Sunday, December 13, 2015

Another Sunday

Didn't go out at all. Busy finishing up existing handiworks on hand. What a day.

Found it in my phone.

Perfume



The cover design of Perfume by German writer Patrick Süskind from The Folio Society, London is simply gorgeous.

It was bound at Hunter & Foulis, Edinburgh, in cloth, blocked with a design by Neil Packer.




I simply don't know how to describe this great German classic of the 1980s. The writing is rich, beautiful and intense.  It's an eighteenth-century murder story, except that it doesn't focus on the victims and the hunt for the killer, but rather emphasises the life and times of the murderer, who is an abominable and unusual, yet gifted protagonist to say the least.

Jean Baptiste Grenouille (French for "frog") is born in Paris, France in 1738; Born a bastard in the stinking heart of the city of Paris under a gutting table, the first cry he utters sends his mother to the scaffold for abandoning an infant. Grenouille grows up by sucking many wet nurses dry, survives the horrendous childhood of an orphan in an age without mercy, and grows up to become a successful perfumer. For this is his unique gift: the child who does not emit any smell himself is blessed with extraordinary olfactory capabilities, which allows him to recognise, separate and catalogue in his mind all the different odours he comes into contact with. 

But simple identification is not enough for Jean. He is driven by the insatiable urge to possess any smell he likes for himself; he will move heaven and earth to extract it from its origin, make a perfume out of it and keep it with him. He is not bothered that the object which originates the smell will be destroyed in the process of extraction: he is a "smell-vampire". And like a vampire, it is the smell of virgins which drives him wild. Ultimately, Grenouille's gift and single-minded obsession proves to be the cause of both his uplift and undoing...  ~  GoodRead


Some extracts from the book :

For people could close their eyes to greatness, to horrors, to beauty, and their ears to melodies or deceiving words. But they could not escape scent.  For scent was a brother of breath.  Together with breath it entered human beings, who could not defend themselves against it, not if they wanted to live. And scent entered into their very core, went directly to their hearts, and decided for good and all between affection and contempt, disgust and lust, love and hate. He who ruled scent ruled the hearts of men.

Normally human odour was nothing special, or it was ghastly. Children smelled insipid, men urinous, all sour sweat and cheese, women smelled of rancid fat and rotting fish.  Totally uninteresting, repulsive - that was how humans smelled ...

He did not want to have his newfound respiratory freedom ruined so soon by the sultry climate of humans.  (Ouch! We humans stink.)

There was nothing common about it. An absolute classic - full and harmonious. And for all that, fascinatingly new. It was fresh, but not frenetic. It was floral, without being unctuous. It possessed depth, a splendid, abiding, voluptuous, rich brown depth - and yet not in the least excessive or bombastic. (Coco Chanel N°5 ?)

In the period of which we speak, there reigned in the cities a stench barely conceivable to us modern men and women. The street stank of manure, the courtyards of urine, the stairwells stank of mouldering wood and rat-droppings, the kitchens of spoiled cabbage and mutton fat; the unaired parlours stank of stale dust, the bedrooms of greasy sheets, damp featherbeds, and the pungently sweet aroma of chamber-pots. The stench of sulphur rose from the chimneys, the stench of caustic lyes from the tanneries, and from the slaughterhouses came the stench of congealed blood. People stank of sweat and unwashed clothes; from their mouths came the stench of rotting teeth, from their bellies that of onions, and from their bodies, if they were no longer very young, came the stench of rancid cheese and sour milk and tumorous disease. The rivers stank, the marketplace stank, the churches stank, it stank beneath the bridges and in the palaces. The peasant stank as did the priest, the apprentice as did his master's wife, the whole of the aristocracy stank, even the King himself stank, stank like a rank lion, and the Queen like an old goat, summer and winter.   (Faint)

( ̄□ ̄)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Numero Zero


In the progress ...... smokin' hot.

Finally finished it the next day.

For the book review, Tom Rachman has a good one at The New York Times.

The Storyline
In order to blackmail a certain powerful individuals in the inner sanctum of finance, banking and politics, a con artist decides to create a newspaper financed by a Commendatore, which, under the appearance of investigative journalism, will invent stories that allude to shady events these individuals won’t want to be made public.

The narrator, Colonna, who dropped out of college and has flitted from job to job: tutor, hack journalist, proofreader, copy editor, slush-pile reader, even ghostwriter of detective fiction for a pseudonymous author, is appointed as the chronicler of the newspaper’s creation and foreseen demise. The newspaper is to be published in twelve zero issues - 0/1, 0/2, and so on - dummy issues printed in a tiny number of exclusive copies.  The plan is that the Commendatore  will inspect these issues, before arranging for them to be seen by certain people he knows. Once these people realise the danger the pseudo-investigative articles represent for them, most likely they will offer the Commendatore an entry permit to the inner sanctum in exchange of putting a stop to such fictional publication.

If historical truth can be created, Eco suggests, it can also be conveniently erased. However, as the narrator finds out, convincing fictions can end up spilling into reality, and he himself becomes the victim of what is – perhaps – a real and bloodthirsty conspiracy.
The Contents.

The exchanges on mobile phones were funny when one editorial staff was asking the chief editor, Simei if it is alright to do a lifestyle piece about it. The date was on Friday, 24 April.


'The whole business of mobile phones can't last,' declared Simei. 'First, they cost a fortune and only a few can afford them. Second, people will soon discover it isn't so essential to telephone everyone at all times. They'll lose the enjoyment of private, face-to-face conversation, and at the end of the month they'll discover their phone bill is running out of control. It's a fashion  that's going to fizzle out in a year, two at most. Mobile phones, for now, are useful only to adulterous husbands, and perhaps plumbers. But no one else. So for our readers, most of whom don't have them, a lifestyle piece is of no interest. And those who do couldn't care less, or rather, they'd just regard us as snobs, as radical chic.'

'Not only that,' I said. 'Remember that Rockefeller, Agnelli and the president of the United States don't need mobile phones, they have teams of secretaries to look after them. So people will soon realise that only second-raters use them - those poor folk who have to keep in touch with the bank to make sure they're not overdrawn, or with the boss who's checking up on them. And so mobile phones will become a symbol of social inferiority, and no one will want them.'


 (^‿^v) The author is mocking the trend in mobile usage nowadays.

Here is one about professionalism :
'Do we really always have to talk about professionalism?' asked Maia. 'Everyone here is a professional. A master builder who puts up a wall that hasn't collapsed is certainly acting professionally, but professionalism ought to be the norm, and we should only be talking about the dodgy builder who puts up a wall that does collapse. When I call the plumber and he unblocks the sink, I'm pleased, of course, and I say well done, thanks, but I don't say he acted professionally. And you don't expect him to behave like Joe Piper in the Mickey Mouse story.  This insistence on professionalism, that it is something special, makes it sound as if people are generally lousy workers.'

In chapter III - Tuesday, 7 April, one of the character, Braggadocio, is having difficulty to decide which car to buy despite the truth that he is broke. He tells Colonna the specifications of each cars in length (hoping Colonna will chip in I guess) and to the extent that one feels like slapping him 'Can you make up your fucking mind?' Haha!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A world drowning in Objects

Extract from The Guardian :

Deyan Sudjic presents us with a nightmare vision of a world drowning in objects. This is not a new perception. William Morris commented: "I have never been in any rich man's house which would not have looked the better for having a bonfire made outside of it of nine-10ths of all that it held." What is new is the scale on which we waste human resources with our addiction to new, shiny objects. We use design not to supply basic needs but to boost our confidence in a society ruled by fashion and celebrity. We are flattered into thinking that piling up our houses with ostentatious objects will make us better people, more lovable and human. What fools we have become. 

The book is witty, lively, engaging and yes, well-observed.  One really need to think things over after reading it.

Here is the opening paragraph :
Never have most of us had more possessions than we do now, even as we make less and less use of them.  The homes in which we spend so little time are filled with things.  We have a plasma screen in every room, displacing state-of-the-art cathode-ray television sets just five years old.  We have cupboards full of sheets; we have recently discovered an obsessive interest in the term 'thread count'.  We have wardrobes stacked high with shoes.  We have shelves of compact discs, and rooms full of games consoles and computers.  We have gardens stocked with barrows and shears and cutters and movers.  We have rowing machines we never exercise on, dining tables we don't eat at, and triple ovens we don't cook in.  They are our toys: Consolations for the unremitting pressures of acquiring the means to buy them and which infantilize us in our pursuit of them.

How true ?!  May be not 100% for some, yet very close.

Here are some interesting passages that I like to jot down :

Publicity is the life of this culture - in so far as without publicity capitalism could not survive - and at the same time publicly is its dream.
Capitalism survives by forcing the majority, whom it exploits, to define their own interests as narrowly as possible.  This was once achieved by extensive deprivation.  Today in the developed countries it is being achieved by imposing a false standard of what is, and what is not desirable. ~ John Berger in Ways of Seeing

To discard even a useless object that I don't look at from one year to the next is somehow to discard part of a life. But to keep it unused is to experience silent reproach every time you open the cupboard door.  The same reproach is projected by a wall full of unread books.  And once read they ask, quietly at first, but then more and more insistently, will we ever read them again ?


Chapter Three - Luxury

'Luxury,' the architect Rem Koolhaas once claimed, 'is stability'. Picking up speed in his usual declamatory way he went on to deliver himself of a manifesto: 'Luxury is "waste". Luxury is generous. Luxury is intelligent. Luxury is rough. Luxury is attention.' The style may be more suggestive of a copywriter with a fragrance account than of a most respected architectural theorist of his generation, but he concluded, unarguably, that 'Luxury is not "shopping".'

Luxury in our times revolves more and more about the details that persuade consumers to spend money. But another definition of luxury - one that is closer to its original meaning - may prove increasingly pertinent. It see luxury as the way to provide a sense of respite from the relentless tide of possessions that threatens to overwhelm us.


Chapter Five - Art

It is a curious paradox that even the most materialist of us tend to value what might be called the useless above the useful.  Useless not in the sense of being without purpose, but without utility, or at least with not much of it.  Manolo Blalnik makes shoes that are harder t walk in and a lot more expensive than a pair of plimsolls, though they might be rather more helpful as part of a courtship display.  A Ferrari attracts more attention than a Volkswagen, but is hardly a practical means of urban transport. And, at a more fundamental level, while art is useless, design is useful.

It is a pervasive attitude.  In the 1980s, when the Design Museum in London sounded out Alan Bowness, then director of the Tate Gallery and son-in-law of Barbara Hepworth, about the possibility of occupying part of the Tate's Millbank site, he is reported to have dismissed the idea with the remark that 'Lampshades do not thrill me.'  (Ouch!)

No art museum would exhibit a Mondrian poster as a conceivable substitute for a Mondrian painting. But a design museum is less interested in the idea of the original. And in the world of mass production, how can there be such a thing as fake?
Mondrian Art : Composition II in Red, Blue and Yellow, 1930

As much an art director as a politician and a soldier, 
Ataturk abolished the fez, introduced Latin Script,
and built new capital city.
Simply a coincidence.

The thriller The Lost Library I read last week also mentioned Ataturk, the founder of Turkish Republic and modern state, who had taken up residence in Dolmabahce Palace even as he had signed a 1922 edict removing governance of the Turkish people from the hands of hereditary monarchy. Ataturk, who had ousted the Sultans but went on to lead his republican government from the glory of their palaces. Ataturk, who had taken ill, and finally died, here in the palace walls.  More specifically, in the chamber known today as 'Ataturk's Bedroom' at 9.05 am on November 10th, 1938.  All the clocks in the palace had been stopped at the moment of his death and marked the moment of national mourning for decades.  Only more recently, the ban of mourning had been lifted and the palace clocks returned to show the actual time.  All but for one: the small clock that sat on the table in the bedroom where he had died.

The bedroom was where our narrator, Emily found her last clue.






A book-related one :

The machine works away diligently and fills our bookcases with ill-printed volumes, its criterion is cheapness. Yet every cultured individual should feel ashamed of such material abundance. For on the one hand, ease of production leads to a diminished sense of responsibility, while on the other abundance leads to perfunctoriness. How many books do we genuinely make our own? And should one not possess these in the best paper, bound in splendid leather? Have we perhaps forgotten that the love with which a book has been printed, decorated and bound creates a completely different relationship between it and us, and that intercourse with beautiful things makes us beautiful? ~ Werkstätte


Well, these are not all. There are more notable passages in the book, but for you to find out.