Thursday, November 30, 2006

Build Your Own Unseen university

I am in love with this new project:

Unseen University Cut Out Book

The Unseen University Cut Out Book

For fans of Terry Pratchett's Discworld, you can build your own Unseen University! Yay!

The artwork is fantastic, but I suspect I may need to buy two copies of this - in case I screw up the first one. Actually, I think they missed the details like tentacles coming out of the tower or something. And where is The Librarian? Am I supposed to add that in myself?

Oh, fun, fun, fun!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Whedon on Wonder Woman

Entertainment Weekly interviews Joss Whedon, and he has some things to say about the Wonder Woman movie:

Everything that was hard at the beginning is still hard. I don't feel like I've nailed it yet, and I think the studio agrees. So I'm still plugging away. It's probably not as hard as I think it is, because I'm still a little fired from my TV decade. I should have taken a year off. It's now too late to realize that. But it's a big job. And besides her great origin story, there's nothing from the comics that felt right 100 percent, no iconic canon story that must be told. Batman has it made — he's got the greatest rogues gallery ever, he's got Gotham City. The Bat writes himself. With Wonder Woman, you're writing from whole cloth, but trying to make to feel like you didn't. To make to feel like it's existed for 60 years, even though you're making it up as you go along. But who she, and what the movie, is about, thematically, has never been a problem for me. But the steps along the way, it could be so easy for them to feel wrong. I won't settle. She wouldn't let me settle.

You go, Joss! Give Wonder Woman the respect and movie she deserves! Yay!

Poetry Meme

I jump on the bandwagon. I do poetry meme.

Via Dorothy W.

1. The first poem I remember reading/hearing/reacting to was.... it’s a Chinese poem. I think all Chinese children with a vague working knowledge of poetry knows it. It’s by the Tang poet Li Bai, and the vulgarizes/satirized English translation goes, “Bedside Moon Bright Bright…”

2. I was forced to memorize (name of poem) in school and........ Shakespeare – we had to memorise lines from Antony and Cleopatra and The Merchant of Venice. Oh, Miss Anne Sutherland, my tutor for “A” Levels made us memorise John Donne. You know what? I have no regrets or resentment for having to do it. It was good exercise for appreciating poetry actually. I will do it again in a heartbeat.

3. I read/don't read poetry because.... I read poetry because I am lucky enough to encounter poems and poets that touch me deeply. It’s not just because I'm an English Literature major. I know some friends who did Literature that do not read poetry -- because they never found a poem that truly engaged them. Sad, I think. I always believe poetry is like falling in love – an game of kismet and pure blind chance.

4. A poem I'm likely to think about when asked about a favorite poem is ....... it’ll be something by Mary Oliver – but I’m at a loss to choose ONE single favourite poem. My first Mary Oliver poem is The Journey, and it is special because of the circumstance when I first read it. I was looking for a way out of my old life, and The Journey was like an arrow to the chest. But there is also In Blackwater Woods, which I love because I know here lies the message to remember, to carve onto my heart: “To live in this world/you must be able/to do three things:/to love what is mortal;/to hold it/against your bones knowing/your own life depends on it;/and, when the time comes to let it go,/to let it go.”

5. I write/don't write poetry, but..............the best poetry I read charge simple words with great emotional power. And I suck at that in my writing.

6. My experience with reading poetry differs from my experience with reading other types of literature..... My response to poetry is more emotional, more spiritual than novels. Novels allow me a kind of rational distance. I can appreciate a novel without liking it, but not so for poetry. I read a greater variety of books, but not so for poetry.

7. I find poetry..... deceptively difficult. Too many people think it’s just short lines on a page. And so they think they can write poetry, and trick other people (with prize money) into thinking they have talent.

8. The last time I heard poetry.... was in school, actually. Not every good poet reads well. And some poets should not write at all. Okay, I’m being mean.

9. I think poetry is like.... Poetry is song, poetry is prayer.

My Nerd Score

Hey. I am so cool, they need a new vocabulary to describe me. *grin*

I am nerdier than 17% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

What does this mean? Your nerdiness is:

Not nerdy, but then again maybe not all that cool either.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Pink Elephant in Brain

Last night I found myself comparing professional reviewers/critics against litbloggers - and the antagonism between the two. My mind was suddenly stretched for sustained rational thoughts - something it was never meant for. I will stop now. Headache!

But right now it's like someone stuffed a pink elephant in my head - and I can't stop thinking about it.

Recently in the Observer, Rachel Cooke wrote negatively about the standards of critique and writing she found amongst book blogs. The article, "Deliver us from these latter-day Pooters", earned some (well-deserved, I feel) outrage from litbloggers from all around.

Alan Bissett wrote a response, "In defence of the blogerati." He concludes his argument:

Cooke states that professional criticism is better, yet her case rests on internalised values which she presumes to be true: that professional criticism is better. What does "better" mean? Better for people like Cooke. It is only a valid argument that a critic "knows more" than the average person if you can qualify that knowledge as being intrinsically important. She cannot. For the majority of readers it just ain't an issue. Why else do we look to friends, not reviewers, for recommendations? Because art criticism is merely a conversation between critics, its first duty being to itself rather than the public, or even art. Art will get on just fine without critics, who seek only to protect their own status. That we must depend on "experts" to discuss fiction - made-up stories about made-up people - is deluded nonsense.

Remember the music?

It's midnight and I was getting a little nostalgic. Went on YouTube and dug out some of the old favourites.

Remember "Joey" by Concrete Blonde?

Linda Perry's still around, but mainly as a music producer these days. Her solo singing career never really took off. What a shame. I love the 4 Non Blondes way back then. Here's the music video for "What's Up". From YouTube.

YOGA | Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana

Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana

Some time back I wrote about my difficulty in coming to Urdhva Dhanurasana(Wheel pose) during yoga class. I am glad to say I am now able to rise to Wheel without too much difficulty. In fact, I feel immense strength in Wheel.

I wanted to bring my practice just that bit further. So last weekend I tried a variation on the Wheel - I attempted Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana. [See picture on the right]

To do Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana, first come to the Wheel. When you're steady, you bring one leg up at about 45 degree from the ground.

I felt steady and strong in the Wheel. But when I lifted my leg, I felt myself wobble a little, as though my grounded limbs were going to give way. The variation tested the balance in my posture. My foundation was apparently not as strong as I have assumed.

For a while I was getting comfortable in the Wheel pose. Now, a single variation pushes things into uncertainty again. There was the tiniest tinge of fear when the leg lifted - the fear of falling.

I find that I quite enjoy this experience.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Yoga | Gratitude

I was on the Yoga Journal website and they are featuring an article by Philip Moffitt on Gratitude - and that elusive quality known as Grace.

"Reflect on this: You, with all your flaws, have been chosen for this opportunity to consciously taste life, to know it for what it is, and to make of it what you are able. This gift of a conscious life is grace, even when your life is filled with great difficulty and it may not feel like a gift at the time."

Give thanks. How I often forget.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Fourth World

There are people everywhere who form a Fourth World, or a diaspora of their own. They are the lordly ones. They come in all colours. They can be Christians or Hindus or Muslims or Jews or pagans or atheists. They can be young or old, men or women, soldiers or pacifists, rich or poor. They may be patriots, but they are never chauvinists. They share with each other, across all the nations, common values of humour and understanding. When you are among them you know you will not be mocked or resented, because they will not care about your race, your faith, your sex or your nationality, and they suffer fools if not gladly, at least sympathetically. They laugh easily. They are easily grateful. They are never mean. They are not inhibited by fashion, public opinion or political correctness. They are exiles in their own communitites, because they are always in a minority, but they form a mighty nation, if they only knew it. It is the nation of nowhere, and I have come to think that its natural capital is Trieste.

~ from Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere, by Jan Morris

Finishing the Year 2006

This afternoon, while writing in my journal, I realise it is 25th November. It's exactly one month from Christmas. I finished Patrick O'Brian's Post-Captain this morning and I decided I was going to try to finish reading The Guermantes Way and whatever half-read books I can, before the end of 2006.

I'm compiling my books to read for next year, and I regret that I have not picked up some of the titles on the 2006 list. There are just so many books, and so little time. I also hope to really go to Istanbul next year.

Perhaps next year I will see further progress in my yoga. I attended MD's yoga class this morning and I was amazed at how good I felt. A lot of twists and stretches, and I felt the work on some hard-to-reach muscles. This is the first time I attended one of MD's class. I will be attending his Power Yoga class tomorrow. I have focused too much on my favourite teachers - and two of them went on leave recently. Their absence motivated me to try new teachers, with different focus and teaching styles. This opportunity gave a refreshing new perspective on my practice.

This morning, I was a little surprised that I can do the side-plank pose. In a few months, one of my least favourite poses came to me without my realising it. I have acquired strength through practice. It feels good.

I know I will continue with my yoga in 2007. Everything else continues from there.

Meme | In One Word

Meme. In One Word.

via Make Tea Not War

Yourself: Sigh
Your Partner: Where?
Your hair: Punk
Your mother: depressed
Your father: restless
Your favourite item: journal
Your dream last night: forgot
Your favourite drink: grape
Your dream car: Jeep
Your dream home: Bookshelves!
The room you are in: crowded
Your ex: psycho
Your fear: loss
Where you want to be in ten years: Elsewhere
Who you hung out with last night: Yogis
What you’re not: focused
Muffins: hot!
One of your wish list items: sports-bra
Time: Night
The last thing you did: wrote
What you are wearing: comfy
Your favourite weather: Rainy
Your favourite book: Mouldy
Your life: fearful
Your mood: content
Your best friend(s): wonderful
What are you thinking about right now: laundry
Your car: None
What are you doing at the moment: Chillin’
Your summer: Fever
Relationship status: regret
What is on your tv: Nonsense
What is the weather like: Rain
When is the last time you laughed: everyday

Friday, November 24, 2006

Reading the Yoga Sutra 2

Report on Chip Hartranft's translation of the Yoga-Sutra. It's not so much his translation that I have problem with, but more his commentary which gets a little too abstract. My brain cannot deal.

Now contemplating another version: The Essential YogaSutra by Geshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally. It has been described as "deceptively simple".

Oh dear.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

QUOTES | Anne Dillard

God does not demand that we give up our personal dignity, that we throw in our lot with random people, that we lose ourselves and turn from all that is not him. God needs nothing, asks nothing, and demands nothing, like the stars. It is a life with God that demands these things.

Experience has taught the race that if knowledge of God is the end, then these habits of life are not the means but the condition in which the means operates. You do not have to do these things; not at all. God does not, I regret to report, give a hoot. You do not have to do these things — unless you want to know God. They work on you, not on him.

You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it.

~ Anne Dillard, An Expedition To The Pole

Forthcoming in 2007

Some Farrar, Straus and Giroux releases I'm looking forward to in 2007:

At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays by Anne Fadiman
Release Date: 15 May, 2007

Varieties of Disturbance: Stories by Lydia Davis
Release Date: 15 May, 2007

BOOK | The Bastard of Istanbul

Just received the uncorrected proof for Elif Shafak's The Bastard of Istanbul.

Will have to read fast.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Reading the Yoga Sutra

I've been practicing yoga on-and-off for about 3 years now. I've read a few books on the practice and I have always found something in my readings to encourage me in my practice. But as far as the Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali is concerned, it is untouchable.

I have several translations of the yoga-sutra in my personal library. They are often translated by Sanskrit scholars with commentaries that the layman like myself find inaccessible. Why do I always reach for the thick, scholarly translations of the Yoga-Sutra? To simply purchase a layman's translation seems amateurish somehow. Out of sheer egoism, I am making life difficult for myself. I know that, but I still do it. It's a compulsion.

I am an over-reacher in many aspects - a manifestation of my ambitious, competitive character. Even in my reading, I always want to read many books at the same time - I set up reading challenges just to motivate myself; I am at my peak when I am competing against someone, or something.

But - yoga has brought into my life a sort of clarity - although these epiphanies come in intermittent bursts and often have to be re-learnt. One of the lessons learnt is this: we can only start with the here and now. Everything proceed from here forth.

What does this mean? In class, I often push myself to do the difficult poses even (or especially) when I am not strong enough for them. This compulsion to push to the limits is the ego acting out. Wisdom is to know when to stay at the building poses, until strength is acquired to go further. It also takes humility, to accept yourself as the beginner that you are. This is something I am still working at. ;)

So in the here and now, I have to accept that to read the Yoga-sutra, I need a more beginner-friendly version. In fact, maybe I need a Dummies Guide to the Yoga-Sutra. Until that is actually published, I will make do with the Chip Hartanft translation published by Shambhala and see where it leads me. It looks approachable enough (I hope). If it also proves too challenging, I'll have to go look for yet another translation. I just hope my humble mind is adequate for yogic metaphysics. Will update on my progress. If there is any.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

News Corporation Cancels Simpson Book and TV Special

New York, NY – November 20, 2006 – News Corporation Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch today announced that the company has canceled publication of the book If I Did It as well as the corresponding FOX broadcast network special.

Mr. Murdoch said: “I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project. We are sorry for any pain this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown-Simpson."

News Corporation (NYSE: NWS, NWS.A; ASX: NWS, NWSLV) had total assets as of September 30, 2006 of approximately US$58 billion and total annual revenues of approximately US$26 billion. News Corporation is a diversified entertainment company with operations in eight industry segments: filmed entertainment; television; cable network programming; direct broadcast satellite television; magazines and inserts; newspapers; book publishing; and other. The activities of News Corporation are conducted principally in the United States, Continental Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, Asia and the Pacific Basin.

For more information about News Corporation, please visit

You know, the fact that they even considered publishing this book is arse-headed. I hope heads roll, and some insensitive over-paid executives get fired.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Gay Penguin Book

From The Observer, furor over a book, And Tango Makes Three, based on actual GAY penguins at the New York Central Park Zoo that raised a penguin chick together. Oh, the horrors.

Just for fun, you might like to check out this other GAY penguin book, Gus & Waldo's Book of Love.


Thinking of my Book List for 2007

I'm in the midst of compiling my 100 Books To read 2007. I was also staring at my stacks of books yet unread. It's about time I try harder to pick them up.

Perhaps I should just do a list from existing books on my bookshelves.

From The Book Sale Part 2

I fell to temptations. Went back to the book sale where I picked up more books:

  1. The Collected Stories by Katherine Mansfield

    Mansfield has often been compared with Chekhov. I read Rereadings recently, and Patricia Hampl wrote convincingly about Mansfield as an author to check out. Apparently Virginia Woolf considered Mansfield her “rival” – and is there a better compliment than that?

  2. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

    I’m a sucker for tales of justice and revenge as a child. Perhaps it’s my sense of fairplay that demands retribution. Or maybe it’s the culture I was brought up in. Growing up, TV was full of martial arts movies where young men (like Jackie Chan) had their family massacred. These wrathful young men would suffer great hardship to learn martial arts for revenge. What is wrong with the Chinese? Guess forgiveness is not a Chinese trait.

    Then the question is: is it a French trait? I read an abridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo when I was young younger. There was even an abridged comic version back then. I’ve decided that it is time to attempt the actual Dumas epic. All 1,200 pages of it.

    No problem at all.

  3. DK Eyewitness Travel Guides: Istanbul

    I’ve wanted to go to Istanbul, the land that was Constantinople, for the longest time. Until I actually get there, I’m reading whatever I can on the city that was the heart of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires.

    The DK Eyewitness Guides are wonderfully illustrated reference that’s worth keeping just for itself. Too bad they are always so pricey. Thank goodness this one is on sale today.

  4. The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule by Joanna Kavenna

    Legend tells of the land of Thule, a northerly dreamland. Joanna Kavenna set out on a journey to discover the story behind this icy Eden. Her search led her to Shetland, Iceland, Norway Estonia and even the Artic wilderness – in short, all the places I dare not go because I am a child of the Sun. Along the way Joanna Kavenna discovers some fascinating history about the Thule Society, which my friend the Hamster called, the “Icelandic Nazi cult.”

  5. The Avignon Quintet by Lawrence Durrell
  6. I remember Larry from Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals, who will later be Lawrence Durrell to the literary world. His books: grand epic tomes of searing passions against lush exotic cities. Seems dramatic enough to pick them up.

  7. Skating to Antarctica by Jenny Diski
  8. I've been visiting Jenny Diski's blog (see links at the side) and she's the kind of writer I enjoy - candid, a little cranky and irreverent but utterly fun and honest. I think I'll enjoy this one. It's about her journey to the Antarctica, but it's also about memories and her wry observation of the insane world.

  9. God's Terrorists by Charles Allen
  10. About the Wahhabi sect of Islam that has gained prominence in the political world today. Like many people after 9/11, I realised that I do not know enough about Islam, and it is our duty to understand one of the most important religion in today. Wahhabism is just one of the more disturbing aspects of a mutli-faceted religion.

  11. Emma by Jane Austen
  12. Ms F and I were talking about Jane Austen a while back. During the conversation, Emma was mentioned, as it was our 'A' Level text for English Literature. I mentioned that I liked Jane Fairfax more than Emma Woodhouse. Jane Fairfax was obviously the superior, a woman of intelligent, pride and grace. Then Ms F asks why would Jane fall in love with Frank? I assume what she's saying is this: an obviously intelligent woman is supposed to know better, and would choose someone more worthy of her affections than weak, floppy Frank Churchill.

    I disagree. Frank was handsome, and charming and young. Jane Fairfax is human, and she was in love. We are never rational with whom we fall in love with; love is a state of grace that cannot be bargained or earned or denied. It comes to us when we are so undeserving of it, and that is the miracle and tragedy of it. I felt for perfect, elegant Jane Fairfax then, and the heartache when Frank and Emma taunted her.

    That night after our discussion I went home hoping to re-read Emma. To my dismay, I found that I’ve misplaced my. Now I have another copy.

What Inspired Them

The Guardian ran a piece where five writers reveal the people, places and things that inspired them. I like the one by Lionel Shriver:

I am sometimes asked where I got the idea to write a book about an American boy who murders several people at his high school, and I have to suppress a "What, are you stupid?" expression.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Are There Vampires

The office received some galley copies of forthcoming titles recently. We were sorting them out when a discussion arises on whether I read romance novels. My manager assumed I was too snobbish to touch romance novels. Another colleague disagrees. All eyes turned to me.

ME: "That depends. Are there vampires?"

All eyes rolled.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Booty From the Book Sale

One of my supplier is having their long awaited book sale. A list of my booty:

  1. Woods Etc by Alice Oswald

  2. Travels with My Aunt by Graham Greene

  3. Street Haunting by Virginia Woolf

  4. Love by Stendhal

  5. Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov

  6. The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell

  7. Freedom From Fear by Aung San Suu Kyi

  8. Letters from Burma by Aung San Suu Kyi

  9. Middlemarch by George Eliot

  10. Tigers in Red Weather by Ruth Padel

  11. Jamie's Italy by Jamie Oliver

  12. Stranger on a Train by Jenny Diski

As you can see - I've been really disciplined!

Okay, maybe not. I'm going back this Saturday. My friend the Hamster has offered transportation. Heh.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

OLIVER | In Praise of Craziness, of a Certain Kind

In Praise of Craziness, of a Certain Kind

On cold evenings
my grandmother,
with ownership of half her mind--
the other half having flown back to Bohemia--

spread newspapers over the porch floor
so, she said, the garden ants could crawl beneath,
as under a blanket, and keep warm,

and what shall I wish for, for myself,
but, being so struck by the lightning of years,
to be like her with what is left, that loving.

~ Mary Oliver

I am in the kind of mood that wonders what really matters in life. Have I done well, these past thirty years?

I am watching my parents grow old, and realising that the time may come when I have to take care of them. The cycle of life, coming to parent our parents. Their memory is not as good as it used to be. Their health is declining. This year, my father and I travelled to Tibet. For him, it was important to do these things before the human body fails on him.

We don't like to think of old age and senility and terrible names like "dementia" - but they are reality. We have made so much of ourselves, of all the strength and splendour of our youth. After we lose our minds, either in madness or senility, what is left?

Is there enough kindness left?

Monday, November 13, 2006

MANGA | Death Note

Death Note

I've recently caught the Death Note life-action movie and I was impressed enough with the storyline to check out the 12-volume manga that the movie was based on.

Tsugumi Ohba wrote the original story and Takeshi Obata provided the comic art. It was a splendid collaboration as Obata's graceful artwork gave visual depth to Ohba's highly suspenseful plot. I haven't been reading manga since Slam Dunk ended its run, but enjoyed Death Note immensely. Perhaps it is time to pick up more manga, just to find out what other great stories I've missed out. The manga source material was far richer than the movie, and I am looking forward to Death Note 2, coming out later this year.

In a nutshell: the story is set in present day Japan. A bored Shinigami (or Death God) drops his Death Note in our world. (I'm curious about how the action is initiated by boredom. To paraphrase the saying, all the evil in the world, all because we could not sit still in a room.)

The Death Note is a magical item possessed by the Death Gods. When a person's real name is written in the Death Note, that person will die of heart failure in 40 seconds. There are many more rules and clauses to the use of the Death Note, some of which drive the twists and turns in the plotline.

Needless to say, Yamagami Light, a bored (boredom again) Japanese high school student with a genius IQ, gains possession of the Death Note and proceeds to use it to eliminate criminals around the world. Yamagami Light is the dangerous embodiment of how power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. A sociopathic mass murder that justified his actions with abstract, lofty ideals, he is later hailed as a god known as KIRA. He is feared by the world, yet also worshipped as the harbringer of a New World Order.

In Death Note, the characters are made to question if the present political system of the world should really be allowed to continue, and the ultimate question: is KIRA a criminal or truly a god that promises to remake the world as a New Eden? I've often observed a prevailing sense of social existentialism or discontent in many of the Japanese manga I've read. Often, the story features an Ubermensch anti-hero that advocates a "cleansing" process to bring forth a New World Order. What is it about Japan?

Against KIRA (aka Yamagami Light) is the anonymous world-famous master detective known only as L, who has made it his mission to apprehend KIRA. (It is also part of the tradtion of Japanese manga where far-fetched superhuman abilities are attributed to characters. We are meant to suspend disbelief. Really. You will enjoy the story better when you do.)

L is one of the most delightful manga characters I've encountered. An eccentric but brilliant sleuth, he possesses a genius capacity for observation and deduction. He is the spiritual antithesis of KIRA/Yamagami Light. Where Yamagami Light is handsome, suave and respectable in all outward aspects - L hunches when he walks, dislikes wearing shoes and exudes an almost primitive physicality. Yet L represents our best hope, and he is portrayed with a boyish, endearing sweetness that is convincing. L represents humanity in its innocence. He believes justice will prevail, he believes in us. And we want him to win.L

The whole thrill of Death Note is the mind-game between L and KIRA/Yamagami Light as they plot and strategize, anticipating each other's move. We are caught up watching two geniuses so similar in the way they think, yet so different in the way they have evolved. Tsugumi Ohba is a masterful writer - he somehow always manages to pull the carpet out from under you. Most of all, he is the kind of writer that believes characters are subordinate to the story and he is willing to kill off important characters to drive the story forward. (Without giving away too much of a major plot-twist away, a few Death Note fans have stopped reading after Volume 7 because they were too upset.) For a long time, it really seems that KIRA/Yamagami is destined to win.

So for the past few weeks I've been hooked on the battle of wits between between KIRA/Yamagami Light against those who goes against him. It is one of those classic battle of Good versus Evil, yet with enough ambiguities thrown in so that nothing is ever simplistic.

My real complaint is that towards the end, the energy of the pursuit loses steam. The conclusion was a little unsatisfying. It felt a little forced. But I also understand it would be extremely difficult to manage a more satisfying denouement; the writer did what he could.

At the end, order is restored and justice is poetic - but wait - nothing is as simple as it seems. On the very last page, Death Note leaves us a message of how KIRA is merely a manifestation of a very important aspect of our humanity. KIRA never dies, can never die, because deep down inside, we pray for a god-like figure to deliver us from the world we created for ourselves.

Between Eros and Thanatos

From The Guardian, Patrick Süskind explores the elusive connection between Eros and Thanatos.

I'm posting this article because he examines Orpheus and his journey into the realm of death for a love. And yes, as you can tell from the name of this blog, the Orphic myth is one that has intrigued me - but for a different reason.

The life of Orpheus ends not with a well-judged "It is finished", representing the final moment of a grand plan for the salvation of the world, but with a simple lament for the one woman he loved. It began with the same lament. While the coming of Jesus as Messiah was prophesied, while he was born the Messiah and was the Messiah all his life, Orpheus entered myth and history as a man in mourning. He had lost his young wife when she was bitten by a poisonous snake. He is so inconsolable at her loss that he does something which may well appear to us mad, but is easy to understand: he wants to bring his dead beloved back to life. It is not that he questions the power of death in itself or the fact that it has the last word, still less is he concerned with overcoming death on behalf of all mankind or achieving eternal life. He wants only this one woman back, his beloved Eurydice, and he wants her back not forever and ever, just for the length of a normal human life, to be happy with her on earth.

So Orpheus's venture into the underworld is not to be regarded as suicidal - he was no Werther, no Kleist, and certainly no Tristan - but as a bold venture looking towards life, and indeed desperately fighting for it.

Full article.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

New Trailer for Spider-Man 3

See the new trailer for Spider-Man 3. Wicked.

Just a question: where's Gwen Stacy?

Bad Hair Day

Sid Vicious

Bad hair day.

Had my hair cut short yesterday. Not liking it much. Then this morning I saw myself in the mirror and I swear, I look like Sid Vicious.

Last Saturday

I have been listening to Shawn Colvin's new album, These Four Walls for the past week. Shawn Colvin is still worth listening to, one of those artiste that just held on to their music the way they wanted to play it. She's not a one-hit wonders, although she did have ONE HIT with that catchy Sunny Came Home. But I like Shawn Colvin for music that's simple - a beautiful voice, a guitar and some accompanying instruments. Nothing too fanciful between you and the music.

Then suddently I was at HMV on Saturday, and I was gripped by this need to possess Restrospective: The Best of Suzanne Vega. I was in a music nostalgia. Anyone remembers her singles, Luka, Tom's Diner or Caramel?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

BOOKS | Tigers in Red Weather

Michael Dirda reviews Ruth Padel's Tigers in Red Weather.

Ruth Padel is better known as a poet in the UK. Here is the chronicle of her travels to India, Nepal, Bhutan, Russia, Korea, China, Indonesia, and Myanmar in search of tigers. It looks promising. Witness what she writes of the great hunter:

"Tigers naturally hunt secretly. Their technique is all about getting close under cover. It is the art of stillness, geometry, concealment. Tigers have great speed over short distances but are no use in a long chase. Once they get into a race with prey they have lost. . . . Tigers are heavy, and work through long grass, dense bushes, trees. It can take hours. The angle you come from is all. A hunt ends with a burst of explosive power but depends on long preparation. The fifty yards that a jungle-smart man will cover in two minutes, thinking he is quiet, may take a tiger fifteen. The tiger will really be invisible. Rather than risk the faint crackle of a dead leaf, she will slowly crush it to dust."

Totally useless trivia: Did you know Ruth Padel is the great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin?


The thought of today is regret. Things you have done. Things you have failed to do. And the consequence of it haunting you day after day.

I have loved badly, loved the great
Too soon, withdrawn my words too late;
And eaten in an echoing hall
Alone and from a chipped plate
The words that I withdrew too late.

~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

BOOKS | Bound to Please

I had the pleasure of picking up Michael Dirda’s Bound to Please recently. It is an extraordinary collection of his contributions to The Washington Post Book World, as well as a grand testimony to a life-time of reading.

I wish to single out my favourite book essay: Dirda’s review for A.S. Byatt’s Possession. The entire review could be condensed with a single, drool-splattering, "Wow." But it is the little Postscript he added to the version published in Bound to Please that I love. He reveals that the Byatt review has personal significance for him, as it was published the day his youngest son was born. Soon after reading the review, A. S. Byatt invited him out for lunch. They have become friends since.

This is the kind of reviews I like. The sheer humanness in it, that brings you back to why you read in the first place.

Michael Dirda has become a reviewer I seek out. He writes book reviews like a fanboy with a hard-on (I meant this as a compliment). I’ve found his reviews often personal and engaging. Some might argue, the point of the book review is the book itself – not the reviewer. I agree, but Michael Dirda injects his essays with a heartfelt personal engagement that sparkles and brings it to life. Afterall, for many of us, reading is a highly personal experience. Ex Libris, as they say. Out of the book. We read for what the book reveals of ourselves, and we are often the better for it.

I can’t abide reviewers who approach their readings like an autopsy. Clinical, detached, cold. I want biro, I want bile. I want the occasional bitchiness if the book is really bad.

When I pick up books on books like Bound to Please, I always skip ahead to the essays on books I’ve read (or want to read). For me, book reviews is a kind of dialogue with the reviewer (where I am doing most of the listening). We read book reviews, not just to seek out more books to read, but because we want to know what someone think about the book. We want to know how they feels - and do we agree with them?

Watch as I skipped to Page 306 in the Norton edition of Bound to Please. Here Dirda writes about Judith Thurman’s Secrets of the Flesh. Or rather, he writes about Colette and her vibrant, passionate life - full of pleasures and frustrations, contradictions and mysteries. I adore Colette. And I like this man, Michael Dirda, who writes so respectfully of Colette.

Most importantly, Michael Dirda is a true reader after my own heart: A man who reads beyond genres. In this collection alone, you can find reviews on the books of Terry Pratchett, Ben Okri, Philip Pullman as well as Umberto Eco. You can also check out Dirda’s essays on the biographies of a variety of literary figures such as Bruce Chatwin, John Ruskin, Jorge Luis Borges, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. (I recommend his piece on the biography of Samuel Beckett. I came out of it admiring the great-hearted Beckett.)

And if you are really interested, on Page 9 Dirda reads The Bible.

BOOKS | Aubrey-Maturin Reading List

  1. Master and Commander

  2. Post Captain

  3. HMS Surprise

  4. The Mauritius Commander

  5. Desolation Island

  6. The Fortune of War

  7. The Surgeon's Mate

  8. The Ionian Mission

  9. Treason's Harbour

  10. The Far Side of the World

  11. The Reverse of the Medal

  12. The Letter of Marque

  13. The Thirteen-Gun Salute

  14. The Nutmeg of Consolation

  15. Clarissa Oakes

  16. The Wine-Dark Sea

  17. The Commodore

  18. The Yellow Admiral

  19. The Hundred Days

  20. Blue At the Mizzen

Monday, November 06, 2006

LIFE | Fifth Mindfulness Training

The fifth mindfulness training: "Aware that true happiness is rooted in peace, solidity, freedom and compassion, and not in wealth or fame, I am determined not to take as the aim of my life fame, profit, wealth or sensual pleasure, nor to accumulate wealth while millions are hungry and dying. I am committed to living simply and sharing my time, energy and material resources with those in real need."
~ Venerable Thich Nhat Hahn

How often do I lose myself?

Some time back, due to a breakdown in the relationship with my bosses, I was passed over for the promotion. Since then I have learnt to "play nice" and the situation with my superiors have improved.

I was promoted last week; the promotion is an indication of how things can change for the better if we make a sustained attempt toward positive changes.

However, for the past week I have been wondering what this promotion really means to me.

I see the promotion as a tangible acknowledgement of my hardwork and abilities, as such, it is important to me to have my superiors recognise my effort. But I am often reminded of how hardwork often goes unappreciated. It is more important to work hard, and work towards the positive for its own sake.

I ask myself: I am the sort of person that co-workers feel comfort approaching for help? Have I been generous with my time and expertise with my co-workers? And the answer is: not all the time. So I ask myself: then what does it matter, if they promote you or not?

I came to the teachings of Thay Thich Nhat Hahn during a period of emotional upheaval. I was desperate for anything that might be helpful, and I scoffed at what I read initially. But gradually the greater wisdom took root, and he has been an immense spiritual influence in my life since. I came across the quote on the Fifth Mindfulness Training last week, while musing over the promotion. It puts things in perspective for me, and the promotion now seems almost anti-climatic.

But not to the colleagues in my department of course. I was promoted with another colleague in the department. To celebrate our joint promotions, we will be buying dinner. The date has been set for 23rd November.

"What is it for?" my Director asked us, when we invited him to dinner. He checked his organiser. "It’s Thanksgiving. The 23rd is Thanksgiving."

"We’re giving thanks," I quipped. I realised later I wasn’t joking.

I am often frustrated and bitter at the things that failed to come my way. But life is often so much better when I can learn to give thanks for the little things that I actually have.

I know this, and yet it is still a lesson I have to re-learn ever so often.

How often do I lose myself in the pursuit of things that do not matter?

Friday, November 03, 2006

QUOTES | Dumas

"I intend that my last work shall be a cookbook composed of memories and desires ..."

~ Alexandre Dumas, 1869

Thursday, November 02, 2006

WTF | Kitty Vader

There are warped minds out there ...