Sunday, October 31, 2010


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Friday, October 29, 2010

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Title/Author: Fight Club/Chuck Palahniuk
Publisher: Vintage
No. of pages: 352
ISBN 13: 9780099552154
Price: RM29.90

In a nutshell
I’ve seen Fight Club. I loved it. I’ve also just read the book. Loved it too. Even dreamt about being in Fight Club with Pitt and Norton last night! Haha yes, for real, ok :P So. Everyone knows about fight club and the story.

What I liked about it
It’s fast paced, very graphic and oh yes, very bloody too but bearable, unlike the movie (the sound effects kinda made it more brutal and intense). The story is also quite dark and a little twisted.

The frequent change of scenes lent the story a pace that kept me on my toes – with my hands flipping the pages, and my mind jumping from scene to scene almost every second, there was no way my mind could wander even for a second! And to already know that the narrator and Tyler are the same person made the story even more fascinating. (Should've read the book first before the movie. Wonder how I'd have reacted to find out only later that they're of the same person. WICKEDDD!!!)

I loved the words that came out of “Tyler’s” mouth. I have many, many favourite quotes in Fight Club. Let me share some of them (which are quite ‘Zen’ I think):
"It's only after you've lost everything," Tyler says, "that you're free to do anything."
"If you don't know what you want," the doorman said, "you end up with a lot you don't." ~Chapter 5
This was freedom. Losing all hope was freedom. ~Chapter 2

I think Fight Club is more than just a bunch of men fighting each other. It’s about self worthiness. ("Maybe self-improvement isn't the answer.... Maybe self-destruction is the answer.") These men, who come from all walks of life, gather and fight at a basement, to feel their existence in life. Fight Club makes them feel 'alive'. (Pain is pleasure?)

“You aren't alive anywhere like you're alive at fight club....Fight club isn't about winning or losing fights. Fight club isn't about words. You see a guy come to fight club for the first time, and his ass is a loaf of white bread. You see this same guy here six months later, and he looks carved out of wood. This guy trusts himself to handle anything. There's grunting and noise at fight club like at the gym, but fight club isn't about looking good. There's hysterical shouting in tongues like at church, and when you wake up Sunday afternoon you feel saved." ~Chapter 6

As Fight Club members increased, Tyler created Project Mayhem, which by the way, according to the author, “is based on the Portland Cacophony Society, which I used to do more of. They get together and pull these enormous pranks. They're international now, almost every major city has a cacophony society and they pull huge pranks and jokes and stunts.”

Maybe this is some sort of a 'masculine' outlet for men to release their stress, like women and retail therapy...hmmm hey should we have like a Cat Fight Club? haha

Book Bite
According to the author, Fight Club started off as a 7-pager and a first real story he ever sold; because Palahniuk was told b y his writing teacher that a short story is about 7 pages. This section is in Chapter 6. To make the short story into a book, he added stories from his friends.

And what inspired Fight Club? In an interview Palahniuk said this, “Fight Club had its genesis while I was working at Freightliner. I had been on vacation and I had gotten into a really terrible fight. When I came back on Monday from vacation, I was just so wiped out. Nobody would acknowledge just how terrible I looked, because it seemed nobody wanted to know what I did in my spare time. I thought that if you looked bad enough, you could do anything because nobody will ever call you on it. It was that day I started writing the Fight Club.”

At the same time, he'd also seen a TV programme about how street gangs were really young men raised without fathers, trying to help one another become men. These men gave orders and challenges, and imposed rules and discipline.

My verdict? 4/5

Friday, October 22, 2010

Drawing Blood by Scarfe

Title/Author: Drawing Blood/Scarfe
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
No. of pages: 352
ISBN 10: 0 316 72952 3
Price: RM59.90 (Discounted price)

In a nutshell
(I'm just gonna take it from the book flap) This is Scarfe's first collected volume of his work for twenty years, with amusing and poignant anecdotes to present the drawings and other works that have established him as one of our foremost cultural commentators. Artist, stage designer, political cartoonist and satirist, Gerald Scarfe has given us some of the most famous and controversial images of the twentieth century. He has worked with an eclectic mix of English and American icons: from Pink Floyd to Disney, Private Eye to Time magazine, the English National Ballet to Peter Hall, the New Yorker to the Sunday Times.

What I liked
Firstly, his introduction. It's a must-read if you've not heard of him before. You'll learn how Scarfe who was asthmatic, found his voice and style when he decided to leave Royal College of Art for freelance. It was after several stints that he began to realise his strength - making a comment and offering an opinion in his work.

Secondly, I admire his art and creativity. He not only draws, he sculpts too! Is he a man of many talents or what! Not to mention also, his audacity to be crude in his craft which many include people in the public office. As someone said, when readers opened their cosy Daily Mail in the morning and saw a Scarfe, it was as though the family dog had just shat on the breakfast table.

"In general, the people I draw don't react to my drawings. Most of them are figures in public office and perhaps feel it's beneath their dignity to respond. But I think some of them enjoy it, and it's probably better to be portrayed as a dung beetle than not to be mentioned at all. It means they've arrived and are people of 'note'." (the drawings are very very offensive and grotesque, mind you. I don't think our urrrmmm local urrrmmm 'scene' would allow such to even go to print! hah)

Scarfe said, "I had become well known, not for inventing a cartoon character, like Disney had for Mickey Mouse or Schulz for Charlie Brown, but for a view of life and attitude of mind."

I don't usually buy coffee table books due to its size and weight, but I just couldn't resist myself when I saw this fiery red cover book staring right back at me from the shelf. And for its price at RM59.90, how can I say no? LOL

I'm also the sort who like to see where artists draw their inspiration from and learn a thing or two about what makes them tick (the artists). I especially like what Scarfe said about caricature: "Caricature is the art of disassembling the face and other physical aspects of a person and rebuilding those elements, often in stylised, exaggerated form, in an attempt to reveal their true character. This technique is used not only in the world of cartoons but also in that of 'fine art'."

This is why I love all sorts of books! I learn new stuff in almost every sentence :D But I have more questions based on that last quote...I'm thinking of asking our very own Zunar....Anyone know how can I get in touch with him? (Btw, Zunar, I think YOU ROCK! Bought one of your books! My hubby and I shared some laughs hehe)

What I didn't quite like
Its weight. But yeah, it's a coffee table book, what can I expect right haha :P

My verdict? 4/5 (This is purely based on entertainment value because I know nuts about art :P)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Title/Author: Eat Pray Love/Elizabeth Gilbert
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
No. of pages: 349
ISBN 13: 9780747589358
Price: RM10.00 (Discounted price)

In a nutshell
The whole world knows what Eat Pray Love is all about, so I'm going to skip this bit. Ok. Maybe a short description. It's mainly about Liz going on a self-discovery journey that revolves around the Pursuit of Pleasure (in Eat, the first part of the book), followed by Pursuit of Devotion (Pray) and Pursuit of Balance (Love).

What I liked
My favourite parts were 'Eat' and 'Love' maybe because I could relate to them. In Eat, I realised that I must/should live my life to the full because I live only once! I'd do my best in everything I do, try everything at least once, travel; just make myself happy! I mean, its only when you're happy that you can spread happiness right?

In Pray, I find the spinning engine theory her friend Sean, whom she met at the Ashram, shared with her was pretty interesting. He said to find peace, imagine the universe is a great spinning engine and that you want to stay near the core of it - right in the hub of the wheel, not the edges where you get distracted. The hub of calmness is your heart, where God resides within you. Just keep coming back there and you'll always find peace. I could relate to that; I love the 'quiet moments' I share with God each time I go to church especially after receiving the Holy Eucharist and when I let my mind rest. Sometimes I speak with him, but these days I just focus on Him.

Another part (in Love) that struck me (that made me cry, to be exact) was about Wayan, where she wanted to get the most out of Liz's good intentions to help her build a new, bigger, more comfortable home. She wanted Liz to raise more money for her to build a much much bigger home to not only run her current business, but to also build a 'nice fancy hotel' there. I was appalled by it. How could someone do that? I was fuming in anger as I read this, until Felipe said this to Liz (felt almost like he was telling me!),

"Don't get angry about it, whatever happens. If you get angry, you'll lose her, and that would be a pity, because she's a marvelous person and she loves you. This is her survival tactic, just accept that. You must not think that she's not a good person, or that she and the kids don't honestly need your help. But you cannot let her take advantage of you."

Felipe's message kind of changed my perception. Almost immediately, it made me empathise with Wayan and the negative energy left me. I think we all must know when to draw the line, because there are people out there who'd take advantage of kind, generous souls. We can't blame anyone, because to some, it's their way of surviving, or it's just how they are.

What kept me hooked to her story was also the the way she told it. Her sense of humour, intelligence, acute observations, and most of all, her honesty. I feel that she's the sort who could add humour to everything she experiences; whether good or bad. She's also not afraid of showing the world who and what she is. It's really not easy writing a story where you have to be truthful to yourself as it'd mean you'd have to open your closet of skeletons to the world too.

What I found intriguing was, every part of her journey had a closing before she moved on to the next phase. It felt as though this entire journey had been planned just for her.

There are many quotes that I liked. These are some:
"It is better to live your own life imperfectly than to imitate someone else's perfectly."
"I have good idea, for if you meet some person from different religion and ge want to make argument about God. My idea is, you listen to everything this man say about God. Never argue with him. Best thing to say is, 'I agree with you.' Then you go home, pray what you want. This is my idea for people to have peace about religion." favourite phrase definitely has to be "pretty power"! (Hail Ketut!!! hehe)

Although I do wonder...
Is self-discovery really all about journeying out on your own? Well, maybe for someone who could afford to do so...If not, I think it can be done internally as well, probably by meditating in your own room, or reading, or talking with God, write,...But that's just my opinion. What do you think?

What I felt
On Pray. I thought certain parts were a little draggy (I skipped a few pages). Maybe she was trying to live up yo that '36 tales' idea she had thought out for this book...

Book bite
Gilbert strung these 108 tales and divided them into 3 sections about Italy, India and Indonesia; i.e. there are 36 tales in each section. She was 36 when she wrote this and it also goes along with the structure of a japa mala (a string of beads, something like a rosary) that is strung with 108 beads, the number held to be most auspicious, a perfect three-digit multiple of three, its components adding up to nine, which is three threes. And three is the number that represents supreme balance. (As explained in her Introduction)

And Richard from Texas has recently passed away *sob*

Friday, October 8, 2010

Interview with Dr. Rob Yeung

Thank you Odelia from Pansing for arranging this interview for me :)
To those of you who haven't heard of Dr. Rob Yeung, he's a British psychologist, business speaker, and management author. He was recently in Singapore to promote his latest book, The Extra One Per Cent. I asked him about what got him into psychology and his experience in putting this book together.

Have you always wanted to do psychology? Why? What do you enjoy most about it?
When I was at school, I studied physical sciences including physics, chemistry and biology. I thought I would become a chemist or a biochemist. It was only by chance that I did some reading about psychology and at the last minute changed my mind to study psychology.
When I started reading about psychology, I thought it was just this amazing topic. It really resonated with me as I've always been a curious person, I've always enjoyed figuring people out, so when I found out there was actually a discipline, a subject I could study at university
that allowed me to learn more about people's minds and their motivations, I was hooked.

What I enjoy most about psychology is that to me the human mind is the final frontier. We know so much about the physical world and we've even sent missions to other planets. But we are still only just beginning to scratch the surface of how the mind works and understanding why people are the way they are. Psychologists are answering new questions every day, but as fast as we answer old questions, we encounter new questions, which is both frustrating and exciting.

Whom have you always inspired to be? Why?
My thoughts on the person I want to become have changed over the years. So when I left university, I started out working for a big American management consultancy and my goal was to become successful in terms of climbing the career ladder, becoming a partner in the firm, and having status and prestige as well as the material wealth that goes with it. But over the years, and especially as I've met more successful people who define success not just in terms of financial success but also family success and relationship success and all sorts of other factors, I've changed my goals. So now I aspire to be a balanced, rounded individual. My career is now just one aspect of my life. My family and friends are a big chunk of my life now, as is my health, but also I want to have some fun in my life too.

What inspired The Extra One Per Cent?
I was frustrated that I couldn't find a book on success that I wanted to read. I've been hugely influenced in recent years by books such as Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner and Malcolm Gladwell's books such as Outliers and The Tipping Point. These books tell stories based on factual evidence and research. Another influence has been Richard Wiseman's 59 Seconds. Again, they all base their recommendations on research, so that's what I wanted to do on the topic of success. I feel that too many books on success are based on the author's own experiences and opinions about what makes people successful. I wanted my book to be different so I base it on research in the same way as the Freakonomics guys but I also went out and did interviews with dozens of successful people from entrepreneurs and senior figures in large businesses to leaders in charities and so on.

Who should read it?
I wanted to make the book as accessible as possible to everyone. So you can read the book if you enjoy a good detective story and just want to read about how researchers have gone about trying to identify the traits that lead to success. But you can also read the book if you want to improve yourself too. It's not just about financial success though. I talk about the need for what I call a 'balanced vision' of success, of thinking about your relationships, parenting, and being a good citizen.

Was it difficult to decide what to include in the book?
I didn't have any specific difficulties deciding what to include or not because it was a very organic process. I just did the research and interviews and let the book take its own shape. I initially wrote a proposal to my publisher with an outline of what I thought the 10 chapters would be about. But as I did my research and began interviewing successful people, the shape of the book changed. So in the end I had only 8 chapters, and actually only about 5 or 6 of the chapters turned out to cover the material that I thought would be important. Some of the eventual content that ended up in the book did surprise me, especially on the topic of Citizenship, which is about ethics, integrity and being not only a good citizen in your community but also a steward of the planet.

Among all that is mentioned in your book, which one do you think is the most difficult for one to put into action? Why?
I don't think that anything in the book is difficult to put into practice in the sense that calculus is difficult. None of the recommendations require a lot of brain power. However, the recommendations are difficult in the sense that we sometimes know what we should do, but don't always do it because we forget or think we know better. For example, we all know that we shouldn't eat too much fat or salt in our diet and that we need to exercise more. We all know that we shouldn't drink too much alcohol or smoke cigarettes at all. But we often continue to do things that are bad for us. In the same way, there are techniques in the book that can help us to have more successful relationships with other people, whether that's business customers and colleagues or family and friends. The difficulty is only in remembering to use the technique and not to think that we can get away without using them.

In the process of writing this book, what did you discover about yourself? Were there any aha moments? Please tell us about it.
In my work as a corporate psychologist, I've been interviewing successful people for over a decade. Even though I only started to write the book a couple of years ago, these interviews have shaped my personal views of success hugely. One of the biggest revelations is that money really doesn't buy happiness. There's one piece of research in which psychologists went and interviewed people who had not just millions of US dollars, but over a hundred million US dollars in wealth. So these were really rich people. However, the psychologists found that one-third of these multimillionaires were actually /less/ happy than the average person who earned only a fraction that they did. Early in my career, things like wealth and status mattered a lot more to me. The more interviews I did in researching The Extra One Per Cent, the more it changed my personal views of what I wanted to achieve and do with my life.

What do you think is your best accomplishment? Why?
Gosh, that depends on how you define an accomplishment, of course! One of my personal highlights was presenting a TV show for the BBC. The BBC was looking for someone who has a lot of experience about careers and job hunting to present a TV show called 'Who Would Hire You?' I got the gig and had to learn how to become a TV presenter. The show was a success as they then commissioned a second series called 'How To Get Your Dream Job' and I learned so much about working with the media but I also had a huge amount of fun. There's not a lot of people who can say they've been the lead presenter of their own TV show!

But then I also think that books such as The Extra One Per Cent are a huge accomplishment for me. I trained as a psychologist, not as a writer. I've worked really hard at learning how to write in more interesting ways, in how to interview people like a journalist, and how to weave their stories with the research. So I'm hoping that my next biggest accomplishment will be to get lots of emails from readers telling me how they found this book useful and helpful in their own lives.

Thank you for your time, Dr. Yeung!


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