Sunday, September 21, 2014

My Own Magical Reading

It's a warm Sunday afternoon right now. I'm out at a local cafe with a book and a cup of teh cino (frothy milk tea). I picked up this title yesterday from the bookstore - Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading. It's a reading memoir, where Nina Sankovitch decided one day to stop running from the grief in her life, since her sister's death - and just read. Just stay still and read and let the books soothe her. 

It felt like a good plan, something that I am dying for myself. The title itself reminded me of Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking - and perhaps it was meant to allure to that, both books coping with loss and grief in their own way. 

We all come to books for our own reasons. Right now, I need my old friends for some comfort. Today I opened up a new Moleskine cahier (I have lots of them around the house). I wrote down the titles of the books that I still have in progress, wrote down the date I started on them, similar to this blog, and started my Reading Journal again. I can only write again when I start reading again. This much I know. For me to read again, my mind has to be at peace.

So, for now, some milk tea and a book. 

This is my own magical reading place.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Patti Smith - People Have the Power!





Patti Smith at Riot Fest, performing "People Have the Power". Around 6:30, she remind us, "We do have the power! Our governments, our corporations would like us to feel defeated, but we have it with our numbers if we use it. Don't forget it!" 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

BOOKS | 100 Books to Read 2014

A new year is beginning, and it is time to get back to some tradition. I intend to read more in 2014. A long time ago, I started an annual list of 100 books that I would like to read in a year. While I have never actually completed all 100 books, I like how it directed my reading. I really do read more when I have an aspirational list.
So here is the 100 Books to Read List 2014 - it is still a work in progress - but past experience has taught me that the 100 titles will fill itself up in due course. As you start reading again, you will want to read more.
So here it is:
  1. A History of the World in Twelve Maps • Jerry Brotton
  2. Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence • Rick Hanson
  3. Running and Being • Dr George Sheehan
  4. Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom • Rick Hanson
  5. The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker's Guide to Extraordinary Living • Stephen Cope
  6. The Sanity We Are Born With: A Buddhist Approach to Psychology • Chogyam Trungpa
  7. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism • Chogyam Trungpa
  8. Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery • Chogyam Trungpa
  9. The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--and How You Can Change Them • Richard J. Davidson & Sharon Begley
  10. Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers • David Perlmutter & Kristin Loberg
  11. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West • Dee Brown
  12. Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites • Kate Christensen
  13. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals • Michael Pollan
  14. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto • Michael Pollan
  15. Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation • Michael Pollan
  16. Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History • S. C. Gwynne
  17. Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child • Bob Spitz
  18. Love Your Enemies: How to Break the Anger Habit & Be a Whole Lot Happier • Sharon Salzberg
  19. Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste • Luke Barr
  20. Running with the Buffaloes: A Season Inside with Mark Wetmore, Adam Goucher, and the University of Colorado Men's Cross Country Team • Chris Lear
  21. The Round House: A Novel Paperback • Louise Erdrich
  22. The Road of Lost Innocence • Somaly Mam
  23. The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present • Eric Kandel
  24. The Source of All Things: A Memoir • Tracy Ross
  25. No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva •  Pema Chodron
  26. Give and Take • Adam Grant
  27. Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them • Joshua Greene
  28. The Social Neuroscience of Education: Optimizing Attachment and Learning in the Classroom • Louis Cozolino
  29. Quiet: The Power of Introverts • Susan Cain
  30. The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot • Robert MacFarlane
  31. A Tale for the Time Being • Ruth Ozeki
  32. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants • Malcolm Gladwell
  33. S. Rajaratnam on Singapore: From Ideas to Reality • edited by Kwa Chong Guan
  34. When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice • Terry Tempest Williams
  35. Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation • Sharon Salzberg
  36. Hild • Nicola Griffith
  37. Cave in the Snow • Vicki Mackenzie
  38. Lady Audley's Secret • Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  39. The Names of the Rose • Umberto Eco
  40. Dune • Frank Herbert
  41. The Stars My Destination • Alfred Bester
  42. Jane Eyre • Charlotte Bronte
  43. The Windup Girl • Paolo Bacigalupi
  44. Regenesis • C.J. Cherryh
  45. Among Others • Jo Walton
  46. Ready Player One • Ernest Cline
  47. The City & The City • China Miéville
  48. Their Eyes Were Watching God • Zora Neale Hurston
  49. A Fine Balance • Rohinton Mistry
  50. The 1963 Operation Coldstore in Singapore • Edited by Poh Soo Kai, Tan Kok Fang & Hong Lysa
    [ 01/01/2014 ~
  51. Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith • Anne Lamott
    [ 15/10/2013 ~
  52. How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind • Pema Chodron
    [ 27/01/2014 ~
  53. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success • Carol Dweck
    [ 30/01/2014 ~
  54. An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace • Tamar Adler
    [ 10/02/2014 ~
  55. The Goldfinch • Donna Tartt
    [ 14/03/2014 ~
  56. The Trauma of Everyday Life • Mark Epstein
    [ 15/09/2014 ~
  57. The Land Where Lemons Grow: The Story of Italy and its Citrus Fruit • Helena Attlee
    [ 13/09/2014 ~
  58. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage • Haruki Murakami
    Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel
    [ 12/08/2014 ~
  59. The Devil's Star • Jo Nesbø
    Translated from Norwegian by Don Bartlett
    [ 28/07/2014 ~
  60. Nemesis • Jo Nesbø
    Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett
    [ 19/07/2014 ~ 28/07/2014 ]
  61. Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence • Daniel Goleman
    [ 04/11/2013 ~ 01/01/2014 ]
  62. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running • Haruki Murakami
    [ 02/01/2014 ~ 27/01/2014 ]
  63. The Hunger Games • Suzanne Collins
    [ 31/01/2014 ~ 08/02/2014 ]
  64. Catching Fire • Suzanne Collins
    [ 08/02/2014 ~ 09/02/2014 ]
  65. Mockingjay • Suzanne Collins
    [ 09/02/2014 ~ 10/02/2014 ]

MURAKAMI | Feeling the Voice and the Music in Murakami

I'm reading Haruki Murakami's Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. It has the Murakami signature "voice". I think about it, and his books are often a little depressing, quiet and understated - but I love the "voice". I once told a friend about how it feels reading a Murakami novel - it's like I'm sitting at a table, in a jazz bar. There's only him, and me, at the table. There's cigarette smoke in the air, and a couple of beer between us. Then he starts telling me a story, quietly, and I'm just there, listening. Just him and me.

I'm back on the groove and ease reading his most recent book. I like how he always ties in his other passions into his books, most of all music - which might be how he achieves the "voice" in his novels. If it doesn't "sound" right, it's not right. It's about the melody, the "feel" of the voice, rather than the plot that matters. In a way, he's writing a melody as a book.

I had this conversation with a friend a while back. She pays attention to the lyrics of the songs, while I tend to pay more attend to the melody and I often forget the lyrics. It's an odd thing, considering how I am a reader - yet I do not read the lyrics much. I tap into the rhythm, the melody, the sound and the mood of music. Just like how I tap into the "voice" in Murakami's novels and not the story as much, considering how I am a story person.

It is fascinating to think about how Murakami taps into music and channels them creatively into his writing. Perhaps he channels his writing into his running as well. I'm not the only one curious about it, as this Murakami Literary Playlist show.

For now, the playlist for Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is Liszt:

As they listened to one piano recording, Tsukuru realized that he'd heard the composition many times in the past. He didn't know the title, however, or the composer. It was a quiet, sorrowful piece that began with a slow, memorable theme that played out as single notes, then proceeded into a series of tranquil variations. Tsukuru looked up from the book he was reading and asked Haida what it was.
'"Franz Liszt's 'La mal du pays.' It's from his Years of Pilgrimage Suite 'Year One: Switzerland.'"
"'La mal du…'?"
"'La map du pays.' It's French. Usually it's translated as 'homesickness,' or 'melancholy.' If you put a finer point on it, it's more like 'a groundless sadness called forth in a person's heart by a pastoral landscape.' It's a hard expression to translate accurately." 
A song on pilgrimage. I get that.
My copy of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.
Might add more stickers to the cover as I progress with the story.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Simon Sinek: Why Leaders Eat Last

I was watching this TED talk by Simon Sinek on why leaders eat last. I like this definition of leadership - that you are given more, so that when it matters, you put yourself at risk for others. It made me reflect on myself, in my role at work, and also about the managers I have encountered through the years, and about those in positions of political power in my country.

The How many of those at the top fulfils the anthropological definition of leadership?

“The cost of leadership is self-interest. If you’re not willing to give up your perks when it matters, then you probably shouldn’t get promoted. You might be an authority, but you will not be a leader. Leadership comes at a cost. You don’t get to do less work when you get more senior, you have to do more work. And the more work you have to do is put yourself at risk to look after others. That is the anthropological definition of what a leader is. This the why we are so offended by these banker boys who pay themselves astronomical salaries. It has nothing to do with the number. It has to do with the fact that they have violated a deep-seated social contract.”

Saturday, June 21, 2014

20 Odd Questions with Patti Smith

From Wall Street Journal

Patti Smith:
When I go on tour, I only pack a very small suitcase. The thing that takes me the longest to choose is the book I'm going to read. It is Dylan Thomas's 100th anniversary this year; I have Elizabeth Bishop's copy of "In Country Sleep," so I might bring that.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Alone, Lonely and Sadly

A colleague told me the story about her father-in-law and his family a while back. He was dying, and they took him home, so that the family could look after him. The sad truth is, the old man had left a legacy of irresponsible parenting. As my colleague told me - "He only knew how to make babies and go fishing. He doesn't know how to look after his kids." 

The old man had eight children - yet at the end of his days, it was his daughter-in-laws who bathed, him, fed him, took care of him. His own children were not available. This is the truth of a family with no bond. My colleague told me how her mother-in-law was angry as the man was dying - after all the years, she was still angry at the husband who wasn't around, and whom she thought ruined her life. 

When the man finally passed away, he was alone. His wife eventually went to check on him, and found that he was not breathing. So a man with a wife and eight children died alone, lonely and sadly.




Tuesday, May 06, 2014

ESSAY | Why I Teach Plato to Plumbers

Good article on the importance of liberal arts in our education. [ Full article ]
My answer is that we should strive to be a society of free people, not simply one of well-compensated managers and employees. Henry David Thoreau is as relevant as ever when he writes, “We seem to have forgotten that the expression ‘a liberal education’ originally meant among the Romans one worthy of free men; while the learning of trades and professions by which to get your livelihood merely, was considered worthy of slaves only.”