Archive for October, 2009

October 31, 2009

Repost: Hit or Miss, October ’09

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Hit (or Miss) List, October ’09

Saturday, October 31, 2009

It was a slower-than-usual reading month for me in October, but I did get to read some fun things, at least.  I did not, however, make much of a dent in my Fill in the Gaps list of 100 books to be read over the next 5 years.  I hope to get more of that done in November.


Here’s what I’ve been reading and watching in October:



Hit List

  1. • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke)
  2. • Night and Day (Virginia Woolf)
  3. • The Lover (onstage, in Mandarin)
  4. • Some of Washington Irving’s short stories:

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Spectre Bridegroom, Mountjoy, The Pride of the


  1. •Back issues of The Fourth Genre, Chinese Language Learning and Chinese Literature
  2. •Various Chinese poems (for class)




Miss List

• The Master Builder (onstage)

The performance of this supposedly dense work turned out to be pretty weak



• The Rice Queen Spy (John F. Rooney)





Neither Hit nor Miss

  1. • 《甲申记》(onstage)

good acting, excellent choreography, but something just didn’t work (and I’m not sure I really got the story)







So, what have you been reading and watching this past month?





4 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
will post mine soon.
Thursday, November 5, 2009 – 11:01 AM
I’ll be by for a look.
Friday, November 6, 2009 – 06:54 AM
I always like your hit and miss lists.
I look forward to them at the end of every month
Tuesday, November 17, 2009 – 12:15 PM
I’m glad someone bothers to read them!  I like posting them.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009 – 06:22 PM
October 24, 2009

Repost: Reflections on dark ’til dawn

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Reflections on dark ‘til dawn

Saturday, October 24, 2009

There was really only one thing that ever kept me from becoming a visual artist of some sort — a decided lack of talent.  I don’t have a steady hand.  My fine motor skills are, well, less than fine.  I have never been able to put the pictures in my mind onto the page without recourse to words.  Words, it seems, are the only chance I have at producing art.  I have always felt it a pitiable lack in myself, that I did not have even a shred of talent that would allow me to enter the world of visual arts.


Because of this particular ineptitude that I’ve always known was mine, collaborating on the dark ‘til dawn series with Peter Zhou (周宇) of decollection has been a great pleasure.  The project involved creating 30 designer lamps sporting Zhou’s paintings, with both the design and painting growing out of my haiku.  Each lamp was to be a one-of-its-kind art piece, with a unique design and painting inspired by the haiku.  The idea was to incorporate East and West, contemporary and traditional.  It was a huge undertaking, and I am very satisfied with the job we’ve done, having just completed it this week.


The process began with poem selection.  I went through my existing body of work, and took out several haiku that would form a basis for the series, including some that were previously published, like the haiku portion of the haibun “Blowing Smoke,” still available in the archives at Sloth Jockey.  Haiku seemed to be a natural choice for the form of poetry that would suit the lamps, both for its brevity and for its emphasis on image and “the moment.”


As Zhou and I sat discussing the poems, me trying to translate the ideas into Mandarin for him, we found that the best approach was to first talk image, then move to feel, effect, and associations.   It was an invigorating process, and also quite humbling.  It is very difficult to pick apart one’s own poetry and put it into such bald, exposed terms (though I never mind doing it to the work of others).  Zhou impressed me with how quickly he could capture the ideas and relate them to the pictures floating around in his own mind.


Our next step involved Zhou producing sketches for the paintings and lamp designs, while I put together a few more poems to flesh out the series.  We ended up going through about 45 poems in order to find the 30 that we finally settled on.  Some of the haiku were, typical of my work, first created as works of speculative poetry.  Watching Zhou recontextualize these poems into a more traditional Chinese setting was amazing.  For instance, there is one piece that was written as part of a longer poem, envisioning the view of Earth from space:


compelled by her hues

overlaid by swirling whites

her rich greens, deep blues


Zhou’s image of this poem is a scene of a river gorge cut between two mountains, with the clouds rolling over the waters in the middle of the valley.  It is very typical of a certain style of traditional Chinese painting, and nicely places the words of the poem into a new context that I had not imagined for them.  Similar work of situating the verses into new surroundings happened over and over with the 30 pieces, bringing Merlin into contact with Da Peng Niao, the phoenix with a Chinese sunbird, and meteors with Chinese astrology.  It has been lots of fun watching all of this come together.


Zhou is an amazing artist, endowed with all of those talents that are necessary for one to be successful with the visual arts — a steady hand, a good eye, a cool demeanor, and a quick recall across the huge breadth of images residing in his mind.  It has been a great pleasure to see my poetry being brought to new life by his hand.



By next week, there should be photos and descriptions of the lamps up on the decollection website.  Check back if you’d like to have a look.




© 2009 Shelly Bryant


2 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
What fun–and what an inspiring way to create art.


Sunday, October 25, 2009 – 03:12 AM
It really has been fun, Malcolm.  I enjoyed the discussions with Peter (and appreciate him bearing with the roughness of the translations I was able to offer!).  It’s been quite fun for me, working on this project.
Sunday, October 25, 2009 – 08:18 AM
October 17, 2009

Repost: About Free Audiobooks

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

About Free Audiobooks

Saturday, October 17, 2009

It was with some reluctance that I finally began listening to audiobooks.  My dad was probably the first person who tried to convince me that I would love them, but I was skeptical.  After a while, though, I finally decided to give it a try by downloading several titles from and listening to them on my iPod during long flights and my daily commutes.


That was somewhere around ten years ago, and I have listened to a lot of audiobooks since then.  I won’t say I am exactly a convert, or that I am 100% in love with the listening experience when contrasted to holding a book in hand and tackling it at my leisure.  But there have been a lot of fun reading/listening experiences in that time.  Perhaps the best was when I was on a long road trip with two friends, and we listened to one of the newly released Harry Potterbooks together.  The narration was good, and it was a lot of fun hearing the story together in the car, and rehashing when we stopped and got out of the car for one reason or another.


So, as someone who does a fair bit of listening, and who has a liking for older books that are in the public domain, I’ve done a lot of downloading of free books.  There are a lot of spots that offer really good quality, but there are some that can be rather hit or miss.


Most recently, I’ve been listening to several downloads from Librivox.  I usually really enjoy what I download from Librivox.  Right now, I am in the middle of Virginia Woolf’s Night and Day, and the reading is really good.  It is done in a nice, even voice, and the voice suits the text pretty well.  That is quite different, though, from a couple I listened to last month, especially The Aeneid.  I was sad to have to rank it as a miss on my September list, but the fact is that the reading was just not that good.  Edgar Rice Burrough’s A Princess of Mars was, like The Aeneid, split up between different readers, and so each chapter was done in a different voice and different accent.  It was fairly distracting in both instances.  For The Aeneid, it was made worse because several of the readers took on a sing-song type of voice, obviously not knowing how to handle the rhyme and meter of Dryden’s translation well when reading aloud.  It was disappointing.


I have had better luck with ejunto, for the most part.  It is mostly classics there.  You’ll find a lot of good texts in the fields of philosophy, history, science, and literature.  And there are lots of memoirs and biographies available.  I really like the recordings, but the selection is not quite as wide as what you find at Librivox.  But if you find what you are looking for there, you can be pretty sure the quality will be good.  I hope they will continue expanding the list of titles they have available.


One way or another, both Librivox and ejunto offer a really nice means for downloading free audiobooks.  I’ve got an iPod full of them, and still have many hours of listening to do to complete all the titles I’ve got there.


And that’s a good thing.  Something to look forward to on the long flights I’ll be doing before too long.




© 2009 Shelly Bryant

2 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
I have yet to listen to an audio book for I feel that the words in a novel were meant to be seen and not heard. Also, I don’t want the voice of the reader to get between me and the words. My brother and his wife, however, listen to them a great deal on car trips. Neither of them has time to read and sitting for hours in a car with a story suits them very well. I can imagine doing it on flights, but am resisting the idea.


Friday, November 13, 2009 – 03:22 AM
It’s definitely not my preferred mode of experiencing a novel, Malcolm, but I have come to enjoy it.  Like your brother and sister-in-law, it is mostly for commuting, for me, and for long flights as well (though I often turn off the audio book and pick up a “real” book on a plane too).

For the interference of the readers, I’ve actually enjoyed that more than I expected, overall.  On some of the free recordings, it does get irritating, as I noted in the post.  But for the most part, a good reader can add to the story.  I actually enjoy listening to books I’ve read before, and hearing other people’s take on them.  It’s kind of fun, and a good way to get to revisit a book that interested me in the past.  Also, it’s a great way to use the time of a commute (or whatever) instead of letting the mind idle while you just go through the motions of the day.

Saturday, November 14, 2009 – 09:59 AM
October 10, 2009

Repost: Upcoming Projects

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Upcoming Projects

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cyborg Chimera

My first poetry collection, published by Sam’s Dot Publishing, has been released.  The poems probe into questions of programming and free will, hybridity, the subconscious, and all sorts of control mechanisms.  You can order your copy ofCyborg Chimera from The Genre Mall.



Speculative Poetry Anthology (a call for submissions)

Firstfruits Publications, Singapore’s most renown publisher of poetry books, seeks submissions for a poetry anthology slated for late 2010. The anthology will aim to introduce speculative poetry to a Singapore audience. We hope that this will generate more interest in genre poetry in the country, and that both poets and readers will seek to experiment more in the field. Our interest runs the gamut from hard science to mythopoeia to horror to fantasy to the surreal. We are interested in

finding a broad range of speculative poetry to introduce to a local audience.


You can send submissions to me at the address listed below. No more than 10 poems (of any length) per poet. If your work is accepted, there is a possibility we will solicit more pieces from you down the road. Submissions should be addressed to project editor Shelly Bryant at shellybryant (at) yahoo (dot) com.  (You’ll have to make that a usable address.)  Please put POETRY SUBMISSION and your name in the subject line, and include the poems in the body of the email. And please remember to include your contact information.  No reprints.  Simultaneous submissions are fine, but please inform the editor if the work is accepted elsewhere.


Payment will be in contributors’ copies, 2 per contributor.



Dark ‘til Dawn

Next month marks the launch of a project I am working on in conjunction with decollection, a Shanghai-based designer of soft furnishings.  The Dark ‘til Dawn series of designer art pieces is a space for the intermingling of my poetry and the paintings of Chinese artist Zhou Yu.  Each piece grew out of one of my haiku, with Zhou’s painting and lamp design developing around the imagery of the poem.  There will be 30 lamps in the collection, each a unique design, with a unique poem and painting hand-painted on the piece.  Each lamp will come with a birth certificate, and will be signed by the artists.


Watch for more information as the launch date draws nearer.



Pocket Guide to Suzhou

I have been engaged by Urbanatomy to write a pocket guide to the city of Suzhou. The book will be released next year, in conjunction with the World Expo, hosted in Shanghai.  Urbanatomy has published guides to Shanghai over the past several years, and is currently expanding its work to include other cities.  Suzhou is a beautiful place, and I am very pleased to be writing about it.


Expect the book to be released sometime in early summer 2010.  I will, again, include more information as we get closer to the release date.





It’s going to be an exciting few months, with lots of new projects on!  Keep an eye on this blog for more updates.




© 2009 Shelly Bryant

6 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
Exciting stuff, Shelly!  This should keep you out of trouble for awhile.
Saturday, October 10, 2009 – 11:50 PM
4Keep me out of trouble?  Might have to work harder than that…
Sunday, October 11, 2009 – 01:57 PM
WOW!! what awesome stuff you’ve got going! good for you! would love to see the lamps. is there a website for that?
Saturday, October 17, 2009 – 05:30 AM
It is exciting, silken.  The lamps aren’t quite done yet, as there are a few more to paint.  But, they are supposed to be done this week, and we’ll have the images up with the lamps ready to order on the 23rd, if all goes as planned.  It will be at the link listed above (  There’s a link to the company’s site from my main page, which I’ll change to the lamps’ site when they are done.

I’m very pleased with the way the lamps have turned out so far.  Zhou Yu has done a great job with the art work.  I hope next week, when they are finished, to do a little debrief of the process in an entry here, and will have more to say then.

Saturday, October 17, 2009 – 09:34 AM
It’s been a while since I’ve stopped by…looks like you’ve been busy!

I just ordered my copy of your book and can’t wait for its arrival!  :O)

Thursday, October 22, 2009 – 02:25 AM
Thanks for popping in, Beth, and thanks for ordering a copy of Cyborg Chimera.  I don’t think it is shipping yet, but should be very soon.

I have been very busy, and loving the projects I’ve been working on.  I’m looking forward to seeing things take a firmer shape over the next few months (year, really).  It will be nice if all goes as I hope with each of the projects…. is that too much to ask for????

Saturday, October 24, 2009 – 09:34 AM
October 3, 2009

Repost: Hit or Miss, September ’09

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Hit (or Miss) List, September ’09

Saturday, October 3, 2009

I finally had a little more time for some reading and movie-watching.  I made a little headway on my Fill in the Gaps list in September, which was fun, and also got to catch up on some other reading/viewing I’d left hanging for a while.  And I had a lot of fun catching a few old movies on the MGM channel while I was unexpectedly back in Singapore for a week to settle matters for my China visa.


Here’s what I’ve been reading and watching for the past month:


Hit List

  1. •Quantum Lyrics (A Van Jordan) — see my review at Sloth Jockey
  2. •Velocity (Dean Koontz) — see my response at Fill in the Gaps

this was on my “Fill in the Gaps” list because I’d heard good things about Koontz’s writing; it was better than I thought

  1. •Macbeth (movie)  — 2006 Australian version
  2. •Slipstream (movie)

this was something I’d picked up on DVD some time back, and finally got to watch; very, very good

  1. •Zen in the Art of Writing (Ray Bradbury)
  2. •Dark Nebulae (John J. Dunphy)
  3. •The Mouths that Remain (Gavin Salisbury)
  4. •The Princess of Mars (Edgar Rice Burroughs) — see my response at Fill in the Gaps
  5. •The Fountainhead (movie)
  6. •Clean Slate (movie)
  7. •A Fish Called Wanda (movie)
  8. •Transformers 2 (movie)
  9. •Rip Van Winkle (Washington Irving) — see my response at Fill in the Gaps




Miss List

•Training Day (movie)

I’m not sure it was exactly a miss, but I really didn’t like it as much as I thought I would – too cliche, I guess


•The Aeneid (Vergil, a Librivox recording)

it’s not the text that was the problem, as I’ve always loved The Aeneid, but the recording; some of the readers just don’t read poetry well, especially Dryden’s rhyme and meter



Neither Hit nor Miss

  1. •The World is Flat (Thomas Friedman) — read my thoughts at Tai Shan

there were some good thoughts, for sure, but I probably waited to long to read it; it’s rather dated already


  1. Director’s Cut (Alton Gansky)





So, what have you been reading and watching this past month?





8 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
I would recommend the Swedish vampire flick ‘Let the Right One In’. The story centres on the relationship between a 12-year-old boy, Oskar, and a 200-year-old vampire child, Eli. Not your typical vampire movie. My wife, who has very little time for vampires, loved it.

And I’ve just finished ‘Rhyming Life and Death’ by Amos Oz. It’s a novella where we get to witness the writing process in action as we listen to the stream-of-consciousness narrative describing what goes on in an author’s mind. Next to no plot – and even some of the plot there is might well only be imagined – but I loved it.

Saturday, October 3, 2009 – 05:57 PM
Both sound like excellent recommendations, Jim.  Thanks!  I’m off now to check out both titles.  I have a feeling both will be added to my TBR list.
Saturday, October 3, 2009 – 11:02 PM
Interesting list. I haven’t seen any movies, other than on TV, for ages. As for books, I enjoyed Julianna Baggott’s “The Madam” and Pat Conroy’s “South of Broad.” The Conroy book doesn’t seem to work quite as well as his “Prince of Tides.” Right now, I’m reading Roberto Bolano’s very lengthy “2666.” I’m enjoying it so far, but have some 750 pages left to read.

Best of luck with your new book.


Monday, October 5, 2009 – 10:39 AM
Hi Malcolm,

I read some of your comments here or there (or perhaps here andthere) about your reading of 2666.  It sounds like a very intriguing read.  I think I might enjoy it, from what you’ve said.

I have mostly only caught movies on TV or DVD for the past several months, though I actually really love seeing them on the big screen (how old fashioned is that???).

I’m reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell right now.  It’s pretty good so far (about a quarter into it).  It was recommended by a couple of friends, and I am hoping to finish while one of those friends is visiting me here in Shanghai next week.  It’s always fun to discuss a book with the person who recommended it to you.

I’ll keep “The Madam” on my radar too, as well as Conroy’s work.

Monday, October 5, 2009 – 12:10 PM
I also enjoyed reading “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.” If you like it, you might also consider Clarke’s follow-up volume of stories which include one or two about the characters in the novel. It’s “The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories.” I ordered a copy of your book! YAY.


Monday, October 5, 2009 – 11:09 PM
If Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell continues along as good as it is so far, I think I’ll be happy to pick up the follow-up volume.  It’s a pretty good read, rather refreshing and fun.

Thanks for picking up my book.  I’ll look forward to hearing your feedback.  I’m anxious to see what real live readers think of it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 – 02:29 PM
my list was up. and I am trying to keep up w/ my october one too! all my reading seems to be kid’s books though!
Saturday, October 17, 2009 – 05:27 AM
Nothing wrong with kids’ books— I love them!

I’ll be over to have a look at your list.

Saturday, October 17, 2009 – 09:36 AM