Adonis Diaries

Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

Steve Jobs Keynotes addresses

April 19, 2015

A Steve Jobs keynote was a tightly choreographed and relentlessly prepared presentation, according to the new book Becoming Steve Jobs, by Brent Schlender.

Jobs turned the product launch into an art form.

He leaves a legacy by which entrepreneurs can learn to dazzle their audiences. The following five keynotes will help anyone give the presentation of a lifetime.

1. The Mac launch

Every Steve Jobs presentation had one moment that people would be talking about the next day. These “moments” were tightly scripted and relentlessly rehearsed. Remarkably, Jobs’ flair for the dramatic started before PowerPoint or Apple Keynote were available as slide design tools, which proves you don’t need slides to leave your audience breathless.

Related: Former Apple CEO John Sculley: This Is What Made Steve Jobs a Genius

On Jan. 24, 1984, Steve Jobs introduced the first Macintosh with a magician’s flair for the big reveal. He showed a series of images and said, “Everything you just saw was created by what’s in that bag.” And with that Jobs walked to the center of a darkened stage that had a table and a canvas bag sitting on top it. He slowly pulled the Mac from the bag, inserted a floppy disk, and walked away as the theme from Chariots of Fire began to play as images filled the screen.

The lesson: A presentation doesn’t always need slides to wow an audience.

2. The iPhone

The rule of three is one of most powerful concepts in writing. The human mind can only retain three or four “chunks” of information. Jobs was well aware of this principle and divided much of his presentations into three parts. Sometimes he even had fun with it.

For example, on Feb. 16, 2007, Jobs told the audience to expect three new products: a new iPod, a phone and an “Internet communication device.” After repeating the three products several times, he made the big reveal — all three products were wrapped in one new device, the iPhone.

The lesson: Introduce three benefits or features of a product, not 23.

3. The first MacBook Air

When Jobs introduced the “world’s thinnest notebook,” the MacBook Air, he walked to the side of the stage, pulled out a manila envelope hiding behind the podium and said, “It’s so thin it even fits inside one of those envelopes you see floating around the office.” With a beaming smile, he slowly pulled it out of the envelope for all to see.

Most presenters would have shown photographs of the product. Jobs took it one step further. He knew what would grab people’s attention. This did. Most of the blogs, magazines and newspapers that covered the launch ran a photograph of Steve Jobs pulling the computer out of the envelope.

The lesson: Don’t just tell us about a product, show it to us, and do it with pizzazz.

Related: 5 Things I Learned About Successful Startups From Steve Jobs

4. The iTunes Store

Every great drama has a hero and a villain. Steve Jobs was a master at introducing both heroes and villains in the same presentation. On April 28, 2003, Jobs convinced consumers to pay 99 cents for songs. Jobs began with a brief discussion of Napster and Kazaa, sites that offered “near instant gratification” and, from the user’s perspective, free downloads. On the next slide he listed the “dark side.” They were:

  • Unreliable downloads
  • Unreliable quality (“a lot of these songs are encoded by 7-year-olds and they don’t do a great job.”)
  • No previews
  • No album cover art
  • It’s stealing (“It’s best not to mess with karma.”)

In the next section of the presentation Jobs replaced each of the drawbacks with the benefits of paying for music.

  • Fast, reliable downloads
  • Pristine encoding
  • Previews of every song
  • Album cover art
  • Good Karma

The lesson: Great presentations have an antagonist — a problem — followed by a hero — the solution.

5. The genius in their craziness

In 1997, Jobs returned to Apple after a 12-year absence. Apple was close to bankruptcy at the time and was quickly running out of cash.

Near the end of Jobs’ keynote at Macworld in August 1997, he slowed the pace, lowered his voice, and said: “I think you always had to be a little different to buy an Apple computer. I think the people who do buy them are the creative spirits in the world. They are the people who are not out just to get a job done, they’re out to change the world.

We make tools for those kind of people. A lot of times, people think they’re crazy. But in that craziness, we see genius. And those are the people we’re making tools for.”

The lesson: Don’t forget to motivate your internal audience — your team, employees and partners. Give them a purpose to rally around.

When I wrote The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, I argued that Jobs was the world’s greatest brand storyteller. When I watch these presentations over again, I’m convinced he’s still the best role model for entrepreneurs who will pitch the next generation of ideas that will change the world.

Related: Top 10 Ways to Make Your Presentations More Memorable

Self-Publishing Companies, Through a Legal Lens

In my last post, Five Legal Terms Every Author Should Know, I explained that the worst mistake indie authors make is losing control of their work.

After all, the key benefit of self-publishing is controlling the quality and marketing of our books, in other words, wearing the publisher hat.  [Read More]

 

Which Dystopian Novel Got It Right:

Orwell’s ‘1984’ or Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’?

In Bookends, two writers take on questions about the world of books. This week, Charles McGrath and Siddhartha Deb debate which classic dystopian vision rings truest at the beginning of 2017: George Orwell’s “1984” or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.”

By Charles McGrath

Was Orwell right after all? Not yet. Trump would be much more comfortable in Huxley’s world.

Photo

Charles McGrath Credit Illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson

A month ago I would have said that not only is “Brave New World” a livelier, more entertaining book than “1984,” it’s also a more prescient one.

Orwell didn’t really have much feel for the future, which to his mind was just another version of the present. His imagined London is merely a drabber, more joyless version of the city, still recovering from the Blitz, where he was living in the mid-1940s, just before beginning the novel. The main technological advancement there is the two-way telescreen, essentially an electronic peephole.

Huxley, on the other hand, writing almost two decades earlier than Orwell (his former Eton pupil, as it happened), foresaw a world that included space travel; private helicopters; genetically engineered test tube babies; enhanced birth control; an immensely popular drug that appears to combine the best features of Valium and Ecstasy; hormone-laced chewing gum that seems to work the way Viagra does; a full sensory entertainment system that outdoes IMAX; and maybe even breast implants. (The book is a little unclear on this point, but in “Brave New World” the highest compliment you can pay a woman is to call her “pneumatic.”)

Huxley was not entirely serious about this. He began “Brave New World” as a parody of H.G. Wells, whose writing he detested, and it remained a book that means to be as playful as it is prophetic.

And yet his novel much more accurately evokes the country we live in now, especially in its depiction of a culture preoccupied with sex and mindless pop entertainment, than does Orwell’s more ominous book, which seems to be imagining someplace like North Korea.

So was Orwell right after all? Well, not yet.

For one thing, the political system of “1984” is an exaggerated version of anticapitalist, Stalin-era Communism, and Trump’s philosophy is anything but that. He would be much more comfortable in Huxley’s world, which is based on rampant consumerism and where hordes of genetically modified losers happily tend to the needs of the winners.

Huxley believed that his version of dystopia was the more plausible one.

In a 1949 letter, thanking Orwell for sending him a copy of “1984,” he wrote that he really didn’t think all that torture and jackbooting was necessary to subdue a population, and that he believed his own book offered a better solution. All you need to do, he said, is teach people to love their servitude.

The totalitarian rulers in Huxley’s book do this not by oppressing their citizens but by giving them exactly what they want, or what they think they want — which is basically sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll — and lulling them into complacency. (That’s exactly what the US has been offering its citizens in the last 50 years)

The system entails a certain Trump-like suspicion of science and dismissal of history, but that’s a price the inhabitants of Huxley’s world happily pay. They don’t mourn their lost liberty, the way Orwell’s Winston Smith does; they don’t even know it’s gone.

Charles McGrath was the editor of the Book Review from 1995 to 2004, and is now a contributing writer for The Times. Earlier he was the deputy editor and the head of the fiction department of The New Yorker. Besides The Times, he has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic and Outside. He is the editor of two golf books — “The Ultimate Golf Book” and “Golf Stories” — and is currently working on an edition of John O’Hara’s stories for the Library of America.

By Siddhartha Deb

Why stop at one of two books, as if the literary realm must mimic the denuded, lesser-of-two evils choices of electoral politics?

Photo

Siddhartha Deb Credit Illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson

There exists a comfortably predictable and, to my mind, uninspired approach to the dystopic novel and its powers of prognosis, a Pavlovian response that involves reaching for a copy of George Orwell’s “1984” or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” whenever extreme turbulence hits the West.

Together they make up a short reading list, if a rather familiar one, redolent of high school literature classes and expanding, if forced, to Yevgeny Zamyatin’s “We” and Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.”

That’s it, we’re done — a brief tour in four books to dystopias where the individual’s sense of freedom is always under threat from the totalitarian state.

The last few months have been hard, no doubt, the news more distressing by the hour, but there is still something perversely groupthinkish in the fact that the impulse of resistance has homed in on the same book, and that a measure of opposition to the horrors of the Trump administration is the climb of “1984” to No. 1 on Amazon.

There is much in Orwell’s novel, in fact, that translates poorly into the contemporary moment. From its texture of material deprivation, the loosely packed cigarettes and boiled cabbages recalling wartime rationing in Britain, to its portrayal of Ingsoc, Big Brother and various Ministries (Truth, Peace, Love, Plenty), all of which assume control by a heavily centralized State, it is a work very much of the ’40s as experienced by an English intellectual.

In “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” the American media critic Neil Postman in fact argued that Huxley’s novel was far more relevant than Orwell’s when it came to the United States, where the dominant mode of control over people was through entertainment, distraction, and superficial pleasure rather than through overt modes of policing and strict control over food supplies, at least when it came to managing the middle classes.

Three decades after Postman’s account, when we can add reality television, the internet and social media to the deadly amusements available, “Brave New World” can still seem strikingly relevant in its depiction of the relentless pursuit of pleasure.

From the use of soma as a kind of happiness drug to the erasure of the past not so much as a threat to government, as is the case in Orwell’s dystopia, but as simply irrelevant (“History is bunk”), Huxley marked out amusement and superficiality as the buttons that control

His relentless focus on the body, too, seems inspired, his understanding of what Michel Foucault identified as “biopolitics,” extending to the individual body as well as to entire populations and, in “Brave New World,” playing out as a eugenic system based on caste, class, race, looks and size.

As for his depiction of the “savage reservation” in New Mexico, this seems to foreshadow the fetishization of the natural on the part of one of the most artifice-ridden populations in the history of the world.

A great deal funnier, subtler and darker than Orwell’s book, Huxley’s satire nevertheless has its limitations.

A World State? Games of escalator squash? In any case, why stop at one of two books, as if the literary realm must mimic the denuded, lesser-of-two-evils choices of electoral politics?

There are other powerful fictional dystopias that speak to the United States of today, including a significant portion of the oeuvre of Philip K. Dick and Octavia E. Butler.

There is J.G. Ballard’s hallucinatory Reagan-era “Hello America,” with a future United States that has many contending presidents, including President Manson, who plays nuclear roulette in Las Vegas.

Why not read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” and Sandra Newman’s “The Country of Ice Cream Star” and Anna North’s “America Pacifica” and Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven” and Claire Vaye Watkins’s “Gold Fame Citrus” and Vanessa Veselka’s “Zazen” and Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Water Knife”?

If the world is going dark, we may as well read as much as possible before someone turns off the light.

 

Carson McCullers at 100: a century of American suffering

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, her debut novel of desolate southern lives, made McCullers an instant star – something she never fully recovered from

“She found me a cheap boarding house somewhere on the west side, where there, cut off and lonely, I passed the day my first book was published,” wrote Carson McCullers in her memoir Illumination and Night Glare, describing the day her classic novel The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter was published.

Then 23, McCullers and her husband Reeves McCullers were penniless, awaiting the last portion of the advance on the book so that they, both aspiring writers, could move to New York City. Reeves had gone off to work on a boat on Nantucket island and McCullers had little premonition of the literary sensation the book would become – or how completely it would transform her life.

American author and playwright Carson McCullers, pictured around 1955.

‘Cut off and lonely’ Carson McCullers, pictured around 1955. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Turmoil was in the air that fervid summer in 1940.

Despite Roosevelt’s New Deal, the depredations of the Great Depression had sucked hope from America’s bones, birthed a generation that had only known want and that was sceptical of the possibility of change.

In small crowds around newsstands on city corners, uncertain Americans read about the war raging in Europe, but remained unsure as to whether it was “their” problem. Everyone, it seemed, wanted change and no one seemed to know how to hasten it, direct it or evaluate it. In this last sense, and possibly many more, America then was not so different from America now.

Where truth fails, fiction flourishes. In The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers, who would have turned 100 years old on Sunday, distilled all of these consternations, enabling in literature the self-reckoning that had been avoided in reality. Set in a southern mill town much like her own Columbus, Georgia, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter traces the hapless lives of five townspeople, all of whom are inexplicably drawn to a deaf-mute named John Singer.

There is the young Mick Kelly, a teenage girl who dreams of making it big; Biff Bannon, the middle-class owner of a local cafe; Jake Blount, the most overtly political character and Dr Benedict Copeland, the town’s African American doctor who rails against the inequities of a racist society, but is helpless against them. As they all interact with Singer, they fail to notice his pain or that he is mourning a loss of his own: the banishment of his friend Spiros Antonapoulos to an insane asylum.

It is a mad mix, but also an ingenious one. Some, like critic Nancy Rich, writing a decade after McCullers’s death in 1967, have declared it a political parable. Singer represents government and its ineffectuality, the vague dimensions of his character permitting the projections of all the rest. It’s a sad little bunch, each an iteration of the insoluble problems of that time: race, inequality, gutless conformity and the apathy of a silent and self-centred majority.

Can all of this come together to make up a country, a polity? The answer seemed elusive then, as it is in the US’s riven present, but The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter posed the questions, presented the problem.

McCullers was rewarded for her ingenuity. The glamour of becoming an overnight literary phenomenon brought with it new and famous friends – among them a Swiss heiress whose face, McCullers declared, “would haunt her for the rest of her life”. Not long after the book’s publication, McCullers moved in to the famous February House: a Brooklyn brownstone that became a salon and refuge for a gaggle of literary celebrities.

Parking her husband elsewhere – he had blossomed into an alcoholic – McCullers became housemates with the likes of WH Auden, Salvador Dali, Harper’s Bazaar editor George Davis and burlesque performer and author Gypsy Rose Lee.

The war had not yet begun, but McCullers had arrived. Everyone wanted to know her, to talk to her, to live with her. All the magazines – Harper’s, the New Yorker, Story and scores of others who had once rejected her work – now clamoured to see what she would produce next.

Great success births great expectations and it may well have been this burden that shattered McCullers. She kept writing, but none of her ensuing works would parallel the acclaim of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. Some would be painful disappointments. Her second novel, Reflections in a Golden Eye, was set in a military base in peacetime and toyed with voyeurism and implied homosexuality.

While eagerly awaited, it met the fate of many second novels and was deemed an unworthy successor of a brilliant first. McCullers’ health also failed; the afflictions of her youth, among them misdiagnosed rheumatic fever, left her susceptible to strokes that eventually paralysed her. The writer could write no more but she persevered, dictating her autobiography until, in August 1967, the last stroke killed her. She was only 50 years old.

The glib and ruthless pronouncements of her lost literary genius were likely not an easy burden to bear. The pages of McCullers’ unfinished memoir are laden with accounts of her associations with celebrities (including Marilyn Monroe) – a small antidote, perhaps, to the torment of being labelled a one-hit wonder.

The sharp girl who had cast such an unforgiving eye on the world around her became a woman imprisoned by her own initial success and her inability to replicate it. The transformation from an outsider who cast her acid gaze on ordinary America and squeezed from it caustic truths, to a member of New York’s literati, came at too dear a price.

McCullers, who had so adeptly captured the desolation of her moment and constructed from a grim reality a distinctly American political parable, was left a famous author but a lesser writer.

 

The 63 differences between British and American English

Posted 3 days ago by Jessica Brown

America and Britain have a lot more in common than their special relationship. Remember when our leaders held hands that one time?

One thing that’s vastly different though, is how we implement the English language.

It was perhaps best summed up by the comedy god Eddie Izzard:

 

Here’s the infographic, put together by Grammar Check.

3d326a5100000578-4226540-image-a-17-1487155280247.jpg

Picture: Grammar Check

 

Some are obvious, like autumn and fall, but others are a lesser known – such as cooker and stove, lorry and truck and queue and line.

 

3d326a5100000578-4226540-image-a-16-1487155271152.jpg

Picture: Grammar Check

 

Memorise (or memorize) these before any holidays to one country or the other in order to avoid any confusion – because there’s a lot of potential for that to happen.

Then you can sit and enjoy your biscuits/cookies in the privacy of your rented flat/apartment after you’ve hit the pavements/sidewalks and visited the shops/stores.

 

3d326a5100000578-4226540-image-a-15-1487155232392.jpg

Picture: Grammar Check

 


More: The difference between the US and UK – in 20 photos

 

More than 700 species facing extinction are being hit by climate change

Humans’ closest relatives, the primates, are among those worst affected because their tropical habitats have had a stable climate for thousands of years

  • Ian Johnston Environment Correspondent
  • Tuesday 14 February 2017

More than 700 mammals and birds currently threatened with extinction already appear to have been adversely affected by climate change, according to a major review of scientific studies.

Primates and marsupials are believed to have the most individual species suffering as a result of global warming, according to a paper in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Only two groups of mammals, rodents and insect-eaters, are thought to have benefitted.

This is partly because they have fast breeding rates, tend not to be specialists suited to a particular habitat, and often live in burrows which provide insulation against changes in the weather.

The figures are much higher than previously thought, making up 47 per cent of land mammals and 23 per cent of the birds on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of species threatened with extinction.

According to the list itself, just seven per cent of the mammals and four per cent of the birds are described as being threatened by “climate change and severe weather”.

The researchers developed a model to compare the animals’ weight and other characteristics with changes in the climate, such as the temperature.

“Using this model, we estimated that 47 per cent of terrestrial [non-flying] threatened mammals (out of 873 species) and 23.4 per cent of threatened birds (out of 1,272 species) may have already been negatively impacted by climate change in at least part of their distribution,” the article in Nature Climate Change said.

“Our results suggest that populations of large numbers of threatened species are likely to be already affected by climate change, and that conservation managers, planners and policy makers must take this into account in efforts to safeguard the future of biodiversity.”

Primates and marsupials are more at risk than other animals partly because they have lived mostly in tropical parts of the world which have had a stable climate for thousands of years.

“Many of these [animals] have evolved to live within restricted environmental tolerances and are likely to be most affected by rapid changes and extreme events,” the paper added.

“In addition, primates and elephants are characterised by very slow reproductive rates that reduce their ability to adapt to rapid changes in environmental conditions.”

One reason why climate change is causing a problem for animals is changes in the distribution of plants.

“In areas with reduced precipitation and/or temperature seasonality, it is likely that plant species may have narrower climatic tolerances, and therefore that these areas may have already experienced vegetation changes with consequential loss of habitat for animals living there,” the paper said.

“A more specialised diet was also associated with greater probability of negative responses in mammals.

“Our findings are in agreement with previous studies on the predictors of general extinction risk, in which species with narrower diet breadths were associated with lower ability to exploit resources and adapt to new environmental conditions and selective pressures.”

Birds living in the world’s cold mountain regions appear to be particularly at risk.

“Populations of species living at high altitudes and in colder places have fewer opportunities to move towards cooler areas or upslope to avoid increasing temperatures, and hence may have increased extinction risk,” the paper said.

Another problem is that higher temperatures are inducing birds to lay eggs earlier.

“For animals living in these environments the effects of temperature changes may have been exacerbated, potentially leading to disruption in synchronisation between the timing of chick-feeding and peak food availability,” the paper said.

Read more

Read books: can open your mind?

“A dream’s most important purpose is to get us in touch with where passion comes from, where happiness comes from.”

I was trained to become a gymnast for two years in Hunan, China in the 1970s. When I was in the first grade, the government wanted to transfer me to a school for athletes, all expenses paid.

But my tiger mother said, “No.” My parents wanted me to become an engineer like them. After surviving the Cultural Revolution, they firmly believed there’s only one sure way to happiness: a safe and well-paid job. It is not important if I like the job or not.

0:43 my dream was to become a Chinese opera singer.

That is me playing my imaginary piano. An opera singer must start training young to learn acrobatics, so I tried everything I could to go to opera school. I even wrote to the school principal and the host of a radio show. But no adults liked the idea.

No adults believed I was serious. Only my friends supported me, but they were kids, just as powerless as I was.

So at age 15, I knew I was too old to be trained. My dream would never come true. I was afraid that for the rest of my life some second-class happiness would be the best I could hope for.

that’s so unfair.I was determined to find another calling. Nobody around to teach me? Fine. I turned to books.

I satisfied my hunger for parental advice from this book by a family of writers and musicians.[“Correspondence in the Family of Fou Lei“]

I found my role model of an independent woman when Confucian tradition requires obedience.[“Jane Eyre”]

 I learned to be efficient from this book.[“Cheaper by the Dozen”]

 I was inspired to study abroad after reading these.

2:07[“Complete Works of Sanmao” (aka Echo Chan)] [“Lessons From History” by Nan Huaijin]

I came to the U.S. in 1995, so which books did I read here first? Books banned in China, of course.“The Good Earth” is about Chinese peasant life. That’s just not convenient for propaganda. Got it. The Bible is interesting, but strange. (Laughter)

That’s a topic for a different day. But the fifth commandment gave me an epiphany: “You shall honor your father and mother.” “Honor,” I said. “That’s so different,and better, than obey.” So it becomes my tool to climb out of this Confucian guilt trap and to restart my relationship with my parents.

Encountering a new culture also started my habit of comparative reading. It offers many insights.

For example, I found this map out of place at first because this is what Chinese students grew up with. It had never occurred to me, China doesn’t have to be at the center of the world. A map actually carries somebody’s view.

Comparative reading actually is nothing new. It’s a standard practice in the academic world. There are even research fields such as comparative religion and comparative literature.

Compare and contrast gives scholars a more complete understanding of a topic. So I thought, well, if comparative reading works for research, why not do it in daily life too? So I started reading books in pairs.

they can be about people — [“Benjamin Franklin” by Walter Isaacson][“John Adams” by David McCullough] — who are involved in the same event, or friends with shared experiences. [“Personal History” by Katharine Graham][“The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life,” by Alice Schroeder] I also compare the same stories in different genres — (Laughter)

[Holy Bible: King James Version][“Lamb” by Chrisopher Moore] — or similar stories from different cultures, as Joseph Campbell did in his wonderful book.[“The Power of Myth” by Joseph Campbell] For example, both the Christ and the Buddha went through three temptations.

For the Christ, the temptations are economic, political and spiritual. For the Buddha, they are all psychological: lust, fear and social duty — interesting.

 if you know a foreign language, it’s also fun to read your favorite books in two languages. [“The Way of Chuang Tzu” Thomas Merton][“Tao: The Watercourse Way” Alan Watts]

Instead of lost in translation, I found there is much to gain. For example, it’s through translation that I realized “happiness” in Chinese literally means “fast joy.” Huh! Bride” in Chinese literally means “new mother.” Uh-oh. (Laughter)

Books have given me a magic portal to connect with people of the past and the present. I know I shall never feel lonely or powerless again. Having a dream shattered really is nothing compared to what many others have suffered.

I have come to believe that coming true is not the only purpose of a dream.Its most important purpose is to get us in touch with where dreams come from, where passion comes from, where happiness comes from. Even a shattered dream can do that for you.

5:37  because of books, I’m here today, happy, living again with a purpose and a clarity, most of the time.

may books be always with you.

Patsy Z shared this link

“A dream’s most important purpose is to get us in touch with where passion comes from, where happiness comes from.”


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

February 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jan    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728  

Blog Stats

  • 906,064 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 458 other followers

%d bloggers like this: