This was the first science book I actually read for fun, and it was not only fun and entertaining, but also deeply inspirational and mind-blowing.
I had this as an actual book that I equally loved but for some reason could not finish. I then decided to try to the audible-book and that was one of the best decisions of 2012. This is potentially better to be listened to than read.
Self-help books can easily be irritating but this one was actually cool, perhaps because it was one of the original ones and Dale Carnegie is sweet, and genuine. Recommended.
I listened to this as an audio-book which was a little strange because Woody Allen is such a talker it feels like he's actually there. I kept visualizing us as some stranger-than-fiction couple living together in a small apartment: He's occasionally brushing his teeth in the bathroom while talking, he's chopping liver in the main room while talking, he's sleeping with the neighbor on the sofa while talking, and at some point I'm fantasizing about strangling him while he's still talking and I'm wearing black nylon stockings and he's saying things like "oh, stop it, you're starting to look like Niedelman's gorgeous wife Miss Vazanrakoff" and in the middle of the scene come our little fat kids named Weissmendoodle and Brazaravatski and start laughing hysterically.
Woody is humorous and often out of control with his words, puns and imagination, but sometimes he has too much fun with himself and appears to be too excited about his own jokes, like he wants to stop and say "can you see how funny this is?" and roar for "more! more!" while sitting alone in the front row. I have to say that some chapters were more fun than others. Some did make me laugh out loud, while others made me want to strangle him, or let our imaginary kids Weissmendoodle and Brazaravatski take care of it.
I would recommend this is as an audio-book since it is narrated by Billy Crystal who is laugh out riot. There are segments that are not part of the book but seem to be taken from his stand-up comedy shows. I don't know if this is the same case in the book, but those segments were probably my favorite bits.
Billy Crystal knows how to add both humor and depth to his narration, and at 65 he is honest, especially about his fear of aging and dying. He talks about his family, the death of his father (when Billy was 15), his wife (the love of his life who he got married to in his early 20s and has spent his life with), his daughters, his grandkids, their house, his roles (When Harry met Sally, Analyze This, him being an Oscar host, etc.), his friendship with Muhammad Ali, and mentions of people such as Jack Nicholson, Robin Williams, Meg Ryan, David Letterman and others.
There is the feeling that Crystal believes in family ties and networks in a "each side sticks to their own" kind of way. In that sense, he represents the successful American Jew who raised good kids who got married the way they should get married and got grandkids they way they should while he "made it in show business" and played with the yankees, which is all great and admirable. His mother had always reminded him to "do something special" on every birthday and most of his generous tips and reflections are sweet and helpful, but again they do not sound very relatable nor should they be if readers have other aspirations in life than "making it" in the big business and "settling down" with the permissible people to settle down with. It is surely a fun listen and got me laughing out loud a few times, but while he wanted to remind us that we all die at the end, he also reminds us that, well, he's Billy Crystal.
"In Jerusalem, don't ask me the history of facts.Take away the fiction and there's nothing left." (Nazmi Al-Jubeh)
This was an enjoyable listen on audible while roaming around the streets of Jerusalem. If there is one strong sentiment that resonated about this book, it would be Jerusalem's magic/madness that has repeatedly haunted its lovers and led them to the dying need to have to possess the demented city, claim it as their own and fight anyone who disagrees. A mad city, looks like it has always been this way.
Montefiore takes us on a wild journey and captures details that make one look at history through different eyes. I found myself disagreeing with some of the terminology and direction he takes, but this was nevertheless an enjoyable and very educational book that adds drama and suspense to history, with touches of gossip here and there that give away little-known-facts about facts. Well-written and much fun.
I would give this two stars, but because Ellen is just who she is I could not give this less than three.
After finishing this book (which I listened to as an audio-book: highly recommended since she reads it herself and sounds like she's talking to you), I would think of Attention Deficit Disorder in a different way. I'm not saying that Ellen has ADD (or am I?) but if people ever make fun of me again for getting so easily distracted by practically everything, then I would think of Ellen in this book and maybe smile a little. Ellen really "shares" her mind in this book: not in a wise, eloquent and meaningful way (although we know and she knows that she can use big words and sound all-smart), but in a laid-back and "don't take yourself so seriously" kind of way.
"Seriously... I'm Kidding." Her humor isn't for everyone, but if you like Ellen, you'll find yourself smiling at this a few times.
This book made me laugh out loud and on more than one occasion. When she was comparing between her natural photo vs. the photoshop version and asks to compare those two in the PDF, I was in for a hysterical laugh. Not to mention passing sentences like:
- "Do I think Photoshop is being used excessively? Yes. I saw Madonna's Louis Vutton ad and honestly, at first glance, I thought it was Gwen Stefani's baby."
- "I guess I should also state that Karen and Sharon never hit on me in the slightest and it was never weird between any of us. Gay people don't actually try to convert people. That's Jehovah's Witnesses you're thinking of. ... If you could turn gay from being around gay people, wouldn't Kathy Griffin be Rosie O'Donnell by now?"
She delivers her one-liners, punch-lines, wisecracks...whatever you want to call them in a matter-of-fact-in-your-face boom-ba-da-bam style and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but the fact that she has the courage to try is always admirable. In this book, Tina Fey reminded me of Nora Ephron. Both of them represent an idea of New York that ravishing as it may be, is also very horrid and no place for the fragile. But both of them seem to master the art of taking things seriously enough but not so serious to not joke about. They manage to master the skill of self-deprecation without losing their sense of value.
This book draws near to self-help/self-acceptance books in the sense that it may aim to help women improve themselves professionally and physically (and offer tips on how to take care of oneself). It has mixed messages, however, because while Tina Fey may want to show that it shouldn't matter what others think,“If you retain nothing else, always remember the most important rule of beauty, which is: who cares?” and "Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it.” While she says those things, Tina Fey herself seems to waste energy in answering to what so-and-so were caught saying about her in here-or-there as if she is still looking for acceptance. Some of the ways in which she answers "haters" is by boasting her success and reminding others that they are no better in a: "HOW dare YOU mock me. Who are YOU to put me down for I am better than YOU will ever be!" kind of way. The definition of “better” is what frustrated me, because once again, this is a book that declares what the American standards of success are: having to be driven, ambitious, competitive, go-get-‘em-tiger. "Don’t be fooled," Tina warns young women, "You’re not in competition with other women. You’re in competition with everyone.”
Despite the insecurities feigning as over-confident apologies, the kick-ass attitude that Tina Fey has is still admirable for a woman who has discerned the overload of bullsh*t in the business. I liked how she says that she’s always been able to tell a lot about people by whether they asked her about her scar. “Most people never ask, but if it comes up naturally somehow and I offer up the story, they are quite interested. Some people are just dumb: "Did a cat scratch you?" God bless. Those sweet dumdums I never mind. Sometimes it is a fun sociology litmus test, like when my friend Ricky asked me, "Did they ever catch the black guy that did that to you?" Hmmm. It was not a black guy, Ricky, and I never said it was. Then there's another sort of person who thinks it makes them seem brave or sensitive or wonderfully direct to ask me about it right away. They ask with quiet, feigned empathy, "How did you get your scar?" The grossest move is when they say they're only curious because "it's so beautiful." Ugh. Disgusting. They might as well walk up and say, "May I be amazing at you?" To these folks let me be clear. I'm not interested in acting out a TV movie with you where you befriend a girl with a scar. An Oscar-y Spielberg movie where I play a mean German with a scar? Yes. My whole life, people who ask about my scar within one week of knowing me have invariably turned out to be egomaniacs of average intelligence or less. And egomaniacs of average intelligence or less often end up in the field of TV journalism. So, you see, if I tell the whole story here, then I will be asked about it over and over by the hosts of Access Movietown and Entertainment Forever for the rest of my short-lived career.”
It has been fun to get to hear her first-account experiences at 30 Rock and SNL and get a glimpse of the individuals she admires, such as her dad, Amy Poehler, Alec Baldwin and Lorne Michaels. It is clear that Fey has experienced exhaustion, which is evident not only because she declares it, but also because we can actually visualize how tiring her life-style must be: Running between the office, staying up in the wee hours of the morning working on scripts, having to deal with colleagues and make the right decisions, TV ratings, expectations, body image, and all the family-related matters that make her feel like she's the "worst". She admits that she doesn't drive and has narcoleptic tendencies that are a result of her exhaustion, and as a mother she has the added anxieties and feelings of guilt due to her working late hours and not breastfeeding, among other things. In short, she represents the anxious state of mind that only a successful woman with a conscious would have. Her answer to this seems to be that if you are already that hard on yourself, other people’s opinions should not make your life even harder. “By the way, when Oprah Winfrey is suggesting you may have overextended yourself, you need to examine your f*cking life.”
Tina Fey is a performer. She knows the power of her own voice and makes the perfect intonations to grab attention and get heard. She picks her words with care and is a comedian-with-a-conscious. She's not out there to hurt anyone with her humorous skill, but uses humor to express the hurtful messages a woman in show business like herself would have to endure. There is no question that she has vivid imagination, and that she is not shy to express herself.
Enjoyable. The book presents a framework of understanding how habits work, and serves as a guide to show how to change habits.
Duhigg generously provides diverse examples to explain the habit loop. The examples range from personal experiences, such as depression/addiction (alcohol, gambling, overeating, etc) and memory-loss. And yet, some of the success stories got on my nerves at a certain point. I was a tad annoyed, early in the book, that he draws inspiration from the US Military and the ways through which habits are instilled in soldiers. Moreover, he includes a section on radio/music, concluding that the reason Outkast’s “Hey Ya” turned out to be such a hit despite the public’s initial disdain is because “the unfamiliar was made to seem familiar” through playing it with familiar songs. “If you dress a new something in an old habit," he explains, "it is easier for the public to accept it.” (Which public?)
He brings examples from sports games, shopping malls (like target) and coffee chains (like Starbucks) and others markets like Alcoa and Febreeze to display how the habit loop works. He mentions that "companies predict and manipulate habits” and briefly remarks on how some customers do not like to be spied on for marketing purposes, yet it still seems as though Duhigg uses his examples as success stories. He does not seem to mind the data-mining and tracking of records or ethical standards so much, and focuses instead on how to make success out of this “secret”. [Speaking of which, did you know pregnant women are the biggest shoppers?] I was a little taken-aback by his corporate-success-mindedness and the ways in which he measures success. This would be a little too similar to the mind-set one finds in other self-help books, although I was hoping this one would be different. Unfortunately, most of these types of books seem to promote the sensation of becoming a driven, ambitious, goal-oriented, go-get-‘em tiger. I couldn’t help escape the idea that this man partly measures success by a person’s pay-check and exercise regimen.
That said, the book does have interesting viewpoints, particularly those related to how habits shape up societies. His take on habits within communities was eye-opening: He defines community as a giant collection of habits occurring among thousands of people that, depending on how they’re influenced, could result in violence or peace.
He takes the example of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama in 1955, and states that it was not just an act of defiance that sparked the boycott, but that the successful boycott was also due to her varying and influential social circles. In this section, as in other sections, attention is given to the importance of social standing, which comes with obligations. Apparently, it is not just our friends who strengthen our social networks, but the friends of our friends [“weak ties”] too have a role in improving our chances for finding employment and improve our social standing.
One of the integral points that will stand out for me from this book is that our actions are developed into habits when we stop thinking about them consciously. We just do them. Hence, we rebuild and transform them. Changing, or building, the most simple habit could have a direct impact on our mortal life. “However," Duhigg warns, "there isn’t one formula. Individuals are different, habits are different, and cravings are different. What this book aspires to do is create a framework of understanding how a habit works, and serve as a guide to show how to change it.”
“Power” is not really measured by the tanks and weapons but more importantly by literature and science.
Edward Said, in the same line of Noam Chomsky, talks about manufacturing consent. He challenges the secular reader, i.e. us, to have a role. He challenges us to "think" about why we deem it necessary to read what we read, and how we read it. It is not only the reading of books, it would turn out, but the picking of concepts, too, that are trivialized and added to universities as though students ‘have the choice to pick them out like they are looking at a menu’: Communism. Women's Liberation. Slavery. Racism. Revolution. Colonization. Post Modernism. Orientalism... all of these theories that are placed before us.
“No one today is purely one thing. Labels like Indian, or woman, or Muslim, or American are not more than starting-points, which if followed into actual experience for only a moment are quickly left behind. Imperialism consolidated the mixture of cultures and identities on a global scale. But its worst and most paradoxical gift was to allow people to believe that they were only, mainly, exclusively, white, or Black, or Western, or Oriental. Yet just as human beings make their own history, they also make their cultures and ethnic identities. No one can deny the persisting continuities of long traditions, sustained habitations, national languages, and cultural geographies, but there seems to no reason except fear and prejudice to keep insisting on their separation and distinctiveness, as if that was all human life was about. Survival in fact is about the connections between things; in Eliot’s phrase, reality cannot be deprived of the “other echoes [that] inhabit the garden.” It is more rewarding –and more difficult—to think concretely and sympathetically, contrapuntally, about others than only about “us.” But this also means not trying to rule others, not trying to classify them or put them in hierarchies, above all, not constantly reiterating how “our” culture or country is number one (or not number one, for that matter). For the intellectual there is quite enough of value to do without that."
Edward Said is an intellectual; extremely well-read and somewhat self-important. I have to admit that some chunks of the book (which I speed-narrated) were a little dull to listen to, such as his over-and-slightly-imposed scrutiny of Jane Austen’s and Verdi’s work, or the repetitive-and-slightly-overbearing analysis of other works of fiction. Yet the last chapters of the book brought rise to powerful messages that are becoming more relevant in our times than ever before.
There are strikingly important points that Edward Said makes at the very end of this book that were reminiscent of Amin Maalouf’s “In the Name of Identity, Violence and the Need to Belong.” Both of these intellectuals seem to have battled with their identities in exile and came out with similar perceptions of how it is through “fear and prejudice” that patriotism and intolerance are made up. These may be the two factors that shape up mainstream culture, including the media, and, basically, the hegemony of discourse.
I could not help thinking about what Edward Said would make of social media today: Would he perhaps have thought that an app like twitter only reinforces the regulation of public discussion and mainstream culture? Would he have said the most-followed tweeps belong to “privileged ethnic groups” and that the rest of the world that is trying to emulate them are all but going to get crushed, or, worse, ignored? Whoever said that this book is “dated” may want to reconsider.
Certain CHAPTERS from this book certainly are recommended for those who really dig music.
Only if it's strictly about music.
Chuck shares his thoughts like he’s sitting next to you and talking to himself. The fact that he is narrating his own book makes it more personal - almost like we get to really know him.
John Cusack..... just kidding.
I cannot see this turn into a movie or TV series unless CHUCK himself is in it.
This was the first audible-book I ever tried and it was the RIGHT book to start with: It is narrated by the author himself, who shares his thoughts like he’s sitting next to you and talking to himself.
First, some important clarifications:
1) This book is not for everybody. You’ve got to be American enough and immersed in pop culture enough to get its references. I myself am not American but have been obsessed enough with American music and movies to know what he was talking about throughout the chapters– well, except for the American football chapters. Those were especially uninteresting.
2) Chuck seems to be under the impression that the book targets those born in the mid-to-late seventies, but as someone who was born in the 80s, it still works. “Saved by the Bell” was aired on our TV screens in the 90s, but that may be due to a slight satellite lag in the Middle East!
OK. So. This book had some amusing moments. Examples of those are:
- Mentions of how John Cusack and Nora Ephron have been ‘ruining our relationships’
- Critical analysis of how we listen to music (we often like to think of the “IDEA” of what we’re listening to)
- Mix tapes vs. compilation CDs
- The take on patriotism (would you want to date someone who identifies as “patriotic”, or does that come off as creepy?)
- The fact that TV shows have created one-dimensional personalities, which in turn have made us, the consumers of this pop culture, lose our multi-dimensional aspects. Chuck talks about the singularity of self-awareness in this “real world” culture that is devoid of complexities: “People started becoming personality templates devoid of complication and obsessed with melodrama,” and being interesting has become replaced by being identifiable.
- Chuck also goes through long analysis of the SIMs computer game, sports, religion, and serial killers.
There are other amusing takes here and there, like Chuck’s touring with Paradise City: a Guns N’ Roses tribute band, whose goal is not to be somebody, but to be somebody else. Chuck also lets us know that he’s watching Pamela Anderson’s porn video while he’s writing the book, and goes on to compare Pam’s legacy – of our times – to Marilyn Monroe’s fame in an earlier generation, in terms of what the world valued then (the concept of celebrity, iconic figures and social philosophy) and the plastic greatness that is representative of the decline of American morality.
My favourite chapter was the one about Billy Joel. Chuck’s take on Joel is that his music is about loneliness: "Every one of Joel's important songs - including the happy ones - are ultimately about loneliness. It’s not clever lonely, like Morrissey, or interesting lonely, like Radiohead. It’s lonely lonely; like the way it feels when you are being hugged by someone and it somehow makes you sadder.” Chuck goes on to explain how Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” is descriptive of the depression in all of us, because three years after releasing that song, Joel divorced his wife who he had written this song about, and it reminds Chuck of the love letters he had written to his ex-girlfriends; believing he would never get over them, but he got over them. "I hate that those letters still exist. But I don't hate them because what I said was false; I hate them because what I said was completely true. My convictions could not have been stronger when I wrote those words, and - for whatever reason - they still faded into nothingness." In that same chapter, Chuck mentions other musicians too, like Led Zeppelin (inarguably one of the coolest bands), Black Sabbath (one of the most under-estimated bands, yet indisputably cool), Meatloaf (“a goofball who is cool, in spite of himself”), David Bowie (not only a musician but so cool he becomes a pop idea) and Bruce Springsteen (also cool and representative of the working man). These are ideas of what we’re supposed to be experiencing, says Klosterman, and he highlights on coolness vs. greatness. Billy Joel, he insists, is *not* cool. He is faceless, and, in some ways, meaningless: his personal image is not integral to his success; he is not a pop idea. He is just a guy, who represents the depression of all of us. Chuck did such a good job at describing the way he sees Billy Joel that upon finishing this chapter, I went ahead and bought “The Nylon Curtain” album.
But this is probably just as good as this book gets. A little after this chapter, this book stops being so interesting and starts to head to a one-dimensional direction that Klosterman himself had been criticizing against. At some point, he goes as far as promoting the one-sided “you’re either with us or against us” soldier-like mentality that he himself is supposedly against. His sweeping generalizations and sometimes-petty arguments which are presented as “truths” also give no chance for the potentially-insightful momentum he had initially started with to survive. The singularity of his presentations, unfortunately, seems to represent that same one-dimensional reading that Klosterman had described American pop culture to have become.
This book is not really recommended, but I would say certain chapters from this book certainly are recommended for those who really dig music.
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