Tag Archives: book

REVIEW: ΜΙΑ ΕΒΔΟΜΑΔΑ ΣΤΟ ΑΕΡΟΔΡΟΜΙΟ

Μία εβδομάδα στο αεροδρόμιοΜία εβδομάδα στο αεροδρόμιο by Alain de Botton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Το Heathrow είπε στον Αλαίν ντε Μποτόν να μείνει μια βδομάδα στο ανακαινισμένο και ανανεωμένο αεροδρόμιο (ή μήπως ήταν καμιά καινούργια πτέρυγα; Βαριέμαι να τσεκάρω) και να γράψει, όπως είναι της μόδας να λένε πλέον και στο Amazon, «μια ειλικρινή κριτική» (“an honest review”). Ο τύπος, όπως συνήθως, όπως έχει κάνει στην Τέχνη του Ταξιδιού και στο Consolations of Philosophy (αυτά του κυρίου έχω διαβάσει) παίρνει πράγματα πεζά και τα αναπτύσσει μέχρι εκεί που δεν πάει, φτάνει στην καρδιά του θέματος. Σε μια απολαυστική πλατωνική στροφή, σαν να αγγίζει τον Κόσμο των Ιδεών έχοντας μόνο στη διάθεση του την Σκιά στον τοίχο της της Σπηλιάς. Πολύ λίγοι άνθρωποι έχουν αυτή την ικανότητα να φτάνουν στο γενικό από το ειδικό τόσο δεξιοτεχνικά χωρίς να αφήνουν από τα μάτια τους τις λεπτομέρειες του συμβάντος ή του θέματος στο οποίο έχουν εστιαστεί.

Δεν συμπαθώ πια τα αεροδρόμια όπως όταν ήμουν μικρός που όνειρο μου ήταν να μένω σε ένα, ακριβώς όπως το Χήθροου πλήρωσε τον κο Ντε Μποτόν να κάνει, όμως ο τελευταίος με τη γραφή του και με τις όμορφες φωτογραφίες του συνεργάτη του που συνοδεύουν το κείμενο με έκανε να σκεφτώ πως όσο ακόμα και το πιο τυπικά άψυχο μέρος όσο ένα αεροδρόμιο χρησιμοποιείται από ανθρώπους, τόσο οι ιστορίες τους, ο πόνος και η χαρά τους θα βρίσκει άλλο ένα κανάλι για να εκφραστεί και το άψυχο θα παραδοθεί στη ζωή. Αναγκαστικά. Και αυτό είναι κάτι το πολύ αισιόδοξο όσο ο κόσμος κάθε μέρα γίνεται όλο και πιο άψυχος, γιατί πολύ απλά το άψυχο με το χρόνο θα σπάσει, σαν το μπετόν μέσα από το οποίο απλά φυτρώνει γρασίδι και φυτά και η ζωή επανέρχεται.

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REVIEW: JOHN DIES AT THE END

John Dies at the EndJohn Dies at the End by David Wong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In my mind, David Wong practically is
Cracked.com, and that’s where I first found out about his book John Dies at the End. Was it from the podcast? I don’t remember. Unsurprisingly, and not unwelcomingly (if that isn’t a word, it should be) it read just like his website: a pop and geek culture reference mishmash, teeming with intelligent factoids and random trivia sprinkled around the narrative, gruesome deaths, rich descriptions of unimaginable horrors and most importantly, lots of laughs: belly laughter, giggles, snorts, a mix of clever geek humour with an absurd twist—call me Douglas Adams— penis jokes… Yes, it is Cracked: The Funny Horror Novel.

I’m not giving it five stars because I’m sure I won’t remember too much of it down the road, i.e. it wasn’t memorable per se, or maybe it was too dense with quips and gags. Besides, there’s only so much exploding Lovecraftian monsters (“The ultimate evil in the universe that human minds cannot comprehend!”) you can fit in a few pages before it gets a bit too much, a bit too heavy, like drinking a bottleful of Soy Sauce, the drug of which a tiny consumption is the root cause of our heroes’ encounters with the other side.

Those characters weren’t that great, either, and that’s another reason why the book won’t stick with me. Then again I would never say that Douglas Adams’ strong point was his characters, but The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy wasn’t worse for it, or at least the weak characters added to its distinct style. Why shouldn’t it be the same with John Dies at the End then?

Since we’re back to John, I’ll admit I wouldn’t mind having a friend like him. Come to think of it, so does Wong, probably, and I’m not ruling out the possibility that he wrote this book just as a way to flesh out his cool imaginary friend/alter ego.

…scratch that, actually. I just checked, and John exists as much as Dave does, or at least the template for John in Wong’s head exists, but still. I mean, he himself, the writer, is the protagonist; do you think he’d be above doing something like that?

(some more Wikihopping later)

What?! Did you know that Cracked used to be a real magazine? Printed, sold and everything all the way back to the ’50s? I had no idea!

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REVIEW: THE GAME: PENETRATING THE SECRET SOCIETY OF PICKUP ARTISTS

The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup ArtistsThe Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists by Neil Strauss
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Game, pickup artists, the art of seduction and all that is something that has fascinated me for a while. The pretension of it all, really. It’s so different from the WYSIWYG way I believe I usually project myself; foreign, yet with a certain unmistakable allure: imagine being able to seduce anyone! How can people live like this, moving from woman to woman without any emotional attachment? Do they feel omnipotent? How can they lie, or rather bullshit so exquisitely? Do they ever get impostor syndrome, or can only narcissists and megalomaniacs immune to impostor syndrome really excel at seducing? Who are these guys anyway? Don’t they ever stop, look at themselves and wonder what they’re trying to prove? Probably not, right?

Turns out the techniques work like clockwork, like Jedi mind tricks on stormtroopers, but even if you mingle with celebrities for a living, like Strauss did before sitting down to write his story, at some point you will either (or both): a) get tired of casual sex with bimbos without any lasting connection and seek something deeper; b) meet your seduction match who will drive you crazy because what she wants is the real you and trying to seduce her by the Playbook amazingly turns her off, and by the time you realize the fact you’ve almost lost her for good.

Relevant xkcd: Pickup Artist, #1027

Still, listening to this book worked as a mood enhancer for me. I speculate it was the effect well-known to us self-improvement book readers of getting a high merely from visualising a change in your life by following the advice suggested instead of actually following it, which, it should be noted, often leads us readers never taking the steps necessary for change to take place, satisfied from the imagined high we’ve just had. Second-hand success stories almost work just as well, and this is essentially what you get here: “look at the self-proclaimed loser get all the chicks he’s never had! I could do the same, if I chose to!”

But would I ever choose to be that guy? I wonder: by not playing The Game because I believe it’s dehumanising and pathetic and that self-confirmation and self-worth come from within, not from forgetting how many women you’ve tricked into falling for you, am I really just displaying my “mediocrity” as a man, my “beta”-ness? That’s definitely what a player would say about me. But is it because I’m scared of pulling it off that I’m shunning seduction, or could it be that, since I don’t need conquests to feel desirable or indeed complete, I am already “ahead of The Game”, the very place pickup artists go all this process through to reach?

The words “you are what you love, not what loves you” came as an answer while I was typing the above, as they’d done once before while I was out running and listening to this book.

To be honest, close to half the enjoyment I got out of The Game I got from the narrator and the way he switched accents between Neil and bimbos, Mystery and Style, tones of voice etc. Here you can find a sample. Actually, not just a that: by looking for a sample I ended up with a link to the full thing (which might not even be with us for long, judging by Youtube’s policies) and realised by looking at the comments that what I listened to in the end wasn’t even the full version of the book! Come to think of it, I did just finish it in a couple of days…

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REVIEW: PLEASE UNDERSTAND ME II // AN INTRODUCTION TO KEIRSEYAN TYPOLOGY

Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, IntelligencePlease Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence by David Keirsey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

please_understand_me_II

Some books I only review because of the sort of benign OCD I’ve developed that compels me to write something about every book I read; with others I can’t stop myself from going all-out, even if I didn’t enjoy reading them enough to award them 5 stars to begin with. With psychology and typology (personality type) books, the latter is almost always the case. Perhaps to a fault, I might add, for the wall of text lying beneath is arguably not the optimal way of transmitting this, let’s face it, difficult information. Still, I’m a reader rather than a video watcher… but I’m not the only one. ♪

As a review this probably won’t work, but that said: what if I finally accept that it’s not me writing a review here, but taking the opportunity to process, share and, in typical Hallographic style, lovingly re-transmit  the fascinating information, empathy and communication skills this book filled my mind and attention with, at least for a time?

Some books might not be for everyone or even five-star worthy as far as reading pleasure is concerned, but they do contain valuable ideas absolutely worth spreading, writing and talking about.

Watch me embracing  the fact that this is not going to be a review.

I read Please Understand Me II on my Android on .pdf. It is David Keirsey’s definitive 1998 update to his original 1984 Please Understand Me. He himself was (he died in 2013) the personality psychologist who created the Keirsey Temperament Sorter (link to the test as it appears in the book, it’s worth the manual effort to complete) and the Four Temperaments typing system. It shares its name with Hippocrates’ and Galen’s original four temperaments theory, which has for millennia sorted people’s personalities into choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic and sanguine.

This archetype has survived to this day in its original form and has thus proved rather durable, along with various other ancient and medieval derivatives, albeit few people consider them as valid typological systems anymore (I’m of two minds about being a Nymph, according to Paracelsus). From Wikipedia’s article on the Keirsey Temperament Sorter:

Date Author Artisan temperament Guardian temperament Idealist temperament Rational temperament
c. 590 BC Ezekiel‘s four living creatures lion (bold) ox (sturdy) man (independent) eagle (far-seeing)
c. 400 BC Hippocrates’ four humours cheerful (blood) somber (black bile) enthusiastic (yellow bile) calm (phlegm)
c. 340 BC Plato’s four characters artistic (iconic) sensible (pistic) intuitive (noetic) reasoning (dianoetic)
c. 325 BC Aristotle’s four sources of happiness sensual (hedone) material (propraietari) ethical (ethikos) logical (dialogike)
c. 185 AD Irenaeus’ four temperaments spontaneous historical spiritual scholarly
c. 190 Galen’s four temperaments sanguine melancholic choleric phlegmatic
c. 1550 Paracelsus’ four totem spirits changeable salamanders industrious gnomes inspired nymphs curious sylphs
c. 1905 Adickes’ four world views innovative traditional doctrinaire skeptical
c. 1912 Dreikurs’/Adler’s four mistaken goals retaliation service recognition power
c. 1914 Spränger’s four* value attitudes artistic economic religious theoretic
c. 1920 Kretschmer’s four character styles manic (hypomanic) depressive oversensitive (hyperesthetic) insensitive (anesthetic)
c. 1947 Fromm’s four orientations exploitative hoarding receptive marketing
c. 1958 Myers’ Jungian types SP (sensing perceiving) SJ (sensing judging) NF (intuitive feeling) NT (intuitive thinking)
c. 1978 Keirsey/Bates four temperaments (old) Dionysian (artful) Epimethean (dutiful) Apollonian (soulful) Promethean (technological)
c. 1988 Keirsey’s four temperaments Artisan Guardian Idealist Rational
c. 2004 Gordon-Bull Nexus Model[5] Gamma Beta Delta Alpha

Keirsey’s Artisan, Guardian, Idealist and Rational types have come a long way indeed since the time Hippocrates classified  people by their over-secretion or lack of certain human bodily fluids: the system was developed upon many decades of research, observation, counseling and comparing the behaviour of his clients. It is not the only typology system to have been built on observation and the scientific method, but it differs from others in the fine points.

To be exact, whereas the Enneagram on the one hand—to name my favourite such system—separates people into nine categories based on their preconceived deficiencies of character, sources of insecurity and ambitions, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator on the other, probably the most well-known and used such system around the world, sorts people into sixteen categories by the order of preference of their eight types of Jungian cognitive functions, it is a person’s outward behaviour that goes to determine their Keirsey temperament.

cognitive_functions

Because Keirsey worked with Myers and Briggs and his system of typology is understandably an extension or “expansion” to theirs, his four types are basically the sixteen MBTI types divided by four. He noticed similar behavioural patterns between certain types and identified the connectors as the common letters in the types’ names, e.g. the INFP and the ENFJ are both intuitive and feeling types, which makes them both Idealists, while Guardians are SJs, meaning ESTJs, ISFJs and so on.

cognitive_functions

If you’re at all familiar with Jungian cognitive functions, you might know that the four core cognitive functions (thinking, feeling, intuiting and sensing), farther multiplied by two by being either extraverted or introverted in nature, are fundamentally separated into the perceptive ones, the ones we use to take in information about the external world (sensing/intuiting) and the judging ones, the ones we use to make decisions (thinking/feeling). The two letters comprising the name of the Keirsey temperament denote the combination of an individual’s preference in both perception and judgment.

Thus, for instance, NFs primarily take in information from the external world by using their iNtuition, and they mainly take decisions using their Feelings. NTs, respectively, also take in information about the world using their iNtuition. However, they do not primarily use their feelings to make decisions as the NFs do, but rather use their Thinking function.

It would follow that the four Keirsey types should be NF, NT, SF and ST, and indeed, before Keirsey came along, Myers and Briggs used to separate the sixteen types as so. Nevertheless, Keirsey did come along and observed that SPs and SJs bore far more behavioural similarities to each other than STs and SPs did. He incorporated his findings to his four temperaments theory and thus drew the blueprint for what I believe to be the MBTI 2.0.

Actually, maybe not an MBTI 2.0, because by itself the MBTI is still quite usable. In case however one wishes to combine different systems of typology in order to make more complete or nuanced profiles for people— combining the Enneagram with the MBTI so as to have an overview of both a person’s ambitions, fears and behavioural patterns, for example—i.e. for the purpose of synergy, the Keirsey Type Sorter works far better than the MBTI and in any case it can be a very effective, hard and fast way of identifying a person’s type; you can usually tell fairly easily and intuitively which temperament a person is, whereas with the MBTI and its sixteen whole different types it can be difficult and in any case requires a lot of experience.

The benefits of typing people themselves and why one would want to do it I’ll leave for another time, but I’m sure you can fill in the gaps depending on your own needs for better communication.

What I still haven’t got into at all is how this whole Keirsey thing works.

keirsey_tools_words

As mentioned earlier, Keirsey’s theory is only indirectly focused on cognitive functions. Rather, he speculated that, on one hand, people’s behaviour can be separated into two categories according to their use of language and expression: either specific/concrete or generalising/abstract. This often translates into “detail-oriented/pragmatic/moving from the specific towards the whole” and “big-picture/theoretical/moving from the whole towards the specific”, respectively.

This screenshot might help with developing the concept of abstract vs. concrete speech in your mind (pardon the peculiar white balance; I was reading in bed at that moment and had Twilight activated):

wp-1461249380158.jpeg

On the other hand, people use different “tools” for achieving their goals, which Keirsey identified as either utilitarian/pragmatic or cooperative. From Wikipedia’s article on the Keirsey Temperament Sorter:

People who are cooperative pay more attention to other people’s opinions and are more concerned with doing the right thing. People who are pragmatic (utilitarian) pay more attention to their own thoughts or feelings and are more concerned with doing what works. There is no comparable idea of Myers or Jung that corresponds to this dichotomy, so this is a significant difference between Keirsey’s work and that of Myers and Jung.

The pragmatic temperaments are Rationals (pragmatic and abstract) and Artisans (pragmatic and concrete). The cooperative temperaments are Idealists (cooperative and abstract), and Guardians (cooperative and concrete). Neither Myers nor Jung included the concept of temperament in their work. Jung’s psychological functions are hard to relate to Keirsey’s concepts.

In Please Understand Me II, Keirsey goes through not only the fundamentals of his theory and the characteristics of each type, he also has separate sections and detailed overviews for each subtype (the following is for INFPs/Healers);

wp-1461249423998.jpeg

breakdowns of each type’s strong and weak skills:

wp-1461249431173.jpeg

further breakdown for best-suited job in “diplomacy”-oriented fields, the NFs’ specialty (which include teaching, counseling, championing, “healing”, doing reconciliatory, cross-disciplinary work, e.g. between science and metaphysics, to name a pertinent example that fascinates me personally, etc):

wp-1461249412940.jpeg

A little clarification is in order here: NFs are natural diplomats and horrible tacticians — that could be why I love the big map in Total War games, enjoy Diplomacy (the game) and Dixit, tend to royally suck at the tactical battles in Total War and am absolute garbage in StarCraft II. SPs, on the other hand, are the complete opposite, and you can tell how SPs are poor at diplomacy, since they’re usually the types who most refuse to seek common ground or look at things from a different perspective, but are very good at looking at things practically due to their concrete/utilitarian duality. Conversely, NTs are great strategists and poor logisticians, while SJs are the opposite.

The following analysis goes on to portray common interests for each type (notice how Idealists “will be drawn to the humanities and might dabble in the arts and crafts but rarely stick with that sort of thing long enough to become more than enthusiastic amateurs“—professional artists are, more often than not, Artisans, due to their sensory, present-oriented nature):

wp-1461249409386.jpeg

or the way in which the different types have completely different orientations connected to time, the past, present and future, and which of these they favor. Note that Rationals understand time as intervals: “for them, time exists not as a continuous line, but as an interval, a segment confined to and defined as an event.  Only events possess time, all else is timeless.”

wp-1461249404873.jpeg

What distinguishes Please Understand Me II as an actually usable book is that, on top of everything else, it has detailed, separate sections on temperaments and parenting, leading people and romantic relationships. The latter I found particularly interesting: Keirsey writes that one of the major reasons many romantic relationships tend to fail is that partners make Pygmalion projects of one another, that is, we consciously or subconsciously try to make partners into mirror images of ourselves. If we first understand, then accept our partner’s temperament, Keirsey suggests, the relationship could only benefit from it and remain stable.

Furthermore, compatibility between temperaments vary: apparently Idealists and Rationals are natural fits, because we can understand each other’s abstract way of communication and perception intuitively—deep conversations, big ideas, little appreciation for small-talk, that sort of thing. However, due to both types being rarer than concrete Guardians and Artisans (for reasons unknown, concrete communicators are roughly double in numbers than abstract communicators—we’re precious little flowers, we abstracts), those types usually have a hard time finding well-suited mates.

I, for one, have been told that if some of my male Rational friends were female I’d fall for them hard, so there’s that…

Moving on, the chapter on temperament and parenting I found interesting as well, i.e. how parents value different things in raising their children depending on their own temperaments. For example, an Artisan parent will want their child to possess many different useful skills and will try one way or another to transmit them to it (long hours at language schools and martial arts classes?);  a Guardian parent will value security and stability above all else (urging their child to settle), whereas a Rational parent will try to inspire in their child a sense independence from other people and external influence.

Where this often goes wrong is that parents not only make Pygmalion projects our of their partners, they do so for their children as well, and so typically fail to take their child’s own temperament into account when it comes to its upbringing and relevant important decisions. This can and will alienate the child and make it feel unloved or that it has to constantly prove itself, among a slew of other avoidable psychological complications and complexes.

Interestingly, as far as we can observe and Keirsey claimed, temperament is not hereditary: it is determined at birth, does not follow parental patterns and is permanent for life. It is sort of arbitrary, selected at random at “character creation”, you could say. I find that little fact absolutely fascinating: that a big part of who we are is “predetermined”, despite the term being taboo in contemporary psychology and behavioural science.

Paraphrasing Keirsey, temperament is like a person’s hardware—just there, native, unchangeable, with radical, often virtually unbridgeable incompatibilities with other protocols—whereas character is software or an operating system that runs on that hardware. “[…] Thus temperament is the inborn form of human nature; character, the emergent form, which develops through the interaction of temperament and environment.”

What a parent can do to make sure that their child will thrive and not develop insecurities and low self-esteem because it feels as if it cannot fulfill its parents expectations, is identify their child’s temperament early on—it’s usually quite obvious from the 3rd or 4th year—and move with the temperament’s forces, not away from them or even against them: encourage their child to be itself, not what the parent would like it to be.

I can easily imagine a Rational parent, for example, being hard on their Artisan child for not being logical or even clever enough, or an Idealist parent trying to make their Guardian child more “alternative”, when the child just won’t stray from the mainstream. What the parents could be failing to see is that their children might have green fingers or a well-developed sense of honour and duty, respectively. Oh, the woes of an Idealist parent when their Guardian child wants to uphold the law for a living!

I’ve gone on long enough already. I will conclude this little here review/essay/introduction to Keirsey by saying that if psychology, communication and human relationships interest you at all, Please Understand Me II and Keirsey’s work in general is a must-read. Together with the Enneagram, typology can be a very powerful tool for understanding people, living and working better with them and, as important as ever, understanding and identifying one’s own worth and learning to go with, not against, one’s own temperament—one’s own nature.

PS: At some point while going through this book, I realised that my room-mates and colleagues in Sofia City Library and I were all different temperaments. An Idealist, a Rational, a Guardian and an Artisan all under the same roof! My memories of Zanda, Vicente and Maria and living together with them for nine months have been useful for imagining each temperament’s traits more concretely. Thanks guys!

One of each temperament in this pic
One of each temperament in this pic

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REVIEW: THE ETHICAL SLUT: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO POLYAMORY, OPEN RELATIONSHIPS AND OTHER ADVENTURES

The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other AdventuresThe Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures by Dossie Easton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I tried practicing polyamory a few years ago, back when I had minimal experience with intimate relationships. It came to me as a concept naturally back then, and I still think it’s a great idea if you can find the right people who will be willing to try it out with you on their own volition (obviously you can’t force anybody into it).

Back in the day I made a lot of mistakes. I couldn’t make it work and ended up psychologically beaten up and scarred. However, it ended up being one of my most significant growing experiences, and surprisingly it didn’t shake my conviction that monogamy is not in any shape or form the only “normal” type of intimate relationship people can share. I have to admit that I’m not sure whether today I would be able to handle any better what five years ago I wasn’t able to due to lack of experience or perhaps maturity, but I know that reading The Ethical Slut gave me perspective, confidence and knowledge that polyamory can work, even if it goes against most of the principles I/we take for granted and cannot identify their origin.

Now, about the book. I felt it tended to repeat itself in some ways and placed too much emphasis on (unconventional) sex, which in my world is glorified a bit too much. At times the writers came across as too condescending (“sorry my life is so simple, geez!”). But in the end I got something from it: I was inspired by the different success stories and will come back to it for ideas, suggestions and tips if/when I end up in a polyamoric relationship.

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