Thursday, July 27, 2006

Reading Break by Reading

Have interrupted my reading of Swann's Way and War and Peace with ... The Moonstone.

Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone is one of the classic detective novel of the 19th century. Dickens stole something from it for Edwin Drood. Dorothy L. Sayers admired it. It's also a sensation novel that thrives on intrigue and semi-colonial romanticism.

Good brain junk food.

Monday, July 24, 2006


I'm still reading Swann's Way intermittently with War and Peace.

The question arises last night on how one can do such heavy reading at the same time? My explanation: short but frequent readings - kind of like watching Desperate Housewives and Lost in the same week, but somehow you can still follow the storyline.

Yoga Ache

Power Yoga 1 last Sunday with HB.

I am out of shape. Just a few rounds of Sun Salutations and my triceps and shoulders ache.

Out of shape. Which means I need to work on Power Yoga.

Yin yoga today with A.

WINTERSON | Books Are More Than Product

From Jeanette Winterson, The Times Online, 22 July 2006

Books are not beyond money, but they are not only about money either. Once the risk and the love are gone, books become product like everything else. But I won’t accept that books are just product like everything else.

Neither would I - me, the book buyer/book seller, and anyone who collects books because of a muddled kind of love.

Full article.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

PROUST | The Person That We Know

Reading Swann's Way (very slowly). Highlighted the passage on identity:
Even the very simple act that we call "seeing a person we know" is in part an intellectual one. We fill the physical appearance of the individual we see with all the notions we have about him, and of the total picture that we form for ourselves, these notions certainly occupy the greater part.

The child narrator relates how his family seem to blinker themselves to Charles Swann, choosing what they want to see instead.

We probably have known instances when our friends see us only as their notions of us, not as ourselves truly.

Charles Swann is obviously a greater man of the world than the family wishes to allow. He is a man with the kind of prestiguous contacts and glamorous acquaintances that you only read about in Le Figaro. Yet, the narrator's grandmother only sees him as the son of their neighbour.

It says something about the inherent tunnel vision of the narrator's family - which admits only that which it is comfortable with, and blinds itself to that which is potentially new, and bigger, if not fuller. Later the narrator tells us about his aunt, who is disturbed if there should be anyone in her small village that she knows nothing about. When that happens, she sends her servant to the grocer (the fount of local gossip apparently) for intellgience.

While I am charmed by the wispy recollections filled with comforts and gentle, familiar pleasures, Combray strikes me as a hermetic society.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Those Who Have Courage to Love

"Those who have courage to love should have courage to suffer."

~ Anthony Trollope

I wrote this little quote in my copy of Jeanette Winterson's The Passion.

The Passion

Back to Yoga

Just signed up with Pure Yoga. So I'm back to my practice, slowing rebuilding my stamina and strength.

From someone who previously fell to 1 practice session a week, I'm now doing it 4-5 times a week. I see it as progress, although it could be another indication of my addictive personality.

Meanwhile, I would like to introduce everyone to my new yoga practice: Yin Yoga.

In a nutshell, you hold your poses in Yin Yoga for 3-5 minutes. The emphasis is on the connective tissues, and there are a lot more hip-opening poses. I find that I enjoy it.

My Italian Reading List

The Guardian's Culture Vulture visits Italian Literature

Actually, they've been at it for a while. From all the various posts, I've gleaned a few Italian authors that I would like to sample:

Luigi Pirandello: The Late Mattia Pascal
Italo Svevo: Zeno's Conscience
Alberto Moravia: The Conformist
Giuseppe di Lampedusa: The Leopard
Cesare Pavese: Among Women Only; The Moon and the Bonfire

Also adding Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose for next year's reading list.

Umberto Eco Unfinished

I need to finally sit down and finish Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. I first read (but never finished) the book in 1999. I brought it with me to the beaches of Koh Samui straight after graduation, but the leisure beach-bum life got in the way.

The only Umberto Eco I actually finished reading was Foucault's Pendulum. It helped that I was reading it when I was supposed to be working on my thesis: William Gibson and the Cybergothic.

The dilemma: work on thesis or read Eco's meandering book.

I chose the latter, but it still a long time. I would read a few pages, then set it down (bookmark in place). After some time (maybe a few months later), I would pick it up again, and continue. That took two years.

Ms F asked if I enjoyed it. I replied 'no'.

"That's so sad!" she blurted.

"No," I insisted. "In between I did other things."

Remember: reading is as healthy an interest as sports - but you're supposed to have a life.

Friday, July 14, 2006

QUIZ | What European City Do You Belong In?

I don't agree. I so prefer to be in an Italian city. Can I belong in Rome?

You Belong in Paris

You enjoy all that life has to offer, and you can appreciate the fine tastes and sites of Paris.
You're the perfect person to wander the streets of Paris aimlessly, enjoying architecture and a crepe.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

From Neil Gaiman's Stardust

From Neil Gaiman's blog on the movie adaptation of Stardust:

Right. Now I'm going down to the set to watch Michelle Pfeiffer cut poor Jason Flemyng's throat with a big black obsidian-glass knife.

Ha! Michelle Pfeiffer in any sort of gratuitous violence is SOOOOO something I want to see! Here's a preview screenshot from the Stardust movie:


Michelle Pfeiffer in scary pose. I like!

Screenshot courtesty of Ain't It Cool News

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

BOOKS | The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

The Snow Leopard

The Snow Leopard
By Peter Matthiessen
London: Vintage, 1998
[01/06/2006 ~ 10/07/2006]

In the two hours before my yoga class last night, I finally finished re-reading The Snow Leopard. It took a while - more than a month. Perhaps I did not wish to rush it. I also know that this is a book I will re-read in the near future.

In 1973, Peter Matthiessen and George Schaller (a field biologist) travelled to the Crystal Mountain in the Himalayas. Schaller was there to study the blue bharal sheep, while Matthiessen had hoped to see the legendary snow leopard. The elusiveness of the snow leopard lent it a mystical quality. The great Tibetan yogi, Milarepa was said to have taken the form of the snow leopard.

Back then, Peter Matthiessen was also a student of Zen Buddhism. Before he left, his roshi (his Zen teacher) warned him to "Expect nothing." The roshi also issued him a koan:

All the peaks are covered with snow – why is this one bare?

Thus journey is pilgrimage, is meditation.

"I long to let go, drift free of things, to accumulate less, depend on less, to move more simply," he writes. One of the fundamentals of Buddhism – the religion of the land they tread - to simplify, to let go and thus liberate yourself from suffering.

In between the narrative of his journey and the exposition on Buddhism – Matthiessen writes about his wife, Deborah, who died a year before. He reveals his love for her, and his regrets. He also writes about the enigmatic Sherpa guide, Tukten – a dubious figure who is also a tulku – a reincarnate of a learned lama.

Matthiessen never saw the snow leopard. In the acceptance of his non-encounter is the triumph. The paradox in spiritual quest that I have only begun to sense but not yet comprehend.
If the snow leopard should manifest itself, then I am ready to see the snow leopard. If not, then somehow (and I don’t understand this instinct, even now) I am not ready to resolve my koan; and in the not-seeing, I am content. … That the snow leopard is, that it is here, that its frosty eyes watch us from the mountain – that is enough.

I am still looking. Matthiessen tells me, that is enough.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Rail Into Tibet

World Hum reports on the newly inaugurated railway into Tibet.

Not very positive.

Reading List

On the upside of reading:

As of 9th July, I've managed to complete 66 books for the Year 2006.

And I'm one-third done on my 100 Books to Read list for 2006.

Group Reading Thing

Caught DY with her husband, DT on Saturday evening - right before WW's big KTV gig (about that later)

DY and I were just chatting about how small the world is, where you keep running into people you know - and DT commented, that ironically, it's too big to meet up for a bookclub.

Oops. When we failed to read Robertson Davies, we just lost the momentum.

As for the follow-up - I guess His Dark Materials was a little too heavy for a bookclub (3 books!) DY suggested perhaps we could do Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close instead.

I winced. Not a book I want to read. Really. I rather do War and Peace - but I don't think Tolstoy's going to get a positive response from my fellow bookclub members.

Anyway, here's my plug on Involuntary Memory - it's a Reading Group for Proust. *Woooooow*

They're just warming up the gig so there should be some time to catching up on the reading. I'm interested but with my current commitment to War and Peace and other books, I wonder if I can do the 50~60 pages of Proust every week.

**I think I can. I think I can.**

Wait, this means I might not make it for my own bookclub. Heh.

BOOKS: Jane Smiley's Reading

Jane Smiley has a weekly column in The Guardian, where she comments on the 100 novels she has read. It's also the basis for her recent book, 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel.

July 8, 2006: Beloved by Toni Morrison

July 1, 2006: Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid

June 24, 2006: Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

June 17, 2006: The Man without Qualities by Robert Musil

June 10, 2006: The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead

June 3, 2006: The Once and Future King by TH White

May 27, 2006: The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

May 20, 2006: Zeno's Conscience by Italo Svevo

May 13, 2006: House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

May 6, 2006: Cousin Bette and Cousin Pons by Honore de Balzac

April 29, 2006: The Awakening by Kate Chopin

April 22, 2006: Taras Bulba by Nikolai Gogol

April 15, 2006: Oroonoko by Aphra Behn

April 8, 2006: Saga of the People of Laxardal

April 1, 2006: Introduction and The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

Friday, July 07, 2006

PISSED OFF | Copy Controlled F**K

I hate those Copy Controlled CDs!

Have Beth Orton's Comfort of Strangers and I can't rip it to my mpeg player!

OFF TANGENT | A Lyrical Life

I've been playing a lot of Sarah McLachlan recently. You know how sometimes, like a miracle, a song just seems to be about your life?

Actually, it's quite sad - because life is larger than a song, or a book for that matter. But I can admit sometimes - it feels like it's all about you.

A friend once pointed out hoobastank's Reason is the "Story of My Life." For the reason mentioned above, I disagree. My life is larger than that song. My friend got it wrong; my Ex is NOT The Reason I want to change my life.

Rather, I realised the choices I had made were making me unhappy. I chose to change because I believe I deserve to be happier.

But I concede there are still songs that echoed the little unhappy chapters in my life. I set these songs on "Repeat" mode on my mpeg player sometimes, when the mood hits me.

This is one of them (and it's not Sarah McLachlan):

Tracy Chapman

If you knew that you would die today
If you saw the face of God and love
Would you change?
Would you change?

If you knew that love can't break your heart
When you're down so low you cannot fall
Would you change would you change?

How bad how good does it need to get?
How many losses how much regret?
What chain reaction
What cause and effect
Makes you turn around
Makes you try to explain
Makes you forgive and forget
Makes you change
Makes you change

If you knew that you couldn't be alone
Knowing right being wrong
Would you change?
Would you change?
If you knew that you would find a truth
That brings a pain that can't be soothed
Would you change would you change?

How bad how good does it need to get?
How many losses how much regret?
What chain reaction
What cause and effect
Makes you turn around
Makes you try to explain
Makes you forgive and forget
Makes you change
Makes you change

Are you so upright you can't be bent
if it comes to blows
Are you so sure you won't be crawling
If not for the good why risk falling
Why risk falling

If everything you think you know
Makes your life unbearable
Would you change?
Would you change?
If you'd broken every rule and vow
And hard times come to bring you down
Would you change?
Would you change?

If you knew that you would die today
If you saw the face of God and love
Would you change?
Would you change?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

MUSIC | Evanescence's New Album

Evanescence, one of my favourite band, will have a new album out this year. It's currently slated for October 2006 release.

Album entitled The Open Door.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fallen by Sarah McLachlan


Heaven Bend to take my hand
And lead me through the fire
Be the long awaited answer
To a long and painful fight
Truth be told I tried my best
But somewhere long the way
I got caught up in all there was to offer
But the cost was so much more than I could bear

Though I've tried I've fallen
I have sunk so low
I messed up
Better I should know
So don't come round here and
Tell me I told you so

We all begin out with good intent
When love is raw and young
We believe that we can change ourselves
The past can be undone
But we carry on our back the burdens time always reveals
In the lonely light of morning
In the wound that would not heal
It's the bitter taste of losing everything
I've held so dear

Though I've tried I've fallen
I have sunk so low
I messed up
Better I should know
So don't come round here and
Tell me I told you so

Heaven bend to take my hand
I've nowhere left to turn
I'm lost to these I thought were friends
To everyone I know
Oh they turn their heads embarrassed
Pretend that they don't see
That it's one wrong step one slip before you know it
And there doesn't seem away to be redeemed

Though I've tried I've fallen
I have sunk so low
I messed up
Better I should know
So don't come round here and
Tell me I told you so
I messed up
Better I should know
So don't come round here and
Tell me I told you so

Monday, July 03, 2006

Smelly Cheese

A has returned. She was in Germany for the World Cup with her husband. After that, they toured Europe.

A has returned with smelly cheese for yours truly. Gourmet cheesiness that is currently stinking up the office.

Ahhh...the thought that counts.