To Snap(or-not-to)chat

Cybersex aside *cough cough*, Snapchat seems a bit pointless to me. Maybe it’s just that I’m one year too old or something, but it appears that a lot of my friends and I have missed out on this particular craze.

Is it just an exception? Based on our particular social backgrounds, level of education and career standing? Or is it just that we’re getting over the hill and we’re no longer going to be keeping up with the trends.

I personally suspect that it’s a combination of the two, although I quite enjoy pulling stupid faces at my bestie, seeing as she lives an hour or so away and I don’t want her to forget what my stupid face looks like. However, in the last couple of months, I’ve been going on Snapchat a little more frequently due to one thing. Online dating.

Now I have mentioned before that I am on Tinder, the casual dating app that’s all the range right now (I’m at least up to scratch with that trend!) I was originally quite wary about giving out my details to the guys I came into contact with on there but as I have grown in confidence, I have also slacked off in keeping aloof and secure. Snapchat seemed like a good way to gingerly step up the communication. It was a level up from tindering but a level down from long emails or meeting face to face, seeing as you’re limited to a few characters or 14 seconds of video. It was a good way to see what the other person looked like behind those carefully selected profile pictures as well as if they could offer up any good one liners.

I still think that Snapchat is an acceptable mode for this pre-communication malarkey, but now I think that after you’ve met them, it should be put to bed until you’ve literally gone to bed with them.

Afterall, Snapchat is basically a way of giving your recipient a quick glance at your face or whatever is in front of you. When you’re at that middle stage where you still want to compose your face into attractiveness or have a meaningful conversation, it’s not the thing to use. Snapchat is for taking pictures of your cups of tea with the comment “Jealous?” attached, or pulling the most horrendous expressions imaginable. Otherwise, it is not an acceptable form of communication and it is certainly not the place to have a proper conversation.

I found myself going on several dates with a guy last month who seemed to think that it was a good idea to make conversation on Snapchat. What I realised about this was that it was really quite boring. We went from quite long messages on Facebook to limiting ourselves to a sentence or less with a photo attached. It just felt a little backwards to me and it became apparent that it must have been because we had very little to say to each other. Inevitably, it did not work out. *PHEW*. 

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Roaring Laughter… in Istanbul

On Saturday, I got back from a week long holiday to Istanbul  with three friends from university. It was a holiday like I’ve never taken before, specifically because I have not been working.

The last seven months have been incredibly hard for me, not in a my-life-is-over kind of way, but more to do with how difficult it is to remain upbeat and maintain your sense of self when you are out of work. It was my own decision to come back from Vietnam in December. I planned the month so that I could spend Christmas with my family after not being able to do so the year before and I was fully aware of the problems I might face in finding a job in my parent’s area. It was also my choice to stay local and I have very little doubt that things would have been different if I had packed up and moved to a city immediately after the Christmas holidays were over, but I didn’t and so I struggled. 

My three friends mentioned the holiday in January-ish time and I was a little bit wary about saying I would go without a source of income lined up. In March, it was time to book the flights so I thought “what the hell” and went with it, never considering that I might still be unemployed when July rolled around. 

Unfortunately, my gamble did not completely pay off and I will be deliberately vague about this as this post is supposed to be about laughter (http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/roaring-laughter/)

So I jetted off to join my friends with the knowledge that I was being impractical and partaking of a luxury, which I can not afford currently. 

However, I am immensely glad that I went. It was fantastic to spend a prolonged period of time with my friends and wear out our feet whilst drinking copious amounts of tea and getting mysterious patches of sun burn. On the last night, after a day at the Grand Bazaar buying lamps and Turkish delight, we ended up heading down from the roof to bed. But for some reason, we ended up taking tons of extremely silly photographs while one of us shouted out a pose (such as: “You’re a tiger! You’re a hipster! You’ve just let Jack slip off the door frame and sink into the deep, black Atlantic Ocean…” It was hilarious and exhilaratingly funny in a way that only doing something incredibly silly can be. 

Sometimes it’s necessary to put practicality aside and do things that will make you feel better. I definitely needed some carefree time in the sun, laughing about red pandas and snow leopards (sorry, inside joke.) Logically, unemployment can’t last forever, especially if you’re a reasonably clever graduate with a thimble full of drive, but whole weeks of silliness and sightseeing only occur every so often. And now for the soppy part: I have a lot of love for those girls. I’m already looking forward to the next time we share some silly giggles. 

Expat Lit: Snowdrops vs The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul

Having been an expat myself, I do quite enjoy a good piece of literature that focuses on the subject. I’m a massive, raving Graham Greene fan and I always think of him when I consider what makes a good expat book. He weaves a gritty, witty tale, and my favourite: The Quite American, is set in Saigon, which is also where I spent my own period of exile as an expat. I am going to save my analysis of that particular novel for another day because for now I would really like to focus on two novels of the expat genre that I just happened to read consecutively (also, while on holiday!) and my thoughts of them.

First, I took up Snowdrops by A.D Miller, which my mum thrust on me when she realised that she had accidentally returned the book I was planning on taking with me on the plane to the library. I feel that it is necessary to point out that I didn’t choose this book after having been swayed by the blurb, the cover or the quotes from good reviews. One in particular stood out: ‘Reads like Graham Greene on steroids.’ Yes, indeed, I do love Graham Greene! The steroids part I was less sure about but I assume they meant that the writing is a bit more muscled and good at lifting weights. Interesting wording but it was taken from a Daily Mail review so what can you do.

Snowdrops centres on Nick, a lawyer who lived in Moscow and did a few suspect things after being seduced by the young and sexy Masha. Nick is 38 to Masha’s 24/5 and their relationship is the main theme to the novel. I quite liked that it is structured as if being a confession to Nick’s new fiancé but overall I found that the story itself did not live up to its promise, and I found the end quite underwhelming. Miller is a great writer of description, but his characters fall a bit flat and I would not dare to say that his writing is comparable to Greene’s. Like in The Quite American, the aging expat man falls for a much younger, stunningly beautiful ‘native’ woman who offers up her body eagerly while she remains emotionally mysterious and unknown. Maybe it’s because I have spent some time observing this sort of relationship in Vietnam, but I find this distasteful. As a young woman myself, I do not actually like being privy to a man’s psyche when it comes to this sort of thing, as it suggests that men are so weak that they can be manipulated completely by the promise of sex and despite lots of things, I don’t actually want to think the worst of men. The scene where Nick and Masha consummate their relationship for the first time, I found particularly jarring. During a dinner date, where they are accompanied by Masha’s friend Katya, they refer to a trip the girls had taken to Odessa. They offer to show Nick the pictures, which incidentally happen to be on Katya’s phone.

“The next was just Masha. It showed her taking a picture of her reflection in a wardrobe mirror: she was standing with one hand on her hip, the other hand holding the phone so it obscured a quarter of her face. In the mirror she was wearing red bikini knickers and nothing else.

I sat back in my chair and asked whether they’d like to come to my apartment for some tea.”

Urgh. I will not criticise the writing style for this episode, it’s effective and concise. But damn, it makes me feel uncomfortable. It screams about the visual power of appearance that a lot of us women try and deny, and shrinks the man down to a slave of his libido (possibly the whole point of the narrative.) The rest of the plot comes secondary to the representation of sexual power play in their relationship, which is why I found the actual point of Nick’s confession underwhelming.

Moving on, the second book that I attacked during my holiday was Deborah Rodriguez’s The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul. Set in Afghanistan, it centres around five women: two Americans, two Afghans and one Brit. The main protagonist is Sunny, a woman from a backwater town in the US, who had originally moved to Kabul with her boyfriend and then started up a coffee shop. Halajan is the owner of the building, Yazmina is a victimised widow who is rescued from destitution by Sunny, Candace is an ex-wife of an ambassador and a fundraiser, and Isabelle is a freelance journalist. Each woman plays a different role in the story, and the way they are linked together can be at times, both endearing and frustrating. The Little Coffee Shop is nothing like The Quiet American. It is not a thriller, does not have one central protagonist and does not depict a central interracial relationship. However, it does have a key theme of romance, where several of the characters get their happy endings, although it is offset by a tablespoon of tragedy.

I had a quick look on Goodreads (my 2014 reading target is 60 books. I’m 25 in. Just thought you’d like to know…) and I was surprised by the cutting reviews that Rodriguez received. Most of the criticisms were that it was a bit twee, read like chic lit and was not as good as Khaled Husseini’s own depictions of Afghanistan. I will go ahead and say that I partially agree with all those claims but I would go further and suggest that they do not make it a bad book. I always wonder how much the fact that the author is female affects the editing and marketing of the book. The Little Coffee Shop has certainly been put up as chic-lit, just based on the title and the front cover, which has a similar style to lots of other pieces of chic-lit that are out there. It also shares the theme of female friendship and has a happy ending involving weddings and reunions.

NOTE: Now, I will be an interactive narrator and admit that I just had to fight the urge to start my next sentence with: “Despite this…” What’s wrong with happy endings and stories about friendships? I feel that we almost always dismiss these themes as non-serious, but what makes them not as effective as thrillers that are marketed as being very serious. A question for another day.

The Little Coffee Shop also delves into the darker world of the constant threat of terrorism and how it affects the lives of the normal Afghan people and foreigners who are stalwartly and determined to survive. There is a strand that exposes the shame and violence inflicted on women who dare to be different or break the rules and another strand that looks into the attitudes of the older Afghan generation who have had to adapt to the surging levels of religious extremism of the pre and post-Taliban years.

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Why have I chosen to discuss these two novels in the same breath, resulting in two rather vague and spacey semi-reviews? The reason for the vagueness is due to not wanting to put any spoilers in as this is not an academic essay. The reason for the comparison is down to the fact that they both are about a foreigner living away from their home country, much like I did. I was struck by the different levels of enjoyment that I experienced while reading them despite the common theme. Snowdrops is arguably the better written and structured, despite the disappointing climax (pun intended) and The Little Coffee Shop is splattered with clichés and rather stereotypical characterisations. However, I actually enjoyed the latter more. I liked the optimism and the sensitive treatment of the Afghan culture. Rodriguez does go into the negativities of life in Kabul but by far the most heart-warming (even if flawed) parts of the novel are focused on Yazmina, Halajan and the other Afghan characters; their attitudes towards trying to live their lives and celebrate their small victories. The narrative might be a bit basic and the foreign characters a little bit contrived, but the overall message is optimistic and relatively positive towards Afghanistan. Snowdrops on the other hand is a cold novel, cold as the easy metaphor of snow covering Moscow for the duration of the major action of the plot (the metaphor being that it blankets the city like Masha covers Nick’s eyes to the truth.) It is a thriller so this is not all that surprising and it is by no means the worse thriller I’ve ever read, but it is just a bit samey. I’ve read about lonely, middle-aged men falling for young, beautiful women before and getting their arses bitten and I don’t feel that this added anything new to the formula. I have also mentioned that I was disappointed by the ending, so it wasn’t saved by a good plot twist. Snowdrops is a novel that strives to depict a general atmosphere of seediness, corruption and negativity and for summarising’s sake, I actually think it needed a little bit of light, like in The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul.

 

 

 

Twitterfolly

There is a distinct possibility that I might be too uncool for the internet… I only tentatively use twitter and I barely know what Tumblr and Reddit do. I am essentially a creature of habit, so I dutifully visit the same websites that I have been going to for the last couple of years, and procrastinate on them. Of course, Facebook is at the top of this list, followed by Cracked, various webcomics and 9gag, although the latter is becoming less and less enjoyable due to how many women-hating posts have been cropping up lately. I’ve only just got onto Pinterest and Instagram, and I feel that I am really not a good representative when it comes to my age group!  

But apparently, Facebook shares have been declining and Twitter is the place to be! I have a Twitter account and I have gone through and found a few celebrities that I like but I don’t really understand the attraction! What is good about being limited to 140 characters? Why would I want to “tweet” celebrities? I have little to no interest in trying to contact famous people I don’t know. I kind of like the idea of Q&As but I always seem to miss those deadlines, probably because I just don’t go on. I feel like Twitter is a party that I have been invited to but don’t speak the same lingo as my fellow guests. I want to sit in a corner and say entertaining things to myself and then glower when no one else hears.

One of my good friends tells me that twitter is a good place to network. But WHY?! Why is it a necessary thing? I am completely baffled.

And then, on top of this, apparently the blog is dead too. Apparently it peaked in 2004! I was 14 in 2004 and I still wrote an actual diary where I wrote the name of my crushes in different colour gel pen for no reason whatsoever other than I thought it looked visually interesting. What the hell, internet? I’m of the millennial generation and I just can’t keep up with all your trends.

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Saying all of this, today I went on twitter for the first time in six months. I tweeted twice and now I have fifteen more followers. Maybe it is fun…

Privacy and Blogging

I have a confession to make… this is my THIRD attempt at starting a blog. Now, I’m a big fan of things happening in threes, so I’m hoping this blog might be a bit more successful than the last two. What do I mean by success though? Certainly, I imagine a lot of ambitious, hopeful writers must start blogging in the hope that they get noticed. For me, it’s less to do with that and more to do with showing myself that I am capable of maintaining it. I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a child but never really ‘written’. I’m hoping that by doing this, I will get into a habit of writing, and ideally become a better writer as a result!

But of course, some people do go into blog writing with the intention of self-publication. They promote themselves on a variety of social networking sites, tweet and fap and post and blog. They expose and they endear, and they air a lot of dirty laundry…

I would not be the first person (or even the millionth, I imagine) to say that blogging is like diary writing. It essentially is exactly the same thing; you’re often in the privacy of your own home, alone, as you use the written word to describe your opinions, your hopes and dreams, your likes and dislikes, your dinner and your day. The only difference being that instead of closing the cover and turning a teeny, tiny ineffectual lock before stuffing it in a shoebox under your bed (I had a little sister okay, I needed precautions!), you type it up and put it out for all the internet to see. Now there’s nothing wrong with this, and it would be strange for me to think so as I am indeed doing exactly that. It’s just that it is ever so easy to overshare.

Anyone who knows me in person will be able to tell you that I am the Queen of the anecdote. At least I like to think they would! When I was younger especially, I used to go into far too much detail with new acquaintances and always regret it later. It is different on the internet though, as there is value in telling a good story, with all the dirty/ embarrassing bits included in splendiferous detail. It’s just that it’s out there forever.

I’m a big fan of Lena Dunham’s Girls, that sort of tell all exposé where warts are included whether you want to see them or not. That style of narrative is very popular currently, a product of our globalised, over-exposed society where everyone grows up watching porn and gun fights (right? I’m generalising here!)

At this stage in my blog writing, I have the choice as to how deep and dirty I want to get. If I keep it nice and PG then I can self-promote on Facebook, like I mentioned people doing earlier. But it might be a little tame and safe. If I want to write about truly intimate things, I risk people knowing far too much about me and possibly upsetting a few chairs and ruffling a few feathers. I probably wouldn’t be confident in outwardly owning the blog either, just in case a parent or relative got wind of it.

It is quite the dilemma, whether to be risky, raunchy but anonymous, or safe and obvious, but I suppose it’s not something I have to worry about yet. Maybe I should just write what I want to write and see what happens? 

Note: This is a repost. I have since decided to be open and claim this blog as my own, as you may have guessed by my choice of name.

Annie Hall and the Wonders of Dating

“That’s the most fun I’ve ever had without laughing.”

Maybe not an accurate quotation of one of the most memorable lines from Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, but it’s without a doubt a great line from a great movie. One of my friends recommended it when we were at university but I had just seen Vicky Cristina Barcelona and had hated it, so I wasn’t exactly in the mood to watch another of Allen’s movies, though arguably his most acclaimed one. After I finished watching it last night, I googled it (which must be a sign that I needed my opinion validated by “the internet”) and found several pages heralding it as one of the best, if not the best, comedy of all time. I would love to see a contemporary review from 1977 (to see if people were coming out of theatres then with the absolute knowledge that the comedy genre was not going to get any better than that), but google was not forthcoming. 

It is thought that hardly anybody proclaimed the complete and utter supremacy of Shakespeare during his lifetime, so maybe the same applies to directors. It would be harsh to say to a director after watching their film, “Yes. You’ve surpassed yourself, past and future. You will never again see these lofty heights.”  

Anyway, I digress. Annie Hall is a great movie, smart and cynical and a little bitter sweet. It is a film about the nature of relationships and it is strange to think that it is almost forty years old. Maybe it’s egotism, but when we look back into the past, our imagination is shackled by the social stereotypes of history, so you don’t expect to see people going through the same issues that happen today.

 Alvy and Annie having an argument about moving in together? Alvy saying that they’d got “that thing” to put off that spontaneous invite by the slimy guy in the club? Alvy’s friend commenting about visible panty lines on attractive women?

 All of those instances could take place today. Is this because young people will always have such items on the agenda, or is it because popular culture has echoed Annie Hall so much that those lines are still reverberating around contemporary TV and film scripts causing us to think they are still current? (That sounds like a silly question about what role popular culture has in our society and it’s far too complicated for this post!) I do find it interesting though, mainly because my parents met in 1977, the year that Annie Hall was released, so it’s mind-boggling to consider whether they had similar issues.

Annie Hall is at heart a relationship comedy, one of the first in the genre and watching it has got me thinking about relationships. I have found myself going on more dates lately, mainly due to the help of Tinder, which is like a half-hearted attempt at internet dating where you only get your big toe wet. I have dated and had one or two ONS in the last couple of years, but my last labelled relationship ended in 2012 and so, without much desire to commit to the idea, I have jumped on the bandwagon.

The actual act of dating, of going out and meeting someone that I hold little to no prior relationship with, is something of a new experience for me. It can be quite fun and exciting to go out with someone who you’ve never met before and have those getting-to-know-you conversations but it does lead to a lot of questions:

Do you like the look of them? The way they hold themselves? The way they talk? Are they interesting? Are they interested in what you have to say? What are they looking for? Do they like the look of you?

When you don’t know the person, I feel that there’s less pressure or expectations. Up until this point in my life, I’ve only gone on dates with guys who have made it clear that they already like me before the night of the date. If one of you is more invested in the success of the date, it can lead to awkwardness and then to failure. There’s more wiggle room (literally!) in having no investment. Internet dating is the new blind dating. Similar principles apply except you don’t have a friend to vouch for them and you’re not limited to the same social circles.

Why am I going off on a self-involved tangent in the middle of talking about Annie Hall? One: because tangents are fun and tangerines are delicious, two: because while Annie Hall is a relationship comedy, it’s a film about failed relationships. Alvy’s time with Annie is absolute, it has a beginning, middle and end, and we, the audience are privy to it all. We don’t necessarily want to see the end, this version of the end, but it happens all the same. We are also subjected to glimpses of Alvy’s two failed marriages, and his two awkward dates. This is what spoke to me as a viewer; dating can be awkward, as you wade through the sea of “other fishes” in the hope of finding someone you enjoy spending time with and desire to see naked, and even then, there still can be an ending. It can be exhausting having those first few conversations over and over again, like you’re stuck in a surreal version of Groundhog Day, but the moral isn’t that you should collapse under the enormity of this task. It’s definitely more of a “keep up the good work, Chuck” kind of message, and it is heart-warming for me, as someone who is only really giving this dating thing ago for the first time, even if at the same time it’s heat-breaking.

“Well, that’s … how I feel about relationships. They’re totally irrational, crazy and absurd. But we keep going through it because most of us need the eggs.”

 

Note: This is a repost. Also, since writing this, I discovered that Annie Hall was actually Diane Keaton’s real name, which makes Woody Allen’s film even more meta!

Welcome, Me!

I shall be brief. 

I recently started a blog on Blogger and then realised that nobody goes on there any more. Apparently, WordPress is the place to be! Who knew!? 

So, because I am lazy, I am going to repost a few things on here and endeavour to keep up with the times better. 

An introduction: 

My name is Lizzie and I am 24 years old. I am both pro and con active. I like playing the ukulele, trying new things, drinking tea/ wine/ hot chocolate/ cider/ g&ts (damn, just the one countable noun!) and being a little-to-a-lot-contradictory. I am starting this blog in order to writewritewrite, which is something that lots of people do, every day. I, on the other hand, despite liking to write, have not actually written much since university, not counting a few failed attempts at starting blogs, long emails, work-related ick and short reviews on Goodreads. This, I thought, is a travesty! I would like to add “I also like writing” to the third sentence of this paragraph, but I swear I shall not do so until I feel that it is true! I should also add that my sense of humour is quite dry and leans heavily on a love of puns, so I apologise in advance. 

Originally, I wrote a list of things that I want to do on here, but I think it might be more fun to surprise you. 

Laters, croc! 

 

(That’s how the saying goes, right?)