News for February 2012

The Outsider by albert camus

A very short novel about a man’s indifference towards his mother’s death. His indifference was used as a reason to behead him after he kills a man (accidentally, out of self-defense)

It is a very short novel that reads so clearly that it really shows the work of a true master.

In a book set with a first-person narrator, we are often met with descriptors of feelings because often there is nothing else to go on. but even with a character that’s mostly indifferent to the things and people around him (Camus explains that he’d rather not lie, that he’s not indifferent), his feelings at the moment were fully conveyed, and his indifference was astute.

the scene that I thought was most obvious in pointing out what i wrote above is the scene right before his death. the character is in his cell, waiting for his beheading, a chaplain came to talk to him about God. Because he doesn’t believe in God, he found the chaplain’s visit unnecessary and even more so annoyed with him.

In a situation like that, perhaps the more appropriate reaction is to want to find god as to find peace within self of having to deal with capital punishment. Even if you don’t believe in god, at that time, i can’t imagine that there is anything else to do. But instead, the character not only stayed with his disbelief of God and even found the chaplain to be annoying because he said he didn’t want to waste any more time talking about God.

interesting to say the least i guess.

so, what we feel, is it honestly what we feel? or is it a over-ride function of what we are supposed to feel to fit into society’s norm?


page 44: He intended to set up an office in Paris to handle that side of the business on the spot by dealing directly with the big companies and he wanted to know if I was prepared to go over there. I’d be able to live in Paris and travel around for part of the year as well. “You’re a young man, and I imagine that sort of life must appeal to you.” I said yes but really I didn’t mind. He then asked me if I wasn’t interested in changing my life. I replied that you could never change your life, that in any case one life was as good as another and that I wasn’t at all dissatisfied with mine here. He looked upset and told me that I always evaded the question and that I had no ambition, to which was disastrous in the business world. So I went back to work. I’d rather not have upset him, but I couldn’t see any reason for changing my life. come to think of it, I wasn’t unhappy. When I was a student, I had plenty of that sort of ambition. but when I had to give up my studies, I very soon realized that none of it really mattered.

page 66: We both sat back in our chairs. the examination began. He told me first of all that people described me as being taciturn and withdrawn and he wanted to know what I thought of that. I answered, “it’s just that I never have much to say, So I keep quiet.”

page 78

I hadn’t understood how days could be so long and short at the same time. Long to live through I suppose, but so distended that they ended up flowing into one another. they lost their names. The words yesterday and tomorrow were the only ones that still meant something to me.

Posted: February 29th, 2012
Categories: BOOKS, QUOTES
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Pinball 1973 by Haruki Murakami

One of the two short novels that were never published outside of Japan in English.
But of course I can find everything on the internet.

It is one of his earlier works and perhaps because I know this, it feels less complete.

We have the usual sort of Murakami-dipped style of writing, the characters, the details, the bartender, the girls, the obsession, the mention of music and even the shift in time-line , character-line but it overall felt less complete. I didn’t read it very carefully, so perhaps this is why, but the story line jumped too much and I felt nothing during, or after I finished reading.

I don’t really know what else to say about it, the follow three short quotes caught my eye though.

stray observations, none of murakami’s characters ever have a trouble finding a job, or starting a company, everyone is successful in the most obvious definition of the word. I find that strange, but perhaps, because of their easy success with things, they find ways to torture themselves with situations that are out of this world.

“Even if, say, someone dies, we don’t feel sad,” said the guy from Venus, an ultra-quiet type. “We’d rather just show that much more love while the person’s alive. That way, there’s no regret afterward.”

While you’re playing yourself out in lonesome dissipation in front of a pinball machine, someone else might be reading through Proust. Still another might be engaged in heavy petting with a girlfriend at a drive-in theater showing of Paths of Courage. The one could well become a writer, witness to the age; the others, a happily married couple.

Dreamily she closed her eyes and pressed against the Rat. From his shoulder on down, the Rat felt the supple weight of her body. An odd sensation, that weight. This being that could love a man, bear children, grow old, and die; to think one whole existence was in this weight.

Posted: February 27th, 2012
Categories: BOOKS, QUOTES
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Admin stuff – new mobile verison

i dont know if anyone has ever tried to view this blog on a mobile device
but it’s super hard because of the way the theme is
but have no fear

i installed a mobile version of the site today!
so if you view it on your phone it’ll be a site that takes very little time to load and takes very little of your data!

also the reading will be a breeeezeeeee

Posted: February 24th, 2012
Categories: Uncategorized
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Fermat’s enigma by simon Singh

upon recommendation by a friend about what sort of math-related books to read, this was sugested to me.

I am fairly sure I have heard of Fermat’s Last Theorem before and there was a grand memory of my math teacher forcing every student in the class to memorize the pythagoras theorem and i remembered not having it remembered it verbatim and hence had to do it twice.

upon reading the introduction i realized that there is a documentary version of the book! Produced by BBC Horizons, it basically summarizes the book in a neat little 40 minute watchable format. Naturally the lazy must find the lazy way and so I went and found the video (which isn’t hard at all in today’s information highway). I was already quite bit into the book so I felt like I should do it justice by reading it first before watching the documentary but I gave in immediately after.

Andrew Wiles is very modest and shy, as i am sure many mathematicians are. but his passion really was obvious. the first scene in the documentary was him talking about the break through moment that he had after a mistake was found in his original manuscript.

after watching the documentary there were a few things that couldn’t fully be comprehended by a math novice like myself upon the first try.
and so i went back and finished the book and i am glad i did because i understand the process in getting to the proof as well as numerous major figures in math since the era of Pythagoras.

The book is well written and well researched, lots of anecdotes about math are scattered through its pages. each of the historical figure that was presented was not presented in vain as each of them made some impact in the eventual proof that andrew wiles came up with.

i also learned a bit about modular forms, elliptical, the taniyama-shimura conjecture and really how math on a number theory level worked.

it’s a fun read and you learn a lot. the math won’t bog you down along the way and some of the questions were pretty fun.

even though they talked about working this or working that i have no idea what any of the complicated symbols mean and i think i’ll never be able to really understand it. i can’t imagine what they mean by changing a certain formula or conjecture to PROVE something like a mathematical conjecture or something like a modular form that can’t really be seen or explained.

math is amazing
and math is certainly romantic

A !

edit: i remembered this amazing part in the book where it talks about the discouragement of women in the mathematical studies (and how a few women risked much to over come it)

but this part was funny

to this end a series of textbooks were written to help young women come to grips with the latest developments in mathematics and science. franceso algarotti was the author of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophy Explain’d for the Use of Ladies because Algarotti believe that women were interested only in romance, he attempted to explain Newton’s discoveries through the flirtatious dialogue between a Marquis and her interlocutor. For example, the interlocutor outlines the inverse square law of gravitational attraction, whereupon the Marquise gives her own interpretation on this fundamental law of physics: “I cannot help thinking … that this proportion in the squares of the distances of places … is observed even in love. Thus after eight days’ absence love becomes sixty-four times less than it was the firsty.”

Posted: February 24th, 2012
Categories: BOOKS
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The Third Reich by Roberto Bolano

I don’t know how to feel about it because I think I didn’t get it.

I have tried on several occasions to consume in whole Roberto Bolano’s more well known works such as The Savage Detectives or 2666 but I had no luck with either.

I picked up this copy from the library and I found it to be intriguing, only because the story lines was so understandable. And it was so normal, a German couple chooses to vacation in Spain. The woman is very beautiful and the man is very smart, they meet another German couple while on vacation and misadventures begin to take place, such as getting drunk and going to clubs.

More things happen while they meet some colorful locals. While all of it is recounted by the man Udo in a journal like fashion. But soon an unfortunate event takes place and Charly, the German man they meet while on vacation, supposedly drowns and dies. His body was not found right away and because their vacation was closing in, both of the women return to Germany and Udo chooses to remain in Spain to wait for the body to be found.

From then on, the story loses its form and the narrator becomes more erratic. And then it ends.

the book is called the third reich because the main narrator plays a board war game called The Third Reich and he is apparently the champion.

As I read more I grew to dislike the narrator more and more, he is arrogant, very arrogant, or at least that’s my impression of him. He has a weird world view and I really don’t understand most of his decisions perhaps they are not my decisions to understand.

this novel was found in Roberto Bolano’s papers after he had passed. Hence the book wasn’t really edited nor was it even finished to begin with. Perhaps the incompleteness reflected in the lose and aloof style that it took.

I give it a B because I liked the beginning and I didn’t like the end.

but then again what do I know? I can’t really judge a mastercrafter of story lines because I just don’t know enough, perhaps.

Posted: February 21st, 2012
Categories: BOOKS
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Short story: Ordinary

download it here

word count: 721

Posted: February 6th, 2012
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1: Distrust that Particular Flavor

By William Gibson

On several different occasions, I was encouraged to read Neuromancer, Mr. Gibson’s debut novel. And on several different occasions, I have started it but was unable to finish it. This doesn’t even mean that I got half way through it, I usually put it down after two pages. This is not a stab on Mr. Gibson’s writing but rather my own fear of the future.

Mr. Gibson writes science-fiction you see.

A subject that I embrace only when it’s looking at me in the face, I try not to think about the future too much, or possibly what will happen next year or what kind of wars and political crisis will take place in the next decade. I don’t think about any of it. Pessimism, I have a good grasp on it.

I decided to try and read his newest book, which I thought was to be a novel, but instead turned out to be a collection of essays by Mr. Gibson on various publications about a sleuth of subjects.

Without much effort, I ran through the pages like I was flipping a matchstick book of animations. There was an intimacy about a science-fiction writer that I wouldn’t have encountered if I had just read his novels.

He talks about the future, about technology, about his once short-lived obsession with ebaying watches, his trips to Japan, the school-girl-texting-phenomena among many other things. If you grew up after the internet was invented, you might find it strange to read about things that you believe to be the norm and not the novel. What? There was a time BEFORE digital recording devices? It would be hard to believe that people once upon a time, did not have the internet.

It was a splendid collection of essays.

And he also made me fear Singapore, which I already feared, but now even greatly feared!

I will also go back to Neuromancer, and the many other novels that Mr. Gibson had put out after that.

Mr. Gibson is based in Vancouver (where I am)! and is a twitter lover, since I’ve been reading his book, his tweets have been bouncing up and down from my feed.

And this concludes the 52 books of 52 weeks.

I don’t think I’ll do this for the following year simply because I think I read faster / better if I’m less constrained by a schedule.

Thanks for reading, come back for more~

Posted: February 3rd, 2012
Categories: 52 weeks, BOOKS
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2: The Marriage Plot

by Jeffery Eugenides

I don’t know how to feel about this whole book.
Given my current situation (the being poor situation) I really hated Madeline. It’s nice that her parents could bail her out whenever she wants.

The fact that she could have stayed with Leonard for so long is because she is naive, any realistic girl would have left him a long time ago. i also say this because im extremely cynical.

the entire book read fast in the beginning and it just went on and on and refused to end near the end. the ending was anticlimatic but it was probably supposed to mean something, something like the fact that Mitchell is the best damn guy there is.

i don’t have much to say because i feel like the book made me sort of exhausted, so much goddamn drama. Mitchell’s story was much more interesting than Madeline’s, spoiled little brat. :/

but seriously, what a time that the 80s was, basically now, without twitter and youtube and instagram.


He started finishing Madeleine’s sentences. As if her mind was too slow. As if he couldn’t wait for her to gather her thoughts. He riffed on the things she said, going off on strange tangents, making puns. Whenever she told him he needed to get some sleep, he got angry and didn’t call her for days. And it was during this period that Madeleine fully understood how the lover’s discourse was of an extreme solitude. The solitude was extreme because it wasn’t physical. It was extreme because you felt it while in the company of the person you loved. It was extreme because it was in your head, that most solitary of places.

Abby and Olivia thought it was the romantic in Madeleine who wept. They thought she was delusional, ridiculous. She would have felt the same, if it had been one of them, pining away. Heartbreak is funny to everyone but the heartbroken.

Posted: February 2nd, 2012
Categories: 52 weeks, BOOKS, QUOTES
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