Showing posts from 2005

Sunday Morning Coming Down

I tend to be a bit of an obsessive with music collecting, to say the least, so there's quite a bit of junk in my MP3 collection since I won't delete songs. But for once, I decided to let my iTunes play on without skipping through any songs. The first 10 songs of 2006: The Postal Service, "Such Great Heights" The Monkees, "Theme to the Monkees" Soundhog "One Phat Breeder (ATFC vs the Breeders)" Sandy Denny "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" Les Nubians "Makeda" Blur "No Distance Left to Run" Heather Nova "I'm On Fire (live)" (yeah, a cover of the Springsteen song) Aretha Franklin "Walk on By" Zero 7, "Destiny" (man, what a great chillout song) William DeVaughn, "Be Thankful For What You Got" Be thankful for what you got: as good a motto for 2006 as any. Here's wishing everybody boldness and serenity in the new year.

What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

There are many Christmas songs, but only very few really great new year's songs, in my opinion... one of my favourites is "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?", of which I'm currently listening to the Rufus Wainwright version . The song's lyrics of hope mixed with longing are a good match for his plaintive voice, I think. Ooh, but in case I stand one little chance Here comes the jackpot question in advance: What are you doing New Year's New Year's Eve? So - to everyone I know, and to all readers of, here's to a great 2006. And on 2005: for surprise calls, for stunning connections, for restoration - thank you.

Linksfest: Cute Overload

Puppy pic above taken from Cute Overload! ;) 43 is the largest non- McNugget number . Why Sean Lennon is single . Well, besides that, as noted, any woman dating him would face a crazy mother-in-law. I love Miffy. Always reminds me of being a little kid in the old National Library at Stamford Road. So nice to see that Miffy - well, the work of Dick Bruna, who created Miffy - is being shown in museums .

Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine

Fiona Apple's "Extraordinary Machine" is a gem of a song, finished two years ago and shelved by Sony but finally seeing the light of day after numerous Internet leaks. The song is the soundtrack to the cracked house of mirrors that is a broken relationship - yeah, the ghost of Apple's breakup with PT Anderson haunts the song, apparently. And Apple's smoky-voiced defiance about criticisms match perfectly the lyrics defending her personality and who she is: I seem to you to seek a new disaster every day You deem me due to clean my view and be at piece and lay I mean to prove I mean to move in my own way, and say I've been getting along for long before you came into the play Rhymes and circus chords stalk "Extraordinary Machine", imbuing it with a menacing I'll-show-you lilt. It's a stunning return to recording for the kohl-eyed musician, and an extraordinary machine of a song.

More Christmas music

Because being a media monopolist ain't easy, I just repeat content from my arts blog to here and back. So here's the two little girls of ShiSho , with " Get Behind Me Santa ". Check out their cover! (Thanks to Indie MP3 for pointing it out...) Or you can always go for a few dozen cover versions of "Last Christmas" over at Copy, Right? Does not include the Jimmy Eat World one. This year, to save me from tears - I'll give it to someone special.

God bless Mother Nature

So yesterday, shopping for books at Borders, someone walked by me talking loudly on his mobile, going "It's raining man! It's raining man!" Very tempted to respond with a "Hallelujah!"

The Earth From Above photo exhibition

Now that I'm back in Singapore, I've finally made it to the Earth From Above outdoor photo exhibition, featuring these glorious photos by Yann Arthus-Bertrand . Well, I got to see half of it, anyway, before the rain started Pouring From Above and I had to take shelter - will return for the other half soon. Took some shots to remember the exhbition by (a meta-photo, I suppose, since I was photographing a photo), but the prints really have to be seen in their full size and glory. This is the Folgefonni Glacier in Norway, which sadly, like other glaciers around the world, is melting in part due to climate change. My Flickr set of the exhibition - the unfortunate bright white circle in all my shots is of course the light used to illuminate the prints. Technorati Tags: photography , earth , environment

Tech geekery: my PDA gets updated

Just bought a Palm TX , since my Zire 71 kept losing all its data no thanks to its battery running out. Great stuff - on the design side, the huge screen is really clear, I like the feel and response of the stylus, and the steel blue colour is sleek. On the features side, the fact that it had Wi-Fi was the selling point, but now I've come to really appreciate syncing the thing through Bluetooth. Mmm.

Zoe Heller, Notes on a Scandal

Just finished reading Zoe Heller's Notes on a Scandal , which I picked up because, I admit, the blurb featured some hyperbolic praise comparing the work to that of Amis or McEwan and the first chapter was compelling. Yeah, the blurb wasn't even from a review, just advance praise from Edmund White, but hey, I was looking around in the library for something to read. The book was, it turns out, nominated for a Booker the year Vernon God Little won, so it's good to know that at least I have a decent publishing-industry eye. (Presumably, the paperback version would have included the lavish praise of reviewers.) Notes on a Scandal is the tale of Sheba Hart (short for Bathsheba, and that adulterous name will portend something), an English schoolteacher who has an affair with a student, told through the eyes of her friend and fellow teacher Barbara Covett, a sixtysomething-year-old single teacher, the very stereotype of the aging spinster (she even lives with her cat). What Hel

Tom Hunter

I've been quite taken by the works of Tom Hunter being displayed at the National Gallery in London that I'm seeing online. The BBC has an online gallery - I thought " Rat in Bed " looked lovely, and the obvious parallels between " Ye Olde Axe " (2002) and Diego Velazquez's classic sole surviving nude the " Rokeby Venus " (1647-51) are fascinating. (Come to think of it, Velazquez was under the patronage of Philip IV, although sadly my memories of 17th-century Spanish history, once fortified by A-level history, have faded to the point that I don't really remember much of Philip IV's rain except for his patronage of Velazquez and the fact that Olivares basically ran everything.).

Tsunami memorial

One year ago, the Boxing Day tsunami , one of the worst natural disasters ever, hit this region - to all affected, we remember.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Christmas surprises can be wonderful sometimes.

Fifteen Songs of 2005

Just thinking back on the new songs that moved me in 2005 - which doesn't necessarily correspond to a best-of, since sometimes for whatever reasons you can intellectually recognise the quality of a song and see why it speaks to everyone else and still not have it say anything to you. Keeping the list short at 15 songs, in alphabetical order and with links to legit downloads where available: Antony & the Johnsons, "Hope There's Someone". There's something about that quiet piano and this former drag queen's falsetto. The Arcade Fire, "Rebellion (Lies)". It was a 2004 release in the US, I suppose, but man, the more I listen to them the greater they sound. And they were the song of one of my best musical moments of the year . If not for Feist, "sleeping is giving in" would be my favourite lyric of the year. Also, props for "Neighbourhood #2 (Laika)" and "Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)" (both of which can be downloade

The Christmas Mix

A Christmas playlist, based on a mix I made for someone, but with slight modifications: Diana Krall, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" Nat 'King' Cole, "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" Eartha Kitt, "Santa Baby" Tom Jones and Cerys, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" Macy Gray, "Winter Wonderland" Olivia Olson, "All I Want For Christmas Is You" Jimmy Eat World, "Last Christmas" Weezer, "The Christmas Song" Edward Elgar, "Snow" Frank Sinatra, "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" Joni Mitchell, "River" Harry Connick Jr., "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, one and all.

Palais des Congres

Speaking of photos, here's one I took from inside the Palais des Congres in Montreal. Thought the colour effects were pretty interesting. Technorati Tags: montreal , photography

Linksfest: Photo Ops

Punk photographer Andy Rosen puts up his pics on Flickr . Album covers from the Jam, a whole Clash set - frankly, the collection is pretty amazing. Heidi Klum and Seal's baby is frankly quite ugly . The best one can say about Paolo Di Canio's "I am not a racist, I am a fascist" defence of his one-armed salute gesture is that it's original, I suppose. I love cryptic crosswords - got hooked on them back in the day when the New Yorker carried them. The Guardian one is really quite fun, and now the editor Hugh Stephenson has a little article on how to solve them . Online art photography magazine 's 9th issue is out, and I do like the "Twos and Threes" set by Jesse Chehak . Technorati Tags: photography , football , crosswords


Back from a sojourn into the wilderness of Singapore aka standard army reserve commitments. Because lately poems have been running through my head, here's another favourite one of mine, from Neruda, all intensity and passion. Love Sonnet XI I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair. Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets. Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me, all day I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps. I hunger for your sleek laugh, your hands the color of a savage harvest, hunger for the pale stones of your fingernails, I want to eat your skin like a whole almond. I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body, the sovereign nose of your arrogant face, I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes, and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight, hunting for you, for your hot heart, like a puma in the barrens of Quitratue. ( Link ) Happy holidays to one and all. I wish for everyone that hunger.

Just in time

And to cap off 2005, a song: Just in time you've found me just in time Before you came my time was running low I was lost the losing dice were tossed My bridges all were crossed nowhere to go Now you hear now I know just where I'm going No more doubt of fear I've found my way For love came just in time you've found me just in time And changed my lonely nights that lucky day - Nina Simone, "Just in Time"

Musee des Beaux Arts, Montreal

"About suffering they were never wrong, The Old Masters; how well, they understood Its human position" - W.H. Auden, "Musee des Beaux Arts" It was a cold, bitter Sunday; December in Montreal, wind biting with snap as I wended my way through the city, stopping at Eggspectation for breakfast (oeufs, avec viande - or something, my French is rudimentary), picking up DVDs at HMV, letting the wind whip me as I wandered through the McGill campus, then finally heading to the Musee des Beaux Arts when it opened. Impossible not to think of the Auden poem when I hear that name, I suppose - and something about the diminuition of the extraordinary in that poem - the sense that suffering happens, but life proceeds apace - matched that day's heavy heart. *** The Musee des Beaux Arts is a good museum - spotted some fine works by Rembrandt and Pieter Bruegel the Younger (which, come to think about it, is a fact that ties in nicely with the Auden poem, which is about the elder

6 months on

"Last night. Okay. Six months from last night. December sixteenth, six o'clock in the evening, track eleven. It's a train ride for you, but I got to fly over. But hey, I'll be here." - Jesse, in Before Sunrise So, it's December 16 - which is the date the lovers were supposed to have met, 6 months later, by the end of Before Sunrise . And, totally unplanned, I spent part of today reading my newly-acquired screenplays for Before Sunrise and Before Sunset , which I suspect is one of the wisest films on relationships ever made. Before Sunset is optimistic in the best of all ways: knowing about the ravages of time, knowing about constraints, knowing about all the flaws in each other and still the lovers continue their conversations, this time knowing what a precious thing they had years ago, and then come the extraordinary, intense scenes at the end where Celine and Jesse discuss their respective troubled relationships... While I thought Before Sunrise was a gr

Because it is bitter, and because it is my heart

Because sometimes news items make me think of poetry: here's a news story on a forlorn lover leaving a ring for someone else . In the desert I saw a creature, naked, bestial, who, squatting upon the ground, Held his heart in his hands, And ate of it. I said, "Is it good, friend?" "It is bitter - bitter," he answered; "But I like it Because it is bitter, And because it is my heart." - Stephen Crane, from "The Black Riders" And because I like juxtaposition: above is a photo of Jim Dine's "Twin 6' Hearts", a work in bronze from the Montreal Musee des Beaux Arts (of which I'll say more another day).

Montreal memories: Canadian Content

My best Canadian music experience: sitting in the computer room of the Palais des Congres convention centre, the girl opposite me suddenly started playing local band the Arcade Fire's "Rebellion (Lies)" on her laptop. Which I started nodding my head along to ("sleeping is giving in" is such a good line). So she goes - "oh do you like that song?"And I said yeah - I had the song with me. And then the guy next to me went, "oh I have that song on my computer too". And then the other girl opposite me was like "oh yeah so do I". So we tried playing the same song on 4 machines at the same time. As an effort in coordination it was a failure - seriously ugly phasing effects - but as a shared musical moment it was great. Four people, three countries (Canada, America, Singapore), one song. People try and hide the light / Underneath the covers. Come on hide your lovers / Underneath the covers...

Montreal memories: the worst advertising ever

You know, one could wax lyrical about walking down Rue St Denis and crate-digging in used-record stores (picked up a copy of Supremes A' Go-Go , which, naturally, is out of print on vinyl ) and eating crepes and the temptations of music and DVDs at Archambault . But that's easy enough. So over the next few days I'll run through my top Montreal memories, starting with this one: Was walking down Rue St Catherine late at night, trying to grab a late dinner (ate at Reuben's in the end), when, walking by one of Montreal's numerous strip clubs, this guy hands me a flyer. I go "no thank you", and the guy goes "it's really good - my sister works there". Now, I can't say I've heard many advertisements for strip clubs in my life, but that has to be among the worst pitches possible.

Carbon offsets

I don't often talk about work (for the same reasons most bloggers don't ever talk about work), but I suppose it's no secret that I handle climate change issues. So, as a purely personal decision, I decided to purchase some carbon dioxide offsets from Climate Care to make up for the carbon dioxide emissions from my taking a Singapore-London-Montreal flight. Which means some of my money has gone towards sustainable energy and reforestation projects. That's my little bit of save-the-planet encouragement for you all. And probably one of the few references I'll make to work. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming. Technorati Tags: climate change , environment , global warming

Linksfest: Drink Canada Dry

Back in Singapore, and will be off to reservist training tomorrow. So, some quick links to keep all entertained: The Shining as feel-good flick of the summer (requires QuickTime) Sarah Silverman sings "Give the Jew Girl Toys" While He-Man sings Four Non Blondes . A transcript of Eddie Izzard's classic standup bit Dressed to Kill Le Front de Libération des Nains de Jardins

Winter focus

The bitter cold has a funny way of focusing the mind - for four years I griped through winters in Boston, but here in Montreal I've come to realise I may hate the cold, I may get depressed by it, but it creates a clarity of mind in me. Today I walked through the hustle of Quartier Chinois, down the cobblestoned streets of Vieux Montreal, trudged along till snow snuck swimming into my shoes and my face felt about to be sloughed off, sheared by the wind. But what one learns about oneself sometimes is pretty priceless. Then a nip and tuck into Aix , where I treated myself to foie gras and pecan. Because I know a good restaurant when I see one, and life's too short not to do right by yourself.

Dream deferred

Was speaking to some colleagues here in Montreal yesterday, and one of them remarked about me, "you're the kind of guy who won't do something to wrong yourself" (okay, I'm translating from the Mandarin) - which was in line with questions on Paths in Life that have been playing in my head the last couple of days. Questions which revolve on what, for me, is a central concern: how does one live a life without regret? *** Regarding those Big Questions, I shared with the Girlfriend the following, one of my favourite Langston Hughes poems: What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up Like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore-- And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over-- like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode? *** And now, a sample of lyrics of songs I've been singing to myself, because, what the hell, I'll be 18 again and write out lyrics for the sake of writing out lyrics: still there&

Rest in peace

I hear from Mr Brown that La Idler , fellow blogger and a collaborator on Tomorrow and the Bloggercon, has passed away. Incredibly sad news - it's quite gut-wrenching to read her posts on moving overseas and her future plans. Rest in peace, Sondra.


Thursday having been Thanksgiving in America, I should at least make one post in the midst of my work and recreation to give some thanks... An interlude: some of my favourite songs involving thanking - William DeVaughn, "Be Thankful For What You Got" Sly and the Family Stone, "Thank You Falentime Be Mice Elf Again" Dido, "Thank You" Not very fond of Alanis Morrisette's "Thank You", in case that occurred to anyone. But yes, it's a nice troika of different reasons for gratitude: thanking for what one has; thanking for the rediscovery of self; and thanking because - well, because in the midst of a crazy day when the world is against you someone is an oasis of comfort. "Just to be with you is having the best day of my life." Thus on to the main point, which is to say - thank you: God only knows what I'd be without you.

If on a Winter's Night a Traveller

Right. I leave for London in a couple of days, and then I'm off to Montreal, and after that I have army reservist commitments. So - what with work and spending time with the Girlfriend - this blog is likely to be on winter break till about a month's time. But you can leave suggestions on what to do in Montreal in the comments (yes, all comments get e-mailed to me). Meanwhile, here's some entertainment to keep y'all occupied: Irwin Shaw's short story " The Girls in Their Summer Dresses " Shkspr as txt msg Philip Pullman's point about the rise of a moral quality attributed to being rather than doing in this set of essays is good stuff. Esquire magazine's " Things a Man Should Know ". Oh, and I was in the library today picking up a guide to Montreal, and I read the children's book Olive the Other Reindeer , about a dog named Olive who hears "Olive the other reindeer" in the Christmas song and becomes convinced sh

Linksfest: Stray thoughts over the week

Whenever you click publish in Blogger these days, it goes through - what's up with that? I guess I'm not the only one who's noticed. I'm annoyed that I bought the Pet Shop Boys' Behaviour album in America, and thus own a copy of Behavior . Golden retriever gives birth to green retriever . Hey, I learnt a new word: ' kinkajou '. Here's a nice kinkajou page . Does J.T. LeRoy exist ? And why is that a topic for WWD ?

Being Boring

Since I used a quote from the Pet Shop Boys' "Being Boring" in my previous post, here's a still from Bruce Weber's video for the song, ripe with a sexuality that nicely contrasts with the bittersweet tone of the song, recalling the halycon days of pre-AIDS hedonism. And, as an aide memoire to myself, the exact quote that inspired the song is this Zelda Fitzgerald one, from "Eulogy on the Flapper": "She flirted because it was fun to flirt and wore a one-piece bathing suit because she had a good figure, she covered her face with powder and paint because she didn't need it and she refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn't boring. She was conscious that the things she did were the things she had always wanted to do" ( link ) My image of Zelda Fitzgerald is somehow strongly shaped by "Clothes for a Summer Hotel" , Tennessee Williams' last play, even if it was a critical failure . And random fact I've just learnt: The


"In my nineteen nineties I never dreamt that I would get to be The creature that I always meant to be" - The Pet Shop Boys, "Being Boring" Sometimes songs become seared in one's consciousness - yesterday my MP3 player brought up the one-two punch of Sister Hazel's "All For You" and the Wallflowers' "One Headlight" , both of which are decent MOR songs admittedly but are embedded in my mind mostly for the fall of '97, specifically a driving trip up to Kittery, Maine from Boston, off to get my first-ever set of winter gear. All throughout, while we moved in and out of the range of various radio stations' transmitters, those two songs were unavoidable earworms, occupying every channel, burrowing insidiously into my mind. And even now listening to them calls up, in the manner of Proustian madeleines, the deep reds of autumn foliage, dipping my toes into the cold Atlantic Ocean, and the dim knowledge that all this preparation for t

Luck be a lady

A bag of books (what US students will know as the M-bag) that I had sent from the US 4 years ago when I was leaving arrived in Singapore recently. What a long, strange trip it must have been. And that - as well as something I read - reminded me of the concept of luck , and specifically of the Luck Project , led by Richard Wiseman over in the UK. What's interesting about the project for me at least is that his findings square with my feelings on the subject, which is to say that a lot of whether one perceives oneself as 'lucky' depends not on what actually happens to you, but on how you perceive and receive the thousands of events that occur daily to you, and how you tell the narrative of your life (which links to Martin Seligman's work on learned optimism , perhaps). I think about Lou Gehrig, and his famous words as he gave the speech confronting his ALS, or the disease that now bears his name: "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." W

Books galore

The National Library here in Singapore is allowing people to borrow 8 books instead of the usual 4 for the holiday season - so I'm knee deep in reading. Currently going through New Yorker critic Anthony Lane's collection of film and other essays Nobody's Perfect , which has some interesting thoughts on Buster Keaton as the all-American vs what he sees as Chaplin's English obsession with class... I don't know, though, I don't think I would ever prefer Keaton to Chaplin, but maybe that's just me.

Goats help boy with ADHD

There's something of sheer joy in this photo of a boy trampolining with a goat .

Writing - The Fiction Blog

It's NaNoWriMo , which signed up for last year in an abortive attempt to get some writing off the ground... I'm not really going to be able to discipline myself to write a novel in a month, or even a short story, particularly given that I'm going to be travelling for almost 3 weeks near the end of November. So I thought I'd just put up occasional snippets and paragraphs that I've written, and maybe one day I'll sit down and develop them into something fuller. So... here's the naked emperor bestrides the void deck , my fiction blog.

Fifty Things to Eat Before You Die

Was sent the BBC's list of 50 things to eat before you die - seems like not that new a list, but anyway it was fun to look through it (even some choices were really boring - I love pizza and burgers, but they seem so ubiquitous that to put them on a "things to eat before you die" list seems odd)... so, italicising what I haven't had, it looks like 46 down, 4 to go... 1 Fresh fish 2 Lobster 3 Steak 4 Thai food 5 Chinese food 6 Ice cream 7 Pizza 8 Crab 9 Curry 10 Prawns 11 Moreton Bay Bugs 12 Clam chowder 13 Barbecues 14 Pancakes 15 Pasta 16 Mussels 17 Cheesecake 18 Lamb 19 Cream tea 20 Alligator 21 Oysters 22 Kangaroo 23 Chocolate 24 Sandwiches 25 Greek food 26 Burgers 27 Mexican food 28 Squid 29 American diner breakfast - one of my great favourites 30 Salmon 31 Venison 32 Guinea pig 33 Shark - unfortunately - I won't touch it again, ever 34 Sushi 35 Paella

Set List for Sunday's Gig

Well - it's tough to do a set list through the haze of memory, but digging through my records I can roughly recall what I did or didn't play at Sunday's gig . So here's the setlist .

The life as Photoshopped

I remember being intrigued by the Wired story about Friends Beyond the Wall , the company that Photoshops pictures so that prison inmates can look like they have spent time with their loved ones. Which I can see - it must make it easier for their loved ones to have a photo they can display on their office desk, for instance. But then in doing a Google Image Search, I found Famous Friends , which basically lets you pretend you've hung out with celebrities, which I thought was a bit ridiculous: Just imagine that look on your father's face on Fathers Day when he see himself in the England 1966 world cup team photograph next to his heroes. This is just one example of a gift money shouldn't be able to buy. Actually, I could see a dad going, "#$@%, I hung out with Hurst and Stiles and I can't even remember it? Good Lord, I'm going senile!"

Ages of Love

So, two items about celebrities made me think about love and aging: first, there's an extensive "Woody Allen at 70" interview in the upcoming Vanity Fair , parts of which are discussed in this BBC News article . "All the crap they tell you about... getting joy and having a kind of wisdom in your golden years - it's all tripe," said Allen, who turns 70 on 1 December. "I've gained no insight, no mellowing. I would make the same mistakes again." Actually, Woody has always seemed prematurely old to me, so why would he do anything differently, right? But it's a good line. Anyway, Woody does talk about his relationship with Soon-Yi, which creeped me out at the time (well, about as much as news about celebs who one has zero personal connection with can skeeze anyone out) - even beyond the whole dating-the-stepdaughter-of-your-partner thing, 35 years is a huge age difference. I mean, if I were to date someone 35 years younger than me, I would have

Enduring Love

"They say that birds do it - bees do it - Even educated fleas do it - Let's do it - let's fall in love." - Cole Porter I finished reading Ian McEwan's Enduring Love on the train today, and it inspired all manner of thoughts. For one, it meshed very nicely with Steven Pinker's How the Mind Works , which I'm also reading, since the narrator Joe is a science writer and thus Pinker's subject of consciousness and of evolutionary biology plays a role in McEwan's book. I was struck by that crossing of ideas between science and literature, then in the acknowledgements in the back, I noticed that McEwan acknowledges Pinker's formidable The Language Instinct as one of his sources. Was well chuffed to have made the connection. Enduring Love is a tale of erotomania , the complete delusion that someone is in love with you, which reminded me of the first time I heard the word: in Diane Ackerman's excellent A Natural History of Love , where she discuss

The Life of Leisure

Actually, one of the best moments of the Sunday wasn't DJing, as fun as it was, but eating one of the all-day breakfasts at the Book Cafe for dinner in the hour before I set up. That's one thing I miss a lot from the US - the ability to get corned beef, eggs, and toast as a meal at any time. And to spend late Sunday afternoon leisurely reading a book (Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller's SNL oral history Live From New York , which I took off the cafe's bookshelves and which I really should read in full) by myself, with the occasional SMS for company and very good cheer, struck me as supremely idyllic and splendidly redolent of a style of lazy Sunday afternoon that I'd thought I had lost. Clearly I'm not alone in fingering the Book Cafe Sunday afternoon experience as something that seems somehow remniscent of foreign lands. Reading in a quiet cafe in solitude - sometimes that's all one needs.

DJing at Virtual Insanity, Cocco Latte

So Virtual Insanity went on at Cocco Latte last night, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly DJing - will put forward a set list as soon as possible. Couldn't stay too late though - I wish I had the insolence of youth, that lovely prodigal use of time, but unfortunately the workday has its own demands. But glad people had fun ! And all in the name of a good cause. Happy Hallowe'en everyone! My Flickr photo set of the night - sadly, forgot the flash on my cameraphone, so the pics are not of the best quality

More books

Visited the new National Library in Bugis yesterday and came back with Ian McEwan's Enduring Love (so far, very, very good - compelling, and with some exquisite passages) and Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay , which I've been meaning to read forever - perhaps a 3-week deadline would help force the issue. And speaking of words, I stumbled upon this extract from Borges: A Life , Edwin Williamson's biography of Jorge Luis Borges (yes, more than a year old). I liked Borges' words: "intensity is the promise of immortality" - which I presume references the Catholic " the sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality ", but who knows? Borges has always been on my should-read-more list - " Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote " was the last thing I read of his, and that was a while back...

Leggo my Eggo

"Good Smell Perplexes New Yorkers" is one of the funniest headlines I've read recently.

Best vocal performances

Best pure vocal performances was a topic that came up for discussion somewhere, so here's my list: The Marvin Gaye version of the Star Spangled Banner The Ray Charles version of "America the Beautiful Aretha Franklin "Call Me" - I love the vocal control, and the dynamics are incredible. My favourite, but any number of Aretha performances could be right up there... I still think Ronnie's performance on the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" is a thing of beauty - no vocal gymnastics, but her voice sounds to be like the voice of a woman whose heart is close to bursting with love. Al Green's version of "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" - good Lord. "Funny How Time Slips Away" also kills me everytime. Ray Charles' version of "You Don't Know Me" - one song that I think gets covered really well, with many differing nuances... Ray Charles singing country - what a marriage... Donny Hathaway "Someday W

DJing for Charity

I will be DJing at Cocco Latte for "Virtual Insanity" , a charity function, this Sunday, from 7.30pm-11pm. Should be fun. Since it's the early set on a Sunday night, I'll see if I can do a fairly eclectic mix...

On Moon River

"My huckleberry friend" is one of my favourite lines in any song, ever - even if it makes me think of being on a boat with Huckleberry Hound . Oh - and since we're on "Moon River", a thought about Breakfast at Tiffany's - isn't it supposedly gauche to use the possessive form of the store's name? As far as I can tell, Tiffany always refers to itself as Tiffany. Wherever you're going, I'm going your way. The real Moon River

Tropical Storm Alpha

It's not a good sign when they run out of regular letters for tropical storms and have to use the Greek alphabet - here comes Tropical Storm Alpha , the 22nd of the season. Interestingly, Q, U, X, Y, Z aren't used for tropical storms - is that just because there are so few names that start with those letters? The Quentins, Xaviers and Zacharys of the world I guess are relieved. And do the more frou-frou names that have become popular over the years get introduced? Will we see a Hurricane Madison?

iTunes License

Just downloaded the latest version of iTunes, and read the License Agreement (I know, I know, who reads these things right?), and this part amused me: THE APPLE SOFTWARE IS NOT INTENDED FOR USE IN THE OPERATION OF NUCLEAR FACILITIES, AIRCRAFT NAVIGATION OR COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL SYSTEMS, LIFE SUPPORT MACHINES OR OTHER EQUIPMENT IN WHICH THE FAILURE OF THE APPLE SOFTWARE COULD LEAD TO DEATH, PERSONAL INJURY, OR SEVERE PHYSICAL OR ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE. I think if you're using an MP3 player to control air traffic or monitor the core temperature of a nuclear reactor, you're already screwed.

Saturday Night Live

Songs played on my guitar tonight (a quick list put up on my blog to avoid having to search for the same tabs online next time): Simon and Garfunkel, "Only Living Boy in New York" Mamas and the Papas, "Dream a Little Dream" Rufus Wainwright, "Hallelujah" Counting Crows, "Accidentally in Love" Dashboard Confessional, "Hands Down" The Postal Service, "Such Great Heights"

Linksfest: Turns of Phrase

Hurricane Wilma about to hit the Florida Keys . I like Key West Mayor Morgan McPherson's choice of words: "The economy of life is greater than the economy of substance." Good night, and good luck. Auction of unfortunate leather pants purchase . "These were not cheap leather pants. They are Donna Karan leather pants. They’re for men. Brave men, I would think. Perhaps tattooed, pierced men. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say you either have to be very tough, very gay, or very famous to wear these pants and get away with it." My university gave out the Ig Nobel Prizes recently. Here's the citation for the Ig Nobel for Literature: "The Internet entrepreneurs of Nigeria, for creating and then using e-mail to distribute a bold series of short stories, thus introducing millions of readers to a cast of rich characters - General Sani Abacha, Mrs. Mariam Sanni Abacha, Barrister Jon A Mbeki Esq., and others - each of whom requires just a small amount of exp

David Copperfield and the Magic Pregnancy

File under ridiculous news stories: David Copperfield says he plans to impregnate a girl on stage - without even touching her. ... He said: "Bull s**t! There is a great deal of new territory to conquer. In my next show I'm going to make a girl pregnant on stage." He added: "Naturally it will be without sex. Everyone will be happy about it, but I'm not telling you any more." ( Link ) So - basically we'll watch in-vitro fertilisation take place on-stage? Yawn. And how would we even know if the girl was just impregnated? Unless he means he's going to make a girl 3 months pregnant on stage.

The music of Cameron Crowe films

The Dallas Observer discusses the music of Cameron Crowe films . Actually, I think one of the best uses of music in a Crowe film is the "Tiny Dancer" scene in Almost Famous , especially because it wasn't an out-and-out "cool" song to choose - unlike, say, "Feel Flows" from that same film, "Dyslexic Heart" in Singles , and I'd presume My Morning Jacket's "Where to Begin" in the upcoming Elizabethtown . "Tiny Dancer" can be a fairly naff song - hey, it even has swelling violins - but somehow it fit in perfectly in the context of that film: it was just the kind of song that would have come up on the radio in the 70s, one presumes, and it showed the reconciliatory mood on the bus. My old friend Raj used to say Cameron Crowe had the life he most admired, and why not, right? Journalist for Rolling Stone at a tender age, gifted director almost from the get-go ( Fast Times at Ridgemont High ), married to a rock star , an

How much is worth?

Apparently, I is rich! My blog is worth $86,939.16 . How much is your blog worth? The tool is based on Tristan Louis' research on the Weblogs Inc. sale , although that article raises many questions of its valuation method - is conversation (incoming links) really more important than traffic? Should all incoming links be weighted equally?


That was the best 10 days I can ever remember having - so good I'm afraid to jinx anything by writing too much. But restoration is a wonder to the soul.

Best magazine covers

When I saw that the American Society of Magazine Editors had come up with a list of the top 40 magazine covers of the last 40 years , it was pretty fun to guess what would have been included. My own picks would've been: George Lois ' work for Esquire back in the day still remains one of the peaks of magazine cover design, and the ASME list itself has the equivalent of Titanic hogging the Oscars - 3 Lois covers are in the top 10. My favourite Lois covers are the usual suspects: "The Passion of Muhammad Ali" (#3, and for my money the greatest magazine cover ever), the Vietnam "Oh my god - we hit a little girl" one (#8), and the Sonny Liston as Santa one, which is not in the top 40 probably only because it's not made in the last 40 years (it dates to 1962). The last top 10 Lois cover is of course that of Andy Warhol drowning in a can of Campbell's . The New Yorker 's Saul Steinberg one (#4) and "Newyorkistan" one (#14) - the list t

John Peel remembered

There's an excellent interview with Sheila Ravenscroft , John Peel's widow, over at the Telegraph . It's really lovely - you see the depths of emotion in Peel and his clear love of his wife and his kids. And they say rock and roll kills family values. Lots of fun anecdotes in that article - the story of John and Sheila's first date shows that awful dates do not necessarily translate into awful marriages: "He said: 'I'll pick you up at five. It can't be before then because I have to listen to the football results.' He turned up in his Bedford Dormobile. We'd planned to see the film 2001 , but he had to call in at the doctor's first. He came out and said: 'I've been told I've got jaundice and I've got to go straight home.' So that was our first date." And there was clearly no love lost between Peel and some of his fellow Radio One DJs: His disdain for Simon Bates was such that, on one occasion, Peel, Sheila and [Andy]

Two Songs: Alicia Keys, Black Eyed Peas

Saw that new Alicia Keys song, "Unbreakable", being performed on Unplugged last night as I was strolling through the local HMV, which makes it the 2nd time I've heard the song in 24 hours. It's really quite a terrible song. The whole conceit of comparing a relationship to a television programme just led to some cheesy lines ("Unbreakable! / Through the technical difficulties / Unbreakable! / We might have to take a break / But ya'll know we'll be back next week"). Man, I've read some of the gushing over the album, and I really don't get the love for this song. Keys has always been one of those singers who I know has talent - she has the vocal chops and the musical skills - and clearly the talent shows in her covers ("Wild Horses", "Every Little Bit Hurts") on Unplugged , but her own songs have consistently underwhelmed me. Speaking of songs I heard on the radio, the Black Eyed Peas "My Humps" is an utterly atro

Preaching to the converted

Now, a Sunday thought: why do people say "preaching to the converted" like it's a bad thing? I mean, I presume preaching to the converted goes on most Sundays in churches.

Lazy Saturday morning thought on the sloth

So, a thought: the name of the sloth - the mammal - being a native of the Americas almost certainly postdates the word 'sloth' meaning laziness. Which means that the poor animal was named after one of the Seven Deadly Sins. How unfair. One day you're minding your own business and the next someone discovers you and suddenly you're the physical embodiment of a lack of virtue. It's not like people saw bonobo monkeys and called them "lusts". Random sloth factoid from that Wikipedia entry: sloths can account for as much as half the total energy consumption and two-thirds of the total terrestrial mammalian biomass in some areas.

Fire destroys former Aardman sets

Fire destroys former Aardman sets . The talking polar bears, terrapins and jaguar from Creature Comforts have gone and Frank the Tortoise, who won fame as the face of a television advertising campaign is missing. Wallace and Gromit's world has shrunk considerably after many of the wonderfully crafted sets which they inhabited were reduced to ashes while manifold manifestations of the Plasticine character Morph have vanished forever. Very sad.

On private and public spaces

So, a little ramble through some stray thoughts: I've been reading Jonathan Franzen's collection of essays How To Be Alone and it struck me that the essay "Imperial Bedroom", his take on privacy written in 1998 amidst the heat of the Lewinsky scandals (how far away that seems!), still makes for relevant reading. Franzen's point is that for all the wailing and gnashing of the intrusion onto privacy, modern life is actually much more private than it ever used to be: none of the social surveillance that pervades small towns. Instead, it's the public, not the private, sphere that is under threat, in that the things which used to be purely private - health, sexual histories - seems to be readily spilled out into public, thereby spoiling (for Franzen) the genuine public spaces, where "every citizen is welcome to be present and where the purely private is excluded or restricted". (Of course, this is from the American perspective - any anyone who's spen

The Nobel for medicine

From a discussion I was having at lunch a few days back: here's the news that the Nobel for Medicine was won by Barry J. Marshall and J. Robin Warren , who discovered that stomach ulcers were caused by H. pylori bacteria, not stress. Figured they would get it sooner or later, and they deserve it - must have struggled against ridiculous odds (and an odd amount of ridicule, probably) to overturn conventional wisdom. I wonder whether their being Australian helped them, in that they were more distant from the 'traditional' centres of medical research in the US / Western Europe and so were not as saddled with the prevailing thinking. (Looking at the list of previous winners , the most recent non-US/Europe winner was Peter C. Doherty , another Aussie, but he did his research in the US. Can't figure out the last winner of the Nobel for Medicine who did his or her work outside the US or Europe, but then I'm too lazy to click every year, so I stopped in 1980.) I'm sure

Linksfest: Saturday Mornin' Comin' Down

I'm tired and my Sox have been eliminated from the playoffs. So here's just a quick set of links: Honda's WOW concept car, meant specially for dogs How to remove a hickie English Cut, the blog of a Savile Row tailor Get Fuzzy this week has been running a series of random dog facts

Another Rand development

Right, so Singapore keeps being filled with all these new condominiums with names that have zero sense of place - they're just generic sounding names such as "Palm Fronds" or "Sun Island" (I'm making these up, of course). So why not create one named the Fountainhead? I can see the ad copy now: Celebrate your achievement at the Fountainhead. There are no second-hand souls here, no obligations to the community. Designed by a brilliant architect, the Fountainhead is near to independent, non-state-controlled schools. Freehold. But I suppose the market for ironic literary references in housing developments must be tiny.

DVD Review: The Good Girl

Dir. Miguel Arteta Jennifer Aniston, Mike White, John C. Reilly, Jake Gyllenhaal The Good Girl of the title - and a bitter title it is - is Justine (Jennifer Aniston, playing against type), a 30-year-old cashier who's stuck in a meaningless existence working at Retail Rodeo, a K-Mart/Wal-Mart type store, and living with her stoner husband Phil (John C. Reilly, giving a better sad-sack husband performance here than he did in Chicago). Director Miguel Arteta films in such a way as to pale every outdoor scene, as if to emphasise the blandness of it all, while the flourescent-lit colour scheme of Retail Rodeo shows that the indoors offers little respite. That general sense of suburban ennui leads Justine into the arms of fellow cashier Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal), whose seemingly poetic soul is mixed with a sense that his personality is, shall we say, not quite all hinged. Holden gets his self-bestowed monicker from The Catcher in the Rye 's protagonist, and that darkness speaks to so

Latest Book Acquisitions

A list of books I've bought from the ANA Bookstore in Far East Plaza, my source of quality cheap books, in the last week. How is it one can enter meaning only to get something to read while he's eating fish and chips and emerge arm-laden with the next month's supply of words? Russell Celyn-Jones, The Eros Hunter Christopher Claro and Julie Klam, Comedy Central: The Essential Guide to Comedy . Perhaps the most disappointing purchase of the lot - covers a lot of ground, but is not particularly funny in itself and has kind of a patronising tone. Nick Hornby et al, Speaking With the Angel - Hornby's own "Nipplejesus" story is a funny reflection on art, and Colin Firth's piece was surprisingly good. Andrea Levy, Small Island Bruno Maddox, My Little Blue Dress Anaïs Nin, Henry and June - I suspect the (tastefully depicted) bare breast on the cover might make it a bit awkward for subway reading. Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works - I love

The impending passage of time

Good Lord - flipping through people from my class in the Facebook (Class of '01), it's a bit scary to see that people are starting to put up wedding pics on their profiles. Fifth year reunions coming up - interesting to see how so much has changed for some people. Of course, two separate cab drivers this week asked me whether I was still in school. Even though both times I was wearing a suit. Thus adding to the occasional feeling that sometimes I'm just playing dress-up.

Words I have had occasion to use

So one thing I like about my new mobile phone is that its dictionary is pretty smart, and seems to reorder itself according to the frequency with which you use words - so I don't have to keep cycling through "darwl" (what the hell is that anyway?) to get through to "Daryl". It also remembers how you like to capitalise words, which is pretty nifty. Another thing I like is that you can go through the "My words" section to see what words you've added to the standard phone T9 dictionary. Here's some selected highlights from my list: antacids, argh, aww, blog, cameo, Carrefour, CDs, conned, cufflinks, dengue, DJ, DJing, doable, dsng, DVD, DVDs, gmail, kerouac, lah, mambo, marina, Morocco, ouch, resend, roped, Sox I wonder what that list says about me?

Setlist for Wednesday night

Here's what I played a couple of nights ago... 'Twas a short little set, and the early evening period meant I slipped in more than a few mellow songs. (Except that the PINE*am song takes Erik Satie 's minimal classic and turns it into a Japanese-pop noise-festival.) Turin Brakes, "Pain Killer (Summer Rain)" Aerosmith, "Dream On" Elbow, "Asleep in the Back" Jeff Buckley, "Hallelujah" Ryan Adams and Emmylou Harris, "Return of the Grievous Angel" Dashboard Confessional, "Hands Down" Wilco, "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" The Beta Band, "Dog Got A Bone" The Postal Service, "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight" The Electric Soft Parade, "Silent to the Dark" Jimmy Eat World, "Lucky Denver Mint" PINE*am, "Gymnopedie 0.1" The Decemberists, "Here I Dreamt I was an Architect" Lou Reed, "Walk on the Wild Side" The Walkmen, "Revenge Wears No

Giant Squid Found Live!

Wow - they finally photographed a giant squid live in the wild ! For centuries giant squids, formally called Architeuthis, have been the stuff of legends, appearing in the myths of ancient Greece or attacking a submarine in Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." But they had never been seen in their natural habitat, only caught in fishing nets or washed ashore dead or dying. The Japanese team, capping a three-year effort, filmed the creature in September of last year, finding what one researcher called "the holy grail" of deep-sea animals. ( Seattle Times-Intelligencer ) Man - ever since last year's New Yorker article on the Squid Hunter (an excellent read - highly recommended if you want more background about the quest for the giant squid), I've been quite intrigued by the fact that the world's largest inverterbrate was almost mythical, since only dead ones had been found. It was almost like trying to find Nessie. So I guess Stev


Dir. Austin Chick Mark Ruffalo, Maya Stange, Kathleen Robertson, Petra Wright XX/XY , Austin Chick's directorial debut, tells a familiar story: being young, reckless, feeling like and acting as though nothing has consequences - and then growing older, and learning to deal with the consequences of one's actions. Wannabe artist Coles (Mark Ruffalo) meets Sam (Maya Stange) at a party at Sarah Lawrence, and Sam invites along punk grrl Thea (Kathleen Robertson) for a menage a trois. And so begins a classic relationship of youth, prodigal, profligate, promiscuous, and seemingly aconsequential - until the heartbreak when Coles reveals to Sam he has had a one-night stand. Ten years later, all three parties find themselves back in New York, somewhat altered by the passage of time. Thea now is the wife of a successful restauranteur, Sam has just returned from London, and Coles has given up filmmaking for advertising. And it is Coles' chance reunion with Sam that triggers off all sort