24 November 2007

Why I Love Australia

Came across this ugly website today:


Are these people for real????
'the preservation of Western culture'???

Here's a riddle:

What exactly is Western culture and what does it mean to preserve it?

Perhaps they mean: a culture that is more civilised and more peaceful. Or, a culture that has the ability to rightfully dictate to other non-Western cultures how to live and how to organise their governments...just not the other way around. Or, the ability to justifiably attack any random nation in the name of democracy as we define it.

Maybe that sort of Western culture?

Sorry but this really gets to me.

According to psychologists, what we call "Western culture" is one where individuals follow an independent pathway and value self-esteem, assertion and self-achievement. In this culture, mirror recognition arises earlier in childhood (15-18 months) because the self stands out and individuals are tought to assert themselves and communicate face to face.

Conversely, many non-Western cultures would tend to follow an interdependent pathway, which places a high value on one's relationships with other members of the community, one's honesty, reliability and filial piety. Mirror recognition comes later in childhood because socialisation, rather than the self, is more important.

Based on this, I fail to see what exactly this website is about and what aspect of Western culture they are trying to preserve.

In fact, it seems to be more of an arena where bloggers can express their fears and propagate their prejudices.

This is one of their racist articles. Gotta love the non-journalistic approach.
I think this guy should recruit for the next Crusades:


It's ironic given that from what I have read, Sweden is a relatively racist country where immigrants are ostracised in many ways.

There is solid psychological evidence that when people are ostracised from a community they behave more aggressively. Even in a group game to simulate isolation, people who are isolated will report feeling more aggressive. But this article is inferring that immigrants, being mostly Muslim, are inherently violent people.

When I read this filth, I love Australia.

19 November 2007

Belated Postcards - Corsica

Corsica lures the traveller with its beautiful clean beaches, celebrity mansions (or yachts!), panoramic limestone landscapes, tales of bandits hiding in the treacherous maquis, of wailing women in black... and the soulful, haunting sounds of traditional polyphonies. Corsica fascinates the romantics with its menacing family vandettas and its famous Corsican knife, perfect for a stab in the heart, hence the island's name of "cor" (heart) "sica" (cut).
But I'm sure you can read all about this on Wikipedia.
Or you can read Mérimée's tragic "Colomba".

Corsica is practically run by the Mafia. Just kidding.
Honestly, based on my experience, Italy and Corsica have much in common.
In addition, this island certainly relies greatly on tourism for its income and the transport infrastructure doesn't leave much to be desired. We took a total of 3 1/2 hours to travel by bus from Ajaccio to Bonifacio, travelling through capricious, mountainous scenery and spiralling dangerously close to the edges of cliffs on the one-lane road. I was fine but Jason suffered from motion sickness. I've never seen him so fragile! He looked as though he was going to swoon in my arms in a sigh.

I loved the food in Corsica.
Yes, you can still gorge on the standard 'French' treats, like those we bought from a street vendor in Ajaccio: gauffre à la crème de marrons (my very very favourite) served with laddles of chantilly (even better!!) and Nutella filled crepes. If you insist on all things French, you can order Salade Niçoise and all that standard mainland fare. Nothing new. But then there's some lovely Corsican treats like the broccio cheese, made from goat's milk. Incidentally, I had some tangy, broccio filled cannellonis once. But overall, Corsica, like Kensai in Japan, is chestnut paradise. And I LOOOVE chestnuts.

You can also find some great paninis in Sartène. For example, they have this monster of a sandwhich called the "American panini". It's basically a 30cm toasted panini with pan fried chicken, melted cheese and a sinful mustard/ketchup sauce. Jason discovered this treasure in the market square but I forgot what the actual place was called... Anyway, we sat there, in Sartène's market square, watching as the entire village congregated, watching as the older generation waddled about in their doomsday clothing and whispered in each others' ears, watching, as the Sartène locals socialised and gave meaning to an otherwise lifeless old village.

Surrounded by this depressive gloom, we, the tourists, munched on a very 'American' panini. If only Dali had been there to capture that on his canvas.

Nothing is chirpy in the very Corsican Sartène. Our lovely hotel was perched on a hill overlooking the maquis and its garden gave way to a splendid Corsican cemetary. I must say this. To me, it felt as though the cemetary was the heart of town and that it was anticipating... something. That's how it feels to be in that village, but it's truly memorable. A very Colomba experience...

Another dark presage...during a long walk from Sartene to Propriano, we saw a large writhing snake skirting a stone wall not far from the only service station en route.

The walk to the relaxed Propriano beach took over 3 hours under a ruthless sun. But the clean, quiet beach and its breezy lane of ice cream and crepe shops was a refreshing delight. If I remember clearly we were also stalked by a happy dog all along the beach.

The taxi back from Propriano to Sartène was VERY expensive.

The Mafia runs Corsica remember...

Now on to Bonifacio...

Bonifacio is a blur. I honestly don't remember much of it except for the awe inspiring beauty. After all, Corsica is also known as l'Île de Beauté.

By the way all these photos were taken in May 2002. You'll have to excuse the poor quality! I have taken great pains to scan each film negative. What can I say, I belong to that truly unique generation who ditched analog for digital only to find themselves sadly contemplating a lifelong album collection of imperfect photos.

Actually I lied. I do remember something. The staircase of the King of Aragon ou bien les escaliers du Roi d'Aragon comme on le dit en français. What a historical delight that story is. Or legend.

According to the legend which delights tourists such as myself, these 187 steps were carved into the stone during a single night by the King of Aragon's troops. This was in 1420 during the siege of Bonifacio.

Unfortunately, there exists a more practical, cynical side to every legend. So common sense has it that these stairs were probably created over time by Fransiscan monks who needed to gain access to the potable water.

I liked the legend better...

Check out the near perfect 45 degree incline. I bet those Fransiscans were good at maths. Here we were in a boat on our way to the Sdragonato cave.

Aside from Corsica's rocky coastal beauty, you can also find treasures in the mountainous center of the island where hikers take to camping and exploring the center's many trails. While in Ajaccio, we took a train ride to Vizzavona and enjoyed an easy trail to the "Cascade des Anglais".

Cooler Vizzavona makes for a welcome respite from the assaults of the sun elsewhere. We had a picnic at the Cascade des Anglais and spent the afternoon trailing about before catching a late train back to Ajaccio. Expect train delays...

The Meaning of Death

"Man...expresses himself primarily by his action...But this action lacks unity, that is, meaning, until it has been completed...
In a word, so long as he has a future, that is, an unknown quantity, man is unexpressed.

It is therefore absolutely necessary to die, because, so long as we live, we have no meaning...Death effects an instantaneous montage of our lives; that is, it chooses the truly meaningful moments (which are no longer modifiable by other possibly contrary or incoherent moments) and puts them in a sequence, transforming an infinite, unstable and uncertain - and therefore linguistically not describable - present into a clear, stable, certain, and therefore easily describable past.... It is only thanks to death that our life serves us to express ourselves.

Editing therefore performs on the material of the film...the operations that death performs on life."

- Pier Paolo Pasolini, film director

12 November 2007

Narcissistic Men (or Women)

How to recognise them.

1. They are ever attentive and caring in the beginning of the relationship. This is not so after a couple of months onwards.

2. They establish behaviour rules. Oh, nothing drastic at first. It could range from seemingly banal assertions like "I never answer the phone" to the more controlling "I don't like you talking with other guys." Cringe.

3. They have low self-esteem - The common misconception about narcissistic persons is that they love themselves and that they have an unshakeable self-belief. This couldn't be further from the truth. While they seem self-sufficient and appear to have an elevated sense of self, in actual fact their self-esteem is dismal. They are extremely insecure people who need others to boost their ego.
That's where you come in!!! You, along with others serve as their audience. Narcissists use others to boost their crumbling sense of worth and they ride high on that collective energy so much so that it is easy to believe they don't need anyone. That's not true. They do!!
This also implies that injuring their ego is not recommended.
Which brings me to point number 4.

4. They react badly to the slightest criticism or negative nuance - that's what I meant. You shouldn't injure their ego. This can make them anxious, irritable or downright aggressive. At worse they can become revengeful.

5. It's all about them. Ok, there are people who love talking about themselves but who are equally interested in you and who can tolerate constructive criticism. But in the case of narcissists, the marketing blurb doesn't stop. And while they talk selflishly of their own concerns, they are blatantly oblivious to yours. For example, they are not interested in making you feel good about your achievements instead, only concentrating on their own achievements.

6. They like, need and crave attention from the opposite sex - there's a dual rule here. You for one, should abstain from even smiling at the opposite sex but they on the other hand need the maintain their fan base regularly. It doesn't matter if the narcissist already has a partner, girlfriend or whatever: they need a large group of admirers on stand by. The more the better. And quantity is usually favoured over quality.

7. They are manipulative - you have to understand that these people have such high insecurities that they are not naturally confident that you would either support them or remain with them for long, unless they coerce you to do so in some way. This is why they use all their powers of persuasion which includes lying about their achievements, making you insecure or jealous, and planting evil seeds of doubt in your mind so that you are sure to hang around. In short, they make you vulnerable. In the meantime, the narcissist refrains from revealing his or her own vulnerability.

8. You find yourself neglected - In your relationship with the narcissist, you feel uncared for and generally neglected emotionally. There is a key factor in childhood/caregiver attachment called 'sensitivity'. In this scenario, a mother helps her child to become attached to her by being sensitive to its needs. That is, by correctly detecting what the child wants and responding to its needs appropriately. According to psychological research, caregiver sensitivity and synchrony with the child are the most important aspects for developing a trusting and comforting child/caregiver attachment rather than just breast-feeding for example. But what about adults? I would argue that we want basically the same thing. And the irony with narcissists is that while at first, they show extreme sensitivity towards you, they later become highly out of sync and aloof. Think about it, you are there to support them, not the other way around. If they are sick, it's your duty to say "Are you ok" or "Hope you get better" but on the other hand, if you are sick, expect no such kindness from them. It's as if they are not listening. Think Oscar Wilde and Bosie and you'll get what I mean. Poor Oscar.

9. You find it hard to 'leave' them - Ok, this is the telling sign that you are dealing with a narcissistic individual. But there are two issues here. The first is that through their rules, neglect or jealousy games, they have managed to injure your self-esteem in some way.The result is that somehow, you have come to believe that you don't deserve better. Or worst, you actually come to believe that there is nothing wrong with their behaviour and that it is your expectations that are incorrect and need re-adjusting. Don't go there. Look around you and you will find people who treat you more kindly. The second issue is your nature. Unfortunately, you are as much a problem as they are. This is because while narcissistic people tend to be highly avoidant of overt emotional manifestations they in turn attract highly emotional, clinging, obsessive types. Like you, perhaps. So be careful if that is you. Understand what it is that they represent and don't hurt yourself by remaining in this relationship.

The Narcissisists - How to leave them

1. Don't make a scene. The more emotionally charged the breakup, the more you set yourself up for a sadomasochistic state where deep down, admit it, you expect them to suddenly feel intense remorse for hurting you and somehow to run after you, then go down on one knee to say sorry and ask for forgiveness.... It won't happen!!!

2. The very first step you need to take is to like yourself. Appreciate your strengths. Do things that make you feel good. Learn to love yourself. Spend time with people who are positive and responsive. Stop dismissing or rejecting those people who respond to you easily. That's the mistake clingers make. They seem to get high on rejection and throw themselves at narcissists. Kamikaze style.

3. Stop investing yourself Emotionally with them- You need to do this over time and consistently. Test your resolve to resist their manipulative ways. The more you resist, the more you will feel stronger. Continue to interact with them but remain detached. They hate that. They will probably notice this since they feed on your emotionalism. They will probably change their behaviour temporarily to get more emotional response out of you. The key word here is temporarily. So don't be fooled.

4. Once you are strong and emotionally detached, you will find it easier to end the relationship. And when you do, you will realise how truly pathetic and childish they are. It's really quite sad to see and they should probably see a shrink.

5. Don't look back. You are worth more than this.

1 November 2007

Ya Rayah - English Translation

I used to love this song 9 years ago. Still do. But now I finally found the lyrics!

Rachid Taha - Oh Emigrant

Oh where are you going?
Eventually you must come back
How many ignorant people have regretted this
Before you and me

How many overpopulated countries and empty lands have you seen?
How much time have you wasted?
How much have you yet to lose?
Oh emigrant in the country of others
Do you even know what's going on?
Destiny and time follow their course but you ignore it

Why is your heart so sad?
And why are you staying there miserable?
Hardship will end and you no longer learn or build anything
The days don't last, just as your youth and mine didn't
Oh poor fellow who missed his chance just as I missed mine

Oh traveler, I give you a piece of advice to follow right away
See what is in your interest before you sell or buy
Oh sleeper, your news reached me
And what happened to you happened to me
Thus, the heart returns to its creator, the Highest (God)

15 October 2007

What's your Brain Type?

Your Score: Androgynous

You scored 63% masculinity and 63% femininity!

You scored high on both masculinity and femininity. You have a strong personality exhibiting characteristics of both traditional sex roles.

Link: The Bem Sex Role Inventory Test written by weirdscience on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

12 October 2007

Watching You Watching Me


This site is being monitored via Google Analytics.

What does this mean?

It means that if you are stalking me, I know who you are.

Yep, I know where you live to the nearest city, what Browser you got for Xmas and what days you were pretending to work while Googling away.

I also know what pages you are viewing in my blog.
It's only fair that since I have no privacy, neither should you. Right?

With Google Analytics, I can also find out whether or not you are a sicko.

For example, my reports tell me if you are so depraved as to Google the words "perky nipples" and land on my 300 movie page.

Alternatively, if you Google the words "Hot Men" and land on my Hot Men or Hot Men II page, this tells me that you have some truly perverted hobbies.
Sames goes for "Hot Women" or "Shaking That Arse".
It's disgusting and you should be ashamed. You possibly need help.

I mean, how creative does a writer have to be with post titles to avoid people like you?

6 October 2007

The Beauty Myth - Paris is a Bitch

A woman I once knew shared her personal conviction with me: "Most beautiful women are mean, selfish and shallow."

That took me by surprise. I fell into total disagreement. A lot of people I like and who I believe are very kind and not at all shallow are also quite beautiful in my eyes. I don't believe that appearance determines a person's character. In fact it would seem to me, to be the other way around, since kind people over time will appear to me to increase in their outer beauty. I personally think that the more I like someone, the more their appearance seems pleasing. But I do agree that some people do have more of a physical pull to begin with...perhaps that is what she meant when she spoke of 'beautiful women'.

But her statement seemed very callous to me. So I objected. But she claimed that she had met a lot of women who were mean, selfish and shallow and who were also very beautiful. So her experiences were the opposite of mine. Casting aside each of our experiences with beautiful people which I believe would lead us into frequency heuristics rather than true scientific evidence, I want to think about her statement.

Just because someone's appearance conforms to a particular culture's highly mediated expectation of beauty or just because their hip to waist ratio reaches a particular number, it does not follow that this person is necessarily selfish, mean or shallow. In fact that kind of statement - that beauty equates with meanness and shallowness -is one of the most shallow perceptions that I have ever encountered. Not only is it shallow but it is tainted with jealousy especially if the person making this claim happens to not fall within the standards of beauty marketed by society (which was the case). This statement could also be engendered by much bitterness. Bitterness, perhaps, at not having the advantages which psychologists assert is afforded by beauty, whether in employment, classrooms or courtroom situations. There is indeed much evidence that beautiful people are assumed by others to be "good" or more talented and that beautiful people also earn more on average.

But is it necessarily valid to assume that the beautiful person is automatically the shallow one? Or should the society which so readily embraces beauty in all its forms be labelled as shallow instead? And shouldn't her bitterness be directed at this society which is so easily persuaded by beauty? But then, exactly how shallow, is this society whose behavior has deep biological roots aimed at the survival of healthy species...one must wonder.

Either way, returning to this vile statement, I would argue that society which constantly supports and promotes certain forms of beauty is shallow as a whole...not the beautiful individuals who are merely objects of myth and conformity. To adopt a stance solely against beautiful people would seem unjustified and illogical. But it makes perfect sense that someone would adopt this stance if they felt undervalued, or insecure or jealous and wanted to adopt a strategic opinion in order to feel better about themselves in some way.

It's a little sick really. Instead of building prejudices about others, this person could feel better about themselves in myriads of ways. They could choose to go to the gym, they could modify their appearance, improve their interpersonal skills, learn something new and just feel great about the relationships that they do have.
But to do nothing to change one's feelings of inadequacy and to instead attack what one perceives as "the opposition" is simply very mean and petty. So, I've been thinking about that statement and about the person who said this. I often think their low perception of themselves caused them to interpret the worst in others. They saw arrogance where there is aloofness or shyness, self-conceit where there is simply healthy confidence...

As an aside, I think of the many Ugly Bettys in this world who, after years of hiding and being ill at ease in public, were persuaded to transform themselves into gorgeous butterflies after absorbing society's hints of beauty. Now of course, they seem to have it all. But how much they would have suffered in their youth...
Would it be fair to assert that such a person who had once been rejected and teased for their dorkiness, braces etc... and who now in their butterfly form appeared cold, reserved and cautious in their relationships was necessarily mean and shallow?

How shallow it would be to dismiss the fact that those who are beautiful (just because magazines and movies tell us over and over again that they are) have never felt and never feel hurt and are always those that hurt others instead. Are we perhaps too blinded by appearances to see their emotional scars?

4 October 2007

The Selfish Creator

"Since creativity does demand time and energy,
and since Muses are jealous mistresses
whose speech cannot be timetabled,
devotees must put their work before all else,
including social obligations,
personal relationships and the needs of others.
Insufficient selfisheness has compromised more than one talent."

- Jock Abra (Professor of Psychology)

30 September 2007

C'est Une Belle Journée, Je vais me Tuer - by Mylène Farmer

In an interview last year, Mylène admitted that this song was originally conceived as "It's a beautiful day, I'm going to kill myself" but became "It's a beautiful day, I'm going to bed" so that it wouldn't be seen as a glorification of, or an invitation to suicide in susceptible individuals. That is, "going to bed", is supposed to be a euphemenism for suicide.

I wouldn't have guessed....
It seems such a light hearted song, and perhaps, now that I reflect on its meaning, a song with an appropriate ethereal, airy quality. Suddenly, the ascent of the balloon makes some sense.
According to the You Tube comments, Mylène created those images too... great song.
I've added my own translation because I wasn't satisfied with those I found online.

Translation of "It's a Beautiful Day"

Laying down, the body is dead,
For Thousands it is a man who sleeps,
Half full, is the amphoria,
Yet half empty, it is seen so effortlessly
To see life, from one angle (literally: the tail side of a coin)
Oh philosophy, speak to me of elegies.
Happiness, it frightens me,
To have so many desires,
And my heart murmurs, so ...


It's a beautiful day,
I'm going to bed,
Such a beautiful day, that is ending,
Gives one the desire to love, but, I'm going to bed,
To sink my teeth into eternity,
It's a beautiful day,
I'm going to bed,
Such a beautiful day, so regal,
Gives, A desire for peace,
To see angels at my feet, but,
I'm going to bed, to make myself beautiful ...

Laying down, the body is dead,
For Thousands it is a man who sleeps,
Half full is the amphoria,
Yet half empty, is how I still see it,
All is said, since when it comes to love,
When things get heavy,
If the heart is light, the elegies flow, always,
The pleasures, those that last, those that don't,
You see my love,
I'm out of breath, you see...


Life is beautiful
Like a wing,
That one should not crease,
Life is beautiful,
And I go there,
Life is beautiful,
But mine ...
Her, I enter her,
Mortal one, go... (nuance: be free)


12 September 2007

Shaking that Arse

Believe me there is a very good reason for that outrageous title.
I'm normally more conservative.

For almost all of 2007, our neighbouring block of land has been towered over by scaffolding and invaded by trucks, loud workmen and no less loud workmen toys. Every weekday, I have been regularly awoken around 6:00 or 6:30 by truck alarms, over enthusiastic drilling, hammering, calls of mateship and forceful rattling of materials and pipes.

It has NOT been a happy year. Oh, no.

Our unit is immediately adjacent to this inferno and there have been days where I've woken up ANGRY, vexed, confused, defeated and tired.

So anyway, this week: TADA! They removed the scaffolding!!
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we are finally getting somewhere. I may just be able to cacth up on sleep. The ugly construction cocoon was removed to unveil the no less ugly, brown facade of the brand new kid in the block. And obviously, the guys are very happy. I'm not kidding, I saw two of them, sitting across the road having a chat while admiring their chef d'oeuvre.

Part of me wants to strangle those workmen. I want revenge for all those interrupted nights, those panic attacks, the incessant noise etc...
But I've softened up. You see, it's been a long year and we got acquainted. So over time, I've become strangely attached to them. When they chirp loudly in the morning, I hear it. Whatever they blast out of their obnoxious radio, I sing along to it. Whenever they peer over their perched positions to ogle my breasts as I walk out of the unit, I'm highly aware of it. They've whistled, they've joked. We've developed a sort of relationship over these months.

This week was the funniest. I was dreaming. It was around 6:30 in the morning. And I heard a distant voice singing a happy tune. I awake wondering what my buddies are up to....I soon tune into that deep, nasal voice...and I hear him, singing happily to himself:

"shaking that arse..."


"shaking that arse..."


"shaking that arse..."

9 September 2007

Belated Postcards - Moorea

Just a little souvenir from May 2002.

We had organised to stay 4 nights in a traditional fare in Moorea island. Moorea is one of the Society Islands of the Pacific. The Society Islands include Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora. We never stayed in Papeete, preferring to fly straight to paradise.

What I remember distinctly from Papeete airport was cracking up after seeing a huge crab wondering about in the ladies' toilets. That's right: a crab. The kind you cook on your BBQ. I can still visualise that orange tinted armour. How it snapped its claws and made a rattling sound as it advanced across the tiles. It seemed very sure of itself and only to observe its smug self-satisfaction, you would have to assume that it was the most natural thing in the world for a crab to wonder inside an international airport.

We flew to Moora from Papeete on a small aircraft. It was amusing to see the pilot turn around to face the dozen or so passengers and greet us with "Hi guys, I'm your captain". I don't know about you but for me, seeing the pilot makes away with that microphone 'voice of authority' from the cockpit. All of a sudden, I start to doubt their competence. Irrational I know. I noticed that there was some squirming in the other seats too. Luckily, unlike a recent incident which did not go so well, we were lucky enough to survive the flight to Moorea.

When we arrived, we were driven to our fare on the edge of the Moorea lagoon. This is a gorgeous coral enclave with clear blue water and lovely islets that can be reached by canoes. The bank is lined with fares , tall palms and very very happy tourists. But I think I was the happiest. It was such a beautiful place. I loved it.

This is our fare on the border of the lagoon. It had a traditional roof with high pyramidal shaped ceiling. I wouldn't call the conditions luxurious (you'd have to go to Bora Bora for that!!) but then why would you want to stay inside the fare considering the beauty outside?

If it wasn't for the insects I probably would have slept outside. We had quite a few visits from wasps. I killed two, Jason killed two and they kept creeping inside during morning servicing because the cleaners would leave the sliding door wide open.... I'm allergic to bee stings so the fright came more from getting stung than anything else.

This is a shot of Jason sitting across the pontoon, not far from the bank.

Jason swimming.

A few steps from our fare was the kayak rental place. They were a little pricey but the experience of paddling about in such beauty was priceless.

This is the view from the kayak as you approach the far end of the lagoon. That's the islet where we took a break.

Me taking a dip in paradise. Swimming freely, opening my eyes in that crystal clear lagoon water and exploring its depth is one of the most wonderful things I have ever experienced in my life.

Moorea is a beautiful island that you can cycle around in one day. No traffic. No red lights. It's awesome. If you have a good bike that is...Jason didn't. hmwah hah hah! I still remember how I tricked him into swapping bikes with me "since mine was way too high" (and I honestly couldn't get on it, let alone hop off). The result is that he got stuck with the bike that had a broken seat. Apart from that it was fun and we manage to ride up past the agricultural center (where, by the way, there are toilets and cold drinks). From there, we walked up to the lookouts for some amazing views of Moorea island. Worth the heavy sweat!!!

Me in my absurd tropical shorts, riding my absurd little bike. Cycling in high humidity is a very humbling and undignified experience. I was soaked by mid morning!!! Reuben will probably laugh.

I admit that the interest in Moorea was far from cultural. I was only after a piece of paradise. Still we spent an afternoon taking a long walk to the marae. The marae are traditional sacred spots in Polynesian culture. Here's a picture of one.

You can also do the normal touristy thing and attend a night of cultural feasting and dancing. Or you can do what a french couple did and hire a canoe with a hole in it, get in the middle of the lagoon, tip the canoe over,lose your stuff to the bottom and hire a mermaid (me) to help them find their bits. The most fun I had in a long time!!!!

5 September 2007

Mystical Me

I was thinking the other day of how fickle I have been throughout my life, shopping around for a religion and never really being satisfied with what I found. It dawned on me that while I most relate to the energy of the Goddess Kaali, I 'm an orphan when it comes to religion.

Roman Catholic - I was born into the Roman catholic church. It means that when I turned 7, my entire life revolved around my first communion. You know how girls in their last year of school shop around for that perfect prom dress? I spent years trying to imagine what I'd wear for my first communion. And I wanted a crown. I had to have a crown.
My early primary school years saw me belting out church songs from the top of my voice, attending church service every Sunday with my little mass booklet and coveting every pretty rosary beads I saw in the parish shops. When I was bored, I'd read my illustrated PG-rated version of the bible. And, I know I wasn't supposed to think that way, but those Canaanites sure were pretty with their long black curls and their slave bracelets.
Two particular Bible stories stood out.
1. I loved the story of Joseph. No, not the Joseph from the manger with baby Jesus. Joseph who was sold by his jealous brothers and who in the end, climbed his way up by interpreting Pharaoh's dreams. He was so cool. I liked how he turned out better than his siblings and how he tricked them into reflecting on their own natures and eventually forgave them.
2. The other guy I liked was Aaron. Aaron's brother Moses got all the attention for some reason. But I loved how Aaron battled with the Pharaoh's magicians and how he could transform his sticks into snakes. Who needs Harry Potter when you have the bible?
And if I ever suffered from insomnia, out came the rosary beads. I loved nothing better than sink deep into martyrdom, reciting Hail Marys and sincerely believing that my humble prayers would save the world. Being a Roman Catholic in those days had its pitfalls. I felt guilty all the time. Everything was 'bad'.
I didn't like the taboo surrounding the occult. I was once thrown out of my school library for reading Tarot cards to my friends during recess. I had to pack up my cards and get out. I still can't believe it. ( I forgot to tell you that I attended a Dominican high school. More on those Dominicans later....)

But one ultimate thing that stood out the most for me as a Christian, was Jesus. If you read the New Testament, he is just such an awesome, awesome guy. He was kind, egalitarian, a feminist, a healer, anti-capitalistic, anti-institutional, forgiving, selfless and very intuitive. Come to think of it, even today, someone like him would certainly be thrown into jail.

Coptic - I became Coptic for a very short time. It was foolish of me. I was in love with this guy and since his religion forbade us to be together unless I converted, I began to lie to myself until I was adamant that I would be Coptic. They baptised me whole in a cotton robe, inside what look like large sink. I felt very uncomfortable that day and I wanted to puke because the smell of the incense was so overwhelming. I think apart from the fact that I broke up with that guy, the one thing that put me off this very Orthodox church was its insistence on protecting men from their own lust and segregating males and females inside the church. Women had to cover their heads 'lest their heads be shorn' by wearing a veil inside the church while the men seemed to go around giving us the don't-you-dare-tempt-me-you-evil-woman look. We women couldn't take communion if we were menstruating. And fasting went on and on and on throughout most of the year. It just wasn't for me.

The Pagan - I met the pagan just after I broke up with the Copt. Let's call him Damien, as that was his name. He was everything that I called 'bad'. That is, he had no Christian guilt, he sometimes didn't wash, he smoked and his house was a mess. But I knew I had something to learn from him. Besides, I was 22 and he was 34. When he talked about paganism, he made it sound so free that very soon, I questioned my rigid Christian beliefs. After a few months, I was free from all guilt. In a way, Damien liberated me. I owe him that. I'm still not sure what paganism means though.

The Cathars - Around the time I lost my Christian fervour, I began to detest everything it stood for, particularly the Crusades and the Inquisition...and 'St Dominic' in person. In fact, I injected meaning into this pseudo-adolescent rebellion by taking the cause of the Albigensians. I became obsessed with everything Cathar. The Cathars were a sect who lived mostly in the South of France, in the Languedoc. I identified so strongly with them that even today, the sound of Latin makes me cringe. Soon, I was avoiding meat,living in black, making a solemn pact never to reproduce and visiting France to pay homage to such places as Carcassone and Montsegur. I read Zoe Oldenberg's "Massacre at Montsegur" twice, I had a go at learning the Occitan tongue and listened to Era's music over and over again.
I even began to entertain the idea that I was a reincarnated parfait who had been burnt in 1244. I think I may have been deranged in those days but the experience remained enriching.

Kaali - Feeling a little lost and angry around that time, I embraced the one deity that could deal with the intensity of my feelings and allow me to face my fears. The goddess Kaali. The feminist par excellence. What is Kaali? In a nutshell, she is the most ferocious incarnation of the Hindu goddess Durga. She was summoned to kill the demon that no one could kill because it kept multiplying. Kaali, you don't mess with. She trashed the shit out of the demon. (How I like that. A female superhero.) But she had such a mighty temper that she couldn't stop her destructive dance. (And she can dance too.) Her husband Shiva had to lie at her feet in order to appease her and so that she would realise what she was doing. It sounds so much like PMS doesn't it? All hell breaks loose and the husband cops it. But seriously, this destructive energy has another side to it. It is about facing truths, eliminating fear, about renewal too. About not pretending. That is how I interpret that energy and whenever I have felt lost, I think of Kaali. She is my one ally.

Lately I have begun to ponder about what religion I would embrace if I had to choose one. But mostly, I have felt a need to adopt some discipline that would help me deal with my horrible temper and to relax. I NEED TO RELAX!!! I think as Daniel Goleman puts it in his book on Social Intelligence: any religion which allows a person to maintain a harmonious mind and harmonious relationships, has health benefits. Forgiving, for example, lowers blood pressure. On the other hand, anger has a worst effect on the immune system than stress does. (I should keep that in mind!!!!) Among other things. Anyway, "Social Intelligence" is an excellent read for anyone interested. It delves into all sorts of scientific evidence, like mirror neurons and their role in empathy. It's wonderful stuff.

Since I've mentioned quite a lot of religions I thought I'd make a special mention about Islam. Some of the most beautiful people I have met have been Muslims. I have been touched so much by their energy that it made me curious years ago. But though I undestood their 5 main rules about living, I never read their text. Last year though, I uploaded a version of the Quran on my mobile phone and I sometimes read it. I think it's simply beautiful and such an intimate, unpretentious address by Allah. I think Islam is a beautiful religion. And save from films like "Kingdom of Heaven", there are few Western films that recognise Islam as what it is and what it was. It is one of the most misunderstood religions and one of most maligned by those who ignore so much of REAL Muslim people. That's right, not those Muslims that are portrayed by Hollywood. REAL Muslims. Incidentally, Senegal is a Muslim country and the people who live there are beautiful.
Sadly, I still have some issues with Islam. But I'm wondering whether those issues are more sociological rather than religious. That is, they differ depending on the country. Things like the intolerance for homosexuality are an issue for me for example.
I could never be Muslim anyway, I love ham too much!!!

30 August 2007

Chto Ne Hvataet - Lyrics

I love T.a.T.u. And I love this song.

I love Lena's voice here, it's simply amazing.

It was difficult to find English translation, those I found contradict one another. But I don't care.

In fact, I feel more from just listening to the mood and the voice inflections and not understanding anything.

Lyrics to Chto Ne Hvataet - by tatu.

Chto ne hvatayet
Isn't this enough.

Chto ne hvatayet tebe
Chto ty prizhalas' ko mne?
Yesli by na lune
Bylo chut'-chut' tepleye
Isn't this enough for you
That you would cuddle with me?
If we were on the moon
It could've been a little warmer

Chto ne hvatayet tebe
Chto ty prilipla k stene?
Yesli by za oknom
Bylo chut'-chut' temneye
Isn't this enough for you
Are you stuck to the wall?
As if outside the window
It could've been a little darker

Ty ne uznayesh'kak menya zovut
Ya ne skazhu tebye chto ne hvatayet
Chto-to tseplyayet
Ya ne skazhu tebe, ne nado
Chto ne hvatayet tebe
Chto-to tseplyayet
Ya ne skazhu tebe, ne nado
It's like you don't know my name
I won't tell you I've had enough
Something to cling to
I won't tell you, I don't need to
Isn't this enough for you
Something to cling to
I won't tell you, I don't need to

Chto prevraschatyet tebya
Ne prevrashcayet menya
V malen'koi komnate
Stanet yescho tesneye
It changes into you
And doesn't turn into me
In a small room
It becomes even tighter

Chto zamerzayet v tebe
Bystro rastayet vo mne
Yesli by ty smogla
Prosto ostat'sya zdes'
What freezes inside you
Quickly thaws in me
If It could have been with you
Simply stays here

Ty ne uznayesh' kak menya zovut
Ya ne skazhu tebye chto ne hvatayet
Chto-to tseplyayet
Ya ne skazhu tebe, ne nado
Chto ne hvatayet tebe
Chto-to tseplyayet
Ya ne skazhu tebe, ne nado
It's like you don't know my name
I won't tell you i've had enough
Something to cling to
I won't tell you, I don't need to
Isn't this enough for you
Something to cling to
I won't tell you, I don't need to

Vremeni net i ne budet
Kriknesh' i ya vse zabudu
Chto b ne sluchilas'
Noch' zazhegayet ogni
There will be no time
And you scream and I forget everything
As if we didn't match
Night ignites with fire

I ne zhaleya davai
Lyazhem s toboi pod tramvai
I pust' vse ostanetsya
Tak kak i tam na lune
Don't give pity
We lay with you on the tramtracks
And let everything remain
As if, here on the moon

Ty ne uznayesh' kak menya zovut
Ya ne skazhu tebye chto ne hvatayet
Chto-to tseplyayet
Ya ne skazhu tebe, ne nado
Chto ne hvatayet tebe
Chto-to tseplyayet
Ya ne skazhu tebe, ne nado
It's like you don't know my name
I won't tell you I've had enough
Something to cling to
I won't tell you, I don't need to
Isn't this enough for you
Something to cling to
I won't tell you, I don't need to.

27 August 2007

Hot Men II

Considering at least one person on the planet has shown some interest in my recent Hot Men entry (thank you for your comment), I thought I'd continue on this dangerous wavelength.

So without further ado, I'd like to present my latest discovery.

I had 'discovered' him a while ago in Russian Dolls, but his detestable personality and immaturity in that particular role severely corrupted his image and I was not attracted back then.
But recently, he came back to me, in the form of Molière. sigh. Let me say that I'm a sucker for French period films, especially when the costumes are interesting and there is light comedy and a dash of romance. The more pompous and ridiculous those aristocrats in their layers and with their airs, the better for my enjoyment. (It is after all, a perfect opportunity to recognise and laugh at myself....) So ANYWAY. Molière was a little slow to warm up but I soon found myself identifying and sensually merging with Laura Morante's character, particularly with regards to her infatuation for Molière...played by none other than the intensely brooding Romain Duris.

Here he is then, in his tenebrous best, as the writer Molière. What I like here is that brutal, shameless gaze which mocks and disarms all pretences.

Most people will have a heart attack when they see this photo and gasp "Ugh, Laura! How could you?" I admit, it's very 17th century-ish. There's that clammy, unwashed hair dangling around a pasty face with kohl-lined eyes. You should see his boots too! And his burgundy leather vest with the corseted side panels. I melted.... Where do I find guys like this???? Someone give me a time machine now!!

So there you go, you are now privy to my latest, dirty secret. Romain. In English, it would be pronounced "Row muh", well sort of. But it sounds so much better in French obviously... especially when I say it. Anyway, here is a more contemporary 21st century shot. He looks like an enamoured artist who just woke up after a night of absinthe.

The second entry for this evening is someone that I've mentioned before. Sorry, can't help it. But he absolutely kills me at the moment: Thierry Amiel. I can't fathom his androgynity. It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. (I'm definitely pansexual.) And his smile!!!! Check out his smile!!

The smile is the most beautiful present in the world. It reflects happiness. Thank you Thierry Amiel!!!

25 August 2007

Advice from a Failure

I discovered this inspirational passage while browsing through the December 2006 archives in Sat Purkh's blog. It's so beautiful to contemplate, and so I hope the owner will not mind me reproducing it here.

Advice from a Failure

You do not need to be loved—not at the cost of yourself.
The single relationship that is truly central in a life is a relationship with your self. It is rewarding to find someone you like, but essential to like yourself.
It is quickening to recognize that someone is a good and decent human being, but it is indispensable to view your own self that way.
It is a delight to discover people who are worthy of respect, admiration and love, but it is vital to believe yourself deserving of respect, admiration and love, for you cannot live in someone else.
Of all the people that you will ever know in a lifetime, you are the only one that you will never lose or leave.
To the question of your life, you’re the answer, and to the problems of your life, you’re the solution. –Jo Coudert

14 August 2007

Une Vieille Maitresse

On Sunday night, I saw Catherine Breillat's "Une Vieille Maitresse" at BIFF. Jason, still somewhat disturbed by his experience with Inland Empire the weekend before, had certain, understandable reservations about what this, my next choice of film, would be like. This wonderful novel adaptation, set during what is stressed numerously throughout the film, as the "time of Laclos", with its delightful innuendos and erotic dialogue, turned out to be very enjoyable. Afterwards, over cheesecake, we talked about the film and its strengths.

First on the menu was whether Asia had in fact had breast enlargements. Asia's numerous nude scenes, whether arched in ecstasy over the Comte de Marigny or entertwined with him in orgasmic abandon, provided ample opportunities for me to gauge this fact but sadly, I still don't know for sure!

Next, was the delightful mise-en-scene. During the very first scenes, it becomes evident, from the layers and layers of ornamental lace, the glossy silk fabrics, the russling of richly woven skirts, the intermittent crackling in the fireplace, the impressive period furniture, and the opulent dinners - that this is a hedonist's film. It is made for pleasure. The attention to detail is striking.
The absence of non-diegetic music works well as it eliminates distractions and helps to immerse oneself in the reality of the 19th century. Without the non-diegetic sounds, one can become exclusively intimate with the Parisian soirees and the melancholic country manor by the sea.

Every scene, every shot demonstrates such artful composition that I'm wondering whether this would not be France's answer to the likes of Zheng Yimou.
Asia's framing in particular inspires great artistry. There is a scene where Asia sulks in her opera box. A large lace fan covers her face, save her moody eyes. A classic beauty, she is not. But it is difficult not to linger on her for a while, if only to admire the lovely lace on her fingerless, black gloves (which I'm sure will soon cause a fury as a fashion item) and her black hair which is tightly mounted into compact bun and adorned with a dramatic Malagan mantilla and large red flower. One of her dark strands is curled and stamped on her forehead, completing her panoply of seductress.

The third thing up for discussion was the sultry Roxane Mesquida who plays Hermangarde. More specifically, we discussed the director's decision to leave Roxane's eyebrows in a dark brown (black?) color. I can understand that the actress died her hair blonde to better impress upon us the youthful Hermangarde, daughter of proper society, but the contrast between her fair mane and the dark line above her eyes was much too striking. I came to the conclusion that perhaps the purpose of these mismatched eyebrows was to better underline Hermangarde's darker thoughts. Having not read the novel, I am not certain of this fact but it is clear that her character does not turn out to be all innocent and charming as her husband had presumed. There is a final scene where husband and wife are confronting each other and she remains immured in an understandably, cold silence while he begs her to speak. Hermangarde's only reply is a calculated dark browed regard towards him in a manner that all to explicitly conveys her hatred and disgust. I suppose that the scene would have been less dramatic had the said brows been bleached. So that's for the eyebrows.

And now, for the sake of this blog, I would like to go further with Hermangarde's character. Once again, I have not read the novel but it seemed to me that she turned out more hateful than what La Vellini, prided herself to be, in a narcisstic show of her Iberian origins.

To begin, the two female characters are opposed. One is blonde with straight hair. The other has dark, unruly hair. One is considered beautiful, a true jewel of French society, while the other, "an ugly enchantress" from the seedy corners of Spain. One conforms to society while the other overtly defies social norms. One remains shy of physical demonstrations while the other's emotional balance hinges on shared sexual energy. Asia's character, La Vellini is seen by the other characters as an adventuress, her libertine ways clearly matching that of her lover's, Ryno de Marigny.

I believe that the accidental death of Vellini's daughter is central to this story. Firstly, it represents a sort of karmic re-adjustment in that it functioned according to what society's expectations were (and remains) concerning women: that they can not be courtesans as well as good mothers. The two are incompatible. And secondly, it is interesting that the disastrous effect of her child's death on Vellini's emotional balance is in direct proportion to her undying love and adoration for Count Ryno de Marigny.

And now having established that fact, I want to return to Hermangarde who it seemed to me conducted an abortion straight after she clandestinely learnt of her husband's treachery. I had to conclude that this was not a miscarriage: in the scene, she sits upright in her bed and contemplates her bloody thighs as the doctor washes her. Whether this was a planned operation or not, (and once again I have not read the novel) Hermangarde conveys absolutely no emotion and seems totally removed from her dead child. This scene contrasts sharply with Vellini's passionate mourning in the Algerian desert following her daughter's cremation. I felt that this ritually medical scene was necessary to complete the comparison between the two women and to justify Ryno de Marigny's decision to return to his lover. That is, if the symbolic meaning of the dead child can be carried further, then not only is Hermangarde not in the least attached to the fruit of her union, but she does not love Ryno De Marigny, at least not as much as La Vellini.
As a result, it seemed only correct that the film concludes soon after having informed us that Marigny has resumed his 10 year long affair with the Spanish courtesan.

Vellini's triumph marks this picture as one of the few films where the fiesty, independent, female protagonist does not suffer a reversal of fortune nor end up dead or punished by the patriarchal narrative. A pleasure to see. Well done Catherine Breillat!

Watch Asia woo the papparazi at Cannes 2007

6 August 2007

Mélissa Theuriau and Jamel Debouzze

Brangelina is so passé.

The couple that has me most inspired right now is French comedian/actor Jamel Debouzze and French journalist Mélissa Theuriau. YES, THE Mélissa Theuriau. You read right.

So guys, you can stop drooling over the gorgeous Mélissa in YouTube: she is taken.
And not by anyone let me tell you.

Considering the combined talent of these two, I'm not sure who to be most jealous of...

Mélissa was recently voted most sexiest women of 2007 by FHM magazine. Only 28 years old and she's got a Master degree in Audiovisual Journalism and several years experience as a reporter on French television. Mélissa now hosts a travel show on French channel M6. Here is her official French website.

And what can I say about Jamel? Eloquent yet shockingly funny, fun yet deep, intelligent, socially perceptive and HOT....I totally admire this guy. Apart from the fact that I can't get anough of his show "100% Debouzze", I have to bow down to someone who let neither his poor childhood in Trappes nor the loss of an arm following a train accident early in his life, get in the way of his spirit.

3 August 2007

Hot Men

Here's my self-administered quiz on all things male.

Name your childhood crush.
Part dandy, part free-spirit, part mystery.
So Zorro fits the bill. So does Robin Hood.
Any others? Cartoon characters maybe?
Ah, yes. Mendoza from the Mysterious Cities of Gold. I fell for the well-heeled Catalan with his elegant rapier. I blame it on those sideburns. It's the caped navigator thing.
I also had a fling with Ulysses. But he was too modern... I needed 16th century.

Hmm...what male figures do you enjoy watching today?
Very few. I'm not into symmetry. The cleancut Meditteranean jetsetter in his Armani suit just doesn't do it for me. Neither do the likes of Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Tom Cruise, Heath Ledger, Jude Law, Matt Damon, Keanu Reeves (heavens forbid) and all those overdone, over-preened Hollywood icons. Not into bulging biceps either, so Arnie and Stallone are also out. The male cast of Friends is a no go. What were those girls my age thinking? I mean, they're just kids for heaven's sake.

Clive Owen

Who would be in your top ten for male visual pleasure?
Ok, this may not please everyone. Not in any particular order:
Clive Owen - smouldering, raw energy. He is fabulous in "Closer".
Rufus Sewell - loved his character in Amazing Grace. Great eyes.
Gad Elmaleh (left) - you just have to watch this guy in "Priceless", he stole my heart.
Benicio del Toro - intense everywhere he goes.
Jean Reno - when he was a little younger. Love his voice.
Hrithik Roshan - one very hot man

Hrithik Roshan

What does Jason think about your crushes?
heh heh. Depends, Male or female?
No seriously, we're both secure enough to deal with this.

Any favourite male characters?
Easy: Nicolas Cage in City of Angels. This would have to be one of my favourite characters. Soulful.
Also on the list: Djimon Hounsou in Amistad, Nicolas Cage in Conair, Nicolas Cage in Face Off (hmm...seeing a pattern there?), Clive Owen in Closer, Leonardo di Caprio in The Departed (sigh), Edward Norton in the Illusionist (spiritual, enigmatic, intelligent) and a few others that don't spring to mind.
Characters are always more interesting than the actors themselves wouldn't you say?

Who puts you off?
Tom Cruise. Always so angry no matter what role he undertakes.

Not a Johnny Depp fan?
Johnny Depp is a kind of muse for me. He's beautiful, inspirational and very talented but I'm not into him.

John Travolta?
I like him like a dad. He's great, especially in Face Off.

Big Brother 6 question: Jamie or Dino?
Dino by 100%.

Big Brother 7 question: Billie or Zoran?
Zoran. But I prefer Daniela. She had more balls.

27 July 2007


I forgot to mention this but the other night, I dreamt that someone, I'm not sure who, stabbed me in the chest (just below the sternum to be exact) with a pair of kraft scissors. I was in my togs swimming when suddenly I looked down to see a pair of spread out handles dangling out of my bleeding torso. I didn't feel pain because the blades were not in too deep. As I extracted the two blades, with my right hand (I'm left handed, but I tend to handle scissors with my right hand, long story) I was very careful not to squeeze the handles together as this would only have brought the blades together within my chest and caused more damage. However much as I tried, I failed in avoiding friction between the blades. When I did finally remove the pair of scissors from my chest, the blood oozed out of two 0.5 inch holes and the skin separating those two holes had been pinched and nearly ripped.

It was fascinating.

I used an online dictionary to decipher this dream by typing the words "scissors" and "stab" in the search box provided. Apparently I am overly suspicious and fear being betrayed. Also recently, an event has caused me to feel that people are 'stabbing me in the back (chest)'. The scissors denote the tendency I have for cutting people out of my life.
Putting the two metaphors together, it would appear that I may be consciously isolating myself from other people out of fear of getting hurt and that it is my suspicious nature that feeds this fear.

Who needs psychology when you have a dream book.

23 July 2007

Last Holiday

"Last Holiday", by Wayne Wang. Great heart warming film. Ah, if only to watch Chef Didier (aka Gérard Depardieu) stroll through the snowy morning markets in Karlovy Vary then suddenly lean towards Queen Latifah's right ear so that his prominent nose just about touches her cheek and to listen attentively as he whispers this secret truth in her ear:
"The Secret of life....is BUTTER."

YES! YES! Damn right!
I don't know about you but that was the climax of the film for me.

I had a lovely weekend and met up with a best friend at the James St market. We set in the interior courtyard and had a long D&M for 2.5 hours. I poured out my vices and my woes and she reciprocated. It was a long awaited reunion.

I love the James St market, particularly this kitchenware store called Wheel barrow. They have the most gorgeous cake stands. I love cake stands. I'm all for those suffocating English tea parties. I'd like to abandon myself to a decadent afternoon where we could all indulge in colored iced cakes and other pretty, sweet things that I would load onto my 4-tiered cake stand (which I don't have...yet) until it resembles something from Willie Wonka.
I want, I demand a cake stand for Xmas!!!
And then we could even have cucumber sandwiches. The last time I read about cucumber sandwiches was in Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest".
I mean really, who eats cucumber sandwiches?
But you must, you must. I insist.

The Wheelbarrow. Everything in that store is so gorgeous that I want to be pregnant and baking. I want to have it all: the giant chromed pink toaster, the Laroussse gastronomique, the tiny chocolate colored silicon moulds, the long sorbet spoons, the sundae glasses, the cake stand...everything...
Is that asking for too much?

Saturday dinner saw me and Jason at the Blue Grotto in Rosalie. Nothing fancy but I warmed to their decor, particularly the lattice panels inside. Overall, crappy website but great food. And the serves were excellent, even Jason couldn't finish his meal. I felt as if I were back in that pretty chalet in the Black Forest on that fatal night where we were stuffed like geese by our hostess. We were so STUFFED that we just managed to crawl back in our attic room and slept like babies. Can you imagine being so STUFFED that the only thing you want to do is sleep? My body was so unco digesting all that food that I even dribbled my way to sleep. (That's me at my most glamorous.)
Anyway, Saturday was a little like that. What did it for me was the cheesy potato and leek gratin which melted in my mouth at every bite. I'll probably be coming back to the Blue Grotto.

So that was the last of my holiday before uni begins on Thursday.

Wonder what i'll learn...

15 July 2007

Growing up in Dakar Part II

These are just a few pics of my childhood.

Budding Little Thing

The woman in red is my mum. The little girl running on the beach is my older sister. And the beachbabe in the woman's tummy, well, that's me. I must be about 5 months.

Some early morning in the 70s. Just popped out. This is the clinic room and the woman in yellow is my mum. She's got her Ugly Betty frames on, as you can see. I dig the color yellow already! The box on the side table was probably a gift from visitors. I know what it is just by looking at it. It's filled with petits-fours from the Marquise cake shop, my favourite French patisserie in Dakar. My mum had a mammary infection when I was born and when she tried to breast feed me I could only draw blood (already the little vampire!) I guess that's why I'm crying. I want cake.

Early Childhood

This shot was probably taken at Tahiti beach. The topless little girl on the far right is me, probably eating a frozen yogurt. I know I'm 4 in this picture because my baby brother has now taken my place in the woman in red's tummy. The toubab on the far left is my uncle.

Here's me getting my hair in rastas by the maid Marie-Helene. She's lovely and smells like the oil she uses to moisturise her hair. I'm actually in France here. As a toddler, I was sent to France to live with my grandma for 2 years. Something about my health not being very good. I had colics and wanted to play during the night (you little vampire you!) When I was in France the only black person I knew was my beloved Marie-Helene. My grandma said that when we returned to Senegal, I called every stranger Marie-Helene. Funny me. When I finally saw my mum at 3, I didn't know who the hell she was. Apparently that was stressful for her.


Dakar. Kindy visit. My dad orchestrated this shot so he could send it to my grandmother. I asked him to take a shot of me with my friends. All the guys in the photos were my buddies so I'm beaming (far right). The teacher was nice: she didn't hit. No one forced me to use my right hand. It was all good.

I remember this. My dad insisted on taking a shot of the other kids. The two toubab girls sitting on my left were very catty towards me and they never played with me because I looked Asian. The girl with the strapless dress is espcially catty. Anyway, I didn't want them in the photo. To punish them. But my dad didn't listen and insisted on this photo with me in the center. It's obvious from the murderous gaze that I'm sending in his direction that I'm not impressed. I'm clutching at my shirt from sheer frustration while the two evil princesses are lapping it up.

School in Dakar

Grade One, Institution Notre Dame. This is my school in Dakar. It spans grade 1 to 12. My class, as you can see from this school photo is huge. There are actually in the vicinity of 50 students. The smart kids get to sit in the front and the trouble makers are relegated to the back seats. This system privileges wealthy families because some kids who come from nearby villages don't have sufficient breakfast nor enough sleep to be able to concentrate and the more they are sent to the back, the more their confidence dwindles while they don't get enough support and attention from the teacher to improve. This ingenious school is run by nuns. But the nuns are kinder. Lay teachers hit and humiliate students so that their self-esteem gets a 'big boost' from a very young age. Once, a girl wet herself and was publically mocked in the class. We were strictly asked to laugh at her while she was made to stand in her wet clothes in a bucket. It was weird.
I'm one of the few (and only asian) in the class. I'm in the front row wearing a white cardigan and sporting ugly mocassins. Contrary to the other years where the fear of punishment and humiliation motivate me to excel, I'm not top of my class during grade one, because I can't see the blackboard (this was remedied in the next year when I began wearing glasses). In the end of year rewards ceremony, I receive a "Little Miss something" book as a prize for coming fifth in my class. My mum is not happy and tells me that I should have come first. I remember looking down at my ugly mocassins and feeling that I don't deserve the "Little Miss something" book. Reading the book at home only depresses me.

Also See:
Growing Up in Dakar Part III
Growing Up in Dakar

9 July 2007

Growing up in Dakar

Yesterday I came across an amazing travel blog where the author worked with handicapped children in Senegal. She detailed her cultural experiences so well that I was happily transported to my childhood in Dakar. I was grateful that Karen would take the time to share her wonderful cultural experiences in Senegal and I welcomed this third party introspection into my childhood.

Karen's Travel Blog

For most people the thought of electricity cuts, water rationing, bug bites, food poisoning, rampant poverty, dusty unkept roads, overflowing sewers/garbage does not spell a happy childhood but for me, these things are inseperable from the magic of my early years. The person I once was, who took nothing for granted, is the person I admire today. After many years in Australia, with so much wealth surrounding me, I have grown to be very different from the frugal, empathic little girl that I once was. The wisdom of my youth has left me somewhat so that I have sadly grown to expect a certain level of comfort and to expect certain standards from my environment. Isn't that the way of the developed world? Still, though I know that this child still exists somewhere. I am reminded of my past frequently. I laugh everytime I see a water restriction ad in Brisbane. One of them advises: "Turn off the tap to save water while your brush your teeth." Well it's rather obvious, I think...

Here are some of my recollections from growing up in Dakar until the age of 9:

-the dirt and garbage littered streets - I thought Australia was amazingly clean when I first arrived here
-the never ending noisy constructions along our busy street
-daily walks to school past the unfortunate lepers
-maimed children wheeling themselves in tin carts
-children polishing shoes for a living
-the amount of people living on cardboards near the markets
-the stinky but exciting Marche Sandaga
-being spoken to in French, Wolof, Lebanese or basic English
-the mosquito bites that would leave me with no respite
-not showering for days due to water shortages
-watching the maids handwash our clothes and hearing that squishy soapy noise that as much as I tried I could not replicate, much to their amusement
-helping the maids sweep the floors with the reed broom
-getting whacked with the reed broom by a furious maid
-being frightened whenever the maid 'prepared' a live chicken for dinner
-learning traditional dance moves from Casamance with the locals
-playing awesome traditional games at school
-the friendly villagers outside my school gate who used to sell strange fruits that our parents forbade us to buy (for health/safety reasons) but which we ate all the same, like green mango with salt and chilli, the orange, pulpy 'mad' which is delicious and tangy especially with a little sugar and chilli, or the 'pain de singe' (monkey bread) powdered and served into a paper cone...
-the delicious Senegalese dishes: Domoda, Maffe (chicken/vegetables in peanut sauce served with rice), Yassa (fish or chicken in lemon sauce), fish pastels (fish filled pastries served with tomato paste and onion),Thiep Bou Dien (Senegal's national dish, tasty fried fish and rice served with a large array of vegetables including manioc and gombo, my favourites), couscous...
-Shelling and eating boiled peanuts
-Growing peanuts for fun
-Trying to wash my teeth with a plant called a soutiou (spelling?)
-Wearing a boubou and tying my brother to my back using a pagne.
-Singing the Senegalese lullaby, "Ayo Nene Touti" to my little brother.
-Listening to the maids recount legends and myths from their village.
-The resounding call to prayer and the "Allah w akbar" belting out of public speakers from the mosque minarets
-the elegant Senegalese men in their long white robes and fez
-the coquettish Senegalese women in their multicolored textiles and ample gold jewellery
-getting my hair done in rastas, as a toddler
-coconut vendors by the road on the way to the beach, buying coconuts and breaking a hole in the husk to drink the juice, then eating the tender pulp afterwards
-climbing rocks by the Atlantic sea
-climbing poles in the schoolyard
-climbing anything really....
-the array of pirogues lined up along the beaches
-swimming in the Atlantic ocean, among abundant seaweeds and pungent fish smells
-Losing consciousness and almost drowning in the Atlantic ocean and coming to after being rescued by Italian teenagers, only to watch my mum running frantically towards the beach. (scary memory that one)

How wonderful. I feel that I must write more on this subject very soon.

28 June 2007

Courting the Holidays

Just on a short break from uni. I haven't ceased contemplating and dabbling about aimlessly. To begin, I vaguely (but only vaguely) considered a trip to Queenstown, just like that, only to remind myself how snow looks like. But without warning, the icy, dry winds picked up in Brisbane and I realised then, much to my surprise, how bony and fat-less I am and how much that trip to Queenstown may eventually cost me from a chill factor. Severely discouraged from ever becoming a snowboarding champion, I decided to stay put and to continue what I've since been doing in Brisbane, covering myself like a ridiculous snow bunny all the while making Nivea and Garnier very rich.

It's a pity really because at least 3 of my friends (and that includes the Twisted One) have snowboarded and I've always wanted to try it out.

Oh, well. Poor me.

To cheer myself up, I decided to indulge in "Les Laisons Dangereuses". By Jove it's working. I'm having a marvellous time as I read each of the scandalous letters that constitute this 18th century novel. At last, a means of indirectly giving way to my frivolous libertinage!! I feel just as I did when I first discovered my mother's saucy vampire comic books as a child. (Well not quite, but it's close, very close.) What delicious pleasures this correspondence affords me. Ok, I'm only exaggerating, there's nothing really osé about the novel (so far, anyway). In fact it's simply hilarious. I'm laughing all the way. To be honest it's the most witty thing I've ever read primarily because it's so damn well written. In short, I feel jealous of Laclos. And whatsmore I find it so amusing that nothing really has changed these days in matters of courting and amorous liaisons. How advanced is this Laclos? I mean, to have expounded in such a shameless manner all the human motivations and machinations of courting, rejection, seduction etc...etc...No wonder this novel was banned in France at the time! I even read that Marie Antoinette had hidden a copy of the book before she was emprisonned. I guess no woman could resist the appeal of forbidden fruit.

To further entertain my sordid imagination, I've begun to speculate on what character I could possibly embody from the Liaisons Dangereuses. While the Marquise de Merteuil would no doubt possess a splendid wardrobe, and this in itself would appeal to my excessive vanity, I'm nevertheless convinced that I'd do much better as a man of disrepute. I think the ridiculous Vicomte de Valmont would suit me to a t.

So there you have it, Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
Worth a peak.

I can only wonder why it was never recommended to me in my teenage years. I'm sure that I would have appreciated it, if only as a self-help book. I do think no serious curriculum should be without it. If not, how would one ever learn to recognise a Valmont? Or a Merteuil, for that matter?

9 June 2007

Belated Postcards - Great Wall of China

In October last year I did what every self-respecting Chinese must do: I climbed the great wall of China!!! It so happens that the Chinese part of me ( 1/16th or thereabouts) was simply thrilled to make this hyper-elating journey. Yes, my ancestors, I have not failed you!

So how did the day go again?
Ah, yes.

Oct 2006. After stuffing ourselves with pastries from the Novotel's breakfast buffet, we cought a taxi to Tiannamen Square. Across from Tiannamen Square, just beside the Qianmen metro stop, is the Qianmen Tour Bus station. We didn't want to do the Ming tombs, so we bought a tour ticket to Badaling only. Then we sat in a waiting room for an available bus. It was amusing seeing the mounting confusion in that room. We sat there among other clueless domestic tourists until the number corresponding to our tour number was called. (Hint: sign the number with your fingers for confirmation if you prefer...just don't get on the wrong bus!)

Now listen carefully: Do WHATEVER you can to get on that bus. Before the 11th of the month, that is, 'voluntarily wait in line' day was inaugurated in Beijing, there was a lack of a queue etiquette. Things should be much improved by 2008. LOL. If not, don't be intimidated and don't take things personally. You simply have to push in...gently. Just be assertive. Hopefully, if you mind your manners and stick to your spot you'll get on that bus without having to wait for another one to arrive. But they are scheduled frequently anyway so it wouldn't be the end of the world.

After about 1.5 hours drive in a comfy air-con bus, we stopped at the scenic spot of Badaling where visitors have two choices for climbing the wall:
1. They can walk up past each tower to a remarkable scenic spot, the eighth tower I think, to admire sweeping views of the restored wall snaking across beautiful ondulating hills OR
2. They can choose to catch the cable car directly up to the eighth tower.

The second option is highly recommended if you have opted to do the sensible thing and are wearing high heels on your visit to the Great Wall. WHAT THE?? Although, come to think of it, I did spot a couple of tourists braving the steps in their killer heels. I admired their composure. It was all done very stylishly.

Beware, it is a physically exhausting climb, bring water! However, if you are fit, you shouldn't listen to those clever tour operators who assure you that you MUST take the cable car. We were almost conned into it. We bought the tickets thinking we had no choice and found that we could simply walk from the bottom up. Later, we went to the ticket office to get a refund for the unused cable car tickets. All in sign language, since I don't know enough Mandarin (yet) but we managed to be understood and it was all in good spirit. The tour operator didn't make a deal of it but I think she was a little sheepish afterwards. Overall though, skip the cable car, make sure you have plenty of Getorade or salty chips or whatever, to keep your legs from cramping due to the non-stop stepping, and off you go!!!! You little trooper!

Jason the little trooper.

Badaling is really an easy climb compared to some more 'authentic' parts of the Great Wall. You know, those other 'real' parts of the Great Wall, that I have not experienced since I'm just a loser compared to all those intrepid and experienced travellers out there. LOL! :)
Here's a thought in case you are considering a visit. In 221 BC, Qin dynasty, there existed only a little part of the great wall. I guess it is the Qin wall that could be called the 'authentic' bit. Following that, during the Han, Jin and Ming dynasties, further sections of the wall were built and/or renovated. Following that, some sections of the wall continue to be maintained and restored...right up till now. Kind of makes authenticity very relative. Can you imagine someone telling emperor Zhu Di, back in the Ming dynasty, that his wall is not the 'real' wall???? That it's not authentic??? Whatever. They'd be automatically emprisoned by the embroidered uniform guards. Or worse. So get over it, it's the real thing!!!!

Here it is then, for your enjoyment. It's the Great Wall of China and it spans kilometers and centuries: