Monday, March 31, 2014

I Can And Do Choose My Books By Their Covers.

If you go book browsing and see something you like but there are several different editions, do you take the cheapest one, or do you go for the more exotic and colourful one that will add colour, size and general variety to your bookshelves?

For example: Wes Anderson's new movie...

... has a dedication at the end to the writings of Stefan Zweig. Zweig is one of those early to mid 20th century writers who have been rediscovered of late (late 10 years or so) and make you wonder how many other exceptional writers are out there, their stars dimmed only by time and the lack of making it to school reading lists, who deserve to be cherished and read for all time but are lost in the seemingly exponentially growing flood of newer books and the screaming white noise of the best-sellers. As a Stanislaw Lem character pointed out in His Master's Voice "Today, in the flood of garbage, valuable publications must go under, because it is easier to find one worthwhile book among ten worthless than a thousand among a million."

Wes Anderson has no hesitation in admitting his indebtedness in this interview in the The Telegraph. Very impressed.

Several of the smaller presses (twee hipsters?) have done a sterling, sterling I say, job of bringing a lot of these literary needles out of the, um, literary haystacks, and thence to my jaded attention at last. They seem to have been publishing his English translation since the mid-noughties. Also Penguin have had an edition of his novella Chess out since only 2006 - which I read a few years ago as it was referenced in some other book about chess somewhere.

So there I am in Kinokuniya Singapore, killing time while a cheap leather worker fixes my expensive but friable Timberland belt, and having seen the movie last weekend, and having been perked up at the end of this pushing at an overdose of twee movie when that "Based On The Writings Of Stefan Zweig" dedication at the very end came up (my friend noted a change in my attitude) and I thought, Respect!, and therefore I had to grab another/all of his books then and there to read on next week's trip to Australia ("work" - am expecting maybe 6 hours face-time with customers over four days.)

But which editions to buy? There was a New York Review of Books copy of Journeys To The Past, but I had the NYRB copy of The Post Office Girl in my bag. NYRB books all look the same - a rectangle just above middle of the front, plain colour spine, fonts always the same. Cute when you only have a few spread here and there, but they are starting to create their own bloc European in my library, particularly in the Russian section (Victor Serge [unread], Andre Platinov [reading], Vasily Grossman [unread], Yuri Olesha [read]). Reminds me of the fields of Penguin orange that once were triumphant across the shelves when I was a beginner bibliophile.

So instead I chose two collections of his short stories/novellae from Pushkin Press (who have comprehensive list of alternative/forgotten/ignored geniuses as well): Letter from An Unknown Woman and Amok because the covers rock!

Cute, different, uncool, awesome, heh? Bound, as it were, to be great.

It's no quite the same as using the jockey's colours to bet on horses, but it's fun and breaks up the monotony.


Friday, March 28, 2014

The Eyebrows Have It

If you type "Electric hair trimmer Philips" into Google -> Images, you will not see the model I am about to talk about, but no matter. I'll paint words pictures around its ingenious construction and you'll get the true essence of its form.

It's an electric hair trimmer made by Philips.


Why, is that not enough? OK, it has a detachable comb, duh, but there is only one comb! Because with this model, and this is why I was trying to get a stock image for you, the bottom part of the handle is also a rotating switch which adjusts the setting for the hair length by varying the retraction of the curved spindle which is a key part of the comb, where it attaches itself by being inserted into, or invaginating, the body of trimmer. It does not have multiple combs, is my point. One comb, and by turning the bottom section around, it goes in or out. Setting goes up by threes.

The more recent model - a sliding comb adjuster! Must have!

I no longer use it to trim my head however. When I first bought it, I'd use the No 3 setting, go all over the skull, cropping, buzzing, several times. Down this side twice, that side twice, up the back, up the back again, around this ear, around that ear, at the temples and the few hairs left up top, once over all again, then I'd take the comb off and I'd guesstimate the area back at the neck and sweep down under my collar area to take all that zombieness away.

But of course I'd do an amateurishly crap job at it, always leave little tufts here and there, despite my most meticulous efforts. If I tied little bits of yellow or white ribbon to those tufts, I might look cute but instead they make me look like a klutz who doesn't even know how to drive an electric hair trimmer! Keep him away from important things, people! Like complicated medical devices!


There is $10 haircut salon/cupboard that I use now at the small shopping mall about 15-mins walk away from E@LGHQ. They do an excellent job, although I have issues with the lack of a symmetrical method of one of the ladies. She doesn't do exactly the same motions when she is doing my right side than she does on my left side. It's not a handed-ness thing, she just approaches the sides with a different pattern of trimming, a random technique. I'm always thinking that she's going to miss out on that little tuft of almost invisible hairs at my temple, just forward of my upper left ear. She nails it on the right side, but not the left. She comes close, but her strategy for the left side is asynchronous. She passes just near it, hovers above it, below it. Until finally, often on the last sweep across, she eventually clips the ones she has missed. It's just that I am sitting in the chair, nothing to do but think about this. I call it people watching. Not judging, watching.

Once a month, usually on a Saturday (Sunday might also be good), I buy a ciabatta at Cedele, have a hazelnut-choc spin and two wholemeal-raisin cookies at Spinellis, then get my hair-cut and day-dream about losing weight while the buzz of the hair trimmer white noise blurs away most of my other cares - except for haircut technique symmetry. Most other Saturdays (or Sundays), when I am in town, I buy a ciabatta, have a hazelnut-choc spin and two wholemeal-raisin cookies, and don't get a haircut, but maybe pop down for a massage at the local R&T-shop instead.

How was your weekend?

Thursday (yesterday now), I had a haircut because I had flown in from Bangkok on Saturday evening, and on Sunday had gone to watch Wes Anderson's new one, The Grande Hotel Bucharest (the fact that is was based on the writings of Stepan Zweig sent me back to The Post Office Girl , looking for resonances) and it had thrown my schedule. So I was working, ahem, from home, ahem. And that's why, today, I got my hair-cut.


You will be pleased to hear that I do use my own electric hair-trimmer, that money was not completely wasted, but only for my goatee (setting at No 6, once a fortnight is enough) and (once a month, after the hair-cut - not needed after the R&T) when I set out to tame the politician-like prominence of my bushy eyebrows...

So this afternoon, I did my overdue goatee, shook out all the trimmings, and I set the control at the bottom of hair-trimmer to No.12 - an adequate level to correctly balance the brow's bushiness between "gone-to-seed" and "youthfully trim" without appearing PR-advisorly sculpted - and I started on the left eyebrow. No need to look in the mirror...


At first there was the sound - like a large strip of velcro being ripped open. Then came the sensation of tugging, my eyebrow's skin being pulled across - this sensation should not happen, there was something WRONG...

NNNNOOOooooooo! I shut the cabinet door to look at the mirror...

I saw it then on the bathroom bench, right in front of me, the comb. I had detached it from the hair-trimmer to shake out my goatee hairs! I had not replaced it! OMFG! It was unmodulated clipper-teeth biting into my eyebrow! Setting 0!


Now you can be supercilious if you like, but I think this might turn out to be a crucial, positive, day in my life.

Not only do I know appear as if I was auditioning for the role of Grima Wormtongue in LOTR - played with such malign oleaginousness by Brad Dourif, who shaved off his eyebrows to appear more sinister (not dexter?) - but I can finally accept that something has been affecting my cognitive facilities.

Yes, it must be the meds! Drugs, medications, chemicals! Out with them. Rid my body of these "scientific" toxins in tablet form, these capsules of calamity and contra-indications. [Aside: it's the side-effects!]

I can't keep doing things like this to myself. Can't keep losing things, forgetting things like all the things I forget or lose. Names, faces, phones. Lost, forgotten. Those painkillers are killing me. It must be painful dear readers, for you to have observed this gradual (some might say precipitous - I was coming from a great height) decline in mental and physical dexterity (and sinistry. I am ambidextrous, I mean ambisinistrous.)

It must be the meds!


Sorry? What did you say?

That I have been blogging about my cognitive incompetencies, my inability to deal with inanimate objects or with WiFi connections, with my brazen obtuseness in trying to comprehend simple instructions on various mobile phone operating systems, that I have documented all these things in over 10 years of Expat-At-Large, from way back when? Way back before I found a competent, dogged and persistently experimental (avoid Cimbalta people - ciabatta is OK), but eventually successful neurologist who gave me all these meds and made the pain go away? Mostly. (Neuropathy, people, in case you have forgotten, of the feet. Worst kind of all - idiopathic.)

Really? I'd forgotten that.

Ah OK, so it's not just the meds. I've been a bumbling fool forever it seems. Yes, that's true. Those thoughts, those horrible memories do come to me, they come too often. And I cringe now, to think back on some of my foolish bumbles. Oh fuck yeah, I've done some clumsy and some stupid things.

But not many as clumsy and stupid as this...

Brad Dourif - separated at birth


Saturday, March 15, 2014

FB and E@L and Blog

A rough guess. Mmm, say, 97% of the crap E@L posts on Facebook he should be posting here. It's the stuff he USED to post here. (And LOOK, he using capital letters instead of the full suite of his HTML HTML HTML HTML HTML tools for astounding typographical legerdemain.) He once would have posted here.

For the life of E@L, he don't know why-y, but it's less and less frequently that he can get into the long-winded mode he preferred back when he was writing... here. Sometimes he'd sit down to start with some words floating out there - an idea, a feeling, a thought bubble, an article in the NYT - and then he'd think of the many hours it would take him to get his thoughts out of order, to make himself seem confused, and to wrest from the clarity of his expressions at least six types of ambiguity - id est, to the E@L rambles that you, his long-gone readers, once appreciated, or claimed to. He'd be up 'til 3 (it's only 1;15 now), rewriting, reposting, looking for funny pics.

Not to mention carefully going through the post to insert ellipses (is that possible?) and to mix up leeters like as ifm cuondt; ptye.


Fuck Facebook. It's ruined E@L's blog. Cut, paste, insert witticism, post, return, LIKE!


And ditto goes for any fiction stuff, or even any reworking of the Bruce / Expat-Angst / Gone-Troppo type material. He just can't start. He can't concentrate. [And fuck! About four devices just went *ping* because someone has made a move in WWF.]

It's all too big. There's so much effort that needs to be made, there's so little belief that whatever might come of it, it would matter at all, let alone that it will be any good or that anyone would care.

(No, that is not a plea for people to contradict E@L and say, "Oh, but we care!")

And there's seems to be so... little... time.


Ah, perhaps he'll stick to Facebook after all. Instant gratification. Epigrammatic, telegraphic.


Or perhaps this post is un cri de couer from the worn sleeve that... his damaged heart... from... Yep. Or maybe an ejaculation of intent from an erstwhile impotent soul, an afflatus of aspiration/inspiration, a clearing of the enthusiasm pipes...

So, he has a week in the middle of nowhere (Lampang, Thailand - yes! E@L's thoughts exactly), let's start again and see if we can't revive the philosophically ailing output of


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