Sunday, November 27, 2011

TIME: 10 best novels of the past decade

yes! three of the books that i really like recently made it to TIME's "Top 10 Novels of the 2000s" (according to Lev Grossman): Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (one of my favorite books ever!); J.K. Rowling's HP and the Order of the Phoenix; Neil Gaiman's The American Gods.

here is the complete list:

Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro)
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (Susanna Clarke)
The Corrections (Jonathan Franzen)
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz)
The Known World (Edward P. Jones)
Atonement (Ian McEwan)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Joanna K. Rowling)
Lush Life (Richard Prince)
Then We Came to the End (Joshua Ferris)
The American Gods (Neil Gaiman)

nope, i haven't read the other seven books (i guess i'm highly selective, or just plain pigheaded, that way). also, i have a minor beef about the selection of Order of the Phoenix, which is one of my least favorite HP books -- personally i would have gone withHP and The Half-Blood Prince, the one where Dumbledore died and many things slowly came into view.

all in all, though, i'm glad these three books were cited.

of note, some of these multi-awarded novels have been or in the process of being adapted into films (Never Let Me Go, Atonement, The Corrections, the Harry Potter saga) or HBO series (American Gods, upcoming).

Saturday, April 30, 2011

the wedding was nice, but what's with all those hats?

it's nice to know that wedding came off without a hitch (i'm talking about Kate Middleton and Prince William, of course -- as if you didn't know). i only caught glimpses of it, but two things stuck on my mind: Kate's beautiful wedding gown and yes, those hats!

i don't know if it's part of some unwritten rule (or etiquette?) somewhere that female wedding guests must show up with the most outlandish, eye-catching headgear they can find and strap to their heads-- but my goodness, there's just no way you could ignore those goofy, colorful and baffling contraptions.

for one thing, it takes a while for you to actually make sense of the various shapes, colors, and sizes of hats perched on these women's heads. and when you do, you sort of have to pull yourself back a little to appreciate the whole effect.

okay, some actually look good (see two examples below, which reminds me of pricey gift wrappings)...

and as for the rest (the ones worn by Eugenie and Beatrice --- well, let's just say i'm still recovering from the unexpected spectacle), some look like inverted bowls, flying saucers, misplaced sculpted pieces, strategically angled vegetation, overgrown insects, fluffy leftovers, skewered bird parts, or overdecorated nests. well, you get the drift. great imagination on the part of their designers though.

my take? these hats deserve to have a museum of their own since there aren't that many royal weddings to provide a worthy excuse to take out these things out of their boxes.

it was nice seeing those things though, because it gave me something to chew on while waiting for things to happen.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Japan Files: Miki Endo

what fitting tribute can you think of to honor a 24-year-old woman whose unflagging efforts to urge her town-mates to run for safety literally saved thousands of lives -- a heroic action that eventually cost her own?

Miki Endo, a recently married public employee who worked for Minamisanriku's (a town that was hit hard in the recent quake/tsunami disaster) Crisis Management Department, was manning the public address system -- exhorting the residents to run for higher ground -- as the tsunamis were about to roll in. According to various accounts, Miki Endo stayed at her post and continued her urgent broadcast even as the waves finally hit the coastal town.

it was later learned that Miki Endo did not survive this tragic disaster (a co-employee last saw her being carried away by a huge wave), much to the dismay and grief of her parents and the very people whose lives she had helped save.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mask of Command (John Keegan)

One of the reasons why i bought Mask of Command (Penguin, 1988) was because it partly focused on two of my favorite all-time battle commanders — Alexander the Great and the Duke of Wellington. This, and John Keegan’s persuasive gift for making centuries-old battles seem increasingly relevant and significant for modern-day readers.

Mask of Command concentrates on four commanders and leaders -- Alexander the Great, Arthur Wellesley (Duke of Wellington), Ulysses s. Grant, Adolph Hitler -- whose impact on history is thoughtfully explored in this highly legible book.

John Keegan postulates that throughout history, the role of commanders/leaders in conducting battles has evolved and paralleled the level of man’s technological progress (along with a host of other sociocultural, economic and ideological factors). He then categorizes the way leaders/commanders fulfill this role into four styles of leadership: (1) heroic, (2) anti-heroic, (3) un-heroic, (4) false heroic.

To pigeonhole his subjects into this classification, Keegan posits the question: “When conducting a battle, do you lead your men in front?” Each of the four possible answers — (a) always, (b) sometimes, (c) seldom, (d) never — defines a type (mask) of command/leadership.

Thus, we have Alexander (Greece), who personifies the "heroic" brand of leadership: always conspicuously spearheading his army’s attack, because that’s how he wanted to be seen and how his people expected him to behave. In this sense, the term “heroic” takes on a theatrical quality — where a leader needs to highlight his presence (via distinctive attire, brilliant oratory, rash and bold actions) to encourage and lead his men into battle. This type of leadership equates to the classic concept of a hero.

Next, we have the Duke of Wellington (UK), who -- due to the advancements in weaponry (e.g., rifles, artillery weapons) of his day -- had to constantly move in and around battle scenes so as to direct how much and which of his resources (men and supplies) should be moved where and when. Much of his style (aloofness and sobriety in manner, dress, and speech) was in marked contrast to Alexander’s larger-than-life qualities, hence the term "anti-heroic". In this sense, Wellington is largely viewed as an aristocrat who wages war for England and his monarch.

Then, we have Ulysses S. Grant (USA), who largely directed his army from the rear due to the longer range of weapons and to effectively exploit the advantages offered by communication gears (telegraph) and transport options (railroad) of his time. According to the author, although this may seem "unheroic" in a conventional sense, it was actually a practical way to fight a war in a democratic and sprawling society. Grant, who would eventually become the 18th president of the United States, held himself no better than the men who served under him.

Adolf Hitler, largely viewed as one of the 20th century’s ‘monster’ (both literally and figuratively) figures, scarcely needs any explanation. Although he largely led a bunker existence for much of World War II (especially towards at the end of it), Hitler was seen to have ‘micromanaged’ many situations from the rear — much to his generals’ dismay and consternation — and would repeatedly allude to his WWI experience (aided by a well-choreographed propaganda machine and his own gifts of demagoguery) to clothe himself in a ‘heroic’ mold ("false heroic"). Needless to say, among the four leaders/commanders that Mr. Keegan has highlighted in Mask of Command, Hitler is considered to have ultimately failed the test of leadership.

As a parting shot, Keegan concludes that the "mask of command" required for contemporary times (which he calls Post-Heroic) is the type of leadership that eschews warfare in favor of a rational, multipronged approach (here he cites John F. Kennedy’s handling of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis as an example). Such an approach, he hopes, would eventually render large-scale battles a thing of the past.

While this proposition seems a bit optimistic — given mankind’s war-making propensities — the author presents an insightful and weighty case to promote his theory. And when one considers the bulk of his work so far, one can’t help but appreciate the extent of the groundwork that he had undertaken in order to come up with this interesting theory on command and leadership.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Japan Files: a remarkable canine survivor

here is another heartwarming development from Japan -- there have been only very of them so far, so each one feels like a rare and unexpected gift -- this time, involving a canine that was rescued by the Japanese Coast Guard (JCG).

the canine survivor was spotted by rescuers on a huge floating pile of debris off the coast of Kensennuma (northern Japan). according to some accounts, the dog apparently managed to survive (for 3 weeks) after he was swept out to sea as a result of the disastrous earthquake/tsunami that ravaged Japan on March 11, 2011.

the dog, which was described as slightly emaciated but relatively healthy, was first spotted on the roof of a floating house. after his rescue, which took longer than anticipated, he was taken to Tsugaru (a JCG patrol boat), where he was fed and cared for by the crew.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Temeraire: His Majesty's Dragon

First off, I would have to say that series wouldn’t have caught my attention had it not been for the news that Peter Jackson (LOTR, Heavenly Creatures) was actually thinking of adapting this series of novels into the silver screen. Knowing Peter Jackson’s film-making skills and propensity for seeking out interesting projects, I got curious and checked out a few reviews and inevitably, the excerpts.

Another factor that enticed me to check out this saga was that it dealt with Napoleonic wars. Actually, my main interest lies in the Peninsular war, which is more or less an important chapter in this tumultuous era. At the time, I wondered how Naomi Novik (the author) would weave this campaign into her entertaining saga (5 books and counting).

The first book in this series, His Majesty’s Dragon, is anchored around the time when Napoleon was busily carving out his empire and England’s superior naval forces were ruling the seas. In this alternate reality, dragons exist for real and are used by many countries as centerpieces of their aerial forces (precursors for modern-day scout planes, fighters and bombers), which is a refreshing premise to say the least. This tale features a few twists: Admiral Nelson survives the Battle of Trafalgar and this crucial sea battle itself serves as a ruse to draw out Britain ’s naval forces while French units are being ferried across the channel.

Summary. After seizing a dragon egg from a captured French frigate, the crew and officers of HMS Reliant realized with dismay that the egg was only days away from hatching. Contrary to their hopes of sharing the bounty (that is, if the egg could be safely handed to the proper authorities), it was evident that one of them would have to volunteer as its ‘handler’, a fate that no self-respecting naval officer could possibly wish for. Or else, let the dragon go feral (wild) — which was even worse, because England only has a few first-rate combat dragons.

After hatching, the fully articulate, black (an unusual color) dragonet unexpectedly takes to Capt. William Laurence, who manfully accepts his fate and promptly gives up his command. He names the dragon Temeraire. Later, he learns from an expert that his charge was a Chinese imperial, a rare and highly prized oriental breed known for their intelligence and grace. It does not take long for the two to bond, and after a few weeks they proceed to Loch Laggan in Scotland for intensive training.

There, they meet other dragons of various sizes and breeds — although Temeraire is clearly different from anyone else — as well as aviators (including a few female handlers) and ground crews. Training was hard, but the training instructor (a dragon!) is pleased to discover that aside from being a fast and highly maneuverable flyer, Temeraire has the unusual ability to "hover" -- meaning he can fly in place for a long period.

A few months later, news of England ’s victory in Trafalgar reaches the covert. Everyone celebrates. However, they soon learn with dismay that this huge naval engagement is merely a ploy. And while most of the country’s aerial forces are away to assist Nelson (Battle of Trafalgar), only a few inexperienced combat-weight dragons are left to protect England’s coast against an imminent French invasion. In this desperate, climactic aerial battle, Temeraire realizes his full powers, and consequently his real identity.

It is later revealed that Temeraire is not just an imperial, but rather a Chinese celestial — the rarest and the most highly prized of dragon breeds, raised as companions to the immediate members of the Chinese imperial family. It also becomes apparent that Temeraire had been intended as a gift to Napoleon, judged by the Chinese (acknowledged the world’s best dragon breeders) as a fitting recipient being an emperor himself.

His Majesty’s Dragon is a highly entertaining read. The bond between Capt. Laurence and Temeraire is touching and palpable. The gripping aerial dogfights (err, dragonfights?) will keep you vastly entertained. With their ability to communicate and work with their crew and fellow dragons, Ms. Novik’s dragons add a fascinating dimension to aerial battles (it’s pretty hard to remain detached and focused on your mission when you can hear a dragon roar in pain).

Fans of fantasy books who are also history buffs will find plenty to like in this series. It doesn’t quite have the multi-layered complexity and the gracious prose of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, but it’s still a highly fascinating tale.

Friday, March 25, 2011

10 Songs with the Silliest Lyrics according to Time

So, which songs do you think have the silliest lyrics?

i imagine most of have at least five or six songs we can name right off the bat, but to make things easier for everyone, Time Magazine has compiled a list of 10 songs with the most absurd, head-spinning verses.

1. "Miracles" (Insane Clown Posse)
-- the big surprise is, it actually trumped Rebecca Black's "Friday"
2. "Friday" (Rebecca Black)
-- a big resounding YES
3. "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" (Eiffel 65)
-- what? you're telling me the songwriter couldn't be bothered to think of a better title? the title alone is practically a giveaway, so consider yourself warned
4. "Summer Girls" (LFO)
-- a weird collection of verses to make your head spin
5. "Mellow Yellow" (Donovan)
-- a psychedelic trip that leads nowhere
6. "My Humps" (Black Eyed Peas)
-- yeah, definitely. i find the lyrics vaguely offensive, too
7. "MacArthur Park" (Jimmy Webb)
-- i could think of sillier songs, but this one reminds me of overstaying guests who don't understand what restraint means
8. "Yummy Yummy Yummy" (The Ohio Express)
-- any song bearing this title deserves to be in this list and banished from anyone's hearing
9. "Whenever, Wherever" (Shakira)
-- this one surprised me. unlike other songs in this list though, i happen to like this one
10. "I Am the Walrus" (The Beatles)
-- hmmm... i suppose

for more interesting lists, go check

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Conan O'Brien on Rebecca Black

Conan being Conan, i knew it wouldn't take long before he'd do something to cash in on Rebecca Black's unexpected online notoriety...

it's rather unfortunate that a young girl like Rebecca Black could attract this much flak and level of animosity, but after enduring 1 minute of "Friday" (below) -- i just couldn't go through the rest of it -- i'm beginning to see why.

and if you expect Conan O'Brien and his rascally staff to watch idly by while this goes on right under their noses, well... you can think again. and i think they have stumbled on the right combination.

Autotune + Monotone Delivery + Mind-Numbingly Inane Lyrics = Priceless

for more rib-tickling videos, you can check out go Conan!

Monday, March 21, 2011

tremor jitters

i didn't really feel it but it looks like a "slightly strong earthquake" just rocked the metro just a while ago (magnitude = 5.7).

it wasn't really that strong but after what just happened in Japan, many folks are understandably apprehensive (i admit to a feeling of unease and some measure of foreboding). when you're living near the earthquake belt earthquakes will always be an ever-present threat, but you can never really steel yourself to accept that fact with equanimity.

some alarmists are already trumpeting the possibility that we're due for a Big One soon (i am beginning to hate that phrase). i know that's a distinct possibility sooner or later, but please let it not happen so soon. we need some breathing space before we can handle another catastrophic event.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Japan Files: canine fidelity

so many harrowing tales and videos have come out of Japan as it struggles through the painful process of grieving and recovering from such horrific losses (while grappling with a nuclear crisis that refuses to die down), but none has tugged harder at my gut strings than this video (see below).

i won't attempt to add to it because the video speaks quite well for itself. the translation of the reporters' exchange (in Japanese) should be read for proper context though (in italics).

(note: got this from Yahoo, which of course got it from somewhere else. it just felt like one of those things that need to be repeated for a full appreciation of its impact.)

REPORTER: We are in Arahama area. Looks like there is a dog. There is a dog. He looks tired and dirty. He must have been caught in the tsunami. He looks very dirty.
-- He has a collar. He must be someone's pet. He has a silver collar. He is shaking. He seems very afraid.
-- Oh, there is another dog. I wonder if he is dead
ANCHOR: Where?
REPORTER: Right there. There is another dog right next to the one sitting down. He is not moving. I wonder. I wonder if he is alright.
ANCHOR: The dog is protecting him.
REPORTER: Yes. He is protecting the dog. That is why he did not want us to approach them. He was trying to keep us at bay.
ANCHOR: I can't watch this. This is a very difficult to watch.
-- Oh. Look. He is moving. He is alive. I am so happy to see that he is alive.

REPORTER: Yes! Yes! He is alive.
ANCHOR: He looks to be weakened. We need to get them to be rescued soon. We really want them rescued soon.
REPORTER: Oh good. He's getting up.
-- It is amazing how they survived the tremendous earthquake and tsunami. It's just amazing that they survived through this all.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

gwyneth paltrow on SNL

i know this is rather late. actually i'd been meaning to write about this for ages, but just couldn't find the right time for it. (i wrote a draft of this post in my laptop a couple of weeks ago; unfortunately, my laptop's hard drive got fried.) still, better late than never i guess, so here goes...

gwyneth paltrow delivered a nicely rounded stint in Saturday Night Live (SNL). she was showcased in several well-applauded skits, but my favorite is their hilarious segment on Shakespearean "previews".

it's a good thing gwyneth paltrow has the acting chops and the vocal range to pull this off.

another SNL skit that stood out for me involves Cee Loo Green. if have watched and appreciated gwyneth paltrow's number "Forget You" in Glee, then you'll appreciate this even more. word substitutions for cuss words flew fast and thick here, and it's a wonder not one of them slipped. anyways, enjoy!

needless to day, i was chuckling helplessly while trying to keep track with what everyone was really saying. all in all, this was a great SNL episode.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Angelology (Danielle Trussoni)

after reading a favorable TIME review of Angelology by Danielle Trussoni, i felt compelled to dig up some more information on this book. by the time i have read the third review (mostly positive), i was already itching to get my hands on it. (i have had this kind of reaction several times in the past and it hasn’t failed me yet.)

i made a few phone and online inquiries and quickly learned that local bookstores have run out of copies of Angelology, which was released only a couple of months earlier. after a more thorough and patient search, i finally managed to find an unsold copy (which was ready for pick-up the next day).

i started reading Angelology on my way home and didn’t stop until 5:45am. (i showed up for work bleary-eyed and yawning.) despite the book’s minor drawbacks, the tale simply held me enthralled. one reason why this story resonates with me is that it reminds me of one of my favorite X-files episodes, All Souls, which dealt with the concept of nephilim (lit. “fallen ones”).

my verdict? i liked it! more importantly, i couldn’t put it down. Angelology is described as a supernatural thriller in the tradition of Dan Brown, although i think it’s more in the style of Umberto Eco‘s The Name of the Rose. think of a gripping, multilayered gothic tale with biblical roots and tinged with intrigues and conspiracies. at its core, it tells of a centuries-old struggle between the nephilim, the hybrid offspring of rebellious angels and human females, and a secret group of humans (angelologists) who study and oppose the nephilim's sinister machinations.

if you have an abiding interest in angels (and not just the good kind) and don’t mind reading lengthy text on art, history, Greek mythology, various biblical texts, etc., Angelology shouldn’t be a challenge. if you’re a catholic, it’ll probably be easier to digest this premise (although Ms. Trussoni also makes liberal references to Jewish and Muslim religious texts to substantiate her point). at any rate, you will learn a few things about how humans have viewed angels throughout the centuries.

i am currently re-reading parts of this book. for some reason, i keep going back to the scene where one of the characters (a nun) conducted a “summoning” ceremony. an upcoming sequel to Angelology is currently in the works, according to its author.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

musings in the dark

we had a short power blackout at work today as a result of a sudden, unexpected storm of sorts. for 20 minutes, we were bombarded by a series of deafening thunderclaps punctuated by lightning that slashed through the night sky.

about 3 seconds before the blackout, a couple of our officemates (who were sitting near the window) reported seeing a flash of bluish light near our building.

i hit the Save button fast enough to freeze the chapter i was working on in time. the building generator system came to life shortly but after 2 minutes we were told to shut down our PCs because our emergency backup system could only support a limited number of PCs running at full capacity.

so after that, short of swapping ghost stories (with the storm providing a great backdrop), we were basically left with little else to do -- except to twiddle our thumbs or fiddle with our mobile phones.

at this unexpected break, i was left to ponder on a few things that have been lurking in the back of my mind since last week -- mostly about the fact that when you're used to do your work almost exclusively on a PC, a simple matter like a power outage can sometimes leave you feeling disoriented.

now, the biggest challenge is to find something vaguely stimulating to keep your mind from rotting away while you wait for:
(a) power resumption
(b) the time till it's time to go home, or
(c) an inspired moment when an idea of such passing brilliance can lead you to write an achingly beautiful sonnet, a symphony masterpiece, or a revolutionary scientific theory that will make space travel easier.

of these three options, the probability that option (c) will occur is likely a billion-to-one proposition (like maybe, when hell freezes over?), but it sounds rather nice to include it in the list -- you know, just in case a miracle happens.

i was in the middle of more outlandish imaginings when the lights suddenly came back. almost on cue, everybody sighed in mingled relief and regret. our office jester, who's rarely at a loss, quipped: "alright slaves, show's over. back to work!"

Monday, January 17, 2011

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

the moment Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (JS&MN) became available in local bookstores, i shifted to active search mode. its hefty price and weight (which was taxing on one’s wrist) gave me some pause, but after reading several glowing reviews i threw caution to the wind and bought a hardbound copy.

so was it worth the hassle? you bet.

i was barely halfway into the first chapter when i realized that i was truly ensnared with no hope of turning back. i raced through that 782-page volume like a hound hot on a scent. after finishing the book in 1.5 days (i still had to report for work), i went through it again —- this time, i savored every page and paused at every nook and cranny, including the footnotes.

i’d been trying to convince a lot of people since then to read JS&MN, but except for a couple of sci-fi/fantasy geeks at work, it didn’t really catch on among my friends and colleagues. i think the book’s length and ms. clarke’s writing style (which mirrors the style and conventions adopted by many authors of that era — particularly Jane Austen) must have put them off.

after i had raved about it for weeks, a friend asked me why i liked it so much. for some reason, that question floored me for a few seconds. i mean, how do you explain why you like something so much without sounding like an obsessive nutcase?

i finally blurted, “just read the book. you'll know why.”

i could have cited several things: susanna clarke‘s storytelling gifts, the elegant way she paints a scene (which would normally take lesser authors many paragraphs to convey and many years to perfect), and her beguiling way of convincing you that such things could have actually happened.

the thing about Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is that the tale unfolds with a deceptively reasonable and gently (and at other times, sly) teasing tone so as to make you believe its premise with unsettling ease and amused wonder.

i suppose that my fondness for JS&MN partly stems from my affection for Jane Austen’s books (haven’t read all of them though) and the fact that i like fantasy/sci-fi books in general. i have also devoured georgette heyer’s books, which are an excellent source of Regency social vignette and humor. in addition, ms. clarke manages to infuse her tale with some of the period’s famous historical figures, which can be a clever way of grounding a story (despite the fact that it’s a revisionist tale).

i just wish there were more books like this. oh, i also recently bought ms. clarke’s latest book, The Ladies of Grace Adieu, a collection of short stories relating to JS&MN’s story line. a delightful read, that. beautiful illustrations, too.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

the fascinating allure of Origami

Origami (origin: ori meaning "folding" and kami meaning "paper") is the traditional Japanese folk art of paper folding, which started in the 17th century AD and was popularized in the mid-1900s.
-- Wikipedia

i have always been fascinated by origami. and the fact that i never had the time or the chance to take a crack at it has further increased my interest in this marvelous art form.

my usual reaction whenever i see a particularly well-crafted piece is awestruck wonder. (how did they do that?)

here are a few samples (which i found online):

(for more details on the samples shown above, you can check out this link.

fans of the Fantasy genre (books/films/games) will surely appreciate this intricate origami model of a dragon.

and to even things out, how about an origami unicorn

Origami as well as Japanese flower arrangement are two (art form) skills that i hope to pick up sooner or later.

Monday, January 10, 2011

the adventures of hiccup and his friends

this is a quick follow-up to my recent entry (a few days ago) on horrendous hiccup haddock III, the recurring hero of Cressida Cowell's popular book series on Vikings.

after checking things over at Wikipedia, i realized that How to Train Your Dragon is actually the first of a 10-book series (and counting) by this prolific British author (to learn more, you can check out Ms. Cowell's site; she's also the author the Emily Brown series and other books).

These books include:
* Hiccup, the Viking Who Was Seasick
* How to Train Your Dragon
* How to Be a Pirate
* How to Speak Dragonese
* How to Train Your Viking
* How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse
* How to Twist a Dragon's Tale
* A Hero's Guide to Deadly Dragons
* How to Ride a Dragon's Storm
* How to Break a Dragon's Heart

the hero of this series, Hiccup, continues to find interesting adventures in subsequent books, along with his dragon Toothless and his best friend Fishlegs. Hiccup is a bit unusual for a Viking in that he is more inclined to use his brains than his brawn to solve his problems. He's not really a wimp mind you, he just doesn't believe in the usual rough-and-tumble stuff that every self-respecting Viking berserker seems to delight in. This, of course, does not necessarily endear him to his muscle-bound and brawling peers, but he eventually gets things done.

at any rate, here are a few Dragonese phrases that might come in handy should you ever stumble into a dragon one of these days.

** Nee-ahh crappa inna di hoosus, pishyu.
(No poo-ing inside the house, please)

** Mi Mama no likeit yum-yum on di bum.
(My mother doesn't like to be bitten on the bottom.)

** Pishyu keendlee gobba oot mi freeundlee?
(Please would you be so kind as to spit my friend out?)

** Doit a wummertime.
(Let's try that again.)

have fun reading these gems!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Justin Bieber on Vanity Fair

justin bieber is gracing the February edition of Vanity Fair magazine.

i guess it's no secret why every little thing he does (real, implied or imagined) is immediately reported on print or online. for some reason, every time one of these tidbits enter my orbit, my reactions just go into overdrive: exasperation, amusement, derision, and bafflement.

of course, there's no denying that justin bieber has achieved a few things that only a handful of his peers can boast of. and the fact that he is on Vanity Fair should speak volumes about his sway among his delirious fans -- and yes, even his detractors.

in some quarters that could both a bane and a blessing.

and wait, it looks like Justin Bieber's Nail Collection is also a big hit among shoppers. reports have surfaced that his signature nail polish line have sold out in 3000 Wal-Mart stores over the holidays. good grief.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

bentos to die for

all right. first off, i'll have to say these bentos are so freakingly awesome, it's almost a crime to eat them.

i'd been staring at these mouth-watering gastronomic creations for the past few minutes now, trying to control the drool from spilling out. it's almost beyond me why anyone would spend time to whip up these staggering dishes and then expect people to eat them just like that -- and i mean that in a good way.

for lovers of mecha anime, here's a yummy treat for you.

the thought of actually eating any of these tempting dishes almost has a barbaric ring to it. it's like stomping on a cuddly, helpless puppy or spitting on Tweety Bird or something.

to cap off this visual and epicurean feast, i am also including a Miyazake-themed bento (My Neighbor Totoro). fans of Hayao Miyazaki's work would appreciate this, i'm sure.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

How to Train Your Dragon (book)

i was idling my time away last Sunday (i was waiting for the traffic to clear so i could go home in relative peace), so i stopped at Booksale for a quick browse. after 15 minutes i grew bored and was about to leave when i glanced in a corner and saw this book (How to Train Your Dragon).

it was still in relatively good condition, which was probably why it caught my attention.

it wasn't the type of book i'd normally check out, but for some reason it called to me. i opened a few pages, and much to my surprise i was actually chuckling before i even finished a page. this rarely happens to me, so i jumped a few pages more and was promptly beguiled by several pages of illustrations inside — no they weren't particularly good or even eye-catching. but the clumsily drawn, stick-like figures (bad spelling and all) blended well with the humorous way the story was laid out.

How to Train Your Dragon is presented as a translation (originally in old Norse, according to its playfully imaginative author, Cressida Cowell) of the memoirs of a famous Viking chieftain, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III (yes, that's his name) -– specifically on how he progressed from being an undersized but sensible warrior wanna-be to a still-undersized but moderately acceptable Viking hero by training his own undersized, unremarkable and ornery dragon (which he calls Toothless -– go figure).

This book is basically geared for male juveniles but grown-ups with an overdeveloped sense of humor will also appreciate its concept and humor (both slapstick and implied).

with characters endearingly named as Hiccup (son of the chieftain of the Hairy Hooligans), Thuggory (his counterpart in the Meathead tribe), Gobber the Belch, Snotface Snotlout, Dosgbreath the Duhbrain, how can you go wrong? anyway, if you're looking for mindless fun and are fond of Viking culture, How to Train Your Dragon (HTTYD) is right up your alley. enjoy.

NOTE: of course, everybody now knows that this amusing book has already been adapted into film (starring Gerard Butler, Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, etc.) by DreamWorks -- it is one of the top boxoffice earners for 2010 after all. however, there's a world of difference between the movie and book versions of HTTYD. and although i loved the film, i would have to say that the book version has a unique brand of attraction that will probably never translate well into film.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

TPS makes a box

how to make an eye-catching box without spending a lot and getting frazzled in the process? let my friend PseudoShrink, whose eclectic range of interests is an unending source of local wonder, show you how...

okay, so this is the finished product. the real nuts-and-bolts details i will leave to TPS, who really likes to do these things.

for a more detailed step-by-step discussion of how a few simple items had morphed into this box, check out this link. and if you have time to spare, you can browse around her site for interesting recipes, quirky how-to's, kikay stuff, useful recommendations and her refreshingly candid take on things.