Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

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what it feels like for a quitter.

May 14, 2013

2013 seems to be a year of me leaving things behind in search of establishing my independence, and although this can be called “quitting”, I guess that quitting isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ve left one job for another, which has turned out to be at times a disorienting move, but ultimately one that has improved my sanity and quality of life, as well as my prospects for moving up the career ladder (I desperately need to get into a managerial position and gain experience of leading a team). My new job isn’t perfect, and it is a slight departure from what I thought it would entail, but at the end of the day, I am happy for now and I hope that it will be a stepping stone to greater things.

One of the loves of my life, Starbucks, has been another thing I’ve drastically cut down on. As money became tighter during the first few months (note to self and anyone reading: always budget for food!), Starbucks was something I didn’t really need and so I didn’t spend on it. Occasionally I will still have one, but work provides free instant coffee so that is sufficient to wake me up once I get into the office; Starbucks is much more of a social thing nowadays. Also, they do wonderful specialty coffees (read: sweet, sticky treats of drinks) and I still adore a white chocolate mocha or a strawberries and cream frappuccino; but it’s not great for the waistline! Especially when I now live full-time with a fabulous chef who always makes seconds.

And nor is quitting smoking. I started off the year well enough, but soon I started to make exceptions; one in my break during Italian class; one when I was feeling stressed at lunchtime; one nearly every lunchtime… Although going up to 4 cigarettes a week is hardly anything to write home about when I was smoking 8 a day only 6 or so months ago, it represented a breakdown in my willpower. So after a discussion with Toby where he found out about my secret smoking and was shocked, I ended up handing over my cigarettes and lighter to him because I knew that this was a way to completely stop myself from cheating. And it’s worked – I’ve gone nearly 4 weeks without a single cigarette.

Quitting smoking isn’t too difficult in terms of the practical sense; don’t bring your cigarettes with you, and you don’t smoke. Don’t bring your lighter with you, and you can’t smoke even if you buy cigarettes. But it’s the mental games that you play with yourself – on one of the rare warm, summery days, having a cigarette is so carefree and relaxing. It is de-stressing, and it is a way of killing time. Watching other people smoking makes me feel envious of the moment they are enjoying. I gave up smoking – surely one every now and then can’t hurt? (That’s the kind of thinking that leads to making exceptions for yourself, and that’s how I started back on them a couple of months ago.) Why should I have to sacrifice everything?

Everyone has vices – this is true. Do I honestly, truly think that I have smoked my last cigarette? I doubt it. I enjoyed smoking so much,  and I think about smoking quite often because I am still conscious, after this amount of time, that I am depriving myself. But when Toby found out that I had been smoking in secret, he was really upset because he hadn’t known about it (I was ashamed to say anything, and I also felt – quite defiantly – that I didn’t have to report to him. Even though it may have helped, in this case) and he wanted to help me help myself to give up. So I gave him my smoking paraphernalia and that has been the practical part solved. Even now, I often feel tempted to give up on giving up – denial is exhausting, rebellion is satisfying and makes me feel free. But I also know that it’s an illusion – smoking ties down my money and my health (even though you can’t feel it short-term). Toby said to me that he wants to help me give up to support our future together, and to help us ensure that we can grow old together.

Thinking about these words, and about the fact that he was disappointed that I was creeping down the slippery smoky slope, give me the inspiration to try as hard as I can to remain smoke-free. I want my partner to be proud of me, I want us to live long lives together as much as is possible, and more than anything I want to demonstrate that I can triumph over temptation and maintain my willpower. I found out that not long after I quit smoking, Mike also did – now, if he can quit smoking, I guess anyone can! He had a throat infection over the winter (and various chest and lung problems in the run-up to that), and this finally spurred him to quit smoking because he couldn’t smoke during his infection, and once he stopped he thought he might as well stay stopped.

The life of a quitter is hard. The argument in my head that I have already deprived myself of plenty (see above) and why should I enforce this suffering on myself – everyone has vices and their own personal addictions, and I don’t get any reward or gold star for behaving so abstemiously – is a strong one. I had a dream last night that I was in Italy – glamour central! – and I had met up with some man who was supposed to be my father (although he didn’t resemble my actual dad in any way) and his new girlfriend. Everyone around me was smoking, and I was so tempted to have a cigarette, but what convinced me to resist was that even in my dream, I knew that Toby would be upset with me. If I feel a little bit like I am being controlled, I can tolerate it only because I know that Toby is trying to help me and ultimately liberate me, and I’ve given him permission to do that. So I don’t know if I will make it as a non-smoker all the way to the end of my days, but I hope that by taking each day at a time, I could maybe do it? The life of a quitter is uncertain. But it’s also hopeful.

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racism in a modern age.

June 20, 2010

I just got home from my nan’s.  For the second part of my journey, I took the number 6 from town to Kingswood, and while I was on the bus, a group of Somali women were having a conversation.  Suddenly, an English woman (I’m guessing about 55 years old; she was certainly older than my mother, who is 50) turns around and yells at them “Would you please shut up?!?!” After everyone looks up, shocked, she continues her diatribe: “Natter natter (with hand gesture), shut the fuck up or get off the bus.”  The women began to protest, but the woman just got angrier and nastier, and the Somali women ended up getting off the bus at that stop.  The English woman yelled after them “Fucking go home to your own country!” After a beat of shocked silence from all the passengers, the driver (who was mixed race himself) got up and challenged the woman.  “They are allowed to chat if they want, everyone here is just trying to get home, there is no reason to disrupt anyone else’s journey or otherwise YOU will have to get off the bus.” At this point, the woman went to get off the bus, and the bus driver said “Ma’am, you can take your seat, but please respect other customers because we all paid to use this bus, and please enjoy your journey.”  The woman sat back down, but then got off at the next stop (I wonder if she was not too bothered about getting off the bus if she was only getting off at the next stop anyway?), and the rest of the bus breathed a sigh of relief.

I was shocked that in 2010, such blatant racism still exists.  Well, I am shocked and I am not; I’m not naive and I know very well that racism is very much alive and well, but I was shocked to be present at such an outrageous and blatant display of it.  I was tempted to say something myself, but at the same time it was not my place to get involved; these women are old enough and strong enough to defend themselves, and quite rightly the driver made a stand for his bus and for the passengers on it; he is running the service, not me or any of the other passengers.  I wonder however, if the driver had not said anything, whether I would have been brave enough to say something? Plenty of things sprang to my mind; to challenge her and say that if her problem was with the volume at which these women were speaking, then instead of yelling at them and thus making herself a hypocrite, she should just ask them politely if they could talk more quietly.  If this wasn’t the case, it would have exposed her own racism without saying any more (racism she already exposed with her parting comment to them as they got off the bus).  I felt like saying that if her problem was with the fact that these women were not English (I know this woman was English just by coincidence, as I saw her loudly supporting England at Rewind when I was out watching the game with my friends from uni on Friday night – she had memorable cuts and grazes on her elbow that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was the same woman), then should I get off the bus too as I am half-Italian, and I would not be here if my family had not come from another country to live here?  Until she knows the story of these Somali woman, who is she to judge whether they have (on a journey which they paid for, just like the rest of the passengers) less of a right to be on the bus and talk on the bus than her?  If I were speaking to my friends in Spanish, French or Italian, would I be less entitled to talk on the bus than if I were speaking in English? Does the fact that my skin barely looks any different to an English person’s (I am a tiny tiny bit more tanned, but it’s negligible) mean that I am not as mixed-race, or as ethnically diverse, as someone with a different skin colour? Am I entitled to the same rights as an English person simply because I speak native English, have an English surname and my skin is light; in return for these rights do I have to sacrifice my own ethnic background in the process just to fit in?

When I lived in Spain, if someone had spoken to me in that way because I was speaking English on the phone or to my family, I would have been utterly outraged.  Are we literally rewinding back to the story of Rosa Parks on the bus in the USA, before Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement? It felt like it.  Another thing I wanted to point out was that, as a result of my colleague Clare’s presentation on breaking down cultural barriers in guidance, I know that Bristol is considered a popular (if that is the right word) destination for asylum seekers and refugees coming from all over the world, because it is considered a racially-tolerant city in England. This is my hometown, my city, and I am proud of that fact.  By demonstrating such a racially-intolerant attitude, this woman is not only giving a bad example of herself, but of Bristol as a city and of England as a country; in actual fact, she is making herself look stupid and only propagating bad feeling for foreign people, whatever their reason or length of stay in England, which in turn only reinforces cultural barriers rather than breaking them down.  We’re in 2010; this should never have been happening, but it should certainly not be happening in this day and age.  And so I felt that if I didn’t speak up on the bus at the time (and it turned out that it wasn’t my place, nor did I have to – quite rightly, the driver did so), the least I could do was recount the event on here and spread more awareness that these attitudes still exist in our country and are very much alive in everyday life and situations.  This needs to change, and this entry is my little contribution; in my forthcoming job as a Personal Tutor at Cirencester College, one of the things I may well have to do in both interviews and group sessions is work on challenging racial stereotypes and breaking down cultural barriers and misconceptions.

Funnily enough, only earlier my nan and I were discussing the nature of football fans (topical considering that it is currently the World Cup).  English fans, deservedly or undeservedly, have a reputation for being violent, thuggish and neanderthal-like throughout Europe and possibly worldwide.  At the bar on Friday night, there was a fair amount of brainless chanting, stomping and cursing; but then, England did play poorly and I suppose that if so many people are passionate about this, it amasses a certain amount of volume.  I personally don’t like that kind of behaviour, but in itself it’s not racist; it’s only when it either causes damage or turns nasty against other ethnicities, races or against people of other countries that it’s inexcusable.  Nevertheless, I believe in conducting myself in a dignified way at all times whenever and wherever possible; by living up to hooligan stereotypes, England fans only propagate this image of themselves nationally and internationally; it’s not vogue and it doesn’t do the country or the sport any favours.  What’s more, my nan made a very good point that why do many England fans only support England during the football; if they really liked football, why do they not watch or show any interest in the matches involving other countries? Is it about the sport, or is it about the country? If it is about the country, why act so intimidating when watching the football (as opposed to other sports)? Surely this only sends out the wrong kind of message, a bad example to everyone – that this is how England fans behave, and that this country accepts that behaviour as tolerable and normal for football fans towards each other, and towards other people both from this country and from outside it?  I know that there are plenty of people who support England in the World Cup who don’t act this way – a lot of my friends fall under this category – and if I were them I would be somewhat embarrassed and angry that this reputation precedes me.  Everyone is entitled to behave in their own way, but I really wish we considered the feelings and cultures of others more than we do.

A final anecdote, in case I sound holier than thou – I’m not perfect.  When I was 12 years old, I once used a racial slur – I am ashamed to say.  Even more stupidly, it was towards a friend of mine whom I had known for 7 or 8 years by that time; he was acting in a very irritating way during a DT lesson, and out of sheer frustration and for pure shock value, I told him to “shut up you Paki”. Now, I am not racist nor have I ever been – so why portray myself in that way? Even though I was a child, I knew better before and after that event, and yet I did it. It had the desired effect, but I belittled myself by doing it, and my friend (to his credit) handled it very classily by laughing and saying in response to my immediate apology: “Um, no offence taken because I am Indian so that’s not what I am”.  His response made me feel all the more ashamed because not only had I attempted to use a racist expression in order to shut him up, I had used it in an incorrect context; it showed up my foolish behaviour for what it was.  Our friendship did not suffer for it; in fact I believe that the event was all but forgotten by breaktime, but it taught me a valuable lesson: that kind of behaviour is never acceptable, never appropriate, and never necessary.  I apologised profusely and he forgave me, but even recalling that incident makes me feel ashamed 12 years on; I was old enough to know better, and the lessons I learned as a result of that event are the redeeming factor; I have never thought or acted in that way since, and I am now in a position of responsibility to challenge others who do so. During a practice day, I successfully challenged one young person’s attitude to immigrants and the labour market; during my job at Cirencester, I anticipate doing this kind of thing more.  In this blog entry, I have also tried to challenge this behaviour.  Thankyou for reading.

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quiet storm track walkthrough (part ii).

October 31, 2009

(clicky) Quiet Storm (album download) (clicky)

Without further ado, let’s go on with the show!  Here’s part i of the walkthrough, covering tracks 1-6 of the album, if you need to read.  Once again, please enjoy and you can download my album at the link above / at the bottom of the page if you haven’t already! 🙂

7. Touch Me

This was the first single off the album, and it samples “Nobody But You” by Cassie and The-Dream.  I added some more drums and extra instruments (like the piano line) to give it a little extra kick.  Sonically and lyrically, it’s a little bit lighter than the songs which have come prior, because I didn’t want the album to be too heavy all the way through.  Life isn’t like that, and we all need to have some fun and not be so serious sometimes.  The theme of this one is about liking somebody  and having a crush on them, and just being flirtatious and wanting to have a good time with them – letting whatever happens, happen!  After a comment from my friend Emma who heard the song today, it’s interesting that none of the songs on the album have any relation to anything that’s happened in the last couple of months (I finished writing and recording the album at the beginning of September), because this song lyrically is more than a little appropriate right now. 😉 It’s also an unofficial part 2 to one of the very first songs I did, called “Reach Out”.

8. High Fashion

With “Touch Me”, this portion of the album is the ‘uptempo / club ready’ section, the part of the night when you just want to dance, have a good time and feel fierce.  I was inspired a lot by working at the Perfume Shop and being surrounded by a lot of luxury or designer brands like Prada, Gucci, Dior, and how tempting and intoxicating that whole world is.  For me, designer is increasingly a natural fit, though I try not to be snobby with it – I want my jewellery and accessories to feel special to me, not a normality.  But I like the authenticity of real designer, real luxury items – “I’m a real boy / I like real things”.  Originally, I envisioned the song being a midtempo like “Hook Boy”, but the lyrics have a bit of swag and confidence and I fell in love with a Garageband sample which was very poppy and uptempo – this is the poppiest song on the record, in my opinion.  I also enjoyed shouting out my half-Italian heritage, because my favourite designers are almost all Italian (Christian Dior is the exception) houses.  In short, the song’s message is that fashion is more than just what you wear, it’s a part of who you are and inherent in your attitude, outlook and all sorts of things.  And I honestly believe that.

9. Theory (Interlude)

This one’s a spoken interlude just explaining why I enjoy wearing designer items, and what things like that mean to me.  I do feel special with the right necklace on, I won’t deny it.  But I also think that looking put together is both a savvy self-promotion, and a convenient barricade between the outside world and the vulnerability I keep inside.  This interlude just explains that.

10. Armani Earrings

Can you say “SWAG”?!? I love this song, the lyrics were so much fun to write (and I challenged myself to include lots of polysyllabic words, because I’m a literate boy!), and this is my rap song!  Rapping is something I’m seeking to improve at, and I liked my flow on this song a lot.  I wanted to honour my Armani studs (my signature look), which have paid for themselves in compliments alone! Originally, the whole thing was rapped, but I’m a singer and not a rapper, so I made the bridge and final chorus more melodic, which ended up adding to the force of the song, rather than detracting away from it.  I love the bassline, which was inspired by a HOT track I saw on youtube, by Tila Tequila called “I Fucked The DJ” – it goes hard!!  I also shout out one of my favourite CDs back from when I was a teenager, which was Tatyana Ali’s Kiss The Sky.  Originally, “Armani Earrings” was supposed to be slightly slower, with a more gangsta beat, but once I heard that song, I knew that I wanted that kind of sound to make my song really club-ready – it took a little while to get it right, but I love this song now.  Although I don’t really believe that my boyfriend is more expendable than my bracelet, it’s fun to sing!  And it depends on the boyfriend 😉

11. Quiet Storm

There’s a reason why this song is the title track of the album, and why it’s slap bang in the middle – for me, this is the centrepiece of the whole record.  Production-wise, I’m so proud of it – the stuttering beat and the mysterious piano really embodies a night-time jam. I was inspired on this track by Danity Kane’s “Right Now”, Jennifer Lopez’s Hex Hector remix of “Waiting For Tonight”, and Lil’ Wayne’s “Got Money” – that’s the “tick tick boom” lyric explained for you!  The guitar solo in the middle (and the heavy breathing shots) emphasises sensuality and sexuality, and the song is just about being in this perfect moment surrounded by a pounding bass in the middle of the club, just seeing somebody and being irresistibly attracted to them to the point where everything melts away.  So it’s very sexy, very captivating, very seductive, but also very mysterious and nocturnal.  It’s about love and attraction being a force of nature that is literally more powerful than music – and if you know me, you’ll know just how powerfully I feel music.  I wanted a song that I could dance to in a club, that I could chill to and feel the lyrics, that I could wind to on my patio at night.  And this song ticks all those boxes for me, so I wanted this song to be the album’s signature track and indicative of all that I wanted to achieve with this project.

Part iii coming soon! Hold tight 😉

(clicky) Quiet Storm (album download) (clicky)

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Mariah Carey – Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel review.

September 27, 2009

Finally, it’s here (unless, like me you live in the UK in which case you are expected to wait until NOVEMBER 16TH!!!!  I will be buying the import collector’s version on Amazon, which drops on Tuesday.) – Mariah Carey’s new album, Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel.  Preceded by the lead single “Obsessed”, which has done very well but not shot to number one (leading certain people to brand it a ‘flop’ all the same), several questions were being asked of this CD: “Is Mariah’s voice really shot?” (No.) “Is it better than Whitney’s album?” (Yes.) “Does the fact that The-Dream and Tricky Stewart produced the whole album make it a bit monotonous?” (No… not really.  A couple of the songs are somewhat repetitive and reminiscent of other The-Dream tracks, but Mariah’s input and The-Dream’s variety are pleasantly surprising.) “Why did Mariah push her CD back? Was she running scared?” (No; she was making a cohesive R&B album and taking the time to make it perfect.)  Listening to the finished product makes this clear – where The Emancipation of Mimi (Mariah’s “comeback” “classic” album, which is possibly her least cohesive effort and contains some fantastic tracks surrounded by the most filler in any of her albums this decade) and E=MC² were literally a collection of songs, Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel takes you on a unified journey the way that Mariah’s best 90s efforts, the seminal Butterfly and Rainbow, and yes, even 2002’s Charmbracelet did.

Mariah’s vocals are stronger now than they were on Charmbracelet, though she often employs her whisper voice in place of full belting.  As it did on Butterfly, this gives the songs an intimate feel which brings out the intricate emotions inherent in her lyrics.  Standout “H.A.T.E.U.”, which means “Having A Typical Emotional Upset”, at first sounds like an angry-woman-scorned missive thematically similar to other songs on the album, but it is emotionally vulnerable as Mariah finds herself in a place where she misses her lover, but doesn’t know what to do with herself other than “change her number” and “move away” in an attempt to get over him and begin to move on.  The emotional limbo echoes in the production, which employs a hard-hitting slow beat and a baby’s cries along with Mariah’s whistle register.  Her high-pitched wails are a massive feature of this album, and are present on many of the songs – according to various tweets, Mariah wanted to explore using her upper range as a texture in homage to Minnie Riperton.  Just as on Rainbow‘s “Bliss”, on tracks such as “H.A.T.E.U.”, “Ribbon” and “Angel (Prelude)”, Mariah’s stratospheric notes come across less as an opportunity to showboat than as a genuine part of the song’s instrumentation and setting the mood.  At the album’s climax, a tasteful cover of Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is”, Mariah lets loose with gospel melisma and ecstatic squeaking to emphasise her joy and rapture in finally finding true love and encountering happiness after the ups and downs and broken relationships explored throughout the course of the album.  The only criticism of this song is that it ends far too quickly, robbing the listener of the climax – as soon as the vocal and musical apex is reached, the track is fading out!!! Here’s hoping that a longer edit of the song will surface.  But the point is that Mariah Carey is using all the ranges of her impressive voice for legitimate reasons – to serve the song and its mood, musical instrumentation, lyrical punctuation and emotional expression.  If there is any proof required that Mariah has grown as a singer, this album is it – even if she doesn’t belt as happily as she used to, her voice serves the songs more.

Having said that, Mariah also embraces radio trends on some of the more uptempo numbers.  Lead single “Obsessed” is one of a few tracks to use auto-tune.  Another question: “Why does someone with Mariah Carey’s voice need to use auto-tune?”  This is a somewhat valid question, but I think that Mariah is just trying to stay current and have fun.  Although some of the album’s slower material is more weighty and emotionally deep, songs like “Obsessed”, “Up Out My Face” and “More Than Just Friends” (which contains some fantastic lyrics such as “Secretly I know you wanna hit it like the lotto / And after that we can ketchup like tomato / We can make love in Italy in the grotto / Fresh off the jet at the Met they screamin’ bravo”) are designed to keep the BPMs up, keep things light and moving briskly, and create songs which have sharper lyrics and fun, bouncy melodies.  The marching band “reprise” of “Up Out My Face” is a fantastic, creative interlude that really knocks, and would have been great as an extended song – it harks back to one of Mariah’s performances of “Shake It Off” (perhaps the Thanksgiving Parade performance? I don’t remember… if anyone knows, feel free to comment!).  “Standing O” is another hard-hitting uptempo track that gathers its intensity as Mariah applauds an ex-lover for breaking her heart – “All you did was pound on it”.  The beats accumulate towards the end of the song, as Mariah’s voice gets more insistent and an almost operatic soprano punctuates her despair.  Although it had to grow on me somewhat, I am really enjoying the track.

There are a couple of tracks where I differ from what I understand to be the general consensus, according to other forum and blog comments, as well as video reviews of the album I’ve seen on Youtube.  “Ribbon” has been garnering comments such as being ‘overproduced’ with its distorted hooks forming part of the music, and more of a crunk beat than other tracks, really hitting hard.  From what I understand, people are saying the track is a bit overcooked and Mariah gets lost in it – I disagree! I love the song, its music is dark and percussive, but Mariah’s syrupy vocals and lyrics “Wrapped up, wrapped up, ribbon with a bow on it” sit on top of all that like the icing on a cake.  It’s actually one of my favourite tracks on the album, and although it is a typical The-Dream track that could have easily fit on his Love vs. Money album, I don’t think that it suffers for that – there’s not another track like it on the album, so it stands out.

Whereas my only weak track, which other people seem to love, is “It’s A Wrap”.  Mariah pours wine at the beginning of the track, so I guess we are supposed to relax into it, but the doo-wop beat and sparse piano forces the song to melt away and become unmemorable.  The lyrics are somewhat lackluster compared to the zingers on other songs such as “Up Out My Face” (“If we were two Lego blocks, even the Harvard University Graduating Class of 2010 couldn’t put us back together again” !!!!!!) and “More Than Just Friends”, or to the emotional heft of ballads such as “H.A.T.E.U.”, “The Impossible” and “Angels Cry”.  The only line that “It’s A Wrap” has going for it, IMO, is “It’s going down like a denominator” – and you have to wait for the end of the song to get to that bit.  Just a bit lackluster for me – but other people love it, so you may love it too and we’ll agree to disagree.

Earlier I compared Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel to classic Mariah albums Butterfly and Rainbow.  This becomes apparent during the album’s closing stretch – though on “Candy Bling” and “Inseparable” Mariah offers a relaxed yet absorbing throwback vibe (to former Mariah tracks “Yours” and “We Belong Together”, respectively), and on opening ‘prologue’ “Betcha Gon’ Know” Mariah masterfully weaves an absorbing tale of heartbreak and infidelity just as she wrote spellbinding descriptive lyrics on classic “The Roof” – it’s not until “The Impossible” that we really seem to penetrate into Mariah’s heart.  The sexy R&B feel gives nods to Jodeci and provides a classic texture that once more exemplifies just how much is missing from 2009-typical R&B. Hopefully this is a sign that older R&B values are coming back around – although Mariah popularised the trend of female singers working with rappers, Memoirs does not boast a single collaboration and is all the better for it.  “Angels Cry” is a heartfelt ode to love lost that sounds like classic Mariah, and of course there is the closer “I Want To Know What Love Is”.  These last two tracks really ratchet up the emotional impact of Mariah’s album, where other tracks are lighter and more fun, or restrained slower material – and make sure that it goes out on a high.

Okay, so I am a big Mariah Carey fan, and I am bound to say that I love the album.  For me, it’s a real album that flows (hence the various reprises and little flourishes that help the songs segue together sonically as well as thematically) rather than just a collection of songs.  The lyrics and vocals work together to compliment each song’s mood, content and impact.  And apart from “It’s A Wrap”, I really enjoy every track on the album.  So for me, taking the songs individually, they are winners, but the album as a whole is elevated beyond the sum of its parts to something quite special.  In my opinion, this is why it stands head and shoulders above Whitney Houston’s I Look To You (certainly not an album which has a cohesive feel, and I only like half of the songs anyway) as well as nearly every other album I’ve heard released in 2009.  This is where Mariah Carey is not only a gifted singer and vocalist, but an artist who keeps working at and developing her craft as a writer, producer and someone who envisions how her project should sound from start to finish.  Check the credits: Mariah Carey is Executive Producer, Album Producer, and a producer and writer on every single song (apart from the cover version).  As a singer, a songwriter and an artist, she is what I aspire to be, and Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel is, like Butterfly and Rainbow, an example of her at her very best.

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killing time.

September 16, 2009

So it’s 9:38 according to the clock in the corner of my laptop, and I’m writing this post from work (WordPress is blocked by the NHS so I’m writing it now and will post it up this evening when I get home… by which time the future tense will be present) because I am conscious that as I’m staying with my grandmother so that on her return from Italy, she’s not immediately in an empty house, I wouldn’t be able to blog.  I started work at 8:30, and less than an hour later, I’m already bored and without very much (read: nothing) to do.  I have tweeted from my phone (Twitter is also blocked at work! Damn those pesky IT people) and texted Hannah; I am listening to Brandy (Never Say Never) on my iPod with Mariah Carey (Rainbow) queued up; I am going to gaze at my Gucci bracelet and possibly email a picture of it to my parents in Barcelona, because they taunted me over the phone by telling me how many designer boutiques they had been past.  No need to rub it in!

So writing this blog post in advance is tantamount to me killing time, which seems to be a lot of what I do at work these days!  (As I type, one of my colleagues is demonstrating his juggling skills, so it’s obviously not just me. 😉 ) It’s certainly a step up from my previous job, where there was always a sense of urgency for rarely a legitimate reason, but it dawns on me that often, what we do in life is kill time.  Reading American Psycho on the bus, Patrick Bateman describes how he spent the majority of his summer “in a stupor, sitting either in my office or in new restaurants, in my apartment watching videotapes or in the backs of cabs, in nightclubs that just opened or in movie theatres or in new restaurants.”  Basically, we distract ourselves by doing things which seem “special” to fill up the time, except we spend so much time socialising or going places to socialise or entertaining ourselves, it’s depressing when I start to think how little we actually accomplish that matters.  What am I trying to do with my life?  Well, I work to save up money so that I can buy jewellery – as much as looking good is important to me, and as much as making yourself feel special is something that cannot be underrated, it hardly matters in the scheme of making an impact on the world.  I save up money so that I can have driving lessons to get a car so I can travel.  Okay, that’s important in terms of job skills and life skills.  I am starting university on Monday to gain a qualification in Careers Guidance, so that I can help younger people realise what their options are, both educational and vocational, in order to get to where they want to be.  That does count as making an impact.  In the meanwhile, the only other important thing I do that could potentially touch and enrich people’s lives is my music, writing and producing and singing songs, practising piano and guitar so that I can accompany myself, and lately completing my album booklet and taking pictures of myself and photoshopping moody dark/neon scapes to complement the whole mood of the album.  I guess that I am trying to enrich my life at the same time as trying to touch other people’s lives and make a difference, and there is nothing wrong with that.

But it’s how much time we kill in between doing those things.  I mean, nobody, not even Beyoncé, can work 24/7, and we all need some down time and some “us time” and we all have the right to enjoy our lives and have some fun.  Not everything is so serious, and as I’m growing older I’m learning to realise that more and take things a little easier when it’s okay to do so.  In between laundry and checking on my nan’s house and turning on the fridge and watering the plants yesterday, I watched a few dvds and ate Dominos pizza. But the amount of time we waste is just insane, because we don’t even realise that we’re doing it.  And yet, talking to Ebony on Monday, I was talking about the unspoken pressure put on us by older generations that although I am 23 and she is 24, we should have managed university and got a steady job and be on the way to buy a house and drive and be looking to get married in the near future.  The world is a different place now, and the economy means that jobs and money and affordable decent places to live aren’t as easy to come by as they once were.  I consider myself lucky to have finally escaped retail and got a position in an office where I feel comfortable, am better paid and often do a lot less 😉 I also get to use my brain a lot more, and I feel more valued because of that.  But there is a tension between it being okay to kill time, and then a sense of urgency that before we know it, we will be 30 and single and still living at home and a failure at life.  Please!  I have no intention of letting that happen, and although sometimes life happens beyond your control and deals you a bad hand, I’m determined to make a bid for independence and career success very soon.  I am making moves towards that with my new university course and increase in money, which will hopefully get me a driving licence and a qualification with real job prospects come the end of the next academic year.  But it’s hard to keep a sense of urgency in perspective when it’s also so easy just to kill time and do things which seem unavoidable but are semi-unnecessary.  I don’t know where to find that balance or how to achieve it, but at least I know it needs to be done.

h1

i want to know what love is.

August 28, 2009

After yesterday’s epic rant, you’ll be relieved to know that I am gonna try and keep it brief tonight.  First things first: I had the perfect start to the day, downloading and listening to Mariah Carey’s new song, “I Want To Know What Love Is”, from her upcoming album Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel.  The day proceeded well from there, so I will share it with you in the hope that you will enjoy it as much as I do, and it will give you some positive energy also! :

Classic song brought tastefully up to date, with restraint in the right places and explosive vocals as a climax.  Mariah Carey is incomparable, and I aspire to be the kind of artist that she is.  Some of y’all will know that I did my own version of the song a couple of weeks ago now.  Embarrassingly enough, I spelt the title of the song wrong!  I thought it was “I Wanna Know…” but no; it’s “I Want To”.  So I apologise for that.  I still am proud of my version: a couple of my friends said that it was one of my best recorded vocal moments.  Here it is again for y’all:

It’s taken from my High Fashion mixtape, which I’ll release online sometime towards the end of September, a month before my proper album Quiet Storm is released.  My birthday is October 25th (note it in your diaries y’all!) so I’m thinking to release it around then; the actual day is a Sunday, so it might be that weekend, otherwise the following Monday or Tuesday.  I’m so excited!  All the music is finished, so just have to complete the artwork.  I need to get a move on!!!  I also wanted to let you know that the first single from Quiet Storm will be “Touch Me”, and I’m gonna put that online hopefully MONDAY for y’all.  So keep your eyes and ears peeled!  Once again, I sincerely thank everyone for the views and the comments and suggestions, it really means a lot and I hope that you all enjoy my music.

Returning to the song “I Want To Know What Love Is”, I remember I was partly inspired to record it because I knew Mariah had done a version of it, but another driving factor was my infatuation with R.  I still wear the Opium, which I guess means that I genuinely like the fragrance regardless of any tie to him.  My crush on him somewhat dimmed, since we haven’t spoken nearly as much in the past couple of weeks (after the drama with his boyfriend kicking him off msn for talking to me too much, followed by a reported tension between the two of them; and some stuff on the internet which confuses me as to whether he is a liar or a potential cheat, or just delusional, delusional *sings* – I decided to move on and avoid for a bit).  And I saw him at work while I went past on the bus, and he’s cut his hair – it doesn’t look bad, but I preferred it before.  I texted him and we spoke for a bit, and despite a bit more distance than before, nothing seems to have changed between the two of us.  So he told me that if I was walking by the museum (where he works) that there would be no problem if we spoke for a bit (I had expressed concern I might get him into trouble).

So today, after work I walked past the museum and there he was.  He seemed impressed by my appearance (Prada sunglasses, houndstooth polo shirt & smart trousers and shoes; I had been in the office dahling.  Plus my hair was not a total disaster today, despite the wind’s best efforts), while I looked at him and can’t believe there is just 13 days’ difference between the two of us, since he seems so much older.  We spoke for a while, before he got harrassed by an irksome man and then some of R’s colleagues were making their way towards him, at which point I decided to make a sharpish exit.  But in those few minutes, we spoke about our jobs, his financial and employment woes, my new stuff.  I would have liked to have spoken more… and I could feel my heart being reeled back in despite myself; despite my head saying “you shouldn’t trust this guy; you don’t know him that well; things don’t add up”.  All those things are true.  But I can’t deny that I feel an attraction, not just a sexual / lust attraction, but even a platonic attraction.  I really want us to be (at least) friends, because I always find conversation flows so easily between us… something just clicks, and it feels like we are on the same wavelength, even if we don’t have the same opinions on everything, it’s easy… And to have all of that going for us, and yet to know that I should be wary because part of me doesn’t think he is completely trustworthy… it’s a difficult mental balance and I don’t really know how to address it.  I’m not going to resist talking to him, because I don’t want to.  I just wish I knew him better, so that I didn’t have to be apprehensive about being open with him.  But of course, to get to know someone well, you have to be somewhat open and trusting of them; it’s a catch 22.  What to do, what to do…?

“I want to know what love is… I want you to show me”

h1

in the dark.

August 26, 2009

So it’s 9:25pm and about 10 minutes ago, I just woke up.  I must have fallen asleep after going for a quick lie down on my bed, imagining drifting away in the arms of Edilson Nascimento and cuddling my teddy bear.  I was pretty tired after a day at work where I actually had Things To Do (though that was because I was helping out one of my colleagues who got yelled at by a senior person).  So I got home, had a pizza for my dinner, watched Come Dine With Me (the people on that show deserve a good slap, they are so narcissistic and possibly insane!) and The Simpsons, and then went to my bed for a lie down.

That is exactly what I did.  15 minutes ago, I woke up, my feet a little cold (I was lying on top of the bed, rather than in it), in pitch black darkness.  My immediate thought was “What time is it?”  I was convinced that it must be tomorrow morning, and that the sounds of the television downstairs were my mother watching a programme as she put her make-up on (her morning ritual).  It was dark, so I guess it would have been 5:30-6am (my mother gets up at 5am on a morning when she has work).  But my instinct just said that it was the morning.  I was then a muddle of thoughts which included:

  • Why can’t I remember what I was dreaming about? (Have my vivid escapade-dreams come to an end? I know I dreamed something but can’t remember what)
  • Do I have to get up yet? (I think this every morning also.  And if it’s past 9:30, I feel guilty that I haven’t gotten out of bed)
  • I haven’t written on my blog! (ah, the dedication)
  • Did my nan call? I need to speak to her! (She is off to Italy tomorrow, my uncle is picking her up at 1:30 pm.  I speak to her every night between 9:30 and 10pm because that is what we have always done, and if she called then my parents don’t usually pick up the phone, because I am the house receptionist.  If I was asleep, I could not be the receptionist, so I might not have been able to speak to her before she left for Italy… though I would likely have lunch before 1:30 tomorrow.  But it still made me anxious).

I turned on the light and the clock said 9:15pm.  I was like “What? It’s still today?!?”  Disappointed that I had to go to sleep all over again (if I ever GET to sleep.  Early nights do not agree with me, and nor does fucking with my sleep pattern), I was nevertheless relieved because I could have a shower without having to rush tomorrow morning, and I was able to speak to my nan at our usual time without disturbing her or missing her call.  So all is fine, and now I am still in the dilemma of trying to avoid a snack before I go to sleep (something I would have nicely sidestepped if I had fallen asleep until tomorrow morning!).

Curiously, I still feel quite groggy, even after having a shower (which should have refreshed me / rewoke me somewhat), so I’m just lying on my bed (sans Edilson) watching the Angry Video Game Nerd on youtube, and contemplating whether I can be bothered to get Beauty and the Beast from downstairs, and if I do this, whether I will avoid eating a Mars Delight which is actually calling to me from the cupboard downstairs.  Its voice is loud and insistent.  Help me resist!  God knows what time I will finally get to sleep for real, I probably will end up eating something :S Urgh, frustration!  A note for the future: don’t fuck with my sleep, or I will not be happy.  Hmph.