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Hande Z (Singapore)
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The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down: How to Be Calm and Mindful in a Fast-Paced World
The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down: How to Be Calm and Mindful in a Fast-Paced World
by Haemin Sunim
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Be the silent observer of yourself, 22 Feb. 2017
It is true that in the hustle and bustle of life we have no time to reflect. The sayings contained in this book are things we can see and understand only when we make time for them. Even though many of the things made out in this book are what we might ourselves see, this book is a useful first step. We need to at least take time off our hurry to read and enjoy the book.

'Even the most beautiful music gets tiresome if I listen to it constantly. But if I listen to it after some time away, it becomes wonderful again. The problem is not the music itself. It is my relationship with it.' Another is, 'Please don't call it love. What you are experiencing is infatuation with no commitment or responsibility'.


The Innovation Illusion: How So Little is Created by So Many Working So Hard
The Innovation Illusion: How So Little is Created by So Many Working So Hard
by Fredrik Erixon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Innovate or disappear, 7 Feb. 2017
There have been many books in the past few years lamenting the slowing of economic growth. Some pin the blame on specific triggers such as the financial crisis of 2008. In this book, the authors explain why the giant leaps in technology has not resulted in corresponding economic upturns. They contrast this to the rapid growths in the past after major industrial revolutions. They blame four factors, namely, gray capital, corporate managerialism, globalization, and complex regulation.

Each of these factors are fascinating. Gray ownership, they say, is capitalism without capitalists. The main problem today is that corporations have grown so huge that no one knows who owns what. Traditional capitalists own the company and they provide the drive that propels their companies forward. Today, shareholders leave the companies to be driven by paid executives. And the shareholding in companies are also layered in that the shareholders are often hedge-funds. The rise of such corporations is due in large part, the authors say, to globalization. They also claim that the rise of bureaucracy and red tape in these corporations slow down growth. 'Managerialism has become the meta-ideology of the business world'. It has led to the downfall of the mighty Nokia and Motorola. Size was no longer capable of balancing transaction costs.

The authors further claim that the inclination towards a high degree of specialization in the globalised world ironically slows down innovation. At the same time, increasing regulations especially after the financial crisis of 2008 has an adverse impact on innovation. In country after country innovative schemes such as Uber are attacked, and consequently, many such businesses join politics to fight the regulators. Politics and regulations sometimes find themselves behind technological advances. The drones of Amazon and the electric cars of Tesla are examples of the tussle between regulators and technology.

Ignorance is the father of fear, so the faster technology advances, the greater the fear and scepticism of the masses. The authors say that the World Wide Web is now more like the Wicked Witch of the West. Thus the authors suggest that to 'spark new life into capitalism, attention must be given to, first, severing the link between gray capital and corporate ownership,; second, giving competition a real boost; and third, nurturing a culture of dissent and eccentricity'.


Law's Abnegation: From Law's Empire to the Administrative State
Law's Abnegation: From Law's Empire to the Administrative State
by Adrian Vermeule
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £29.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Collapse of Law's Empire?, 3 Feb. 2017
This book should be read with Philip Hamburger’s ‘Is Administrative Law Unlawful?’ published in 2014 by the University of Chicago Press. They exemplify the extreme views on the status of administrative law in America. Hamburger answers the title question of his book with a strong affirmative. Vermeule, who had already written a review of that book with the curt title, ‘No’, follows up and expands on his views in this book.

These two books express the extreme views on the subject. Vermeule tries to plant his view gently by choosing the word ‘ceding’ when he is in fact describing, if not advocating a total surrender of the courts to the state when it comes to administrative affairs. Is there no middle ground?

Lawyers on the other side of the Atlantic, and some on the American side, probably think that there is. They would be amused, if not perplexed by these two books. Vermeule referred to Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes’ judgment in Crowel v Benson (1932) where Hughes steered the court along the middle path. This seemed too mild and inadequate for Vermeule’s liking and he reminded his readers that Hughes was trying to serve two masters – the court and the state. The newly converted Catholic Vermeule cited Matthew 6:24 saying that CJ Hughes (who was nicknamed ‘Charles the Baptist’) ‘of all people, ought to have understood’ that passage: ‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other’.

Hamburger and Vermeule both see the law and the world (and to Vermeule, it meant ‘the real world’ as oppose to what others like Hamburger might perceive their world to be) in absolute black and white, good and evil. Nothing in between. Vermeule may be right in that one cannot serve two masters, but the question is, has he made out a convincing case that he is serving the right one? One man’s God is another man’s Devil.


The China Horizon: Glory and Dream of a Civilizational State
The China Horizon: Glory and Dream of a Civilizational State
by Weiwei Zhang
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Socialism with Chinese characteristics, 28 Jan. 2017
Expanding on his views in the previous volume of his trilogy (‘The China Wave, 2012 World Century Publishing) Zhang presses on the theme that the Western democratic model is not only untenable for China, it is untenable even for the West. There are many areas in which one might debate at length, but this is not the kind of communist propaganda we had seen in the Cold War years. Zhang is an articulate intellectual and his studies are deep.

In a debate with Francis Fukuyama, Zhang made the point that the American democratic model may produce a president worse than Bush. This alone may prompt a few Americans to read Zhang. Zhang says that under capitalism American political power lacks autonomy and neutrality. “moneytalkracy’ he says leads to the expansion of interest groups and the diminishing of the individual.

Ironically, the Chinese system has greater, and more importantly, public, checks and balances than the American one. The consequences are plain. Zhang cites innumerable examples throughout the book. If one pays US$500-1000 a month for medical insurance, she can assume that she will get prompt hospital care, and if she needs a transfusion in the night he need not pay for it, or that if she delivers a baby in hospital she would not have to pay for a couple of nights’ stay. Zhang says that is correct – but only in China; one cannot get that in the USA.

Zhang also points out the greater and more sustaining pension schemes in China compared to that in America. Citing statistics, Zhang points out that ‘in 2012 the murder rate in China was 0.8 per 100,000, lower than in Japan and Switzerland. In comparison, the US had a murder rate of 50 per 100,000 people, or 60 times that of China’.

One of the characteristics that underlined the weakness of the American model is the lack of a spirit of ‘seeking truth from facts’. Once again, in the face of daily presidential tweets, many Americans may be interested to read more from Zhang. He predicts a new world order of socialism with Chinese characteristics. With globalisation in decline and Trump in power, Zhang may prove prescient yet again.


Whisky Japan: The Essential Guide to the World's Most Exotic Whisky
Whisky Japan: The Essential Guide to the World's Most Exotic Whisky
by Dominic Roskrow
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.40

5.0 out of 5 stars Kampai indeed!, 27 Jan. 2017
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This is the most comprehensive and up-to-date book on Japanese whisky with an introduction that sets the context for the rest of the book. Roskrow tells us that there are only two ways to make whisky. First, like the Scots, in which event, one has to be very good. The second is to be original like the American bourbon. Japanese whisky is modelled after the Scots - but it is no mere copycat. And there are five styles - single malt, vatted malt, blended malt, single grain, and multigrain. And the Japanese do all of them. The high quality of Japanese whisky and rising worldwide demand has forced distilleries like Nikka to forgo aged stated whisky. Younger whisky is coming out of Japan. So where does that leave Japanese whisky in the future? Roskrow asks. He hints at the answer thus:

'With the exception of a small number of whisky writers and a handful of other experts, many of them featured in this book, there has been little attempt to move beyond the shorthand and to understand the sophisticated, considered, and beautifully executed qualities of Japan's fine single malts, vatted malts, and blended whiskies. Japanese whisky has only relatively recently started to emerge from the fog of ignorance, but it remains an enigma and a curiosity.' Age or no age, quality is hard to beat. A fuller answer may be found in chapter 9.

The book flows smoothly from a lovely chapter on the history of whisky making in Japan and the work of the pioneering Shinjiro Torii and Masataka, to Taketsuru. The second chapter describes how Japanese whisky is made, and that takes us to the third chapter which is about the main distilleries in Japan from Akkeshi to Yoichi.

Readers will love the clear and enticing tasting notes of the major whiskies. It makes one year for our personal favourites as well as those he has written passionately about, such as the Yoichi 20 year old: 'This is one of the world's greatest whiskies'...oily, nutty, peaty, with big earthy notes, as well as dark chocolate molasses, barbecued fish, and sea spray.' Or the 'top drawer' Hibiki 21 Year old blended whisky.

Then comes the fascinating chapter on the reasons for the rise of Japanese whisky. This is a collection of personal views of various experts on Japanese whisky including Marcin Miller, Chris Bunting, and the blog, 'Nonjatta'. And if you reach this point and feel like going out to a whisky bar, the next chapter is perfect - it has a gallery of all the famous whisky bars across the world.


Iconic Whisky: Tasting Notes and Flavour Charts for 1,000 of the World's Best Whiskies
Iconic Whisky: Tasting Notes and Flavour Charts for 1,000 of the World's Best Whiskies
by Cyrille Mald
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

5.0 out of 5 stars More than a whiff, 23 Jan. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This wonderful book was written originally in French but its English translation (by Anne McDowall) reads very clearly and no one may know that it is a translation. The book begins with a definition of whisky – the blended and the grains. Like French vintners the authors have a chapter on the importance of ‘terroir’. It goes on to describe the process of making whisky, and the relevance of casks. It rounds off with a chapter on the fundamentals of whisky tasting. There is also a pronunciation guide and a two-page pictorial guide to tasting notes.

The rest of the book, after several pages of maps, from page 91 onwards is where the iconic whiskys are described. Iconic does not mean rare. Most of the whiskys are commonly found. They are iconic because they are established and popular. For example, under Dalmore whiskys the authors start with the Dalmore 12 years, then the 15 years, and then to the more exquisite Cigar Malt Reserve.

There is little danger of vague or ambiguous translations of the whisky notes because the descriptions are accompanied by symbols such as a trio of oranges and oats to denote a whisky with citrusy and oatmeal flavours.
This will make a good addition to any whisky library.


Malt Whisky Yearbook 2017: The Facts, the People, the News, the Stories
Malt Whisky Yearbook 2017: The Facts, the People, the News, the Stories
by Ingvar Ronde
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.76

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cheers, 8 Jan. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a concise 293-page handy guide of almost all the distilleries in the world. The pictures are beautiful and the descriptions are comprehensive and helpful. For example, Under 'Yamazaki' it begins with these words: 'This is where it all began, nearly a century ago, in a lush, humid valley between Osaka and Kyoto. Yamazaki was the perfect location for Japan's first whisky distillery for several reasons.' It goes on to discuss those reasons. It has a pronunciation guide. For example, Bunnahahain is pronounced ‘buh.nah.hav.enn’.

The book gives a brief history of each distillery and the range of its whiskys. The notes include the address, website, status (active) and capacity. It also includes notes on many of the distilleries that have closed. For readers who enjoy reading and understanding the history of distilleries, this is useful. Some of the news are reasonably up-to-date. For example, we are told that Dallas Dhu, a distillery that once produced very lovely whisky but has closed, is now subject to the possibility of a re-opening. Heartening news. Wonderful handbook.


The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics
The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics
by John B. Judis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Needs more pop, 7 Jan. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Judis does think that populism is capable of definition. He says that populists ‘enjoy family resemblances of one another, but not as a set of traits that can be found exclusively in all of them’. He also argues, probably rightly, that ‘there is no one constituency that comprises “the people”’. But populists are found on both sides of the [Atlantic] waters. Nonetheless, he tries to find the roots of populism, and he takes us through a large part of the book trekking through the history of America to discover the birth of populism. The history of populism is important if we were to understand its rise and future. This book has interesting vignettes of various big names, such as George Wallace’, but one is left with the uneasy feeling that Judis is merely patching together names and events without actually having a coherent account of the history of populism. His account of current events in America as well as Europe are not well analysed, and thus this book as a whole, has useful landmarks but lacks depth, coherence, and analysis. Part of the reason lies in Judis' view that populism is undefinable. Jan-Werner Müller’s ‘What is Populism?’, 2016, Princeton University Press, is probably a better book for the reader trying to understand what populism is about.


What Is Populism?
What Is Populism?
by Jan-Werner Müller
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Pop goes the weasel, 7 Jan. 2017
This review is from: What Is Populism? (Hardcover)
Michael Farage, Donald Trump, Marine Le Penn, Hugo Chavez, these are names that are associated with the word ‘populism’. What creates the association? What is populism? Why should there be so many books and articles trying to understand and explain ‘populism’? – the ‘The Populist explosion’ by John Judis one such book.

Müller explains that the term is used as a synonym for ‘anti-establishment’ but clearly it is more than that. More than merely a feeling of anti-establishment, there are the additional features of resentment and frustration among voters. He also say that modern capitalist societies are drawing a line between the 1% and the 99%, populists are not claiming to represent the 99% percent. They are claiming to represent the 100%. They claim that they are the authentic will of the people. Populists are also anti-elitist and anti-pluralist.

Müller warns that populism is a danger to democracy. He sets out to explain that populists believe that not only do they represent the 100% but that they are also morally right. He argues that populism is undemocratic and raises questions as to what do anti-establishment populists do once they become the establishment. He discusses the ways of dealing with populists, but his tender timid suggestions of the alternatives do not seem persuasive nor does he sound confident. Perhaps the terror and peril of populism has this effect. The reader has to gauge the final chapter of Müller’s book for himself.

But what if Müller is wrong, and that ‘populism’ defies definition, how might one deal with a monster whose shape and form one cannot see – until it is too late?


Suggestible You: Placebos. False Memories, Hypnosis and the Power of Your Astonishing Brain
Suggestible You: Placebos. False Memories, Hypnosis and the Power of Your Astonishing Brain
by Erik Vance
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.58

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let me suggest, 30 Dec. 2016
We know what we know – or do we? The mind is the most unfathomable subject in the world of knowledge. Yet we cannot begin to understand it without knowing more about our brain. This is what this book seeks to do. It hopes to enlighten us on the way our mind make us believe things that are not true, or not proven to be true.

Vance found out that he was cured of Legionnaire’s disease not by the miracle of the Christian Science faith that his parents believed. He went on to inquire into how the human brain can perform miracles of its own. He treats us to a study of the effect of placebos. He explains how they work and why some people are more prone to responding to placebos than others. He explains what the converse – nocebo – is and how that works.

Placebos and nocebos are driven by the power of suggestion. Hence, Vance engages us in a detailed study of hypnotism. He explains how it works and how trickery may also be infused in a hypnotic act. More importantly, he shows us ‘With both hypnosis and the placebo effect, people rely on nothing but their own brains, mixed with a little suggestion, to yield sometimes dramatic results’.

At other times, the same factors just lead us to less drama. They may, for example, predispose some of us to believing in gods, ghosts, and superstition. The chapter that discusses the enzyme neurtin (chapter 3) will enlighten us as to how we are what we are, and what it is (valine) that makes us regulate dopamine in our brain. Vance explains that people with methyltransferase (met/met) instead of valine, are more sensitive to pain, rate experiences as more pleasurable than valine people do. Methyltransferase people are also more responsive to the placebo effect. Vance identifies Obama as a valine (what he describes as ‘val/val’ genetic contribution from both parents) and Oprah Winfrey and Tom Cruise as ‘met/met’). He goes on to explain the effect of other genes such as the OPRM1 which determines how the brain absorbs a drug (such as dopamine).

This book goes a long way to answering the question why some people are more suggestible than others. It is important to fully understand how our own brains may be deceiving us. The con artist can only do so much, the rest is left to us.


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