Kids’ books

You can never go back – on loving children’s books as an adult, says

Handy found a means to circumvent the social inconvenience of haunting library kid’s sections, though: having kids of his own.

this, while a pretty good reason to have kids, seems to be extending social inconvenience to an inconvenience that permeates all aspects of life. I’d rather haunt the children’s section alone like a creepy stalker, thanks very much. Most people probably do assume I am checking out books for my kids. I don’t know why so many people (particularly in church or family) seem to be overly interested in our offspring. Someone recently mistook an instagram post for a baby announcement. Most friends who know us know how anti-natalist we are and would never assume such a thing. So there is a clear divide between our close friends and all the other people who are the instagram audience and two different things are being communicated all the time.

I’ve recently started reading One More Thing, by B.J. Novak – it got off to a slow start with an alternative hare and rabbit tale (I am not a fan of fables, with all their moralizing) but got subsequently much better with “‘The Something’ by John Grisham” in which one of John Grisham’s books mistakenly gets released with the publisher thinking that ‘The Something’ was the title he wanted instead of just a placeholder for his typical lofty titles, which he hadn’t had time to come up with yet. John Grisham found out that his book ‘The Something’ was number one on best seller lists in his newspaper and shit hit the fan :P Almost Simon Rich-esque. Harvard must be doing something right.

Been too lazy/busy to start on christmas cards (and I really should, if I want to send them out at all) – instead I’ve been busy making luggage tags with Japanese maple leaves and my new Amazon Basics laminator. I looked up whether or not I could relaminate something (that had little air pockets) twice and this forum that told me I could (and I did) also informs on how laminating machines are not allowed in schools without excessive checks and then devolved completely into a principal bitchfest. “Is your principal my principal? Because…”

In other news, made 12 inarizushi today with a little packet of onigiri spices I brought back from Japan (you just mix it into the rice with sushi rice vinegar etc.) and tuna mayonnaise in the middle and inhaled like 10 of them throughout the course of the day. Got a huge inari craving yesterday while we were at uwajimaya. I’m all out of sushi vinegar though so can’t get my next fix until we go to the asian supermarket.

The ending of the article:

Handy ends his survey of child lit with E.B. White, whose terse brilliance has yet to be surpassed; he was similarly successful at writing for adults. The grand tear-jerking finale of Charlotte’s Web is technically the spider’s quiet death, but I’ve always struggled most with Fern’s declining interest in Wilbur the pig’s survival. She’s grown too invested in riding the Ferris wheel with a boy named Henry Fussy. White “doesn’t condemn her for it,” Handy notices approvingly, since “Fern’s interest in boys is as natural and inevitable as the change of seasons.” White doesn’t wish to stunt his heroine’s growth like other children’s authors might (C.S. Lewis infamously shamed Susan Pevensie for leaving Narnia behind in favor of lipstick and nylons when she came of age).

I understand Fern’s falling for Henry Fussy. I’ve fallen for more than a few Henry Fussys myself. But her abandonment of unsuspecting Wilbur still hurts me in a way a Henry type never could. I guess it’s the ache of innocence—the kind of ache that doesn’t have anything to do with lust or greed or any dark desire, but with deep-seated childhood fears. I don’t want Fern to leave Wilbur behind, because I feel as though she’s leaving me, moving on from our days of lounging in the barn amongst earthy smells, two lazy friends sat in the sun. At the same time, I know that I am Fern, and I’ve abandoned Wilbur a hundred times over, following the same societal and biological pull of romance and progress. I’ll probably be torn between the two all my life. Maybe everyone is.

Huh. I’d never thought of Lewis’ portrayal of Susan Pevensie as “shaming” but now that I think about it, that’s exactly what it is. I did feel a veneer of disdain toward her while reading the series. Omg all these children’s authors are just playing with my mind.


Dorcas, Fay, and Simon

From the third book in the Miss Buncle series, which I first started reading about 10 days into our honeymoon because I felt bad bringing such a thick book (Miss Buncle’s Book) along and not touching it. So I read about 2/3 of it on the eurostar from London to Bruges and the remaining 1/3 in the hotel at Bruges. Bringing addictive books is not in general a good idea for vacations because then you never feel like leaving the room and exploring.

I discovered to my delight that there were several more books in the series (at least three more), and that the Seattle library had nearly all of them! Here’s the most adorable excerpt from the book:

(Jerry is the female housekeeper of Ganthorne, cousin to the children’s mother. The children are Simon and Fay, with Fay being the youngest, and Dorcas being their nurse.

“We can’t come to tea the day after tomorrow because it’s Mummy’s birthday,” said Simon, wiping his mouth.

Jerry was disloyal enough to feel rather glad that the pleasure of her cousin’s company at Ganthorne was to be put off a little longer. “Oh yes, so it is,” she said. “What are you going to give Mummy for her birthday?”

Fay raised a milky mouth from her mug and said, “A pin!” and then she laughed uproariously, for she had her own peculiar sense of humor.

“It’s a book,” said Simon, ignoring her completely. “We’ve bought it between us, Dorcas and me. We’re going to write in it.”
“It’s a Bible, really,” said Dorcas. “It seems a funny sort of present, but–”
“With pictures,” said Simon.
“Pictures of the devil,” said Fay. She hesitated and then added, “Three devils, there was.”
“Oh Fay!” cried Dorcas. “It was Shadrach, Meshac, and Abednego!”
“Why was they cooking them?” asked Fay.
“You’d think she was a heathen,” said Dorcas after a moment’s silence. “But she really does know lots of Bible stories, Mrs. Sam.”

“She knows about Daniel,” Simon declared. “You know Daniel, don’t you, Fay?”
“The lions et him,” said Fay with relish — and she took a large bite of cake to show how it was done.
“Silly, they didn’t eat him!” cried Simon.
“He et the lions, then,” suggested Fay a trifle doubtfully.
“Fay thinks of eating all the time,” explained Simon.
“I was wondering what we should write in the Bible,” said Dorcas, looking at Jerry inquiringly.

“I know what to write,” Simon declared. I’ve seen it written in a book before. It’s the proper thing to write in a book. Daddy has a book with that written in it and he said it made the book more valuable– that’s what Daddy said.”

“What is it?” asked Jerry and Dorcas with one accord.

“With the author’s compliments,” said Simon proudly.

Friday Night Live

We just went to see Jesse Eisenberg at the Broadway Performance Hall in Seattle City College tonight and he was magnificent! The best friday nights we’ve had in Seattle are invariably spent listening to some author talk about his work. The last time I had such a fantastic time was when Neil Gaiman came to town. The atmosphere is so zingy, everyone around you is SO bookish and buzzing with the excitement of hearing choice gobbets from the author himself and getting to ask him intrusive and personal questions and getting his autograph. It is lovely being surrounded by bookworms! And Jesse Eisenberg is one of the funniest authors I’ve ever met. His book reads a little bit like Simon Rich, but faster paced. He read 3 restaurant reviews from Bream gives me hiccups, all of which were wonderful, and he kept laughing at his own jokes which was hilarious :P Like he was reading it for the first time or something, he kept having to pause to giggle; it was awesome. And then he was joined by Sherman Alexie and they had a wonderful conversation and Q&A session about everything under the sun, including how much they love being Jewish and Native American respectively because there are fewer restrictions to things they can say. Eisenberg was saying how he compared something to genocide the other day and never had he been so happy to be Jewish after that.

They also bitched about where they get inspiration for their “evil” characters. Eisenberg said he overheard the following in a pharmacy the other day and never forgot it:
A: *cough*
B: Bless you!
A: (pointedly) It was a cough.

and he was all “Who does that?? Who does that?!?” Alexie’s anecdote was

lol. A member of the audience asked Eisenberg if there were any projects he had worked on halfway and then just abandoned altogether, and he was like, “lots” and threw the question to Alexie:
Alexie: Oh you know, several
Eisenberg: At what point did you decide to abandon them?
Alexie: They were complete novels, actually. But they were terrible.
Eisenberg: Oh, that’s not such a great time to decide to abandon something. Publish it anyway! Grove’ll never be able to tell.
Alexie: (laughs) Oh no no no, it was completely terrible.
Eisenberg: Sell it! Just don’t say that part!
Alexie: One of them was actually called “Disco Inferno” and was filled with Dante-esque references.
Eisenberg: Sell it to me. I’ll publish it
Alexie: Yeah, right, under Eisenberg books
Eisenberg: Eisenberg book. Just the one book. The book cover will be a picture of me naked with a disco ball above my head.
Alexie: OK, I’ll bequeath it to you in my will, you’re still young, you can do anything you like with it after I’m dead.

From the Risalum Listserv that recently revived, I just found out that Julie Orringer used to stay in Risley! I LOVE her books. She is a fantastically deep writer with an excellent grasp of human emotion. I think I always kind of knew that she went to Cornell, but I didn’t know she stayed in the same dorm! I haven’t read all their emails (there are a LOT of them, just like the listserv when I stayed in Risley) but the few that I have have been hugely informative about the lovely little castle I used to call home for two years.

Episode 1

Bing rewards gave Z and I each a free 20 pg 8″x8″ photobook so I used it to make this. (We had to pay for shipping etc.)

It seems extremely difficult to embed a shutterfly photobook on wordpress :/

I will be making another photobook with my pasta recipes soon! (i.e. after finals, which are next week.)

Drew the cover design in 15 minutes in Fresh paint yesterday and am rather pleased with the results:
coverpage copy

New phone

I finally got a new phone! It’s a samsung galaxy s5, and I got it cause Kim Soo Hyun is endorsing the brand haha. Although technically real fans of his would be boycotting Samsung round about now because they didn’t put KSH and JJH together at their roadshow, but I’m not really a diehard fan of the both of them. They have great chemistry, but I couldn’t care less that they appeared separately in the roadshow in Beijing. Anyway a lot of people I know also use this brand, and it seems decent enough. Not sure about its photo taking abilities yet, because I haven’t really tried it out. I’m probably only unboxing it and setting up the after I’m done with work, since it’s got a camera and I can’t exactly bring that to the office.

So all the typical retailers (Singtel, Starhub, even the Samsung shop) carry the 16Gb model for something like $988 and the 32Gb one for $1068. The reason we were buying it in singapore is because LZ needs to use up his flexi dollars haha, he’s got about $200 odd to use and we haven’t really got anything to buy. We found this quiet little shop in Far East Plaza called Mobile Square that sold the 32Gb model for a mere $845, more than $200 less than in the Samsung shop. With his flexi dollars that’s nearly $400 shaved off the original price, and I’d only be paying something like $600 for it. Which is still more expensive than ALL the phones I’ve ever bought in my entire life, combined. (There were probably 5 nokias in Singapore, one motorola (maybe $50) from Best Buy, and then another two nokias from AT&T which were like $15 each, and another nokia (£14) from the Orange shop)). I don’t really get why it’s more expensive than my ipad, but whatever.

I also finished reading the Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy. In three days. I don’t know how long I stayed up last night to finish it (didn’t check the time), but I was super tired this morning. It’s really not fair of an author to not conclude his second book satisfactorily and make the reader wait until the 3rd book to get any sort of closure. Gah! I was totally going to stop after the 2nd book yesterday so I could get cracking on this literature review but wound up starting on the 3rd book because the 2nd one ended with a cliffhanger!

The series was both disturbing and violent and portrayed the male species to only have one good egg in every carton of ten. I wonder if this statistic is roughly true. Or perhaps only in Sweden? I do find Singaporean males a lot more inhibited than in other countries (but perhaps it’s cause I only know the nerds), but I can’t imagine any of my friends would commit an act of violence against any woman. People who are not my friends, especially the creepy guys at work, I find them more than capable of anything really. Just a few months after I entered one of my colleagues remarked over lunch that he could see the bra strap through the blouse of this random girl sitting in the canteen. I was shocked. How on earth was that work appropriate? And wtf did he have a mental age of 3 or something. He was 27 that year, mind you. I guess I started despising him (among others) ever since and he has given me no reason to stop.

The antagonists in Larsson’s novels are much more sinister than this, although neither has excusable behaviour.

Modern Music

“I might end up never firing the pistol. Contrary to Chekhov’s principle.” (Chekhov’s principle: Once a gun appears in a story, it has to be fired at some point.)
“That’s fine too,” Tamaru said. “Nothing could be better than not firing it. We’re drawing close to the end of the twentieth century. Things are different from back in Chekhov’s time. No more horse-drawn carriages, no more women in corsets. Somehow the world survived the Nazis, the atomic bomb, and modern music. Even the way novels are composed has changed drastically. So it’s nothing to worry about.”
I really like Tamaru’s character. He’s the quintessential professional assassin, with a tremendous literary background to boot. He was my favourite character in the book! Somewhat like Scott Adam’s savant garbageman in Dilbert.

Now that I have finished 1Q84 (and all the levels on Candy Crush) within 2 days of each other, I have no idea what I’ll do with myself on the commute. Maybe I’ll finally get started on all those books I’ve downloaded and read the Millenium trilogy. Or finally figure out how to play video files with subtitles on my ipad so I can watch dramas on the way to work. I skipped the last ep of Boys Over Flowers (So. Draggy.) and started on Personal Taste, which is much more brisk. My favourite character in Personal Taste is Sang Jun, he is such a comic actor! And the master of actually funny inappropriate jokes.

If I ever visit Japan I should really like to go to Kyoto to see what Murakami’s hometown is like.


What a name. It simultaneously reminds me of the ballroom dance and also an old piece of wood.

Well since I’ve been reading the book, here are some quotes and an article on the meals in 1Q84.

On Tengo visiting his father in the Cat Town (extraordinarily similar idea to Miyazaki’s The Cat Returns):

Tengo’s father never made the slightest movement. His eyes were closed tightly at the bottom of those two deep , dark hollows. He might as well have been waiting for winter to come and the hollows to fill up with snow.

On Fuka-Eri’s bestseller book being dethroned from the bestseller list:

At eleven Tengo had to leave his room so they could clean it. When the time came he stopped writing, went out, walked to the front of the station, and drank coffee in a nearby coffee shop. Occasionally he would have a light sandwich, but usually he ate nothing. He would then pick up the morning paper and check it closely to see if there was any article that might have something to do with him. He found no such article. Air Chrysalis had long since disappeared from the bestseller lists. Number one on the list now was a diet book entitled Eat as Much as You Want of the Food You Love and Still Lose Weight. What a great title. The whole book could be blank inside and it would still sell.

The best statement from the article above is: “Like his other books, 1Q84 is chock-full of obscure references that make you wish it came with its own musical soundtrack, literary appendix and history lesson. The story, like much of Japanese culture, is also heavily garnished with meals; we learn what Aomame eats to prevent constipation, as well as what Ushikawa fixes himself while on a stakeout.”
I would sign up for that history lesson! I wonder if there are literature classes on Haruki Murakami’s work. I certainly regret not taking any at Cornell. The book also places a lot of attention on Janacek’s Sinfonietta.

Here’s his take on math departments:

“How is your father doing?”
“He has been in a coma the whole time,” Tengo explained. “He’s breathing, and his temperature and blood pressure are low but stable. But he’s unconscious. I don’t think he’s in any pain. It’s like he has gone over completely to the dream world.”
“Not such a bad way to go,” his friend said, without much emotion. What he was trying to say was This might sound a little insensitive, but depending on how you look at it, that’s not such a bad way to die. But he had left out such prefatory remarks. If you study for a few years in a mathematics department, you get used to that kind of abbreviated conversations.

“Have you looked at he moon recently?” Tengo suddenly asked. This friend was probably the only person he knew who wouldn’t find it suspicious to be asked, out of the blue, about the moon.
His friend gave it some thought. “Now that you mention it, I don’t recall looking at the moon recently. What’s going on with the moon?”
“When you have the chance, would you look at it for me? And tell me what you think.”
“What I think? From what standpoint?”
“Any standpoint at all. I would just like to hear what you think when you see the moon.”
A short pause. “It might be hard to find the right way to express what I think about it.”
“No, don’t worry about the expression. What’s important are the most obvious characteristics.”
“You want me to look at the moon and tell you waht I think are the most obvious characteristics?”
“That’s right,” Tengo replied. “If nothing strikes you, then it’s fine.”
“It’s overcast today, so I don’t think you can see the moon, but when it clears up I’ll take a look. If I remember.”
Tengo thanked him and hung up. If he remembers. This was one of the problems with math department graduates. When it came to areas they weren’t interested in, their memory was surprisingly short-lived.

Update: We finished the wedding prezi! You can view it here.

And, Holy cow, this guy’s raised a ton of money to make his potato salad.