Book Review: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

IMG_1952One would make the assumption that with times changing (along with the technology and the introduction of online dating) that things have changed in the land of pursuing romance in the modern world.

However, in reading Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, that the author and my fellow book club ladies are in agreement that many things have not changed. Though a good chunk of communication that used to be done via phone calls have now been replaced by text message exchanges, that silly rule of waiting to call or text someone so that you don’t appear too eager/desperate still is very much commonly practiced.

Though before the internet it’s probably very unlikely that men you didn’t really know yet would send you a dick pic enclosed in an envelope to your house. As Ansari pointed out, unless you had your own photo development set-up at home most places would not have printed out a dick pic for you during the times when photos were all taken on film anyways.

Needless to say, this book definitely lead to quite an interesting an extensive discussion amongst the ladies of the book club in regards to dating in general. We all agreed that we found the field research done in Buenos Aires, Tokyo and Paris fascinating. Living in a region of the States where we have people from all over the world, it put things into perspective of how it would be a cultural shock for both parties involved when dating someone who have different views on things like cheating, chasing, etc. In spite of these differences, it is definitely universal that marriage is becoming commonly delayed in all of these countries if ever pursued. Thank goodness for the pressure easing off for us to get married by a certain age, especially for us women.

One of the things I appreciated Ansari doing in the book is the thorough illustration of the pros and cons of technology in the modern world of romance. A lot of us remember the social stigma that used to exist about meeting someone online back when online dating was still relatively new. Such stigma still exists for newer forms of online dating such as Tinder where the common view for that App today that it’s more for casual hookups. But it was interesting to have it be pointed out in the book that when we meet someone in person (ie. at a bar) you do pretty much the same thing where you make a snap judgment/decision as to whether you are interested in that person based on something superficial like their physical appearance. So the argument was that something like Tinder would be much closer to how we would decide whether we were interested in someone or not in real life.

It admittedly has been less than a year since I have owned a smart phone and one of the features I did appreciate immediately was the ability to block phone numbers. I can delete the phone numbers I used to list as “Stalker #1,” “Stalker #2,” so on. And while I am not someone interested in getting to know someone I just met via a texting dialogue, I do think it’s nice to have the kind of ease now in being able to share things like photos and videos that you can take anywhere with someone you want to share them with. But in case it wasn’t already clear to any man reading this, please don’t send an unsolicited dick pic to a lady you just met or have not even met yet.

-M

Journaling with Self Kindness

I journal every night without fail before going to bed.

This past week I had a very emotional moment as I kept going back and forth in my journal entry that night between how I was really feeling vs how I thought I “should” be feeling. I think in the self-improvement/self-motivating culture that sort of mentality is common. You want to remain positive and grateful so you try to shut down your negative feelings and emotions.

I finally couldn’t take it anymore, driving myself insane, and Skyped with a very good friend in Germany. She then proceeded to make me a gift that I have since then printed out to paste on my journal cover:

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I want to be that kind of friend/person who is there for someone when they really need me, the one that makes you feel like you matter. So that is why I choose to be kind and thoughtful as much as possible —- Because one person can make the difference.

And as I refer to myself as my “twin bestie” in my book, my friend in Germany gifted this book cover to remind me to be kind to my twin bestie too.

-M

Book Review: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

I admit I have a celebrity crush on Trevor Noah. Not that I would hope to be one of those crazy screaming fans if I ever had the chance to meet him. But now that I have read his book it does make me appreciate him that much more beyond the charming sense of humor he evokes on the Daily Show. On the Daily Show he makes fun of Donald Trump but in the book he manages to bring humor amidst some very serious dire situations he’s encountered in his own upbringing. And a man who doesn’t take himself too seriously is a good thing.

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Click here to buy the book Born a Crime

There are people who are “street smart” and those who are “book smart.” It’s very evident that Trevor Noah acquired a lot of “street smart” intelligence with all the different ways he learned to make money from a young age (I do also respect someone who is resourceful like that).

At the same time, it was also very evident that his mother wanted to make sure he was educated to be “book smart” as well — And be very loyal to religion as she was. I personally am not religious so my take on Jesus would probably be a bit more similar to Trevor Noah’s but I certainly enjoyed the debates he had with his mother about God and loved how they were able to love each other regardless of their differences. I would also like to believe that regardless of what/who you believe in that there is something to be said about faith and the magic or miracles of life that sometimes seem to happen as it did in Trevor Noah’s mother’s life.

One of the things that fascinated me about this book was learning more about the history of South Africa. Most of us know of Nelson Mandela and the period of Apartheid ending on a superficial level. From reading the book, I learned that I too would have been classified under the same group as Trevor Noah in South Africa since the Japanese were classified as whites and the Chinese were classified as blacks. Never in my life have I ever thought of myself as half white and half black so that was quite the twist! Then again, I also would have never imagined the name Hitler being common anywhere in the world after World War II.

The chapter that had me laughing so hard it got me hooked on the book right away was chapter 3. Laughter is indeed good medicine and it felt so good to laugh like that. A great book and a delicious hot cup of tea is the perfect combination to curl up with on a rainy (or a non-rainy) day.

-M

Book Review: A Man Called Ove

Nowadays it’s common for movies to be based on books so it wasn’t a complete surprise when I saw my friend scrolling through movie choices for the night and I discovered that the book I was reading was already turned into a film. I have not seen the film yet as I wanted to finish the book first. So this review is solely based on my experience with reading the novel.

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A Man Called Ove was a suggestion made by one of the book club members at the last meeting as she was in the mood for something “heartwarming.” Admittedly, I thought that the book was anything but [heartwarming] when I began reading it. Even when I was able to start seeing how it would potentially become heartwarming, the story felt quite heartbreaking because of the continuous unveiling of hardships the protagonist/main character Ove had gone through in life prior to the present day the story was taking place.

So if you are going through a heartbreak yourself, this would be a great book to read and cry to. With the ending being heartwarming it would also give you that comforting fuzzy feeling afterwards which would also probably help.

Personally, the story also resonated with me with themes such as being able to choose your non-blood family or being able to overcome loneliness and finding a living purpose after experiencing tremendous loss.

I do not like to spoil it for people by giving away the whole story if you have not seen the movie or read the book and you plan on doing so at some point. So I won’t go into details about the premises.

But as a reader, I will say that this was one of those books that starts to grow on you as you progress through the story. So you increasingly start reading more pages per sitting. Towards the end, I just didn’t want to put it down because I wanted to know what was going to happen. It wasn’t like the ending was unexpected, but when you get a glimpse of a heartwarming ending you want to see all of it.

I think some of it was timing too. Even though it doesn’t snow where I live, the snowy setting in the book puts me in that winter mood. And the holidays can be a time where people go through all those range of emotions of feeling lonely from being alone or the warmth of being with those you love.

So here’s to cuddling up with a nice book and a cup of hot tea this winter,

M

Book Review: Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull

My favorite Disney movie is The Lion King and my favorite Pixar film is Up. That was my way of breaking the ice at the latest book club meeting upon suggesting that we all share our favorite Disney and Pixar films.

Ed Catmull co-founded Pixar so the book started off talking more about Pixar but as a child he was very much inspired by Walt Disney’s work and did discuss the cultural differences between the two places he observed upon becoming president of Disney as well. I also have a lot of respect for Catmull for continuing to keep Disney and Pixar separate from one another (ie. not utilizing help from either side when things get tough).

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Click here to buy the book Creativity Inc.
As someone who has been on the receiving end of the completed Disney or Pixar films, I do now have a newfound appreciation for how much work and time commitment it takes to finish an animated film. And I agree with the dedication Catmull believes in doing research on your subject matter. It was impressive to know that the Pixar employees took up archery lessons for the making of Brave or the visits to college campuses to create the campus vibe in Monsters University.

It was also interesting to read about what the original story line was before the films became what they eventually evolved into or how titles are chosen for the films (or how the name “Pixar” was chosen, for that matter!) The experience is almost like a literary version of a behind-the-scenes documentary.

There was an extensive portrayal of Steve Jobs in the book, which was different from when I read about him in his authorized biography by Walter Isaacson. It was an account of his relationship with Steve so it’s also a particular era of Steve’s life. And the way he seemed to be viewed at Apple in Isaacson’s book was a controlling difficult man which was very polar to how he was viewed as being laissez-faire with Pixar. To be fair, Steve Jobs was the co-founder of Apple whereas he was an investor of Pixar and chose to believe in Catmull and John Lasseter’s  vision for the company so I think it’s only natural that he acted the way he did.

As evident by this blog, I too am a being who thrives on expressing my creativity. Whether it’s my writing, cooking, or fashion choices – I love to be my artsy self. And I don’t always play it safe – I think it’s a given if you are continuing to be creative. You can of course still continue to create without being creative. But creating and being creative are different things.

However, I think the importance of continuing to enjoy creating should not be discounted and one should not stop him/herself from creating out of the fear of not being “creative enough.” I think Elizabeth Gilbert put it well when she inspired me to write my own book upon reading her book Big Magic where she talks about the special and unique touch we give things even when we do things that have been done before. And as Catmull put it, every Pixar film starts off as an “ugly baby.”

So here’s to letting our fabulous freak flags fly ever so freely,

M

Book vs Film: The Light Between Oceans

WARNING: If you haven’t read the book or seen the film, perhaps you should opt out of reading this blog posting to prevent me from spoiling the story for you.

My book club ladies decided to read The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman this month and paired it with an outing to go watch the film, which also just came out. So I did follow the pattern of reading the book before I watched the movie. fullsizerender

The book I read already advertised the film release (as you can see on the cover), giving away the names of the actors who are in the film. So it actually did make me a bit biased on imagining what the characters would look like as I was reading it.

The book starts off with a map to show where the island of Janus and the other locations on Australia made reference to in the book were, which was helpful. The author grew up in Western Australia too, so I do like that she draws inspiration from her home country.

The film did do justice in telling the overall story told by the book, but naturally cut out a lot of the other scenes described in the book. It didn’t affect the storyline too much, but I was a bit surprised that they didn’t have that first encounter between Tom Sherbourne and Hannah Roennfeldt on the boat before arriving in Partageuse for the first time when he rescued her from another man. The first time Tom and Isabel meet was also very much downplayed in the film and was limited to him seeing her feeding the birds from a distance as he keeps walking by without speaking to her or feeding the birds with her like he did in the book.

I also found that I really did not like Isabel’s character when I was reading the novel but didn’t find that to be the case as much when I watched the film. It might be because in the movie she doesn’t find out about the baby’s real identity until much later compared to the book. It made her seem more innocent in the crime she committed.

Gwen’s role in the film was also much less significant compared to the book since the scene of her having Lucy reunite with Isabel at the bench weren’t there. And there was also a wedding scene for Isabel and Tom in the film, which was not mentioned in the book. The book mentions a honeymoon which would have been where the marriage was consummated for the first time but the movie implied that the deed was done in their bedroom at their home in Janus. I think this was more all for cinematic visual effects.

The scenes that I felt the film did get right was when the piano tuner/repair person came to Janus,  when Lucy and Isabel were forced to be separated at the police station, and the interaction between Septimus Potts and Lucy-Grace. And with the film, the frustration you feel from the impending story unraveling towards the inevitable destiny the characters are bound for isn’t there compared to the book. Reading the book, I found myself impatiently thinking “When is Hannah going to find out about Lucy already?”

So overall, I would give the film a letter grade of a B+ or  an A-. Both the book and the movie tells a story where you do want to know what happens next. And the ending makes you appreciate people doing the right thing even if it’s a difficult choice to make.

-M

On Dating Myself

Date Example #1: Earlier this year, I went to go watch the film How to Be Single. Appropriately enough, I went to go watch the film solo. Prior to arriving at the movie theater, I stopped by Whole Foods to grab a little bit of pulled pork shoulder at the hot food bar. And then I made my next stop at the grilled cheese sandwich chain restaurant The Melt so that I could concoct myself a pulled pork grilled cheese sandwich, which I snuck in my movie theater purse to devour while watching the film. It was a perfect afternoon.

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Date Example #2: The year before that, I went to Paris by myself where I spent hours upon hours smelling tea leave samples in tea shops before deciding which ones to purchase and bring back with me to the states. Unless I was on the trip with another tea enthusiast it would have probably been torturous to have a travel companion! I would read a novel in a café sipping on such delicious tea all over Paris on this trip. Note: While Paris was not listed, I did come across an interesting article on Refinery29 of places recommended for solo female travelers.

Date Example #3: Fast forward to my current day — I am spending a relaxing weekend of having the placeIMG_0759 to myself during my roommate’s absence during the holiday weekend. Reading the book Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel, I suddenly get into a sensual mood and realize that I am free to pleasure myself as I please without having to feel discreet. It may seem odd because the book is about maintaining physical intimacy and desire with a long-term spouse/partner. But I am without that partner so I decide I would appreciate my own sexiness. I then promise myself that I would continue to occasionally do so even if I were to ever be coupled up again.


It goes without saying as I mention in my own book that I would like to fall in love again and be in that “ultimate romantic relationship” at some point if I may be so fortunate enough to meet someone. However, like a photo album full of fun memories shared with that special someone, I pride in the fact that I have these fun memories of dating myself. Whether you are dating someone else or yourself, I figured why not enjoy it?

I also strongly believe that in order for me to be a fun, loving and sexy partner to another person, I need to be so in my own company. It’s what I would think would naturally be attractive for someone else to see in me in the first place. As cliché as it sounds, it’s true that in order to love someone else you need to love yourself first.

Here’s to falling in love with myself all over again,

-M