Archive for the 'literature' Category

hoisted by their own petard

I just read that the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign conspired to promote Donald Trump as the presidential nominee of the Republican Party (here and here), as they thought he wouldn’t stand a chance against her. The mainstream media proceeded to give Trump so much free airtime that it undoubtedly benefited him, propelling him straight to the White House. Talk about backfiring big time! Hopefully all of the Democrats are still slapping themselves silly at this moment.

This whole drama reminds me of the Harry Potter series. The antagonist, Lord Voldemort, learns of a prophecy which predicted that ‘the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies‘. Two baby boys fit the description: Neville Longbottom and Harry Potter. Voldemort chooses to seek out out the latter first, thereby igniting an epic saga of events that eventually results in his destruction by Potter’s hand.

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keng bos?

Learning a new language is always…… painful. But now at least I can say, ‘Teng bong! Yo (name). Yo papiah Inggres, China, Singgres kon Kristang. Mutu grandi merseh!’

Translation: ‘How are you? I am (name). I speak English, Chinese and Kristang. Thank you very much!’ In Kristang, of course!

NB Title of this entry means ‘Who (are) you?’ Sophie’s World, a primer on Western philosophy, begins with the eponymous heroine opens her mailbox to find a note with the question ‘Who are you?’ I read that book when I was 14 and enjoyed it tremendously.

a metaphor for our turbulent times

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

JRR Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

you learn something new every day

Chinese translator of Don Quixote dies at 105

BEIJING • Chinese playwright, author and translator Yang Jiang died yesterday at the age of 105, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told Xinhua news agency.

Madam Yang was fluent in English, French and Spanish, and her translations of classics such as Don Quixote and French picaresque novel Gil Blas remain the definitive versions for Chinese readers.

Born Yang Jikang in Beijing, Madam Yang studied at Soochow University and then Tsinghua University in the 1930s. She was married to Mr Qian Zhongshu, well-known for his novel Fortress Besieged that depicted the lives of Chinese intellectuals in the 1930s. Mr Qian died in 1997.

Madam Yang’s death was the top search term on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo yesterday, Associated Press reported.

The Straits Times, 26 May 2016

Read the following brief and misread ‘picaresque novel‘ as ‘picturesque novel’ at first, and wondered what kind of book it was. Did a double take and realized it was a totally different word!

on co-operation

How to Co-operate

People are drawn together because some tasks are too big for one person. They say too many cooks spoil the broth, but they also say many hands make light work. The trick is having one person work on the soup and the rest on the electrics.

This was extracted from How to Be Normal by Guy Browning, which is a collection of short essays all titled ‘How to (Do Something)’. I didn’t really get its humour at all, and made myself finish it anyway. I thought the above snippet was the funniest part of the book! :P

cinquains

Operating Clean Room continues this weekend. Was clearing my secondary school stuff when I came across two cinquains written in Chinese for my CCA when I was in Secondary 1. (Cinquains, a type of five-line poem, were invented by American poet Adelaide Crapsey in the early 1900s. Read some of her cinquains here.)

兔子
可爱 机灵
吃草 跳跃 挖洞
活波的小东西
绒毛娃娃

飞机
闪亮的双翼
起飞 滑翔 降落
在云中飞翔
滑翔机

Upon review 16 years later, I would rewrite the second poem thus, to remove all the repetitive words and make other improvements:

飞机
明亮的双翼
起飞 滑翔 降落
在云中航行
科学奇迹

white horse neighing in the west wind

But no matter how brilliant, how learned Habolamu was, there was one puzzle he would never be able to decipher, because even the all-encompassing Quran contained no answer: if the person you loved deeply, deeply loved someone else, was there anything that could be done?

I have never been gladder to announce that my translation of 《白马啸西风》 (Bai Ma Xiao Xi Feng, or White Horse Neighing in the West Wind), a wuxia novella by Jin Yong, is finally DONE!!! At long last! How I’ve waited for this day!

I started working on the piece after my ‘O’ Levels and posted my first instalment to the SPCNET Wuxia Translations forum on 18 November 2003. I had thought my work would take days, if not months, to finish- but who knew! It ended up taking way more time and effort than I had thought!

Continue reading ‘white horse neighing in the west wind’

you learn something new every day

Quite some time ago (in February 2014, actually, so this YLSNED is extremely belated), I read The  Vogue Factor by Kirstie Clements, who spent 25 years at Vogue Australia, with the final 13 years as editor. Naturally, the book chronicles her gradual rise and eventual fall at the magazine. In her memoir, Clements mentions that Singapore had its very own Vogue in the early 90s…… now this was news to me! So I googled and found this!

i don’t dream of jeans

This afternoon, I was reading Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington, who was creative director at American Vogue for more than 25 years (she left her position in January). The book was interesting enough but suffered from a lack of juicy details.

I had reached a section where the writer was waxing lyrical about Tina Chow looking stylish in pants, when suddenly I realized that I hadn’t worn jeans for more than five years! The last time I wore a pair was in 2010. Since then I have lived almost exclusively in skirts, sometimes shorts and the occasional pants. But it isn’t surprising for I have never been a big fan of denim……

NB Title is a pun on I Dream of Jeannie.

this is just to say

This Is Just To Say
William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

rags to riches

It is astonishing how short a time it takes for very wonderful things to happen. It had taken only a few minutes, apparently, to change all the fortunes of the little boy dangling his red legs from the high stool in Mr. Hobbs’s store, and to transform him from a small boy, living the simplest life in a quiet street, into an English nobleman, the heir to an earldom and magnificent wealth. It had taken only a few minutes, apparently, to change him from an English nobleman into a penniless little impostor, with no right to any of the splendors he had been enjoying. And, surprising as it may appear, it did not take nearly so long a time as one might have expected, to alter the face of everything again and to give back to him all that he had been in danger of losing.

Little Lord Fauntleroy, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, is one of my most favourite classic novels. It tells the story of poor American boy Cedric Errol who is summoned back to England to become the heir of his aristocratic grandfather. Most notable is the ridiculous prejudices that the Americans and Englishmen in the book have for each other – I found those descriptions rather amusing, considering how far each country has come. Then again, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

something from the ocean and something from the hills

Read this book in Secondary 1. 15 years on, this part has stayed with me……

Beginning to understand what “something from the ocean and something from the hills” was all about, Totto-chan had doubts whether the lunch her mother had so hastily prepared that morning would be approved. But when she opened the lunchbox, she found such a marvelous lunch inside, it was all she could do to stop herself shouting, “Oh, goody, goody!”

Totto-chan’s lunch contained bright yellow scrambled eggs, green peas, brown denbu, and pink naked cod roe. It was as colorful as a newer garden.

Continue reading ‘something from the ocean and something from the hills’

death is nothing at all

Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

Henry Scott Holland, The King of Terrors (sermon)

dreams

Dreams that do come true can be as unsettling as those that don’t.

Brett Butler, Knee Deep in Paradise

five ways to kill a man

Five Ways to Kill a Man
Edwin Brock

There are many cumbersome ways to kill a man.
You can make him carry a plank of wood
to the top of a hill and nail him to it.
To do this properly you require a crowd of people
wearing sandals, a cock that crows, a cloak
to dissect, a sponge, some vinegar and one
man to hammer the nails home.

Continue reading ‘five ways to kill a man’


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