Sunday, April 20, 2014

My Saturday Evening

It's been a while since I had time alone with a book. I am out at a Starbucks, people watching, drinking a hot cafe latte and reading. It's ironical that I am only able to find quiet solitude outside in public, surrounded by strangers and not at home with family. That's life, I guess.

I've just started on Katie Roiphe's In Praise of Messy Lives, and it's a hoot. "L'hypocrisie de la bourgeoisie" seems to be the overarching theme of her collection of essays. I'm on the first two essays, where she talked about the fact that she had to raise two children (from different fathers) as a single mother, and the reactions from those around her. She described the parallels between The Age of Innocence and when she was going through her divorce, and later The Scarlet Letter against when she was raising a child without the child's father. Her situation brought out some annoying (to me) reactions that reminds me how it's often not about you, but rather, it's about them - and people are most intolerant of the situations that they are unable to bear in their own lives. It helps that she is interestingly unrepentant about it all.

I did find her observation of the perception of single mothers interesting:
Part of what seems threatening or unsettling about the single mother's household is precisely that sense that the mother may be glimpsed as more of a person, that these children are witnessing a struggle they should not be seeing, that their mother is very early on a regular, complicated person, rather than simply an adult who is part of the opaque, semi-separate adult culture of the house.
I'm reminded of Desperate Housewives, especially the character Bree (the red head) with her perfectly constructed family life that underpinned a psychotic intensity that absolutely made it absolutely believable that she was capable of murder. What is it with the need for perfection?

Life is more interesting when we stop trying to be perfect and allow the messiness.

So here's to a messy life.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

MURAKAMI | Run To Live Life to the Fullest

“People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they'll go to any length to live longer. But don't think that's the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you're going to while away the years, it's far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that's the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole. I believe many runners would agree”

― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

(Photo: Haruki Murakami, after finishing his first marathon from Athens to Marathon in the blistering summer heat - July 18th, 1983. [Source])

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Donna Tartt wins Pulitzer Prize

So Donna Tartt won the Pulitzer this year for The Goldfinch - which I brought to Amsterdam as travel reading (Bad idea to bring thick books on a trip. When will I ever learn?) Some parts of it interested me - but the narrative fell flat midway. I will probably finish it eventually. I still can't quite decide if this book is overrated. I had better hopes for it, but it's not engaging me the way I had hoped.

That said, I am very taken with this picture of Donna Tartt, taken by Anne Leibovitz for Vanity Fair.

MUSIC | Nirvana, featuring Lorde covering "All Apologies"

Nirvana gets inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and they decided a all-female line-up is the way to go. So here's a fan's wet dream of Nirvana hits, with Lorde, Kim Gordon, Joan Jett and St Vincent all on stage. Lorde does the vocals on "All Apologies". I'm old enough to remember when Kurt Cobain sang it.

I heart this.

Monday, April 14, 2014

ELIZABETH GILBERT | "Take me with you in spirit ... Tell us what you find. I will follow you later"

I saw this Facebook entry by Elizabeth Gilbert today. Travels is on the top of my mind lately, since I came back from Amsterdam and Paris just a few weeks ago. The question of why we travel is, and how it changes us. I thought she but it rather well. But most of all, this lines, that a neighbour said to her before she embarked on the journey that would lead to Eat, Pray, Love:

"Take me with you in spirit. Take all of us with you, who dream of someday doing this but who right now staying home and taking care of the contracts we have signed with our lives. Tell us what you find. I will follow you later."

Travel well, and when you return, share.


Right now I'm reading for the first time the great memoir TRACKS by Robyn Davidson — a classic of both women's and Australian literature. For those of you who aren't familiar with this book, it's wonderful — the chronicle of a woman who, back in the 1970s, rode 1,700 miles all alone across the Australian Outback with three camels.

Why did she do it? What I love about this story is that she does not ever really provide a why. She did it because she needed to do it.

A lot of people told her she was crazy to set out on such a dangerous journey, and that she would probably die during it. But, Davidson recounts, she had one conversation before she left with an older female friend who told her: "I really like what you're doing...Getting off your butt and actually doing something is important for all of us...It's important that we leave each other and the comfort of it, and circle away, even though it's hard sometimes, so that we can come back and swap information about what we've learned, even if what we do changes us, and we risk not recognizing each other when we return."


Not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of each other. To model another way of being. To represent, out there in the wild world. To bring back the treasure of sharing what we have learned. I remember the week before I went traveling for EAT PRAY LOVE, a neighbor (a mother of two young children) gave me a long hug and said into my ear, "Take me with you in spirit. Take all of us with you, who dream of someday doing this but who right now staying home and taking care of the contracts we have signed with our lives. Tell us what you find. I will follow you later."

And she did — about ten years later. At which point, I gave her that same hug and said the same words into her ear. As I have said those exact same words to countless other people, as they are about to embark on their own journey. Go away now, but take us with you in spirit; tell us what you learned when you return.

If it's time for you to go, go NOW. But take notes. Think of your journey toward self-discovery and adventure as a community service.

You'll make us all better for it,



Sunday, April 13, 2014

BOOKS | 100 Books to Read 2014 [Working List]

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

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

MATTHIESSEN | Life Will Never Be Simple

"I dream of simplicity, but I'm as far from it as ever. That is my practice, how to be in the world and remain simple. One day perhaps I'll accept the fact that I am never going to find the simple life. Maybe the first step toward simplicity will be to accept that my life will never be simple even if I go live in a cave and subsist on green nettles like Milarepa."
— Peter Matthiessen

Monday, April 07, 2014

Peter Matthiessen RIP

Peter Matthiessen passed away. Time to re-read The Snow Leopard. [Source]