Monthly Archives: May 2009

Whale Song

Love in the Time of Cholera Covers


A book I’ve long intended to read, I was a bit disappointed when the only copy at the bookstore was (apparently) the design from the film poster. A red rose? What an unfortunate cover (bottom right). Last summer I saw a beautiful cover of a friend’s copy from Spain. Searching for it proved to be unsuccessful, but I did find some others which would all be preferable to the one I have. It’s interesting that on two covers the title is most prominent, while on the other two the author is.  I would have most liked the cover on the bottom left, with the title and the author reversed. The contents of the book are what make it a beautiful or disappointing read, but the cover design should always be well thought out.

Al Jazeera interview with ‘Fighting the Silence’ filmmakers

Dutch filmmakers Ilse and Femke van Velzen recently appeared on the Al Jazeera documentary channel Witness to discuss their 2007 film ‘Fighting the Silence’ about rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Presenter Rageh Omaar asked them how they were able to encourage the women to speak to them about an act that is considered so shameful in Congolese society. Isle and Femke respond that they found the women through local women activists. Because the women who had been raped trusted these activists, Isle and Femke were able to more easily create a bond of trust with them. Secondly, the women were told exactly why they would be doing the interviews. But the biggest motivation was that they wanted to share their story. Ilse and Femke state that they did not want to victimize the women. Yet, I wonder, how can they walk the fine line between not victimizing them women in order to show their real strength and needing to create sympathy within the audience? The goal of documentary films about human rights is not just to extend knowledge to the audience, but, I believe, to create action and encourage the audience to see what small part they can play in fighting for the right’s of others.

The Real Rock Stars

This new Intel ad, from their recently-launched ‘Sponsors of Tomorrow’ campaign, is spot on. Today’s real rock stars should be the brains behind all the technology that has changed our lives and prompted the world in new directions. And, in many ways, they are. I wonder how many people would opt for a free computer over free concert tickets. I know I would.

Right now, I’m knee-deep in a research project about future technology and I must say it’s really inspiring. Intel’s Exploratory Research Projects, NTT DoCoMo’s (the Japanese rock stars of all that is mobile) Mobile Society Research Institute, and Singularity University (to-be-opened in June, sponsored in part by Google, of course), to name a few examples, are all scheming away for the next big breakthrough. Rock stars to be.

I Love My Bike

benefits of a bicycle

(via Something Changed, dearsir, owlsgo)

Hurray for Amsterdam, the city of bikes! Portland is on its way too (apparently). I’ll judge firsthand when I go on a Hip Homespun Bike Tour of Portland next Sunday with a German-speaking tour guide to practice!

The Future is Bright

As I prepared to bike home from work in the rain and bike, I decided to do a little comparison between the weather in Amsterdam…

amsterdam weather

Not exactly summer weather, but not too bad. But the weather in Portland…

portland weather

Looks good. See you Friday then!

So Far

books so far

After buying a new book for my upcoming flight to the other edge of the world, I decided to assess what I have read since the start of the year. Here is a summary of what I’ve gone through and a bit of background on how I came to read it:

Three Cups of Tea
by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
My parents came to visit me in the fall and my father arrived with this book in hand. When he finished reading it towards the end of the trip, he gave it to me.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
A Christmas gift that I enjoyed while in Berlin and also the first Coehlo book I have read. It will not be the last.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
I read this back in 2006, but left my copy somewhere in Cambodia. Christopher was even more inspiring the second time around.

Sister of My Heart
by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
I found this book among a pile of freebies on the landing of my old apartment last summer. It tells the story of two girls in India, growing up and learning that changed relationships can never break a bond.

Everything is Illuminated
by Jonathan Safran Foer
I must admit, I first saw the film. The version I watched, however, didn’t have subtitles, so the parts in Ukranian were lost on me (which ended up being over half the film). So, I read the book then re-watched the film. The book is far superior.

Wonderful Fool by Shusaku Endo
The latest venture in my love for Japanese fiction was also found on the apartment landing. No, that’s wrong. I found it at a used book market at the Dam. Yes, I can see from inside cover that I paid €4,50.

Annette Vallon
by James Tipton
Last summer, the Goethe Institute was under restoration and, apparently, also cleaning out their library. I was biking past and stopped to look at the books displayed on the table. Gratis. I’m not sure what this book about the French Revolution (written in English) was doing there, but I happily took it, intrigued by the quote on the back cover, “Be careful reader: my troubles started because I read novels.”

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
A book lingering from my undergraduate years, complete with five critical essays at the end, which (yes) I did read. A good book for banter in a university classroom, but I mostly enjoyed the essays at the end. A bit of theory that I’ve been starved of since finishing my MA.

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
A book I grabbed from the overflowing bookcase of my parents when I was visiting in February. In my haste, I failed to notice that it was the abridged version.

The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury

Ha! I posted this entry before I noticed that I forgot to write about this book. Indeed, that’s just about how memorable it is. I think it’s riding on the popularity of The Da Vinci Code (which I haven’t read), or something. A visiting friend decided to leave it with me.

Persuasion by Jane Austen
The last of Miss Austen’s six glorious novels that I had to read. She never fails to impress, please, and challenge. She is undoubtedly one of my favorite writers and I look forward to returning to her beautiful words again.

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
Inspired by his first book, I purchased this at a bookstore. An enjoyable, humorous read. I look forward to his next.

The Red Notebook
by Paul Auster
A collection of short, true stories. Unfathomable coincidences and curious events of happenstance. I have only read Timbuktu prior to this, but there are several more works by Auster waiting on the shelf.

Canoeing in Leiden

leiden canals

Two weekends ago I went canoeing through the canals of Leiden early enough (at the beginning) to enjoy the quiet. I came upon this duck, also interested in the dejected Christmas tree with its lone red ball still hanging from its dried branch.  Perhaps it served as a temporary decoration for a boat party in December. Too laborious to carry inside, it was left behind to decompose. Along with the boat. Or perhaps, one January morning, a Dutchman tossed it out his front door to be picked up, when a large gust of wind caused it to tumble into the canal and land conveniently in the boat. The duck, a master of luck himself, claimed it as his own and raised his family beneath the protective branches. He watches passing canoes with great suspicion.

Café Contentment

From the far end of this café something goes back over the scattered moments of this Sunday and solders them together, gives them a meaning: I have gone through the whole of this day to end up here, with my forehead pressed against this window, to gaze at this delicate face blossoming against a red curtain. Everything has come to a stop; my life has come to a stop: this big window, this heavy air, as blue as water, this thick-leaved white plant at the bottom of the water, and I myself, we form a complete and motionless whole: I am happy.

Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre

Small is Big

Browsing the Room 6 website, I stumbled upon some new Soïa & Kyo coats. I like Soïa & Kyo because they don’t try to do everything, but instead focus on doing one thing – outerwear – really well. Their coats are all about taking vintage classics and giving them edge and detail. I probably need one for the fall…

The Lady Noire Affair

Christian Dior took a cue from Hitchcock in the first chapter of this film noir short, complete with femme fatale Marion Cotillard. All is Dior, all is gorgeous.

This is just the latest example of luxury brands going fashionably viral and harnessing the power of the internet to gather a vast audience. Fly16x9 remains the best.

One in 8 Million

Corner Druggist
For several months now, the New York Times has been featuring the life stories of unique New Yorkers in the video collection One in 8 Million. From Alexandra Elman, the Blind Wine Taster, to Joel Karp, the Corner Druggist, these stories are anything but typical. They reflect the charm and character of the ‘average’ person on the street through first-person narratives and stunning black and white photographs.

This PBS interview with the producers of One in 8 Million gives added depth to the work behind the production.

Caring for your Introvert

This article in The Atlantic has been steadily making the rounds since 2003. Still appearing on the ‘most emailed’ list, Jonathan Rauch explores life for an introvert.

“Are introverts arrogant? Hardly. I suppose this common misconception has to do with our being more intelligent, more reflective, more independent, more level-headed, more refined, and more sensitive than extroverts. Also, it is probably due to our lack of small talk, a lack that extroverts often mistake for disdain. We tend to think before talking, whereas extroverts tend to think by talking…”

Self-Sustainable Chair by Joo Youn Paek

It’s hard to choose my favorite work by the Seoul-based artist Joo Youn Paek. Her self-sustainable chair concept comes in at the top though. With each step, air pumps styled as shoes inflate the backside of the dress. Once the dress is completely filled with air, the wearer sits on it for a moment of reflection and to deflate the dress for another round.

On the Road

I will be on a trans-Atlantic flight next week to go from one home to another. Not quite the road trip experience, but any trip is a good time for Kerouac. My favorite quotes from ‘On the Road’.

“How sad it was. Our minds, with their store of madness, had diverged. O gruesome life, how I moaned and pleaded, and then I got mad and realized I was pleading with a dumb little Mexican wench and I told her so.”

“…I told him about a strange dream I had about a strange Arabian figure that was pursuing me across the desert; that I tried to avoid; that finally overtook me just before I reached the Protective City. “Who is this?” shouted Carlo. We pondered it. I proposed it was myself, wearing a shroud. That wasn’t it. Something, someone, some spirit was pursuing all of us across the desert of life and was bound to catch us before we reached heaven. Naturally, now that I look back on it, this is only death: death will overtake us before heaven. The one thing that we yearn for in our living days, that makes us sigh and groan and undergo sweet nauseas of all kinds, is the remembrance of some lost bliss that was probably experienced in the womb and can only be reproduced (though we hate to admit it) in death. But who wants to die? In the rush of events I kept thinking about this in the back of my mind. I told it to Dean and he instantly recognized it as the mere simple longing for pure death; and because we’re all of us never in life again, he, rightly, would have nothing to do with it, and I agreed with him then.”

“…I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I have nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.”

Strangers Helping Strangers

The age-old concept and stopping to ask for directions has died off a bit, with the ubiquity of navigation devices. Kacie Kinzer‘s experiment with Tweenbot, a cute cardboard robot, reflects on the romantic notion of strangers helping strangers. Her experiment? Drop a robot, donned with a ‘Help Me’ sign, off on the northeast corner of Washington Square Park and see if New Yorkers will help it get to the southwest corner (as specified on the sign). It’s just cute.

Autumn Story

Lucinda Schreiber’s chalk animation is a testament to the beauty of patience. To make this, she had to shoot around 1900 frames in a project that took six full months to complete. Many have compared it to Blu, but I think the Firekite song gives it an edge. Impressive.

The Lost Art of Reading Aloud

Reading from Moliere

Sunday morning reading the New York Times. I read this one aloud:

Some Thoughts on the Lost Art of Reading Aloud by Verlyn Klinkenborg

“Reading aloud recaptures the physicality of words. To read with your lungs and diaphragm, with your tongue and lips, is very different than reading with your eyes alone. The language becomes a part of the body, which is why there is always a curious tenderness, almost an erotic quality, in those 18th- and 19th-century literary scenes where a book is being read aloud in mixed company. The words are not mere words. They are the breath and mind, perhaps even the soul, of the person who is reading.”

The Grand Microscope

Picture 14

A beautiful article in The Atlantic about a long-term research project at Harvard, explores the lives of 268 Harvard students over the course of 72 years.

“The study began in the spirit of laying lives out on a microscope slide. But it turned out that the lives were too big, too weird, too full of subtleties and contradictions to fit any easy conception of “successful living.” Arlie Bock had gone looking for binary conclusions—yeses and nos, dos and don’ts. But the enduring lessons would be paradoxical, not only on the substance of the men’s lives (the most inspiring triumphs were often studies in hardship) but also with respect to method: if it was to come to life, this cleaver-sharp science project would need the rounding influence of storytelling.”