just run

As it was a public holiday on Monday, I went out to catch up with some high school friends. I got home at about 5:30pm after a very long lunch and, because it was such perfect weather (and since it’s Summer, the sun would be out for at least another hour), I decided to go for a run.

I was a bit sore the following day, returning to work, but I don’t regret it for a second. It’s one of the best feelings – going for a run in beautiful weather.

That’s something I’ve realised the more I run: I never regret going for a run. I might question whether going for a run would be a good idea, peering at the dark clouds gathering in the sky, or contemplating the humidity and stillness of the air, but once the decision is made and the first steps are taken, I know I’m doing the right thing.

But that’s not to say that every run is brilliant. Just a couple of days prior to the exhilirating Monday run, I thought I’d do a bit of interval running. I had my mind set on running because I’d been lounging around at home all day, but somehow the energy wasn’t quite there. I was still tired from all the running and exercise throughout the week that was, and the humidity was unbelievable. So that endeavour only lasted about half an hour, but I never regretted leaving the comfort of the lounge chair.

Another thing I like about running is that you don’t need any equipment. You just need a half-decent pair of sneakers and some comfortable clothes, and you’re set.

Just writing this and thinking about running makes me want to go for a run. Too bad I have to go to bed soon… I guess I can wait until tomorrow…

today

Things that I liked about today:

Walking in the rain without an umbrella (It was only raining lightly, and I couldn’t be bothered to get my umbrella out and get it wet, and then have to carry around a wet umbrella, so I just walked in the rain. It was nice. I haven’t done that in a while.)

Walking around outside in the middle of summer and not getting drenched in sweat within five minutes (This was probably thanks to the aforementioned rain, which occurred mostly in the morning but still cooled everything down enough that it wasn’t terribly hot in the afternoon.)

Having lunch with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while (albeit a quick lunch for, although I had the day off today, she had to get back to work)

Starting a new book that was recommended by a friend, who I seem to have established a sort of book exchange with (admittedly, she’s probably lent me more books than I’ve lent her, but I believe I started it when I lent her ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’). (By the way, in case anyone is interested, but more with the purpose of recording my reading history, the book was ‘The Two Pearls of Wisdom’ by Alison Goodman. I am now two chapters in.)

Using a health/pharmacy app that a friend from work recommended, and re-experiencing that enthusiasm for study that seems to have been lacking a bit lately. (I have no idea how long I spent on this app, just looking up one drug after another.)

Being able to go to bed whenever I feel like it because I don’t have work tomorrow either (I am working on Sunday but that’s ok because Monday is a public holiday, so I’d still get another day off)

Having time to write this blog post

it is written

So it seems like I’m starting the year off with some rather thought-provoking books. First it was “The Little Prince”, today I’ve just finished reading “The Alchemist”, and next in line is Anh Do’s “The Happiest Refugee” (which I picked up at the Lifeline Bookfest for a bargain price!)

“The Alchemist” (by Paulo Coelho) was lent to me by the same friend who lent me “The Little Prince”. One of the review excerpts on the back cover said that the former is “as memorable and meaningful” as the latter, so I was expecting some good things from this. I did previously want to read “The Alchemist” anyway, but I suppose it just got lost amongst all the other books on my “to read” list…

However, before I proceed with this review, I must admit that I feel like my opinion of the book has been biased by how much my good friend likes the book so, although I don’t tend to be very harsh in my criticism anyway, I probably have a more positive opinion of the novel than I would if I’d just picked it up myself.

Nevertheless, I did find “The Alchemist” to be quite philosophical and thought-provoking, and there is a kind of poetic and enchanting quality about the story (even though it is a translated text, and I have this belief that it’s hard for translated texts to do justice to the original because each language has its own subtleties and nuances).

The novel talks a lot about realising one’s destiny and pursuing one’s “personal legend”. Other recurrent concepts include recognising omens as messages from God, and this word Maktub, which roughly translates to “it is written”. And then, of course, this recurring quote: “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”. I almost feel like the book was trying to teach me too many things and making me ask too many questions of myself, but I suppose it’s all part of the journey of (self-) discovery.

I also found it interesting that the first sentence of the book introduces the name of “the boy” as Santiago, but he was always referred to thereafter as “the boy” and never as “Santiago”. Actually, now that I think of it, very few of the characters actually have names. Oh well, as they say, what is in a name…

I suppose “The Alchemist” is similar to “The Little Prince” in terms of the protagonist going on a journey and meeting new people and learning a great deal about the important things in life, but I reckon I like “The Little Prince” more because it just seemed more … relatable. “The Alchemist” was definitely a worthwhile read, though, and is probably something I could re-read.

watch & read

With all the books being turned into movies these days, there’s a lot of discussion about whether people should read the book before watching the movie, and about how good each is in relation to the other. This might seem controversial coming from a book-lover, but after recent discussions with friends about certain books/movies, it might seem that the maximum enjoyment is achieved by watching the movie first.

Please, let me explain.

I watched “The Book Thief” (the movie created from the novel by Marcus Zusak) on the week-end. I went to see it with a friend who had not read the book (yet). I did enjoy the movie, and I thought it was actually nicely done, but I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about the things that were left out that I wished were in the movie. And there were certain details that were slightly different in terms of placement in the story and stuff like that.

My friend, however, seemed to enjoy the movie more than I did. Fair enough – that’s to be expected, right? However, I do believe that she will still enjoy the novel as much as I did (? ok, not sure about that – I did really like it). Reflecting back on the book, I feel like it was written in a way that allowed for “spoilers” somewhere in the middle that didn’t actually spoil the rest of the book, so whether or not someone has seen the movie probably has little bearing on how much they’ll like the book. As such, you could have optimum enjoyment of both media.

Another example is “The Time Traveler’s Wife” (novel by Audrey Niffenegger). I watched the movie before reading the book – it was the movie that made me want to read it – but I liked both a lot. However, my friend read the novel first (I lent her my copy because I thought she’d like it and, I don’t mean to brag (ok, I kind of do), but she did like it) and then watched the movie, and didn’t quite like the movie as much.

This is probably because there’s so much depth in these novels such that when you’re reading them you’re not just picturing characters and images. And, yes, actors and directors and whoever can be good at portraying and evoking emotions, but it’s hard to translate the depth of several hundred pages onto a couple of hours of silver screen time.

And then there’s also the question of leaving an appropriate time interval between one medium and the other. I think, ideally, enough time should be allowed to elapse, not so you forget the first completely, but enough so that it is a fond, distant memory. As such, when you view the other medium (I believe this applies regardless of which comes first), it’ll be like re-discovering a small treasure (assuming you actually like the story and basic concepts).

Getting back to “The Book Thief”, I just wanted to say that I reckon Sophie Nelisse, who played Liesel, and Nico Liersch, who played Rudy, were outstanding. I was disappointed, however, that this line, which featured in the trailer, did not make the final cut in the movie (unless I missed it because my mind was busy comparing things to the novel). It was something like this: “Sometimes, when life steals something from you, you have to steal something back”.

matters of consequence

I’ve just finished reading my first book of the year. It seems like quite an achievement, since it’s only January 6 and I don’t read very fast, but my first book of the year was actually quite short. You might even call it a children’s book. It was “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, complete with illustrations.

A friend recommended it to me several years ago but I never got around to borrowing her copy of it. However, last week or so, another friend also suggested that I read it, and lent me her copy, which was a gift from someone else. (Don’t you reckon books received from others are more special than those acquired of one’s own accord? Unless you’re like the Book Thief…)

Well, I could dispute whether “The Little Prince” is really a children’s book. I mean, it’s actually kind of philosophical. I don’t know – maybe I’m reading between the lines too much. At one stage when I was reading it, I had a thought that it would be a good story to deconstruct in a high school English class or something. Don’t worry, I quickly scrapped that idea. Maybe a good book for a book club or something, though…?

What I liked most about “The Little Prince” is that, although the story itself is quite ridiculous, it does a good job of making real life seem even more ridiculous. It makes you reflect on your perspectives of the world and your priorities in life. Well, I felt like that was what it was doing, anyway.

Early on in the book, the narrator introduces the notion that “grown-ups love figures”, which is kind of something that I’ve pondered on in recent times. For me, it’s more that I’ve noticed that people, when introduced to other people, will tend to enquire about the same details. For example, people will ask about the other person’s occupation and maybe which school/university they attended. They may also ask about their family background, where they live and so on.

Similarly, the narrator tells us that when you tell a grown-up that you have a new friend, they’ll ask about how old they are, how many siblings they have, and so forth, but won’t ask more meaningful questions about the person, such as their interests and actual qualities of the person.

All throughout the book, the story seems to be either poking fun at human nature or reprimanding people for doing silly things (mostly poking fun). The Little Prince meets a lot of people on his travels, and all of them are absurd in one way or another (or “very odd”, as he puts it).

I liked the fox’s explanation of “establishing ties” and how this makes certain people/things special even though they may be one of a million. I’m not sure how accurate the translation is on this one (of course, I read a translated text because I, unfortunately, only know very basic French) but one of the quotes I really liked was “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important”. I also liked the line “…because it was for her that I killed the caterpillas” – so dramatic and so… not…? Just like “But he is not a man – he is a mushroom!”

And, you know, even without the illustrations, the story itself is really quite brilliant. (The pictures do help, though, and are certainly very cute.) This is the sort of book I’d read again, and I reckon everyone should read at least once. For such a small book, I feel like I could talk about it forever. I want to finish with probably the most important quote from the book, but I reckon I’ll leave that for you to discover.

hi there, 2014

Ok, ok, I couldn’t resist – I’m going to do a New Year-related post.

I’m still not sure, however, if I want to do a reflective 2013 post. It sort of feels like too much happened in 2013 but not anything drastically life-changing. Well, there were events of significance and memorable moments but no one particular thing that stands out (or I might have already written about them somewhere)

Anyway, I actually wanted to write about new year resolutions because I know many people don’t make any new year resolutions because (1) they know they won’t keep them, (2) they think resolutions shouldn’t be limited to New Years, and/or (3) they’re happy with how their life is already. I, personally, can relate to these, but presently I am of the opinion that new year resolutions are a good thing (at least in principle).

A friend recently shared (via Facebook) an article about achieving goals. I found it quite interesting. It was written by a guy called James Clear and was about how it’s better to focus on systems/processes rather than actual goals. I reckon new year resolutions made with this in mind would be easier to keep, and so, reason #1 wouldn’t be a problem.

I do agree with reason #2, but I do, of course, have a counter-argument. If you think about it, how often, during the course of a year, do you really stop and reflect on your life and think about what you can do to improve it? And I don’t mean the occasional (or regular…?) case of over-indulging that prompts a bit of guilt exercise, fasting, detoxing or other similar activities.

Well, I, for one, don’t think that I do this seriously or often enough. Although blogging is a pretty good avenue for reflection… Ok, forget the counter-argument. If you’re going to stick with reason #2 for not making a new year resolution, then at least have a blog or something.

Seriously though, I reckon the lead up to New Year is a good prompt for people to take a moment to reflect and grow, especially since everyone else will inevitably be talking about resolutions.

As for reason #3, if you’re truly happy with your life being exactly how it is, then that’s great. But the only thing better than being happy is sharing happiness, and surely the capacity for sharing happiness is limitless, so #3 is still a poor excuse.

And now, the big question: what are my resolutions? My primary resolution is to drink more water. I actually started this a few weeks ago but I suppose it’s official or something now. Basically, whenever I go to drink some water, I drink a bit more than I usually would. It might seem overly simple, but I know I don’t usually drink a lot of water (and, no, I don’t tend to drink any other beverages, except milk with breakfast). Plus, I’m hoping that this resolution will have flow-on benefits.