Sunday, April 11, 2010

Curious About Curiosity? How to Make People Curious

Do you know when and how you get curious about something? Why should you care? If you want to make other people pay attention to what you have to say, you better know how to hook & reel them in. And one of the most effective ways of keeping their attention is to make them curious.

So when do we get curious?

Common experience tells us that we get curious when we encounter something new, or surprising, or perplexing. But think of the times when you got intensely curious about some conversation between total strangers in the next table at a restaurant, or some secret your friend was withholding from you. Surely, these aren't new, surprising, or perplexing.

These and many more are instances when we feel intensely curious.

Is there a common theme underlying all these divers phenomena?

Do we say, "We get curious when we see something new, surprising, perplexing, strange, secretive, gossipy, hard to remember, etc.?"

That seems to be an awfully clunky and unsatisfactory answer.

Rest assured, there is an elegant answer. Once you know it, it becomes easy to predict what makes people curious, deliberately induce curiosity in people, and keep their attention.

Curious about curiosity now?

About time.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Murakami's Mystery: Why is He So Fascinating?

1Q84. It's a strange book.

The book doesn't have a plot synopsis anywhere - you know, the kind that goes something like, "X, the son of Z, begins a journey of unforgettable atrocity when he discovers that..." Worse yet, the book title looks like it's about a low IQ.

And yet the book is written by my favorite author, Haruki Murakami, and you know when it's by this quirky guy, you're in for a wild ride. So everyone seems to agree. The book literally disappeared from bookstores on the day it was published in Japan. Half a year later, I sat down with the book and read it, and it was good. I enjoyed being steeped into his world that my heart actually raced in excitement every time I opened it. I couldn't put it down. I read late into the night and couldn't wait to read the next part when I did put it down. I even fell in a state of despair when I learned that the story didn't end by Book II and the next installment was to come out in five months. And I bet Book III will disappear from stores faster than Louis Vuiton bags on sale.

 So, I want to ask a simple question: why are Murakami's works so fascinating? The prose is nothing fancy. It's written in a deceptively simple style in the tradition of Vonnegut and Carver. The stories are usually about an "ordinary" person (usually a guy), punctuated by long, pseudo-philosophical conversations that remind one of Dostoevsky. The main guy usually doesn't do much and likes to  just chill. In short, Murakami's stories seem to have NOTHING fascinating about them.

So I ask, "Why are his stories so fascinating?"

Monday, March 8, 2010

Personal Fad: Hamasaki Ayumi the Japanese Pop Goddess

Hamsaki Ayumi is the Japanese equivalent of Britney Spears: she is THE female pop star that's been around for the longest time (eclipsed, perhaps, only by Amuro Namie). Honestly, though, the only thing she's got going is her really cute look. As a former model, her body is skinny as hell without any trace of voluptuous sexiness that I associate with porn stars and Western celebrities. Her singing isn't all that powerful (like Aoyama Teruma or Misia). She might, though, have something to say about fashion as her clothes are immediately imitated by every Japanese girl.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Traveling in Japan: Hot Springs in Gunma-ken Part III

At Ikaho Hot Springs, located at the top of a mountain where air was pure and roads were covered in snow, we decided to spend the night there, but after eating the famous Mizusawa Udon (水沢うどん) in Mizusawa, which is about five minutes on the bus from Ikaho (NB: the bus stop is next to a large hotel called Todoroki, or 轟).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Traveling in Japan: Hot Springs in Gunma-ken Part II

Here are some hilarious knickknacks we found at Yamada-ya :

What the...?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Traveling in Japan: Hot Springs in Gunma-ken Part I

Going to hot springs, or onsen (温泉) in Japanese, is one of the favorite national pastimes of us the Japanese.

For those of you who don't know what's so special about hot springs in Japan, you get to stay at a very traditional Japanese hotel called ryokan (旅館) where you can gorge yourself on traditional Japanese cuisine cooked with SUPER fresh ingredients (usually locally grown) and bathe in these really cool, picturesque baths with hot spring water that makes your skin supple like pudding and drives away all physical tiredness.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Brainstorming! Impromptu Rhapsody on the Word "Turn"

Total Read Time: 4 Minutes
I'm reading a book called Writing the Natural Way by Gabriele Rico, Ph.D. This very cool book explores simple techniques to "release creative inhibition" and let your mind go. From what I read, it focuses on the well-known technique of brain-storming or brain-mapping, where you put down a word at the center of a blank page and start writing down words and ideas you associate with that word WITHOUT THINKING DEEPLY ABOUT THE CONNECTION.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Drama You Must Watch: One Liter of Tears

It's a drama series that was broadcast in Japan about four years ago and based on a true story.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Best Pancakes in Japan: Bills

Located in Shichirigahama - about 1.5 hours away from central Tokyo on the train, and one stop before the (in)famous Enoshima, THE beach located to the south of Tokyo, to which Tokyoites schlep to enjoy the expanses of volcanic sand, dirty water, and occasional view of Mt. Fuji (see below) during the hot and humid Japanese summer - Bills offers probably the best pancakes and scrambled eggs in the whole of Japan, period.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Inglorious Emericans and Jepanese

The following clip is my favorite scenes from Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds. If you haven't seen the movie, you most definitely should. It's violently funny and engrossing. The schizophrenic and polygot villain (who speaks English, German, French, and Italian), Land, is probably one of my favorite fictional characters of all time.