More on Ondaatje – The Cat’s Table and The English Patient

Finished “The Cat’s Table”. It is pretty good too. Ondaatje is getting better at telling a story now, it seems. Overall i still like Warlight better.

But The Cat’s Table is unique because it talks about the 3-weeks voyage he had when he was 11, going from Ceylon to London, cross Arabian Sea, Red Sea and finally Mediterranean. Because it was an enclosed space, structure of the story resembles “Murder on Oriental Express”, and typical of Ondaatje, how there are moment of luxurious beauty (Kip and Hana admiring the mural painting in the post-war italian church with the help of climbing gear and a torch, Almasy and K at the cave of swimmers, Nathaniel and Agnes in the empty house with the grey hounds, Nathaniel and the Darter on the Thames at night, Nathaniel and his mom play chess in their glass house in the garden,…), in The Cat’s Table, the night when their ocean liner passed through the Suez Canal was breath taking, their first port of call at Aden, the ancient port city was also quite interesting.

I started re-reading The English Patient, and watched the movie again. I realized that i never understood Kip and Hana story because i never understood Kip’s final rage on hearing about Hiroshima, and it was probably also a major failing of the movie to alter it. At the time i was too taken with the Almasy and K story to pay attention to Kip and Hana. So i didn’t mind the Movie took out the real ending, which also made the Kip and Hana story so much weaker than in the book. Now looking back, i realized how powerful it was.
Ondaatje’s speech as he received Gold Booker for The English Patient

So wasn’t the ending of The English Patient, in which the Sikh Kip (whose relationship with the Canadian nurse, Hana, Ondaatje describes as being like “continents meeting”) drops everything and returns home when he hears of the bombs falling on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a failure of nerve? A reimposition of the nationalisms dissolved through the rest of the novel, where, as Kamila Shamsie put it: “Ondaatje’s imagination acknowledges no borders”?

“They can’t overcome,” says Ondaatje, who remembers that he found the last pages of The English Patient sad to write. It is too difficult for most people; and for Kip, especially, who in the nuclear glare sees suddenly that “they would never have dropped such a bomb on a white nation”.

Dark Times

I didn’t undertand Europe’s “Right to Forget” law until i read this article in the New Yorker back in 2014. Always meant to blog about it, but kept on forgetting. With yesterday’s election result, it is time i highlight this. All Tech companies should take notes and learn from Europe. They have been there.

THE SOLACE OF OBLIVION by Jeffrey Toobin, Sep. 29, 2014 Issues of the New Yorker
-In Europe, the right to be forgotten trumps the Internet.

in “Delete” he describes how, in the nineteen-thirties, the Dutch government maintained a comprehensive population registry, which included the name, address, and religion of every citizen. At the time, he writes, “the registry was hailed as facilitating government administration and improving welfare planning.” But when the Nazis invaded Holland they used the registry to track down Jews and Gypsies. “We may feel safe living in democratic republics, but so did the Dutch,” he said. “We do not know what the future holds in store for us, and whether future governments will honor the trust we put in them to protect information privacy rights.”

Pokemon Go

“Pokemon Go” first caught my attention right after the Dallas Police Shooting. Specifically this tweet.

And this was the screenshot embedded in the tweet.
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I kept on returning to this little story. Especially after i did a little read on what the game was. I liked it so much that i translated it into Chinese so i could post it on my WeChat.

The release of the game and Dallas Police Shooting coincided it. It was an coincident. But it was such a life saver. To see something so harmless and simple, yet it has the ability to bring the best out of everyone, seemed so appropriate in the midst of so much carnage, chaos, and craziness in the real world.

Sarah Jeong wrote a lovely article for New York Times: “Pokémon Go Connects Us to Our Cities and Neighbors“. I started following Sarah on twitter after she started live-tweeting the Oracle-Google java API trial. She was so into this game, initially i was merely watching her plan by following her tweets. She cracked me up when she started naming pokemons that she caught with Silicon Valley notables.
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I didn’t start playing until a week later, purely by accident.

I was having lunch with a few co-workers outside of our office building. They were wondering what Pokemon Go was. So i started telling them based on what i knew and pulled out my phone to show them. Only then did I realize there were SO MANY pokemons wondering around campus! I caught three while sitting there eating my lunch!

The New Yorker Digest 7/29/2013: Kayaktivist, Ask Ayn

I don’t usually read “Talk of Town” or “Shouts and Murmurs” sections and realized I’ve been missing out!

Some quite hilarious pieces in the latest New Yorker (7/29/2013) issues in the “Talk of Town” and “Shouts and Murmurs”.


A women kayaker who noticed the Manhattan ferries don’t follow a marine rule. i.e. They don’t sound their horns during maneuver around the ferry terminal.  Making it dangerous for kayakers like her.  So she started a e-mail campaign to the Coast Guard. Early June 2013, her effort paid off. To the surprise of many luxury waterfront residents every morning starting at 6am.  The horns are very loud. Now the residents started their own mail campaign to the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard has an easier time answering these residents protest, “Until the International Maritime Organization and the U.S. Congress change the rules, there is nothing I can do.”

Repeat Customer

A Tokyo resident finally passed the New York Bar exam after 17 tries starting from 2005. He wasn’t even planning on practicing law in New York.

Ask Ayn

Excerpt from an Ayn Rand newspaper column in “Parade”. True Ayn Rand style with a real life flavor such as freedom of taking drugs, why she loves “Charlie’s Angels”, her take on movies such as “Caddyshack” and “The Shining”.


Free Smile! Free Hug!

Heard a hilarious news on BBC as I was walking to the shuttle stop this morning.

“Only 9% of Chinese smile to strangers. According to a new survey conducted by Chinese media. That got Shanghai worried. The city is going to host the upcoming world class blahblahblah… The city hired X numbers of free smilers on the streets, to smile at strangers and to teach local residents how to smile to strangers. There was an similar effort by volunteers earlier this year in Beijing, they were offering free hugs to strangers on the street until the police detained them.”

I laughed out loud. That is the difference between China and France. Could you imagine the city of Paris to hire a bunch of volunteers to stand on Paris street corner and smile to strangers?

T. S. Eliot “Burnt Norton”

Since Robert Kaplan indicated in his book that “The Still Point of the Turning Earth” in T. S. Eliot’s Four Quarters meant Istanbul, I’ve been searching the web for the actual poem.


Garlic and sapphires in the mud
Clot the bedded axle-tree.
The trilling wire in the blood
Sings below inveterate scars
Appeasing long forgotten wars.
The dance along the artery
The circulation of the lymph
Are figured in the drift of stars
Ascend to summer in the tree
We move above the moving tree
In light upon the figured leaf
And hear upon the sodden floor
Below, the boarhound and the boar
Pursue their pattern as before
But reconciled among the stars.

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
The inner freedom from the practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,
Erhebung without motion, concentration
Without elimination, both a new world
And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.
Yet the enchainment of past and future
Woven in the weakness of the changing body,
Protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure.
Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.

–T. S. Eliot, Four Quarters/ Burnt Norton