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A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Thoughts and reflections on works of fiction and literature. Pondering of life through pictures and words. Babbling about gay rights. Travelogues and anecdotes.

  • [1] Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain
  • [2] Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • [3] Yu Hua: To Live
  • [4] Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
  • [5] Colm Toibin: The Master
  • [6] Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • [7] William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
  • [8] Charles Higham: The Civilization of Angkor
  • [9] Graham Greene: A Burnt-Out Case
  • [10] Dai Sijie: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
  • [11] Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming-Pool Library
  • [12] Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
  • [13] Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship
  • [14] Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
  • [15] Ross King: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • [16] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
  • [17] Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • [18] Colm Toibin: The Story of the Night
  • [19] John Banville: Shroud
  • [20] Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection
  • [21] Peter Hessler: River Town, Two Years on the Yangtze
  • [22] Ian McEwan: The Atonement
  • [24] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • [25] Ignacio Padilla: Shadow without a Name
  • [26] Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose
  • [27] Richard Russo: Straight Man
  • [28] Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground
  • [29] Alan Hollinghurst: The Spell
  • [30] Hermann Broch: The Death of Virgil
  • [31] James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
  • [32] Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • [33] Xingjian Gao: One Man's Bible
  • [34] C. Jay Cox: Latter Days
  • [35] Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • [36] William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
  • [37] Daniel A. Helminiak: What The Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • [38] James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • [39] Kenji Yoshino: Covering - The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights
  • [40] Italo Calvino: If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler
  • [41] Arthur Phillips: The Egyptologist
  • [42] George Orwell: 1984
  • [43] Michael Warner: The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer Life
  • [44] Andrew Sullivan: Virtually Normal
  • [45] Henry James: The Wings of the Dove
  • [46] Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • [47] Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • [48] Dan Brown: Da Vinci Code
  • [49] Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • [50] Ken Follett: The Pillars of Earth
  • [51] Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • [52] Michael Thomas Ford: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Like Me
  • [53] Jonathan Franzen: How To Be Alone
  • [54] Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress of Solitude
  • [55] Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
  • [56] Zadie Smith: White Teeth
  • [57] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Double
  • [58] Jose Saramago: The Double
  • [59] Andrew Holleran: Dancer from the Dance
  • [60] Heinrich von Kleist: The Marquise of O & Other Stories
  • [61] Andrew Holleran: In September, the Light Changes
  • [62] Tom Perrotta: Little Children
  • September 30, 2006


    Going Away Checklist

    My trip to Asia is lurking over the horizon--exactly 10 days from today. Mitigation of the homeland security alert renders it possible for passengers to bring personal care and hygiene items that are 3 oz or smaller. In addition to clothing and gifts packed away in the checked bags, here is the list of the hand-carry essentials:

    Travel Documents
    __Visa for China, Cambodia, Laos
    __Online check-in (available 48 hours prior to departure)


    In my Timbuk2
    __iPod + charger
    __Moleskine notebook
    __Reading material (most likely Heinrich von Kleist and Yellow-lighted Bookshop)
    __Digital camera + memory cards
    __Eye shade + Ear plug (to discourage seatmates from making casual conversation)

    Toiletry Tote
    __Facial wash
    __Hand lotion
    __Sun block (SPF 30)
    __Lip balm
    __Small towel

    Just In Case
    __Snack (we all know how reliable and edible airline food is)
    __TUMS (Asia has no TUMS, I learned my lesson)
    __Over-the-counter medications

    September 29, 2006


    Heinrich von Kleist

    Recently, in an article from a literary magazine that quoted some of the most captivating opening sentences for short stories, I came across these shimmering lines that are so full of bravado that they end with a flourish guaranteed to persuade the reader to turn the page:

    In Santiago, the capital of the kingdom of Chile, at the very moment of the great earthquake of 1647 in which many thousands of lives were lost, a young Spaniard by the name of Jeronimo Rugera, who had been locked up on a criminal charge, was standing against a prison pillar, about to hang himself.

    This one sentence not only establishes an ominous tone and delivers the sense that the novel is set against a crucial historical backdrop, it encapsulates something essential about the remainder of the work. No sooner had I put down the article did I looked up online tro track down a copy of his short stories--in order to satisfy my brimming curiosity sparkled by these questions in my mind:

    1. What happened during the earthquake that involved a tremendous loss of lives?
    2. What criminal charge has caused the young man to be locked up?
    3. Why does the young man consider taking his own life?
    4. Most of all, the idea of a suicide taking place at the split second of the disaster is both appealing and hair-splitting.

    So I'm taking von Kleist with me to vacation, for sure.

    September 28, 2006


    On Muscle Gain

    Weight lifters wanting to increase muscle require more protein-heavy selections before or after a workout. Broiled salmon with white beans is an example of a good choice for an after-exercise meal. In order to bulk up, I follow this two point plan especially when the trip is lurking over the horizon.

    Training is the way to increase muscle mass. But in order to train one needs enough energy from the right foods. Instead of tucking away a load of steaks, I usually munch through foods high in starch and carbohydrate. I'll put on an average of two pounds of lean body tissue each month by eating an extra 500 calories of carbohydrate a day.

    My current diet plan:
    A big bowl of cereal with toast

    Mid morning snack
    Banana with orange juice

    Large chicken baguette followed by a Mars bar

    Mid afternoon snack
    Fruit scone, with a portion of fruit.

    Big portion of chill or chicken or salmoni with a large portion of rice

    I realize some exercises actually thwart putting on muscle. Running, rowing, or using step machines may trigger hormones that hinder weight gain, so keep them to a minimum. I maintain running at most twice a week for cardio. Training buddies at the gym tell me that one of the most effective methods of rapid muscle gain is eccentric training, which involves overloading the muscle while it?s in the lowering stage of the lift. So I count for two seconds on my lift but four as I lower.

    I have been doing this for at least four weeks and I have seen significant muscle gain.

    September 26, 2006


    Reading About Reading & Writing

    I just started Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them to set the tone for my upcoming vacation. She cautions readers to slow down and pay attention to words, the raw material out of which literature is crafted. I ponder at this thought and realize this is the reason I embrace language--I would read and reread the authors I most live, to read for pleasure but also to read analytically, to be conscious of the style, to be aware of the deceptively minor decision the writer makes in a sentence. After all, we were all close readers at an infantile age when we learned how to read the pictorial story books. Demands of other duties and obligations make us skim and read quickly the classics that deserve time and attention. I enjoy reading--to look for crucial revelations that are in the spaces between words.

    September 25, 2006


    [59] Dancer From The Dance - Andrew Holleran

    In a voice that is as close to laughter as to tears, but retaining the sobriety and equanimity, an omnipresent narrator tells the story of Malone, a handsome young man who searches wholeheartedly for the love of his life. Interwoven with the prose are vivid visions of society in the 1970s, of the emerging gay New York, and historical landmarks. Despite his not knowing Malone personally, the narrator paints a picture that does justice of Malone and his sentimentality. They were hardly friends, the presence of whom maybe no more than an exchange of nod at the bar and in Fire Island--something that did not even qualify as an acquaintance. But the narrative poignantly captures Malone's innocent heart, his turning sentimental over a lasting relationship, and his inexhaustible desire to be liked. His elegance and gentility--the courtesy with which he navigated the bar crowd of an oblivious brusqueness appeals to the narrator, making an impression so deep that to the observer he was the center of the scene, the ultimate symbol of gay life. Overwhelmed by a loneliness that haunts him, Malone is ashamed of being alone and is resolved to not live alone forever, or without love.

    What hits me the most (and that is the one thing that tugs so snuggly in my heart) is that Malone is very melodramatic, sentimental, and clinging on to temperament. He surely lives (and suffers) for love more than others. Whether he finds the love of his life or not, his determination renders his living life to the full. The novel, after all, can be viewed as a bittersweet journey to self-enlightenment: He struggled to come out of the closet. He quit a career in law to pursue with passion the one thing that had eluded him utterly--love. He never gave up on finding the true love that would connect to the depth of his soul. The whole allure of this love of his should be isolated from the mob, that is, love banished from the public and spared from any social opinions and norms. Then it dawned on him that what he had been going after was no more than chasing after the wind. He becomes tired of going to bed with people and being just the same afterward as he was before. He started to doubted about love as if love was just a myth, a deception. He could no longer deal with people in that way, the way that used to thrill him (the beauty of the body, the lust, the communication of lips and flesh), and which now, as he was growing older, repelled him starkly and failed to mitigate that depression. How could all these men live with such insincerity and meaningless sex?

    Dancer From The Dance is one of the most important works of gay literature because it embraces, one way or another, every gay man's walk to self-discovery. Hilarious, witty, and heartbreaking, it accommodates all the fear, the doubt, the frustration, the anxiety, and the qualm of finding true love in a cruel sea of humanity. The novel exudes an air of melancholy that speaks the truth of the minds of many of us: Are we going to find that special someone? It also replenishes hope that we should be approaching relationship with an open mind and open heart--to look for someone who is in accord with our values.

    September 24, 2006


    Love In The Air?

    Love Parade on Market Street paralyzed the traffic so badly. San Francisco is having way too many parades and events that send millions of people on the street and thwart traffic. I mean, is there really love? Everyday should be a love parade for those who are truly in love--you don't have to dress up in tawdy costumes and wear a wig to declare love. Love is stigmatized--it becomes synonymous to one night stand, sex without affection. If I'm in love, my heart will be so heavy, my throat thick, with the thought of that special someone. I would play over and over again in my mind what we have said to one another, how he has looked, the moment at which he walked into the cafe where we met, his parting words... I might sound cynical but there is nothing wrong having expectations. Nothing is better than meeting the person who can share the fantasies deep within me, the secret wishes of the heart. I suppose what we all want is to not be lonely--what I really want is someone to love.

    September 21, 2006


    Travel Diversion

    The Department of State issues traveling warning to Thailand after its recent coup. The new ruling military junta announced Thursday that four top members of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's administration had been detained. Shinawatra himself is believed to have fled to England, where he reunited with his wife and family. The move came as the military banned meetings of political parties and barred the establishment of new parties. Also, coup leaders said they were assuming the duties and powers of parliament, which had been dissolved. Although many Thais favor the peaceful (but very quick and tense) military takeover and Bangkok has returned to normal state, I don't think I want to travel in the midst of heightened alert, not to mention that the military has cordoned off the Thai-Burmese and Thai-Laoian borders. So I have no point of going if I'll be greeted by road blocks. The trains are running ontime and coup has been largely unnoticed by travelers. But my planning to take a bus from Chiang Mai to the northernmost province of Chiang Rai and the subsequent trip to cross the border might present a problem. So I called the airline to cancel Bangkok and book an E-ticket to Kuala Lumpur instead, where I'll connect another flight to the tropical island of Langkawi. The return trip will be made via Singapore where I'll stay with a friend of mine before heading back to Hong Kong.

    September 20, 2006


    I See Something Beautiful...

    lurking on the horizon like the skeins of orange and purple that paint the sky before dawn. On Sunday I planted the seed, fertilized the soil and watered--everything seemed to have fit in place--the climate cooperates, with sunshine galore. I hope with careful and slow pruning this time will lead to a harvest.

    Tonight I'm going to the book club at The Center for lively and informative discussion of Andrew Holleran's In September, The Light Changes. My friend has told me about this group, which foxuses on lgbt-themed novels and works of non-fiction in a warm and comfortable setting. Past selections have run from mainstream reads to offbeat prose; newest of the new releases to tried and true classics.

    Andrew Holleran's first novel, Dancer from the Dance, which I currently read, is recognized as a classic portrait of gay life in New York in the 1970s. It is deemed one of the most important works of gay literature in its temperamental description of one man's search for true love among the brusque crowd of zombies in bars. His subsequent works, from Nights in Aruba and The Beauty of Men (my vacation pick this year) to the essays in Ground Zero, established Holleran as the preeminent voice in the contemporary gay literary canon. His fiction has earned comparisons to that of Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham, and E Scott Fitzgerald, and now Holleran returns with a collection of sixteen powerful short stories. Exploring the lives and times of those who have lived past the exuberance of youth, these tales make for a moving journey across landscapes of regret and loss, shame and pride, loneliness and love.

    September 19, 2006


    [58] The Double - Jose Saramago

    The Double tells the tale of a man whose nature inclines him more to melancholy, to a dreamy consciousness, to reverie, and to an exaggerated awareness of the transience of life, as he finds himself caught in the labyrinth of human relationships. Tertuliano Maximo Afonso is a secondary school teacher who feels called upon to teach the most serious subject--history. He might be burnt out from teaching, from the way it was taught in a perfunctory manner that it was not appreciated. The 39 years old has reasons to be depressed: after his unusually peaceful divorce he lives alone, in a penumbra of nostalgic temperament. A colleague suggests a comedy video that might detract him from the ennui--Maximo Afonso instead watches in utter astonishment an actor in the movie who looks exactly like him. Even though he is under no obligation to go look for the person who is a copy of him (or of whom he is a copy), and they won't be savvy of each other's existence, let alone crossing each other's path, he decides to pursue the name (and more) out of sheer curiosity.

    It is not until Maximo Afonso is hip deep in his search do I realize how deftly Jose Saramago uses idea of a double to bring to the nub of matter. Afonso is more than in depression: he has no clue of what might have caused him to plunge into depression. Sadly, he is an emotional drifter. Not only is he incorrigibly out of touch with his emotions and feelings, which is undeniable from his unusual equanimity toward his divorce, sans the usual finger-pointing and melodramas, he is also at a loss with words and with language. Despite his being overwhelmed by the existence of a double, who dismisses the resemblance as a banal coincidence, Maximo Afonso occupies himself in strenuous effort of thoughts, in circuitous hypotheses and in the numerous possible outcomes of confronting the double. His apathy toward his girlfriend, whom he makes an accomplice in actions of which origins and causes she knows nothing, constitutes a human flaw--one of moral cowardice that renders him silent and indifferent to people around him. He is slowly given away to a long process of continuous decadence that has afflicted his own loving feelings and replenished his heart with only distraction and indifference. The interlocution between Maximo Afonso and his Common Sense demonstrates his reluctance to be indiscreet about the investigation and his inability to nail his thoughts and feelings in words. However he struggles, he always finds himself outside the feelings he so ingenuously hopes to describe. The Double offers a glimpse of the impacting consequence of a moral weakness--out of fear and cowardice truth is thwarted to be revealed.

    September 16, 2006


    Wisdom Teeth

    On Thursday I had two wisdom teeth pulled out. The left side of my cheek is swollen that I look like I'm square-jawed! So the left side of the cheek is maybe half a size bigger than my right side--and I don't want to be seen. I have to call off my date! At least it's not as traumatic as I have perceived: bleeding stopped shortly after the procedure and the blood dappled only three small pieces of gauge pads. There is lingering searing pain but as long as I don't feed on solid food I shall be fine. In the mean time I'm living on books, magazine, porridge, and Sandy!

    September 13, 2006


    New Perspective on Cruising

    Neither do I cruise at bar nor go clubbing. Not only am I claustrophobic in crowd but I am also overwhelmed being around sweaty able men bodies! Loud music frays my nerve. But I've always wondered what exactly people are looking for cruising at bars. A story from Andrew Holleran's In September, the Light Changes, which I'm reading for the book club, reveals psychological light into the mind of some (but not all) cruisers. It says people are not looking for a "nice guy" when they go out, but someone a little complicated, a little dangerous, a little depressed, even nasty--someone who is neurotic! It sounds demoralizing but that is how the game is played. Relationship and dating seem to be the same way: You should never sit around waiting for someone to call, never pursue a person--if he wants you, he will let you know. Never assume that beauty has any relation to character traits (I've learned the hard way). What this has taught me is not to take rejection too seriously, and always be prepared to expect that blow.

    The reason some of my friends and most people go to the bar is so that they can find someone and never have to go to the bar again. The only problem (and that is a big one)is why they can't find the person. The reasonable way to approach this is to want only whoever finds you appealing. If we were attracted only to people who find us attractive, then everything would make sense. The trouble is, most of the time A wants B, B desires C, C has a crush on D, and so on. We have to admit this is a tough business. I realize the way to go is to meet people in a setting that is most comnfortable to me--where I can meet people who share common interests, and be friends, and see what will develop. At least it will save money buying alcohol right?

    September 12, 2006


    Moleskine Notebook Post #200: Gay Men Rule

    Today I publish in Gay Men Rule, a collaborative, multi-authored blog ruled by gay men regardless of gender, age, background, politics, ethnicity, spirituality, or orientation, about my weekend at Lake Tahoe. Check it out. By the way, this is my post #200!

    A clip from the concert when Sandy, after much drumming, thudding, and thumping on the part of the band and audience, came out for encore. The song is called Scar.

    September 11, 2006


    Sandy Lam @ Lake Tahoe 9/9/06 17:20

    My cousin and I were on the road for almost three and a half hours on Saturday morning, heading up to South Lake Tahoe at Stateline, NV. The stereo was blaring exclusively Sandy Lam--live recording of her 2005 concert in Hong Kong. Much of our exchange focused on the the concert run-down list: What would Sandy be singing out of from her repoertory of some 500 songs? Previously she toured Beijing, Shanghai and Taipei, cities in which the majority of population speaks Mandarin. Just as the US is a melting pot, so was his concert audience, some white guys were all over the place taking pictures of her and cheering at her. The run down of the show consists of Mandarin and Cantonese tracks and she greeted the audience in Mandarin, Cantonese and English.

    At 2:02 pm, roughly three hours before the show started, the blaring speakers and bound sounds drew our attention to the outdoor amphitheater at Harvey's--Sandy was having her final rehearsal! We peeked through the barb-wired gate and took photos of it. Then we sauntered off to the main street of S. Lake Tahoe, had a quick bite to eat and got ready for the show. I had to head back to the car and changed to the outfit for the big night--a black woven embroidered shirt and a blazer! The show did not begin until 5:20 pm. She performed for about 2 hours and the audience was brimming with applause, camera clicking and cheering.

    Part 1--17:20 She appeared at the top of the stage in black vest.
    1.傾斜 [Slanted]
    2.燒 [Burn Burn Burn]
    3.我坐在這里 [I'm Sitting Here]
    4.鏗鏘玫瑰 [The Clanking Rose] A favorite track of mine
    5.夜太黑 [The Night Is Too Dark] Sexy and jazzy touch

    Part 2--17:49 She changed to a casual tube top.
    6.存在 [Exist]
    7.Better Man
    8.愛上一個不回家的人 [Fall In Love With Someone Who Got Away] Wow! Rock version with new arrangement
    9.面對面 [Face to Face] First public performance of the new cut

    Anthony鋼琴伴奏,當愛已成往事 [The music director performed a piano solo]
    Part 3--18:12 She reappeared on stage in a black evening gown that clung on one shoulder.
    10.至少還有你 [At Least I Have You] I almost cried during this song--will dedicate this to my special someone
    11.為你我受冷風吹 [Suffer For you] Another ballad that strikes my heart chord
    12.沒結果 [I Want You Back] Demonstration of her perfect pitch and vocal
    13.玫瑰香(美聲版) [Rosy Fragrance]

    倫永亮:我說過要你快樂 [Music direction performed a solo]
    Part 4--18:33 Disco Dance Medley
    15.不還你 [You Cannot Have It Back]
    16.天大地大 [Rocking Sky]
    17.一分鐘都市一分鐘戀愛 [City Rhythm]
    18.灰色 [Grey - Heartache]

    After much thumping, thudding, drumming, and egging, Sandy came out one more time for encore.
    19.傷痕 [Scar] The first cut of an album that sold over 2 million copies in Asia
    20.早晨 [Morning...] She asked if we remember this song
    21.無憾 [No Regret] OMG! What a surprise! The track was never recorded in any of her solo albums
    22.赤裸的祕密 [Naked Secret] Another of my favorite ballads
    23.紙飛機 [Paper Plane] A folklore dedicated to childhood

    Closing credits and acknowledgement. We walked to the hotel lobby. We ran into Sandy, her crew, and entourage and I was at a loss of words! We said "Hi Sandy!" and she said hello and smiled at us. I really should have busted out my camera and the CD and asked for a picture with her. Oh well...I was delirious and dizzy...I'll see her live in Singapore in November. I cannot wait.

    September 08, 2006


    Less Than 36 Hours Before...

    Sandy Lam Concert at Lake Tahoe. I'm getting all hyped up now trying to figure out what I'll be wearing for this once-of-the-lifetime occasion. I'll be seeing her live also in Singapore next month. Her music touches my heart chord and speaks my mind. Her voice exudes a stirring of melancholy that is not hopeless. I have made it a habit to put on her CD that becomes my lullaby. This particular clip, from 2000, which is definitely one of my top 10, reminds me when I go to bed alone, thinking there is something wrong (with my love life, or rather, the lack of my love life and with myself). That little moment, as Andrew Holleran says, of turning the light off, before going to sleep, always seems to be an admission of failure. Then there is Sandy Lam and this song:

    I often console myself with the idea that sometimes in life one could enjoy the men he dates without possessing them. But what happens to the true romance? Even after all the relationship woes, the fall outs, the unspoken goodbyes, the broken phone cords, I am still a firm believer of romance and true love. At least I've got someone for me out there I have yet to find.

    By popular demand of my fan club LOL I include a recent picture of me (not that I'm a narcissist...) It was taken last week.

    September 07, 2006


    Reading Chair

    From the story The Man Who Got Away in In September, the Light Changes, I read:

    "One day he closed The Brothers Karamazov and realized the moment the book slipped from his hands that he could not remember a single thing he had just read that afternoon; so he began searching for the perfect chair in which to read, on different floors of the library, in different nooks of the student union, even the local laundromat, as if, with the right chair, the right level of noise, the right light, the words his eyes were scanning on the page would pass into his brain and actually make an impression."

    I've been searching for my reading chair, but not in the library or the laundromat (in fact I hate even lingering around the laundromat). The ideal chair would be a leather seat with armrest and a high back. My elbows should be resting on the armrest when I'm holding my book so the chair should not be too width. I found one at Crate and Barrel but the clerk told me the only one in stock was the one on display.

    September 06, 2006


    Getting Ready for Book Club

    I can never be parted with books. During my little vacation here I bring with me Andrew Holleran's collection of stories In September the Light Changes, the book club selection for this month. I picked it up at Book Inc. at 16th and Noe the other day while I was browsing for the vacation pile. Holleran is a highly acclaimed novelist whose best-selling Dancer from the Dance (I've got to re-read that one too) was a landmark in gay literature. Succeeding novels Nights in Aruba and The Beauty of Men and essays in Ground Zero established him firmly in the gay literary canon. Here, Holleran pulls together 16 beautifully crafted short stories written over a 20-year period, each of which deals with perceptions of gay people, gay events, and gay places through the often ironic haze of half-remembered, garbled time. I started it yesterday and hopefully will finish in time to contribute to the discussion on September 20 at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center.

    The book reminds me of the song Try To Remember:

    Try to remember the kind of september
    When life was slow and oh so mellow
    Try to remember the kind of september
    When grass was green and grain so yellow
    Try to remember the kind of september
    When you were a young and a callow fellow
    Try to remember and if you remember
    Then follow--follow, oh-oh

    Try to remember when life was so tender
    That no one wept except the willow
    Try to remember when life was so tender
    That dreams were kept beside your pillow
    Try to remember when life was so tender
    That love was an ember about to billow
    Try to remember and if you remember
    Then follow--follow, oh-oh

    Deep in december its nice to remember
    Although you know the snow will follow
    Deep in december its nice to remember
    Without a hurt, the heart is hollow
    Deep in december its nice to remember
    The fire of september that made you mellow
    Deep in december our hearts should remember
    Then follow--follow, oh-oh

    September 05, 2006


    [57] Dostoevsky vs. Saramago

    Each of my two favorite authors wrote a novel with the same title--The Double. I reviewed Dostoevsky's back in 2000 and recently re-read the novel:

    Golyadkin is a government clerk who, decreed by fate, encounters a man who not only resembles him exactly but is also his namesake. Golyadkin's own musings and foreshadowing along with his curious actions all afford hints and glimpses of a psychological realism that persists throughout the novel. On a stormy night in which Golyadkin tried to regain his composure after the hails of slights had descended him at a private party of the high society, he met his double. The double (who was subsequently being referred as the Golyadkin junior and the adversary), with bold effrontery, went out his own way to show Golyadkin impudence, insulted Golyadkin, and purloined Golyadkin's papers in order to win approbation of the double's superiors at work.

    Like Notes From Underground, The Double is a close examination of human consciousness, through an unreliable narrator. I repeatedly raise the question whether this imposture really happens? Does the Golyadkin junior (the double) really exist in cold fact? What really happens at the end? Perhaps the real horror of Golyadkin senior (whom Dostoyevsky eventually refers him as our hero) is that he unconsciously knows his double simply being the side of his own nature that he disapproves, despises and fears? Regardless of the existence of the double, the imposter has simply trampled Golyadkin in the mire, perfidiously intruded him, and showed clearly that the senior and also the genuine Golyadkin is not genuine at all but a counterfeit, and that Golyadkin junior himself is the real one. The book is a portrait of the darker side of despicable personality that magnifies to the full actuality.

    Saramago's is more realistic. Tertuliano Máximo Afonso is a history teacher: Middle-aged, divorced and in a relationship with a woman, he is bored with life. On the suggestion of a colleague, one night Máximo watches a video that changes everything. The video itself is a forgettable comedy, but the actor who plays the minor role of hotel clerk, is Afonso's physical double. So he is fervishly renting videos and finding out about his double.

    I have yet to finish the book--but like Saramago's other works, The Double is a semi-allegory that breathes philosophical insights about our existence. Review coming soon.

    September 03, 2006


    Counting Down to Sandy Lam Concert

    ...on September 9. The Cantopop diva has released more than 40 albums since her debut in 1985. The latest album Breathe Me was out on 8/25--I've been playing that nonstop on my iPod everyday. My cousin Fiona and I will leave San Francisco this Saturday morning and drive about three and a half hours to Tahoe for lunch before the concert that is scheduled at 5 pm. We will be seated at row 13. I'm so excited and I cannot wait--the last time I saw her live was 1996, in Hong Kong.

  • The second cut in the latest album is Believe. It talks about how you should always believe in love and move on to find the true love that is meant for you, despite all the hurt and agony in relationship woes (is it talking about me?) Maybe. But the album definitely comes in time to tender my wound.

    My concert checklist:
    Moleskine notebook--to jot down the rundown and make note of her costumes
    Digital camera--to capture her gracious movements
    The latest CD--in case I run into her for autograph
    iPod and battery charger--music on the road