Showing posts from October, 2005

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?