I promise it's not always this bad.
noellemartine

Dear sad girl at Starbucks,

I hope you're not sad for long. And I hope you're never this sad again.

With the very best of wishes,
Me

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Booky-wooks
noellemartine
I've done really well at work this week, and just checked off two giant tasks on my list, so I'm rewarding myself with writing a first draft of my 2011 Reading List. I do love writing lists, and listing books to read makes me irrationally happy.

I realised a while ago - years, really - that I have a very limited knowledge of contemporary writers/writings. So I decided this year that, at the very least, every alternate book I read must have been published after 1990. I'm so woefully behind the times when it comes to contemporary fiction. I've failed so far, given that I've spent the last two months rereading Harry Potter, but once I'm done with Deathly Hallows, I'm starting on Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey because:
(1) What an awesome title
(2) I love Peter Carey
(3) I love magic realism

And now for the proposed list:

Noelle's 2011 Reading List
1. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (1987)
2. The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (2008)
3. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (1951, reread)
4. Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2001)
5. Rabbit, Run by John Updike (1960)
6. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (2000)
7. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs (1959)
8. Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel García Márquez (1994)
9. Emma by Jane Austen (1815)
10. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (2010)

I'm keeping it to 10 books for now. I'm sure this list may end up changing drastically, probably based on whim. I'm sure I'll end up adding to it. But still, it's nice to have a plan. The astute among you may notice that the more contemporary stuff has largely been picked from Man Booker Prize winners. This is how rubbish my knowledge of writers these days is, that I must rely on an arbitrary and frequently disappointing prize. Ah, well.

Still, I think it's a pretty awesome list, which I'm actually really excited about getting into. Though I feel a bit lame being in the middle of a Harry Potter book now.

What a Waster
noellemartine

I need to start using my livejournal app more often.

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Pardon me, but your teeth are in my neck
noellemartine

This week, I had to endure two days of blatant, undisguised government propaganda. It was for a course entitled ‘You as a Singapore Brand Ambassador’. Unfortunately, the instructor equates Singapore with the PAP, and I had to listen, for 13 hours, to how awesome the government is, how democratic a country Singapore is, how the government is not essentially a monarchy, how we are not a one-party state, how we are not run by a totalitarian regime. It made me feel physically ill, and I was lucky to leave with my soul intact, or at least as intact as it was when first I entered the room. A truly toe-curling, blood-curdling experience.

 

Since elections in Singapore are supposedly just round the corner, and since Australia’s got elections taking place on Saturday, here is some wisdom from A Fraction of the Whole, a wonderful book by Steve Toltz (he’s Australian, so I’m sure this is particularly poignant):

 

“...choosing between the available options is not the same as thinking for yourself. The only true way of thinking for yourself is to create options of your own, options that don’t exist.”


not no way, not no how
noellemartine
 I must be one of the laziest people I know. This writing thing is just not taking off. I have heaps of ideas – more than I did a couple of months ago, anyway – but I’m just really not making much use of them. I’ve realised my worst habit is starting something (like writing a post) and then stopping halfway with the intent of finishing it, and then not finishing it at all. My mind, notebooks and hard drive are littered with incomplete blog posts and poems, ideas for blog posts and poems and short stories, and they all mostly come to naught. I MUST come up with a way to remedy this. Surely an undeveloped idea is worse than never having had that idea at all. Here is something I recently ALMOST completed, and then left sitting there for a fortnight. It's finished now.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Obviously, I’ve failed so far in my attempts to write more – it always feels like half of what I write on this blog is excuses as to why I haven’t been writing. There’s irony in there somewhere.

This time, my alibi is I was watching the World Cup, and then just abandoned my plans to write more. I’ve realised I develop a serious foul mouth when I watch football. I’m not quite sure how I manage to keep it clean when I watch games with my parents. More importantly, though, I was very pleased that finally, FINALLY, a team that I support won the Cup. And I’m really pleased it was Spain – they probably tie with Germany for most deserving team of the whole tournament. Anyway, the football frenzy is done with for now; I never cared for leagues – too political and capitalist.

So I return to writing.

My rant today is about my little hometown. A certain book was written by a certain British journalist about a certain dictatorship’s democracy’s judicial system, with particular attention paid to its liberal use of the death penalty.

Now, I’m all for punishing people who’ve committed a crime. I think sex offenders, especially where the crime is committed against a child, should be locked up till they wither away and die. Not believing in rehabilitation for these people may be cruel, but I don’t care. I don’t think adults who rape children deserve a second chance. What they do deserve is a right to life. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “[e]veryone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Life is entitled to everyone, no matter what they have done. The quality of that life is certainly up for debate; the life itself is most certainly not.

So it absolutely sickens me that I live in a country that not only sees the highest rate of executions per capita in the world; that exercises a mandatory death penalty; that convicts and executes young, desperate drug mules without making any real attempt to clamp down on drug lords to whom these mules are entirely disposable; but which has now arrested a man who has published a book on his research into these laws, crimes and court hearings.

I said long ago that if I ever have children, I would never raise them here – the education system, surprisingly, is not child-friendly or child-centred at all; standards of living drive adults to work ridiculous hours, making a family totally undesirable, anyway; people are generally discourteous unless specifically told to act otherwise; and the government and voting system are drastically, detrimentally flawed. I could not, in good faith, bring a child into that sort of environment. But this is the final nail in the coffin. I will not raise a child that never asked to be born in a country that arrests and imprisons people for documenting history. Because if and when I have children, when I tell them they can grow up to be anything they want to be, I want to be telling them the truth.

Oh, distraction!
noellemartine

The football is very bad for the writing. My poor head is awash with red cards and offsides and beautiful men in shorts.

I will be better on the weekend.

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You have no idea how silly you look
noellemartine
Now this is extremely annoying. Bear with me while I explain:

Last week was the 21st anniversary of the protests and massacre at Tiananmen Square. No one knows for sure how many people were killed in the demand for political liberalisation; China's official number is 241, though it's widely believed to be in the thousands. And it wasn't just protesters who were killed; anyone who voiced or showed public support for the protests and the protesters was at risk. And the people who lived through the massacre - the parents who lost their children; the wives who lost their husbands; the children who lost their parents - aren't allowed to talk about it. If they do, and they get caught, they disappear. As a result, there is at least one generation of Chinese men and women who know nothing about their country's recent history, since their parents and grandparents have largely been bullied into keeping quiet. I've met people only a couple of years younger than me who knew nothing about Tiananmen Square until they left China. There are young Chinese men and women in Australia who protest against the rallies demanding China come clean on its history, refusing to believe the facts about their government. 

Then there's this book I'm currently reading - Infidel, a biography of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She was born in Somalia in 1970, and grew up during the Islamic Revolution in the Middle East in the 80s. She's one of millions of women who suffered genital mutilation at the hands of men in the name of religion, and she was raised to believe that women are worth less than men. That what women have to say just isn't that important, and that all the crucial decisions in a woman's life should be made for her by her father, brothers or husband. That her role in life is to get married and to be completely submissive to the man her father chooses for her. Her story isn't set 100 years ago, or even 50. It's just over 30 years old, and the same things happen, the same lessons are taught, to girls and women all over Asia and Africa every day.

And then there's this - a cause so ridiculous and selfish I really can't believe it exists. A group of people, so disgruntled at the machinations of local telcos to squeeze a one-time payment of SGD90 out of each interested Singapore household for this year's FIFA World Cup, have staged a protest at Speaker's Corner. There are 27,000 people on Facebook declaring that they will boycott the cable packages - apparently it's the principle of the thing.

Now if principle is that important, boycott the World Cup entirely. Because of it, already impoverished people living in South African slums are being made homeless; funds that should be going towards ending poverty, maternal mortality and violent crime are being diverted to funding football teams and spectators. Protest that. Don't be all high and mighty about protesting local telcos when you're going to watch the matches anyway, and basically condone all the actual suffering the World Cup is causing. 

There are so many more important things we could be investing our energies in - ending violence against women, protesting the Burmese junta, encourage the men and women we love to get prostate exams and pap smears, ANYTHING. But instead we're protesting profit-driven companies making a profit.

Now, this is extremely, extremely annoying.

The story of falling in love at the bus stop
noellemartine
About a week ago, as we were walking into Holland Village, C said he could always guess when I was nervous or stressed because apparently, when I am nervous or stressed, I drum my fingers on his knuckles when we hold hands. I had no memory or knowledge of doing any such thing, but he said it was definitely the case.

Today we were at the bus stop, fingers interlocked, and I had some song stuck in my head - I can't remember what it was now. C told me I was doing that thing with my fingers again. I smiled, and told him that I had a song stuck in my head, and that I was tapping my fingers on his hand in tune with the song.

His face when he looked at me and said, "You mean all this while you've been playing piano on my knuckles? Knuckle-iano?!" was wonderful. Almost as good as holding hands.

Starting again
noellemartine
"We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to." - W. Somerset Maugham

I've realised over the last few years, with an increasing sadness, that I've forgotten how to write. Not only have I forgotten how, I just haven't really wanted to. I haven't felt like I've had anything interesting to say and that, even if I did, no one would be particularly interesting in reading about it. I don't know if it was the three years of academic writing - three years of academic reading has left me only this year rekindling my previous lust and love for books - but whatever happened, it wasn't good. 

But then last week, I went to a friend's gig. It was acoustic guitar and singing accompanied by spoken word poetry (or vice versa), and there was poetry so honest and real and beautiful it gave me goosebumps all over. But more importantly, it made me want to start writing again. So then I thought I'd reactivate this blog, and get back into the habit of writing again. Because it really has been far too long.

But then I got stuck again, trying to think of something to write about. A topic, some kind of theme. Because while my life is often in complete disarray, I really do like things to be organised, and be as neat, labeled and compartmentalised as possible. But I couldn't (wouldn't?) think of anything to write about that I could (would?) stick with for an extended period of time.

I went to another of the same friend's gigs today and, after listening to all that amazing poetry and lyric again, I thought, "Fuck it. I have to."

So now I'm writing. I'm reactivating this blog, and it doesn't matter how many people read it, if, in fact, anyone does. And it doesn't matter really what I'm writing about - for now, anyway. The important thing is that I'm writing again. That I want to write again, after a long, long time. Just as there are too many books to read, there are too many things to say, and I finally feel compelled to say them. It may not save the world; but then again it may: "...some things must be said, and there are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice." - Ayaan Hirsi Ali

And then I found this quote by the wonderful Edgar Allan Poe that confirmed what I was thinking:

"Through joy and through sorrow, I wrote. Through hunger and through thirst, I wrote. Through good report and ill report, I wrote. Through sunshine and moonshine, I wrote. What I wrote it is unnecessary to say."

So, I will write.
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you amaze me. but not in a good way.
noellemartine
 so on friday dingo and i went to see the fratellis at the uni bar. it was a last minute decision i made to go, because i really wanted to go out that night. anyway, there's me all pumped up to see the fratellis and sing and dance along to the fun bop-along music, with my girlie by my side.

alas, i had forgotten that being at a university venue during O (orientation) week, the gig would largely be attended by very very young university kids, with no sense of decorum, or, god forbid, any desire to attend a music show with the intention of actually watching and appreciating live music. while trying hard not to lose my balance and end up in a crumpled heap on the floor, due to the pushings and shovings, i had also to contend with a man who insisted on pressing his crotch up against my bottom and then jumping up and down, despite me elbowing him in the ribs three times. i also had to deal with a man who, albeit unintentionally, elbowed me in the face twice. i then decided i'd had enough and moved to the very back of the room where i was able to watch the band properly and had heaps of room to dance (simultaneous leg and arm movement included).

the worst bit was that the fratellis did a really good show, but i missed most of it, and by that point was to annoyed to stay and watch the cassette kids. boo.

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