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Outliers. How Success is a Community Sport

Outliers. How Success is a Community Sport

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is an interesting read. It provides a different interpretation on the reasons for success and emphasises the fact of how wrong the adage “self made man/woman” is.

Gladwell argues that success is never overnight but is deeply dependent on several factors from culture, society, education, and even the year of birth and then the preceding hard and dedicated work of some 10,000 hours required to achieve mastery. Then and only then having the presence of recognising and tenaciously gripping opportunities to make them stressful.

He outlines several fundamental research to support his theories and observations, the most eye-opening for me was how there are essentially only two ways children are raised, in this context, of that how poor families tend to raise their children and hour to the rich did and how those affected the psyche and ultimately the opportunities that become available for either in their lives.

There are so many lessons and thoughts to evaluate and gain from in this book. I very much recommend it.

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Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

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Tom Hanks doesn’t much act in his movies and is not type-cast. He is just a naturally good human being! That’s the simple fact, and his writing completely confirms this too.

As I read his stories in Uncommon Type, I was almost urging him to put in some drama at this point, or do a plot twist there, to no avail though, as the stories are just “nice”, and some would say rather bland.

We’re trained to expect and demand drama in fiction and that’s what’s dished out to us. However, reading beyond that expectation in the first two or three stories, I find myself accepting that yes, the world indeed has more good than bad, and people are naturally kind. By then, I was cringing whenever I came across a cuss word – sparingly used through his text as they are – I actually felt that he was compelled to use them to show some form or “badness”. I’m happy to say that even with those, he can’t be, not with his kind and trusting nature.

Later on by the fifth or sixth story, the pace was picking up, and my realization that no earth-shattering drama is about to happen, made me relax even more. That relaxation led to sinking even deeper in my seat as I continued reading this nice book. Even his attempts at injecting a twist on the story, almost always at the very end with the last sentence, didn’t shake that sense of goodness in the world.

Uncommon Type is light reading that doesn’t tax one’s brain much, and some of its stories would certainly benefit from better plot twists and drama to make them even more enjoyable.

What you get with this book, I guess, is the calming influence one might expect from Xanax.

Thank you Mr Hanks.

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Timely Serendipity, the Book of Joy

Timely Serendipity, the Book of Joy

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The Book of Joy is a life changing book.

Do you believe in serendipity? I certainly do after picking up this book. It was like the universe was aligning just at the right time, and presenting me with this book because I needed its teachings most. This book was bought by my lovely wife while we were on a recent trip to Nepal. From a Tibetan bookshop too!

At a time when more things were going wrong than right. At a time of change in my life. This book provided a global perspective that I was slowly missing. Focusing on my own problem rather than putting them in context. Focusing inward than outward. This book and its authors; two heroes of mine, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have re-centered me and got me to focus on things larger than me. Through their shared wisdom, they are guiding me to find joy. Joy that was illusive over the past score years. And their wisdom and experiences offer a verifiable guide on how one might attain lasting joy and all the peace and tranquility that it brings.

I highly recommend this book and am eternally grateful to its authors for bringing it to us. I’m also very grateful to my wife who picked it up and allowed me to read, and now benefit from it.

Blessings to you all. I wish you joy and happiness.

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Reel Bad Arabs. The propagation of discrimination

Reel Bad Arabs. The propagation of discrimination

Reel Bad Arabs book by Jack ShaheenMy son Arif’s Christmas gift to me was the book “Reel Bad Arabs, how Hollywood vilifies a people” by Jack Shaheen (it was made into a film as well – vimeo). It is a fascinating reference which took the author more than two decades to compile. In it, he reviewed over 1,000 Hollywood films which have denigrated Arabs, our culture and traditions, religion and way of life. The films reviewed were from the start of the age of cinema through to the present day. The amount of hate carried through these films – sometimes un-intentioned – is mind-boggling.

The book poses many important questions and premises which are worthy of consideration. The author’s considerable work was primarily to challenge stereotypes propagated by Hollywood because this challenge is extremely important. Left unchallenged, these stereotypes can devolve into violence against a whole people whose numbers exceed 300 million and the vast majority of which are “normal” human beings who want a “normal” life and who abhor violence. The vast majority are peace loving and peaceful and do not deserve to be singled out discriminated against.

He proposes that lobbying is necessary to correct this situation, just as others have successfully done like African Americans, Jews and other minorities who stood up to Hollywood’s vilification.

The author notes that:

Damaging portraits, notably those presenting Arabs as America’s enemy, affect all people, influencing world public opinion and policy. Given the pervasive stereotype, it comes as not surprise that some of us – and the US State Department – find it difficult to accept Egyptians, Moroccans, Palestinians, and other Arabs as friends.

Not only do these violence news images of extremists reinforce and exacerbate already prevalent stereotypes, but they serve as both a source and excuse for continued Arab-bashing by those filmmakers eager to exploit the issue. In particular, the news programs are used by some producers and directors to deny they are actually engaged in stereotyping. “We’re not stereotyping,” they object. “Just look at your television set. Those are real Arabs.”

Such responses are disingenuous and dishonest. As we know, news reports by their very nature cover extraordinary events. We should not expect reporters to inundate the airwaves with lives of ordinary Arabs. But filmmakers have a moral obligation not to advance the news media’s sins of omission and commission, not to tar an entire group of people on the basis of the crimes and the alleged crimes of a few.

Taken together, news and movie images wrench the truth out of shape to influence billions of people. Regrettably, gross misrepresentation abound and continue to plaster on movie screens those distorted “pictures in our heads” that Walter Lippmann bemoaned some 70 years ago.

I agree with this assessment. I have come across this prejudice in this very blog across many threads. My intention right from when I started blogging was to try to address this issue and to show that we Arabs are just regular folks. We have the good and the bad. We have the same aspirations and dreams. And we have the same basic human needs. No more and no less.

I’ve tried to provide a platform to bring our cultures together on the same platform so that people from both camps can come to this conclusion. I’ll leave it to you to decide wether I have succeeded. In fact, success is not really relevant as the issue is immense. What I would be happy with is if I had engendered conversations that allowed people to see the other’s point of view and accept them as human beings and view them as they too could be seen as possible friends.

I highly recommend reading the book and going through some of its observations in the film reference section. You will soon realise how big this vilification problem is to this day in Hollywood and other productions against Arabs.

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