Monika’s Musings

miscellaneous tidbits on marketing, advertising, and life in general

In the presence of a masterpiece


Last week I was in Malta, helping my sister settle down for her college studies. Kids these days – they choose smartly. I wouldn’t change my Paris years for the world, but spending 5 years on a Mediterranean island, home to the blue lagoon – that’s a wise move if I ever saw one. We spent the weekend exploring and on Monday she started her orientation activities. I had the mornings to myself and I used them to explore the island.

Malta is one of the world’s smallest and most densely populated countries in the world, but this tiny island packs a great deal of history on its territory of 316 square kilometers (122 sq miles). Everywhere you go, there are stories of knights and other bits of romantically sounding fairy-tale like history. The Maltese are also very religious; it is believed that St. Paul shipwrecked on the island, which was the beginning of a very pious group of Catholics. They certainly believe in show rather than tell – the tiny island is home to 365 churches – one for each day of the year.

Now, if you’ve travelled through Europe like I have, you have seen your fair share of churches. And perhaps, if you’re anything like me you might favor a mojito in the bar next-door, over spending precious time admiring murals and altars and stuff. However, I have learned a very important lesson – while people usually avoid the cathedrals which charge a fee (since – come on, you’ve seen thousands for free), if ever I find one, I always make it a point to pay and go in. To this day, I have never been disappointed.

Some of the best-spent money in Malta was the 6 EUR that St. John’s Co-Cathedral charges its visitors. They say the most remarkable thing about it is the huge contrast between its exterior and interior. In fact, when it was first built, it was your average bare-walled Catholic cathedral, however, at one point in time, the Knights really wanted to trump the guys over in Rome, so they started collecting donations and “refurbishing” their place of worship. See for yourself:

Outside St. John's Co-Cathedral

Outside St. John’s Co-Cathedral

Inside St. John's Co-Cathedral

Inside St. John’s Co-Cathedral

The lavish interior, however, was not what I found to be the most impressive part of the Co-Cathedral. There, I found a rare treasure, which was forbidden to photograph, and I was so smitten, that I didn’t even try (which for the record, is a first – I have plenty of forbidden pictures, including some from the Sistine Chapel. Yeah, yeah, who doesn’t … I know). In the Oratory,  I found myself facing The Beheading of St. John the Baptist - the only painting which Caravaggio ever signed.

My friend Vanessa did both her bachelor and master degrees in Art History and proceeded to work for Sotheby’s in NYC. Since I am not well versed in the arts, I remember asking her how they tell between originals and fakes. Her answer, I will never forget:

“When you are in the presence of a masterpiece, you just know it.”

Many years I have thought about these words, because, quite frankly I never felt the presence of a masterpiece. I have seen presumable originals of many a great artist … and yet – nothing.

I had always attributed this to the fact that I am no art connoisseur. Until a couple of days ago, when I stood humbled and quiet in front of that Caravaggio.

I still don’t have the words to explain how the painting made me feel, so I won’t even try. Instead, I will leave you with my two cents’ worth:

1) If a cathedral charges a fee; pay it and check it out. Always.

2) Don’t give up on the possibility that one day, when and where you least expect it, something will sweep you off your feet and leave you speechless. Savor that moment. Then tell me about it.

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Тъжни размисли в четвъртък вечер


Disclaimer: по принцип страня от подобни излияния on the interwebs, но пък това си ми е личният блог, моето си пространство. Криво ми е много и ще си помрънкам.

Така ми се стече животът, че имаше много промяна в него – нови места, нови емоции и най-вече нови хора. Непрекъснато. Имам приятели, чиито имена не мога да произнеса съвсем правилно, поради особеност на гласните струни, която ние европейците нямаме. Имам познати от държави, за чието съществуване не подозирах (ОК, тук е мястото всички колежани да се обединим и да си поискаме парите за уроците по география обратно. You know what I’m talking about). Така е и досега – точно взема да се почувствам съвсем на място и съдбата ме ритва силно по задника и ме изпраща далееч извън зоната ми на комфорт (справка: Унгария).

В цялата динамика на всички тези нови хора, обаче има нещо изключително стабилно: една малка групичка девойки, с които се знаем от първи клас (с част от тях и от детската градина дори). Истината е, че с годините доста се разминахме – всяка пое по своя път и направи своите избори, които ни отведоха на съвсем различни места – и в прекия и в преносния смисъл. Виждаме се рядко всичките, най-малкото защото са много редки моментите, в които сме по едно и също време в София.

Срещите с тези момичета винаги са ми били адски мили и приятни – това са хората, които най-буквално те връщат в първи клас. Пред техните очи си израстнал, си се променял многократно, продължаваш да се променяш. Може и да не знаеш във всеки момент какво става с тях, но когато се видите, винаги искрено искаш да знаеш и се надяваш да са добре, много добре. Носталгията по милия детски спомен ти дава възможността колкото и да си се отдалечил (волю или неволю) да се върнеш към тях, а така и към себе си. Сещате се, нали? Всеки има такива приятелства. За мен са един вид safety net. В тяхната компания се чувствам комфортно, знам, че винаги ще са на моя страна, няма да ме съдят ако направя някоя глупост и т.н. И това, разбира се, е реципрочно … си мислех аз. До този вторник.

Уговаряхме се да се видим – през ФБ. Насред купища служебни и лични ангажименти, видях thread-a от съобщения, от които последното беше: “Ние ще излезем към 16-17ч. с xxxxx и yyyyyy [детето и мъжа]. В Борисовата най-вероятно. Поне аз разбрах миналия път, че ще събираме децата да се видят. Кaто сте там, звъннете.” На това на спящия ми мозък му се стори адкси забавно да отговори “Аз деца си нямам още и няма какво да покажа :( . 4-5 съм още на работа, без изглед скоро да ми свърши денят… А и zzz (едната от девойките) я няма – имаме ли window of opportunity, в който можем да се видим 7-те?”

Стори ми се смешно (не е) – като игра на думи “да се видят” – “да се покажат”…

И с това всичко се промени рязко. Приятелката ми напусна разговора и малко по-късно се появи следния статус: “С по-просташко и обидно отношение от “приятелки” не бях очаквала да се сблъскам. Колко ли още могат да се самозабравят някои хора? Хорската простотия никога не бива да се подценява.”

Явно адски много съм те обидила. За което съжалявам ужасно. И също така се чувствам много глупаво, защото не знам какво чак толкова казах. Аз явно не го разбирам по същия начин, по който ти, което е лошо, защото така рискувам отново супер да те засегна, при това без да искам… На няколко пъти го прочетох – тъпо е, да. Но защо е просташко и толкова обидно? Ако не ми го обясниш – няма как да го разбера. Опитах се да се извиня – явно не искаш или не можеш да ми простиш.

Отначало реших да не обръщам внимание на думите, да ги подмина. Очевидно са казани в състояние на афект, което не е най-добрият съветник.

Но …



Колко ли OЩЕ могат да се самозабравят някои хора

Хорската простотия никога не бива да се подценява


Думи, които НИКОГА не съм очаквала да чуя по мой адрес. Без диалог – просто хвърлени ей така в пространството. Камо ли от човек, който ме познава от дете. В чиято компания се чувствам най-safe дори да изръся някоя колосална простотия.

Огорчението ми е безкрайно.

Най-малкото, което очаквах беше едно директно “Ей, Ч, кво приказваш бе?”

Явно твоята компания ми е била много по-приятна, от колкото моята на теб.


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9/11 and a tiny silver lining on the darkest cloud


I just finished Dan Brown’s Inferno and several times he makes reference to a plaque which states “On this day in this place the world was changed forever”. Sadly, there are such days in real life and we don’t seem to need special plaques to remember or recognize them. I say “sadly” because the changes we remember so vividly are usually negative and of some sort of horrific nature. This, of course, does not mean to say that there aren’t many days which mark how our world has been changed forever in a positive way, but those never seem to be newsworthy and earthshaking enough to be remembered by just about anyone who was alive at that time.

Like most of you, I will never forget that 9/11.

At the time I was president of my university’s student government association. One of the things that made AUP unique, was that it had its own student-run bar – the AMEX – which was indescribably awesome in so many ways, apparent to just those of us who used to – practically – live there. The manager at the time was the quintessential Italian guy – you know – those who are never in a rush and who get away with everything. For a while we had been pestering him to organize some sort of event for the slow hours in order to attract more students to the bar and he had come up with the idea to project movies, but never seemed to do anything about it.

When the first plane hit the North tower I was in a meeting at Campanella - the cafe across the street from the AMEX, completely oblivious that horrific history was being made as I sipped a latte. When the meeting ended, I walked into the AMEX and remember being simultaneously surprised and pleased: there were so many kids there, eyes locked on the screen. I thought Stefano had finally gotten his shit together and had organized his movie sessions – and, My God – see how popular they were!

This thought took a fleeting second. In the next, I realized the place is unusually quiet.

I spotted one of my best friends. His dad is black, so his complexion is naturally quite tan.

He was pale. Almost transparent. His eyes, HUGE, fixed on the screen.

I turned around, very slowly.

And just then, in front of my eyes, on the huge screen in the AMEX I saw the second plane hit the South tower.

Even now, 12 years later, as I write this, my whole body is in goosebumps.

It was in that moment, one of the darkest of my life, that I truly saw AUP’s magic. Its value was not in “gravitas” as the marketing agency hired to advertise the university would later suggest. Nor was it in amazing academics, despite the fact that some people really wanted to believe this. AUP’s magic was in every single one of us: its students.

I have mentioned before that we came from more than 100 nationalities. It seemed that we were all there, crowded together in the tiny AMEX. Everyone was shocked. A lot of the American kids were crying: you couldn’t get a line through to the States; many of the kids had parents who worked in the towers. As they were experiencing one of the worst days of their lives, their Arabic friends were besides them, offering comforting words, hugs and support.

The world outside was pointing fingers, allocating blame, somewhat lightly to whole countries/world regions and taking sides. The world inside the doors of 31, ave Bosquet was suffering through a human tragedy. Nationalities, religious beliefs, political affiliations did not matter. We were there for our friends, sharing their horror, living it with them. Their shock and sorrow were our own, regardless of where we happened to be born.

While the outside was consumed by hatred, our love was stronger than ever. We were a new world. A better one.

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