20100629

Traffic

So, last week I only wrote one post. Truly, an important one.

All the blogging rules would say that, under these circumstances, the number of visitors on my blog should go down. So, with a lot of surprise, I noticed yesterday that I had more visitors last week than the week before. Not much more, but still.

Should I understand that if I don't write at all I'll have more visitors than if I post once a day? Now that's a paradox.

20100624

melum46. Kate

This is the song that will keep me forever tied to Kate Bush and her music.

It has such an Orwellian feel (composed in 1986, by the way, two years after 1984, one year after Brasil).

Small trivia: you can find in this video two very well-known men. One is Nigel Kennedy (a genius I unexpectedly saw, listened to - and was blown away by - at the Enescu festival, last year). The other is Hugh Laurie.

They told us
All they wanted
Was a sound that could kill someone
From a distance.
So we go ahead,
And the meters are over in the red.
It's a mistake in the making.

20100621

The time of learning people how to live has arrived

This post was entirely inspired by Arturo Uslar Pietri's novel Robinson's island. The words, though, are mine.

I am a conservative. At the same time, I'm a republican. A little bit of a contrast, perhaps, but that's the way it is, this is my creed.

I am a conservative because I think this political ideology is the only one capable of turning current Romanian groups of interests naming themselves political parties into real political parties. Conservative way of thinking is the only one capable of setting us apart from the communist period and its style of policy-improvising. I am republican, because I believe that all humans are born equal.

Somehow, para-quoting Arturo Uslar Pietri, and looking at the current state of events in my country, I say: we do not have a republic. We did not inherited it, we do not know how to create it. The Romanian Popular Republic - a product of the year 1948 - is a Stalinist creation. The Romanian Socialist Republic was created during the '60s, as a sign of independence from the USSR (independence of the Romanian nomenklatura from the Soviet one, not independence of the Romanian people from the Romanian nomenklatura); and it failed. The Romanian republic created in 1989 was no more than a USSR vassal. None of these three Romanian republics was democratic. The last one - the third and the current one at the same time - has its fundamentals based on people killed in the name of democracy, in 1989, 1990 and 1991.

Twenty years ago, in June 1990, people - people trying to create a better republic - were killed in the University Square in Bucharest. Many important Romanian political figures still deny these events, even today. They also deny the events of December 1989. It is not an accident, because the truth would only make obvious the character of a state they created the way they wanted to. It only shows the shameful situation we find ourselves in at this very moment, because we tolerate them and we give them our vote.

People need to be educated. I specify: I do not speak (only) about the Romanian educational system, but about the need of Romanians to be educated as citizens of a republic. We completely ignore how to be republicans, and I doubt we know what citizenship of any kind means at all. The answer to this situation is the school (but not only it). Ambitiously, the school must not teach people how to read, it should teach them how to be independent, how to live in a free and equal society, a society free of prejudice, inequity and superstition, a society based on reciprocal respect. Did our educational system acquire that yet? Unfortunately, no. Are there any other institutions trying to do that (like the mass-media, for instance)? Again, no. On the contrary.

The first French republic failed because it did not know how to prepare society for the republic. and thus France turned back to monarchy. My question: do you think the Romanian society is ready for a republic? I highly doubt it. The need of a strong political figure as head of state is a mere expression of our mental need of a Voivod.

My fear is that we do not have the reflexes of free men. Most of us have been formed to be dependent upon the state, and this didn't change in the aftermath of the Revolution. The proof for this is to be found in the high numbers of people hunting for jobs in the state administration, but also in the numbers of those of our con-citizens early retired from work, or the numbers of those hundred of thousands who got pensions on false medical reasons.


I go as far as to say, assuming full responsibility for this, that Romania has kept a lot of characteristics from the feudal period (with one great feudal landlord: the state, a few smaller ones: the moguls; and the second line moguls: the local barons) and only acquired the appearance of a republic. Of course, there are many educated people and people willing to change things. The problem is: 1. they are not enough (and their number is constantly going down, due to emigration); 2. there are others who want to keep the current state of affairs (see my point about the landlords above). We are, nominally, a functional democracy, but for the reasons specified we fail to prove it so.

How can things begin to change? Well, in my view, the answer is about turning ourselves back to the old model of small family businesses. If properly regulated (unlike now) and supported by coherent policies, this change could transform the country within a few decades. Acquiring work experience and applied competences is in my view the best way to fight prejudice, errors, social barriers and all the weaknesses inherited from generation to generation. To be realistic, the probability of this scenario is low to very low. However, the fact that the Romanian state simply cannot hold anymore its current position as landlord no. 1 could lead to a situation where this might take place. At least I hope so. It would be only for the benefit of my country.

No more lies, cowardice and obedience, humility. Enough of that farce. It kills solidarity, society, citizenship and, eventually, everything we might want to call freedom.

20100619

melum45. Farewell

My next post will not be about music. This one is about music only because of a-ha.

One of the top 5 bands of my adolescence (and one of the best over-all) is saying good-bye to us all.

There are only a handful of good bands in my music collection. And one of them will be crossing the line, for good this time. Another band, new order, did it already. Another one, my favorite band - erasure - is blocked into composing and playing teen-age infantile songs. So, news on the music front do not look so good.

New bands to cover up the empty space? Not yet. No. Not that I know of.

20100617

melum44. Blasphemous rumours

I'm still not in the mood for proper writing. Forgive me.

This is the best song of Depeche Mode ever, in my view. Also, a very serious song:

I don't want to start any blasphemous rumours but I think that God's got a sick sense of humour, and when I die, I expect to find Him laughing.

No, guys, you won't find God laughing, even if God has the best sense of humour. You'll find Him crying for each and every one of us, instead... No place for arrogance, superiority and indifference, there, any more. God is about none of that, unlike our image of His.


I dare say:

...and when I die, I expect to find Him crying.

20100616

melum43

My favorite band, 1988.

Too bad nowadays music has far lower standards. Then, what about the myth of constant progress?

20100611

20100610

I'm in Bucharest for 2,5 days. What can I do and visit?

Now that is a good question.

It is a question somebody put and searched the answer for on the internet, and thus found my blog. I hope the person found at least some answers to it.

Two and a half days to visit Bucharest is a very short term. You can definitely not see everything, you cannot see much of the city actually. But you can see enough to get an opinion made, if you stay close to the city's heart. My answer would be, then:

- one day should be used to visit museums (such as: The History Museum, The Art Museum, Romanian Peasant's Museum or Village Museum - my favorite) and some of the parks (Herăstrău, Cişmigiu Gardens, Carol). All these objectives are situated on a north/south axe, and the underground is a good transportation means from one to the others;
- the night, especially during spring and summertime, is the best time to wander through the center of the city - let's say from Piaţa Unirii to Piaţa Romană, but including also Calea Victoriei - and to get a glimpse of the city's diverse nightlife. Not to be missed is the Lipscani/Smârdan/Manuc area;

- the second day should be used to see old buildings. A hint: the center of the city is full of very nice small churches (often hidden by blocks, in communist fashion), and these churches are the best ambassadors I know of the old Bucharest, the bearers of the old city identity. Many of them date from the XVIII century, some are older, going back as far as the XVth century (the Bucur church, not far from Piaţa Unirii); some also have a significance related to recent events - such as the Revolution in 1989 - like Kretzulescu or Colţea churches. And speaking of these events, not to be missed are the Revolution Square, Universitate and the Parliament's Palace - they provide a good overview of the last three decades of Bucharest's complex history;

- last day should be used for some shopping. There are plenty of shopping malls in Bucharest, but I'd say the best situated, by any means, is Unirea Shopping Mall. Still, if I had the choice, I'd rather buy something representative for the Romanian culture - and these things are to be found less in shopping malls and more in places such as the Village Museum or the Peasant's Museum's shops.

This answer is by all means incomplete. It is like this, however, how I think you should organize a three days time here.

Good luck.

20100609

To blog or not to blog?

Taking my morning coffee and making a short survey of the Romanian blogosphere, I get more and more convinced we face a process of erosion.

I have more blogs than ever in my reader, and yet the number of articles I can read have fallen dramatically in the last period. The number of good articles is even lower.

People with a say are tempted to quit blogging, because they feel their effort is in vain. Many of those who started blogging a while ago, even if they keep on writing, have lost their "faith" in blogging, they do not expect anything anymore from it, they do not want to change the world anymore. When I was faced to this, I preferred switching the language.

To summarize, I'd say that, indeed, renewing your blog with each article is a very difficult thing. Finding your voice and having your say is not that easy, after all; and I know it very well myself. But it is not only that. What I feel, in the case of the Romanian blogosphere, is that we changed our expectations about blogging - and that means that we do not see it anymore as a means for changing the society in good. No more ambitions, no more major blogging. Just personal pages and minor blogging.

In my view, this is dangerous.

We find ourselves at a point in time when the society needs its voices loud and clear; and more than ever. Saying that, I am aware that our society is autistic and that dialogue is not one of its constituent virtues (everybody likes to speak, nobody likes to listen) - but this only makes these voices even more necessary. Our hopes that life will improve after joining the EU have turned to dust; our future is uncertain. More than half an year ago I spoke about the necessity of a plan to fight the crisis (which was nothing more than common sense), and NONE of our political parties produced anything resembling a plan. We are running through a nightmare scenario.

And escape is no longer an individual option. We cannot just emigrate, not everybody. We need more than ever citizen journalists with clear heads and documented opinions.

20100608

descriptum55. Lugano

10961
Bucharest
state> calm
soundtrack> Stevie Nicks - edge of seventeen

Our stay in Lugano was short, a few hours only. It was also very instructive.

Only about one hour on the freeway from Milano, Ticino is very different from northern Italy. Yes, the people speak still Italian, but the cultural "air" is quite different, because you get the feel of a Anglo-Saxon country. Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, something like that.

The impression I had in Switzerland was that people were taking proper care of every single square inch of the land, and the contrast to northern Italy (which is quite a developed area) is transparent. But, while a comparison to Lombardia could be made, I don't think you can compare Lugano with Prahova Valley for instance. And it is a pity, because the natural surroundings are very similar in the two cases. The degree of care is different, unfortunately.

I tried to find the right description for Lugano and Switzerland, and what I finally came to was "extreme normality". Something like: everything goes well, everything is in place and well fixed, everybody does his job properly; nothing too bright, just - I repeat - a state of normality which represents, in my view, not only the result of the protestant ethos (Switzerland - "the Max Weber country"), but also the result of almost two centuries of peace. That being said, I think Switzerland should be, in the current international situation, a member of NATO and the EU. Ambitious, I know, if you look at the current climate in the country.

In the end, a sort of confession: I wanted to get there for a long time. My MA dissertation (which I began writing 5 years ago) is about intercultural communication in Switzerland. If you speak Romanian, you can find it somewhere on the Internet - it was published some years ago - in case you are curious, although I do not think its conclusions stand anymore.

What made me curious about Switzerland was the success of its project. In some aspects, it could be a model for us. I'll always keep a degree of interest for what happens there - after all, I'd like to publish, properly, (a better version of) my work sometime in the future.

With love,

20100606

Laika

For those with a passion for visual arts.

And congrats to Guillaume Blanchet. Nice way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of a pub.

LAÏKA (LONG VERSION) from Guillaume Blanchet on Vimeo.

20100605

descriptum54

10958 Saturday
Bucharest
state> old
soundtrack> voltaj - 20 de ani


I turned 30 today, guys, and I feel so old.

I do not feel more mature, or more responsible than yesterday. I just feel older - and lonelier perhaps. Nevertheless, today the drinks are on me :).

I promise myself that, no matter the circumstances, I'll try to keep myself young at heart.


20100603

descriptum53. Monza

state> sleepy
soundtrack> Eros Ramazotti - se bastasse una canzone

The destination of our voyage was not Milano. It was Monza. We sustained a concert there. It went well. But let that be all about me in this post.

Monza is very close to Milano, about 20 or 30 kilometers. A typical Italian city, not very big (Wiki attributes to the city a population of about 120,000, although to me it seemed bigger), with a dome carrying its own history, rather narrow streets, noisy people and active summer nights ( I also saw the city at night, but unfortunately the charger of my photo camera was down at the time).

We stayed in a cosy 3 star hotel in the suburbs of the city, not far from a huge mall. And that being said, I want to point out that prices in Italy in general seemed high to me, I'd say twice as high if compared to Bucharest for instance. Maybe that does not say very much, but let me remind you that in 2007 Bucharest had a per-capita GDP very close to the medium of the EU. I did not have that feeling when going to Poland or Bulgaria last year. I guess high prices come together with high revenues.

We interacted more with the dome (il duomo) as our concert took place in it. It is a very large catholic church, monumental, dating - in its actual form - from the 13th century. I enjoyed it. The acoustics were also good :)



There are, though, two things I dare say are specific for Monza and should not be neglected if you ever have the chance to visit the city:


- the Royal Villa (Villa Reale) with its very nice gardens - a huge park uniting five cities;

- and the Monza Formula 1 circuit. I'm not much into races, nor into F1 (especially since Ayrton Senna died, at Imola in 1994; or, why not, Ronnie Petersen, in 1978, on the very racing circuit we visited - Monza), but I told myself that, if I got this possibility, I should take it. Racing circuits are completely congruent with the Italian passion for sports cars - you know, the likes of Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati, Bugatti or Alfa Romeo. So, a few photos for those of you, guys, with a crush on cars :)

In the end, one observation about the Italian restaurants. The rule there is that you have to pay a tip of 15% of the bill if you order. It is included on the bill and if you are not accustomed to this rule there might be misunderstandings - and so it was in our case, both in Milano and in Monza. By the way, these misunderstandings can go higher if you do not speak Italian, as it was also our case.

I have the habit of leaving a decent tip (at least if the service is good), but it was a little bit weird, I would say, to have to pay it anyway. I do not understand how the waiters are motivated, in this situation, to provide a good serving. And I would say that, if the food was arguably (not much) better, the service was, over-all, worse than the one provided at the restaurants I frequent in Bucharest.

20100602

descriptum52. Milano

state> good
soundtrack> Riccardo Cocciante - ti amo ancora di piu

I'm back. I arrived home on Monday, on a late rainy evening, after a 2 hours flight from Bergamo.

Before anything else, I want to say that this is the third time I traveled to Italy. I did it for the first time in 2002 and for the second in 2005. I always visited the north of the country and I always passed through Milano; I was always part of a group. I was delighted every time. This time, too. It is my belief that you cannot speak about enthusiasm when going to a place you've already seen before, but it is something like saying "hello" to an old friend if you enjoyed your first visit.

I guess I will not be able to squeeze everything I would like to in a single post, so there will probably be more posts about this short and rather dense travel. I'll try to accompany my words with suitable photos and I'll try to avoid the usual non-sense about "my flight was OK", "the sun was shining" and "in Italy they eat pizza".

So, let's go. This post, about Milano.

If in 2002 I visited Milano and Venezia and in 2005 I visited Milano and a wonderful little city called Cita di Soave, now I visited Milano and Monza. With a short exit to Lugano, in Ticino, Switzerland. It mattered, because it provided me with material for comparisons.

This time, I am rather firmly convinced I had the best tour of Milano so far.

I passed through:
- the Sforzesco palace (Castello Sforzesco);

- Via Dante;

- the Biblioteca (and Pinacoteca) Ambrosiana. Unfortunately for my memories, no picture taking was allowed during our tour. But, putting that aside, I was really impressed by some paintings of Botticelli, Tiziano, a sketch of Michelangelo and, of course, by the books themselves. Including lots of sketches written by the very hand of Leonardo da Vinci - the famous Codex Atlanticus. I am sorry I only visited the library for the first time. It is a must-see;

- the Dome, of course;

- the commercial galleries (galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II);

- the Scala (Teatro alla Scala). I still hope one day I'll have the possibility to attend an opera there.

As a sort of a conclusion, I'd say these are the best known parts of Milano. They are definitely not the only ones, and I am aware that my image of Milano is very incomplete. After all, for a man Milano means first of all Inter and AC Milan, and for a women it means fashion. As for me, I'm not quite the usual football fan, nor am I very interested about what to wear. I guess I can confess that for me Milano is more about history, culture and people. And perhaps, a little, Italian cuisine :)

With love,