Month: April 2017

The Ultimate Satisfaction

Be careful what you wish for, it might come true!

It’s exciting to daydream about future plans, but it can get a bit too exciting when all of a sudden it seems like it may actually come true. I want to do that… one day! If I had a penny for every time I said it, I would be moderately wealthy by now. Daydreaming in general is my safe place, it can be completely devoted to details like someone’s shoes and socks combination, or it can lead to making up hilarious scenarios in my head. The leading roles sometimes belong to people I know like friends and family, sometimes it’s random strangers or even completely invented personalities.

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It’s all about the Fear

I do feel like there was a certain change in my mindset, though. I no longer follow the familiar routine:

I’m not ready yet, I’ll do that after I’m done with this thing, and then I have to finish that other thing, and then I’ll go for what I have always wanted.

Solving the step by step puzzle becomes exhausting and in the end I’ll lose the primary goal from my focus and that’s that, until the next time when I start it all over again. What lies beneath it all is the fear that derives from two sources – the natural fear of failure and more complex and contradictory – the fear of success. Overthinking is the mother of all failures, it is even bigger than actual failure because it stops you from trying in the first place and that is when you feel unhappy. Overthinking is the opposite of the best Instagram filters – it brings out only the flaws and worst case scenarios, creating scary endings in our minds before we have even reached the beginning. It takes a lot of time to learn how to wrestle with the ‘overthink’ demon and finally pin him to the ground. We all have this image of our ideal self in mind, it can be more or less realistic depending on our ability to be an objective observer,  but the more you stray away from that image, the bigger the frustration.

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Never Complain, Never Explain

The best way of living a calm, fulfilled life comes from not comparing your own status, abilities and achievements with others. Sounds simple, but we all know it’s not always THAT simple, right? I suppose it was easier to achieve in the pre-Internet era, but when it comes to emotions and ambition, people weren’t that different 20, 30 years ago after all. Just the other day I had an interesting discussion with a friend that made me think about the absurdity of the social media persona most of us have created. It doesn’t mean we are all ‘selling’ that filtered image with a goal to become a brand and attract audience, but even the intimate moments serve as a representation of something we are trying to emphasize. What we seek with it, to be more precise, what our online persona looks for is approval. Approval of our life choices, looks, boyfriends, girlfriends, jobs, careers and lifestyles. The next step, if possible, is causing admiration and, although we are reluctant to admit it, jealousy. Just for a day, or maybe only for a couple of magical moments that are captured and enhanced through the lenses of our super smart phones, we are the winners. Yes. Look at me, I love life and it loves me back.

Don’t Follow Leaders

I don’t know what I think about it now, it used to annoy me much more before, I guess I’ve learned to deal with it. Also, I follow the imaginary line that gives me a ‘warning’ when someone crosses is it. My closest friends never cross that line of overly exposing themselves while begging for approval and I am very grateful for that. It makes me feel at peace and destroys the anxiety from its roots.

During our conversations we got to the conclusion how real satisfaction is achieved. I call it a ‘modern-day ultimate satisfaction‘. The recipe? I get goosebumps only writing about it, yet it’s so banal. When something (or someone)  special happens to you, you don’t immediately share it with the rest of the world. Maybe later,  but here’s a crazy idea,  maybe never.  You jealously keep that information for yourself and cherish the intimacy, there are no Facebook check-ins, photo albums  Instagram posts, screenshots,  etc.  Whether it’s just a shiny detail that made your day or grand life achievement that’s going to make a bigger impact,  don’t spill the beans just yet.  There is something so appealing in a dose of mystery, compare it to a sexy outfit that can be revealing, but it’s not really showing too much. This feel good experience can’t be overshadowed by any amount of attention. When it comes to making plans, I heard smart people conclude that the more you talk about your goals and dreams,  it is less likely they will come true.  So, once again,  be careful.

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Honoring Bram Stoker’s Dracula with a Vampire Movie Chronology

As soon as it seems we have seen it all when it comes to vampire thematic, a new movie or series comes out proving that, just like its characters, the genre is immortal.  To honor Bram Stoker, an author best known for his gothic horror novel Dracula which actually paved a way for vampires entering the popular culture, I created this historic overview of the most interesting. Each one features pale, more or less attractive blood sucking mythological creatures who keep inspiring filmmakers and attracting the audience’s attention.

Stoker died on the 20th of April 1912, but his legacy lives on, although some of the vampires we have gotten used to today are nowhere near the original book version of count Dracula who is described as a thin, old, white-haired predator with sharp teeth and pointy ears.

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Book cover by Laura Birdsall

Nosferatu (1922)

First we go way back in time to Germany and F.W. Morneau’s adaptation of Stoker’s novel. The character’s names and some facts and locations have been altered because the film studio didn’t manage to obtain the rights for the use of original Dracula content. After finding out about the movie, Stoker’s widow filed a lawsuit against the creators of Nosferatu and demanded that all of the copies need to be destroyed. Luckily, some of them were copied, saved and managed to survive. Even after all those years, Count Orlok  (Max Schreck) remains one of the most chilling characters on-screen, he is so convincing that many viewers at the time thought he could be a vampire in real life as well. An absolute must see for true horror movie lovers, especially if you can get your hands on the restored Blu – ray edition.

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Dracula (1931)

This is an official version, the one that had no lawsuit and copyright issues. More importantly, it features the legendary actor Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula, the role that marked his career forever. Also, Lugosi’s thick Eastern European accent influenced the future portrayals of the character in the same manner, turning it into one of the most recognizable Dracula’s features, even though the novel description clearly states his English was flawless. Lugosi’s deep voice, clean-shaven face with not much make up and simple elegant clothes have become a mandatory part of the iconic Dracula portrayal that would be copied and used as a reference for many generations to come. Apparently, at first he wasn’t Universal’s first casting choice, could you imagine that?

 

 

The Return of the Vampire (1943)

The 1931 horror classic has turned Bela Lugosi into a star, but it was also the one he couldn’t escape from as he continued to get typecast for the rest of his career. This was supposed to be a Dracula sequel, but due to possible copyright problems and lawsuit threats, the names were changed even though everything else remained familiar. As a  cool fun fact it should be noted that this is the first movie ever that features both vampires and werewolves in it.

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Lust of the Vampire (1957)

The plot of this Italian horror movie (I Vampiri is the original title) takes a different turn as it doesn’t revolve around the classic vampire monster antagonist. Instead, there is a mad scientist who kills young women and draws blood which his lover uses in order to stay alive and maintain a youthful appearance. This the debut film for Italian master of horror Mario Bava who didn’t get credited as a director because he continued the work startted by Ricardo Fredda who left before it was finished. Here you’ll get to appreciate Bava’s talent in creating amazing visual effects, knowing how to properly use lightning and creating a chilling atmosphere.

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Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

It would be impossible to go through this list without mentioning the Hammer Horror Film series who’s first three sequels were all directed by Terrence Fisher. Also, this series brought the iconic role to Christopher Lee,the second most famous Dracula of the 20th century‘. For the first time he appeared as the mysterious Count in 1958 adaptation of Stoker’s novel, for some reason skipped the following Brides of Dracula, and then came back for the Prince of Darkness.  This part of the franchise is particularly interesting because Dracula doesn’t really speak, he only hisses, and the reason? Christopher Lee claimed he refused to talk in the movie because the lines sucked, while the screenwriter Jimmy Sangster said it was his idea, that he didn’t even write any lines for Dracula because vampires don’t chat. Even if the lines were THAT bad, that didn’t stop the legendary actor from taking the Count Dracula role in 8 more movies.

 

 

The Vampire Lovers (1970)

The 70’s era delivered some classic adaptations, but also a whole range of really weird vampire inspired movies like Love at First Bite and Dracula Sucks, taking the genre to a whole new level.  To completely step away from the original Dracula plot, I chose another title from the Hammer Film Company – The Vampire Lovers. This one is inspired by the story that was written earlier than Stoker’s novel, it deals with not only vampires, but includes eroticism as well. It means there’s nudity and lesbian sex scenes, while vampires are no longer ugly, but sexy and seductive. Placed in the 19th century Austria, the plot centres around beautiful female vampire who is constantly looking for new victims. Even though the movie can’t be declared a masterpiece, it has gathered a cult following among horror fans.

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The Lost Boys (1987)

There’s horror, there’s comedy and there’s some romance and awesome soundtrack in this Joel Schumacher‘s movie, and it all works pretty well together.  Three teenagers and their mom move to a small town in California where they hear rumors about vampires and mysterious deaths that could be connected to them. At first they think those are just funny stories, but after one of the brothers starts behaving suspiciously, it’s time to get serious. I love the make up and special effects, the bloody and gore scenes look convincing, especially when you consider it’s an 80’s movie. A great cast and an entertaining, modern approach towards the ‘vampire’ subject makes this one definitely worth watching.

 

 

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

The 90’s offer another gothic, back to roots view of the genre in Coppola’s 1992 Dracula or luxurious blockbuster Interview with the Vampire, but my favorite work from the decade lies on the other end of the spectrum. I am not a George Clooney fan, but nevertheless, Seth Gecko remains one of my favorite movie characters ever. Over the top, violent, rude, not afraid to be trashy, those are the characteristics of many Robert Rodriguez’s movies. Two brothers who have just robbed a bank and are on their way to Mexico. A father and his two kids are going on a holiday in their RV until the Gecko’s take them hostage and they manage to pass the border all together. When they make a stop in a bar, after sunset they realize they will have to fight for their lives… What I love about From Dusk Till Dawn are the creative dialogues, humor and ridiculous gore moments. And of course, that Selma Hayek scene.

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Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Probably the one that stands out the most from the list, and it’s no wonder since it’s Jim Jarmusch‘s take on vampirism and the meaning of life. In its specific way, it is a great contribution to the genre. Even vampires struggle with existential crisis, get depressed and worry about the future of our society. This is not really a horror, but not really a typical romantic film or drama, neither sex or violence are at its core, the most important place is reserved for cultural references that could be found everywhere. The pace is slow, but amazing cast, soundtrack, atmosphere and dialogue keep the viewer focused throughout every minute. Movie lovers and pop culture enthusiasts will know how to appreciate it. If I had to choose living as a movie character for the rest of my life, that would be Eve (Tilda Swinton) from Only Lovers Left Alive.

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Originally published on Creators.co

 

The Exploitation of Frida

One day in the late 1940’s you find yourself wandering around Coyoacán, Mexico and stop by at La Casa Azul where the rebellious painter lived and ask her: Frida, my dear,  what do you want to be remembered by after you are no longer living on Earth? What do you think the answer would be? I have a couple of versions on my mind, they are all connected with freedom and free love, determination, passion and obsession with life with all of its epic, exciting, moments, but also the inevitable downfalls, pain, sickness and sleepless nights. 

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I am happy that the legendary artist is getting more popular than ever, social media created an important passage for new generations towards her art, words and thoughts about honest love and intimate suffering. The aftermath is amazing, even though Frida passed away 63 years ago, her image and spirit are present while she’s considered as a role model and inspiration to girls and women (and some boys and men, because why not?) of all profiles, especially the underprivileged, misunderstood ones.

Commodification as a norm

Every medal comes with two sides, and the thing that is happening with Frida’s persona, just  like with many other important figures who represent resistance to the system of exploitation, is that they are all being turned into something completely opposite, they’re becoming objects of advertising propaganda. Just think of the irony of Che Guevara, the best example of modern era’s distortion of values – his face selling T-shirts, travel agency deals, coffee mugs, key chains, door mats, towels… There’s even a ‘Che chic’ expression for a fashion inspired by the great revolutionary’s image! The real person and the idea behind is lost, irrelevant, to a great number of people his face is merely a caricature, a pop art commodity.

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To answer the question from the  beginning of the post, I’m positive that Frida Kahlo would never accept the role of a commercialized poster girl, a capitalist icon connected to various products in most ridiculous ways. The last example I saw today, the one that ‘triggered’ me to write this down was a billboard presenting a young model wearing Frida inspired traditional Tehuana like dress with a flower crown and a parrot sitting on her hand, all very rich, colourful, with a big white 10 % SALE banner screaming from the top right corner. Naturally, there is no manifest mention of Frida, but the resemblance is uncanny. Oh, and when I zoomed in towards the bottom right corner of the image, I could finally see it is a commercial for a newly opened furniture store. What is the connection? What do Frida’s face, style and that poor parrot have to do with the new sofa or a lamp they would like you to buy? I have no idea, I’m pretty sure that the ad creators are equally clueless.  That’s the idea, to keep everything floating on the surface, as soon as you dig deeper, try to find any meaning, there’s a dead-end.

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Fake feminism

In Frida’s case the story is even more complicated because it all has a lot to do with commercialization of feminism and empower yourself ads. Empower yourself by buying our shoes, empower yourself by getting that perfume in a drugstore near you, empower yourself by choosing hair extensions from our salon, empower yourself… Ok, just stop for a second there and let me unnecessary analyse it. What does it mean exactly –  if I buy a T-shirt from a brand that currently doesn’t have the ’empower’ or ’embrace your beauty’ campaign going on, am I degrading my self – worth? And what about next month, when the brand I bought the shirt from turns to a different, for example ‘YOLO!’ campaign style while the others begin to embrace the ‘love yourself, be unique, but look just like everyone else while wearing our clothes’ mantra? Damn, it’ s like you can never win and reach 100 % on the empoweredness scale. Should I worry about it, probably not, but I do sometimes. I feel like I have to. Would Frida care? I think not, she would just continue marching on using her talent as a weapon of mass destruction in fighting every stereotype there is on her way to immortality.

Wearing Frida or Che’s face on your shirt is not really a problem, the question is: Do you know who those people are, how they lived and what they stand for? Or are you just wearing it because you like the colors and it looks kind of cool and edgy while their polished images are somewhat familiar and also you saw someone wearing it on a Instagram photo just the other day? If the answer to the second question is yes, take the shirt off and do some research.

Now I need to chill, hand me that Pepsi, Kendall! Cheers!

Bubble Trouble

There are people who ‘get it’, also there are people who just don’t,  no matter how much you try to explain something.  I’m the one that likes all the best stuff – the best films, TV shows, books… If I stumble upon a classic movie that is praised by everyone, finally watch it and get disappointed because it didn’t live up to all the hype, I’ll tell you it’s overrated and worthless because my opinion truly matters, and if you don’t agree with me…

Well, you are entitled to your opinion and I respect that, but I will secretly judge you because I KNOW STUFF, I GET STUFF better than you do.

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This is an exaggeration of course, I’m not really a delusional narcissist, at least not a serious one.  I’m sure everyone has similar thoughts occasionally, even when we’re unaware of it.  We are born with a self-defence mechanism that keeps us in a bubble which helps us maintain confidence in our intellectual capacity and skills. Some bubbles are thicker, some are very fragile, they vary from being stable or changing from time to time. For instance, you know those days when you feel like things are perfectly falling into their place and with a little effort and focus, you can do whatever you set your mind to… and then there are the dog days when the gut keeps telling you it’s just not worth it, you’re going to die anyway, etc.

A piece of art about nothing

Nothing is everything. Experiences and routines we go through every day, people we meet and talk to, casual coffee breaks, business lunches, awkward first dates, sleepy late TV nights, not so casual sex encounters… Whatever you go through on a daily basis can be turned into a story for a broad audience.

In modern TV era no one had done it better than Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David. Seinfeld will stay forever relevant because it deals with those little daily ‘nothingness’ moments that can be so familiar. Even if you’re not a comedian who lives in NYC and hangs out with three equally crazy friends who are all, just like you, incapable of forming meaningful relationships while getting into absurd situations, and… oh well, you get it, even then, those Seinfeld stories seem ridiculously close and personal.  When the series came to an end after nine amusing seasons, Larry David placed himself in front of the camera, but this time in a much more aggressive and politically incorrect version starring in Curb Your Enthusiasm. Some even consider the show better than Seinfeld, but I can’t fully agree even though I enjoy every minute of it. I’ll never stop rewatching Seinfeld whether I’m going through each episode starting from the beginning, or just clicking on a random one, but sometimes you need to move on. I think Curb Your Enthusiasm is the answer as it represents a natural follow-up for every Seinfeld fan which comes in a more direct, more absurd, hard-boiled form.

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I have seen some of the Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld’s way of creating a talk show with famous guests by literally driving them in a car, talking, then stopping at a coffee shop where they continue to, you guessed it, talk. I mentioned this to a friend who watched a Larry David as a guest episode and asked me ‘what the fuck was this all about, they’re just having a random conversation about basically nothing. And then it ends. And that’s it.’

Why is nothing bad? Why can’t nothing be enough? Of course it can, Seinfeld is a big pile of nothing in particular, but it didn’t stop it from rewriting the history of TV sitcoms. Obviously, there are people who ‘get it’ and those who don’t, no matter what.

This brings me to a completely different genre of films that are very important to me.  I hear people complaining a bunch of times about Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise – Before Sunset – Before Midnight trilogy being overrated because, as it’s written in the plot description:

‘The plot is considered minimalistic, as not much happens aside from walking and talking.’

And then it ends. And that’s it. What some people don’t like or don’t want to realise is that walking and talking can be more than enough. Whenever I watch any part of it, I am left with a big smile on my face overshadowed by melancholic yearning towards something or someone I have not necessarily met. Sometimes it’s clear to me that what I’m feeling is a complex set of mixed emotions towards a fictional construction, like living in a parallel universe for a while. I guess it’s because I strongly  identify myself with Céline, a character played by Julie Delpy, an actress who deserves a separate post so I won’t start going on about her right now. She is a careful romantic, kind of awkward because she thinks and (sometimes annoyingly) overthinks stuff and desperately looks for a conclusion even if the question is not easy or even impossible to answer. Completely rational and irrational and dreamy at the same time, that’s what draws me in every time, I guess.

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My conclusion would be, after years of trying to explain things I like to people I like in a way that doesn’t suit them doesn’t really make sense. If a couple just walking and going through all kinds of banal and complicated topics while contemplating the meaning of life and relationships isn’t someone’s cup of tea, what can you do? Tell them they are missing something very important? Tell them there’s more to movies than adrenaline packed action thrillers or dumb romantic comedies? No. We find what we like or it finds us eventually, it’s not that the other’s ‘don’t get it’, they just ‘get’ things differently and there’s nothing wrong with that as much as I would like to scream otherwise. 

Chin up, make sure your bubble stays strong, but peak out every once in a while to see more clearly what’s really going on.

 

My Coffee Addiction and Why I Love It

Finding photos to accompany this post will be the easiest task in the world. The small piece of visual heaven is made with a perfect arrangement of a nice, round cup filled with hot, dark, bubbly beverage surrounded by ‘casually’ placed books, blank sheets of paper or recently turned on laptop waiting for you to start getting shit done. Even though I am aware those photos are staged (I mean, who reads 5 books at the same time and aligns their markers by the shade of their colour?), I love them and can’t stop looking at them because they make me feel at peace.

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I sometimes imagine I am the one who just took that alluring photo, although my current surroundings are nowhere near that photogenic. I know that everything I plan on doing will have to wait just a few moments longer until I take at least a couple of sips of my morning/afternoon coffee. I take mine dark, unfiltered with a couple of drops of milk or cream, this is what I consider to be ‘a real cup of coffee’. Everything else that is prepared with too much milk and sugar is coffee for babies,  tasty but doesn’t have the ability to get creative thoughts flowing or giving me a clear perspective and focus.  If I’m alone, it is a ‘wake up’  peace and quiet morning coffee, while another cup much later in the day is closer to ‘work’ coffee most of the times, meaning I expect from myself to start or finish something I’ve been thinking about, it’s often something to write about or coming up with new ideas. Or at least try to, make notes and sketches, sometimes only starting something without finishing, but nevertheless, a necessary energy boost.

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An ancient ritual vs. modern age

Wikipedia taught me that coffee first appeared and was prepared as a beverage we know today in 15th century Yemen and a century later started its journey towards Persia, Turkey and Africa. Europe didn’t stand a chance, people got hooked, everyone started to talk about this magic potion and the rest is history.

The preparing process is a ritual of its own, after brewing it, as we all know, coffee can be made in numerous ways according to individual taste and culture it derives from. It’s funny how a banal detail like a single cup of coffee can differ from country to country, for example I learned a long time ago that according to classic Italian recipe espresso needs to be served with a slice of lemon. I haven’t tried it yet, so I can’t judge in advance, but if Italians say so, it should work, right? I found a short, informative article with some other specificities, for example, I am not so excited about the coffee + garlic combination, but this Moroccan ‘grinding a mixture of spices — including sesame seeds, black pepper and nutmeg — together with ordinary coffee beans produces an unusual, but a very strong drink’ is now on my ‘to try’ list!

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This multicultural coffee spirit is something that should be protected from corporations like Starbucks who are limiting the creativity and imposing the same products on worldwide markets. Commercial success of well-known brand seems to create an approval among us, the customers, making us feel like buying an overpriced pumpkin white chocolate mocha latte is totally worth it. Some countries feel like their national identity and tradition are so strongly connected to coffee consuming culture they look at Starbucks and similar companies as a threat to their core values. Ok, we can all relax and agree that those companies are not really about the coffee, of course that is not a first place you will look for an espresso, but still it feels like a small earthquake that is about to leave its mark.

Coffee is not JUST a product. You can spend a looong time in company of a one cup or you can finish up your small espresso in two seconds, in both cases it is a ritual because it gives context and meaning to different  social encounters.

 

Cigarettes and coffee, man. That’s a combination.

Jim Jarmusch won my heart once again with his 2003 classic  starring legends like Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Bill Murray, Roberto Benigni.  What he did was show the series of conversations around a table while drinking coffee. Couldn’t be simpler, but yet so complex because the range of topics is unlimited and unpredictable, just like in real life. The film embodies what I’m basically trying to say here, but in a much more coherent way.

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In my country, when you want to invite someone to hang out and talk about serious stuff or just to relax, you say:

‘Let’s go and have some coffee!’

Notice the use of verb ‘have’ instead of ‘grab’ or ‘take’, it’s not about taking two coffees to go and chat while walking down a busy street like Seinfeld characters would do. No, sitting in a  café bar having a cup of coffee can be a therapy session, a date, a trip through memory lane, political discussion, you name it… The point is, it can last for hours. Some say it is decadent and call it a deliberate waste of precious time due to laziness, but I call that a great time investment, a custom that needs to be preserved at all costs.

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