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Showing posts from May, 2006

Casanova

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Might as well start reviewing the films I watched on the inflight entertainment, starting with a light but enjoyable one, Casanova ( cross-posted at Delta Sierra Arts , my reviews blog): C asanova is Lasse Hallström's version of the tale of the famous libertine. The famed Venetian lover Casanova (Heath Ledger) is beset with woes: financially, he's short on lira; romantically, his consquistador position looks endangered when he is forced to marry by his protector, the Doge (Tim McInnerny, who comes across as reprising a "Blackadder" role), in order to avoid being punished for heresy. And then he meets Francesca Bruni (Sienna Miller), swashbuckling proto-feminist, who teaches him how to truly love. The reformation of bad boys who are essentially good at heart is always popular, of course, from Tom Jones to Hugh Grant sheepishly apologising on the Tonight Show . And Casanova captures that lightness of spirit well, proving to be smart about sex and love. It's

Al Gore's presentation style

I of course have a personal interest in the subject matter of An Inconvenient Truth , but I was also fascinated by the idea of a compelling PowerPoint presentation - I tend to hate the tool, if only because it's so badly used so many times. (I even own a copy of Edward Tufte's "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint" .) So this Presentation Zen post on Al Gore's quality use of PowerPoint was quite inspiring as a reminder that it's possible to use PowerPoint as something compelling - as long as one refrains from bullet points overloaded with text and information! Not sure if the film's coming to Singapore, but I'll be getting the DVD once it's out. PowerPoint Does Rocket Science

Sound and fury

M y friend Michelle points out the McSweeney's "Lady Macbeth on Ambien" bit - frankly, not as funny as many other McSweeney's pieces, if only because it wore out the joke - but that reminded me: back in secondary school, when we were studying Macbeth, my teacher played a part of a jazz recording about Macbeth: all I can remember is the tune (which I can't reproduce in text, of course) that there was a female vocalist, and that the chorus ended with "I will not fear death and bane / Till Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane") - anyone have any inkling what this recording might be? It isn't Duke Ellington's "Lady Mac" .

Leaving Bonn

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Ah, Bonn - how fast the two weeks flew by. And more schinitzel and pork knuckles than you can swing a haxe (multilingual pun there) at. Here's a photo of the Rhein (okay, Rhine) from the one night I stayed in Koenigswinter, the neighbouring town. Last night I walked by the banks of the river by the UN compound here, and went in to touch the water and watched an otter swim by. There was something very calm and peaceful, almost therapeutic, about that. I'm seeing the Girlfriend's point about Europe more and more. And am now writing this from the airport on my laptop while waiting for the plane. Ah, modern technology.

Only a little distance

A m reading the Financial Times , which is the hotel's choice for an English-language paper, and they reviewed Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box , the recent collection of Elizabeth Bishop's uncollected poems. And I thought the quoted extract from "Good-Bye", on the sadness of departure, featured very precisely chosen, exquisite words: You are leaving the earth but only a little distance ... but just that much is hard to do, it has cost other people centuries of effort and is costing us centuries of grief

Best American Novels

J ust a quick one: A.O. Scott summarises the NY Times Book Review's survey of the best American novels of the past 25 years - Beloved is, indeed, beloved, with DeLillo's Underworld a close second. I did like the offhand reference to one of my favourite novels (which admittedly wasn't written in the last 25 years), Richard Farina's Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me .

Bonnie li'l Bonn

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B onn is pretty much how I remember it - a quiet, sleepy little town, although this time I'm staying in the outskirts, which makes it even quieter and even sleepier. Had a nice meal at Tao Restaurant on Sunday, and then kept trying to figure out in my head how to say "check, please" in German. Incidentally, the Nena count: Days in Germany - 3 Times "99 Luftballons" heard - 2

Credulity

I 've ranted in the past about the stupid untrue "Space Pen" urban legend and about how people like to believe that story about the Russians seemingly using a pencil. The Space Review further elaborates on the true origins of the Space Pen : The Million Dollar Space Pen Myth is just that, a myth. The pens never cost a lot of money and were not developed by wasteful bureaucrats or overactive NASA engineers. The real story of the Space Pen is less interesting than the myth, but in many ways more inspiring. It is not a story of NASA bureaucrats versus simplistic Russians, but a story of a clever capitalist who built a superior product and conducted some innovative marketing. That story, however, is a little harder to sell to a public that believes what it wants to believe. Speaking of credulity and people believing what they want to believe, check out the New Yorker 's account of how a Massachusetts psychotherapist fell for a Nigerian 419 scam . I hadn't realised ju

A slower pace

E verything was closed on Sunday in Bonn when I took a stroll around the silent town. I can imagine Singaporeans tearing their hair out to find that Mango and Zara are ever closed. How did that happen, that Singaporeans see their own city as offering nothing to do, but at the same time feel the need to scurry around every weekend doing things? 'Twas nice just to be in an open cobblestoned town square, everything quiet, no one trying to hawk to you credit cards and insurance or make you take a survey, just a lazy Sunday.

My Peripatetic Life

I will be in London from Thursday through Saturday, and Bonn, Germany for the 2 weeks after that. Updates as and when I so feel inclined.

My Book Collection

S pent part of the day cataloguing my book collection using LibraryThing . It was quite addictive, I must say. Particularly for obsessive types such as myself - ended up keying in ISBN numbers to make sure I had the right editions. It's like the Flickr/del.icio.us of book collections, I guess, although I'm still not sure how much I take to social tagging. But the visual display of my book covers was immensely satisfying to see. The Christian Science Monitor on LibraryThing

That's me in the corner

I just heard the Nina Persson cover of R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion" , and it brought me back to 1991, me as a 13 year old, a freshly minted teenager. I can't say I grew up immediately loving indie rock music: the first album I bought, really, was Paula Abdul's Forever Your Girl . But then I entered secondary school, and nicely timed with my entry into adolescence was the coming of two albums that changed my musical tastes: R.E.M.'s Out of Time , and Nirvana's Nevermind . And slowly it came to me, that music could be multi-layered, could be lyrically challenging, could be about despair and the whole range of human emotions. Which is not to say that good disposable pop like the Sugababes doesn't have a place on my iTunes list. But some songs of angst will always be the songs of my youth.

Legacy

T his piece on a 639-year performance of John Cage's "As Slow as Possible" is fascinating. As the musicologist Heinz-Klaus Metzger was quoted as saying: "To begin a performance with the perspective of more than a half-millennium - it's just a kind of negation of the lifestyle of today." And it's very fitting that it's being performed in a church. I remember being fascinated by the Dom in Cologne , and being struck by how people were willing to commit themselves to something that would only be completed beyond their lifetimes. And I suppose some aspects of my work have that quality, which is nice.

The Power of the Tongue

This news bit about scientists getting people to sense things with their tongues is freaky : By routing signals from helmet-mounted cameras, sonar and other equipment through the tongue to the brain, they hope to give elite soldiers superhuman senses similar to owls, snakes and fish. It's almost like Spidey-sense ! Ah, the power of the tongue - if this thing works, these soldiers apparently will be able to do more with it than just be cunning linguists.

Stephen Colbert and the White House Correspondents' Association dinner

S tephen Colbert's speech at the annual White House correspondents' dinner was a biting piece of comedy - he played the Fool, in that Shakespearean sense of the word, and the uncomfortable response of those gathered (for my money, he skewered the press just as much as the White House) was a sign of hitting the mark, I thought, even if the video at the end dragged on a bit. We don't get Colbert's new show in Singapore (political humour doesn't always travel, I suppose) but he was always great on the Daily Show. Links to the entire performance: part 1 , part 2 .

Doin' Things

T he Dunkin' Donuts "Doin' Things is What I Like To Do" commercial has been nagging at me since I caught it - it's weirdly catchy, even though it has that bit of a workers-unite propaganda creepiness. So it was fun to read Slate's take on it (writer Seth Stevenson is a Red Sox fan as well - and given Dunkin's base in Massachusetts) and to learn that it was a They Might Be Giants song. And speaking of doin' things and industriousness and productivity - happy Labour Day. Now let's dance around a maypole and celebrate fecundity.