Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Beauty and Sadness

 Another month, another book by a Japanese writer... This time it was Kawabata's masterpiece, "Beauty and Sadness". It is a book about lost love, regret and the way we may or may not cope with all that, in fact, it is a sad story, one that leaves you pondering over the way one can (or cannot) move beyond despair and unshared love. It is the story whose main characters are the feelings people experience, not themselves. It is the place where hesitation and indecision alter the characters forever.

"Oki had thought he would telephone her the next day, if not that night, or drop in at her house. But in the morning, after being awakened by his neighbors' children, he began to feel hesitant, and decided to send her a special letter. As he sat at the writing desk staring perplexedly at a blank sheet of hotel stationery he decided that he need not see her, that it would be enough to hear the bells alone and then go back."

If you are the type of person that enjoys haiku, then you will find the story simply beautiful because to me, it felt like one, even if it stretches over 160 pages, not 17 syllables.  Written 50 years ago and being Kawabata's last published work, "Beauty and Sadness" presents the old writer Oki and his obsession with lost love decades ago, when Otoko loved him but he betrayed her. The story turns into a love triangle meant to go wrong... 

“Time passed. But time flows in many streams. Like a river, an inner stream of time will flow rapidly at some places and sluggishly at others, or perhaps even stand hopelessly stagnant. Cosmic time is the same for everyone, but human time differs with each person. Time flows in the same way for all human beings; every human being flows through time in a different way.” 

Read for my pleasure and for the Japanese Reading Challenge 8

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Day of Soul Mates


From 10th August at dusk until the 11th at the same time, kabbalists celebrate TU B'AV, the holiday of love that happens during the full moon of the month of Leo and it is regarded as the day in which all the mysteries of Kabbalah were revealed, so this actually makes it the most powerful day of the year.
It is the day in which we can discover who we really are by connecting to the positive energy around us, but this can only be done by letting go of who we are, of past chaos, of our fears, limitations and rigid ideas and ask for the light. We need to let go in order to let the Creator come in. Also, kabbalists state that changing by ourselves is impossible and this is the reason why we need to leave our comfort zone and give love in order to receive love.
If you want to find out more about soul mates from a kabbalistic point of view, Karen Berg explains the concept in short, here.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

What is CPS?



 As defined in the PISA 2015 draft, CPS, short for Collaborative Problem Solving, is “a critical and necessary skill across educational settings and in the workforce (…) It is the capacity of an individual to effectively engage in a process whereby two or more agents attempt to solve a problem by sharing the understanding and effort required to come to a solution and pooling their knowledge, skills and efforts to reach that solution”. 

Since “no man is an island” (John Donne), we, as teachers, are bound to know how to tackle such an issue in order to teach it well and emphasize its use when it comes to collaborating to solve a task. Even if great minds can think alike, different minds can bring to the table different talents and ways of seeing the world and creativity should always be an aspect we cherish and assess when solving a task. CPS is more complex than usual group work because it includes a lot of different behaviors and strands, at different levels. 
The social and cognitive skills involved in CPS are quite complex and they demonstrate the vast area of expertise that those who have to finalize a task should possess. On the one hand, certain students can be good at looking for information, while others excel at organizing it and setting the right strategies to reach their solution, not after serious negotiation has taken place. On the other hand, when working together, students inevitably see how things can be done differently and they definitely learn from their peers, even without realizing it. This exchange of certain skills is one of the aspects that are of extreme importance when students are involved in CPS activities because they can all evolve and learn from each other without the stress of being too aware of that process and having to reach a certain level of knowledge.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ne le Dis a Personne

If you are an avid movie buff like myself, especially when it comes to French movies, you surely have seen at least one starring Francois Cluzet. If you haven't, then it's time to do your homework and you may even start with "Tell No One", and then move to the spectacular "Les Intouchables" which you will surely adore. "Ne le dis a personne" is not the only collaboration between Cluzet and the young director, former actor, Guillaume Canet. In 2010 he also starred in Canet's movie "Les petits mouchoirs", which is also an interesting movie about friends, family and love that ties all that.
"Ne le Dis a Personne" tells the story of a pediatrician who marries his childhood sweetheart, and then, his wife is killed... or so it seems. Then, years later, he is accused of having killed his wife and he finds himself struggling to prove that is not true... Of course, you cannot trust anyone's words in this thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat until you realize the final credits are on the screen. Definitely worth seeing, especially because my favorite actress, the versatile Kristin Scott Thomas, stars as well and I cannot but love it every time she speaks French with that fancy accent of hers :)
Here's the trailer!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Paulo Coelho's "Adultere"

"If life asked you what you did for it, what would your response be?"
"Running after a dream, that comes with a price."
"The most important lesson: learning how to love better and better."
"Love is not only a feeling, it is an art. And just like every other art, inspiration is not enough, it requires a lot of work."  
"We refuse our destiny because it leads to happiness, and we only want security."
"Nothing comes without any effort. You need to have faith."

The French edition of Paulo Coelho's latest book appeared in May this year, three months before the English version, which is bound to appear in August. Needless to say, I could not wait "so much" time and then, why should I?
The book surprised me, not due to its topic, which revolves around cheating, but because I found I could not relate to the main character's problems, more or less imaginary and her struggle to go beyond feeling bored and dissatisfied. I personally believe that you cannot get bored unless you actually want it... but Paulo Coelho felt differently with his character.
The story tells us about Linda, a 31 year old supposedly happily married journalist who decides to have an affair with a former high school lover in order to rekindle the desire and joy within herself. Whether she succeeds or not, or if she jumps - literally and metaphorically - in order to move from the darkness into the light, that's for you to discover while reading the book.
Here's Paulo promoting the book. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Barefoot in Paris

Happy Bastille Day! 
How could we better celebrate La Fete Nationale than with some French cuisine? I am not much of a cook, but when I stumbled upon this book, "Barefoot in Paris" I did want to check some of the (easy) recipes. Actually, the book offers more  than simple ways of cooking a la francaise, the author also writes about French cookware or ingredients and how to dress a table... I have chosen five or six recipes I would like to try in the near future, such as "eggplant gratin", "moules marinieres" or "pain perdu" but nothing beats the classic CROQUE MONSIEUR! Here's the recipe from the book!
Bon appetit!


Croque Monsieur
SERVES 4 TO 8
One day, my friend Frank Newbold and I found ourselves on the way to the Louvre at lunchtime.
We passed Café Ruc, which is one of the Costes brothers’ restaurants, and spotted two seats
outside under the awning. They serve traditional French food, but with a modern twist. This was
inspired by the delicious croque monsieurs we ate there. These sandwiches are on the small side,
so serve one or two per person, depending on appetites.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
12 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (5 cups)
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
Dijon mustard
8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, ½ cup grated Gruyère, and the Parmesan and set aside.
To toast the bread, place the slices on two baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.
Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyère. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyère, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"Le Week-end" in Paris


 If there is only one movie you should see this month, then it has to be "Le week-end", a British bittersweet comedy/drama written by Hanif Kureishi, whose book "Intimacy" I also enjoyed watching on the screen years ago.
The movie is about a married couple who decide to celebrate their 30th anniversary by going to Paris, where they spent their honeymoon. Nothing spectacular so far, except that they seem to feel differently about the stage they are in, and their relationship.
Although Nick feels that she is the only one he could love, Meg may be on the brink of asking for a divorce since she feels there is more than "THE one" in one's life. To quote her, "love dies only if you kill it", while Nick honestly states that "love is the only interesting thing, far more difficult to do than sex".
However, they do meet somewhere in the middle (on a Parisian bridge, maybe) to realize that the love between them is stronger than any whim or even resentment they may have. As The Telegraph put it, it is simply "sophisticated, sharp and funny". Is there anything else to ask for in a movie? Maybe that it be set in Paris? Checked :)


Friday, July 4, 2014

Paris in July est la!

To celebrate Paris, France and other lovable things that are related to these, in July, everything turns into French, even the music I listen to ...


On attendra l'hiver
Pour s'écrire qu'on se manque
Que c'était long hier
Que c'est long de s'attendre.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

S is for ...

If you want to have fun, playing is inevitable :)
So here I am, playing together with Bellezza the game of "favorites". She gave me the letter "S" and I have to mention things I like starting with the given letter. Speaking/writing about what one likes should not be very difficult, so here it goes, without a deep, pensive mood about it... 

My favorite book ... definitely SPUTNIK SWEETHEART, probably my favorite Haruki Murakami one, which has still stayed with me three years after reading it.
My favorite author ... Salinger, no doubt about it. You never forget your first literary love :)
My favorite song ... this has to be a Madonna one and I'll choose "Sanctuary", from the album "Bedtime Stories", released in 1994. Although the song does not have an official video, this one is utterly beautiful. If you listen carefully, the first lines open with some poetry from Walt Whitman...
"Surely whoever speaks to me in the right voice
Him or her I shall follow
As the water follows the moon, silently
"
Madonna-Sanctuary from themertulus on Vimeo.
My favorite object ... Snow, for its purity and also because playing in the snow is fun :)
Last, but not least, my favorite movie ... I had to go over my imdb account to recap some of the ones I love, since my first three favorites do not start with the letter "S", but I found it: it is called "Somewhere in Palilula" and it is probably one of the best Romanian movies of the last decade, so intriguing, creative and amusing, yet nostalgic about the past... Worth seeing!
Now, who else wants to play?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Almost Transparent Blue


 I think it's decided that Ryu Murakami's style and stories are the types that shock you, or at least they do their best, but this short book seemed even more shocking than I had expected. If I had to summarize it in three words, those words would be: sex, drugs and violence, with a pinch of rock'n roll and poetry, no matter how cliched or unexpected that may be.

"I see Lily wading into the field, spreading her hands like fins, drenching her body. Raindrops are glinting fish scales." 

The story was written back in 1976, when Ryu was still in college, and it presents the monotonous lives of a few teenagers trapped in the vicious acts of violence, overdoses and orgies. The read is surely to make you feel visceral sickness, yet you will still want to finish it, and this is why Ryu is such a phenomenal writer, once it grips you, you cannot escape...the story of lost youth can be disgusting, but you don't want to end the journey because you are trapped among words that still captivate.

I’m on this ground, and on this same ground are trees and grass and ants carrying sand to their nests, little girls chasing rolling balls, and puppies running. This ground runs under countless houses and mountains and rivers and seas, under everywhere. And I’m on it. Don’t be scared, I’d told myself, the world is still under me.” 

I found the book extremely powerful and personal to the writer and it is the clear proof that beneath the filth, art can still be present.

Read for The Japanese Literature Challenge.

P.S. The writer signed the script for the movie with the same title in 1989... 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Japanese Literature Challenge - 2014


I have been looking forward to this challenge since February, when Tony's reading challenge "January in Japan" ended and it seems I can't stay away from Japanese literature for long, and why would I? It is so different from other types of literature, enchanting and introspective, hesitant and modest, yet strangely powerful.
I am sure I will be reading more than three books for this challenge, but for a start, I decided to spend my summer with the ones mentioned in the collage. I will be expecting Ryu Murakami's book "Almost Transparent Blue" to take me by surprise, just the way the others did; Endo's book "When I Whisle" is listed as his "most unusual" one so, that should be an interesting read and Kawabata' s "Beauty and Sadness" is considered a "beautiful drawing of love and revenge" by Time Magazine. I will definitely write down my thoughts on this one :)

Hello summer! Hello Japanese Literature! Thank you, Bellezza, for hosting this challenge!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Fairy Tales Do Exist!

 I am not a huge Colin Farrell fan, but I had to watch this movie, maybe because the book, written by Mark Helprin, was so incredible I had to check they could not turn it into a great movie. Of course, it was not the case, the book is far more enchanting than the movie but it is still worth watching. "Winter's Tale" is a story about love that goes beyond any notion of time and place. It is about falling in love and staying in love forever. It sounds quite challenging, but then, "we love to save", says the main character, and maybe that is the true purpose of love, to surpass any trace of evil and, just like a white horse, to impress and create miracles. The trailer is here.
UPDATE: Since I was kindly asked to give a little more information on the story, here it is: Peter Lake, an orphan, is trying to rob a mansion in New York but accidentally - or not - falls in love with Beverly Penn, a beautiful young girl who is dying. Or is she? Their love is so strong that Peter is driven to stop time or wishes he could steal her from the almighty death. Read the book/ watch the movie to see if he succeeds. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

This Girl only Sleeps with Butterflies ...


New album "Unrepentant Geraldines" released TODAY :) Show to be seen from the first row ... in a month :)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Jeanette Winterson on Love

Jeanette Winterson was kindly asked to define love. Here are her impressions: 

St. John of the Cross: “In the evening of life, we shall be judged on love alone.” 

W. H. Auden: “Let no one say I Love until aware / What huge resources it will take to nurse / One ruining speck, one tiny hair / That casts a shadow through the universe.” 

Freud: “Men are not gentle creatures who want to be loved.” 

From 19th-century novels, that love and money are fatally bartered as interchangeable currencies. 

From poetry, that love is a language that has to be learned. 

From the Bible, that love is as strong as death. 

From my novel “Written on the Body”: “Why is the measure of love loss?”

But 20 years later I discovered that love could be as reliable as the sun. And that there is one other thing in a world infatuated by wealth. Love never counts the cost.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Teaching Character


With a score of 87 points out of 100, here's to my graduation of a four week course in "teaching character", developed by Relay, a New York school of education with innovative programs designed for effective and successful teachers :)
I decided to take this course out of curiosity and it was quite a surprise to discover new sides of a subject ignored in the Romanian educational system. I learned about the micro-moment triangle involving character behaviour language, constructive responding and a growth mindset; I completed quizzes, gave constructive responses and found out that, at the end of the lesson, besides the knowledge we so eagerly want to transmit, there is always something else to be learned from each of the two sides involved in the teaching - learning process.
And this was not all. There was also a final project that required creating a macro - structure that implicitly (or explicitly) teaches character as well, and literature was once more my "salvation", constructing such a structure with the help of literary characters that also teach students about gratitude and good deeds. I definitely feel I am a better teacher! :)