Saturday, 4 January 2020

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World - Elif Shafak

There is nothing more beautiful than starting the year with a good book. Even though the adjective does not do it justice, I insist to keep it for I am always asked to recommend a good book.

I have heard before of Elif Shafak, but I have kept myself away (like I always do when a writer is too much promoted and I somehow wait for her/ his fame to set in in order to be able to rejoice in her/ his book rather than in her/ his reputation).
'10 Minutes 38 seconds in This Strange World' is a manifest for tolerance. There are in this book so many references towards religion, sex, society, way of living, education, nationality, ethnicity, color of the skin, and all of them have different valences. Enough to open the minds, even just a little bit, upon them. If I may I will paraphrase the sacred teachings: those who have their minds prepared will understand.

In a nutshell, the book recounts the last 10 minutes and 38 seconds of Leila's cerebral activity, after her assassination. Tastes and odors apparently accidentally chosen by the brain, take us through important moments of Leila's life.

Each memory is like a link in a chain, bonded by friendship. People say that we cannot choose our family, but we can choose our friends. And, sometimes, it turns out that friends are even more loyal than the members of a family. Five, in Leila's case. Five loyal friends who are there for her even after her death.

Sexual violence against minors is, in fact, a stand-alone thread in the woven of the story. The framework in which it appears, humans' attitude towards it, and also the impact it has on its victims and the society, are minutely described, without drawn conclusions or recommendations. Actually, in this lies the beauty of the book. There are no conclusions or recommendations. Everyone is free to draw their own conclusions, if they such wish, and teachings.

And speaking of freedom, Martin Luther King. Jr.'s speech acquires extraordinary meanings in this book, playing the role of a gardian-angel to the main character. Leila had seen the speech as a kid, and at the moment of her own liberation, the circle closes with the uplifting words:
'Free at Last!'

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Terracotta fireplaces

It’s not that this is secret information. It’s just that some of you do not really know me that well in order to be aware of the fact that I absolutely adore terracotta fireplaces.

It all began when I was small, and visited my grandparents’ house. And maybe I fancy terracotta fireplaces that much because they remind me of a time when I had no cares in the world, I ate popcorn and fruits from the trees, and a dog was barking in the background.

I remember a talk I had once with a former colleague about the weird things we would put in our homes. Mine was a terracotta fireplace. His was a bathtub in the living-room.
Throughout the years, I have proudly stated my interest in terracotta fireplaces, and still continue to dream about them. Every time we go to a place that has one, I am absolutely spellbound.

Living in an apartment that has its own heating system it seems absolutely ridiculous to have a terracotta fireplace. But I must add that I would be completely happy if I just had one in (even though that means not being able to use it). It would be a veritable eye-candy.

A couple of weeks ago, another former work-colleague sent me this link. These people from Medias terracotta factory are doing such wonderful work! It is absolutely inspiring!
It saddens me to know that this is the only factory that manufactures terracotta fireplaces in all Romania. And I am really wishing for it to have a long journey.

And if you’re admirers of true handcraft and beautiful things, you should visit this site.
For me, this is the most beautiful of them all. Ah, the wonder!
(property of teracota.ro)

Friday, 22 November 2019

Blondes should wear blue


Surely, you know your thing when it comes to colors. Especially, if you are a woman. You’ve learned it by playing with them ever since you were little, and you’ve seen that game taking different turns watching your mom, her friends, your incredible aunt or any other role model you’ve encounter on your way.

Now, I do not have any prejudice against colors. All is possible and all can be mixed. Though, I have seasons. Yeah, I got that right. Colors take control over my wardrobe, and sometimes are even interchangeable. I’ve been having a long affair with emerald green and yellow, and even red and orange, but the greatest of them all is the one I still encourage, my love affair with the color blue.

Let me put this in perspective. When I was a toddler, I was blonde. I was a cute, curly little girl (modesty is overrated) brimming with smile. After a while, the color of my hair changed notes, and it became brown, but my father always included me on the fair-haired ladies list. And he still does.

I vividly remember him telling me, while we were shopping for clothes and were confronted with the color-dilemma, that blondes should wear blue. It fits them better. Back then, I was in high school and the issue of colors was rather an unimportant one. But still, that saying stuck with me.

Years and years after that, I colored my hair blonde. It was something I had dreamed about ever since I was a sophomore college and Shakira was in style. I just did not have the guts. Somehow, the fear of ruining one’s hair diminished and the fact that hair products continued to develop gave me a nudge.

So, here I am, again, a blonde. I wear my favorite colors, but still surprise myself with buying blue items of clothing. And the latest was a jacket, a royal-blue, as they say.
Well, one has to listen to one’s father, don’t they?!
Blondes should wear blue. Well, definitely!

Friday, 1 November 2019

The Supreme Purpose


Aren’t you tired of constantly hearing people talking about the supreme purpose?! Aren’t you tired of hearing that the supreme purpose is either one or the other, and you feel pushed up against the wall?!

The other day, I was reading a metro station banner that said that the supreme purpose in life is achieving happiness. Sure, it sounds wonderful. Just like it always sounds wonderful to hear the advice of certain, auto declared or not, experts in mindfulness. 

It’s just that it is a little difficult to put them in practice, especially for those of us who wake up every morning at the same hour, have 9 hours work schedule, to which the time that we spend in traffic to/ from office adds.
I reckon is easy when you have enough money that you can buy time (meaning you have people helping you with organizing stuff: do the shopping, cleaning and repairing the home, having a personalized plan for the health and care of your body, cleaning and ironing clothes etc.). 
This is the reason why I cannot buy visuals coming from various influencers/ stars that seem to have the key to how you can better organize your life, how to reduce stress and lead a healthier life. All this, while in the backend everything looks like in the pictures from a magazine.

Life is not, as a matter of fact, like in the pictures from a magazine. I know. We follow various people on social media and their lives seem like it. But it is not! Everything has its back side. 
You constantly see pictures from your friends or contacts showing perfect homes, perfect vacations, perfect clothes… Everything must be perfect. Otherwise, we are not satisfied.

I am far from being in the position to give advice. I am no expert in mindfulness, and my life is surely far from being perfect. And I do not wish for it to become, either. But I do have an issue with the pressure that we keep putting on ourselves or the pressure that others put on us.
No supreme purpose exists. We, instead, exist. Even though only temporarily. And we are not at all perfect and nor our existence is.

Not everything has to have a purposeful finality. The important thing is to have, as much as we can or as much as our resources let us, take good care of us, of our needs and of those of the people we care for. And we have to do that by prioritizing. We cannot do everything.
And, sometimes, we have to make something happen for our souls; something that could bring us inner happiness and joy. 
So that, in the morning, when the alarm clock rings, we could find meaning in who we are and in the efforts that we make every day.

TARAPARA!
(you will understand once you've seen the movie Seventeen)

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Seventeen, 2019


It's been quite a long time since I last saw a movie telling such a tender story of family relationships, especially those between brothers.
Seventeen (Diecisiete, original title) is about a 17 years old boy that lives in juvenile detention. A smart teenager, who does not care for the use of irony, Hector befriends a dog from the dog-shelter. But the moment he finds out that the dog was adopted and he can no longer see it, Hector decides to escape and find it.

Aside from the fact that this is such a great comedy, you will also be touched by the story. I dearly recommend this movie. I think it's a must see.

Tarapara!
(you will crack the code once you've seen the movie)

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead - Olga Tokarczuk


I admit. I have been feverishly waiting for this book to be translated and published. I hit refresh so many times on the website of the Polirom publishing house that I thought I would break it, but still the message for this novel continued to be 'To be published' and not 'In stock'.
Yet, the awaited moment came and here was I with the book in my hands.

Usually, after buying a book, I let it rest for a while. But, somehow, I could not be so strong this time. So I went on and started reading it.
Presented as a crime novel, with mystical savour, social analyses, and a tint of humor, reading it did not disappoint me.

We meet Mrs. Duszejko, the main character, in the middle of the night, rushed by her neigbour Oddball, who informs her that their neighbour Big Foot is dead.

Of course, Oddball and Big Foot are nicknames, and so do have the characters in this novel. Mrs. Duszejko considers that names and surnames do not do justice to the personality or appearance of beings (she hates her name).

The chain of dead people (or crimes) continues from this throughout the novel, and gradually the belief that animals have started an act of revenge against hunters is growing in the reader's mind. 

Mrs. Duszejko's monologues (because people do not seem to listen to her, nor show interest in participating to the conversation) convinces the reader of her love for animals, for social justice, for the need of freedom and expression, but also of her sensibility towards the value of life, in general.

Maybe you will not fully resonate with the sayings of this cherisher of Blake's poetry, but you will ponder upon some of them.

When I started reading this novel, the announcement of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature was not yet made, but I was thrilled now to find out that the one related to the year of 2018 was awarded to Olga Tokarczuk. What a joy!
Considering the social analysis within this novel, I wish that this novel could reach people from all around the world. When you read the novel, you will understand why.

Monday, 7 October 2019

The Scream


Yes, you are right. There is a reference here to the famous painting by Munch. I saw it today taking real shape, if you wish.
A big German shepherd is always guarding the entrance to a company, right across the building of my apartment. I know it by sight for more than 2 years, and I knew that besides being fierce, this dog is also agile and frightful. And this is how the impression remained in my head.
Until tonight, when I saw it having trouble, while sitting on its front paws, turning on the other side. It was bouncing, slowly, as his back paws remained rigid.

And thus the scream. We are getting older. Every one of us. I do not know the order of things, but I reckon that each one of us will become less agile, less frightful, and less fierce. With no exception!

People, ignore your worries related to today or yesterday! Let them where they found you and don’t carry them around on your shoulders everywhere you go. Focus on the things important to your souls.
It’s hard. I know it’s hard. Our jobs have a real hold on us because besides helping us to pay the bills, they give us a great feeling of being important, of being able to develop and acquire new abilities, having mutual goals with other people just as motivated, being able to constantly learn something new about us and the domain we are interested in, feeling useful and experiencing the great feeling that the fruit of our work is cherished by others. But regardless of how passionate we are about our work, remember that life is not only made from it. Make sure to responsibly and carefully fulfill your duties, but do not forget to live your lives!

The people you love or the four-footed members of your families, they are the ones performing the job of raising your spirits when you had an awful day at work or you cannot find meaning in anything. Which reminds me of a great saying regarding work-family balance – Do you bring the best of yourself to work and the leftovers home? 

And there is no trace of pessimism – or at least not intended – in my words. It’s just the meaning of things; here’s how it goes in physics – nothing is lost, everything is transformed. Don’t be sad! Look inside yourselves, besides yourselves and do not postpone.

That singing course you keep thinking about, but keep postponing it? Call today and make an appointment. You want to learn how to swim and conquer your fear of water? You want more time for yourself, but you don't take it for fear of being told you are selfish? Today is the day when you can do whatever you have been postponing. Not tomorrow, not the day after tomorrow, or in two months when you ‘will have the time’. We do not have the time, time is having us.

A scream only interrupts the silence for a moment, and then its effect disappears. You are right. One needs something in order to make this feeling of awareness last longer. Transform an object into the guardian of your decision. It can be a small plush toy that you can place onto your office, a flower in a pot, a photograph, a postcard, a mug. You decide. Whatever the object, it will be close to you and act as a constant reminder that you wish for something, that you try, and maybe sometimes you succeed, and if not than you keep insisting and that makes it worth your while.

What is my charm? 
A bracelet on my right hand with a pendant that represents the tree of life. I am pretty much aware of my roots (my professional and personal responsibilities) and the fruit of my actions can be seen in the branches that keep developing upwards from the thick trunk. 
But the leaves… well, the leaves that gently move to the wind are my dreams, my wishes and my aspirations. Some become yellow (they reach maturity) and fall at the root of the tree, their existence is short and with no great success. 
Other, still, let themselves be carried away by the blowing of the wind and go further, reaching their meaning sometimes in a more beautiful way than I had ever expected. And, from time to time, the buds of new leaves appear and embellish my dreams.