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.

100 BOOKS | 100 Books to Read 2015

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

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