Sunday, December 27, 2015

Ending the reading year

I started the reading year with Rebecca Solnit, and I ended the year with Rebecca Solnit. As patterns go, it's a nice bookend. I'm picking up where I left off on the Mary Russell series. Life is too short for bad books, and if we can find something that keeps us comfortable and happy, sometimes it is good to keep them around. The Mary Russell series has always been a source of comfort for me.

I was reading Pirate King at a local coffee shop yesterday, and I smiled when I came across this passage, where Mary Russell had ran out of reading materials, and was suddenly offered a licentious novel, The Sheikh, favoured by many of the ladies on the ship. The way she described it reminded me of how I felt about 50 Shades of Grey:

The novel, made into a moving picture that put Valentino onto the world's lips (in more ways than one), had been written during the War by a woman whose husband was at the Front. Whose husband had clearly been at the Front for a long, long time.

It was appalling. Not so much the writing itself (which can was merely the lower end of mediocrity) nor the raw pornography (which it was), but its blatant message that an independent and high-spirited young woman would be far happier if she were just slapped around a bit by a caring sadist. I read every word about fiery young Diana Mayo and her encounter with, abduction by, and ultimate submission to Sheik Ahmed ben Hassen. Then I went to wash my hands, and took the novel back to Mrs Hatley, with a fervent plea that she not let any of the girls read it. She turned pink and said of course not. But had I enjoyed it?

Remembering Terry Pratchett

We lost Sir Terry Pratchett earlier this year. It's a sad, sad thing, but we will always have his books - and that is his most lasting legacy. Meanwhile, here's Sir Terry Pratchett remembered by his daughter, Rhianna Pratchett, in The Observer:

"He always said that he was most like the brusque Commander Vimes, raging against injustice. But he was a little like Death too; always loved a good curry and Pratchetts have cats like other people have bathrooms."

Sleater-Kinney - Market Hotel, New York 2015

Oh my. I think somebody uploaded the entire Sleater-Kinney show at Market Hotel. I gasp, and share. Well, I think I'm only putting it on the blog so I can find it again in future. Still - totally adore the "Whorin' for Corin" shirt that Carrie was wearing. Like she said, her guitar was covering part of it, so it just says "Whorin'". It's the thought that counts, hun.

Hmm. Apparently Carrie kept one guitar throughout the show. Usually she change guitars intermittently.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Records for 2015

Books Read for 2015

  1. Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness • Rebecca Solnit
  2. The Outsider • Albert Camus
    Translated from the French by Sandra Smith
  3. The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere • Pico Iyer
  4. Station Eleven: A Novel • Emily St. John Mandel
  5. Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith • Anne Lamott
  6. Travels with Herodotus • Ryszard Kapuscinski
    translated from the Polish by Klara Glowczewska
  7. Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found • Cheryl Strayed
  8. A Dance with Dragons • George R. R. Martin
  9. Lazarus: Family - Volume 1 • Greg Rucka, Michael Lark & Santiago Arcas
  10. Lazarus: Lift - Volume 2 • Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, & Santiago Arcas
  11. Lazarus: Conclave - Volume 3 • Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, & Santiago Arcas
  12. Bluets • Maggie Nelson
  13. Adaptation • Malinda Lo
  14. Inheritance • Malinda Lo
  15. Daughter of Smoke & Bone • Laini Taylor
  16. Days of Blood & Starlight • Laini Taylor
  17. Dreams of Gods & Monsters • Laini Taylor
  18. My Fight/Your Fight • Ronda Rousey
  19. The Shepherd's Crown • Terry Pratchett
  20. Annihilation • Jeff VanderMeer
  21. Equal Rites • Terry Pratchett
  22. Wind/Pinball: Two Novels • Haruki Murakami
  23. Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books • Michael Dirda
  24. The Inheritance Trilogy • N. K. Jemisin
  25. The Killing Moon: Book One of the Dreamblood • N. K. Jemisin
  26. Fail Fail Again Fail Better • Pema Chodron
  27. The Shadowed Sun: Book Two of the Dreamblood • N. K. Jemisin
  28. M Train • Patti Smith
  29. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl • Carrie Brownstein
  30. Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays • Joan Didion
  31. Men Explain Things to Me • Rebecca Solnit
100 Books To Read 2015

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Book Haul from San Francisco and New York 2015

Just putting it here.

Village Voice on the Sleater-Kinney tour

"It cannot be stated enough that Sleater-Kinney’s impact on rock ‘n’ roll is absolutely essential. They’ve never compromised their sound, politics, or work ethic, using the hiatus to pursue personal projects, each with their various merits. But there is little that compares to the magic that happens when they come together."

- Village Voice, on the Sleater-Kinney New York tour [full essay]

Sleater-Kinney's Set List

Great article covering Sleater-Kinney's recent New York tour, and the band's set list. [ full essay ] It shows the kind of decision that goes the scene, as the band tries to make it an optimum experience for the fans. It's never just about a band in front of an audience, but almost like an exchange of energy. It's also fun to have them switch things around, so that it rewards fans that follow them every night of their tour.

Sleater-Kinney’s sprint down memory lane ended in a space reminiscent of the tiny, unpolished spots the group played in its early days, Market Hotel, where someone doodled the letters “S K” and hearts on the fogged-out windows behind the stage, and the elevated M train was visible rattling by. “In a way, it was interesting to be in that position again, to be on stage and thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to be deaf after this show.’ It definitely became very scrappy and energetic,” Ms. Weiss said. (Which explains the condition of that night’s set list, pictured above). “I remember those days and I feel like we became a good band in venues like that, but I don’t have to play those venues to prove that we are still true to the music and still raw. I still feel that raw, even in a bigger place. People could just get closer. It was for the hard-core fans.”

Sleater-Kinney in New York 2015

Hope everyone is enjoying the lead up to the festive season. I just came back from a two week trip to San Francisco and New York. It was a blast - the climax being the two back-to-back Sleater-Kinney concerts I managed to catch as they are rounding up 2015 with a 5 concert tour in New York. I've been a big fan of Sleater-Kinney for a long time, and was totally heart-broken when they went on "indefinite hiatus". Ten years later, they are back. It's been a long journey, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to see them 'live' in concert - even if that meant long hours standing in line, in the cold, with aching feet and a hot, sweaty frontline gallery later. I am thankful that they never gave up on the music. Thank you so much.

I was at Kings Theatre, Brooklyn when the band did a cover of the Ramones' 'Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)'. Carrie was in that very same dress. It was pretty much just awesome sauce.

Carrie Brownstein, in conversation with Dave Eggers

Carrie Brownstein, in conversation with Dave Eggers. Overall, a funny and interesting interview. I particularly like how she described the Sleater-Kinney sound. I find it difficult to put my finger on why I love their music so much, and I often am at a loss when I had to describe their music to friends. It is powerful, fast, passionate, extreme, terrible and beautiful all at once> It is not "settled music", as Brownstein explained:

"First of all, Sleater-Kinney is not a band that people usually play at restaurants. For a reason: It’s not settled music, and it doesn’t make people feel settled. It’s not really background music. I’ve realized. Because of that - It’s true: I don’t recognize it.

"I remember being at a hair salon and hearing this really fast song. And I just thought, Wow, this is a really disruptive thing to play while I’m trying to relax and get my haircut. And then I realize it was ‘Dig Me Out’. But, it has a velocity to it, and it’s scary. And it’s unrecognizable. I only recognize it from the inside, I guess. I recognize those songs through playing them. But when I’m hearing them back, I’m unsure of how fearsome they are. They’re very intense.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

100 BOOKS | 100 Books to Read 2015

This is the list in progress for my readings in 2015.
  1. If the Oceans Were Ink • Carla Power
    [ 15/08/2015 ~
  2. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books • Azar Nafisi
    [ 27/09/2015 ~
  3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks • Rebecca Skloot
  4. Authority: Book 2 of the Southern Reach Trilogy • Jeff VanderMeer
    [ 30/08/2015 ~
  5. Acceptance: Book 3 of the Southern Reach Trilogy • Jeff VanderMeer
  6. Girl in a Band: A Memoir • Kim Gordon
    [ 02/08/2015 ~
  7. Loitering: New & Collected Essays • Charles D'Ambrosio
    [ 21/07/2015 ~
  8. The Argonauts • Maggie Nelson
    [ 28/05/2015 ~
  9. H is for Hawk • Helen Macdonald
    [ 18/05/2015 ~
  10. I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen • Sylvie Simmons
    [ 25/04/2015 ~
  11. The Empathy Exams • Leslie Jamison
    [ 22/04/2015 ~
  12. The Buried Giant • Kazuo Ishiguro
    [ 07/03/2015 ~
  13. The Nuns of Sant'Ambrogio: The True Story of a Convent in Scandal • Hubert Wolf
    [Translated by Ruth Martin]
    [ 16/03/2015 ~
  14. Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace • Anne Lamott
    [ 04/12/2014 ~
  15. What Days Are For: A Memoir • Robert Dessaix
    [ 20/11/2014 ~
  16. A History of the World in Twelve Maps • Jerry Brotton
  17. Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence • Rick Hanson
  18. Running and Being • Dr George Sheehan
  19. Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom • Rick Hanson
  20. The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker's Guide to Extraordinary Living • Stephen Cope
  21. The Sanity We Are Born With: A Buddhist Approach to Psychology • Chogyam Trungpa
  22. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism • Chogyam Trungpa
  23. Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery • Chogyam Trungpa
  24. The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--and How You Can Change Them • Richard J. Davidson & Sharon Begley
  25. Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers • David Perlmutter & Kristin Loberg
  26. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West • Dee Brown
  27. Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites • Kate Christensen
  28. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals • Michael Pollan
  29. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto • Michael Pollan
  30. Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation • Michael Pollan
  31. Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History • S. C. Gwynne
  32. Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child • Bob Spitz
  33. Love Your Enemies: How to Break the Anger Habit & Be a Whole Lot Happier • Sharon Salzberg
  34. Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste • Luke Barr
  35. Running with the Buffaloes: A Season Inside with Mark Wetmore, Adam Goucher, and the University of Colorado Men's Cross Country Team • Chris Lear
  36. The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present • Eric Kandel
  37. The Source of All Things: A Memoir • Tracy Ross
  38. No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva •  Pema Chodron
  39. Quiet: The Power of Introverts • Susan Cain
  40. The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot • Robert MacFarlane
  41. A Tale for the Time Being • Ruth Ozeki
  42. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants • Malcolm Gladwell
  43. When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice • Terry Tempest Williams
  44. Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation • Sharon Salzberg
  45. Hild • Nicola Griffith
  46. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind • Shunryu Suzuki
  47. Lady Audley's Secret • Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  48. The Names of the Rose • Umberto Eco
  49. Dune • Frank Herbert
  50. The Stars My Destination • Alfred Bester
  51. Jane Eyre • Charlotte Bronte
  52. The Windup Girl • Paolo Bacigalupi
  53. Regenesis • C.J. Cherryh
  54. Among Others • Jo Walton
  55. The City & The City • China Miéville
  56. Baghdad Sketches (1932) • Freya Stark
  57. The Valleys of the Assassins and Other Persian Travels (1934) [On Mazandaran, Iran]• Freya Stark
  58. The Southern Gates of Arabia: A Journey in the Hadhramaut (1936)• 
  59. A Winter in Arabia (1940) [On Hadhramaut] • 
  60. Perseus in the Wind (1948). [Essays on philosophy and literature] • 
  61. Ionia, A Quest (1954) • Freya Stark
  62. The Lycian Shore (1956) [On Turkey] • Freya Stark
  63. Alexander's Path: From Caria to Cilicia (1958) [On Turkey] • Freya Stark
  64. The Zodiac Arch (1968) [Miscellaneous essays] • Freya Stark
  65. The Minaret of Djam: An Excursion into Afghanistan (1970) • Freya Stark
  66. Where the Stress Falls • Susan Sontag
  67. On Photography • Susan Sontag
  68. Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963 • Susan Sontag
  69. Against Interpretation: And Other Essays • Susan Sontag
  70. As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980 • Susan Sontag
  71. The Histories • Herodotus
  72. Shantaram • Gregory David Roberts
  73. The Magicians • Lev Grossman
  74. The Magician King • Lev Grossman
  75. The Magician's Land • Lev Grossman
  76. Their Eyes Were Watching God • Zora Neale Hurston
  77. A Fine Balance • Rohinton Mistry
  78. Ancillary Justice • Ann Leckie
  79. Ancillary Sword • Ann Leckie
  80. The Little Stranger • Sarah Waters
  81. The Paying Guests • Sarah Waters
  82. The Trauma of Everyday Life • Mark Epstein
    [ 15/09/2014 ~
  83. Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness • Rebecca Solnit
    [ 26/11/2014 ~ 18/01/2015 ]
  84. The Outsider • Albert Camus
    Translated from the French by Sandra Smith
    [ 01/10/2014 ~ 19/01/2015 ]
  85. The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere • Pico Iyer
    [ 19/01/2015 ~ 25/01/2015 ]
  86. Station Eleven: A Novel • Emily St. John Mandel
    [ 23/11/2014 ~ 04/02/2015 ]
  87. Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith • Anne Lamott
    [ 15/10/2013 ~ 09/02/2015 ]
  88. Travels with Herodotus • Ryszard Kapuscinski
    translated from the Polish by Klara Glowczewska
    [ 05/02/2015 ~ 15/02/2015 ]
  89. Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found • Cheryl Strayed
    [ 25/01/2015 ~ 14/03/2015 ]
  90. Bluets • Maggie Nelson
    [ 09/06/2015 ~ 17/06/2015 ]
  91. My Fight/Your Fight • Ronda Rousey
    [ 27/06/2015 ~ 13/08/2015 ]
  92. The Shepherd's Crown • Terry Pratchett
    [ 28/08/2015 ~ 29/08/2015 ]
  93. Annihilation: Book 1 of the Southern Reach Trilogy • Jeff VanderMeer
    [ 28/08/2015 ~ 30/08/2015 ]
  94. The Inheritance Trilogy • N. K. Jemisin
  95. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
    [ 06/09/2015 ~ 13/09/2015 ]
  96. The Broken Kingdoms
    [ 13/09/2015 ~ 26/09/2015 ]
  97. The Kingdom of Gods
    [ 26/09/2015 ~ 17/10/2015 ]
  98. Fail Fail Again Fail Better • Pema Chodron
    [ 31/10/2015 ~ 02/11/2015 ]
  99. M Train • Patti Smith
    [ 13/10/2015 ~ 16/11/2015 ]
  100. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl • Carrie Brownstein
    [ 14/11/2015 ~ 05/12/2015 ]
  101. Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays • Joan Didion
    [ 27/11/2015 ~ 10/12/2015 ]

Monday, November 09, 2015

NYPL Podcast: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Zadie Smith

I love the series of podcast available from the New York Public Library. Last week I listened to this dialogue between Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Zadie Smith. Chimamanda in particular blew me away with her humour, her groundedness, her intelligence.

"When I was 25 I didn’t think in those terms. I didn’t think in that language of ‘I want to find my purpose’. I would advise very strongly that you not think in those terms. It just clouds your head, and you start thinking ‘I have to find my purpose’. I think you should just live. Life is short, do your thing, you just never know, follow what you love… follow what can give you a job so you can eat. There’s something about our culture, everywhere in the world, that makes people think about ‘find your purpose’ and it’s just – why?"

[Listen to the full podcast here]

Monday, November 02, 2015

The Guardian interviews Carrie Brownstein

Interview with Carrie Brownstein from The Guardian. This interview tries to get a little more behind the person, but it seems the real Carrie Brownstein is elusive and revealing at the same time - but isn't this exactly why fans want to read the memoirs?

New York Times reviews Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

New York Times reviews Carrie Brownstein's Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl. I'm still waiting for the title to reach our side of the ocean.

In an interview with Bust magazine last year, she talked about some of her younger fans: “They just see me as this person they know from television, and then they listen to Sleater-Kinney, and they think: ‘What is this scary music? You seem so happy on the show. What’s wrong? Why are you so upset?’ ”

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Patti Smith Interview with Harper's Bazaar

JJB: I have too many books.

PS: I gave away 20 boxes, but it didn't make a dent. It's terrible. I'll have a whole library to write one song. Sometimes there's a jewel, a bit in one book and a bit in another .… It's like an unfolding screen of the four seasons. You say, "If I get rid of that, then there's no more autumn." I remember when my mother was my age. She'd collected a lot of stuff she bought in thrift stores, at flea markets. Then one day I came to visit her, and the house looked very empty. I said, "Mommy, where are your dolls? Where are the plates?" She'd packed them away. I said, "Are you all right? You're not sick …" She said, "No, I'm keeping the things I like the best. You get to a certain time in your life where you don't want to be fettered by all of your things. You want to have some lightness." Now I understand. This year I put everything into my little house in Rockaway, and now I want to keep my life as unfettered as possible. So maybe I'll just pretend to get rare books from my catalogue, and not really get them.

Harper's Bazaar interview with Patti Smith. [ full interview ]

Gaiman, on Terry Pratchett

Neil Gaiman sharing his memories of Terry Pratchett and writing, with Michael Chabon. It's funny, and touching, and makes me want to re-read Good Omens.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

PATTI SMITH | Reading M Train

I'm reading Patti Smith's M Train slowly, allowing her voice to flow through me. This is what happens when the writer has a distinct "voice" in their writing. I stop, and I want to "listen" to that voice in my head. I want the process to be comfortable, and allow it as much time as it needs. That's how I feel right now as I'm reading M Train.

My bias for travel makes me think of this book as travel writing. Yes, in this book, she writes about the various places she had been. She doesn't quite do the usual tourist destinations. There is a method to her journeys, and it is usually to follow the footsteps of a writer, or an artist. She took a photo of Frida Kahlo's bed, she took a photo of the chair Robert Bolano sat in. She traveled to laid stones on Jean Genet's grave.

I am reminded of how someone asked me last year, after my trip to Paris - Did you visit the Eiffel Tower? No, I did not. And there was a questioning look. Who goes to Paris and not go see the Eiffel Tower?

But why do I need to? Our journey is ours, and all we truly need to do, is to listen to the whispers in our hearts. To follow that voice that tells us where to go, and what to see. Who cares what is written in the guide books or tripadvisor? Your own yearning should be the true compass.

This is why I enjoy this series of Patti Smith's journeys. She is guided by her own yearnings, her own idiosyncrasies. There is not greater testimony to a life lived true to oneself.

2014 Interview with Carrie Brownstein

I'm waiting for Carrie Brownstein's memoir to arrive at the local bookstores. As the publicity rolls out for the book, I found this 2014 interview with Carrie - it's great to see her articulate, witty, and very, very funny.

She just makes you want to pack up and move to Portland:

Interviewer: “Do you have a distinct impression of Portland when you were growing up?”

Carrie: “No, I didn’t even know it existed.”

Carrie: “Portland is a city, seems like it’s designed by an eight year old. If you imagine asking a kid like, ‘What do you want for your city?’

‘Well, I want my house to painted blue. With a yellow trim. And all the buildings will look like Lego. All the people will wait in line. To vote? No, for ice cream. And, you know what? I’ll never have to dress up. I’ll never have to put on a suit. All the adults will play bass guitars. And have a donut shop. What will the donuts be shaped like? Like penises’.”

And I have not met many people who truly use 'flummoxed' in conversation. Well played.

Friday, October 02, 2015

New York Times, on Patti Smith's M Train

Michiko Kakutani, on Patti Smith's M Train:

“M Train” feels more like a look at the past through a rearview mirror. Ms. Smith writes of feeling “a longing for the way things were.” She writes about ghosts drawing us away from the present. She writes about singing “What a Wonderful World” for Fred at his memorial service and she writes about realizing that she is now older than Fred when he died — and older than many of her departed friends.

“I’m going to remember everything,” she thinks, “and then I’m going to write it all down. An aria to a coat. A requiem for a cafe.” An eloquent — and a deeply moving — elegy for what she has “lost and cannot find” but can remember in words.

[ Full essay ]

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Finished Michael Dirda's "Browsings"

I just finished Michael Dirda's Browsings. While I enjoyed his previous books on books, the reading of books, and the life of books - this one didn't quite hit me with the same enthusiasm. I am trying to put my finger on why this is so - although it is unfair to expect to love every single book written by an author. There will always be some books that we prefer over others.

My preliminary guess would be that I find it hard to relate to some of the things he wrote about. It's not so much his themes, but more of the authors and books he mentioned. He reads a lot, and he reads a lot of unknown, out-of-print, obscure authors - which you wouldn't quite find them so readily in a modern library. Which is a real shame this time.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Looking forward to Patti Smith's 'The M Train'

The New York Times featured some books about places. Among them, Patti Smith's The M Train was featured.

In “M Train,” to be published next month, Ms. Smith writes about her life in New York, her love of cafes, her favorite books and television shows, her cats, her memories, joyful and melancholy, of her husband, the guitarist Fred Smith. But it is her travels — idiosyncratic, ritualistic, vividly recalled — that provide a unifying theme. “I believe in movement,” she writes. “I believe in that lighthearted balloon, the world.”

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Thoughts about Ronda Rousey

I was trying to think of what to write after finishing Ronda Rousey's biography, My Fight/Your Fight. In case you have no idea (really?), Ronda Rousey is the first woman fighter to make it to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), and is still its reigning champion and shining poster girl. She has captured people's imagination, with her fierce combat prowess, and her personality. In her book, she mentioned the advice she got about acting - it's not good acting that makes people pay money to watch the movie. It's the actors - people pay money to watch the personality of the actors. I thought it's a valid point - that's probably why I pay money to watch Angelina Jolie, who essentially is just playing Angelina Jolie in every single movie she does. This charisma of the character is pretty much why Ronda Rousey captured my imagination, and why I ended up reading her biography.

I was at a loss about what to say about the good. It is an engaging read, and easy to read. Every character starts with a nugget of Ronda's life philosophy, so it had a touch of a motivational read. It wasn't until I came across this article, Ronda Rousey vs Daddy's Little Girl, that I thought of what I wanted to say.

The article is from the point of view of a father of a 9 year old girl who wanted to be just like Ronda Rousey.

I asked my daughter if she knew who Ronda Rousey is. She gave me the “please, Daddy” face, and said yes, “Ronda is the Queen of Boxing.” I asked her if she’s bothered that her admirers called Ronda a “beast.” “No, Daddy,” she said. “That’s a compliment. It means she’s better than anyone else. Better like me. She fights to show she’s better than the rest, and other people’s opinions shouldn’t stop her dream.”

The child is actually training with her 7 year old brother in fighting, and the training routine is intense. The writer has no answer to his little girl who wants to be something not-quite like the usual Daddy's Little Girl. He grapples with what Ronda Rousey represents for people, and how MMA is a sport where violence is at the core of what they do, the increased risk for brain damage for professional fighters. He rationalises Ronda Rousey's rise in UFC, in a sport once dominated only by men, and what it now means. Against this is, I read how because women are now occupying these new spaces in our cultural consciousness, and how it's allowing our daughters to reimagine who they want to be - and the subsequent unease as parents have to reimagine what their daughters are going to grow up to be. The writer didn't quite answer the question. I guess not all questions can be easily answered.

For me though, I would say this to my daughter: When you watch the way Ronda Rousey fights, think about how she got this powerful. Look behind the fierceness, the power, and see the hard work behind it. Understand that Ronda Rousey trained really hard to get this strong. I want my child to see the discipline Rousey needed to keep showing up and doing the same judo-throws a thousand times over, and then a thousand times more, to get it right. Bruce Lee said: “I am not afraid of a person who knows 10000 kicks. But I am afraid of a person who knows one kick but practices it for 10000 times.”

"Learn her discipline,"I would tell my daughter. "Learn her work ethics. Then apply this to your entire life."

Friday, August 07, 2015

Ronda Rousey on Her Fights, Her Book and 'Entourage'

I just started reading Ronda Rousey's book, My Fight/Your Fight (yes, on top of other books). The prose is straightforward, uncomplicated, with a frankness that feels comfortable. I'm curious about the person that is Ronda Rousey - who has captured my attention, and my imagination lately. I was watching her interview with the Washington Post earlier (interview below) - and she was very articulate, down to earth, and funny. I couldn't quite believe she had difficulty with speech when she was younger. Her humour - it was something I wasn't quite expecting, and it made the interview so enjoyable.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Friday, July 03, 2015

BOOKS | 10 Best Southern Gothic

Look: 10 Best Southern Gothic books. Or at least, a list of recommended Southern Gothic titles to read!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Looking forward to the Brownstein Memoir

Looking forward to Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl - Carrie Brownstein's memoir. Coming out Oct 2015.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Thoughts about Orange is the New Black Season 3

I binged watched season 3 of Orange is the New Black over the weekend. (This is going to be somewhat spoilery, so don't say I didn't warn you) It wasn't as fun as season 2, but there were a few surprises in character development that I look forward to. Not everyone is a fan of Piper Chapman, and neither was I - but I do like the twist towards the end. In many ways, her character development was always there - it's ironical to say she is fulfilling her potential. Prison has this way of stripping away all the lies we adorn ourselves with normal life. The real Piper Chapman is not an innocent. She's a stone cold bitch, and it's actually interesting.

But the most surprising character development for me this season would be Black Cindy's religious conversion. Black Cindy was fun as a character - carefree, irresponsible and unapologetically self-centred. Then the show took a left turn and she ends up with one of the most profound character evolution towards the end, when she had to explain to a rabbi why she wanted to be a Jew (and it's not just for the broccoli for meal times). This is where I continue to respect the writing team and the actresses on Orange is the New Black - they continue to shine light on how human beings are multi-faceted and oh, so complicated in our strengths, our cruelties and our capacity for something better. They gave depth to shallowness and it was beautiful.

I could just keep re-watching the scene where Black Cindy - now Tova, explained to the rabbi just why she wanted to convert to Judaism:

"Honestly … I think I found my people. I was raised in a church, where I was told to believe and pray. If I was bad, I go to Hell. If I was good, I go to Heaven. If I asked Jesus, he would forgive me - and that was that. And here y’all say there ain’t no Hell, ain’t sure about Heaven. And if you do something wrong you got to figure it out yourself. And as far as God is concerned, it’s your job to keep asking questions and to keep learning and to keep arguing. It’s like a verb. It’s like - you do God. And it’s a lot of work. But I think I’m in it. At least as far as I can see it. Maybe I’ll learn more. It’s a fuck whole thing. And I want to learn more. And I think I got to be in it - to do that. Does that make sense? Shit, did I just tell myself out of it?"

It was a genuinely beautiful speech. it says something about faith - although I would argue that real faith work regardless of religion, is about how you DO God. It's a verb. The writers got this part writer, and it gave this powerful understanding to this character, and this is why I can't quit this show. It's just really good writing.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

SEA Games Swimming 2015: 'Gold' for the SG Singing Crowd

Our national anthem was playing as the winners of the 4 x200m Freestyle relay stood on the podium. Suddenly the speakers broken down - the hum of static, then silence. Then, from the silence, a growing chorus of our people singing the Majulah Singapura, our national anthem with gusto. Smiles broke across the faces of our gold medallists. At the end of the song, we cheered, and one of the swimmers, exclaimed, "Awesome!"

So it was. This is what it means to feels Singaporean. This is what sport is supposed to do - to unite us as one people, as Singaporeans. Money cannot buy this.

I've watched this clip many times over, and I have never felt more pride in my heart for my countrymen.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Emily Dickinson | Go Above Your Nerve

If your Nerve, deny you—
Go above your Nerve—
He can lean against the Grave,
If he fear to swerve—

That's a steady posture—
Never any bend
Held of those Brass arms—
Best Giant made—

If your Soul seesaw—
Lift the Flesh door—
The Poltroon wants Oxygen—
Nothing more –

F329 (1862) 292
Emily Dickinson

Friday, May 01, 2015

Why Can't We Read Anymore?

I admit it - I have been having problems reading the last few years. I've been reading less - my attention span seems to shrink. I keep trying though, but there's always something to distract me.

Books, in ways that are different to visual art, to music, to radio, to love even, force us to walk through another’s thoughts, one word at a time, over hours and days. We share our minds for that time with the writer’s. There is a slowness, a forced reflection required by the medium that is unique. Books recreate someone else’s thoughts inside our own minds, and maybe it is this one-to-one mapping of someone else’s words, on their own, without external stimuli, that give books their power. Books force us to let someone else’s thoughts inhabit our minds completely.

Books are not just transferrers of knowledge and emotion, but a special kind of tool that flattens one self into another, that enable the trying-on of foreign ideas and emotions.

This suppressing of the self is a kind of meditation too — and while books have always been important to me on their own (pre-digital) merits, it started to occur to me that “learning how to read books again,” might also be a way to start weaning my mind away from this dopamine-soaked digital detritus, this meaningless wash of digital information, which would have a double benefit: I would be reading books again, and I would get my mind back.

- [full article]

Monday, March 30, 2015

Story of Lee Kuan Yew, from his Photographer

There has been many stories published about the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew. This one, is among my favourite. It's from his former photographer, George Gascon.

As they were preparing for the shoot, Mr Gascon caught a glimpse of Mrs Lee combing Mr Lee's hair.

It was a moment that Mr Gascon dearly wished to capture. So he took out his Leica, knowing the quiet shutter would not intrude into the tenderness.

Yet, even with her back to Mr Gascon, Mrs Lee heard the clicking of the camera.

She said: "George, I heard that."

Saturday, March 21, 2015

History Books Reading

A couple of friends and I were looking at this list recently, 10 Book That Will Change How You See History. I always believe history is just narrative fighting for dominance. In many ways, history has a lot to do with literature. History should be interesting, and even fun, which was probably why this list catch our interest.

My friends and I are trying out something new. Each of us will pick up a book from the list, read the book and then pass it on to the next person. It's about book sharing, and also a group reading. We just started, and I chose to read The Nuns of Sant'Ambrogio by Hubert Wolf first. It's about scandalous nuns, with some Papal politics thrown in. Why not, right?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

WILD | How wild it as, to let it be

I finished re-reading Cheryl Strayed's Wild last night, and it was as beautiful as I remember. Towards the end of her hike, Strayed's narrative shifted, as an author in a distant present looking back at her hike through the PCT, how her life continued since then - her meeting the handsome man who would be her husband, her children, bringing her family to the place she sat and ate an ice cream cone, and all four of them having an ice cream there.

What was it that hiking the PCT has given her? It gave her something to move forward in her life, yet like all mysteries, it is an elusive and wondrous thing.

It was all unknown to me then, as I sat on that white bench on the day I finished my hike. Everything except the fact that I didn't have to know. That it was enough to trust that what I'd done was true. To understand its meaning without yet being able to say precisely what it was, like all those lines from The Dream of a Common Language that had run through my nights and days. To believe that I didn't need to reach with my bare hands anymore. To know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough. That it was everything. It was my life--like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me.

How wild it as, to let it be.

How beautiful. How so very true.

The End of Cake

A certain realization dawned on him.

"Oh," he said.

YES, said Death.

"Not even time to finish my cake?"


― Terry Pratchett, Night Watch

Friday, March 13, 2015

Sir Terry Pratchett is dead.

Author Terry Pratchett has passed away. [BBC obituary here] His books gave me great joy, his writings showed me how great insight and wisdom must be slathered with copious humour to make them go down easier - sort of like lubricant down an inconvenient orifice. There were so many characters in Discworld that I love, but of them all, I adored Granny Weatherwax and Tiffany Aching - two characters so wise to the world, and so they suffer the world even as they continue to work for everyone around them, knowing that they do not know better.

Pratchett was wiser than a lot of us, yet I believe he never stopped wanting us to be better. I will miss him.

He was so much cooler than your usual knight. His coat of arms had an ankh on it, and he threw in meteorite rocks to forge his own sword when he was knight. Another fun fact: His family motto on his coat of arms was Noli Timere Messorem (Don't fear the Reaper).

You have nothing to fear from the Reaper, Sir Terry.


Monday, March 09, 2015

PEMA CHODRON |You have to do it alone

“Taking refuge in the Buddha means that we are willing to spend our life reconnecting with the quality of being continually awake.

Every time we feel like taking refuge in a habitual means of escape, we take off more armor, undoing all the stuff that covers over our wisdom and our gentleness and our awake quality.

We’re not trying to be something we aren’t; rather, we’re reconnecting with who we are.

So when we say, “I take refuge in the Buddha,” that means I take refuge in the courage and the potential of fearlessness, of removing all the armor that covers this awakeness of mine.

I am awake; I will spend my life taking this armor off.

Nobody else can take it off because nobody else knows where all the little locks are, nobody else knows where it’s sewed up tight, where it’s going to take a lot of work to get that particular iron thread untied.

You have to do it alone.”

~ Pema Chodron

BOOKS | Neil Gaiman reviews Ishiguro's The Buried Giant

In case you missed it - Neil Gaiman reviews Kzauo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant. I'm reading it right now. It's a slow built up, but I will probably stick with it, to find out what's going on with the story.

Ishiguro is not afraid to tackle huge, personal themes, nor to use myths, history and the fantastic as the tools to do it. “The Buried Giant” is an exceptional novel, and I suspect my inability to fall in love with it, much as I wanted to, came from my conviction that there was an allegory waiting like an ogre in the mist, telling us that no matter how well we love, no matter how deeply, we will always be fallible and human, and that for every couple who are aging together, one or the other of them — of us — will always have to cross the water, and go on to the island ahead and alone.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

SLEATER-KINNEY | This is the sound my heart would make if I could amplify it

I'm posting this Rolling Stones interview with Sleater-Kinney here. I was looking for a quote from Carrie Brownstein about the riot grrrl movement earlier:

Brownstein enrolled at Evergreen State College, in Olympia, Washington, the epicenter of the early-Nineties feminist-punk movement known as riot grrrl, where she started a band, Excuse 17, and saw shows by iconic Evergreen acts like Heavens to Betsy, who were fronted by Tucker, and Bikini Kill. The scene was revelatory: "I thought, 'This is the sound my heart would make if I could amplify it,' " Brownstein recalls. "Sometimes, with your family, you're like, 'How can you be so close to me and not see me?' And then, all of a sudden you see yourself portrayed in music, and it's like, 'On the other side of the telescope is someone that sees me.' "

I love it - 'This is the sound my heart would make if I could amplify it'.Sometimes, you come across music that echoes your heartbeat, and this is how it feels.

Monday, February 09, 2015

From "Wild"

Watched "Wild" the movie on Saturday. Towards the end, this passage, in Reese Witherspoon's voice, came up. Her voice, quiet, gentle, so precious:

“What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I'd done something I shouldn't have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I'd done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn't do anything differently than I had done? What if I'd actually wanted to fuck every one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn't have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?”

There's probably going to be quite a lot of "Wild" posts these days, in bite-size.

Some thoughts, and a Song from the "Wild" Movie Soundtrack

I'm re-reading this article from The Atlantic, about Annie Dillard and her writings - The Thoreau of the Suburb. I read the article while the afterthoughts of my recent readings was slushing around in my brain. Without quite being that conscious of it - although, perhaps being subconsciously aware of it - I have been picking up books related to the idea of women and retreat and journey. I recently read Rebecca Solnit's Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness, where she mentioned the bizarre controversy about Thoreau's laundry: did Thoreau's sister do his laundry? (She probably did. *gasp*) I'm re-reading Cheryl Strayed's Wild, and that has been interesting, including reading about the controversy that arose that some of Strayed's worse critics seem to object to her casualness with her sexuality in the book. (Why is it even an issue?)

Which amused me (and annoyed me a little) when I read that Annie Dillard had considered writing her book in a male's voice, because she had the idea that readers could not reconcile with the idea that a female would venture "into the wild".

“It’s impossible to imagine another situation where you can’t write a book ’cause you weren’t born with a penis,” wrote Dillard in her journal. “Except maybe Life With My Penis.”

Somehow, reading this, I thought, "She wields a pen". Sometimes I have no idea why I think the thoughts I do. But I do. The whole idea that one type of narrative is more gender-appropriate than another is sadly archaic, yet persistent. Even as Cheryl Strayed made her journey (and oh, how she suffered along the way) hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail, she's constantly behind reminded of how she was a woman, and how strange it was for a woman to do this. Perhaps this is why her book is so important, and it so speaks to me, for all the heartbreaking moments inside it. This is too, a woman's narrative.

Anyway, on an off-tangent note, I will end this post with First Aid Kit's cover of "Walk Unafraid" - taken from the "Wild" movie soundtrack. Catch it if you can. Reese Witherspoon is wonderful in the movie.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Sleater-Kinney Returns

The articles on Sleater-Kinney's return have been coming. This is one of the more recent ones, by Pitchfork. It's no secret that I am a fan. Sleater-Kinney is on my bucket list - "Bands to watch 'live' Before I Die". Yes, some people have Bucket Lists like that. Their music carried me through some bad times. The growls of their guitars, Carrie and Corin with their vocal intensity, the invigorating drumbeats - their music makes me feel more alive.

When they announced the band was on "indefinite hiatus" - it was heartbreaking. Then they came back, sneaking a new single onto the vinyl collection of their old records last year. I was so excited, promised myself I had to catch them when they tour.

Life right now is making it hard to travel, so I will wait. If it is meant to be, it will be.

Then they went and did something like this with their friends, and they remind me again why I totally adore them:

Let's not forget their appearance on David Letterman's. A heart melting moment.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

QUOTE | From Tiny Beautiful Things

One of those quotes from Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things that stayed with me. There were many memorable quotes in that tiny little book that was full of heart and loss - and so much hope. This one though - lingered most powerfully. Well, perhaps because it was at the end, but most likely because of what it had to say about getting yourself screwed up in a bad, self-hating place - and yet that there is something within us still worthy, still beautiful, and deserving of grace. Grace in the shape of a purple balloon. Such a tiny beautiful thing.

Everyone should read that book.

“One hot afternoon during the era in which you’ve gotten yourself ridiculously tangled up with heroin, you will be riding the bus and thinking what a worthless piece of crap you are when a little girl will get on the bus holding the strings of two purple balloons. She’ll offer you one of the balloons, but you won’t take it because you believe you no longer have a right to such tiny beautiful things. You’re wrong. You do.”
― Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

Reading Goals for 2015:

#1: Finally Finish War and Peace

So it seems this month is sort of the 150 anniversary of the publication of War and Peace. Sort of.

According to Paris Review, the story was first serialized in 1805, and it was reworked later:

Well, sort of: the first installment of what was then titled 1805 was indeed published in the January 1865 issue of Russkiy Vestnik. It ran in serial form for the next two years. However, Tolstoy wasn’t happy with this version and reworked much of the book—which he called “not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less a historical chronicle”—before publishing it as War and Peace in 1869.

Time to get to it. So, I declare, 2015 will be the year I finally finish reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Records for 2014

Books Read for 2014

  1. Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence • Daniel Goleman
  2. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running • Haruki Murakami
  3. The Hunger Games • Suzanne Collins
  4. Catching Fire • Suzanne Collins
  5. Mockingjay • Suzanne Collins
  6. Nemesis • Jo Nesbø
    Translated from Norwegian by Don Bartlett
  7. Cave in the Snow • Vicki Mackenzie
  8. The Land Where Lemons Grow: The Story of Italy and its Citrus Fruit • Helena Attlee
  9. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar • Cheryl Strayed