Monday, November 28, 2005


NEVER make a brilliant woman angry. Someone obviously did because in
1970, Germaine Greer came out with a book entitled The Female Eunuch.
It was an overnight success. All the women who had always wanted to be
liberated fi nally found their icon. Those men who caught a glimpse of
Greer were aghast. "Who's this creature?" they asked.
Born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1939, Greer was labelled as one of the
most powerful voices of feminism in the 20th century. Till today, this
professor of literature at Warwick University in Britain is a
controversial figure.
The Australian political journalist, Christine Wallace, who wrote a
biography of Germaine Greer described her as "hegemonic heterosexuality",
"anachronistic passivity", and "grooviness personifi ed".
In reply, Greer called her a "flesh-eating bacterium" and "dung-beetle".
This woman of socially-shocking proportions began her academic career back
in 1956 when she won a teaching scholarship. During her varsity years, she
acquired the nickname "Germainic Queer".
Life never became the same after she joined the Sydney Push, a bunch of
intellectual left-wingers who practised non-monogamy.
The six-footer Greer was a natural at academic pursuits as her peers
found out because, in 1963, she picked up an MA at the University of
Her sterling achievement gained her a Commonwealth scholarship that she
used to finance her PhD programme at the University of Cambridge. Five
years later, she accepted a lecturing post at the University of Warwick.
In The Female Eunuch, all the years of growing up as a woman restrained
by societal norms and restrictions allegedly created by man in general
manifested in expressions of anger and repressed frustrations.
Greer talks about the hostility of men towards women and how women were
conditioned to hate themselves from cradle to grave. She pounced on the
nuclear family system and suburban existence for enslaving women, thus
making them "eunuchs".
It was a most controversial conclusion reached by a feminist with a
brilliant academic background. The book triggered a runaway sale and, by
March 1971, it almost exhausted its second edition. Countries in other
parts of the developed world quickly took notice of The Female Eunuch and
it was soon published in eight languages.
In this landmark book, Greer's rallying cry was "subjugation". She
points an accusing fi nger at the Western concept of female sexuality
which she said made women ashamed of their bodies and sucked the joy of
life out of them. Any member of the male clan who has read this book will
be surprised that a woman can speak so frankly and in such strong terms.
The book is almost flamboyant in its intellectual rhetoric and nerve-
wrecking in its passionate arguments, especially to the men.
At best, Germaine Greer has done women worldwide a service by openly
revealing what have been their heart's deepest secrets but were socially
suppressed until it found expression in a proper avenue. At worst, she has
widened and deepened the misunderstanding between the roles of women and
men as cast by the Western society for centuries.
Today, the postulations and pronouncements of The Female Eunuch are no
longer an issue. Perhaps it is due to the groundwork laid down by
headstrong women like Greer and her admirers.
Whatever the personal opinions may be, this book was a wonderful read
three decades and five years ago, as it still is today. You may not agree
wholeheartedly with Greer but you certainly cannot help but admire her
intellectual depth and deep convictions.
A final recommendation: all women on the threshold of early adulthood
should spend some time with this book. All the young men, too, should read
it, if they want to be someone else's life partners of admirable social
intelligence and cheerful disposition.

IN 1943, during the height of the Second World War, the philosopher Ayn
Rand wrote a book that would mark a milestone in the literary world.
The book was The Fountainhead, which in later years allegedly became the
"bible" of architects the world over.
In Fountainhead, Rand expounded her now-famous treatise of objectivism.
It promotes the cause of individualism in a world torn asunder by greed,
moral decline and crumbling social standards.
From the debris of human avarice and lustful longings strode her
protagonist, Howard Roark. He's the epitome of Rand's Utopian man. Roark
is an architectural genius who cannot be bribed, cannot be cowed and
absolutely cannot be suppressed or oppressed.
In his quiet strength, Roark was to rise from the ground on which he
seemingly had been trampled to the heights yet unreached by men in the
same profession.
Personally, the book had a powerful and lingering influence in my life.
I read the book when I was on the threshold of adulthood about a quarter
of century ago. At that time, my inchoate philosophies of life were still
in their formative stage. Ayn Rand therefore became larger than life to
me. I couldn't imagine, at that age, that an individual could elevate
philosophy to such an exciting level. It was exhilarating, profound and
well thought-out. The bottom line was an enduring admiration for an author
with whom I only had a fleeting familiarity.
The Fountainhead is undoubtedly one of the finest novels of its time and
continues to have wide following, especially in America. It is stirring
without being too forceful, stimulating without being overbearing, and
profound without cryptic. If there are two words to describe this book,
they are "intellectually stimulating".
In the midst of a powerful and suspenseful story, love blazes between
Roark and Dominique Francon, a beautiful newspaper columnist.
As only Rand would have spun it, the tale careens around the tight plot
with Dominique determined to ruin Roark's career. But a love as strong as
theirs cannot be derailed, conquered or forgotten.
The Fountainhead has several characters of varying strengths; among
these is Ellsworth Toohey, a humanitarian of some repute.
He plays a prominent role in Roark's rise from the ashes, principally
from the lowly station of a mine labourer to the pinnacle of architectural
In some ways, The Fountainhead re-arranged my life's priorities. It
taught me to hold on fast to my principles despite the overwhelming odds
that were sometimes not in my favour.
During those times when I felt the temptation of "taking the easy way
out", the memory of a character like Howard Roark strengthened my resolve
to march to the bitter end.
There's much satisfaction in emulating a persona like Howard Roark.
Nothing rattles him. He's like a rock in a hard place. Heck, he's both.
Been there, done that and back home safe. That's what they say.
The Fountainhead is for anybody who needs reassurance that an individual
is capable to performing great deeds, only if he has unshakeable belief in
For 60 years, the shadow of Howard Roark has loomed large over sections
of our thinking society.
Ayn Rand's philosophy lives on in some of us and is practised by many
unknown and unnamed individuals.
Objectivism is a philosophy and belief that, if practised right and
lived according to its core principles, can lift human endeavours to mind-
boggling heights - even in the 21st century.
42 Martial Secrets from Musashi's Book of Five Rings
By Boye Lafayette de Mente
Tuttle Publishing

FOUR-hundred-and-twenty-one years ago (1584) in Japan, a man was born,
destined for greatness. Long before his death in 1645, at the age of 61,
he was already a legend among his people.
For a samurai whose chief business was engaging in duels that often
ended in violent deaths, Miyamoto Musashi led a life that legends were
made of. Besides being an invincible swordsman, he was also a
calligrapher, painter, poet, sculpter and a garden designer.
At an early age of 13, he had already killed his first opponent, a
shugyosha (a wandering warrior).
In the years that followed, Musashi fought in duels that involved
highly-skilled swordsmen from different samurai clans. What made
Musashi's swordfighting skills so unusual was his ability to "read" his
opponent's moves.
Physically powerful, he believed in strict discipline, especially on
himself. The fact that he remained a bachelor all his life was not
strange. He allowed nothing to distract him, especially women. His mind
was in a constant state of alert and he trained with a passion unequalled
in the Land of the Rising Sun.
In his late fifties, Musashi wrote Go Rin Sho on the urging of a
samurai lord, Tadatoshi Hosokawa. Musashi's 15-page treatise became known
as The 35 Articles of the Martial Arts. Actually, it contained 36
articles and it later became known as The Book of Five Rings.
Samurai Strategies is based on his principles of fighting techniques.
For decades, Japanese businessmen have learnt and memorised Musashi's
martial arts principles and applied them in business practices.
The fact that many Japanese corporations today are among some of the
biggest investors in the developed and developing worlds is testimony
that the spirit of Musashi continues to prevail in the 21st century.
Musashi's principles are pretty straightforward. First, to be a winner,
one must set goals. In other words, if you want to be an entrepreneur,
make up your mind to be the best, if not, one of the top three in the
Then, develop an extraordinary degree of self-discipline. It is only
through discipline that one can hone skills that are necessary for
ultimate victory.
The third principle touches on training. Train only to win, and win
absolutely. This can be applied in any field. In business, training to
win is the means justifying the end.
Musashi urges all who listen to be always prepared - mentally and
physically. Expect the unexpected. This means going into battle with
little or no advance warning.
The famous samurai also does not believe in set forms of fighting. Much
akin to Bruce Lee's tenet of no-style fighting. Perhaps Lee had also read
Musashi's Book of Five Rings.
The human mind is an arsenal. First, train the mind and then clear the
mind. Zen practitioners have long tried to master the art of clearing the
mind, called zazen or seated meditation.
For those who have not experienced this state of zen called mushin (no
mind) or muga (no ego), victory is but a distant memory. Lafayette de
Mente, the author of Samurai Strategies, understands the principle of
training the body, and then "letting it go".
The true warrior fights without thought because the art has become him.
It is a philosophy understood by Olympic champions and world athletes. In
sports, it is sometimes called "in the zone". That's when the athlete
reaches the state where his mind and body are one and he becomes
Musashi was also a firm believer in the power of emptiness. That's when
the subconscious surfaces and take complete control of the body. That,
according to the zen masters, is the heart of the art, whether it be
painting or fighting.
This book of 128 pages is extraordinarily enlightening. It has
distilled what was once the cryptic and maybe even mystic into matters of
simplicity. Most great matters are in the end quite simple, as most deep
issues are after much profound thought.
Strangely, Samurai Strategies does not read like a business manual or
handbook. It illuminates without being pedantic, and elucidates without
being elaborate.
Any reader with a modicum of martial arts knowledge would be delighted
to browse through its pages of ancient advice. Lafayette de Mente is an
expert on Japan, its culture and people.
He has written more than 30 books on Korea, China and Japan. His
previous profession before becoming a writer was an intelligence officer
in an American agency. We can only guess what it was.
Samurai Strategies cuts a path through the bamboo grove as easily as a
samurai slashes his opponent down to size with his sword. The book is
like a mind-exercising machine. It re-assembles a warrior's scattered
thoughts and focuses his mind like a laser beam.
In simple terms, the book helps the reader-warrior to be one with his
heart and mind, just as master samurai Miyamoto Musashi had always been
one with his sword.

ATLAS Shrugged is truly one of the most remarkable novels of the 20th
Its influence on American society is so far-reaching that in a survey
carried out by the US Library of Congress in co-operation with the Book of
the Month, the book has been ranked number two as having the greatest
impact on individuals after the Bible.
First released in 1957, the book and in particular its Russian-born
author, Ayn Rand, today still have an intellectual impression of lingering
proportions on its readers. In 1998, a documentary entitled Ayn Rand: A
Sense of Life garnered wide acclaim in Canada and America. The following
year, the US Postal Service issued a commemorative Ayn Rand stamp. Atlas
Shrugged has been described as Rand's magnum opus. The author has infused
the novel with her own brand of philosophy called Objectivism. In her own
words in the appendix to Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand wrote: "My philosophy,
in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own
happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as
his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute."
And what is her philosophy? Rand says it is "the fundamental nature of
existence, of man, and of man's relationship to existence...
In the realm of cognition, the special sciences are the trees, but
philosophy is the soil which makes the forest possible".
Man is the hero in this astounding book and he comes in the form of John
The most famous line in the entire novel is "who is John Galt?" Villains
and protagonist feature greatly in this story about "murder" but it's not
the kind of murder that you are familiar with.
It is "not about the murder of man's body, but about the murder - and
rebirth - of man's spirit," wrote Rand. It dwells at length on the
deterioration of America. Shops, farms and factories shut down. Riots
break out as food supplies dwindle. Characters in the likes of a genius
who becomes a playboy; a steel industrialist on the path of self-
destruction and a philosopher-cum-pirate populated the pages of Atlas
The interplay of human relations is intricate and complexity of human
emotions is interwoven into the matrix created in the mind of Rand.
But like The Fountainhead (the other novel by Ayn Rand), there's always
a love interest and she is Dagny Taggart. Even in the intellectually
complex mental machinations of Rand's imaginings, love is that intractable
and inexplicable X-factor that makes up that essential part of man's
purpose on earth.
If I may, this novel can be said to be one gigantic action-cum-suspense
novel, although it does not run along the same lines as any book that
carries a similar description. That's what makes it so great.
Fans of Ayn Rand will no doubt have read her other books like We the
Living (1936) and Anthem (1946). But The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged
are the cornerstones that mark Rand's everlasting fame in the literary
Rand's philosophy of Objectivism has apparently struck a chord among
thinking individuals across the oceans and her rallying cry of man's
inextinguishable individualism resonates relentlessly from boardroom to
By Cecilia Tan Chun Huang
Publisher: Mall Enterprises Sdn Bhd

MOST mothers in this world want to see their children grow up to be
filial, successful, hardworking, intelligent and disciplined members of
Fathers share the same aims with their spouses but mothers somehow are
more concerned about their children. Perhaps it's because they carry them
for nine months before the infants emerge into the world.
Almost all children who grow up under the tender, loving care of their
mums remember their mothers most when they have become adults. It seems
to be the duty of mothers to worry and care for their children no matter
how old they are.
Even if a son or a daughter has become middle-aged, in their mother's
eyes they are still her own.
And thus, on this premise is this book founded. Cecilia Tan has
lovingly and courageously put in a permanent form all the advice and tips
she has thought of for her three young adult children, twins James and
Benjamin and daughter Elizabeth.
In her motherly quest, she has inadvertently passed on some valuable
advice to all the children belonging to other mothers as well. It is not
uncommon to hear one's mum giving unsolicited advice almost on a daily
basis when we were growing up.
A lot of these nuggets of wisdom have stuck in our heads, which we
later passed on to our own children whether they want to listen or not.
Much like us, when we were growing up in our wondering and wandering
There are eight parts to this book, from A to H. As it should be, Part
A emphasises a strong spiritual foundation. The child can be of any
religious background, the principles can still apply.
In Tan's case, Christianity holds first place in the household.
Children, as a matter of routine, normally accept religious education as
part of growing up. Many of them forget its importance as they enter the
threshold of adulthood.
But they will soon appreciate it when they are married and have
children of their own. Then, they realise the common sense embedded in
religious teachings.
Sometimes, we wish we had listened more intently to our parents' advice
on religion, if they are so inclined.
Part B deals with emotional hygiene. It dwells on traits and habits
that will smoothen the passage to the grave for any individual. For
example, a healthy sense of humour, a cheerful disposition, an ability to
count one's blessings, an inclination to accept change and a personal
decision to always be happy.
Tan no doubt has undergone many of such vital passages of life to
impart many essential tips of living a happy life. The book is elegant in
its simplicity and joyful in its gentle reminders.
As a parent myself, I understand her courageous effort to say it all
from her heart.
The writer's diligence in putting together in print form all the things
she wants to say to her children can only be applauded.
What parent can disagree with a mother teaching her children the right
thinking style (Part C), or taking the proper approach towards human
relationships (Part D)?
There's clearly nothing wrong with reminding the little ones about
making time for your dear ones or forgiving those who have hurt you.
These may be considered by some to be "old" advice but nevertheless their
significance is evergreen as the generations go.
The book slips easily into discussing one's own health (Part E) as we
add on the years. Drinking lots of water, fresh air and eating fresh food
is plain common sense. But it's always our mum who lovingly nags us about
all these things incessantly.
It would also be good if we hear more earnestly to advice about how we
should enjoy our work if we do not want to be victims of premature ageing
(Part F). Many adults these days do not have a positive attitude towards
their work or do the best they can without being asked. Tan has mentioned
all these subjects and more.
Then there are the aspects of money (Part G) and the usage of time
(Part H). It is not a secret that a good number of young professionals
find themselves strapped for cash by the middle of the month due to poor
budget control. Well, mum Cecilia Tan has some things to say about this.
And she also knows how to manage time. You really don't have to attend
time management workshops and seminars if you pay attention to some
motherly advice on making checklists and adopting some sensible
timesaving habits.
It is time that a mother has finally come up with a book like this. I
wish I had such a book to read when I was growing up. In a way, I am glad
my own mother found the time to give me the benefit of her experiences
when I was loitering in the house during those rainy days.
Tan has dedicated the book to her parents and her father-in-law. All
three are in their 80s. Two are close to 90. With a combined total of
more than 250 years among them, Tan is clearly one of the fortunate ones
who has learn to live well and now she shares the lessons that the elders
have taught her.
We all should celebrate in the happiness that she rightly deserves and
help to spread her gentle and loving tips of being good people to our
young ones.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

10 Most Popular Books in The World

According to, the 10 are (in that order, please):

1. Bible (six billion copies sold)
2. Quotations from the works of Mao Tse-tung (800 million sold)
3. American Spelling Book (100 million sold)
4. The Guinness Book of Records (81 million sold)
5. The McGuffey Reader (60 million sold)
6. A Message To Garcia (40-50 million sold)
7. World Almanac (40 million)
8. The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (39.2 million)
9. Valley of Dolls (30 million sold)
10. In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?

ACTUALLY, if you were to apply logic and reason into the listing of the world's 10 most popular books, there are probably as many lists as there are member nations in the United Nations.
First, every country has its own preference. For example, in China where English is not the main language and Mandarin is, the list will of course reflect the population make-up of the country and its people.
We should not forget that China has about 10,000 years of history but only 5,000 years of recorded history of civilisation is recognised. India also has a similar length of civilisation. At this juncture, we shall not go into Egypt, Incan or the Aztecs. Too complicated.
Anyway, as I was saying, each community or group of people has its own list of great books. The West being the dominant sector of the globe tends to be overly prominent in the record of 10 most popular books.
By right, we should actually saying what are the 10 most popular books in the English language?" Or, what are the "10 most popular books in Spain, China, Malaysia or Japan?" That would be more accurate.
The 10 most popular books mean simply that - popular. The list does not mean the 10 are the most significant. Now, if you were to ask "what are the 10 most important books that have altered the history of mankind?" Perhaps we will get nearer to the truth.
But then what is the truth? Truth about what? Truth about the 10 most significant books in the world. Honestly, people are apt to disagree on just about anything, and if it is books, all the louder the protests.
The Chinese in mainland China will disagree and they have the numbers to prove it. The West will frown on anything that does not jell with its Western history and civilisation. Thus, a stalemate looms large even at the outset of such a debate.
Over in America, there's an interesting story about censorship. It all started in 1872 with this guy called Anthony Comstock. Comstock was the pioneer of modern American Censorship. In 1872, Anthony Comstock founded the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice.
The following year (1873), he managed to convince the US Congress to pass what was known as the Comstock Law which banned materials found to be "lewd, indecent, filthy, obscene".
Comstock's winning slogan at that time was "Morals, not art and literature." Surprisingly, many people took his side at that time in American history.
According to the First Amendment Center Organisation, Between 1874 and 1915, as special agent of the U.S. Post Office, he is estimated to have confiscated 120 tons of printed works. Under his reign, 3,500 people were prosecuted although only about 350 were convicted. Books banned by Comstock included many classics: Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, The Arabian Nights, and Aristophanes’ Lysistrata. Authors whose works were subsequently censored under the Comstock Law include Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Victor Hugo, D.H. Lawrence, John Steinbeck, Eugene O’Neill and many others whose works are now deemed to be classics of literature.
Shocking, isn't it? Well, times have changed and people have broadened their outlook and obscenity has taken different hues. This again is a matter of debate.
Then there are the Most Challenged Books and Most Controversial Books categories. In US again, there were complaints against books like Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye," John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" and Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."
Even Harry Potter series were not spared by the iron-claded moral-fibred protestors. This goes to show that if society allows anyone to guard the morals of others, then you may just end up reading Beano and Dandy comics.
Shockingly, some of the banned titles were children's favorites as Maurice Sendak's "In the Night Kitchen" and R.L. Stine's "Goosebumps" series. Acclaimed adult novels on the list include Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale," Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Five" and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison's "Beloved."
Also cited are William Golding's "The Lord of the Flies," Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" and Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," removed in 1996 from an advanced placement English reading list in Lindale, Texas, because it "conflicted with the values of the community."
However, the good news is that the law and society in general do not really follow up with these so-called "bans". People still continue to read whatever pleases them or strikes their fancy.
In fact, the general notion is that if the word "banned" comes into the picture, it becomes popular overnight. So some writers actually welcome the banning by the authorities. If the authors are not popular or a big name in the literary circle, all the more they want the attention. Heck, they demand it.
Meanwhile, you should just read the classics. There are some great books there.

P.S. The passages marked in bold are taken from an Associated Press report.

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Everything You Wanted To Ask About Mills & Boon But Were Simply Too Shy!

THERE are a number of people out there who have sneaked Mills & Boon romance books into their bedroom and read them on the quiet. Girls, of course, have been reading them rather openly and are not shy about it.
The lads, I fear, are the ones who don't want to be caught reading girly stuff like Mills & Boon. With my right palm over my heart, I now swear I have read Mills & Boon books and are not afraid to admit it. I rather enjoyed them too. Romance is an emotional subject which keeps our hopes, confidence and faith in the other gender alive all the time.
So in a way, Mills & Boon is unwittingly performing a vital function. Gerald Mills and Charles Boon started the Mills & Boon Ltd back in 1908. That's about 97 years ago. Initially, the enterprise began as a non-romance publishing house. However, strangely their first publication was a romance novel. I suppose that foretold its future.
For the next 20 years, nothing earth-shaking took place. Then the Great Depression descended on the world like a great plague. During those difficult years, there was one thing that people did not forget or got enough of - love. Thus, the Mills & Boon team decided it was time to inject some love into people's miserable lives.
Those depressing years saw Mills & Boon books being sold through what were called the weekly "two-penny libraries". I believe those were rental book business. The books were also aptly described as "the books in brown".
Then, in the 1950s, the lending trade took a dive but Mills & Boon's romance was still very much in the air.
Here in where Mills & Boon crossed paths with Harlequin of Canada. In 1949, Richard Bonnycastle started Harlequin Books. For the next two score and five years, Harlequin emerged from being a reprint publishing house into the world's largest enterprise of romance books.
Currently, Harlequin books are found in 100 overseas markets and its titles are translated into 23 languages around the world. Harlequin books are found in South and North America, China, Europe and the Middle East.
It has a range of romance titles that have caught the imagination of all those who have romance in their blood. In 1957, Harlequin began acquiring publishing rights to Mills & Boon romance titles. In seven short years, this Canadian publishing giant had cornered the market on romance books, printing its entire range.
In the fateful year of 1971, Harlequin bought over Mills & Boon and began expanding its empire. By the end of the 70s decade, there was nobody to challenge Harlequin in the romance field anymore. It has become king of romance and top dog of its own brand of business.
Harlequin's record of publishing books is a phenomenon by itself. Since 1949, it has printed three billion books. That's half the human population on earth.
Harlequin has numerous categories for its romance novels. They are categorised as Modern, Tender, Historical, Medical,By Request and Blaze. Under its Silhouette range, it has Desire, Special Edition, Sensation, Intrigue, SuperRomance and Spotlight, and Special Releases.
From the figures, readers know that romance is still very much alive among the human community. Who says romance is dead? Slap your boyfriend or husband if he says that!

Bloggers, take heed

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