Book : Silly Signs (published by Arcturus Publishing Limited, 2012)

Most signs are boring, efficient and simple and give information with a minimum of fuss. In this collection of silly signs and ridiculous notices from around the world – from crazy commands and weird warnings to those with double meanings and mad spellings – are all sorts of funny examples. Some of these are :

  • No Exit From Burial Site;
  • Curved Yellow Fruit 40c;
  • You Are Leaving The Ski Resort. You Can Die. This Is Your Decision;
  • Justin Payne Dentistry;
  • BMUP (painted on a road);
  • SOTP (painted on the road);
  • SHCOOL (painted on the road);
  • Mountain-climbing Only. Can Not Go Buying Black Eggs Shop;
  • Vacancy In Heaven. Reservation Required;
  • Parking For Drive-Through Service Only;
  • Drive Slowly See Our Village. Drive Fast See A Judge. Speed Limits Strictly Enforced;
  • Warning: Please Look Under Your Vehicles For Penguins (sign at Table Mountain National Park);
  • Sorry For Your Uninconvenience;
  • No Trespassing Without Permission;
  • Very Suspicious Supermarket (sign outside a supermarket in Taiwan);
  • The Best Place In Town To Take A Leak (sign outside a car workshop);
  • My Father Was Killed By Ninjas. Need Money For Karate Lessons (cardbpard sign held by a young man on a street);
  • No Littering: Violators Will Be Fine;
  • Police Arrest Men In Socks (Times headliner);
  • Vehicles Must Not Be Parked In The Toilets;
  • Penguins Only Beyond This Point;
  • Our Public Bar Is Presently Not Open Because It Is Cl;osed;
  • Please Do Not Try To Squeeze Child-sized Hats Onto Adult Heads!

Book : 100 Sounds To See by Marsha Engle

Anybody who loves photography would love this book. In fact, the blurb says, ” This wonderful gem of a book rings clear and true like a well-tuned piano.”

With all the distractions that are part of our waking hours, it is no wonder that the simplest sounds of an ordinary day are taken for granted. Sounds like

  • the crackling of ice,
  • the pattering raindrops on a rooftop,
  • the rumbling of an approaching storm,
  • the rustling of leaves,
  • the whistling of a tea kettle,
  • the clicking of a lock,
  • the zooming of planes overhead,
  • the ringing of the telephone,
  • the closing of a door,
  • a ball bouncing,
  • a ting of the spoon in a cup,
  • a splash of a puddle,
  • the wash of an iincoming tide,
  • the crunch of an apple,
  • the scratch of a pencil

are so commonplace that we seldom – if at all – take time to appreciate them. Yet, when the ability to hear these sounds are taken away – as in Marsha Engle’s case – we are humbly reminded of their value.

William J Huber helped to capture 100 pictures of the sounds Marsha Engle could no longer hear in stunning photographs. This unique breathtaking book is a treasure that reminds us of an important life lesson: what is so normal is really quite profound. It reminds us that in this world of stress, fear and anxiety, the subtle, soft and easy-to-miss sounds are really rich and nurturing. As we listen to our world, we are listening to our life.


Book : Age Happens by Bruce Lansky

This book contains humorous quotes, jokes, rhymes and cartoons about growing older. The words of wit and wisdom are about

  • why youth is wasted on the young,
  • the value of expeerience,
  • the meaning of life and
  • why death is really not all that bad.

Some of these are:

  • On Youth – Life would be infiinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of 80 and gradually approach 18. (Mark Twain);
  • On Middle Age – Middle age is when you know all the answers and nobody asks you the questions. (Bob Phillips);
  • On Romance – A diplomat is a man who always remembers his wife’s birthday but never remembers her age. ( Robert Frost);
  • On Children – Children are a great comfort in your old age, and they help you to reach it faster, too. (Lionel Kaufman);
  • On Life – Life is what happens to you while you are making other plans. (John Lennon);
  • On Experience – Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes. (Oscar Wilde);
  • On Staying Young – The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age. ( Lucille Bell);
  • On Aging – Getting old has its advantages. I can no longer read the bathroom scale. (Brad Schreiber);
  • On Looks – Women are not forgiven for aging. Robert Redford’s lines of distinction are my old-age wrinkles. (Jane Fonda);
  • On Old Age – If you live to be one humdreed, you’ve got it made. Very few people die past that age.(George Burns);
  • On Health – The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not. ( Mark Twain);
  • On Death – If you survive long enough, you’re revered – rather like an old building. (Kathering Hepburn)

There are more than a hundred pages of these, some of which are downright funny. Among those quoted are Woody Allen, Susan Anderson, Warren Beatty, Kate Beckinsale, Irving Berlin, Mel Brooks, George Bush, Winston Churchill, Bill Crosby, Billy Crystal, Doris Day, Ellen DeGeneres, Bob Hope, Aldous Huxley, Bette Midler, Jack Nicholson, Arnold Palmer, Ronald Regan, Joan Rivers, Chris Rock, Charles Schulz and Jerry Seinfield.

Book : Virginia Woolf

This beautiful life portrait written by Zena Alkayat and illustrated by Nina Cosford is sensitive and revealing. There are many quotations by other publications of the life of one of 20th century’s greatest authors and is moving, evocative and generous in its approach.

It is interesting to note that this well-known author was born Adeline Virginia Stephen on 25 Jan 1882 in England to a family filled with books, letters and mementos. She read and wrote obsessively, loved to take long walks and listen to the waves breaking, and adored playing cricket and was an ace bowler. Her mother died when she was 13, and her father died 7 years later. She was insolable until she co-founded the Bloomsbury Group with one of her brothers. This was made up of friends who were writers, thinkers, artists, an art critic and an economist. She began reviewing books, writing essays and articles, and was a formidable critic. the Blooomsbury Group produced avant-garde work such as hosting an exhibition about the Post-Impressionists that included radical and anti-formal artwork by Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gaugin and Matisse. London was shocked, amused, outraged and challenged.

Virginia and her brother conceived a communal living plan and Leonard Woolf, a writer and intellectual who had worked seven years in the Civil Service was one of the tenants. Virginia and Leonard married on 10 August 1912. Virginia became suddenly ill after the honeymoon and was on the brink of a breakdown by 1913. She took an overdose of sleeping drugs in September that year but survived, though she suffered a relapse before 1916. (Her first book, The Voyage Out, published during this period, took 15 years to sell 2000 copies.) She wrote Night and Day in 1919 and Jacob’s Room in 1922; and ventured into designing book jackets and set up a printing press with her husband and published works by the likes of E M Forster, T S Eliot and Kathering Mansfield.

Back in London in 1925, Mrs Dalloway was published and its form was an ambitious and adventurous experiment, and fiction was never the same again. In 1927, she wrote To The Lighthouse, an ode to her parents. This was quickly followed by Orlando (1928) which contains the line, “Nothing thicker than a knife’s blade, especially happiness from melancholy”. Her other books include

  • A Room of One’s Own (a provocative essay on women’s place in the male-dominated literary history);
  • The Waves (1931) (a poetic meditation on the inner voice following six friends over a lifetime; it was Virginia’s experiment with rhythm in place of plot, and a homage to her Bloomsbury clique);
  • The Years (1937) (it took five years to write and sold 43,909 copies in the first six months)
  • Between The Acts (1941) (which contains the line, “Books are the mirrors of the soul”.) This book was published posthumously because Virginia committed suicide on 28 Mar 1942. She was 59.

I wish I had read something similar to this book (published in 2015) before watching the biopic (starring Nicole Kidman) about a decade ago.

Book : 47 Things You Can Do For The Environment by Lexi Petronis

After attending a very interesting library group discussion on Climate Change, I borrowed this book among all the others on display because it caught my attention with its small and compact size, yet gives us practical tips on what we can do to make a difference.

The planet is in trouble. Everywhere, people talk about how air pollution is causing the earth’s climate to change , how logging and oil-drilling are ruining natural habitats, and how trash is overflowing into our waterways and so on. This book tells us facts, tips and creative ideas on how to make eco-responsible living simple and accessible.

Some of these simple, yet meaningful, ways we can help to protect the environment on a daily basis are:

  • When shaving, use soap and water instead of shaving cream as shaving cream containers are not easy to recycle; use 100% recycled and recyclable razors;
  • Choose front-loading washing machines as they use up to 50% less water;
  • Don’t just toss out old shoeboxes (can be an art supplies box or make-up box etc), old half-used spiral notebooks ( can be a new scorecard for Scrabble), old shopping bag (can be a new gift bag) or an old suitcase (can be a lounge pad for the pet cat or dog);
  • Reuse paper before tossing it into the recycled bin (eg, using the backs of old photocopies);
  • Switch off the computer and turn out the lights when not in use;
  • Use a refillable and washable mug or thermos at coffee shops;
  • Reuse old clothing, recycled plastic bags, and
  • Reduce the use of cars and petrol.

All these simple tips help us realise that we must create a lifestyle that reflects our love for the environment and do something to help protect it on a daily basiss. We must treat the Earth as a precious place to be treaded gently upon, and handed down from one generation to the next.

Book : Life 101 by Geoffrey Day-Lewis

This is an illustrated guide on useful everyday tips and basic etiquette such as

  • Learn to follow instructions;
  • Never interrupt when you are being flattered;
  • If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.

There are 101 witty, wacky and practical words of wisdom, all wonderfully illustrated with unique photographs.

Other useful tips include

  • Never be too proud to ask for help;
  • Think outside the box;
  • Do one thing at a time;
  • Life isn’t always fair;
  • Learn to share;
  • Keep an open mind;
  • Take time to read books;
  • Grow old gracefully;
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up;
  • Forget insults, remember compliments;
  • Be a good listener;
  • The key to life is balance;
  • Take an interest in the arts;
  • Be a team player;
  • Do one good deed every day;
  • Take time out for yourself;
  • Be observant; and
  • Above all, just be yourself!

Book : Fast Track by Julie Garwood

Another book by #1 New York Times bestselling author whose books I pick out from the shelves without even having to read the blurb! Garwood is a critically acclaimed author with thirty-six million copies of books in print. I’ve enjoyed several of her previous books, including Hotshot, Sweet Talk, The Ideal Man, Sizzle, Fire and Ice, Shadow Music, Shadow Dance, Killjoy and Mercy.

Fast Track is a story about a high school chemistry teacher in Chicago called Cordelia Kane. She was raised by her father from the time she was two years old becuse her mother died in a car crash. When he dies of a heart attack, she is devastated and is even more shocked to discover the truth about her mother. To find out more, she travels to Sydney. She is then drawn into a volatile family drama. To prevent Cordelia from telling the truth about her mother, attempts are made to silence her. Yet it is a surprise when the real culprit behind these devious plots is revealed.

Being a romantic suspense thriller, there is of course a sub-plot involving Cordelia and one of her best friends’ brothers. So, besides famiily secrets and an attempted murder, the book is also about the friendship of three girls and their relationships with their brothers and husbands.

Garwood’s novels are easy to read and light-hearted, a good way to relax and recharge. I look forward to her next book.

Movie : Trumbo

What attracted me to this biopic is that it is about the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Roman Holiday (1953), The Brave One (1957), Spartacus (1960; based on a book by Howard Fast) and Exodus (1961; adapted from Leon Uris’ novel).

Trumbo was a member of the Hollywood Ten, a group of allegdly Communist-sympathising artists persecuted in the 1950s and 1960s. He was a radical because he loved to fight, yet he lived like a rich guy (with a lovely ranch at Beverly Hills).

When Trumbo was saying goodbye to his family at the airport, on his way to Kentucky Jail, he told his children, “Your mother needs to laugh at least once a day”. From his cell, he wrote to his wife that “I don’t count the days or hours. I count the seconds. .. My fear is what will happen when I get out. For my family. For my country… In all these, I’m the luckiest unlucky man alive, because of you and the family.”

Released from prison after about eight months, he wanted to write a screeplay about crime as he wanted “to do the one thing that people say we can’t”. Just like builders who build, writers write. They “write what matters”, and “all that matters is us”.

Relocating the family to Highland Park in California the following year, the song The Glow Worm is played. This is most appropriate as one character commented, “I hate this man; he’s a genius”. When his neighbour sent him an anonymous card calling him a traitor, and graffiti was sprayed acorss his garden walls, and the swimming pool was filled with garbage, Trumbo explained to his children that “there are many angry and ignorant people in the world that seems to be increasing in numbers”.

Because Hollywood is a “devious land”, Trumbo had to use fake names or fronts to work on his writiings. When it was made public that Trumbo was the man behind all the Oscar-winning screenplays, he was inducted to the Writers Guild of America in 1970. He gave a very emotional speech which included

  • The black list was a time of evil and no one who survived it came untouched by evil;
  • Each person reacted according to his nature. It was a time of fear. No one was exempt;
  • It will do no good to search for heroes or villians. There are only victims;
  • I realise what I’ve put my family through. It’s unfair;
  • What I say tonight is intended to heal hurt that has been inflicted on us over the years.

The song Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do by Billie Holiday comes on at the end of the speech and continues into the end credits. How appropriate!


Movie : Brooklyn

True to its publicity poster, this movie is a gem, “a joy from start to finish”.

Based on Colm Toibin’s novel of the same name, the story is about a young Irish girl called Eilis (played by Saoirse Ronan, whom I’m watching for the first time and am very impressed by how well she conveys her character, not only in how well she speaks her lines, but also with her face and body).

It is about Eilis’ journey to Brooklyn, about her emigration, about her homesickness, about what it means to belong, about discovering what she needs and the necessity to let her old self die so that a new one can emerge.

Two statements stand out:

  • You have to know what you need and where you are going.
  • Treat every customer like a friend so she’ll be back again. Don’t just try. It’s something you must do.

The music used throughout the movie is lovely and appropriately used; whether it’s piano or violin solo, contemplative or soothing, pensive or melancholic, light-hearted or stately. There are many Irish and traditional songs throughout and the two classical pieces that I love the most are:

  • J S Bach’s Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring (when Eilis married her Italian boyfriend at Brooklyn’s Registry of Marriages);
  • Pachelbel’s Canon In D at a friend’s wedding in Ireland.

Book : SG BLUE SPACES in Seasons

This book is published by the PUB (Public Utilities Board, Singapore’s national water agency) in celebration of Singapore’s 50th anniversary. It is divided into four sections: Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer. Each section consists of photographs to capture the four seasons in this beautiful city.

The photographs depicting Autmn are mostly of trees that are almost devoid of leaves, or trees whose leaves have turned yellow, orange, red or brown. Some of these photographs must have been taken during the drieset spells in Singapore because usually even fallen leaves are green around the island.

Winter in Singapore is depicted by artificial snow that can be found at some shopping malls around Christmas. The cooler and wetter months are the island’s equivalent of the cold season.

Spring is that seasosn that is most welcome in Singapore because it brings joy and hope; the leaves seem greener and the flowers seem lovelier, with the water and sky clearer even. It ia rhe season when we make the most out of what we have.

Summer signifies fun and outdoors. There are many photographs of water sports and our waterways and beaches.

Do we have to wait another 50 years to see another wonderful collection of photographs in a book? I hope not.