Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Little Stranger

One of the titles that I am looking forward to for 2009 is Sarah Waters's The Little Stranger. I love how she manages these historical pastiche so well.

The publisher website has just made part of the first chapter available for preview.



Something I was tagged on Facebook.

Using ONLY SONG TITLES from ONE artist, cleverly answer these questions:

My artist is SLEATER-KINNEY. (Surprised? If You are, you don't know me well enough)

ADDITIONAL RULE: You cannot use the same artist I did, or duplicate song titles even if they were performed by another artist. Make sure you send a copy to the person who sent you this.

(I listed the song title, followed by the album title)

1. Are you a male or female: "Be Yr Mama" / Sleater-Kinney

2. Describe yourself: "The Drama You've Been Craving" / Dig Me Out

3. How do you feel about yourself: "Let's Call It Love" / The Woods

4. Describe your ex boyfriend/girlfriend: "Was It A Lie" / All Hands On The Bad One

5. Describe your current boy/girl situation: "I'm Not Waiting" / Call The Doctor

6. Describe your current location: "Living in Exile" / The Hot Rock

7. Describe where you want to be: "Taking Me Home" / Call The Doctor

8. Your best friends are: "Good Things" / Call The Doctor

9. Your favorite color is: "Milkshake n' Honey" / All Hands On The Bad One

10. You know that: "Burn, Don't Freeze" / The Hot Rock

11. What’s the weather like: "All Hands On The Bad One" / All Hands On The Bad One

13. What is life to you: "Not What You Want"/ Dig Me Out

14. What is the best advice you have to give: "What's Mine Is Yours" / The Woods

15. If you could change your name, what would it be: "Anonymous" / Call The Doctor

Did you know Sleater-Kinney has no song title with a colour in them? Amazing. Anyone wants to play?

Monday, March 30, 2009

MONDAY LYRICS | "Choose Drugs" by Juliana Hatfield

Juliana Hatfield - where have you been?

I withhold your medicine
But you've still got a connection
They remember everything
In the sky, oblivion

I never knew your innocence
Your white skin glistens
You pried my eyes open
I've lost my ambition

I say it's me or drugs
You choose drugs
I say it's me or drugs
You choose drugs

I say it's me or drugs
You choose drugs
I say it's me or drugs
You choose drugs

Library Raid on Saturday, 28th March 2009

Library Booty:

  1. Paper Towns, John Green
  2. Nation. Terry Pratchett
  3. Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, Peter Høeg
  4. The Quiet American, Graham Greene
  5. Up at the Villa, W. Somerset Maugham

I'm indulging in my bad habit of moving back and forth between books. This is why I often end up finishing very few books, or several books within the same week. But all in all, it was a good reading weekend. I'm now actively reading Nation, Paper Towns and Shock Doctrine.

The fact that I am actually reading more is a positive sign that life is returning to some sort of balance. I still miss my life back home though: I miss my quiet but nonetheless existant social life - and my practice.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bits from Paper Towns

Margo's list:

3 whole Catfish, Wrapped separately

Veet (It's for Shaving your legs only you don't Need A razor

It's with all the Girly cosmetic stuff)


six-pack, Mountain Dew

One dozen Tulips

one Bottle of water


one Can of blue Spray paint

"Interesting capitalization," I said.

"Yeah. I'm a big believer in random capitalization. The rules of capitalization are so unfair to words in the middle."

From Paper Towns, by John Green

I smiled when I read this bit.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

James Beard Foundation Award

Some Book Award Nominees:

by Grant Achatz
(Achatz LLC/Ten Speed Press)

The Big Fat Duck Cookbook
by Heston Blumenthal
(Bloomsbury USA)

Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide
by Thomas Keller

My vote for this category is Alinea. It's awesome.

How to Cook Everything (Completely Revised Tenth Anniversary Edition)
by Mark Bittman
(John Wiley & Sons, Inc.)

Martha Stewart’s Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook
by Martha Stewart with Sarah Carey
(Clarkson Potter)

The Bon Appétit Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook
by Barbara Fairchild
(John Wiley & Sons, Inc.)

Mark Bittman gets my vote. Please - Martha Stewart?

In Defense of Food
by Michael Pollan
(The Penguin Press)

Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China
by Fuchsia Dunlop
(W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.)

Raising Steaks: The Life and Times of American Beef
by Betty Fussell
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

I want Michael Pollan to win this one, but Fuchsia Dunlop seems more fun.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

POETRY | The Journey

By Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

24th March 2009

Too often I have friends who will find themselves caught up in a state of spiritual and emotional fatigue. Sometimes we talk, and I always tell the story about people going back to the things that first inspired them.

I have been neglecting my yoga practice for 6 months now. This is about how long I have been in Dubai. With work and having to adapt to a very different culture, my practice has been put aside. I am not proud of it, and I feel lost without my practice. The practice has always been the one sure thing I can fall back on whenever life hits me hard.

It has been a while since I allowed myself a moment of self-reflection. But I forced myself to sit down and write this post today because I need to stop and find my bearing again. I am 33 years old today. For the past few years, I have always taken a day of work to spend time with myself. This year, while I can't take time off, I still want to spend time with myself.

Without my regular practice these days, it seems I lost a bit of focus in my life. I need to come back to the mat. But the question is: How?

So I come back to the story I always tell my friends: Go back to the people or things that inspire you. I came across this yoga demonstration by Ana Forrest this evening. I remember how awe-inspiring she is to me. I know yoga is more than the flexibility and strength. It is more than the advanced twisty poses.

What I want is her discipline. Everything she does in the video below happens because she worked really hard at it. 

TED | Elizabeth Gilbert on Creativity and a Little Bit More

You probably know Elizabeth Gilbert from her book, Eat, Pray, Love. If you have been inside any bookstore the last two years, you probably see stack-loads of it around.

TED invited Elizabeth Gilbert to speak on creativity. As a public speaker, Elizabeth Gilbert is engaging and her speech is sprinkled with humorous anecdotes so that it never feels boring.

The reason I decided to post her TED video here today is because of her message towards the end: She was so successful with her last book that she is now caught p with the tremendous pressure and expectation for her next book. How can she possibly write anything that can be as successful? As she admitted to the audience: her best days as a writer may already be behind her. How does somebody live up to this sort of pressure? How does an artist continue to work, knowing you may never create anything that was as spectacular as what came before?

Elizabeth Gilbert explains one of the one of the most painful reconciliation for an artist: there will come a time when you know that the moment of almost divine inspiration has passed on. How she comes to term with this is to accept that perhaps, this moment of inspiration - this "most extraordinary aspects of your being" that came from somewhere outside of yourself is just on loan to you. It was with you for a moment, and when you are finished, to be passed along to somebody else.

I love this idea that we do not own our gifts. That it is something shared with us for a brief moment of our lives. When the time comes, we pass it on, grateful for what it has brought us - for what came by grace is never ours to keep.

Please watch this video for her message.

Elizabeth Gilbert's website

Monday, March 23, 2009

MUSIC | Corin Tucker's Solo Album (Possibly)

This morning I received a message from one of the Facebook groups I subscribe to. It carries with it a bit of unverified news that can really make my day. If it's true. *fingers crossed*

The news is: Corin Tucker (one-third of my favourite band, Sleater-Kinney) may be releasing a solo album this fall. The fangirl in me goes, "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!"

Meanwhile, here's a few video of Corin Tucker performing her solo at the Reading Frenzy benefit, at Holocene in Portland, Oregon.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

St Vincent and Tori Amos @ SXSW 2009

I'm following the SXSW 2009 online coverage at the moment. Among the fun stuff posted is this video of St Vincent rehearsing her new single, "An Actor Out of Work" (from her forthcoming album, Actor - due 5th May):

I want that new album to come out now.

Also, Tori Amos showcasing some new songs from her new album, Abnormally Attracted To Sin (out 19th May):

"Curtain Call":

"Mary Jane":

Don't you wish you can be there?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

CHALLENGE | Once Upon A Time III

I know I suck at challenges - though that has not been a factor whenever I sign up for a new one. I guess the point is just to try.

But with my reading in decline these days, I'll work on "The Journey" - which is just to try to read as many as I can. If not, just to enjoy the process.

Pool of books to read:

  1. The Devil You Know, Mike Carey -
    Mike Carey wrote the Lucifer and Hellblazer comics. His Felix Castor series is in the genre of supernatural suspense. Castor, you see, is a freelance exorcist who finds it hard to quit. Things just happens, you see.

  2. Let The Right One In, John Ajvide Lindqvist -
    Some of you might have watched the film that was drawn from the book. Oskar is a 12 year old boy who is living with his mother. He is bullied at school, unhappy and he wets his pants. Then a mysterious girl moves in next door. She doesn't go to school. She doesn't leave the flat during the day. Oh yeah, she's a vampire.

  3. Black Ships, Jo Graham
    Gull is an oracle, chosen to serve the Lady of the Dead. Her destiny arrives in the form of four black ships, bringing with them Aeneas from the fallen city of Troy. Gull will have to brave the gates of the Underworld to lead Aeneas to his own destiny.

Well then. Let's see where we end up.

Reading As Protest

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has often expressed his disdain for the novel, La Princesse de Cleves. His very public opinion of the 17th century novel has helped the book gain a reputation as the literature of dissent against Sarkozy. [ Source ]

Recently the sales of La Princesse de Cleves has risen. The French people dislike Sarkozy so much they feel they need to read the book.

This is the kind of story that makes me go all warm and fuzzy inside. It makes me want to learn French and move to Paris. I love a culture that protest by reading.

Friday, March 20, 2009

'FESS UP FRIDAY | Haruki Murakami's Routine

I haven't been doing this for a while. But recently things have finally started to resume a sort of normality. I found some time to write a little. My recent London trip gave me some ideas. I'm not sure where I'm going with them, so I'm just writing to get the words out. It's therapeutic in its own way.

For writing tips, I offer: Daily Routines - how Haruki Murakami goes about his day:

When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 pm. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long — six months to a year — requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.

- excerpt from The Paris Review, Summer 2004

Monday, March 16, 2009

My Flickr Records of London Trip Feb/March 2009

Just a note: I will not be updating my pictures to flickr for a while. Just found out my internet service provider has blocked my access to flickr.com. I am distressed by this, because I have only just signed up for a paid account to flickr and now this.

Here's some of the pictures from my recent London trip. I wish there's more - but most of the time I'm busy looking instead of keeping records.

Trying to stay in the moment, yeah? :) But no worries - there's always a chance for a second trip.

MUSIC MONDAY | Say Hallelujah

A friend of mine - The Brat - played Evanescence's "Bring Me To Life" at her wedding - a choice that I totally approve of. Not that it matters what I think. It's her wedding, not mine. Still, we are living the age of soundtrack, where for every significant moment of our lives, there has to be a song to go with it.

This thread of thought started with this music meme, where my answer to "WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL?" is "Number One Enemy" by The Slits. It was irony by randomness, but it did make me think a little about what song would I want to be played at my funeral.

In one of those moments of idle chatter, I asked The Brat what song would she pick for her funeral. She said it didn't matter; she would be dead. The song really, is for the living, just as a funeral is also for the benefit of the living. A funeral is a ritual, something for us to cope and come to terms with that unknown and terrible notion of mortality. What is it about death that I fear most? I guess I am afraid that nobody will come to my funeral. It's an irrational fear, but one that is entirely possible, because I kept my life so compartmentalized, my family has no idea who my friends are.

If I have a choice though (because I would want my funeral to be about me, because we would like some governance over our lives and our deaths in any way we can) - I would like Tracy Chapman's "Say Hallelujah" to be played at my funeral. The lyrics says almost everything I would like to tell my friends, especially this part:

Dry your eyes
And stand upright
Put a smile on your face
He wouldn't want us to cry

I wouldn’t want my friends to cry too much at my funeral. But if you must, you may.

"Say Hallelujah"

Say Hallelujah
Throw up your hands
The bucket is kicked
The body is gone

Close your eyes
And bow your head
To rest your soul
And to praise the dead

Say Hallelujah
Throw up your hands
The bucket is kicked
The body is gone

Dry your eyes
And stand upright
Put a smile on your face
He wouldn't want us to cry

The sun will rise
The stars will shine
Turning day to dusk
And night to dawn
We'll pass on
But until that time

Say Hallelujah
Say Hallelujah

Say Hallelujah
Throw up your hands
The bucket is kicked
The body is gone

Have mercy
It's a wonderful life
Eternal rest for the weary
Mourners party tonight

Say Hallelujah
Throw up your hands
The bucket is kicked
The body is gone

Wave your hands
But don't say goodbye
We're all gonna meet you
On the other side

Friday, March 13, 2009

Create Your Own Hero

Just found one of those time-sucking stuff to do online. Create your own hero and see how your hero looks on the cover of a comic book. Here's mine (yes, my heroine would be a redhead):

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What I Am Reading At the Moment | Shock Doctrine

[Photo: Shock Doctrine, with my spectacles, and a triangular pencil from the Tate Modern souvenir shop.]

I bought Shock Doctrine when I was in London. Just a few pages into it, I was hooked. It quickly became the book I carried with me everywhere I went; I read Shock Doctrine when I was commuting on the Tube. I read it when I was waiting for the rain to stop. I read it the moment I woke up. I came back from work this evening with the sole intention to continue reading the book.

It has been a while since any book - fiction or non-fiction - had such an immense power over me.

I had to do Economics for my 'A' Levels - and I hated it. I reckon I was absent for more than 50% of my Economics lectures back then. This is why it is so amazing that Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine made me realise how an understanding of economic theory is intrinsic to an understanding of politics and the world today.

Monday, March 09, 2009

MEME | The Letter W

Doing the Letters Meme, where I list 10 things I love that starts with the chosen letter. I asked for a challenging one, so Nymeth gave me "W". Ha! I laugh at you, letter "W". (This makes me feel like a character from Sesame Street.)

  1. While My Guitar Gently Weeps: When I talk to my friends about the Beatles, they usually tell me how much they love the Sgt Pepper album. I'm not disputing that - but personally, the Beatles album that I love is The White Album. I believe The White Album is the best showcase of just how talented they are as song-writers. My favourite song from The White Album - and probably my favourite Beatles song - is "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" - written by George Harrison, with Eric Clapton on guitar.

  2. Winterson, Jeanette:  I quote a lot from Winterson's books and essays on this blog.

  3. Washington Post Book World: Washington Post Book World will go out of print as a separate section in the Washington Post - but thankfully, it will still exist as an online entity. The Book World gave voice to well-read bookworms like Michael Dirda to chatter about the pleasure of reading - and re-reading. We need more newspapers to put this kind of focus on book culture.

  4. Woods, The: The final album by my favourite band, Sleater-Kinney. Some bands stick to the known and the familiar. While some of them do find commercial success, and their music do find loyal fans - there are the other bands like Sleater-Kinney. They could have signed up with the more commercial labels, but they preferred to retain the creative integrity of their music. They never stopped challenging themselves as musicians, always mindful that they want to produce the kind of music that they can be proud of. They went a new direction for The Woods, with a new producer who was not familiar with their prior albums - who could therefore provide a fresh perspective on their work. The Woods irritated  some fans, who found it deviate too much from the music they loved - but they also earned some new fans.

    The Woods represent everything that is admirable about Sleater-Kinney: they never fell into complacency. They came to a point where they knew they were not progressing musically, and so they announced their "indefinite hiatus" in spite of all the fan-protests. They understood that life (and by extension, their music) is about moving forward.

  5. Wanderlust: Wanderlust, a great book by Rebecca Solnit. It's a series of essays on the idea of walking, of wandering, of our relationship to moving, of time, of history, art, culture and politics. Solnit is as wiling to wander off in the middle of the essay to pursue a line of enquiry that interests her. I love her writings, because she exemplifies how we learn so much more when we are willing to wander off the familiar path to seek out the unknown. Wandering is to defy boundaries.

  6. Willow Rosenberg: Who can resist the most powerful witch in the Northern Hemisphere on Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Dark Willow is cool too. :)

  7. W
    ild Thing: I was fortunate to have met some Anusara-inspired teachers, and they sometimes incorporate this backbend - known as The Wild Thing (show in the picture to the right) into the flow. The Wild Thing is one of my favourite yoga pose, because it allows me to play with the natural flexibility of my body. The asana is a great heart opener - therapeutic when I'm feeling lethargic or depressed.

  8. Wit: Maybe it's because I'm the sort who prefers to mull things over, I find a person who can think fast on their feet very sexy. Especially if they can make me laugh.

  9. Wikipedia: You don't have to know anything anymore. You can look it up on Wikipedia!

  10. Walking: I walked a lot during my recent London trip, and I got lost A LOT. In fact, on my very last day, I was waking towards Brick Lane and ended up at the Tower of London - which was okay. I went in to see the Tower instead. Walking is the best mode of transport when you're travelling, and it's healthy. Walking is the best way to see a city, because everything is at the ground level, you see so much more. All of us who are able to walk should be grateful.