Thursday, 24 December 2015

Holding another’s mind in your hands

Collecting quotable quotes have been one of my favorite activities since secondary school. I’ll search for the quotes from any publications that I can obtain which I then copy dutifully the quotes that I took fancy into a notebook. Reader’s Digest was my best source before Brainy Quotes and Goodreads hit the web. From this huge collection of quotable quotes, there are a few which I like the most; such as Socrates’s “The unexamined life is not worth living”, Nicollo Machiavelli's "He who wishes to be obeyed must know how to command" and more. They are my “star quotes” for good or bad.

Among the many pages of quotable quotes that I copied into this weathered notebook of 20 years
Today, I am adding another quote to the list of my star quotes, it is:

When you read a book, you hold another’s mind in your hands – James Burke

This quote is interesting because it cause my philosophical mind can’t cease to wonder when you read this blog, are you holding a piece of my mind in your hands? If yes, it is my honor to share it. So, who is James Burke?

James Burke (b.1936) is a science historian, author, and television producer and “one of the most intriguing minds in the Western World” according to The Washington Post. In 1973, Burke, writing for Radio Times predicted the widespread use of computers for business decisions and the creation of metadata banks of personal information. Burke also discussed his predictions of a post-scarcity economy driven by advances in nano-factories, which he believes may be viable by the year 2043 during an interview on BBC Radio 4 in 2013.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

This season’s purple clay teapots

Two months ago, Uncle Wang from Shanghai’s Lu Yu Teashop helped me to purchase 9 purple clay teapots from Yixing to add to my ever expanding collection. These purple clay teapots are by Lin Yanping and Shi Zhaodi, two young up and coming artists whom are protégées of Master Wang Fujun and Master Wu Jianping.

Besides teapots from dead masters, famous masters, I am also in the practice of collecting the works of young artists for I believe that some of them will be famous masters of tomorrow. Master Wu Jianping is the best example. I started to collect his work in 2005 when he was still an unknown artist. The average price for his pot back then was RMB 400. Today, he is one the top purple clay teapot makers in China with an average price of RMB 15,000.

I was supposed to collect them myself in Shanghai this December but I’ve decided that I am going to give a break from going to China until I’ve recovered from “China lethargy” developed after my trip to Beijing in October.  It is hard to describe this lethargy in words but going to China once every two or three months for the past one year is perhaps a little too much to fathom. Only frequent visitors to China, having to navigate the vast complex system of inconveniences and cheats can truly understand.

Hence, I am thankful to Uncle Wang who took the trouble to travel to Yixing for these pots and Aunty Wang for packing them nicely to be brought to me by a very good friend from Singapore, alongside three pieces of precious aged White Tea. It reached me early this month. The timing is just nice as I can spend my annual December holiday polishing these teapots and enjoying a brew or two using them while catching up on reading.

Here are the teapots I gave myself as toys for this Christmas: 

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

From Paris with love

As mentioned previously, mom, Yong and I went on a Western Europe tour in November and we were in central Paris two days after the deadliest attack of France since World War 2. Paris was virtually empty and all the famous tourist attractions were closed. Despite that, The Louvre is just too hard to resist. For Yong, I knew he just want to be there, even it is just viewing the glass pyramids otherwise the trip will be very incomplete. It is akin to visiting London without seeing the Tower Bridge or Sydney without the Opera House.

We were very fortunate that the police did not cordon off the whole compound and the Louvre souvenir shop was open. There are thousands of reproductions of the display in the museum that are for sale. With the limited time that we have, it is impossible to select something we truly wish to have.  Should it be a miniature Venus de Milo or Egyptian cat bust or The Raft of the Medusa reprint? Sorry to Mona Lisa fans, she will be the last thing that I would view in Louvre.  

 The Raft of the Medusa
I was mesmerized by The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault the first time I saw it. It is the only piece of Western and oil on canvas painting that I ever like though I am a big fan of Chinese paintings. Painted when Théodore Géricault was 27 years old and initially thought off as a failure after its exhibition at Salon of 1819. The Raft of the Medusa portrayed a wrenching scene of shipwrecked men helpless in the grips of the ocean after the wreck of a French frigate off the coast of Senegal in 1816, with over 150 soldiers on board.

A long time was spent by the artist in preparing for the composition of this painting. He began by amassing documentation, questioning the survivors and visits to the morgue which he then sketched, worked with a model and wax figurines, studied severed cadavers in his studio, used friends as models, and hesitated between a numbers of subjects. There followed the period of solitary work in his studio, spent getting to grips with a vast canvas measuring five meters by seven.

This painting left me contemplating the important but also brutally uncomfortable essential thought provoking question: what can we learn about our common mortality and the ultimate image of inhumanity at the mercy of Mother Nature?  

At the end, Yong selected for me this beautiful POSTER BICENTENARY OF THE LOUVRE MUSEUM, composed by 100 reproductions of works of the Louvre collections created on the occasion of the Louvre museum’s bicentenary. Thank you very much Yong; the framed up poster is now hanging in the display section of mom’s house, and a memento I love the most from our November’s holiday, from Paris with love.

Monday, 14 December 2015

The craze for Shell’s Ferrari LEGO set

Yesterday, 13th December, marked the end of Shell’s Ferrari LEGO bricks promotion in Malaysia with the release of limited edition Shell Tanker model. It was the second time that Shell roll out LEGO bricks for miniature Ferrari cars to commemorate Shell’s longstanding partnership with Ferrari.  The first time Shell ran the promotion for the LEGO Ferrari collection was in 2012.
The long queue.
Back then, the promotion came and went without much fanfare. There was no long line of queue at the tick of midnight to pump petrol or buy lubricant, disappointment curse from customers, banging of the cashier counter and unruly incidents at some petrol stations that police had to be called. Those cute miniature cars was available even when the official promotion ends. For some petrol station operators, there were still so much sets left that they were given away as gift to friends and relatives and to customers who purchase the lubricants. I do not recall receiving any phone call from friends and the only call that mom’s secretary ever received was from me asking for favour to reserve the LEGO sets.

The 2012 set.
However, this round, we have been receiving numerous calls from friends and strangers alike. Mom’s phone rang almost nonstop on Sunday. For mom’s secretary, she have been receiving calls from strangers who claimed to be personal friends of my mom and dad. The funniest of all calls received was one from an unknown person claiming to be my late daddy’s best friend and not knowing that daddy passed away more than a year ago. What a very best friend indeed!

Certainly a better looking set compared to 2012's 
I guess that this craze is probably attributed to the spread of news that this will be last chance to get a Shell Ferrari LEGO set as Shell had ceased cooperation with LEGO. As for myself, I did not ask for any set, the craze didn’t hit me this time, though knowing well that four iconic Ferrari cars, a special limited edition Shell Tanker, a Finish Line podium and a Shell Station in its casing were modelled after the one at Fiorano circuit, Scuderia Ferrari’s private racetrack in Maranello, Italy. The main reason is because I still have not assemble those from 2012 as well as the other sets bought in Singapore since 2007! I doubt I am a procrastination queen but I have to agree to the fact that, except for reading and writing which is a very solitary pursuit, things are more fun when it is done together with someone.

Found this advertising online. 
Nevertheless, the craze for Shell’s Ferrari LEGO bricks in Malaysia will still be around for a while before waning off, just like McDonald’s Hello Kitties of recent memory or Dutch’s Tulip Mania. From 1634 to 1637, the price of certain tulip bulbs exceeded their weight in gold. Already, there are people advertising to re-sell a Shell tanker for RM 100.00 and a whole set for RM 500.00