Thursday, April 30, 2009

Summer blockbuster time!

Listening to: 'Female of the Species' by Space [Spiders]

Most people view a trip to the cinema as a social activity. I'll accept, it's a fun thing to do as a group. But, I think a lot of people underestimate the joy to be had in going to the movies alone. In fact, there generally seems to be a negative stigma associated with publicly having fun by yourself (mind out of gutter, please :P ). I mean, what would you think if you saw someone having dinner at a nice restaurant by themselves?

After a few instances of missing out on some movies because everyone I knew had other people they could (and did) go with, I figured why should I suffer because I haven't got any peeps who are as jobless as moi? So I started going to the cinema by myself. And you know what? It's pretty damn fun :D. For starters, you actually watch the movie. And then you don't feel pressured to subscribe to the majority view about which part was best, which part sucked, who was hotter etc. You can go as early as you like and get the best seat in the house. And you can type out the first two paragraphs of your next blog post on your phone while you wait for the trailers to start ;-). It's your movie to enjoy, yours alone. Sorta like a personal treat. Of course if it really moves you, you've got tons of excess emotion afterwards...but then that's what blogs are for, right? :-)

So tonight I went by myself to see Wolverine. And predictably, I loved it. There's something about that Marvel intro that makes my heart beat just a little bit faster :-). Now all you comic geeks are probably gonna watch it and find a million and one flaws ('cos that's what you guys like to do), but for the casual fan, it was great. The acting was good, the casting was spot on (Liev Schreiber man, awesome), the special effects were funkaaay, and of course there was an abundance of hotness. Why couldn't Ryan Reynolds *drool* stay on screen for longer? Waaah. But I suppose that was balanced by the number of scenes with a topless Hugh Jackman *happy sigh*.

There are, in my mind, only two points for contention. One is that the film ended with me wanting more. I suppose that's the whole generate an appetite for whichever X-Men Origins installment comes next, but still. There has been criticism that there were too many auxiliary characters, but I thought that fitted in quite well. The other point is the theme. It is a very sad movie. There's a lot about pain...the pain of loss, the pain of knowing...and the message that physical pain is nothing compared to emotional pain. And all the way home, one song was ringing in my ears.

I wasn't planning on recording this and I haven't put a lot of effort into it (so much so that I'm not even sure I like what I've done with it). The original from 1980 is not my favourite piece of music, though I think Baz Luhrmann gave the song meaning in Moulin Rouge! in 2001. Anyway, here it is.

Thanks to Fallen for tidying the track up :-).

Monday, April 27, 2009

Anyone want a free degree?

Listening to: 'Big Machine' by The Goo Goo Dolls [Gutterflower]

Wow I haven't blogged for a week. And I haven't done a "welcome to my world" post in ages. But...something interesting finally happened to me (yay!), so I shall take this opportunity to tell you about it :-). Lucky you.

So most of you have read this blog will know that I have a Master of (Chemical) Engineering...a degree that I worked my ass off for, for 4 years. On Saturday, I got another degree...but this time, I didn't work for it at all! Yes, I got MA (Cantab.) for doing bugger all. Woo hoo! So what's this MA (Cantab.)? Well all it does is tell people that you entered Cambridge at least six years ago, and survived. If you'd like to find out exactly what it is, that vat of knowledge has a brief overview.

Now a lot of people see this as a pretentious 'elitist Cambridge' phenomenon. I see it is a good excuse for a reunion :D. And that is exactly what I had. I met up with friends I hadn't seen in 3-4 years, and had 4 days of fun, fun, fun. There was a lot of catching up to be done...who's got married, who's had kids, who's left the country, who's joined the church...and of course the customary 'dodging questions regarding PhD'.

My friends left today. And now I feel empty. Empty because I'm lacking sleep and my brain feels fried. Empty because after having Bang Bang staying in my room since Friday, I'm alone again. And I'll have to go back to work tomorrow, stuff. Sigh.

Back to real life.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What hurts the most*

Listening to: 'Push' by Matchbox Twenty [Yourself Or Someone Like You]

In the lab again la la la. A much shorter experiment today, so hopefully I'll be home by about 2am. I'm not really sure where to go from here so I'm gonna stop after this one and have a brainstorming session with my supervisor. The problem-solving aspect of my PhD is something I relish. The shifted bodyclock, not so much. But I guess I have to take the good with the bad. As my mother told me a few days back..."only a few more months of this putha, then you can write up"...yup. Only a few more months *fingers, toes and eyes crossed*.

I want to blog but I haven't had any bright ideas lately. Not enough is happening in my life, and at the same time, there's too much happening. And I'm not feeling 'organised' enough to blog about world issues. I find my mind drifting to the particular my failed romantic endeavours. Why? Why do I always go back to that? Everything else in the world can be right as rain and suddenly the little voice in my head will bring up some obscure depressing event from aeons ago (goodness knows there are plenty). And then it'll get stuck on repeat. And every time, the first thought that comes to mind is...
How much bad luck can one person have?! I mean seriously, come on! Let me have some fun, at least once?! I'm not asking for a lifetime of happiness...just one measly chance to feel wanted. No such luck.
And then the thought
Oh for goodness' sake just quit thinking about all this crap. You're in this alone so just forget about this 'love' nonsense and get on with your life.
And then if I make the mistake of telling someone (like I'm doing right now...hmm...) they try and give me an ego boost...and the depression-turned-annoyance turns into frustration, which surfaces as anger...
Yada yada yes you keep saying how wonderful I supposedly am, but it doesn't help does it? And what would you know anyway?!
And then I cry. I cry because I've lashed out at someone who cares about me. I cry because I'm sad. I cry because I'm lonely and helpless and I can't take it any more. And then I get over it. And I move on. Until the voice speaks again. And the cycle continues.

So I've stopped telling people. Or at least I've tried. I can't risk hurting them any more. Doesn't mean I've stopped hurting myself. I need to though. I need a way out. I need to know that when my mind is idle, it won't run to this well of discontent.

And therein, I think, lies the problem...this discontent. My mother said recently that things in life come easy for some people, and not so easy for others...and that I'm one of the latter. I've worked damn hard (and continue to do so) for everything I've achieved in my life. I don't regret it, but it does make me wonder when I see other people seemingly sailing through life. In almost every aspect of my life I've managed to overcome the bad karma and effect a positive outcome. But this, I just can't crack. And it taunts me. Day in day out. No respite. The one avenue where contentment has eluded me. And there's nothing I can do about it. And I think that's what hurts the most.

I'm gonna close with this beautiful rendition of 3am, from one of Matchbox Twenty's live sessions. Just because.

*I can't believe I just named a post after a Cascada track. Eek!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

There are no strangers here; only friends you haven't yet met.

Listening to: 'Dance Wiv Me' by Dizzee Rascal ft. Calvin Harris and Chrome [Dance Wiv Me]

At least according to someone famous. I've been witness to some proper blogger camaraderie recently. The cynic in me just sees the phrase 'ego-massaging', but the rest of me soon shoots her down. Ego-massaging doesn't result in people giving you virtual hugs when you're feeling down. It doesn't result in people giving you constructive advice on practical matters. It doesn't result in you feeling genuinely happy when another blogger has a good day. I've experienced all of these (and more) first hand in the past week.

We have a weird relationship, don't we? You sit at your computer thousands of miles away (or maybe just a few) and you know how crap my day was, how insecure I am, and that I saw an incredibly hot guy on the street...and yet you don't know what my laugh sounds like, or how I dance. If we were to pass each other on the street, we'd be strangers...oblivious of each other (unless you're hot, in which case you might get a second glance ;-) )...oblivious of how much we actually know about each other.

I suppose if someone asked me what my various friendship groups were, 'bloggers' would be one. Can I really say that? Can I really say that I have a bunch of friends whose real names I may or may not know, whose faces I may or may not recognise...but I know how they feel about everything under the sun, possibly more so than the friends I meet in person? I don't know. Is this 'virtual friendship' healthy? I don't know. The pundits will probably say it's not, and that face to face contact is essential for any wholesome relationship. While virtual friendships may not be wholesome in the traditional sense, they do serve a maybe they're a good thing? I don't know that either.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Cover Session #5

Listening to: nothing

I hate what my experiments are doing to me. My body now seems to think that it's normal to be working into the wee hours of the morning, so I can't actually get myself to bed until 3.30am. It's not that I'm lying in bed counting sheep...I'm sitting at the computer thinking "I should probably sleep". Yeah, I don't get it either. It means that I only wake up close to midday, and then I'm at work until close to midnight, get the picture. Hopefully tonight I'll be able to motivate myself to get some sleep at the same time as the rest of the UK.

Anyway...the topic of this post? Oh yeah. So in my last post, I mentioned that I'd been working on a pop cover that was proving rather troublesome. I know we all take pop music for granted, but I've realised maybe that's not fair! I've always been one to sing the smoochy love songs rather than the fast-paced bodyrockers...I'm always more comfortable with songs that give me enough time to breathe, pronounce my words properly and most importantly, hit the right notes. Pop songs are generally too fast to allow any of these, making it quite difficult to sound good (without a lot of processing)! But I still love pop music...and I love this song. The original is full of life and warrants a 'jump around the room' tag in my library :-) 'cos that's what it makes me wanna do, and the lyrics remind me of one of my recent posts. So I'm stepping outside my comfort zone and singing a fast pop song. Eek! As usual, I'm not entirely happy with it...but then I don't think I ever will be, so I'm getting it out there before I spend/waste any more time on it. Don't take it too seriously, 'cos pop music was never meant to be taken seriously :-). This is an extremely stripped-back version of Katy Perry's One of the Boys, the title track on her debut album. You can hear it as it was meant to be heard here.

Here you go!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Cover Session #4

Listening to: 'In The Summertime' by Shaggy ft. Rayvon [Boombastic]

The original plan for singing on the blog was for me to try my hand at a variety of styles, to reflect my somewhat bizarre taste in music. I've done one jazz, one indie and one adult numero quattro was supposed to be a pop cover. However, I've been working on it for a while and the perfectionist in me still isn't happy with you're gonna have to hang on for a bit. In the meantime, and in light of my last post, I thought I'd do this unaccompanied jazz cover.

The lyrics for Smile were written by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons, and the music was composed by the legendary Charlie Chaplin in 1936. It's since been covered by a gazillion artistes and if I'm not mistaken, Nat King Cole's version is probably the most famous. But forget that, here's mine ;-)


Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it's breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That's the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what's the use of crying?
You'll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Fed up

Listening to: Radio 1

This is a largely-unedited rant.

Fed up of living in the lab.
Fed up of having a room in a house, but no home.
Fed up of hearing the sound of my own voice.
Fed up of eating the same food, day in day out.
Fed up of having no one to talk to.
Fed up of having no one to listen to.
Fed up of the fact that the only two people who care about me more than they do about anyone else but each other are 5,000 miles away.
Fed up of the fact that they are the only people who have ever held me the way I need to be held.
Fed up of knowing that that's not going to change.
Fed up of the hormones.
Fed up of the lack of eye candy.
Fed up of the fact that eye candy is all I can hope for.
Fed up of the pedestrians who walk down the middle of Trinity Street as if I'm supposed to fly over them.
Fed up of the supervisor who doesn't realise how tiring a 22hr experiment actually is.
Fed up of the protesters who think that the LTTE actually gives a shit about anyone but themselves and anything but war.
Fed up of the suddhas who think they know what they're talking about.
Fed up of the Sri Lankans who think life in the UK is rosy.
Fed up of the fact that no one else seems to be having such a rough PhD ride.
Fed up of not having time to go shopping.
Fed up of chinese takeaway.
Fed up of crying.
Fed up of being lonely.
Fed up of not knowing why I feel so shit.
Fed up of not knowing if this is just a bad day, or if everything I've worked towards is crashing down around me.
Fed up of the bullshit.

I want out.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

You didn't even break the law!

Listening to: Radio 1

I was cycling home from the lab last night (or this morning, rather) at around 2am. I was tired and sleepy and the wind was swirling around my ears, making it feel much colder than it actually was. As I approached a set of traffic lights, I braked and waited patiently for the lights to change. I heard some people shouting, and suddenly realised they were shouting at me.
Go! Run the red light! What are you waiting for?!
I had seen them as I cycled towards the junction - two girls and a guy all in their early 20s, all completely drunk. I ignored them - if I've learnt anything about cycling home alone at night, it's that you should avoid drunk people. The lights turned to green and as I cycled off, I heard...
Oh but it's a green light now! You didn't even break the law. YOU DIDN'T EVEN BREAK THE LAW!
Now the reason I didn't run the red light was not because I didn't want to break the law. It was because I didn't have a clear view of the other roads and I didn't want to risk getting knocked down by some speeding boyracer. It happened to a colleague of mine a few months back (at the same junction) and they just had their ACL repaired. These guys didn't know that (obviously), and they were thoroughly disappointed that I was apparently being a wuss. And it got me thinking, what is our obsession with rebellion?

Why do people get a kick out of breaking the law? Why are you 'cool' if you defy authority, and totally uncool if you don't? I choose to stay on the side of the law not because I'm so eager to be a law-abiding citizen, but because I weigh the pros and cons of each situation, and in most cases decide that rebellion is the least attractive option.

Is the whole anti-establishment thing a phase? Is it part of growing up, where young people feel they have to rebel against the older, stuffier generation? Hmm where was I when I was supposed to be going through this 'phase'?

So yeah, there seems to be some sort of attractiveness to breaking the that I just don't get. Does that make me boring? Possibly. Who cares. It's just another label. I've been called worse.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

This house proposes that we are all racists xenophobes

Listening to: 'Kinderszenen: Träumerei' by Robert Schumann

'Racism' is an ugly word with ugly connotations. It conjures up images of Apartheid in South Africa during the latter half of the 20th century, the LA riots in '92, and (closer to home) rioting Sinhalese in '83, to name but a few. The OED defines racism as -
The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.
TheWhacksteR has written some very interesting posts about the role of racism in Sri Lanka. Based on the above definition, I don't think 'racism' actually plays a very big role in Sri Lanka at all. Xenophobia on the other hand, is rife.

Say what? Returning to OED, xenophobia is defined thus -
a deep antipathy to foreigners
For the purpose of this discussion, we shall take 'foreigner' to imply 'someone not of your kind'. So when I use the word 'xenophobia', what I mean is -
a fear of, or aversion to, someone not of your kind
Doesn't this seem plausible? Someone 'of your kind' will have a similar upbringing, similar values, similar language, similar get the picture. Someone 'not of your kind' on the other hand, will have...well you don't really know, do you? And therein lies the root of the problem. You don't have any firsthand knowledge of their values, language or you buy into negative stereotypes based on anecdotal evidence.

Baseless negative stereotypes are everywhere. In Sri Lanka, I’ve heard the Sinhalese are stupid, Tamils are racist, Muslims are stingy and Burghers are promiscuous. Yet I know plenty of people that defy all these labels. And what about Britain? Apparently Northerners are uncivilised, Essex girls are tasteless, Scots are racist, English are stuffy, South Asians are unclean, Chinese are rude, Blacks are violent and Muslims dress 'funny' and blow shit up. And again, I know people from all these regions and communities that defy the stereotypes. But if these stereotypes were all you had heard about a particular group of people, wouldn't you be apprehensive?

So why are all xenophobes not racists? I see racism as a superiority complex based on the prejudices borne out of xenophobia. And as with many complexes, it is a manifestation of insecurity. Someone who is insecure about his position in society is more likely to feel the need to convince others (and himself) of his supposed superiority, than someone who is perfectly comfortable with his position in society. The latter might still be wary of other communities, but he won't see them as a threat...and hence his actions will not be affected. The former, on the other hand, will always act to set himself apart from those whom he feels threatened this case, other communities. As I see it...the latter is a xenophobe, but the former is a racist.

So what's the solution then? There has been a lot of discussion about secularising schools in Sri Lanka and reinstating English as the main language. Secularisation would serve to educate people about other cultures and reduce the effects of stereotyping, but look at what's happening in Britain. After years of having a somewhat successful secular state school system, we're now witnessing the birth of a number of 'faith schools'. These schools cater to a particular community (usually Catholics, Muslims or Hindus) and have special allowances for religious and cultural activity, and in some cases, lessons in the native language of the 'home country' (e.g. Hindi). Their justification is that the secular system does not provide a sufficient platform for students (usually 2nd or 3rd generation immigrants) to maintain their cultural heritage.

How about language then? Surely a common language would bypass the communication barrier? Well in the UK (home of the English language), the National Health Service sends out invitations for Cervical Screening Tests in 14 languages. Yes, English and Welsh plus twelve unofficial languages (including Arabic and Polish). Why? Because the UK can't seem to convince ethnic minorities that it’s beneficial to learn English. And when some delusional postmaster thinks he can enforce change, he is criticised for violating the rights of British citizens (Which right? The Right Not to be Arsed to Learn the de facto National Language?). If the UK is having difficulty in getting everyone to speak English, I'm not sure how successful Sri Lanka would be.

So the problem remains: how to get rid of xenophobia. Can we? Should we? I don't know. Sachintha replied to Whack's posts and he commented on how we feel safe in our 'groups'. Attempting to assimilate our ethnicities into one 'kiri kopi'-coloured nationality will compromise that sense of belonging, and might not be that easy to achieve. And why should we? Are we not proud of our ethnicities, as we are of our nationality? As I told Whack -
I am Sinhalese and Sri Lankan, in the same way I am female and left-handed. They're not the same, and yet they're not mutually exclusive. And one doesn't rank above the other. They co-exist. And they're both integral parts of me.
I think the question we should be asking ourselves is, how do we prevent xenophobia from escalating into racism? The government can bring in all the legislation it likes to nullify the effects of racism, but it won't stop retards from telling Whack to 'go back to Arabia'. It is my view that for the mindset to change, we need to be directed by those we respect: our parents, teachers and religious mentors. These people have a huge role to play in 'demonising' racial discrimination. From a personal perspective, if more Buddhist monks preached the benefits of spreading Loving Kindness (Metta) to all Sri Lankans instead of going and joining the JHU, we'd be much better off.

This is an absolutely mammoth post so I think I'll stop now. In closing, I think we're all xenophobic and this is natural. However, I don't think that this xenophobia has escalated into racism in the majority of the Sri Lankan population. I don't think it's easy to wipe out xenophobia, but we can stop it from turning nasty. And to do this, I think we need to call on those who have a cultural, rather than political, influence over us. OK I’m done.

Friday, April 03, 2009

My boat got rocked

Listening to: nothing

Why do so many people think they can take me for granted?! I may be skinny and I may giggle a lot and make friendly banter all the time, but that doesn't mean I'm a pushover! "Oh PR won't mind, she'll do anything for me, I don't need to ask's not like she has anything better to do with her time". Well listen up, you *insert suitable derogatory term here*. I am not a f***ing doormat and you will not take advantage of me.

Moving on, I just saw The Boat That Rocked. So funny! Awesome music, hilarious script and perfect cast. Philip Seymour Hoffman is a legend. And I could stare at Tom Sturridge for hours.

But instead, I will sleep.