My Prayer

Dear God,

Thank you for blessing me with the most loving and supportive family in the world.

Thank you for giving me the fair skin, good physique and pleasant smile.

Thank you for inspiring me with the genuine sense of morality, sincerity and humility that has built the very essence of my personality.

Thank you for sending me the most caring, honest and encouraging friends one can ever meet.

Thank you for instilling me with the genuine appreciation of the greatest arts, music, and literature that have made the world such a beautiful place.

Lord, I am yet too blind and selfish to properly perceive and appreciate and  so many other blessings You have bestowed upon me. Even though I audaciously bask in Your grace, I am not yet feeling I am living my life the fullest in You. I am yet too immature, weak, self-indulgent and fearful to be the person You will be happy to see in me.

All of my wishes are to please You. One day, I dream of living the life that will make You happy and proud. Please guide me through the way by helping me vanquish this phantom of self-doubt and self-torment that have haunted me all throughout my life. Please allow me more poise and confidence that would enable me clearly communicate and articulate my thoughts. Please inspire me with more positive thoughts that will become my source of power to present myself as a charming, confident and faithful daughter of Yours forevermore–



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Book #22. Stardust


While reading Stardust, I began to be question myself whether I’m taking escapist novels seriously. I was immediately enchanted by the irresistibly romantic premise of Gaiman’s Stardust as soon as I heard it–a fallen star  personified in a beautiful girl falls in love with a boy who has come to retrieve it. Well, such a perception of mine about the book turned out to have been superficial and misguided, for there was little significant romantic elements in the story other than for Tristran’s initial infatuation with Victoria Forester. The rest was purely escapist, typical fantasy perils featuring an unicorn, princes, pirates, witches that did not particularly touch my heart. One reason I grab this book is to read the further details of the romance between the naive human boy and the beautiful stellar girl, but Neil Gaiman is certainly no romance writer who could have made his hero and heroine intricate enough to make the reader fall in love with them. We get the minimal glimpses at the thoughts and feelings of these characters. The lovable, darling hero and heroine fading into the series of mischievous escapades centred around the fallen star–there is simply nothing in my motivation that would appreciate such nonlinear plotline.

Now I could see why the director of the  2007 movie was so struggling to incorporate the romance: it was not the director or the scriptor but Gaiman himself. It was a perfect book to be adapted, by the way, for its minimal interiority.

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Book #21. Adam of the Road

Adam of the Road is a typical YA novel about a mischievous journey of a young unmade minstrel in the enchanting setting of Medieval England. I read this book merely out of the necessity to teach it, but there was certainly something in the story I could take home.

Quick summary: Eleven-year-old Adam is waiting for his father, Roger the minstrel, to come back from the journey and takes him from the Abbey. Aside from his huge pride as an aspiring son of a minstrel, Adam has three things dear: his harp, his dog Nick and his best friend Perkin. The story basically traces his journey that has set in motion as a series of events takes away all of his treasures. Right in the beginning, Adam is forced to part from Perkin as Roger comes back and takes Adam with him. Then, Adam lost his beloved Nick to his father’s preposterous gambling.  During his breathless chase to the kidnapper, Adam soon finds himself that he has lost his father, too. Stripping of everything he holds dear, Adam is forced onto the road, beginning to learn to be a true minstrel who reveres it.

“A road’s a kind of a holy thing,” Roger went on. “That’s why it’s a good work to keep a road in repair, like giving alms to the poor or tending the sick. It’s open to the sun and wind and rain. It brings all kinds of people and all parts of England together. And it’s home to a minstrel, even though he may happen to be sleeping in a castle.” (52)

Adam takes the unwilling and unprepared journey in order to heartfeel the ‘holiness’ of the ‘road’ as the centre of a minstrel’s life he has always dreamed about. The road comes to his life once he has let go of everything that is dear to him, including his family and friends. An end marks a new beginning… For an aspiring minstrel like himself, the variety of the people he met on the road–the lovesick nobleman Simon, the horseriding page Hugh, the God-loving elders Walter and Prudence, the vulgar minstrels de Veseys–should give more to Adam than his Perkin, Nick and harp. Losing things behind should come as a prerequisite of meeting something new–a must-have attitude for any travelers.

Travelling is an unsaid dream of mine. When I had no vision of future, I thought about departing to some unvisited place for a hundred times in a day.  Yes I have been to places but I was pretty much sheltered by the financial support of my parents and physical guidance of my sturdy brother. I don’t feel I have ever been on a ‘true journey’, per se, in which I left everything behind in order to discover new things and “grow” into a new person. (My last trip to Ottawa was something closest to it but it was way too brief to be considered. But it certainly was a good start ;))

Somehow the story inspired me to imagine myself–or a character based on myself– being liberated from petty worries about jobs and marriage and take off to any place she has been longing to go–the Himalayas or the European continent. Gosh, it reminded me of another long-forgotten dream of being a writer. I should begin my story as soon as I get on the journey.

Gray, Elizabeth Janet. Adam of the Road. New York: Puffin Books. 2006.

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My favourite J-POP artist – Kuraki Mai

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I would love to introduce my favourite J-Pop artist. For the last decade, I listened to nothing but Japanese pop music, mostly solo female artists (Hamasaki Ayumi, Koda Kumi, Aiuchi Rina, Utada Hikaru, to name a few) who have been the major piece of Jpop market. After 2010, many of these artists have lost their oversea fans, including myself, mostly due to the recent recession of the market.

There is none other Jpop artists left to grab my eyes than this lovely-faced Kuraki Mai. Quick bio: she debuted in 1999 in Japan with the hit single Love, Day After Tomorrow and has released 40 singles, 10 studio albums and 3 compilations so far. She holds the record of having all singles consecutively debut in top 10 in Oricon Chart.

What keeps me to her? Year after year, she appears in public with even better songs and newly polished images. This is unseen in other artists who have used up their public personas and lost all their past glamour. With her deep affection for South Korea, she has performed her solo concert back in 2009. She has come to the land several times after that, notably last year at the Yeosu Expo.

A natural introvert under pretty much closed-up policy of her agency, she had not appeared in TV for 10 years until 2009 when she celebrated her 10th anniversary with her eighth album Touch Me! and second best album All The Best.  This was the year her long-lost popularity was revived, much to my happiness. I loved to see her in the major TV music programs and annual music festivals. Every year she conducts live tour in which she remarkably improved her command at stage.

I have included several images from her 2013 live tour “Over the Rainbow” titled after her 10th studio album. She has recently concluded her live tour for this year ‘Live Tour Project 2013 RE:’. I have no idea what she’s being up to these days. I would very much love to sea her new song or new album being released soon. I absolutely looooooooved her 39th single ‘恋に恋して(Koi ni Koishite)’ and have it in her album CD, as I always did with my favourite songs.

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Book #20. Matilda

Roald Dahl is an absolute delight. When I was young, I pulled James and the Giant Peach out of the shelf and thoroughly enjoyed it, and shared the joy with my younger brother.

Ten more years later, I was once again drawn to Roald Dahl in this title Matilda since my family vacation to the New York city back in May. I once passed by a Broadway theatre with a gigantic banner of the musical “Matilda” and wondered what it might be like. Maybe it was just because my natural attraction to feminine titles. Months later, I saw a stack of colourful novels of the same title in the library of the private school I got hired. I couldn’t just pass it without grabbing a copy.

I would love to know where Roald Dahl got his vision of these unspeakably idiotic and vile adults. The two aunts of James were just too hellish to be true; the same images revived in Matilda’s parents and Miss Trunchbull, the worst parents and headmistress you could imagine. To tell the truth, I didn’t quite get how Matilda’s adversaries are relevant to each other (her conflicts with her parents and her schemes with Miss Trunchbull) other than showing how idiotic adults can be. I mean, their idiocies are too much to the point of nonsense. Just look at this:

“…My idea of a perfect school, Miss Honey, is one that has no children at all. One of these days I shall start up a school like that. I think it will be very successful.” (p. 160)

I felt I got too old for a novel like this. The me who enjoyed James and the Giant Peach has got somewhat far away. My original plan was to get it done away in a weekend, to have a peek at the book my students loved to read for their fiction class. For my own enjoyment I should grab The Grape of Wrath or The Scarlet Letter glaring from the bookshelf. Or do you think Neil Gaiman is a maturer choice than Dahl?

Dahl, Roald. Matilda. New York: Puffin books. 1998.


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Book #19. The Mysterious Benedict Society

I was aghast to be assigned this bulky volume three days prior to teaching the elementary fiction class… But after two full rigorous weeks of the summer intensive program, I finally found myself having thoroughly enjoyed reading and teaching this children’s book.

Largely influenced by the Harry Potter saga, Trenton Lee Stewart’s adventure story features an intelligent and precocious orphan Reynard “Reynie” Muldoon who soon finds himself company of the nerdy George “Sticky” Washington, the tumbling Kate Witherall and the disagreeable Constance Contraire after trying for a special test administered by the ingenious Mr. Benedict who is unfortunately suffering from an unusual condition called Narcolepsy, a disorder that makes him fall asleep every time he is seized with amusement. Having named themselves “Mysterious Benedict Society,” they infiltrate into the ominous Institute of the Very Enlightened as secret agents of Mr. Benedict who are determined to seek the secrets of the hidden messages coming from it.

An orphan boy unwillingly taking the leader role, a group of faithful friends and the setting of a grand mysterious school all reminded me of the major features of the Harry Potter saga, but Trenton Lee Stewart brings his own wits to this story full of enlightening puzzles and twists. (Turn the word “LOSE” to get the number “3507” to the keypad!! How clever!!)

I would love to delve into its sequels, especially the prequel about Mr. Benedict himself, only if I haven’t have this pile of adult non-fictions and science fictions glaring at me… nonetheless, it was a precious time for me to discover the joy of children’s literature.

The official website looks pretty cool, too:

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Book #18 Pride and Prejudice

oxford-pride-and-prejudiceJane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was one of the most delightful experiences in my undergraduate years. Even if I hadn’t taken the advance English course on Jane Austen in my senior year, I would have found my way to the book sometime later in my life, but it found me at the right time when I was beginning to distance myself from the longtime joy of reading.

Thanks to the academic writing advisor who offered me a completely new perception, my opinion of the book deviated from the common opinion that considers Elizabeth Bennet as one of the most impressive (?) romantic heroines. She is intelligent, yes, but she seems anything but romantic, for the relative lack of evidence of her ‘love’ for Darcy compared to Darcy’s sincere feelings for her. Didn’t she just fall in love with Darcy for his immense fortune?

“My dearest sister, now be serious. I want to talk very seriously.      Let me know every thing that I am to know, without delay. Will you tell me how long you have loved him?”

“It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But      I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.”

Eyes often complete the job ears fail. Elizabeth’s eyes awaken her to the fullest extent of his wealth her ears fail to sense. Elizabeth repulsed to Darcy’s background as ‘proud’ when she merely heard about it… But her opinion changed when she ‘sees’ about it. Her visit to Pemberly certainly strengthened her decision to marry him, but it certainly wasn’t her ‘only reason’: she would have married him anyway even if she didn’t visit his house, for her flattered knowledge of his feelings and her determination to correct her error. But no matter how many times I think about it, there is more rational aspect to their union more than the passion and purity of love. The marriage of Jane and Bingley seems puerer if it comes to ‘love’ as an emotion.

The discussion of the reason and passion in ‘love’ is further elaborated in Sense of Sensibility, another Austenian masterpiece. I usually couple the two novels together for the paralleled themes evident in their titles. It is difficult to decide which one I prefer. I will shortly post my should-have-been-written-already review for Sense and Sensibility.

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