News for the ‘52 weeks’ Category

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
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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.

Quotes

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
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3: The Fault In Our Stars

by John Green

oh man

i wrote an unkind review of Looking for Alaska. It was unkind because I felt like it deserved it. But I cannot say the same for The Fault In our Stars.

I read it quickly today, as I had hoped that i would sneak it in between sessions of boring and uninteresting books but after i ate my lunch I couldn’t help but keep reading and here we are at five pm in the afternoon that I have finished.

I did take a small break after the ending of chapter 11 and went for a walk, in the rain no less (with an umbrella though) because there was somehow an overabundance of emotions just coming over me.

It is a young adult book so it does tread lightly on many things. but it doesn’t tread lightly on metaphors, literary euphemism and so on and so on

…anyways
it was damn good

go read it

the below paragraph was when i thought, oh shit’s getting real

“I’m in love with you,” he said quietly. “Augustus,” I said. “I am,” he said. He was staring at me, and I could see the corners of his eyes crinkling. “I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”

Posted: January 24th, 2012
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4: A single Man

by christopher isherwood

HMMmmmmm
Hmmmm

I just watched the trailer of the film directed by Tom Ford (le fashion designer) and starred Colin Firth and Julianne Moore. though I don’t know which female role really needs poignancy. There really aren’t any real female roles in the book.

I avoided the movie in the first place as I thought it would be depressing…..after all, it is about losing one’s lover.

But, the book proved to be its opposite, delightful, insightful, beautiful, and some other word that would end in -ful.

I very much pictured Colin Firth playing the role of George, though everyone else, melted into the background because i just don’t care.

I must now watch the movie for its beautiful portrayal that i imagine that Tom Ford will bring to life on the silver screen. But I have a strange suspicion that the movie steered way off the page from the novel. Because this novella is at a 180 odd pages of large font and large margins. A lot of talking about books and about the children in George’s neighborhood. I feel sad that it had to be that way, steering away from the novel that is, but i hope at least they kept a few of the out bursts that George spewed out throughout the novel.

Beautifully written, and i hope, it is, beautifully filmed.

Quotes

page 11: Staring and staring into the mirror, it sees many faces within its face – the face of the child, the boy, the young man, the not-so-young man – all present still, preserved like fossils on superimposed layers, and, like fossils, dead. their message to this live dying creature is: Look at us – we have died – what is there to be afraid of?

page 12: It stares and stares. Its lips part. It starts to breathe through its mouth. Until the cortex orders it impatiently to wash, to shave, to brush its hair. Its nakedness has to be covered. It must be dressed up in clothes because it is going outside, into the world of the other people; and these others must be able to identify it. Its behavior must be acceptable to them.

page 16: The living room is dark and low-ceilinged, with bookshelves all along the wall opposite the windows. these books have not made George nobler or better or more truly wise. It is just that he likes listening to their voices, the one or the other, according to his mood. He misuses them quite ruthlessly – despite the respectful way he has to talk about them in public – to put him to sleep, to take his min doff the hands of the clock, to relax the nagging of his pyloric spasm, to gossip him out of his melancholy, to trigger the conditioned reflexes of his colon.

page 19: For breeding you need a steady job, you need a mortgage, you need credit, you need insurance. And don’t you dare die, either, until the family’s future is provided for.

page 100: “Where’s that fucking nurse?” It comes out of her so harshly, so nakedly desperate.

page 112: The supermarket is still open; it won’t close till midnight. It is brilliantly bright. Its brightness offers sanctuary from loneliness and the dark. You could spend hours of our life here, in a state of suspended insecurity, meditating on the multiplicity of things to eat. Oh dear, there is so much! so many brands in shiny boxes, all of them promising you good appetite. Every article on the shelves cries out to you, Take me, take me; and the mere competition of their appeals can make you imagine yourself wanted, even loved. But beware- when you get back to your empty room, you’ll find that the false flattering elf of the advertisement has eluded you; what remains is only cardboard, cellophane and food. And you have lost the heart to be hungry.

page 118: George climbs slowly, taking it easy. (Only the young are not ashamed to arrive panting).

page 162: Giving himself to it utterly, he washes away thought, speech, mood, desire, whole selves, entire lifetimes; again and again he returns, becoming always cleaner, freer, less. He is perfectly happy by himself.

Posted: January 19th, 2012
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5: Don’t know much about history

by Kenneth C Davis

this is my attempt to cram as much of american history as possible into my head..right now

i got a 6 on my HL papers in history in high school so i always thought that i had a pretty good grasp on most things.

If you want to learn about the more important events in American history this is actually pretty well written.

they do offer some revisionist history but it is limited
no historiography what soever because it’d just be too long of a book.

interesting anecdotes and primary sources splashed along the way which makes it for an interesting read…

it only goes up to the year 2002 so anything after that isn’t cover and the copy that i have is the revised, updated and expanded version. maybe there’s an even newer version out now?

anyways…

Posted: January 18th, 2012
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6: Blind Willow, sleeping woman

by Murakami Haruki

it’s a short story collection of 24 stories. which if you ask me, is a pretty large collection.

one of the stories is an excerpt from norwegian wood.

i’ve not thought much about writing short stories simply because it feels like you don’t have a lot of control over things but at the same time it’s awesome because you can dive right in and not care about the beginning or the end. more than often i feel like short stories is a middle of something because the ending it gives often not solve a problem, perhaps yes but it would leave a lot of questions hanging as well…

it sorta inspired me to write short stories as well …

Posted: January 13th, 2012
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7: A week at the airport

by Alain de Botton

i started following him on twitter not really knowing who he is other than the fact that he was able to put really insightful thoughts into tiny snippets of 140 characters..

i can’t believe that this is a book that came out of a corporate sponsorship. no i am not saying that i am against it, but it’s strange to be sponsored to write about an airport terminal. the brand new terminal 5 at heathrow airport in london! i’ve never been! but i’ll definitely be looking out for it when i go to london.

it’s a very small book with tantalizing photographs. these photographs are supposed to provoke emotion of some sort but instead they fell flat. the author had a photographer to follow him around to take photos of stuff while he explored the airport on his one week stay there.

interesting.

perhaps the photographs are supposed to reflect the fact that faster is better, less is more, and most importantly, don’t get attached to anyone, while traveling motto. or at least that’s my motto for most of my life. Get out of there as quickly as possible…!

but it’s a sweet little read and you get to see a lot of the sides of airports that one might not be able to see while traveling through a bustling airport, trying to get to your terminal on time.

quotes

page 18:

There can be few literary works in any language as poetic as a room-service menu.

The autumn blast
Blows along the Stones
On Mount Asama

Even these lines by Matsuo Basho, who brought the haiku form to its mature perfection in the Edo era in Japan, seemed flat and unevocative next to the verse composed by the anonymous master at work somewhere within the Sofitel’s catering operation;

Delicate filed greens with sun-dried cranberries,
Poached pears, Gorgonzola cheese
And candied walnuts in a Zinfandel vinaigrette

page 23

Yet for the passengers in the 747 now nearing the airfield, the day was already well advanced. Many would have awakened several hours before to see their plane crossing over Thurso at the northernmost tip of Scotland, nearly the end of the earth to those in London’s suburbs, but their destination’s very doorstep for travellers after a long night’s journey over the Canadian icelands and a moonlit North Pole. Breakfast would have kept time with the airliner’s progress down the spine of the kingdom: a struggle with a small box of cornflakes over Edinburgh, an omelette studded with red peppers and mushrooms near Newcastle, a stab at a peculiar-looking fruit yoghurt over the unknowing Yorkshire Dales.

page 33

We are angry because we are overly optimistic, insufficiently prepared for the frustrations endemic to existence. A man who screams every time he loses his keys or is turned away at an airport is evincing a touching but recklessly naive belief in a world in which keys never go astray and our travel plans are invariably assured.

page 39

It seems that most of us could benefit from a brush with a near-fatal disaster to help us to recognise the important things that we are too defeated or embittered to recognise from day to day.

page 42

Objective good places to work rarely end up being so; in their fautlessness, quiet and well-equipped studies have a habit of rendering the fear of failure overwhelming. Original thoughts are like shy animals. We sometimes have to look the other way – towards a busy street or terminal – before they run out of their burrows.

page 82

The atmosphere in the waiting areas was lonely, but curiously, the feeling was benign for being so general, eliminating the unease that any one individual might otherwise experience at being the only one to be alone, and thus paradoxically making new connections seem possible in a way they might not ahve done in the more obvious convivial surroundings of a crowded city bar.

Posted: January 6th, 2012
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8: Steve Jobs

by: Walter Isaacson

Who knew that this would be an emotional book for me?

I am sure how I felt at the end of the book, and how many pieces of tissues I used to wipe tears as I read about Steve and his children would have changed if he were still alive today. But I can’t help but feel an immeasurable sadness for someone that I have never met before, and have had disdainful feelings for.

I picked up this book nearing the end of 2011 as I felt like this was one of the defining pieces of work of 2011. And I finished it a few days after January.

I have always felt that Steve was a rash and selfish person, the products that he created were beautiful and easy to use, but at the same time created conformity and an elitist circle to those that weren’t using it.

This was just how I felt. But a while back I sat down and watched the keynote speech when he revealed the iphone. And it was magical, and it was charismatic and I fell in love with the iphone and then I went and bought an HTC android phone.

Sure, he charmed me for a while on stage, but somehow, buying an iphone was going along with a trend, and i really couldn’t allow that.

It’s a strange phenomenon but after reading this book, I got to know Steve, I got to know a lot about Steve. And as the biographer asked Steve why he wanted this to be written, he answered that it was as much as it was for his children as it was for any other reason. I felt misty when I read that and I found myself unexpectedly tearful again.

When Steve Jobs passed away, I treated it with the sort of sadness that was it was with any other celebrity. I found out on twitter (while I was in China) then I felt shocked, I immediately told someone, who was my father in the kitchen. Then I began to scroll through tweets and searched (as much as it was possible in China) about the news. It shocked me, because it really came out of nowhere (though I knew a bit about his cancer) and then it was over.

Because I didn’t know him. It was easy to create this shell of what he was like and the things that he did that may have or may not have been misrepresented. Of course you could easily call me naive for believing in the tone of the book that of course, would be, mostly pro-steve. But it was also because I really confounded a lot of the things that he did, included but not limited to, yelling at people, believing in people and products, swearing, rashness and extreme personality. I also really enjoyed it when the biographer said that he was an opinionated eater instead of the less euphemistic title of a picky eater (which is what I’m called often). thanks, I’m going to start telling people that. Because I took seek for perfection in my meals.

Though I’m not a foodie, I couldn’t finish the french onion soup that was served to me today.

It was a very satisfying read, and as someone who was at an age where I was most passionately aware of everything that was going on with new technology, I really appreciated Steve’s presence and what he brought to technology. Him and his team’s ideas and designs were indeed intuitive.

I watched a documentary a while back that was about Dieter Ram’s designs that design should be as if it weren’t designed. The example that was used was that if you use a toothbrush, it should be as natural as possible. If it was a bad toothbrush, you would notice right away but if it were a good toothbrush, you would be able to go on with your day without having to give it a second thought.

And though I don’t own an iphone or an ipad (i have an ipod touch and an old ipod nano), they are incredibly intuitive. So much so that when my mom told me that she wanted a smart phone, that she wouldn’t have minded to inherit my current one. But i told her i’d definitely buy her an iphone just because it was so much easier to use. Although i love my android and its widgets i could definitely see myself going for an iphone next.

the writing was the most basic sort of writing that was possible. because it was a biography, what was important was the content and the stories that shone through rather than the extensive use of prose. I bet it was hell trying to organize all the interviews and information in a coherent order that relied on timeline but not exclusively so for the book. i definitely applaud the author on that effort.

So in conclusion: I highly recommend it, you’ll learn a lot about him (of course) and yourself, and design and management and innovation and everything that steve jobs was supposed to embody as a leader. I am sad that i didn’t pay more attention while he was alive. i am also extremely sad that he is no longer around. There are a lot of large personal faults that he possesses but so many strengths too. Like people on earth, there are a lot of things that you could learn from each and everyone of them. And i think from this book, i really learned that.

Below are a few passages that i found amusing, no page numbers because i had a digital copy of the book.

That spring Larry Ellison saw Amelio at a party and introduced him to the technology journalist Gina Smith, who asked how Apple was doing. “You know, Gina, Apple is like a ship,” Amelio answered. “That ship is loaded with treasure, but there’s a hole in the ship. And my job is to get everyone to row in the same direction.” Smith looked perplexed and asked, “Yeah, but what about the hole?” From then on, Ellison and Jobs joked about the parable of the ship. “When Larry relayed this story to me, we were in this sushi place, and I literally fell off my chair laughing,” Jobs recalled. “He was just such a buffoon, and he took himself so seriously. He insisted that everyone call him Dr. Amelio. That’s always a warning sign.”

At another point, when VLSI Technology was having trouble delivering enough chips on time, Jobs stormed into a meeting and started shouting that they were “fucking dickless assholes.” The company ended up getting the chips to Apple on time, and its executives made jackets that boasted on the back, “Team FDA.”

Jobs told me over breakfast the next morning. “We put iTunes on Windows in order to sell more iPods. But I don’t see an advantage of putting our music app on Android, except to make Android users happy. And I don’t want to make Android users happy.”

few days later Toy Story 3 opened. Jobs had nurtured this Pixar trilogy from the beginning, and the final installment was about the emotions surrounding the departure of Andy for college. “I wish I could always be with you,” Andy’s mother says. “You always will be,” he replies.

Posted: January 5th, 2012
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9: The Psychopathy test

by Jon ronson

interesting to say the least
easy and fast to read and it definitely revealed something about myself

i am definitely not a psychopath? but if i took the HARE test i’d probably score pretty high on a few subjects but i really hate blood and gore.

the second installment of the Ring movies scared me to death.

i didn’t take any notes during the reading but i read it fairly quickly and it’s really fascinating to learn about psychos and psychopaths and serial murders.

i wish i had more to say about this but read some..really lengthy amazon reviews? but i did learn a lot about how to determine if one is a psychopath or not and whether the current system installed is good enough to lock someone up for lengthy periods of time.

Posted: December 30th, 2011
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10: The Cold War: A new History

by John Lewis Gaddis

I did my internal assessment on the historiography of The cold War. If you’re interested in this subject and doesnt know a lot about it and would like to in one volume or less. THIS IS THE ONE!

John Lewis Gaddis is a leading historian in the cold war and he recently published the biography of John F. Kennan, the author of the Long Telegram.

I read the first chapter of this book when I wrote my internal assessment then flipped through the rest to find supporting quotes. Ha, that’s how I write all my papers and essays but I do enjoy history so I’m glad that I had the chance to read this throughout. It’s easy to read, fun, and you learn a lot about the mentality during the cold war, if you weren’t alive then or had no memory of it.

I also started listening to podcasts! I love podcasts! This one especially called Dan Carlin’s hardcore history, and the newest podcast is about the red scare which briefly talks about the cold war, obviously, that’s a very important factor.

I can’t really review this book other than that it really is very easy to read and easy to follow. Sometimes when i read historical texts, your eyes sorta glaze over and it’s like, wait wait what who did what? that’s what happened several times when i was reading about napoleon, though i like him a lot too…

I did take some quotes….during this book, though i don’t really know why i did that..

page 32: this is to demonstrate the ease of understanding of this book Several premises shaped the Marshall plan: that the gravest threat to western interests in Europe was not the prospect of Soviet military intervention, but rather the risk that hunger, poverty, and despair might cause Europeans to vote their own communists into office, who would then obediently serve Moscow’s wishes; that american economic assistance would produce immediate psychological benefits and later material ones that would reverse this trend; that the Soviet Union would not itself accept such aid or allow its satellites to, thereby straining its relationship with them; and that the United States could then seize both the geopolitical and the moral initiate in the emerging Cold War.

page 33: The Yugoslav dictator might be a ‘son-of-a bitch’, the new American secretary of state, Dean Acheson, acknowledge astringently in 1949 but he was now our ‘son-of-a-bitch’.

page 46 – 47:

“The fact of the matter is that there is a little bit of the totalitarian buried somewhere, way down deep, in each and every one of us,” Kennan told students at the National War College in 1947. “It is only the cheerful light of confidence and security which keeps this evil genius down….If confidence and security were to disappear, don’t think that he would not be waiting to take their place.” This warning from the founder of containment – that the enemy to be contained might as easily lie within the beneficiaries of freedom as among its enemies – showed how pervasive fear had become in postwar international order for which there had been so much hope. It helps to explain why Orwell’s 1984, when it appeared in 1949, became and instant literary triumph.

page 51

If the object of war was to secure the state – how could it not be? – then wars had to be limited: that is what Clausewitz meant when he insisted that war is “a continuation of political activity by other means … the political object is the goal, war is the means of reaching it, and means can never be considered in isolation from their purposes.”

page 53

On the day the bomb was first tested in the New Mexico desert he wrote a note to himself speculating that “machines are ahead of morals by some centuries, and when morals catch up perhaps there’ll be no reason for any of it.”

Posted: December 28th, 2011
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