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Toilet training boys August 25, 2009

Posted by Andreas in Life, Parenting.
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I wrote this for Parent24.com a while ago:

Toilet training boys

Dads should be responsible for teaching their sons toilet etiquette. I say this as the father of two boys who has unwittingly sat down on a toilet seat sprinkled with little boy wee far, far too often. So believe me, I understand the magnitude of the challenge.

If you’re unconvinced, let me paint you a picture that might change your mind. Remember the last time you went to a night-club or pub bathroom. As the evening progresses, levels of inebriation skyrocket and toilet bowl marksmanship takes a precipitous dive. The place turns into an apocalyptic nightmare from hell where just to get to the sink you have to wade through putrid puddles of what you hope is mostly water.

The culprits are men whose fathers neglected to teach their sons how to pee straight.

Mothers, quite frankly, just aren’t equipped to do the job – what do they know about the mechanics of urinating out of an external appendage? Besides, women clean up behind men enough. This is one area where fathers can bring their unique expertise as men to their parenting commitment. Single moms, I suggest you rope in a sympathetic male friend or relative.

I think my 8 year old son Benjamin is fairly representative of the pre-teen crowd. Since he is forever busy with incredibly important activities he always leaves matters until the very last possible moment, then rushes into the bathroom and generally does a shoddy job of relieving himself because he’s already halfway out the door to get back to his incredibly important activity. Fathering advice for little characters like him would simply include getting them to develop a rudimentary sense of forward planning and slowing down to do things properly.

Beyond that the problems males have with peeing tend to be a combination of personal attitude and applied physics which can be summarised as follows:

● No man or boy ever has as good an aim as he thinks he does.

● Accidents happen.

● Even the most dead-eye practitioner has absolutely no control over random toilet bowl ricochet and splash back.

So what is a concerned father to do? Here are three basic practices to inculcate in you sons:

1. Sit down to pee.

2. If you do have to stand, in the name of all that’s hygienic, lift the seat.

3. Clean up your mess.

While propositions 2 and 3 should be self-evident and uncontroversial, I should perhaps unpack number 1 a little bit. Take a close look at the toilet in your bathroom. Even a bloke with half a brain will realise after a few moments that it was designed to be sat on. Obviously I’m not talking about urinals here. Personally I think the individual variety is just about acceptable, but the perpetually smelly, multi-user, gravity-driven types should be banned outright.

I got Benjamin’s 10 year old brother Josef to wee sitting down from when he was very small and it worked perfectly. Frankly, he didn’t know any other way. Until his uncle showed him how to do the business standing up, that is. Thank you very much, buddy!

Yes, of course there are situations when standing up is more practical than sitting. When you’re in the forest, say, or on top of a deserted mountain, but while we’re in civilisation, can’t we just all agree to take a seat, please!? Women around the world already do it with great success and fathers could do worse than teach their sons to follow their lead.

So if you’re a dad looking to make a practical contribution to your son’s development, why not pay a little attention to his bathroom habits and help him get to grips with some of the bits he might be struggling with? You might think it’s a thankless, behind the-scenes job, but if all of us fathers play our role, the world’s bathrooms, both private and public, will be better places.

Fake boob spotting August 19, 2009

Posted by Andreas in Life, Society.
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I wrote this for Health24.com a while ago:

Fake Boob Spotting

Pseudomammophobia is the irrational fear of fake breasts.

No it isn’t. I made that up. I think there should be a scientific word for the condition though. Surely the fact that the very part of the female anatomy most intimately associated with nurturing is gradually being replaced by plastic squeaky toys should have Freudian psychologists frowning in ominous unison all around the globe.

Impostor boobs are everywhere these days. Hundreds of thousands of women go under the knife for breast augmentations annually, making them the most popular cosmetic surgery procedure in the world. Reality TV shows such as E!’s Dr. 90210 portray creepy Los Angeles plastic surgeons as altruistic celebrities while the BBC3’s shockumentary Addicted to Boob Jobs follows women in the impossible pursuit of perfect orbs.

Who started this?
It was Japanese prostitutes who first had liquid silicon injected into their chests to impress American GIs at the end of World War II, long before modern breast implants were invented in the early 60s. Their current popularity is simply the most visible “gift” bestowed on us by the planet’s burgeoning porn industry pandering a fetish for uber-sized hooters that’s supposedly shared by all men.

Perhaps one of the scariest developments is the so-called boob jab. In a 30-minute procedure, a “hyaluronic acid filler” is injected into the breast from under the arm. Since the body gradually absorbs the filler, which is also used to treat aching joints in overworked horses (I’m not making this up!), the effects only last for a year or so. It’s the prospect of road-side boob refill stations that I find particularly disturbing.

Look, but don’t touch
According to British writer Tony Parsons, fakies “are not there to be fondled, kissed or felt, they are there to be admired, discussed, lusted after and photographed. The moment they are touched […] the spell is broken. And this is true of all fake breasts, no matter how much money has been spent on this act of female self-mutilation.” I guess it’s not altogether surprising that the part of a woman’s body that is most consistently adored, objectified and ogled by the majority of us heterosexual men would be turned into a commodity and consumer product.

In the past it was dead easy to spot fake breasts – any woman who appeared to be smuggling oranges, grapefruit or basketballs under her top was a guaranteed implantee. But the craft has improved substantially in recent times, and distinguishing fakes from the real thing is becoming more difficult. In the absence of a conclusive hands-on test, and if you’re not willing to risk a slap in the face for asking straight out, curious onlookers, like naturalists of old, have to resort to careful visual observation. To this end, the friendly folks at Howcast and Playboy have provided us with this educational video: How to Tell Real Breasts from Fake. Watch and learn.

Garbage! August 6, 2009

Posted by Andreas in activism, Environment, Film screening, Sustainable Living.
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Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home, a feature documentary about the environmental impact of the huge amount of rubbish we produce in our households every day, will be shown at the Labia on Orange cinema in Cape Town on Sunday 16 August at 6:15pm, on Monday 17 August at 8:30pm and on Tuesday 18 August at 8:30pm.

Concerned for the future of his new baby boy Sebastian, writer and director Andrew Nisker takes an average urban family, the McDonalds, and asks them to keep every scrap of garbage that they create for three months. From the plastic bags they use to the water they drink out of bottles, from the air pollution they create when transporting the kids around to using lights at Christmas, the McDonalds discover that for every action there is a reaction that affects them and the entire planet.

“Household waste is a huge factor in the degradation of our environment. There is an unspoken and ongoing acceptance of extraneous packaging, for instance, mostly in the name of branding, resulting in tons and tons of garbage that we really can do without and this is visually portrayed in the film,” Nisker explains.

FireShot capture #13 - 'Garbage! Documentary Film by Andrew Nisker' - www_garbagerevolution_com_buy_html

“Society is tired of waiting for slow moving politicians and corporations to implement change, but the truth is we don’t need to wait. From the bottom up, the time has come to change our own worlds starting at home and to send a message to the polluters that we have all chosen a green path. Viewing Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home empowers audiences to make those changes, now, by making simple lifestyle choices,” says Nisker.

Everyday life under a microscope has never been so revealing. By the end of this trashy odyssey, you are truly inspired to revolutionise your lifestyle for the sake of future generations.

The screenings will be followed by a facilitated audience discussion. Tickets are R20 and can be reserved by calling The Labia at 021 424 5927. Reserving tickets is strongly recommended to avoid disappointment.

This event is presented by The Labia and While You Were Sleeping, a Cape Town-based non-profit film collective committed to bringing progressive, non-mainstream documentaries with important social and environmental messages to South African audiences.


The Labia:

021 424 5927

While You Were Sleeping:

Andreas Späth

084 772 1056