Sunday, September 26, 2010

Face a Book: The Overcoat, by N. V. Gogol

Face a Book is the second edition of the successful annual Book Review Contest launched by Humanitas, in an open quest for book adventure and lifelong wisdom. Here's my take on The Overcoat, by N.V.Gogol, the text Dostoevsky referred to with these famous words: "We all come out from Gogol's 'Overcoat"...

Care a fost cea mai solemna zi din viata ta de pana acum? - ziua in care ai simtit ca beatitudinea iti inunda corpul, dar nu datorita vreunui vin moldovenesc, ci pentru ca esti plin de dragoste de viata - delirant, iremediabil, ireconciliabil! - ziua cand slujba sacadata, anosta, enervanta nu-ti mai intra pana-n maduva oaselor reumatic si nevrotic, ci ziua in care te-ai imbracat cu haina noua iar cea veche a iesit definitiv din viata ta - un nou "tu" cel eliberat, in sfarsit...

"Mantaua" lui Gogol exploreaza tocmai adancimile unei astfel de transformari si consecintele ei comunitare. Functionarul tipic Akaki Akakievici isi face treaba cu cea mai precisa constiinciozitate pe o leafa perfect mizera. Se intampla de ani de zile intr-un minister oarecare din Sankt-Petersburgul eclectic si eminamente injust, pana cand ziua imbracarii mantalei celei noi ii marcheaza definitiv ultima parte a vietii.
Incredibil de actual, Gogol intuieste miezul problematicii urbane - cum poti trai fara demnitate? Fara respect fata de tine insuti si fata de ceilalti? Indiferent si ignorant? Si cu ce pret?
Umbrele noptii pe stradutele orasului ascund voci nebanuite, soapte, franturi - "aaa, asta...", "lasati-ma in pace, de ce ma necajiti?", "dati-mi mai bine sa copiez ceva", "mantaua asta-i a mea", "da-mi-o pe-a ta!"...Orasul le ascunde dar asta nu inseamna ca ele nu exista.

Poate exercitiul nostru de reflectie de la inceput e unul reusit dar ma intreb ce l-a facut oare pe Gogol sa remarce "Sfanta Rusie, totul este contaminat de imitatie!" spre sfarsitul cartii.

Indubitabil, Mantaua lui Gogol e un text acid dar foarte placut prin vocea domnului Razvan Vasilescu, ceea ce este o adevarata incantare si un privilegiu al multor audiobook-uri.

Friday, August 13, 2010

130 Years of Diplomatic Relations

The year 1880 marked the beginning of the modern Romanian diplomacy, with most distinguished scholars and ambassadors like Ion Ghica in London, Vasile Alecsandri in Paris and Mihail Kogalniceanu in Berlin, who set a high morality and character standard (how seldom can we see this nowadays!) and who succeeded in defining Romania on the map of Europe at that crucial time - all under the careful scrutinizing gaze of King Carol I.
The temporary exhibition "130 Years of Diplomatic Relations from 1880. Partners in Europe" at the Union Museum in Iasi has been set up with the mutual help of the German, British and French Embassies in Bucharest.
It's a unique experience the cool majestic feeling inside the intimate yet imposing House in Lapusneanu Street that used to host so many of the royal and noble family members, while taking a quiet tour of what was and still is a truly remarkable episode in the history of Europe.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

TED - in Iasi: What makes you happy?

Under the well-known motto "Ideas worth spreading", TED began its first edition in Iasi in a very creative and relaxing atmosphere on June, 13th. The audience was young, fresh, smart and distinctive - 99 people who gathered up to share not only ideas but spirit in its youngest form.
Speakers had a difficult task - to try to tackle the ever-lasting question: What makes people happy? and answers were as diverse as the speakers - from Maia Morgenstern, the renowned actress who sparkled around the very concept in full energy as usual to Vali Tatar who shared with us his passion for tennis in amazingly striking images.
But Razvan Crisan was the one who really caught the eye and heart of everyone in the room - with his authentic way of living, of building his time against social prejudices and restrictions and at the same time in a very simple, essential way - by being true to himself.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Celebrated Women in Romania

The well-known Romanian business woman and teacher Monica Tatoiu has initiated a most inspiring project around the country - to bring to light the voices of many women who are not so famous on TV but who do make a huge difference in their own communities through the way they lead their lives with a great impact on the people around.
The natural result of this was the book titled "The Four Dimensions of Romanian Femininity" - a moving book containing texts written by more than 70 women whose lives are not so ordinary after all.
I personally find this book amazing regarding the multitude of things we can learn from life experiences which, despite being perfect, are so beautiful in revealing realities of life itself.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

One Man Show 5th: 281, by Radu Largeanu

I was pleasantly surprised by the great number of people who came to see the performance under the title 281, by the young artist Radu Largeanu on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Actually, there were not many things to see - but to feel. The audience was invited on stage through the back door. In silence, under a dim light, on stage and in the middle of his audience, the actor Radu Largeanu started his monologue with a list of the names of the people who died in Communist political prisons, while inviting us further into the backstage - the 'prison cell'. Largeanu's monologue was based on the renowned texts written in prisons by Paul Goma and Radu Gyr.
Despite the most effective start of the play, the actor's focus was rather on the postmodern schizophrenia than the salvation through faith, missing thus, too much of the original text message.
Overall, I truly believe that the stage directions were worthy of an Edinburgh Festival presence, as well as the performance taken as a whole. The chemistry among the people in the audience was authentic and remarkably powerful.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Poenari Pen - Your Story Alive

In various forms, pens have withstood the test of time and they continue to do so, despite the plastic age we're going through. So, if you want a pen with a story - your story - a custom-made personalized pen, then the best choice is a Poenari pen. Crafted in a unique way, going back into deep history, pens created by Lucian Poenari are pieces of art themselves - in fact, the natural result of art meeting cutting-edge technology. And when you read the story of the Poenari inventor and his great character and contribution to people one is bound to experince pure authenticity...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Custom-Made "Maftei" Shoes

Alexandru Maftei keeps the family shoe-making tradition alive going back as far as the 19th century, when the Maftei family owned a 40-apprentice workshop in Moldova, Romania.
Alexandru Maftei left Romania in 1988 asking for political asylum and, since 1994, he and his wife Lucia, their 2 sons and daughter have worked in Vienna where they started out making footwear for the best custom shoemakers in the city. Now, their reputation for high quality shoe making and individual customer service has grown around Europe and the USA...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Alina Cojocaru - The Good Fairy of the Ballet World

I first heard about Alina Cojocaru from a Japanese friend of mine in the UK, who had booked a ticket to see Alina perform at the Royal Opera House in London, in the famous Giselle. I can never forget the excitement and the light in my friend's eyes at the thought that she was about the take part in one of the greatest performances ever.
Despite the fact that she has recovered from a harsh accident during rehearsals, Alina works from 9am to 7pm every day and is known to history for being the "Royal Ballet's youngest principal dancers at the age of 19", according to the BBC. And despite the fact that her shoe size is only 34.5, her feet work miracles on stage!
Currently, Alina is touring the world in order to enchant audiences everywhere...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Neagu Djuvara: Nobility and Spirit

Is there room for an authentic Nobleman in our postmodern world?
By all means, there is!
Mr. Neagu Djuvara gives us all the chance to admire and be inspired by his most exquisite presence, while making us feel both humble and privileged.
The French Embassy in Bucharest officially recognized him as Officier des Arts et des Lettres, regarding him as "a citizen of the world", with moral and physical elegance, high vision and spirit, bravery in good times and hardships.
Mr Djuvara's books ("A Short History of the Romanians as Told to Youngsters", "The Birth of the Romanian People", "From Vlad, the Impaler to Dracula, the Vampire", etc) will forever continue to fascinate young and elderly people alike.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

What a panflute can do in Petruta's hands.

Petruta Kupper has mesmerized the hearts of many when she reached the final of Germany's Got Talent show, with her instrument that may seem exotic to most of us. In fact, she is the very talented student of the renowned Gheorghe Zamfir, continuing a musical tradition that should never die.
Petruta has recently been nominated for the Echo Awards, alongside with intenational celebrities like Lady Gaga and Beyonce.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

New Fast Food Era - Taxing and Educating

A new public debate is currently going on these days - the coming into force of a new law regarding the taxation of fast food in Romania.
Despite the fact that the big fast food chains are complaining, the Romanian Minister of Health and the Prime Minister alike are backed up by the European Union officials in Brussels and even encouraged to set an example to all European countries in this respect.
Even if this measure started from the critical need to collect money for the government budget, it can definitely turn into a new source for education programmes to support healthy dieting and raise awareness of healthy lifestyles.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Do you fancy a chocolate tour?

Carmen Botez has come up with a most delicious business idea, while turning her old time passion for sweets into profit.
As Los Angeles Times reports, Carmen organizes a chocolate tour in Manhattan, New York advising on the best bites - fruity, boozy, smooth and nutty interiors, mixed with spices, etc.
Chocolate Zoom online magazine is the premier chocolate guide for NY. No matter where you are in the City, Carmen's team can help you locate a quick chocolate fix within only a few street blocks...yummy!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Dr.Rada Mihalcea: 'Recipe for Happiness'

Mr. Barack Obama thanked Dr. Rada Mihalcea and 99 other Top Scientists last Thursday in a special White House ceremony: "These extraordinarily gifted young scientists and engineers represent the best in our country. With their talent, creativity, and dedication, I am confident that they will lead their fields in new breakthroughs and discoveries and help us use science and technology to lift up our nation and our world."

Rada's research is vast and delves deeply into artificial intelligence, natural language processing and other computer science areas. One of her papers I particularly find intricate is the one on Finding Happiness related to Blogposts, since "blog entries are nonetheless much closer to what people think, as compared to other forms of public expression."

The words we use can show our own degree of happiness and a language processing program can lead to revealing facts. The thorough study of 10,000 blogposts shows that:

- Wednesday is the saddest day of the week, while Saturday the happiest;

- at 9 pm we are the happiest, while at 12 pm the saddest;

- the happiest words: love; God; father; baby; books; new;

- the saddest words: goodbye; don't understand; I wish; I miss

So, one interesting conclusion is that "happiness in today's society occurs most often around novelty"

Finally, Rada's "Recipe for Happiness":

- Something new
- Lots of food that you enjoy
- your favourite drink
- an interesting social place

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sebastian Burduja: Union of Change

While being both a Stanford University graduate and a Harvard University post-graduate, Sebastian Burduja is a proactive young man, with great dreams for his career and country.

Interested in politics, public administration and business administration, Sebastian published his research on corruption in Romania quite early:
"The Romanian post-communist judicial system and police force have proved unsuccessful in tracking down and punishing corrupt behavior."

"Paradoxically, corrupt politicians are hierarchically above judges, and hence above the law. In the absence of effective deterrents and mechanisms of punishment, Romanian political elites have weak internal incentives to reduce corruption."

With such a clear insight and also accumulated experience and knowledge in time, Sebastian is currently running The Romanians Abroad Student Union aiming at creating a worldwide network of students and prospective students alike - how I wish this Union had been created when I studied abroad...

Bassam Gemayel: the 2 (K)No(w)s

I have met nothing but extremely smart Lebanese so far - and Bassam Gemayel is definitely one of them. Invited to make a speech at TEDxBucharest, Bassam - with exquisite accuracy - pinpointed the fundamental errors that lie at the foundation of the Romanian society:

- "I know": the problem with so many of us - young active Romanians - is that we know so much more than we do...or at least we think we know.

- "No": if we ever have a reaction to things, then the first one is a negation...In this way nothing is gonna change or change will be very slow - can we afford it?

One of Bassam's favourite lines seems to be Think Big and Act Small. With much more openness to listen to others and our own consciousness we could be more efficient and we could do so much more...