Links from the past weeks

  • I went down a Tsai Ming-liang rabbit hole, and found this guide to his movies. The page is awesome.


  • I was watching The 8 Show and learned the term “limousine liberal”. It is not new but I have not heard of it before. It calls out the hypocrisy of liberals of upper classes, who are insulated from the consequences of the programs/ principles they are peddling.


  • When something hits Coffeezilla’s radar, you know it is gonna be good fun. This AI company’s latest product was also called “barely reviewable” by Marques Brownlee, and while I was skeptical of the advancements, the videos by MKBHD and Coffeezilla made me pay a little more attention.



  • The pigeon problem in my neighbourhood has finally come too close for my liking. I had to look up homemade bird repellants.



  • This Atlantic piece, titled The Carry-On-Baggage Bubble Is About to Pop, came to my attention as I was pondering having carry-on only when I travel within the US. (I have little to no faith that the American domestic flight system would always work out in my favour. With the traffic involved, it is only a matter of time before one becomes part of the statistics pertaining to lost or delayed luggage.)


    That said, it might well be true that if everyone just checked in their luggage, the flight experience would be much enhanced.



  • Shows like this are sometimes a little hard to watch because of the cringe-inducing characters, but for the sheer train-wreck potential, I spend some time watching Super Rich in Korea. Yong is from Singapore and claims to be top 1% of Singapore’s rich (which isn’t that rich so maybe he was aiming for accuracy, good job). He is so awkward that you begin to feel for him.


    Yes, I suppose only a certain type would agree to go on a TV show, and well, the man did get a piece on Singapore’s broadsheet focused entirely on him.


    PS. In the next month, Yong gets another piece focused on him. He might have done better for himself if he had chosen to not engage the journalist for this second piece.



📖 The Measure

“Can you tell what this one means?” Nina pointed to another sticker. Maura studied the yellow paper under Nina’s finger. Se il per sempre non esiste lo inventeremo noi. Her forehead scrunched, her brain searching for the words. “If forever doesn’t exist,” she said, “we’ll invent it ourselves.”


Nikki Erlick
The Measure

//

This is a very captivating thought experiment disguised as a science fiction novel. I gobbled it up very quickly on a flight. The story begins with everyone waking up one day to find a box at their doorstep, and inside that box is a piece of string. The length of the string corresponds to how long you will live.

If you have a short string, do you give up? Take all the risks you want before you are gone? Consider euthanasia to avoid a nasty accident taking your life? Should your leaders declare the length of their strings? What if you and your life partner have markedly different lengths… The writer explores many, many different scenarios and they can be intimate, horrifying, banal… I didn’t have much expectations in terms of writing but I found that the story moves along well, and much as the topic is morbid, the book is overall leaning towards optimism. It would perhaps be more appreciated by those who like reading philosophy.

//

“The beginning and the end may have been chosen for us, the string already spun, but the middle has always been left undetermined, to be woven and shaped by us.”

Links from the past weeks

  • I found old notes I made, and I had copied a part of T S Eliot’s Burnt Norton on a piece of foolscap paper. I guess that was an early version of a commonplace book. I duly copied the text into my current system. And of course, I had to go read What “Into the Rose Garden” Means.


  • Reading Compass is a true exercise of the mind. I enjoy reading it but have to take breaks from it. Mathias Énard is quite an interesting character but mostly because the world he inhabits is so foreign to me. I first saw the book in the UK a few years ago, and finally got down to getting myself a copy. I contemplated reading it on the library app, but this is the kind of book that has to be read in hard copy form.


  • Six Famous Notebook Users



  • Apparently the concept of wind phones is not new, but I just read about one on Whigbey Island.

    The desire to speak to those who have departed is not an uncommon one (though I personally do not have it), and I guess there is just something about speaking into a receiver.



  • It’s cutting calories—not intermittent fasting—that drops weight, study suggests.
    But if time-restricted eating helps you to cut calories, it works!



  • I sometimes wonder if I am half a naturalist. I cannot be that much of one because I live in a concrete jungle sometimes masquerading as a garden city. But every once in a while, books on the natural world catch my eye.


  • On having no visual memory

    I do not see images in my head. And reading about it felt so gratifying. It feels like oversharing if I tell someone about it, but I have been wanting to find someone else I know who is also this way. [The story behind how the condition came to have a name is an amusing one.]


  • Behold, a commonplace book in the form of a website.


Driving in Seattle

It was my first time driving on the other side of the road. And so I had to be extra careful. I didn’t have any real issue, and this, I believe, is largely due to the graciousness of those who were driving around me. Some observations:

  • Right lane line should align with centre of car. Back home, I had gotten very used to my car and hardly give any thought to this. But in Seattle, the rental company issued me a car much wider than I am used to.
  • Turning right on red – did it for the first time!
  • I had read about the middle island for turning vehicles but had to overcome the idea that I can drive onto an area marked by yellow lines.
  • Nobody horned (at me) and motorists waited until they could safely overtake me.
  • People tend to give way once you signal – in crawling traffic, I could make it to the HOV lane quite easily.
  • People drive at speed limit on the slowest lane of the freeway. That would be a marvel in my country, where the speed differential from the fastest to the faster to the slowest lane can vary quite a bit.
  • The entry lane of the freeway merges with the slowest lane on the freeway – so when I am on the slowest lane, I need to watch out and give way to entering vehicles.
  • How to behave at uncontrolled intersection was another matter I was curious about. It was quite easy – each driver goes in turn, depending on who reaches the stop line at that intersection first. Frankly easier than what happens in my home country – you are supposed to give way to your right but many a time, it is a matter of who is more daring.
  • Went around a roundabout. It was in a quiet neighbourhood and so narrow! And it goes counter-clockwise.

Everything is amusing when it is new/ flipped from what you are used to. I was happy that I managed to come out of this unscathed. Haha.

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
Beef
The Diplomat
Light the Wild
Copycat Killer
Detective vs Sleuths (movie)
Selling Sunset, Season 6
Jeopardy!
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
Beckham
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
Warmth
Kraftwerk
Future Sound of London
Nujabes
into.cassette

Ten Percent Happier podcast
The Pen Addict podcast

//

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

//

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
Exteriors
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
Upgrade
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Elizabeth Finch
Real Estate
Shanghai Lawyer
Smart Brevity
Out
Exercised
Cloud Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown
The Trackers
Meditations
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
Yellowface
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
Babel
Still Life
The Dhammapada
Flatscreen
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