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Books

Bill Clinton: My Life

I have been reading Bill Clinton’s memoirs, My Life, and am pleasantly surprised. He has an easy conversational style and there are charming vignettes in the book. His love for his mother and his grandparents — “Mammaw” and “Papaw” — his feelings about his stepfather, whose surname Clinton he took, all come through.

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Music

Year-end chartbusters 50 years ago

What were the most popular songs constantly on air 50 years ago? These were the Top 10 songs in Britain and America at the end of December 1969.

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Books India Singapore

Indians in Singapore

Once upon a time, there were more Indian than Chinese voters in Singapore. Hard to believe but true.

Indians outnumbered the Chinese when the first general election to the Legislative Council was held in 1948. Only British subjects were eligible to vote. Out of a potential electorate of more than 200,000, only 23,000 registered to vote, and more than 10,000 of them were Indians, recalled CM Turnbull in A History of Modern Singapore, 1819-2005.

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Music

Hits of May 1966

It’s amazing how much data has been preserved from the past. While listening to music today, I wondered what were the most popular songs during this week in 1966. That year came to my mind because it was such an exciting time in pop music.

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Books India Media Singapore

Raffles, Singapore, Calcutta and Bengal

When a young man came to Singapore from Calcutta many years ago, he didn’t know he was following in the footsteps of Sir Stamford Raffles. The one difference: He came by air. Raffles came by sea — on the ship Indiana, with his deputy, Major William Farquhar, on board another vessel, the Ganges.

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Books

What happened to the Hindu god of love?

Cherubic Cupid, winging his way with bow and arrows to shoot at hearts, graces countless valentines. The little Roman god of love has proved more durable than the Roman empire. What explains his lasting appeal when another god of love languishes in relative obscurity?

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Books

Naipaul and his world

Naipaul was “the greatest prose writer in the English language of the last 60 years”, wrote Amit Chaudhuri in the Guardian when Naipaul died at the age of 85 on August 11. Others were more measured in their praise. They could not overlook his flaws and prejudices. Naipaul himself provoked criticism by what he said and wrote, admitting he had been a “big prostitute man”, ill-treating his first wife, Patricia Hale, and his long-time mistress, Margaret Gooding née Murray, and offending blacks and Muslims among others.

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Books

Shakespeare Basics for Grown-ups

Shakespeare Basics for Grown-ups comes with the subtitle: Everything You Need to Know about the Bard. That sounds rich, but the authors E Foley and B Coates deliver. Concise, comprehensive, it’s a great briefing on the Bard.

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Books Uncategorized

The Globe Guide to Shakespeare

Lavishly illustrated, The Globe Guide to Shakespeare is a joy to behold and a pleasure to read. Written by Andrew Dickson, with contributions by Joe Staines, this isn’t a musty, fusty academic treatise thick with jargon. As the authors say in the introduction, “Above all, this isn’t intended to be a textbook, and we hope it’s fun to read: our ambition throughout has been to demystify Shakespeare, to show there are interesting ways of thinking about his works without saturating them in academic jargon.”

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Music

Pop music and hit parades

The first regular UK singles chart was published on this day, November 14, in 1952 by the New Musical Express, reminds the website On This Day. Someone has duly posted that on Twitter including even a scanned copy of the newspaper clipping “announcing the first record hit parade”. Yes, that’s what we called weekly lists of bestselling pop music records — “hit parades”.