Monthly Archives: January 2010

Today, went for a happy trip to the library, and brought back some new books. Mostly Robert Louis Stevenson (I’m newly-enthralled), and some new authors like Coetzee and Honore de Balzac.

I finished Jean Paul Sartre’s Nausea, altogether an excellent read, though I split it up into portions and finished it only after about four weeks. Will probably pick up Age of Reason next.

Admitably ought to be doing more mathematics!

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The Luddite finds a new toy;

Brimming with excitement, naturally, but after some research, finally settled on the Canon 450D/Rebel XSi. I had actually been contemplating getting the Canon EOS 5D as some of my friends use the latter and have had nothing but praises for it, but I thought to start with an entry level dslr till I am am actually sure of what I want, haha!

I had been also contemplating Nikon entry level dslrs, or the pretty vintage Leicas, but chose Canon as servicing it would be easier and they have a pretty nifty lens outfit should I choose to upgrade to better lenses later on.

On the Canon 450D : http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/CanonEOS450D/page3.asp 

Specs of the Canon 450D:

  • 12.2 Megapixel CMOS sensor
  • Canon’s EOS Integrated Cleaning System
  • 3.5 frames per second
  • 3.0” LCD with Live View shooting
  • 9-point wide-area AF system with f/2.8 cross-type centre point
  • Picture Style image processing parameters
  • DIGIC III image processor
  • Digital Photo Professional RAW processing software1
  • Compact and Lightweight body
  • Fully compatible with all Canon EF and EF-S lenses and EX-series Speedlites

I played with the EOS 500D version in the shop, but figured out that the extra megapixels didn’t matter to me at this stage, and I hardly use video functions (and if I do, easier to whip up my handy old’  dc which I’ll probably keep for off the cuff images (the replacement batteries were pricey, after all).

I got the EOS 450D body, a 50mm f 1/8 II lens(for casual use), a uv filter and a relatively light travel tripod for the moment. I didn’t opt to get it with the kit lens, as S advised I try it out first and get a better lens as the 18-55mm IS kit lens is ‘subpar’ as she terms it, but the better ones are too much for a beginner at this stage. S, I’m stealing your lenses from time to time to try them out till I figure out which are more suitable! Any opinions from the photography experts – should I just get a second hand kit lens at this stage?

Most of my camera junkie friends are into sports photography – racing cars, sports, and the like. My interests are more deviant from theirs, so I suppose I will have to discover much for myself! Hope to meet SassyStrawberry to learn from her too, I hear she is a photography guru! I often take night photographs – probably have to learn how to master the EOS 450D for this, too.


Slowness – Juliette and Justine

I read Kundera’s first novel, Slowness, while in the train today, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Kundera weaves together several plots and perspectives- and it almost seems like each version is a precursor of his other works. I especially like it when he was discussing the French epistolatory novel,  Les Liaisons Dangereouses by Pierre Choderlos, which I only because of Peter Brook’s version of another Sade play.

From the review by James Kowles:

Slowness, Milan Kundera’s newest novel-and his first written in French rather than his native Czech-is a philosophical tragi-comedy that will delight, disgust, and challenge any reader willing to engage with its bizarre and compelling logic. Fans of Kundera’s earlier work will find themselves on familiar ground here: the long philosophical asides; the multiple points of view; the black humor; the cold, cerebral eroticism. The difference is that Kundera’s French novel seems finally to have achieved the lightness that the author values so highly and for which his Czech novels strive but often fail to realize.

Under pressure from Kundera’s forceful associative intellect, a meditation on slowness versus speed moves into more esoteric discussions of Epicureanism, the art of amorous conversation, the relation of speed to memory, the provincialism of his former comrades from Communist Europe and–more. As delightful as these diversions are, they ultimately serve the book’s central quest to understand the existential nature of “the dancer.” What is “the dancer”? This is vintage Kundera: the novel always raises more questions than it answers.

The plot follows an eclectic group of misfits to a converted 18th-century chateau, where they are to attend a conference of entomologists. The narrator, Milan, and his wife have gone to the chateau for a weekend getaway. At the same time, we follow the story of a young Chevalier who is seduced there on the same night 200 years ago–by the mysterious Madame de T. Confrontations lead to a hilarious climax, but readers will find that Slowness is a moral tale weightier than it first appears.

My French is not very good despite trying for a year, and definitely not good enough to read the original version of this text, pity! I think some things might have been lost in translation. But I was curious, loved the part on the entomologists. And while I was reading, had a similar deja vu sort of feeling that I had which I often do reading Joseph Conrad.

There are often repeated scenes in Conrad’s books – the meeting between the protagonist and a strong, immaculate sort of female character (very Turgenev in her innocence but sudden, overwhelming passion), and the motifs of the ship – of fidelity and dreams, which often surfaces in Conrad’s texts. But particularly enjoyable is how they often surface under the context of different guises, as if Conrad was conducting his own version of internal catharsis, always the scenes unravel in a familiar, disturbing sort of way, and yet each time they are awkwardly moving, even as I recall the exact symbols and images used in the previous texts. In literature, writers often speak of joint themes – the inner psychological trauma of the character, but I often feel that my curiosity is of a different sort, as if linking the author to another character in the text, fantasizing his secrets (the author tells his version of the story, the reader disbelieves it, and imagines something more vivid and tantalizing of her own. In this same way the author has created of himself a fantasy even though he made clear to separate himself from the text).

In the same way, there were various things I curiously recognized about this text – maybe I have been reading too much of Kundera! But the scene of the Czech scientist performing a speech and revealing his emotions on his return to scholarship after being exiled for his political convictions – it brings to mind a scene I read two years ago in Life is Elsewhere, where the artist, compelled by the crowd, presents an even stronger version of his beliefs and convictions despite having questions in his soul – he is pushed to a corner, so to say, and he feels his voice ringing stronger and posing questions- a sort of tormented Aristotle, doomed to repeat the same question in several different guises, and never coming near to the truth, but realizing the gradual emptiness of the beginning assumption.

A new motif in Slowness however, is that of the dancer – a popular one in Prague, and one that brings to mind a bit of Shakespeare, of course! But he presents new facets of thinking of a dancer, particularly one which I enjoyed, on the ‘invisibility of a crowd’ that the dancer is compelled to perform to, which the protagonist believes distinguishes himself from the dancer. The concept of the ‘elect’ and how the confidence of our desires slowly seeps from us. The fantasy of a women, the purity and vulgarity of physical love.

“But only some very small something, because in the particular sense I mean the concept, I’m nothing like the dancer. I think it not only possible but probable that a true dancer, a Berck, a Duberques, would in the presence of a woman be devoid of any desire to show off and seduce. It would never occur to him to tell a story about a typist he’d dragged by the hair to his bed because he had got her mixed up with someone else. Because the audience he’s looking to seduce is not a few specific and visible women, its the great throng of invisible people! Listen, that’s another chapter to be developed in the dancer theory: the invisibility of his audience! That’s what makes for the terrifying modernity of this character! He’s showing off not for you or for me but the whole world! And what is the whole world? An infinity with no faces! An abstraction.”

An amazing book and I think it is one of Kundera’s best. I love the way how in the first plot the woman keeps waking up with little remnants of the other plots! She scolds ‘Kundera’ for thinking strange things of poets, she issues him warnings of unhappy fates, she shudders to think her holiday idyll is haunted. The women are so ancillary yet crucial in Kundera’s works, he reduces yet deconstructs them, and in a strange sadistic way I love to be objectified if its in Kundera’s eyes, to see feminine emotions and convictions taken apart to be criticized as they are as steadfast as a gushing river, yielding and conflicting. Yes, sometimes I admit a little schoolgirl crush on Kundera – I am that salopette girl who sells the protagonist a crossiant in a dark evening and blinks at him curiously with big eyes, and says no more, going back to write a fantasy in a third floor apartment!

On other things. CY and I played our last competition game on Wed, and unfortunately we lost that- but overall we were ranked 2nd, which leaves CY and I rather happy like squirrels! After, the withdrawal symptoms began, as we began missing scrabble…and today we hid away in the office over tiles, discussing the possibility of terms like ‘divagated’ and why ‘ra’ should really be a word! We had consecutive bingoes – she got one over ‘carrion’, and I managed one with ‘spoiled’! Altogether a brilliant, exhilarating time, and there is this moment when I am indeed lost only in the concentrated intensity of finding the anagram which offers the best points option. We are addicted, definitely, and Scrabble brought us some joy in the quiet Friday afternoon.

Some Scrabble photographs to share from the event (and other pictures from the Scrabble club which meets every Monday…now CY and I are enthusiasts of the game, am likely to join!)

CY above deliberating on her strategy for the next move.

Our game with CCRG…I think this was my turn…

Our ‘national’ player battles it out with one of our team members…a very enjoyable game to watch, as all sorts of permutations were tried from A! Haha! A is amazing at scrabble, and it was thanks to A that I started on scrabble again.

Our favourite A permutations (haha!) – he didn’t use them of course, but it was pretty funny seeing them on his tile rack.

Did you know ‘UNGRASS’ is not a word, but ‘UNGRASSED’ is?? Goodness knows why! CY joked about ‘ungrassed’ having the meaning of the ‘regurgitation of grass’ – and thus I keep thinking of vomiting cows!

And another photo of CY and I in the first round…Now you know that I count verrrry….slowly….haha! But we always managed to beat the timer, thank goodness.

One of the most impressive boards for the second match – 2 bingoes scored by the same player, J in the match:

Don’t you dare wish me anything related to Chinese New Year, Beansprouts. You know full well that I dread and dislike CNY with a passion – and it was the same in my youth! I have a girlish delight for Valentine’s Day even in its extravagant, affectionate, fripperies, and often think of it as my favourite day in the year. I am dismayed by the fact that CNY has taken over my surroundings in garish songs and bah gua! Thank goodness I can hide with my cat, remove anything red from my room, and eat the only thing I can accept of CNY (pineapple tarts) and block out all money-related jingles in the corridors.


Scrabblism

Tonight was the first round of the scrabble competition. CY and I were on the same team, and overall we lost one game and won the other one.

The one we lost was really difficult for me – I got loaded with a whole lot of rs (5 to be exact) and an amazing no. of consonants without a single vowel! I should have unloaded. I learnt some new words nevertheless like eft, and that dijon and zen are not dictionary words (and yet we have the strange overrated vowel dumps which do not seem to bear any intelligible meaning (until you find out they are names of some rare dolphin in Mexico).

Working with a timer can be stressful, yet CY and I were not exactly spoilt for choice, and so we have about ten minutes left – and yet very little to count on word choice.

But it was so much fun and I was so thrilled at certain moments, and realizing that some new words exist, or challenging yourself to read all sorts of anagrammatic possibilities.

I love Scrabble, I am newly addicted! Its almost as great as poker, and the bluff is on hand as well ; )

One of the guys is a national player *gulp sure hope I am not going against him tomorrow night.

Do you play Scrabble, Beansprouts?


On Chet;

A new boy who joined is a trumpet player. I excitedly asked him if he played any pieces from Chet Baker, and he didn’t know who Chet Baker was!

Chet Baker is my favourite jazz artist, I am distraught that someone can play the trumpet and like neither Chet Baker nor jazz! Chet epitomizes all I love about jazz –

Here’s a short selection from Chet :

A version of an old Rita Hayworth classic…which quickly grew to be my favourite too, as most favourites of Beansprouts’ are. Oh Beansprouts, when no one gets jazz, you understand the way I do, too.

Chet Baker was the reason why I fell in love with jazz…almost nine years now. He always makes me feel strangely vulnerable and think of autumn leaves and dreamy remembrances…


Jennifer Behr;

My favourite hair corsage and headband maker, Jennifer Behr, had a sale last weekend to raise funds for the Haiti rescue effort.

I’ve meant to write about Jennifer for some time, who has produced some really remarkable pieces, made famous by the cult classic, Gossip Girl, worn by the queen, Blair Waldorf, herself.

The cream headband below is my favourite piece in my collection, and her designs are simple and elegant, deriving inspiration from some classic wedding favourites.

Another personal favourite, the pink orchid centerpiece which I think matches perfectly with Blair’s summer frock –

Other lovely pieces…the lilac one is absolutely lovely, it reminds me of a piece out of Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s Night Dream…I am not sure why! And the white double rosettes is a Blair signature piece.

Her golden rope headbands are legendary, and there was a classic scene with Chuck Bass where every GG fan would remember that gold rope headband as they enveloped into a kiss which marked the end of the season!

 

Check out http://www.jenniferbehr.com for these exquisite creations~! Catanna has helped me source for colours and materials, and she is very helpful and patient with requests to bring your dream headband to life.

*photographs from Breathless Magazine Stardoll


Princess Guinevere;

I’m in love with another dress… (story of my life)… But as time goes by…I realized I have been missing vintage… and it was a vintage dress with quaint darling roses which brought me back to my first love…vintage dresses, complete with tulle petticoats and simple classic heels. Black and white images, long drawn stories, Ascot hats and fripperies, a poodle before the fire, scottish fold cats.

So I’m keeping some basic pieces and some favourite sweet pieces that I simply can’t bear to sell…and am moving back to the vintage 50s, I shall stubbornly live in the past… and be that Dita that Will always chided me for,

Some of the pictures that have captured me recently… of roses on vintage dresses… My favourite flower ardently layered on a series of dresses…~

I miss London with an intensity, I realized today. Beansprouts, I wonder if you feel like this too?

The party today was wonderful. I am so exhausted, I apologize for not writing back to everyone.

Enjoy.

A fashion blogger with her Phillip Rhodes hat…I think it is my absolute dream hat, I think she looks absolutely exquisite. Actually, she also reminds me a little of ST’s mother, oh dear!  : )

I love the way the green sash accentuates the watercolour leaves of the roses! This is the dreamiest party dress, I can just imagine walking out in this with a light hat into Spring.

This is the epitome of everything I wish for in a Spring dress.

There is something about the stalks of roses scattered that is so very romantic…

Tease me, show me a bright frippery of a pink bow, and I’m yours forever. Didn’t you always know?