21 November 2009

10-15 (material) things I wish for this Christmas (or birthday)!

OK, I know what some of you are gonna say: Oh no! Heidi has been gripped by the commercialisation of Christmas now too! In short: that's not true. I refuse to put up Christmas decoration or even THINK about Christmas before mid-November when I personally deem it appropriate and adequate to do so.

When I was still living with my parents, Christmas used to be an opulent affair. Loads of energy went into honing and watering a perfect tree which was sometimes so tall, there was no space anymore to fit a golden star on top. Usually it was accompanied by the disco-decibelled voices of the Russian Don Kosaken choir or the Vienna Sängerknaben or some ancient German-German recording of traditional Christmas music. To balance the five-fold CD changer, my mother and me used to put some Mariah Carey or The Carpenters Christmas CDs in there to the endless chagrin of my father. A lot of frustration and anger also went into the annual self-made family photo shoot, the dreadful result of which would be sent to around 100 friends and relatives around the world. And of course, Christmas would be accompanied by loads of presents - too many! I ended up feeling guilty (and sometimes dissatisfied)! So I eventually told my parents to cut it back - which they did in the end after I insisted for a few Christmases.

Ever since I moved to the UK though, I haven't been around for much of the Christmas period and don't get the excitement from baking (crappy ovens and unfindable ingredients) or from attending Christmas fairs (none-existent, London only has tacky ones that resemble a mini-Prater) to compensate. Also, life in London is so expensive, many students choose not to give each other stuff or decorate their flats or halls (or are prevented from doing so due to health&safety regulations). So I end up missing the joy of opening and exchanging presents, being spoiled for a week and eating loads of hand-made cookies baked by friends and family!

And I also know that in the recent past, people who did want to give me a present have knocked their brains out in a frustrated effort to come up with a gift idea for me because I refused to give out lists to family and friends alike on the grounds that it would make Christmas a simple transaction!

So therefore, without further ado, the 15 short-listed candidates for this year's presents!

1. A History of Modern Burma from £8.96 on Amazon
The book I've been wanting to read ever since KL (and even before I've been eyeing it through the back of my mind)!

"An excellent work that deals with the period from the annexation of Upper Burma by the British in 1886 until the devastation of Cyclone Nargis in 2008. The focus is on the period from the 1930s, as self-government was gained in 1937. Charney, Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at SOAS, is well-qualified to write this work and he offers a careful account, one that is particularly nuanced in its coverage of the civil conflict and totalitarianism of recent years." Jeremy Black, The Historian

2. Freedom from Fear from £2.50 on Amazon (widely available elsewhere)
Aung Sang Suu Kyi's famous publication. Did you know that while she did her BA in New Delhi as well as the renown PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) course in Oxford (renown because it has notoriously produced high-profile national and international politicians - find a list of notable alumni here), she did her PhD at SOAS? :)

P.S. Be careful, there are quite a number of authors using the same title.

3. Chris Patten - Not quite the Diplomat from £5.50 on Amazon

Lauded latest book by former Conservative MP, Minister of Overseas Development, Secretary of State for Environment, Chairman of the Conservative Party, Governor of Hong Kong as well as Austrian Benita Ferrero-Waldner's immediate predecessor as European Commissioner for External Relations. Must-have!

4. The Wisdom of Whores from £3.99 on Amazon
An entire website dedicated to this rather insightful book widely welcomed when it was published in 2008.

About the book:
" [...] The Wisdom of Whores punches holes in many of the orthodoxies that have grown up around HIV. It shows how more premarital sex could lead to less HIV in Asia and Latin America. It points out how dangerous it is for young men in Africa to get married, now that so many young women are bringing HIV into the honeymoon suite. It questions the effectiveness of many of the best funded HIV prevention initiatives. And it does it all with solid science and a wry sense of humour. Author Elizabeth Pisani has spent ten years working as a scientist in the belly of the bloated AIDS industry.

This book unfolds a universe of brothels and bureaucracies, of bickering junkies and squabbling charities, of men who sell sex and men who would rather prohibit it. We’re endlessly told that HIV is about poverty and underdevelopment and human rights. But in the pink neon of Asia’s red light districts, HIV is mostly about people doing dumb things in the pursuit of pleasure or money. We’re just not supposed to say so. The Wisdom of Whores throws political correctness to the winds. It describes how we could shut down HIV in most of the world with a few, simple steps. It suggests that we could do it with less money than we already have. And it explains why we won’t.

This book shows how politics, ideology. and money– lots of money — have bulldozed through scientific evidence and common sense. Transgender prostitutes and drug injectors in Indonesia, policemen and sex workers in Cambodia, UN bureaucrats and ambassadors in East Timor, Christian campaigners in the United States — all appear in the book and have their say about what we should be doing differently. But all, the author included, are trying to sell themselves to the highest bidder. In the AIDS industry, the author concludes, we are all whores. [...]" (from the website)

5. International Human Rights in Context: Law, Politics, Morals (Alston/Goodman/Steiner) from around £18.99 on Amazon
A bit more pricey but it's alright, as it would be mainly for personal reference and I'm sure we got a couple of copies in the library!

6. Triage: Dr James Orbinski's Humanitarian Dilemma - hmmm... I'd say ca. £15 in the UK

Tried to get the SOAS library to get this movie shown at Sundance but back then it was not yet on DVD and so they couldn't find it and nothing ever came of it. Better to have my own copy!

"Triage: Dr James Orbinski's Humanitarian Dilemma follows the powerful odyssey of James Orbinski, a humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize-winning doctor, as he returns to Africa to ponder the meaning of his life's work and the value of helping others.

Drawing on a lifetime of experience deep in the trenches of genocide and famine, this extraordinary man relives the triumphs and tragedies of relief work in Somalia, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Triage will unsettle and move as it pointedly asks disturbing questions at the heart of the humanitarian dilemma. What can any one individual really do to bring peace to those who suffer? Where does humanitarianism end and raw politics begin? How does the sight of unspeakable evil affect the soul? Smartly directed by Patrick Reed, this remarkable film provides no definitive answers, but celebrates the best in the human spirit while staring unblinkingly at the worst." (from Amazon.com)

8. DELF/DALF materials from £0!
If anybody happens to have a copy of a DELF/DALF prep book/kit they want to get rid of, pray pass it on!

9. Solar Charger from £30-60 (widely available)
There are a couple of those around, like this one as an example. Ideally clippable or carabiner-able to a backpack to charge while on the go or just to fix it into the optimal place to soak in the sun! They usually come with a crazy toolbox of adapters, most importantly for me are laptop (USB; streamlining my experience at internet cafes - plug independence and no lassoes!), iPod and Nokia phone plus perhaps digital camera. Doesn't need to be ultralight but don't want to get weighed down while travelling. Oh, and the perfect one would not be bulky but robust enough to withstand minor shocks and must fit snugly into a backpack! *dream on* I honestly don't expect anyone of you guys to spend so much money and do prefer choosing it myself anyway as I do have quite a few minimum requirements for this gadget but if anyone of you sees one of those coming close to the description above at a reasonable price, please send me a link or info!

10. Magno Cube Wooden Radio £175 at the Design Museum (but I believe, available elsewhere too)
*sigh* Probably another unfulfilled dream!

"Hand-crafted in an Indonesian farming village, the Magno Cube is a 4 band FM/AM/SW1/SW2 radio receiver with a highly appealing mix of retro and modern styling.

Each wooden radio is made through an environmentally sustainable production process, which covers fair social standards for workers. The profits from the sale of the radios to the Design Museum Shop support the development of a plantation surrounding the production facility, including the ongoing education of 30 young people in handicraft and work skills.

Only new growth plantation wood is used and for every tree that is used in production, a new one is planted.

MP3 compatible. Each radio arrives with a wooden connecting cable to connect iPods and mp3 players directly to the radio, so it can be used as a speaker." (from Design Museum Shop's website)

11. Liberty T-Shirt £15 + £1.50 directly from Liberty
One of the few causes I advertise on myself for!

12. Arun Ghosh CD £10 + £2.50
Bumped into an open concert while brunching in the City. Had vaguely heard of this jazz prodigy before but now entirely convinced! He's got a website and is also on MySpace. CDs available directly from there!

13. Burma Chronicles £8.98 at Amazon

"The "comic" (I don't want to call it a "graphic novel" because it's not a work of fiction) documents a year that he spent in Burma with his wife (who worked for MSF) and baby son, and gives you a good feel for the people, architecture, politics and various expats working out there." (a review on Amazon)

14. MoMa cup holder US-$5 at the MoMa (Museum of Modern Art, NYC but am sure must be supplied to other museum shops or on the net as well)

A heat-resistant silicone mug sleeve (I prefer to call them mug huggers!) as an alternative to paper sleeves! Coffee to go in style! Hurray, going orange when one can't be green all the time anywhere!

15. Strawberry Hat - £8.50 at Daisy Daisy
Looks like a strawberry! The best part: Made in Nepal and Fairtrade! Because I love it!

This is how it works:
If you want to indicate that you want to go for one of these fifteen beauties, just leave a brief note as post with a number and/or description to warn others not to get me the same thing. You can even post it as anonymous for more suspense! ;)

If you require my new postal address, please drop me a message!
Note: I will be in Vienna this Christmas!!!

3 courageous comments!:

Anonymous said...

chris patten is now taken :)

Anonymous said...

Diese Weihnacht bist also in Wien.
Anfang Dezember bin ich für einige Tage in London.
Vlt sehen wir uns ja mal wieder ;-)

Heidi said...

Ooooh! :) Exciting!!!

Freu mich auch die mysterioese Person zu treffen! :)