Saturday, April 21, 2007


By Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut's classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Billy simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Kurt Vonnegut's) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.
It isn't a conventional, or simple, novel.Vonnegut writes, "There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick, and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters..."
Slaughterhouse-Five (taken from the name of the building where the POWs were held) is not only Karl Vonnegut's most powerful book, it is as important as any written since 1945. Like Catch- 22, it fashions the author's experiences in the World War II into an eloquent and deeply funny plea against butchery in the service of authority. Slaughterhouse-Five boasts the same imagination, humanity, and gleeful appreciation of the absurd found in Vonnegut's other works, but the book's basis in rock-hard, tragic fact gives it a unique poignancy and humor.
On the surface, it's the story of a World War II veteran who survives the infamous firebombing of Dresden. But it is much more.Billy Pilgrim says he has become "unstuck in time". He lives his life both in random order and all at once; in a fourth dimension of time travel. This concept of the fourth dimension, he says, was explained to him by alien beings called Trafalmordians. Whether you regard Billy Pilgrim as just another psyche-damaged, delusional war veteran or take him at his word is not important. It is Kurt Vonnegut's underlying anti-war message that is important.
The book is primarily satire, screaming anti-war sentiments and protesting against the destructive consequences of war and its mentally damaging effects on the soldiers
The story is full of black humour as Kurt Vonnegut details the minutiae of Billy's seemingly normal post-war life as an optometrist and the horrors of his war experience. The juxtaposition of these two extremes as he jumps back and forth in time makes Vonnegut's anti-war message all the more effective.

Monday, April 9, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

Directed by Davis Guggenheim

"An Inconvenient Truth".directed by Davis the scientific evidence for global warming, discusses the politics and economics of global warming, and describes the consequences global climate change will produce if the amount of human-generated greenhouse gases is not significantly reduced in the future.
Davis Guggenheim's hands-off approach makes this documentary startlingly effective; we're told what we need to know about the speaker (Al Gore) as the speaker is given his opportunity to present his argument on the effects of global warming with very little interruption.And he is straightforward without being blatantly alarmist.The film premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and opened in New York and Los Angeles on May 24, 2006 and it is the third-highest-grossing documentary in the United States to date.
The former vice President of the United States, Al Gore, presents a compelling documentary in this documentary about man's effect on the environment.It is a argument that simply cannot fail to strike fear into the hearts of all those who see is a call to action for everybody.This film sends the extremely important message,supported by current research : that global warming is a real threat,largely human-caused and if we do nothing to stop it our homes may become uninhabitable before we know what has happened.
An Inconvenient Truth is the film that includes many segments intended to refute critics who say that global warming is insignificant or unproven. For example,Al Gore discusses the risk of the collapse of a major ice sheet in Greenland or in West Antarctica, either of which could raise global sea levels by approximately 20 feet (6m), flooding coastal areas and producing millions of refugees. Meltwater from Greenland, because of its lower salinity, could halt the Gulf Stream current and quickly trigger dramatic local cooling in Northern Europe.
That point gives An Inconvenient Truth its power; what may be a big-screen lecture actually carries with it an incredibly meaningful message ; Al Gore seeks not to criticise everybody for what is happening but rather to inspire us to do something about it before it's too late.
In an effort to explain the global warming phenomenon, the film examines annual temperature and CO2 levels for the past 600,000 years in Antarctic ice core. An analogy to Hurricane Katrina is used for those familiar with the 30-ft to 45-ft (9 to 14m) waves that destroyed almost a million homes in coastal Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama.
The Associated Press contacted more than 100 world's leading researchers on global warming and questioned them about the film's veracity.This was at the time before the film's general release and many of those surveyed had neither seen the movie nor read the book, but all 19 climate scientists who had done so said that Al Gore conveyed the science correctly.
The documentary ends with Gore noting that if appropriate action is taken soon, the effects of global warming can be reversed by releasing less carbon dioxide and growing more plants or trees,and Al Gore calls upon viewers to learn how they can help in this initiative.
Al Gore makes clear to anyone in opposition that the tools to reverse climate changes are at hand and that the economic consequences of solving the problem are positive,not negative. The idea that responsible environmental protection is bad for the economy is exposed in this documentary through facts and science for what it is "a Big Lie".
Overall,it is a film that needs to be seen by every single person on this planet.The bits of animation are eye-catching, and Al Gore's humor is appropriately dispersed throughout.This isn't some platform Gore picked up in the last few years; this is something Al Gore has been fighting for his whole life, which gives him a credible voice in this issue.
"An Inconvenient Truth" won the Academy Award for Best Documentary.Al Gore accepted the award, saying : “My fellow Americans, people all over the world,we need to solve the climate crisis. It’s not a political issue. It’s a moral issue. We have everything we need to get started with the possible exception of the will to act. That’s a renewable resource. Let’s renew it.”

Saturday, April 7, 2007

The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
By Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is a Canadian journalist now based in New York City who has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996.His 1999 profile of Ron Popeil won a National Magazine Award.He was selected as one of Time’s 100 most influential people for 2005. Gladwell is the author of two bestselling books: "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference," and "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" , both of which were number one New York Times bestsellers.From 1987 to 1996, he was a reporter with the Washington Post, where he covered business, science, and then served as the newspaper's New York City bureau chief. He graduated from the University of Toronto, Trinity College, with a degree in history. He was born in England, grew up in rural Ontario, and now lives in New York City .

In "The Tipping Point" Malcolm Gladwell is arguing that the spread of cultural trends can be compared with the spread of disease in an epidemic. In a disease outbreak, there's often a "tipping point" a point at which the virus or bacteria start spreading much more rapidly than before, often with no obvious cause for the change. Malcolm Gladwell argues you can track the spread of many movements in any society in the same way.
As any epidemiologist would look not only for the cause of the disease, Gladwell analyzes how these trends arise and how they become insinuated into the public consciousness. He identifies three groups of people who are essential to the creation and spread of such ideas : Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen and describes how they can cause ideas to spread.When connectors, mavens, and salesmen are all involved into an idea, it has a much higher chance of spreading. Vice versa, if you have an idea or a product that needs adoption, it might very well be valuable to identify and target these three types of people separately to push for a better adoption of what you are aiming to spread.

Gladwell looks into why certain ideas spread farther and faster than others do. He classes them according to how fast they spread and how effectively they hold on.The end result is a synthesis of current thinking ideas.
Why do major changes in any society so often happen suddenly and unexpectedly? Ideas, behavior, messages, and products,Gladwell argues, often spread like outbreaks of infectious disease. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a few fare-beaters and graffiti artists fuel a subway crime wave, or a satisfied customer fill the empty tables of a new restaurant. These are social epidemics, and the moment when they take off, when they reach their critical mass, is the Tipping Point.
Gladwell examines this idea through true stories of rapid change, one of the most central being that of Paul Revere and his famous 1775 midnight ride to Lexington, Massachusetts, warning villagers along the way of approaching British troops. A man named William Dawes did the same thing that night; both men rode to Lexington, but Revere set the countryside on fire with his warnings and Dawes did not.Paul Revere's ride ultimately set events in motion that led to the American Revolutionary War, and Dawes has been all but forgotten.
What was so different about the two men and their rides? What was unique about Paul Revere and his ride that tipped the struggle for American independence and forever changed the course of human history?

Gladwell takes that story and deftly draws a convincing narrative through a wide variety of other tales: the resurgence of Hush Puppie shoes in 1994; the Baltimore syphilis epidemic of 1995; the making of Sesame Street and its descendant, the children's show Blues Clues; the Bernard Goetz subway shooting in New York and a novel approach to crime that some credit to the rapid fall of crime rates in that city ten years later; cigarette addiction and advertising; an epidemic of teenage suicides in the South Pacific islands of Micronesia. In each, Gladwell attempts to isolate the fundamental qualities that turned a long-term status quo into a rapid and wide-ranging explosion of change, pointing convincingly to the common bonds that set each in motion.

If you're looking for hard academic evidence for the "Tipping Point" model or even an evenhanded treatment of opposing views - you won't find it here, but you will find a well researched book and a fairly thorough exploration of an interesting thesis. Likewise, readers interested in specific ways to create tipping points in their own endeavors won't find concrete instructions for doing so here - it's not a how-to book, instead leaving the practical questions of application up to the reader. In the end, "The Tipping Point" opens more doors than it closes.
The Tipping Point is a great book by an excellent writer who made his name as a writer at the Washington Post , and later with the New Yorker and even though this book deals with some serious ideas and novel ways of looking at the world, it does so in an very accessible way. It contains plenty to think about, and may provide new ways for addressing current issues.
"The Tipping Point" provides insights into social mechanisms, but also offers a lot of knowledge that can be transferred to marketing and business in general.It is extremely useful to anyone involved in marketing on any medium or trying to spread a new idea,or to anyone who seeks to advance understanding of the complex world around us.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

I Feel Bad About My Neck

By Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron's book - "I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman" is made up of 16 autobiographical essays, some of which have appeared in The New Yorker, Vogue, and other venues is a direct look at life from Nora Ephron's perspective as a 60 some year old woman. She describes various dynamics regarding life as it progresses.Ephron includes a hilarious chapter on the concept of "maintenance". This refers to the confounding number of things that a woman is faced with adapting as time goes on : Waxing the mustache, dealing with keeping skin moisturized,hair dying,menopause, empty nests... She discusses openly how her relationships in her life have impacted her over the years - her thought on marriage is very telling : "marry someone you are comfortable divorcing."
In this book Ephron chronicles her life as an obsessed cook, passionate city dweller, and hapless parent. She recounts her anything-but-glamorous days as a White House intern during the Kennedy years : “I am probably the only young woman who ever worked in the Kennedy White House that the President did not make a pass at”, and shares how she fell in and out of love with Bill Clinton,from a distance, of course. But mostly she speaks frankly and uproariously about life as a woman of a certain age.
Nora Ephron who brought us When Harry Met Sally , Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail , Michael and Bewitched, and the author of best sellers Heartburn, Scribble Scribble, Wallflower at the Orgy and Crazy Salad, discusses everything—from how much she hates her purse to how much time she spends attempting to stop the clock: the hair dye, the treadmill, the lotions and creams that promise to slow the aging process but never do. Oh, and she can’t stand the way her neck looks. But her dermatologist tells her there’s no quick fix for that.
But,Ephron doesn't stop with necks, but takes on other afflictions and a few delights that mark this season of her life: her loathing of purses, the struggle to keep fit, the vagaries of parenting, and her favorite books.
These topics are laced with wry observations, told in an intimate style that makes Ephron seem like a close friend spilling details about her life.Nora Ephron paints quite a picture of lunching with her friends,all wealthy women in their 50s and 60s,as she looks around the table to realize they're all wearing turtlenecks. Or blouses with mandarin collars.
All in an attempt to hide their scrawny or saggy necks. This body part, Ephron concludes, is hopeless.Other beauty issues are more readily solved: gray hair can be colored, patchy skin can be covered with makeup, and wrinkled faces given chemical treatments, but short of plastic surgery, necks are "doomed." She's skewering the obsession with appearances while squeezing comic mileage out of the situation.
"Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth"..."You have to cut a redwood tree open to see how old it is, but you wouldn't have to if it had a neck",Nora Ephron writes.
Graying hair is another age marker, and hair dye, Ephron concludes, is the most powerful weapon women have against the youth culture. She makes a persuasive case that hair dye has enabled women to feel comfortable about remaining in the workforce far longer than they otherwise might.
Most women will love the essay about her purse. She may "feel bad" about her neck, but she "hates" her purse. She's writing here for women "who understand that their purses are reflections of negligent housekeeping, hopeless disorganization, a chronic inability to throw anything away" and who aren't wildly successful at changing at the right time from a winter purse to a summer one. Her list of permanent purse contents includes loose Tic-Tacs, lipsticks with no covers, leaky ballpoint pens and crumpled tissues that might have been used but equally well might not have been.
Nora Ephron is always good for an amusing line, a wry smile, and sometimes an abashed grin of recognition as she homes in on one of our own dubious obsessions.
The honest truth is that it's sad to be over sixty," concludes Nora Ephron in her sparkling new book about aging.But,while signs of mortality proliferate, Ephron offers a rebuttal of consequence: an intelligent, alert, entertaining perspective.
This book is sometimes funny, and at times melancholy. It starts out seeming like it's going to be a series of humor columns and turns into a nice reflective book about life, parenthood, aging and being a woman.
It doesn't matter what age you are, you will love this book.Nora Ephron's perspective as an admittedly high-maintenance, New York-dwelling, successful screenwriter will keep you entertained."I Feel Bad About My Neck" is a book of wisdom, advice, and laugh-out-loud moments, a scrumptious, irresistible treat.