During the holidays, I chose to shut off from the world. I needed a break not only from city life, but also from all the noise on social media. It’s been a very peaceful, albeit very full end of the year. So in my beginning-of-the-year letter from the editor (this is what I was writing about this time last year), I am sharing not only my carefully chosen recommendations for starting the new year in a well-cultured way, with great films, books, podcasts and things to do (they work wonderfully to battle the January blues, too). I want to talk about something else as well. About some of the changes I have made in my life and will continue to make for my own peace of mind, for the good of my family and for the better of the world around me. I hope the new year will bring change for the better.
Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmonds in “A Quiet Place” | Platinum Dunes
A Quiet Place
I have just recently watched John Krasinki’s sci-fi suspense thriller which he also co-wrote and which stars Emily Blunt. It immediately made the cut to my top movies of 2018. It is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, where sightless alien creatures hunt their prey on even the faintest sound. It is a world in which only the most quiet and careful humans survive. There is not much that can be invented in cinema anymore, but that concept felt new and thrilling. Silence never sounded so terrifying. Emily Blunt and her real life husband, John Krasinski, play a loving couple with young kids and the story is so tense that I stood on the edge of my seat the entire time. They have to speak in sign language and walk with bare feet and even the vaguest sound can mean almost instant death. It’s clever, nerve-shredding and beautifully executed, and I kept telling myself that this can’t be so good until the end. But it absolutely is. One of the things that makes it so good is that it does not depend too much on what these creatures look like. For a big portion of the film they remain subliminally defined and the power of the unseen works brilliantly. I’d like to also recommend you listen to Terry Gross’ podcast with Emily Blunt, where they discuss Mary Poppins Returns, but also A Quiet Place.
There are still a few films of last year which I was looking forward to and still haven’t had the chance to watch (I wrote about all the good ones I did watch here and here), but I have to get a little more into detail about Free Solo. Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s documentary film profiles rock climber Alex Honnold on his quest to perform a free hand-over-foot, with no rope, solo climb of the 1,000 m face of El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, in June 2017. I love the mountain and there are few things that fascinate me more than the pursuit of great heights, literally speaking. The drive, the courage, the majesty of the mountain and of a human being up there on it. “What makes free soloing interesting is it’s life or death. In normal life you’re never facing real consequences of, ‘I could die doing this.’”
Even if you’ve watched this before, you can watch it again. Anthony Bourdain’s show that followed him as he traveled around the world from Myanmar to New Jersey to Senegal, sampling foods, meeting local chefs and embracing diverse takes on food culture. “Bourdain lived life like he treated so many of the dishes he consumed. By gnawing it to the bone. So many of us could learn to live just a little more like that. This show isn’t just entertaining. It is heartwarming, it is honest and it benefits human kind,” wrote Tanner Palin.
I have recently been recommended these two tv series. The first one is a French cop thriller show and the second one is an Icelandic series, “a mix of Nordic noir and Agatha Christie” in the director Baltasar Kormákur’s own words. And now I can not wait for a weekend when I will be able to binge-watch either one of them.
“The Clean Plate” cook book by Gwyneth Paltrow | photo credit: Goop
“When a film is not a document, it is a dream…At the editing table, when I run the strip of film through, frame by frame, I still feel that dizzy sense of magic of my childhood.” Do you need any other reason to read this book?
A no-holds-barred retrospective and comprehensive monograph of Oliver Stone, the renowned and controversial writer, director and cinematic historian in interview form. Over the course of five years, Oliver Stone and author Matt Zoller Seitz (The Wes Anderson Collection) discussed, debated and deconstructed Stone’s outspoken, controversial life and career with extraordinary candor. All those conversations are collected in this book.
For all the reasons I wrote about here, I can not wait to read this memoir.
The only book I have been interested in reading so far about David Bowie, although not a biography, was Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy, by Tony Visconti. I gather Dylan Jones’ book, drawn from a series of conversations between Bowie and Jones across three decades together with over 180 interviews with friends, rivals, lovers and collaborators, is a much more complete account on his life and music, and only hope is as good as Visconti’s.
Azzedine Alaïa made fashion on his own terms, in his own time. He refused to fit into the fashion system. He gave himself time, as much as he needed. He worked for years on an idea until it was perfect. He never did anything just to please someone. He didn’t advertise. He rarely gave interviews, and made no public appearances. He was exceptionally discreet in his real life. He was a master of form. He was born with it. He was relentless in his work. He never stopped creating. Everything he created, he created with his own hands. A new edition of the only major monograph published on Azzedine Alaïa, which has been out of print for over a decade, is available. Enough said.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I love Gwyneth Paltrow’s cook books. Her recipes are right up my alley: few ingredients, plenty of vegetarian and vegan dishes, seasonal, natural, easy to make and all so good. Her cook books, “It’s All Good” and “It’s All Easy”, are among the very few that are on heavy rotation not only in my home, but also in my parents’ home, and that says a lot.
My interest in investigative journalism is picking up speed again with this book. The presentation of Charles Seife’s Virtual Unreality reads that journalism ideally is the practice of truth, but the Internet has changed how we identify the truth. Seife explores what happens when consensus reality breaks down, when we continually ingest deception.
“Aramburu has recognised that in the wake of ETA’s permanent ceasefire, there is another story that needs to be told and remembered in a sensitive and reconciliatory fashion. This cannot be achieved by politicians fighting over how best to facilitate ETA’s disbandment and address the legacy it leaves. It must be writers and other cultural practitioners who do that,” writes The Conversation. I couldn’t agree more. Fernando Aramburu’s “Patria” is a gripping story and devastating exploration of the meaning of family, friendship, what it’s like to live in the shadow of terrorism, and how countries and their people can possibly come to terms with their violent pasts. Also a vivid description of political mainstream error and the inescapable attraction of terror for a young misguided generation. The English version, “Homeland”, will come out in spring.
Vybarr Cregan-Reid‘s “Primate Change: How the world we made is remaking us” is about why we need to get out of our chairs and on our feet. Because the modern, sedentary lifestyle is doing irreparable harm to our bodies. I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but how’s that for a lifetime’s resolution?
It is unbelievable how many questions I get from my son every time I read him one of these Japanese stories and fables. And the way his imagination takes off. It is one of those wonderful books which introduce children to different cultures and different parts of the world with such ease. The first edition of this book (by Florence Sakade, with illustrations by Yoshisuke Kurosaki) was published in 1959 and it’s been popular ever since. PS: Children’s books are not just for children.
Anthony Bourdain | photo credit: CNN
My January playlist will soon be available on the site and on Spotify, but until then, here are some of my favourite podcasts.
I’ve been long looking for an adventure podcast (not merely a travel podcast) where I could discover the why behind the stories of those who live extraordinary lives: the adventurers, the explorers, the mountaineers, the outdoors people. People who challenge themselves, who go there, who live every day to the full. Because, as Mark Twain said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” And thanks to my favourite travel magazine, Sidetracked, I have found the adventure podcast. Terra Incognita, hosted by filmmaker Matt Pycroft, is an ongoing series of conversations with pioneers of exploration and discovery.
Every week I make time to listen to almost every episode of Terry Gross’ podcast. Yes, I have mentioned it numerous times before. Because, yes, it is that good.
I am not much fan of the horror genre or of Halloween, for that matter. But I love a good horror movie. I love a good movie, period. And John Carpenter’s “Halloween” (1978) is one. I also love a good talk about a good film. Halloween Unmasked, hosted by film critic Amy Nicholson (it was her narration style that pulled me in), is an eight-part miniseries about the legacy of this “accidental classic”. Each episode is dedicated to a different element of the film’s unprecedented success and impact on the horror genre (including interviews with the director himself and Jamie Lee Curtis). I certainly wanted to watch the film again after listening to this podcast. PS: For more great film interviews, check out Terry Gross’ podcast (see above).
“We are not conspiracy theorists. But we are open-minded, skeptical and curious,” say hosts Molly Brandenburg and Carter Roy. I like their motto. Each week, they dig deep into a conspiracy theory about a famous subject, from the New World Order and Marilyn Monroe to the Illuminati and to the death of Kurt Cobain. I find this podcast very informative and a reminder to think by yourself and learn to ask questions.
Alex Honnold peers over the edge of Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park, 2016.
Photo credit: National Geographic/Jimmy Chin
Before the year ended, I closed both my personal and my website’s Facebook accounts. I barely ever used my personal account, but I used my site’s account much more often for obvious reasons. However, Facebook is a platform that has never represented the values Classiq stands for, namely a manifesto for living a meaningful and well-cultured life. And I have to say, I didn’t expect my decision to have an obvious impact on my life, but it does. That little time I spent on Facebook daily I use it now to read a paper magazine, for example, and I’m telling you, it makes all the difference. It is a simple act that makes you more connected with the real world and it is so worth it. And I don’t feel I am forced into any intake of unwanted news and newsfeeds anymore. At least now I choose which news to read.
I have finally reached the point when I don’t care about how others live their lives, nor about what others think of me. But I do care about how their lives impact others’. And I know that the majority of the people I know have more than they need and that they should give more back and be more responsible towards the world we will leave to our children. Because it is not enough to live your own life as a conscient choice; we all should do more for the others and for our world.
When I see around me people who still don’t give a damn about recycling and about climate change, it makes me sick. If my son could learn about recycling when he was two, why do grown-ups continue to be so stupid and ignorant? I am sick and tired of being asked why I don’t eat meat anymore. I am tired of getting the looks because I forbade my son’s kindergarten to give him breakfast and lunch because I had doubts about the provenience of the food. I don’t do the groceries if I don’t have my own non-plastic bags with me. I have given up to-go coffee (for the record, the coffee I make in a Turkish copper coffee pot on the stovetop at home is still the best there is in my opinion). I buy as much as I can products made of recycled paper and avoid buying products with lots of unnecessary packaging. I always buy twice before buying anything. We have switched to energy-saving lightbulbs in our home. We eat most of our meals at home, not only because of the health benefits, but also for avoiding ready-made meals which have a high carbon price tag. We have taught our son how to plant a tree. I rarely put foot in shops anymore because I go berserk when I see all the waste and it is mind-boggling how on earth all these clothes chains still thrive – on a side note, I am buying much less than before, my wardrobe is more streamlined than ever, but it also looks better than it has ever had (and I can not wait to bring you more true style stories here on the site). We recycle, recycle, recycle (including textiles). I am tired of giving explanations. Why don’t you get informed? If a family with two little kids can live without plastic, why can not each one of us make more of an effort?
I want to live with intention and I want my family to experience that feeling of freedom and satisfaction you have when you are on the top of the mountain more often. I need to be closer to nature, I need open spaces, simplicity, a true sense of community. That’s what I’m striving for. That’s what it’s all about.