Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Numbers Boy

Jordy absolutely loves his numbers these days. Finally managed to capture him in action!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Business of Fiction

I make no secret of my love of fiction. In fact, I can count on one, ok, maybe two hands the number of non-fiction books I have truly loved.

I love reading fiction so much it was not surprising that I ended up studying English Literature at university. Don't get me wrong, I loved almost every minute of my time at uni, it's just that I've always felt slightly err, lacking, in terms of my chosen field. Walking through Borders or Kino, I would always, ALWAYS walk by the rows and rows of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Go Fish, or Who Moved My Cheese, somehow feeling like something was just a little wrong with me for not being interested in what these books had to offer.

So it was with great delight, and a huge cheesy grin on my face, that I drove to work two weeks ago listening to this programme on the BBC World Service - all about the strange world of Business Books. A Business Daily correspondent delved into the reading masses of New York City to see whether the economic downturn had had an effect on the types of books people were reading, and one of my favourite strangers-whom-I-want-to-befriend, the fabulously named Bright Simons who reports from Ghana, talks about what business books look like in his part of the world. At the end of the programme, I felt so not alone. In fact, I felt completely relieved that it wasn't just me feeling a bit weirded out by the proliferation of business books out there.

I felt so good that since 31 May (when that fateful edition of Business Daily reached my ears), I've had one of my best runs of fiction-reading in ages! I've finished The Book Thief, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South.

I love reading fiction because it nourishes the soul. Because it is so profound (to me) that every word I am reading has emerged from someone's imagination. And that I know there is a story within me that is waiting to be told, and that I just need the guts and the wherewithal to sit down and write it out.

Monday, June 14, 2010

It is a truth universally acknowledged...

Well, I'm certainly keeping up my renewed fervour in the blog. A recent text from Sandy about the amazing experience that is the BBC's adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South has inspired this post.

I've been meaning to write a post like this for some time, but have been faintly embarassed. Ah well, with renewed fervour comes renewed chutzpah! Presenting...

The Camel Diaries' list of the FIVE BEST period drama heroes/actors: from Austen to Eyre to Gaskell... (listed in order of preference, ahem, I'm saving the best for last!)

5. Timothy Dalton, Jane Eyre, BBC (1983)
I studied Jane Eyre when I was 14 (or was it when I was 13?). Can't remember exactly. But depending on the day, it is my favourite novel of the era. On a sunnier day, the answer is Pride and Prejudice. We watched the BBC version at school all those years ago and I was captivated from the word go. But it was when Mr Rochester first meets Jane on the misty road to Thornfield, high on his steed, that my heart did a little double-lurch. Timothy Dalton remains, and always will, the definitive Rochester in my mind. Toby Stephens (2006 BBC adaptation) was pretty good, William Hurt (1996 Zeffirreli film) appalling. But no one captured Rochester's thunderous brow, simmering anger, and urgent despair quite like Timothy Dalton.

4. Ciaran Hinds, Persuasion, BBC (1995)
Ah. This is the best adaptation of my second-most favourite Jane Austen novel. Ciaran Hinds transforms Captain Frederick Wentworth into an at once stoic, yet passionate, man who is trying to move on from his his first love. His chemistry with Anne Elliot (played by the unfortunately named Amanda Root) is palpable and believable, and I find their portrayal of autumnal love very moving. There is no dancing or singing to be had here. This is a serious love story with two very serious protagonists. The final revelatory scenes are particularly delightful to watch. Go youtube it! (ps: If you are a Persuasion fan, then Ruper Penry-Jones in the BBC 2007 version would have been by number 6 on this list!)

3. Matthew Macfadyen, Pride and Prejudice, Working Title Films (2005)
Well, this is a toughie. Matthew Macfadyen's Darcy vs Colin Firth's? I loved both interpretations, and I must admit Mr Macfadyen has a voice that could sell anything to anyone, but I think he's my second favourite Darcy only because he had less screen time, given that this version was a feature film! I loved the chemistry between him and Keira Knightley, and the way he played Darcy as shy and socially awkward rather than arrogrant and morally uptight. In any case, had a mini obsession with him when I first watched the film. Made me want to buy Spooks on DVD just for him (never did so in the end as I feared the violence portrayed)! Anyway, two wonderful Mr Darcys can't be bad right? Which leads me to #2 favourite period drama hero/actor of all time...

2. Colin Firth, Pride and Prejudice, BBC (1995)
For the longest time, Colin Firth occupied the highest pedestal of romantic period hero dashing-ness. He was the unparalleld ONE. His yin to Jennifer Ehle's yang was so inherently perfect, that every single minute of the six-hour long production was nothing short of perfect. Everyone raves about the lake scene at Pemberley (me included!), but my favourite scene is one of the more subtle Lizzie-Darcy moments - when Elizabeth receives news that Lydia has eloped with Wickham and is in tears, and Darcy offers her some wine and briefly holds her hand. Argh! The subtlest of romantic gestures! And the way he calls her "dearest, loveliest Elizabeth" during the second proposal scene is just completely heart-a-flutter inducing. So as you can see, my admiration for Colin Firth's Darcy has long run deep. I thought he held the permanent 
title of best romantic hero of all time. That is, until a certain moment in 2009 changed everything...

1. Richard Armitage, North and South, BBC (2004)
For those of you woeful souls who are unaquainted with Mr John Thornton of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, well, let me introduce him quickly to you. He is NOT what Austen would have termed a gentleman, in fact, he is in (God Forbid!) trade - he runs a cotton mill in the Northern town of Milton for crying out loud! He speaks with a strong Northern accent, and is a bit rough round the edges. He's been described as saturnine, aggressive, brusque and not carrying out his moral duty where the wellbeing of his mill workers are concerned. But of course, the tough exterior conceals an empathetic, compassionate heart, enlightened enough to embark on a philanthropic mission for his poverty-stricken workers. Such a gentle soul he has. And faultlessly portrayed by the then relatively unknown Richard Armitage, whose role-of-a-lifetime portrayal of Thornton was not just compared to Colin Firth's seminal Darcy, but also spawned the obsessive fan base called the Armitage Army. Now I haven't signed up online to be on their fansite yet, but I can understand why some would! Heh heh. In anycase, North and South is so beautifully rendered, and the last four-and-a-half minutes of the series are possibly the best four-and-a-half minutes I've ever experienced on celluloid. Go ahead and youtube it if you don't believe me! Actually, I'll save you the trouble. You can just click here. Of course this is a major spoiler if you don't know the story, but heck, it's so good I can't resist putting it up.

So there you have it. My ultimate list. Do you have one? I'd love to hear it!

PS: I should end this post by saying what a wonderful husband I have in D who has good-naturedly tolerated my Victorian romantic hero obesssions. He knows he is the 21st century equivalent to me :) xxoo

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Amazing Jordy

The Amazing Jordy

Sometimes, it helps to have a little image overhaul to bring back the sizzle in a relationship. So, introducing Camel Diaries 2.0: new look courtesy of Blogger, content: same insightful stuff as always (hah! sorry, had to do some PR for myself).

Thought I'd upload a few videos taken from my new Motorola Milestone (I'm one of the tiny percentage of people out there who don't have an iPhone because wonderful D suprised me with an iPod Touch last year so I thought it would be a little wasteful to have an iTouch AND an iPhone. So Milestone it is - not bad functionality, extremely good price, and QWERTY keypad. Overall positive user experience so far).

Anyway, this is a Jordy post. He's saying all kinds of wonderful, surprising things these days. Just this week, he started saying "Amazing Jordy!". All his teachers at school have heard it, and some are calling him that, haha! He's kinda saying it in the video above, very hard to capture as it's usually quite out of the blue. Oh and just two days ago he started saying "tomorrow"!

So here's another video from a few weeks ago. When the HFMD quarantine was first lifted and we went to Vivo one morning and hung out at the open amphiteatre and playground. Jordy's getting very handy with a ball and is running very fast these days!

Throwing a ball and a tiny fall, which left him unruffled.

So, seeing as the Amazing Jordy is two months shy of his second birthday, I thought it time for another vocabulary audit. List is probably not exhaustive, but I'll try to list down everything I can remember. This is as much for the Jordy almanac, as it is for posterity's sake. Sorry if it appears a little indulgent but I think it's rather fascinating to chart language acquisition!

These are all the words he can say, from recollection (his receptive vocabulary is much larger than this):

Family and People
Mama Maree
Gong Gong
Uncle Nick
I love...

Everyday Items & Home
Baby (for Baby Einstein)
Mote (for Remote)

Cake (!)
Nana (for Banana)
Masi (for Medicine, or Scotts Emulsion, his favourite thing in the morning, or anytime!)


Crocodile (in Chinese, er yu)
Baassie (for Butterfly)


Choo Choo
Beep Beep

Numbers (he can recognise all the numbers from 1 to 11! 11 because that's the level we live on, so he's always pressing the number '11' button in the elevator)


Pee pee
Poo poo
Spots (thanks, HFMD!)

Commands and Actions
Wait, wait!
Bye Bye

I love...
Amazing Jordy
All gone
All done
No more

Hmm, have run out of steam. There's actually quite a bit more, but I can't quite remember right now. Oh well, good job Jordy! Amazing how you've gone from tiny zygote to talking, running toddler with an attitude!

Ok, better go for now. Afternoon plans may include the zoo (depending on state of Jordy's drippy nose when he wakes, and my own not-so-sore throat but still rather blocked nose.) Oh joy!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A First

Hi! I'm officially blogging from my new android phone. I think this may mark the start of a new era. Now just gotta figure out how to upload videos and photos!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

It's Been Forever (But I Still Think About You All The Time)

Yikes I feel so guilty that I haven't blogged for close to a month! Four letters could somehow explain two weeks of this hiatus: HFMD. Yep, Jordy finally succumbed to the horrible bug that was going around and erupted in over 400 blisters (I lost count in the end). He was an amazing little invalid throughout the two week long quarantine period. My work was superb and allowed me to work some days from home, mama and gong gong were mobilised to help some days, D took a few childcare leave days, and somehow, we survived relatively unscathed!

A week after the official all-clear from HFMD and Jordy is down with a mild cold again (will this germy phase ever end?!), and now I've caught the mild bug too. D has kindly offered to do solo Jordy bedtime duty, while I sit here nursing a bit of a headache and trying my best to update my once, rather lively blog.

Poor blog. In the busyness that is life with an almost-two year old, you have suffered some collateral damage!

So I found myself thinking: should I continue with this blog? Whatever for? Who reads it? What's it all for? And the universe somehow answered back in a tiny whisper: Keep at it. If anything, it's been going for more than three years, and has been such a lovely thing to revisit now and again (for me, at least!), and it does allow me the rather self-indulgent arena to pen anything. Ah well. And I think Jordy may find it a bit of a hoot sometime down the track.

Anyway, so I thought I'd regain some of ye olde blogging fervour by doing a quick recap of what I've been reading. Haven't done a bookish blog in a while. But then again, between watching The Wire (Awesome!), Mad Men (Super Awesome!), American Idol (Not So Awesome), and Glee (Awesome! Awesome!), didn't leave me much time to get lost in a book.

A colleague at work introduced me to a pretty amazing fantasy series though. Was lost in it for four whole days! As in reading at any spare moment kinda good (coincided with a viral fever I got in April). Anne Bishop's The Black Jewels Trilogy (book one pictured below).

One of the darkest, most sensuous, and subversive things I've read in a while. Subversive in all the good ways though, especially in Bishop's use of the language of emotions, love and power. Everything is turned on its head. Gender stereotypes are smashed, and just when you think you've gotten the characters and the world they inhabit figured out, Bishop turns the tables on you and you either smile, gasp or both. Very dark, very compelling and ultimately, very satisfying. Oh and also very cheap, about $13 a book at Kinokuniya!

The other standout thing I've read recently is Tracy Chevalier's new book Remarkable Creatures. Had no idea what it was about before I bought it (but I have loved every single thing she's ever written), and then, discovered to my joy of joys, that it a) is set in Lyme Regis (where a pivotal scene in Jane Austen's Persuasion occurs); b) chronicles the unlikely friendship between two women in the early 1800s (a particularly favourite theme and time period of mine); c) brings to life the stories of Britain's first women fossil hunters and paleontologists (Dinosaurs! Fossils! Skeletons! Yay!); d) is all about Mary Anning, the woman who inspired the tongue twister "She sells seashells by the seashore".

How cool is that right?! Will not give anything else away except to say that this book is SCREAMING to be made into a movie!

Isn't the cover just gorgeous? Sigh.

Oh and I'm just savouring a book another colleague at work lent me (in the happiest twist of fate, I now work directly with people who read. Fiction. Yep. Elation!): The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Again, another book I knew nothing about but fell in love as soon as I read the blurb. It is narrated by Death. Enough said. Love it already (though it is about the Holocaust)! But seriously, I'm only a tenth into the book and it's one of those gems you want to savour every last word of. So am trying to go slow...

On the topic of The Book Thief though, what is it about British vs American book covers? I mean am I the only one that thinks that British editions are almost ALWAYS far superior in terms of look, design, feel, and overall suitability to the tone of the book? I mean, judge for yourselves:

UK version

US version

Am I not wrong? The US version is just a tad fugly right? I'm just so relieved the edition I'm reading is the UK one.

Anyway, argh, my cold is taking a turn for the worse. Bring on the tissues. Will end here. But just wanted to say, thanks to anyone who has returned regularly to check this site for updates. I've been remiss I know, but me and my blog, we just went through a bit of a quiet patch, but just today, have renewed our vows. So here's to a bit more sizzle in this relationship hopefully!

Watch this space I guess :)