Tuesday, December 30, 2008

BOOKS | Looking Forward 2009 - Nordic Crime

I've been hearing so much about Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander series. Kenneth Branagh starred in a BBC serialization of the novels, and it garnered about 6 million in viewership. Nordic crime thrillers seem like the flavour of the season. Maybe it is time I sample some of the authors available in English translation. Boyd Tonkin's overview of Nordic mysteries is a good primer on who is available.

I may start with Mankell. Since I'm anal things like chronology, I'm going to try to start in order. First with Faceless Killers - and if it's good, I will continue with The Dogs of Riga, The White Lioness and more.

Jo Nesbø's (Norwegian) titles has unfortunately been translated out of order. (Why do they do that? It's annoying.) I did a quick web search and found the chronological sequence of his Harry Hole novels:

2000 – Rødstrupe; English translation: The Redbreast (2006)
2002 – Sorgenfri; English translation: Nemesis (2008)
2003 – Marekors; English translation: The Devil's Star (2005)

I will start with The Redbreast, and then we will see.

Other authors I might check-out (as though I have that much time?!) Camilla Läckberg's The Ice Princess (Swedish) which has been very successful in her native land. Then there's Karin Fossum (Norwegian) and Mari Jungstedt (Swedish). Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Played with Fire is already on my 2009 reading list.

That reminds me that I have always been meaning to read Peter Høeg's Smilla's Sense of Snow.

The joy of making lists for 2009. :)

Coming Out in 2009

The Guardian looks at some of the books coming out in 2009.

Personally, I am looking forward to the new Sarah Water - which will not include lesbians this time. *gasp* The horror. :p

I am also interested in William Dalrymple's new book - on religion in India. I enjoyed Dalrymple's travelogues, which are funny.

I am however, totally indifferent to the new Thomas Pynchon.

Monday, December 29, 2008

MONDAY LYRICS | Hallelujah

When I heard 'Hallelujah' for the first time (the Jeff Buckley version, before I knew that it was a Leonard Cohen song) I realize for the first time, that, you know, that the word 'Hallelujah', in the religious interpretation of the word, does not have any thing to do with fitting, or conforming or belonging to any institution or organization. In fact it's the opposite. It's about, you know, the struggle.

I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
And love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah

And it’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah

It just basically says that life and religion is not about belonging. It's about pain, and religious transformation. And so the first time I heard that song, I fell in love with it and started covering it. Because it spoke to me in that way. And, I haven't stopped since, in spite of many people having covered that song, way better than me.

~ Brandi Carlile explaining why she sings 'Hallelujah' [ source ]


You could say that 'Hallelujah' is one of those songs that resonant with me. I have several covers of it on my iPod, including the original Leonard Cohen version and the Jeff Buckley version. It's love, life, sex, pain and spirituality all mixed up together. 

David and Samson - both blessed by the divine, great amongst men. They fell because of their passions. David for Bathsheba. Samson for Delilah.  

We are weak. We stumble along the way, falling short. We fail those who love us. We suffer because of our human weaknesses. Yet the song has always felt to me, to be a rapturous celebration of the condition of being human, of love, of passion.

I wanted to post a video of someone singing 'Hallelujah'. There were many different covers on Youtube. When I found Brandi Carlile's speech about how she come to the song, and what it meant to her, the choice become obvious.

We can all love the same song for different reasons. But I believe Brandi Carlile gets the essence of the song, that it touched her on a deep and personal level. Many people think Jeff Buckley did the ultimate version. Maybe they are right. But this is the version I chose to share with you. Because I agree that life and religion is not about belonging or being safe and comfortable. It is about pain, the struggle and transformation. I don't believe God needs you to go to church. Instead, I believe religion, or spirituality, is about how it transforms you inside.

We are both human and divine. This song celebrates that.


I’ve heard there is a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do ya?
It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
She tied you to her kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew a Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Well darling, I’ve been here before
I’ve seen this room, I’ve walked these floors
You know, I used to live alone before I knew ya
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
And love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Well, there was a time when you let me know
What’s really going on below
And now you never show that to me, do ya?
Remember when I moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

So maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Is how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
It’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah … Hallelujah

Goodbye 2008.

Note: I did post the Youtube video previously - but the video has since been removed by Youtube Nazis. Sorry folks.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

DUBAI | Books Bought in Dubai 2008

It's quite a stack. Can't believe I allowed myself to buy so many books.

[ Click here to enlarge and read the titles.]

MEME | First Lines

From Melanie, where we list the first sentence of each month's first post. My comments in italics.

The Objective: From 1st January 2008 to 31st December 2008, to (re)read anything Russian, or Russian-related - from any genre, any subject, any period, any author, any length.

~ Ah, where I start on the Russian Reading Challenge - which I didn't complete!

A reading list on spirituality and spiritual practices around the world.

~ My reading list on spirituality. I do enjoy making lists.

I would like to regal you with fascinating stories and insights from my recent reading of The Histories.

~ Just me being bored with The Histories and a little bitchy.

Hello all.

~ Post-surgery post, to tell everyone I'm still alive.


For those who read the Rebecca Solnit essay, "Men Who Who Explain Things", I would like to point you to this post, by gartenfische.

~ All this, because of a Rebecca Solnit essay. The world needs to read more Rebecca Solnit.

For the past month I've been meddling with the items on my sidebar.

~ Where I pretend I was organizing, but really, I'm just setting up a new blog to make more lists, because the lists on my sidebars are getting too crowded.

Today is 1st July, the start of July WoYo where we practice every day of the month.

~ A WoYoPracMo post, where I complain about not having time to practice, because I'm moving to Dubai.

All day I think about it, then at night I say it.

~ I started August with a Rumi poem.

Forty boxes and the bulk of packing up my life is pretty much done.

~ Yet another post about packing and moving to Dubai.

Today is Friday, which should be a weekend in Dubai -- but guess who's working?

~ Over-worked in Dubai

Finally managed a bit of breathing space this week.

~ Still over-worked in Dubai

Life as I know it right now is: Work – Home – Late Dinner – Working at Home – Sleep – and the cycle begins the next morning

~ I think you get the idea.

So, in a nutshell, the year started with me making lists, making grand, ambitious plans. Then surgery, then stressed out about moving to Dubai. Followed by exhaustion when I am finally in Dubai.

Sounds right. That's my 2008.

BOOKS | Your Best Crime Reads in 2008

Just passing the news.

Kerrie from Mysteries in Paradise is asking for Your Best Crime Reads in 2008:

  1. it is about crime fiction you've read in 2008. Year of publication doesn't matter.
  2. about 10 titles in the format of title, author (no need for description etc).
  3. any order will do. If you think one was so much better than the others, you might like to put it in your list twice.
  4. You have until Jan 4 to do it.
  5. You can help on your own blog by writing about what I am doing and pointing people to this post, so they can come here and contribute their list.

I wish I could contribute, but my reading for 2008 is a little sparse. But if you have something similar, please drop your list on a comment here.

I am curious to see what people come up with.


Never underestimate the power of the written word to comfort, to uplift, to inspire.

Thank you my friend.


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, 
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender, 
be on good terms with all persons. 
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; 
and listen to others, 
even to the dull and the ignorant; 
they too have their story. 
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; 
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, 
you may become vain or bitter, 
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. 
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. 
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; 
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, 
for the world is full of trickery. 
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; 
many persons strive for high ideals, 
and everywhere life is full of heroism. 
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. 
Neither be cynical about love, 
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, 
it is as perennial as the grass. 
Take kindly the counsel of the years, 
gracefully surrendering the things of youth. 
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. 
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. 
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, 
be gentle with yourself. 
You are a child of the universe 
no less than the trees and the stars; 
you have a right to be here. 
And whether or not it is clear to you, 
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, 
whatever you conceive Him to be. 
And whatever your labors and aspirations, 
in the noisy confusion of life, 
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, 
it is still a beautiful world. 
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Records for 2008

  • 100 Books To Read: Version 2.2

  • 100 Books To Read 2008 [Original List]

  • Graphic Novel Challenge

  • Outmoded Author Challenge

  • Comics & Manga Read 2008

  • Books Read 2008
  • 2008 | Books Read 2008

    [34] Exit Strategy • Kelley Armstrong
    [33] The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection • Michael Ruhlman
    [32] The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo • Stieg Larsson [translated by Reg Keeland]
    [31] The Selected Essays of Gore Vidal • Edited by Jay Parini
    [30] Bookless in Baghdad: Reflections on Writing and Writers • Shashi Tharoor
    [29] Fool the World: The Oral History of a Band Called Pixies • Josh Frank & Caryn Ganz
    [28] Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics • Rebecca Solnit
    [27] Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly • Anthony Bourdain
    [26] The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America • Michael Ruhlman
    [25] The Graveyard Book • Neil Gaiman
    [24] Red Bird: Poems • Mary Oliver
    [23] Bird by Bird • Anne Lamott
    [22] Comfort Me With Apples: Love, Adventure and a Passion for Cooking • Ruth Reichl
    [21] Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table • Ruth Reichl
    [20] Falconer • John Cheever
    [19] The Fortune of War • Patrick O'Brian
    [18] The Riddle-Master's Game • Patricia A. McKillip
    [17] Monsieur Monde Vanishes • Georges Simenon [translated by Jean Stewart]
    [16] The Wood Wife • Terri Windling
    [15] The Strangers in the House • Georges Simenon [Translated by Geoffrey Sainsbury]
    [14] The Chronicles of Prydain, Book V: The High King • Lloyd Alexander
    [13] The Chronicles of Prydain, Book IV: Taran Wanderer • Lloyd Alexander
    [12] The Chronicles of Prydain, Book III: The Castle of Llyr • Lloyd Alexander
    [11] The Chronicles of Prydain, Book II: The Black Cauldron • Lloyd Alexander
    [10] The Chronicles of Prydain, Book I: The Book of Three • Lloyd Alexander
    [9] Cleopatra's Nose: 39 Varieties of Desire • Judith Thurman
    [8] A Time to Keep Silence • Patrick Leigh Fermor
    [7] Shadow of the Silk Road • Colin Thubron
    [6] Ethical Wills: Putting Your Values On Paper • Barry K. Baines
    [5] Cyteen • C.J. Cherryh
    [4] Heartsick • Chelsea Cain
    [3] The Wild Places • Robert Macfarlane
    [2] Into Thin Air • Jon Krakauer
    [1] Away From Her • Alice Munro

    2008 | Comics & Manga Read 2008

    [10] Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus • Mike Mignola & Jason Armstrong
    [9] Hellboy: Darkness Calls • Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo
    [8] Buffy the Vampire Slayer: No Future For You • Brian K. Vaugh, Georges Jeanty & Joss Whedon
    [7] The Question: The Five Books of Blood • Greg Rucka
    [6] B.P.R.D. Killing Ground • Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Guy Davis
    [5] Checkmate: Fall of the Wall • Greg Rucka, Joe Bennett & Chris Samnee
    [4] Batman: The Killing Joke (The Deluxe Edition) • Alan Moore & Brian Bolland
    [3] Birds of Prey: Dead of Winter • Gail Simone et al
    [2] Manhunter: Unleashed • Marc Andreyko et al
    [1] Welcome to Tranquility Vol. 1 • Gail Simone & Neil Googe

    Saturday, December 27, 2008

    MUSIC | Playing this on Repeat Mode

    Eric Clapton AND Tracy Chapman. I can't decide which of these two artistes I admire more. This performance is just so right.

    Friday, December 26, 2008

    Boxing Day 2008

    Thank you to everyone who sent hugs and good intentions my way after my last post. I am glad to report I feel better now. I managed to talk to my mother later in the afternoon. I felt better after that. 

    My mom and I just talked about ordinary things. It felt normal. It was as though I never left and she just popped into my room for a chat. Our relationship has been difficult over the years, so it was good to be able to talk like this.

    The worst of the holiday blues seemed to have passed. Things do pass, as they say. Now that I am feeling much better, I can start feeling a little embarrassed about how I allowed my emotions to get out of control. But this embarrassment will also pass.

    Today is Boxing Day. It's also Friday, so I have the day off. However, I went down to the store anyway to pass the Christmas gifts to my colleagues. 

    Among the gifts I received from my colleagues, one came with a note that thanked me for listening when the person needed to talk. That surprised me, because I never really thought of myself as a good listener. I just happened to be available. I didn't know it meant something to her - or that she remembers. It's not as though I helped solve the problem for her. There was nothing else I could do except listen. So I just did that. (Which basically tells me the things I do right are usually done cluelessly. Hmm. The story of my life.) 

    The note however, reminds me how powerful it is to simply listen, or pay attention. How important it is to us to be heard, to know that somebody is paying attention to how we feel.

    My point is - and I do have one - is thank you to everyone who took the trouble to just drop a comment or an email, who sent me hugs, good thoughts and advice along the way. Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts, your hearts, your meditation, your practice. Not just for yesterday, but for everyday. They are reminders that there is someone out there listening/paying attention. 

    Thank you for this gift of your friendship.

    Thursday, December 25, 2008

    Christmas 2008

    I can understand why suicide rates go up during the holidays. No - in case you're concerned - I'm not going to do anything stupid.

    I have always been a loner, but a loner with friends. I thought I could manage coming over to Dubai with no friends. As it turns out, I am not as strong as I thought I was. Last night was Christmas Eve and it was difficult. 

    I was meditating last night - or at least I was trying to meditate. Shortly after I started sitting the tears rolled down my cheeks, and I had to stop. I should have continued, and just let the emotions run its course. But I couldn't do that last night.

    Today is Christmas. It's also my mom's birthday. I called home a few minutes ago to wish my mom a happy birthday. My dad picked up the line and he couldn't recognize my voice. He also told me that my mom isn't at home.

    I have to go to work in less than 2 hours. Christmas is not a holiday in Dubai. I think I have run out of festive cheers for the year. I dread the thought of pretending to be cheerful when my colleagues wish me a Merry Christmas. 

    RANDOMNESS | From the Headlines

    From the BBC:

    "A 200-year-old church building has disappeared from a village in central Russia, officials from the Russian Orthodox Church say."


    Read the rest of the article here.

    QUIZ | 43 Things

    I took the 43 Things Personality Quiz and found out I'm a
    Creative Traveling Self-Knower

    Whatever that means.

    Wednesday, December 24, 2008

    YOGA | Intentions vs Goal

    From Yoga Journal, an essay on "The Heart's Intention"

    Setting intention, at least according to Buddhist teachings, is quite different than goal making. It is not oriented toward a future outcome. Instead, it is a path or practice that is focused on how you are "being" in the present moment. Your attention is on the ever-present "now" in the constantly changing flow of life. You set your intentions based on understanding what matters most to you and make a commitment to align your worldly actions with your inner values.

    Goals help you make your place in the world and be an effective person. But being grounded in intention is what provides integrity and unity in your life. Through the skillful cultivation of intention, you learn to make wise goals and then to work hard toward achieving them without getting caught in attachment to outcome. As I suggested to the yogi, only by remembering your intentions can you reconnect with yourself during those emotional storms that cause you to lose touch with yourself. This remembering is a blessing, because it provides a sense of meaning in your life that is independent of whether you achieve certain goals or not.

    Tuesday, December 23, 2008

    DUBAI | Life With a Housemate

    Rent in Dubai is expensive, especially if you want some place near your office and a room of your own. I'm sharing an apartment with H. We each get our own room, but there is still the inconvenience of having to live with someone who isn't family. It's been okay so far, except for the occasional irritation. It happens.

    We have our little quirks and preferences. H prefers to dry her clothes on the balcony. She uses a nylon clothes-line. I enjoy a cup of morning coffee on the balcony - without the clothes-line, thank you very much. So what do we do? Every time H takes down her laundry, I untie the clothes-line. It must annoy her, having to re-tie the clothes-line every time. But I really hate that blue clothes-line. Besides, I wanted to practice yoga on the balcony before the weather turned so cold. It was disruptive.

    Just a few days ago I found frozen milk in the fridge. Seriously. The milk had mysteriously chilled into ice. Somebody has been turning down the temperature in the fridge and I have frozen carrots, frozen zucchini, and frozen eggs (!) Apparently H is tired of food turning bad so soon that she has resorted to turning down the temperature in the fridge. But hello, everything  is now frozen. Do you know what happens when you defrost zucchini? They turn flaccid. Do you know how ridiculous it is to look at a flaccid zucchini?

    We have two types of milk in the fridge. We can't share milk, because H buys low-fat while I want the full creamy richness. What's wrong with fat milk?

    I have a stockpile of Dr Pepper in the fridge. It takes up a lot of space, but H lets it be. She has stockpile of meat in the freezer. My ice-cream sits nicely next to her frozen fish and chicken.

    From time to time H would prepare lunch for work. Except she would forget to pack them. I would come home in the evening, and find her lunch sitting on the kitchen counter. *sigh*

    I always spill liquids onto the stove when I cook. There's a lot of cleaning involved when I'm using the stove.

    H loves fish. I dislike the smell of fish.

    I dislike cleaning. H just let me be. :)

    H likes to keep the TV on when she do things, like cooking, surfing the net. I let her be, even though I don't watch TV.

    I have gone crazy. H doesn't realize it yet.

    Monday, December 22, 2008

    MONDAY LYRICS | I Was Thinking I Could Clean Up for Christmas

    "With the chord progression comes a melody and a meter, and that always suggests a sentence or a line, and then the sentence suggests a story and the music suggests an emotional subtext, and then you put it together."
    ~ Aimee Mann, about her song-writing process

    That sounds about right.

    Maybe you are like me. My introduction to Aimee Mann was by means of the soundtrack to the film, Magnolia. The film was a series of loosely connected story-lines - unified by Aimee Mann's songs. I have the soundtrack, but I never got around to watching the film. The irony is, I have the DVD for Magnolia. But every time I wonder if I should watch the DVD, I ended up playing the soundtrack instead.

    That's what Aimee Mann does for me. Her songs are often dramatic, in the sense that it suggests a persona and you are listening to someone telling you about his/her sad, broken life. Yet for music that is so often about damaged souls, soaked in their unhappiness - there is something almost too melodious about her tunes, like a woman who laughs aloud right before she slashes her wrists.

    It's totally cool.

    I've picked "I Was Thinking I Could Clean Up for Christmas" for this Monday. It's from the album, The Forgotten Arm, about an alcoholic boxer who ran off with a woman, but the both of them struggling. Sometimes I think I know what it means, when the lyrics goes, 'Cause I can't live loaded and I can't live sober - sometimes it's just hard to quit your misery and addiction. You know you have to change, but this familiar pain and addiction is all you have.

    Merry Christmas, my friends.

    I Was Thinking I Could Clean Up for Christmas by Aimee Mann
    I was thinking I could clean up for Christmas
    And then, baby, I'm through
    Four more weeks that couldn't make any difference
    Except maybe to you

    But I've tried to use that trick
    Like a carrot on a stick
    So I was thinking I could clean up for Christmas
    Then, baby, I'm through

    I was thinking I could clean up for Christmas
    And then, baby, I'm done
    One less fucker trying to get in the business
    Of the prodigal son

    Where I know I can't compete
    Once I'm off of Hastings Street
    So I was thinking I could clean up for Christmas
    Then, baby, I'm done

    'Cause I can't live loaded and I can't live sober
    And I've been this way since the end of October
    And I know enough to know
    That, baby, when it's over, it's over
    And it's over
    'Cause, baby, I'm done

    I was thinking I could clean up for Christmas
    And then call it a day
    Tell you I'm sorry that I made you a witness
    To my moral decay

    And that, once upon a time
    I believed it was a victimless crime
    I was thinking I could clean up for Christmas
    Then call it a day
    Then call it a day
    Then call it a day

    WoYoPracMo | Should I?

    Ovidia started a new WoYo group recently, called the LotusSeaters (or is it "LotusSitters"?) Simply put, on the days we don't manage asanas, we sit for 15 minutes. Not just sit, sit - but meditate.

    I done an estimate of the amount of coffee I've been drinking the past 3 months (I have been in Dubai more than 3 months!) and it averages out to 3 cups at least every day. This is a lot more than I am used to, and I'm sure the caffeine is wrecking havoc on my nervous system. I get irritated over the tiniest issue and I find it harder to get my emotions under control. Insomnia is creeping in. My colleagues have started commenting how tired I look.

    For the past few days, since I signed up for the LotusSeaters (I like this spelling better), I have been trying to sit for 20 minutes. I give myself about 5 minutes for the mind to wander - but it's usually more than 5 minutes of wandering. Last night I managed to sit for 20 minutes twice - once in the morning before work, once at night before bed. I sat for 20 minutes this morning. I will try to sit for 20 minutes again tonight.

    The observation at this moment is how shallow my breath is. My body is also pretty tensed; it's hard to relax when I feel really tight around the neck and shoulders while I'm sitting. This might be another reminder to get back to my asana practice, to stretch the tension out of my body.

    Everything tells me I need to get back to practice. Next January, WoYoPracMo returns with the mission to practice every day for a full month. I managed to practice every day for January this year. But that is easy when I can hop in to a yoga class, and just allow the teacher to lead the way. It's harder when I'm at home, and the only teacher I have to motivate me, is myself. I'm still thinking about whether I can do the WoYoPracMo in January 2009. It will be difficult.

    The voice in the universe however, whispers: Just Do It. You Need This.

    Saturday, December 20, 2008

    BOOKS | 13 for 2009

    I have been doing the 100 Books To Read list for the past few years. I have decided I shall skip the 100 Books To Read challenge in 2009 and work on something more manageable. Like 13.

    Why 13? Because it's prime. (Really, what did you expect me to say?)

    The List of 13 for 2009 (which is more like a guideline than a list set in stone):

    1. Arabian Sands, Wilfred Thesiger
    2. ~ Started on it. Hope to finish it this year.
    3. Drood, Dan Simmons
    4. ~ Started on the ARC sent by the publisher.
    5. My Fantoms,Théophile Gautier

    6. Victorine, Maude Hutchins
    7. ~ They claim she writes like an American Colette.
    8. The Travels of Ibn Battutah, edited by Tim Mackintosh-Smith

    9. Yemen, Tim Mackintosh-Smith

    10. The Great War for Civilisation, Robert Fisk
    11. ~ I need to read up on the politics and history of the Middle East.
    12. A Book of Silence, Sara Maitland

    13. The Eight, Katherine Neville
    14. ~ This is actually an old title. It was apparently The Da Vinci Code of its time, and it involves secret society and a chess set. It's the mysterious chess set that piqued my interest.
    15. The Girl Who Played with Fire, Stieg Larsson
    16. ~ I enjoyed the first book, which deserved all the publicity it garnered. Hope the second book will not disappoint.
    17. A Dance with Dragons (Song of Ice and Fire), George R.R. Martin
    18. ~ I was talking to one of my publishers last month about the book. Either of us are that hopeful that GRRM can produce the manuscript before the end of the year. But I have waited a long time for it. I hope it happens.
    19. Cyteen: Regenesis, C.J. Cherryh
    20. ~ The sequel to Cyteen, which I re-read in 2008. I wrote an email to C.J. Cherryh when I was 20. (It was the first time I ever wrote a letter to an author I admire. I was so geeky.) I asked if there will be a sequel to Cyteen, because the story ended on a spectacular cliff-hanger and I need to find out what happens next. I was absolutely thrilled when Cherryh wrote back to tell me it will happen. She just needs to write it.

      I have waited more than a decade for this sequel to be written, and come January 2009, the hardcover will be published.

      Have any of you ever waited this long for a book to be published?

    21. TBC

    Other titles under consideration:

    1. Other Colours, Orhan Pamuk

    2. The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, Kate Summerscale

    3. Acedia & Me, Kathleen Norris

    4. Child 44, Tom Rob Smith

    5. In the Woods, Tana French

    6. Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates

    7. 2666, Roberto Bolano

    8. Shadow Country, Peter Matthiessen

    9. A Fine and Private Place, Peter S. Beagle

    Friday, December 19, 2008

    2008 IN REVIEW | My Life and Books

    This year has been disruptive: I had an operation, I moved to a new country for a job that overwhelms me most of the time. I have less time to read. I lost access to my personal library - or a decent library of any kind. I can buy books, yes, but I always ask myself: how am I going to bring the books home?

    My life in Dubai is one I am not used to: I am constantly reminded of how I do not belong, how I am not here to stay. A simple decision to buy furniture leads to the question of: What are we going to do with it when we leave? This is why we have a relatively spartan apartment. We are avoiding being tied down by heavy furniture. It's hard to feel at home in this city when that's the mindset I have. Home is about being settled, about stillness. Internally I am still not at ease.

    If anything, 2008 is a year that keeps reminding me of how things are never what we expect them to be. I was just thinking about this last night when I read what struck Ovidia during a talk she attended - about moving "beyond our static preconceptions to respond to novelty & the unexpected." It sums up what 2008 feels like to me - a year's worth of lessons in having my plans disrupted, and learning to adapt and work without.

    It is difficult. I am only just coming to terms with the reality that I will not be able to make it home next February for Chinese New Year or the Ani DiFranco Singapore concert. But we'll see - nothing is what I expect anyway. So maybe something will change along the way.

    Meanwhile, here is my 2008 Reading in review:

    Number of Books Read: 34 (2007 - 51 Read)

    Books in Translation: 3 (1 Swedish, 2 French)
    Re-readings: 1 (Cyteen)

    100 Books To Read:  18/100 (2007 - 24/100; 2006 - 44 /100)


    Interestingly, I read 14 non-fiction titles this year. I read more essays collections - and in particular, I have started reading more food writings. I have grown quite fond of Ruth Reichl's writing - because she adds a dash of charm and a personal, emotional connection with her subject. She is also quite funny.

    Travel writing - I read a few authors for the first time this year: Patrick Leigh Fermor and Colin Thubron - all wonderful writers. The writer who stands out most however, is Colin Thubron. Shadow of the Silk Road was a good blend of history and culture, but surprisingly, Thubron keeps himself in the background a lot of the time. He seems to be a writer who listens a lot, and who has this ability to get his subjects to talk about themselves no matter where he goes.

    I need to read more Rebecca Solnit. But all my Rebecca Solnit books are at home. :(

    Best Read of 2008:

    I'm a little self-conscious about making a claim for "Best Read of 2008", because if you check out the list of books I read this year, it's only a modest 34, and I doubt I will finish anything before the end of the year. But there are some interesting reads among the 34 titles.

    My most enjoyable fiction read for 2008 is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. I am awfully cynical the media hype behind books most of the time, but sometimes, I get curious. The tattooed-hacker protagonist of the title is an intriguing character. She is obviously smarter and more observant than most people, yet too vulnerable to live in the real world. The book itself is character-driven and I found myself looking forward to coming back every night to continue reading. I am definitely going to read the sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire next year.

    A notable mention for Falconer: an astonishing story about disillusion, and finding redemption in the oddest of places: prison.

    This is brief. I guess because I am still struggling with 2008, and it is going to take a while before I can reflect on the year with any kind of insight.

    Wednesday, December 17, 2008

    MUSIC MEME | Randomness

    1. Put your iTunes (or any other media player you may have) on shuffle.
    2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.

    "Skinny Love" - Bon Iver

    "Anyway But Here"  k.d. lang

    "I'm You" - Leona Lewis

    "Fingers" - Pink

    "The Air That I Breathe" - k.d. lang

    "It Was You" - Sharleen Spiteri

    "Sunday Morning" - Velvet Underground

    "The Blower's Daughter" - Damien Rice

    "The Remainder" - Sleater-Kinney

    "Mississippi Goddam" - Nina Simone

    "Mandy Goes to Med School" - Dresden Dolls

    "Don't Dwell" - Tracy Chapman

    "The Consequences of Falling" - k.d. lang

    "Fallen from the Sky" - Glen Hansard

    "Number One Enemy" - The Slits

    "Home" - Persephone's Bees

    "The Summer Wind" - Madeleine Peyroux

    "Before Easter" - Tracy Chapman

    "Just One of Those Things" - Patricia Barber

    "Blue and Gold Print" - Mates of State

    "Falling Slowly" - Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová

    "Come Ye" - Nina Simone

    "The Sound of White" - Missy Higgins

    "Hop a Plane" - Tegan and Sara

    "I Don't Want to Wait" - Paula Cole

    "Scarred" - Johnette Napolitano

    "Ridiculous Thoughts" - The Cranberries

    "Here No More" - The Breeders

    Monday, December 15, 2008

    MONDAY LYRICS | Full of Grace

    This post is dedicated to Elaine and Serene.

    We go down memory lane to our fourth year in the university. The local TV station was screening Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was the season that Buffy and Angel consummated their relationship, and in the process, Angel lost his soul. (Long story. It involves a gypsy curse) Without his soul, Angel reverted to his evil vampire self – Angelus, the demon with the angelic face.

    Angelus is a sadist who enjoys tormenting his victims before he finishes them off. He was obsessed with Buffy, because he remembers how Buffy made him feel when he still had a soul – he felt human – and the residual feelings repulsed him.

    He stalked the slayer and her friends, terrorising them. Eventually he did kill one of Buffy’s friends, Ms Jenny Calendar, who was a gypsy from the clan that laid the curse on Angelus. Yet in spite everything, Buffy still loves Angel; she could not bring herself to fight the monster that wears her lover’s face. It was heart-wrenching, watching the passion play that is the Buffy and Angel love story.

    We loved every minute of it.

    Every Wednesday evening, Serene, Elaine and I will be in front of our TVs watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sometimes during commercial breaks, either Serene or I will be on the phone with Elaine, and we would discuss the story, or just to say, “Oh my god!” to each other. Because we love the show, and we needed to share it with someone who understands just how great Buffy is.

    We were fourth year students in the university. Technically we were adults. We could have used our time more constructively, no doubt. We could have studied more, or we could have spent the time working on our graduating thesis.

    It was just more fun to talk about Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

    The season reaches its climax when Angelus decides he wants to open the gate of hell into this dimension. Angelus’ blood is the key to open the gate of hell, Angelus’ blood is the key to close it. Buffy has to stop Angelus before he can open the gate of hell. Failing that, she will have to close the gate, which will send Angelus to hell in the process.

    So Buffy goes off to the dramatic show-down with Angelus. She told herself she was ready, she told herself that there is nothing left of the Angel she loves. Except, unknown to her, Buffy’s friends are elsewhere trying a spell that will return Angel’s soul back to him.

    Buffy and Angelus duelled with swords. Right when Buffy was about to end it all, Angel’s soul was returned to his body. It took a moment, but Buffy saw the light of her love in Angel’s eyes. Suddenly there was hope again. He did not remember anything about the few months when he lost his soul, only that it feels like he had not seen Buffy for ages, and he loves her.

    But it was too late. The gate of hell is opening behind Angel; there was only one way to end it. So with a kiss, a Judas Kiss, she tells Angel she loves him before stabbing him with her sword. The gate closes, sucking Angel into the hell dimension in the process.

    The world was saved. The next day everyone showed up at school, wondering where was Buffy. None of them knew the sacrifice Buffy had to make; she had sent the man she loves to hell. The world was saved yes, but at what personal cost? Alone, with the pain she couldn’t share, Buffy left home. Cue soundtrack.

    The producers found the perfect voice to match that closing scene. I was arrested by that song, that startlingly, shimmering voice. Regretfully, I did not know the singer. I only know through that one Buffy song that she sings with a voice full of heartaches: “I know I could love you much better than this”

    Later, Serene printed the lyrics to that song. She pinned it up in the Lit Honours room. That day I found out the Buffy song was “Full of Grace”.

    That was my introduction to Sarah McLachlan.

    The winter here is cold, & bitter
    It's chilled us to the bone,
    I haven’t seen the sun for weeks,
    Too long, too far from home.
    I feel just like I’m sinking,
    And I claw for solid ground,
    I’m pulled down by the undertow,
    I never thought I could feel so low,
    And oh darkness I feel like letting go.

    If all the of the strength and all of the courage,
    Come and lift me from this place,
    I know I can love you much better than this,
    Full of grace,
    Full of grace,
    My love.

    It's better this way, I say,
    Having seen this place before,
    Where everything we say and do,
    Hurts us all the more.
    It’s just that we stayed, too long,
    In the same old sickly skin,
    I’m pulled down by the undertow,
    I never thought I could feel so low,
    And oh darkness I feel like letting go.
    If all of the strength and all of the courage,
    Come and lift me from this place,
    I know I could love you much better than this,
    Full of grace.

    I know I can love you much better than this,
    It’s better this way.

    Sunday, December 14, 2008

    BOOKS | Ten Commandments of Book Giving

    Books do make the best gifts. The problem is, most of my friends refuse to give me more books. Some of my friends feel it encourages an addiction ;p

    Most of my friends avoid giving me books because I work in a bookstore. I am probably one of the worst person to buy a book for: What if I already have a copy, or I end up not liking the book?

    So contradictory to expectations, I rarely get book-gifts. Christmas and birthdays are usually spent hanging out with my friends. While I love book-gifts as much as the next book-geek, there is the other kind of gift that I cherish more than books - time with my friends, and the reminder that they love me.

    I still like to receive books as presents. People just refuse to buy me books. *whine*

    Book giving is an art - because your choice says something about you as much as it says something about your opinion of the other party. Here, Michael Dirda offers his Ten Commandments of Book Giving. I love Commandment #9:

    Support the midlist. Many good novelists, most poets and nearly all scholars sell only a few thousand copies of their books, if they're lucky. Blockbuster titles and brand-name authors will always be with us, but the books that matter in the long run, the books that will truly speak to our very innermost being, can easily be overlooked. Browse through the fiction shelves. Pause at the poetry section. Buy a few of these books, and you'll be a patron of the arts.

    Yes, avoid the bestsellers. The mega-selling authors are rich enough. Make your gift count for something.

    Saturday, December 13, 2008

    Yet Another Reason to Love Ellen Page

    The Lunchbox Auction is an initiative where celebrities design lunchboxes and put them up for bid.

    Here's the lunchbox designed by Ellen Page:

    As though I need any more reason to love this quirky girl! :)

    DUBAI | My writing space

    For Serene - a post of my writing space. It's spartan, yes. But what do we really need to write? For the last 3 months I had little internet access, so there is little distraction on the laptop. Oh, and did I mention for the last 3 months, we have no access to the TV channels?

    I know there are people who needs to be in a comfort zone before they can write. This spartan space however, helps me think more quietly. I would start drafts on my laptop on anything I wish to talk about. From time to time I edit or expand on the drafts until I feel that they are fit to post. Then it's just a matter of getting wifi to post it on the blog.

    I also spend my free time reading at this table (that position has the best lighting in the apartment). Meals are also taken here. 

    It's a busy table. 

    Friday, December 12, 2008

    100 Books To Read 2008 Version 2.2

    This an aspirational list - the key is just to try to read as many as I can.

    1. Arabian Sands • Wilfred Thesiger
      [21/11/2008 ~

    2. With Billie • Julia Blackburn
      [07/11/2008 ~

    3. The Name of the Rose • Umberto Eco
      [translated by William Weaver]
      [03/09/2008 ~

    4. The Idiot • Fyodor Dostoevsky
      [translated by Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky]
      [11/07/2008 ~

    5. The Histories • Herodotus
      [24/04/2007 ~

    6. The Surgeon's Mate • Patrick O'Brian
      [18/04/2008 ~

    7. The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama • Pico Iyer

    8. Touchstone • Laurie R. King
      [08/04/2008 ~

    9. The Stress of Her Regard • Tim Powers
      [07/04/2008 ~

    10. A Voice From the Attic: Essays on the Art of Reading • Robertson Davies
      [13/11/2007 ~

    11. Seduction and Betrayal • Elizabeth Hardwick
      [17/03/2008 ~

    12. Weight • Jeanette Winterson

    13. The Looking Glass Wars • Frank Beddor

    14. Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers • Leonard Koren

    15. The Neverending Story • Michael Ende

    16. The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol
      [translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky]

    17. The Worst Journey in the World • Apsley Cherry-Garrard

    18. War and Peace • Leo Tolstoy
      [translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky]
      [01/01/2008 ~

    19. 三国演义 • 罗 贯 中
      [26/12/2007 ~

    20. 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
      [Translated by Carol Clark & Peter Collier]
      [26/11/2007 ~
      Finding Time Again
      [Translated by Ian Paterson]

    21. Kristin Lavransdatter • Sigrid Undset
      [Translated by Tiina Nunnally]
      [27/08/2007 ~

    22. The Three Musketeers• Alexandre Dumas
      [Translated by Richard Pevear]

    23. The Book of Disquiet • Fernando Pessoa

    24. Good Morning, Midnight • Jean Rhys

    25. After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie • Jean Rhys

    26. Orlando • Virginia Woolf

    27. The Napoleon of Notting Hill • G.K. Chesterton

    28. Rebecca • Daphne Du Maurier

    29. Jane Eyre • Charlotte Bronte

    30. The Masterpiece • Emile Zola

    31. The Plague • Albert Camus

    32. The Myth of Sisyphus • Albert Camus

    33. Cheri and The Last of Cheri • Colette

    34. Earthly Paradise • Colette

    35. Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette • Judith Thurman
      [09/12/2006 ~

    36. Flaubert In Egypt • Gustave Flaubert

    37. Bel-Ami • Guy de Maupassant

    38. Gargantua and Pantagruel • François Rabelais [translated by M. A. Screech]

    39. Assassin's Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, Book I) • Robin Hobb

    40. Royal Assassin (The Farseer Trilogy, Book II) • Robin Hobb

    41. Assassin's Quest (The Farseer Trilogy, Book III) • Robin Hobb

    42. A Canticle for Liebowitz • Walter M. Miller Jr.

    43. Slow River • Nicola Griffith

    44. In Praise of Shadows • Junichiro Tanizaki

    45. Vermeer In Bosnia: Selected Writings • Lawrence Weschler

    46. Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling With D.H. Lawrence • Geoff Dyer

    47. Pashazade [Arabesk Trilogy Book I] • Jon Courtenay Grimwood

    48. Effendi [Arabesk Trilogy Book II] • Jon Courtenay Grimwood

    49. Felaheen [Arabesk Trilogy Book III] • Jon Courtenay Grimwood

    50. Fledgling • Octavia E. Butler

    51. The Ionian Mission • Patrick O'Brian

    52. Under the Volcano • Malcolm Lowry

    53. Love Medicine • Louise Erdrich

    54. Molloy • Samuel Beckett

    55. Love • Stendhal

    56. The Red and the Black • Stendhal

    57. The Charterhouse of Parma • Stendhal

    58. Walden and Other Writings • Henry David Thoreau

    59. Essential Writings • Ralph Waldo Emerson

    60. The Twelve Caesars • Suetonius

    61. Candide • Voltaire

    62. Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape • Barry Lopez

    63. The Little Prince • Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    64. An Unexpected Light • Jason Elliot

    65. The Carpet Wars • Christopher Kremmer

    66. The Shadow of the Sun • Ryszard Kapuscinski

    67. The Places in Between • Rory Stewart

    68. The Power and the Glory • Graham Greene

    69. The Heart of the Matter • Graham Greene

    70. The Solace of Open Spaces • Gretel Ehrlich

    71. A Match to the Heart: One Woman's Story of Being Struck By Lightning • Gretel Ehrlich

    72. Bleak House • Charles Dickens

    73. The Iliad • Homer

    74. Three Bags Full • Leonie Swann

    75. The Stones of Florence and Venice Observed • Mary McCarthy

    76. Venice • Jan Morris

    77. Darkmans • Nicola Barker

    78. The Married Man • Edmund White

    79. The Salterton Trilogy • Robertson Davies

    80. The Leopard • Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

    81. • Jorge Luis Borges

    82. Ghosts of Spain • Giles Tremlett

    83. Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics • Rebecca Solnit
      [26/04/2008 ~ 13/08/2008]

    84. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly • Anthony Bourdain
      [27/05/2008 ~ 11/07/2008]

    85. Into Thin Air • Jon Krakauer
      [03/01/2008 ~ 12/01/2008]

    86. The Wild Places • Robert Macfarlane
      [12/01/2008 ~ 26/01/2008]

    87. Cyteen • C. J. Cherryh
      [29/12/2007 ~ 01/02/2008]

    88. Shadow of the Silk Road • Colin Thubron
      [21/01/2008 ~ 26/02/008]

    89. A Time to Keep Silence • Patrick Leigh Fermor
      [10/02/2008 ~ 02/03/2008]

    90. Cleopatra's Nose: 39 Varieties of Desire • Judith Thurman
      [16/02/2008 ~ 20/03/2008]

    91. The High King (Chronicles of Prydain, Book V) • Lloyd Alexander
      [24/03/2008 ~ 24/03/2008]

    92. Taran Wanderer (Chronicles of Prydain, Book IV) • Lloyd Alexander
      [23/03/2008 ~ 24/03/2008]

    93. The Castle of Llyr (Chronicles of Prydain, Book III) • Lloyd Alexander
      [22/03/2008 ~ 23/03/2008]

    94. The Black Cauldron (Chronicles of Prydain, Book II) • Lloyd Alexander
      [21/03/2008 ~ 22/03/2008]

    95. The Book of Three (Chronicles of Prydain, Book I) • Lloyd Alexander
      [21/03/2008 ~ 21/03/2008]

    96. The Strangers in the House • Georges Simenon
      [Translated by Geoffrey Sainsbury]
      [22/03/2008 ~ 24/03/2008]

    97. Monsieur Monde Vanishes • Georges Simenon
      [Translated by Jean Stewart]
      [24/03/2008 ~ 05/04/2008]

    98. The Riddle-Master's Game • Patricia A. McKillip
      The Riddle-Master of Hed
      [24/03/2008 ~ 05/04/2008]
      Heir of Sea and Fire
      [05/04/2008 ~ 06/04/2008]
      Harpist in the Wind
      [06/04/2008 ~ 07/04/2008]

    99. The Fortune of War • Patrick O'Brian
      [23/03/2008 ~ 16/04/2008]

    100. Falconer • John Cheever
      [16/04/2008 ~ 22/04/2008]

    Alternatives (What a lot of them!):
  • Her Smoke Rose Up Forever • James Tiptree, Jr.
    • Between the Woods and the Water: On Foot to Constantinople: From The Middle Danube to the Iron Gates • Patrick Leigh Fermor

    • The Marsh Arabs • Wilfred Thesiger

    • House Rules • Heather Lewis

    Finally! Internet at home

    Finally! After 3 months n Dubai, we finally have internet access at home! Okay, I finally bullied H, my housemate into going down to sign up for home internet and TV. We were both too busy at work and too tired on our off-days to do it.

    Now I can finally catch up on replying to all your comments, as well as rejoin the blogsphere as a reader who comments, not just lurk.

    I just watched a new episode of House online. I am so happy!

    Tuesday, December 09, 2008

    MONDAY LYRICS | Prayer of St. Francis

    (Yes, I know, this is late)

    Instead of just the lyrics this Monday, let’s talk about the first time I heard this song by Sarah McLachlan. This might not make sense if you’re not familiar with Buffy the Vampire Slayer though.

    Each season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer ends with Buffy battling the Big Bad – in Season 1 it was the Master, in Season 2 it was Angelus and so on.

    In Season 6 (or was that Season 7? I can’t remember and I’m too lazy to fact-check) of the series the writers change the direction for the season finale. They made three losers the “villains” of the season. They were pathetic, all their dastardly plans failed, and they were often the clowns of the series – until one of them came after Buffy with a gun. Buffy was shot, and a second stray bullet killed Tara.

    The death of Tara was the trigger that took Willow over the edge. This was what the entire season arc was really leading up to – our favourite red-headed geek-witch as the Big Bad of Season 6: the Dark Willow. She was out to kill the three losers responsible and she will crush anyone who gets in her way. But before that, she went to the emergency room and pulled the bullet out of Buffy with her powers; Dark Willow could save Buffy, but not Tara. No magic in the world can bring Tara back, because she died by normal means – an ordinary bullet, from a gun, fired by a human. That is the way nature works, and Willow could not accept that.

    When Dark Willow went after the three losers, Buffy ran after her. Buffy wasn’t that concern about the losers – one of them did try to kill her afterall. But Buffy loved her friend: dear, sweet mousy Willow who was smart and cute and kind. Buffy was trying to prevent Willow from committing murder – because once she crossed that line, she will never be the same.

    But Buffy was too late. Dark Willow found the loser responsible for Tara’s death. She tied him up in the woods, drove a bullet into his flesh to make him feel the excruciating pain. The loser whined, begged, cursed, and Dark Willow, with a sigh: “Bored now” – flayed him.

    Flayed – as in tore the whole skin from his body. It was graphic and horrific, and that deed told Buffy that Willow was lost to them. She understood her duty now is to stop the Dark Willow that used to be her friend, who has decided she would try to end the world.

    Towards the end, when Dark Willow was raising a satanic cathedral that would end the world, it was not Buffy who came to the rescue. It was Xander who arrived. He told Willow he was sorry about Tara, he told Willow he loves her. He let her know that he still sees his best friend from kindergarten, who cried when she broke the yellow crayons. Xander, the loser with no power, saved the day. It could have been cheesy, but the scene was genuinely touching. Willow couldn’t kill her best friend, and she started pounding at him with her fists furiously, before finally allowing herself to break down. The source of Willow’s rage and hatred has been her deep, inconsolable grief. When she could finally cry, the dark magic lost their possession of Willow.

    Where was Buffy? She was stuck in a pit with her sister, with monsters that kept coming at them. When the dark magic lost control of Willow, the monsters in the pit stopped coming. Buffy climbed out of the pit with her sister. As the sisters stood in the daylight, wondering why the world did not end, nevertheless glad to be alive here and now with each other – Sarah McLachlan’s "Prayer of St. Francis" played as the closing theme of the season.

    It wasn’t strength, or supernatural power that saved the day. Buffy, the strongest of them all, was trapped with her sister, Dawn, in a deep pit full of monsters that kept coming at them. In the end she despaired. She knew her strength would eventually fail her, and Dawn will die with her; she wasn’t strong enough to protect them both.

    Willow was the most powerful witch in the western hemisphere (or was that the northern hemisphere? If I had my Buffy DVDs with me, I would check) – but she couldn’t save Tara.

    What Xander did was he looked beneath the violence and all that has come to pass. He put himself in harm’s way and spoke to the part of Willow that was grieving. He offered compassion and love in place of violence, because in the greater scheme of things, strength does not resolve violence or hatred. Only love and compassion can do that.

    Sarah McLachlan adapted the Prayer of St. Francis into a song. It is a simple but profound prayer, and when we combine it with the beauty of Sarah McLachlan’s vocals, it is sublime.

    The Prayer of St. Francis

    Lord make me an instrument of your peace,
    Where there is hatred let me sow love.
    Where there is injury, pardon.
    Where there is doubt, faith.
    Where there is despair, hope.
    Where there is darkness, light.
    And where there is sadness, joy.

    O divine master grant that I may
    not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
    to be understood as to understand;
    To be loved as to love
    For it is in giving that we receive-
    it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
    And it's in dying that we are born to eternal life.

    As a song it is a short one, about 2 minutes. Nevertheless, I have played it over and over and never tired of it. Its message is universal: It is about humility: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace” – a plea to serve, to be a vessel of love to the world. It asks of us to go against our lesser impulses, to return hatred with love, where there is injury, to offer pardon. For me, Prayer of St. Francis is yoga music.

    NOTE: “The Prayer of St. Francis” is available on Sarah McLachlan’s Rarities, B-Sides & Other Stuff: Vol. 2 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Soundtrack.