Archives for November 2014

Dead Birds on the Sand

By Michellina van Loder

For me, the song, ‘Teenage Crime’, is associated with dead birds on the sand; the obesity-inducing, type-2-diabetes-contributing drink, Coca-Cola; blood boiling and Tony Abbott’s semantic play with words “climate variables” instead of climate change; corporate irresponsibility; and the kindness of Swedish dance music producer, DJ Adrian Lux, of Swedish House Mafia, for allowing Greenpeace to use ‘Teenage Crime’ for one of their most successful challenges to date: the ‘Stop Coca-Cola Trashing Australia’ campaign, also promoted as, the much more inflammatory, “The advertisement Coca-Cola doesn’t want you to see”.

It’s clever the way the mind makes associations and connections with the connotations of music and lyrics. Or how, after seeing a film clip or the artists performing live, our perceptions are swayed in a way the marketing team behind the scenes intended them to be. Music for the masses. Role models for our kids. Music is no longer produced purely for consumers’ enjoyment and producers’ royalties. iTunes, U-torrent and YouTube have made music accessible to everyone. Artists allow their wares to be used for advertising, influencing and marketing.

It’s Tuesday, mid-afternoon; I’ve only just broken a sweat. It feels as though I’ve been on this treadmill for eons. Lifting the iPad, the digital reading tells me 49 minutes have passed, and I’ve covered 5.8 km. Swedish House Mafia pump out another dance-electronica track, feeding my motivation. ‘Teenage Crime’, plays through the Dr Dre headphones my family gave me—along with the message to please keep the “Doof Doof” down—for Christmas (and times like these). And then… dead birds fall from the sky.

Dead birds, possibly starved to death with full stomachs of plastic

Dead birds, possibly starved to death with stomachs full of plastic debris

The planet’s health is at stake, as is mine: I have a chronic illness of the environmental kind, the type where small amounts of everyday chemicals impact on my respiratory system as irritants (somewhat like an allergy, but the mechanisms are different); I need this ‘health maintenance’ as much for the health benefits as for the stress relief. Intent on living a healthy existence, I want to be the vitalist version of myself possible; music helps nurture this act of kindness. This means spending a lot of time seeking out fresh air and outdoor activities. Although, due to outdoor pollutants, I often find myself here, on my trusty treadmill: a rat running on its wheel, getting high on endorphins and music!

‘Teenage Crime’, which, in Australia, nudged number 6 on the Triple J Hottest 100 album, 2011, features on Swedish House Mafia’s, ‘Until One‘, and is also the twelfth song on Ministry of Sounds Running Trax, 2011: the album I run to the most. Dance music, like jogging, can be addictive. Ecstatic that one of my favourite dance tracks has been used in the fight for a healthier earth, I can’t help but ponder the reality:

On YouTube alone, it’s been viewed 1.5 million times. With electronica-dance music and catchy lyrics juxtaposed against images of sun-kissed-slim-white-bread youth (you know, the sort synonymous with Aussie coke adds? (before they decided to become culturally correct?)) skolling fructose, sugar and salt disguised as a drink, while living the dream on pristine Australian beaches. Apart from the lack of racial diversion, the other true-to-life element of life in this ‘Coke’ add is that these people are surrounded by dead birds.

Check out the ‘Coke’ add:

Thanks to ‘Teenage Crime’, this realistic Coke ad was used to garner the support needed to ‘market’ the ‘Stop Coca-Cola Trashing Australia’ movement. Music pleases and appeases us. Takes us to our happy places. Savvy marketing advertisers and multi-national corporations know utilising catchy tunes to tap into the consciousness of demographics for capitalist gain is one that plays the sweet tune of success. For them. For us, it’s the tune stuck in our heads—like ‘Teenage Crime’ is for me—that’s associated with a particular product, action or time.

What happens when that marketing campaign is turned around on Big Cola? When the song is used for the sole purpose of showing their disregard for the environment? Politicians’ apathy?

Well, the answer to that smells of corporate greed: first, the stench emanating from Channel 9 when they refused to run it during Friday night football coverage, which showed the beverage industry’s power. Greenpeace supporters had donated $22,000 for 30 seconds airplay. But channel 9, after accepting payment and allocating a time slot during the game, deemed it too “offensive” for airplay. Of course, SBS and channel 10 followed suit.

The next line of play: Greenpeace followed (now ex) NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell in a truck with the mock Coca-Cola clip (playing) on the side. How could he miss it? Easily. If he can’t remember a $3000 bottle of wine, why would he give an owl’s hoot about a scheme that makes empty drink bottles worth 10 cents?

Cash for Containers is a proven system used in over 40 countries to facilitate a small refund on bottles and cans. This lessens the likelihood of people littering our beautiful landscapes; it also provides those who need or want it, a small re-imbursement for picking up beverage container litter.  In the ‘Stop Trashing Australia’ campaign, Greenpeace research states that, “82% of Australians surveyed want the Cash for Containers scheme.”

Furthermore, South Australia, with it’s 35-year-old Cash for Containers Scheme has the highest success rate of recycling bottles and cans in Australia. If we look at the facts, only 34.5% of Australia has the Cash for Containers Scheme set up. With the peril we’re facing due to climate change, it’s ludicrous for a corporation like Coca-Cola to wield a sword capable of halting such progress.

Furthermore, research shows that over 100 marine species—including the Blue Whale, the Triston Albatross and the Loggerhead Turtle—are affected by plastic pollution. Autopsies on dead seabirds on Lord Howe Island have revealed stomachs full of plastic. Birdlife is suffering, oceans are awash in plastic, shouldn’t that be enough to warrant change?

For me, music is essential for my own health maintenance. For our earth, is it possible that people, and their obsession with music, will help to maintain our environment’s health? For as UK broadcaster, Sir David Attenborough says, “Our obsession with plastic is chocking to death some of the most spectacular animals on the planet. We have to act and we have to act fast.”


Stop Trashing Australia!


Greenpeace, date viewed 18 April 2014, <>.

Greenpeace, viewed 20 April 2014, <>.

Teenage Crime, Wikipedia, viewed 29 April 2014, <>.


But wait, there’s so much more…

Did you know that the song, ‘Teenage Crime’, is actually about a married woman who has children young, while still a teenager, then, all grown up, she gets bored with her lot, and, after tucking the kids in at night, massages her husbands shoulders, then sneaks out partying all night with partners half her age, while hubby and kids are safe and sound at home in bed? The lyrics: “Making up for Teenage Crime,” that she missed out on.

“The music video was directed by Tobias Hansson in StockholmSweden.[3] It depicts a story about a middle-aged mother who cannot hide from her past by leaving her family in the night as a modern-day cougar catching young hipster boys at a partying nightclub to spend and make out with.”

Here’s the film clip:


More Reading

Greenpeace Blog Post by Ian Kiernan: More cans than cigarette butts in clean-up campaign

Greenpeace Blog Post by Isoble Marasigan: Cash for Containers: it makes cents

Greenpeace Blog Post by Alexis Harris: The Making of #Where’s Barry

Greenpeace Blog Post by Alison Orme: Coca-Cola’s ‘Three Cs’: cops, cons and court action

Blog, Incidental Observations: Greenpeace anti-Coke

Coca-Cola Invents 16 plastic Bottle Tops so They Can Continue Trashing Our Environment 

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

The Visible Edge of an Invisible Trauma

Thilde Jensen’s exhibition, ‘The Visible Edge of an Invisible Trauma’, shown over at The Great Leap Sideways, is a remarkable collection of work. With tremendous photographic skill, her subjects are portrayed with a starkness and honesty that’s almost too raw to take in.

Perhaps the room coated in foil is as familiar to you as it is to me?

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 9.48.14 pm

The visible edge of an invisible trauma ~ Thilde Jensen

Thankfully, nowadays, I live in a home where only the floor is covered in foil. And, our plans for building a non-toxic home have just been submitted to town planning, so it won’t be long until I have a home with actual tiles on the floor. And, I say this with joy in my heart: hopefully, the only foil will be the in the kitchen drawer, and the insulation building wrap! (No more dog ripping the foil on the floors; no more taping it up with more foil and masking tape.) However, many people are not so lucky; and it’s work like Jensen’s (and all the great blogs, sites and forums out there) that shine a light on this topic.

Thilde Jensen’s The Canaries is a book characterised by sudden and visceral alienation. Her pictures are charged by an unintelligible intensity, full of improbable recalcitrance, monastic seclusion, and a sense of fear and disequilibrium that resides at some subcutaneous level.

Her photographs render, in unflinching detail, the profound measures undertaken by those who suffer from the grievous sensitivity to a wide array of chemicals. Thus the literal subject of each picture is always itself invisible, since the affliction her pictures describe occurs at some microscopic level. Moreover this invisible catalyst is so utterly pervasive and resilient, that our inability to confront it through her lens mirrors her subject’s vulnerability to an insistent and intangible threat.”

I cannot imagine living in my car; nor can I picture myself living in a tent. But I guess, these people never thought they’d end up doing those things either. I can only hope for change and understanding from people who refuse to change and understand how this is possible. It is. I live it. I know others who live it. Ergo, the photographic subjects in The Canaries are on the extreme end of the spectrum but they are a reminder to us all of what can happen without change. Our immune systems and the Earth’s ecosystem are inextricably linked; and it’s saddening that it takes illness and pollution for us to be reminded of that.

More from Jensen on this topic:

“It is my hope that this photographic document, The Canaries, will serve not only as a historic record but as a warning of a potentially very scary future if we continue down the same path of progress.”

About Thilde Jensen

“In 2003 a sudden development of severe Environmental Illness forced Thilde Jensen to leave her life in New York City. The ensuing years were a lesson in basic survival.

Retreating to the woods for sanctuary, Jensen would have to wear a respirator whenever she returned to civilization. To her surprise, an otherwise invisible subculture of people who shared this isolated existence began to emerge.

She later travelled the desert of the American Southwest, where many with Environmental Illness live as refugees from a chemical and electrical world they can no longer inhabit.

The Canaries is an intimate journey through a hypersensitive dimension of reality, where old cars, aluminum foil, masks and home-made phones become key necessities for survival. The book is an authentic photographic documentation of life on the edge of modern civilization, but reads almost as fiction set in the borderland between dream and nightmare.”

When I look at the woman wearing a mask while crouching down to put petrol in her car, I want to cry. For the last three years, I’ve had two people put petrol in for me. Now, there’s only one person left to do it; and we try to arrange it so I’m not in the car when it’s being filled up because I just get to ill from the fumes. If I had to do this for myself… I’d rather not think about it.

As and aside, while I’ve been away from MCS cyberland, I’ve found many more blogs and sites relating to MCS, chemical injury, mould illness, chronic fatigue and Fibromyalgia have popped up. It’s great to see so many people speaking up for themselves and others. From my heart, I can tell you that this really matters; for when someone feels alone in this illness, it’s stoking awesome to realise we are not alone. Not alone at all.

You can buy The Canaries here

See the Sunday Review New York Times ‘Everything Makes them Sick’ slideshow

There is No Romance in Being a Canary”. Interview with Thilde Jensen on her widely nominated self-published photobook The Canaries


The Sensitives

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Prozac Nation: for dogs

Never in my life did I expect to be taking my dog to see a Psychologist. It just seemed too exorbitant… pampering a dog’s temperament like that. For Rover’s sake! It seemed like an activity that a lonely, eccentric woman from Toorak, or Mosman might practice, along with her poodle, Fee-fee Fancypants. You know, for a touch of ‘therapy’ each Wednesday afternoon at 3.

[Insert posh tone] “Fee-fee, come to Mummy!” Then, grabbing his Louis Vuitton coat hanging of the rack in the marble foyer, “We are just going out for the day.” She’d say as though contemplating Fee’s deep-seated psychological issues.

Of course, with people and their snide giggles, Fee, with his baby-blue pom-pom tail, and a head, half-shaved—the poodle en-vouge way—leaving a buoyant, baby-blue pouf at the top, causing everyone to laugh at him, was oblivious to such human cruelty. People were just happy around him.

Really, why take a dog to a Psychologist?

After 4 years running on the pet-pooch-psychology gauntlet, I know why people do this:

Myself, my partner, and our 11-month-old Boxer, and Gabrielle, the Animal Psychologist, were cornered off into a room at Lort Smith Animal Hospital, in East Melbourne. Well, Gabrielle was cornered. By our dog.

A statue of Artemis, motionless, she asked, “How long has Bella been doing this?” She avoided eye contact with the growling mess sitting on the floor.

My feet felt sweaty. The room went hot. God, I hope she doesn’t go into ‘The Zone’… I wrapped the lead tighter around my hand.

Precursors to The Zone: Bella’s intense fear of people manifested as copious amounts of drool, foaming around possum-pink gums snarled back over teeth, that often frightened even me. Then the dripping started.

Hardly couch time!

“Since she first came home.” Just as any concerned parent of the fur-kid kind would, I worried. What had I done wrong? What hadn’t I done?

Gabrielle nodded sagely, “Do you know of anything happening before that?”

“She was the runt from a litter of guard dogs used in a trucking yard. I know the other dogs took her food, or so the owner said.” I hesitated teetering on the edge of second-hand bystander guilt: neighbours who knew him said he beat his dogs, locking them in the garage as punishment, I explained…

Flashbacks: A foal needing nourishment, juxtaposed against plump siblings. Soulful brown eyes melting hearts. White socks. A white chest, and then, in tan, to match the rest of her body, was the sign: a love heart, the size of my hand. At home, we lavished love reserved for human children, until she became a normal over-entitled dog. Almost.

The zone: Bella sees a stranger, growls, drools, then as they approach, her eyes glaze over, haunted by something only she sees. We no longer exist. Then, she flips out, doing summersaults, snapping left and right, sometimes biting us if we get in her way.

My partner, Dan, relayed how when Bella first came home, “She was so frightened, she’d roll over and pee on herself. And, if left outside, she’d bloody her paws just to get in.”

“Do you know much about the parents’ temperament?”

Dan continued, “Her father would growl at the local kids as they walked past after school. Her mum was friendly, though.”

Gabrielle scribbled on the ten-page questionnaire we’d filled out prior to the $450 appointment.  “So, we have possible abuse, and genetics—often the case with these dogs.“ Her hand inched into a belted-bag. “And the reward word is, ‘Yes?’”

We nodded as Gabrielle testing it, threw a treat, “Yes,” she said as if speaking to a toddler. Bella’s head tilted, licking the dried liver, one eye on the treat, the other on Gabrielle.

“She responds well. What else does she know?”

Growls continued. Drool puddled. My shoes filled with water.

“She can beg; play dead. Loves to play soccer.” Dog school didn’t work out, so we used training DVDs.

When asked how Bella was with strangers, I explained about ‘The Zone’.

“And if you can’t help her? Would you still be willing to keep her, accepting she may be a dog who needs space, a secure yard, and a walker willing to take a detour?”

We loved her, but… I explained my fear about someone being bitten, and my worry that her fear was rebounding off of my fear.

Gabrielle suggested Bella try Prozac (Fluoxetine), and some more training—as much for us as her.

We agreed.


In Modern Dog Magazine, Stanley Coren, in ‘Pill Popping-Pups, writes, “Animal behavioural pharmacology is a growing field of research… Drugs for pets are now big business and the Pfizer Drug Company has established a companion animal division which brought in nearly a billion dollars last year.” They’re even trying to develop a beef flavoured tablet.

After six months, Bella, in a drug-induced haze, was over-sleeping, but could eat without looking over her shoulder. And while undergoing intense training, she learned to meet and make friends with family and friends, one on one.

We know that antidepressants can help re-wire the brain, however, Earo Castren at the University of Helsinki’s Neuroscience centre has this to say, “We know that a combination of antidepressant treatment and cognitive behavioural therapy has better effects than either of these treatments alone.”

Prozac gave us a window of time to work with Bella, changing her behaviour. A ‘positive reinforcement’ trainer gave this advice, “If Bella were in a pack, she’d be the dog up back, barking away, supporting the Alpha. Yet, she’s taking this on herself. That’s why she’s losing it.”

Stigma aside, a mental health check needs to be seen in the same way as a physical health check. And so, from Toorak to Mosman and from Punchbowl to St Albans, it should be for dogs too.

Medical research shows that people who are depressed, suffering a chronic illness, a disability or just settling into old age, can benefit from owning a pet far more than from taking a pill. A reply from ‘Dear Dog Lady’, in Modern Dog Magazine, explains this idea more poignantly, “Our pets provide emotional substance by just ‘being’. They’re sweeter than Prozac and much more fun.”

If only we humans could be sweeter than Prozac too. Put simply: we need to be there for our pets. For as Jennifer Messer suggests in her article, ‘Healthy Affection vs. Obsession’, “Healthy affection is but one of the ingredients for keeping your dog off Prozac.”

Even Charles Darwin, 200 years ago, believed that animals experienced emotions similar to humans.

Today, Bella’s a happy well-adjusted dog. She no longer flips out over the need to be the leader of the pack; she trusts us to stand in front and protect her. Dog psychology and pharmacology is wonderment!

Just hanging in the hood-y

Just hanging in the hood-y


 More on Bella’s Doggy Shrink:

Dr Gabrielle Carter is an American Veterinary Board certified and trained animal behaviourist who can help owners and their pets with animal behaviour issues such as separation anxiety, aggression, and repetitive and obsessive behaviour such as tail chasing. Initial consultations last up to three hours during which Dr Carter gains as much information as possible about your pet and its environment and lifestyle, its interactions with other animals, people and toys, to gain an insight into the triggers for the behavioural problems.”



Prozac Kennel

Puppy Chow is Better than Prozac

Healthy Affection vs. Obsession

Pill Popping-Pups

How to Ease Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Kids Sleeping with Dogs

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Information, products and views presented by guest bloggers @The Labyrinth are not necessarily the same as those held by this blog's author, Michellina van Loder. Reviews are my own personal opinions (unless stated otherwise); and satire is used throughout personal posts. Any health topics discussed are not to be taken as medical advice. Seek out medical attention if needed and do your own research; however, you're welcome to use mine as a start.
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