Miscellany (12 Aug 2013)

The distance between armchairs at lunch and scenes from Before Midnight

A few days ago I had lunch with a colleague. This was again at the TCC at Central, with the mini armchairs that always make me wish I could settle more deeply into one but that would end up with me too far from the table and the meal and definitely too far for conversation. Come to think of it, this is also the issue in the typical Starbucks store – hm… “store” seems not particularly suitable for a Starbucks place; let’s use “location”, which is antiseptically neutral but accurate enough – this is also the issue in the typical Starbucks location in Singapore, which nowadays feels packed and spacious at the same time and is sprinkled with comfy yet low-maintenance sofas and armchairs and a place to feel like you want to feel comfortable in, but it’s tough because the instinct is to sit opposite each other, which places you too far apart, and sitting next to each other results in the sort of dynamic that also happens when two people watch a movie, which is similarly side-by-side self-directed focused enjoyment of the scenes unfolding before you, which only occasionally merit staccato bursts of mutual sideways looks and exchanges for the purpose of ascertaining that the other person feels the same way about the scene that you do. (There were lots of these when my pal and I watched Before Midnight, whose script I found topnotch and intensely engrossing. There is the opening scene where Jesse sends off his son with entirely and understandably too many promises. And then there is the scene in which Jesse and Celine drive back to their Greek holiday villa and quarrel the way significant others who can plot out the meanders of each other’s lines of argument quarrel, during which Jesse eats a half-eaten green apple which one of his twin daughters have yet to finish and said daughter wakes up and blearily asks for said half-eaten green apple and in so doing keeps the quarrel from boiling over. Then come the scenes of Greek meal preparation in which Celine helps her hosts stuff peppers with stuff that made me hungry, interspersed with scenes of Jesse testing the (pretentious) concepts for his next novel with an old fellow writer and a couple of fans, and then the dinner scene in which various models of love (including the model in which both parties know break-up is certain at some point in time, being young and independent and having no need for the sort of committed companionship and partnership that marriage is) and couplehood (including the model in which the party who dies second continues to think of what the party who dies first would say if he is still around) are discussed and bickered over and there is the continuation of the couple’s quarrel in the car, leading to a sharp rise in temperature then a very welcome drop in same as those around the table deftly conduct some reconciliation and set up the finale (Celine’s and Jesse’s hosts insisting on taking care of the twins while the couple enjoy a night at this hotel). Then there are the long takes where Celine and Jesse just walk and talk and walk and talk as if we are not there (in a way that movies, which by definition presuppose an audience, are usually too self-aware to show), and the scene in which Celine and Jesse check into the hotel and Jesse is asked to autograph some books by a fan and Celine too and Jesse obliges and Celine doesn’t want to until Jesse says out loud that yes Celine would be happy to and she does so in a way that hides her true fury from the fan and sends a clear message to her husband. Then comes the climax-which-felt-like-it-lasted-half-the-movie, in which the quarrel escalates into an emotionally violent argument with its own rhythm and plot about sex and gender roles and one partner’s success and guilt which is absurd yet raw and real, and lastly the scene in which there is some much longed-for time travel. There were points where my pal and I laughed together, and winced and cringed and flinched together, and after it ended, I felt – in no particular order – deeply relieved, tired and satisfied yet determined not to put myself through this movie again, solidly impressed with the chemistry and generosity of the actors in working out the script and then in acting out the script, and oddly optimistic about the future of Celine and Jesse as a couple.)

***

Crime book dichotomies

And I had thought that we discussed it during the lunch, but now I remember that the colleague and I had discussed books on the way to lunch. She asked what I was doing that long weekend – I said reading and spring cleaning, the latter of which I haven’t done, at all – and she then asked what books I liked to read and mentioned she liked crime books by James Patterson and Jeffrey Deaver and I replied I read crime books too but preferred PD James and Ruth Rendell and stumbled over myself trying to articulate the differences I saw in the crime books she liked and the ones I liked and, after dropping the too easy and slightly inaccurate action vs. procedural dichotomy, arrived at the international/cosmopolitan vs. little town/village dichotomy.  (And after reading Ruth Rendell’s dense and quite brilliant Harm Done, whose commentary on a vulnerable class (battered women, and women in general to a lesser extent) reminded me of Donna Leon’s The Golden Egg (which focused on one horrendously treated child), I find I have to consider also the popcorn plot vs. social commentary dichotomy.)

***

Love = capable of causing pain

Before Midnight came up again in a discussion with another colleague – we had exchanged books (Sophie Kinsella’s Twenties Girl for me and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go for her) – who, after I mentioned the movie required a lot of emotional investment and was raw and not something I’d want to watch again, said it sounded so sad. I thought about that a bit, and concluded that for me the movie is not sad overall, but certainly the parts where Celine and Jesse show that each knows exactly where the other has poorly healed wounds to messily and thoroughly unscab – those parts are sad in the sense people who love each other so deeply are in the best position to cause that commensurate pain and sometimes fully aware they do just that, harshly jerking away the scabs and precisely salting the exposed parts.

***

7/8

This year, 7 Aug came with some warning – in that it was the day before a four-day weekend and therefore had stuck in my mind for other reasons than the usual, which I have more or less forgotten – and perhaps leading up to the day I had thought however fleetingly about what that date used to mean to me, so on the day itself I found myself humming 优客李林’s 输了你,赢了世界又如何, which had come out around the time the date meant the most.

***

A three-inch diameter ear-stud

Recently I got a seat on the MRT on the way to work. And while listening to my favourite podcast on my ear-buds (which by the way is an activity I seem to have become addicted to; I think the fundamental attraction to me is the ability to choose the world I alone want to experience), I saw this chap – possibly from Anderson Junior College; he looked the right age and had on trousers of the right colour and possibly the appropriate insignia – with what I thought were clear plastic headphones which turned out to be a gigantic hoop ear-stud (I only saw/paid attention to his left ear). Yup, it looked like he had on a ear-stud – which I always thought was some inconspicuous mini-thing to keep one’s earring-hole open – that was essentially a three-inch diameter hoop, I kid you not. It was surreal looking through the ear-hoop and seeing clear through to where his neck connected to his collar. I thought that was quite bizarre, and could his school condone it, but maybe he liked it.

***

Some much-needed self-bashing

I have become less and less appreciative of my folks, I’m afraid – plain choosy about my dinner, for example, asking Mum to cook me some noodles when she’d already painstakingly prepared rice and perfectly adequate dishes to go along with it. So the other day I came home, and she showed me that she had fried some rice, and I stared at it, reflexively thinking up reasons to reject it in favour of some noodles – I love noodles – including, I remember, complaining in my mind that the egg in the fried rice was too clumpy and not scrambled enough. I went to take a shower without either committing to the rice or saying I’d like some noodles, please, and after some well-deserved self-bashing came out and ate up two bowls of the rice, which was not the best but yummy enough. I need to be more self-bashing in this aspect of my life :)

***

Airsless people

Few people I know are totally without airs – I’ve met a President’s scholar a few years younger than me who was, and there is this high-ranking civil servant and former boss who is – and the other day I bumped into the latter at a stairs landing in Hong Lim Food Centre after I had bought my breakfast, and he seemed genuinely pleased to see me and spend those next few minutes with me to find out how I was doing, to the extent that, although people using the landing had to go around us, it felt as if he was perfectly focused on talking with me. That was a great start to the day.

***

Dear cab-driver, I wish you well…

I was going to work on a cab the other day. (Yes, this peasant princeling enjoys such uneconomical luxuries.) At around the same time I was thinking how new the cab was, the driver said that I was his first customer for this cab, and that he’d gotten it only the day before, after which he had driven his wife and two children (I think it’s two) around in the cab. He had only been driving a cab for a few months, and he was previously with TransCab (he was now driving a ComfortDelGro Hyundai Sonata), and his was among the last batch of Sonatas and the next batches would be i40s, he said. He said he did not like driving a cab – it was a lot of pressure, having to deal with different customers and not knowing which kind he was going to get next. A couple of his friends had gotten into trouble because of customer complaints already. He much preferred his previous job as a container truck-driver, which he felt he and other Singaporeans had been pushed out of because of PRC drivers, which he said he perfectly understood because that’s what someone else would do if he was in the boss’s position, and because the job paid by the trip and more and more the PRC drivers were getting the trips because they were cheaper, he could see how the inevitable would happen and had decided to quit, and his friend and fellow container truck-driver had talked it out with the boss but to no avail. He said that was why he asked his daughters (I think) to study hard and to his understated pride it was clear that they were doing well in school. I noted that his boss should be finding it harder to get good container truck-drivers and he said yes in fact his boss had called him to ask him to go back, but he had asked if his friends and former colleagues had been asked to as well and the boss had said no, and therefore he had decided not to go back, even though his friends had told him he should, because – he explained – he was the sort of person who didn’t like others to think that he had made some side arrangement with his former boss. I’m afraid I hounded him on this – perhaps you need not be so focused on what others think or say, I said; this is a job you like, I said; and which pays better etc. etc., I could have said – but he was adamant and appeared totally at peace with his decision and keen to continue on his current path to the best of his ability. Then we arrived at my destination, and I paid him and wished him well, and he wished me well, and said he hoped his other customers would be like me, and I slid over to the curbside and stepped out and closed the door and he drove off.

I hope he is doing well, this cab-driver.

***

One day, on my way to work…

Outside the MRT gates, I saw a man casually dressed in jeans and a light-coloured shirt at the side of the gates watching someone go up the escalator to the MRT platform. In Chinese, this would be described as 目送, literally “eye send” – as in using one’s eyes to send someone off. He watched and watched, and then finally turned away and, I think, caught me watching him and smiled a little smile.

Stuff I’m happy about (4 Jul 2013)

Today is the birthday of a cousin, who said recently that she rearryrearry likes having more time to hang out with her husband and her family because of her new job. And that’s something I’m happy about :)

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Today I met family of the work sort for lunch. These are folks I’ve known since I started work or soon after. I was late for lunch, having gotten caught up at a meeting I was keen on but on second thought had little business getting involved in. When I got to the restaurant, I realised that the folks were sitting next to another set of colleagues, coincidentally at the same restaurant. And it was quite comical how, over the next few minutes, more colleagues came into the restaurant, one set sitting to our other side catching up with not-colleagues-anymore, another two coming in, the chap waving to the lot of us sheepishly.

We talked about what we were now doing at work, about how the department we had known each other at was doing. The girls* have one, two and two-with-third-on-the-way children respectively, and so there was some talk about children and how not-a-toddler-anymore one kid was (she’s 11), and one girl’s helper (who sleeps on her sofa, as caught by her video cameras), and one girl’s dropping off her two children at the same childcare and always having to wait till the younger child finishes crying. We talked about another colleague, who was now in Cambodia volunteering with the World Wide Fund for Nature, and whom one of the girls visited with her husband without the not-a-toddler-anymore and missed the haze. We talked about the eligible bachelor among us who may not be bachelor much longer and his beau.

It is good that we could still talk like that. And that’s something I’m happy about :)

* So, is my vocabulary underdeveloped, or is there no other way to refer to friends of the female variety apart from “girls”? I can’t imagine replacing “girls” with “women” – well technically I can, but it doesn’t sound right at all – and using “ladies” just seems pretentious…

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A pile of nine books arrived a few days ago from Amazon. I’m sure no fewer than four of them will rate at least 7/10 on the enjoyment scale, and have high hopes for the others that I haven’t got to. (Have in fact started on two – slightly underwhelming, I’m afraid.)

It is nice to have books to look forward to – that’s something I’m happy about :)

###

I went phone shopping with my dad after lunch, and we went around Chinatown Point just because there was time left on the parking coupons, and then he drove me around some of the houses near our place and showed me those he thought looked good and I agreed. It was good talking with my dad – that’s something I’m happy about :)

###

The nap just now was happy-ing too.

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The cousin who has a better work-life situation now also talked about her career monster wanting it all and how she sometimes feels conflicted.

In comparison, mine’s probably a career gremlin: malformed, temperamental and destructive.

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For some reason, I can never remember who is Smiley in the 2012 version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I can see his face, and I know he’s Commissioner Gordon and my brain goes “Alan” something and it just gets held up there and I go through different names – I always think it starts with A and I always think about Colin Firth and how that’s one other person who starred in that movie and then I think Alan Goodman and I would know it’s wrong and so’s Alan Rickman and at this point usually I give up and look it up and realise it’s… Gary freaking Oldman.

It’s weird because I lurved the movie. Movies like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy still get made – that’s something I’m happy about :)

###

I used to think Singapore had fairly constant weather, or at least non-freaky weather. The haze and hail changed that perception a little bit, and got me thinking about the time I was in Brussels, and a summer day broke through the grey drizzly cold. I now better understand how welcome the light and warmth was, and why the streets filled up with people happy-drunk on sun.

Today in Singapore it was humid to the point of stifling, and the sky was willing only to drizzle.

But the haze is still gone – that’s something I’m happy about :)

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I’m happy that this web site makes this podcast :) Every Saturday I get something fun to listen to – the next episode in a dimension-spanning high-fantasy epic starring five friends role-playing well-fitted characters and an accomplished gamemaster.

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My birthday was a workday, so I was at work. Two colleagues I’ve known for a long while wished me happy birthday, and that was good. One of them did so in front of some other colleagues, who quickly went to get a cake and did a classic surprise! celebration, which I felt awkward at. (I’d rather I knew for sure that people wanted to celebrate my birthday.) Then I had a good dinner with my pal at the Royal Mail where the lobster was sweet, the mushrooms were only okay, the blue swimmer crabmeat went well with the salad sprinkled with trout caviar and the conversation was deeply enjoyable. And when I got back home it was either the last dregs of my birthday or just the day after, and my sis stayed up to wish me happy birthday :)

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Christmas is 174 days away, not so long – and that’s something I’m happy about :)

L’esprit de L’escalier

L’esprit de L’escalier

Asked my sis to read Paper Menagerie (which I linked to a few posts back). She said she could not identify with the behaviour of the characters in the story, and introduced the story linked above instead. The aptest title for a story that I know of.

L’esprit de L’escalier – noun – literally “wit on the stairs” in French (when you fall down the stairs and then think of all the witty things you could have said but did not) – the feeling you get when, after something has happened, you think of all the things you could have said.

Red bricks

I was reading a Slate article about Ursula K Le Guin on a hot and humid post-rain Sunday morning, and it brought back memories of the old National Library – this red brick building located between school (on Coleman Street) and McDonald’s (at the YMCA) – and the smell of books, specifically old paperbacks with yellowed pages. At the time I was determined to read all the Isaac Asimov the library had, and after I seemed to have accomplished this significant feat, I came across her books because of their sheer abundance. As I trace the steps that I took now in my mind, I see the library shelves, very high, and I remember hunting down mystery books too – and I kept coming across Georges Simenon, whose books for some reason I never read.

I haven’t been to the new National Library building to borrow books, but I do wish I could go back to the old red brick one, to see if the Asimov and UKL books are still where they used to be.

Stuff I’ve found interesting lately

It’s been a long time since I last wrote here. Gonna take a while to get the gears smooth and the voice back. Anyhow, here’s some stuff I’ve enjoyed / found interesting in the last few months.

1. Depot, a great little eatery on Federal Street in New Zealand

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Potato skins at Depot. Heartily crunchy.

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Mussels, grilled in their juice, with croutons. Too few.

2. Gone Girl, a casually callous thriller with a characters I want to see more of

3. Hi, I’m Liz – animals and corniness – deadly combo. I especially liked narwhal vs. beluga.

4. How the experience of driving has changed – when I was younger, I didn’t care so much about the mortality of others.

5. The nature of friendship, the closeness built up over time and the sloughing off of judgement and extra expectations.

6. Introducing more people to arrowhead chips :)

7. This nerdy economics comic, which I will understand in about eleventeen more weeks.

8. How easy it is to feel worthless at work, from a loss of autonomy brought about by not being familiar with a new portfolio.

9. How long it’s been since I’ve had Nestle Crunch until I had it on a recent flight, and how sweet it is now compared to the perfect bite of milk chocolate and rice crisps I remember it as.

10. How satisfying it is to read books again. For some reason, though I’ve kept on buying books, I had lost the motivation to really read. When it started, I stopped reading fiction, except for genre fiction of a certain predictability. Then, I dropped that and my most challenging reading material became non-fiction books, easier to absorb in small distanced sittings. Then I dropped even non-fiction books, and for some months relied entirely on news and other snippets pulled to my screen via RSS. My favourite explanation for this progression is that my pool of attention was being squeezed dry at work, and only replenished during the weekends. Not sure if that’s true, but the year-end spate of public holidays helped to restore some of that resource, whatever it was, and I’m very happy to be back among the book-readers.

11. The Progress Principle. And from the notes inside that book, this paper. The key insight is that progress in one’s work life is more important than many other factors used to motivate performance.

12. If you listen to podcasts and are curious, 99% Invisible has to be on your list. It’s refreshing, wonderfully produced and endlessly thought-provoking. Episode 67 – about a broken window which haunted the window-breaker for years and years – is a recent favourite.

stuff I bought or got and haven’t read or watched

It’s the season of gifts and excess, so I thought I’d count my blessings a little bit, just to see if it helps me ease off spending money on and otherwise collecting stuff I don’t use.  So I bought/got and haven’t read/watched

  • Lost in Translation – from what I heard, starring a brilliant Bill Murray.
  • Norwegian Wood – translated from Haruki Murakami’s Japanese original.  I’d read a Chinese translation halfway through, and I found it occasionally evocative but generally bland.  A colleague mentioned that a lousy Chinese translation was floating around, and another passed me the English one to try.
  • The Fifth Discipline (Peter Senge) – always wanted to read it.  Now it looks intimidating.  See this interesting review.
  • The Black Swan (Nassim Nicholas Taleb) – I read “Fooled by Randomness” and I found Nassim Taleb full of himself, too much so for me.  And then I came across his home page.  And my opinion of him remained, but at least now he seems a genuinely full-of-himself person.  And somehow that makes me more eager – just slightly so, but still – to read “The Black Swan”.
  • Think! (Edward de Bono) – also, according to my long-legged friend, who lent me the book, full of himself, is Mr de Bono.
  • Flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) – First heard of the man with his first name in his last name while I was studying communication in university, some of the best times of my life.  I suspect my getting the book was at least partly an attempt to retrieve those times.
  • Leaves of Grass (Walt Whitman) – I guess if I liked poetry I’d like Walt Whitman.  Or Pablo Neruda.  Or Ted Hughes.  *Sigh*
  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (David Wroblewski) – I do want to read this book.  But I got the hard-cover version.  And it’s thicker than my thigh.  Ok I lie.  I’ll read it soon.
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (Dave Eggers) – I like McSweeney’s, which Dave Eggers founded.  I think his talk on winning the TED prize was amazing.  I think his “What is the What” would be a good read too.  But I shall try to finish that heartbreaking work of staggering genius first.

Yes, I have too much stuff.  Time to get down to some reading.

Discoveries

Recently, I discovered that wedding couples have the same glassy-eyed look at their wedding dinner.  You know, it’s been a long, hectic day, and they’re trying to take it all in because it’s so meaningful, but the day’s become a pageant of things done for tradition and there are appearances to keep up, especially at dinner, where strange relatives and old classmates appear together, groups of people who had nothing to do with each other, all gathering for the same important, happy event, and it is for you that they’ve all turned up, and there are speeches to be made and toasts to be drunk and drunk and drunk.  It’s a hectic whirl, and glassy eyes, from the couple of weddings I went to in the last few months, are the norm for wedding couples.

Also, I discovered that I can’t deal with salty toothpaste.  Colgate has this new ‘mineral salt’ formula I think, and the first time I used it to brush my teeth I was still barely awake, and my instinct was to swallow the damn concoction because it tasted savoury.  It’s a conditioning, part of my upbringing – eating savoury stuff was a satisfying experience, almost all of the time.  And I realised that the day they make deep-fried stuff-flavoured toothpaste is the day I die of toothpaste poisoning.

Another discovery, or re-discovery, because I continue to be surprised by it: MRTs are so much less crowded during year-end school holidays.  It’s stunning.  Wonder of wonders, I actually got a seat the other day, a really comfortable bit of space.  I could put my bag on my lap and open it up and take a book out and read it with my bag on my lap and everything.  That was the most pleasant MRT ride I’ve had in months.

Also not long ago, I discovered Kij Johnson, who’s rekindled my enjoyment of science fiction and whose kooky titles just make reading her that bit more fun.  I know so many of us read genres and you may not read sci-fi, but just try her out.  Read “26 Monkeys, Also The Abyss” here (you’ll see that the story’s won many awards and you’ll see a link to a cool reading of the story).  Then read “The evolution of trickster stories among the dogs of North Park after the Change” here (you’ll see it has nothing to do with evolution and all to do with an utterly superb re-imagining of the beginnings of a creation myth).  And then read some more :)

And just at the end of last month, I discovered “Skinny Pizza”.  Read a review here, and others here and here.  I have eaten at Skinny Pizza twice, both times at the Wheelock Place outlet.  Skinny Pizza’s gimmick is of course the skinniness of its pizza – basically, it’s to normal pizza what tissue prata is to normal prata.  Skinniness in this case made the pizza crust super-crunchy, which is both good and bad.  When I tried the curry chicken pizza, I found the gravy-laden centre portion absolutely delicious, full of the traditional Indian curry flavour, and the outer edges overly dry.  But I can live with that.  What I wouldn’t be able to live with, is if they discontinued their truffled fries.  It’s too bad that they are ordinary shoestring fries – if a higher grade of cut potato was used, they would be matchless.  As it is, they are still the most tasty fries I’ve ever had.

Butt kickin’, for goodness!

Came across a few very enjoyable pieces of entertainment the last few days, so I thought I’d collect them all in a post and title it with a quote from a great piece of entertainment from a sadly bygone era :)

I saw YouTube clips of Penn & Teller on The Late Show with David Letterman, doing a macabre trick to promote their video cassette release in 1989 (I remember that one actually had to rewind these ‘video cassette’ things…) and a nice coins-and-goldfish trick on Halloween in 2007.

I read Lawrence Block’s When the Sacred Ginmill Closes yesterday.  I’ve come to enjoy Lawrence Block, who writes immensely readable crime stories where most of the action is in the dialogue and the choices of the protagonist.  I have books about Keller, the amoral yet conscientious hitman.  Keller is always fun – how many times do you get into the head of someone who’s killed so often that he’s come up with a foolproof way of distancing himself from his job and who’s well-adjusted enough to teach that method to his best friend after she had to kill their boss?  I have many starring Bernie Rhodenbarr, the unreformed burglar with a knack for coming across bodies during his illegal excursions and then solving them to save his hide.  The Rhodenbarr books are formulaic but rollickingly good reads – Bernie’s tempted to burgle, he tries not to but does it anyway, he finds a body in the house he burgles or a murder occurs at exactly the same time and he’s a suspect and he can’t of course use his burgling as an alibi, he solves the murder after a roundabout romp and at the classic gathering of suspects.  The Ginmill book was my first about Matthew Scudder, the ex-alcoholic whose melancholic remembrances overflow with bourbon and the fragile brotherhood of drunks.  If it’s any indication, then I’ve missed his best series… until now.  Time to catch up.

I saw this fine and funny reminder that all is well in this world, except for our expectations and impatience :)

I also saw this horrific picture (snicker snicker): the last thing Sparkly saw…

Joshua Bell, Desiderata and Detroit

Came across two beautiful pieces of writing and one intriguing blog post the last few days, and I thought I’d share them.

Joshua Bell

The intriguing blog post was from Tim’s Blog, about a stunt/experiment that violinist extraordinaire Joshua Bell took part in.  [See the Washington Post story here to get the background.  (Free registration may be required.)]  To paraphrase the Post, on this Friday morning, in the middle of the first rush hour of the day, at the arcade of a busy train station, one of the best violinists in the world played some of the most moving music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made, for 43 minutes.  Many walked past Joshua Bell without a second glance, even though he wasn’t being miserly with his talent – he played one of the most difficult pieces a violinist can play, in his energetic, all-motion style.  At the end, he earned just over 50USD, including a 20USD donation toward the end of the stunt/experiment from someone who recognised him.

This stunt/experiment asks several questions about beauty and its context, but I also like Tim’s question: “How many things are we missing?” If people can ignore Joshua Bell’s music, what else that is significant and beautiful and true might they be missing?

I think this context bit is worth thinking about a little more, too.  Say you saw this athletic floppy-haired chap with a liquid backhand playing tennis with a powerful muscular left-hander who hits his forehands with a vicious topspin, would you know who they were if you hadn’t seen them on TV before?  And would it make a difference, to whether you watch them play or not?  Should it?  That says something about the power of globalisation and media and technology.

Desiderata

I came across Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata via the Personal MBA blog and absolutely loved it.  I think you will too.

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Detroit

(Not sure why, but I usually misspell “Detroit”.)  I really enjoyed this article about Detroit’s resilience as its famed automobile industry collapses.  The article is written by Mitch Albom – author of “Tuesdays with Morrie” – and a stirring piece, even from this far away.