Friday, November 17, 2006

Ten Things That Make Me Happy

A sight that makes me smile -- and happy :)

Yesterday, "inspired" in part by an alarming piece in Australia's The Age entitled While Malaysia Fiddles, Its Opportunities Are Running Dry (that actually put in print a lot of what I've been thinking and feeling about goings-ons in my native land), I spent a couple of hours writing a post entitled "Malaysia, My Malaysia" that contained copious amounts of negativity (even while I did try to end on a hopeful note). Then, while trying to "publish" it (i.e., put it up online here), I did one of those stupid "still learning to blog" thangs that caused it to vanish into the internet ether and without so much as a trace!

Cue some moments of anguish and frustration. But some hours later, I'm thinking that maybe this was the fates' way of telling me that I should go along another path: i.e., one that gives voice to -- and nurtures -- my inner Pollyanna. And how easier than to think up and then write down a list of ten things that make me happy and/or activities that I enjoy?

So, without further ado, and in no particular order:-

1) Arsenal (the English association football team I've supported since the 1977-78 season) playing well, scoring goals and winning. All of which the Gunners (their nickname) did versus Liverpool early this past Monday morning. 3-0 to the Arsenal it was, with goals by the hardworking Matthieu Flamini and centre-backs (i.e., players usually valued for their defending rather than attacking prowess), "King" Kolo Toure and William Gallas. And although non-footie fans will never understand: Yes, this sporting event and its particular resolution which took place thousands of miles -- and seven time zones -- away really did cause me to have one of my best starts to a week in a long while! :)

2) The experience of viewing a good film. And before anyone asks: My definition of a good film is simply one that I feel that I have got things out of viewing. Or, alternatively, movies that feel worthy of the time, attention and money I gave to finding out about and then viewing. For the record, my favourite movie in the whole wide world, Tsui Hark's Peking Opera Blues, is a film which I've watched in its entirety over 50 times (and a few more times in bits and pieces) since I first "discovered" its existence back in 1997-98 and always have felt rewarded by (with new insights and by its ability to continue to move me) each time that I've done so. At the same time, my latest joyful feature film viewing experience came just two days ago by way of Ho Yuhang's Rain Dogs, a Malaysian offering with a level of maturity that I never dreamt that a Malaysian film could.

3) Being in a museum that really is a museum: i.e., institutions that are interesting, chockful of well-presented information and genuine artifacts, and encourage musing -- as opposed to *rant* *RANT* the ridiculously uninformative, amateurish setups that often casually bear that name. *end rant* Some museums I have got much out of spending hours in are: London's British Museum (forever the archetypal A-list museum, to my mind, with its mummy room, Rosetta Stone, Magna Carta and what remains of two of the original Seven Wonders of the World!), Tate Gallery (whose guided tours I love and find downright inspirational as well as thoroughly admirable) and Science Museum (whose Children's Gallery was my idea of an ideal amusement park as a child); New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (yet another mammoth establishment with its share of jaw-dropping examples of exhibit design along with exhibits); and, over here in Asia, the Hong Kong Museum of History (which stands as concrete testimony to there being some people in Hong Kong who are choosing to remember and care about the past along with the HKSAR authorities' commitment to museums and education).

4) Drinking a delicious draft beer, one with real character (which makes this, in my book, necessarily an ale (bitter, pale, or IPA is fine by me) or stout (and then, it really should be an imperial stout rather than a less substantial example) rather than a beer from the lager and other continental European families), in a traditional English(-style) pub. Or failing that, drinking a fantastic micro-brew anywhere (but preferably a non-smoking place with a nice view). Or, now that I've had the experience, just about any draft beer -- so long as it's cold! -- in a Japanese izakaya (where you are treated as a honoured guest and never feel hurried or harrassed even when you may not be the biggest drinker and/or eater in the world by any means). In all seriousness, the sensory combination, and overload, that comes from doing so can be so incredibly satisfying! :b

5) Drinking a well made -- and generously sized ;) -- dry vodka martini, and preferably with a couple of olives thrown into the mix. Again, aesthetically appropriate surroundings -- I'm thinking more airy and also a little bit more formal than the places where I like to drink my beer! -- can substantially add to the experience and my satisfaction level. More than incidentally, perhaps it's the nostalgia speaking but I've yet to find better martinis than those made by the female bartenders of Philadelphia's White Dog Cafe (a favourite haunt, and one of the best parts of "the City of Brotherly Shove" as far as I'm concerned).

6) A comfortable, broken-in, soft, 100% natural cotton piece of clothing. Recently, a friend told me, in incredulous tones, about another friend who had told him that sweating and/or sweat makes her happy. Thinking about this some more, I have to ask "why not?" After all, isn't the skin as much a sensory part of us as the tongue (which helps give us so many tasting delights), eyes and ears? In any event, this same friend also had seemed rather skeptical when I told him that wearing flannel could make me happy. And yes, maybe it's again something that's allied to memories and involves more than just the actual piece of clothing itself but the sheer fact of the matter is that wearing flannel shirts, supima polo-shirts, moleskin trousers and even old sweatshirts gives me far greater pleasure than wearing, say, lacy or leather -- never mind flammable and static-attracting-in-cold-weather polyster and acrylic -- clothes ever have been able to!

7) Stuffed animal plushes. Especially when they come in the form of Winki Pinki (a veeeeeery cute, even if somewhat melancholy looking, eyebrowed cat inexplicably discontinued by Sanrio!), Hello Kitty, her tuffed-hair boyfriend Dear Daniel or a Totoro (preferably O-Totoro). Something weird but true: I don't even have to touch these plushes to be affected by them. Instead, just the very sight of them can induce a state of giddy euphoria on my part!!!

8) A letter -- or, as is more usual these days, e-mail -- from a friend. As someone who has lived in four different continents and whose latest stretch of living back in her hometown has only just passed into its 16th month, I've had to deal with the fact that many, if not most, of my friends do not live in the same part of the world, never mind city, as me. Although I do occasionally pick up the phone to "reach out to touch someone" far away, phone calls do remain a luxury. Also, with some people, they seem awkward in that it's so much easier and more natural to talk when we are able to see another's faces, the expressions on them, etc. So writing is the preferred medium, with even missives from regular correspondents feeling quite precious but seemingly out of the blue epistles from irregular -- sometimes, thought lost -- correspondents often feeling oh so amazingly special indeed. So it was pretty wonderful when not one, but two, friends from seemingly another life and lifetime actually e-mailed this week . . . :)

9) Reading a good book. It can be a novel which you can't put down and keeps you awake at nights. Or a non-fiction work which gives you new insights as well as facts. Or the kind of personal tome that introduces you to yet another interesting person, community and place in this world. Or something else altogether. For some reason, I am able to enjoy a much wider range of styles as well as subjects with regards to books than I do with, say, music (with which I'm really very unadventurous and narrow). At the same time, I do regret that I am confined to enjoying works which are in the English language; what with my being illiterate when it comes to Chinese and also at a level with my Bahasa Malaysia and Kiswahili where my preference is for reading signs and sign posts rather than books or even newspapers.

10) Travelling for pleasure. My biggest indulgence in terms of financial outlay, yet something which almost invariably feels so very worth it all the same. Sometimes, I think I'm only truly alive when I'm travelling. Maybe it's that the heightened sense of awareness that I feel that travellers need to have in order to ensure their safety in an unfamiliar place also contributes to a heightened exercising of my sensory and intellectual faculties which, in turn, brings in a heightened appreciation as well as noticing of so many things and details. Or maybe it's the sense that when on holiday, one is free of the usual (social, time, etc.) constraints and, consequently, so many possibilities exist and are there for the taking. All I know is that if I were paid to travel (or to write about my travels), I would be in Elysium. Also, that, the knowledge that I'm off to Hong Kong -- Movie Mecca, and so much more, to me -- in less than 24 hours is causing me to actually feel quite giddy with delight! :)

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