we'll get through it together. I'm here to tell you that board games don't need to be like this. There is another way. So why not partake in some table top game therapy, as it were? Replace those traumatic memories with new vibrant shiny ones by playing some of these truly exceptional games.

1. GLOOM

gloom.jpg

I'm throwing you in at the deep end with this one but bear with me, because at it’s worst Gloom is a unique and quirky game. At its best it is dark, twisted, hilarious fun. In this peculiar and macabre game, each of the players will be responsible for a family of strange, gothic characters. You will take turns drawing cards that will describe horrific, ironic and unusual disasters that can befall your family members, as well as untimely death cards. The aim of the game is to steep as much misery on your characters as possible before killing them off.  This can be fun in and of itself but when you then realise that you will occasionally pick up nice cards that you can use on your competitors families, things kick up a notch. One of your fellow players will have spent four turns making one of their family members unbearably miserable, their unhappiness score is through the roof and you know as soon as they can they will kill off said character and lock those points in. And then, smirking like the saccharin son of a bitch you are, you undo all that hard-earned misery by doing something so nice, so sweet, so infuriatingly altruistic that your fellow player will be forced to let that character live and begin their nightmarish campaign all over again. But the real brilliance of this game comes from the story telling you must engage in. You see it isn't enough to simply announce a tragedy has befallen your family member. You must explain how this unfortunate event came to pass, and given how deliciously ridiculous some of the events are, hilarity is sure ensue.

2. MYSTERIUM

mysterium_bg.jpg

Keeping with the gothic theme here, but with a very different style of game. Mysterium is kind of like Cluedo, in that someone has been murdered and the players must work out the who, how and where of this horrific crime. That's where the similarities end though. You see, in Mysterium the players take on the role of psychics, each with their own back-story and unique skills. That is all apart from one player who must play as the spirit of the murder victim. The psychics are presented with a pool of suspects, potential murder weapons and rooms that could be the scene of the crime. The spirit's job is to send visions to the psychics in the form of beautifully artistic, but incredibly abstract, cards. The psychics must decipher the visions and solve the crime before the time runs out. There are a few aspects that make this game brilliant but, for me, nothing beats the stunning artwork and attention to detail that has gone into every single card. The game is beautiful. Even when you're on the verge of tearing your hair out because "how can it not be the cook? The vision card has a stove on it for crying out loud!" You still can't help but appreciate the stylistic design. Playing as the ghost is a completely unique experience that is both extremely entertaining and extremely frustrating as you watch the psychics bungle their way through your carefully chosen clues. If nothing else, this game offers you a little insight into how completely different your mind's workings are from your fellow players. You will be constantly baffled by the conclusions they draw and they will be equally mystified by you. The game offers a fun new take on an old format and is a must have, in my opinion.

3. FLUX

Fluxx_header.png

Flux is nearly impossible to describe. I can tell you it's a card game and after that it gets a little complicated. Like my interpretive dance to the plot of Scarface, it must be experienced to be understood. You see the cards in your hand, the goal of the game and the rules are, as the name would suggest, constantly in flux. Every card you pick up changes something. The basic aim is very simple. You must be in possession of the two cards that make up the goal in order to win. However the amount of cards you can pick up, play and hold in your hand is always changing. Special rules may be added that allow you to take cards from other players, the goal will never be the same for more than two seconds and even if you miraculously hold the cards that match the goal you still might not be able to win because someone stuck you with one of the dreaded "creeper" cards and you can't win whilst you hold a creeper, or maybe someone laid a "surprise" card that lets them discard your entire hand. It's genius, it's mental and it will destroy friendships. Maybe the best thing about flux is that, by its very nature, no two games will ever be alike and this effect is only exaggerated when you discover that there are many different types of flux (Batman, Monty Python, Firefly etc.) and each type is subtly different and offers great new twists on the game. Not to mention that some of the quotes or goals on these cards will be enough to set your inner fanboy squealing like preteen girls at a... music concert of some description.... damn, I'm too old and out of touch to pull off this comparison. 

4. RACE TO THE NORTH POLE

pic3010540_md.jpg

Have you ever wanted to experience the treacherous, competitive, unpredictable conditions of racing fellow explorers across the most formidable terrain on the planet? No? Just me? Oh... well this game is still brilliant. The first thing you need to know about this game is that the board moves. it literally moves. It spins so that you never know where your pieces will end up or what obstacles might be in their way. Now if you're like me, that feature alone would sell you on this game. Luckily, for those of you who aren't so easily pleased, Race to the North Pole has a lot more to offer than a cool gimmick. Each player represents a team of explorers, that range from the relatively normal Scots or Canadians to the, frankly sinister, anthropomorphized penguins. Be warned though, the different teams have different perks, so don't pick based on novelty alone. Some characters will have the igloo building skill which allows them to camp safely on a square where no other player may attack or displace them. Other characters have the snowshoes which will allow them to cross the cracks in the ice that other players cannot. But there will be more than the other players and cracked ice blocking your path. You will also face holes, polar bears and frequent storms that will spin the board and land you with your opponent’s cards. It's spectacularly manic and hands down one of my favourite games.

 

5. TERROR IN MEEPLECITY

pic2482302.jpg

At first glance this is a fun family game, but having played it multiple times, I can tell you it's the adults who get the most out of it.
Meeplecity is under attack by giant monsters that are knocking down buildings and gobbling up the inhabitants at an alarming rate. The heroes, damsels, reporters, armed forces, businessmen and elderly are in grave danger. But here's the fun bit, you and your friends play as the monsters. That's right, you are the ones wreaking havoc and mayhem across this awesome 3D board. You set up the game by building the city and carefully securing the poor townsfolk inside the structures. You then pick which monster you will play as and set about smashing the whole damn thing to pieces! Honestly people, what's not to love? You can toss vehicles into buildings to knock them down, use your monster to tear them apart or turn on your fellow monsters to stop them from chowing down on your victims. What stops this game descending into total chaos (and I'll be honest with you, a lot of the time the chaos will happen anyway) are two very important rules. Firstly, you can only eat the people of Meeplecity whose bodies land in your playing area and there are major penalties for knocking them clear off the board. Secondly you don't win by devouring the most inhabitants. You win by devouring the most sets of inhabitants. You must have one of each of the six different kinds of characters to make up a set. In other words, to win this game you have to be the mad rampaging monster with a discerning appetite. And the more you play, the more you realise that this requires a certain amount of finesse you simply weren't expecting from the game. You do, in fact, find yourself playing quite tactically after a while. Still, when all's said and done, the real majesty of this game comes from the sheer, primal release you get from utterly obliterating everything in your path. And the game doesn't end until every building is reduced to rubble

I honestly feel like I could keep this list going for hours, there's so many excellent table top games out there: Machi Koro, Tsuro, 221b Baker Street, Munchkin, and Cosmic Encounter, to name but a few. And I urge you to go out and try some of them. It's different and sociable and just plain fun.

5 Things Brits do on Holiday that Upsets the Locals

Written by Leah Jane

brits+abroad.jpg

For those of us in Ol’ Britannia, the holiday season is in full swing. You've booked your flights, your hotel, done your shopping for clothes and your constantly checking you know where your passport is. The build up to a holiday feels good: you look out at the rain the day before your flight and you're silently smug knowing this time tomorrow you will be somewhere where the sun is sweltering. Brits have a certain way of life; we like a good cup of tea, we like a roast dinner on a Sunday, and we enjoy the occasional karaoke night. But when we go on holiday we do a few things that annoy the locals. By no means is it intentional but it's what we do. Because of our way of life, we are not hugely adaptable when we go away on our jollies. Below is a list of things all Brits do while enjoying the sun that piss of the rest of the world.

1.     Moan about the Heat

Although we book to go away to a place we explicitly know will be hot, the second the plane lands, we step off and exclaim, ‘oh god it's hot.’ and blow air out of our mouths in a vain, ridiculous attempt to cool down. Granted, this is a standard response to the heat when you live in Britain. During the four days of summer we enjoy on this tiny island, we manage to complain that it’s just too hot. Our old people are particularly good at protesting the heat by dying. And yet, we still head for places that almost reach dessert status. Throughout our holiday we can't help but tell the people we are with how hot it is or how we, ‘can't cope with this heat!’ We do it wherever we are in the world. As Brits it's become our unspoken birth right to complain about the weather. And by God, we’re proud of it.

2. Undoubtedly get Sunburnt

Always and forever, Brits are mad for a tan. We just can’t handle what the sun does to us when we travel. We get to our hotel rooms with our massive pasty, white bodies and head down to the pool or the beach right away. With our summer reading in hand, we rent a sun lounger (if the Germans don't take them all first) and if there is a poolside bar we are set for the day. And that there is the problem. We forget to reapply sun cream; we put it on at the start of the day and think we will be totally fine until the sun is over the yardarm later on. Then we get engrossed in our book, we don't count on the sun being a giant angry fireball and the sun then punishes us for our hubris and we pay so dearly for it. After our day basking carelessly, we stagger to the hotel restaurant for dinner as red as a freshly cooked lobster, searing in pain, wondering what went wrong. Then the most British thing happens: we blame the sun. We take absolutely no responsibility for what we’ve done. For the next two to three days we keep making ‘ooooh’ noises whenever someone brushes past our burnt shoulders and warn any passer by with the evil intention of touching us to, ‘Be careful: sun burn.’ We are the worst.

3. It’s perfectly Acceptable to be an Alcoholic for a Week or Two

The first thing we do at the airport is live by the Briton abroad motto: ‘I'm on my holidays!’ while downing our second pina colada or pint of San Miguel at six o clock in the morning. This is even before getting to the resort. Once there, the party really starts: Check in, bags down, and it's a matter of seconds before you hear, ‘So where's the nearest bar? Does the hotel have one?’ Wherever you go at whatever time, if there is a bar open at 10 am there will be a topless, hairy Brit with at least a half pint of some kind and he’s steaming more than a volcano. It has become so bad that the government is thinking of banning drinking on flights because of how rowdy and hellish we Brits become. I would like to apologise on behalf of the whole nation.

4. Enjoy the Local Language

We go abroad and we reduce these people to hopeless hand motions and desperate looks in the eye. Picture this: you are with your family, sat outside a restaurant and the young waiter comes over, and, in very broken English, asks if you would like some drinks. He clearly isn’t fluent but bless his soul, he is doing his best. This is the point where you realize who your family really are by how they order their meals. You have Uncle Patrick, the assumer, who orders their food and just assumes the waiter understood. Auntie Debby is a loud requester,  trying to be helpful, by ordering their food louder than necessary with aggressive eyes, almost pleading them to understand, ‘THE CHICKEN?’ Aunty Debs always ask it in the form of a question and keep it to a maximum of four words. My personal favourite but the rarest Brit is the hand motioner: people who request the chicken while doing a mini chicken impression and trying to keep their voices level. Or when ordering a small beer they will use their thumb and forefinger to show what they mean by small. As funny as these are to see, it makes me sad for the locals. A British tourist is always so happy to find out that where they are going speaking English. Ah, colonialism.

5. Find the Food they Know

Honestly, I was never happier than when I saw a Subway and Costa on my last holiday. I think as Brits we know what we like and we are quite stuck in our ways when it comes to food. For whatever reason, even though we travel to experience new cultures, we try and avoid the local food. Be it fear of illness or fear of wasting money on a horrible meal, we do not take chances with our food when we go away.

We sit down, look at the menu, put it aside and order chips and a burger. It’s easy: we know what a burger is. Personally I’m far more likely to order that than Cassoulet (a French dish… like a meat crumble, I guess?). Then there’s the other method: we go to each restaurant within a one mile radius, look at the menu until we hit a MacDonald’s and we all just agree it’s for the best, we walk through the glass doors and eat there because at least we know we will feel as sick as a godafter devouring a double bacon burger and large fries. We submit ourselves to that but if we eat local food and we get ill, we feel so sorry for ourselves and say things like “I should never have eaten that meaty crumble,” whereas if McDonald’s or subway are the culprits, it's acceptable. 

I am sure there are many more things that we Brits do to upset the rest of the world. Most of the time we're unapologetic for such behaviour. Please understand this to be a reparation for the things we do. It may be small, and it may have no long-lasting effect but it's an apology nonetheless. The next time one of us are on holiday in your country, please understand that some of us are truly sorry. 

What Does Step-family Porn Say about Humanity?

Written by Chad Echakowitz

pexels-photo-112327.jpeg

According to the Rules of the Internet, if something is online, there is porn of it. There are no exceptions. This leads to some pretty nasty, interesting, and questionable things if one were to go digging through the deep, dark web. One implication of this rule is that Porn reflects our reality; it takes what we put on to the Internet and it makes it sexy, whether we want it to or not. Superhero Porn, Space Porn, Underwater Porn, even Nugget Porn are all things that exist and are frequently watched. But these are all eclipsed by one specific genre of Porn: Step-family Pornography.

In 2016, Step-mother and Step-sister Porn were the second and fifth highest searched categories of porn in the world respectively, beaten only by Lesbian Porn. The usual plot of Step-family Porn includes a forlorn and innocent Step-son who is woefully seduced by his Step-sister. The Step-mother then catches them in the act and decides to join in. It really becomes a family affair. But this type of Porn is not exclusively for the cis-gendered. On Homosexual Porn sites one can easily find videos where Step-sons are seduced by their Step-fathers. It is a genre for all, regardless of your sexual predilections.

On paper, it should be quite obvious what the problem is with this category of Porn. This, by definition, represents incest. Incest is the act of undergoing a relationship, either sexual or nuptial, with another person who is a close enough relative in terms of consanguinity (familial relationship). In layman’s terms, incest is having sex with, or getting married to someone in your family. Incest is frowned upon because of the increased chance of genetic issues that might occur in the children of two people with such similar genes. Although Step-family members are biologically different, some laws prohibit the union between these familial relationships because of their close legal relationships.

In terms of English Law, it is illegal to have sex with an adult who is related as a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sister, stepsister, brother, stepbrother, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece. America does not have a unified codification on the prohibition of incest, but each State has its own laws on incest. Some States have even gone so far as to enact some radically different legislation when it comes to incest. Rhode Island, for example, has repealed its criminal incest statute, only criminalizing incestuous marriage, and New Jersey has no penalties for incest so long as both parties are over 18.

Incest is generally thought to be a bad thing. Usually, when some sexual act is illegal, any Pornography of that act is illegal too. Child Pornography is a crime independent of statutory rape crimes. Bestiality is illegal and any bestiality Pornography becomes illegal so long as there is penetration by or on an animal on or by a human. And yet Step-family Porn is not illegal. This is most likely due to the fact that the people in those Porn films are not actually related and are therefore not committing any crime. But they are still creating that illusion, and people are still finding it arousing.

If the only argument against incest is that the offspring may be born with biological defects then the purpose of making it illegal is not so much the act, but rather the potential consequence of the act. As such, legislation criminalizing incest is a preventative measure, stopping the act before it can lead to any unfortunate consequences. It would therefore seem that we are not against the act of having sex or marrying our family, but rather we are against the chance of children being born with genetic defects due to the relationship.  

And this is why people don’t have a problem with watching Step-family porn. What those actors are doing is not wrong per se, because they are not going to bear offspring from their union. As Freud said: we all want to have sex with our mothers. This, however, does not mean we want to impregnate them. The same may apply for our Step-brothers or Step–sisters. The Step-Family Porn industry is also an illusion. While people watch this category of Porn, they know, in the back of their minds, that it’s all just role-play, that these people aren’t actually related. It differs from Bestiality or Child Pornography because, by definition, those types of Porn have to be authentic, and as such, involved the real, deplorable, and illegal act.

That being said, there is a psychological aspect to think about. There is a power dynamic that exists between a Step-parent and a Step-child. The parent has more power over the child because of their role as guardian and protector. This role, as has been seen in so many cases, can be wrongfully abused. As such, Step-family Porn can promote the abuse of this power dynamic, with the Step-parent taking advantage of their position to seduce the child. While it is clear that a large percentage of the population finds this genre of Porn arousing, there is a serious problem within the porn industry creating an image of women as objects for sexual abuse. Yes, it is consensual in the Pornography because it has to be, but it could lead to the furtherance of abusive parent-child relationships.

What does this mean in the grander scheme of our society? Do we need to rethink how we see women and the fact that they are not sex objects? (I can’t believe I even need to ask that in 2017; the answer should be an obvious and resounding “yes”). Do we need to tighten up our Porn, banning Step-family Porn for its incestuous connotations? Or do we decriminalize incest so long as no children are born from the relationship? The latter option would be incredibly hard to police, and may be ineffectual. There is no easy answer and as society changes, the laws surrounding sexuality change too. Perhaps, in this brave new world, there is room for incest

As a global community we are becoming more accepting of people and their differing opinions, affinities and ways of life. Incest is a topic which, much like Porn, people have mixed opinions about. But when you really stop to think, and try to see these things from the other side’s perspective, it can really open up a new world for you. I’m not saying incest is right or wrong, and I’m not saying Porn is right or wrong. I am saying that the way we see women as sexual objects is wrong and we need to change this attitude immediately. One cannot just make a snap-judgment about things any more. Life is more complicated than right and wrong. Inclusive, empathetic thinking is the only way forward. And that is the type of thinking the whole family can do.

Should Shakespeare be Kept in Schools?

Written by Leah Jane

download (3).jpg

One of my loves, besides Benedict Cumberbatch, is Shakespeare. His plays (Shakespeare’s, of course, not Benedict Cumberbatch’s) still resonate with all sorts of people: theatre lovers, literature connoisseurs and even some musicians. However, I have recently read in an article published by tes, stating that Shakespeare’s plays need to be kept out of schools. Personally, I disagree. But putting my personal feelings aside, I will do my best to give a balanced argument.

 

They Say: Over Analyzing can Kill the Dream

The point of departure for those who agree that Shakespeare should get expelled from school is that most people react badly to Shakespeare. Whenever I mention Shakespeare (as one so often does) their first reaction is, “Oh god, I did Shakespeare in school and I hated it!” or I get the teeth-sucking sound like I’m about to be told my car is knackered. To an extent I understand: we did Macbeth at school and if we read Lady Macbeth’s speech about her little red spot once, we read it a million times. Taking every word and analyzing its meaning does take the joy out of it. It becomes monotonous, boring, and dull; more of a hindrance than a joy to learn.

But in no way does this mean that Shakespeare needs to be taken out of schools. All that needs to happen is for Shakespeare to be taught in a way that doesn’t suck. A more passionate teacher, or a more interactive lesson would solve this issue, instead of sticking with the, ‘So what does the double meaning of “grave man” here in Mercutio’s speech represent?’ rubbish.

For example, what if we taught our children that Macbeth had a mental illness, and that’s why he was hallucinating? Or what if we showed kids that Shakespeare had hints of homosexual characters in his plays? Or zombies? Food for thought, that’s all.

 

We Say: He Created the Basics

I’m not saying that he made The Story. People have been telling stories since there were cave walls to write on. But Shakespeare needs to be looked at because his plays are the basis for most of the stories you read today.  A friend told me once ‘If Shakespeare hasn’t done it, it doesn’t exist.’ I wont insult your intelligence by banging on about themes and conventions but the basis of what my friend said is true: love, family, and jealousy, to name a few, are all themes which Shakespeare mastered.

It is the cornerstone on which modern literature is built. Without a strong foundation, the knowledge children obtain will crumble and fall to pieces. In a world where the written word is becoming less and less important, we cannot afford for this to happen. This is why Shakespeare is necessary for schools.

 

We Say: Just a Bit at a Time

I’m not saying we need an entire module on The Bard. Start simple. Working in a school, I can comment that children are very susceptible to new ideas. Subtly introducing works like this can be a blessing. Last year, I wrote and directed a child-friendly version of Hamlet. It was just total bliss to see the children learn the names of the characters and understanding the story without being spoon-fed.  This has the potential to be the new way to teach children Shakespeare.

Teachers were accused of being too scared to take risks. Fie upon thee! Take thy face hence! This is so untrue it's laughable. What you may hear a teacher say is, 'How in the hell can I make this enjoyable without me having to spend hours getting things set up?' It's not bravery teachers lack, it's time and willpower.

Additionally, there are so many modern adaptations of Shakespeare plays that they have formed part of every child’s life without them even realizing it. Films such as Ten things I hate about You follows the plot of Taming of the shrewThe Lion King is loosely based on Hamlet, Baz Lerman even made that highly divisive film Romeo + Juliet.  This is all without mentioning the plethora of adaptations of Shakespeare’s work for modern film. Shakespeare is going to be part of our lives at some point or another, so why not when we’re children?

 

We All Say: Show Me, Don’t Tell Me

These plays were written to be seen and not read. These wonderful words are great if you know what you’re talking about but you never can really understand the plot until you see it. The delivery of the lines from the actors adds another dimension.

They are plays after all, and so we should act them out. Even in schools, in the classroom. Instead of just reading it from behind a desk, get little Susie to act as Desdemona who dies so tragically at the hands of Othello, played by the talented Drake who is 14. There is no reason why children shouldn’t be energized to do these things. It’s a far better lesson than just reading the damn things.

 

We All Say: Done, Let's go home.

There are many different opinions to this topic and this is but a brief candle into the undying debate. However I do feel that there needs to be a balance. It is a new era of teaching where children want to know the merit behind what they are learning. So let’s give it to them. Even if that merit is simply seeming intelligent at parties, while swirling your glass of Merlot because you’ve read King Lear by William Shakespeare and understood it.  

Arunachalam Muruganantham: India’s Pad Man

Written by Chad Echakowitz

download.jpg

Being a woman is hard. I cannot say this from personal experience, but being a feminist, I can see what a nightmare life can be for women all over the world. For some, it is easier than others. For others, such as the women of India, it is much harder than it is for most. Menstruation is something that most, if not all, women have to undergo every month from puberty. It is a biological process as natural as breathing. Yet it still carries a massive taboo in India, so much so that one in five women drop out of school due to their menstruation. Only ten to twenty percent of India’s women have access to proper menstrual hygiene products, leaving over 300 million women to use old rags and cloth when menstruating. Proper hygiene products are grossly overpriced. However, nothing is done about it because of the social stigma attached to menstruation.

But then, in 1998, Arunachalam Muruganantham of Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu began a revolution. Shortly after marrying his wife, Shanthi, Muruganantham noticed that She would gather up old rags whenever she was about to begin her period. When Muruganantham asked her about this, and asked why she did not buy proper hygienic pads, she said it was too expensive. As a sentimental gift to his wife, he bought her some proper pads, but he could only afford one pack. Muruganantham was outraged by this, knowing that the majority of impoverished Indian women could not afford the pads. So began his journey in to creating and supplying the rural areas of India with affordable sanitary pads.

At first, Muruganantham used cotton as the base material for the pads, wrapping shredded cotton around a cotton-padded sheet. He tested this pad on his sisters and wife. After months of trials, the pads continued to fail. They were not absorbent enough, nor were they comfortable for wearing on a day-to-day basis.  The work was slow, seeing as menstruation usually only occurs once a month. After months of frustration and social embarrassment, Shanthi left him to go live with her mother, and she and Muruganantham’s sisters went back to using old rags.

But this did not deter Muruganantham. Instead, he created an artificial uterus and connected it to a sanitary pad he wore in his own underpants. He organized to collect sheep and cow blood from a local butcher to simulate the blood flow that occurs during menstruation. He was ridiculed and ostracized by his village for his experiments once it was discovered that he was wearing sanitary pads. The taboo that surrounds periods and menstruation is so systemic in India that the shame Muruganantham had brought upon himself should have stopped all his work, but it didn’t. Instead, for two long years he altered and manipulated and tested his sanitary pads, finally leading to a breakthrough.

One day, after ordering tester samples from one of the large industrial sanitary pad producing companies, he found a box lying by his front door. This box, filled with those samples, had been ripped apart by his dog. The remains of the sanitary pads were strewn everywhere. But this unfortunate mishap lead Muruganantham to discover the material used inside sanitary pads: Cellulose fibers derived from Pine bark wood pulp. After this discovery, it took Muruganantham another four years to develop a way to process and produce these cheap sanitary pads made of absorbent Cellulose material.

Finally, he developed a machine that only cost $950 to make. The machine would grind, de-fibrate, press and then sterilize the pads under ultraviolet light, before packaging them for sale. To give some prospective, a machine made by a big sanitary pad company costs, on average, $500,000 to make. To date, Muruganantham has sold over 1300 machines in 27 of the 29 States of India. He refuses to sell them to big companies, solely selling them to women’s self-help groups and other rural Indian women. His goal was to provide cheap sanitary pads to all the women of India, and at a third of the price of normal sanitary pads, he has done so.

In 2014, Muruganantham was named one of Times’ 100 most influential people, and in 2016 he was awarded the Padma Shri by the Indian Government. This is the fourth highest award given to the members of the public for their distinguished contribution to India. There is also a documentary about his life and work directed by Amit Virmani. Additionally, he has given many lectures about his work at Universities such as Harvard. Muruganantham wants to now start distributing his machines internationally, helping other underdeveloped countries throughout the world.

There is no question about it: wherever you are in the world, female hygiene products are way too expensive. This is not a rant about how unfair it is to be a woman, or how the world favours men. Though that is true, this issue is about the economic predicament women find themselves in every month. People like Muruganantham are not accepting the status quo. They are refusing to let these archaic prejudices stand. And we must therefore ask ourselves: if this is changing in India, why are things not changing in our countries?

Is Shakespeare in Need of Constant Change?

Written by Leah Nichols

download (1).jpg

This question carries the weight of so many opinions given by so many people. Some of these people know every single minute detail of every piece of work produced by The Bard, while others don't know Shakespeare from a pack of wafer thin ham. I feel that I can give my opinion with some gravitas because not only have I made my - admittedly small - mark on the Shakespearian stage, I have also been a dedicated follower of the Stratford star and have enjoyed reading and viewing the various masterpieces throughout my years. Here are a few aspects on which I would like to draw attention to.

He recently celebrated his 401st Death-day

Being 401 years old means that it's going to be tough to stay modern and trendy. Naturally, people struggle to get their heads around the long, beautiful monologues and soliloquies. That being said, theaters all across the world are still packed to see his timeless plays. There must be a reason that makes this quadruple-centenarian's plays draw in so many people.

Directors who take on the exhausting task, put it upon themselves to constantly find new ways to reinvent the same old pieces. For example, I was lucky enough to see the award-winning Hamlet on the West End, starring the handsome A-Lister, Benedict Cumberbatch. Having seen many different versions of Hamlet, this was visually the best; using slow motion, current music, and slight non-naturalism. The visual feast that lay before me instantly took me in. This, to me, was a joy to watch. That being said, the film adaptation of Hamlet, starring David Tennant, had the same words and plot, yet the two adaptations were so different in their characterization, settings, and directorial choices, that they could be considered two completely different sides of the same sexy-British-lead-actor coin.

This is partly what keeps Shakespeare alive. The ability to adapt the same piece of work, work that has been circulated and viewed countless times over the past 400 years or so, and make it unrecognizable to any adaptation that has been put on before. And this, in itself, is a testament to Shakespeare: the fact that his work can be moulded and changed but still keep its core essence, means that he was able to write plays that are truly timeless.

Respecting the Words and Honouring the Aesthetics  

Conversely, there is a sense of respect owed to Shakespeare to which the most severe actor doth like to adhere. This camp of Shakespeare lovers suggest that there is a sense of duty, that deference should be paid to the original work, and that there is no way that any cuts should be made to the script, believing that the lines should never be adjusted or any kind of modernism added to it.

While this can be an unpopular opinion, there is a strong argument for it. A lot of actors and directors feel that Shakespeare wrote his plays in that particular way for a damn good reason and who are we to edit it in any way? We do not have his genius and so we shouldn’t tinker with his perfection.

There is, undeniably, a rhythm to each piece of Shakespeare's writing. From the beautiful soliloquies to the quick-paced duologues, there is a reason a line has been set in that specific place. For example, looking back, yet again, to the incomparable Cumberbatch’s portrayal of the Danish Prince, in Hamlet, the director chose to put the most famous speech in the play – you know the one (To be or not to be…) – at the beginning of the show. Now, some, including myself, found this to be a refreshing change to a 400 year-old speech, created by a sense of uncertainty as to the order of things. This, in my mind, was a soaring eagle of theatrical genius (but being a Contemporary Theatre Graduate, I would). This was, unfortunately, changed later: the speech had been put back into it's ordinary, uninspired, place. This – according to most – was seen as the best option because the words of the speech did not make sense at the beginning of the play and created less impact. 

There are two different types of people when it comes to Shakespeare: either you embrace the whole new age, modern dress aspect of Shakespeare's works, or you thoroughly enjoy seeing women in bone-crunching corsets and men with tights so tight they spend the entire show reciting lines in a higher octave.

In my opinion, we need to embrace change. Life have undergone a drastic shift in the last 400 years, and as Shakespeare himself said, “To beguile the time, look like the time.” Personally, I enjoy seeing new, contemporary versions of a classic, coupled with outstanding literary genius. Having stated my view, one must always keep in mind that many people prefer to see Shakespeare’s plays with absolute originality out of respect and a sense of deference. And that’s fine too. Both views are, of course, valid and justified. It is almost guaranteed that there will always be two camps of Shakespeare enthusiasts, and thank The Bard for it. Both styles are necessary to keep theatre alive. No matter what camp you belong to, we all go see Shakespeare for the words, because it is in the words that the beauty, and our hearts, truly lie.

Whether you prefer Original Gangsta Shakespeare, or New, Hip and Modern Shakespeare, it does not matter. You love Shakespeare all the same. We may be divided but we still fly that Shakespearean flag together. And if you don’t know under which camp you fall, perhaps you should go book a ticket to a Shakespeare performance near you.

5 Strange Things almost All of us Do

Written by Rachael Cheeseman

il_570xN.531257138_l5ig.jpg

We all have little odd impulses and behaviours, and some of us do things that seem downright weird and maybe even a little crazy. Have you ever had the strange feeling when your walking on a cliff or high bridge that if you get too close to edge you might just jump off? You don't want to, but part of you is paranoid that you might do it anyway? Well, it's totally normal. Freud observed this side of human nature and wrote extensively on the topic. There's lots of peculiar things we do that we assume are abnormal or unique to us. Chances are, most people do exactly the same thing. Sorry, but you may not be a one of a kind, precious snowflake after all.

1. Having Imaginary Arguments

Someone has done something to annoy you. Fred at the office used your milk again, even though it was clearly labeled and you know he must have seen it, but Fred's a cheapskate and refuses to buy his own milk. You desperately want to have it out with him. This office needs a hero and, damnit, you're not going to let this tyranny go on unchallenged! You're shaking with righteous anger, but before you confront the fiend, you take a moment to imagine how it might go. 

You'd storm up to his office with a gallon of milk and dump the whole thing all over his damn desk. "There! Now you have all the milk, Fred!" But then what if he has a good comeback? What if he brings up that time you accidentally threw out his lunch because you thought it was old food? Trust Fred to bring that up. That was totally different. How dare he? Then he might make a comment about how you got your promotion. Sleazebag Fred is exactly the sort to imply you're sleeping your way to top. Oh my god, I can't believe he would say that! What the hell, Fred? Nobody even likes you, you dairy delinquent!

Before you know it an hour has passed, you've not actually said a word to Fred but you're beyond furious with him and you will hold the things Imaginary Fred has said against Real Life Fred forever.

This phenomena is not unusual. To survive as social creatures we have to develop a knack for second guessing other people’s intentions and reactions. Otherwise we'd all go around saying whatever popped into our heads, consequences be dammed, and the world would descend into total chaos. So, we need to anticipate how people might respond to a confrontation and if our imagined outcome is unfavourable, we'll probably decide to keep our anger to ourselves. More anxious people tend to imagine the worst possible outcomes, making them decidedly less likely to seek out confrontations.

2. Interrupt Conversations because Someone Said Something that Reminded you of a Song

This is one I'm guilty of. You'll be having a perfectly nice and normal conversation with someone. Maybe they're even trying to tell you something important. They might tell you their world is falling down and you are listening, really you are! But...remember that song from Labyrinth about the world falling down? That was a good song. It would be totally inappropriate to bring that up right now. You won't do it. You won't do it. You won't... you did it. You sang those lyrics right into their startled face with your best David Bowie impression. Oops. Maybe you'll stop at just a couple of lines... or just the chorus. By the time you're finished there's air guitar and power hands and you've all but forgotten the person you were talking to.

This happens because the neural pathway that leads to the memory of this song has been used so often that it requires little to no effort on your brain's part to zip on down to long-term storage and retrieve it for you. It's practically an instinct, like remembering your address, the information is just there. And once that song's at the forefront of your mind, resisting the urge to let it come bursting out can be extremely difficult. In fact the more you resist the harder it will seem. 

3. Lying about Things that Literally Don't Matter in the Slightest

‘Have you ever been to Oxford?’ Someone might ask. You haven't. You know whether you've been or not is irrelevant, they're going to tell you what happened when they went there regardless of your past travels. There's no judgment on you, they won't belittle you for being uncultured if you tell them you've never been. So why, when you open your mouth, do you find yourself saying ‘of course I've been to Oxford. Who hasn't?’ 

Why? Why would you do this to yourself? Now they're going to ask you what you did, what sites you saw and you'll just have to keep lying. Either just making up stuff you did and winging it, or saying something like ‘oh, it was so long ago I barely remember it.’ In which case you might as well have told the truth in the first place.

You might be pleased to know that this compulsive need to have other people think you're just as smart, cultured, well read etc. as they are is quite normal. You might be less pleased to hear that tends to arise from having something of an inferiority complex.

4. Complimenting People when you Feel Awkward

This happens most when there's a lull in conversation and things have been silent a beat too long. Most people are intensely uncomfortable with silence when they're in a group setting. In fact, on average, one of the group will crack and blurt something out after only 4 seconds of silence. Sometimes you get lucky and wind up saying something interesting enough to spark up the conversation again (phew, crisis averted). I personally have a terrible habit of pointing out how awkward things feel because I'm a social pariah with all the people skills of a houseplant. But some of you do something so much worse. You're so desperate to end the silence; the 4-second mark has come and gone and the situation is too tense. You're going to crack, there's nothing you can do to stop the words coming out of your mouth. ‘I really like your moustache!’ The poorly thought out compliment. This kills a conversation faster than cat videos kill your work productivity. Do you know why? Because the only thing that makes people feel more awkward than long silences, is being complimented. What's more is most people will respond to a compliment with a self-deprecating comment (awkward) or by paying you a compliment in return (even more awkward). Before you know it you're trapped in an infinite loop of clumsy compliments until one of you literally dies of embarrassment.

5. Groping Around for the Light Switch Rather than Step into a Dark Room

Who here believes in monsters? No one? That's what I thought. So why do we find it so hard to walk into a dark room and flip on the light? Why instead do we keep our bodies firmly planted in the hallway, reach our arm into the room and feel blindly around for the light switch? The same reason we won't let our feet stick out the bottom of the quilt. Because, even though we know it's ridiculous a small part of us thinks a monster might just reach out and grab us. But why do we think this? Have we watched too many horror movies? Well that probably is part of it. I know I didn't shower for a good long while after watching Stephen King's IT for the first time. But the main culprit behind this behaviour is actually a hang up from our Cave Man days. When humans were still busy running around in fur bikinis and rocking that wild back hair, we were far from being the top of the food chain. Everything wanted to gobble us up like the nummy treats we are. Predators were everywhere and many of them were nocturnal. Of course, we developed a healthy level of fear for the dark. Heightened anxiety levels make you more receptive to the stimulus around you. If you're scared to walk into a dark cave, you'll be more alert to things like the sound of a predator moving around in their. It's a basic survival skill that has managed to stick with us for a very long time.

Next time you rehearse conversations you might have with someone, or apologise to an inanimate object you bump into, or say wed-nes-day in your head to help you spell Wednesday (even though you know 100% how to spell it without doing this). Next time you do any of those weird little quirky things you do, just remember you're not alone. Chances are there are millions of other freaks out there all doing exactly the same thing.

Things You Learn Living with a Toddler

Written by Rachael Cheeseman

download.jpg

Anyone with a young child may well have noticed the desperate attempt being made to rebrand the so called 'terrible two's'. Children's centers and doctor’s surgeries are plastered with posters proclaiming that we should be calling the toddler years the 'terrific two's'. It will never take off, but they do make an interesting point. There are a lot of great things about toddlers; it's certainly an experience like no other. Fun, challenging, confusing and... yeah, it can be pretty damn terrific too. Here's a little look at some of the things in store for you when you live with a toddler.

1. The bathroom is no longer a place of privacy

The bathroom is a sanctuary. The one door it's perfectly acceptable to lock and the one room that, regardless of how long you spend in there, no one will ever question what you are doing. Using the loo, brushing your teeth, taking one of those extra long showers (it's cool – no judgment here) whatever you do, you do in complete privacy. Enter the toddler. Toddlers have no concept of privacy and because their bathroom habits are your business (particularly once you start potty training) they feel it's perfectly acceptable to share in your ablutions.

From wanting to sit on your lap whilst you use the toilet or simply just wanting to stand at the door and stare at you, toddlers can make the bathroom an exhibitionist’s dream. I can't remember the last time I had a shower without hearing that tell tale pitter patter of feet before the bathroom door is wrenched open and the shower curtain is unceremoniously flung aside to reveal the manic, grinning visage of my toddler. I stare at him like a deer in the headlights, he points at me and laughs (does wonders for the self esteem) before he runs out of the room yelling "mama's naked!" For all the world to hear. And what's worse: they don't abide by the "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" rule about bathroom habits. Toddlers have no issues whatsoever telling anyone who might care to listen exactly what goes on in the sanctity of your bathroom. Nothing is sacred. You hear me? Nothing! 

2. They use their imaginations to play really boring games

One of the really cool things about toddlers is they start developing a capacity for imaginative play. After what feels like an eternity of jangling brightly coloured objects in front of them and trying not to let your boredom show, this feels like the flipping jackpot. Until you realise that toddlers like to imagine they do really boring things, like sweeping. Honest to god, I've watched my toddler pretend a stick was a broom and sweep imaginary dirt for hours! Obviously it isn't always like that. Sometimes my kid will pick up literally anything, pretend it's a sword, run around like a lunatic and it's all good fun. But other times it seems that there is literally no better game than pretending to wash up after a tea party (seriously, we don't even get to have the tea party first – it's madness). The bottom line is things that feel mundane and dreary to us are still new and exciting to toddlers. The idea of running the hoover round sounds like an epic adventure to them, one they're keen to repeat over and over and over...

3. Everything is food

Literally anything. Unless it's something you want them to eat, then it's straight up poison as far as a toddler is concerned. A health visitor once told me that toddlers and picky eating go hand in hand, but I'm not sure that's entirely accurate. Yes, when you put a plate of food in front of them they can be unbelievably picky. Something they liked yesterday absolutely disgusts them today; if the peas are touching the potatoes then the whole meal is ruined and you better hope you gave them the right plate. Yep, they can be extremely picky.

On the other hand, anything they find that can fit in their mouths will end up in their mouths. Stones, pennies, string. My mother loves to tell anyone who will listen that she once found me trying to eat a woodlouse (what? I'm sure they're a great source of protein). The point is toddlers aren't half so picky when it comes to random crap they find lying around. The key to stopping this is a never ending vigilance and, when you're too late to stop them eating a mouthful of dirt, just tell yourself it'll help them build a stronger immune system in the long run.

4. Everything can make mess

For example, colouring: this seems like a fairly contained activity, right? You poor, ignorant fool. Colouring is a recipe for a mess of monumental proportions. First every colouring book you own is taken off the shelf and strewn around the house, then your toddler decides plain paper is better for drawing. You hand them a sheet of paper, they scribble one line on it before asking for another piece and another piece and another piece and, oh my god you're single-handedly responsible for the destruction of the rainforest! Then your toddler will want to colour with crayons but to get the colour they want they obviously have to tip the whole pack upside down and spill crayons in every direction. Then, maybe crayons aren't the right way to go. Maybe, we need pencils! Or felt tips! Or paint! You know what would set this picture off? Glitter! And lets not forget that at some point your toddler will try to decorate themselves as well, or you, or the walls. Now imagine the chaos when you do something you know is actually messy, like making cakes. Harrowing, isn't it?

5. Clothes are for losers

Lets face it; we all enjoy the freedom of being able to walk around naked. In the privacy of our own homes, away from judgment and those pesky indecent exposure laws, we all like the chance to let it all hang out. Toddlers are no different. Once they work out how to undress themselves, they strip down to their birthday suits at any given moment. It's sweet in a way. Innocent. What's not fun is attempting to wrestle them back into their clothes again. This might surprise you but toddlers are pretty strong, and fast and what's more they have a never ending supply of hyperactivity that you in your old, worn out, sleep deprived state will never be able to compete with. You will find yourself chasing your naked, shrieking little sod all over the house whilst they giggle maniacally thinking it's the best game ever!
The other issue with naked toddlers (particularly boys) is their utter fascination with a certain part of their anatomy. Let's face it: Freud didn't call it the phallic stage of development for nothing. I would never have believed how many times I could say the phrase "no, don't do that with your willy." Now it's a corner stone of my vocabulary. 

6. There are no such things as secrets

Remember how I said toddlers have no concept of privacy? Yeah, well that's going to cause you far more problems than a few invasions of shower time. Toddlers are like undercover spies. They hear everything. No matter how hard you try to speak out of earshot, they will hear and they will pass on that information as well as any other observations they have made. I took my toddler to a playgroup the other day only to overhear two mothers talking about wanting to catch up over a glass of wine. Of course, I wasn't the only one listening. One of the like-informants heard too and turned to the gathered crowd and pronounced "wine is mummy's special drink!" The look on the poor mother's face was priceless.

But, hey let's pretend for a moment that you're used to the ways of these diminutive saboteurs. You don't ever say anything that might be used against you, or do anything you wouldn't want to share with the masses. You think you're pretty safe? Wrong again. Toddlers are pros. If you won't give up the dirt they’re after they'll go looking for it. I've seen too many mothers to count fall from their pedestals because their toddler has unearthed mummy's secret "back massager" and run into the midst of a social gathering waving it around like the Olympic Torch. 
The bottom line is, no matter how much your toddler might embarrass you, frustrate you or run rings around you, this whole stage of development is just kind of spectacular. Your kid is finally showing little glimmers of the adult they will one day become. Inquisitive, cheeky, playful, kind. Toddlers have so many beautiful qualities to offer and then there's a few iffy ones too – but that's people. We're not perfect. We're different and interesting and flawed and those are the things that make us so terrific.