Thursday, 29 May 2014

Morality, European Union and a Horseman in the Sky


"I eat meat because I don't see a point in consuming the morally impeccable vegetables", 

said one of my closest childhood friends to me a couple of weeks ago. It's quite a puzzling statement at the first sight - don't you think? Granted, for it to have any value as a "justification" one has to accept the premise  (or: implication) that the preservation  of "moral impeccability" itself should be taken as a moral compass for morally impeccable acts. Let me rephrase the implication, so that I myself could understand it: if you want to act in a "good" way you should try to avoid harming "good". Yippee! We've made a perfect 360°circle - and now triumphantly have every right to proclaim that absolutely everything can be that "good"... 

That, of course, is the whole point of the quotation above. My friend likes to come up with similar statements to show the complete relativity of so called "moral acts". His formal reasoning is impeccable in deed - but I still disagree. Why? I'll tell you in a minute :)

 43% of the EU population voted - ca. 7% against Europe  

First let me recall last weekend and the rather frustrating statement of Europe and its people: "We don't care about the EU!" - might be a slightly exaggerated version of it. However, taking into account the non-voters you'll find about 2/3 of the EU-population (at least those having a voice) saying "I don't care about" or "I don't like the EU". Is there a point in blaming anyone for beeing disappointed with the EU or not sharing the ideal of transnational politics? I don't think so. Because the only possible grounds for this would be moral ones - and as we've seen above absolute moral grounds don't exist, right ?...

a Horseman in the Sky

I wonder how many of you know this short story by Ambrose Bierce. I'd suggest you to read it on your own if you liked to - because writing a summary of a short story is like squeezing out the water of a watermelon.
For the sake of this post only one piece of information is important: a young soldier is faced with a decision to make - and surprise, surprise... he hesitates. He starts fighting with himself (his conscience?!) and in the end forces himself to decide.
This very small word is all you need to show that moral grounds are inevitably human. We all need somekind of moral compass to make decisions. Even my friend, who suggests that all there is serves only the need to survive couldn't disagree: because "not making any kind of decision" or "deciding arbitrarily" are , of course, a kind of decision. Still there is no logical objection possible to the subjectiveness of morality - right?
After all, whether "not caring about" or "not liking" the EU is morally "wrong" is merely a question of perspective.

Yet there are certain cases where things are not that easy. Think of concepts like "pain", "well-being" or the most fundamental one "life" - which in its essence is the avoidance of "pain" and the promotion of "well being". If you deny the existence of "life", of course, then there is no point in anything. But if you do let "life" into your life - well, there you go: the absolute moral compass for everybody.

Going back to where we started, you still could try to justify a general "preference of meat over vegetables" on absolute moral grounds - but this creates a completely different basis opening the door for concepts like compassion, unity and love.   

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

'Kiseki' // 'I Wish' (2011)

Kiseki // I Wish (2011, Japan)
Directed by: Hirokazu Koreeda
Screenplay: Hirokazu Koreeda
Aithne's rating: 8,5/10
Aniel's rating: 8,5/10

Aniel: What did we watch?

Aithne: We watched a very nice movie called... I Wish in English , but it's originally Japanese and it's called Kiseki. It was movie by Hirokazu Koreeda, who's slowly becoming my... He's definitely already one of my favourite directors and he's, I think, slowly becoming my absolutely favourite one.

Aniel: I have to agree that for Japanese directors he's definitely in my top two. The other one being Kurosawa.

Aithne: Oh, I can't say too much about Kurosawa, I've seen only one movie by him... But as for Koreeda, I really love it in his movies that... The way he portrays Japan in there. We've both been to Japan and... Usually when you watch these movies where the action takes place in Japan it's like... As for Japanese movies, I think we've seen mostly older ones - and Japan changed a lot during past 40 years or so, so it's like a completely different country, completely different feeling when you watch it. As for the present movies... How to call it? It just feels different. And if it's a person from outside Japan making the movie then, of course, it has to be Tokyo, it has to be the big crossroads in Shibuya and this whole very stereotypical image. But what Koreeda is portraying is really the Japan I remember. Even if it takes place in a completely different city, it still feels like if it was Kyoto.

Aniel: So we can already tell something about the setting and the story from it. It's placed in present times...

Aithne: ...it's not Tokyo...

Aniel: ...yeah, it alternates between Kagoshima and Fukuoka, I guess...

Aithne: ... I guess yes. So it's in Kyushu, not the main island of Japan but a bit more southern one. And they have a volcano in there, Sakura-jima.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Courgette-carpaccio with chickpeas-salsa

The name sounds pretty fancy, but actually it's just a kind of nice salad with chickpeas and a pair of vegetables. It's supposed to be a side dish for 4 people or a light dinner for 2 people. For the two of us it was completely sating, so if you also don't eat too much, you can definitely count it as a fully normal dinner.

The original recipe comes from my (probably) favourite cooking book from those few I own: German edition of Anjum's Indian Vegetarian Feast. Even though this dish is not necessarily so Indian. We made some small alterations, like using only green courgettes instead of green and yellow (I didn't even know yellow ones exist...) and replacing pistachios with pine kernels (which we happened to have in the cupboard). I guess our dish tasted completely different than it was supposed to, but it was nice anyway. Still, I'm a big pistachio-ice-cream lover, so I definitely want to try to make the pistachio-sauce as well.

The courgettes are soft and warm, the chickpeas are crunchy, the tomatoes and feta add some lovely freshness. And it's wonderfully simple. Just take a look:




WHAT YOU NEED (SALAD):

4 big courgettes
a bit of olive oil
a dose (400g) of chickpeas (if you're - just like me - a DIY-freak and don't want to buy pre-made chickpeas, you have to start thinking about you dinner on the day before. Take 200g of chickpeas, put it in a bowl, add lots of water (like, really LOTS. You can't really take too much...) and leave it overnight. It should get at least twice as big as it was. Ready to use!)
1 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of ground cumin, roasted
1 small tomato, cut into small cubes
1 small (peeled) red onion, cut into small pieces
a bit of salt
30g of coriander leaves
75-100g of feta, cut or broken into small pieces


WHAT YOU NEED (DRESSING):

1 tablespoon of red or white wine vinegar
1 small clove of garlic, peeled
15g of pine kernels (or pistachios, if you stick to the original recipe)
2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/4 teaspoon of coarse ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of sugar


THE MAKING OF:

  1. Cut courgettes into thin slices (not thicker than 1/2 cm). Brush them with a bit of oil and put as many as you can on a frying pan. Fry them for approx. 3 minutes, until you can see brownish stripes on the bottom of the slices. Turn them around and fry the other side. Put the slices on a plate and fry the next portion.
  2. Mix chickpeas, lemon juice, roasted cumin, tomato cubes and onion pieces. Add some salt, pepper and almost all of the coriander leaves (the rest is just for decoration).
  3. Blend all the ingredients for dressing with 2 tablespoons of water.
  4. Put the courgette slices onto a plate (or two), add the dressing and the chickpeas mix. Sprinkle the rest of coriander and feta over the salad.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Ode(ssa) to Peace!

"Joy, beautiful sparkle of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
We enter, fire-drunk,
Heavenly one, your shrine.
Your magics bind again
What custom's sword has partef.
Beggars become princes' brothers.
Where your tender wing lingers."

Sometimes I wonder whether poetry and politics have more in common than the first to letters. 
Poetry, to me, is the art of approaching the unexpressible. It can be the purest way of verbalizing
ideas, feelings, hopes. It can bridge the abyss between minds, hearts, cultures, nations. 
It also can be empty words arranged in a fancy way. 
Politics ends up beeing the latter way too often.
The problem is that empty poetry doesn't do much harm, whereas empty politics does.  
 
I don't want to write political posts - at least not in this overt, blunt way. 
I would like my posts to be an inspiration for the readers - not rhetoric as usual.
So how come I am doing this anyway?
 
Because I hope...
for the people of Odessa - a city with over 100 different ethnicities...
 that they can live in Peace as they did before...
for Ukraine  the 2nd largest country in Europe...
 that it can proceed onto the path of Freedom...
for Europe, Russia and the whole World...
 that "beggars become princes' brothers"!

I believe that small acts, like this post, can contribute to broader awareness,
higher sensitivity, and hopefully to a better tomorrow.
 
That's why I ask you to dedicate 5 minutes of your time to take a look at this:
 

 Care & Share!
 
"Escape the tyrants’ chains,
Generosity also to the villain,
Hope upon the deathbeds,
Mercy from the high court!
The dead, too, shall live!
Brothers, drink and chime in,
All sinners shall be forgiven,
And hell shall be no more."- Friedrich Schiller, Ode to Joy 1785
 
 

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

'Be With Me' (2005)

Be With Me (2005, Singapore)
Directed by: Eric Khoo
Screenplay: Eric Khoo, Kim Hoh Wong, Theresa Poh Lin Chan (inspiration)
Aithne's rating: 7/10
Aniel's rating: 7,5/10

Be With Me is a calm, meditative and almost completely silent movie. Its main topic - which you can easily get even without words - is simple: heart-breaking solitude and longing for love. We'd like to share our thoughts on the movie with you. It's not really a review, rather some more or less general impressions... Or just a simple talk. Hope you enjoy reading it.


Aithne: Ok, so... we're trying to make a voice review of a movie. For the first time. Sooo... We've seen this Singaporean movie called Be With Me and... well... Let's forget this thing is in there and just talk <laughter>. What do you think?

Aniel Bedouin: It's a very tragic movie, for sure. Very atmospheric in this way that, well, it was very minimalistic, right? And...

Aithne: Um. Definitely.

Aniel: ...I think it was supposed to be minimalistic precisely to show, kind of, maybe a bit how the woman felt, the blind one. There was one part in the movie when there was absolutely no sound... When she was typing...

Aithne: ...in hospital, right? Oh, when she was typing as well, but I thought of the scene in hospital...

Aniel: Yeah, those were the memories I guess. Right?

Aithne: I think so... Well, I thought... This might be, of course, but I thought of it in a broader sense. You know, in general, just to show that these people are lonely and it's more or less how you feel then...

Aniel: Everything slows down, time passes by...

Aithne: I rather meant that you spend your days not really talking to anyone, you're completely closed in your world... But this was really interesting, it was something new; this movie was almost completely silent. And I really wish we had English subtitles for the Chinese parts <laughter>, between the father and the son. I know this is not a big thing, probably it wasn't anything that important, but...

Aniel: I'm not even sure whether it was not supposed to be this way. There was this small passage where the guy was starting to write a letter...

Aithne: Yeah, then there were subtitles.

Aniel: So I think maybe it was just supposed to be like this.

Aithne: I'm not sure... I wish I knew what they were saying anyway.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Our home-baked whole grain rye bread

Since I moved to Germany 10 months ago, I've been constantly stumbling upon the same problem: where to buy a bread which would be at the same time healthy and eatable. I'm trying hard to live as eco as possible - you know, using little chemicals, reading INCI of my cosmetics, buying pre-made food only in exceptional situations and generally paying attention to what I eat (getting anaemia makes you rethink your eating habits, trust me...) - but my ideal bread still looks more or less like this. I like it soft, fluffy, with crispy crust. Even eating Polish whole grain bread was never the biggest fun on Earth. And German... Well, let's put it like this: Germans take the word 'whole grain' a little bit too literally:


Our feeble attempts to buy something with more whole grain flour and less grains were usually in vain. Actually, I had a strong impression that my husband wasn't even getting what I'd like to find at all. You don't produce 100% whole grain flour bread. Not in Germany.

Well, it took me 10 months to get to this conclusion, but it seems to be the only reasonable solution in here: if I can't buy the bread that I want, then I have to make it!

I used a recipe from Modern Taste and upgraded some details with what I read on some other baking websites. And here it is - our first, superbly healthy, 100% whole grain flour rye bread ever.

WHAT YOU NEED: whole grain rye flour, water, a bit of salt, optionally also sugar and yeast. Plus one big and one small jar.

MAKING THE SOURDOUGH:
  1. Take the big jar. Pour in 2-3 tablespoons of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar (if you want to - I, for instance, never say no to sugar ^^) and add some water, until the dough is a bit denser than the one you use for pancakes. The water shall be warm, but not warmer than 40 degrees (104 F)!
  2. Close the jar, cover with a dishcloth and put in a warm place for the next 12 hours.
  3. After the 12 hours open the jar and stir the dough. Close it again and put it back in the warm place.
  4. After next 12 hours add another 2-3 tablespoons of flour and warm water (no sugar this time!). Stir, close, put in a warm place.
  5. Repeat 3. and 4. until you have enough sourdough for your bread. The best proportion (at least from what I got to know...) is 1:1, meaning: the same amount of dough and sheer flour. In this recipe you need 500g of both, so the production of the dough shall take approximately 5 days.

WHEN THE SOURDOUGH IS READY: put approximately 3 tablespoons of the sourdough into the small jar - this will be your 'starter' for the next bread. Put the lid on, but don't close it. Store the dough in the fridge.
If you don't intend to bake bread regularly, you should feed your dough once in a while - possibly once in a week. Put it out of the fridge, stir and leave for 2 hours. Then add 3 tablespoons of flour + water and leave it for 10-12 hours. Take 50-100g of the dough and put it back to the fridge - the rest you can freely throw away.

BAKING THE BREAD:
  1. Take a big bowl and mix: 500g of sourdough, 500g of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of yeast (if you want to use it), 1 teaspoon of salt and approx. 1/2 glass of warm water. Knead the dough, adding a bit of flour if needed.
  2. Put the dough in a bowl greased with vegetable oil (I think I'm going to skip this part next time - the whole oil got down on my dough...). Cover with a dishcloth and put in a warm place for 3-4 hours, so that it could grow.
  3. Briefly knead the dough (again adding flour if needed) and put it in a form lined with baking paper. Once again cover it with the dishcloth and put in a warm place, until the dough fills the whole form.
  4. Spread some oil on the cover of your bread.
  5. Bake 10 minutes in 200C (392F) and then 50 minutes in 180C (356F). If possible, spread some water on the top every 15 minutes.
  6. Take the bread out of the oven (and the form) and let it cool down. Cut it only when it's completely cold!

And if something went wrong - don't worry. The first bread rarely turns out to be awesome; your leaven needs some time to get more strength. That's why we're storing a bit of it in the fridge :). Every next bread shall be just better and better...

Our bread didn't turn out to be exactly like I imagined it. The leaven was probably too weak, maybe it was the oil, maybe the problem of finding 'a warm place' in our super-cold flat - but it didn't grow as nicely as in the original recipe. Still, we both loved it :). Just take a look!



Monday, 12 May 2014

The life span of a snail can reach up to 25 years - this makes me feel old.
Then again I am not a snail although my speed of acting might at times suggest differently.
Nevertheless snails and I have three things in common which are not only interesting for the (aspiring) zoologists out there:
                             1.Birth
                                                                                                                               2.Death
                                                                       3.Life

Sure, no big news so far - but what did you expect anyway?

The point is, both me, my wife and our slimy little relatives are here for some reason (thank you mum and dad!). We all are going to stop breathing one day. And in between we are part of a big adventure called "life". So far so good. The difference between my wife and the snail is that she knows about "life" whereas it simply lives.

Still nothing too exciting in here?!
Well guys, let me say it straightforward: my wife and I would like to be an active part of this adventure -
or at least believe that we are. So why don't you just stop by once in a while?
We'll share our thoughts, our life and you can do the same.
That's all there is - I guess.

Snail.Over.And Out.