(image from jessicarulestheuniverse.com)

One reason I read Ondaatje is that I’m never sure I get it. Because I keep rereading what I have read, I’m only half way through Divisadero. But maybe I already understand. Because it’s a villanelle?

When I come to lie in your arms, you sometimes ask me in which historical moment do I wish to exist. And I will say Paris, the week Colette died // She was a writer who remarked that her only virtue was self-doubt. // They are the sudden possibility every time I pick up the telephone when it rings some late hour after midnight, and I wait for his voice, or the deep breath before Claire will announce herself.

9: Those who risked everything at a river bend on a left turn and so discovered a fortune. By the second half of the twentieth century he was, of course, a hundred years too late, but he knew there were still outcrops of gold in rivers, under the bunch grass, or in the pine sierras.

139: I once read an essay by a writer who was asked to imagine an ideal career, and he replied that he would like to be responsible for just a brief stretch, perhaps two hundred yards or so, of a river.

136: It’s like a villanelle, this inclination of going back to events in our past, the way the villanelle’s form refuses to move forward in linear development, circling instead at those familiar moments of emotion. Only the rereading counts, Nabokov said. // We live with those retrievals from childhood that coalesce and echo throughout our lives, the way shattered pieces of glass in a kaleidoscope reappear in new forms and are songlike in their refrains and rhymes, making up a single monologue. We live permanently in the recurrence of our own stories, whatever story we tell.

One Art by Elizabeth Bishop. Probably the most famous villanelle. And my favorite.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.


365 grateful project (count=71)

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Architect David Jameson completed Barcode House in Washington, DC earlier this year. The project entailed creating a freestanding, modern addition to an existing, vertically-oriented urban row house. The extension is composed of a completely see-through, two-story, glass structure in front of a narrow concrete tower. A lyrical pattern of black steel rods that resemble a barcode run across the two glass façades, hence the name.


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I had a dream about la science des reves. I can recall many images from this film but cannot seem to recall who I saw it with. I switched to gmail and google calendar in December 2006 so I have no documentation whatsoever. Not remembering stuff makes me feel old!!!

October 1, 2006

The Science of Sleep made tiny explosions on my dilated pupils. I know it’s too much of too much (just click on the website) but the word overdose does not exist in that world. It’s about this guy who designs calendars where each month features a great disaster. He falls in love with this girl that makes boats full of trees and gives her a time machine. In conclusion, perfect date movie.

365 grateful project (count=70)

Winter Market @ Distillery District

  • I’m feeling super super super happy today.
  • A couple days ago, on my way to coffee, I ran into Barry. I consider him my first career mentor. He is the one that convinced me life insurance is more interesting than property casualty insurance. He used to come to Manulife scholar events. I used to send him emails where I refer to him as Gandalf and myself as Frodo. I was a bit sad last year when I found out he will be joining Pacific Life as part of the reinsurance transaction. But the Toronto actuarial world is very small so I don’t think we will lose touch.
  • I was a bit sad last year when Naveed left. But he seems happy with his new (reinsurance/consulting) opportunity so I’m happy for him. I always knew that he was well connected but it’s even more obvious to me now. Gotta work on people skills!
  • I’m starting a new role in two weeks. I will be reporting to Trevor, who I met in 2008 in HK. He has given me tonnes of great advice since then. Also, I will be part of a much bigger team so more people to learn from.
  • I’m starting to send emails to people to thank them for helping me in my current role. Marc responded and told me that I have “a very nice disposition”. I don’t think this is true 100% of the time but being told that I have “a very nice disposition” makes me more nicely disposed.

365 grateful project (count=65)

  • Love the “Keep Calm & Invest On” campaign.
  • We cooked together a few times. (I did the 50/50 speech on the second date.) But this time he cooked for me. Lemon juice from a bottle. Garlic from a press.
  • He got tickets to see Blue Dragon, Robert Lepage’s new thing at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. At first, I found the combination of a modern visual and a Chinese opera soundtrack jarring. Towards the middle of the play, I started enjoying the tension. The ending(s) is/are not particularly satisfying and I’m tired of the Angry Asian Girl archetype but there are lots of interesting elements to ponder over. I love the scene where the Angry Asian Girl turns around and takes a picture of her angry face with her cellphone.
  • Mum + Dad got me green tea cookies for Chinese New Year.
  • Madeleine Peyroux


telegraph: Pheobe Philo, creative director at Céline, has announced she is expecting her third child in April and as a result, will be cancelling the brand’s autumn/winter 2012 catwalk show this March. But never fear, those thrown into disappointment by the news will be pleased to know that Céline isn’t leaving the schedule altogether, but will be hosting an informal presentation to a small crowd of journalists in place of the catwalk show, which Philo will attend. “The objective is to simplify.”

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365 grateful project (count=60)

  • I once saw a girl who looked like Francoise Hardy in Lyon. I have been looking for a striped tee ever since. I never found one that worked for me. I can do contrasting colors but I cannot do contrasting stripes. Finally I found this striped tee at Gap. Lack of contrast means I can wear this with navy trousers, black cigarette pants or ultramarine skirt.
  • Shopping at St Lawrence Market with Carl. He bought bread, two kinds of cheese and lamb sausage. I bought lemon, two kinds of mushroom and duck confit. Preceded by coffee at seven grams. He seems much less stressed than other wedding-approaching guys. Me thinks Sharon is taking care of everything!
  • loca loca loca

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  • My neighbourhood made an appearance in TorontoLife. St. Lawrence, because everything an urbanite needs is within a five-minute walk. Bisogno Espresso Bar was mentioned so we tried it out. Blackboard at the entrance: If you expect the unexpected is the unexpected expected? Nutella-cino was interesting but sweet coffee has not taken roots with me yet.
  • He got a bottle of Ladybug Rose before the holidays. I tried it and thought it was okay … for a rose. I tried it again with tilapia and onion confit. It was unexpected … in a good way.
  • Next Stage Theatre Festival: We wanted to see Modern Love and couldn’t get tickets; we got tickets for Tomasso’s Party and missed the show; we showed up for Hypnogogic Logic and loved it … very Waking Life.

what matters most: part iii

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The last time Ah-Dur and I communicated, I was not in a good place. He had the (mis)fortune of trying to meet up with me the day after S and I broke up. But whatever pain I felt at the time, real or illusory, pales in comparison against what Ah-Dur has experienced since then. Unwinding sixteen months of life is nothing compared to unwinding sixteen years of life. Steven Chen tried to explain this to me when he took me to takesushi. Think about what you had with this person versus what you have with friends that you have known for years. But I was too busy crying into my sashimi to understand.

Both Ah-Dur and I are in better places now. I’m running, reading Gretchen Rubin, living with a happiness checklist. He is meditating, reading Leo Babauta, living without goals and plans. But I hope he does not apply this to every aspect of life because random walk in Alaska (we are thinking late July or August) may become dancing with bears.

These days, however, I live without goals, for the most part. It’s absolutely liberating, and contrary to what you might have been taught, it absolutely doesn’t mean you stop achieving things.

It means you stop letting yourself be limited by goals.

Let go of plans. Plans are not really different than goals. They set you on a predetermined path. But it’s incredibly difficult to let go of living with plans, especially if you’re a meticulous planner like I am. So allow yourself to plan, when you feel you need to, but slowly feel free to let go of this habit.

“A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” Lao Tzu

P.S. I do not subscribe to the philosophy of living without goals. Setting goals makes me happy. Achieving goals sometimes makes me happy. But I’m usually working on another set of goals by then so the outcome is somewhat irrelevant.

365 grateful project (count=54)

  • Mozart’s Concerto for Three Pianos followed by Jupiter Symphony. The three pianos were interesting although not particularly impressive. Love how they played each voice of the last movement before they played the symphony. You can hear the build forty seconds into this youtube video.
  • Really really good food at Tutti Mati (e.g. cold smoked duck carpaccio with salted chestnut praline frisée, radicchio and quince vinaigrette). I love this place. I don’t know why I don’t go there more often. Instead always seeking out new places. The chandelier somehow evokes Fresnel lens used in lighthouses.
  • Looking forward to a couple things at the Factory theater: Penny Plain and the Big Smoke. Also looking forward to a couple things at Soul Pepper: High Life and Endgame.
  • I’m generally happy with who I am. One person I have been envious of is Stephen. How can he be so smart and so easygoing at the same time!!! Stories I heard at his housewarming made me realize that it’s not so easy being Stephen. For example, when Denise and Stephen visited Japan, they bought two bottles of soft drinks together. Even though Stephen clearly preferred one over the other, Denise drank that one. Denise would never do that to me. Even easygoing people have to draw the line somewhere but they don’t always know how.