Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Angels of Russia

The Angels of Russia
by Patricia le Roy

From the blurb: On a study trip to Leningrad, literature student Stephanie meets Sergei, an enigmatic young dissident. Stephanie had fallen in love with a fairy tale image of Russia -- full of palaces and aristocrats; Sergei offers to show her how different the reality is. Even in the supposedly enlightened days of Gorbachev, Sergei is in constant danger because of his political beliefs. So when he asks Stephanie to agree to a marriage of convenience so that he can leave the country she is unable to refuse him.

Despite the platonic nature of their relationship, Stephanie finds herself increasingly attracted to her mysterious new husband. But when Stephanie introduces Sergei to her Aunt Marina, a Russian defected to Paris whilst accompanying her father on a political mission, he appears to know more about Marina's past than Stephanie. Could Marina be the real reason why he has come to Paris? As it becomes increasingly clear that Sergei is harbouring more than one secret, Stephanie is forced to question whether their first meeting was as accidental as it seemed...

Although the blurb focused on the mystery of Sergei as the book's selling point, what got me so hooked on this book was not about Sergei and Marina, but more of Stephanie and Sergei. Stephanie had a fiance back in Paris before she went to Leningrad, but her relationship with her fiance did not seem to be very close. She was increasingly attracted to Sergei. And Sergei, even with his mission on hand, found himself increasingly attracted to Stephanie.

Two people, knowing their love for each other and knowing of the other's love for them, but not being able to be together because of their personal reasons, that damn sad. From Stephanie's point of view, she knew that even if Sergei loves her as much as she loved him she could not openly express her love for him as she had a fiance and he knew that too. Although she did not have any love left for her fiance, because of family and peer pressure, she could not break of the engagement. As she couldnt commit herself to Sergei as much as she wanted to, she tried to control her rising emotions. From Sergei's point of view, not only Stephanie's fiance stood in his way, he had a big secret that he kept from Stephanie and he knew that this secret had to be kept from her. He also knew that the eventual outcome of his secret would harm her emotionally.

For a slight moment, the outcome of the story reminded me of the usual Andy Lau/Aaron Kwok/Ekin Cheng Hong Kong triad movies of the 90s, but in this setting of 80s Leningrad and Paris, both places of romantism, love, and regret, somehow the impact was much stronger than what Hong Kong can ever produce.

The author also made use of much literature and history weaved into the story. I mean, Stephanie was after all a Literature Masters student doing her thesis on Pushkin and the effects of the Decembrists on his Literature and Sergei was very much interested in the Decembrists which became the main topic of their long platonic conversations. But what struck me most was the author weaving in the ancient tale of Ivan and the Firebird as the opening of a chapter in the middle of her story.

The tale of Ivan and the Firebird by itself is a story that puts one into a long heavy thinking mode. Its presence in this story made me think harder on the effect it had in shaping our thoughts of Stephanie and Sergei.

Im starting to feel drawn to Russia... For more on Russia, you can look into my archives on the review I did for Russian movie The Return. Try look for this book if you feel drawn into my review. Joan Ang gives it 5-stars and 2 thumbs up!

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Buying a Piece of Hope

I tried to buy a piece of hope, but apparently, it was sold out when I went all the way down to look for it. Rmb the bottle of anti-stretch mark essence that I broke (for those who dont, there is the archives), I bought another bottle. Maybe I just like deluding myself, submering myself in own-created fantasies, like finally one day being able to remove all my stretch marks, ya ya, haha... I realy tried to search for my own piece of hope, but, well, the word there is but.

In the English language, a pull stop can never come straight after the word 'but', or 'and', ya, but, ya, but...

It has been three weeks into my uni life proper but it seems like ages. Im busy every day, but dont know what Im doing. Wake up, rush for lectures, tutorials, go for ecas, do readings, sleep, then its the next day liao. In between all that, I tried to find some eye candy hoping to spice up my pathetic life, and the result, sinking deeper into pathetism. What a sad life...

Usually, for the past eight years, whenever the end of August arrives, Id prepare to send a card to a certain someone, but this year, things have changed, on my part. I wonder if that person would notice the change... But for now, Ive got Jakob Walters and German vocab to fill up my time and before that, Ive to bathe and get ready for Union Ball.

Union Ball is in about three hours time and here I am typing away on this thing thinking about my pathetic life with a face of oil and a body of grime and a head of hair that stinks when Union Ball in in like three hours time. Staying in school really screwed up my biosystem. I dont eat unless people ask me out to eat; I don't bathe unless Ive got to leave my room for lectures or stuff; I dont sleep unless I need to wake up early the next day. I just visited my dentist on Wed, basically, I didnt have a very good time with him cos I don't usually brush my teeth unless I eat, so on times I dont eat, I left my teeth to rot. The height of pathetism!

Okay, maybe I should stop myself from sinking into further pathetism... Hey! It will be Union Ball soon! Ya, and I will be missing out on Arts Bash at the same time, so even though I cant go and show my support to you guys, all the best! To Xinyi, Ken and Slyvia... I would really have went for Arts Bash if not for the fact that Ive already spent $50 on tix and $102.60 on a dress... That brings me back to depression, Im broke. Uni life is expensive; Joan is a spenthrift, somehow uni and Joan dont seem to look like a very good combination. But then again, to think about where all my money went? It cant have gone into food cos I havent been eating much, maybe they all went to support my pathetism...

Friday, August 20, 2004

2 Stupidity Symptoms

Stupidity Symptoms 7
One day, Joan accompanied Friend A to look at laptops as Friend A wanted to buy one. But before Friend A could actually make the order, Joan had to leave. The next day, Joan woke up and was still worried about her friend getting a laptop, so she decided to message her friend, but for unknown reasons, Joan messaged Friend B asking if she had bought the laptop. A very confused Friend B replied Joan “no”. Joan did not take much notice of this until the next day she woke up and with unknown reasons, she realised that she had messaged the wrong person!

Stupidity Symptoms 7
With her political science lecture the next day, Joan decided to visit the computer lab and print out the notes beforehand. But that that time, there wasnt any new lecture slides on the IVLE, so Joan decided to do some other stuff before checking the IVLE again. After 2 ½ hours, Joan went up onto the IVLE to check again and spotted something new. Without hesitation, Joan quickly printed out the notes seeing that they looked vaguely familiar. That night, after retreating to her room, Joan wanted to read through the notes before her lecture so that she wont get lost the next day. Holding up the notes reading them, she saw it becoming more and more familiar, then she realised that this wasnt the political science set of notes but notes for her another module, Politics of Southeast Asia. And the dumb thing is that she had already printed out that set of notes and had her lecture the day before!

Sunday, August 15, 2004

blog hopping

Recently, I’ve been doing quite a bit of blog browsing in my free time. I would blog hop via links on my friends blogs, even visiting blogs of people I dont know and I wld browse through the recently updated blogs on the link on blogger main.

What different people put up on their blogs tell a lot about them. Some blogs have no links of other blogs in them and the blogowner conceals his identity, these blogs mostly contain vented up, frustrations. Some blogs are brightly coloured, with avant-garde designs and a whole long list of links of friends, these blogowners usually pen happy thoughts or some mundane everyday happenings. But of course, Im stereotyping...

Ive realised that there are lots of Singaporean bloggers out there, or rather, its an unusually high ratio of population to bloggers. But sad to say, Im generalising again, that most of those Singaporean bloggers I came acrossed are young Secondary school girls who are so madly in love with 5566. I was browsing through the blogs the day after their performance here and came across no less than 10 blog entries of descriptions of handsome 5566 all attached with feelings of euphoria and those who didnt go that close to the stage, feelings of envy and some jealousy. I mean, dont these girls have a life?! Then again, what am I preaching when me myself dont have a life to speak of when I can sit in front of the computer for hours reading abt other people pathetic life?!

I also came across a friend’s blog who had an entry of a story titled Castle in the Clouds. Look on top of this window and spot the similarity. I dont like his story, mainly because its sad and pessimistic. As most friends wld know, Im a pessimist trying to act like an optimist, hence Id want not to like pessimistic ideas. Anyway, back to Castle in the Clouds, where did I get this title? Les Miserables. Why did I choose this as my title? Look through my archives, I think Id mentioned before, or look through my archives there is a certain trend of my entries.

Another interesting blog I came across is one of a New Zealander living in Taiwan and married a Taiwanese there. He talks mainly about socio-political issues in Taiwan and relates it to other parts of the world. I like his writings and some of his ideas although I oppose him on one big major issue of Taiwanese independence, but its only that. The blogging world is big, for other no-life people who like reading blogs, one advise would be not to continue reading blogs by sex-starved teenage girls and just browse through the big big world of blogs and experience another kind of culture.

I like my blog. I like my Stupidity Symptoms. I like my movie reviews. I like building castles in the clouds. Please let me save the complete image of the castles in my memories.

*sudden wave of sadness floods me* am I trying too hard to be an optimist when all I can be is only a pessimist?

*another wave of uncertainty breezes by me* will I have to suffer a same sad ending as the story I read off my friend’s blog?

*with an unnatural pang of resolute* blog-hopping is detrimental to one’s emotional being. Getting upset over someone else’s feeling is pathetic. Getting angry over someone else’s different opinions is pathetic. Getting worked up realising that Singapore’s teenaged girls are shallow is pathetic. In short, Im just pathetic.

*slumps back on my rickety computer chair*

Friday, August 06, 2004

Arts Orientation Week

Arts Orientation Week is finally over!

I now can have the time to do stuff I didnt have the time for during the past week. After almost one and a half months of solid procrastination, I went down to collect a reserved book from Marine Parade. One and a half months, really, Im amazed that the shopowner still recognised me. Also collected a pink top from Esprit which I bought about a month ago, but my size was only available about a week ago. Well, the top wasnt as impressive as I thought I had seen, the colour of this top seems a bit dull quite unlike the one I set my eyes upon. Anw, it was on 50% discount so I shouldnt complain.

I had also found time to change the skin of my blog to welcome a new page in my life, my university life! My previous blog I thought was a bit too depressing, but then again, this blogskin isnt very cheerful either, so never mind me Im just talking nonsense.

Speaking of nonsense, maybe this is a good time to add in more Stupidity Symptoms...

Stupidity Symptoms 4
Friend A and Friend B were chatting about Friend B’s very funny and lame jokes. Friend A wanted to hear more lame jokes from Friend B but Friend B was too tired to tell any jokes and instead asked Friend A to tell a joke for a change. When Friend A couldnt think of any jokes to tell, Joan came by and announced that she had a joke to tell. Joan went, “I give you a J; I give you an O; I give you a K; and here you go an E!” Friend A and B immediately turned their heads away from poor Joan.

Stupidity Symptoms 5
How long would it take for a person to get from Lt11 in Arts Faculty to Prince George’s Park in NUS? Especially when that person drives... Well, it took Friend to an hour to get from Lt 11 back too Lt11 when the intended destination was PGP. And, yes, dear Joan was the one giving directions to friend. After an hour reaching back to point zero, both Joan and Friend took a 5 min shuttle bus ride down to PGP.

On a more serious note, I think I really need to apologise to that poor friend who tried to drive down to PGP. Wilson, to boost your inflated ego a bit more, Im really very sorry, the whole fiasco was my entire fault, okay? So blame me, shoot me, eat me up! But of course, as we all know although Joan doesnt like to use her brain, she is actually quite smart, so was in entirely Joan’s fault?

To dear friends who want to be updated on Joan’s uni life, well, I will be staying at PGP blk 26, level 6, so feel free to drop by and bunk in if you have any early lessons the next day. Btw, just to add some salt to the above mentioned group of people, Joan’s earliest lecture is at 10am, the rest are all aftn lectures.

I will be doing History, European Studies and Political Science exposure modules, and German language, and a Singapore Studies module Politics of Southeast Asia. On this note, Id like to make used of this opportunity to thank Yingling for helping me monitor my bidding and helping me to secure my SS mod as I was practically in school the whole day. A big thank you, Yingling!!! Hugs and kisses and flowers all for you!

I would also like to thank my OG mates for being so sporting and fun! And also to give them credit for being able to endure my endless nonsense, think the JOKE joke, and I also have a CHEER cheer and a JOAN cheer. All of you are just so cute!!! You are so cute that I want to grab your head and kiss you! Haha... But I havent actually done that yet, Id only grabbed some people’s head and shook them when I got so exasperated with them, it wasnt really a good thing though.

I really hope that we Gaedians can remain in close contact even though we all have different timetables.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

race, religion and political direction

History repeats itself. Within the period of one blog entry, I find myself right in an almost similar position.

And this was after I promised Victoria that this would be an interesting blog entry. Sorry Vic, you will have to listen to my grouses again, but this would be slight different.

The following words might offend some people, so if you think you will get offended, well, I guess that will be it. Today, the Gaedians played Truth and Truth and I ended up pondering over one particular question even though it was not directed to me. Thinking abt it, I guess, I wont dare to say the truth in front of them knowing that I will definitely offend some people.

The question was what of a guy turns you off.

The politically correct answer would be some bad habits like smoking, or some character flaws like arrogance or something along the lines.

Joan’s offending answer, three aspects of a person can turn me off and that was the reason I steered away from this during lunch and dinner today with the Gaedians. The three aspects are race, religion and political direction. Just mentioning this any of these three things alone in public can have me detained by the ISC. The following things I am saying can see me as Chia Thye Poh number 2.

Im anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-Christ, anti-Malay, anti-Indian, anti-Malaysia, anti-America, anti-bananas (both figuratively and literarily), anti-Bush, anti-Japanese. Some people also call me a neo-Nazi which Im not, but Im definitely a Nazi-symphatist. Im also a Communist-symphatist. I support great war leaders such as Bismarck, Stalin, Hitler, and closer to home, Chin Peng. A small paradox here, Im pro-Lee Kuan Yew, but anti-PAP; Im pro-MCP, but anti-BS and Lim Chin Siong.

So, shoot me if anyone is not happy! Send for the ISC to capture me and imprison me in some barrack in Sentosa!