Fifty Bags That Changed The World

This book is published by Conran Octopus Ltd in association with the Design Museum in London, with contributions from Robert Anderson (who wrote the text) and photographs reproduced from other museums, galleries, institutes, media and newspapers.

Each of the 50 bags described include its era and is accompanied by a full-page (sometimes two) photographs. The bag is at once the simplest, the most complicated and most emotion-laden of accessories. It is simple because it seerves as a vital tool for living; it is complicated because it fulfills so many different functions that its diversity is also bewildering, and it is emotion-laden because it can be deeply expressive of a woman’s life – as a companion, a receptacle of sorts, a status object and a means of self-display.

Some of the diversity and ingenuity of bags are:

  • Satchel (1950s) – Its classic image is evocative of the innocence of our school-days. It is simply a ‘small bag’ and was part of the British traditional school uniform. An example of the contemporary variation is the kind that women in the 80s carry to work that is stylish and graceful (eg those by Donna Karan in America) and the kind of ‘classic’ bag (eg designed by Bill Amberg in US in the 90s) that became a luxurious necessity because of the quality of its craftsmanship, the leather and the details. It has also evolved as the messenger bag, the traditional streetwear popular in the 90s.
  • The iconic 2.55 Bag by Coco Chanel is thus named because it was created in Feb 1955. It was a deeply personal creation which was also revolutionary in its practicality, enabling women to carry a handbag with their hands free.
  • The Kelly Bag (1956, Hermes) combines demure simplicity and unabashed luxury and is the epitome of classis style. It was said that Princess Grace Kelly carried this bag in front of her to disguise her pregnancy. A little more upscale than this is the Berkin Bag (1984). It has become the world’s most coveted handbag becuase of its five-year waiting list and is perhaps the most expensive in the world. Named after the actress and singer Jane Birkin, purportedly because she complained about the size of her handbag when the contents of her handbag were scattered across the floor of a pane when she met the co-chairman.
  • Black Nylon Prada Bag (1978) comes with a hefty price and was designed by Miuccia Prada (b 1949), a former Communist feminist and student of mime with a PhD in political science. It has become an object of absolute discretion, rooted in the traditions of northern Italy and would develop further to be a fashionista must-have with its handbags, totes and rucksacks.
  • Manbag/Purse (late 1990s) – Since time immemorial men have carried bags, eg the businessman had his briefcase, the workman his toolbox, the bicycle courier his messenger bag. In the late 1990s the fashion industry spotted the potential for a new market. Today, the manbag comes from brands like Louis Vuitton and Topman. These usually take the form of a soft leather satchel or an upscale messenger bag; but would we see men carrying the clutch (once spotted on David Beckham) or the male evening bag?


This interesing 2004 movie boasts a stellar cast – Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle (also one of the producers), Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, Brendan Fraser, Terrance Howard, Chris Bridges, Thandie Newton and Ryan Phillipe.

In the movie, many lives cross one another. One issue is how people think and talk and examine their motives. No matter what age we are, there will always be consequences to whatever we do. It is about the things that people would not say, the things that are below the surface that are trying to bubble up.

It is an investigation into power; about how power play an important part in people’s lives (especially in Los Angeles); about real life. There is a lot of characterization, and other themes include loving, heartbreak, tragedy, beauty and harmony. In every moment and at every turn of the story, there is a sense of fun and anticipation.

There is also a lot of music (more than a dozen songs), but the story is so engrossing that I only recognised some traditional songs (like christmas carols) and some rap music.


This 2011 movie stars Guy Pearce (as Snow, an ex-CIA operative) and Maggie Grace (as Emile Warnock, the First Daughter). It is a Sci-Fi movie set in Washington in 2079 about secrets of a space programme.

Maybe because I’m not a fan of sci-fi, I found the characters in ridiculous situations and the attempted humour very dry. There are lots of action sequences, scary sequences and big visual effects; but none impressed me. What I thought was the redeeming feature was that the music used is very brassy and percussive, which totally suits the vision of the future.

Friendship Is…

Written and designed by Lisa Swerling and Ralph Lazar, this 2015 publication contains 500 reasons to appreciate friends, like

  • sharing heartbreak
  • finding magic in the everyday
  • doing absolutely nothing but having the best time
  • growing separately without growing apart
  • dropping everything in a time of need
  • being kindred spirits
  • looking out for each other
  • being annoyed by the same people
  • quiet companionship
  • teaching each other life skills
  • doing little favours for each other
  • riding the peakes and valleys together
  • unwavering support

The drawings (mainly stick figures and ‘simple’), though not colourful, are so cute that they bring a smile to me and make me wish I could do ‘simple’ drawings of a similar kind.

Sons of Fortune

While rearranging my book shelf the other day, I saw Sons of Fortune by Jeffery Archer, a book that I read more than a decade ago. I decided to re-read it before bringing it to the Book Exchange Corner at the public library.

The story revolves round a set of dizygotic twins separated at birth and spans more than four-and-a-half decades across three generations. Besides relationships among a multitude of characters, there are secrets, rivalry, deceit, treachery, murder, courtroom drama and politics (everywhere, including educational and public institutions, and the world of banking and finance).

Though I was reading it for the second time, I found the book simply absorbing, engrossing and unputdownable. the turns and twists of fate make it a terrific page-turner. There are seven books in this 503-page volume titled Genesis, Exodus, Chronicles, Acts, Judges, Revelation and Numbers, which correspond to the main and sub plots. This unique style results in one of the best storytelling techniques I’ve come across.

It is such an enjoyable read that I’m sure if it’s made into a movie, it would be both captivating and entertaining; though it would be near-impossible to depict certain underlying significance on the big screen

Love Stinks

This little book by Adams Media is filled with more than 300 quotes from famous personalities like Virginia Woolf, Oscar Wilde, Margaret Thatcher and Oprah Winfrey. Some of these are;

  • The heart is made to be broken. (Oscar Wilde)
  • It is impossible to love and be wise. (Francis Bacon)
  • Take away love and our world is a tomb. (Robert Browning)


  • Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean. (Maya Angelou)
  • Love is poison. A sweet poison, yes, but it will kill you all the same. (George R.R. Martin)
  • When a man says he does not want to speak of something he usually means he can think of nothing else. (John Steinbeck)


  • If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world. (Mercedes Lackey)
  • My dad used to say that living with regret was like driving a car that only moved in reverse. (Jodi Picoult)
  • Show me a person who has never made a mistake and I’ll show you show you someone who has never achieved much. (Joan Collins)


  • All great and precious things are lonely. (John Steinbeck)
  • I would rather walk with a friend in the dark than alone in the light. (Helen Keller)
  • The dread of loneliness is greater than the fear of bondage, so we get married. (Cyril Connelly)


  • All life is just a progression toward and then a recession from one phrase – ‘I love you’. (F.Scot Fitzgerald)
  • To wear your heart on your sleeve isn’t a very good plan; you should wear it inside, where it functions better. (Margaret Thatcher)
  • The perfect love affair is one which is conducted entirely by post. (George Bernard Shaw)


  • Everything in life that’s any fun, as somebody wisely observed, is either immoral, illegal or fattening. (P.G.Wodehouse)
  • Flirting is a woman’s trade, I must help you practise. (Charlotte Bronte)
  • If you love two people at the same time, choose the second. Because if you really loved the first one, you wouldn’t have fallen for the second. (Johnny Depp)

Moving On

  • If you’re going through hell, keep going.  (Winston Churchill)
  • You cannot find peace by avoiding life. (Virginia Woolf)
  • Turn your wounds into wisdom. (Oprah Winfrey)

These words of redemption (and rage) for break-ups, rejections and broken hearts are wise, funny or sad, and they connect the reader to everyone else who has ever had their heart broken. (And that’s everyone!)

Middle of Nowhere

To give myself a break from reading for long hours, I decided to watch this DVD (2008) that a friend passed to me some time back.

Grace Berry (played by Eva Amurri) is a bright and beautiful 19-year-oldl with an ugly credit trust. She is denied a student loan because her mother Rhonda (played by Susan Sarandon) had not paid off the debts on the credit cards in Grace’s name. Grace has to work at a water amusement park to make money for school as she wants to be a doctor. She meets Dorian Spitz (played by Anton Yelchin), another lifeguard, who deals with drugs on the side. At first, Dorian makes Grace just wait in her car while he carries out the transactions. Later, he suggests she joins him in the business to make more money. As Rhonda insists there’s no need for Grace to go to college, Grace agrees to drug trafficking using the ruse of delivering coffee to clients.

Grace has a younger sister, Taylor (Willa Holland), whom Rhonda hopes to groom to be a model like she once was. However, Taylor stumbles upon the fact that her father committed suicide because Rhonda had an affair with his brother. She also found out that Rhonda had squandered the inheritence  her father left for his two daughters. The sisters are mad at their mother. Grace reveals that she sells drugs to save money for college and Taylor chops off her long and luscious hair and joins Grace in pedalling drugs.

In the meantime, Dorian finds his birth mother who was forced to give him up for adoption because she had been only 15. Disappointed by her cold reception, Dorian returns home to his uncle but is forced to leave home for good when his secret stash of illegal drugs is found. He decides to make a deal with a rival and gets badly beaten up in exchange for a large sum of money. He gives the money to Grace for college in exchange for her father’s beat-up car. The movie ends with them parting ways.

This is not one of the best movies I’ve watched; in fact, I was able to complete several sudoku puzzles during the movie. I’ve never watched Eva Amurri and Willa Holland before, and have only a vague idea of who Anton Yelchin is. Neither did I recognise any of the 19 songs in the movie. The best thing I can say about this movie is that Susan Sarandon’s performance is top notch, as always.

Chasing the Dime

I have seen Michael Connelly’s books on the libraries shelves countless number of times but was never tempted to pull any out. Somehow, the spine of this one called out to me. I read the blurb and praise for it  and decided to borrow it when I realised he is the author of The Lincoln Lawyer, on which a movie was based, and which I quite enjoyed.

The protagonist is Henry Pierce, a chemist who founded Amedeo Technologies to build a computer out of molecules. At the beginning of the novel, Henry is still obsessed with Nicole James, with whom he has just broken up. Nicole was the Director of Competitive Intelligence and the company’s Public Information Officer and treated the job like a job whereas Henry treats his job like it is his life.

Henry moves into a new apartment but the first time he checks his phone messages he discovers that someone had the number before him. The messages are for a woman named Lilly and Henry is drawn into Lilly’s world, a world of escort services, websites and secret identities. Lilly is in some kind of danger and Henry abandons his orderly life in order to save her, someone he never met.

Alas, when Henry finds her, she is in a freezer in a unit in a storage facility. Because he is a scientist, Henry pieced all the happenings from different angles and, using some basic case logic, realises that Lilly was murdered simply as way to get to him. Now, putting aside the horror of the present moment, he wonders why he is the target and why the elaborate plot. Could it be something else? And who are the perpetrators?

When all is revealed, I can only say that Connelly is extremely clever and entirely credible. Still, I think his novels would be more exciting if I can watch them on the big screen.

Paws for Thought

This pictorial book by Assistance Dogs Australia (a charity) contains lots of beautiful and colourful (full-page) photographs of cute and adorable puppies, all accompanied by humorous, meaningful and inspiring quotes.

These incredible dogs, trained in specialised commands – such as loading a washing machine, opening and closing doors, pressing the pedestrian buttons at lights, and improving communication, empathy and motor skills of a child diagnosed with autism – make a dramatic difference for their owners in giving them a better quality of life.

Every single page is a delight and a feast to the eyes! Some quotes which accompany the lovely photos are:

  • Finding the meaning of life takes years, but innocence in life can be found every day.
  • Waiting and watching brings wisdom – listen and learn and do so without resentment. Patience is golden.
  • Life can be scary but don’t even let a shadow of your former self prevent you from achieving greatness.
  • The world is round but everyone in the world has a different view so appreciate everyone’s unique outlook.
  • Friends come and go in life, but sleep soundly knowing family will always have your back.
  • The paws of a pup make our hearts melt with devotion.
  • Some things you carry around in life might be uncomfortable, but don’t ever hesitate to lighten the load and ask for help.
  • Work hard, play hard; but at the end of a long hard day, don’t feel guilty about putting your feet up!
  • Whether you have a close family or not, there will always be someone’s shoulder somewhere you can lean on.
  • Life gets busy; we all grow up, but don’t forget to make time for the people you love the most.
  • Never lose sight of the bigger picture, but most importantly never forget to embrace each day – run, laugh, dance and live in the moment.
  • Take time to appreciate life; look up, look around, treasure the moments you have and love the life you live.
  • Dogs make us appreciate what really matters in life – love, affection, loyalty and family.
  • If the struggle seems too hard, remember why you keep holding on. Don’t ever give up on your dreams.
  • Life flies by so quickly, don’t neglect to take time out for yourself. Reconnect and appreciate the silence.
  • Sometimes life brings sadness, but happiness and success will always triumph.
  • We may not always be confident in life but never be afraid to look around for guidance.
  • Take pleasure in the simple things in life – unleash your curiosity and your imagination and creativity will flow!

I must look out for more such wonderful books.

Weird Composer Facts

I’ve been reading Rhapssody, a newsletter of the SSO Community Outreach Department for a long time, and the most recent issue contains some weird composer facts that I feel I must reproduce here:

  • Arnold Schoenberg suffered from Triskaidekaphobia – a fear of the number 13. Interestingly, he was born on 13  September 1874, and also died on 13 July 1951.
  • Ludwig Van Beethoven was said to be extremely picky about his coffee, and had to count out 60 coffee beans each time he had a cup.
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Camille Saint Saens were good friends with a similar talent – they both were able to pull off splendid imitations of ballerinas!
  • Before any of his concerts as a pianist or conductor, Edvard Grieg would touch his lucky frog figurine he kept in his pocket for good luck.
  • Erik Satie was known to eat food that was only white, such as eggs, sugar, salt, coconuts, rice, turnips, white cheese and certain kinds of fish.

I hope to read about more such weird facts in future issues!