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.

Funny: Hitler and iPhone

This section of the movie has probably been spoofed so many times, but I just found out about it.

Comedy comes from tension that results from a contrast. The contrast here is the apparent seriousness of the situation and the frivolousness of the substance.

A little humor while you take a break.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Absolutely Inspirational!

Feeling sick and tired? Think you're unhappy? Think you failed? Think you're in doubt? Think you're depressed?

Watch the video. It's probably one of the most inspirational clips I've seen:

That's all.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

How to Fix Your Psychological Problems in 20 Minutes

Here Be Dragons: The Psychological Problem, Cause & Cure Here Be Dragons: The Psychological Problem, Cause & Cure by Manuel J. Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Total Read Time: 2 Minutes

Do you get defensive often and wish you didn't?

Are you afraid of being criticized?

Are you scared to death of people thinking less than perfect about you?

Do you hate it when you make a mistake?

Would you rather die than make a fool out of yourself in front of people?

Are you suffering from the loss of your loved ones? A painful breakup? A divorce?

Katou Miliyah

Just discovered Kato Miliyah (or Katou Miriya or 加藤ミリヤ or how-the-fuck-ever you want to write it). Post-Utada J-R&B with a dash of Koda Kumi would be the label I'd give to her style of music. I especially like the upbeat songs - Lover Forever, Love for You, and Sayonaraベイベー.

Yes, this probably shows how poor my music taste is.

Just like books, good songs you want to listen to over and over again are hard to come by.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Book Review: Lolita

The Annotated Lolita: Revised and Updated The Annotated Lolita: Revised and Updated by Vladimir Nabokov

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
She was Lo, plain Lo without the annotations--

I came across the unannotated version of Lolita in summer 2004 when I was a raging philosophy maniac whose obsession was everything existentialism and thinking about The Meaning of Life - in general, I wasn't a very happy person to say the least.

Toward the end of a strenuous and almost cruel summer reading syllabus I had imposed on myself (Soren and Friedrich I could handle, but Martin and J.P. gave me the existential headache), came this brilliant gem of fiction, an oasis in the desert of angst and bad faith, a breather for my nothingness of a mind that craved being-not-in-the-world. Thanks to Vivian Darkbloom, I achieved veritable transcendence of my ego.

Onto my impressions of the novel. I remember the first part being tantalizingly erotic and second part average. So engrossed was I in poor Humbert Humbert's fantasies and seduction that, in a manner of speaking I had to repeatedly resort to the good old manuo-frictional means of extinguishing the fire of my loins. The second part, however, disappointed me and when I began my second fill of Lolita, I remembered nothing about the second part, save the scene where Humbert Humbert makes an advance at Dolores when she's studying and she says, "Oh not again."

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, if you have had your fill of Lolita once without the benefit of the annotations, you can easily understand my plight when I decided to go through it again, especially when one is loath to have recourse to the all too conventional means of extinguishing the aforementioned fire. But my apprehensions came to naught.

The annotations, I must confess, are tremendously helpful. I did not recognize to what magnitude I missed the allusions, echoes, jokes, and delightful word plays our Hum engages in. It is staggering how much he is able to weave into the narrative. Frankly, I missed, without exaggeration, 100% of it. I was, as the diligent annotator notes in his recondite and illuminating 64-page introduction, Nabokov's ideal reader-puppet.

Not so, this time. Thanks to the annotations and two years of reading hard literature plus two years of French, I was able to see the cracks and holes in Lolita and enjoy it an artistic artifice that it is. Strangely, I experienced no tumescence - not one bit - and enjoyed it on a totally different aesthetic level.

In short, although the prolix and detailed annotations may have taken away from the reading experience, I still enjoyed Lolita very much. There are slow parts, however, I had a hard time getting through. For example, the first 20 pages of Part Deux where H.H. and Dolly travel across les etats unis boasts more than enough expositions to drive you to the edge of despair and tantrum.

My favorite scenes are, in order: 1)the last scene with Humbert and Quilty; 2) the Enchanted Hunters hotel scene; and 3) the interviews with the Beardsley School headmistress. Like any work of literature, there are more than its fair share of slow parts whose necessity is in big question at least from the humble reader's perspective.

Insofar as the novel manages to both engage on the gut emotional level (especially the first time without the annotations) and intellectual, literary, and artistic level, Lolita remains, and will remain, one of my absolute favorites.

The four stars for the second level of reading. Overall, I give it 5 stars.

Another must read.

View all my reviews >>

Friday, January 29, 2010

Food For Thought: Sunflower Poem


Sunflowers are always blossoming around you.
If you can blossom like sunflowers,
There is no life you can't start over
Even though you've become old and withered.


Sunflowers crave the sun
But they don't fight over it.
As if caring for each other, they all face east.


I know
You are seeking sunflowers called friends
And you, too, can be sunflowers.
Do you know the meaning of sunflowers?
"Always there for you."
And there is another:
"You are wonderful."
Can you say that to people around you?
Then, they'll say it to you, too.
That you are wonderful.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Our Deepest Fear

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be so beautiful, talented, gorgeous, fabulous?' Actually, who are you NOT to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small dos not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. This is not just in some of us, it is in everyone. And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people the permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fears, our presence automatically liberates others."
-Nelson Mandela