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So I didn’t actually get to watch the memorial service live, although I did listen to some of it on the radio, but I just spent the last couple of hours watching it on a local ABC channel website. There’s a lot of talk about how ridiculous the service was, and about how over the top everything has been since MJ died.

We all know that MJ turned out to be a somewhat strange person, but let’s give him a break people, he just died. I think it would be in pretty bad taste for people to bring up all the bad and weird memories we have of MJ the week after he has passed.

Whatever you think about who he turned out to be, you can’t deny the enormous influence he had on the music world and the rest of the world for that matter. He turned the concept of dance and entertainment into something completely new and different, and on top of that he was one of the pop world’s most generous givers when it came to charity and helping those less fortunate.

I can’t think of very many child celebrities who HAVE turned out completely normal. Actually I can’t think of any… But MJ had a bigger impact on the world than any of the Britney Spears’, Nicole Ritchie’s and Drew Barrymore’s.

So yea, I know he turned out sort of strange in his adult life, but since when is it appropriate to trash talk someone so soon after their death? When people die, whoever it is, we always honour them for the good things they did, not the bad. So I think all the talk, the music and the memorial service were totally appropriate. For those who think the service was too much like a concert…hello?? MJ spent his life performing and being on stage, and he obviously had a passion for it, so why shouldn’t his memorial service be a tribute to his love for over the top performance and glamour? I can’t imagine it being any other way.

So from the girl who spent a lot of her childhood singing along to the songs on her ‘HIStory: Past, Present and Future’ CDs, that’s all I have to say about it.

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That is a quote from St Augustine that I have started to think of as my own little catch phrase. In my life I’ve been lucky to travel a lot and at the moment all I want is to keep reading those other pages and seeing the rest of the world when I can.

If you followed my ‘Marianne Goes East’ blog then you know that I’ve recently been traveling around Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Australia. Those blog posts have been imported to this site now so feel free to have a look if you haven’t already!

I loved writing about what I was up to while traveling all over the world so I’ve decided to keep up with this whole online writing gig and set up a permanent blog – Filling the Pages.

This blog won’t always be about my travels. As much as I’d like to continue traveling non-stop my bank balance won’t allow it, so I’ll be somewhat stationary for a little bit until I can afford my next big jump which is probably going to be a year in Australia.

So here it goes. Let’s hope my life and thoughts are interesting enough to keep reading about!

I’ll write about what I’m up to (at the moment that would be visiting old school friends and my parents in the USA),traveling that I do myself, and any other news about the world and traveling that I decide to put here.

Since I can’t always do my own traveling, what I would LOVE is to get your travel stories! So if you have been abroad and had some crazy experience, tell me about it! Check out the ‘Contact Me’ tab for more information.

Thanks for reading, tell your friends, and keep checking back for more!

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Tori Rubino

My senior year at BU was split between two continents. After finishing my junior year (third year) I went back to London where I worked and then stayed to study for one term.
When I returned for my last term before graduation I was lucky enough to find a room in Boston University’s Student Village building with three girls still in their junior years. Leeor, Julie and Tori.

Leeor and Julie lived down one end of our hallway and Tori and I lived on the other. Our rooms were all the size of closets, and small closets at that, but Tori always managed to keep hers immaculately clean. I like to think I’m a tidy person, but Tori’s room got a professional service every day; nothing was ever out of place.
Her dedication didn’t end with her room. She was probably one of the most responsible students I knew, managing to actually NOT go out when she had to read or study instead… what a concept!? She was dedicated to her friends and never had a bad word to say about anyone. She was a peaceful, fun and happy girl who never gave me a reason to frown.

We shared an obsession with the show Lost, especially when ABC decided to put every single season up online for free; we would often sit in our rooms less than five feet apart with a thin wall between us for hours watching episode after episode and running into each other’s rooms to talk about what had happened.

She studied in London when I was there working before heading to Asia, but we never managed to connect in my home city because of our difficult schedules.

A few weeks ago I was sitting in an Internet cafe not unlike the one I’m in now, in Vientiane, Laos surrounded by six of my friends and a few dozen strangers when I received an e-mail from Julie telling me that Tori had mysteriously passed away in her sleep on March 8, 2009 at 21 years old. I didn’t know what to do or think then, and it’s hard to know even now. I wanted to write something to let people know what a great girl she was, but finding the words that don’t sound like every boring cliche you’ve ever heard is difficult.

Perhaps the strangest thing about it all now is occasionally surfing through Facebook and finding her profile still up and running. Her wall has turned into a place for friends to grieve and talk about the things they remember about their time with Tori. It’s given everyone a chance to show their respect and share their stories instead of limiting it to those who were able to speak at the services. Anytime I think of Tori I can go to her profile to see her photos, see what friends have written lately, and maybe one day write something myself.

I know it was a little while ago now and the memorial services have already passed but since I couldn’t be there, here’s my contribution to the things that have been said about Tori Rubino since she left us. I miss her and the part she played in my last months of university. She didn’t deserve to miss out on that herself.

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An Australian writer was sentenced to three years in prison Monday for insulting the Thai monarchy in a self-published novel. Elaborating may land me in the same position, so I’ll stop there.

read more | digg story

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So Barack Obama is President.

I just watched the inauguration sitting on my bed in Thailand with Kelly watching Aljazeera Network huddled up in my sweater and my blankets.
I wish I could have been there in DC, but it was great to watch this event.
Obama is still as always a great speaker, although to be honest I wish his speech had done more. It was good, but not so memorable. I can’t really remember any full phrases from it already… except something about harnessing the wind, water and earth for power or something along those lines. Definitely no “ask not what your country can do for you…” moments.
The Aljazeera panel is basically ripping apart his speech right now. Should of kept it shorter buddy, then at least they’d have fewer quotes to criticize.
There’s not much else to say that hasn’t been said before by hundreds of people, but it feels pretty amazing to be around in a time like this when so much is happening and so much change is trying to bust through the door. What will happen in the next few years? Watch this space I guess.
Meanwhile – just watched Obama sign those first executive orders. Who knew Obama was a leftie?? As a fellow leftie, I can’t help but like him just a little bit more for that.
Obama – you are officially hired. Let’s see what you got. Don’t let us down, that would be upsetting and just kind of awkward for you, sort of like the whole ‘Mission Accomplished’ thing. Lets learn from our predecessors there please…

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Obama and my generation

So Obama is about to become the new President of the USA. I know it’s old news now, but I was just watching last Friday’s ABC World News webcast and they had the ‘exclusive premiere’ of the music video from Young Jeezy called ‘My President is Black.’

Despite what you might think of the song and this rapper’s eloquence, when’s the last time you heard a popular song about how great the president is? I’m sure more than one rap/pop song feature digs on how much Bush let everyone down, but it’s been a long time since the US ever had a president that was ‘cool’ to the young generation; one that has created anything but indifference.
The video is here if you want to have a look.
Apart from the fact that I think it’s pretty amazing how much people my age are talking about politics, it got me thinking about the fact that this kind of thing could only happen with a political system like the one in the US.
For a few years now everyone’s been complaining non-stop about George Bush and Tony Blair, and yes they’re both (almost) out of the picture, but what did Blair get replaced with? Certainly not Britain’s version of Obama. I know I’m part of the young generation, so I have a bias here.
If you look at the voting records from last November in the US, the amount of young people that came out to vote is astonishing. This election year gave me a new found respect for the way the US government works. That is to say, no matter who is in the government – the members of the House and Senate, the American people still get to dictate (more or less…let’s not bring up Gore’s election here) who’s going to be the number one in charge. The system’s not perfect (again…Mr. Gore…) but no system ever is. I suppose my point is that even if the young generation in the UK did start to rise up and call for change, who can we follow? No matter what, we still have to hope and pray that the party members pick the right leader. Sure you can say that they’re the ones who know what’s going on and understand what’s needed, but sometimes what’s needed is someone to inspire change, not someone who has been intrenched in old politics for years and was probably part of the problem in the first place.
We’re in an economic downturn right now (in case you’ve been living in a cave for the past few months…just look at any news source – it’s story number two after Gaza/Israel these days) and aside from some miracle plan to switch it into an upturn, what we really need is someone to provide some optimism and inspiration to get us off our lazy arses and doing something about it instead of sitting at home panicking.
Throwing stupid amounts of money at the problem doesn’t seem to have gotten anyone anywhere yet and at the end of the day everyone’s going to have to tighten their belts and re-prioritize what’s important in life, even if that means taking jobs you never thought you’d have – like all these new jobs Obama plans to create that certainly won’t have fancy executive titles and cushy offices. Whether or not Obama turns out to be our man stateside, at the very least he’s created an amazing amount of drive in a generation that previously wouldn’t have dreamed of going to the polls in such numbers.
I just hope that my US peers stay motivated to work through these inconvenient times, I hope Obama does turn out to be our man, and I hope that the government in the UK can find their own way to get the people moving.

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Happy Christmas everyone! I had a great day here in Thailand. This morning in front of the whole school, Shaleas, Kelly and I sang ‘Silent Night’ and ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ while Devon played the violin. It was a beautiful sight. Kelly also told the historical story of the real Santa – St Nick, and a student spoke the words of the song ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ among other activities.
The kids enjoyed having one more thing to yell at us down the hallways. Now instead of just “Hello teacher! Good morning!” it’s “Hello teacher! Good morning! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!”
My friend Kara had sent me a can of cranberry jelly, powdered mashed potatoes and powdered gravy from the States which the four of us made and ate with some good chicken for Christmas dinner. Then it was followed up by some delicious mince pies and traditional Christmas pudding which I received this morning from London thanks to Naomi!
After stuffing our faces we watched The Christmas Story on Kelly’s laptop and I now feel appropriately ‘Christmassy.’ But now Christmas is about to be over, so what now? By the way, HILARIOUS skit about the time between Christmas and New Years by Michael McIntyre here. Please check it out, he is hilarious. American’s may not find him as funny, so Brits, enjoy. 🙂
I hope you’ve all had a great holiday, it was definitely strange not being home for the first time, but I got lots of love from a lot of you through cards, e-mails and Facebook messages so thanks so much for that.
Moving on briefly…

A few blog posts ago I wrote about the political situation here in Thailand.

Since then I’ve mentioned that Thailand does now have a new Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva. One blog reader asked me what I thought about him. Right now I’m not sure what to think. He represents a political party that I’m not particularly supportive of, however if you check out what he has said in that past (read here, thank you Wikipedia…it’s on the internet so it must be true right?) he seems to be all about helping out the people. The PAD as a party appear to be more about supporting the rich and ignoring the poor, but Abhisit says he supports creating free health care and lower gas prices among other things, which clearly help out the less fortunate in this country, of which there are many. So in other words, I don’t know and I will wait and see just like everyone else! He was educated at Eton and Oxford (more bio information here) so maybe it’s just my innate tendencies to love my fellow Brits…
As far as news in other parts of the world – my only connection to the Western World is Aljazeera, the Internet, and my podcasts. I am a podcast junkie, subscribing to over two dozen including ABC Nightly News. I am currently watching the December 22nd episode, and I just want to say how ridiculous it is that the FIRST headline news story; the one Charles Gibson/whoever actually organises the show thought was most important, was the weather. That’s right everyone, it’s winter. In winter, it snows sometimes. Sometimes a lot. Apparently this year, so much snow that it trumped the economic downturn, the many wars going on in the world,  and all the other fun things Charles Gibson chatted about. The reporter on the scene – standing in front of some …snow… Linsey Davis (someone should tell her there’s a D in Lindsey) described it as ‘bone numbing.’ That’s one level above ‘bone chilling’ I guess? Fascinating stuff. Also in the podcast – you can now buy an attachment for your iPhone called the iBreath to test your own alcohol blood content. Love technology.
That’s it for now. I miss you all especially during this holiday season, so have a great time and Happy New Year!!

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