‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell

The personification of success equals the characterization of the person in our society that has established an unwritten pervasive eugenic rubric of material success in representing where you live. The stories of Rags to Riches are mainly to blame because they are modern-day mythology of heroes and heroines or fairytales to imbue the populace with slim hopes that can also be dangerous, like mass-marketplace placebo anti-depressants. From Hercules to Cinderella, those whose success from their humble origins we love is not self-made as they claim to be in their memoir or interviews but are made of chance and circumstances. This book reveals how these outliers are not outliers but are insiders of the leagues of winners in sociological terms and facts.

The book opens with a remarkable bible passage from the Gospel according to Matthew, dubbed as the “Matthew Effect” thus: “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him, that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” It means that success results from accumulated advantage and vice versa. The accumulated advantage is a combination of one’s ability and ambition interacting with the particular circumstances surrounding their rise over difficulties or challenges. Indeed, people who make lots of money must have burnt their midnight lamps to arrive where they are, but they also have people who help them and time to achieve their goals without worrying about other cares of the world. Hence, I don’t like JF Kennedy’s proclamation, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. You can criticize people on welfare as losers lacking motivation and diligence when they need personal structural guidance and constructive public assistance to help them stand on their feet. You can’t just leave those behind the race as being slow or inadequate for the race.

In ancient Greek mythology, the human race was born of mud by Prometheus and imbued with intelligence by Pallas Athena. Prometheus then gave sacred fire stolen from Olympus to make a better life. In the Old Testament, God blessed Abraham with wealth, who also helped his chosen few from those who instigated his wrath. Although modern-day outliers are not prophets or demigods, they certainly have their lucky stars. As Shakespeare agreed, “it’s the stars that govern our conditions.” Even if you disagree, you should not judge people who make less money than you, or no employment, or live in humble housing, thinking their situations result from their faults.

‘The Complete Book of Cat Names’ by Bob Eckstein

My rating: is 4 out of 5 stars.

T.S. Eliot, an admirer of the cat, advocates the importance of naming them in his Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats because cats are so individual that they defy asinine nominative determinism inadvertently assigned by humans. Suppose cats like the names they are called. In that case, they will turn their heads toward the resonance of the calls with inquisitive eyes full of curiosity that often turns into alacrity of adventure. In this witty and illustrious book, Eckstein agrees with Eliot and gives practical advice on naming cats ranging from ancient legacies to modern celebrities.

Toro, the Tiger

Eckstein provides a variety of ideas about cat names according to the guardians’ cultural inclinations, such as history, fine arts, and entertainment. For example, if you are keen on ancient history, consider the names like Cleopatra or Caesar. Picasso or Figaro if you love their paintings. How about Bono of U2? Whatever it may be, one thing is sure your cat loves it by responding to the name. According to a book I read about dogs written by a monk who specialized in dog training, it is advisable to give a gender-specific name to a dog. For example, if it is a female dog, the name should end with the -na suffix. Conversely, if it is a male dog, it should end with -no. Although the canine and the feline are different species, I always think it is convincingly good advice. Hence, I named my tabby cat Toro, derived from Tora, meaning a tigress in Japanese. Incidentally, my zodiac animal is Tiger, so I thought it would be apropos of him. Does Toro like his name? You bet.

Nero, being Nero

My black cat now has a new name, Nero, changed from Camille, the name he didn’t respond to. Initially, I thought about naming him Bono as suggested by Eckstein, not because I like U2 but because I suspected my newly adopted cat being a Bombay cat with his beautifully shiny and sleek ebony fur coat. So I tried it, but there was no response. Then I remembered the song “A Black Cat Named Nero,” I liked when I was a little child. The result was Nero materialized. What can I say? Cats are individuals.

I want to say this book is not only for readers with cats, but practically speaking, it isn’t. Any would-be cat owner or one who has just adopted a cat will find this book delightfully helpful in naming the cat. I have to say it reinforces me to change my second cat’s name from Camille to Nero. So when you call your cat, it should be the one only your cat has and likes it. You will know because your cat will meow. All cats are personal with stories to tell.

‘Idol, Burning’ by Rin Usami

Idol, Burning by Rin Usami

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We are such starstuff made of fire, spirit, and dew that we are instantly drawn to stars that sparkle and shine. And what do we call the beautiful star (and young, of course) that sings, dances, and acts even? If we call it a singer, it is also an idol. Akari calls it Masaki, puts him in the constellation of super idols and worships him like an Apollo to whom she gives meaning to her life as if he were her lighthouse on the dark ocean. He is her God, the Idol, and the Guiding Light of her lonely life. Then what?

Masaki is a member of a boy band called Mama Maza, which feeds on the cult devotion reminiscent of Dionysus accompanying the Maenads sans frenzied ritual of animal-human ripping of fleshes. Akari is something of the high priestess of the cult, running fan blogs filled with tributes to the exalted, glorified awesomeness of her Idol. Her life is centered on, evolved around the solar system of Masaki, and everything she is about, all the things she does about, is because of him. So imagine what is it like when her God becomes mortal full of human frailty, fallen from the constellation of the stars? An emotional vacuum is soon filled in her heart, leaving her lost in the direction of life, wandering about, wondering about the sense of purpose in life ahead. Her sense of void in life with the declination of Masaki from stardom illustrates the existential dilemma that struggles to find a new objective in her life in which the meaning of life depends on achieving the goals in daily tasks, which were to follow any updates on her figure of love, the source of her life energy.

Of course, the love of one’s favorite entertainer is not to be criticized. Beatlemania was not a hysterical totalitarianism but a collective popularism that entrained the ears and minds of people. The gist of this book echoes what Marcel Proust advised: “Never meet the people you admire. You’ll be disappointed.” There’s a reason for it.

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