Drawing from Memory, though at first may seem like a children's book, turns out to be a memoir filled with sketches of Allen Say's early dabbling with the world of cartoon-sketching.
Having been born in Japan, he became an apprentice of one of the most renowned newspaper cartoonist of the time, Noro Shimpei. He attributed Shimpei's dedication and love to him as his ultimate inspiration to become the cartoonist that he is in Oregon today.
Personally, the book reminds me of Tetsuko Kuroyanagi's Totto-Chan, where hues of childhood naivety are imbued every several pages or so. It can leave us inspired, and makes us want to read it to a child in the family....son, niece, or cousin...as the story shows how following inspirations and dreams can make us find our inner callings.
Verdict: 9 out of 10
From Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima does what it says on the foreword: showing the readers how the Pacific Theatre of WW2 was actually more brutal than the European Theatre. Unfortunately, Richard Overy's style of the typical history-book-narration can get exhaustive at times...he compiled a list of facts and dates and jumbled them all together that can make us readers find it overwhelming.
Overall, it is an interesting book though. The most fascinating thing about this book is the several copies of the drafts and original letters (such as President Roosevelt's Declaration of War in 1941 and Japan's Instrument of Surrender in 1945), together with the original autographs, scribblings, and annotations that enables readers to witness firsthand "what it feels like" to be holding those original papers directly.
Verdict: 7 out of 10
Never judge a book by its cover, they say. What seems to be a child's book turns out to be an intelligent compilation of philosophical musings of two seemingly ordinary individuals living their somewhat dreary existence.
A fetching, wholly unputdownable book about the simplicity of life and friendship, this book also adds commentaries of daily lives of those surrounding the two protagonists, art, culture, and religion.
Verdict: 9 out of 10 stars
I've never really comprehended the full definition of the adjective "Kafkaesque" until I read this book, which is a compilation of Kafka's stories. But even until then, there are more ways than one to define what "Kafkaesque-ism" really means.
Despite being somewhat distorted narratives, these short stories prove to be a fetching read in its entirety.
Verdict: 8 out of 10 stars
This is me during the World Choir Games 2012 in Cincinnati, showing what the inside architecture of a Freemason temple looks like.
In case you do not know, the Freemasons are a secretive bunch of people. Hence, the very fact that I am able to show this video to you is already a historic moment in itself.
Taking place in then-occupied Singapore and Indonesia, "You'll Die in Singapore : The true account of one of the most amazing POW escapes in WWII" is a quite a gripping autobiographical narrative that took place up to the end of World War 2.
A gripping read, I say. A recommended read for anyone who is familliar with Singapore and Indonesian history.
Verdict: 8 out of 10 stars
A very Satrapi-esque work. I might have liked this better had it been written in a chronological manner. Instead, the author Parsua Bashi has chosen to pen it in a slightly confusing, soul-searching kind of way: at one scene she's confronting her past when she was 35, the next she jumps to when she was 13.
But overall, this graphic novel is just as insightful(if not more) as the "Persepolis" in portraying the historical pain-in-the-arse that every Iranian had to endure during the era of Cultural Revolution and Iran-Iraq war.
Verdict: 7 out of 10 stars
"In the Garden of Beasts" is an engaging tour through the lives of the American ambassador to Germany and his family during the early years of the Third Reich.
Erik Larson, the author, is a former features writer for The Wall Street Journal and Time magazine. He is more known as the author of "The Devil in the White City" which won the 2004 Edgar Award in the Best Fact Crime category.
The nonfiction book in its entirety is of a somber and menacing atmosphere, as attested in the author's choice of chapter titles such as "Lucifer's Run", "Premonition", and "Gardens in the Dark", inter alia. Such choice of titles reveals the reality that almost everyone holding political office in the diplomatic community were under the illusion that the Nazi regime would soon be toppled or even bow down due to public pressure.
It is interesting to note how the Dodd family was said to have been enamoured with the Third Reich Germany before realizing that beneath all those facades, there is an underlying darkness waiting to surface.
The ambassador William Dodd and his daughter Martha found some Nazi party members, despite their evil political stances, to be "quite human" in their daily activities. Minister Hermann Goering, for example, was described as greedy and vain, while the Fuhrer Adolf Hitler himself, though stubborn when debating politics, is found to be very gentlemanly towards women. That side of Hitler is what Martha recounted after one of her rare encounters with him. There were even rumours of blossoming romance between Martha Dodd and Hitler himself (a rumour she was quite happy to hear), though eventually nothing came out of it.
Several excerpts were also devoted on how the ambassadorial residence of Dodd in the Tiergarten (lit. "Garden of Beast" in German) district of Berlin was able to provide modest yet safe haven for speaking out freely against the portending evils of the Third Reich. It is as if in the entire country of Germany, his residence alone was the only place where people can speak freely and yet remain totally immune from reprisal attacks by the Nazis.
Even the then-President Roosevelt admitted how vital Dodd's role was in safeguarding democracy on the very last years before U.S. and the Third Reich went into war. After the ambassador's demise in 1940, President made a succinct statement that in the end Mr Dodd "proved to be...a lone beacon of American freedom and hope in a land of gathering darkness" (as found in page 356).
My main critique of the book would be the absence of any mentions of the Reich war minister Albert Speer, who had a considerably imminent presence during the pre-war diplomacy. The book also focuses too much on the lives and scandals of Ambassador Dodd and his daughter Martha, while the mentions of son Bill Jr. Dodd were mostly found in the last chapter.
Another critique was on the ending of the book. Albeit satisfactory, the conclusion fell quite flat as the author seemed to rush through the rest of the lives of Martha and Bill Jr. within only several pages... It makes us readers feel that there is more to the story yet to be explored.
However, overall "In the Garden of Beasts" is perhaps one of the best books ever written on the topic of US-Germany diplomacy during the pre-WWII era. I present kudos to Erik Larson for penning such a magnificent book.
Verdict: 9 out of 10 stars
Nothing disappointed me more than the fact of knowing that she wouldn't be coming with us that time.
It means that it would be quite a while before I got to see her again.
Then when I finally did see her joining us recently, though only for a while, it seemed as if all my sorrows and problems ceased to exist.
We did not talk much.
But all the while, she became an object of fixation of mine.
And nothing else matters, as long as I could see that smile.
She has been haunting my nights like a dream, a nightmare that has been a recurring theme over the last several weeks.
A nightmare I find to be oddly delightful.
"Koko Be Good" is a heartwarming story for young adults of various backgrounds. And by young adults, I don't mean fantasy-devouring, goth-obsessed, or insecure teenage girls. By young adults I mean those in their 20s who are trying to make sense of their lives by balancing college, friends, and dreams.
Because that is exactly what this book is about: achieving harmony between coming-of-age dreams and the happiness we know at present...
Verdict: 6 out of 10 stars
Now that the Maître family has moved to South Carolina, my family is going to miss them.
I first met the aged couple at church in November 2009. Most fellow churchgoers call them "the French couple", primarily because Mrs M. Maître is a Belgian citizen with a thick French accent, while Mr P. Maître is a dual French-US citizen with only a slight French accent.
The couple and I got along quickly, primarily because I can understand French. So at times Mrs M. Maître speak to me in French, though my replies came back in English.
Despite me having studied some French back in Indonesia, my very first introductions to French meals such as couscous and Bourdeaux wines came by when they invited me to their occasional dinners.
During those days when my mother and my sister haven't come to USA yet (in case you don't know, I spent around 15 months living by myself in USA, since Mom and my sis hadn't got enough money to come here), Mr P. Maître came and took me to the clinic and waited for me whenever I fell sick.
Then during the World Cup 2010 in South Africa, I asked them if I could come over to their house to watch football. I had no cable in my house because I never watch TV you see (except for playing my DVDs, Wii, and PS3). They welcomed me for all the Japanese and French matches, without hesitation.
In summers, I was also welcome to come to their house to swim in their rather-large pool.
When they decided to move to in a South Carolina town to be closer to one of their daughters, my family and some of their friends were rather saddened. They conducted a farewell party just two weeks ago by their pool, and there was quite a turnout. Though the Maître family do not belong to the elites of the town, it seemed like most people who have known them have a quite favourable opinion of them.
They are indeed, kindhearted souls.
Mr P. Maître told my family is the last time they will be moving, and alas, we have no idea when we will be seeing them again. The distance from my town to their town is around 640 miles away. We exchanged e-mails and Skype accounts, in case we want to communicate again online. However, they will always be remembered as good friends who have been there in times of need, and they shall be missed.
From an informative graphic novel "Trinity: A Graphic History of The First Atomic Bomb" by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, I discovered that due to the frequent testings of atomic bombs in Nevada in the 1950s and 1960s,
each of our bodies [especially those who live in the U.S. and surrounding countries - ed.] contains some amount of radioactive material, lingering trace of atomic testing.
When I read that, I said to myself...damn, I thought traces of radioactive materials do exist in nature?
But then again, further research on the topic concludes that the plutonium traces from those Nevada testings are significantly less than the exposure we get from regular sunlight, or the Radon we get from being in a basement/enclosed car park.
Hence our radioactive world.
Seeing the book cover, I thought this was some stupid, childish comic book.
I found myself wrong after leafing the first few pages. Though the story is mostly simplistic, this graphic novel has one of the most astonishing endings that would surely left anyone asking for more.
Sweet, yet simple. Just like the way we Asians are!
Verdict: 9 out of 10 stars
First, take a look a the cover. Yes, that woman gets paid for smelling people's body odours... Her job title is "odour judge", where she has to tell the efficacy of deodorants.
Each odd job is shown with a picture accompanying it. They can range from the envy of millions such as Videogame Tester, Dog walker, Beer taster, or bra designer to the less pleasant ones such as Bull semen collector, Knife thrower's assistant (who works with the famed Larry Cisewski as a live target for knife stage shows) or Colonics therapist (who cleans people's arses from excrements).
One job I find peculiar is as the Headmistress of Miss Vera's Finishing School for Boys Who Want to Be Girls, the world's first cross-dressing academy. And in that school, 60% of the student body is married.
Verdict: 7 out of 10 stars
As a disclaimer, I only speak five languages in real life... I just read some pronunciation guides from online.
Also, please excuse my monotonous reading tone... I'm still new/amateurish to video-posting!
My paragraph above is annoying, isn't it? Then please, for once, use proper English spelling for God's sake!
The book displays a plethora of spelling and pronunciation which are commonly found in USA and elsewhere. Not surprisingly, the spelling mistakes are more commonplace in USA than in other English-speaking countries suc...more
Seriously? What is wrong with America...how could they're teachers let them graduate from high school with out nowing how too use the proper spelling?
My paragraph above is annoying, isn't it? Then please, for once, use proper English spelling for God's sake!
"I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar: A Collection of Egregious Errors, Inadvertent Bloopers, and Other Linguistic Slip-Ups" displays a plethora of spelling and pronunciation which are commonly found in USA and elsewhere. Not surprisingly, the spelling mistakes are more commonplace in USA than in other English-speaking countries such as Australia, Canada, or Britain.
Some would assume that this is due to the fact that the author hails from Alabama. I would argue otherwise.
Most Americans students simply graduate from high school without knowing how to spell 'em right.
Verdict: 7 out of 10 stars
In Florida, a naked man chewed the face off a homeless man in what has been called a zombie-like attack.
This string of grisly news probably wouldn't sound too bad if not for the fact that all those four events above occurred within the last two months.
What a sick, repulsive world we live in. The California and Florida case have also mentioned specific narcotic-like substances like bath salt, LSD, or hallucinogenic as the contributing causes.
Sounds familiar, anyone?
Yes, "drugs turning people into cannibals/zombies" is actually the main plot for the Resident Evil franchise.
Apparently the sci-fi movies is closer to real life than we think.
Perhaps this is part of the so-called 2012 Mayan Apocalypse after all. However, instead of having meteor showers or tsunamis, we are facing these small, sporadic events of zombie apocalypse instead.
'post~script I don't believe in the 2012 prophecy. But sometimes I find it fun to contribute my two cents to this tub of conspiracy theories and feign foolishness myself...
"Turn of Mind" is a novel about a retired orthopaedic surgeon suffering from onsets of dementia just when her memories are needed the most: she is the main suspect-cum-witness in the murder of her best friend.
The flow of the story can be found as exasperating every now and then, because she will remember certain bits and pieces of conversations from her younger days (which are long-term memories) and her breakfast menu that day (which are short-term memories).
The book is divided into four parts: The first two parts are written on the days when she still has her sanity and (half of) her memories and hence, written in the first-person. The third part is written on the days after she is committed into an old people's home. Here, she starts losing most of her sanity. The switch to second-person perspective in this part is striking, because readers can finally see her world thru her shoes, sometimes reliving memories from her childhood too.
The fourth part of the book, which is written on the very last 15 pages or so of the novel, focusses only after the discovery of who the murderer is (which is a shocker, I tell you!). It takes her off the sane world altogether. Here, despite her mental delusion, she somehow regains most of her memories back on what she remembers out of that murder event.
Sort of an odd turn of events, I say...but on the whole, it is a satisfactory read.
Verdict: 6 out of 10 stars
The festival featured 13 food vendors with a delectable array of dishes. There are those showcasing Thai food, Indian curries, Vietnamese rolls, Filipino barbecue, and Thai bubble tea. Most of them have restaurants in Ohio, while a few others (including Indonesia’s own House of Sate) only have small catering businesses which they run from home.
Due to the low prevalence of Asian restaurants, Americans in the Midwest tend to have little idea of what Asian cuisine is like. When they think of Asian food, the only things that come into their mind are the meals in a Chinese restaurant or Japanese's sushi. The Asian Food Fest aims to change that perception by introducing the less-popular Asian cuisine into the general American population.
This was the third time the festival is conducted. However, for the Indonesian American community in Cincinnati, it marked something else altogether. It was our debut in representing our ancestral cuisine to the festival. Ria Fariani Ellison and her partner Ake Nurita Langlois opened up a booth called The House of Sate, where they showcased chicken satay accompanied with yellow rice and 'acar' (pickled vegetables). For dessert, they served 'bolu kukus' (steamed cupcakes).
A resident of Sacramento, California, Langlois visited Cincinnati to help her childhood friend Ria in organizing the Indonesian booth. The pair then invited several of their Indonesian friends to help out with grilling the satay and serving the customers. I was privileged to be one of them.
Unlike Indonesian communities in coastal states like New York and California, those residing in the Midwest tend to be sparse and rare. We do not advertise our existence through the internet, nor do we have many Indonesian restaurants to cater to our longing for Indonesian food.
Apart from fellow Indonesians and Asians, there are also other Americans coming with keen interest in Indonesian culture, checking our booth with bits of salutations, "Apa kabar?" and "Selamat siang!" Some were curious of what yellow rice is made of, asking questions like, "Do you mix the rice with saffron like the Indians do" to which we answer that it is rice mixed with turmeric. Some others were peculiarly delighted to see that there is such a thing called "steamed cupcakes."
The Asian Food Fest came to Downtown Cincinnati, Ohio last weekend. The festival brought together various Asian booths from the Greater Cincinnati region (which includes Southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky) to serve up taste samples of their best dishes. There was no admission charge for the visitors, but donations were accepted to help Care2Share build village and school facilities in Pleiku, Vietnam.
There were some concerns among booth participants that it might rain during those two days of the event, since rain has been falling quite sporadically over the last several weeks. Thank goodness, the sun shone brightly and the air was dry, contributing to the larger turnout of the crowd.
A notable visitor was an old lady who came in saying that she had spent a year working in Fatmawati hospital, South Jakarta in 1962. She then told us that she still remembered some folk songs such as "Nona Manis" and "Si Paku Gelang," and asked some of us to sing with her. We were more than happy to oblige. After 50 years of leaving Indonesia, she had a fairly good command of basic Indonesian, and left us impressed. For the whole weekend, we tried our best to become the first ambassadors of Indonesian food and culture to the region.
It would definitely be something we are going to look forward to in 2013.
“You should date a girl who reads.
Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes, who has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.
Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she has found the book she wants. You see that weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a secondhand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow and worn.
She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.
Buy her another cup of coffee.
Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.
It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas, for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry and in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.
She has to give it a shot somehow.
Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.
Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who read understand that all things must come to end, but that you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.
Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.
If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.
You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.
You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.
Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.
Or better yet, date a girl who writes.”
- Rosemarie Urquico
Indeed, the only way I can ever find a girl truly alluring is when I know that she's an avid reader. Knowing that she's a non-reader is like discovering that she has a bad breath...it's a complete no-no!
Before I start, let me clarify one thing here: I am not, and never will be, a Twilight fan.
I have read all four books and watched three of the movies, and I have to admit that though the books are not necessarily as great as those teenage girls claim to be, the first Twilight movie does show a quality moviemaking.
There, I said it. The first Twilight movie is superb.
Which is the reason I got curious of "Twilight Director's Notebook : The Story of How We Made the Movie Based on the Novel by Stephenie Meyer", where the director Catherine Hardwicke compiles a huge stack of handwritten notes with a heap of pictures from the shoots and behind-the scenes. And voila, an amusing, and at times sentimental recollections of how the crew worked at their picturesque locations on the outskirts of Portland, OR.
It is also interesting to note how oftentimes Bella's scenes have to be done by a double because the actress Kristen S. was still 17 during most of the shoot process. In most U.S. states, you can only work a maximum of six hours a day if you are below 18. This led the crew to throw a birthday party saying "Welcome to [Working] nights!".
On the whole, this small-ish hardcover would be an interesting companion to watching the first movie. Unless of course, you don't like the movie either.
And try listening to Twilight OST album while leafing thru the pages.
Oh crap. Forget I said that. Now I'm sounding like a teenage girl too.
Verdict: 7 out of 10 stars
The entirety of Persepolis stories, which altogether forms a graphic memoir of an Iranian-European's experience in balancing her modern, sexualised, Westernised side with her secluded, backward-oriented, traditionalist Iranian side, offers us readers much more than meets the eye.
As a matter of fact, not only does the book provides a glimpse into her past personal life, but it also enlightens us readers on the topic of modern Iranian history and what it felt like to live in an oppressive regime like Iran was back then (and, to a certain extent, still is).
An insider's outlook to what the late 20th century Iran, "The Complete Persepolis" is guaranteed to leave us readers grateful that we do not live under such an oppressive regime like that.
Verdict: 9 out of 10 stars
Below is a list of all the classes I have taken in college, together with the number of credits and grade letters I have received for each of them!
I was expecting something closer to the movie adaptation, but alas, I was disappointed. Spanning over a total of less than 100 page, this graphic novel is packed with action, though the "human" side of the survivors, as is apparent in the movie, is nigh nonexistent in this book.
It has a fabulous illustration though...I can give it that much.
Verdict: 4 out of 10 stars
Before I start, take a look at the flag below.
No, it's not a joke.
It is a real historical flag of Libya, which was in use before it was colonised by Italy in 1934. Back then, its official name was Ottoman Vilayet of Tripolitania.
Now, take a look at another historical flag of Libya.
That single-coloured flag above was used during the entirety of Muammar Gaddafi's reign. After Gaddafi was toppled in 2011, the National Transitional Council decides to readopt their old flag, that is, the more beautiful-looking flag that is used today.
I have nothing against the colour of green, except for the fact that plain coloured flag reeks of dullness. Looks so uncreative. If green truly is the holy colour of Islam (which was allegedly the reason Gaddafi used the colour for the flag in the first place), why not beautify it with some stripes, or different shades of green, or add some crescent and star symbol?
Or add some Qur'an verses, such as in the case of Saudi Arabia.
It seemed as if the entire government under Gaddafi administration did not graduate from primary school...even today, I dare bet that I can pick any primary school anywhere in the United States and have at least 20 pupils draw a better-looking flag than that.
If I could pick the best flag for Libya, it would be the flag that has light blue field and a green palm tree in the centre, with a white star on top of it. Such a flag was used by Libya under the historical name of Tripolitanian Republic.
Most of us today would probably identify KKK as an anti-Christian cult in some action movies. But the truth remains that just like other extremist groups that exist today, this hate group was born out of a dissatisfied "losers" in the post-Civil War era. These bigots then attempted to answer such deficiencies with hatred towards "others", akin to the way some German politicians gave birth to the Nazism using Versailles Treaty as an excuse.
The book, however, does not attempt to give a voice to the culprits. Rather, it portrays them as a dark spot in our history that must never be forgotten. Because, as a famous politician said one day, history is bound to repeat itself if we forget. May such a culture of hate and terror be extinguished one day.
Verdict: 6 out of 10 stars
Karen Wolstenholme must have done something terribly wrong.
She is in what is probably the most unfortunate diplomatic post in the world: to become the British ambassador to the hermit country of Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Instead of an honour, it sounds more like a punishment, especially since she used to have diplomatic posts in popular "vacation spots" such as Vienna, Den Haag, and Paris.
Granted, as a foreign diplomat, she must have been given access to what most citizens of North Korea consider a luxury, such as three meals a day, basic sanitation and running water, and access to internet. She might even be allowed to play golf with some top North Korean government officials.
However, it is still a shitty job: there is no denying that.
Not only she can't speak out against the regime (otherwise risk deportation/expulsion), she also has little freedom to travel anywhere in the country without proper authorisations.
I have never understood why this book is so popular that it gains the title of classic. There is hardly any salacious scenes as those so-called top-notch reviewers say, and instead of putting those scenes into her real life, the author Jelinek has linked most of the story with odd Freudian fantasies of the main protagonist... Such an uneasy combination, I say.
For you ordinary mortals out there, don't waste your time reading this book. I read it until the very last page, hoping to find any redeeming quality that I may be able to put here. But rest assured, there are none.
"The Piano Teacher" is, in short, a complete disappointment and an utter waste of time.
Verdict: 1 out of 10 stars
Milan Kundera once said that
True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power.
In her fourth work of Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling also put these words on Dumbledore’s mouth,
If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.
Indeed, when we decide adopt pets and decide to take care and nourish them, we have shown God and society that we are capable of love towards even the littlest of God’s creature. Even when we receive nothing in return from them.
I own a domestic shorthair cat myself. I also adore others out there who have pets of their own, especially cat- and dog-owners. Often they are busy, working parents with full-time jobs and several kids, but they still manage to find time and energy to bathe and walk their pets too.
Animal-lovers are indeed amazing people. If you are one, I give a pat on the back for ya!
Your love towards your pets (and vice versa) is called unconditional love, and perhaps it is the only type of unconditional love there is.
"The Lunatic Express: Discovering the World Via Its Worst Buses, Boats, Trains, and Planes" by Carl Hoffman
What does it feel like traveling 50,000 miles across the globe on what statistically appear to be the most dangerous flights, boats and buses?
Ask Carl Hoffman.
His book “The Lunatic Express” piqued my interest as I browsed its cover flap and found author Hoffman summarizing the dangers of sinking in an Indonesian ferry. And guess what? He took one of the most notoriously and statistically dangerous ferries from Jakarta to the strife-stricken city of Ambon (I have taken an Indonesian ferry myself, and “safe” and “comfortable” were not among the first adjectives I’d use to describe that experience).
Having worked for National Geographic for decades, Hoffman is accustomed to the occasional dangers and quirks posed by the demands of his job. However, in a style reminiscent of Elizabeth Gilbert’s travels in “Eat, Pray, Love,” Hoffman tries to search his soul while simultaneously taking a break from his crumbling marriage by seeing the world via some of its most inconvenient, filthy, and downright scary methods of transportation.
All the flights he jotted down have been banned from entering European Union airspace, as he dubbed them “flying coffins.”
What a whacky way to travel, no?
My main critique of “Lunatic Express” are the missing legs of the journey. Having written in detail about the discomfort of taking the Peruvian bus, or getting acquainted with fellow passengers on Bangladeshi ferries, one could not help but wonder how he could have intentionally neglected to mention anything on his flight from Peru to Kenya, or from Vladivostok back to Los Angeles, for example. It would be entirely excusable if he had written that he had taken some safer flight, but Hoffman skipped such a disclaimer.
In certain chapters, Hoffman may also seem to be contradicting himself by complaining how much he misses home and how his travels have separated him from his (ex? current? He doesn’t really say!) wife ... even though it is obvious from the very first chapter that he says that this journey is 100 percent of his own volition.
On the whole, however, “Lunatic Express” was a rich travel narrative over five months. The author Hoffman deserved a movie-remake much more than Elizabeth Gilbert did. It would make a gripping Anthony Bourdain-esque thriller.
Verdict: 9 out of 10 stars
This post is republished in The Jakarta Globe on 17th of April, 2012.
The modern notion of “soul mate”, that there is someone out there who is just the right mate for us, is actually based on an old myth.
Plato is to blame. He included a famous myth in his work of Symposium that “people were hermaphrodites until God split them in two, and now all the halves wander the world over seeking one another. Love is the longing for the half of ourselves we have lost.”
Though I used to argue from the other side of the fence, I had ceased believing in Plato’s delusive concept myself, that there is someone out there waiting to share her life with me. The sooner we all make peace with that fact, the better we would feel.
Even the idea that “we should marry for love” is fairly novel too. For those of us whose ancestry hail from Asia and Africa, we can recall how our grandparents or some great-grandparents got united under “arranged marriages”. Does that mean that love founded after such a marriage is sealed is less real than Plato’s idea of true love, then?
In some cases, it is due to the less expectation of our partner that makes the love even more fulfilling.
Hence theone question we should ask ourselves.
Which school of thought do you believe in: Plato’s idea of “other half” or the traditional concept of “arranged love”?
Lest I seem to contradict myself, I do not believe in the traditional concept of “arranged love” either. My feet are firmly planted on the middle ground. I like to play it by ear.
Reading this book sort of reminds me of the movie "L'Heure d'été" by Olivier Assayas. As typical of French provincial stories are, they evoke a sense of modest amounts of artistry blended with sweet melancholy.
In other words, they are similar to British provincial stories, if not for the fact that the French ones are more infused with subtle emotions.
In this novel we will see how marriages were still arranged in the early 20th century, albeit the claims that European families of those days were getting more and more "contemporary" and "liberal".
The conflicts within the characters tend to run minimal. Even the tragedies, though they inflict deep scars, tend to unite the family members closer.
The way that the love runs deep between the two protagonists, Pierre and Agnes, despite the ongoing continent-wide WW2 that drafts him into the military has been depicted beautifully.
I only lament the book synopsis on the back cover which may be more directed toward contemporary US readers who are in thirst of more passionate dramas.
Consider this synopsis below:
Pierre and Agnes marry for love against the wishes of his parents and his grandfather, the tyrannical family patriarch. Their marriage provokes a family feud that cascades down the generations.
It sounds too American, I say. Such showy acts of passion are in fact, absent for the most part.
But overall I admire Némirovsky's beautful style of prose (albeit she was not French herself), and I look forward into reading some more of her works...
Verdict: 7 out of 10 stars
Living in Wyoming, where the population is only around 580,000, must be extremely boring.
For one, it is the 10th largest state in USA. However, in terms of population, it is the smallest state in the country.
In case you don't know what a population of 580,000 would look like, I'll give you international readers some comparison. The following are mid-sized cities around the world that have more approximate population than the entire state of Wyoming combined:
- Leeds, England (799,000)
- Kagoshima, Japan (600,000)
- Bandar Lampung, Indonesia (790,000)
- Vancouver, BC, Canada (600,000)
- Louisville, KY, USA (597,000)
For ordinary readers looking for a light read, I can assure you: “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” can be unbearable for you. Though raised and educated in the mid-20th century France, the author Milan Kundera is Czech by birth. Therefore, we readers can expect what is so typical of Soviet-era Eastern European writings…replete with melancholy and drab colours, even when the backdrop of the story hovers between Zurich, Vienna and Prague.
However, there are several excellent qualities that make it worthy of read.
Reading the book is akin to what a man feels when he takes a stroll in the park, sees a beautiful stranger, brings her home and afterwards sleeps with her. Then, he starts peeling in detail, layer by layer, on that fleeting experience with the stranger. What does the experience of being in love feel like? When we love someone, does the volition to own the other’s body necessarily carry the weight of unifying one’s body to the partner’s? Is the activity of sex an obligation, a pursuit of pleasure, or both? How can love carry more weight when it is devoid of sex (and vice versa)?
Consider this example. The main female protagonist of the story, Tereza, is married to a man, Tomas, who sleeps around with other women. She is fully aware of this fact, yet she willingly gives in to Tomas’ pursuits of outside pleasures, since she contends that he is merely satisfying the bodily needs while his soul belongs to her alone.
Or is it so?
Because at times she postulates that since the activity of sex itself does not necessarily define the emotions of love with it, she should be perfectly fine with it. In other words, she is not jealous of her husband when he seeks pleasure from other women. She is only jealous when her body is treated like other women’s. On this aspect, she compartmentalises herself, becoming a detached observer to the marital conundrums.
The banality of life is another interesting topic that Kundera has touched with his two separate yet interconnected stories. When the pleasures of life have become one’s routine, is it possible to rekindle the flames that had once surfaced when we experienced it for the first time? For example, going on a hike for the 100th time may not carry the same excitement and adrenaline rush as when we were about to do it for the first time ever. Marital and love can also carry out the same dissatisfaction due to this very reason: it becomes banal.
Though the topics dealt in the book revolve around love and pleasure, this is not a romance book. Far from it, even. Kundera has peeled each of the layers that each of us carries when the notion of romantic love, namely eros, and helps us to define how we see them and why we see them the way we do. We may not agree with his opinions, but at least we can give them a try.
Verdict: 8 out of 10 stars
Working as a librarian in the busiest public library branch in Kentucky has gained me nearly unlimited access to every single book that has ever been published in English since the 1930s, which is great considering that my very definition of a paradise includes reading a good novel with the company of a few friends.
Starting from the second week of March, I have decided to start posting my own reviews of some books I have read - either those in the distant past or those I came upon recently. This new project of mine has nothing to do with any classes I am taking at community college.
Quite the contrary, I have been dying of thirst for intellectual nourishment...and enrolling in a small-town community college sates me none of that.
Hence my book reviews, which I will faithfully post every Saturday.
The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, who at the dawn of the 1980s promulgated the notion of “cultural capital”: the idea that aesthetic choices are an artifact of socioeconomic position. He documented a correlation between taste and class position: The scarcer or more difficult to access an aesthetic experience is –literary world very much included- the greater its ability to set us apart from those further down the social ladder. This kind of value is, in his analysis, the only real value that “refined” tastes have. My book review project would hopefully help me in fulfilling my own need for reaching that aesthetic ideals.
Most will be fiction, some will be non-fiction, depending on whatever genre I feel like reading at the time. As a general rule, I would never post reviews on chick-lit or horror or Christian fictions, though I may find exceptions every now and then.
Unlike my old project of translating Indonesian songs once a week, I will not take suggestions from anybody on what books I should read or review. I will review the books when I feel like it, but one thing for sure, I can promise you a book review for your weekends.
Tomorrow (27 March) will be my last day of work as a cashier in the gas station.
Though in one part I am relieved not having to work on Christmas, Thanksgiving, or New Year's any longer, it still saddens me somehow, leaving the coworkers I have grown attached to during the last two years.
Hence I still shall come and see them every once in a while.
And starting Wednesday onward I shall become an ordinary college student with only 15 hours on my part-time librarian job.
How I've missed you so much!
It took me slightly more than one hour to finish reading this graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman's work, for the first time ever.
I must admit, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had always thought of Neil Gaiman to be some hollowed-out fantasy author, but after reading this graphic novel, I think I may reconsider...
"Coraline: Graphic Novel" takes fantasy into a teenager's psyche and transforms it into what not only seems otherworldly, but also...real. Sort of like children-friendly Kafka. I have known only a few authors other than Gaiman who can create such a distinctive quality.
Verdict: 8 out of 10 stars
I was commenting to my sister Melody about someone I just saw when I realised that half of the room actually understood Indonesian.
I had some stares back at me, but since the person in question did not understand one word of it, they kinda let it go.
Mom, Melody, and I were on a Christmas party in Southern Ohio hosted by an Indonesian American family. There were around.... 30 (or 40?) people altogether who came to the meeting, some naturalised citizens, some here on student visa, some married to Caucasian American men, and some are sons and daughters of Indonesian immigrants.
Here's the thing about Indonesian Americans: just like other Asian communities in USA, we hardly speak our own native tongue.
A typical Asian American family today looks like this:
- The mother, who is Asian, speaks both English and her mother tongue fluently.
- The father, who is Caucasian American, only speaks English. He can only understand his wife's language a little.
- The kids, who are born and raised in USA, only speaks English. They can have true Asian names (such as Arjuna, Rio, etc... and these are real examples!) but they don't understand one word of their Mom's language.
Which is not bad, considering that the only reason I came to the group gathering was for the food.
Until Mom and I discovered that there are several sparse enclaves of Indonesian American families scattered throughout Southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky region, we thought that we were the only ones of Indonesian ethnicity within a radius of 50 miles. Then she got introduced to a Chinese Indonesian from Surabaya.
Invitations came, warmly welcoming us to get to know some others too.
So we got to know one. And another. And another.
My sister got especially delighted that one of the women in the group was an alumni of a secondary school she went to in South Tangerang, Banten.
And I got introduced to someone who went to school to Singapore too.
What a small world.
So now, let's talk about the food. Indonesian food!
We had a lot of them, starting from prawn crackers, risoles, bolu kukus, Fried rice, bakso, sayur asam, inter alia.
Each of us had our own specialties that we brought to the gathering. The only meals that Mom is accustomed to make are Fried rice and Gado-gado, which she brings to the gatherings every once in a while.
Thank goodness nobody brought Sate Padang, which would have ruined my entire appetite that day. Even the smell of it can make me nauseous.
They conduct such gatherings every now and then, but since it usually falls on a Saturday (when I have a class), I could rarely come.
Also, I have not tasted Martabak Manis yet. The only one food that I absolutely love the most. I heard that somebody brought it to the gatherings one day. Alas, I had to go to work, so there went my chance!
A pity, since that is the one meal I would pay hundreds of dollars for.
* (translation of title: "Damn, she's cute!")
"Nathaniel’s Nutmeg" is a historical account which neatly chronicles the race of all the major powers in Western Europe to corner the spice market. One of the most sought-after spice at that time was nutmeg, a native plant of Banda Islands, East Indies (now known as Indonesia).
Some of us might be wondering: What is nutmeg? Why was it so popular? Well, back then, it was a fruit known to kill the smell and taste of rotten meat (which is true). It was also believed to have powerful medical properties (which turned out to be merely a placebo effect, causing its decline in popularity centuries later). The way it is unthinkable for people to die for nutmeg trade back then is akin to our desire for oil trade today. Several hundred years from now, when vehicles are powered by free renewable resources such as hydrogen and sunlight, our posterity will ask a similar question: “Why on earth would our ancestors go to war in the Middle East just to secure access to oil resources?”
Fleets of ships would go to both ends of the world in search of spice resources, and it is evident how those early fleets were lacking many important skills such as determining geographical coordinates, how to prevent scurvy, or what important commodities are valued in the east. On the whole, the author Milton has adeptly drawn a narrative of how the governments of those Western European powers learn from their early mistakes and correct them.
The author studied at Bristol University. A writer and journalist, he specialises in the history of travel and exploration, with books published in seventeen languages. Nathaniel’s Nutmeg happens to be his best known work.
The book’s title, however, is a tad misleading. It seems to have been chosen for rhyming effect instead of any substantial role played by Nathaniel Courthope. His name was hardly mentioned at all in the book. The very first mention of his name is found on page 78, and even then it is just in passing, as if he is some minor character in the whole story.
The sources are mostly secondary, since the story is compiled from original hand-written journals of English explorers, Ambon (in today’s Maluku province, Indonesia) library collections, and five thousand pages of Jacobean script. The author Milton also refers to obscure Dutch chronicles which had been translated into fluent English.
Milton uses a simple language, which makes it easy for the general public to read. Every several chapters there are also maps and pictures drawn in the 17th century to accompany the readers’ imagination when reading the stories. If you are a fan of the Pirates of The Caribbean movie franchise or any other seafaring stories, you will definitely enjoy this book. Despite it being written as nonfiction, the narrative that Milton uses in this book can altogether causes it to be read like a fiction.
Milton’s use of irony was adroitly placed, often he shows sympathy with the poor natives who are paid small amount of fee for their nutmeg which could be resold very expensively in Europe. However, the irony also works on both sides: the natives of Banda Islands are shown to be “profiting” from the trade by getting European knives and clothes (which worth almost nothing in Europe but worth a lot in East Indies) by trading their nutmegs (which worth almost nothing in East Indies but worth a lot in Europe).
However, as an Englishman, Milton is not free from bias. He can at times seem to glorify the English, while putting some of their bitter rivals, such as the Dutch, in a less delicate light...even when both sides are acting more or less with an equal deplorability. When describing the English diplomacy with the natives, he used positive-sounding adjectives such as “apt” and “ingenious”, while when describing the Dutch and Portuguese’ attempts in dealing with the natives, he used negative-sounding adjectives such as “guileful” and “ruthless”.
Throughout the book, there are several historical events that are worth noted, as it is absent from most major historical books today. First, is that the popularity of nutmeg caused the rise of the East India Company, which becomes the British overseas representation of His (or Her) Majesty’s government. If not for the East India Company, the people of India and Singapore today (where the majority of the people are not descended from White Europeans like Australians or Americans) would not be speaking English as a lingua franca. Secondly, is the signing of the Treaty of Breda in 1667, which brought swift end to the Second Anglo-Dutch War. This treaty marks the exchange of the sole Dutch region in North America, Nieuw Amsterdam to the English, in return for having the English giving up their claim on Run, the most isolated island of the Banda Islands. The treaty worked well on both sides: The Dutch was able to secure their worldwide monopoly on nutmeg. What about for the English? Well, most people have never heard of this, but that formerly-Dutch region of Nieuw Amsterdam was renamed by the English into what is today known as New York City. If not for the treaty, the metropolitan area of New York City today would have a significant Dutch-speaking population, just like the people of Louisiana today have a significant French (Cajun)-speaking population.
Verdict: 7 out of 10 stars
Living in the suburbs has plenty of perks.
For one, it is much safer than big cities. Unless I'm parking the car for the night, most of the time I leave my car doors unlocked. Nobody steals cars here.
But I'm afraid I've overstayed my welcome.
I have nothing against staying in Kentucky. It's just that I was raised as a city person. Living in a small town/suburbs like this gives me an endless sense of boredom. Sometimes I lie awake at night thinking how beautiful life would be if I could just pack and move to some nice cities such as Washington DC.
Seriously, it's dull living here. No excitement, no nightlife, nothing. Unlike back in New York, you can't find Chinese restaurants open past midnight.
Even the McDonald's close at Midnight.
I need to move out!
Granted that everything goes according to plan, I am slated to graduate with a Bachelor degree from university in 2014. At the point of which I am thinking of resettling in Charlotte, NC or Savannah, GA...where the tropics and the beaches are always within reach.
Or even the birthplace of my sister...Richmond, VA.
Damn, I absolutely love that city!
An ideal one would be a city that's not too expensive to live in (in terms of housing and groceries), has a metro train system (I love commuting by train since it reminds me of Singapore) and does not speak Spanish.
This leaves most of Florida and Texas out of the equation.
Let's just see later, I guess.
First of all, take a look at the picture of this young woman below.
Unfortunately, she's dead.
Being a regular reader of the Canadian magazine Maclean's, I have recently taken some interest in the Shafia family murder trials, which covered honour killing committed by a wealthy Afghani-Canadian family in Kingston, Ontario.
In 2009, Mohammad Shafia, his second wife Tooba Yahya, and their first son Hamed allegedly drowned three of the oldest daughters in the family, Zainab (19), Sahar (17), and Geeti (13) inside a Nissan Sentra in a river in Ontario. The first wife of Moh. Shafia, Rona Amir, was also drowned inside the car, apparently as an "throw-in" prize for Tooba, since Tooba is always the "preferred wife" of that polygamous household.
The victim's "crimes"?
Those three daughters of Moh. Shafia had "disgraced the family name and Islam" by "wearing make-up and Western clothing", "dating boys", and "hanging around with Canadian friends too often".
In other words, the daughters are merely "guilty" of teenage misdemeanours that, had it occurred in other ordinary families in the West, would not provoke the slightest angers from their parents.
Eventually, the verdict on 29 January 2012 stated that all three suspects are guilty of four counts of first-degree murders. In Canada, it carries an automatic life sentence in prison without a possibility of parole for 25 years.
Seriously, how sick can those trio be? If they can't cope with having their kids Westernised, why not return to Afghanistan and implement their honour code there?
To note, I have absolutely nothing against codes of honour implemented by families anywhere else in the world. However, any immigrants to a Western country should always remember that the local law triumphs. There is absolutely no place for such barbaric brutality here.
Meanwhile, it is with deep sadness that I see the pictures of the three deceased Shafia girls. This is the only one news that kept me thinking: what a waste. What a shame. They could've had a bright future ahead.
Instead, the family is broken up. Four are dead, three are in prison for first-degree murders, and three of the younger children are placed in foster homes.
May Roona, Zainab, Sahar, and Geeti rest in peace.
This graphic novel is replete with references to the Qur'an, hadiths, and Rumi poetry that one would be forgiven for thinking that it was penned by a Muslim.
However, "Habibi", which is targeted more towards a mature audience in the West, can serve as an excellent introduction to plebeian's lives in the Islamic world.
Yet the messages are universal.
The story revolves on an epic love story which follows a couple from their shared childhood of struggle together in the lower stratum of a fictitious Middle Eastern country called Wannatolia (which I suspect is modeled on today's United Arab Emirates). In Wannatolia, the citizens have mostly forgotten the true path of Islam (or any other faith, for that matter) and submitted themselves to lecherous ways of life, filled with greed, corruption, and deception.
However, the two protagonists of the story always try their best to stay true to the path of Islam. Being poor, they are neither literate, nor do they own a copy of the Qur'an. Even the people of Wannatolia seem to have little (if not nonexistent) interest at all to their glorious Islamic past. But Habibi and Dodola keep reminiscing on the stories of the prophets (e.g. Adam, Abraham, Noah, inter alia) so that they could differentiate what is right and wrong in the injustices of today's corrupt world.
Perhaps to make some stories more familiar to Western audience, the reminiscences are sometimes paralleled to Judeo-Christian stories too, such as when there is a difference between Abraham's intent to sacrifice his son (was it Isaac or was it Ishmael? This book includes both).
The conclusion, which ultimately results in a poignant ending, is granted to leave the audience deeply inspired. It leaves non-Muslims in the post-9/11 world with a better understanding of the soul of Islam which is steeped in tradition, compassion, and peace...a far cry from the supposedly "violent" jihadist ideology that the mass media display on a daily basis these days.
Perhaps by understanding Islam better, we Westerners can have more better relations with the Muslim world. Because in case we don't realise it, we have more in common with them than we think...we strive and struggle on the same path of suffering for the cultivation of peace too.
As an outsider to the belief himself, Craig Thompson could not have conveyed it better. Kudos for such a magnificent work!
Verdict: 8 out of 10 stars
Before we start, take a look at your "Top-6-Friends" display on your own Facebook Timeline.
Odd, isn't it?
Of the 15 people who constantly show up interchangeably on my Facebook timeline display, I have not interacted with eight of them for at least the last six months.
Which means that either I stalk their Facebook profiles regularly, or they stalk mine.
What an odd algorithm.
(This is just my speculation, though...)
Since becoming a librarian at one of the main public libraries in Kentucky, I have been working two jobs. It was fine so far, until the manager at my first job decided that she won't accommodate the schedule around my library job any longer.
Hence I am quitting.
I shall deliver the company my resignation letter before the end of this week, which would mark me quitting the one job I have been working the longest (for 26 months).
Plus, I am still enrolled as a full time student in this nondescript Midwest community college. After two months at it, it has come to my realisation that working two jobs while still at college is a tough call.
I will be transferring from my two-year-college to either one of the two biggest public libraries in Kentucky...either Northern Kentucky University or University of Kentucky. As of today, I have not yet decided which university I am going to transfer to.
Well, I still have four months to go before I go there anyway. After the point of which, my main concern would only be to graduate latest by Fall 2014 semester.
By the way.
Blogger has changed! It looks much simpler now (kinda MS Word-ish), and frankly I like it.
So far, there were only two (or perhaps three?) Winter days in the Northern Kentucky region when we have snowy roads. Other than that, it mostly goes back and forth between rain and mildly cold weather. The temperature keeps hovering somewhere around 7 to 17 Celcius, on average.
It was as if Winter was never there in the first place. It kinda feels like South Carolina winters here... Short, mild, and lovely.
Which is the reason why I am more of an upbeat mood these days.
On a more personal note, I have been employed as a librarian now. Life can only get better.
Except for the fact that Valentine's day is two weeks away, and I still wish you were here.