People

A Crash Course in Newsworthiness

This is a tweet from the official Real Madrid account before today’s game against Real Betis.

https://twitter.com/realmadriden/status/325640502219268096 : A minute of silence in the memory of the victims of the Boston marathon bombings. #halamadrid

I may be alone in this, but I blinked twice, then thrice, when I saw this. Why on earth is Real Madrid, one of the world’s foremost sport brands, commenting on an incident in the United States? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been watching all the coverage of the stories emerging from the Boston bombings, just like everyone else. And that’s for 2 reasons. One is that I was searching for answers about why this happened. The second reason is because that is the only thing any news outlet is talking about.

But here’s a glimpse of other events in the world that would have had more airplay if the marathon ended without incident: the Sichuan earthquake which killed 100+ persons and injured 5000+ others (yes folks, that’s thousands injured and over one hundred dead); the bomb blast targeting a candidate in the upcoming Pakistani elections which killed 3 of his family members and injured 7 others; random Syrians are still being killed in the civil war crossfire. I would look for positive headlines, but that’s becoming as scarce as pygmy elephants.

So why is a Spanish organization which is ranked by Forbes as the of most valuable football club in the world, observing a minute’s silence for the victims of the Boston bombings and not every other “significant” disaster in the world? I mean, one does not become globally successful by such myopic pandering. I guess American victims are more interesting than Chinese or Pakistani or Syrian victims. And it helps that #PrayForBoston was trending. Better than that, Madrid.

That brings us to this gem. Quite a lot of folks saw this as heartfelt condolences. I think that’s a gross misunderstanding. Let us think for a second what it must be like to live in terror… real terror… everyday. Not one Monday at a large public event. Everyday. Think about something as routine as going to find something for your family and being very uncertain to make it back home.

And so with tongue firmly in cheek, and armed with très American “peace” signs, the Syrian Revolution sends condolences to the first world.

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People

L’eau des nuages

Il a quitté mon cœur

Sur son retour à lui-même

Il a mis son cœur

Dans une boîte, cachée

Il a l’oublié, je me pense

Dans la tempête forte

Avec les vents de peine.

Il a parlé,

Il a parlé des choses simple

Et il a satisfait

Content, sans me voir.

Il a regardé

Les jeux.

Il a ri

Avec ses amis, un sourire.

Il a travaillé

Comme rien n’a changé.

Sans me parler,

Sans me regarder

Il s’est senti de moins en moins

Il ne l’a pas vu

Ses mots ont se assis comme les nuages

Où sont les profondeurs de tu?

J’ai espéré avoir de ses paroles les plus vraies

Parce que je les aime

Et j’ai su que je te ai connu

On veut quoi d’autre?

Sans tout le cœur

Sans les deux mains

Et moi, je suis me souvenu

Les temps de parler,

De nous nous sommes compris.

Je reappelle. C’était un décembre.

For those of you who are familiar, this is clearly a tribute to “Déjeuner du matin” by Jacques Prévert. Déjeuner du matin is the first French poem I have read (last week, in fact), and I immediately loved it. The Frenchies may correct my mistakes, and suggest better or more poetic phrasing. I hope you enjoyed it, and I look forward to your thoughts.

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Books, People

Pages of My Imagination

I’ve started reading again. And not just my daily dose of 5 or more BBC articles about anything. I’ve started reading novels again.

The last time I got on a bike, it was the first time I’d ridden in more than a decade. It was either a wake or an Old Year’s lime in Couva; I forget which. But I remember getting on the bike and thinking, “everyone says you can never forget how to ride a bike, but I’m pretty sure I’m making this up as I go along.” I just wasn’t at ease as I used to be on it.  If you’ve had a non-literary tertiary education, the only reading you ever did was textbooks. Since then, I’ve only read a handful of novels and many of those were Nicholas Sparks’. Reading a book is nothing like struggling for lost dexterity and wondering where the enjoyment had gone. It’s always been smooth and seamless.

Thank goodness for my Amazon Kindle app and my phone. I decided that buying digital books would be cheaper, and simpler. The first book I came across (literally, the very first book Amazon suggested) was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. It was just the sort of book I loved: a period drama, biographical and as a bonus it was also quite scientific. Mrs. Lacks was a black woman born in Segregated 1940s, USA. She had an unfortunately aggressive case of cervical cancer that killed her in her prime. What she is best known as is “HeLa”. Without knowledge or consent, a sample of her tumor was taken during a medical exam and cultivated for research purposes. Today, HeLa cells are the bedrock of biomedical research and have been used to test all manner or substances and conditions against the human genome.

Henrietta and David Lacks

Henrietta and David Lacks

Less known is what sort of person Lacks was, and what was the story of her life. Rebecca Skloot shared her experiences while researching this extraordinary woman perfectly, and showed us how far down the rabbit hole goes for those connected to her.

I just finished Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I’d always wanted to see the movie (a bit of a fan of RPattz’ acting, not so much Team Edward though). This was a wonderful read. I kept forgetting the writer was female because the protagonist is male. This made me wonder a lot more about what men think about and how they perceive things. Mrs. Gruen is also happily married with 3 sons, so I suppose she’s pretty much an expert. Most of all, I’ve found myself haunted by the main character’s struggle with his advanced age and issues of loneliness. Only a great book could do that… And so begins my journey back into a familiar place where my imagination paints outside the lines of the author’s story, and I muse upon the lives of the characters long after the last page.

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People

Live Feeds 101

One of the phenomena of this modern “electro-digital-social media” era must be the increased propensity to over-share. Keep it real: you’ve seen it, and you’ve done it. 

If it’s not a shot of some (otherwise level-headed) girl with all her wares on display on Facebook,  it will be someone else typing 140 characters about how “people” can  be so mean/ stupid/ annoying etc. Then you read it and figure out “people” is a euphemism for John*,  who will likely read this thinly veiled rant-as-a-tweet and reply in kind.
But, why?

I just read a tweet on my feed from a friend about seeing through an unnamed person’s fake smiles and pretty words. Here’s the thing: why not just let the faker know in person that you see their game and move on?  Why do you always have to declare your moment of clarity online? Counter-intuitively, in the same way social media is supposed to be linking us more than ever, it’s ebbing away at the social skills that would’ve let Adam know Eve was miffed versus stoked.

The world wide web is our favourite invisibility cloak, under which we shout our hurt and displeasure to the world. Somehow it’s easier to let it all out with a hand-picked display picture in our place rather than our actual furrowed brow. But you know what? What about the fake smiles and pretty words we tell ourselves when we don’t have enough honesty to really look ourselves in the mirror? I’ve been through my fair share of fakers but the older I get the more conscious I am of what I say about them, and to whom. The allure of venting via status change has got to be reevaluated; many times one will realize the issue just isn’t that serious in the long run. Fakers can change into better people. Meanies might grow up. And if you first examined whether this point of offense is part of your modus operandi in any way before you hustled over to the little blue bird,  that’s 10 points to you for good sense.

* Ironic change of name to protect identity 🙂

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Hearts, People

Who is Mr Right?

Mr Right and I have been friends for about five years. I met him at an interesting time in my life. A time when I was pretty comfortable and totally carefree. He was a friend of a friend’s friend… or something. I didn’t take much notice of him at the time. We were at a Jabbawockeez concert in a defunct open-air cinema (oddly named Kay-Donna). Jabbawockeez never showed. The night was a little bit of a waste, although the other acts were pretty good. I was liming with a couple girls I don’t talk to at all now. Mr Right was there with the brother of one of our mutual acquaintances, and took my camera to take a picture of himself. I rolled my eyes in my mind and moved on to other thoughts.

As the years passed, we spoke more and more. If it’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that having a close male friend (or worse, a male best friend) always evolves into something akin to a common-law relationship. It is not important if you are aware of this, or if you actually desire this change of state. It is bound to happen. My first (real) male bestie fell in love with me, and described the development ruefully as laying a brick each day until an entire house was built. At that point, he said, the house was impossible to ignore. There’s not much one can say in response to that. My second best friend, who was actually an ever-present fixture in the previous friendship, picked up the pieces. On a very random afternoon in 2008, he sent me a text saying “This is long overdue, but I love you.” I was a walking definition of naïveté. I told him that I loved him too, and felt warm and fuzzy because I thought I had a super “brother from another mother”. This was followed a few months later with “I think I really like you”, to which I said I thought he only felt that way because we talk all the time. I wanted to move to Lithuania panicked, but told myself it could still be salvaged. The friendship didn’t end right then, but the die was cast.

I’d started avoiding guys like the plague at this point. I was weary of breaking things. But, Mr Right was around. I thought he was like a brother to me… the kind of guy you could talk football with, but balked at the idea of dating. Yet, there I was telling him a bunch of things I didn’t really tell anyone else. I never called him my best friend because history is a cruel teacher. I ignored every suggestion of “something more” by our friends… for a long time. In a few weeks, we will be together for a year. Sometimes I muse on the fact that I didn’t know I’d met the most important person in my life five years ago. Loving him is the bravest thing I ever did.

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People

Pourqoui Pas?

When you’ve had a lot of disappointments and almosts in your life, there’s a tendency to see Murphy’s Law as the rule rather than the exception. But what are dreams, where do they come from? What makes us think “why?” rather than, “why not?” And so what if Murphy’s Law became as commonplace as gravity, should one stop dreaming altogether?

I have always dreamed of living in France for at least 2 months. I’d daydream of having a wonderful string of sensible, beautiful, poetic French roll off my tongue with a local. I would politely ask someone I knew for a few weeks if I could use tu or if they preferred vous. They would comment that my French was indeed improving nicely and I was easy to understand. And perhaps, most of all, I would meet the real me.

What does that mean? Am I a French-speaker trapped in an English-speaker’s body? No. I simply mean that I’ve always known that the process of pursuing this dream would be a critical journey in my life. The problem with Murphy’s Law and gravity is that one sets a dream’s due date as “20 years from today” (“today” being any day you dare to skim through your hopes and wishes). The other causes you to sag. And both keep your feet planted firmly on the ground of reality, whatever that is, with clipped wings.

A month ago, I signed up for Beginner’s French class. 1A, where they assume you know nothing but probably love wine and cheese. See, I always thought I would do it when I was “older” and “settled in life.” I’m twice as old as the 13 years when I last studied French formally. I’m thoroughly settled on the fact that my life isn’t going to hand me anything on a platter. So the only question left was, “Why not?”

eiffel-tower

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People, Random

Waiting

The security guard passes by. Her uniform was typically ill-fitting. Her pants ballooned unnecessarily and had an iron-induced sheen. Her shirt seemed to be a pale shade of gray. Her nails though… Those were neon green. Like a shout in a funeral, or ice-cream on a dying man’s tongue. Her face passed me, unchanging.

The four men behind her came into view. They sat in front of the Chinese food outlet. I couldn’t decide if they were Chinese, or Philippinos, or something else all together. Their skin seemed to have learned melanin by force. Their eyes looked at everything. Everything. Twice. I wondered if the Chinese food they ate here tasted like home, or just a cheap knockoff. Perhaps it tasted like nothing because they were in a place that meant nothing to them. Who would I be in their land? Burned and lost? Or happy? The meal was over and they were relaxed now. Eyes no longer roamed endlessly, but squinted amidst laughter and lighter postures. The day’s hours were well behind them for the moment. Indeed, the week, too.

As for me, I sit in a shaded corner awaiting his arrival. The bright green and the foreign faces fade into the din of the food-court, and I’m drawn into his eyes. The eyes of my love take me away.

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waiting

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