Monday, December 31, 2007

All's Well That Ends Well

I was complaining on Twitter about this New Year's Eve: high fever, math final exam, not being able to go to Worlds University Debate Championship in Bangkok because of the final exam, the treacherous weather in Beijing, blah blah blah. And then I got this reply from Graham: "It can only go up from here! ;)"

I also said I was not going to write New Year's Resolutions this year, except I am. Except this year, instead writing a list of to-dos and wish-to-dos, I'll make a list of things really important to me:

  1. Mom
  2. this one is difficult, it should be somewhere between my friends in NYC and in Dhaka
  3. honesty
  4. Hangzhou
  5. creative stuff: graphic design, blogging, etc
  6. good music: mostly classical, but I'd love to be seduced by Mika
  7. reading and writing
And a list of scheduled travels in the coming year:

February: Harvard MUN Conference -> NYC
April 20-ish: Lahore, Pakistan
May 1~7: Dhaka, Bangladesh
December 26~ : Cork, Ireland

Make them all will make my year!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Illustration & photography

Illustration + Photography of GĂ©raldine Georges

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Free Online College Courses

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (

2. Open University (

3. Carnegie Mellon University (

4. Tufts University (

5. Stanford (

6. University of California, Berkeley (

7. Utah State University (

8. Kutztown University of Pennsylvania (

9. University of Southern Queensland (

10. University of California, Irvine (

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Madame Butterfly

Grandma taught me two things about Japan: its symbol is Sakura - the flower is small, petals fragile, but they gather together into one, just like the Japanese people united into one great nation; its color is red - that, she didn't explain, so I took it for granted that it is because of the color of the Japanese national flag. But what I didn't realize then is that red is love, passion, and death - Seppuku, the ritual suicide that has become the code of bushido and the discipline of the samurai, is a painful death seeking the redemption of the condemned.

Last night, I witnessed the red.

Puccini's Madame Butterfly rendered into ballet. Graceful steps took over the singing and the fragility in soprano's voice were replaced by the litheness of Keiko Amemori, one of the principle ballerinas of Northern Ballet Theatre. The evening was immersed in a deeply romantic and mournful sensation, and a splendor created by surreal lightings, exquisite costumes. The music is a surprise combination of Puccini's beautiful original added in recordings of Sokyoku. Despite a couple of odd sounds from the clarinets, the rendition is marvelous, impeccably beautiful. Considering the conductor, Nigel Gaynor, has only been rehearsing with Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra for three days, and much of the orchestra is made up of young musicians, it is a miracle how stunning the music turned out.

Another miracle is the coincidence of going to the ballet with my Australian professor whose wife is Japanese, and happened to meet the Australian conductor whose Italian wife is a close friend of his, and the friendship dates all the way back to their years in Cambridge. And thinking about having this ballet about American sailor and Japanese geisha composed by an Italian and performed by a British theatre for a Chinese audience makes one lose tough with time and space, which reminds me of Maestro Barenboim, when asked about western classical music being performed all over the world and how this relates to globalization, the maestro answered: "it is not an act of globalization but it is an act of cosmopolitan thinking".

The maestro is right.

I'll post an interview with Nigel Gaynor, Conductor of Northern Ballet Theatre, soon ;)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ritz-Carlton open today

The first Ritz-Carlton in Beijing (trial) opens today. I went there last night for FINANCE annual conference's closing concert with pianists LIU Shikun and LI Yundi, soprano SHEN Na and tenor Warren MOK.

The conference drew in the richest people in China, be them in IT business, real estate, banking, media, etc. It's proven again that the richest people don't usually have the best taste in classical music. The program tailored for them was more popular than classical, nevertheless, it was quite pleasing.

The hotel, on the other hand, is not so pleasing, and arguably the worst Ritz I've seen. The lobby is small, the in-hotel Christian church they're so proud of doesn't even have a cross, the food is unimpressive, so does the coffee. I mean, you would think the Ritz wants to present its best in front of China's real estate tycoons, CEO of Goldman Sachs, especially when the hotel is to be opened the next day. ( Okay, to be fair, the hotel manager is a very nice gentleman, but the hotel itself is nothing more than a baroque painting with little content).

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Year-end Book Recommendation

I don't even have to mention the New York Times list of The 10 Best Books of 2007, and The Guardian asked some writers and culture figures such as and came up with the best thing we've read all year list (with a part two), at the year's end, it seems suddenly all the "good books" emerged on various popular list, enabling people to once again to fill their bookshelves with books they never touch after purchase.

And there I am, talking with my friend at Dartmouth about Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, marveling at what a great book it is. Something is interesting about people's taste for books, if you see the Top books on facebook networks, be it Harvard, Yale, or any Ivy, the prominent No. 1 is always Harry Potter, but if you really ask someone what their favorite book is, no one dare to say that name, it's almost like a Britney Speares in Paperback. ( wait, did I spell Speares right? dah... and apparently, Stephen King thinks Britney should TIME person of the year=)

Anyways, that's not too bad. I have a Standford friend who listed New York Times in his favorite book, I was like " what? can you be more dorky than that? ) But anyway, if we are counting newspapers, than L.A. Times is definitely my pick; its opinion is so much better than that of the Post.

My favorite read of theyear is Free Speech In Classical Antiquity (Mnemosyne, Bibliotheca Classica Batava Supplementum) edited by Ineke Sluiter and Ralph Mark Rosen [Brill Academic]. Ya, don't ask... I have a soft spot for Ancient Rome...

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Emotional Photography

I've been following this site: m o o d a h o l i c for a while now, I love the feel of his photographs. Here are some of my favorites:

Amazing Pic

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10 Most Secluded Houses in the World

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Amazing Pic

Amazing Pic