Thursday, December 28, 2006

YOGA | Christmas Ashtanga

The end of the year fast approaches. I am feeling the closing of the year more acutely these days. Perhaps it is a sign that I no longer feel that young – at least, not as immortal.

Christmas comes with the standard invitations to Christmas parties. I’ve been turning down invitations these past few years. The idea of drunken parties and stuffing your face full of sweets now seems unbearable. Instead, I had a few dinners with good friends.

I always wonder if it’s the right thing to do, being so selective about whom I spend time with. I’ve been accused of being “unapproachable”, “a lone-wolf”, “stuck-up”. Some of these criticisms are fair. I admit my social skills have always been rusty, but socialization – unless it’s with people I love – drains me.

I’ve been thinking about my lone-wolf character more frequently of late. As a yoga teacher shared with me recently, part of his own lone-wolf nature was because of his “insecurities of not daring to fully open up to other people and not taking ample time to explore other people better.” How true this feels to my own situation. I go to class, but really I am practicing by myself in a class full of people.

I need to spend more time getting to know other people, to reach out where it feels safer to withdraw. This is as much yoga as the asanas.

This Christmas I signed up for a 2-hour Ashtanga Workshop. This will make it my second Ashtanga class.

My first Ashtanga 1 class left me with muscle aches that lasted four days. It was humbling, but at least I left with the satisfaction that I followed the class to the best of my ability. And I stayed for the entire session. Sometimes, people leave halfway because the class proves too challenging. That has never seemed right to me.

I am of two minds about this issue of leaving class halfway. Some teachers can be rather stern with the students, perhaps because they feel it’s a lack of commitment to the practice. A teacher once shot back at a student, “Then why did you come?” when she wanted to leave a Hot Yoga class. While I understood the teacher’s point of view, I still believe the student should be allowed to leave. She might come back next time. When she is ready. Our practice is about choice afterall.

BOOKS | Reading The Mauritius Command

I've just finished H.M.S. Surprise and have leapt straight into The Mauritius Command. When I last left Aubrey, he was honoured for defending the Company fleet from a notorious French admiral, and he was going to marry sweet Sophie. Now, a few pages into The Mauritius Command, Aubrey is without a command, on half-pay, married with to Sophie with twin daughters. They live in a squalid little cottage with Sophie's niece, Cecilia, and with Mrs Williams, his mother-in-law who has fallen into hard time. Sophie lost her dowry when Mrs Williams lost her fortune, and money is tight.

At this point in the series I notice the Aubrey-Maturin books have this structure that is so predictable — the novels always end on a (naval) high note for Aubrey. But by the next book Aubrey (on land) is destitute or at least in some kind of distress — worrying about being made post-captain, being cheated of his prize or something similar. Each book is about the rise and fall of the fortunes of Captain "Lucky" Jack Aubrey, and in between you see Aubrey and Maturin looking out for each other, playing out their weaknesses and their strength in moments of human drama. You know how it's going to end — yet it is still intoxicating when you do come to the grand finale. Because O'Brian gives you just what you want every time — the good prevails, solid human gallantry rising above petty politics and intrigue.

I've just finished H.M.S. Surprise and have leapt straight into The Mauritius Command. When I last left Aubrey, he was honoured for defending the Company fleet from a notorious French admiral, and he was going to marry sweet Sophie. Now, a few pages into The Mauritius Command, Aubrey is without a command, on half-pay, married with to Sophie with twin daughters. They live in a squalid little cottage with Sophie's niece, Cecilia, and with Mrs Williams, his mother-in-law who has fallen into hard time. Sophie lost her dowry when Mrs Williams lost her fortune, and money is tight.

At this point in the series I notice the Aubrey-Maturin books have this structure that is so predictable — the novels always end on a (naval) high note for Aubrey. But by the next book Aubrey (on land) is destitute or at least in some kind of distress — worrying about being made post-captain, being cheated of his prize or something similar. Each book is about the rise and fall of the fortunes of Captain "Lucky" Jack Aubrey, and in between you see Aubrey and Maturin looking out for each other, playing out their weaknesses and their strength in moments of human drama. You know how it's going to end — yet it is still intoxicating when you do come to the grand finale. Because O'Brian gives you just what you want every time — the good prevails, solid human gallantry rising above petty politics and intrigue.

So every Aubrey-Maturin novel throws Aubrey to the ground, and allows the man to rise to his feet, fists ready for one big fight at the end.

I am hooked, I am oddly hooked and I want to read all the Aubrey-Maturin books in sequence.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Writer demands to be unlisted from Amazon

I'm a little late commenting on this piece of news from The Guardian:

A children's author has drawn attention to the plight of independent bookshops by demanding that his book be removed from sale on Amazon's UK website.

George Walker, author of Tales from an Airfield, was horrified to find that his new title was featured on the site without his permission, following good sales in bookshops. "What they are actually doing is getting the independents to do their market research," said Mr Walker, a passionate advocate of independents. "When a book gets a certain amount of attention, they will attempt to stock it and cut the independents out. Not with my book!"

Full story.

I wouldn't be so quick to say that Amazon is always the Big Bad. and its various international mirror sites do make competition harder for the independents -- but Amazon is a competitive alternative to local bookstores. In certain countries where censorship is oppressive, and books are banned from local bookstores under threats of persecution, Amazon offers a means of subverting these unfair laws.

Mr Walker may also have neglected the fact that having his books available on Amazon allows his books to be made available to a wider readership. Local and international. If I am interested in Mr Walker's books, and they are only available in UK independent bookstores - it actually penalises me, the potential reader, for not living in the UK. Amazon has allowed me access to a lot of foreign materials that local bookstores do not carry.

Then there is the fact that some readers use Amazon as a research base, and go out to the brick-and-mortar bookstores for the books they find interested. For customers like these, the bookstores can benefit from the Amazon listing.

From the writer's perspective I agree he has a right to do what he did. And it's great that he's trying to support the independent booksellers that supported his books. It takes conviction, for Mr Walker to demand to be unlisted. And this deserves some applause.

Letter to Mr J

Elizabeth Merrick is guest-blogging at Blog of a Bookslut. She's writing a letter to this really nice guy and it's hilarious.

Of course, she closes the letter with this totally inspired line:

"Could you explain it to her that--whether she's married or not--you also live in her pussy?"

WTF | BananaBunker

In Clear Colour

What looks like a dildo is actually not. Really. This is not a sex-toy, although ... nevermind.

I was flipping through Wired magazine and I came across this small feature of the BananaBunker. It's a nifty little plastic case for storing the fragile banana and keeps the fruit from bruising. So now you can carry the banana around in your pocket with no fear.



YOGA | Meditations from the Mat

Rolf Gates was a former US military officer, ex-wrestler, ex-football player, ex-counseller, former alcoholic, a husband, a father and a yoga teacher. He also wrote a book, Meditations from the Mat — a daily yoga devotional that I have re-read many times over the years. It has never ceased to be relevant and inspirational, because Rolf Gates speaks from a real place of honesty and humility. This is a man who has lived life, made his mistakes, known love and loss — and have come to a place of peace through rediscovering the yoga of life.

This is one of my favourite anecdotes from Meditations from the Mat. Here, Rolf Gates reminds himself that the teachers have as much to learn from the students about yoga. (And I love it that he opens with a quote that should be carved on my forehead.)


Be on your guard against too much cleverness.

Hermann Hesse

A while back I filled in for a friend who teaches yoga at a local gym. During the class I noticed a woman who was struggling, and I thought to myself how sad it was that she would probably never pursue yoga after the drubbing she was taking in what was clearly her first class. To my surprise, she appeared at my studio two days later to take my class. This time I felt certain that she would be too discouraged to continue. The classes at my studio are harder, longer, and about twenty degrees hotter than the class I'd taught at her gym. She stuck it out, with considerable effort, but I did not expect to see her there again. I've watched hundreds of students come and go, and this woman had all the signs of someone who would soon be going. I was certainly unprepared to see her yet again, two days later, ready for more.

Before long, she had become a regular in my 9 A.M. class. About a month later she showed up for my 7 A.M. class, on a day when she couldn't make it at nine. Arriving in the near dark on a chilly autumn morning, she demonstrated an unmistakable level of investment. After class, I asked her her name. She smiled and said, "Faith."


As a student of life, a student of yoga, I find the spirit of this student inspiring. In a goal-oriented world, with my competitive, reward-focused character, it reminds me that the most important thing in yoga (and in life) is not how well you can do the postures. What is more important is to show up, to work to the best of your abilities with the best intentions, and then to let go of all expectations, trusting that your effort will lead you to where you need to be.

All you need is faith.

Books Read 2006

Updated 31 December 2006

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

LIFE | The Case of the Giant Jellyfish

We eat you, you jellyfish!

Giant Echizen jellyfish, have been appearing in massive schools off the Sea of Japan coastline and gorging on more palatable fare, like prized maguro tuna. Japanese fishermen are outraged at the impact to their livelihood.

So how do the Japanese solve the problem? In the most pragmatic way possible. They decide to eat the jellyfish.

It's so typically Asian.

According to official statement:

"Echizen jellyfish is actually a nutritionist's delight. It's packed with plenty of minerals, like magnesium, and absolutely loads of collagen good for the skin. And it contains almost no calories."

Via Tokyomango. Original report here

Monday, December 25, 2006

Best Push-Up Bra of 2006


But it's Gong Li, and she wears them so well. ;)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Jolie as Vampire

The Brat took this picture along Patong Beach, Phuket last week. Some art gallery that was closed so she had to shoot it through the grill. Hee.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Building the Unseen University 1

My progress at building the Unseen University of Discworld - a step-by-step effort:

The Library

Fig. 1a This is The Library.

Garden Shed

Fig. 1b The Garden Shed.

Fig. 2 The Library joins with Garden Shed.

Books Purchased 22 December 2006

The local Borders was offering a 40% off promotion for every 4 full-priced books bought. It's mind-boggling, the kind of promotion they have. From the business angle I think they are nuts to cut the profit margin like that - but as someone who buys too many books, I loved it.

My 4 titles purchased - and recorded at the sidebar are:

  1. Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects Vol 1 & 2 Giorgio Vasari
  2. The Story of Art E. H. Gombrich
  3. Finding Time Again Marcel Proust
  4. Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. Jeremy Mercer

I was hoping to pick up the remaining 2 volumes of In Search of Lost Time that I need to complete the collection. Alas, Borders was out of the specific edition of The Prisoner & The Fugitive. Meanwhile, since reading Jonathan Harr's The Lost Painting, I've picked up a renewed interest in learning about Caravaggio and other old masters. So I've picked up the authoritative The Story of Art as well as Vasari's Lives of Painters, Sculptors and Architects. Michael Dirda recommends the latter as one of the "must-reads" for a lifetime of learning about arts.

Then there is Jeremy Mercer's account of his stay at the famous Shakespeare & Co. bookstore in Paris (not THE Sylvia Beach bookstore, but an old bookstore of the same name.) They filmed bits of the Ethan Hawke/Julie Delpy movie, Before Sunset at old Shakespeare & Co.

BOOKS | The Reader by Ali Smith

The Reader
Selection by Ali Smith
Published by Constable & Robinson, 2006

The reading maketh the writer — if we are to believe the adage — so the idea behind The Reader is well-conceived. The Reader is planned as the first in a series of anthologies of personal favourite writings chosen by writers. This means if you like this volume, there's more coming along. (I hope.)

This is the kind of book that will please readers like me — someone a little nosy perhaps, who enjoys checking out other people's libraries, bookshelves or reading lists. If you are guilty of these charges, welcome. You don't have to know anything about Ali Smith or what she has written. Just know that she is a writer (and a very good one, I might add) who is also a passionate reader.

The selection was done in two days, with Ali Smith spreading her books across the floor in her front room. She tries to organise the selections in some larger themes, like "journeys," "dialogues," or "beliefs." But Smith herself admits, "If I was doing it now, or had done it on any other day, it'd be a different book." In all manner of order, there is always a grain of the arbitrary, and the anthology is much better for the idiosyncrasies. What you have is a wide range of writers, some familiar, some not quite so — yet interesting for one reason or another. There is a piece of journalist reportage by photographer Lee Miller, on the most delicious subject — Colette. Smith's selection makes the kind of sense, like our lives ever making sense — very personal, quirky, and occasionally hilarious in a silly, childish fashion. Her inclusion of this little limerick by Stevie Smith makes me laugh everytime I read it: This Englishwoman is so refined/She has no bosom and no behind. I've passed it around at work — and it never fails to entice laughter from the recipient.

This is Ali Smith's tribute to the books that she loved at different points in her life. It is about the books themselves. It isn't supposed to be about Ali Smith, although the books we love, to a certain extent, helped shape us. Perhaps The Reader will send you out looking for the writers she featured. Or maybe it will send you looking out for Ali Smith's books, wondering what kind of a writer reads stuff like these.

Either way, it's a great collection for readers.

POETRY | The Journey of the Magi

Jenclair beat me to this, but I decided to post this Christmas poem anyway. Something to remember as you're shopping and buying and consuming during this festival season.

The Journey of the Magi
By T. S. Eliot

"A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter."
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins,
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Harry Potter VII

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be the title for the next Harry Potter novel. Oh, the joy. The mouthful. I can just HEAR people coming into the bookstore asking for Harry Potter and the Deadly Hellos.

Oh joy, oh joy.

The Guardian on the title.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

QUOTES | Each Has His Past Shut In Him

Each has his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart and his friends can only read the title.
~ Virginia Woolf

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

BOOKS | The Names of Things 2

The Names of Things

The Names of Things: Life, Language, and Beginnings in the Egyptian Desert by Susan Brind Morrow

I love this particular part of the book, where one day in Cairo Susan Brind Morrow went to the camel market and watched a group of tribesmen that came from the deserts of Sudan. They wore very fine layered white cotton and carried daggers sheathed in snakesin, and black wood canes. Their faces had "a quality of wildness about them" and she wanted to know these people, who somehow retained their fierce, quiet integrity amidst the chaos of Egypt. Packing very little, she set out to find them.

On the journey she met a Nubian man, Dr Hatikabi, who introduced himself as a poet. He drew her a map of Sudan, and taught her old Sudanese songs. I believe he taught her more than songs.

As he sang, tribesmen came and sat around us. I began to understand that year about trading poems and songs. It involved giving, that intangible, freeing human thing: giving something priceless, even to a stranger, for nothing.

I find this idea of a gift of songs incredibly moving. A gift, because it is so easily given, has no value and therefore priceless. The author would learn to trade songs later in other journeys -- trading Kazakh and Uighur songs for "You Go to My Head" and "Of Tomorrow Wasn't Such a Long Time".

Lyrics not as babel that divides, but as communion.

Books Purchased But Are They Read?

I own too many books. This may not be a bad thing, but it certainly is something I have no more space for. Besides, I have too many books unread at home, and the library has tonnes of book I want to read for free. So why am I so caught up with the need to possess books?

I've decided to list my book purchased at the sidebar of this blog, and to monitor how many books I buy, and how many books I allow to go unread.

This is partly an initiative to make me more aware of my book buying, and perhaps to encourage me to read the books I have bought previously, before buying new ones.

I will date the books purchased, and when they are read, I will strike them off. At the end of the year, I'll do a quick survey of whether this little exercise is actually effective.

PRATCHETT | Terry Pratchett Interview

The Sunday Times has an interview with Terry Pratchett, on 17 December 2006.

Just what kind of a man is he? The kind that tells us:

“Believing in Father Christmas is important,” says Pratchett. “It trains our imaginations on the little lies so we can believe the big lies like justice [and] truth.”

Monday, December 18, 2006

YOGA | No Time For Fear

I've been feeling a little too comfortable in my Level 1 classes of late. Several poses still challenge me, especially balancing poses. But I decide to try a couple of Level 2 (intermediate) classes just to challenge myself.

So last Saturday I signed up for a Hatha 2 class. I arrived about 15 minutes earlier and settled into a Corpse Pose. When the teacher, A. arrived, I realised this was going to be a yoga class with only two students. I'm guessing it's the pouring rain and the Christmas shopping season.

So there we were, the three of us -- A., the other student and myself -- we looked at each other and just smiled. A. took the situation with yogic aplomb, and we started class.

I managed to do most of the poses, although I had some difficulties with some of the more advance poses. But it was wonderful to have the almost undivided attention of an experienced yoga teacher spotting your alignment and helping you go further in your asanas. (My back and abs still aches from Saturday's class.) It felt good. Satisfying -- even though I proved that I am only edging into intermediate level in my practice.

It was only after class ended that I realised how awkward it should feel. Yet I felt no such during practice. If anyone had told me before class that it will be an intermediate practice with only 2 students, I would have skipped class, self-consciousness overcoming my desire to further my practice.

But the amazing thing is, I did not have time to feel afraid. Fear is a product of the mind. The challenge of the asanas is an amazing focus for the mind, so that it has no space to wander, stirring up the anxieties and the fear.

Now I have to make greater effort to attend the pranayama and meditation classes. These more subtle part of my practice have been neglected for too long.

100 Books To Read 2007

  1. Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette Judith Thurman

  2. Kristin Lavransdatter Sigrid Undset

  3. The Three Musketeers Alexandre Dumas

  4. Twenty Years After Alexandre Dumas

  5. The Vicomte De Bragelonne Alexandre Dumas

  6. Louise De La Valliere Alexandre Dumas

  7. The Man in the Iron Mask Alexandre Dumas

  8. The Crusades Through Arab Eyes Amin Maalouf

  9. God's Terrorists: The Wahhabi Cult and Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad Charles Allen

  10. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek Annie Dillard

  11. Earthly Paradise Colette

  12. Cheri and The Last of Cheri Colette

  13. Emma Jane Austen

  14. Leaves of Grass Walt Whitman

  15. The Cornish Trilogy Robertson Davis

  16. Zeno's Conscience Italo Svevo

  17. The Immoralist Andre Gide

  18. My Name Is Red Orhan Pamuk

  19. The Gaze Elif Shafak

  20. The Bastard of Istanbul Elif Shafak

  21. Portrait of a Turkish Family Irfan Orga

  22. By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept Elizabeth Smart

  23. Against Interpretation And Other Essays Susan Sontag

  24. The Ruby In Her Navel Barry Unsworth

  25. Beware of Pity Stefan Zweig

  26. The Garden of Departed Cats Bilge Karasu

  27. Stranger On A Train Jenny Diski

  28. Skating to Antarctica Jenny Diski

  29. Tournament of Shadows:
    The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Asia
    Karl Meyer & Shareen Brysac

  30. One Thousand Roads To Mecca Edited by Michael Wolfe

  31. Mysteries Knut Hamsun

  32. Running in the Family Michael Ondaatje

  33. House Rules Heather Lewis

  34. A Match To The Heart Gretel Ehrlich

  35. This Cold Heaven : Seven Seasons in Greenland Gretel Ehrlich

  36. After: Poems Jane Hirshfield

  37. Nine Gates: Essays Jane Hirshfield

  38. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Edward Gibbon

  39. The Twelve Caesars Suetonius

  40. Candide Voltaire

  41. Out Of Africa Isak Dinesen/Karen Blixen

  42. The World: Travels 1950-2000 Jan Morris

  43. The Leopard Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

  44. The Winter King Bernard Cornwell

  45. The Name of the Rose Umberto Eco

  46. Freedom from Fear: And Other Writings Aung San Suu Kyi

  47. A Plea For Eros Siri Hustvedt

  48. The Power and the Glory / The Heart of the Matter Graham Greene

  49. Orient Express / The Comedians Graham Greene

  50. The Complete Works Michel De Montaigne

  51. Walden and Other Writings Henry David Thoreau

  52. Essential Writings Ralph Waldo Emerson

  53. 三国演义 [English Translation: Romance of the Three Kingdoms]

  54. Tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser Fritz Leiber

  55. Journal of a Solitude May Sarton

  56. Ten Thousand Miles Without A Cloud Sun Shuyun

  57. Arabian Sands Wilfred Thesiger

  58. Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy

  59. Fathers And Sons Ivan Turgenev

  60. Oblomov Ivan Goncharov

  61. Love Stendhal

  62. The Red and the Black Stendhal

  63. The Charterhouse of Parma Stendhal

  64. Tigers in Red Weather Ruth Padel

  65. Color Victoria Finlay

  66. The Divine Comedy Dante Alighieri

  67. In Patagonia Bruce Chatwin

  68. My Wars Are Laid Away In Books:
    The Life of Emily Dickinson
    Alfred Habegger

  69. The Late Mattia Pascal Luigi Pirandello

  70. Molloy Samuel Beckett

  71. The Mauritius Command Patrick O'Brian

  72. A Life In Letters Anton Chekhov

  73. In Search of Lost Time Marcel Proust
    Swann's Way
    In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower
    The Guermantes Way
    Sodom and Gomorrah
    The Prisoner & The Fugitive
    Finding Time Again

  74. The Collected Stories Katherine Mansfield

  75. The Enchanted Wanderer & Selected Tales Nikolai Leskov

  76. The Plague Albert Camus

  77. The Color Purple Alice Walker

  78. Love Medicine Louise Erdich

  79. Kitchen Confidential Anthony Bourdian

  80. The Art of Eating M. F. K. Fisher

  81. Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation Noel Riley Fitch

  82. The Ice Museum Joanna Kavenna

  83. The Southern Gates of Arabia Freya Stark

  84. A Pelican In the Wilderness: Hermits, Solitaries and Recluses Isabel Colegate

  85. Eugene Onegin Alexander Pushkin

  86. Red: Passion and Patience In the Desert Terry Tempest Williams

  87. Travels With A Tangerine Tim Mackintosh-Smith

  88. Les Liaisons Dangereuses Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

  89. The Idiot Fyodor Dostoevsky

  90. Don Quixote Miguel De Cervantes

  91. How To Read A book: The Classic Guide To Intelligent Reading
    Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren

  92. The Paris Review Interviews Volume 1

  93. The Reader Ali Smith

  94. Phaedrus Plato

  95. Duino Elegies and the Sonnets of Orpheus Rainer Maria Rilke

  96. Pere Goriot Honore de Balzac

  97. Temptation of Saint Antony / Flaubert In Egypt Gustave Flaubert

  98. Bel-Ami Guy de Maupassant

  99. The Essential YogaSutra: Ancient Wisdom For Your Yoga
    Geshe Michael Roach & Christie McNally

  100. 射 雕 英 雄 传 金 庸

Screenshots from Stardust the Movie

Michelle Pfeiffer with two goats

Screen previews for the movie adaptation of Stardust. In spite of the obvious campiness of the two goats pulling the chariot, Michelle Pfeiffer still looks much, much more elegant than Claire Danes.

Yes, I am bias. ;p

Previews via Cinema Blend

Claire Danes on unicorn

100 Books To Read 2006 Version 4.0

  1. The Names of Things:
    Life, Language, and Beginnings in the Egyptian Desert
    Susan Brind Morrow
    [02/12/2006 ~ 16/12/2006]

  2. In Search of Lost Time Marcel Proust
    Swann's Way
    translated by Lydia Davis
    [11/07/2006 ~ 09/08/2006]
    In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower
    translated by James Grieve
    [09/08/2006 ~ 16/09/2006]
    The Guermantes Way
    translated by Mark Treharne
    [16/09/2006 ~ 09/12/2006]
    Sodom and Gomorrah

    The Prisoners & The Fugitive

    Finding Time Again

  3. No God But God:
    The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam
    Reza Aslan
    [11/11/2006 ~ 04/12/2006]

  4. A Moveable Feast Ernest Hemingway
    [08/11/2006 ~ 16/11/2006]

  5. Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere Jan Morris
    [03/10/2006 ~ 28/10/2006]

  6. Master and Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov
    translated by Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky
    [12/09/2006 ~ 03/10/2006]

  7. Fast Food Nation Eric Schlosser
    [17/08/2006 ~ 12/09/2006]

  8. The Moonstone Wilkie Collins
    [27/07/2006 ~ 23/08/2007]

  9. The Snow Leopard Peter Matthiessen
    [01/06/2006 ~ 10/07/2006]

  10. Invisible Cities Italo Calvino
    [27/06/2006 ~ 09/07/2006]

  11. The Road to Oxiana Robert Byron
    [07/06/2006 ~ 25/06/2006]

  12. The Pure and the Impure Colette
    [12/06/2006 ~ 24/06/2006]

  13. His Dark Materials Philip Pullman
    Book I: The Golden Compass
    [26/05/2006 ~ 29/05/2006]
    Book II: The Subtle Knife
    [29/05/2006 ~ 31/05/2006]
    Book III: The Amber Spyglass
    [31/05/2006 ~ 12/06/2006]

  14. Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    [26/05/2006 ~ 09/06/2006]

  15. Praise of Folly Desiderius Erasmus
    [29/05/2006 ~ 05/06/2006]

  16. The Year of Magical Thinking Joan Didion
    [11/05/2006 ~ 15/05/2006]

  17. Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert
    [14/02/2006 ~ 13/05/2006]

  18. Beyond Belief Elaine Pagels
    [09/05/2006 ~ 12/05/2006]

  19. Istanbul : Memories and the City Orhan Pamuk
    translated by Maureen Freely
    [05/05/2006 ~ 09/05/2006]

  20. Natasha's Dance Orlando Figes
    [26/02/2006 ~ 07/05/2006]

  21. Death In Venice Thomas Mann
    [09/04/2006 ~ 26/04/2006]

  22. Dhammapada
    [22/04/2006 ~ 23/04/2006]

  23. Wanderlust Rebecca Solnit
    [09/04/2006 ~ 22/04/2006]

  24. The Quiet American Graham Greene
    [28/03/2006 ~ 01/04/2006]

  25. Book of Five Rings Miyamoto Musashi
    [12/01/2006 ~ 28/03/2006]

  26. Letters To A Young Poet Rainer Maria Rilke
    [17/03/2006 ~ 18/03/2006]

  27. To Kill A Mockingbird Harper Lee
    [12/03/2006 ~ 15/03/2006]

  28. Master And Commander Patrick O'Brian
    [04/03/2006 ~ 08/03/2006]

  29. Kim Rudyard Kipling
    [16/02/2006 ~ 23/02/2006]

  30. Break, Blow, Burn Camille Paglia
    [25/12/2005 ~ 09/02/2996]

  31. The Night Watch Sarah Waters
    [26/01/2006 ~ 29/01/2006]

  32. The New York Trilogy Paul Auster
    [07/01/2006 ~ 16/01/2006]

  33. The Deptford Trilogy Robertson Davis
    [03/12/2005 ~ 14/01/2006]

  34. Meditations Marcus Aurelius
    [30/12/2005 ~ 05/01/2006]

  35. Fruits of the Earth Andre Gide
    [01/01/2006 ~ 05/01/2006]

  36. The Burial at Thebes: Sophocles's Antigone
    translated by Seamus Heaney
    [26/12/2005 ~ 26/12/2005]
    & The Three Theban Plays: "Antigone","Oedipus the King","Oedipus at Colonus"
    translated by Robert Fagles
    [26/12/2005 ~ 31/12/2005]

  37. The Prophet Khalil Ghibran
    [26/12/2005 ~ 30/12/2005]

  38. Taras Bulba Nikolai Gogol
    [17/12/2005 ~ 26/12/2005]

  39. Twenty Love Poems and A Song of Despair Pablo Neruda
    [09/12/2005 ~ 10/12/2005]

  40. The Four Quartets T. S. Eliot
    [01/12/2005 ~ 09/12/2005]

  41. A Room of One's Own Virginia Woolf
    [25/11/2005 ~ 03/12/2005]

  42. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Jeanette Winterson
    [23/11/2005 ~ 25/11/2005]

  43. The Claudine Novels Colette
    [22/07/2005 ~ 30/08/2005]

  44. Death and the Dervish Meša Selimović
    translated by Bogdan Rakić & Stephen Dickey
    [17/11/2006 ~

  45. Yogasutra of Patanjali

  46. Dracula Bram Stoker
    [25/10/2006 ~

  47. The Black Book Orhan Pamuk
    [17/10/2006 ~

  48. War and Peace Leo Tolstoy
    translated by Anthony Briggs
    [18/06/2006 ~

  49. Stories Anton Chekhov
    translated by Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky
    [11/08/2006 ~

  50. New Annotated Sherlock Holmes Arthur Conan Doyle
    Volume I:
    [29/05/2006 ~

  51. Don Quixote Miguel De Cervantes
    [26/01/2006 ~

  52. Maximum City Suketu Mehta
    [29/04/2006 ~

  53. Moby Dick Herman Melville
    [12/07/2005 ~

  54. A Crack in the Edge of the World : America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 Simon Winchester

  55. Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy

  56. The Idiot Fyodor Dostoevsky

  57. The Double and The Gambler Fyodor Dostoevsky

  58. Steppenwolf Herman Hesse

  59. Norwegian Woods Haruki Murakami

  60. The Claudius Novels Robert Graves

  61. Nightwood Djuna Barnes

  62. Perfume Patrick Suskind

  63. The House of Mirth Edith Wharton

  64. The Iliad Homer

  65. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter Carson McCullers

  66. The Valleys of the Assassins and Other Persian Travels Freya Stark

  67. The Wings of the Dove Henry James

  68. Great Expectations Charles Dickens

  69. Of Human Bondage W. Somerset Maugham

  70. Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte

  71. A Fine Balance Rohinton Mistry

  72. Midnight's Children Salman Rushdie

  73. The Sun Also Rises Ernest Hemingway

  74. Memoirs of Hadrian Marguerite Yourcenar

  75. The Three Musketeers Alexandre Dumas

  76. Complete Father Brown G. K. Chesterton

  77. Captain Alatriste Arturo Perez-Reverte

  78. Lolita Vladimir Nabokov

  79. The Myths Boxset: "A Short History of Myth," "The Penelopiad" & "Weight" Karen Armstrong, Margaret Atwood & Jeanette Winterson

  80. The House of the Seven Gables Nathaniel Hawthorne

  81. Blindness Jose Saramago

  82. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell Susanna Clarke

  83. The Complete Short Novels Anton Chekhov

  84. Unbearable Lightness of Being Milan Kundera

  85. Fall on Your Knees Ann-Marie MacDonald

  86. Guns, Germs and Steel Jared Diamond

  87. Art of War Sun Tzu

  88. Seven Storey Mountain Thomas Merton

  89. Stiff Mary Roach
  90. Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee Dee Brown

  91. A History of God Karen Armstrong

  92. The Places that Scares You Pema Chodron

  93. The Histories Herodotus

  94. Bhagavad Gita

  95. An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth Mohandas Gandhi

  96. Saint Francis of Assisi G. K. Chesterton

  97. From the Holy Mountain William Dalrymple

  98. The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol Nikolai Gogol

  99. Dead Souls Nikolai Gogol

  100. Orlando Virginia Woolf

P/S: The 100 Books To Read List for 2006 has been amended from time to time. Hence, Version 4.0. If anyone is interested, the original list is available here.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Screenshot from Pirates of the Carribean 3

Hey, look. It's Chow Yun Fat as the the pirate from Singapore in the third Pirates of the Caribbean!

You look bad, man. What has Hollywood done to you!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

BOOKS | Penguin Designer Classics

Re-covered... (from left) Fuel's Dostoyevsky in brown craft paper, Ron Arad's stripped-down binding for The Idiot, Paul Smith's Lady Chatterley's Lover in silk, Manolo Blahnik's saucy Madame Bovary and Sam Taylor-Wood's moody design for Scott Fitzgerald

Recently in our local newspaper, the Books Journalist finally ran a story on the Penguin Designer Classics. In commemoration of their 60th anniversary, Penguin Classics invited 5 designers to give some of their literary works a cover make-over.

We've been selling the Penguin Designer Classics for a while now. The publicity for the Penguin Designer Classics has also been running for a while now. The Guardian ran a feature way back in October this year. It does say something about how slow to respond our local newspaper is in general.

But what annoys me is that the local Books Journalist chose to zero in on the price angle of the Designer Classics. She even quoted the auction price on eBay for some of the Designer Classics, as well as mention how customers are entitled to 20% discount because of our Christmas sale right now. It is as though the most important aspect is about the price. What about the whole aesthetic aspects of this collection? There is something crass about the feature, and it attracted the readership it deserves.

Before the feature in the local newspaper, the sales of the Penguin Designer Classics in the bookstore has been limited to mainly serious book collectors. They are in the know about the Penguin Designer Classics, either though the internet or otherwise. Then the news broke on how you can make a profit on eBay on the Designer Classics, suddenly the bookstore where I work is flooded with customers who do not care what titles we have left. They don't care about the book. They also want to know the serial number of the sets we have, as they want lucky numbers.

I would have preferred it if the Books Journalist from our local newspaper had not run the story in the first place. It would have saved us much grief from these vulgar people.

QUIZ | Which Historical Lunatic Are You?

I'm Caligula!

You are Gaius Caesar Germanicus - better known as Caligula!

Third Emperor of Rome and ruler of one of the most powerful empires of all time, your common name means "little boots". Although you only reigned for four years, brief even by Roman standards, you still managed to garner a reputation as a cruel, extravagant and downright insane despot. Your father died in suspicious circumstances, you were not the intended heir, and one of your first acts as Emperor was to force the suicide of your father-in-law. Your sister Drusilla died that same year; faced with allegations that your relationship with her had been incestuous, you responded, bafflingly, by declaring her a god.

You revived a number of unpopular traditions, including auctions of properties left over from public shows. When a senator fell asleep at one such auction, you took each of his nods as bids, selling him 13 gladiators for a vast sum. You attempted to have your horse, Incitatus, made into a consul and hence one of the most powerful figures in Rome. It was granted a marble stable with jewels and a staff of servants. At one point you forced your comrade Macro to kill himself - in much the same vein as your father-in-law - accusing him of being his wife's pimp. You, of course, were having an affair with said wife at the time.

Things went from bad to worse. When supplies of condemned men ran short in the circus, you had innocent spectators dragged into the arena with the lions to fill their place. You claimed mastery of the sea by walking across a three-mile bridge of boats in the Bay of Naples; kissed the necks of your lovers, whispering sweet nothings like "This lovely neck will be chopped as soon as I say so,"; dallied with your sister's lover and made her pull her unborn child out of her womb prematurely. Towards the end of your reign, you had a golden statue of yourself made and dressed each day in the same clothes you yourself wore. When you eventually died, the terrified people of Rome refused to believe that such a cruel reign could ever end, and believed you to be alive for years afterwards.

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Glimpse at BKS Iyengar

Yoga teacher Alex is in Pune, India right now celebrating the 88th birthday of yoga guru B.K.S Iyengar. He's blogging about it.

A glimpse of the great Lion of Pune.

Sexiest Man In Swimsuit 2006

Daniel Craig in Casino Royale. In the baby-blue swimming trunks. With the broad, muscle-packed shoulders.


Most Overrated and Underrated

Prospect magazine asks editors and writers to list their choice of Most Overrated and Underrated Books of the Year

I am particularly intrigued by Duncan Fallowell's list:

"Overrated, both generally and particularly this year: Norman Davies, Michel Houellebecq, Alain de Botton, London A-Z, Zadie Smith, the Bible, the Koran, Philip Roth."

QUOTES | From Some Unexpected Source

Despite these afternoon misgivings and self-reproaches I clung to my notion, ill defined though it was, that a serious study of any important body of human knowledge, or theory, or belief, if undertaken with a critical but not a cruel mind, would in the end yield some secret, some valuable permanent insight, into the nature of life and the true end of man. . . .

The only thing for me to do was to keep on keeping on, to have faith in my whim, and remember that for me, as for the saints, illumination when it came would probably come from some unexpected source.

-- Robertson Davies, Fifth Business (1970)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

No Longer Able to Laugh

I've extracted this from Jenny Diski's blog, Biology of the Worst Kind:

I've just read Kurt Vonnegut's A Man Without a Country. I've never read any of Vonnegut's books without a)smiling and b)weeping quietly to myself. This time is no different. I suspect I recognise a fellow depressive who knows exactly what there is to be depressed about. Laughter is how depressives survive, when they do survive (though the Prozac helps). But Mr V suggests that eventually the laughing stops. He's in his mid-eighties now and working on a novel about a comedian living at the end of the world, which he can't finish. The problem is:

'Finally, you get just too tired, and the news is too awful, and humor doesn't work anymore. Somebody like Mark Twain thought life was quite awful but held the awfulness at bay with jokes and so forth, but finally he couldn't do it anymore...It may be that I am no longer able to joke - that it is no longer a satisfactory defense mechanism.'

I really hope he finishes his novel. But I know what he means. I can feel the sadness seeping up through the Prozac like slime through floorboards. Still, Pinochet's dead. Hey ho.

It sometimes seems to me that the most satirical writers are often the most serious. Laughter is a method of lubricating the glass-shards of truth as it goes down. Personally, I've found laughter makes the bad part of life just that little bit easier to bear. Sometimes the people around me think I'm sort of maniac-depressive. What can I say? "If I don't laugh, I'll probably cry."

Sometimes it can get to you though, the way the world's destroying itself. The world overwhelms you and you think your heart's going to cave in. Perhaps you feel it's not worth fighting anymore. Just give in. Or maybe, just numb it out. Feeling nothing can seem like a better alternative than the sadness, the pain.

But then, that's when you've really lost the fight.

I can't bear to do that yet.

A Dance with Dragons delayed

I've neglected the sword-and-fantasy genre for a while now. I used to wait for Robert Jordan's new Wheel of Time titles, but I've since given up on that series. Over a long period of time, the writing and the story has slackened to a point that I don't think the series justify my time anymore.

But I still wait (im)patiently for every new installment of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. The vast scope and mood of his story makes it a little intimidating -- not to mention it's hard to keep track of all the characters and their affiliation with each other. The next installment in this grand epic is A Dance With Dragons, but

I just came across George R. R. Martin's Livejournal Entry, dated 5th December 2006:

Bad news. Work. None of the projects I wrapped up was A DANCE WITH DRAGONS. Work has been going well, yes, but not especially on DANCE. I am not going to be able to finish it by the end of the year as I had hoped. I know this will disappoint all of you.

Ah. I wait. Longer.

Visit the Official George R. R. Martin's website.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

BOOKS | How Many Rereads

Of the books I've read in 2006, how many are re-reads?

  1. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
  2. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  3. The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

Wow. I need to re-read more books.

BOOKS | What I Would Recommend


In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

Because I want to see that light in their eyes, when they read it, and tell me, "Ah, remember when Proust wrote about ..."

BOOKS | Looking Back at my books of 2006

Everyone's doing the 2006 round-down but I'm at a loss. The question: "What's the BEST book you've read this year?" has me stumped. (Not an unusual feeling, I might add.)

Firstly, what do we mean by BEST?

BEST as in most profound? A lot of profound things bores me. I am not as smart as I pretend to be. But oddly, I seem to have considerable success deceiving my colleagues in this aspect. Now I just need my boss to buy this illusion. But among my reading this year, the more spiritually inclined book that I have responded to personally will have to be The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen. All great journey is a trip inwards. I will re-read The Snow Leopard in the near future. This perhaps, speaks of how much I bring the writing to heart.

BEST as in most enjoyable? In spite of my intense, chill-as-ice exterior (oh god, I can't type this with a straight face!), I am also a fan of Riot Grrl punk rock, comic books, Care Bears (are we going to have words about my Care Bears?) and loud, childish, farcical humour. A children's book title like The Cork In the Ocean makes me laugh out loud. (Which I did. In the office. Loudly.) Perhaps, The Wee Free Men? You can never go wrong with Terry Pratchett. Funny, riotous and philosophical -- like a swift kick in naughty places.

So instead of BEST BOOK I'VE READ IN 2006, (because I really haven't read that much) -- let's do a WORST BOOK I'VE READ IN 2006:

WORST BOOK I'VE READ IN 2006: Wild Girls by Diana Souhami

Souhami's biography of Parisian salonist Natalie Barney is waffle-thin on the research, dry, mere repetition on already well-known stories of the American expatriate who founded one of the most prestiguous and exciting salon in Paris. Barney was libertine, lover of women, including Colette, friends to the arts and artists -- Marcel Proust in fact wanted to converse with her when he was writing Sodom and Gomorrah. She knew everybody and her patronage spanned the Belle Epoque across two World Wars. She let life in in all its splendour and light -- and Diana Souhami failed miserably to capture this rich, full life.

If anyone is interested, I would recommend instead Suzanne Rodriguez's Wild Heart, an infinitely more readable, enjoyable and MUCH, MUCH better researched biography of Natalie Clifford Barney and the decadence of Literary Paris. Wild Heart is stuffed full of interesting ancedotes and gossips on the literary figures across more than fifty years.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

PROUST | The Guermantes Way

The Guermantes Way
by Marcel Proust
Translated by Mark Treharne
[16/09/2006 ~ 09/12/2006]

I finally finished The Guermantes Way. It took me about three months to finish this volume and it was the longest I've needed so far for the Proustian volumes.

As I've been reprimanded previously, I feel the need to indicate that this entry contains ***SPOILERS*** on the story of In Search of Lost Time. If you have not read the Proustian epic and wish to find out for yourself, please just stop reading here and now. My feelings will not be hurt.

In this third volume, the young narrator makes his entry into the upperclass society, through the Guermantes clan whose association he had sought so desperately. (In fact, at some earlier point of the story, he was virtually "stalking" the Duchesse Guermantes.)

Like Swann, has begun mingling amongst the aristocratic upperclass, an observer of their gossips, their petty bickering -- all the while living only on the surface, at the level of his styled hair and starched shirt.

But there is a distinctive entry of death into the narrative at this point. The death of the narrator's beloved grandmother takes place -- and we are informed in the introduction (no SPOILER alert here) that the death of the grandmother will carry into future narrative, part of the intermittent memories of the Proustian epic.

Then towards the end, we come abruptly into the confrontation of another death. Just before the Duc and Duchesse Guermantes depart in their carriage for a party, Swann reveals he is dying; his doctor does not believe Swann has more than a few months to leave. And in that moment of truth, the way of the Guermantes is exposed in its painful rawness:

"What on earth are you telling me?" the Duchesse burst out, stopping short for a second on her way to the carriag and raising her handsome, melancholy blue eyes, her gaze now fraught with uncertainty. Poised for the first time in her life between two duties as far removed from each other as getting into her carriage to go to a dinner party and showing compassion for a man who was about to die, she could find no appropriate precedent to follow in the code of conventions, and, not knowing which duty to honor, she felt she had no choice but to pretend to believe that the second alternative did not need to be raised, thus enabling her to comply with the first, which at that moment required less effort, and thought that the best way of settling the conflict would be to deny that there was one. "You must be joking," she said to Swann.
~ The Guermantes Way, Marcel Proust

How does one become so used to living on the surface that one forgets the how to live with a heart, that made to choose between a party and offering comfort for a friend's pending death, one is paralysed?

BOOKS | Wee Free Men

The Wee Free Men

By Terry Pratchett

Technically, this book is shelved under the Young Adult section of the library. But this is Terry Pratchett we're talking about, so it's definitely going to be more intelligent than a lot of "Adult Fiction" published these days.

I adore his absurdist humour, probably because it's such a good take on life as I know it. The amazing thing about Pratchett is that he's most serious when he's at his funniest. He slips in truth between the punchlines, and yet never loses his faith in humanity.

This is my first Terry Pratchett novel since The Fifth Elephant. I was disappointed by Fifth Elephant as it felt weak, and without his core of absurdist humour to uphold the narrative it fell into a kind of angsty flatness. For a long time I wondered if Pratchett was losing steam with his one-book-every-year deal. But I decided I had to pick up The Wee Free Men because it's his first Witches book in a long time. (If you're a Discworld fan, you'll probably be familiar with the ensemble cast of the Discworld series — and among my favourites are Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg. Given enough alcohol, I could probably do a rendition of the Hedgehog song. Oh, the gods themselves do tremble.)

I love Wee Free Men. It's Pratchett back to form. His humour's intact, with his usual dash of common sensibility tongue-twisting with Discworld insanity.

Wee Free Men is the second of his Discworld story in the Young Adult genre. But this is the one where he introduces the nine year-old witch-to-be, Tiffany Aching — and she's such a charmer that she gets a couple more books after this one — A Hat Full of Sky and Wintersmith.

The story in a nutshell: Tiffany Aching is a nine year-old girl in a big farming family living in Chalk country. She helps out at the farm and is good at making cheese and butter. Tiffany is also grand-daughter to the previous witch of Chalk country, Granny Aching, and is gifted with the First Sight and Second Thoughts.

Then something went horribly wrong (as they usually do in Discworld. It's necessary plot element to have reality caving on Discworld). Monsters from your worst nightmares are intruding into the reality. Tiffany Aching's baby brother, Wentworth is kidnapped and young Tiffany, armed with a frying pan and her uncommonly sharp common sense is going to rescue him. Along the way she allies herself with the local Nac Mac Feegle — the Wee Free Men — six-inch-high blue men with red-hair and Scottish accent that steals, fights and drinks with roaring gusto. Without a doubt, the clan of the Nac Mac Feegle is Pratchett's most brilliant creation since The Librarian. They are like Smurfs gone wrong — loud, rude, drunk, mad and terribly funny.

This is about how Tiffany Aching comes to her ability and her purpose. Hidden among the farce and the fairy tale is a fable on growing up to ask the inconvenient questions (like where do the baby hedgehogs come from) and taking responsilibity. Pratchett doesn't whitewash the issue in his stories, and that is why I love his books. All choices involve sacrifices, and coming into maturity involves taking responsibility. Being a witch is about the responsibility, and ultimately learning why the most difficult lesson of a witch is learning NOT to use her power. He illustrated this touchingly in the character of Granny Weatherwax in his previous Discworld novels. Here, he's taking it from another angle. Towards the end, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg make cameo appearance. And Tiffany earns Weatherwax's grudging respect — which tells me we're definitely going to see A LOT of Tiffany Aching.

Yet the most beautiful parts of Wee Free Men for me is the portrait of Tiffany's grandmother, Granny Aching. Granny Aching was dead by the time the story began, her story told through flashbacks as Tiffany's memories. But Granny Aching has come to occupy the heart of the story; the most important lessons Tiffany learnt were from memories of how things were done Granny Aching's way. Granny Aching is the soul of the Chalk country, the mountains are in her bones. She never rests if a single sheep is lost. She speaks for those who have no voice, and she is silent, always listening. She is the soul of the land that smokes a filthy pipe and walks around in old boots, smelling of tobacco, turpentine and sheep.

BOOKS | Discworld

I'm back in my Terry Pratchett swing. I adore his Discworld novels, even his Young Adult Wee Free Men was fun.

Now, let's see what have I missed?

I've drawn up a list of Discworld titles, grey indicates I've already read them.

List of Discworld titles:

The Colour of Magic
The Light Fantastic
Equal Rites
Wyrd Sisters
Guards! Guards!
Moving Pictures
Reaper Man
Witches Abroad
Lords and Ladies
Small Gods
Men At Arms
Soul Music
Interesting Times
Feet of Clay
The Last Continent
Carpe Jugulum
The Fifth Elephant

The Truth
The Last Hero
Thief of Time
Night Watch
Monstrous Regiment
Going Postal

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
The Wee Free Men
A Hat Full of Sky

Monday, December 11, 2006

POETRY | This Englishwoman

This Englishwoman is so refined
She has no bosom and no behind.

~ This Englishwoman, Stevie Smith

LIFE | Overheard In the Bookstore

Guy holds up a copy of The Da Vinci Code
GUY (proudly): "This is without a doubt – the best book ever written!"


A group of teenage boys are standing around the chick-lit shelves
GUY #1: "I need to buy a book for my girlfriend."
GUY #2: "Buy a pink book! Girls like pink books!"

SPAM | Still single? look at my profile, Irina from Russia

Since we're looking at SPAM.

The techs are trying to look into the SPAM that have invaded our office email for a long while now. Problem is, they have no method of differentiating between SPAM and legitimate emails. This means some important emails from my vendors have been filtered out.

I don't get it. I mean, take this email from Irina -- is there any doubt on the sincerity of this Russian girl who's just looking for love?

----- Original Message -----
From: "Irina O."
Sent: Saturday, December 09, 2006 5:58 PM
Subject: [*** SPAM ***] Still single? look at my profile, Irina from Russia

I am a gentle, smart, calm and romantic young woman who has a
wonderful sense of humor. You will never feel bored with me. I'm a
very sporty lady and I always try to keep fit. I also like meeting my
friends and spend time with them outdoors. I like being on the nature
very much. Swimming in the hot weather is perfect time spending for me.
I would like to find here a man who would be very purposeful, who
could reach his goals and would know how to reach success in
everything. But the most important for me is his ability to love and
to understand. He also should love children and try to be a good
father. The most important thing about my future husband is that he
must be faithful as I'm.

I also have some questions for you if you really want to get aquatinted
with me:

1) What are you looking for in relationships with a woman?
2) Are you going to visit Russia someday?
3) What do you prefer best - to write messages or to talk by the
4) What is the most important thing for you in creating a family?
5) Do you think that we can match each other?

I am looking forward to your reply to

Wait for your letters.

radii class fairway

Sunday, December 10, 2006

BOOKS | The Names of Things

The Names of Things

From The Names of Things:
Life, Language, and Beginnings in the Egyptian Desert

by Susan Brind Morrow

I'm halfway through the book. We pick up a book with a certain expectation of what we're in for -- but right now the book seems to be taking me in another direction. I'm trying to withhold my prior expectations and allow the book to unfold itself in my mind.

I keep going back to the first page, the page that caught my attention a few years ago and made me rush to buy the book. The stirring rumination on memory and word:

"You could keep some remnant of it, a talisman that would become rare and fine, worn over time into something familiar. It would naturally become more thin and precious the more the air wore it out, like the bones of a saint. After all, it was only an object in the physical world, not something more potent, like something in the mind: memory.

"But the original, the thing itself, would never come back. It had passed away from the world. You could conjure it, though, the emotion that kept it alive inside you, with a trigger: an image, a smell, a combination of sounds that formed it into a picture that stayed in your mind. That was the life of the thing after it died. The only thing that could bring it back.

"This is what a word is worth."

Some of us write to understand. We use language to give form to evanescent thoughts and emotions, the better to explain, either to ourselves or another. In this sense, language performs a process of crystallization, and we use this process for in our the desire to encapsulate experience. I keep a journal. It is my record of the moments that I want to secure for just that little bit longer.

I have been thinking about this desire in us. Memories will forever be about experience that has passed. Why do we write? Why did we create language? Is it nothing more than a means of capturing something lost?

The truth is I am reminded of something I copied down in my earlier journal a long time ago. That was more than ten years ago, but I wrote it down because there was something about it that felt true, and a little threatening to someone who has depended on the written word. The Egyptian god Thoth gave the science of writing to mankind. Thamus warns of the gift:

"This discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing;"

~ Phaedrus

I thought this will be a book about writing. It is, in an intimate way -- but it seems to me Susan Brind Morrow also shows how we lost something with our acquired literacy. She tells of the illiterate natives she meets on her travels in Egypt and Sudan, and how she learns a greater appreciation for "something any nomad or illiterate pesant knew; the intangible treasure of memory, of memorized words."

IRONY | My Fellow Christian Bloggers

I received this email today. It's an invitation to join "fellow Christian bloggers". Are they serious? Huh? In what parallel universe does my blog seem Christian to anyone? Hullo?

Dear blog author:

We recently came across your site,, while searching for fellow christian bloggers.

A small group of us have started a new site called Christian Bloggers. Our prayer and intent is to bring Christians closer together, and make a positive contribution to the Internet community. While many of us have different "theologies", we all share one true saviour.

Would you be interested in joining Christian Bloggers? Please take a few minutes to have a look at what we are trying to do, and if you are interested, there is a sign up page to get the ball rolling. We would greatly appreciate your support in this endeavour.

May God Bless you and your blogging efforts. We look forward to hearing from you.

Craig Cantin
Christian Bloggers

Friday, December 08, 2006

2007 Classics Challenge

Can't believe I'm doing this. Just signed myself up for a reading challenge. From Booklogged's A Reader's Journal, this is the 2007 Classics Challenge.

***The challenge is to read five classics during the months of January and February***

Sounds easy enough, yes? Oh course not! But that's the point. ;)

My choice of 5 classics to read:

1. Candide by Voltaire
2. Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov
3. Sodom and Gomorrah by Marcel Proust
4. Emma by Jane Austen
5. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Thursday, December 07, 2006

El Bulli 2003-2004

I had to do a impromptu product presentation at work today, so I thought I just share the highlight of my effort.

El Bulli 2003-2004
By Ferran Adrià Acosta and Juli Soler
List Price: USD 350.00
ISBN: 0061146684

The highlight of my presentation is El Bulli 2003-2004. It is presented as a lavish art catalogue, with lovely food photography and covers every culinary creation, with technical explanations served at the legendary El Bulli restaurant.

Ferran AdriaBackground: El Bulli (Catalan for "bulldog") the restaurant is located on an isolated beach on Spain's Catalan coast of Costa Brava, near the town of Rosas. It's a little inconvenient to reach there, but fame of the restaurant is such that it has become a pilgrimage for food lovers.

El Bulli is only open from April to September. Chef Ferran Adrià spends the rest of the year perfecting his art -- he travels to enhance his knowledge, experiments with different techniques and devises new recipes in his workshop, stocked full of books on cooking. You have to give it to this man for his intensity and dedication to the culinary arts.

El bulli is famous for their 30-course menu, but the emphasis is on texture, colour and flavour. One course can be barely more than a morsel served on a spoon - but the complex flavour is guaranteed to explore in your mouth. Hmmm.

Vanilla and Mango RollReservation is absolutely necessary and reservation only opens from mid-October. You can contact them with the date you wish for your reservation –- but it’s more likely they tell you when you should show up, and you plan your trip around it. Reservation by email or fax ONLY. No phone. Email or fax 972150717 -- Spain's country code is 34 -- if you want to try.

According to Moveable Feast on how to get a reservation at El Bulli:

"Albert Adria said this past year they had over 400,000 requests - that's 100,000 more than last year. And yes, still only 8,000 available seats."

Grilled Vegetables With Charcoal OilTo just pile on the laurels: El Bulli is awarded 3 Michelin stars (highest possible honour from Michelin) and is regarded as one of the best restaurants in the Western world.

Every year The Restaurant Magazine draws up a list of the top fifty restaurants in the world, as voted by its writers and critics. El Bulli had already been named top restaurant in 2002. But there was a change in 2006. For the first time, the list was drawn up by over 500 critics, chefs and gourmets from all over the world, which gave it much greater prestige than in previous years. This sizable select jury named El Bulli as the top restaurant.

Blogger Pim has uploaded some pictures from El Bulli on Flickr. Click here to see the slideshow.

Time magazine once did a profile on Ferran Adrià as one of the next wave of innovators in the culinary arts.