Smoke & Mirrors

Thoughts by Laura Dzelzyte
Constructing meaning of experience

Every Little Counts

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Every Little Counts; or 

How I freed myself (and my partner) from shopping for eggs

Discovered the joys of online grocery shopping today. I know. Bit late. And signing up was a real pain - I gave up few times before. But now I did it and I feel … how shall I put it without undermining the experience - liberated and emotional? 

No more angry and tired workaholics pushing you over for the last organic carrot at a local Waitrose.
No more guesswork of which queue is the shortest and inevitably always ending up in the longest one.
No more indulging at the magazine isle by voyeuring gossip mags without paying. (I always feel ashamed but still do it).
No more arguments with your beloved that he forgot to get the eggs - again!

I am empowered and the milk will be delivered to my door tomorrow 7am! 

Inevitably I spent more that I would of - I got carried away because its all virtual and you dont need to drag the heavy basket and kick it at the queue…

I know its a bit sad, as you have been buying your rioja online for years but Whoohoo! 

I love stuff but I hate shops. (Well, some of them). 

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel is simply perfect.

One of the most exquisite, visually pleasing, intellectually stimulating and dramatic yet extremely funny comedies that I have ever seen.

Yes. I loved it that much.

It has it all: poetry, colours, opulence, war, morals, murder and, of course, a Grand Hotel.

"The film recounts the adventures of Gustave H., a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. The story involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting and the battle for an enormous family fortune — all against the back-drop of a suddenly and dramatically changing Continent."

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The Grand Budapest Hotel has so much elegance as it revives the lost era of Eastern European grandeur, refinement, grace, tact and … indiscretion.

Bizarre and comic characters, played by eminent actors such as Ralph Fienne, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Adrian Brody, Jude Law and many others piece together a magnificent performance. Mark my word, Tony Revolori (born only in 1996!) playing Zero Mustafa is bound for Hollywood stardom. 

Oh. And did I mention colours? They are like blushed Pierre Hermé macaroons on 72 Rue Bonaparte in Paris. At times, the film reminded me of Amélie and in some respects of one of my classic favourites - Stanley Kramer’s Its a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. 

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The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of those films that overwhelms you with cinematographic detail, scale, costumes, characters, performance and music scores. So much so that you want to see the film again immediately after you finished. And many more times in the years to come.

In short - its classic. A joy on all counts. A must see. 

Now showing in cinemas around London. If you are going - let me know. I will come with you for the second viewing.

The Mistress Contract – Moral or Not?

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The Mistress Contract

Royal Court Theatre

 “She - a highly educated, divorced woman with a successful career, three children and a history of involvement in the feminist movement - asked her lover to sign proposed the following terms: He would provide her with a home and an income, while She would provide ‘mistress services’ - ‘All sexual acts as requested, with suspension of historical, emotional, psychological disclaimers’.

[Women want talks, breakfasts and walks (and security) while men want sex (a very traditional role playing)], but He agreed to her terms, and they found a kind of happiness that more traditional forms of commitment had never provided.”

It wasn’t the most spectacular production (although I thought Danny Webb as He was really convincing), but it was the story and dialogues that provided much food for thought.

I mean, if a man pays for woman’s home and expenses in exchange for sexual acts [which she doesn’t particularly enjoy] – does it make immoral as some believe prostitution is?

What if they love each other in a strange ‘non-committal’ way?

What if the woman is a feminist? And she proposes the contract as a matter of principle to ensure the equality of the parties involved – “everyone gets something they want and need.” Does it make it less immoral and more acceptable?

And if so, then is morality of “sex for money” is a matter of the intentions of the people involved or their character? If She is a drug addict - its wrong, but if She is educated feminist - its fine?

Or perhaps its also a matter of nationality / culture? I am sure French are much more comfortable about such arrangements…

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I am still thinking about it so it must have been a good play after all.

At the Royal Court Theatre until 22 March 2014 (Mondays all seats £10)

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Anonymous comment: “Signing a contract focuses minds and sets the rules meaning that everyone knows the expectations.” A good article on why Sex Workers Should Have a Right To Refuse in Guardian yesterday can be found here

Don Giovanni at ROH – Impressions

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Kasper Holten’s Gon Giovanni at the Royal Opera House divided critics. Some loved it, some hated it. The talk of the town was Luke Hall’s video designs, Bruno Poet’s lighting and Anja Vang Kragh’s costumes.  While video projections are very much in vogue on London stage these days (Chimerica, War Horse, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time etc), I must agree with Keith McDonnell that “Hall’s video designs and Bruno Poet’s lighting, Devlin’s box of tricks comes alive and certainly the most accomplished, lavish and ingenious use of video I’ve yet seen in an opera house”.

Anja Vang Kragh’s costumes were contemporarily opulent and very much in tune with the stage design creating a homogenous visual framework for Mozart’s music. I didn’t care much that they lacked “chronology” and “social accuracy” as noted by Andrew Clements in the Guardian.

Holten presents an interesting interpretation of Don Giovanni – a very lonely man losing his sanity. Hell is not where fire is burning your feet, but where you are left on your own with your thoughts, doubts and guilt.  

The performance of the British soprano Elizabeth Watts singing Zerlina was really enjoyable - lively, animated and full of character. A good balancing act to the heavy drama.

I also could not help but observe how beautiful, slender and polished all the singers were. Gone are the days of gluttony opera?

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You can see Don Giovanni until 24 February 2014 at the Royal Opera House

Beyond GDP

In the international climate debate on fair effort sharing between the countries, GDP is prominent as an indicator of who should do the heavy lifting in terms of addressing climate issues.

A timely article by prominent economist Diane Coyle at Foreign Affairs magazine discusses the appropriateness of GDP as an indicator.

Beyond GDP: What the Measure of Economic Performance Misses About Economic Performance can be found here.

Caius Martius Coriolanus

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Shakespeare’s tragedy of a very proud and uncompromising Roman warrior Caius Marcius Coriolanus who refuses to subject himself to the endorsement of the common people (plebs) and ends up challenging Rome and his own family but not his beliefs is still fascinating and relevant in current political context.

“The private war of personal integrity and popularity” that Coriolanus suffers is at the heart of every public figure even today. 

It takes a bit for the ear to adjust to Shakespeare’s English, but soon you pass it and get completely submerged in a very intense drama and compelling performance.  

And can I just say that – Tom Hiddleston as Coriolanus is brutal, powerful and magnificent.

Absolutely thrilling. My full recommendations. We saw it via National Theatre Live broadcast in Chelsea but it is still showing at Donmar Warehouse in London. 


Is It Me Or Is It Klee?

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Paul Klee (now showing at Tate Modern) is not a matter of pleasure but a matter of educational necessity. Artist whose prolific output is chrestomathy of early 20th century modern European art (expressionism, cubism, surrealism) it’s easy to spot traces of Kandinsky, Miro or Picasso’s work yet the visit to Tate on Friday left me little satisfied…

Is it me or is it Klee?

"The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact." — President Obama #SOTU #ScienceSaysSo 
 — Barack Obama (@BarackObama) on Twitter, January 29, 2014
I wonder what Chinese President Xi Jinping thinks of that…. 
a week later - on February 7, 2014 
the President  Xi Jinping said that China is committed to doing more to address climate change.
"While both China and the US have affirmed that they are keen to act on climate change, tensions remain in how they want to approach the problem at the global scale. Greater understanding between the two countries will help to ease the strain when it comes to signing off this international deal. " - RTCC

 

"The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact." — President Obama #SOTU #ScienceSaysSo 

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) on Twitter, January 29, 2014

I wonder what Chinese President Xi Jinping thinks of that…. 

a week later - on February 7, 2014 

the President  Xi Jinping said that China is committed to doing more to address climate change.

"While both China and the US have affirmed that they are keen to act on climate change, tensions remain in how they want to approach the problem at the global scale. Greater understanding between the two countries will help to ease the strain when it comes to signing off this international deal. " - RTCC

 

When Cup Is Half Of A Drink

I don’t know about you but in my little world, a cup is half of a drink.

For a good few years now I suffered morning coffee from this “thick-no-shape-no-face” mug that did not prepare me for the day’s labour. So I saved (by not buying coffees out) and invested in this Fortnum & Mason St James bone china mug. Made in England it is decorated with an original design inspired by 18th-century chinoiserie. 
It cost me no more than 13 Starbucks / Cafe Nero cappuccinos or 22 cups of McDonald’s coffee.
 
It’s not how much you have, it’s how you spend it.

Mornings at work will never be the same. 

Daily Considerations of Women Kind

Sale at Orla Kiely is on. I couldn’t have missed it for life. Love the brand. (Shame Kate Middleton loves it too. Makes it mainstream). 

Naturally, most of the sizes were gone, but I managed to squeeze myself into size 6. Woohoo! – I thought…. until I had lunch today and I felt that my digestive system is disturbed by restricted waistline… 

So here is a modern “uptown problem”: should we buy a little too big (to feel good later), or a little too small (to get ecstatic at the shop) if “just right” is not an option? 

Instant rush vs long term enjoyment…

(PS. This is not meant as an insult to anyone, or to myself, or offence to female kind, so I m not fishing for comments such as ‘you are beautiful as you are” etc)

Why There Is Intellectual Vacuum in Politics

Some of the most intelligent and full of conviction people I know tried and failed to become politicians. It turns out that the fallacy lies in the fact they are simply not businesspeople… or lawyers.

As the Financial Times printed an article on intellectual vacuum in politics, it made me wonder what does make a good politician.

"Cynics who say power is all that counts in politics forget that power without ideas is just improvisation. It is ideas that enable leaders to impose a direction on events." writes Michael Ignatieff in the FT.

He continues - “In the past 15 years, few politicians have imposed their will on our times. We can blame the current crop of leaders for that, but the deeper cause seems to lie in the waning power of ideas. Politics is more polarised than ever, but behind the party stockades, diminishing bands of believers repeat partisan incantations that no longer describe the world, let alone change it.

Margaret Thatcher’s death last year reminds us what it felt like to be led by a conviction politician. Some hated the UK prime minister’s direction, but no one doubted there was one.”

So what makes an effective politician?

"The great German sociologist Max Weber thought that certain professions were not well suited to making the switch to a career in politics. One was professional soldiers, who were prone to become schematic and unimaginative politicians. Another was academics: far too thin-skinned and unworldly for the rough-and-tumble of political life. Weber thought the best way to learn about politics was to do politics. But failing that, the likeliest background for a successful politician was either the law or journalism. Both these professions had the advantage of teaching ruthlessness combined with adaptability.” - says David Runciman in Guardian. Margaret Thatcher was a lawyer, but I think businessmen are well hardened by the economic environment to thrive as politicians.

In fact in the poll carried out by the Economist in 2009 shows that the most common professions for politicians are law, business and diplomacy. (Journalism 5th)

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In the question whether or not an individual will succeed as a politician his or her background counts. But what counts is not only the wealth, upbringing or the strength of conviction, but also his or her experience. And some professions seem to equip candidates for public office better than others. 

Perhaps, the fact that academics simply don’t cut it as politicians, but businessmen and lawyers do, has some bearing on why there is an intellectual vacuum in politics.

 

On being a friend (of EHU)

“For those who understand the importance of academic freedom to a free and prosperous society, the European Humanities University (EHU) is a beacon of hope—the only Belarusian university that has succeeded in escaping the Belarusian government’s ideological control—and an engine for the future integration of Belarus into the family of democratic nations.

Based in Vilnius since its forced closure in Minsk in 2004, EHU provides students from Belarus and the region with an education in the humanities and social sciences in a free and democratic environment—an opportunity no longer available in Belarus today.”

I had a privilege to become a friend and a supporter of EHU in 2012.

“Friends” support EHU so that the university can fulfill its mission of providing a high quality liberal arts education that stresses personal responsibility, critical inquiry, and academic freedom. But I also had my own reasons to join the effort in helping to educate students from Belarus to use their talents to move their country in the direction of openness and democracy.

Having born in Soviet Union, I was grateful to have a chance to study liberal thought at universities of Sussex and Cambridge and subsequently participate (albeit very humbly) in the making of my own country by developing green policies.

I feel that the future of any country depends on fresh ideas and thinking, so it is important to nurture and support liberal arts and studies such as philosophy.

In 2013, with a generous help of friends and fellows support, we managed to raise sufficient funds for a philosophy phd student grant.

I wonder how that young Belarusian philosopher looks like… 

wait but why: Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy

Are you yuppy in the Gen Y age group? 
Gen Y Protagonists & Special Yuppies, or GYPSYs?

The Gen Y part is easy—you have to have been born sometime between the late 1970s and the mid 1990s (there are various opinions on the exact range of time, but this is the most common).  As for the Protagonist & Special Yuppie part, let’s lay out some guidelines.  You’re probably a GYPSY if:
- you went to sleep-away summer camp during your youth.
- you’ve won a number of meaningless awards.
- you studied abroad during college.
- you, after graduating college, considered (or will consider) big, famous cities like New York, San Francisco, LA, or DC, or small, fancy cities like Boulder or Santa Barbara as the only acceptable places to move (i.e. you feel like too special of a person to move to somewhere like Cleveland).
- you have disdain for a restaurant like The Olive Garden or Red Lobster.
- you need to have an iPhone and wouldn’t consider an Android phone.
- foodie is a word you’ve ever called yourself or anyone else.
- you’ve been to a therapist without any severe mental illness.
- you have started your own business or have plans to do so.
- you regularly talk or think about your passions.
- you’ve ever had a blog.  Shit.
Yes, you are…. you have turmblr! 
Read this article - its hilarious and illustrations are the best. 

I want sapphire home button now!

The statement seems to be loaded but even gems go mass production with Iphone 5C.

What’s next? Beluga caviar with every Mulberry bag? 

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Today is my friend’s birthday.

I wanted to wish him something special but wasn’t sure what though… He seems to be fit, good looking, happy, healthy, influential and all the rest of it. 

Wishing ‘whatever you wish for’ would be lame. 

So I’ve done a typical female move – wished him what I want for myself. 

And right now, oh no, it wasn’t “the peace in the world”, (its not going happening, so no point in wasting a perfectly good wish for that). Rather I wished him a “sapphire home button”. 

Can you imagine?!

Home button would be sufficient, but a sapphire one -  that’s awesome! 

I think the idea of sapphire home button is so absurd and yet so fascinating that its strikes me as a touch of Apple genius for inventing and patenting it. 

Woody Allen: What I’ve Learned

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Thanks to my mother, I haven’t wasted any time dwelling on whether I’m brilliant or a fool. It’s completely unprofitable to think about it.

Everything that you value, whether it’s Shakespeare, Beethoven, da Vinci, or whatever, will be gone. The earth will be gone. The sun will be gone. There’ll be nothing. The best you can do to get through life is distraction. Love works as a distraction. And work works as a distraction. You can distract yourself a billion different ways. But the key is to distract yourself.

Read more: Woody Allen Interview 2013 - Blue Jasmine Director Woody Allen on Movies, Success & Life - Esquire 

Published in the September 2013 issue Esquire

Allen was photographed on June 3 at his office in Manhattaan. His forty-eight picture as a director, Blue Jasmine, is now in theaters. Interviewed June 4, 2013