Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The End

I just came home from work and I feel like shit. I think I can dissect this feeling into parts such as; boredom, physical hunger, anger, desperation, emotional hunger, social isolation. So it's a mighty cocktail.

Also on my way home I have been thinking about this blog. I've now decided that it has become an embarrassing piece of rubbish. My initial aim - as explained in its headline - for it was a memoir. Now, I have read a couple of other people's memoirs in my time and mine is nothing like them. I write about movies I have seen, concerts I have been to and other stuff. But I wriote about them in such a superficial way that they end up being nothing but filler material.

For example; when I wrote about movies I didn't speak about how I felt watching them all by myself and being pissed off at not having anybody with me at that moment to discuss about it afterwards, to talk about it. Or when I wrote about concerts I didn't describe how it didn't feel right because of not having any friends with me to sing along or dance to the songs.
How I got frustrated at the fact that I inadvertently start talking to myself as if I'm having a conversation afterwards on my way home from a movie or a concert. What I mean is, I wrote about these things in a very dishonest way. I was being dishonest to my future self. I believe if I had contunied like this I would be doing a disservice to my future self. He would read these things and judge me. He would look with disbelief at how immature and unintelligent his past self had been.

Actually that's also one of the main reasons for this decision; I need to grow up. I need to be able to speak about my true feelings and stop acting like a moody teenager. Whether I like this or not is a separate matter. A couple of my closest friends have experienced very important events in their lifes such as child birth in the past month and when I compared what they are going through with what I have put down into this 'memoir', I get ashamed of myself. I'm not saying a person should only write about things like childbirths or marriages. I'm saying that I should have made these writings more personal. I should have explained or written about my feelings more. Instead some of the previous posts read like something you would come across on a 15 year olds' myspace page.

So what now? What am I planning to do? I had a talk with myself. Myself said "so you have named this blog a Memoir but you were not being completely honest about the stuff you have written? But how could you?" he said. He continued "Aren't the owners of Memoirs keep them hidden from public? How could you write about everything openly on a public avenue?" He had a point. By naming this blog as a Memoir I had created a dilemma, which I also chose to ignore instead of scrutinise properly in the first place. So I replied "you're right but I think I wanted these memoirs to have a confessional streak as well when I first started." I was aware that technically anybody could read these pages but, in my mind, this was balanced by the fact that unless I specifically advertised it around, number of people coming across these pages would be minimal. However, I believe, in time, the first argument - that anybody could read - took hold of my subconcious and steered me away from being honest.

Another advice to my future self is; always keep things simple and know what you really want. Do not over-elaborate on things and do not get hung up on small details. Be straightforward!!

Tonight I haven't been able to come to a resolution. I'll just leave it as it is for now. But I'll delete a couple of most offending posts such as the last two.

I'm just hoping that my future self will think better of me when he read these lines.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Best Lyrics in a Song

"Your smile would make me sneeze
when we were Siamese."


Note to my future self; I know I had forsaken Placebo on a previous post but before going to that concert I had uploaded all of their albums to my iPod and due to either fate or my laziness, have been listening to their songs still. I have to admit that after repeat listenings you understand the true value of a song and learn to appreciate it. And their songs make great company while shuffling to work on a cold, grey, rainy London morning. But true to my word I also have the latest Muse album in that white miracle of technology, which acts as a gear change when needed.

Anyway, the aim of this post was to crown their achievements with what I think is their finest two lines of verse in their entire catalogue. I remember the first time I heard these two lines; first I didn't make aynything out of them. They sounded too vague and pretentiously avant garde. However, then at a split second their glory hit me. They were, and still, one of the most beatiful lines of poetry I have ever heard.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Sea

"It was the sea that made me begin thinking secretly about love more than anything else; you know, a love worth dying for, or a love that consumes you. To a man locked up in a steel ship all the time, the sea is too much like a woman. Things like her lulls and storms, or her caprice, or the beauty of her breast reflecting the setting sun, are all obvious. More than that, you're in a ship that mounts the sea and rides her and yet is constantly denied her. It's the old say about miles and miles of lovely water and you can't quench your thirst. Nature surrounds a sailor with all these elements so like a woman and yet he is kept as far as a man can be from her warm, living body. That's where the problem begins, right there-I'm sure of it."

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea
Yukio Mishima

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Black Holes & Revelations

Wanted to make a note of my most favorite band in the world as of today: M U S E.

I have been listeninig to their music since university times but never really appreciated them as a band but after seeing them live in concert 2 weeks ago, I have made up my mind. The concert was mind-blowing. They have an amazing stage presence; Matt Bellamy is very charismatic as a frontman and the showy side of the concert was very impressive without being cheesy. But most importantly the crowd was incredible. From the first song, everybody in the standing area became a single organism and started jumping around. But it wasn't aggressive. In fact, I just let myself go and drifted within the crowd. I have never felt like this before in a concert; the amount of energy was staggering. I realised that MUSE's songs inflate in a concert arena. They envelop the place. They are such good songs to sing-a-long and jump-a-long to. I must have lost 2 kgs in sweat in that concert; my t-shirt was soaking wet when I came out in the end. They are going to give a concert in Wembley Stadium next summer and I plan to be there.

And let's come to the second reason for this post. I have decided to put one of my favorite bands to rest: P L A C E B O. I have watched them live tonight at the same venue Muse played and the difference between two experiences was staggering. I haven't been a huge fan of Placebo's last 2 albums but I listen to them all the same. However, I always end up thinking how much better the songs in their first 2 album are. Anyways they come up to the stage and started playing. I looked around myself for a sign of the same energy that was present in the Muse concert. But it was nowhere to be seen. The crowd was so different this time; it was full of dorks, dopeheads, prepubescent or teenage girls shrieking in the highest possible pitch of their voices, posers, emos, goths etc. No rockers. Most of the people around me spent their times taking pictures, recording the concert on their mobile phones or texting. It was horrible. Nobody moved. I think the main problem with the new songs is that they are very formulaic. Write 3-4 lines and repeat all through the song. When they thankfully played Without You I'm nothing, the song rose majestically above the crap that came before. Another problem is Brian Molko still thinks he is in his early twenties; writing songs about teenager problems, which is embarrassing. He also acts like a diva. When a technical fault brought about a forced break in the concert, they all gone to the backstage, leaving the crowd standing there like we don't matter. I would expect him to take up a microphone and speak to the crowd, see the funny side of it. These things make a live performance special.

Anyways, to wrap up; I didn't want the MUSE concert to end and the band gave the impression that they didn't either; doing a 'bis' twice, playing 3-4 songs each. However, I was glad when the Placebo concert was over, which ended rather abrutly without any bis and the band just walking off the stage.

So long Placebo, thanks for the memories, thanks for the songs I enjoyed listening to from bootleg bands in tiny, smoky bars. And hail Muse; the band that rocks my world and makes me feel alive.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

British Neo-Cons

A couple of weeks back Matthew Paris wrote an excellent article on his column at The Times. In it, he criticized the neo-cons in Britain and their shifting attitude now that it's clear that the Iraq war was a huge mistake. The article says that the British neo-cons latest spin is blaming Americans for the botch up, and it's true. After reading the article, I thought about the recent speeches and press meetings hold by different members of the Britisih Parliament and sometimes even by the members of the British Army and if you listen carefully you can notice a sentence there or a word here, constructing a rhetoric which aims to tell people "if you want someone to blame, don't blame us".


Some other thoughts on Japan

Another post about Japan and certainly not the last. Not while my fascination with the country continues like this. However, this one is a bit different because I'm posting some other person's words on Japan. He summarizes my exact thoughts brilliantly so thought would pay him tribute.

He is Giles Coren, a columnist at The Times and the below excerpt is taken from his 28th October 2006 article, in which the main subject is obesity. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,10653-2425205,00.html

"And another thing: I spent the first four days of this week in Tokyo, and if pollution makes you fat then why, in a city so polluted that a good proportion of the workforce feels compelled to walk the streets in face masks, did I not see a single person even as chubby as me? I went, in a bound, from being the thinnest man in London to the fattest man in Tokyo.
Indeed, after a couple of days among these beautifully dressed, impeccably polite and helpful, slim and well-groomed people, I had almost forgotten what a race of fat, feckless scruffs my own compatriots have become — until I caught sight, on the third morning, of a vast-arsed European male in shorts and trainers galumphing wheezily up the street towards me, looking for all the world like a giant toddler.
In Japan, only schoolchildren wear short trousers. Once past 10 they dress, as we used to in Britain, like adults, in well-fitting, modest clothes and lace-up shoes. Why did the flabby tourist not have the decency to identify the cultural inaptness of his appearance and modify it with more suitable clothing, or stay at home?
An even heftier reminder of the crisis in Britain came at Tokyo airport when I was checking in, where three Englishmen of 18 stone each or more stood in front of me, their feet wide apart in that stability-maintaining stance to which the morbidly obese resort, wearing the first tracksuits I had seen since I arrived (for I had attended no athletics meetings) and clutching vast Starbucks tubs of warm frothy milk drinks, just like mother used to express. This tubby triumvirate looked not like toddlers, but bona fide babies."

By the way, I myself unfortunately committed the above crime of going around in shorts in Japan, albeit a bit more gracefully than the said-European male, I'd think.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Alien in Japan - Part III - Conclusion

What was my impression of Japan at the end of the trip? I have always travelled to West for tourism, France, Italy, Germany. So my first time in an Eastern country was bound to be very different. And of course I had certain ideas about Japan. But the reality I found was like nothing else. I sincerely think that Japan is at least 10 years ahead of Western countries on areas like public services and city planning. Not to mention technological advances. The most basic example; the train system in Japan was jaw-droppingly impressive to me. No delays, clean carriages with air conditioning, everything designed with a durable simplicity in mind. And it works so smooth. Travelling on Shinkansen was a revelation and it's a 10-year-old system. The difference was made more obvious on my return to London; there was no underground trains from Heathrow and people were expected to take buses to the next station. Thinking Heathrow express, which is supposed to be a fast train to the centre of London at a premium ticket price, would be a better solution was also proved wrong when I realised that those trains were running with 10 minute delays as well. Maybe this sound like nitpicking but I really felt dismayed at the time- actually I still do.

Another major difference; the people. Westerners, including myself, blame Japanese of being cold and distance. Even insincere. However, I also think that this is not entirely correct. It's true that although they are almost always polite, it's a rather impersonal politeness. They are not being polite for you but for themselves. But it still makes a huge difference. In summary, I found with my tourist eyes the Japanese people charming and civilized. This, however, is a sentimental view. I cannot fully explain this. But a small thing like not having people playing loud music on their mobile phones inside the train carriages was enough to impress me.

However, there is one very important point. The attitude of Japanese people towards foreigners changes drastically if you speak Japanese. Because Aysun speaks Japanese rather fluently, she was my point of contact with Japanese people. We would go into a shop together and the moment they realised she could speak Japanese, I would be ignored. Aysun would become the point of attention. I would only register if Aysun referred to me during the conversation, which is obviously not very polite. But strange at the same time. They get really nervous if they think they will need to try to speak English and it comes as a real relief if they don't have to. Also, I found it rather funny that the only tourist they could think of is Americans. In London, I got mistaken for being Italian, Spanish or Greek but in Japan there is only one option.

Shouldn't forget to mention about the food. Himm, the food. OK, I like sushi. No problem. But do I like it that much to eat everyday for 2 weeks? I found out the answer is no. After the novelty of the first a couple of days worn off, I started to long for a bit of western style food. Breakfasts in particular become a bit problematic. Eating a tuna rice ball for breakfast got some getting used to. OK, it's virtually fat free and very healthy but after a while I was looking for croissants and toasted sandwiches. On the contrary, dinner time was easier - I don't mind sushi or noodles at that time. I had one particularly weird eating experience in Shibuya. A friend of Aysun's took us to a sushi bar for lunch. There was a queue outside the place, a good sign. However, we soon realised that the queue continues inside the restaurant as well. In fact, the queue is part of the experience. You do the chatting during this time, waiting for your place at the bar. And when you sit down to eat, there is only minimal talking because you cannot stay more than half an hour in the restaurant due to it being very popular. So you eat as much as you can and if any time is left you talk a bit and then you leave. However, I have to admit that the sushi was extraordinary - extremely fresh and done on the spot so you don't leave the place unsatisfied. However, coming back to the health issue, there is no denying that Japanese cuisine is better than the Western ones. Low fat, low calorie and fish are the best thing you can eat. Have to admit that I have grown rather fond of boiled rice myself.

As a result, my first impressions of Japan were all good. I have even taken a decision to make an effort to learn more about the culture. It's a welcome change from the years somewhat forced Western culture. Also should promise myself another Tokyo trip. 3 days was not enough for that city.

Alien in Japan - Part II

OK part two.....

Flew to Okinawa on a plane covered with the pictures of Pokemon - with a huge profile of Pikachu on its tail. Okinawa was a strange place. It was Aysun's first time there as well so now both of us were tourists for the first time. We found it strange because it didn't feel like a part of Japan. OK it's an island off the coast of Japan so it's not a part of the country in a literal sense but the way of life, we thought, was different as well. We were going to stay in a hostel in Naha for the first night so again left the luggage in our room and went out to explore the place. Although it's the capital of Okinawa, it's a rather small touristic town. Little note about Okinawa; it used to be a separate kingdom before becoming a part of Japan so this could be one of the reasons why we found it different. Naha basically has one main street - Kokusai Dori or International str. - with shops and restaurants lining both sides. After going the length of this road we decided to go to the public beach to enjoy the sun and the sea. However, we found out that this wasn't going to be as easy as we thought. It took as more than an hour, asking several people directions and quite a lot of walking to get to the public beach. And it was extraordinary. I think that beach is unique in the world. There cannot be another beach in the world with a view of a highway overpass. When you are lying on the beach, you are watching trucks and cars go by over the sea. Spent quite a bit of time to raise Aysun's diminished spirits due to disappointment and exhaustion as she was expecting a prettier picture. Still, managed to swim and lie in the sun for a bit. The next day got onto the bus to go to the rather luxurious hotel we were going to stay for 2 nights. It was going to be a change after hostels. One other important information about Okinawa; there is a rather large American presence on the island as they have a couple of military bases. Hence, the reason for the steak houses. However, from what Aysun told me I understand that the local people is not too fond of the Americans. The hotel was rather good; standard facilities, swimming pools, a nice beach, a rather big chapel for weddings etc. However, when we went down to the beach to swim we realised something peculiar. The water was extremely shallow; after walking 500 m it was still at my knees. Very disappointing. So spent the day sunbathing. But in the afternoon, Aysun went to swim and found out to great surprise that now the water is up to her waist after a couple of steps. Aha - tide. All in all a relaxing day. The first holi-day; just sea-sand and sun. No sightseeing, no walking, no rushing around. Which all come back the next day as we decided to go to a nearby island connected to Okinawa. This again required a bit of effort to organize; which bus to take, where to get off etc. But in the end, it paid off because the beach we found was beautiful. Much better than the one back at the hotel. Clear water, white sand, less people. And sunburnt. The trip back was interesting - never thought I would have my first hitchhike experience in Japan. Ended the day with a Korean barbecue. Next day we had a plane to Fukuoka. We stayed just one day in Fukuoka but the place left a lasting impression on me. Fukuoka had a different vibe to it. The riverside, for example, was very colourful and entertaining with bars and street stalls. Ah, the street stalls. Hundreds of them. Salary men sitting on stools eating noodles, drinking sake. Drunk salary men playing catch-the-fish. This is a really strange game; in a big bowl of water there are live fish swimming around and you try to catch them without a bait. If you succeed, the stall owner cooks the fish for you to eat. Also have to mention the hostel we stayed in Fukuoka. It was a Ryokan; an old Japanese house - the kind you expect men and women to dress in kimonos. It was beautiful. It definitely was one of the reasons why I liked Fukuoka that much. Oh, one other reason was the Fukuoka airport. It's 10 minutes away from the city centre by metro. Probably, the most convenient airport in the world. It was really difficult to leave Aysun and Japan the next morning. She is a very dear friend of mine and it was a joy spending 2 crazy weeks with her, travelling through Japan. I also have grown fond of Japan; it's strange ways and charming people. However, London was calling me like the sound of an alarm clock waking you up from a lovely dream. It was time to go back to reality.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Alien in Japan - Part I

OK rewind back to the beginning of September.

I have been meaning to write about this but I've been lazy again. Yes, beginning of September went to Japan for two weeks. I can easily say it was the trip of my life.

Met with Aysun first time in 2 years at the airport. She was staying at Yamaguchi. She kept on saying how I'm going to feel jetlagged the next day and contrary to her expectations I woke up at a respectable time and we headed to Shimonoseki, where we rode bicycle all day, ate lovely sushi at night and I met her friend Eri. Second day she took me to her kendo training - at 6 o'clock in the morning. Completely amazed by the whole training session. It was held in a traditional Japanese training house with wooden floors. At the end of the training, a 'sword' master demonstrated to us the basic moves of Japanese sword technique. The man was easily in his 70s but in excellent physical condition. Difficult not to be impressed. The rest of the day spent in Yamaguchi and ended with a dinner in a lovely Indonesian restaurant with a couple of Aysun's friends – Gerry, Tomoko, Heki and Makiko. The next day left for Hiroshima and continued the journey, visiting popular touristic destinations such as Miyajima, Osaka, Nara (Todaiji) and Kyoto. Arrived at Tokyo on Friday night. Aysun was tired so left her at the hostel and went out to go to ‘famous’ Roppongi in order to make the most of the time I have. Took some time to find out how to go there but managed in the end. Didn't like what I found. Roppongi is full of Westerners. Not what I am looking for. I wanted to see how Japanese people enjoy themselves. After an hour walking through the streets of Roppongi headed back to the hostel and called it a day. I didn't enjoy my first hostel experience too much; trying to sleep in a dormitory brings one major problem. People come in and go out of the room almost any time of the day and night, making it very difficult to sleep. The next day visited some of the touristic spots of Tokyo and took the river tour, which was not very impressive as there isn't anything to see along the riverbank – contrary to London. At night, on the insistence of Aysun went to a bar called Castillo in Roppongi. To my dismay it was a bar with mainly Westerner clientele; English, Australians and Germans. Almost all middle aged. Took quite a bit of time to start enjoying myself but managed to dance a little bit thanks mainly to 4 bottles of beer. All in all not too bad. Next day Shibuya, Ueno park and Harajuku. All of them are amazing places – the amount of people n Shibuya, the crazy rock bands at the Ueno park. But especially Harajuku; with its dressed up girls and boys and crazy little shops. Had my strangest experience of my life that night by doing karaoke for 7 HOURS. It was unreal. Holed up in a room with 3 of Aysun's friends (Vicky, Gunner, Franz) and sang songs from 10 in the night till 5 in the morning. There is nothing like it. The last day went rather idly by, walking the streets of Tokyo, having dinner in a lovely izakaya, chatting to the Japanese couple next to us. Charming people Japanese. Ended the day, rather ironically, in the Starbucks looking over to the Shibuya Square, watching the masses cross the road and huge screens on the buildings blink at us, changing colours all the while. I felt that I am going to miss Tokyo. Early next morning went to the airport for our plane to Okinawa.

Eleanor Rigby

Fireworks are going off outside my window. Today is the Bonfire Day. Gunpowder plot and Treason. Guy Fawkes. The rest... I've been to the big fireworks show at Alexandra Palace this time last year. Difficult tot believe it's been a year. This is one of the problems I have with London. Time. It's too fast here. It's disorienting. At least to me. I'm still in disbelief that 4 years have passed since I came here. I only realise the passage of time on days like this. Bonfire night, Easter, New Year's, the day we take the clocks back. It's a very different type of living from the one I had back in my own country. There the time was slower. Or was it because I was younger? A carefree university student...And now an office employee working from 8 till 6. I don't particularly dislike my job but it's just so different from the university life. I still need time for adapting. Or maybe I shouldn't adapt. In fact I very much like to keep some of that spirit I had back then. I think it's a good thing to keep the door ajar instead of fully closed.