Wind Against Current

By Johna Till Johnson 

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You probably knew this, but January 28th is the 140th birthday of the French writer Colette.

Okay, you probably didn’t know that. You might not even remember who Colette is, though chances are, you’re familiar with at least one of her works.

And you’re probably wondering why you should care about her birthday, or her.

Let me take a step back. This year,  Vlad and I have adopted a new tradition: We’ve selected a pantheon of personal heroes, and heroines—people whose spirits and lives matter to us—and are making a conscious effort to celebrate their birthdays.

Colette’s is the first, but there will be plenty of others.

So why did we select her?

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open the curtains

With the road atlas spread out in front of us, I put the finishing touches to the set of complex instructions that my friend and I would have to follow the next morning as we headed south, attempting to avoid a) getting ourselves lost, b) driving into another quarry, and c) Manchester. Despite having looked forward to Yorkshire so much it had not turned out quite as we’d expected. We’d been on the road about two weeks already, and the day’s events had had a somewhat dispiriting effect on us.

‘I hope the Peak District’s good. Derbyshire’d better be better than Yorkshire anyway or I think we might have to just drive straight home.’

With the mention of Derbyshire, there were many ideas connected. It was impossible for her to see the word without thinking of Pemberley and its owner.

‘Of course it’ll be good,’ I replied confidently, ‘Mr Darcy…

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In early September of last year, a beautiful, accomplished, bubbly and cheerful woman calmly jumped to her death from a roof top restaurant in London.

The tragic ending of the life of Rema Begum, who was 29 years old, raises, as suicides do, a number of complex questions and convoluted issues, both personal and societal.

Rema came from a traditional Muslim family, but the fact that she went to university, had a professional position and lived on her own, attests that Rema’s family supported her accomplishments and independence.

Most of the headlines focused on the fact that Rema had been the target of a malicious Facebook campaign, where an anonymous stalker had sent her and her family hate mail, and threatened to expose Rema’ s relationship with non- Muslim men.

This was true, and indeed the police had been informed and this campaign of terror had necessitated Rema changing her…

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Still at home in Germany I came across the so called Mae Hong Song Loop – a round trip which is supposed to be the most scenic of Thailand. With its 670 kilometres, more than 1865 curves and a route exploring the more remote parts of Thailand’s North, it seemed like the perfect adventure. I have to say, that I am not the most experienced rider since I never ride scooters or motorcycles at home. Only during vacations. Hence it also should be a nice test of my driving abilities.

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“Societies are being commodified and virtualized, with everyday life becoming saturated with toxic levels of inauthenticity we’re forced to breathe”

–Gilmore & Pine (2007)

Here in New York City, you come across phonies all the time. Go to Chinatown and you can get a fake Louis Vuitton, Gucci or Kate Spade bag. Go up on Fifth Avenue in the upper 50s, you can get all sorts of fake DVDs and the like.  Go up and down any major avenue, and you can get $5 cashmere pashminas.  If you want a real Louis Vuitton you need a course in spotting fake handbags.  Fakes are made from pleather and vinyl; they may feel rough and stiff. A real Louis Vuitton is smooth and feels soft because it is made out of top-quality leather, lambskin and other such unlucky creatures. Most Louis Vuitton fakes are done in a light tan trim or a…

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Hellish Behavior

I have noticed that within many families, long hair on the girls is a given. It’s a source of pride and a sign of beauty. There are pictures of me, a young girl with a heavy dark hair hanging down her back, miserable with the weight of it. I remember having to adjust how I sat down in school, so as to not sit on my own hair and give myself whiplash, a suffering which happened frequently.

When I was in the sixth grade, we were struggling financially, my father was away for work and my mother said that I could choose one big but inexpensive gift for my birthday. I told her that I wanted my hair cut. She panicked, this would not go over well with my father when he returned home, but she agreed, cutting inch after inch off of my hip length mane, until I was…

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