The Japanese Mind: Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture

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Pros: The idea behind the book was really interesting (written by Japanese english students, edited by their professor, proceeds go to scholarships) and the approach was exactly what I was looking for: straight to the point, each chapter focusing on one Japanese peculiarity.

Maa-maa: In the end of each chapter there were discussion questions and cross cultural issues; some of them intriguing, some of them (maybe most) anticipated.

Cons: the content/writing was also…peculiar. Amateurish? One could expect that since each essay was written by a different student, but I couldn’t help but feel that some concepts were given in extreme, unnecessary detail (amakudari, shōshiki) while others were not given the proper space.

But most importantly in one case it failed to pass the younger (20-30 year old) japanese test: awkward faces ensued when…

…”in Japan the center of feelings is supposed to be the stomach, not the heart right?”
– ???
– …that’s why samurai used to harakiri, no?
No?
Ok.
:S
:D

Nonetheless I would recommend this book, it is sure to stir up interest and be a good start for further exploration.

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Les philosophes et l’amour: aimer de Socrate à Simone de Beauvoir

415KCP6i5lL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Mon type de livre préféré; vies et oeuvres des grands hommes et femmes et leur opinions sur un sujet compliqué…et quoi de plus compliqué que l’amour!

Devrait-on idéaliser l’amour comme disait Socrates, ou le tuer préventivement avec d’hédonisme exsessif comme Lucretius proposait? Devrait-on préserver le bonheur grec ancien d’une ataraxie stoicienne ou céder à l’instabilité d’éros?

La vie personelle de Montaigne m’a absolument surpris (Montaigne le Don Juan!), de Rousseau aussi, son inconsistance entre sa vie et ses oeuvres (et quelle misogynie!)

L’histoire de Kierkegaard j’ai trouvé tragique…il est mort seul, toujours aimant la fille qu’il avait lui même refusé. Il a décidé de sacrifier son amour pour sa philosophie, sa philosophie qu’on peut lire aujourd’hui. Amour vs immortalité, il a choisi ce dernier et il l’a payé profondément. Pitié ou respect?

Nietzsche m’a fait plaisir (naturellement!), l’amour humain comme Carmen de Bizet et l’éros comme une force primitive, une force dont il a aussi été victime quand il a rencontré Lou Salomé.

Kant, Schopenaeuer, Heidegger etc, chaque philosophe avait son propre point de vue.

En bref, j’ai vraiment aimé ce livre, beaucoup d’informations et opinions intéressantes sur la vie, l’amour, l’éros. Je préférerais si il finirait avec une sorte d’epilogue (au lieu de Sartre & Beauvoir qui est le dernier chapitre) mais je suppose que…comme la vie et l’amour on ne peut pas tout avoir!

Homo Evolutis

2940013272705_p0_v1_s260x420Watch some of Juan Enriquez presentations and you may notice the following: Short sentence. Pause. Short sentence. Silence. Then a fact (quote, picture or number) is introduced and the audience laughs.

More into his talk and again: short sentence, pause, short sentence, silence. Fact. Only this time the audience remains silent. In wonder, disbelief, awe. Of that mind-boggling scientific discovery that was just revealed. And casually and calmly the speaker goes on to say this happened in that lab, it is currently in experimental stage, but well in a couple of years such and such will happen therefore it’s not so difficult to imagine it applied to humans in order to solve this particular problem. And then he usually hints: why not imagine that discovery going even further, not just helping mankind (e.g. restoring health) but enhancing/upgrading mankind too?

Enter Homo Evolutis. Fascinating.

I really enjoy Juan Enriquez style and his insights and I do love science and technology.
So how could this book go wrong?

First of all, I believe it tried to imitate that same speaking style which is not easy on paper. It can be tiring, I found it rather unpleasant. Especially in the introduction where not many unknown or exiting things were mentioned. Actually I was confident it was only a humorous attempt to start off the book and then a normal main essay would follow. Alas. It was all like that, very strange in style indeed. I was expecting an essay and what I got was a series of questions, statements, facts, sometimes left unanswered, sometimes answered in a provocative way, sometimes answered with humor. It would still be great stimulation and great food for thought except…except nothing much was new.

And here is my biggest complaint. If you have watched some of the author’s talks there are not many more things you will learn by this book. There is no further elaboration on this subject, no philosophical discussion about the impact of this kind of progress on society, even the examples used are the same. Admittedly you will learn some new (and interesting) facts but not enough to justify even the low (2.99€) price of this e-book. In my opinion I believe you will be better off going on YouTube or TED and enjoy the author presenting these ideas himself or/and wait for the eventual hardcover to be published.

Proust Was a Neuroscientist

41Ig607AQVLIf one reads this book strictly as non-fiction he may be disappointed. I don’t think you can make a point based on certain excerpts, poems or paintings and conclude about an artist’s way of thinking. A work of art could be a result of the artist finally understanding how the brain works, could be an intuition, could be a product of specific mood or chance etc. We will never know. Also, art being art, there is no definite interpretation of what it means or symbolises.

However if one reads it more casually it is fascinating. Science, art, history, the lives of great people, all these are intertwined in such a captivating way. Art intrigues and science explains. Proust, Cezanne, Stravinsky were my favorites but all stories offered interesting perspectives on art and on how the brain works.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

9780307352149_custom-5b5ce2e8d8a1c22ef8fa885da61cbc226d88337b-s99-c85Wow. Now that was interesting…

I decided to read this book after watching the author’s TED talk… Honestly I was expecting something more theoretical, perhaps a psychological description of introverts, what makes them special, how they contribute to society, why our extrovert based society would need them etc etc. And all of those subjects the book covered one way or another.

But what struck me most was the definition of the “highly sensitive” person. Before reading this book, I believed I was a relatively extrovert person that just wanted (needed?) to have his quiet, introvert moments too. But while reading it some things started to connect. It’s true sometimes I prefer to stay in instead of going out, no matter how good the company is. Even after going out, even after having great fun, I feel I need some time to cool off alone (maybe that’s a reason I’m drawn to meditation?). A musical piece can overwhelm me sometimes, not because it’s sad but because it’s beautiful, intense. I was awed when I read even the sensitivity to coffee factor. It is a physical, neurological characteristic, people are born more sensitive than others to stimulation. Be it art, music, emotions.

It was an eye-opening book for me. Ok sometimes I found it a little…self-gratifying (it gives you the impression that introverts are kind of special, blessed with higher perception of the environment, more spiritual/thoughtful in a way) whereas extroverts tend to be more reckless, seeking company to cover their inability to enjoy themselves when alone, with their happiness dependant on other people (compared to introverts who can find pleasure simply by themselves and a good book). I also enjoyed reading about recent neuroscientific and fMRI experiments and the fascinating insights they offer on free will and personality…makes you wonder what the future holds for our understanding of the brain!

5 stars, it really made an impression on me.
If you are an introvert go ahead read this book. It’s about you, for you. Indulge yourself and you will learn things on the way. If you are an extrovert read it also. See how you compare. See the world from an introvert’s eye. Chances are you will like this book. If not, there must be an introvert in your life that will.