Saturday, March 15, 2014

Media: Boycott Upworthy and Buzzfeed!

Really! I am appealing to people for whom news media mean something as a source of information, analysis or opinion, and just good reading.

Boycott these sites and their intrusive postings and sharings on Facebook. Boycott any headline that is imitating their so called "viral" style. Don't click on any headline that contains a list like "5 things" or "45 tips," etc. etc. or headlines that start with "watch," "see," "this girl (did xyz)" and the like... Don't click on a headline that suggests what your reaction to reading the article should be! Don't be underestimated! Don't allow to be manipulated. Don't be fooled - once or twice --you'll always be the stupid one and shame will be on you and you only. What will you learn if you click on "Humans Aren't Stupid, We Just Happen To Be Acting Very Stupidly"? (Upworthy) Does this headline even make any sense? Curiosity is a great driver of human progress. It urged man to look up at the stars and seek answers about the universe. But the type of curiosity that makes you click on Buzzfeed's headlines is the same as the one that makes you look into your neighbors' window. And, no, you are not going to solve any crime ("Rear Window"). Peeping is a titillating form of entertainment. Can you refrain from it? There are better sources of entertainment - just think about it!

Monday, March 03, 2014

Books: Flour Water Salt Yeast. Ken Forkish

My friend Sibylla gave me the perfect gift -- a cookbook about baking artisan bread. It turned out to be much more than a collection of recipes. It's an ode to bread! After Garlic and Sapphires this is the first cookbook that I read with such pleasure. Mr. Forkish renders the thrills of baking bread vividly and with love --the tactile nature of the work, the magic of the rising dough, the smell of the levain, the simple elegance of the cinnamon-brown pain de campagne and the fantastic aroma of freshly-baked bread in the morning...

Have you ever thought of what a bread-tasting event would be like? Mr. Forkish offers this experience in his bakery.

The book also perpetuates the glory of the life-style change myth - a man's dream of leaving everything behind and becoming a baker, or a wine-maker, or a restaurateur, or whatever... The author was adventurous enough to make that leap of faith himself. After 20 years in the IT business he started his own bakery in Portland. A very successful one at that!

Ah, the romance of waking up at 4 AM to bake bread....

Sibylla Chavdar's perfect hand-made bread photographed by her.

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Books: Troubling Love. A novel by Elena Ferrante

I decided to give a second chance to Ferrante hoping to read something of the quality of Days of Abandonment. Troubling Love is satisfying to an extent. It is a bold and ambitious book which tries to capture the complexities of a mother-daughter love-hate relationship. The narrator Delia, struggles to understand her relationship with Amalia, her mother, on the day after her mother's death by drowning. As Delia puts it quite appropriately at some point: "I was here to cross a line". And she does cross that line. Occasionally, she also crosses the line of literary taste getting lost into convoluted psychoanalytical kitsch. Had the narrative been simpler, crisper, Delia's digging into the past in order to recover the truth buried under convenient post-factum rationalizations and lies, would have provided a more revealing and cathartic experience. The "truth" about Amalia's past, not surprisingly, revolves around her husband's jealousy, his violence, her lover (imagined by her child-daughter), her repressed sexuality. Delia both wishes for, and hates and fears her mother's erotic liberation. One of her childhood memories is of her sitting with her parents in a summer theater, her mother furtively glancing around in the dark, her father possessively putting an arm around her shoulder: "Amalia after a stealthy look sideways, curious and yet apprehensive, let her head fall on my father's shoulder and appeared happy. That double movement tortured me. I didn't know where to follow my mother in flight, if along the axis of that glance or along the parabola that her hair made in the direction of her husband's shoulder.I was beside her, trembling. Even the stars, so thick in summer, seemed to me points of my confusion. I was to such an extent determined to become different from her that, one by one, I lost the reason for resembling her." Good writing.

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