Links from the past weeks

  • We Shouldn’t Have Let Ryan Adams Cover Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’
    I loved the album. I wasn’t a fan of either artist then, but the album suited my mood in 2015/ 2016. Since then, Adams has faced a reckoning of sorts and I have stopped listening to the album. Given Taylor Swift’s success today, it seemed hilarious to read that it took Adams covering Swift for her to be taken seriously. I say “seemed” because it should not be that way. It is not funny.

  • Sometimes I read a random blog post off my RSS reader, and then install a new browser. It is 2024; who needs a new browser?

  • Bring back cubicles!
    Everything is relative. (I would ask for the return of a room with a window, fuck you very much.)

  • Kokuyo Fine Writer
    Something I picked up at the Haneda airport, and could not find anything on it, until I searched YouTube and found Japanese vloggers showing off their new loot (with this link in the video description).

  • I loved Stay True by Hua Hsu, and admired the writing, the photographs, the fact that he kept old letters/ faxes. Here’s a profile on the man.

  • Reading Octavia E Butler led me down the path towards process theology. I am a bit late to the game because her books apparently hit bestseller lists in the thick of the pandemic. It is eerie, to me living presently in 2024, how a book written 30 years ago and set in 2024, predicted so many things so well. God is change.

  • A notecard system as your commonplace book. I had a stack of index cards lying around (because I used to have a hipster PDA), ahem, and so I now have a commonplace book in the form of index cards.

  • Lessons from the last Swiss finishing school
    Such a good read. Seems like a rich-person’s version of a hobby, vs. me thinking about having drum lessons.

Links from the past weeks

📖 Book Lovers

“Does anyone ever want to finish a good book?”

Emily Henry
Book Lovers


The other half recommended this book, noting that while it is a romance novel, it was something that was not as easy to put away. I suppose romance novels have their reputation and suffer from pre-judgment, but Emily Henry did a pretty good job. Both of us managed to finish the book, even though we kept expressing our love-hate relationship with this endeavour.

Maybe it is because it is set in the book publishing business (the main characters are a literary agent and a book editor), that we were drawn in. There were various bits about reading and readers, and observations on being a woman in a professional world. These are bound to endear the book to the female reader. And while I would have appreciated some brevity, kudos to the author for plotting the story, peeling behind the layers of various characters along the way. [OK, I just wanted the character development to be faster/ done in fewer words. You also feel like the writer is aiming to be the script for a Hallmark movie.]

That said, my favourite part of the book is the relationship between Nora and her younger sister, Libby. The eternal struggle of an elder sibling wanting to take care of things versus stepping back and/or letting things be, because the younger sibling also needs to be herself, do things her way… So, in a way, maybe it is the sister arc that made me stay.

PS. After you recognise the concept, it is amusing how it turns up so very often – Americans moving away from the East Coast because of the weather and landing up on the West Coast. It is such a luxury that does not compute for me, situated in a cosmopolitan city-state near the equator.

📺 🎵 Some things I’ve watched and listened to – 2023

Singles Inferno, Season 2
Madoff: The Monster on Wall Street
Friends – reruns of various seasons
Physical 100
The Chaser
White Lotus, Season 2
Cunk on Earth
Survivor, Seasons 40, 41
The Glory
Love Between Fairy and Devil
The Diplomat
Light the Wild
Copycat Killer
Detective vs Sleuths (movie)
Selling Sunset, Season 6
The Good Doctor
Siren: Survival Island
Till The End of The Moon
Secret Chef
Muscles & Mayhem: An Unauthorized Story of American Gladiators
Fallen Angels (movie)
Barbie (movie)*
Oppenheimer (movie)*
Jujitsu Kaisen
The Amazing Race, Season 33
Devil’s Plan
House of Usher
Where the Wind Blows (2022 movie)
Cyber Heist (movie)
Hidden Blade (movie)
Loki, Season 1
Kitchen Nightmares
Squid Game Challenge
The Boy and The Heron (movie)*

*watched in the theatre


Akira Kosemura
Future Sound of London

Ten Percent Happier podcast
The Pen Addict podcast


Games too:
Obra Dinn
Mario Kart 8
Super Mario Bros. Wonder


Recommended titles in bold. I continue watching Hong Kong movies on flights. There are quite a few Korean reality shows this year. House of Usher was outstanding, and it was great to close off the year with the mind-blowing The Boy and The Heron.

Reading – 2023

Books here are only listed if I’ve completed them; recommended titles are in bold.


Servants of the Damned
Autumns (Seasons Quartet)
Franny and Zooey
Reality is not what it seems
Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do and What It Says About Us
Cold Water Burning
My Twentieth Century Evening and Other Small Breakthroughs: The Nobel Lecture
Recollections of My Non-existence
The Stranger
The Paris Apartment
The Status Game
The Republic
The Subplot: What China Is Reading and Why It Matters
Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks
Narcissus and Goldmund
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Elizabeth Finch
Real Estate
Shanghai Lawyer
Smart Brevity
Cloud Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown
The Trackers
The Wall
Zen: The Art of Simple Living
Uncanny Valley
How to Change Your Mind
Sorrow and Bliss
The Devotion of Suspect X
Money Men
Forest Bathing
A People’s History of the United States
The Silent Patient
Influence Empire
The Longest Race
Last Night at The Lobster
Hillbilly Elegy
Eight Mountains
Days at the Morisaki Bookshop
The Price of Being Fair
Better than Before
An Edgar Allan Poe Reader
Still Life
The Dhammapada
Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon

Total: 53 books; 20 fiction

Did not make much progress with my foray into series. LOTR is almost done but I barely made progress on re-reading Harry Potter. I seem to be more interested in mysteries this year, perhaps trying to catch the nostalgic Agatha Christie feel. Out, Babel and The Wall were really, really good fiction. I clearly enjoy non-fiction titles on morally-suspect hustlers/ finance bros.

Links from the past weeks

📖 Babel

“Nice comes to us by way of the Old French nice (‘weak, clumsy, silly’), from the Latin nescius (‘ignorant, not knowing’).”

R F Kuang


This is an ambitious book, and it delivered. Between crafting lovable characters and delivering on a story, the author also found time to dig at slavery, inequality and the British empire. There were also debates on the philosophy of translation, lovely snippets on the etymology of various words, and careful dips into the thorny issue of racism.

A 5-star book, and I finished it, wanting to buy a copy for everyone I know who reads.


“And the influences on English were so much deeper and more diverse than they thought. Chit came from the Marathi chitti, meaning letter or note. Coffee had made its way into English by way of Dutch (koffie), Turkish (kahveh), and originally Arabic (qahwah). Tabby cats were named after a striped silk that was in turn named for its place of origin: a quarter of Baghdad named al-Attabiyya.”

“I want to live,’ she repeated, ‘and live, and thrive, and survive them. I want a future. I don’t think death is a reprieve. I think it’s – it’s just the end. It forecloses everything – a future where I might be happy, and free. And it’s not about being brave. It’s about wanting another chance. Even if all I did was run away, even if I never lifted a finger to help anyone else as long as I lived – at least I would get to be happy. At least the world might be all right, just for a day, just for me. Is that selfish?”

Links from the past weeks

  • Hanif Kureishi writes an essay on friendship.
    I like this expression – “purposive idleness”.

  • China is now more Japanese than Japan
    That day I learned of the “Japanification index”, which is measured by the sum of the output gap, the inflation rate and short-term interest rates. The lower the score, the more Japanese you were.

  • The evil of banality
    Yes, sometimes it seems strange that our collective intelligence should have us end up the boring normies we are. Even our differences and the intolerance we sneak in between our political incorrectness, and all the stupid things we do, are any of them a surprise?

  • You can tell me spending time in nature is good for me, but when you tell me it needs to be 2 hours a week, I feel a mild demotivating force arising.

  • A neckband speaker seems like a good idea. The younger me would not have imagined the options we have for speakers and microphones these days. Perhaps I might even have expected we’d have jumped to ear implants by now. Somewhat relatedly, I came across an old page on the Oregon Trail generation. (In a way, we were lucky, to be able to grow up in that particular slice in time.)

  • Pluralistic explains the long con of social media platforms locking in users and businesses. I hope we are on our way to being free of the shit that these platforms have wrought; this piece is a good summary of what we had found ourselves enmeshed in.

  • Javelin
    Sufjan Stevens’ latest album is beautiful.

Links from the past weeks

📖 Recent reads

[This is in a different format from the usual book post.]

1 //

Late Night at The Lobster

I started on this book as a recommendation from Story Graph, and I guess I approve of the algorithm! It is a very interior book, and you live in the head of Manny, the manager of a chain restaurant that has just been ordered by HQ to close down for good. Manny struggles through the last shift, with his rag-tag crew, and he struggles through life – with a waitress he is in love with and his pregnant girlfriend. It is very far from my day-to-day, and I enjoyed being immersed, for a short while, in Manny’s world. [3/5]


The Longest Race: Inside the Secret World of Abuse, Doping, and Deception on Nike’s Elite Running Team

The story on Alberto Salazar broke a few years ago, and Nike continued to support him for a time. We have read Mary Cain’s brave story, and Kara Goucher’s book brings more depth to the darkness that consumed those who happened to be Salazar’s orbit in those years. It is a courageous book, and a story that ought to be written and ought to be read. Harsher critics question if the writer could have done more / earlier, and whether this book serves to ameliorate some of her guilt. But to me, to even be able to do what she eventually had, Goucher had to have fortitude in spades. Yes, she could have done differently, but so do we all. She deserves to process it the way she wants to (the privilege of being a writer). She was in a tough situation and perhaps the progressiveness of the world today makes us forget that just 5, 10 years ago, the world was very different. [4/5]


Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

This book is very interesting from a sociological perspective. There are also some pop psychology musings from the author. When you finish the book, you will wonder whether politics and what appears to be a desire to drum up publicity for some collateral purpose ought to affect your view of a book. If you are a discerning reader, you will wish for better writing and you would be able to form your own conclusions about whether the author’s conclusions are right. (Every hillbilly can make it to law school like he did!) He may or may not be able to speak for all Appalachians and working-class whites, but he sure knows how to tell a story. After reading the book, you will do well to read a few reviews on why the book was controversial. The book is a deceptive piece of art. [3/5]