Saturday, 5 September 2009

Neil Gaiman's Personal Library.

 
Neil Gaiman's personal library is like... well... it's like a library. A really nice and cosy library.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Tunku Halim's Speculative History.

Tunku Halim has an intriguing post which starts with the sentence:
"On 26 April 1994, in an elaborate ceremony at the Istana Negara, Tuanku Simon Mackay was appointed as Malaysia’s 10th Yang DiPertuan Agong"
 What follows is the best speculative writing I've read this year. Tunku Halim, I want more!

Friday, 28 August 2009

REVIEW: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami.

A review I wrote ages ago finally got published in The Star. Well, that review had a crazy journey from my keyboard to print, but I shall not dwell on the matter.

This review was published in The Star on 28 August 2009.

Marathon chronicles
Review by TED MAHSUN

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Author: Haruki Murakami
Publisher: Harvill Secker, 180 pages

PEOPLE don’t usually associate running marathons with writing novels. Not Haruki Murakami. For this award-winning Japanese author, the act of training and eventually taking part in a marathon is no different from the arduous task of writing a novel.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is Murakami’s attempt to coagulate and combine his thoughts on these two seemingly unrelated activities into one book. As a result, this book ends up being a memoir as much as it is about running and writing.

The book is divided into chapters that are essentially journal entries, chronicling Murakami’s progress as he prepares himself for the New York Marathon in 2005. The journal entries note his moods, thoughts and observations while he trains and how he reconciles the lessons learnt during the training with the art of writing.

For example, Murakami notes that pacing is important in writing novels, as much as it is in running, and he uses this to carry his “enthusiasm” over from day to day: “Right now I’m increasing the distance I run, so speed is less of an issue. As long as I can run a certain distance, that’s all I care about. Sometimes I run fast when I feel like it, but if I increase the pace I shorten the amount of time I run, the point being to let the exhilaration I feel at the end of each run carry over to the next day. This is the same sort of tack I find necessary when writing a novel. I stop every day right at the point where I feel I can write more. Do that, and the next day’s work goes surprisingly smoothly.”

Before I had read this book, a writer friend had told me that he didn’t think it was that good. He felt that it was an essay extended too far and too long. Having read the book, I can tell you that what my friend said was true, in a way. The book does feel a little padded in some places. There are sections where Murakami goes wildly off tangent. While he’s talking about running, he might wander off to talk about the weather and global warming. It doesn’t help that that particular passage doesn’t reflect the best of his writing: “There were torrential rains in parts of the country, and a lot of people died. They say it’s all about global warming. Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t. Some experts claim it is, some claim it isn’t. There’s some proof that it is, some that it isn’t.”

This wishy-washiness could be the translator’s fault but I doubt it. I personally like this sort of thing, even if it is a bit strange and badly worded. To me, this sort of strangeness is exactly what appeals to me in a Murakami book, be it fiction or non-fiction. He’s a master of strange non-sequiturs and to be honest, I’m glad this book is not just a dry book about running with some thoughts about writing thrown in for good measure.

It’s great that the weirdness that is the trademark of his novels can also be found in this non-fiction.

But the real treasure in this book is Murakami’s thoughts on writing (although running fans might disagree). I’m always fascinated with what published authors have to say about their writing and here I am not disappointed. Murakami thinks of literature as “... something more spontaneous, more cohesive, something with a kind of natural, positive vitality. For me, writing a novel is like climbing a steep mountain, struggling up the face of the cliff, reaching the summit after a long and arduous ordeal. You overcome your limitations, or you don’t, one or the other. I always keep that inner image with me as I write.”

This is a difficult book to recommend. Sure, marathon fans will love reading the details of Murakami’s training and preparations. But they might be turned off by the detours into writing and other wild tangents. Likewise, budding authors would love to hear Murakami’s thoughts on writing but would they wade through all that talk about running? Perhaps not.

This book is obviously not for everyone. But it might just be the fix loyal Murakami fans need right now since there’s no word yet when (or even whether) there will be an English translation of his massive, double-volume 1Q84, released to great acclaim in Japan in May.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

What's Up Ted.

Just a small update for you. I've just had the craziest week... and signs are pointing that the weeks to come are just going to get crazier.

Probably not as crazy as winning RM50,000 though, which I (along with my fellow team members, Ash and Lina) did.

A couple of months ago, me, Ash and Lina decided to take part in a little competition. All we had to do was send in a proposal to design a computer game.

No problem. Except that I was doing (and am still doing) the CELTA course, an intensive English teacher training course. I ended up having to accomodate sleepless nights just to get the presentation for the game proposal, my lesson plan for a class the day before the game presentation AND an assignment done in time.

So! The lesson here: burn the midnight oil if you want to end up holding a mock cheque like this:


Hurray!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

3 Language-related Things Which Really Annoy Me.

1. Excuse, please.
Guys, it's "excuse me, please." Every time I hear this on the train I have to fight the urge to reply, "excuse who?" and not move aside.

2. Pronouncing the word "liaise" as "lie-us".
It's pronounced "lee-eh-zz", not "liars". I swear if I hear someone call me a liar(s) again I'm gonna punch him/her in the ear.

3. Could of, should of, would of, must of
It's could've, should've, would've, must've. Why the hell is that so hard to get???

Signed,
Ted
Your Friendly Neighbourhood Grammar Nazi

Monday, 1 June 2009

Lesson: Commemorative Covers are Lame.

Well, I got the first day cover that commemorates the 35th anniversary of the establishment diplomatic relations between China and Malaysia that I mentioned a couple of posts ago.



Except that it's not a first day cover, it's a commemorative cover, which is a slightly different beast. I guess I should read the news article properly next time!

The difference between the two is that first day covers are specially-designed envelopes stuck on with specially-designed stamps, and marked with a specially-designed postmark. A commemorative cover is a specially-designed envelope... and that's it.

All in all, it's an unremarkable affair, especially if you're used to well-designed first day covers (not that Malaysian first day covers are well-designed... but I digress). Oh sure, a commemorative cover has a stamp printed right on to it but that's just like an overglorified aerogramme. Lame.

On the whole, what a disappointment. I haven't been collecting first day covers for years and was hoping to get back into it with a really cool cover but I guess this was not to be. I was expecting much more effort for something like this. Hopefully the next one will be more interesting but I doubt it. The next theme planned is "Conservation of the Environment" which isn't exactly an inspiring theme.

My Resolution for July.

Waking up before 11am would be nice. Also might get me in less trouble at work.

UPDATE:
Epic fail. Woke up at 10 minutes to noon.

UPDATEUPDATE:
I can no longer tell the difference between June and July. DOUBLE EPIC FAIL

Friday, 29 May 2009

Commies in our Midst.

I have a little time on my hands again! Time to blog! Can't be bothered to continue where I left off the previous time because I don't remember I wanted to talk about now so I'll just mention something strange I saw in the online edition of a widely read national newspaper.

The recent issue our esteemed politicians have gotten themselves in a fit concerns The Red Menace, more specifically, Chin Peng, leader of the ageing and no longer scary Communist Party of Malaya, and whether he can be forgiven and allowed to return home to our country to die.

With that in mind, here's a screenshot of today's local news page of said national newspaper:


Take note of the news items in the red boxes. While our benevolent leaders don't seem to want to forgive the communists closer to home, they seem to have no qualms with getting in bed with Chin Peng's sponsors.

It all becomes even more weird when you take into account that the newspaper in question here is called "The Star", which employs a very communisty red for its masthead.

Having said that, the first day cover mentioned in the second news item looks rather nice. I recently topped up my standing order deposit account with Pos Malaysia, so I'm hoping to get it in the mail quite soon.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

I didn't bother thinking of a title.

Well, I'm back.

I thought I'd better start blogging again before some part of my brain starts sprouting cobwebs or something. The reason I stopped blogging was things were starting to become a little out of control in my life and so I had to put blogging on the back burner while I...

...goddammit. I was just called into a meeting. I'll finish this rant whenever.

Monday, 20 April 2009

RIP, JG Ballard.

I didn't intend to blog again so soon, but news of JG Ballard's death kind of shocked me. I know I should've expected it, since he's been ill for some time now, but I guess I was hoping he would make it.

Haven't read Crash, but I watched the Cronenberg movie and thought it was really bizarre. Loved his more conventional––if one can truly say that about him––science fiction novels though.

Okay, back to being on hiatus.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Celebrating World Book Day with BookXcess.

Received an email from BookXcess:
Hi Ted!

We're having a super promotion in conjunction with the World Book Day celebrations. Even our latest shipment arrived in time for our latest sale! :-D Award-winning books with 20% discount, free books for nett purchases above RM20, RM20 vouchers for nett purchases above RM200... there's just so much going on at BookXcess! We would truly appreciate it if you can help spread the word in your blog to your esteemed readers and share the joy of reading more for less at BookXcess! Attached is the e-poster we have created for the occasion.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend! Hope to see you soon at BookXcess!

Warmest regards,
Andrew & Jacqueline Yap


Click on the poster to enlarge.

Sorry this isn't a proper post or anything. Just don't have the time to concentrate on blogging at the moment.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Still Alive.

I'm still breathing! But this blog seems to be on life support. Well, you know the story ... busy and all that.


Hopefully I'll be back in full force around March or April.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

HOWTO: Write in a World Full of Distractions.

Cory Doctorow, of Boing Boing fame and author of quite a number of SF novels (look 'em up 'cos I'm too lazy to google them for you), has an article up on Locus Online on how to deal with the distractions of the Internet while writing.

He doesn't believe in switching it off--the most obvious route--but has a number of useful tips to keep those distractions at bay. Some of them are obvious, like switching off your IM and carving out a regular writing routine, but the one I find most useful is his cautioning not to research:
Researching isn't writing and vice-versa. When you come to a factual matter that you could google in a matter of seconds, don't. Don't give in and look up the length of the Brooklyn Bridge, the population of Rhode Island, or the distance to the Sun. That way lies distraction — an endless click-trance that will turn your 20 minutes of composing into a half-day's idyll through the web. Instead, do what journalists do: type "TK" where your fact should go, as in "The Brooklyn bridge, all TK feet of it, sailed into the air like a kite." "TK" appears in very few English words (the one I get tripped up on is "Atkins") so a quick search through your document for "TK" will tell you whether you have any fact-checking to do afterwards. And your editor and copyeditor will recognize it if you miss it and bring it to your attention.

Follow the link to read more!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

It is the New Year! Time to write about porn.

Yes! What an excellent idea!

Unfortunately, though excellent it may be, it is only impossible for me to do so. Therefore, permit me to pass you an equally excellent link: Soiled Doves of the Old West.

And if you're wondering what prompted this non sequitur of a post, I will have to say I've changed genres in my reading. For the past year or so, I've been telling everyone who's bothered to listen to me that I was in my Science Fiction phase and most of my reading has been SF-related. I guess it's safe to say I've since switched to reading Westerns...

...yeah, I know. Not an improvement on my literary tastes, but I rewatched Sergio Leone's masterpiece, Once Upon a Time in the West recently and it dredged up a longing inside me for the Wild West.

Am currently reading Louis L'amour's Flint, which is enjoyable but the writing keeps raising my inner editor's warning sirens (Character perspectives change mid-paragraph! Repetition!). I also found True Grit by Charles Porter at BookXcess which I bought immediately and will read once I've finished Flint.

Currently Available E-Books

Available from: Amazon | Smashwords | iTunes | Google Play | Kobo
Available from: Amazon | Smashwords | iTunes | Google Play | Kobo
Available from: Amazon | Smashwords | iTunes | Google Play | Nook