Posts Tagged ‘Street Fighter’

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lady gaga & beyoncé – telephone. (video review)

March 14, 2010

At the end of 2009, I rated The Fame Monster at #18 on my year-end album chart.  Although I do stand by that chart and I don’t think I would really change any of the albums that are on there, in hindsight Lady GaGa would actually be somewhere in the Top 10 (possibly quite high up).  I didn’t think so at the time, but the funny thing about The Fame Monster is that it has hidden depths and its songs are actually really enduring.  What’s more, unlike The Fame, the songs are actually about deep topics such as domestic violence (“Dance In The Dark”), intoxication (“So Happy I Could Die”) and poisonous relationships (“Bad Romance”). I find it ironic that I’ve lambasted Lady GaGa for pandering to radio too much with her repetitive nonsense hooks (“p-p-p-poker face / papa-paparazzi / eh eh / ooh la la ga ga ro ma ma” and so on), but now I find myself appreciating her songwriting craft and finding her songs becoming more solid (although The Fame Monster is streets ahead of The Fame, so in a way I’m just acknowledging her artistic progression).  So I apologise somewhat for kinda turning off Lady GaGa and not giving her her due (although her fans / “monsters” are quite off-putting and need to be less militant), although if she could keep off the repetition of nonsensical syllables that would be good.  Because she doesn’t need to do that.

And so we come to “Telephone”.  The song is about suffocating relationships, and Lady GaGa herself has said that it doesn’t just have to be a romantic situation, but could also symbolise the fact that when her telephone rings, it’s always because she has to get back to work in the studio and she can’t escape that.  The song itself is pretty strong, although it’s not as progressive as some of the other songs on The Fame Monster and resorts to the 4/4 beat that has completely oversaturated popular music (and did so about a year and a half ago).  Beyoncé’s feature is a rapid-fire verse over double-time beats and keeps the song interesting.

The video for “Telephone” was released on Friday, and it has become something of a Pop Event.  The hype the video received even before its premiere was immense, and now it’s being hailed by some as the successor to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”.  Others however are lambasting it for its apparent sexism and overt lesbianism.  I read in one place that you will remember exactly where you were when you first saw it, and that much is true (at least for me).  I had just returned home from work, it was about 3:30 and after keeping track of the video reviews on Twitter, I decided to give into my curiosity.  Upon the first viewing, I was a tiny bit underwhelmed but could still see the video’s bad and good points (of which my view hasn’t really changed).  I thought that Beyoncé’s appearance far outclassed Lady GaGa, not just because Beyoncé has had some acting lessons but also because Beyoncé is more of an effortless star (not in reality, but she doesn’t look as if she’s trying so hard).  I detested the overt product placement of Virgin Mobile, Chanel & the GaGa earbud headphones – but all the kids are doing it; I just expected Lady GaGa to have more class.  But then why should she? It’s money in the bank, and when your video is 9 and a half minutes long, you need some bank to be able to make that video look and feel effective and powerful.

I’ve rewatched the “Telephone” video a few times now, and each time my estimation of it has gone up.  While not exactly on iconic level (I think it’s far too soon to be throwing that word around; GaGa has only been around for 2 years), it’s another demonstration that Lady GaGa’s commitment to her artistry is strong, defiant and interesting.  The introductory jail scene serves to debunk the rumours of GaGa’s intersex status (duh), allows her to wear a host of outlandish outfits (striped shoulder-padded body suit / yellow police caution tape / super-studded leather jacket and underwear covered in chains) the best of which is undoubtedly the cigarette sunglasses (still smoking!).  The fashion continues with the huge black tricorne hat GaGa sports upon being bailed out of prison; the shredded USA flag (subtle!) clothes in which GaGa and Beyoncé dance in the diner scene; the folded geometric telephone hat and telephone receiver hairdo GaGa wears on her head; the leopardprint body suit à la Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me Much”; the closing lavender and black body sheets… not all of these ideas work (on a couple of occasions both GaGa and Beyoncé look nothing short of horrendous – for some reason, in the USA flag bikini and bright yellow hair, Lady GaGa reminds me somewhat of Ken from Street Fighter and I can’t shake this association!), but they all capture the viewer’s attention, and more importantly they all leave you with something to say after watching the video.  That’s possibly “Telephone”‘s biggest success – it provokes thought and inspires discussion.  We know this because even the broadsheet newspapers are talking about it.

I stand by my statement that GaGa does seem to be trying awfully hard at being controversial and “artistic”.  She’s made a couple of great videos now, but in view of the numerous costume changes (see above), storylines and scenes, it doesn’t seem to come easily.  For comparison, where better to look than her costar Beyoncé?  For the definition of an iconic music video, look no further than “Single Ladies”; everyone and their mama has seen that video and knows the dance.  The video is in black and white, has no storyline or costumes (other than a leotard and metallic glove), is done in one take and isn’t even an original idea (see Bob Fosse’s choreography on youtube). Most importantly, Beyoncé did it almost as an afterthought to her video for “If I Were A Boy” (which in my opinion is a truly beautiful, excellent video) without breaking a sweat; and yet this is the video that captured everyone’s attention.  Now, of course Beyoncé is not anywhere near as effortless as she appears; but she makes it look easy.  GaGa does not make it look easy, and although it’s admirable that she’s so committed to the symbolism and artistic integrity she conveys (and GaGa is clearly an intelligent and talented woman), I’m scared that because the media and the fans are so interested in her image, her look, and what she’s going to be wearing that they forget that Lady GaGa is actually a singer and a musician – the most important thing should be her music.  Which, as I said at the top, is actually quite good and shouldn’t get lost in all of the surrounding gloss, however layered and substantial that gloss may be.  What happens when Lady GaGa can’t get any crazier?  What about when she wants to strip away all the layers and be more vulnerable and natural?  Will everyone turn away from her then, because they just wanted the fancy clothes and elaborate videos?  Can people not listen to her music, her lyrics without the accompanying visual?  I hope I’m wrong, because if not then that’s pretty sad.

The storyline, just as the lyrics of the song itself, can be interpreted in various ways and I’m not going to get into that here; I think that some of the reviews I’ve read have been hilariously in-depth and I think that GaGa is intelligent enough to play along in pretending to have input heavy symbolism into outfits, storylines and lyrics where there is none; people seem to need to have a meaning to every single thing, whereas I often think that GaGa is just having fun and being crazy.  Which is great!  It’s entertainment.  And the “Telephone” video is certainly entertaining; I hated the product placement, and I don’t feel that the use of the Pussy Wagon was necessary (the Tarantino homages are apparent, with elements of Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction included) – but then that’s just because I find the Pussy Wagon unfeasibly garish.  Which, in Kill Bill, was the point, and I understand that.  I really enjoyed Beyoncé’s homages to the “Paparazzi” video in her poisoning the teacup, Minnie Mouse glasses and hand over her mouth when they censored the swearing.  I loved the Japanese cooking-programme style of “Let’s Make A Sandwich”, and the dialogue between Gaga and Beyoncé was intriguingly half-cheesy, half-hard-boiled (although Beyoncé can somewhat act, and Lady GaGa really can’t – yet).  Tyrese and Beyoncé’s subtitled conversation, spoken with only looks and facial expressions, was genius. The Thelma & Louise-esque ending neatly gave closure to the video, but also made viewers wonder what was in store (that “To Be Continued…”) for next time.

Overall, I thought that the “Telephone” video was excellent, and I’m intrigued to see how the music channels edit it down to song length.  It’s a thrilling watch, and while I’m not going to pretend that it is a perfect video, I think that to compare it to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is unfair; “Thriller” is not even Michael Jackson’s best video by a long shot, and Lady GaGa’s video deserves to stand in its own right.  “Telephone” is furiously entertaining, and shows an artist coming into her own, even if at this point the numerous costume changes and persistent homages, product placements and edgy fashion poses betray an artist not quite comfortable enough in her own skin to exude her artistry naturally.  Once it becomes a little more effortless (as it has for Beyoncé, Madonna and all the other greats), that’s when Lady GaGa will be iconic and symbolic of a new musical generation.  But she’s well on her way, and I hope that the media, fans and public will appreciate that, because I myself am learning to, little by little.

ps. If only my “Bad Romance” video treatment had ended in a jail rather than in a mental institution, it would have led perfectly into the “Telephone” video!  Ah well, can’t win ’em all 😉

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dream: apocalypse rob.

September 18, 2009

This dream is a masterclass in me.

The first thing that I remember is being at lunch in a fancy restaurant, ordering French pastries with Charlotte from Sex and the City.  We were discussing relationships and sex, and about whether I was a failure for not having gotten married yet.  Charlotte was as lovely and reassuring as she is on the tv programme, and I remember as I took bites out of my French cake (strawberry – which I normally don’t like), she told me that I was young and that there was plenty of time to fall in love.  We sprayed each other with the new Prada fragrance, L’eau Ambrée, and it was delicious.

I left the restaurant and Charlotte, and met up with Rob (the Romanian) and we went back to my place (I had a very white apartment) where we sat on the bed and were talking and flirting for ages.  (I am wearing my Opium Pour Homme today as I type this as a result) At one point I was so tempted to kiss him, but I couldn’t do it because he had/has a boyfriend and that would not really be ethical.  I reached out and stroked his face, and he nuzzled into it while saying “You know that I can’t do that”.  The tension mounted and I kept my hand against his cheek, but eventually the moment passed and I had to go.

The next thing I know, I was walking along the edge of a bayou (!!!) and I came to a big wooden Colonial-style house with lots of people crowded around on the veranda.  I mingled with the crowd, looking for Rob and it transpired that his family owned the house.  There was a raft on the river of the bayou, ready to “set sail”, and I tried to get Rob to go on it with me and we could go down the river together.  However, once I sat on the raft I discovered that his sister was going to use the raft with me, and she was a prostitute.  She got on the raft, along with a couple of other guys, and Rob disappeared and we started to drift upstream, towards the big white gates of the city.  The gates opened, and after some forgettable conversation, I got off the raft and left Rob’s sister and her guys to it.  I walked along the street and went back to my apartment.  The whole city looked as if it had been whitewashed, and it was ominously pristine and futuristic.

I went into my apartment block, and suddenly a siren sounded and the dean from St. Anne’s College at Oxford University, Martin Jackson, came thundering down the stairs and informed me that we were on ‘high alert’.  He told me to follow him up the stairs to a safe part of the building, and I had no choice but to do so.  He led me to an isolated part of the apartment block on the top floor, where all of the doors were sliding and gleaming white, with no handles or anything – they seemed to open and close of their own accord, as if they could see us coming.

Once I arrived on the top floor, I found out that the country / world was on ‘high alert’, because the Chinese had massive guns that they were using to shoot down all the other countries.  (Dreams are not logical.)  Although we were trying to fight back with our own guns, our guns were not as big and therefore we were almost certain to lose, and the world was due to descend into warfare and possibly the end of the world.  So that was why it was important to take refuge now, before it was too late.  In the top floor of the apartment building, there was a hallway leading off to three rooms.  I chose to enter the room on the left, which was furnished largely in red velvet with chairs set up for an audience.  At the front of the room was a massive flat-screen television, and it appeared that we were supposed to be watching something.  I have no idea what was supposed to happen in the other two rooms, but I had the impression that it was something more sinister and that I had chosen well.

Little by little, the room began to fill up with people, including my friend Hannah, and also a girl from school called Hannah Drake.  Hannah found me and we were relieved that we were both safe.  Meanwhile, the screen began to show Street Fighter games for different gaming platforms (including the Playstation and the Sega Saturn; it was some weird hybrid of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat).  Akuma from Street Fighter actually entered the room and sat himself down, all fiery red hair and glowing eyes, and finally the film began to start.  It was very abstract and didn’t explain much.  At one point, me and Hannah looked at each other and started giggling because it made no sense, but one of the old women seated behind us hushed us and told us to pay attention to the film as it was important.  I remember lots of cityscapes and white gleaming buildings, and that was it!

Anyone willing to psychoanalyse?  Sigmund Freud?

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addictive.

September 1, 2009

(Check out my new single if you haven’t already: Touch Me)

I wrote a blog a while back detailing some of my vices and addictions.  Well, I’m going to add another to the list (well,two if you also want to add writing on this here thing – I am pretty much daily! 😀 ):  Street Fighter IV Championship Mode.  The past week or so, I have been putting in a fair amount of time (while obviously doing other things such as work, socialising and generally having a life – I promise you I am not too geeky!!) on my Playstation 3 playing Street Fighter IV.  Today, after gym, researching for my Careers Guidance course (starting in 3 weeks, aaaaahhhh!!! so excited!), visiting the library and having pizza with Hannah, I bought the game strategy guide.  I haven’t actually read much of it yet, but tonight I spent a couple of hours with Vega and Chun Li (my two favourite characters; Chun Li is my main) kicking some ass (and also getting my ass beat quite a bit! What goes around comes around, as they say…).

both in one picture - how economic!

both in one picture - how economic!

I always maintained that I could not sit at a game for hours on end, but tonight I had to tear myself away!  As an only child, I got pretty used to playing against the computer and nothing else.  Having friends round was a luxury where I could play against a human opponent, but it wasn’t really satisfying because they didn’t know the games that I would play, so there wasn’t much competition.  But now, on my PS3, I have online play. Which means that from the comfort of my own bedroom, I can fight against a plethora of opponents.  Some of them really piss me off because they only do one thing and spam certain attacks (it’s cheap and it’s unsatisfying whether you win or lose), others are really impressive and I don’t mind losing to them, and it’s thrilling when I win (all too occasionally!).  I realised that I am not a bad player, but there are thousands of people who are much better than me!  My response to that is that I have better things to do than practise playing Street Fighter IV 24/7! 😛

It is really addictive because once you find a character or two whom you click with (Chun Li is not ranked badly, but Vega is pretty much one of the least-favoured characters… I like the speedy ones who jump around a lot!), you really want to hone your skills and kick some online ass at the same time!  I feel a lot of respect for those players who are really good, and I don’t mind losing to a genuinely skilled player, because that’s how you improve and sometimes they teach you a little bit of tactics.  I guess that I have always gravitated towards fighting games since I was a kid (although I enjoy puzzler games, platformers and old-school arcade games, because they remind me of my childhood and the Amiga!) because it’s cathartic to beat someone up, even just a person on a screen; the moves are ridiculous and enthralling to watch (people spinning like helicopters, creating fireballs, jumping and teleporting… if only we could really do those things!); and there is something simple, immediate and yet satisfying about going head to head with another character (be it computer controlled or a human opponent) and just going at it.  Sometimes it becomes more of a mental matchup, trying to second-guess the other person and psyche them out.  So maybe it’s a little bit like a relationship!!! 😉

I’m sure I’m just in an “on” phase with the game at the moment; there are weeks which go by without me even touching it, and then suddenly I get hooked into it again.  I think that even though games like this addict me, and I know that there are people who literally wake up and breathe Playstation or Xbox or whatever until they sleep (btw, my father is still into that Evony game!  He’s getting very powerful apparently… I don’t understand it though!), I couldn’t be like that because I have too many commitments and responsibilities, plus my attention span is far too short to sit still all day! 😉 I like to think that there are elements of real life (e.g. my music, my money, my relationships with family and friends) which are much more ‘addictive’ and hold my attention even more than Chun Li et al.  If life is just a game, then a game is just a trifle… you know?  We’re all allowed to have some fun, but at the end of the day you have to go hard and play serious with life because that’s what really matters.

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throwing naomis.

July 22, 2009

It’s interesting, but the people who know me seem to see different aspects of me.  My family tell me I should have more patience, whereas my friends say that I am a very patient person.  My family often tease me for always listening to my ipod, having my headphones in my ears and therefore never hearing half of what they say (although I hear a lot more than they give me credit for 😉 ), while most of my friends think that I am a good listener (something I pride myself upon, because it’s always important to have someone there who’s willing to hear you out and be your sounding board).  I inherit from my family the fact that it can sometimes take a lot to piss me off, but on the wrong day, I have an extremely short fuse.  My friends tend not to see that side of me, and are shocked that I have thrown things against walls and have a propensity to “throw a Naomi” (as it was yesterday christened).

The situation was at my nan’s where the mobile internet just stopped working for no apparent reason.  I grew more and more frustrated, and blamed my nan’s area (the signal is generally not great there, though it usually works) for my lack of internet.  We left the house, it came back briefly, I was vindicated (or so I thought).  We returned home, it was gone again.  Restraining my screams and stomping around in irritation, I had the irresistible urge to fling my Prada II phone which cost me nearly £400 and is utterly beautiful and does everything I want across the room in rage.  This is exactly what I did with my Nintendo DS Lite (breaking it and making me sell all the games, ultimately netting me £120.  I don’t miss it.), and as a result I realise my temper is alive and well.

When I was about 8 years old, I had Street Fighter II for the Amiga.  I got a bit obsessed with it, and I would judge myself quite harshly if I didn’t win, even though I was playing on the hardest difficulty setting.  I remember thinking of myself as a failure, and one day I was crying and crying and I just dug my nails into my cheeks and scratched my face.  I must have done this so hard that it left marks, and when my mother saw it, she went APESHIT.  She said she was going to take me to the ‘nut hospital’ (“Mummy, what’s a nut hospital?” “YOU’LL FIND OUT IF YOU DON’T CUT IT OUT!” I realised I probably didn’t want to go there.) and I had to wear foundation and concealer on my face for a day because I went round to a friend’s house either that afternoon or the following day.  The game was confiscated for a while, and I remember creeping around the house early on weekend mornings trying to find where my mother had hidden it… she kept having to switch hiding places because I would find it and then she’d wake up to me playing it.  Eventually I proved to have my temper under control and I was allowed the game back, and I generally behaved better.

So my temper is back! After breaking my DS, playing Street Fighter IV on PS3 has required me to get my moods under control (so I just swear to my friends on msn and occasionally growl / curse / shout).  And I made sure to throw my phone against something soft yesterday (the bed, the sofa) so nothing broke or was damaged.  Of course, I got home and found out that two of my friends had had similar issues with O2 mobile internet and it was nothing to do with my phone, my nan or the area.  I felt a little silly.  But I remember reading an interview with Christina Aguilera during the Stripped era and she was saying how therapeutic it is to throw champagne glasses against a wall when you’re angry.  I can only agree… there’s something about destroying something pretty / complex / delicate in a fit of rage that just does the trick and calms you down (when a cigarette won’t hit the spot).  When I have my beautiful big mansion house I will make sure there is a room with a punching bag in it, and a wall where I can throw my supply of champagne glasses when I get pissed off at the computer or technology or whatever it is.  After all, I find I never tend to break too much because you have to clear it up afterwards once you’ve calmed down! 😉

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dream.

July 11, 2009

Okay, I’ve literally just woken up and I have to write this all down before I forget it. Last night I had this epic dream which has stayed with me as I’ve woken up, so I wanted to get it all recorded for my own interest as well as so that you can analyse it and see how much of a freak I am, haha.

Basically, my friend from uni Aiman was getting married (this is happening in real life next month, I need to get the train tickets to Wolverhampton and back any day now) so my dad had driven me to this random town where the wedding was happening.  It transpired that I was there for the wedding rehearsal, but before I went to the rehearsal, me and my father ended up in a massive dvd shop.  After browsing quite a few of the titles, I remember going to the bargain section and picking up some sort of Street Fighter dvd.  The cover was a brown brick background, with a picture of Ryu looking fierce in the foreground.  Anyways, I took the dvd to the counter to find out how much it was, and the shop assistant told me £19.99.  I was quite miffed because that obviously wasn’t a bargain, so I went and put the dvd back.  For some reason (I don’t know what provoked me, but then this is a dream so logic basically flies out of the window) I started comparing the barcodes of the Street Fighter dvds and realised that the one I had picked up was different to others with the same cover.  So I took another one of the dvds over to the cashier and enquired about that price.  Of course, that one turned out to be £7.99, so much more of a bargain.

I don’t remember if I ended up purchasing the dvd, and I don’t remember where my dad went, but I ended up talking to the shop assistant for ages.  He was the same age as me, his name was Robbie, he had slightly unkempt blonde hair, he looked kinda indie-ish (not really my type under normal circumstances) and was a really funny, nice guy.  So we were chatting, and we ended up leaving the shop and walking for a while, getting to know one another, and the situation started to become more and more romantic.  But obviously I had this wedding rehearsal to go to!  So I don’t know what I told Robbie, but I rushed to the rehearsal where I was apparently late-but-not-too-late, and my group of university friends including Nana, Andrew, Daria (wearing very interesting white knee-length pvc killer heel boots!!!!  Which is something Daria would never ever wear in a million years) were in a circle waiting for me.  We chatted for a while, Aiman came over (at first she was in normal dress, but I presume she got changed for wedding things later on.. I never saw…) and said hello.  Then I snuck away from my friends for a while and went down this stone staircase at the end of the church garden, and found Robbie standing waiting for me (not sure if he was smoking a cigarette or just waiting for me).

I don’t know if we had pre-arranged to meet, but we ended up talking for a while, and it was clear that we were falling in love (hey! I move quickly if I know what I want, and what I want includes discounted dvds) because we ended up kissing (this was to be a chaste dream) for ages, and talking some more.  I think we may have mentioned eloping, who knows.  After talking for enough time, I remembered that I was not there to find the love of my life, but because one of my friends was having her wedding rehearsal and I had better go back.  So we parted, he was going to wait for me there at the stone staircase, and I ran back to the church where my friends was the tail end of a procession which had nearly filed inside.  I was just in time, and tagged onto the end of the queue where Nana raised her eyebrow at me and asked me where I had been.

And that is all I remember about this dream because my mother woke me up to ask my plans for the day before she went to work!!!  Such a shame, I’ve not remembered a dream so vividly in a little while now (I usually remember 1-2 a week on average, but lately they’ve been lacking in creativity – no holidays with Ciara, no being abandoned at the bus stop, no cannibal children, no exercise dvds with Beyoncé). But I drifted back off to sleep for another hour and I had another dream where I was at school in this cloakroom with one of my close friends of the time, Liam.  I had acquired, for some reason, this massive French dictionary (like a ridiculous size, bigger than the ones they had in Oxford university library) and was wondering where to put it, since I obviously couldn’t cart it around with me.  I think between me and Liam, we decided to leave it directly on the table in front of me (clearly, our intelligence had yet to blossom in this dream) and then we went to some sort of concert in this giant auditorium.  There was a world theme, and I remember being sat for a long while watching mediocre acts and not paying any attention.

Then suddenly, the music from Shakira’s “Ojos Así” began to play, and a Hindi woman stood up and began to sing and dance a traditional-looking dance (I wouldn’t really know though, so I don’t claim to).  There was murmuring, and Liam told me that the favourite to win the competition was this song, with a guy called “Menacing Louie” who drank a ridiculous amount during his performances.  And lo and behold, this hobo-looking man stood up on the right-hand side of the stage, a complete contrast to the Hindi woman dancing delicately and in a manner more befitting of the song.  And my dream zoomed in close up on Menacing Louie’s face as he raised a bottle of cola (obviously laced with goodness knows what alcohol, I could practically smell it coming off him despite being sat in the audience!) and drowned his mouth, tongue and throat with it, staining them a brownish colour (nice.).  I was quite unimpressed.

Then next, a murmuring began to rise amidst the crowd scandalised by Menacing Louie’s performance.  The sounds of Lady GaGa’s “Poker Face” began to reverberate through the auditorium, and my friends started to chatter excitedly among themselves.  I remember feeling “alone in a crowd” and this is the miraculous thing.  Although this was apparently a separate dream to the wedding rehearsal dream, I remembered Robbie, and I missed him and wished he were there with me.  So obviously, we were still together in this dream, and it was ‘love’.  Or dream love, anyway.  Anyways, Lady GaGa appeared on the stage and did a medley of “Poker Face” and “Again Again”, it was fine, and I think that must have been it because I woke up and went straight to the laptop and typed this now-epic entry out.  Oops, I did it again!  I suppose the last couple have been more succinct though 😉

The most remarkable thing to me, more remarkable than being best friends with Ciara and going on holiday together, more remarkable than Beyoncé inviting me up on stage, was that I seemed to find true love (overnight, literally! Haha!) in this dream, and the memory and the feeling of it stayed with me.  I’m almost sad to be awake because I remember exactly what Robbie was like, and though he wasn’t my usual type (indie isn’t my typical) I remember how well we got on and how much feelings I had for him, and feeling that that was reciprocated.  After the last brief relationship I had, which ended in disaster, I began to think that maybe love just wasn’t for me, but it’s reassuring that I have the capacity to give love and receive it in return, even if it’s just a dream – I was still “me”. I guess it’s because I’ve been talking to someone online and it’s been a much more impressive conversation than usual, we were up until 2am talking about silly things and deep things and everything in between; perhaps Robbie was a manifestation of the best case scenario of what this person might be like.  Of course, I try to remain realistic about these things, and usually the reality is a disappointment, but I live in hope.  After all, we can but dream!