LauraxELLE

Where is HOME?

April 3, 2019

Although I am not a religious person, the last couple of years marked Easter and Christmas becoming very meaningful events for me because they now represent the only moments during which I get to see my whole family and from which I feel I cannot miss. Last year (2018) we decided to celebrate Easter one week earlier, not because we were so eager to smash red-painted eggs, but because there was no other way for me to come home. Since most people in the country I live celebrate Catholic Easter, that is when the national holidays are. Naturally, this is the only time during which I can score two days off uni, therefore squeezing a 4-day weekend out of my usually fully booked academic calendar. And I’m sure I’m one of the lucky ones – tens of thousands of Romanians cannot come home for Easter at all. In fact, many cannot visit their family and friends back home because they send all the extra money they make there to the remnants of families whose members have to endure a life with the minimum Romanian wage.

You have certainly heard about the statistics showing that between 2010 and 2017 Romania lost more than 3.4 million inhabitants due to emigration, representing 17% of the entire population. The only country that surpassed this figure is Syria. Syria, the country where there is a war and dozens of other humanitarian disasters. There is no conflict of such magnitude in Romania. However, why did millions of people run like it’s a war there?

***

I am 21. Almost three years ago I decided to take a leap of faith and move to the Netherlands all by myself in order to study and live a life full of possibilities. Did I want to leave my family, the country I was born in and everything I knew? Of course not. Naturally it would have been much more easier for me to stay at home, wait for food to magically appear in the fridge, wake up with a neat stacks of freshly ironed clothes on my bed, be able to drive where I needed, have my dad around to help me every time something broke and I had no idea what tools to use and hug my mother every time something went wrong. Instead, I felt so deeply that I could not have in Romania the future I envisioned for myself that I moved to a country which I had not visited in 10  years, about which I did not know much, whose guttural language I did not speak and where I knew no one.

This is only one out of the 3.4 million stories. And it’s not just about those who are leaving, but about the millions who remain teared-eyed at the airport and who constantly wait for a text, a call, a skype message, anything.

If you thought the tragic emigration stories ended with those who went to Spain, Italy or France because the salaries in Romania were not high enough to feed their whole families, well, Romania is currently experiencing another wave of emigration: that of people who have graduated from higher education and who do not see themselves in the local professional opportunities and students who have chosen to go to universities in the United Kingdom, the United States, Denmark, the Netherlands etc., encouraged by a wider variety of options and better academic reputation. Parents, friends, office colleagues, close people – lots of them left.

Why did so many leave? Why did I leave?

Let’s start with a few facts: Romania has the third lowest European minimum wage, a net equivalent of 249 euros per month. That is less than what most part-time student interns get in the Western side of the continent. Also at European level, Romania is the country where most of the deaths that could have been avoided are recorded in hospitals, while also being the country that holds the record for teenage mothers aged 10-17. Moreover, Romania is among the slackers infrastructure-wise, with only 746 km of highway out of 86,000 km of roads (this was the reason for a recent protest, ignited after a businessman built the world’s shortest highway in order to highlight Government’s incompetence). In comparison, Spain, a country almost twice the size of Romania, has sixteen times more kilometres of highways. To top all of that, although Romania has some of the smartest pupils and students in Europe, it has the second-lowest education system on the continent, and it has been anchored in the same works and beliefs for decades. So with a nearly collapsing medical system, minimal investment in education, research and the future of young people, with wages that force people to manage multiple jobs at the same time and with a slow and cumbersome infrastructure development plan, maybe we should not be surprised by the latest surveys which illustrate that one in five Romanians aged 25 to 40 has lived and worked outside the country for a period longer than a year.

Obviously, the recent political instability does not help, the frequent Prime Minister switches in the last two years being detrimental to the consistency of government decisions and directions (we are currently under the third Prime Minister provided by the same party during the same mandate, if you have lost count). With each Government dissolved and restructured ahead of schedule, we get farther away from the balance necessary to bring the country back on its feet. Still, the current civic movement against corruption and power abuse proved that tens of thousands of Romanians are willing to protest in the cold, even at below 0 temperatures, in order to live in a better version of their country. This is certainly a positive and encouraging sign that Romanians have not yet given up and that increasingly more people realize that they need to make their voice heard and, more than that, take action.

Perhaps there is no war in Romania like in the images we see from the Middle East, but there is certainly a political war. And just like in a fairy tale, the Good and the Evil struggle for supremacy. The problem with the Romanian fairy tale is that we have no certainty that the Good will have enough powers to defeat the Evil, and the hero of the story is not to be found. Besides, to be honest, expecting a single hero to fight all the dragons and beat them is not realistic. In the contemporary Romanian fairy tale, we must all take the role of heroes if we want to continue to have a place we can call Home. After all, where is Home? And what does Home mean? The apartment or the house of one’s childhood? Our parents’ house? The bed to which we return in the evening? The place where we spend most of our time? The country where we pay taxes? Or Romania?

If we want Home to be somewhere in Romania, we must start taking steps to change the country in a place we can admire, in a place that makes returning a desirable option and in a place others respect and treat as a benchmark. How can we do that, you may ask? Consciously acting today so we behave better than yesterday. Adjusting our superior attitude because after all, no one is legally above someone else. Civically engaging in our neighbourhood, cities and communities – taking our country in our own hands. Making our representatives accountable. Participating in more or less comfortable discussions with people who do not share our opinion and trying to understand them. And most importantly, wherever we are, always going to vote.

Perhaps one day in the future, I will call Romania again My Home. And maybe that day I will say this proudly. With the pride of identifying myself with my country, its values ​​and its direction.

 

*composite cover image based on Google Maps (if it looks distorted it’s because Google Maps recently switched to a globe rendering instead of the flawed flat map – take that, flat earthers!)

Laura Recommends

March Recommendations II

April 3, 2019

I was expecting more from March. It seems to have flown past me with speed light, unlike other months. However I am still content with everything I have read and watched.

March was a bit of an executive month for me (that month when you get lot of sh*t done, but the results only come out later), yet I am still stocked for April – it’s gonna be packed, and I need to make progress with lots of projects, but I am very much looking forward to it! Meanwhile this is what I loved during the past four weeks:

 

MOVIES, SERIES, DOCUMENTARIES

Free Solo

I remember that three days after the 2019 Oscars ceremony I made a note in my phone to go watch Free Solo after it topped its Documentary category. Fast forward one month, I finally went to the cinema to see. It’s safe to say it is one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. You immediately get sucked in Alex Honnold’s life and ambitions as a free solo rock climber and you cannot stop yourself from rooting for him and wanting him not to kill himself while climbing Yosemite’s El Capitan. It’s full of suspense (I overheard other filmgoers say it made them more stressed than any exam, but it think it makes a good point highlight how big AND small humans feel in relation to nature.

The Good Place

If you know me, you can probably tell by now I am not a huge fan of series. I dislike the seemingly controlling power Netflix has over me when they display the next episode starting in 5…4…3..you get it. So usually I stay away from series (unless I am in a holiday), even though it means missing out on good content. However, this was not the case for The Good Place. I saw it mentioned in a couple of places, but none of my friends were talking about it, so I was sceptical to try it out. Oh, how wrong I was. This series is absolutely amazing, terribly clever and very ingenious in the way writers play with the universe they made. Oh, it’s also incredibly funny. Did I mention each episode is only 22 minutes long, so perfectly bite-sized?

Queer Eye

I’m not going to write a lot about Queer Eye, because you have probably heard of it, but I had to mention it because the latest season (released this March) was so good and as per usual, incredibly uplifting and heart-warming!

 

BOOKS

Call me by your name – André Aciman

While this is not necessarily a fresh book out of press, I have been wanting to read it for a while. This March I finally did and it exceeded all my expectations. I am not usually the biggest fan of introspection-heavy books, but somehow this worked. It broke my heart, it made me go over certain paragraphs again and again because they were so beautiful and it quickly became one of my favourite books. I don’t know whether I would have been persuaded to read it without falling in love with the movie first, but I guess we’ll never know. I also read some rumours about a sequel to the movie, but I strongly feel good movies should be left untouched and not “stained” with the usual money-making desires. We’ll see whether Luca Guadagnino and the main actors manage to produce something at least at the same level as the first film.

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

Again, not a new book, but one which I read during the most appropriate month for me: February and March have been quite creative and productive months for me, so reading about creativity certainly helped me channel it better. I thoroughly enjoyed most of her views on the topic (especially those against this unrealistic idea of the tormented, depressed artist living life alone and creating art out of misery). I don’t think it’s a book for everyone, but if you like Liz Gilbert and you want to change a bit your relation with your creativity, then this is a great read for you.

 

AUDIO & VIDEO

Planet Money

I seem to have too few hours per day to listen to all the podcasts and audiobooks I want, but I think this will never change, so at least I can be happy for testing one podcast per week. One of my March favourites is this business-econ one which has more than 900 episodes (!!!). I listened to two of them so far, one about antitrust rules in the tech sector (super good and very relevant!) and one about Panera and their attempt at trying to create dining environments where people from all financial backgrounds could have a nice experience. I just downloaded more episodes, so Planet Money is sure to become a constant on my biking commute.

Jessie J – Queen

Although I like Jessie J, I somehow have never heard of this song, released in May, 2018. She sings about body-positivity, ignoring society’s ideals and self-love. It’s very catchy and it has a fabulous message.

Rutger Bregman – “Utopia for Realists” and Big Ideas for an Equitable Economy – The Daily Show

We so rarely get to hear someone like historian Rutger Bregman get so many spotlight moments for telling the truth, willing to have uncomfortable discussions at Davos and bringing into the mainstream ideas such as tax avoidance, universal basic income, 15 hour work week and so on. I am about to order his book (“Utopia for Realists”) and will get back to you in a future Monthly Recommendation article with my thoughts on it.

Filmmaker reacts to crazy Hollywood camera techniques – Peter McKinnon

Okay, this video is mostly for entertainment purposes. If you are a movie nerd like I am, you’ll love to see the brilliant snippets discussed in this video.

 

EXTRA

Gen Z: In Their Own Words

I am not subscribed to many newsletters (I purged lots of them along the years), but one which I deeply love comes from The New York Times (of course 🙂 ). In the most recent one, I found this INCREDIBLE piece about Generation Z (commonly 1995-2010, but still under debate) with HUNDREDS of portrays of young people and quotes about what they think makes them different from their friends. It’s an incredible piece and definitely worth exploring if you want to understand more about this generation without the judgements made by others.

 

Also, as a reminder, don’t forget to check out the podcast I am co-hosting, Admit That You’re Wrong, and the YouTube playlist I made with all the educational/inspiring videos I have mentioned in all my Monthly Recommendations so far. I also published one more translated article from my collaboration with ELLE, which you can read here.

 

Until next time!

Laura

LauraxELLE

In Conversation With Măriuca Talpeş

March 8, 2019

A conversation with Măriuca Talpeş, Bitdefender co-founder, about business, women, education and Romania

 

Măriuca Talpeş is undoubtedly one of the most famous women in the tech industry in Romania. Both her and her husband, Florin Talpeş, have been very active entrepreneurs, speakers at many conferences and very inspiring characters for almost three decades. Together they embarked on the entrepreneurship path in 1990, shortly after the Revolution, creating in 2001 what came to be the most sold Romanian IT product on the international market: Bitdefender, a cyber security software with more than 500 million users. Besides being the co-founder of Softwin, the parent company of Bitdefender, Măriuca Talpeş currently leads Intuitext, a company that aims to solve educational problems by creating software and online communities such as Didactic.ro, Olimpiade.ro or SuntParinte.ro.

N.B. In this interview, originally published in ELLE Romania, March 2018 issue, I wanted to talk with Măriuca Talpeş less about the ascension of Bitdefender on the market, which is something more frequently discussed in the local media, but more about her perspective on women in tech, female empowerment, work-life balance and more. She makes time for both playing an instrument and dancing, while still working tirelessly and being a very prominent figure advocating for girls education, so read the whole piece to find out how she does all of this and also to find out her advice for women who want to pursue careers in STEM.

 

I know you’ve been playing the flute for some time and participating in dance competitions. How do you find the power to do new things?

Time exists. If you have a passion, it’s all about putting it in your schedule and making it happen.

I do not think it’s a power, I think each of us has more recent or older passions. In terms of movement and dance, I have always liked dancing ever since I was a child, and after I managed to persuade Florin into it, we started dancing together almost daily. It brings great joy to our lives and great balance in professional life too. Regarding music, I always wanted to play the piano, but in my childhood I had a jam because of a very severe teacher, so I rediscovered the piano once Florin received an organ as a gift from his colleagues which ended up sitting at home covered, so one day I wanted to see how it sounded and since then I have not stopped. After several years of piano, I asked my music teacher if there was a wind instrument that would fit a lady and she recommended me the flute, which I have been playing for five years now and which I really enjoy.

 

You started your own business when your twins were only three years old. How did you reconcile family life with your personal life?

I think both mothers and fathers should be involved in raising a child. Of course, the mother traditionally deals with food, health and education, maybe more than the father, or others in the family. I think maternal care comes naturally with the birth of a child, so it’s something you cannot control, it’s normal as it is; and obviously you can fit the two worlds if you manage your time well. In addition, if you feel at home in the office and you work with passion, you go back home to your children positively charged. So if you feel good at the office and if you obviously make time (and you have to make time!) for your kids – you can spend the afternoons and weekends with them. I think balance is natural and I think it’s about how we organize our own time.

Additionally, technology helps us a lot today. Since computers are also at home and present everywhere in our lives, you can combine your work with your presence home, next to your children.

 

Which women inspire you and why?

I am inspired by all my colleagues who do wonderful things together with the entire team and I am also inspired by people with art, theatre or painting careers and by athletes who have exceptional results, obviously Simona Halep being one of them. From the business area there are many ladies who have built solid companies from scratch with large customer portfolios and a very fair business style. In education I admire Maria Gheorghiu, Simona Crisbășanu and Corina Puiu for their work in NGOs. However, that does not mean I’m not paying attention to the professional paths of men in the industry. I do not look with other eyes at what women do or what men do; after all there are no differences when we are born. I think that we complement each other well and that we need to learn from one another.

 

In your opinion, why do you think women don’t get to occupy a larger percentage of top management positions?

I think that in Romania women dominate middle management and this is why they are often not at top-management meetings. I think there are more explanations: middle management requires people you can rely on in the long run, and I think many ladies are in this category. I think they are the core people at this level of leadership because they are hard workers and trustworthy people. That is how they came to dominate the financial and accounting sectors and not only, and that’s also how they became team leaders. They are also very empathetic, so jobs that imply empathy such as direct customer service, support services, quality services, and even marketing are dominated by women. For example, at Bitdefender, I can say that company-wide we have 50% women as our product managers, 80% of our marketing intelligence employees are women and the HR, financial and support areas are also dominated by women. Top management wise, it is an area specific to taking high risks and considering women do not take such risks, preferring to grow slowly but surely, top management became a place for mostly men. But I think this will soon change because we are increasingly talking about Data Driven Decisions and Data Driven Management, so this impact of artificial intelligence in decision-making is believed to soon unify the differences between men and women in management.

 

Where do you think the huge gender gap in the tech industry comes from?

Unfortunately, at school there is this tradition that forces girls not to go to science-based classes. So starting with primary (and middle school) school parents recommend girls to go to the humanities: “You are not made for mathematics”, “It is normal not to like physics or computer science”, “You will be very good at foreign languages ​​or Romanian”, all this followed by high school years and the (formal) separation between the humanities and the sciences, the humanities classes becoming dominated by girls and the science classes by boys. Conversely, based on discussions with teachers who prepare the national teams for mathematics, physics and computer science Olympiads, the girls’ capacity to sustain a heavier training is much higher, the girls being very determined, willing to work hard and passionately, while boys behaving more hurriedly in their trainings. Moreover, I can say that there is a tradition that maybe comes from religion: the Orthodox Church says that the man dominates at home and that the woman must obey, and this has an impact on later leadership. There should be a change here.

In my opinion, there is another tradition: that of the heavy industry. In the old days, our parents and grandparents talked about engineering as an industry that demanded physical strength, and automatically the hard work was associated with muscle power and so with the men, which lately has radically changed. Now we are talking about soft skills and knowledge. However, the IT area is still dominated by men, with a presence of around 70%. So where does this gap between boys and girls come from? From school.

If we look at the percentage of students in the science classes of high schools, and then of universities, we can already see the minority tendency. According to a Eurostat study published in 2015, although Romania has 29.3% female ICT students, occupying the second place in Europe, the study shows that these problems are not only local. These figures are also mirrored by the situation in Bucharest, where at the Faculty of Mathematics 58% of the students are girls, while girls represent 32% of information technology students and 25% of the computer science student body. So the closer we get to the IT area, the fewer girls there are. An interesting study done by Microsoft in 2017 shows how we can generate and stimulate interest in science and engineering among girls, considering that this appetite for technology comes around the age of 11, and unfortunately, suddenly decreases after the age of 15. Their conclusions are that there are too few STEM-positive female models, teachers and families are not encouraging little girls enough to pursue these industries and that there is already a feeling that men are treated differently in STEM jobs. In Romania there are very interesting projects for girls, two of which are Girls Who Code and Girls in Technology, which are specially designed for girls with the purpose of bringing them closer to programming. Considering that science-based professions have increased three times faster than any other non-STEM profession, it is very important for science to be promoted from primary schools onward. There are studies that say that 80% of future jobs will be related to science and technology, and that means that it is mandatory for all children to grow up accustomed to these subjects from tender ages. If programming is seen as complicated today, and only those who study computer science can do this profession, programming will soon become a language we will all be able to speak. In the future, we will not only be users, but we will mould our technology with our hands. This implies creating a mandatory elementary level of technology literacy for everyone.

 

What measures should be taken at an individual company level in order to have more women involved corporate management?

We’re talking here about three factors: teachers, families, and positive examples. My wish would be that all professors who teach science subjects to go all the way in their classes and passionately do what they do. If we had an elite of teachers in the STEM area, our chances to have students to follow their teachers’ paths would be higher, so I think we should pay more attention to primary school because that’s where we build passions. If every child would have the chance to meet a teacher who is passionate about what they teach and who loves their students, then the students would have every chance to love that field as well. In addition, we need as many women in the industry as possible to tour schools, high schools and universities in order to promote the companies they work for, encourage girls to specifically consider these options and be seen as worthy career models. Obviously, families should not block girls’ access to high schools with science backgrounds. On the contrary, families should encourage girls to pursue such education because future jobs are in science fields, so it is very important to educate parents and teachers to fairly support children’s ambitions.

 

What advice would you give to girls and women who want to advance leadership-wise?

All you need are successful products and services for your customers and the desire to grow your business. That’s all.

 

Cover image from the photo archives of Măriuca Talpeş

This interview was originally published in ELLE Romania, March 2018 issue, number 244. The English version of the interview has been edited for clarity.

LauraxELLE

Some issues with our unquestioned media use

March 4, 2019

Small practical guide – Three questions we don’t ask ourselves about our social media use, but should

 

On average, an Instagram user interested in fashion opens the app 32 times a day. (Yes, you’ve read that correctly!) If these stats are currently only available for this app, think about how many times we open Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn or other apps! How many minutes, in fact, do these platforms steal from us? And are all these hours on our phones well spent? How much of the information we receive brings us value? How much value do we add to those around us? How many pictures mark us positively on a daily basis? These questions, and beyond, are things that we need to address if we want to optimize what we get from the time we spend online, both for ourselves and for those who follow us. After all, if at the end of the day, after lots of screen time, we do not have more information or a better mood/energy than at the beginning of the day, that says something about the quality of the content for which we sacrifice moments with our families, minutes to read or moments of silence in the privacy of our own minds.

In the following paragraphs I have made a selection of themes to ponder on for those of you who want to use these social networks in a wiser way. Beware, this is an article with many (many!) questions whose answers may not be the most comfortable.

 

  1. What do we transmit through what we post online?

“Three more hours until take off, so ask me anything.” “Stuck in traffic again, awesome, what about you, reply to my Insta-sticker with your mood” “I’m bored so I am trying out all these new filters. Which one do you like best?”

Sounds familiar?

 

We’ve come to share the most trivial things on social media, including seven daily cat stories, the supermarket shopping cart, the morning cereal bowl, ten quotes about how horrible Mondays are, freshly cut hair tips, running in the park at 6am, new microblading techniques, 27 stories from the same concert (obligatorily posted horizontally) or every corner of the hotel room, whether in a world capital or in an unknown village.

So what is the message of all these posts? The fact that we’re bored? Or the fact that we have enough resources for a semi-fancy hotel and a new hairstyle once a month? Or the fact that we can afford to go to the spa with a friend over the weekend and others do not? In fact, maybe everything is all about comparisons, and maybe that’s precisely why we have transformed social networks into spaces where people can show “I have this and you do not.” After all, why would we boast about our six pack in all the seaside photos, or pose with a new limited-edition office bag or the latest sports car? You may already get the hint about what I will talk about next, but I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s get back to the multitude of more or less useless posts we generate. Considering this crazy trend encouraging us from all sides to post on social networks, from a picture of a pint of beer posted in order to win a pair of sunglasses or a small cooler, to posting pictures for the chance of winning a giveaway with two lipsticks or a possible excursion to Paris, my two cents are that we have to tone it down a bit and think about how much noise we create in the social bubbles of the people around us. We do not have to post daily, in fact no one forces us to share every moment of our lives with the people who follow us, and actually it is not necessary to post Insta Stories when we are stuck in traffic, at a doctor’s appointment or in a queue, when we could have had this time for ourselves or for a book. Shocking, I know. Running away from spending time alone and listening to our own thoughts should not make us always stay on our phones and post things for the sake of posting and out of fear of experiencing the world in the absence of our screens. No wonder that the fear of being disconnected from our phones due to low battery or no Wi-Fi has recently become one of the most paralyzing fears that people experience.

In the same spirit triggered by the avalanche of shallow content, the New York Library (@nypl) came up with a solution to the question “Where are the real Stories?”, namely: Insta novels, a series of stories on Instagram where the page design of classic titles such as Alice in Wonderland or Kafka’s Metamorphosis is adapted to match the screens and habits of the present time. After all, since we spend so much time on social media networks – why not at least try to make it useful?

And as we’re still in the “Content” section, I would suggest a mini social detox exercise: If you would not post for a week, for example, how many people do you think would write to you because they would miss the content you usually post or distribute? 5? 10? 100? 1000? Moreover, how much do you think you would get back from your own life per week? 1 hour? 10? 24? Apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are already allowing users to access their personal stats, such as the number of hours they spend each day using these apps, which is a sign that users are nudged more towards the idea of having mindful social media experiences, which to be honest is slightly paradoxical coming from businesses which make progressively more money as users spend time on them, but PR move or not, this is still a much needed feature.

Here is some more food for thought: Have you ever thought about what you are conveying with the content you post or distribute? What does it bring to the people around? If you would see content similar to yours online, would you be interested in it? What values ​​does it transmit? You can also ask yourself the same questions when you decide to follow someone. What are the criteria after which you decide to follow a person or a brand? Their number of followers? Or is it based on the photos and videos posted from various islands in the Indian Ocean? Or do you look for a specific message? Or maybe you choose to follow an account because you think their posts are unique.

These dilemmas lead us to the next question.

 

  1. Are our perspective and content needed in the online world? How different are they from what already exists?

 

Along with the boom of blogs and Facebook pages came dozens of requests from our friends to like their pages such as John Smith Photography where we could access their digital portfolios from #weddings, #baptisms and #requiems. Now the phenomenon moved to Instagram, where everyone with a decent camera, whether professional or mobile (especially if it has been thoroughly cleaned beforehand) can become famous if they closely follow the steps necessary for a successful travel / fashion / make-up or lifestyle account.

Sadly, there are only few tried-and-tested grid recipes which still work on Instagram, delivering thousands of likes, and therefore contributing to the uniformization of the posts we get to see. Please tell me you have also realized this, otherwise why would all festival photos look the same? Or why would all the pictures of Milan or Venice be taken from the same markets?

Recently an Instagram account began to draw attention to this phenomenon of creative conversion into few seemingly banal ideas by making collages which demonstrate how similar the images are to one another and thus, how limited are the visions of popular Instagrammers. The account is called @insta_repeat and illustrates quite easily the visual and creative crisis through which we are going right now. Another visual approach that drew attention to the lack of personal marks and identity delimitation in photos was Oliver Kmia’s video compilation in which he outlined a story using only photographs taken from the internet, the result being a stopwatch motion video called “Instravel – A Photogenic Mass Tourism Experience“. Obviously, the video features #FollowMeTo pics, a trend started by the couple Murad and Nataly Osmann, photos taken in the wing mirror of the car, airport snapshots with boarding passes and passports and the ever present airplane wing shot cruising through clouds.

So, we can only wonder how different our content is to what we see posted by others. Do you think people would recognize a picture you posted if your username and face would be hidden? Do you think you have a recognizable personal visual mark? Moreover, while looking at your feed, how many pictures would you be able to assign to their true author without looking at the handle?

 

  1. For whom are we posting all these pictures and videos?

 

Say you would do an analysis of what the people you follow post. You would certainly see a few repeating patterns: perfection, happiness and superiority.

However, why and for whom do we take these perfect pictures? Why do we hide the less flattering parts of life and why do we want to be perceived as better, blonder, taller, thinner, happier versions of ourselves? Where did our self-confidence go? And what’s the purpose of all these photos and check-ins? It’s not like you do not remember that last week you were in the airport on your way to Athens or that you were brunching with a friend in a popular place in Montmartre or Manarola.

All this need for overly positive and pink self-representation cannot not be connected with our need for social validation and our desire to feel superior to those around us. Unfortunately, it is sad that the effect of these needs translates into the way we define and re-evaluate happiness in relation to the happiness of those around us, or better put, the happiness that we are allowed to see online.

Although the English phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses” is not a very recent one, thus demonstrating our need for generations to know what our neighbours are doing – if they are better than us or if they are happier than us, the fact that social media networks now allow us to monitor each other almost continuously, can lead to very toxic results. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is much more time left until we’re going to replace watching classic series on Netflix in favour of watching the never-ending show called Life of Others. And just like in a possible episode of Black Mirror, we may never get out of our house in order to see what our friends are up to.

 

This article was originally published in ELLE Romania, October 2018 issue, number 251

Photo by Denisse Leon on Unsplash

Laura Recommends

February Recommendations II

March 3, 2019

I will not bore you with yet another rant about how short February felt like, but instead I’ll leave you with my Recommendations list for the past month. Also, scroll until the bottom to open two translated articles from my ELLE Romania column. Enjoy!

ARTICLES

A world built for men – The Guardian

This might be the best article I have read in the past months. It shows the risks women are put through because most safety regulations have been made for 75 kg 1.8 metres men, the hidden toxic problems behind nail salons, phone sizes and much more. It’s an absolutely eye-opening piece that you have to read!

The Millennial obsession with starting over – Medium

I got this article in one of my Medium newsletters and it hit home hard. It speaks about the obsession young generations have with moving from place to place and letting a move define them, while also falsely claiming that solely moving to a new place could change them instead of changing themselves first from the inside.

VIDEOS

How the “Shallow” Scene from A Star is Born was designed – INSIDER

If you want to learn more about sound mixing and sound editing or if you still cannot get this epic song out of your head, you should definitely check out this video which presents the complexity of sound layering in one of the most intense scenes from A Star is Born.

Nike – Dream Crazier

If you haven’t seen this ad yet, please do. It is likely going to be one of the best ads of 2019 and unsurprisingly, it was produced by the amazing Wieden+Kennedy team. It’s narrated by Serena Williams and I got goosebumps while watching it.

I also wanted to link here a new YouTube channel I have recently discovered: it’s called Jubilee and they produce lots of fascinating content with some of the best formats I have ever seen: Middle Ground, Spectrum and Both Sides are some of my favourite shows they produce. Definitely worth checking them out.

Bonus: I made a playlist with all the videos featured in my Recommendations series plus much more. It’s a great resource when you are looking for something smart and entertaining to watch.

AUDIO

Everything is Alive – Ian Chillag

Some of my friends could not stop praising this podcast so I gave it a try and loved it! The premise starts with the host interviewing an innate object which can suddenly speak. They actually end up speaking about some more profound things, like how does a bath towel feel about human vulnerability or the identity of a soda can – is it the can itself or the liquid in it? It’s really fun and surprisingly refreshing to listen to it.

Admit That You’re Wrong

Me and my podcast partner in crime, Mike, have recently launched a podcast in which we debate various topics from Valentine’s day to political correctness and the relevancy of Art Degrees and if you are curious to listen to it, you can do so on Spotify and on the podcast’s website.

PLACES

FOAM Amsterdam, Feast for the Eyes exhibit

FOAM is one of the photography museums in Amsterdam which regularly hosts temporary exhibits. The big one they had until early March was about the relationship between food and photography and it was a true feast for the eyes – from presenting how cookbook photography came to be to showing eating rituals in various cultures, the exhibit was fun, drool-inducing and a great way to spend one hour in the museum!

Rijksmuseum – Alles Rembrandts exhibit

You may have heard that the Dutch State Art Museum planned to celebrate Rembrandt’s year (350 years since his death) with the biggest exhibit ever done with his work. The exhibit gathers together 22 paintings, 60 drawings and more than 300 prints and it was extremely fascinating to see it because it proved Rembrandt’s versatility and complexity as an artist like no other exhibit.

BOOKS

Born a crime – Trevor Noah

This book took me by surprise. Don’t get me wrong- I heard it was good, but it has completely outdone my expectations. It was funny, immersive, shocking, beautiful, emotional and mature and it presented South Africa in a way that made me understand life under apartheid better. Could not recommend this book more.

Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari, Eric Klinenberg

Another book written by a comedian (Aziz Ansari), yet with a different topic: love in the time of digital tools. The book aligned with the reviews I read about it – meaning this is not necessarily a funny book with some science, but the other way round. It included lots of previous research, both psychological and anthropological, combining these with the evolution of modern dating in a light, yet informative manner.

In March I am planning to read lots of books which have been waiting for me for a while, and also translate some more articles (like the one on speed traveling or the one on social media which originally appeared in ELLE Romania and which can now be found on my blog in English too!) and attend some pretty exciting events.

I hope you’ll have a great start of spring!

Laura

LauraxELLE

Thoughts on speed traveling and mass tourism

February 26, 2019

We have seen it all and understood nothing

A story about a possible future Olympic discipline of speed traveling

 

We work an entire year for a seven day holiday outside our own country in which we aim to take pictures of ourselves at the same touristic attractions where other thousands of people have checked in before so we can come back home happy that we now have enough #tb photos to post in the next twelve months. This is all that’s left from our vacation and it’s a pity.

No wonder that increasingly more people have the possibility to become tourists once or multiple times per year. The plane tickets have never been cheaper (that is, if we talk about the economy class), the accommodation options are the most diverse ever, especially for those who want to avoid hotels or who do not have the budget for them (see AirBnB, Couchsurfing.com, HomeAway and many other examples), and the pictures from our social media feeds keep encouraging us to explore Cinque Terre, climb to Macchu Pichu, navigate on Lake Como or see the NYE fireworks above the Sydney Opera House. Could we not go as well?

Yes. If we choose to go to a place only because we saw others do it, hence we want pictures like them, we are the most eloquent example for the phenomenon of mindlessly adopting something without understanding its sub layers. And after all, why waste so much money on a vacation when you could spend only a part of them on image editing services in Photoshop?

* * *

Speed traveling. This is what I call this phenomenon of cramming as many tourist attractions in the shortest amount of time. Looking back at the previous years, I would say that three things have augmented the mentality of traveling with a checklist: city breaks, hop-on hop-off buses and layover traveling. Let’s start with the beginning: for those unfamiliar with the notion of a city break, this means a short trip to a foreign city, which usually lasts about two days. Hop-on hop-off buses, popularized by the City Sightseeing company in over 100 cities worldwide, imply routes which promise that in maximum one hour and a half you can cram the most touristic attractions in a city in a single tour (in which probably the sun constantly gets into your eyes and the free red headphones slip from your ears). Layover traveling is another developing trend which presupposes a layover of few hours (at least three) which can be transformed in a micro voyage in your layover city, sometimes carrying after you a trolley into old city centres filled with cobblestone streets. In a lot of international capitals the airports have already started to offer special tours for those with little time available, some examples being Singapore, which offers two hour bus tours during the day and the night, Seoul, which offers eight types of tours of two to five hours, Tokyo and Doha. Moreover, those with at least a six hour layover in Beijing can go onto an organized trip to the Great Wall of China. Do you see what I am hinting at?

We became so obsessed by the “snapped, checked, solved” cycle in our endless run to see yet one more touristic sight that we have forgotten what traveling really means – immersing ourselves in a different culture, discovering another gastronomy, observing different regional customs or speaking with a local. Moreover, if we go to a foreign country to hang out with the same people and still order a burger and fries, it means we have lost the essence of traveling.

As an effect of mass-tourism, people no longer understand anything they see and go to a place only because it’s popular, and not necessarily because they have a real interest in that particular place. So, they no longer come in contact with the authentic local culture because they experience their few vacation days through a pink, superficial and unrealistic Instagram filter. That’s how we got to sit in queues in order to take a photo to show to our friends and followers that we ticked one more place on our bucket list. There’s no need to detail the case of Mona Lisa or other famous paintings that no one is really admiring today because of the wave of selfie sticks and highly–held hand cameras which sadly cloud the view. Unfortunately, probably those who admire da Vinci’s work the most are the surveillance cameras…

Considering that globally, since 1974 until 2014, the number of passengers who have flown internationally has increased by almost eight times, it is clear that tourism turned into a problematic issue for popular cities. Tourist places have become suffocated, thus generating unpleasant experiences for the tourists themselves, but especially for the locals who are doing their best to avoid big attractions on their way to work, school or dining out. Cities like Barcelona are struggling to find the balance between a healthy number of tourists to help the local economy and the happiness of locals who have repeatedly declared and protested that they would rather accept refugees than millions of tourists annually (according to the latest statistics Barcelona hosts approximately 32 million tourists annually although only having itself 1.6 million locals). The locals have also developed a slogan that describes their everyday experience: “Tourist: Your Luxury Trip, My Daily Misery”. Moreover, five years ago, the Park Güell’s local administration was even forced to limit tourists’ access to the monumental part of the park for the first time in order to cope with the masses of visitors, thus setting a limit for tickets available for each time interval.

Not only does intensive tourism affect the everyday chores of the locals, but also the level of rents in central city areas. Specifically, the old town centres (especially in old European cities), due to their usual proximity to most points of interest, slowly become the only neighbourhoods where tourists are staying. So locals are being chased away in other neighbourhoods by property owners who would rather rent an apartment or a bedroom for several hundred euros for a two or three nights stay than rent it for the same amount for an entire month. The situation has become so severe that cities like Amsterdam, London and Paris have taken action against abusive AirBnB property renting. Additionally, Amsterdam was the first city to restrict by law the number of days per year in which a property is allowed to be rented through AirBnB, setting a legal maximum of 60 days, which starting with 2019, was halved. Similar cases are recorded in the British and French capitals, but still not so drastic, the maximum number of days in which property owners can rent their places on AirBnB being 90 and 120 respectively. Therefore these cities and not only are already experiencing the symptoms of excessive tourism.

What I wanted to do with this article was not to point my finger at people or to accuse certain behaviours or desires. Though it seems that this is exactly what I did. If you recognized yourself at least a bit in the lines above (as I sometimes did too), there are a few things that you can do on your next vacation to no longer be part of the mass of people running frantically from one monument to another. You can start by visiting less, staying more in certain places in order to fully relish them, be it a museum, a café or a tavern. You can also venture out of capitals and well-known cities, but with care and respect for everything and everyone around. And probably the oldest trick, you can enjoy a city or a beautiful region outside of the high season and its typical roe of tourist coaches.

After all, maybe the most exciting challenge you can give yourself as a tourist is to give no indication whatsoever that you are one.

 

This article originally appeared in ELLE Romania, August 2018 issue, number 249

Photo by Alicia Steels on Unsplash

Laura Recommends

January Recommendations II

February 7, 2019

Happy New Year! (Is is still time-appropriate to say this?) Happy Lunar New Year! (I guess this is more appropriate to say now that I am publishing this article in the first week of February)

 

I hope you all got a wonderful start to the year. I know many people dreaded January (hence all these “January was a long year” jokes), but I personally loved it. I feel I have done a lot, grew some more and came across some truly interesting articles, videos and books I can’t wait to share with you. Let’s get started:

 

AUDIO

Two Dope Queens

I listened to their episode with Michelle Obama (I’ll start reading her book in February and I am super excited!) and I was surprised I haven’t listened to these two ladies before! They are so fun, energetic, refreshing and witty! Loved the episode and will certainly listen to more.

How I Built This

I must have listened to 5 HIBT episodes in two days because they were right up my alley: business women and men talking about the companies and the projects they started and the way they reached success. I loved learning more about companies I had no previous knowledge on (or very little info) such as Burton. Highly recommend that episode and the entire podcast series for those of you passionate about business.

Challenge Accepted – Celeste Barber

If you don’t follow Celeste Barber on Instagram, you are missing out. She is a brilliant Australian comedian who recently published a book. As the physical book was not available in the Netherlands, I opted to listen to it (she narrated it herself!) and it was such a nice way to de-stress. While the book doesn’t always seem to always have a red thread, it is certainly a fun, easy read.

 

VIDEOS

Art You Can’t Get To – The Art Assignment

If you are curious why there is a plastic bust of Vladimir Lenin in Antarctica, this video is for you! This Art Assignment episode is run by guest John Green, but usually the show is hosted by Sarah Urist Green (his wife) and she does a fantastic job! The episode on The Kiss by Gustav Klimt is particularly one of my favourites! It’s really amazing to see Klimt’s evolution and tangible mark left on art history, so I definitely recommend watching this video. Also, if you have not seen the movie Woman in Gold, you might want to save it for a weekend watch – it might make you love and appreciate Klimt even more.

How Photography is Affecting Our Brains – WIRED

Another amazing video by WIRED, this time about photography and the way it changes our perception of ourselves and our surroundings. I particularly enjoyed the part about selfies and the perceived face distortions that selfies bring. The video also features Chris Burkhard, a photographer whose work I love, so you have now more reasons to watch this video!

How Shazam Works – Real Engineering

I hope you know by now how much I love nerdy videos. This video makes no exception. Brief, but to the point, it explains how Shazam uses base frequency and overtones to match the audio you are recording to its huge database in only a few seconds.

How Popcorn Went From Banned to Saving Movies – Cheddar Explains

Although I have to avoid popcorn in order to prevent dental issues, I still found this video very interesting. Despite the fact that it may seem an obvious business plan now for cinemas to rely on selling snacks, it wasn’t always like this. Watch the video if you want to find out how things have changed.

How The Sound Effects In ‘A Quiet Place’ Were Made – Insider

Albeit a slightly older video, this take on A Quiet Place made me appreciate the movie even more (if you still haven’t watched it, please do!). I loved the inclusivity – one of the main characters was played by a deaf actress, I adored Emily Blunt in it – I thought she was able to convey so much emotion, and the sounds and the lack of them were absolutely perfect and chilling at the same time.

 

BOOKS

Just My Type – Simon Garfield 

I spotted this book at a bookstore and I fell in love with it immediately. It was funny, insightful and really interesting and I never thought a book about fonts could captivate me so much. Following the same line of thoughts, if you are into fonts, calligraphy or graphic design or you may simply want to learn more about them, I highly recommend you to read this piece about a new font called Sans Forgetica, aimed at making students retain more information (via WIRED). Also, this article by the New York Times about Choc, a seemingly Chinese font taking over New York, is absolutely fascinating, and so is this VOX video about the versatile Trajan font, the reasons it appears on so many movie posters and how it can convey different movie moods. All these pieces about fonts also tie very neatly to the new fashion trend of updating heritage fashion house logos into sans serifs, more inconspicuous versions of the seemingly same logo. This phenomenon is very well explained by Business of Fashion, in one of their January opinion pieces about this graphic design trend.

Man’s search for Meaning – Dr. Viktor Frankl

In January I took a literature course and some of the readings were very deeply related to the Holocaust, so I decided that January would be the most appropriate month to do additional historical reading and finally go through Viktor Frankl’s world famous book. I was chilling, inspiring, deeply saddening and yet optimistic, and I could not recommend it more. It might probably make a habit out of reading it every year for International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In January I also read Educated by Tara Westover, but I still feel conflicted about it (it’s a sort of traumatizing and frustrating book, yet it is incredibly written), and also two hilarious books in Romanian that I loved tremendously: Fericirea e un ac de siguranță (Răzvan Exarhu) & Orice om îi este teamă (Radu Paraschivescu). Could not recommend them more.

 

MOVIES AND DOCUMENTARIES

Fyre Festival – Netflix

You may have heard of this from multiple sources. I know I did. From nine different people. And you know what, it is worth seeing it because it leads to discussions about false advertising, influencer economy, digital fads, human stubbornness and the cult of the genius, not-always-understood entrepreneur (which I call BS, but that is my opinion). If you are also in the mood for Netflix, but you don’t want to commit to a series, the American Meme documentary was also interesting because it showed the evolution, downsides and shallowness of famous, (micro) celebrities and the materially mad American culture.

 

PLACES

Fotomuseum, the Hague

I was there just before they closed the Lauren Greenfield exhibit (called Generation Wealth) and let me tell you, if was perhaps one of the best photo exhibits I have ever seen (next to the Peter Lindbergh one in Rotterdam, but their subjects and approaches are too different in order to properly compare them)! Even though her name may not ring a bell to you, the campaign she directed for Always, called “Like a Girl“, won a primetime commercial Emmy Award in 2015! The exhibit was moving, thought-provoking and very well done, and I have enjoyed reading all the additional texts and captions – I feel they really brought a lot of light to the photos.

 

ARTICLES

Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work? – The New York Times

This is a fantastic story on (mostly) Millennials, their self-proclaimed love for work, the possible reasons behind it and the perhaps toxic workplace culture installing itself in most working environments. Gread read and fantastically paired with a longer essay from Buzzfeed‘s Anne Helen Petersen.

The Women Running for President Are Breaking the Rules of Branding – Hyperakt (via Medium)

If you are slightly interested in politics, the most recent congress election and branding, this article is perfect for you. It describes the way fresh congresswomen have presented themselves through more diverse color palettes than anytime in history. Absolutely inspiring read. If you like the topic, you might find this article (from the Washington Post) about the poster design of AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) absolutely brilliant.

The Last Iron Lungs – Gizmodo

This is a slightly different story (and a bit older than 2019) than what I usually read, but it was a fascinating read about the last people in the States who live only thanks to an iron machine-bed they have been confined to because of polio. Thankfully, nowadays polio can be prevented with the help of vaccines during early childhood, so these iron beds are the last surviving medical artefacts of a world without vaccines.

 

If this is not your first time reading one of the articles from my Recommendations series or if by the end of this article you have opened more than 5 tabs and you feel you have already learned something new, it would really help me if you could share this link via your favourite social networks ❤️

And as always, feel free to drop me a message with your own recommendations or ideas to improve this series.

 

Love,

Laura

Laura Recommends

November and December Recommendations II

January 2, 2019

Happy New Year! I hope your 2018 was a good year for you and that 2019 will be even better. For those of you who thought I have abandoned my sacred monthly Recommendation project, I haven’t. It’s just that I have decided I will combine November and December into one big post (perfect for the holidays!) since these months are too crazy to pen down everything I want. You can check out here what I wrote last year during my November and December post.

 

Places

Escher Museum, the Hague

I visited this museum in November after complaining I haven’t really seen a lot of museums in the Hague and this quickly turned into one of my favourite ones. It definitely offered more than I have expected, starting with the permanent exhibit of Escher’s visual illusions, the superb interior with square staircases, unique chandeliers and the fantastic interactive rooms perfect for testing how deceiving our sight can be. It’s certainly a fantastic place to spend 2 to 3 hours on a rainy day in the Hague.

Museum Volkenkunde, Leiden

I had no idea about this museum until I got out of Leiden’s train station and saw an ad for an exhibit about Bali. I was instantly triggered, so that obviously became a spontaneous stop during my day in Leiden. The exhibit was very well done, with many local objects, recordings, infographics, videos and so on depicting the local Balinese customs and way of living, while also highlighting the urgency of certain issues: mass tourism, plastic pollution and globalization. Beyond this exhibit, this museum of Ethnology has permanent and temporary exhibits on most regions of the world, from Asia to North America and Australia. I have to go back, so I would definitely schedule more than 3 to 4 hours for a thorough visit.

Femmes Fatales exhibit, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague

I had been waiting for this exhibit ever since I first read about it online and on my birthday I finally managed to get there with my mom. It was absolutely fantastic – from the selection of pieces and designers (all female) to the set up of the rooms and the stories behind them, this was a very tasteful exhibit which displayed more than I anticipated, so it has definitely exceeded my expectations. If you decide to go and visit it, the museum ticket also includes the entrance to the permanent exhibits (such as the one on Delftware) and temporary ones (such as Splendour and Bliss – a fantastic show of Islamic art!).

 

Videos

Since I have quite a long list of videos I loved during the past two months, I will list them below instead of writing full paragraphs about them. Each is under 20 minutes, so you can definitely carve out some time to watch them if you like the topics. These months I was very into movie-related subjects and I have definitely learned a lot from them, so I hope you will enjoy them too.

How to Create a Crossword Puzzle – by WIRED

Harry Potter – What magic sounds like – by Nerdwriter1

What Happens When A Movie Has No Script Supervisor? – by Vanity Fair

What Does Food Say about a Character – by Fandor

If you enjoyed this video about the role of food into character and plot development, you might also enjoy another video made by the same channel, this time about The Power of Aspect Ratio. It’s under four minutes, so it’s straight to the point and very well exemplified.

+ Arrival – Examining an Adaptation – by Lessons from the Screenplay (it’s a video from 2017, but it’s amazing nonetheless)

+ This Greenpeace video about palm oil. It’s from August, but if you haven’t watched it, you should. Expect goosebumps, guilt and a newfound desire to change things around.

 

Books

The Everything Store – Brad Stone

It was about time I deep dived into Amazon. As it frequently represents a debate topic in uni classes, I thought it would be a good idea to read more about it and form a better informed opinion. I will not spoil the content of the book for you, but I think it’s a good read and it certainly clarifies certain aspects about the origins of Amazon’s values, work ethics (or the issues around them) and Jeff Bezos’ vision of the company and the future.

Citeste, te rog, citeste – Felicitas von Lovenberg (Read, please, read – literal translation)

I finished this on the last day of December and I really enjoyed it, I feel it made my appetite for books grow increasingly bigger as I was progressing through the book. It’s currently available only in German and Romanian, but I have a feeling it will become more popular. A fantastic read about books and any possible topic connected to them.

I also finally made time to read Mihaela Noroc’s Atlas of Beauty and I adored it from the first pages, deciding it is one of the most beautiful books to get and have at home, and also RO-KIT, another Romanian initiative, this time bilingual RO-EN, aimed at illustrating 50 Romanian icons in a minimalist fashion using the same single-weight line. I enjoyed both of them, so perhaps you will do too!

 

Movies and series

Bohemian Rhapsody

Unless you were on a two month-long no-social-media sabbatical journey, you have probably heard about the premiere of this epic movie about Queen and its lead singer, Freddie Mercury. Personally, I think the movie did justice to the story and also considering the run time of only 2 hours and few minutes, they condensed 15 years pretty decently. However, the most extraordinary parts are hands-on their musical performances. I got a wave of goosebumps every other second and this definitely shows the impact of the movie. Definitely go watch it if you haven’t already!

This is Us

Perhaps one of the series I have recommended the most to my friends in the past two months, This is Us reached the rare achievement of connecting many narrative threads into something coherent, touching and relatable. Some of the topics of the series are childhood, parenting, adoption, raising an African-American kid, anxiety, miscarriage, addiction and more. Sometimes all these are treated at once, but somehow the show avoids creating a cacophony of voices and problems, creating instead a mature view over the complexity and the diversity of issues contemporary families face in real life, where nothing is simple, nor perfect.

L’Amica Geniale

For those of you who devoured Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Tetralogy, you will love this adaptation! The first season premiered in November and follows the events from the first book, while staying true to Ferrante’s universe, seemingly endless array of characters and many twists and turns. I binged all episodes with my mom during two days and we are already looking forward for the second season 🙂 For those not familiar with these books and the series, it’s not too late to jump on board!

 

Articles

As this blog post is getting quite long, I will only write few lines about some cool articles I have been reading during the past weeks. During their end of the year articles, VOX published a great piece on Crazy Rich Asians, diversity at Hollywood and the true portrayal of Asians. The article is on point and very relevant, so I highly recommend it. Another great piece by VOX was this one about the spare button we receive with clothes and its significance and real usage. It made me think about my own behaviour regarding clothes and ways to improve it. The New York Times published a piece about one font which took over New York, and despite the fact that I am nowhere near being a graphic designer, I was intrigued and excited to learn more about Choc. Speaking about design, WIRED published a very interesting piece about the way one female illustrator changed AirBnB’s online image, so you should definitely check that out as well. Since we are talking about tech companies, after watching Minority Report two years ago, I can definitely understand why companies like Ford and Boeing chose to hire SF writers to create future scenarios for them. This post on Medium by Brian Merchant will hopefully explain this interesting situation better. And finally, also on Medium, Tom Whitwell wrote his annual post with 52 things he learned in 2018, which will probably lead you to a rabbit hole of links, just my cup of tea.

If you still want to read more, Vanity Fair published a piece on Michelle Obama’s book, which made me even more curious to read it and Scoala9 delivered one of the most interesting visually illustrated articles I have ever seen on the slow death of cursive writing. Mura is the one who created all the illustrations and I can easily say I fell in love with them (the article is in Romanian though, sorry international folks!)

 

This is all for now, but I already started working on January content, so see you soon with new posts! And if you have enjoyed this article, I would most certainly appreciate it if you would share it with your friends. 

Yours,

Laura

Laura Recommends

October Recommendations II

November 3, 2018

In an extremely fortunate turn of events, after feeling that September was longer than just four weeks, October managed to feel like a month and half as well. This either means that my time machine device works or that I have become more productive and organized since I am getting so much done. Yeah, it’s probably the time machine 😉

Here is what I have loved reading, watching, listening and experiencing this month. If by the end of this article you opened dozens of tabs and you are feeling inspired to test out on your own what I have shared below, please take few seconds and give this article a share: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, WeChat or even in a good ol’ email to a friend you think might like this article. It would help me a lot!

 

BOOKS

Everything I know about love – Dolly Alderton

I laughed. I cried. I clutched the book tight to my chest. I re-read my favourite paragraphs. I took pictures of my favourite pages. I laughed some more, while in the train next to dozens of uber silent people. No shame though because this book was worth all the looks I got. Since there are too many things to say about, I’ll resume myself to say that Dolly writes fantastically well and relatable about friendship, family, womanhood, loss of close people, youth, university years, dating and much more. If my friends receive this gift from me for Christmas, I hope they act surprised.

The 24h wine expert – Jancis Robinson

One of my wishes for 2018 and also for 2019 was to learn more about wines. And while tasting is one way to learn about them, I also wanted to improve my theoretical knowledge about oenology (my inner nerd is way too excited to use this word). This short book definitely helped me out with some base knowledge, while also leaving me wanting to know more, which is what I think any good book should do. It also made me curious to read more labels at the wine aisle or local wine shop to see if I can recognize abbreviations and grape variety. Definitely a nice gift for wine lovers in the early stages of wine knowledge.

La délicatesse – David Foekinos

After I came back from France last month, I decided I want to read more books in French in order to maintain my level of understanding the language. And I am starting to feel a little mad at myself for not having done this sooner. Considering two French books cost me only 6 euros each, I should have switched to reading in French a long time ago! Budget-jokes aside, (beware, nerd moment coming through) I forgot how exciting and mind-expanding it is not to know all the words in a book – and this made me engage more with the story and truly pay close attention. Regarding the book, I found it beautiful, fragile, fun, sad, and yes, delicate and it definitely made me want to watch the movie adaptation with Audrey Tautou.

 

VIDEOS

The Goods – a VOX series

The “What Happens When Nature Goes Viral” episode certainly highlights important issues which should be up for debate nowadays and the episode about olfactive marketing was super interesting and relevant, especially as an example for brick and mortar retail differentiation. Really looking forward to seeing what new videos they add to this series.

This Prop Master’s Work Is Hidden in Plain Sight – Great Big Story

By now you probably know I love movies and I can’t even express how happy I am to see the crews behind the scenes of movie productions get more credit. From Foley artists to stuntmen and women and now prop masters, this video shows the creation process of essential movie props often glossed over by the public – a newspaper, a letter, a pile of old books and so on.

If educational videos were filmed like music videos – Tom Scott

This one doesn’t need extra introductions, it’s a well spent time for a hilarious and sort of educational mix which somehow ends up sounding like a video from The School of Life, but I will let you be the judge of that.

How Disney writes a villain song – Polyphonic

In case you needed a further reminder that you should rewatch your childhood movies with a new adult perspective, this video might convince you to pay attention not only to the romantic development of events, but also to the darker songs of the antagonists. As always, I cannot avoid mentioning ScreenPrism, especially considering they posted a fantastic video essay about Disney as well, this time about the magical objects in Disney stories.

James Veitch Is A Terrible Roommate

Please watch this video if you need a good laugh. Please watch this video even if you are already in a good mood. I think this video has the magical powers of improving any day, no matter how horrible it is. That is, unless you have a flatmate as horrific as James. It’s a video from 2017 and already very popular and I somehow only stumbled across it just now, so I am sharing this for everyone who wants a good laugh and hasn’t seen it already.

 

PLACES

Bookstor – the Hague

Maybe it’s good I do not live in the Hague, because I am pretty sure the staff of this place would have a really bad time trying to convince me each night to finally go back to my apartment. This is how amazing this place is and how much it feels like home. Buy a book, cozy up with a cup of coffee and get some work/reading done. This is the perfect daily scenario I am picturing in my head whenever I think of the Bookstor.

Le temps retrouvé – Amsterdam

As I have already mentioned my newfound love for French books, it was only appropriate to tell you where I have gotten them. It is this marvelous little French bookstore (the only one in town!) in a canal house on Keizersgracht. Absolutely lovely and a good selection for a starting addiction of French classics and contemporary works.

Foodware – Amsterdam

I recently had dinner at Foodware and I can definitely say now that it was perfect. My quiche was delicious, my companion spoke impeccable French (I sense a pattern) and strolling on the canals that evening cannot be better described than as the zenith of Indian summer in October. What can I say, I love solo-dates with a book.

 

MOVIES AND SERIES

A Star is Born

I absolutely loved this movie, and as most people who have watched it, I became obsessed with the soundtrack! I also realized that I had no clue this was a remake until I came home from the cinema and read a couple of reviews and watched two video essays comparing the different versions. So now I have even more movies added to my endless list!

Salt Fat Acid Heat 

Yes, I started watching some Netflix shows. No, I am not yet addicted. But I did want to watch this series as fast as possible (watched it during two nights, so I didn’t severely misbehave) because I could tell from the very beginning that it was going to be amazing! It made me hungry, it made me curious, it made laugh and it made me share the joy that Samin Nosrat spreads whenever she discovers an interesting ingredient or cooking technique. Combining history, culinary lessons, bit of geography, anthropology and one of the most charismatic and authentic hosts, you must watch this show if you love food.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel 

How come no one told me about this show? It has so many elements I love! Amy-Sherman Palladino as a creator (hello, Gilmore Girls memories), amazing wardrobes (set in the ’50), great acting (four Emmys already!) and absolutely delicious sense of humour! I already marked in my calendar the release of the second season (5th of December) because I have a feeling it is going to be really good.

 

PODCASTS

The High Low

After finishing Dolly Alderton’s book, I obviously had to look for more content created by her, so I have discovered the podcast she is co-hosting with Pandora Sykes. It is a news digest which includes everything from social and political events to pop culture and more trivial conversation starters. These two ladies have lots of wit and intelligence, so I can totally see how their episodes manage to make it to the most downloaded tops all the time!

This is Success – Business Insider

I recently discovered this podcast on LinkedIn and it is slowly, but steadily turning into one of my favourites. I first started with the entrepreneurs and the businesses I knew about and I am now moving onto learning about new people. I loved finding out more about Warby Parker and the way the company was set up, I found the discussion about Reid Hoffman’s professional trajectory super interesting and I learned more about the founding story of Dropbox, each in about 30 minutes.

I have also listened to the first episode of Deliciously Ella Podcast and one from Book Cheat (The Picture of Dorian Gray episode) and I really enjoyed them, so you might want to give them a try as well 🙂

 

EXTRA

Bon Entendeur app

In case the theme of October was not already super clear: I deep dived into French content!!! This app has a new mixtape released every week and I could totally see them act as background music during a night in with friends. The mixtapes are based on original songs, remastered pieces, samples of movies and old works of music. It’s something I love and didn’t even know I needed in my life.

P.S. I also wrote a poem recently, after struggling with the thought of possibly moving again (for a master), the uncertainty of the next years and the bitter-sweet taste of life right now. You can find it in the caption of this picture.

 

Would love to hear what you read and watched in October, so feel free to share any good things you would recommend!

 

Have a great November!

Laura