The dawning of a new era : A knitter is born.

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Perhaps this new hobby of mine has only emerged as a result of my excessive free time over the summer and will simply die down once I go back to University and get caught up with essays, commitments and a little too much clubbing (and just generally with the task of trying to keep myself alive on a budget!), but I certainly hope not. 

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I learnt to knit when I was about 8 years old, but although no one dared to tell me at the time, I was terrible at it and quickly grew bored of it, anxious to run around and unleash all the energy I could. I lacked the necessary patience and dexterity and perceived it as a granny-type activity and, needless to say, I was left with nothing but an unfinished scarf full of holes that one of my poor teddies was eventually forced to wear.

Who would have thought that I would fall in love with the art of knitting just over 10 years later? Knitting has supposedly come back into fashion and I couldn’t be more pleased. Being able to learn a new skill while feeling productive and relaxed, is simply wonderful.

I’m converted!

 

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The return of knitting and it’s increasing popularity among young women, although clearly influenced by many celebrity knitters (Amanda Seyfried, Julia Roberts…), is simply a way for people to compensate for the ridiculously consumerist, globalized world we live in.

 We are granted access to thousands of chain stores at our doorstep and therefore knitting becomes a way for us to feel connected to the production side of the global assembly-line as well as to our primitive instinct and to stand out from the crowd’s standardized, mass-produced clothes by creating something unique and original.

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A perfect skill to have for gift-giving too: not only because time is money but also because a home-made, personalized gift is inalienable and the act of knitting is in direct opposition with the standard, passive acquiescence that dominates our lives today. According to the French Anthropologist Mauss, every gift contains what he called the “Hau” of the gift: by accepting something from someone, you are accepting a part of their “spiritual essence” and thus accepting the relationship. I would argue that this individuality that is imbued within gifts exists but has been greatly diluted by the commodity-nature of most gifts exchanged today. Knitting gifts is therefore a way to escape these cold, lifeless, impersonal items that embody materialism and instead offer a more personal expression of appreciation by stamping the knitted good with one’s identity.

The fact that knitting has been passed down so many generations of women makes me feel connected to the past somehow and finding some of my mum’s beautiful unfinished projects hidden away at the very back of a closet has just inspired me to follow in her footsteps. So far I’ve only made a snood and a braided headband but who knows what might come next !

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There’s nothing like curling up on the sofa with a ball of yarn, a pair of knitting needles, and of course, a cup of green tea !

Keep calm and cast on !

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Weekly Movie Review: To Rome With Love: Fame, Temptation and Disillusions.

So although the title indicates that this will become a weekly ritual, it will most likely convert itself into a monthly one. Nevertheless, I wish to announce that I have now officially returned, after not posting anything for many weeks. I started this blog partly as a procrastination device during my exam revision period but then realized that I should probably buckle down to work and leave the blog alone for some time. The intensity and stress of exams has now passed and I’ve even had plenty of time to celebrate. So here goes for my next post:

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I’ve actually watched more than one movie this week, including “The Snow Walker” which was also a very decent movie, but I thought I would focus on the more thought-provoking, powerful “To Rome with Love” film, directed by the 76 year-old Woody Allen as it is more recent and sends out a lot of symbolic messages to the world. It might appear a little over-ambitious and presumptuous of me to even attempt to write a review on a movie directed by such a legend, especially considering that I accidentally watched the whole thing without any subtitles despite a huge amount of the dialogue being in Italian (which because of my Spanish understanding and my experience of having lived with an Italian flatmate meant that I could pretty much follow everything but still limited my understanding to some degree).

Although the following contains some spoilers, the structure of the film is based on fragmented intertwining stories and because my review will be more thematic and analytic, rather than plot-based, reading it will most likely not interfere or impede on your enjoyment of the movie if you haven’t already seen it)

First of all, I might just say that I find it a little pretentious of Allen to be using the success of “Match Point”, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “Midnight in Paris” to continue his little tour of Europe and his stereotypical portrayal of all these nations. Unlike most critics, I was undeniably more forgiving about Woody’s portrayal of Italy than that of France, but that is most likely the simple result of my French nationality and my overall ignorance concerning Italian culture and society. However, his tendency to overlook all the profound socio-political issues that are currently deeply rooted throughout Europe is unforgivable for a large majority of Italian journalists. These movies never accurately portray the Spanish, the French, or in this case, the Italians, but always have to revolve around the life of American tourists who have come to discover the specific culture and history  of the country and somehow end up meeting a couple of passionate, carefree natives. Luckily, Allen uses this as a tool in his most recent movie, almost to criticize the simplistic american outlook on Europe, and more poignantly by casting himself, after a long screen absence, as one of these neurotic characters who only wishes to utilize the beauty and talent of an Italian mortician’s voice for lucrative purposes and ends up misinterpreting the critics as a positive compliment to his ego.

Indeed, a satirical depiction of the absurd and frivolous nature of fame is progressively constructed throughout the film. Woody Allen’s character, Jerry, is desperate to find talent within other people in order to exploit it and exhibit it to the rest of the world and yet at the end, only the discovered singer will get the credit for his performance. The situation in which Leopoldo’s character (Roberto Benigni) find himself successfully caricatures the endless obsessive harassment of the press towards celebrities, their absurd interest in the most trivial, mundane aspects of these people’s lives and the ephemerality of the duration of fame. Fame has no concrete basis and the sway of the public interest changes as quickly and with as much unpredictability as the wind.  Yet once his fame has died down and the feeling of suffocation has dissipated, Leopoldo craves his  former attention and loses his mind over it. Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) is willing to risk her relationship with her boyfriend by cheating on him with a perverse, overweight famous film star that she admires despite his complete lack of interest in anything but her body and youth.

Woody Allen also evokes the theme of the opposition between youth and old-age with his own character representing a man who is struggling to keep a grip on his career and is incapable of accepting his state of retirement and enjoying the relaxing holidays in Rome. Alec Baldwin’s character (John), literally meets his past-self, Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), whilst taking a walk down memory lane and gradually takes on the role of a semi-omniscient character or Jack’s subconscious who  is confusingly also able to converse individually with other characters. Full of regret, he is constantly trying to re-write his past by dissuading his younger version from committing the inevitable mistake of falling under the charm of yet another american, Monica (Ellen Page), who’s superficial sensibility for Italian art and poetry is perceived as irresistible but who also turns out to be a self-centered actress.

However, aside from these poignant statements, the rest of the movie feels like a random collage of unrelated stories that have little to do with Rome, that don’t share the same time frame and that seem to have been hurriedly pulled out of his “idea drawer” and assembled together as coherently as possible. Unlike in the popular Hollywood movies such as “Valentine’s day” or “Love actually”, barely any of these characters and plots ever overlap with each other. Nevertheless, it is still worth a watch for its moments of wit and charm. In a way, this lack of relatedness between plots is refreshing as it reflects a more plausible reality of the co-existence yet independence between a wide variety of different dramatic human relationships.  Although not as breath-taking as his most successful movies, by casting himself as Jerry, he seems to be demonstrating his indifference towards negative critics and his determination to retire when the time comes, as a personal decision, rather than a simple cowardly surrender. Woody Allen even put this desire into words during a later interview:  “I can’t see myself retiring and fondling a dog every day. I like to get up and work and go out. I have too much energy or too much nervous anxiety or something, so I don’t see myself retiring. Maybe I will suddenly get a stroke or a heart attack and I will be forced to retire, but if my health holds out I don’t expect to retire.”

Ratings :  

  • IMDB:   6.3/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes:   5.4/10
  • Allociné :   2.9/5

Tangled Thoughts: The Art of Communication

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Communication is a natural phenomenon. We are born speaking, crying out to our mothers, announcing our arrival to the world.

Humans have cultivated their communicative nature over time, in order to survive, to condemn injustice and proclaim victories. Verbalizing our thoughts satisfies a need in us: to relate to others or simply assert our ego. Even our inner voice is constantly bombarding us with questions from the moment we awake. The essence of success depends to a large extent on the ability to communicate and therefore the loss of communication in any format would lead to the eventual downfall of society as we know it.

“There is no such thing as conversation. It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that’s all” – Rebecca West.

At 6 years old, my life was carefully fragmented into two delicate phases, both very distinct from one another. The first had been cultivated by French traditions, the second drenched in the American life and way of being. Had one been more predominant than the other, that particular first day of school might have been made a lot simpler. But the scales of my two cultures were perfectly aligned. Growing up in a family of different languages led me to believe that everyone spoke the same language as me: a chaotic tangle of the two. Where was my home? Supposedly there was a certain sense of familiarity in returning to France, yet the three years that separated the two seemed to erase the first. My rush of self-consciousness disintegrated eventually, once I had plucked up the courage to utter a few clumsy words of politeness to a girl beside me.

The challenge of switching from one language to another soon became a breeze and as I perfected my fluency in both, my thirst for languages grew. After four years of learning German and five years of Spanish, I am now studying the latter at University level.

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As a child, the deafening sound at home meant that I was never the most verbal of people, unlike my present talkative self. My fragile voice never used to quite made it over the loud voices of the elder members and its content never made it worth listening to. Eventually, one starts to wonder whether silence might attract you more attention than by conforming to the expectations of being an ordinary loud youngster. I guess I just expected people to read my mind, interpret my feelings and react correspondingly which is why my first encounter with Sign Language, just a few years later,  felt so special.

The most important things are the hardest to say because words diminish them“- Stephen King.

Completely enthralled by what I saw, I watched the deaf woman’s hands paint story, after story, after story. I felt like I was missing out on one of the most beautiful and syncopated languages ever established. It intrigued me. Their body and mind seemed united and in silence, they expressed their every whim in an engaging and peaceful manner. I tried to rid myself of all the surrounding sounds associated with anger and irritation in an attempt to obtain the purity and softness of their world. Their sophisticated manner of expression instigated in me a burning desire to connect with the deaf community and led me to start learning ASL (American Sign Language) and then later BSL (British Sign Language) online 2 years ago, with a certain ambition.

I relish the uniqueness and phonetic particularity of every language that I come across. There’s nothing like the intertwining of a beautiful language and a melodious instrument, with music acting as a language in itself. I sometimes find the emotional power of a song to be even more forceful when the language is unknown to me. Looking up the lyric translation for Andrea Bocelli’s gorgeous song “Vivo per lei” almost diminished its sentimental effect on me. I fear the day Globalization will wipe away all the wonderful distinctions that exist between languages, imposing English as the ultimate international language. Laughter already acts as a beautiful bridge over language barriers.

Escape from Big Brother

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It feels so refreshing to start blogging. I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a new project in a long time ! Far, far away from Facebook and all the other controlling sites that have become ridiculously curious about the smallest details of everyone’s lives. A blog seems like a perfect balance between anonymity and intimacy. Undecided as to what this blog will focus on, but absolutely certain that it will include some of my own photography, art, and cooking experiments as well as thoughts about heated topics and current affairs, but more importantly my observations about society, people and life in general. Currently a University student, I wish to share my experiences and communicate my reactions to the educational system, its associated culture and England as a nation and how it compares to my beautiful France, trying to contain to some extent, my soon-to-be 19 year-old’s already all-too-present scrutinizing tendencies. Most of all, I just want a bit of fun and a chance to explore the creative and expressive side of me that doesn’t always get a chance to make an appearance in my everyday life.