Saturday, February 28, 2009

Spring is finally here!

Well, not quite. But people milling outside a second-hand book flea market is a pretty good sign.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Short Book Reviews

Here's a round-up of the books I've read since my last post on books I read:

1. Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt. The book's subtitle, "The Banality of Evil" captures most of what the book is all about. Adolf Eichmann, who was responsible for the transport of more than six million Jews to their deaths in concentration camps, struck Arendt as ordinary - he was not intelligent, he betrayed no strong passions, and was actually quite forgettable. His instrumental role in the Holocaust boggles the mind. An extremely good read. For the law fiends, Arendt has an interesting take on the legality of the Jerusalem tribunal. For the history fiends, she has a very informative discourse on how the different European countries reacted when the Nazis ordered the deportation of their Jews.

2. The White Tiger, Aravind Andiga. At first it seems like a very well written discourse about class struggle, but on reflection one of the best books I've read that dwells on amorality as an effect of poverty. It has left me still pondering. Read it.

3. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon. A good narrative about the Golden Age of Comics and Jews in pop culture. I don't know much about the art of comic books, but I found this very fun to read.

4. The Gathering, Anne Enright. The most depressing of the books I've read this month. Set against the backdrop of the narrator's loss of a sibling to suicide, insights into familial relationships are interwoven with their dark stories. Really good and no-nonsense writing, but bleak.

5. March, Geraldine Brooks. Have you read Little Women? This book is the story of the absent father, who joins the Union army and undergoes painful experiences of his own. Mr. March is made very human, and as depicted, can conceivably be the father of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. The lyrical writing has officially made Ms. Brooks one of my favorite contemporary authors (but I preferred her first book, A Year of Wonders, more).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Back from New Yawk

We're back in The Netherlands. No pictures of New York; my 6 month old camera died just as I was taking a pretty picture of a dish of John Dory with Black Truffles at a restaurant called Winter. It was too bad the camera couldn't even live a few more minutes to allow me to take a picture of the Broccoli and Cheetos (yum!) side order.

The city in which I previously discovered Swiffers, on-line grocery shopping, crazy people on the subway and some part of myself still looks the same. It doesn't feel the same though - the people are subdued and anxious, and you can feel it in the crisp winter air. There's less aggressiveness, more thoughtfulness, and the daily whoosh that gave the city its energy seems to be gone.

Still, my previous stomping grounds entertained me for the two weeks or so that L was stuck in meetings. There are many new pleasant memories:

- Riding the Metro North to visit GA and her kids, S and T, in Connecticut. 
- Seeing AY for the first time since we graduated from high school, walking around Midtown East with her, buying candy for her daughter and drinking lots of coffee.
- A wonderful seafood dinner at the Fulton with L's professor and his wife.
- Spending the afternoon with ME at the Whitney, Serendipity and some random dive.
- Korean fried chicken with BL and JL, and because L and I had to go back for more, with Auntie E.
- Introducing Filipino food to our Indian friends based in New York at Cendrillon.
- Hanging out with my cousins at a bar in Times Square.
- Barbecue with DA, MA, JE, JL and BL at Hill Country.
- Having delicious Malaysian food with 3 of my high school classmates in, of all places, Little Italy.
- Valentine's Night double date with L, BL and JL, at my favorite restaurant in New York City (Brooklyn is still NYC!), Tanoreen
- Random lunch with L at the best fast food chain in the world, Chipotle.
- Buying 8 new books at the Strand for dirt cheap prices.
- Eventually tiring of fine dining, ditching a restaurant reservation, staying at CC's apartment and ordering take out from Holy Basil. 

Many thanks to JL and BL, with whom we stayed a few nights. You guys are great.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


L and I are currently in London, lounging around in Heathrow airport while waiting for our connecting flight to New York. 

While L is "wine tasting" the wines (and whiskeys) here, I have endeavored to make full use of the free wi-fi (Heathrow's Terminal 5 is really nice) by uploading some of my videos onto youtube. Check it out, if you are so inclined. 

To whet your appetite (or not, I'm really just looking for something to do; I'm almost done with my book and there are still eight hours left of flight time), here's a video I took while on a tuk-tuk, while passing through Little India in Penang, Malaysia:

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Recommended Podcast and TV Show

I'm a fan of Ira Glass and "This American Life". I listen to the weekly podcast, and I've been watching the show as well. It is, at its core, simple story-telling about extraordinary things that happen to ordinary people, and as with any discussion about the commonplace, the resounding themes are universal (for the non-Americans, don't let the title turn you off).

L and I have been watching the second season lately, and the shows are powerful. Last night, we watched an episode about an Iraqi who, curious to know what Americans think about the Iraq war, travelled all around to the Mid-West U.S. looking for random conversations. Here's a snippet:

The most poignant, though, was the season ender about the lives of seven people named "John Smith", starting with an 11 month old John Smith, and ending with a 79 year old John Smith. Unfortunately, I couldn't find it on youtube. Instead, here's Ira Glass on David Letterman, on how he became a vegetarian:

Monday, February 2, 2009

OMG! It's February!

I woke up today and realized that it's 2 February 2009. Didn't I just finish blogging about our Christmas vacation? L and I have been living in The Netherlands for five months, which means I've been house-wife-ing for five months. This realization has led me to a semi-existential crisis, which has led me to list down the top ten reasons why I think I have not been wasting my time in The Netherlands:

1. I now know 50 essential Dutch words. Dank u wel! Korting! Schoenen!
2. I am learning French. J'ai vignt-deux ans!
3. I have read a lot of books, and have seen quite a number of movies. (And they're not all trash! I promise!)
4. I lost weight, gained weight, and lost weight, resulting in a net weight loss of two lbs. (Yay!)
5. I now know how to slice cheese properly. (Hence net weight loss of only two lbs.)
6. I am extremely up-to-date with world news (CNN is the only fully English language channel we have).
7. I have new friends. (And they're real people!)
8. I have gained some facility with cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and steaming/ironing. (I'm on my way to becoming a real woman!)
9. I have been to more museums in five months than any other five month period in my lifetime. (And I haven't even been to Madame Tussaud's!)
10. For the first time since high school, I now regularly get eight hours of sleep every night. (A good side effect is that I no longer fall asleep while reading contracts. Though it might have been because I was reading contracts.)

Whaddya think? Not bad for five months.