Friday, 30 September 2011

Dearest B

Dear beautiful B,

HAPPY 21ST BIRTHDAY my gorgeous friend! It was so wonderful to hear your voice today, but made me miss you even more. But since you spent the entirety of our brief call praising me and my adventures, crying "lies lies lies" when I tried to tell you how truly fabulous you are, I'm going to break it down for you:

I remember when I first heard about you - yes, your well-deserved but ridiculous reputation preceded you! A friend of mine at Youth Central talked about an amazing, over-achieving friend at Oaktree who, at 19, was already Vic SD, among other equally incredible feats. Already I was envious, and I knew then that I wanted to meet you. (OMG WHAT A STALKER.)

Little did I know I would soon have the chance - I saw your friendly, fun-loving, encouraging, enthusiastic, charismatic personality firsthand on the Roadtrip, and knew for certain that you were someone I wanted to count as a friend (although I had yet to be officially introduced.) But I'll admit I was intimidated by your awesomeness, and never dreamed that we would ever mix in the same, over-achieving circles.

Luck was on my side; shortly after joining the Oaktree admin team, and being decidedly overwhelmed by the amount of people my age OR YOUNGER excessively succeeding at life, I was delighted and relieved to discover a down to earth, funny, smart, charming, witty, excitable kindred spirit - you. The tipping point that secured our friendship was NC, when I discovered the dept of your generosity (endless) and the fact that you are so thoughtful, it's second nature for you to insist (not offer, insist!) on helping someone.

Over the past year we've had the summer hanging out in the office, impromptu sleepovers, uni dates, many a gossip session, shared much glee and gossip girl fangirly joy, despaired over boys, and endlessly planned our futures. I can't even begin to tell you how much I appreciate the strength of your support, especially during the stress of LBL. You truly have been something of a mother for me at OT, always ready with a hug, bot to mention making sure I'm eating, sleeping, and taking time off (while of course not doing any of these things because you are Super Woman.) Even while I'm away, you feed my optimism, confidence and dreams with your utterly misguided faith in my abilities.

You call yourself a cynic but I know that's not true, because what drives you is knowing that you can - and will - make a difference and change things for the better. You believe the best in me, and see great things for me, because you see them for yourself (as you sure) - your conviction is motivating and flattering. One of the things I admire most about you is your honesty and your take-no-bullshit attitude (not only because it provides highly amusing commentaries on life.) I know that - wherever your ambition and hard work take you, you're going to shape the world for the better. I have huge hope for the future this world, because you are in it.

And don't you DARE tell me I'm wrong or lying (would I lie to you B? That's just offensive) because you're in massive denial about what an incredible person you are, and I'm going to help you overcome this :)


Happy birthday B. I mean every word, and I'm so grateful, lucky and proud to have you as a friend.


Monday, 12 September 2011

Me and My E-Friend

I did it. I did something I honestly never really thought I'd do, and I don't regret it. 

Yes, I bought an e-reader. A Kobo, to be exact - one of the last few before they seem to have gone extinct (much like its creator, Borders), as it now seems you can sadly only buy one from North America, it is no longer even available from (the last remants of Borders Australia, now bought by educational publisher Pearson).

I know, I felt like a pretty big hypocrite for buying one - me, always the crusader for the written word, lover and advocator of books. Books! Food for my greedy imagination, my sturdy guardians of vivid fantasies and wild adventures, steadfastly offering a sweet and complete escape from reality, my portals of fancy and hope, housing friends I will never meet and lands I long to see; constant, reassuring, ever-hopeful. 

Though, true to my (former! Sob) job, I could get appropriately enthusiastic about e-readers, quote all the perks my friends had cited; promote the ease of travel, the luxury of a library in your pocket, the cheapness of e-books, the expanding e-market, the way of the future, etc etc. But I always said I never wanted e-reading - give me paper and print, a hefty tome, the promise of a new book, a clean cover, an uncracked spine, or a well-loved, soft, caressed, wrinkled classic, with that intoxicating scent of age and wisdom and dust, preferably by a fireside with a hot mug of cocoa, any day! 

I didn't shun those that chose to e-read, deride them as my father did for turning to the Dark Side,* for abandoning the good old-fashioned book for an electronic imposter and succumbing to technology. After all, my dear grandmother has an e-reader (a Nook, the Barnes and Noble version, bought for her by my uncle, who also has the Kindle) - so does another aunt, and several friends. I could cede the benefits, particularly the ultimate attraction - size and convenience of travel. As someone who notoriously spends longer choosing which books to take than anything else (and usually forgetting other so-called necessities in the process, because really, who needs 'em when you've got I Capture the Castle, The Name of the Rose or The Book Thief?) and chronically overpacks on such titles (although I contend you can do no such thing my mother will argue otherwise) to allay the fear that I will RUN OUT OF BRAIN FOOD - and if that's not a downer on your holiday, I don't know what is - this held very strong appeal. 

But to my surprise, when two very good and wisdomous friends told me I absolutely must buy a Kobo for my travels, I agreed and promptly went out and bought one. 

Possibly because we were closing down (oh dreadful days) at that point, so Kobos were on sale. If I need convincing, a discount usually clinches it for me.

But also possibly because even though I've got a stack of books on my desk like you would not believe, accumulated over 11.5 months of working in heaven (hello, 30% off!), I couldn't even begin to fathom which ones or how many could possibly sustain me for 5 WHOLE MONTHS, not to mention multiple flights, which can consume a book in a single sitting. Daunting, right? 

Moreover, I was traveling to a country that don't speaka my language, so book buying opportunities would be scare (thank you, Rough Guide! You're not lying - my current English selection in La Fortuna consists of Twilight, Harry Potter and some Dr Phil-wannabe.) Now, if I were really backpacking it up - which I'm not, only in weekends - I might be tempted to leave my booking choosing to fate, relying on that time-honoured tradition of book swapping. But I'm living with a family, whose partaking of English literature rivals mine of Russian (in the native tongue) - read: non-existent. 

And PLANES you guys!! SO MANY PLANES!! Not being a freak who can sleep on planes, the whole prospect seemed overwhelming and almost - almost! - impossible. 

But no - as my aforementioned Wisdomous Friends imparted, the Kobo was the way to go! Having travelled extensively themselves for months at a time in Europe and in Africa, they couldn't speak more highly of it. So liberating! So many choices! So wonderful! Easy on the eyes! Great battery life! Pocket-sized, but not too small! And being that one of these friends worked with me at Borders (and has a book collection I aspire to achieve), and the other is the fiancee of my (former) boss at Borders, I knew these were Wisdomous Words indeed, spoken from hearts that loved books like brothers (maybe more). 

I bought one, Reader. And I have never looked back. Seriously, it is fabulous. Nothing on a real book, of course, but fantastic in every other way. I soon began to appreciate this on the way over, when I had 4 flights and 40something hours to kill on the way over (split two thirds/one third in the air/on the ground). Now let's face it, airports and airplanes do not really allow the kind of headspace necessary to truly enjoy literature - and by literature, I mean anything more than a trashy good read. My plane lit of choice is fluffy, funny and entertaining, but not mushy - I want someone badass like Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter to keep me amused whilst cruising over the Atlantic, or any one of Meg Cabot's sweet, entirely-too-talkative (and I can say that because it applies to me too) heroines to find love in an exotic European location. Books that I can read in the barest meaning of the word and mostly just absorb. Hemingway, we talked about this, you'll always be my favourite but me, you and planes is a threesome that doesn't light my fire, baby. 

So that's what I read before I even got to San Jose - 3 whole books, 2 Janet Evanovich novels and one by that YA Queen and part-time Mistress of Older Fiction** Meg Cabot. What a luxury! Books that, once closed, weren't taking up unnecessary space in my luggage or needing to be thrown out/donated. 

Not only that, but I have the fabulous luxury of CHOICE. I have all kinds of genres to choose from: Happy Books, Sad Books, Intense Books, Really Intense Books, Books I Should Read, Funny Books, History Books, Recommended Books, Books I've Always Intended to Read, Books I Can't Wait to Read, and so on. I just finished Super Sad True Love Story, which completely bummed me out (that's for another post) so I wanted something that would cheer me up. Cue: the always fabulous P G Wodehouse's My Man Jeeves! Which is the 15th book I've read in 6 weeks - AMAZING! That I have TIME to read!! I'm making up for the fact that I've only read one book in the past 7 months (World War Z. Not my usual genre - zombies - but feeds into my penchant for post-apocalyptic dystopian futures.)  

The best thing about the Kobo is it came preloaded with 100 Penguin Classics, most of which I haven't read, so I only had to add a couple more. Ebooks are ridiculously cheap (which makes me worry I'm ripping off authors) - the Game of Thrones quartet is only $19 for all four from the Kobo website! WINNING! 

Another perk is that a dear friend from work has written a NOVEL which she could send me in PDF format before I left and I downloaded it right away! (but if you ever have the choice, download in ePub if you can, it formats better.) 

Equally awesome is the fact that I can shop on the go. Should I ever run out of reading material, or simply desire more, I can shop easily in the Kobo online store (can't believe Kobo 1.0 didn't have wifi!), which has pretty good prices (BD obviously very competitive and website of choice when shopping on a computer, not wirelessly. Better range too.)

Though I will say this: there are definitely some less-than-glowing features about the Kobo that it can't really help by nature and therefore books will always win:

--> It has a battery. Somehow I keep forgetting this though, and so at the most inopportune or particularly annoying times - while at school, or in the middle of a good book - it will die. Thankfully, real books never die. But the Kobo does have great battery life - I use it intensively (I probably read 2-3 hours a day and more on weekends) and I charge it once a week. 
--> You can't flip back to that last chapter if you missed something or forgot a name or want to double check what someone said. This is pretty annoying - I could never read Peter Temple's Truth on this thing, because I'd constantly need to refer to earlier passages to remember who is who. But most frustrating is that I can't mark a page if I find a quote I like and want to come back to, or write down later - when I'm done with my books they tend to resemble little rectangular porcupines, with all kinds of scrap paper and post it notes marking phrases and paragraphs of note. No can do with the Kobo. 
--> Potential harm factor is high, ie I wouldn't take it in the bath with me. Ok fine it's not like I'm having any baths over here BUT I am wary about taking it to the beach. It's not a problem if I'm with friends - although sand is worrying - but having just been to the beach by myself for the weekend, it's not the kind of thing I like to leave with my towel on the shore. If I had a book, it wouldn't be a huge deal if someone stole it (although obviously annoying.) More irksome is the fact that if (god forbid!) anything should happen to it - I drop it, it decides to stop working, stolen, lost, etc etc - I lose my library! Books are much harder to break. 

So while my Kobo is my best friend while I'm away, I'll be returning home to my true besties, who will always be there for me and whom I will always love and cherish. I may not have the tactile experience of reading a physical book, but I lose none of the pleasure - the sheer, down-the-rabbit-hole delight of the story.

So what should you look for when buying or considering an e-friend?

--> Open e-reader - meaning that unlike the Kindle, it's not locked on to - you can buy and download from any site (except Amazon obvs). This means you can take advantage of  free classics available from Project Gutenburg! FTW! 
--> Not backlit - better for your eyes, for battery life and more like a real page. Although you should probably invest in a book light. 
--> Extra memory capacity, if you want it - the Kobo comes with 1Gb of memory, which it's claimed can hold up to 1,000 books, but since most downloads are a couple of mb, not one, that's exaggerating slightly. It's more than enough for me, but if you want more, get one with a memory card slot. 
--> Wifi - for on the go downloading!
--> Touch screen and colour? That's up to you my friend! My Kobo is not a touch screen (isn't the always the first thing to go?) which I like - it just has a toggle button.

Any recommends for books I should be downloading? 


*ok so he didn't actually say that but it pretty much sums up his whole view of technology - and I am Darth Vader ;)
**I couldn't very well say adult fiction now could I? Though I know a certain riotgrrl would love it if I did :)

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Lovely La Fortuna

Do you know what I love most about life in La Fortuna? The fact that it's a small town, about 5 times bigger than the one I've from, but a charming size nonetheless. It's small enough to walk around and navigate easily, but with all the ammenities you could really want or need (which is definitely more than you can say for my humble beginnings!)

What this means is whenever I walk around, I'm bound to see a friendly face - someone I know, if only in passing. Almost every day when I'm walking home from school, or around Parque Central to get ice cream with L, the other volunteer who was working at the school (she went home yesterday - yes, sadface), or shopping at the supermercado, or talking to my parents on the public payphones, I will see a kid from one of my classes at school - or they'll see me first, and shout "¡hola teacher!" and wave furiously. When I went running on Wednesday (a feat from which I am still recovering!) I ran a little ways up the road to the waterfall, and passed one of the kids from my third grade class riding his bike on his front lawn (I waved feebly as I passed by, gasping for breath).

My Lonely Planet told me La Fortuna had a population of 10,000 people, so I was prepared for something approximately the size of Parkes, or maybe Deniliquin. My Lonely Planet was lying (yes K, it appears to be on a factually inaccurate trend!! Haha), which I quickly realised once I got here. It's possible LP is including all the small towns in the area, about 10min away from LF - that's really the only explanation, you can't mistaken this for a 10K town. But I'm glad it's not - because that would mean it would have more than one fast food chain (as it is, it has a Burger King - and yes, it's as random as it sounds!) and probably traffic lights (I've only seen them at one intersection, near the school - not sure to what extent they are actually observed.) 

Yes, La Fortuna is the touristiest town around (and yes, I'm aware I just coined another word - put in the bitch dictionary y'all!) with the streets literally with offices and offers, but still manages to keep a small town charm about it. It helps that it still feels very rural - that you walk just one or two blocks away from Parque Central and stumble upon paddocks and cattle grazing. And with the beautiful (if ominous) volcano looming large overhead, to grace the landscape with a different pose everyday, silhouetted by the frequent storms, the stunning sunsets, the constant clouds creating new and picturesque views, how can this town do anything but stay true to its natural roots? 

So yes, it's fair to say I heart La Fortuna. 


Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Girl Effect

Every time I watch these videos, they simultaneously make me want to cry, then fill me with incredible hope, and remind me that this is why I want to work in the development sector, this is why I want to volunteer with the Peace Corps, and want so very badly to work for the UN one day. 


Monday, 29 August 2011

An Omlette + a shot of Tequila (the lunch of winners)

or VMA LIVE BLOGGING Y'ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!! (yes, said just like Oprah - I'm sure you read it exactly that way.)

Because it was so much fun last time, and I'm a massive fangirl like that. 

I switch on right as they're doing pre-show Black Carpet interviews. They ask Taylor Lautner what kind of shocks (or kisses) he's going to bring to the awards ceremony this year. There's altogether far too much reference to Jersey Shore, the people and the show. 
Selena Gomez gushes over everyone she meets, but she looks so cute while she does it I forgive her. It's super awkward when she has question time with the Biebs - and he just looks so much like a girl/lesbian/that comedian I've seen on Good News Week that it freaks me out - but he kisses her sweetly at the end. 
They announce, kind of bizarrely and without any warning, the winner of the Best Video with a Message - I would be happy if either Firework (Katy Perry) or Mean (Taylor Swift) won, but Born This Way really does deserve it. Damn that's an empowering song. So be empowered, cuz baby you were born this way! 

I do not know any of the nominees for Best New Artist. I guess that's the point, but last year Lady GG won, and I'd been to her concert. prediction is none of these guys will make it big ;)
Katy Perry is escorted in by Russell Brand in a very Japanese-inspired outfit, which is cute, but kind of lame by her standards. I mean, you can't even see her boobs - not even a little bit! I know, what's with that? I'm hoping for a costume change. But she is nominated for 10 awards tonight, so surely she has to win one!!
Some guy called Kevin is hosting. Like the so-called Best New Artist contenders, I have no idea who this is. Also doomed to a future of being a nobody. 
Lady GaGa comes on dressed as Jo Calderone, and it took me much longer than it should have  to recognise her. She makes a long monologue about the real GaGa and commences with her performance of "You and I." Adele looks confused, and the Biebs less than impressed (to be honest - and I hate to admit it - but I'm kind of with him on this one.) 

Nicki Minaj comes on, looking like a Harajuku Barbie bad (and very obvious) imitation of GaGa. This is actually kind of sad, since I love some of her previous looks ("BOLD" as our friend Luan would say!!), but since GaGa was dressed like a man, I guess someone had the bring it. Jonah Hill makes a "why did the chicken cross the road" joke which leads to a statement against criticism that because he's lost weight, he isn't as funny anymore. Actually very amusing. 

They announce Best Pop Video, and of course my love lies with Last Friday Night, but Britney wins. She thanks God, and then others. Have to say I did not see that coming. 

Jay-Z and Kanye (in double denim) have a rap off. Biebs still not looking impressed, but Selena claps warmly.
John White (who? I am clearly not qualified to watch or judge this, but watch me) and Miley Cyrus, who declares a passionate love of rock, announce the Best Rock Video. I'm rooting for Mumford and Son's The Cave, but the Foo Fighters win - I guess if you've been nominated 12 times like Dave Grohl has, and you've only won twice before, you probably deserve it. 

Enter The Beastie Boys, apparently from the future, who show us their future "moves," and are consequently challenged to a dance-off by Tylor the Creator (who I only recognise from the pre-show chit-chat. I'm getting better at this!) TBB cede after a short demo from THC, who announce the Best Hip Hop Video. I just hope Chris Brown doesn't win (I don't care how good his music or videos are, he's a scumbag). My wish is granted, and Nicki Minaj wins for Superbass (pronounced like the fish by Snooki) - apparently this girl is the new shit, and I missed it. Well, that's why I watch MTV, to remind me of the important people and issues in the world. She thanks everyone at a mile minute, including God, which is getting quite the look-in tonight, and I'm sure She is as surprised as I am.

Demi Lovato - baring her boobs and showing just how far she's come from Disney and rehab, thankyouverymuch - with the all too swoonworthy Chord Overstreet, who agree that when great people work together, they produce greatness, etc. They declare Katy Perry and Kanye's collaboration on "ET (Extra Terrestrial)", which of course delights me, although I must confess, my money was on Nicki Minaj for this one, given the way she's been trending (and not just on Twitter.) 

KT and Kanye hug it out, and KT takes the mike to cheekily say "now this is the time when you want to interrupt me!" Kanye does not look pleased. KT goes on to joke "there's nothing like the first the first Moon Man!" (Kanye akwardly admits he's already got some.) KT thanks God as well. Apparently that is now the in thing to do - you can blame Nicki M for starting this trend, it seems no one wants to be called God-hating by breaking it. 

Rick Ross and Paul Rudd deliver a confusing tete-a-tete about how they constantly get confused for each other, which was funny up until Rudd's last line about being a middle manager...what?...or Ross misses his cue. In any case, there's an awkward pause before they introduce Pitbull, Ne Yo and Nayer to perform "Give Me Everything." I have to say I'm a fan of Pitbull, and the fact that he's a 30 year old bald man just makes it that much more hilarious. He, like the Biebs, is wearing some rather interesting red pants, and, like the Biebs, is not rocking them.

Katy Perry comes back onstage, with the dress change I requested earlier - she is looking purple and clad, but still far too modest. I'm not sure what's up with this. Maybe new husband RB is totes jelly, and wants to keep those bad boys all to himself. Can't say I blame him, but man, learn to share! 

She gives a short speech about how when most stars turn 21, they get up to some raucaus and embarrassing antics that they usually regret, but that when this gorgeous girl turned 21 and had her heart broken, she turned it into one of the most beautiful albums of the past year. It can only be - and is - Adele, who delivers a heartwrenching and hopeful rendition of "Someone Like You." Simply stunning. 

Before they cut to an ad break, Jessie J is singing Firework. Not sure why, when K Perry was just on stage. Deprived.

Kim K - va va voom! - is on hand to reveal Best Male Video. The choice is tough, between 4 deserving contenders and then 1: Forget You (Cee-Lo Green), All of the Lights (Kanye), Grenade (Bruno Mars), Love the Way You Lie (Eminem), and U Smile (Biebs). Guess who wins. Yep, 12 year olds everywhere represent, yo' homeboy has done it and won it. I weep a little for the industry, and the future of music. 

Biebs, however - never one to break a trend - goes one step further and thanks not only God, but Jesus too: "I won't be here without Him, he has truly blessed me." But apparently not me, or anyone with musical taste. It would seem Biebs is not in on the joke:

Joe Jonas (who doesn't appear to be aware this is a sort of a Big Deal, chose to rock up in a rather baffling and not-at-all working jeans and suit jacket combo) and Victoria Justice (WHOTF?) offer some (completely unnecessary and excessively flattering) praise of Chris Brown, who kicks off with his (frustratingly catching) Yeah x 3. This morphs into some very confusing blasts from the past (including Smells Like Teen Spirit) and then ends in "Beautiful People". There are some aerial acrobatics which aspire to be like Pink, but instead achieve the confusion and awkwardness of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. For some reason, there is a standing ovation.

Lady GaGa Jo Calderone is back (appearing to imitate the Godfather, or at the very least someone from New Jersey) to talk about how GaGa was inspired by Britney - "I used to hang posters of her on my wall and touch myself when I was in bed." (To her credit, Britney looks greatly flattered by this.) As an icon and a legend, Brit scoops up the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. There is a fast-paced dance tribute, following which Brit steps on stage to accept the award. She looks properly pleased, but precedes to be properly awkward with Jo, as they size each other up as to whether they will go for a kiss. They do, but at the last Brit bails and says "I've done that already!" 

I'm actually kind of happy for her, after all she's been through - and she deserves it, she's had an incredible influence on the industry. (Oh God. I hope the Biebs is not lining up for one of these in 10 years' time.) They segue to Beyonce, who they recognise and acknowledge as teh "triple threat" and DAMN IS SHE LOOKING FIERCE Y'ALL, in a fabulous purple sequined jacket, and totally rocking this number (Adele is rocking along with her in the audience). She announced that she is pregnant (OH GOD I'M SO HAPPY FOR HER SHE'S GOING TO BE SUCH A GREAT MOTHER!!!) by unbuttoning her jacket and rubbing her baby bump happily after the show (someone get her out of those killer heels pronto!!!) Cut to Jay-Z flipping out with happiness. 

So apparently they're just cutting out Jessie J's performances with the ad breaks, so I only get to hear the first few lines of whatever's she going to sing...from what I gather she's covering most of the nominated songs...

Selena Gomez returns (looking less glam in a silver dress) with T Lautner who announce Best New Artist. I have to say the Best DRESSED New Artist definitely goes to Wiz Khalifa, who looks proper gangsta, complete with bling (worn ironically, of course). Defs my fave. 

He turned up with Amber Rose. I guess she's not with Kanye anymore. This probably not news to anyone but me. 

Anyway, the only one I knew, Tylor the Creator, wins! Apparently this is the biggest shindig this band has ever been too, since the lead dude is wearing a tye-died t-shirt, for heaven's sake, and one of his bandmates has his jeans around his knees. Good Lord. The hippie lead dude dedicates the win to his little brother Earl, yo, and has an inspiring message for all the young homies: 
"To all the kids watching - you can do this shit...fuck the system."

Power to the people, y'all.

Zoe Saldana and Jared Leto come out to introduce a band who are so unheard of, they had to BYO fans. JOKES. Supposedly they are "emerging artists," which is just code for "you'll hear these guys once and never again. Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame bros!" 

OMG it's the Jersey Shore again. Any more of this shit and I'm going to have to turn it off. This is NOT what I signed up for. They're messing around with some old woman who is not Betty White, so who cares who she is? Insert inappropriate and totally predictable jokes about sex, cue Best Female Video (seriously?? when you have nominees of this calibre, you let those Jersey Shore hos introduce them?? THEY ARE NOT WORTHY). With Adele, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Nicki M and Lady G all in the running, this could be anyone's horse, and I'd be happy for any of them to win. Well, less so Nicki, but I'd try. Maybs. 

Lady GaGa wins for Born This Way; cut to KT looking genuinely happy for her, and wearing a cube. Still no cleavage. Seriously. WTF. Adele looks gracious and gorgeous, as expected. Jo Calderone accepts on Lady G's behalf, thanking her little monsters, and finishing by saying: 
"It doesn't matter who you are -- gay, straight, lesbian, bi, transgendered -- you were born this way."

Russell Brand delivers an unexpectedly touching tribute to Amy Winehouse. He talks about first meeting her in London, when she was "daft, dopey, a little bit crazy...with a peculiar, unknowable talent." He compares her to Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, and talks about her talent, coupled cripplingly with her disease - alcoholism and drug addiction - and how so many people have this disease, but that these is a solution. Tony Bennett also came on the stage to testify to her gift, and shows part of the duet they recorded earlier this year. I've never been a huge fan of Amy, but she is AMAZING, ain't no ifs, ands or buts about it.

To acknowledge her incredible influence and impact, Bruno Mars is on hand to perform Valerie. An admittedly unexpected choice to do justice to Amy but what a babe! He certainly has the big hair going on and knows how to rock that suave 50s look. Excuse me while I swoon.

OK I'm back, and still tapping my feet to this fun, upbeat number. Man but he busts some pretty sweet moves! A lovely and fitting tribute that is a true celebration, not a commiseration, of her life. 

So really the only reason I was watching the VMAs was to see the sneak preview of THE HUNGER GAMES movie ZOMG YOU GUYS HERE IT FINALLY IS. 

Far too short obviously, but very exciting!! Will share my thoughts on the casting soon.

Katie Holmes gives a testament to all those nominated for Video of the Year (another too-close-to-call category - Adele, Katy Perry, Tyler the Creator, Bruno Mars, Beastie Boys) AND THE WINNER IS KATYYYYYYYY PERRYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!! for Firework. WOOP WOOP WOOP. 

One more time y'all, just for fun. You know you love it. (And if you don't, I don't care, because I do.)

She seems geniunely stoked to win her second moon man; "I feel like I am doing something right when I sing this song."

You and me both KT. 

The show ends with Drake (he a WHITE DUDE? WHAAAAAT?) getting psyched about Lil Wayne, how prances around on stage and raps some. He takes off his shirt, revealing his pants to be halfway down his ass, and breaks a guitar. Both of these things seem completely unnecessary, but hey. 

So ends another year at the VMAs!


Fun Fact

I live right next to what must be the only discoteque for miles around here. Which means I party on all night to some of my favourite tunes, but all of them remind me of home. Right now David Guetta is ripping it up, trying to find the words to decribe this girl without being disrespectful yo. Which of course reminds me of the crazy fun times I had to the tune of these beats, hitting the d-floor with ma college peeps. Miss you homies!


The Feminist Test

Read this and tell me you're NOT a feminist:
"Do the women’s liberationists want to be liberated from being women? No, they would say, they want to be liberated from society’s stereotypes of what women are supposed to be…. Some very interesting facts have been uncovered by scientists which feminists will have to treat very gingerly for they show that it is not merely society which determines how the sexes will behave.... The idea of matriarchy is mythical, I’ve learned, for not one that can be documented has ever existed. Doesn’t it seem strange that male dominance has been universal if it’s purely social conditioning? One would expect to see at least a few examples of societies where women rather than men held the positions of highest status....Isn’t it really much easier to believe that the feelings of men and women throughout history bear a direct relationship to some innate prerequisite?...It was God who made us different, and He did it on purpose. Recent scientific research is illuminating, and as has happened before, corroborates ancient truth which mankind has always recognized. God created male and female, the male to call forth, to lead, initiate and rule, and the female to respond, follow adapt, submit." 
~ Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman, pages 58-59.

JAG (in disgust)

Just a Feminist

I was over catching up with Trick Mirror when I saw she posted this fabulous comic:

A couple of years ago, Vini asked if I was a feminist. At the time, I hadn't even asked the question of myself, and so was a little taken aback by it - because it forced me to think, and consider my views on the topic, and how I wanted to label myself. It's a question that forced be to define my beliefs, and it's something I've been thinking about ever since. (I'm sure Vini thought it was a harmless question I already had the answer to, considering the strong views I voiced in the aforementioned blog post, but really it's a question I've been mulling over for two years now!) 

Honestly? I was reluctant to call myself a feminist, I felt it was extreme and not a set of beliefs I fully subscribed to - because, let's face it, at that stage I was woefully ignornant of what it meant to be a feminist. I knew only the grossly exaggerated and misinterpreted media stereotypes, and Bitch magazine had lead me to believe that to the feminist criteria was: lesbian, man-hating, alternative, mainstream-rejecting, (now I love Bitch magazine and continue to read it out of interest, but damn if they're not extreme feminists!) and outspoken. Mainly though I lacked the confidence to declare myself a feminist. 

But over time, as I read The First Stone, by Helen Garner, and talked more with my friends from college - N, E and S - not to mention my wonderful (and delightfully opinionated) TAD/OT friend G (whose knowledge of everything inspires equal parts awe and envy - our dinner dates often descend into passionate raging against the patriarchy, Republicans and Tony Abbott), and watched Made in Dagenham, and started seeing debates on whether there should be quotas for women on corporate boards, I realised that dammit, I am a feminist, and proud of it (really, you might as guessed as much from this post. I'm very subtle about it). 

Scratch most feminists and underneath there is a woman who longs to be a sex object. The difference is that is not all she wants to be.
- Betty Rollin 

As the comic above so wittily depicts, being a feminst does not mean you hate men; it means you're pro-women. It means you believe that women are equal to men, and should therefore receive the same rights. By this simple definition, more women are feminists than they may think because - as I alluded to two years ago - the image of a feminist has been horribly transfigured to the point of scaring women aware from the label rather than embracing it, creating infuriating, inaccurate, frustrating, extremist, fear-mongering but no doubt influential and iconic characteristics like this: 

I listen to feminist and all these radical gals - most of them are failures. They've blown it. Some of them have married, but they married some Casper Milquetoast who asked permission to go to the bathroom. These women just need a man in the house. That's all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to tell them wheat time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it and they're made at all men. Feminists hate men. They're sexist. They hate men - that's their problem.
Jerry Falwell

[Feminism is] a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.
Pat Robertson

OK, yes, admittedly these are two of the most radical anti-feminist men I could find but you see my point: feminists became the butt of all jokes in society about man-hating lesbians. 

I had a discussion with A about this last year, in which I declared myself a feminist, and she said she wouldn't, because she didn't think she needed it; she didn't the rights of women needed to be advanced further, and she felt we'd reached a fairly equal point in society. Granted, we've come a long way, but I will not be satisfied until women earn the same as men (I believe they currently only earn about 75% to the dollar of what a man earns); until there are as many women on corporate boards as there are men; until they allow women to fight on the front line (and I'm happy for them to have to meet the same requirements as men); until rape is an issue that blames and condemns the culprit, not the victim; until forced prostitution is a thing of the past; until girls around the world are recognised for the power and value they can contribute to society. "How good does a female athlete have to be before we just call her an athlete?" 

After all, "feminism is the radical notion that women are people" - Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler.


Sunday, 28 August 2011

Disney Fanboys and Real Princesses

So it turned out, over lunch at the Baldi Hot Springs two weekends ago, that one of the guys in my group of volunteering friends (there are four of us including me - another girl working at the same school as me, and two guys working at a school in a smaller village about 10min away) is a massive Disney fanboy. I can't remember how the conversation started - we were talking about Disney Land and Disney World, I think - when he asked "so what are your top 3 Disney movies?" Off the top of my head, I answered:
  1. Mulan
  2. Beauty and the Beast
  3. Aladdin
Of course the Little Mermaid and the Lion King would also definitely make top 5, but this is a strictly Disney list. None of this Disney/Pixar business, because they are in two very different leagues, my friends - like comparing apples and oranges. AMAZING DELICIOUS fruits, but two different kinds of fruit nonetheless.

In any case, let me justify my choices. What sets these 3 films apart for me is their fierce heroines. These women aren't wimpy princesses who wait around all day for a prince (think: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, et al) - although I would also include Ariel and Pocahontas in this category. These are women who don't stop at dreaming, but actually actively pursue these goals. And what I really like about these women is that their lives don't revolve around men. They can be just as strong without them. They're not waiting for true love's first kiss - they want adventure. They demonstrate courage, confidence and charisma - they are women who know who to stand up to and defy the patriarchal society in which they are prove they need not - and indeed can not - be condemned. 

Mulan is by far my all time favourite Disney films, mainly because I watch it and feel proud to be a woman. Yes, it makes my feminist heart happy. Mulan is funny, smart, sassy, bold, fiercely loyal and doesn't pine for a man in her life. She doesn't think twice about making sacrifices for the ones she loves, or to do what is right. She is a heroine to admire and aspire to be. 

Belle is probably a close second, because I can relate to her - off in her own world, a day-dreamer, a book lover. Belle, too, is someone who won't settle, who makes up her own mind, sets stock in her own opinion, sees through the facade of others (see: Gaston), doesn't judge people by their appearances (see: the Beast), is selfless, kind, and wants to believe the best in people. 

Really I love Aladdin for the genie and his musical numbers, but also because Aladdin himself is a total babe, and yes, Jasmine is a fiesty symbol of awesome. She will not marry for anything less than love, and takes it into her own hands to find it. 

Actually Tatiana would be 4th on my list of favourite Disney heroines, because there's a girl who is working towards her dream. She's made of stern stuff, and knows what is needed to make her dreams come true. 

What makes me sad though is the prevalence of Disney at the school I'm working at here in La Fortuna. They have the Princess pencil cases and stickers and bags. Now hear me out, because clearly I'm a fangirl and certainly not above these things. But what I truly hope is that they can weed out the weaker princesses; that they don't aspire to be Snow White, and wait around, dreaming of their Prince, but they try to be Ariel, who knows what she wants and goes after it. I worry about how Snow White and Cinderella and Aurora influence young children, because they are the "true" Disney Princesses, and therefore the most often/typically portrayed, but thankfully Jasmine, Belle and Ariel are there to balance them out and offer themselves as the embodiment of Walt Disney's quote (one I try to live by):

I would also argue that being a Princess is not about a title, it's about character, which is why the definition of Disney Princess is usually extended to include Mulan, Pocahontas, Tatiana, etc. 

So: your top 3 Disney films?


[All pictures from, except the Walt Disney quote, which is from]

Shirtless (or Singing) + Shameless = Saucy Saturday

Not that I need alliteration as an excuse to perv (though I'm sure I could come up with some justifiable adjective for every day of the week...) but I was blog-surfing today, and thought I'd share. When they look like this, it's only fair. 

Mmm...he can put the moves on me any time! ;) For 26 more shirtless photos of those gorgeous Glee guys (who's excited for September 20?!), click here.

Now, I've often been ridiculed for my less-than-subtle crush on Rafa, but look at these photos and tell me that's not a sexy Spainiard, right there. Well ¡hola!


And now, for the epic finale...Joseph Gordon-Levitt singing. Yes, this is probably the best thing you will ever see. Prepare yourself for awesomeness (swear to God he has the deepest, sexiest voice ever. Dare you to disagree.)

Now, I know y'all are like "but JAG, what are you doing INDOORS perving when all the shirtless Spanish boys are RIGHT OUTSIDE on this gloriously sunny day??" Lemme tell you this: sadly they do not idly roam the streets for my aesthetic appreciation, although I did enjoy the view at the Baldi Springs a couple of weeks ago. Sadly, two of my volunteering friends left today to fly home tomorrow - I'll miss this terribly, and nearly cried after I waved them off at the bus station today - and it's nearly too hot to function. Don't you worry - this weekend is one of my few allocated weekends for relaxing La Fortuna. I'm planning to get to several beaches and see the splendid shirtless sights :D

(for more man admiration, see here, here and here. Shirtlessness not guaranteed, but beware swooming.)


Saturday, 27 August 2011

Sex and Fury

We hear constantly about men in trouble over sex. Men in trouble for not keeping their trousers zipped, for groping and harassing women, men caught out looking at pornography, or gazing at women in the wrong way. But what we never hear about is men's restraint, the remarkable stoicism of current generations of heterosexual men who cop it sweet, despite their immense frustrations.
Lust for Life, Bettina Arndt 

Yes, because men should be congratulated for being faithful, and it's completely unheard of for a woman to have a voracious sexual appetite.

Men may only have one thing on their mind (of course I wouldn't know), and may have to put up with more testosterone, therefore biologically (apparently) having a bigger libido, but that certainly does NOT justify infidelity, or give them any right to pressure women into sex. A man may have needswants, but it is not a woman's obligation - even (especially!) if she is his wife or partner - to fill them. 

Sure, a man has a right to ask, and certainly I agree that men and women in relationships need to have more discussions about this. But if a woman claimed she had "needs," would this ever be considered a justifiable reason for looking elsewhere? Of course not; she'd be considered a cheater and a slut to boot. 

Honestly, I think a long history of men being in control and therefore getting what they want (when they want it) has led to a general expectation of sex being a right in a relationship - and if you're not getting it in the relationship, then understandably, you should be looking elsewhere.

Now obviously I don't believe that all men think like this - and I actually believe that probably more women want more sex than are admitting it - or at least want better sex. But I'm sick of the idea (and excuse)  that "men have needs" and somehow can't be monogamos - or, if they are, according to Arndt they should be lauded for this act of great restraint. Clearly we're at an impasse in terms of attitudes towards sex, but it is simply not enough to give up on the discussion and say "women will never understand (us) men, they can't fathom our all-consuming needs and desires," or that it is a man's duty to be monogamos. A man does not have to be monogamos - but I expect him to be if he has entered into a relationship fully aware of that understanding. 

Clearly I have no practical experience in this area, but being (for the most part) the last virgin in a big group of girlfriends - I've heard all about wants and needs. 

I know the majority of my readership is female, and this is an age-old debate, but it simply infuriates me. Thoughts?


Thursday, 25 August 2011

Top 5 Friends

Just kidding you guys, as if I would ever rank my friends!! Mainly because I am truly blessed with the loveliest friends in the world :) however this is a toast I mean post in honor of some very dear friends who did some super gorgeous things for me before I left. They are listed in no order.

  • K - thank you for staying the night of my going away party, you've no idea how reassuring you were when I was stressing out the day before I left and had something of a mini-meltdown about all the Oaktree work I hadn't done and was leaving guiltily behind for others to finish. Thank you for staying up late and talking with me, for hanging out and chilling with me, for all the advice, for just listening while I rambled about my unfounded fears, and mostly moaned about The Boy. I'm sorry I ditched you for breakfast that morning, but I hope enjoyed my humble (and futile!) attempts at recreating your incredible breakfast artistry.

  • B - thank you for being such a dear and continually insisting on sharing my workload, right up until the last. Thank you for your gorgeous and constant words of support, not to mention your incredibly thoughtful actions - thank you to you and K for your beautiful going away gift, it was perfect and totally essential! Every item serves me fabulously, and reminds me of you both. Your sincere happiness for me, coupled with our frequent chatting sessions, in which you continually tell me how much I deserve this, do wonders for my spirits and fortify my optimism. You really are too kind for words, and I love that distance doesn't lessen this in the slightest.

  • G - thank you for your euros, for your beautiful card, for making time to come to my farewell dinner, for making me dinner before I left - I know well how extremely, ridiculously busy you are, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate you taking time out of your insanely hectic schedule to just hang out with me (which we all know is very unproductive).

  • A and E - thank you for your charming, wonderful and sweet send off at the airport! E it was so nice of you to offer to drive me to the airport, considering we had to leave at 7am, and A you were a delightful surprise! I don't think you really knew how truly stressed I was, about the Oaktree work I hadn't been able to finish, and considering I hadn't had any sleep, I was something of a mess. I wasn't excited about the trip in the slightest - mentally I wasn't even prepared for it - but thanks to breakfast with you, calls from Gemini and Sara, your incredibly beautiful tokens of friendship and love, which of course I have treasured, and was truly touched by it, not to mention your hilarious (and shameless!) rendition of "I Will Always Love You" and your cheer as I walked through to the international terminal, helped lift my spirits and remind me of the incredible future I had to look forward to. By the time I'd left you - sadly, of course, and with difficulty - I was actually happy to be leaving the country, not miserable and hassled as I was when I started the drive to the airport. I can not tell you how grateful I am for this. 

And of course a massive and heartfelt thank you to everyone who came to my going-away party - unfortunately, much like my 21st, I didn't get half as much a chance as I would have liked to catch up with any of you properly, but it meant so very much to me that you came, and it was so fabulous to see you before I left. It was a fantastic night, so thank you for more happy memories to carry me through my time away until I see you again! 

Seriously. I don't know where I would be without any of you guys. I love and miss you all so very much.