Laura Recommends

March Recommendations III

April 10, 2020

How is everyone doing? I figured most of us are craving for bits of our “old” lives, hence why I decided to go on with my regular editorial scheduling, bringing you my favorite cultural recommendations in terms of books, movies, documentaries, videos, exhibits and more. Obviously, everything I will mention in this month’s post will be accessible from home, the place where we should be most of the time for the sake of everyone’s health and for the sake of worldwide health systems.

PFEW. Saying all this makes me feel like a broken record, but alas… here are all the things I loved during March 2020:

BOOKS

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

This book was everywhere on my Instagram feed ever since it launched. There were multiple interviews with the author which I saved in my TBR folder because I wanted to read the book first. And my God, I basically inhaled the 300+ pages in 3 days, it was that good! It’s an amazing book about relationships, desire, human needs, trust, despair, disappointment, sex, societal influences, labels and so much more.

Invisible Influence by Jonah Berger

I knew I would like this book the moment I saw it. It explained simply and scientifically how most of our decisions are actually triggered, inspired or influenced by members of the society around us. We aren’t really that free and independent in our choices as we would like to think, but I believe that if we are aware of the factors influencing us, then we can truly better understand why we do certain things/ buy certain objects/ crave a specific lifestyle. Super good read.

The Course of Love by Alain de Botton

I love everything Alain de Botton writes and this book made no exception. I found its story very compelling and its structure very useful in providing constructive explanations and reasoning into the story. I think it’s a fantastic read for anyone who wants to better understand oneself and who wishes to have an equally emotionally intelligent relationship with their romantic partner.

A Man called Over – Fredrik Backman

Building unlikeable characters which you end up loving by the end of the book is no easy feat, but Backman does a particularly great job at this. I laughed out loud a few times, deeply felt the tearjerking moments and overall tried to empathize a lot with Ove and his way of living. A delightful read to hopefully put into perspective the life of elders around us.

MOVIES/ DOCUMENTARIES/ SERIES

L’Amica Geniale (back with season 2!) – HBO

I have been feverishly looking for new episodes ever since I binge-watched the whole first season on New Year’s Eve a couple of years ago. I think this show captures the books, the spirit of Naples and the rivalry and the friendship between Elena and Lila is so damn brilliant that it’s impossible to peel your eyes from the screen. The locations are superb, the colours are divine and the overall show is a true gem.

The Night Manager – BBC

I have no idea how The Night Manager has not been on my radar for longer, considering that it aired in 2016. I started watching an episode with my mom and the whole story felt very compelling, however, we felt there was a lot of context missing. After 35 minutes I realized we were actually watching the last episode of the series *facepalm*. Needless to say, we went back to the first episode and completely binged the whole thing in 24 hours. I still have some questions about how realistic the whole scenario presents itself, but hey, it’s a series, not a science doc. Really great series, a fab pic for James Bond types of action fans.

Love, Death, Robots – Netflix

This animated anthology was recommended to me by some friends, and after about a year, I finally got to it. This type of genre animated productions are quite a rare sight on my regular schedule, but I am happy to introduce some variety now and then. There are 18 episodes in total, none longer than 20 minutes and they can be watched in any order because they are each standalone productions by different teams of artists. My favourite stories were: Three Robots, When the Yogurt Took Over, Zima Blue and Alternate Histories, and my favourite animation style was definitely the one in Good hunting – there were some breathtaking city scenes in there.

Film vs Digital – Mango Street

The work that Rachel and Daniel from Mango Street put out every month on YouTube is exceptional. In one of their most recent videos, they played with a roll of film which changes certain colours (their explanation is way better, trust me!) and the results are JAW-DROPPING! The video is not per se comparison of film versus digital – it’s more like a celebration and ode for both.

A taste of New York – Film Spektakel

This might be one of the most dizzying videos I have ever seen. But it’s a good dizzy, a New York kind of dizzy. The video is made out of perfectly sliced and edited pieces of footage from iconic New York locations and it’s truly a gem.

Some good news with John Krasinki – YouTube

In case the world needed more reasons to adore John Krasinki, he is now doing a weekly show on YouTube, with, you guessed it – good news! It’s crazily uplifting and I recommend you watch the second episode too (if each week will get topped up like this I will be forever stunned!).

OTHER

Design a wig – Victoria and Albert Museum

I didn’t think I would enjoy so much this little fun and mindless game, but I found myself totally captivated by this wig design process. I guarantee you will create some abominable and hilarious 18th century-inspired wigs!

Google Arts and Culture

This website is a source of endless fun. You can explore fashion designers starting from the colours they used in their shows, you can browse through the catalogs of hundreds of art museums or you can marvel at iconic paintings grouped by chromatics. You can also travel digitally to impressive landmarks such as Machu Picchu, the Roman Colosseo, the Pyramids, and many more stunning sights.

In case you get bored, you can now venture into the Vatican Museum and gaze at the Sixtine Chapel as long as you want. And if this doesn’t sound like music to your ears, perhaps the Met Opera or the Berlin Philarmonic can help you through their streams.

#isolationcreation – Instagram

This is a hashtag and a movement started by the amazing Jamie Beck. She has been creating one stunning photograph (usually of still life) every single day of quarantine and now there’s an entire community of artists posting their daily creations under this hashtag. In case you also need to see uplifting, beautiful and thought-provoking art in your feed every day, I suggest you have a look at this #.

Tussen Kunst en Quarantine – Instagram

This is a Dutch account (which got massive) highlighting home creativity through hundreds of submissions of art-inspired compositions. In case you’ve doubted it – now it’s the perfect time to nail your Girl with a pearl earring gentle twist and mystery 😉

I hope you have enjoyed these recommendations, I hope you saved some and obviously, I hope you and your dear ones are safe and healthy.

Until next time,

Laura

Laura Recommends

February Recommendations III

March 6, 2020

SEEN

Thierry Mugler exhibit at Kunsthal, Rotterdam

Kunsthal constantly manages to create absolutely incredible exhibits and the Thierry Mugler exhibit is no exception. The exhibit wastes no time in introducing people to the designer – the first room is instantly immersing people in Mugler’s early work involving stage costumes. Besides this aspect, I was pleasantly surprised to see the amount of iconic items they have gathered. I must have spent at least 25 minutes in total just gasping at the craft behind the pieces. The expo will move In March-April to Munich, so if you want to see you can catch it there.

1917 and 1917 Explained: How and Why They Did One Shot – The Take

I have absolutely loved this analysis of 1917! Obviously, the movie itself is a technical masterpiece – a rare immersive experience. I almost forgot to breathe during the movie because I felt it so intensively, but this is proof that it is definitely worth watching.

American Factory

This documentary shouldn’t have shocked me, but somehow it did. it takes an insider look at an American factory which is reopened by Chinese investors. The whole story made me feel very uneasy due to a lot of reasons I will not list here, but I would still recommend it. And btw, it was created by the production house set up by Michelle and Barack Obama.

Miss Americana

I did not think I would enjoy Taylor Swift’s documentary so much, but I did. And I am glad she made the step of opening up and letting people in her thoughts, her process and her own issues. Naturally, I became OBSESSED with Only The Young – it’s a really good song.

Parasite – ending explained – The Take

Surprise, surprise – the second The Take video in a Recommendations post! Seriously, I am mesmerized by their video analyses. This one is also very nuanced, going through a lot of the movie’s layers.

Sex Education

Right after the second season dropped on Netflix, it seemed that all my friends had been hard-core fans of the show because everybody was hyping it left and right. So, obviously, I had to watch it to satisfy my curiosity. And I get it now. The topics, the acting, the characters, the aesthetic, the jokes – the combo of everything is a winner.

Burger King ad

In case this campaign has not reached you in February, I decided to list it here as well. I will not spoil it for you (you’ll get this pun after you see the ad), but it’s really good and provocative.The Goop Lab – Cynical reviews

The Goop Lab – Cynical Reviews

I didn’t even attempt to watch The Goop Lab because I don’t want to support in any way pseudo-science that aims to capitalize on gullible people, but I still wanted to know what they talk about in this show. This analysis is great and funny and very important, especially if you have the tendency to believe celebrity sponsored activities and products.

How Bollywood Gave Britney Spears Her Greatest Hit – INSIDER

WOW. I promise you that after watching this video you will never listen to Toxic in the same way. I wish more songs were broken down and analysed like this.

READ

Why I am no longer talking to white people about race – Reni Eddo-Lodge

You may remember that last year I have talked about reading books written by people of colour in order to consciously educate myself about other people’s experience and on the positive actions I can take. Why I am no longer talking to white people about race was my pick for Black History Month and I highly recommend it. I am already thinking I need to re-read it soon for a better second reading.

Is a world without trash possible? – National Geographic

This long read offers hands-on examples of companies and initiatives throughout Europe which tackle the problem of waste. In case you are interested in learning more about circularity, this is the article for you!

Mulan Cinemagraphs – Bustle

In case you ever wondered how would a photo-video crossover look like, Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg have created the format of cinemagraphs – enchanted moving images. They have recently taken their skills to the next level by working with Disney on a series of promotional cinemagraphs for the new Mulan movie.

Where to go on holiday in 2020: the alternative hotlist – The Guardian

I pondered quite a while if sharing an article about travel destinations is environmentally ethical, but it seems that the staff at the Guardian went through the same conundrum. Here is how they describe this (amazing) travel list: “Our pick of 20 places to visit in 2020 celebrates inspiring conservation and community projects that are making a difference to people and the planet.” Among their picks: Slovenia, Romania, Sri Lanka and Chile. I also saw Bloomberg posted something in the same lines, so I will also leave here the link to the list of 24 best places to travel in 2020 (although Northern Italy may be off the list for a while, sadly).

VISITED

Sugar and spice, the Hague

This must be one of the cutest shops in the Hague that I have ever seen. The product selection is beautiful, the owner is very nice and warm, and they cater the widest assortment of Le Petit Marseillais products I ever stumbled upon.

LISTENED

Zest podcast

Sorry, this is only for Romanian speakers 🙁

It’s a really nice discovery for me and naturally, I had an obsession with it for the past weeks – listening to 2 episodes every Sunday while cooking 🙂 The guest list is really impressive, so do check it out.

As you can see, February was an amazing month for content and new discoveries. For March I am planning on reading way more and focus only on some good series, so let’s see what I manage to get done by the end of the month 🙂

Happy Spring!

Laura Recommends

December and January Recommendations

February 5, 2020

I know it may seem like I haven’t written a Recommendation post in years, but moving forward I was thinking of publishing these posts only once every two months as my schedule is getting increasingly busy. Any thoughts on this new frequency?

Other than this quick update, I hope the beginning of the new year found you happy, healthy and determined to make the most of this decade.

Meanwhile, to keep you informed, entertained and curious, I have prepared a list of all the books, articles and movies I have enjoyed in the past two months. Obviously I included only the things I really loved and feel comfortable recommending.

BOOKS

The Fate of Food – Amanda Little

I have absolutely adored this book and will not spam you further with content about it, but if you are curious about it and still haven’t read my review, you can find it here.

Lab Girl – Hope Jahren

This book taught me that’s it’s not necessary to have crazy action and events to write a beautiful book. Hope Jahren is a professor and scientist in geochemistry and geobiology. In her first book she manages to beautifully capture and share her passion for plants and nature and the struggles of being a researcher in a field where money is not necessarily pouring out of the sky. She also manages to present an honest perspective over friendship, particularly about finding friends who are as weird and passionate as you.

How to Stop Time – Matt Haig

I am a sucker for most books addressing time travel. While this particular book’s main character is not a time traveler, but a guy who lives for a bizarrely long period of time, readers can still enjoy stories from multiple centuries. This book is clever, emotional, grapping and very pleasant to read.

This is going to hurt – Adam Kay

I laughed so much while reading this book that it actually started to hurt 😂 While this book is incredibly funny and enjoyable, I think its biggest achievement is its authentic depiction of a doctor’s life (in NHS). We don’t usually read stories this long about the exhaustion and the crazy shifts medical professionals have to go through, but perhaps the reason why is because most of them barely have time to sleep, let alone write a book. I am also curious to read his second book: Twas the nightshift before Christmas, so let me know your thoughts if you have read it!

Videos, Series and Movies

Parasite – in cinemas

I am 100% sure Parasite will be a top contender for my favourite top 10 movies seen in 2020. It had all the elements of a masterpiece – incredible screenwriting, brilliant plot twists, fantastic acting, class commentary, comedic timing and beautiful cinematography. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but you must see it.

The other Boleyn girl – on Netflix

This movie might not have the highest IMDB scores or critic reviews, but I fell in love with the costumes and with seeing Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman share the screen. The resourcefulness of Anne Boleyn, as depicted in this movie, kept me on the edge of my seat.

What the Health – on Netflix

I have been reading and watching increasingly more about food, sustainable diets and health, so this documentary has been on my list for quite some time. I think the biggest take away about it is the fact that a lot of national and international organizations know about certain links between food products and diseases and still, they don’t act up on it due to financial and political interests. On top of this, they act like they are not aware of the issue or straightforward tell the documentary maker to leave once he starts asking more uncomfortable questions. The documentary maker is the same guy who did Cowspiracy, so some bits may seem a bit repetitive.

Abstract – on Netflix

This show not only manages to present the stories of incredible people in the creative industries, but also manages to do so in ingenious storytelling ways. Seriously, both seasons of this documentary series are a visual feast. Thank me later.

The Morning Show – on Apple TV

I was super curious about this show because it was one of the first one that Apple created. So, the streaming wars are on. And with a brilliant cast with the likes of Jennifer Aniston (who, dare I say, wasted many years in pathetic silly rom-coms instead of showing her true potential), Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell. I loved the emotional complexity of characters and the fact that the show presented more perspectives on the same story. It may not grab you at first, but most people will certainly stay to watch the whole series and see a whole TV network empire crumble.

The cool girl trope, explained – The Take (on YouTube)

It’s quite rare for me not to feature a video by The Take in my Recommendations posts because they manage to put out amazing video essays every month. With the Cool Girl archetype they launched a new series of analyses which now also includes the Tough Girl and the Smart Girl. They are super insightful and entertaining, so I recommend you watch them all!

Top 10 movies of 2019 – Cinefix (on YouTube)

I think this item is self explanatory. I adore Cinefix and I trust their judgement immensely, so when they make a top 10, I know they have done their research.

In the past two months my video intake went through the roof, so besides the videos, documentaries and films mentioned above, I have also liked Jojo Rabbit and Knives Out. Out of older movies (as in not from this season) I liked On the basis of sex, Sully and The Young Victoria.

Recently, Bombshell, The Goldfinch and I, Tonya left me feeling quite meh, so I am not particularly excited about recommending them. I am curious though if you feel differently.

Extra

Athleisure, barre and kaleThe Guardian

I feel that recently there have been increasingly more articles on how women need to constantly self-optimize themselves due to certain societal pressures or internalized you-name-it. The article is a long read but it is totally worth your time. The author challenges the relationship between female happiness and exterior looks, which I found incredibly insightful.

The Deep Sea – Neal. Fun

This interactive and scrollable web page made the rounds on Facebook, but it was too cool not to add it to my list. You basically seem to scroll endlessly through each level of the sea/ocean, while learning more about the living beings and organisms that can tolerate certain levels of light, oxygen, food etc. It’s deeply (haha) fascinating!

The Guest-imator

I frankly don’t remember who shared this, but I think the idea of it is brilliant. You add how many people who expect to lunch/dinner/whatever, how much they regularly eat (small, average or bit eaters), how many leftovers you want and what sort of food you would like to serve. I think it’s brilliant – I just need to learn how to convert US food scales to international ones 😀

Fashion Footprint Calculator

If a Buzzfeed test’s interactivity would marry a sustainable questionnaire, I am pretty sure the result would be this test. Besides the fact that the test is clearly showing people the direct relationship between their consumerist fashion habits and the environment, what I particularly liked was the fact that they offered actionable advice at every step of the way.

The quiz is also superbly illustrated. You’ll see what I mean if you go through it.

(RO) Lucrurile pe care le luăm cu noi, lucrurile pe care le lăsăm în urmă – Scena 9

This article broke me. Seriously – I was sobbing at the doctor’s office while reading it. The story is about emigrating and people’s emotional connections with seemingly useless objects. This article made me painfully acknowledge my own privilege of being able to bring with me everything I wanted when I moved to the Netherlands. Please read it.

I hope you found something you liked in these recommendations!

And as always, I am open to listening to your thoughts about the format, content, etc.!

Laura Recommends

One of the best books to read in 2020

January 29, 2020

Back in August last year, I spotted in one of London’s many Waterstones a book that made all the other books fade away. It had a cover depicting a branch of kumquats that had a USB instead of roots. It was eery, beautiful and thought-provoking at the same time.

That was the cover of The Fate of Food by Amanda Little, a book I desperately wanted to get in London. I have confidently delayed the purchase until one hour before my train ride, thinking that the station will be the best place to get it – a naïve belief since I was among the last ones to board the Eurostar, obviously sans my book.

But I bought it eventually and read it in January. I have underlined countless paragraphs, I have scribbled dozens of OMG, WTF and Holy Cow (in pencil, of course, I am not a monster!) and I have arrived at the conclusion that this must be one of the best books I will probably read in 2020, if not the best.

Here’s what it’s about: Amanda Little is an environmental journalist who set out to understand and explore the way our food system will shift in a world that’s increasingly drier, tech-driven, and more populous.

She delved into the sustainability and disease-risks of fisheries, the automation potential in the agroindustry, developments in the field of fake “meat” and lab-grown meat (such as Impossible Foods and Memphis Meats), short-term and long-term effects of genetically engineered seeds and crops (such as the ones created by Monsanto Company), the consequences of unpredictable weather patterns on entire orchards and groves, and SO much more.

This book is meaty. (Pun intended – I simply had to!) It was not a fast read for me because I was constantly taking notes, but it is easy to read because the style is quite approachable, direct and informal. Amanda Little had a lot of facts to share, and thankfully she chose not to use mystifying industry jargon, for which I am grateful.

One of the things I liked the most, which was also pointed out by other readers on Goodreads, is that Amanda Little is actively engaging with the subject matter of the book. She is honest and transparent in sharing that she is still struggling to cut down on her meat consumption, that she is wary of certain innovations and that her idyllic family produce garden is a far cry from what she had envisioned. She is not writing about Norway, the US, China and Kenya by reading articles on the web – she is pursuing innovators, scientists, business people and farmers in her endeavour of always trying to get both sides of the story.

For instance, I really appreciated the way she presented the impact of Monsanto’s genetically modified crops. She showed how essential they are for short term for impoverished communities benefiting from them via charitable organizations or pilot programs, only to be locked in monocultures, monopoly structures and buying only certain types of seeds. (Please read the book because she explains this WAY better, I am still learning!)

Food concerns us all. And the fact that there are so many resources used and invested to feed the Western world, while so many other countries are experiencing malnutrition is an issue that is highly problematic. Our planet is dealing with increasing consumption that has to be satisfied with finite resources. Our environment is turning against us, partially due to food industries and consumer choices. For all these reasons and more, The Fate of Food has to be on everyone’s reading menu this year (that pun was a bit cringy, sorry!).

Finally, I am leaving you here one of the paragraphs I have marked. It’s part of the introduction chapter (page 5), so you know you are in for a real treat.

Farms globally now produce 17 percent more calories per person than they did in 1990. And while some 800 million people still suffer from chronic hunger, that is almost 200 million fewer than there were thirty years ago. Meanwhile, prices have fallen. The average household in the 1950s spent about 30 percent of its budget on food. Today, we spend about 13 percent—a financial advantage for low- and middle- income households, and a boon for economies worldwide. Processed foods have also liberated men and, in particular, women from the drudgery of preparing every meal from scratch. Yet the disadvantages of abundant, low-cost food are well documented, starting with massive waste, overconsumption, poorer nutrition, and a reliance on fewer, more concentrated farms to feed the world. There’s also an increasing risk that the methods we’ve devised to feed billions more people are backfiring on the environment.

Laura Recommends

October and November Recommendations

December 1, 2019

Perhaps some of you noticed that in October I did not publish my list of favourites. I was not on an unannounced break, I just realized at the end of the month that there weren’t enough things to make for a full and worthy article. So, my call was to combine October and November recommendations in one post (I usually do November and December together).

BOOKS

When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

I saw this book on one of my coworker’s desks and then one of my best friends told me about it, so obviously I had to give it a go. I listened to the audio book version of it and I was hooked from the first few minutes. The book explores death and mortality in sincere, hopeful and raw ways and it quickly became one of my 5 stars books this year.

Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

WOW. Let me tell you I had no idea about the ride I was embarking on when I started this book. Although it’s pretty big (over 400 pages), I read it faster than I expected because the writing was great, flowing and clear. I don’t think it’s easy to follow multiple timelines and characters, but Rebecca Skloot certainly did a great job telling the story of Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman who died in 1951 due to cervical cancer and whose cells have been harvested and commercialized as the first ever immortal human cells. The book leads to a lot of discussions about the medical industry, ethics, privacy, racism and future practices and I highly recommend you to read it.

In the past weeks I have also read The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, which resonated to me more than I thought and which now made me add the movie adaptation on my To Watch list as well. I also read Outline by Rachel Cusk and found the writing absolutely beautiful and last but not least, I finally read This is how you lose her by Junot Diaz. Cannot wait to read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao soon!

PLACES

De Plantage

Using my graduation as a pretext for a fancy celebratory dinner, I finally had a strong enough reason to book a table at De Plantage, one of the most beautiful and elegant restaurants I have been admiring for years. The food was lovely, the desserts were great and the serving was impeccable. I will definitely go back there for a Martini Espresso, so if you want to join, let me know.

Droog

My friend Lesia took me to high tea at Droog and I have to say I was impressed! The tea was perfect and the complementary food we got was really delicious. We left really full, happy and giddy, and to be honest, that is the best emotional combo for leaving a restaurant/design hub/garden/ complex boundary-breaking cool place that Droog is.

Micropia

Micropia was one of the last 5 or 6 museums I still wanted to see in Amsterdam and when the opportunity rose to go with some friends, I said yes. While I never found microbes and bacteria particularly enchanting, going to the world’s only microbe museum chanced that. Once we got to talk about cheese and dairy products, I was hooked. I think it’s a super nice museum to visit in 60-90 minutes, and it’s especially nice for kids because it’s very interactive and dynamic – all museum goers having the opportunity to collect 30 stamps while there on a special card 🙂

Belgian Comic Strip Center

This museum was such a pleasant surprise! I was not expecting to go to a comics museum and find the history, the production processes and the array of possible genres so fascinating! I definitely left the place with a newfound love, admiration and respect for comics.

VIDEOS/SERIES

Rotten

I saw a trailer for Rotten on LinkedIn a while ago and I was hooked. This year I have been reading and watching a lot about food, so this series of documentaries (12 almost hour-long episodes) hit the right spot. I have learned a lot and certainly adopted a more critical perspective on food, how it’s made, where it’s produced and how sustainable it is, so I highly encourage you to watch it the two seasons!

The Game Changers

Hands on, THE BEST documentary I have seen all year! And the only one who made me click re-play instantly, which almost never happens. It’s about plant-based athletes, and if you are the tiniest bit interested in vegan nutrition, sustainable foods or athletic performances, please watch it.

Modern Love

I had high hopes for The New York Time’s series, adapted from their collection of essays, and it did not disappoint. There are things which could be critiqued, such as the inaccessible New York style most characters have or the fact that it shows highly optimistic scenarios, but the series promised to show modern love stories and it delivered. I binge-watched it in two nights and it made me very happy, so there’s that 🙂

Collective

This documentary about the fires that happened in a Bucharest club in 2015 has been one of the most expected screenings for me during IDFA. I went to see it with my mom and we both left the theatre crying and even after 4 years, still trying to grasp the reality of our home country, a place where people can be left to die in hospitals and where politics and money are more important than anything. The documentary is not yet streaming anywhere, so if you get the chance to watch it during a festival or special screening, I highly recommend you to go.

The Forum

Another great documentary from the IDFA week – The Forum explores in a way that has not been done before – the way the World Economic Forum works, the mentality of its founder, Klaus Schwab, and the increasing pressure of treating the climate crisis as an emergency that has to be brought up way more frequently and acted upon. Since the World Economic Forum celebrates 50 years of existence in 2019, there is no better time to watch this documentary than now.

MORE

Classic Fm

While on the hunt for background music to help me get work done, I somehow stumbled over classic fm (or maybe Jamie Beck @annstreetstudio mentioned it) and I fell in love with the soundtrack section. It’s a mix of new romantic classics, classic thriller songs and much more, so it helps me work on my music recognition skills, while not enabling karaoke (lyrics are always too distracting for me, so I can only be productive with instrumental music).

Crazy Genius

This may be the third or fourth time I mention Derek Thompson from The Atlantic on my blog, but his work is always so consistently good that it’s impossible not to share. A while back I learned he also hosted a podcast for The Atlantic so I obviously downloaded all episodes and binge listened to them. The themes covered vary from tech monopolies, going to Mars, self driving cars, AI, influencers, online dating and so much more. Most topics revolve around technology, science, culture and the impact on human life. I highly recommend it because it contains loads of food for thought.

No Squeak Broadcast

This might be one of the coolest campaigns I have seen in a while – thanks to technology a Ford campaign was able to remove the sound of basketball sneakers’ squeaking in order to illustrate how their new anti-skidding system works. It’s fun and unconventional and I love it!

How to think without the Internet again

I found this Medium piece incredibly insightful. It definitely made me reassess the number of tabs I have open on my work laptop, personal laptop and phone and try to drastically reduce them in order to have a clearer mind. Here is one quote I adored from this piece:

Odell’s theory is that trying to reclaim your attention from the internet isn’t entirely a fight against the internet. It’s a fight against a society that’s obsessed with the inhuman pace of productivity made possible by the internet.

Can a burger help solve climate change?

As part of my quest to read more about food, the way it reaches our table, our relation to food and the more sustainable approaches towards nutrition, I have also read this piece from The New Yorker which depicted various plant-based initiatives, their goals and their hurdles. I think it’s a great overview of the new wave of “meat” coming to our supermarkets, restaurant menus and plates.

I hope you found in this list something you liked, and if you did, it would be great to share it with a friend!

Enjoy December! 🙂

Laura Recommends

September Recommendations III

October 5, 2019

Through what can only be explained by the work of magic, in September I managed to change almost everything about my life.

I switched faculties by starting a pre-master in Business Administration that will hopefully prepare me well for a Master next fall. While it is stressful, it is intellectually challenging (it activates parts of my brain that have been dormant for the past 5 years), so I am happy with my choice so far. I started yet another internship, working 3 days per week in a position that allows me to learn a lot about sustainability, communications and various sorts of media. These two choices alone dictated a new rhythm – going to bed before a certain hour, meal prepping even more relentlessly than before, scheduling house chores for the evenings and the weekend and so on.

But hold your breath – I didn’t stop there.

I decided to cut my meat consumption by 80% and eliminate as many animal-based products as possible from my diet. Then I decided to do something about the anxiety I was feeling and the lack of physical mobility I was experiencing – so I got myself a Classpass subscription, meaning I am now going to a pilates or yoga class at least once a week. I am already feeling much better and each training leaves me wanting for more.

I made one more decision, but that will only start impacting my life towards the end of November/beginning of December, so I will tell you about it at the right time.

Meanwhile, let me walk you through my favourite places, books and documentaries from the past 4 weeks:

Books

Hunger: A Memoir of my Body – Roxane Gay

This summer this book was everywhere on my Instagram feed. I have to admit, Roxane Gay’s name rang a bell, but I didn’t know much about her. This was obviously my loss because she is one of the most moving authors whose work I ever got the chance to read. Her biography shows so much depth, complexity and pain it’s impossible not to finish the book with a complete change of perspective on morbid obesity. I cannot recommend this book highly enough!

The Reading Cure – Laura Freeman

I was not planning on reading this book in September, but after reading Hunger, this book was the most obvious choice from my nightstand pile. The Reading Cure is the autobiography of Laura Freeman, a woman diagnosticated during her teens as anorexic. Despite losing her appetite for food for years, she remained devoted to her books, hence her remedy for her mental and physical state. It is an incredibly painful book as well, but also knowledge-heavy since the author is referencing plenty of books and their connections to the world of food writing. You have to add this book to your list too!

No is not enough – Naomi Klein

I picked up this book from Libreria in London and realized only half a day later that it was not the book I wanted. In reality I wanted to read ASAP Naomi Klein’s ‘”This Changes Everything” , but my brain mixed them up. I was so convinced it was the right book I didn’t even check the back cover. However, once bought and started, I had to finish it. And I am happy I did. “No is not enough” tackles the ways in which we need to oppose the current fast-rising racist, overly-nationalistic and far right political movements, and what happened that lead us to these moments in US, Europe, South America and more. It’s not hard to read and I personally appreciated Naomi’s way of writing – her calling Trump a buffoon was one of the sentences I highlighted in the book.

Places

Huis van Brienen

As part of my plan to visit as many canal houses as possible, I obviously had to pay Huis van Brienen a visit during Monument Weekend. The entrance was free and the place could have easily been a museum and not a privately-owned house. Their ballroom and garden views enchanted me for life and I can only suggest you go there next time they open it for the public.

Huize Frankendael

Another place I have seen during Monument Day – this is a beautiful restaurant, cafe and special events place with a magical garden. It’s crazy to think I biked on its street for a year and never stopped to see it on the inside, so I am happy I could remediate that. A true gem in Amsterdam East.

Pand Industria

Last place ticked off during Monument Weekend was this massive building in Dam square. I always thought it was the HQ of Ghassan diamonds, but apparently it is a hotel and a club, formally for gentlemen only, but now open to women as well. The tour was lovely and the history of the place is absolutely insane. You should definitely go inside if you ever get the chance.

Horta Museum, Brussels

While exploring Brussels on a weekend trip, I got a recommendation to go to this museum (thank you, Irina!), one of the most iconic buildings in the Art Nouveau style. It must have been one of the most magical experiences I ever had – the details, the light, the mirrors, the quirkiness – I loved absolutely everything in this house and it triggered my appetite for more art-deco museum visits.

Tropismes, Brussels

This bookshop is specialized in French books only, so I lingered there quite a lot because I was stumbling across so many titles and authors I did not know. The place in itself is absolutely stunning and jaw dropping, so you should definitely visit this place if you are ever in Brussels. It is part of the most popular and touristy gallery, however it is tucked in a sidecorridor, so it feels very intimate and cozy. It made me search for my French books in my bookcase, so now I am holding myself accountable to read at least one small book in French in October (around 180 pages).

Video Express, Brussels

While walking around Brussels, I stumbled across what I thought was a time machine shop: a video renting store! They claimed it was the right place for people who wanted to stop browsing streaming services mindlessly and instead switch to a curated list of videos recommended by cinephiles. If I would have lived in that neighbourhood, I would have probably been at the store at least once a week 🙂

Although you have to live in Brussels to fully enjoy this recommendation, I still wanted to add it here because I like the idea of a higher quality screen time, social connection based on advice and of course, supporting local businesses instead of soulless tech giants.

Waanders in de Broeren, Zwolle

This bookshop has been on my list for 3 years now and during a weekend trip I finally got to tick it off. It is hands on one of the most beautiful bookshops in the Netherlands due to the fact that it is housed inside an old church. I must have spent an hour there, going up and down the stairs, watching people and constantly adding new titles to my neverending TBR list. Definitely worth alone the trip to Zwolle.

P.S. If you do decide to visit Zwolle, please pay a visit to Lindeboom, one of the best small pastry shops I stepped foot in.

Videos/Series/Documentaries

The Miniaturist (2017)

This two episode series was based on the eponymous book by Jessie Burton. I think I read the book 2 or 3 years ago in my fever to read all recent pop books about the Netherlands, but somehow the news it got turned into a micro-series did not reach me. It is nicely done and a very pleasant way to spend a weekend evening. Plus, the story has loads of potential. It is not a flawless production, but I still liked it enough to recommend it 🙂

Years and Years

WOW. I was looking forward to watching this series ever since reading about it in an article few months ago. It is a family drama with plenty Black Mirror-like tech inserts and twists and it skyrocketed my anxiety levels considering it takes a pessimistic approach over the next 10 years. There are only 6 episodes, which I guess it’s the threshold the producers decided people will hit before they get too physically sick to watch it anymore. I’m not selling it well, but it’s really good. Really good. And the cast is one of the best I have seen in a while – incredibly talented and playing truly diverse characters.

How Alexa Meade Makes People Look 2D with Body Paint – WIRED

I have been following Alexa Meade on Instagram for a while and I find her work to be very playful and dynamic. I never really knew how she got to be a visual artist, but this WIRED interview tells her story pretty well.

Why your brain thinks these strawberries are red – WIRED

Another pick from Wired, just because they really killed it this month – this video is about our weird and incorrect perceptions over colors. It’s a bit trippy and fascinating and it finally made it clear for me why people went crazy over The Dress image few years ago.

Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates – Netflix

One of the documentaries I truly enjoyed this month – this three episode series about Bill Gates is a brief insight into one of the most interesting public people in the world. The documentary tackles his childhood, his years at Microsoft, his relationship and marriage with Melinda and the many topics and world issues populating his mind. There were a lot of things discussed in only three episodes, so I never got bored. In fact, I probably could have watched 10 more episodes like these 3.

Articles

Mesmerizing photos of Vietnam from above – National Geographic

This slideshow is instantly uplifting and awe-inducing. These shots and their colourfulness and symmetry reminded me of Samsara, which is one of the most beautiful visual expressions of all time. Please look up Samsara and stream it on the biggest screen you have in your house.

Top 100 – the Guardian

In September the Guardian started recapping the best culture of the past two decades (can you believe it is going to be 2020 in less than 3 months?!) and all their lists are fascinating rabbit holes where you can discover plenty gems. Have a look at Top 100 movies, Top 100 books, Top 100 series, and also don’t neglect looking over their art, architecture and theatre shows rankings.

My father had a lifelong ticket to fly anywhere. Then they took it away – The Guardian

I binge read this article because it sounded like something out of movies. It is deeply captivating and quite divisive (who is right in this conflict? is there such thing as being right in such a case? where is the line between maximizing an investment and fraud in the case of this lifetime pass?). It is almost unbelievable that the events presented in this article are real, but they for sure make a very enjoyable read.

I Was Caroline Calloway – The Cut

This article made the rounds on social media and I have to say that even without knowing the people involved, it was still a fascinating read. All the drama ensuing later and the articles that followed it only made it juicier. This is not necessarily an intellectually stimulating piece, but sometimes we simply need something well written and with thrilling action.

Hello From the Year 2050. We Avoided the Worst of Climate Change — But Everything Is Different – TIME

This article wanted to be that triggering point to make us realize that if we want a happy future we must start taking action now. I don’t yet fully know how we individuals can make sure that companies and governments will implement carbon-neutral practices, but I do know that I am trying my best to reduce my own carbon footprint. If you want me to write more about this, let me know.

Climate Action Tracker

If you care about the climate and what countries around the world are doing to protect our planet, Climate Action Tracker is an independent organization tracking emission pledges and action. Even though they haven’t got yet accounts of all countries, their findings so far are mind boggling: only 2 countries are on their way to satisfying the 1.5 degree Celsius warming set as a target by the Paris agreement. Everything over this could be highly disastrous for the entire planet, so have a look at what Morocco and The Gambia are doing to set a climate example.

That’s all folks! Thanks for reading and see you in a month!

Laura

Laura Recommends

August Recommendations III

September 2, 2019

After what seemed like an endless holiday, I am back to uni and an internship, but I figured until I get neck-deep into work and books, I might as well share with you a massive list of recommendations from the past four weeks.

BTW, on the 1st of September I celebrated the 7th anniversary of my blogging adventure career debut, so it’s safe to say the transition from August to September is always a happy one for me 🙂

PLACES

Libreria, London

This bookshop was on all lists I have found about beautiful bookish places in London. It is way smaller than I thought, but this is props to the optical illusion created by the mirror ceiling. It had by far one of the best selections of books in London and considering its size this is very impressive! Also, the reading nooks were perfect! Will definitely return there on my next London visit.

Pages Cheshire Street, London

This place was recommended to me by someone at Libreria and I have to say it’s one of the best ideas and executions I have seen in a long time. The purpose of this bookshop is to showcase only books and other literary products written and created by women, trans or gender diverse people. This does not mean this is a bookshop with just feminist books, as some people may think, but a place to find books of all kinds, from economics to science fiction. It made me more aware of the gender ratio of the books I was reading, so I highly recommend this place if you are in London!

John Sandoe Books, London

This is another fantastic bookshop. It’s lesser known, but again, the selection of books is fantastic, the staff is very kind and helping, and the atmosphere of book-crowded rooms is just my cup of tea!

Food – Bigger than the Plate, Victoria and Albert Museum London

This is perhaps, one of the most thought provoking and habit-changing exhibits I have been on the past years. I learned a lot and I got to watch and experience the results of so many innovative projects, so I have sent all my London friends there to see it. It’s a must if you the least bit interested in food, its origins, the sustainability of mass farming and cattle raising and more. On until October 20th.

God’s Own Junkyard, London

Yes, this may be an Instagram famous place. But unlike many places I have visited, it’s not an Instagram trap, but a place to marvel at a fantastic collection of neon signs. It is the closest I have felt to an American place in an European setting and it left me smiling for hours.

Saint Dunstan in the East Church Garden, London

This church, very close to Sky Garden, has been bombarded in the war and has now become a stone-walled garden with arched windows and doors. It’s absolutely fascinating and saddening at the same time, but I am surely happy it was not completely tore down and just left like this, so visitors can have tangible sights of war’s cultural destruction.

De Koffieschenkerij, Amsterdam

Visited this coffee place on the last day of summer and I have already posted about it on Instagram as well. This place truly ticks all boxes: it has a great location (the garden of the oldest church in Amsterdam), fabulous coffee and lemonade and plenty of character and history. Go there in the mornings, so it’s less crowded.

BOOKS

The Hidden Life of Trees – Peter Wohlleben

This has been one of the most surprising books I have read this year. I have learned so much and did even some 180 regarding certain things I didn’t question until now, such as older trees produce more oxygen than younger ones (which should worry us) or that…

A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles

This book was on the reading lists of Barack Obama and Bill and Melinda Gates, so I knew I had to read it. While it was not my usual read, I found it very pleasant and entertaining. It was well written, the characters were charming and peculiar in their own ways and it was one of the few reads I went through this year with no major eye roll moments. A true feat!

I also listened to two audio books: Wonder by R J Palacio and No One Is Too Small To Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg. Wonder was great, heartwarming and sweet, and Greta Thunberg’s book was a powerful and urgent manifesto about the climate crisis. I recommend both of them 😊

Of course, the books featured in my Recommendation articles are not all the books I read in a year, I simply want to spare you of mediocre books or books I would never recommend.

VIDEOS/ SERIES/ DOCUMENTARIES/ MOVIES

An Inconvenient Truth

Why, yes, I am recommending you to watch the world’s most famous documentary on climate change. I shamelessly only got to watch it this month (via YouTube’s movie selection, it cost me 4 euros) and I completely understand why it became such a sensation. It’s serving hard facts backed by science, emotional imagery and a strong and somehow contained plea to start making a difference. I don’t know how Al Gore would go on about making this documentary in 2020, but I am pretty sure the message would have to be even more urgent.

Cowspiracy

On the same note, this documentary was the final straw to convince me to ditch as many animal-based products from my diet. I already said goodbye to cow milk last year, but I have now started changing more things, such as limiting my meat intake to max. once per week. I found Cowspiracy more graphic and disturbing than An Inconvenient Truth, so prepare for some unpleasant, yet highly necessary visuals.

La Casa de Papel – Netflix ES

Everybody was talking about this Netflix series, so as always I had to watch it to understand why it was so praised. #FOMO. I have to agree this was a very good and entertaining series, with plenty twists and turns, memorable songs (anyone else also has Bella Ciao stuck in their head?!) and also incredibly funny moments. The script didn’t have solutions for all loose ends in season 2 and season 3 and I sometimes asked myself why the series showed the viewers something (eg. A character’s obsession) and then never brought it up again.

How Wildlife films warp time – VOX

This VOX video made me go back to my unfinished episodes of Our Planet with even way more respect and admiration for the production work that goes into creating those incredible images we gasp at and remain in awe.

ARTICLES

The Dubious Business of Food Delivery –  Derek Thompson for The Atlantic

After discovering that Derek Thompson (author of one of my favourite books this year, Hit Makers) is an editor for The Atlantic, I started tracking everything he wrote. This piece is so well written and it has so many insightful thoughts that it’s hard not to quote here the one that struck me the most: “convenience maximalism”. Think about that for a second in relation to food delivery apps.

Why Online Dating Can Feel Like Such an Existential Nightmare – Derek Thompson for The Atlantic

Another fantastic article by Thompson. Let me offer you this quote as a taster:

If the journey toward coupling is more formidable than it used to be, it’s also more lonesome. With the declining influence of friends and family and most other social institutions, more single people today are on their own, having set up shop at a digital bazaar where one’s appearance, interestingness, quick humor, lighthearted banter, sex appeal, photo selection—one’s worth—is submitted for 24/7 evaluation before an audience of distracted or cruel strangers, whose distraction and cruelty might be related to the fact that they are also undergoing the same anxious appraisal.

A woman’s greatest enemy? A lack of time for herself – Brigid Schulte for the Guardian

The title of this article instantly hooked me on to read it. While it may appear the society at large is making historical strides towards gender equality, reality begs to differ. This article looks at how women are still clocking more housework time than their partners and how this may affect their passions and resources for creative and personal projects.

I hope you had a wonderful summer and that you are now feeling recharged and inspired to start new projects!

Laura

Laura Recommends

July Recommendations III

August 8, 2019

I was a ball of stress at the beginning of July. Worrying between where I would live in few months’ time, the decreasing social utility of jobs (might read Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs book soon) and a general restlessness, I spent most of July trying to calm down, take the decisions which felt the most practical, regroup and find new strength for the coming months.

Meanwhile, I did get to read a lot and I also caught up with most of the movies and series I had planned to, so below I am sharing with you my favourites.

BOOKS

How we got to now – Steven Johnson

This was such an amazing book – it was captivating, very well written and pretty entertaining. Johnson selected six modern innovations, starting from the triggering circumstances to the lesser known implications of these inventions. For example, in the chapter tackling the maritime innovations of detecting enemy ships, Johnson also discussed how an effect of this technology was the ultrasound. Nothing harmful until here, but when you come to think that ultrasounds can detect the gender of fetuses, then you realize it is incredibly dangerous in countries that discriminate girls from their birth. There’s more from where this came from, so trust me when I say that you have to add this book to your list.

Bucurestiul meu – ed. coord. Gabriela Tabacaru

This book was a lovely recommendation from my dear Irina Markovits (if you love fashion, art, styling and books – her Instagram and blog are amazing!) and it was an incredibly pleasant surprise. It was not romanticizing Bucharest as much as I thought it would and the writing of most contributing authors was very immersive, warm and clever.

PLACES

Fashioned from nature – Victoria & Albert Museum exhibit in Copenhagen

I had no idea this exhibit was showing at Copenhagen’s Geological Museum and found it coincidentally while walking out of Rosenborg Castle. It’s an incredibly well done exhibit with lots of fascinating pieces on display and plenty interactive corners where you can touch various materials and find out more about the provenience of textiles. The exhibit also focused on sustainability, organic materials and less animal furs and leather, so no wonder it won awards in the UK for showcasing these themes!

I spent there 2 hours and a half and I absolutely loved it!

SERIES AND MORE

Fleabag – Amazon Prime

Yes, I became one of these people obsessed with Phoebe Waller-Bridge. I find her delightful in her quirkiness, humour and “controlled female rage”. I have to confess I only got into it after hearing so many people rave about how sexy good of an actor Andrew Scott is in his role as a priest in Season 2 of the show. They were not wrong.

Chernobyl – HBO

I know everyone was talking about this series in May, but back then my thesis was all I could think about. Now that the thesis is off my mind, I can focus on other depressing things such as the amazingly well executed HBO production presenting the Chernobyl disaster and the aftermath. Must watch. Beware you may want to curl up in a ball and shout minutes after you play start.

Good Omens – Amazon Prime

I was taken by surprise by this series. The world building is fantastic and it connects lots of real and imaginative events, myths and folklore. The acting of Michael Sheen (the Angel) and David Tennant (the Demon) was spotless. I have to admit I enjoyed the first part of the show more than the second half, but overall it is still a great, weird, quirky, funny and highly pleasant show to watch.

Russian Doll – Netflix

Okay, this is not the most recent release, but it’s still a show I truly enjoyed. The premise is a bit overused (protagonist finds himself/herself reliving the same day over and over again), but all the other ensuing events and twists feel refreshing.

Water Lilies of Monet – documentary

I went to the cinema to see this documentary and somehow I left being an even bigger Monet fan. My biggest takeaways were learning about his perseverance in painting, no matter how bad the times were, and being eloquently explained his later work and how it connects to the New School of New York and implicitly, Jackson Pollock’s work. It was truly fascinating to discover all these connections in one documentary.

VIDEOS

Designing for trust – Dan Ariely

I have seen Dan Ariely during a live event in Amsterdam when he came to talk about one of his most recent books, Dollars and Sense, and I instantly knew I had to watch and read more of what he had researched throughout the years. This TED talk of his is very insightful and enjoyable, so I highly recommend it.

Why are there so many movie theatre formats? – Insider

If you ever wondered what are the differences between IMAX, Dolby or Digital, then I think you are going to enjoy this video a lot. Many of these things are quite useful when you get to pick the type of screening you want to see and some also explain the heftier prices.

Every detail of Grand Central Terminal explained – Architectural Digest

This may been one of the best videos I have seen the entire month! It’s a long take (I think) throughout the iconic New York train station, combined with wonderful explanations for the various building details, renovation stages and history. Probably the most surprising thing for me was the fact that the Grand Central Terminal was designed to be a stairless station in order to accommodate travelers’ needs.

Which is the real Girl with a pearl earring? – The Art Assignment

This video presents the work surrounding Vermeer’s most famous painting, currently on display at the Mauritshuis in the Hague. There is a fascinating discussion about the differences between a high quality print and the painting itself and the potential of a 3D product that would be virtually indistinguishable from the real one. The real highlight for me was Abbie Vandivere, the Mauritshuis’ Paintings Conservator and Head Researcher – I would love to go to any event she is speaking at!

Poverty isn’t a lack of character, it’s a lack of cash – Rutger Bregman

Bregman was applauded for many of his statements in this TED talk and rightly so. Although some may seem like common sense things to voice about poverty – his research and his insights are backing them up. He is always making me feel hopeful that we can still tackle some of the world’s largest issues.

Canada’s New Vertical Banknote – Half-Asleep Chris

Wonderfully executed video with lots of curious insights such as the details featured on the Canadian Dollar banknotes from the Frontier series, such as the fact that all these notes feature various elements of Parliament’s buildings, maple leaves and in one case, even the Northern Lights.

The Dolly Zoom: More Than a Cheap Trick – Now You See It

This may be one of the best videos on the dolly zoom, which explains why sometimes the spectacle of the technique is encapsulating more nuance and meaning. The video also presents wonderful illustrations for the use of the technique.

Hope you enjoyed all these recommendations and found something you like! If you did, please consider sharing this article with a friend 🙂

Have a great August!

Laura Recommends

June Recommendations III

July 9, 2019

I feel like I haven’t been writing in ages. It seems like it was in a different life that I was compiling all my favourite May Recommendations. This whole year time seems to have moved differently for me, so we’ll see how I will feel during the next installment in the Recommendations series.

Let me start by saying that June was oddly more about places than any other month. I did finish 6 books, but none made it to the Recommendation status. I also disconnected a bit from reading longer-form news/journalism pieces, although I currently have on my Blendle list 21 saved articles. I am only passing on 4 videos, so maybe this month’s article should be called “June’s Favourite Places + some other odd bits”. On this note, let’s get started:

PLACES

Muiderslot

If you are looking to explore the Amsterdam area and beat the crowds, Muiderslot castle should be high on your list if you want to learn more about life in medieval times in Noord Holland. I found the interior of the castle very well preserved and explained, having been particularly marked by seeing purposely curved wood from 500 years ago in the attic.

Ludo & Hedo

Perhaps my most recent ice cream parlour crush, Ludo & Hedo is THE place to go if you are into odd flavour combinations, from gin and bacon to parmesan or avocado and chocolate, their ice cream menu is absolutely amazing and suitable for everyone due to the four categories: Timeless, Curious, Gentle and Eccentric. Must try while in Amsterdam.

Continue Reading…