Thursday, December 30, 2010

QUOTE | Whenever we find fault with others ...

"Whenever we find fault with others, whether through anger, contemptuous certainty, self-righteousness, or gossip, it is often based in fear. We may not be aware of our fears, but when we look deeply, we may discover the fear of rejection, loss of control, of unworthiness, or the fear of disconnection. But refraining alone is not enough—by itself it is just behavior modification—and it is neither healing nor transformative. Only through uncovering and consciously entering into the deep hole inside, welcoming the fear with curiosity and compassion, can we ultimately reconnect with the basic wholeness of our true nature."

—Ezra Bayda

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

QUOTE | Failure and Success

“Failure’s hard, but success is far more dangerous. If you’re successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and money and opportunity can lock you in forever.”

– Po Bronson

Sunday, December 26, 2010

we must make a relationship with loneliness until it becomes aloneness

"We leave our homeland, our property and our friends. We give up the familiar ground that supports our ego, admit the helplessness of ego to control its world and secure itself. We give up our clingings to superiority and self-preservation...It means giving up searching for a home, becoming a refugee, a lonely person who must depend on himself...Fundamentally, no one can help us. If we seek to relieve our loneliness, we will be distracted from the path. Instead, we must make a relationship with loneliness until it becomes aloneness."

~ Chögyam Trungpa (The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation)

Monday, December 20, 2010

PATTI SMITH | "... please don’t abandon the book"

“I dreamed of having a book of my own, of writing one that I could put on a shelf. Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please don’t abandon the book. There is nothing in our material world more beautiful than the book.”

~ Patti Smith, in her acceptance speech for the 2010 National Book Awards

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Giving Gift Cards for Christmas?

"Book buying, by extension, has become an impersonal exchange. Soulless gift cards and instant e-certificates are, of course, the only option when there is no specific book object to wrap. But giving gift cards in a long-term relationship is depressing. It's like saying, 'Here's 150 Amazon dollars. That's how much I love you. Please adjust to reflect my portion of the mortgage payment.' "

--Leah McLaren in her Globe & Mail column "How the rise of e-readers takes the fun out of giving books."

But I like gift-cards to bookstores. Give me, please?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love the movie: "Ruin is a gift"

Liz: "A friend took me to the most amazing place the other day. It's called the Augusteum. Octavian Augustus built it to house his remains. When the barbarians came they trashed it a long with everything else. The great Augustus, Rome's first true great emperor. How could he have imagined that Rome, the whole world as far as he was concerned, would be in ruins. It's one of the quietest, loneliest places in Rome. The city has grown up around it over the centuries. It feels like a precious wound, a heartbreak you won't let go of because it hurts too good. We all want things to stay the same. Settle for living in misery because we're afraid of change, of things crumbling to ruins. Then I looked at around to this place, at the chaos it has endured - the way it has been adapted, burned, pillaged and found a way to build itself back up again. And I was reassured, maybe my life hasn't been so chaotic, it's just the world that is, and the real trap is getting attached to any of it. Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation."

~ from the film "Eat, Pray, Love"

MONDAY LYRICS | 追 ("Chase")

追(電影 『金枝玉葉』插曲)

曲:李迪文 詞:林夕 編: George Leong

這一生 也在進取
這分鐘 卻掛念誰
我會說 是唯獨你 不可失去
好風光 似幻似虛
我會說 為情為愛 仍然是對

誰比你重要 成功了敗了也完全無重要
誰比你重要 狂風與暴雨都因你燃燒

一追再追 只想追趕生命裡一分一秒
原來多麼可笑 你是真正目標
一追再追 追蹤一些生活最基本需要
原來早不缺少 wo..ha..
有了你 即使平凡卻最重要

好光陰 縱沒太多 一分鐘又如何
會與你 共同渡過 都不枉過
瘋戀多 錯誤更多 如能重新做過
我會說 願能為你 提前做錯

一追再追 只想追趕生命裡一分一秒
原來多麼可笑 你是真正目
標一追再追 追蹤一些生活最基本需要
原來早不缺少 WO..HA..
只得你 會叫我彷彿人群裡最重要
有了你 即使沈睡了 也在笑

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Om Namah Shivaya Gurave

Om Namah Shivaya Gurave
(I offer myself to the one true teacher within and without)

Saccidananda Murtaye
(In the forms of reality, consciousness and bliss)

Nisprapancaya Shantaya
(Ever present and full of peace)

Niralambaya Tejase
(Independent being, the vital essence of illumination)

2 December 2010

What a Friend Said about Me: "You are funny... things go good, you are uncomfortable, things aren't cosy, you are in your element."

Reading Eat, Pray, Love at the moment, because I enjoyed the film with Julia Roberts -- and because sometimes you are just in a strange kind of mood for a book about travel and healing. Besides, I just picked it up from the library today. I was #19 on the Reservation List.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

30 November 2010

Nothing much to say these days. Just feeling.

MUSIC | Rachael Yamagata - Elephants

One of those songs where the ironic incongruity between melody and the lyrics are effective.

If the elephants have past lives yet are destined to always remember
It's no wonder how they scream
Like you and I they must have some temper

And I am dreaming of them on the plains
Dirtying up their beds
Watching for some sign of rain to cool their hot heads

And how dare that you send me that card when I'm doing all that I can do
You are forcing me to remember when all I want is to just forget you

If the tiger shall protect her young then tell me how did you slip by
All my instincts have failed me for once
I must have somehow slept the whole night

And I am dreaming of them with their kill
Tearing it all apart
Blood dripping from their lips and teeth sinking into heart

And how dare that you say you'll call
When you know I need some peace of mind
If you have to take sides with the animals
Won't you do it with one who is kind

And if the hawks in the trees need the dead
If you're living you don't stand a chance
For a time though you share the same bed
There are only two ends to this dance

You can flee with your wounds just in time or lie there as he feeds
Watching yourself ripped to shreds and laughing as you bleed

So for those of you falling in love keep it kind
Keep it good
Keep it right
Throw yourself in the midst of danger but keep one eye open at night

MUSIC | Rachael Yamagata - I Wish You Love

I wish you bluebirds in the spring
To give your heart a song to sing
And then a kiss, but more than this
I wish you love
And in July a lemonade
To cool you in some leafy glade
I wish you health
And more than wealth
I wish you love

My breaking heart and I agree
That you and I could never be
So with my best
My very best
I set you free

I wish you shelter from the storm
A cozy fire to keep you warm
But most of all when snowflakes fall
I wish you love

My breaking heart and I agree
That you and I could never be
So with my best
My very best
I set you free

I wish you shelter from the storm
A cozy fire to keep you warm
But most of all when snowflakes fall
I wish you love
But most of all when snowflakes fall
I wish you love.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

MUSIC | Sia - Breathe Me

"Learn to watch your drama unfold while at the same time knowing you are more than your drama."
— Ram Dass

Over and over again, the same mistakes, the same drama. You think it hurts now, then the pain gets worse. It's all part of human nature.

I love the way this song begins, something poignantly human in it:

Help, I have done it again
I have been here many times before
Hurt myself again today
And, the worst part is there's no-one else to blame

I made a mistake. Did it again. No one else to blame.

Help, I have done it again
I have been here many times before
Hurt myself again today
And, the worst part is there's no-one else to blame

Be my friend
Hold me, wrap me up
Unfold me
I am small
I'm needy
Warm me up
And breathe me

Ouch I have lost myself again
Lost myself and I am nowhere to be found,
Yeah I think that I might break
I've lost myself again and I feel unsafe

Be my friend
Hold me, wrap me up
Unfold me
I am small
I'm needy
Warm me up
And breathe me

Be my friend
Hold me, wrap me up
Unfold me
I am small
I'm needy
Warm me up
And breathe me

MUSIC | P!nk - Fuckin' Perfect

Made a wrong turn, once or twice
Dug my way out, blood and fire
Bad decisions, that's alright
Welcome to my silly life
Mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood
Miss 'No way, it's all good', it didn't slow me down
Mistaken, always second guessing, underestimated
Look, I'm still around

Pretty pretty please, don't you ever ever feel
Like you're less than f*ckin' perfect
Pretty pretty please, if you ever ever feel like you're nothing
You're f*ckin' perfect to me!

You're so mean, when you talk about yourself, you were wrong
Change the voices in your head, make them like you instead
So complicated, look happy, you'll make it!
Filled with so much hatred...such a tired game
It's enough! I've done all I can think of
Chased down all my demons, I've seen you do the same

Oh, pretty pretty please, don't you ever ever feel
Like you're less than f*ckin' perfect
Pretty pretty please, if you ever ever feel like you're nothing

You're f*ckin' perfect to me

The whole world's scared so I swallow the fear
The only thing I should be drinking is an ice cold beer
So cool in line, and we try try try, but we try too hard and it's a waste of my time
Done looking for the critics, cause they're everywhere
They dont like my jeans, they don't get my hair
Exchange ourselves, and we do it all the time
Why do we do that? Why do I do that?

Why do I do that..?

Yeah, oh, oh baby, pretty baby..!
Pretty pretty please, don't you ever ever feel
Like you're less than f*ckin' perfect
Pretty pretty please, if you ever ever feel
Like you're nothing, you're fucking perfect to me
You're perfect, you're perfect!
Pretty pretty please, if you ever ever feel like you're nothing
You're fuckin' perfect to me...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Rilke On Entering a Profession

It is good that you will soon be entering a profession that will make you independent and will put you completely on your own, in every sense. Wait patiently to see whether your innermost life feels hemmed in by the form this profession imposes. I myself consider it a very difficult and very exacting one, since it is burdened with enormous conventions and leaves very little room for a personal interpretation of its duties. But your solitude will be a support and a home for you, even in the midst of very unfamiliar circumstances, and from it you will find all your paths.

~ Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Carrie Brownstein has a new band!

Carrie Brownstein has a new band, Wild Flag - which is made up of Carrie Brownstein, Mary Timony, Rebecca Cole, and Janet Weiss (yes, Janet does the drums.) As she wrote on the NPR "All Songs Considered" blog:

After Sleater-Kinney broke up in 2006 I had very little desire to play music. It took well over three years before picking up a guitar meant anything to me other than an exercise. In fact, it was writing about music for NPR — connecting with music fans and experiencing a sense of community — that made me want to write songs again. I began to feel I was in my head too much about music, too analytical. I felt an emotional tie with my readers and with the bands and songs and scenes I was writing about and sharing, but ultimately it was not the same as playing or being inside of the song.

I have no desire to play music unless I need music. And as readers of Monitor Mix might know, I have very little desire to even listen to music by players who don't seem to need it, to want it. Otherwise, what is the point? About a year ago I started to need music again, and so I called on my friends and we joined as a band.

Chemistry cannot be manufactured or forced, so WILD FLAG was not a sure thing, it was a "maybe," a "possibility." But after a handful of practice sessions, spread out over a period of months, I think we all realized that we could be greater than the sum of our parts, not four disparate puzzle pieces trying to make sense of the other, but a cohesive and dynamic whole. At least that's our hope going forward. We're playing for ourselves but, of course, we'd love it if you listened.

How Handwriting Trains the Brain

Wall Street Journal article on how handwriting can train the brain.

Using advanced tools such as magnetic resonance imaging, researchers are finding that writing by hand is more than just a way to communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development.

It's not just children who benefit. Adults studying new symbols, such as Chinese characters, might enhance recognition by writing the characters by hand, researchers say. Some physicians say handwriting could be a good cognitive exercise for baby boomers working to keep their minds sharp as they age.

That Kind of Love by Alison Krauss

Who would sell their soul for love?
Or waste one tear on compromise
Should be easy enough
To know a heartache in disguise
But the heart rules the mind
And the going gets rough
Pride takes the fall
When you find that kind of love

I can't help feeling like a fool
Since I lost that place inside
Where my heart knew its way
And my soul was ever wise
Once innocence was lost
There was not faith enough
Still my heart held on
When it found that kind of love

Though beauty is rare enough
Still we trust
Somehow we'll find it there

With no guarantee
It seems to me
At least it should be fair

But if it's only tears and pain
Isn't it still worth the cost
Like some sweet saving grace
Or a river we must cross
If we don't understand
What this life is made of
We learn the truth
When we find that kind of love
Cause when innocence is lost
There is not faith enough
We learn the truth
When we find that kind of love

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Hiding Behind the Screen by Roger Scruton

Essay by Roger Scruton which discusses the socialization process behind online media such as Second Life, Facebook -- and of course, blogs.

In human relations, risk avoidance means the avoidance of account ability, the refusal to stand judged in another’s eyes, the refusal to come face to face with another person, to give oneself in whatever measure to him or her, and so to run the risk of rejection. Accountability is not something we should avoid; it is something we need to learn. Without it we can never acquire either the capacity to love or the virtue of justice. Other people will remain for us merely complex devices, to be negotiated in the way that animals are negotiated, for our own advantage and without opening the possibility of mutual judgment. Justice is the ability to see the other as having a claim on you, as being a free subject just as you are, and as demanding your accountability. To acquire this virtue you must learn the habit of face-to-face encounters, in which you solicit the other’s consent and cooperation rather than imposing your will. The retreat behind the screen is a way of retaining control over the encounter, while minimizing the need to acknowledge the other’s point of view. It involves setting your will outside yourself, as a feature of virtual reality, while not risking it as it must be risked, if others are truly to be encountered. To encounter another person in his freedom is to acknowledge his sovereignty and his right: it is to recognize that the developing situation is no longer within your exclusive control, but that you are caught up by it, made real and accountable in the other’s eyes by the same considerations that make him real and accountable in yours.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Michael Ruhlman Has Something to Say

Michael Ruhlman talks a little about the ideas he learnt from this book: Catching Fire by Richard Wrangham. He talks about how learning to cook our food gave humans access to more calories, but most importantly, it forces us to cooperate to prepare cooked food. It made it harder for us to be jerks -- because jerks will find it harder to get cooked food.

Had Something to Say - Cooking from michael ruhlman on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

MUSIC | "My Immortal" by Evanescence

I'm so tired of being here, suppressed by all my childish fears
And if you have to leave, I wish that you would just leave
Your presence still lingers here and it won't leave me alone

These wounds won't seem to heal, this pain is just too real
There's just too much that time cannot erase

When you cried, I'd wipe away all of your tears
When you'd scream, I'd fight away all of your fears
And I held your hand through all of these years
But you still have all of me

You used to captivate me by your resonating light
Now, I'm bound by the life you left behind
Your face it haunts my once pleasant dreams
Your voice it chased away all the sanity in me

These wounds won't seem to heal, this pain is just too real
There's just too much that time cannot erase

When you cried, I'd wipe away all of your tears
When you'd scream, I'd fight away all of your fears
And I held your hand through all of these years
But you still have all of me

I've tried so hard to tell myself that you're gone
But though you're still with me, I've been alone all along

When you cried, I'd wipe away all of your tears
When you'd scream, I'd fight away all of your fears
And I held your hand through all of these years
But you still have all of me, me, me

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

POETRY | "The Decision" by Jane Hirshfield

There is a moment before a shape
hardens, a color sets.
Before the fixative or heat of   kiln.
The letter might still be taken
from the mailbox.
The hand held back by the elbow,
the word kept between the larynx pulse
and the amplifying drum-skin of the room’s air.
The thorax of an ant is not as narrow.
The green coat on old copper weighs more.
Yet something slips through it —
looks around,
sets out in the new direction, for other lands.
Not into exile, not into hope. Simply changed.
As a sandy track-rut changes when called a Silk Road:
it cannot be after turned back from.

Monday, October 25, 2010

POETRY | "A Brief for the Defense" by Jack Gilbert

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

~ from Refusing Heaven (Knopf, 2005)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

POETRY | Throw Yourself Like Seed by Miguel de Unamuno

Shake off this sadness, and recover your spirit
sluggish you will never see the wheel of fate
that brushes your heel as it turns going by,
the man who wants to live is the man in whom life is abundant.

Now you are only giving food to that final pain
which is slowly winding you in the nets of death,
but to live is to work, and the only thing which lasts
is the work; start then, turn to the work.

Throw yourself like seed as you walk, and into your own field,
don't turn your face for that would be to turn it to death,
and do not let the past weigh down your motion.

Leave what's alive in the furrow, what's dead in yourself,
for life does not move in the same way as a group of clouds;
from your work you will be able one day to gather yourself.

~ Miguel de Unamuno
(from Roots and Wings, edited and translated by Robert Bly)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol

I miss you.

We'll do it all
On our own

We don't need
Or anyone

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

I don't quite know
How to say
How I feel

Those three words
Are said too much
They're not enough

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

Forget what we're told
Before we get too old
Show me a garden that's bursting into life

Let's waste time
Chasing cars
Around our heads

I need your grace
To remind me
To find my own

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

Forget what we're told
Before we get too old
Show me a garden that's bursting into life

All that I am
All that I ever was
Is here in your perfect eyes, they're all I can see

I don't know where
Confused about how as well
Just know that these things will never change for us at all

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I Need Some Lightness in my Reading

I have wanted to read something by Louise Erdrich for a very long time. I finally picked up Shadow Tag from the library recently and I'm several chapters into the book -- but you know what? I'm in no mood to finish the book.

I am feeling a little sore about yet another book started but unfinished -- but I refuse to dwell on it. The premise of the story is the disintegrating marriage between an artist and his research scholar wife. One day, the wife discovers that the husband has been reading her diary. Sick to the core of her being, she begins to write deliberately things that are meant for his eyes, while keeping another diary in secret.

The subject of this book is too taxing on my psyche right now. There are just moments in your life when you need some lightness and hope in the things you take in. I find the characters in Shadow Tag self-centred, cruel and deceitful -- and I have no patience for that right now. I need some hope in my reading. Some joy and kindness, please -- before I lose hope in humanity?

Acoustic version of "Help I'm Alive", by Metric

The year I was in Dubai, I read little. Any reading I did was for work and there was little pleasure in that.

Metric's "Help I'm Alive" was one of those songs I played on a loop on my iPod nano. Something about that little plaintive voice that sang about being afraid, overwhelmed by life and the heart beating like a hammer - that resonates with me.

I tremble
They're going to eat me alive
If I stumble
They're going to eat me alive

Can you hear my heart beating like a hammer?
Beating like a hammer?
Help, I'm alive, my heart keeps beating like a hammer
Hard to be soft
Tough to be tender

Come take my pulse, the pace is on a runaway train
Help, I'm alive, my heart keeps beating like a hammer
Beating like a hammer

If you're still alive
My regrets are few
If my life is mine
What shouldn't I do?
I get wherever I'm going
I get whatever I need
While my blood's still flowing
And my heart still beats . . .
Beating like a hammer
Beating like a hammer

Help, I'm alive, my heart keeps beating like a hammer
Hard to be soft
Tough to be tender

Come take my pulse, the pace is on a runaway train
Help, I'm alive, my heart keeps
Beating like a hammer
Beating like a hammer

If you're still alive
My regrets are few
If my life is mine
What shouldn't I do?
I get wherever I'm going
I get whatever I need
While my blood's still flowing
And my heart still beats . . .
Beating like a hammer
Beating like a hammer
Beating like a hammer
Beating like a hammer

Help, I'm alive, my heart keeps beating like a hammer

Monday, October 11, 2010

Song by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Do not grieve.
Do not grieve
This pain will cease.
Friends will return
Wounds will heal

Do not grieve.
Do not grieve.
Day will dawn.
Night will end.
Clouds will burst.

Do not Grieve.
Do not grieve.
Times will change.
Birds will sing.
Spring will come.

Do not grieve.
Do not grieve.

~ Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Translated by Daud Kamal

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Stability of Ease

From Tricycle

"When we are well with ourselves, then whatever happens, it really doesn’t matter, because we have equilibrium and stability. We don’t feel any lack of confidence. If not, we’re always on edge, waiting to see how someone reacts to us, what people say to us or think about us. Our confidence hangs on what people tell us about how we are, how we look, how we behave. When we are really in touch with ourselves, we know ourselves beyond what others may tell us. So these three qualities—a good heart, stability, and spaciousness—these are really what you could call basic human virtues."

~ Sogyal Rinpoche

Monday, September 27, 2010

Falling Slowly

Sometimes you hear a song - it's beautiful, and you love it, but then you put it aside and thought nothing of it after some time. Later down the road, something happens. You listen to the song again, and suddenly this very same song is all that you're playing on your iPod day after day.

This song, according to Glen Hansard, is about trying to fix something that's broken, but you can't fix it, so you wish it well and send it on it's way.

Ever been there?

Lyrics | Glen Hansard - Falling Slowly lyrics

Monday, August 30, 2010

Off to Seattle

Off to Seattle this Wednesday to meet friends. :)

I'll be bringing the final two volumes of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy with me. It's at least an 18 hours flight, so I need something fast-paced to get my mind off the cramped space. I usually don't sleep well on the plane. This is so much agony.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Life - Time to Get One

Life has unfortunately thrown me into a tailspin lately. I suddenly find myself in a relationship.

Life as I know it - is now running on a different set of rules. :\

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Unorganized Bookshelves

We moved to a new apartment recently and I have only just put all the books up on the bookshelves. Because I had to do it in a hurry, not all the books are where they ought to be -- not all the books by the same author are placed together, they are not arranged according to subject or genres. Just up there on the bookshelves until I can sort them out again.

Right now I seem to have books missing. I can't find Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger, for instance. Either I lost the book during the move (not likely) or it's hidden somewhere.

Either way, things are not where they used to be, and not organized the way I prefer. I am a little intrigued by how uneasy this makes me feel; something so unimportant, seemingly minor, yet it feels so important: well-organized bookshelves.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

QUOTE | Two Meanings of Lost

Sort of how I've been feeling lately, so I decided to look up this quote:

Lost really has two disparate meanings. Losing things is about the familiar falling away, getting lost is about the unfamiliar appearing. There are objects and people that disappear from your sight or knowledge or possesion; you lose a bracelet, a friend, the key. You still know here you are. Everything is familiar except that there is one item less, one missing element. Or you get lost, in which case the world has become larger than your knowledge of it. Either way, there is a loss of control.

~ A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Never Forget Aung San Suu Kyi

June 19th 2010 marks Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s 65th birthday. Since her party, the National League for Democracy, won a landslide election in 1990, she has been imprisoned or placed under house arrest by the Burmese military government -- who had also refused to recognize the results of the election.

Never forget. They want you to forget.

More: CNN &

RIP Jose Saramago

Obituaries at The Guardian & The New York Times

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Some Changes to the Template

New things are shiny and distracting for me. In case you haven't noticed, I've been playing around with the new template for this blog. It has been a while since I changed the layout. I ask indulgence as I figure my way out on the new look -- but in the event you find the layout hard to read or hurtful to the eye, please feel free to drop a note in the comments.

I'm trying for the tasteful and minimalist look.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

BOOKS | The 100 Most Celebrated Travel Books of All Time

Compiled by Worldhum [ details ]

Geek that I am, I feel the need to tick off the list. What I don't get though -- why did they include the out-of-print Freya Stark titles? When was the last time anyone saw Beyond Euphrates in the bookstores? While an out-of-print title does not in any way loses its inherent literary value -- it does mean it's less accessible. If a book is not being read, can we still consider it "significant" in the canon?

1) A Dragon Apparent, by Norman Lewis
2) A House in Bali, by Colin McPhee
3) A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway (read it during my Parisian phase)
4) A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, by Eric Newby
5) A Time of Gifts, by Patrick Leigh Fermor
6) A Turn in the South, by V.S. Naipaul
7) A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson
8) A Winter in Arabia, by Freya Stark
9) Among the Russians, by Colin Thubron
10) An Area of Darkness, by V.S. Naipaul
11) Arabian Sands, by Wilfred Thesiger (half-way through. Thesiger's prose is as dry as the desert landscape he's describing)
12) Arctic Dreams, by Barry Lopez
13) The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton (pretty okay)
14) As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, by Laurie Lee
15) Baghdad Without a Map, by Tony Horwitz
16) Balkan Ghosts, by Robert D. Kaplan
17) Beyond Euphrates, by Freya Stark
18) The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer, by Eric Hansen
19) Bitter Lemons of Cyprus, by Lawrence Durrell
20) Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, by Rebecca West
21) Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin
22) Blue Highways, by William Least Heat-Moon
23) Brazilian Adventure, by Peter Fleming
24) Chasing the Sea, by Tom Bissell
25) City of Djinns, by William Dalrymple (Dalrymple is one of my favourite travel writer. He is so funny!)
26) Coasting, by Jonathan Raban
27) Coming Into the Country, by John McPhee
28) Dark Star Safari, by Paul Theroux
29) Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey
30) Down the Nile, by Rosemary Mahoney
31) Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
32) The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe
33) Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing
34) Facing the Congo, by Jeffrey Tayler
35) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson
36) Four Corners, by Kira Salak
37) Full Circle, by Michael Palin
38) Full Tilt: Ireland to India With a Bicycle, by Dervla Murphy
39) Golden Earth, by Norman Lewis
40) Great Plains, by Ian Frazier
41) The Great Railway Bazaar, by Paul Theroux
42) Holidays in Hell, by P.J. O’Rourke
43) Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell
44) Hunting Mister Heartbreak, by Jonathan Raban
45) In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson (never finished)
46) In Patagonia, by Bruce Chatwin (never finished the book. D.R.Y.)
47) In Siberia, by Colin Thubron
48) In Trouble Again, by Redmond O’Hanlon
49) The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain
50) Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer
51) Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer
52) Iron and Silk, by Mark Salzman
53) Kon-Tiki, by Thor Heyerdahl
54) The Lady and the Monk, by Pico Iyer
55) Life on the Mississippi, by Mark Twain
56) The Log From the Sea of Cortez, by John Steinbeck
57) The Long Walk, by Slavomir Rawicz
58) The Lost Continent, by Bill Bryson
59) Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, by Suketu Mehta
60) The Motorcycle Diaries, by Ernesto “Che” Guevara
61) The Muses Are Heard, by Truman Capote
62) No Mercy, by Redmond O’Hanlon
63) Notes From a Small Island, by Bill Bryson
64) Nothing to Declare, by Mary Morris
65) Old Glory, by Jonathan Raban
66) The Old Patagonian Express, by Paul Theroux
67) Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen
68) Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard
69) The Pillars of Hercules, by Paul Theroux
70) The Places in Between, by Rory Stewart
71) Riding to the Tigris, by Freya Stark (pretty sure it's out of print)
72) The Rings of Saturn, by W.G. Sebald
73) The River at the Center of the World, by Simon Winchester
74) River Town, by Peter Hessler
75) Road Fever, by Tim Cahill
76) The Road to Oxiana, by Robert Byron
77) Roughing It, by Mark Twain
78) Sea and Sardinia, by D.H. Lawrence
79) Seven Years in Tibet, by Heinrich Harrer
80) The Sex Lives of Cannibals, by J. Maarten Troost
81) The Size of the World, by Jeff Greenwald
82) Slowly Down the Ganges, by Eric Newby
83) The Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthiessen (maybe it's time for a re-read)
84) The Soccer War, by Ryszard Kapuscinski
85) The Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin
86) Terra Incognita, by Sara Wheeler
87) Their Heads are Green and Their Hands are Blue, by Paul Bowles
88) Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson
89) Travels With Charley, by John Steinbeck
90) Travels With Myself and Another, by Martha Gellhorn
91) Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere, by Jan Morris
92) Two Towns in Provence, by M.F.K. Fisher
93) Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes
94) Video Night in Kathmandu, by Pico Iyer
95) West With the Night, by Beryl Markham
96) When the Going was Good, by Evelyn Waugh
97) The World of Venice, by Jan Morris
98) The Worst Journey in the World, by Apsley Cherry-Garrard
99) Wrong About Japan, by Peter Carey
100) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Our Clueless Bunny

I mentioned that a friend of mine passed away earlier this year. I thought of her recently, and decided I was going to talk a little about her here.

Bunny was an ex-classmate, back when we were 17 and the most imminent things on our minds were trying not to fail our tests and getting enough sleep. Sometimes we even think about skipping classes and not getting caught for it. (Yes, back then we had the weight of the universe on our shoulders.)

We nicknamed her "Bunny" -- which might give you an idea of the kind of warm, fuzzy feelings we have for her. But most of all, we call her Bunny, because she can be something of a silly bunny at times. She was one of those clueless girls that you love in spite yourself, even as you keep pulling pranks on her relentlessly -- because she's so such an easy target.

A small group of us from the class stayed in touch. We went to each other's weddings, watched some of us become parents. We were there when Bunny met her boyfriend (later her husband) Wei, in the university. After graduation she joined a bank doing sales where she was paid well. A few years later, Bunny left that well-paying job to pursue a Masters in International Relations in Australia. When questioned about it, Bunny explained she didn't really know what International Relations was about -- it just sounded interesting.

After her Masters, Bunny worked as a teacher in a kindergarten for international students, before she went on to teach in one of the most prestigious all-girls school in the country. She never made as much money as her first job though.

When she talked about her somewhat dramatic career change, she explained: Back in her first job with the bank, you have sales targets, and the competition and pressure is immense. It's a very result-oriented field, and sometimes to close the deal, you may need to employ certain ethically questionable tactics. There's also the backstabbing between colleagues: the person sitting across from you might just steal your clients from under your nose. After a while, you start to wonder if you ought to do the same. She did not like the kind of person she was turning into.

"Money is not the most important thing," Bunny had said simply.

Some might argue if she had been a stronger person, she might have found a way to meet her sales targets without compromising her integrity -- I think that is missing the point. Bunny found herself changing into someone she didn't like. She had the self-awareness to stop before she truly lost herself. She knew what was important to her -- and was bold enough to walk away from the kind of income and lifestyle that many would find difficult to let go. Perhaps our Bunny was never as clueless as she pretended to be.

We loved that little silly bunny.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Questions and Answers - and Montaigne

A while ago, I was going through a period where I questioned my choices. I wondered if I should have stayed for a second year in Dubai (it would have meant more money in my bank account -- always a good thing). I wondered if I made the right choice coming back to try to "do right" by my mother. Most important of all: did I make the right choice quitting my job?

I was fretting a lot about this career uncertainty these past few months, even falling into quicksand-like moments of depression -- those mental traps that you slip into suddenly, unexpectedly -- and consumes you completely. Yet I am observing my own state of mind here and now -- and I feel fine. A little ironic perhaps, a little introspective -- but capable of a smile.

Amazing how the situation remains the same, yet our mind has such a wide spectrum of reactions.

After all the questions, there are a few things I can be sure of: Some of my friends have remarked how much better I look these days. I no longer wake up with that sense of heavy weariness that comes with waking up to a work-day. I felt stuck at my previous job. The point was getting unstuck.

So where do I go from here? Interestingly enough, I thought Montaigne might have the right idea.

Like many noblemen of his times, Michel de Montaigne had two jobs. He held a magistracy in Bordeaux for thirteen years, and he was responsible for the prosperous country estate he inherited from his father in 1568. Then in 1570, he retired as magistrate. He was thirty-seven, hardly an old man. He decided to give up his political life and retreat to a more meaningful life of introspection, reading and writing. Just like that.

Montaigne went to some length for his retreat. He converted one of the towers at his chateau into his office, and there -- set up his library with its collection of over a thousand volumes. On his 38th birthday, just because he felt like it, he had a Latin inscription painted on the wall of a side-chamber to his library. It read:

In the year of Christ 1571, at the age of thirty-eight, on the last day of February, anniversary of his birth, Michel de Montaigne, long weary of the servitude of the court and of public employments, while still entire, retired to the bosom of the learned Virgins [the Muses], where in calm and freedom from all cares he will spend what little remains of his life now more than half run out. If the fates permit he will complete this abode, this sweet ancestral retreat; and he has consecrated it to his freedom, tranquility, and leisure.

Montaigne took the advice of the ancients to heart, especially that of the Stoic philosopher, Seneca, who advised his fellow Romans to retreat from the world to better find themselves. So Montaigne retreated, and he turned his attention to observing, questioning and writing about his own experiences. He soon began working on the Essays that would seal his name in the history of literature.

I am not making claims to deathless prose. Yet, shifting one's focus to a more meditative life feels right -- more rewarding. It is still important to find gainful employment of course. One needs to live, to pay the bills -- just as Montaigne maintained his estate after he resigned from public office. But life has to be more than just politics, money, career and fame. We need to retreat -- to spend real time working inwards for something richer.

So, I have decided: I am retired. My job will support me, but is not the focus of my real life.

[Still reading Sarah Bakewell's How to Live.]

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Rachel Maddow interviews Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain's new book, Medium Raw is out June 8th, 2010. [ Bloomsbury Edition | HarperCollins Edition ] Here he talks to Rachel Maddow about food (what else) and why hamburgers repulse him.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Friday, June 04, 2010

BP Oil Disaster and what it means for America

Rachel Maddow reminds us that the BP Deepwater Disaster is more than "just" an environmental disaster. It is a diagnosis of whether the American political system and its media works.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Thursday, June 03, 2010

LIFE | 3 June 2010

Just a quick update to my friends on what has been going on with my life - and the reason (or excuse) why there hasn't been many posts.

I quit my job late last year and took a break for a few months. This is the first time in 9 years that I am without a regular income. The family has also moved to a new apartment - it's smaller, and things are all new. (Imagine coming home to an apartment where you don't really remember where the light switches are) It is an understatement to say I have been treading through unfamiliar territories the past few months.

Now I am back and trying to find new employment. I am not sure if I wish to continue in the book industry - while I still love books and always will - there comes a time when you need to step away from books as a JOB to appreciate it again.

Which now begs the question of what to do next? That's a question I keep asking myself every day. Friends tell me not to fret. Things will fall into place when it is time.

I wish I possess greater wisdom to see past this. I am asking lots of questions right now - or maybe just asking the same questions over and over with no answers. Then I was at the library yesterday and found this book on display: How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts At An Answer. It's sort of a biography on Montaigne, as he lived his life and pondered. And wrote. A lot. Right now a book about a man who kept asking himself, "How to live?" feels like the right reading material for this clueless one. I have only read some essays of Montaigne's. The Complete Works of Montaigne that I have sitting at home feels a little too daunting right now. I suspect I will be dipping in from time to time only. But then again - he took a lifetime writing it. Perhaps it's the kind of book that takes a life time to read. So, it's all good.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

POETRY | Jane Hirshfield Reading @ The 2008 Dodge Poetry Festival Saturday Night Sampler - 9/27/08

Jane Hirshfield reads the following poems: "Da Capo," "Yield and Abandon," "The Bearded Woman," and "When Your Life Looks Back"

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

POETRY | When Your Life Looks Back

I was reading Amy Bloom's new collection of short stories, Where the God of Love Hangs Out, where she included a particular poem by Jane Hirshfield.

When Your Life Looks Back
by Jane Hirshfield

When your life looks back—
As it will, at itself, at you—what will it say?

Inch of colored ribbon cut from the spool.
Flame curl, blue-consuming the log it flares from.
Bay leaf. Oak leaf. Cricket. One among many.

Your life will carry you as it did always,
With ten fingers and both palms,
With horizontal ribs and upright spine,
With its filling and emptying heart,
That wanted only your own heart, emptying, filled, in return.
You gave it. What else could do?

Immersed in air or in water.
Immersed in hunger or anger.
Curious even when bored.
Longing even when running away.

“What will happen next?”—
the question hinged in your knees, your ankles,
in the in-breaths even of weeping.
Strongest of magnets, the future impartial drew you in.
Whatever direction you turned toward was face to face.
No back of the world existed,
No unseen corner, no test. No other earth to prepare for.

This, your life had said, its only pronoun.
Here, your life had said, its only house.
Let, your life had said, its only order.

And did you have a choice in this? You did—

Thursday, May 27, 2010

MUSIC | Nina Simone's "Feelings" live at Montreux Jazz Festival (1976)

This is the 10-minute video of Nina Simone's "Feelings" live at Montreux Jazz Festival. It's a glimpse at a great artiste in action with all her sassy attitude. While she objected to the song in the beginning with this outburst: "I do not believe the conditions that produces a situation that demanded a song like that!... Well, c'mon, clap. Damn it. What's wrong with you?" -- it did not stop her singing as though her heart would break.

MUSIC | The Kills - Getting Down

The Kills - post-punk band that seems to still embody the spirit of artistic bohemian. Right now I'm playing "Getting Down" on a loop. It just feels like a defiant anthem to being alive.

It's going on five
I want you to know
My spirit's alive
I want you to know

I'm getting down with the awkward moments
I'm getting down with the sour kiss
I'm getting down with the rumours in the back of the car
I'm getting down with it

Signal when you get to the top
Signal when you want me
When you want me to stop
We could, we could crash
We could, we could, burn burn
We could take it
We could, we could take it take it in turns

Getting down
I'm getting down with your new vocation
I'm getting down with your cute cut wrist
I'm getting down with the kisses and cross-stitches on it
I'm getting down with it

Here's a message from my old coat pocket
My spirit's alive and I want you to know

I'm getting down with the young drunk lovers
I'm getting down with the one-way pact
I'm getting down with the city and the pity of it
I'm getting down with it

Thursday, April 15, 2010

"it's always time for dinner once a day"

"I love how it's always time for dinner once a day," Jane said, "no matter what human tragedies are going on: even in places where sometimes there is no dinner, as Syl would point out, there's still that time in the evening when you hunker down with your fellow humans and try to keep warm."

Maxine managed to hold back, all at once, a sharp comment about the bromides of politically correct Syl, an affection-deflecting remark about how this hand-holding was too little, too late, and a self-deprecating joke and her own dinners, which were almost always solitary, totally devoid of warm fellow humans. Instead, she briefly tightened her hand around Jane's -- she hoped not too awkwardly -- and smiled -- she hoped warmly -- then got up to assemble the sandwiches.

~ from Something from Kate Christensen's The Great Man

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Guardian "Ten Rules for Writing Fiction: Geoff Dyer

Geoff Dyer

1 Never worry about the commercial possibilities of a project. That stuff is for agents and editors to fret over – or not. Conversation with my American publisher. Me: "I'm writing a book so boring, of such limited commercial appeal, that if you publish it, it will probably cost you your job." Publisher: "That's exactly what makes me want to stay in my job."

2 Don't write in public places. In the early 1990s I went to live in Paris. The usual writerly reasons: back then, if you were caught writing in a pub in England, you could get your head kicked in, whereas in Paris, dans les cafés . . . Since then I've developed an aversion to writing in public. I now think it should be done only in private, like any other lavatorial activity.

3 Don't be one of those writers who sentence themselves to a lifetime of sucking up to Nabokov.

4 If you use a computer, constantly refine and expand your autocorrect settings. The only reason I stay loyal to my piece-of-shit computer is that I have invested so much ingenuity into building one of the great auto­correct files in literary history. Perfectly formed and spelt words emerge from a few brief keystrokes: "Niet" becomes "Nietzsche", "phoy" becomes "photography" and so on. Genius!

5 Keep a diary. The biggest regret of my writing life is that I have never kept a journal or a diary.

6 Have regrets. They are fuel. On the page they flare into desire.

7 Have more than one idea on the go at any one time. If it's a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the latter. It's only if I have an idea for two books that I choose one rather than the other. I always have to feel that I'm bunking off from something.

8 Beware of clichés. Not just the clichés that Martin Amis is at war with. There are clichés of response as well as expression. There are clichés of observation and of thought – even of conception. Many novels, even quite a few adequately written ones, are clichés of form which conform to clichés of expectation.

9 Do it every day. Make a habit of putting your observations into words and gradually this will become instinct. This is the most important rule of all and, naturally, I don't follow it.

10 Never ride a bike with the brakes on. If something is proving too difficult, give up and do something else. Try to live without resort to per­severance. But writing is all about perseverance. You've got to stick at it. In my 30s I used to go to the gym even though I hated it. The purpose of going to the gym was to postpone the day when I would stop going. That's what writing is to me: a way of postponing the day when I won't do it any more, the day when I will sink into a depression so profound it will be indistinguishable from perfect bliss.

[ Excerpts from The Guardian "Ten Rules for Writing Fiction" | Part I | Part II ]

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

QUOTE | Books we can't make sense of

"The books we can't make sense of, that knock us off-kilter, that we don't accept readily, will often be the books that matter most to the next generation. In fact, that's generally the sign of a really important book: it doesn't fit into our received expectations, it bothers us, it 'doesn't work.' Sometimes an ambitious failure is more worth having than a successful little novel that is perfectly well done."

~ Michael Dirda

Monday, March 29, 2010

Reading Distracted

I was reading Find Your Focus Zone earlier. It's a non-fiction title on attention. These days I find myself too easily distracted and I needed some good advice on now to regain focus on the tasks around me. But I was at the library earlier and naturally, I picked up some new books and I am now distracted by Kate Christensen's The Epicure's Lament.

Some habits are hard to crack. :\

YOGA | Finding Balance with John Friend

Excerpted from the Anusara Yoga Grand Gathering DVD, John Friend will guide you through playful arm balances. Before you begin, make sure to warm up with Sun Salutations, gentle backbends, and a few hip opening poses.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dear God - Sarah McLachlan version

I was messaging a new Facebook friend earlier. We started talking about irony, and being bemused by humans a lot. I told her: irony is the reason I believe there is a god; there has to be somebody out there laughing at us.

Irony of course, is that my new friend posted a Yotube video of "Dear God" before she read my message. I'm posting the Sarah McLachlan version instead - because I super puffy heart Sarah McLachlan. (I can be very single-minded when I want to be)

One wonders though, why a god would makes us humans - gifted with intelligence, resourcefulness, yet so crippled by base instincts. That's a whole theological debate there. Most of us ordinary human beings can only wonder, and maybe joke about it a little. Still, no small surprise that my new friend is also a big Terry Pratchett fan. I guess us bemused sort find a familiar chord in Pratchett's stories.

Dear God
Hope you got the letter and...
I pray you can make it better down here
I don't mean a big reduction in the price of beer
But all the people that you made in your image
See them starving on their feet
Cause they don't get enough to eat
From God
I can't believe in you
Dear God
Sorry to disturb you but...
I feel that I should be hear loud and clear
We all need a big reduction
In the amount of tears
And all the people that you made in your image
See them fighting in the street
Cause they can't make opinions meet about God
I can't believe in you
Did you make disease
and the diamond blue?
Did you make mankind
after we made you?
And the devil too?
Dear God,
Don't know if you noticed but...
Your name is on a lot of quotes in this book
And as crazy humans wrote it
you should take a look
And all the people that you made in your image
Still believeing that junk is true
Well I know it ain't and so do you, dear God
I can't believe in
I don't believe in
I won't believe in heaven and hell
no saints no sinners no devil as well
no pearly gate no thorny crown
you're always letting us humans down
the wars you bring
the babes you drown
those lost at sea and never found
and it's all the same the whole world round
the hurt I see helps to compound
That Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
is just somebody's unholy hoax
And if you're up there you'd perceive
That my heart's here upon my sleeve
If there's one thing I don't believe in...
It's you, dear God.

BOOKS | Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

[02/03/2010 ~ 09/03/2010]

Just had an urge to re-read Fight Club recently. I first read Fight Club many years ago - before the film with Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter and Edward Norton was even mentioned. I enjoyed its anarchic energy. It was the kind of book that appealed to the anarchist within me, someone who is more than a little embittered by a consumerism culture, yet so trapped within it that we appreciate anyone who imagines a way out.

I guess I am now back to that stage of my life where I find my existence has become stagnant and demanding change. To destroy everything around me so that I can make it into something better.

Our reading lists are rarely as innocent as we think they are.

PS: As you can probably tell - I am desperately trying to get back to reading and blogging about books. Trying.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

2010 sucks

Just found out one of my friend passed away yesterday -- it was a stroke. The last time I saw her, it was right before I left for Dubai. We were supposed to catch up. We loved her so much.

She was 33 years old. This is so wrong.

Friday, January 01, 2010

2010 | Fresh Start

New Year. Wipe the slate clean. Let it all begin. Again.

2009 has not been a good year for my readings. When it was finally confirmed that I was coming back for good last September, I packed my things in a hurry. I left a lot of things behind -- a lot of books. Amazing how I acquire possession so quickly.

I started reading Mikkel Birkegaard's The Library of Shadows a few days ago. It's translated from Danish, a literary thriller about books and reading.

We'll see how it goes.


1. The Redbreast • Jo Nesbø [translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett]
2. Paper Towns • John Green
3. The Shock Doctrine • Naomi Klein