opinion

Shoes and Prejudice

Well educated, not as much formally as informally when it comes to hobbies, foreign languages, exploring other cultures and wast interest in popular culture in general. These are the self confessions of a snob. Never the materialistic, fashion label obsessed kind, but the more subtle, equally annoying specimen. Lurking from the dark, sitting in a semi comfortable seat of an old art cinema, reading Le Mond and Le Nouvel Observateur in public transport, having coffee and initiating discussions on existentialism, judging you for your ‘too mainstream’ way of wearing Docs and rolling eyes so hard it hurts when someone proclaims their love for Starbucks.

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Huhhh, try typing and then saying all of it in one breath, it was as exhausting on paper as much as it is in real life! And it’s just the tip of an iceberg. The persona behind the mysterious description is me, of course, but it’s not a post only about me. There are many ‘me-s’ around me: educated, somewhat intelligent young people who are often subconsciously looking down at different lifestyles and interests. At the same time, we will be the first ones to raise our hands when asked if we believe in diversity, tolerance and acceptance through breaking the mental and physical borders that our world is constructed on, but fail to lead with an example in our closest surroundings.

The unusual part of this millennial paradox is that, unlike in case of other flaws and misconceptions, I’ve noticed it in my own behavior on many occasions before even thinking of looking for it in other people first.

Living In a Bubble

I know I keep returning to this topic, no excuses, it’s because I feel this has been a problem of mine for a long time. The simplest way to function in every aspect of life would be surrounding ourselves with people who are similar to us. Similar background, habits, level of education, interests, whatever. Everything similar, not too many surprises. We are drawn to that concept, mostly led by past experiences and the usual, just go with the flow of what is already close to us attitude.

No matter how much time and effort you put into creating that firm bubble of safety, there will be a time when you’ll just have to break it and step out of it. Or life will break it for you just because it can. Luckily.

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All of this is closely connected to the overused but true ‘it is important to step out of your comfort zone’ mantra. What I’ve learned from my humble experience is that people are the most challenging, but also the most rewarding part that comes with the discomfort zone. The range of emotions, both good or bad, can’t be overpowered by any experience that doesn’t include dealing with people.

The Rule Book

I used to have rules. No, that’s a lie, I still have them, but some of them are fading away. Not strict, army type rules, but more like a list of details that served as an elimination system in meeting new people. The places people like to go out, music they listen to, movies they watch, the way they dress (shoes are the biggest deal breaker for me), how much make up a girl wears, what school did they go to, etc. Those are all either visual or superficial traits you can check by scrolling through someone’s Facebook profile for a second.

‘No way I’m hanging out with him!’ In under 10 words it’s done like it’s a no big deal, like there may not be any missed opportunities behind it. The number of times I’ve jumped to conclusion combined with the number of times someone didn’t want to have anything to do with me based on the first impression leads to….  a pretty big number I guess. But anyways, that’s not the truly sad part, what sucks is never realizing how inefficient our personal scanning machines are.

Becoming more opened towards people with different tastes and thoughts about how to live a life doesn’t mean forcing an introvert into turning into a very loud, outgoing person or abandoning your firmest beliefs and passions. The trick is letting the guard down, at first by focusing on it until it finally happens spontaneously. New experience begins with letting other people’s ideas come in and out again, like taking deep breaths while trying to relax.

What’s the worst thing that can happen? I can only think of not liking and completely disagreeing with someone’s way of thinking and it’s totally alright,  as long as it’s respectful.  I like to remember situations where I had to collaborate with different individuals which led to a pleasant surprise, making the grumpy old me admit I learned something new and useful from the horrible shoes wearing people.

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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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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.

 

Meryl Streep and Obama ‘Tribute’

Let’s talk about being overrated. What qualifies someone as overrated, can we all see the obvious signs and agree on proclaiming someone or something as overly acknowledged in comparison to its true value. How does one become overrated? It was perfectly logical to me that you have to actually accomplish something profound on certain level to even earn the chance of reaching the overrated status in the future.

I was wrong. After some additional thinking, many  public personalities came to my mind along with people from my  every day surroundings who seem to get credit for doing or representing something admirable while it’s really hard to pin down where does the appreciation come from. Take some university professors for example, we all catch ourselves looking at one of them holding a presumably important lesson, and thinking: how does this person even manage to tie their shoes or not leave the stove on and burn the whole building before leaving the house for work? Surprisingly, not only do they manage to master those basic functions (just to be clear, I am not mocking the basic functions here, I am admittedly very bad at those), but through (too much) ambition along with good connections they make up for the lack of intelligence and thrive in their academic careers and turn into respected, honored society  figures. It seems that they’ve skipped the ‘achievement’ phase and skipped right to the slimy bag of glorified valueless pieces and once you’re in there, it’s hard to get out. The lack of talent, skills or no of ability of critical thinking is easily recognisable, so why can’t we simply agree on forming the simple yes/no answer to a question: Is he/she/it overrated?

Once you spot one, there’s nothing left to do but to yell ‘You’re so overrated’ at them, right? As soon as you start yelling, in a split second they will shrink and go back to their cave of mediocrity, the one they shouldn’t come out of in the first place. Everything is in order, balance is reintroduced, the air seems fresher and cleaner.

Let’s move on, I am warning  you I’m about to get political in the following lines. The last few days have confirmed with a complete certainty that both Meryl Streep and the Obama family are overrated as hell (I can’t believe I actually agree with Trump on something, I hope it doesn’t become a habit). Watching the Hollywood crème de la crème putting on their best ‘this is so touching and I’m about to cry, life is so hard boo hoo’ faces during Streep’s Golden Globe speech made me laugh, feel second-hand embarrassment and worry at the same time. The thing I am concerned about is the fact that most of the people I know – smart, educated, progressive individuals recognized a heroic, revolutionary figure in a privileged, self obsessed Hollywood product.

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‘Cry Me a River’ performed by Meryl Streep

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate good movies no matter where they come from, Hollywood and its actors (Meryl Streep included) can’t and shouldn’t be ignored, there are so many I love and like to write/talk about… the thing I can’t stand is a public lecture from any of them taking a role of a moral vertical while giving just one of many ‘thank you for the award’ speeches. The part when she self righteously labeled a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist Serge Kovaleski as poor, powerless man who can’t defend himself from Trump’s insults was the lowest point, just made me think: – How dare you? She probably meant well while making the statement, but the overall impression gives out the textbook example of the high horse attitude she adopted, it’s not even entirely her fault anymore.

Just when I thought the western media are done with endless ass kissing and eulogies for the actress mentioning her name in terms of a higher, heavenly being who is here to save us, the culmination of the Obama show hit me in the face. So, just to make it clear, here we are whining over a man who we watched for 8 years holding great speeches, never-failing at a role of a perfect family man, being incredibly eloquent and charming but at the same time continuously bombing the hell out of half of the planet, even more than publicly despised Bush Jr. did. This is not a conspiracy theory, these are cold hard facts and it’s no surprise that the weapon making industry has flourished under the Obama administration, although too many people are not aware of it.

Since 2009, the United States has approved arms deals worth some $200 billion—more than under any other presidency. The deals include sending Apache helicopters to Qatar, “bunker buster” bombs and cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia, and Hellfire missiles all over the place. Predicting an increase in weapons sales fueled by the war against ISIS, an unnamed American weapons manufacturing executive told Reuterslast year: “Everyone in the region is talking about building up supplies for 5 to 10 years. This is going to be a long fight. It’s a huge growth area for us.”

The love of war seems to be a constant between all American presidents but as long as you have the most influential media working in your favour, you go on talk shows singing, dancing and joking around, just pretending to be a regular dude, everything is forgiven.  I get it, a worldwide mourning is exemplified because of an orange simpleton who is about to replace him, but c’mon –  putting two trash cans next to each other doesn’t make the one on the left any less of a trash can just because the one on the right smells much worse.

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