Sunday, December 28, 2008

have you got a 'sunao' mind?

The sunao mind is the free mind, ready to adapt to new situations and, despite the fact that it implies certain naivety, it primarily involves one's open heart and desire to be honest with yourself and others in terms of life values.
As my Japanese friend, Etsumi, explained it to me, " sunao na hito ( person ) is the person who has very pure heart, takes a thing as it is and accepts somebody's advice with good grace. However, sometimes we say too sunao is not good. Do you know what I mean? [...] I know Matsushita and he succeeded in his business with his good heart. Lots of people respect him not only as a success man but as a great heart man." (see more in "Matsushita Leadership" John P. Kotter, Free Press, 1997)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

"Macbeth" - Questioning our Present and Power

Rarely have I seen a theatrical performance with such a deep and special impact on the audience. "Macbeth", directed by Mr. Mihai Maniutiu at The Cube (National Theatre) in Iasi and staged for the second consecutive year, is an artistic experience not to be missed, by all means.

I took my place, on the eve of November 15th, to share a very unusually disturbing space with my friends and, on my left, a 9 year-old-boy who had come with his well-built black-mustached dad, while being surrounded by mostly youngsters in their late twenties or sophisticated adult couples. The Cube, as people call it, is the new post-modern space in Iasi which looks like a big black box from outside and which was meant to host the new production of the Shakespearean play that night. The confined space, specially designated for only a limited number of people, made us all look down on the 5 square meter stage from an upper position. How can you play Shakespeare in such a small space? How can you keep your audience on their toes for 2 hours without a break? Probably only Mr Maniutiu can.

From the very beginning, present-day allusions filled the stage. We could not avoid making the direct associations with all the images of shocking violence, utmost brutality and lack of any trace of humanism of the soldiers in superior position from the current war. At times, I was wondering whether the boy on my left had the impression his video game home became reality... Shocking visual scenes (like simulating the shooting of the baby) mixed with shocking sounds and disturbing colours (the red of the rose petals with the brown of the bullets and the coral blue of the bathtub water) built up the tension only to be released at the very end.
Ms. Tatiana Ionesi, who played Lady Macbeth - probably the central character in the play - acted with huge talent and emotion.

This experience proved so valuable to me because, symbolically, it can perfectly fit in a time when power and authority are constantly threatened, confiscated by obscure characters for a temporary period that may seem endless, netted around intrigues and betrayals, and hopefully, eventually, regained and fueled by the justified, like the prophecy in the great Scottish Play: "never vanquish'd be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him"...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Radu Beligan - "Better Than Lawrence Olivier"

This is what the well-known Eugen Ionesco stated about Mr.Radu Beligan but also added that he could not admit it publicly because of his "working relationships" with the famous actor and the establishment.
Indeed, if we think about his 70 year old acting career which has witnessed many phases in the development of the theatrical tradition and also general society, Mr. Beligan had a wealth of ideas to share with his audience on 14th November in Bacau, at his special event simply titled "Confessions about Life and Art" / "Confesiuni despre viata si arta".

For more than 2 hours, Mr. Beligan shared with us ideas, moods and exemplified values of a lifetime... What does it mean "to continuously keep the student state"? What does it mean "to come to peace with humanity"? What does it mean "to stop clinging to words and be able to swim"? What does it mean "to live at the crossroads of dead empires"? What does it mean to live a 90 year old life because of Love of life?

The history of the traditional theatre was drawn in subtle lines, while pinpointing the key personalities that had the power and will to create history itself: Mrs. Lucia Sturdza-Bulandra (with her feminine greatness), Victor Ion Popa (with his invaluable experimentation), Alexandru Giugaru, Ion Iacovescu, Elvira Godeanu, George Vraca, Sica Alexandrescu and, of course, Grigore Vasiliu Birlic.

What does it feel like, I wonder, that after 140 roles played in "O scrisoare pierduta"/"A Lost Letter", by I.L.Caragiale, Mr. Beligan can finally find "the perfect role" in Agamita Dandanache? How can talent be defined as "long-lived patience"? Only Mr. Beligan can say these, remaining what Andrei Plesu stated once: "the good consciousness of the Romanian theatre".

This was an experience which had such a great impact on the audience because this 'life and art' was intensified with more meaning and value through the very specific of the Romanian East-European spirit of the place - 100% pure culture- Absolutely Priceless!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cumpat (Ro)

To have cumpat means to have the essential element in your life. Coming either from the Latin computus (thinking) or compitum (crossroads), it develeoped in time concentrating multiple meanings: reflection, foreseeing, just judgement, self-control, spiritual balance.
What would we be without cumpat?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Rostire (Ro)

There are words that simply do not have equivalents in other languages - either because the meanings are multiple and another combination of letters in a different language did not reach the same level of sophistication, or the concept might be missing altogether from the second language.

Romanian language has a wealth of words that run deeper than the concrete level. One first example I particularly like is rostire (from Lat. rostrum, rostra - mouth) having multiple meanings: language, speech, discourse, order, arrangement, lifestyle, meaning, story, aim, purpose,justification, reason.

A rosti something means "two things at the same time: to utter a thing and to put another one in order." (C. Noica)

There is no doubt that a whole life philosophy can rest behind only five letters. Are there any other examples you might know in your own language?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tudor Gheorghe: Poetry of the Spirit

Mr.Tudor Gheorghe is one of the musicians who sings about love and death, grief and sorrow, awe and exhilaration, picking up on the very essence of the culture expressed for centuries traditionally on these lands. His most memorable songs include "Toamna/ Autumn", "Primavara / Spring", "Au innebunit salcamii / The Acacia Trees Have Gone Mad" - such a joy for the ear and heart!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

"Song About Bucovina", by Grigore Lese: Song about Togetherness

For many times we might wonder what holds nations and people together. The answers are so difficult to find but I think it all comes down to the local Spirit. "Cantec despre Bucovina"/"Song About Bucovina", by Grigore Lese is a song which comes out of the spirit of a place - a holy one for so many - Bucovina, in northern Romania.
Mr. Lese is one of the authentic musicians who revives old traditional music by preserving it in its original forms... simply magical!

Frankfurt Book Fair 2008: What Global Postmodernist Communication Means.

This year's edition of the Frankfurt Book Fair, held from 15th to 19th October, meant - for me - a complex demonstration of the global power of communication. Never have I seen a more elaborate display of forces in terms of publications and publishers, new idea trials, representatives of various cultures, etc. My friends and I took part on the 18th which coincided with the largest number of visitors in the history of the fair.
What struck me most, apart from the huge areas designed to cover all suppliers, was the great energy of the eagerness to clinch new deals and share successful stories of various products. I particularly appreciated the Educational Publishing Pavilion and AAEP and the international publisher's hall. One day did not seem enough to cover everything and we came back from a truly post-modernist 'zone' while our face skins still felt dehydratedly imprinted.

"Trees Without Forest", by Tatiana Stepa: Quintessential Contempopary Emotions

"Copaci fara padure/ Trees Without Forest", by Tatiana Stepa is a token of folk music which is timeless and space-less...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Romanian Rhapsody, by George Enescu: The Story of a Nation

Romanian Rhapsody (1901) is the story of the past, present and future of a whole nation situated at the crossroads of big European empires, which with a lot of faith managed to survive the greatest of the tragedies along the centuries and has contributed with Christian humbleness to the creation of the world.

The performance at the Classical Music Concert Hall (Filarmonica Mihail Jora) in Bacau on 10th October, led brilliantly by the renowned conductor Ovidiu Balan, left the audience breathless and in awe at the miraculous discovery and encounter with multiple cultural truths - an eye opening experience!

Hanu Ancutei - Where Endless Time Meets Contemporary Hospitality

This is a Medieval story Inn - officially opened in the 18th century but going back as far as the age of Romanian Medieval Kings, according to local legends. Hanu Ancutei bears the name of the lady Ancuta, the owner of the place who used to enchant merchants with stories and legends and encourage them to reveal their own. Its present day version manages to capture this extraordinary mix of atmosphere: old and new, traditional and contemporary sophistication, because of the great variety of traditional organic foods and the wonderfully warm and highly-trained staff who live in the villages nearby. Whenever I go there, I can culturally re-connect with my most distant ancestors and roots and I am always delighted to discover yet another new old recipe of a delicious pie for my journey home...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Under Spiderman's Tragic and Fatal Spell: What Do We Teach Our Children?!?

An 8-year-old boy, Leonard R, from Targu Ocna (Romania) dies after he hangs himself while playing Spiderman ("Desteptarea", august 2008, nr 5588,p.4) - the tragedy shocked people in the local community. Leonard, after watching a cartoon at his aunt's place, returns home and plays with a rope tied by a beam and jumps,like "Spiderman", into the void - can this be the repeated tragedy of many of our children? Is it just a matter of time?
When are we going to be responsible and reevaluate and rethink our values and attitudes towards ourselves and the ones around us? How can we stop the destructive consumerist power of money-making and establish a harmonious balance? In an age when we talk about Millennium Development Goals (UNESCO)and establish Education as one of the most important aspects in our local and global society, we should go beyond, much more beyond words and theoretical ideas...we need attitudes and action plans on the part of governments and civil society!

Oxford Blackwell's - Much More than a Bookshop

The best bookshop I have ever seen must be Blackwell's in Oxford, UK. Situated in the very heart of dear old Oxford, on Broad Street, and first opened in 1879, every minute inside is a journey into multiple worlds. Blackwell's has charm and character and it is a magical place where you can easily find yourself through books that are ready for you to open...So far away from the typical capitalist chain bookstores, Blackwell's is perfectly integrated into the spirit of Oxford - inspiring, warm, essentially deep...a great spiritual journey and such a pleasure for book lovers.

"La Abuela Maruchi" - Fantastic Spanish Atmosphere in Andalusia

If we go to the south of Spain, in Andalusia to see the impressive mix of European and Arabic cultures, there is one other magical place to go to - La Abuela Maruchi. It is a non-touristic place, only for the connaiseures who want to taste the best sangria , specially made by the warmest and most generous man in Spain: Tony's best friend.
My friends and I spent a most memorable last evening in Spain in a very humane and hospitable atmosphere, enjoying traditional food and the extra-bonuses we were showered with, impeding us to leave this place. The spirit of Abuela (the grandma) was very much there together with Antonio Banderras's Spanish smile... Simply emotionally Great!

"Old Parsonage" - a Unique Place in Oxford, UK

This 17th century home and garden is full of character which makes it a perfect place for you and your closest friends and family members to get together and enjoy the authentic peacefulness of summer evenings and the charm of artistic design in the heart of Oxford.
When I went to Oxford, I spent time with my closest friends here and we fully enjoyed our lovely talks, while sipping from the cups of the best tea ever, tasting the delicious unique home-made scones and clutted cream, with a unanimous "mmmmm..." My girl friends and I left the place with regret, only to promise to come back with our mums, too - Simply emotionally Great!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"Puterea fragilitatii" / "The Power of Fragility", by Doina Cornea: Beyond Ideology and Towards Attitude

The texts of the Romanian professor Doina Cornea, one of the strongest promoters of individual and spiritual freedom during the communist regime, have been reprinted under the title Puterea fragilităţii / The Power of Fragility. These texts are set in two parts: one vividly confessional, a chronology interview taken by the Frenchman Michel Combes, recalling the time between 1945 and 1990 (the power shift time all over eastern Europe), and another one made up of Mrs. Cornea’s various manifestos and open letters sent to different local or European authorities of that time (including to Pope John Paul II or the European Council).

What immediately strikes the reader from the very first page is the high impact figure of Mrs. Cornea with her strong gentility and deeply rooted principles and convictions. But, as she herself states at one point, “ if you don’t have roots, how do you know where to go?”

A literature tutor from the city of Cluj, close to retirement age, Doina Cornea is dismissed from the university in 1983 after sending an open letter to Free Europe Radio expressing her views on the importance of spiritual regeneration and creativity and of placing moral values much higher than the material ones like money, status, relations, seen as advocates for fear and greed. After this first letter is radio broadcast, Mrs Cornea starts working on various translations of banned books, founds a cultural magazine and distributes texts in ‘samizdat’. Thus, at the age of 54, she starts her work on what she calls “unmasking reality” and struggles “to make people think”, in a regime where people are looked upon as equal instruments. In 1987 she is arrested with her son as a consequence of refusing the compulsory communist vote and showing solidarity with the Braşov workers’ revolt while supporting it with street manifestos and continuing writing open letters. For more than one year she remains under brutal home arrest. Luckily, the communism collapse takes place in due time.

What is truly remarkable in this book, I reckon, is Doina Cornea’s belief in the power of the spirit, as opposed to the power of terror. Fundamentally, she constructs her own life paradigm: terror, in this case the communist one, is meant to suppress the individual but the spirit, once recognized and activated, both individually and inside community, can transcend the evil itself. Accordingly, she is an individual fighting against ‘Securitate’, the terror institution at that time, and bets all her cards on the spirit. And she wins, as history proved.

Another interesting fact is that Doina Cornea considers her approach more than just political action, looking thus beyond the ideology of power, she considers it a “political attitude” in a larger sense, which involves the individual capacity to choose in every second of ones existence - “to choose oneself”. For a person on whom so much evil was imposed from outside, the only salvation comes from a constant attitude of reevaluating and improving the self. It is most stirring the fragment in which she recounts the imprisonment time as a source for knowing true solidarity and fighting the hate complex. Her means is the “spiritual exercise of ordinary things”, i.e. perseverance, the courage of humiliation, the courage of hope and justice in apparently minor daily acts.

“The spirit is something alive and extremely powerful, if you possess it…When you don’t possess it, you turn to the body, physical force, to violence”, she says.

Hence, it is understandable why for Doina Cornea “the ethical dimension should be essential in any society, the only one capable of making a society flourish spiritually.” For her, ethics is directly linked with Christian faith, the latter helping her “relativize political domination”, “protect the spirit against totalitarianism” and protect the individual “to remain oneself”. Accordingly, it is impossible to live without a moral attitude.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"The Lure of the East" - British Orientalist Paintings - Exploring Self-reflection

The painting exhibition at Tate Britain London this summer, significantly titled "The Lure of the East. British Orientalist Painting" (4 June - 31 August) is an art collection that should not be missed - by those interested in Orientalism but, moreover, by the general public, with a view to bridging the gap between western and eastern cultures in order to understand better the global society we live in.

The main highlights of the exhibition are:

- the mashrabiya woodwork in the Harem section - which is the very heart of the exhibition. You can feel priviledged to see and feel the atmosphere created by mashrabiya, especuially if this is your first time.

- the painting titled Arab Interior, by Arthur Melville in 1881 - which is also the herald of the whole exhibition and which accurately illustrates a great sense of the eastern culture, in nuce;

- the famous portrait of Lord Byron, by Thomas Phillips in 1814: the mix of the two cultures is striking;

- the video projections, which tell the story of the travelling;

- the many eastern life instances, including the beautiful camel eyes (which you can feel for real if you look closer) in the desert or the charm of the eastern storyteller in the public market corner or the mystery and wisdom of the Kuran reader and the tranquility of the carpet seller. In this respect, all explanations of the paintings are very useful to read.

But I think primarily, this art show can give us the opportunity to understand the cultural gap that exists between the two parts of the world, largely due to miscommunication, false identities and enforcement of self-perception on the others. Personally, I tried to perceive this event critically regarding the artists who travelled to the east in the 18th, 19th and 20th century - I could appreciate their great effort of depicting eastern instances of daily life, the desert, the markets and public places, etc. However, many mistakes, inaccuracies and even biast self-reflections are more than obvious. One painting that illustrates this shows a Muslim man praying on the carpet with his shoes on. The image is painfully close to a sacrilege and revolt is unavoidable even for Christian eyes...Other too mnay instances depict Arab women who look too much like European fantasies - hence the misconstruction of reality, which is laughable but sad and disheartening at the same time.

These facts raise, in my opinion, the question of objectivity, of real communication between the two worlds, ultimately of respect and communion. All these issues seem even more present in our century, too, ironically or not. I found it very interesting to see the roots of this struggling dialogue of today in the mistaken depictions of the past...

What ways are there for people to bring authentic cultural communication between the Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, etc worlds, I wonder? Who can make a difference in all this struggle?

Monday, June 30, 2008

"Who We Are", by Dan Puric: The Ongoing Search for Authenticity

The artist Dan Puric published, at the beginning of 2008, the book titled Cine Suntem / Who We Are, which comes as a necessity for a large audience proven by its great demand and which aims at shedding light on the present Romanian character, or what has remained valuable of it, after so many years of political, social and, moreover, cultural turmoil, after "70 years of interrupted pathways", as he says.

Mr. Puric has been touring the country by holding not "conferences", as he does not accept to call them, but meetings in an "authenticity space", like the one in Bacau at the end of June, in order to raise awareness. The great exchange of positive, creative energy lasted for almost 3 hours for issues like Romanian identity, the terror of prolonged fear, dangers of ideology, the different types of values, etc.

Dan Puric has started an identity project which people have the need to connect to, as it bridges the gap between them and themselves. It is simply an exploration of "we are others" ...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Local Elections: "I am not ashamed to look in your eyes."

On the 15th of June, the second round of local elections finished. It marked the end of an aggressive period in which promises - empty or not, lies - white or 'black', hopes - for the best or not, and dreams - more or less realistic, all mixed up screamed on the streets and in mass media in a frenzy for persuasion. The apparent energetic optimism for the future contrasted heavily with low confrontations, mass manipulation, dubious project presentations, etc.
Being the witness of all these, I have recently come across a poster which vaguely (or not) reminded one of the intense election campaign a few days ago. The poster reads: "I am not ashamed to look in your eyes". Ironically, time has passed over it, leaving its mark and revealing the naked truth...
Is politics different in Romania or is it the same everywhere in all countries where there are financial interests?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"This is just the beginning...We will conquer the world!" : "The Rest Is Silence" / "Restul e tacere", by Nae Caranfil

The Rest Is Silence/ Restul e tacere is Nae Caranfil's latest film, which combines craftsmanship, remarkable talent (on the part of both actors and director) and huge inspiration for audiences... It is a film on "moving shadows", as well as on the subtle weaving of fiction and reality, past and present - all immersed into the tragic-comedy substance...

The film is based on the true story of the making of the first Romanian film (on the War of Independence) at the beginning of the 20th century (1911).

The mix of worlds is impressive - the change brought by the cinema reflects the change of the whole society, in fact.
Young Grigore Ursache, or Grig for short, is the main persona (played spectacularly by Marius Florea Vizante) who must struggle in a world which constantly rejects him and looks down on him, by imposing his views, shrewdly and incisively, and turning, thus, his own ideas into reality...

This film is more than a film on the by-gone Romanian society at the turn of the previous century (however, its reconstruction must have been more than a challenge for the director and his staff - after the too long washbrain process of the communist regime in the second half of the 20th century). It is a film on the present ongoing struggle and clash between not necessarily generations but between different value systems, on the importance of change which assures communities the opportunity to develop and move forward, ultimately on the freedom and power of the individual to impose themselves against a system, as long as their ideas are valuable and have the force to generate others in their own right.

Personally, by watching this film, I have a more acute sense of present rather than a sense of past and my mental frameworks work much more in relation to the present contemporary society - the Romanian one, in particular and the global one, in general - rather than the past one... It is simply a Grand Film!