Seize the Opportunity

Watching you walk away,

humming your favourite song,

I feel a swell in my heart:

the air feels different now.

There’s a sense of relief

with every step you take;

My heart has been still too long

like I’d wasted my life.

I’ve been given a chance

to face it all bravely;

I’ll look back with pride one day

that I had taken charge.


Singaporean playwright Jean Tay’s Plunge is the first play in this collection of Southeasts Asian Plays. This is recommended reading at the FUNdaMentals book club, to follow up on the other plays she’d written, in particular Boom which was discussed.

This play was written several years before its theme was developed and expanded in Boom. (A review was posted in this blog, dated 25 Mar 2017.) It shines satirical light on the Asian Economic Crisis, a topic close to Tay’s heart as she was then working as an economist. It reveals Singapore’s sophistication on the global market.

I did not enjoy Plunge as much as Boom because I’m not into Economics and Currencies.

Loving You

Like a kite in the wind,

Your words touched my heart;

Like a kite without string,

I became lost.

Your love is behind the clouds

like those in the sky;

There’s no beginning

and no end.

Like a sea that’s calm and blue,

You bring little love;

Like the fallen leaves,

love gets buried.


The rain fell;

My tears rolled.

The night is cold;

I am like ice.

I know you’ll be fine;

And you’ll forget me.

Worries, pain and

lonesomeness too.

I should’ve known:

it’s all fate.


When I read a Philip Roth novel some years ago, I thought that would be my last encounter with the author. Until I stumbled upon this 2015 movie, not realising at first that it is based on another of his novels. Just as well; because I would not have enjoyed reading the book. The DVD cover simply states that it is an “extraordinary and timeless tale of lost love and innocence”.

The main characters are Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman) and Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon). The brilliant Jewish, serious, intense, good-looking and hardworking young man arrives at a small, conservative college in Ohio (from New Jersey where his parents own and run a butcher shop) and becomes infatuated with a beautiful classmate who is mature and vastly more experienced (reminding me of Sylvia Plath with her complexity, strength and vulnerability); and their mutual attraction sparks a torrid encounter with consequences involving the different cultures, religious life and social life.

I enjoyed the music by Jay Wadley more than the story, especially the inclusion of two of my favourite pieces: Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4 in F minor Op 36 and Liszt’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No 1 in E flat major.


Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death

The FUNdaMentals book club will be discussing the short story The Shadow of Death by James Runcie over two session next month. I’ve just read it and am surprised at how much I enjoyed it despite the miniscule font size.

32-year-old Canon Sidney Chambers (the Vicar of Granchester) has never intended to be a detective but stumbles across a baffling case after a funeral when a woman voices her suspicion that the recent death of a Cambridge solicitor Stephen Staunton is not suicide, as has been widely reported, but murder. This woman is Pamela Morton, mistress of Staunton.

Canon Chambers is used to people confessing their sins but an accusation of murder is different. Why would anyone want to kill Staunton? What is Chambers supposed to do? As a priest, everything is his business; it is not his first case of adultery, never mind murder. He brings this to the attention of his friend Inspector Geordie Keating, who is not amused.

The other characters in the story are Staunton’s widow, Hildegard and his secretary Annabel Morrison.  I guessed the murderer quite early on, but I appreciate the way Runcie wove in the details and suspense.

Two things that I particulary like are the mention of two of the three great ‘B’ German composers, J S Bach and J Brahms (the other is L van Beethoven). These tie in nicely with the plot as well as Pamela who is of German descent, as Bach is also from Leipzig (where she came from) and his reknown The Well-Tempered Clavier (considered the “Bible” of music) is where she turns to for consolation on her Bechstein (one of the more presigious German brands at that time) upright piano; in particular the Fugue in B Minor (the final piece in the first book of WTC) because it is stark, angular, dramatic and mysterious as it uses all twelve notes of a chromatic scale as it is built to a conculsion that is as natural as  it is inevitable. Brahms’ German Requiem is a popular  funeral march, a very moving journey from pain to comfort.

The other thing I like is Runcie’s use of metaphor, especially the one in which tupperware is used to show how life is comparmentalised like things that are kept fresh in these little neat air-tight containers.

One quote I like very much is: We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.



What is the price

of growing up

of facing life

of meeting you?

What’s there to say

if something’s wrong

if you just leave

if dreams shatter?

Flowers blooms and die;

Fallen leaves too.

The clouds in the sky

changes all the time.

Love has no limits

but once it dies

it’ll never return,

unlike fresh blossoms.


This 2015 movie is based on the novel “Don’t Point That Thing At Me” by Kyril Bonfiglioli, co-produced by Johnny Depp and stars Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan McGregor.

Despite being hailed as “a priceless masterpiece” on the CD sleeve, I don’t recall it being shown in a cinema here and I soon realise why.

Lord Charlie Mortdecai (Depp) is an art dealer (actually a known trafficker of stolen art) who thinks he’s an accomplished fencer and a fair shot with the weapons, and loved and respected by all who know him. He has a high-maintenance wife Johanna (Paltrow) who was once the love interest of Inspector Alastair Martland (McGregor), who first met Mortdecai at Oxford as undergraduates.

After a priceless painting is stolen, and the art restorer murdered, Mortdecai and his old rival Inspector Mortland meet again, with the Inspector giving Mortdecai the job of getting the painting back. What follows is a madcap, globe-trotting chase from Hong Kong to Paris to London (home) to Moscow and Los Angeles. A very big group of stunt performers and stand-ins are involved, so are the teams involved with the special and visual effects and the camera crew.

What I like most about this movie is the music. The musical language is very organic. Mostly original compositions (except two – Two Princes (by Spin Doctors) & Johanna (by Miles Kane) – by Geoff Zanelli and Mark Ronson, including the song ‘Heart’s A List’), the music is beautiful and extraordinary. The talents of Zanelli and Ronson is phenomenal: the amount of creativity in creating styles by combining different genres (eg harpsichord-driven {Baroque} modern-day funk; Western instruments with the Chinese pipa) and the magical effect is intangible.

My Love

Believe in me;

Believe in forever.

I’m always here;

I’ll never walk away.

Be happy, dear,

on your journey of life.

Use your wisdom;

Be strong and determined.

We have a home

that’s full of warmth and love.

Fate brought me you:

You’re the love of my life.

Small Great Things

A fan of Jodi Picoult who reads her books as soon as they’re available, I had waited a long time to get my hands on this book from the public library.

This latest novel deals with racism in America: Ruth Jefferson is a nurse of African-American descent who is ordered not to touch a newbon whose parents are white supremists. In an emergency, Ruth went against orders, the baby dies and she is charged with murder. Kennedy McQuarie is the white lawyer assigned as Ruth’s defender.

I have great admiration for Picoult: it is evident that before she writes each novel, she does extensive research and interviews so that the situations and characters come across as authentic. And I like that she writes from the points of view of all the main characters. After reading her novels, the reader becomes more aware of the topic dealt with. This book is written from the point of view of Ruth (a Black nurse), Turk (a skinhead father) and a public defender (a well-intentioned white lady who would never consider herself to be a racist).

Most of us think racism is synonymous with the word prejudice, but racism is more than just discrimination based on skin colour; it is also about who has institutional power. Just as racism creates disadvantages for people of colour that make success harder to achieve, it also gives advantages to white people that make success easier to achieve. When it comes to social justice, the role of the white ally is not to be a saviour or a fixer but to find other white people and talk to make them see that many of the benefits they’ve enjoyed in life is the direct results of the fact that someone else did not have the same benefits. White power groups believe in the separation of the races and think they are soldiers in a racial holy war. White supremists dress like ordinary folks; they blend in, which is a whole different kind of terror.

The title, “Small Great Things”, is a reference to a quote often attributed to Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr: If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way. Both Ruth and Kennedy have moments where they do a small thing that has great and lasting repercussions for others. It is through small acts that racism is both perpetuated and partially dismantled. This book inspires the readers to think about ourselves, and make us aware of the distance we have yet to go when it comes to racial awareness. The things that make us most uncomfortable are the things that teach us what we all need to know.

The following are some of my favourite lines from the book:

  •  Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.
  •  Every baby is born beautiful. It’s what we project on them that makes them ugly.
  • People need to put a certain face on for the rest of the world…
  •  In this world, the people with power own other people.
  • The piano keys are black and white, but they sound like a million colours in your mind.
  • Racism isn’t just about hate. We all know biases, even if we didn’t think we do. It’s because racism is also about who has power… and who has access to it.
  • Freedom is the fragile neck, a daffodil, after the longest of winters. At the heart of freedom, hope beats: a pulse of possibility.
  • If people can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.
  • There is nothing more selfish than trying to change someone’s mind because they don’t think like you. Just because something is different does not mean it should not be respected.

I know writing is difficult, but I hope the next book from Jodi Picoult will not be too long in coming!