Thursday, November 29, 2007

Great Holiday Gifts For Children.

Having done a post on great books for the holidays, it just doesn't seem complete if i did not come up with a selection of gifts for children, just like what my daughter pointed out to me : "What about gifts for children?" Being relatively clueless about what children would like for the coming festive holidays, i roped in my daughter and 11 year-old nephew to help me with the selection. So, here is a selection of gifts from Amazon that would bring on the smiles in a child's face :

Imported from Europe, this fun Happy Zebra bead frame on wheels is beautifully crafted of wood and wood beads and will keep little hands and minds busy for hours and develops fine motor coordination and critical thinking skills as the child slides beads across the tangle of wires. Washes easily with a damp sponge. Recommended ages 1 & up.
Size - 7" x 3" x 6".
Happy Zebra Bead Frame Play Toy on Wheels From Friendly Company. Price : $19.99

Delightful and adorable Monchhichi 8"Dolls. Based on the adventures of a monkey from the popular Japanese animated series "Futago no monchhichi", these cute 8" dolls are highly sought after collectibles by young and old.
Assorted Monchhichi 8" Dolls From Sekiguchi.
Price : From $15.95 onwards.

KidKraft Veranda Swivel Dollhouse , mounted on a 360 degree swivel, offers plenty of room for your child's dolls and her BIG imagination. With 24 pieces of furniture, 4 rooms and 2 levels, the included wooden doll family of four, can move in right away. Let your little one use their creative eye to arrange and decorate the living room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. It's a dream house your little doll will love! Measures 23 1/2 x 2 1/4 x 8"
KidKraft Veranda Swivel Dollhouse From KidKraft
Special Price : $71.62

With Hasbro Transformers Cyber Stompin' Action Figures, kids can take control of the Autobots and rescue Earth from the ruthless Decepticons. Based on the characters from the 2007 summer blockbuster hit movie, "Transformers," this action figures series has battle sounds and features galore and will let kids relive all of the movie's best scenes. Recommended for ages 4 and up.

Assorted Hasbro Transformers Cyber Stompin' Action Figures.
Price : From $9.99 onwards.

Girls can style Princess Rosella for the royal ball as they sing along to favorite songs from the beloved "Barbie as The Island Princess" movie. The beautiful island rose becomes the microphone and girls can even record and play back their performances. Play set includes hairbrush, clips, faux makeup and a special tiara that girls can share with Princess Rosella.
Measures 11.5"H x 13.5"W. Requires 4 "AA" batteries, included. Barbie Island Princess Rosella Karaoke Styling Head From Mattel
Special Price : $34.99

The bride Giselle debuts from the blockbuster Disney movie "Enchanted," in stunning lightweight tulle and rich brocade with princess sleeves, gloves, a tiara and hair adorned with sprays of delicate faux flowers. Doll measures 12" tall.
Disney Giselle Fairytale Wedding From Mattel.
Special Price : $28.70

Based on Cartoon Network's smash hit - Ben 10, this game features a three-dimensional Omnitrix that tells players what alien they turn into. Will it be the one they need to fight the villain they just encountered? If it is, you've captured it and continue on to your next challenge. For 2 to 4 players ages 7 and up.
Ben 10 Total Transformation Game From Pressman Toys
Price : $14.99

Attach Jedi Starfighters to hyperdrive rings and blast off into hyperspace. Removable Jedi Starfighter features retractable landing gear, multi-position wings and an opening cockpit that can seat Obi-Wan Kenobi or the firstever Kit Fisto minifigurine. Hyperdrive ring features flick-launching missiles and opening starfighter connection plates. Size 11.34"H x 18.92"W x 2.83"D.
LEGO® Jedi Starfighter™ with Hyperdrive Booster Ring
Price : $49.99

Discover the fantastic micro-world of ants with Forest Ants, of the Antquarium range. An educational and interactive game, learn how ants build tunnels and their habitat in a blue transparent Gel, while a rain forest grows on the gel surface.The tiny Forest Ant Ecoterrarium measures 5" x 3-1/2" x 1"
Globus Space-Age Ant Habitat, Antquarium From Noted
Special Price : $19.99

*Related post : Great Books for The Holidays

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Christmas - A Time For Saints.

Christmas - a joyous occasion where millions of people around the world celebrate the joys of love, the wonders of giving and the importance of family. A time of togetherness when children and adults alike, dream of wishes come true. And what would my Christmas wish be?

Like parents around the world, I wish for happy, peaceful and joyous lives for my family and children. But with the way things are in the world now - the crisis in Darfur, strife in Middle East especially Iraq, extreme poverty in many parts of Asia, foreclosures and bankruptcies of millions of people affected by the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the multitudes of people displaced by natural disasters - I also wish for more advocates of peace through non-violent means like Mahatma Gandhi, many more humanitarians like Dr. Muhammad Yunus and Dr. Paul Farmer, freedom fighters like Nelson Mandela but above all else, I wish for more authors of compassion and love like Mother Teresa and Polish priest Stephen Kovalski.

Christmas is a time for remembrance of saints like Mother Teresa.

"To care for the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone." - Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity

Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born on 26 August 1910, in Skopje, Yugoslavia, of Albanian parents. Fascinated by stories of the lives of missionaries and their service at an early age, she left home at age of eighteen and entered the Missionary Order of the Loreto Sisters, taking the name of Teresa in memory of the little Flower of Lisieu, the patron saint of missionaries.

On January 20, 1931, she came to Calcutta, then the largest city of the British Empire after London and served as a teacher at the Loreto convent school in eastern Calcutta. For sixteen years, she taught geography to daughters of the well-to-do in British and Bengali society and although Mother Teresa enjoyed teaching at the school, she was increasingly disturbed by the poverty surrounding her in Calcutta. One day in 1946, on a train journey to Darjeeling, a town on the slopes of the Himalayas, she heard a voice.

God was asking her to leave the comfort of the convent and live among the poorest of the poor in the vast city beyond. In 1950, having obtained permission from the Pope, she started the order of the Missionaries of Charity, a congregation which began as a small order with 13 members in Calcutta. Today it has more than 4,000 nuns running orphanages, AIDS hospices, caring for the poor, the blind, disabled, aged and homeless, and victims of floods, epidemics, and famine and has several thousand charitable foundations throughout India and the world.

In 1952, an incident gave birth to "Nirmal Hriday - the Place of the Pure Heart - Home for Dying Destitutes." It was June 1952 and the time of the monsoons when Mother Teresa stumbled upon an old and dying woman outside the Medical College Hospital in Calcutta. The old woman was hardly breathing and her legs had been gnawed to the bone by rats. Mother Teresa scooped the old woman in her arms and ran into the hospital, depositing the dying woman in a stretcher. "Take that woman away immediately!," an hospital attendant intervened. "There is nothing we can do for her." Mother Teresa took the dying woman and set off to another hospital. Suddenly, she felt the woman's body stiffened and realized that it was too late. "In this city, even the dogs are treated better than human beings," she sighed.

So was born "Nirmal Hriday - the Place of the Pure Heart" - a place for the dying to appear before God in dignity and love. Those brought to the home received medical attention and were given the opportunity to die with dignity, according to the rituals of their faith; Muslims were read the Quran, Hindus received water from the Ganges, and Catholics received the Last Rites. "A beautiful death," she said, "is for people who lived like animals to die like angels — loved and wanted."

Taking in dying destitutes was only a first step for Mother Teresa, for the living too needed care and among the most neglected of the living were the abandoned newborn babies that might be found in a gutter, on a rubbish heap or in the doorway of a church. On February 15, 1953, she founded "Shishu Bhavan - the Children's Home of the Immaculate Heart," and welcomed its first guest, a premature baby wrapped in a piece of newspapers and left on a street pavement. "Shishu Bhavan" was to serve as a haven for thousands of discarded babies, orphans and homeless youth.

After the dying and the abandoned children, Mother Teresa turned her attention to the most wretched of Indian society, the lepers. At Titagarh, a shantytown in an industrial suburb of Calcutta, she constructed on land borrowed from the railway company, a haven to harbour the worst leper cases, bringing them medicine, dressings and words of comfort. She named the hospice, "Shanti Nagar - the City of Peace."

For over forty years, Mother Teresa ministered to the poor, sick, orphaned, the unwanted and dying in Calcutta, and her selfless dedication and compassion for the underprivileged has been widely recognised and acclaimed throughout the world. She has received a number of awards and distinctions, including the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize in 1971 and the Nehru Prize for her promotion of international peace and understanding in 1972. She was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her humanitarian efforts.

Mother Teresa passed away on September 5, 1997, nine days after her 87th birthday. At the time of her death, Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity had over 4,000 sisters, an associated brotherhood of 300 members, and over 100,000 lay volunteers, operating 610 missions in 123 countries. Following her death, she was beautified by Pope John Paul II and given the title "Blessed Teresa of Calcutta."

"....but I found the poverty of the West so much more difficult to remove. When I pick up a person from the street, hungry, I give him a plate of rice, a piece of bread, I have satisfied. I have removed that hunger. But a person that is shut out, that feels unwanted, unloved, terrified, the person that has been thrown out from society - that poverty is so hurtable and so much, and I find that very difficult." - Mother Teresa's Nobel Prize speech

*Sources :
- Nobel Prize org.
- Wikipedia
- City Of Joy by Dominique Lapierre

*Author's footnote :
Beginning today right up till Christmas, there will be a series of articles dedicated to humanitarians who have made tremendous contributions to society and these articles - the "Christmas Celebration series", will truly be my Christmas celebrations - the celebration of the human spirit.

*Related post : Christmas - A Time For Humanitarians

Friday, November 23, 2007

In Memory Of Gary Jennings.

Norman Mailer, an American literary icon, passed away this week but today's post is not about him. Instead it is dedicated to a personal literary icon of mine - Gary Jennings, who passed away in 1999, something which I had belatedly found out.

Going down memory lane, I remembered browsing at a local book store some twenty years ago and chanced upon Aztec whose synopsis about the life and times of a lost civilization looks interesting enough for me to buy it. And what a find it was!

Meticulously researched and exceptionally well written, I was spell bounded by the unique prose, wit and bawdy spirit of the epic novel. The breathtaking story of the protagonist's, Dark Cloud, adventures as a warrior and traveling merchant in what the Aztecs called The One World, was a novel of heroic dimension.

Rich with memorable characters and colorful exoticism, it was an epic tale full of surprises and led me on a wonderful journey back to a time now lost. Jennings's Aztec world was filled with vivid details and written with an authenticity that is hard to matched. Over the years, Aztec is one of the few novels in my collection that I had read many times and remains one of my all time favorites.

Besides the evident amount of research Gary Jennings pours into his historical epics, he also has this special ability to imbue his protagonists and characters with an irrepressible and zany lust for life, exotic wit and roguish charm, so much so that a reader wants to identify with them.

Who can be untouched by the adventures of Dark Cloud or the loss of his wife and daughter? What about the Goth, Thorn, the protagonist in Raptor and his spell bounding narration of his tempestuous exploits through his exciting journey across Europe at the time of the Roman Empire? Or Jennings's take on Marco Polo in Journeyer? His men and women were eccentric, always roguish and unabashedly bawdy. Jennings enlivened their adventures with an energetic prose and a narrative drive that many believed unique to historical fiction.

Nearer to our times, Jennings's Spangle was another tour-de-force of fascinating circus lore set in nineteenth-century Europe, with its stolid innkeepers to drinking poets amid a continent on the brink of change and the emergence of the new nations of Italy and Germany. The journey brings us from the impoverished post-Civil War South to the decadent courts of Europe, the grim of the Russian Czar and finally to Paris under wartime siege.

To the literary world, Gary Jennings was acknowledged as a man of intellect and erudition. His novels were international best sellers, praised for their stylish prose and widely acclaimed for the years of research he put into each one. To me, he was a rare literary great that comes once in a while and I mourn the loss of such a great icon in historical literature.

Thank you very much, Gary Jennings, for the memories.

"I'm a writer. I write not only for a living, I write because I'm a writer."

* Gary Jennings other works :
- The Rope In The Jungle
- Sow The Seeds Of Hemp
- The Terrible Teague Bunch

* As Gabriel Quyth
- The Lively Lives of Crispin Mobey

*Reference :
- Gary Jennings net

*Related post :
- A Blast From The Past - My Journey With Stephen King

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Great Books For The Hoildays.

Whenever anyone ask me what i would like for a Christmas gift, my answer has always been books, even when i was a young boy. I still remember the thrill of receiving my first book, Moby Dick, as a Christmas present from a dotting aunt when i was about 10 years old. The excitement and joy was simply beyond words.

Unlike other gifts, books to me are timeless and i experience the same joy, if not more, when reading a book a second or even a third time round. There is just something about books, maybe it's their texture, the smell of printed paper, the visual impact of the cover or the promise of a wonderful journey, that make books so attractive to me. So, here is a selection of books from and with 34 per cent off books over $25, would make wonderful gifts for the coming festive holidays :


Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full PotentialThe SecretYou: Staying Young: The Owner's Manual for Extending Your Warranty (You)
Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Yo...
by Joel Osteen

The Secret

You: Staying Young
by Michael F. Roizen

Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, & Priorities of a Winning LifeConversations with God : An Uncommon Dialogue (Book 1)Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life)
Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, ...
by Tony Dungy

Conversations with God : An Uncommon Dialog...
by Neale Donald Walsch

Basic Black

Become a Better YouFive Wishes: How Answering One Simple Question Can Make Your Dreams Come TrueDeceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food
Become a Better You
by Joel Osteen

Five Wishes
by Gay Hendricks

Deceptively Delicious
by Jessica Seinfeld


I Am America (And So Can You!)Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death & Life
I Am America (And So Can You!)
by Stephen Colbert

Eat, Pray, Love
by Elizabeth Gilbert

90 Minutes in Heaven
by Don Piper

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a TimeClapton: The AutobiographyThe Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World

Three Cups of Tea:One Man's Mission to Pro...
by Greg Mortenson

Clapton: The Autobiography
by Eric Clapton

The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New ...
by Alan Greenspan

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the BrainThe Glass Castle: A MemoirRescuing Sprite: A Dog Lover's Story of Joy and Anguish

Tales of Music and the Brain
by Oliver Sacks

The Glass Castle: A Memoir
by Jeannette

Rescuing Sprite
by Mark R. Levin


Love in the Time of Cholera (Oprah's Book Club)Water for Elephants: A NovelThe Gathering (Man Booker Prize)

Love in the Time of Cholera(Oprah's Book
by Gabriel Garcia


Water for Elephants
by Sara Gruen

The Gathering
(Man Booker Prize)
by Anne Enright

The ChoiceA Thousand Splendid SunsWorld Without End

The Choice
by Nicholas Sparks

A Thousand SplendidSuns
by Khaled Hosseini

World Without End
by Ken Follett

The Almost Moon: A NovelThe Abstinence TeacherThe Thirteenth Tale: A Novel
The Almost Moon
by Alice Sebold

The Abstinence
by Tom Perrotta
The Thirteenth Tale
by Diane Setterfield

*Related posts :
- August sizzling reads
- This week's bestsellers

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Red Clay Media - The Right Partner For Mortgage Lenders.

It is the time of the year where celebrations are in order but i cannot help sympathizing with the plight of the people who were affected by the US sub-prime mortgage crisis. Defaults on mortgage loans in the US are at their highest in years and the damage to homeowners is extremely severe. There are already more than 1 million foreclosures in 2007 and many more people are facing the prospect of losing their homes, and are going through painful bankruptcies when they should be enjoying and celebrating the festive season.

Other than home owners, an estimated 110 mortgage lenders have collapsed, with US investment firm Bear Stearns and Northern Rock in UK becoming the poster boys of the crisis in sub-prime mortgages, and the troubles have spread beyond sub-prime mortgages to so-called Alt-A mortgages.

With the spectacular collapse of so many mortgage lenders and the expected contraction in the mortgage market, it seems only prudent that mortgage lenders should adopt currently available marketing intelligence services such as those offered by Red Clay Media, who generates premium mortgage leads of people who can actually afford to take out a mortgage.

Red Clay Media provides a range of solutions, specifically targeted at mortgage lenders, from acquiring exclusive mortgage leads, live transfer mortgage leads to online mortgage lead generation. With exclusive mortgage leads, all the leads come pre-qualified and are ready to buy, with all the screening work done by Red Clay Media. Their online mortgage leads can help mortgage lenders set up multiple internet marketing campaigns to drive leads directly to their sites. Together with their network of websites that generate quality leads for refinance, debt consolidation and new home loans, mortgage lenders can lower their cost per funded loans by as much as 40 per cent.

Rather than adopting aggressive marketing campaigns that push financial products and homes at people who actually cannot afford them and contributing to defaults and foreclosures, using targeted marketing intelligence services and exclusive mortgage leads generation offered by Red Clay Media is the way to go for mortgage lenders.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Magic Of Poetry.

A bit of spring cleaning done over the last week, in view of the coming festive seasons, turned up something unexpected. Lying inside an old, dusty and out-of-shape box in my store room was a scrapbook containing poems which I had written a lifetime ago, when I was a boy.

Looking through them brought back memories of a time long gone. The places and neighbourhoods that I grew up in - changed beyond recognition by modernisation, and the childhood friends that, for one reason or another, have drifted apart and lost contact with. It reminded me of what it was like to be a child - innocent, naive, full of hope and optimism and also, the regret of passing into adulthood. How I missed those simple childhood days!

Days spent flying kites and playing marbles, hunting for fighting spiders, catching fish and grasshoppers and the wonder of puppy love for the girl with the twin pleated long hair. So, what is it about poetry that, through a few simple sentences, is able to evoke such feelings?

Poetry, meaning "I create" in ancient Greek, is a human language art form and is a powerful way of expressing feelings and ideas. Like art, the beauty and magic of poetry lies in the eye of the beholder and is subjected to different interpretations. It is intangible, an act of self-discovery and defines deep feelings and emotions. It is intense, captures distilled perceptions and is personal and unique to its author.

Poetry has the ability to take us on a journey, to places we have never been before. It is everywhere - in nature, in the moment we look into the eyes of those we love, in the depth of one's soul, in our memories and in the flashes of our childhood.

Poetry is there for you to contemplate - "It is as it is."

my tears
were dried
by you
but no

i loved you
but no

my mind
is full
of you.

as a
but a
long lost
- My Den (circa1971)

Night time is overtaking me
as daylight falls behind.
My life is slowly losing
the sparkle and shine.

A life filled with promises
and empty bottles of wine.
This loneliness is beginning to
encloak me,
I've lost all sense of time.

Self-pity overwhelms me,
I've begun to lose my mind.
While death is overtaking me
and daylight falls behind.
- My Den (circa 1976)

"A poem begins with a lump in the throat, a home-sickness or a love-sickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where the emotion has found its thought and the thought has found the words." - American poet Robert Frost

*For more poetry of startling originality :
- The Eye Of A Poet by Billy Collins
- Each Happiness Ringed By Lions by Jane Hirshfield
- View With A Grain Of Sand by Wislawa Szymborska
- The Best Poems Of The English Language by Harold Bloom

*Related post : The Joy Of Writing.