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Book Review- Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


4.5 stars

Any aspect of Elon Musk’s colourful life would provide sufficient materials for a book – from his traumatic childhood, his migration from South Africa to Canada to the USA to his 3 marriages to 2 women. To compress the enigmatic persona of Musk alongside with the complexity of his numerous historic achievements in entrepreneurship into a readable format is quite a feat indeed. Prior to reading this book, I have only known of Elon Musk through media and the relentless ramblings of a sibling who idolises Musk, both presenting very different pictures of Musk. Ashlee Vance did his best to create a complete story through the points of view of many who had brushed shoulders with Musk.

“To the extent that the world still doubts Elon, I think it’s a reflection on the insanity of the world and not on the supposed insanity of Elon.” – Peter Thiel, PayPal cofounder.

It has been over 5 years since Peter Thiel made that statement about the state of mind of Elon Musk. Unfortunately, public opinion hasn’t seem to have changed much. The media still jumps at every opportunity to demonise him; the general public prefers to dismiss him as a rich guy playing with big toys. I asked a group of acquaintances what they think of him – most rolled their eyes and claims disinterest, others mentioned briefly his juvenile spat with the rescue diver in the Thailand soccer boys incident. Whilst I obviously cannot speak for the true motivations of Musk, it is apparent that all his enterprises are focused on the hope of creating a better world for mankind and he seem to be genuinely devoted to his causes. Yet only a handful of people, albeit a staunchly loyal group, sing praises about his efforts.

Elon Musk is an example of the type of person I once upon a time wanted to be – someone who dares to confront the somber reality of our world and charge head on to resolve some truly difficult issues. Nothing seem to curb his aspirations, not even when the government of the strongest nation in the world stands in his way. What I admire most about Musk, however, is not his multitude of skills, his depth of intellect nor his fierce determination. It is his ability of witness, tolerate and absorb that much scums of the world and somehow still wants to try and make it a better place.

Nobody is a complete saint, especially those who tries hard to convince you of their virtues. Ashlee Vance tried to paint a 360 degrees view of Elon Musk and included some less agreeable incidents his life. However, Vance’s admiration of Musk did seep through a little, thus those unpleasant episodes are not delved into deeply enough to reveal the less angelic aspects of Musk.

I am glad I read this book – I’m not normally a fan of biographies, but Elon Musk truly is a notch above many billionaires. I believe the world can certainly do with more children/ young adults learning from his world betterment and enterprising spirit.



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Book Reviews Mental Health

Book Review: Unbearable Lightness

Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain

Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia de Rossi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


“Porshe…” He cried harder. As he inhaled to say what he was leading up to say, his breath caught, making short staccato sounds. “You’re gonna die.”

Prior to this book, I knew little about Portia de Rossi. She was cast in Ally McBeal years ago as a very attractive and intelligent lawyer. She is married to Ellen DeGeneres and the two of them seem to be a rare example of Hollywood marriage gone right. I understand that anorexia is a very serious mental condition, however, reading the internalisation of a woman with this disorder is still rather confronting for me.

“I didn’t decide to become anorexic. It snuck up on me disguised as a healthy diet, a professional attitude.”

It is disturbing to me that so many mental disorder can be attributed to the lack of self esteem or a childhood where one is unable to feel unconditional love. Portia de Rossi, in spite of having a reasonably functional family, is terrified of losing their love and affection because of her sexual orientation. She punishes her body thinking that only through extraordinary pain and suffering would she deserve the rightful success of a model and actress.

Portia’s voice behind her binge and purge pattern strangely reminded me of the thoughts of Ronda Rousey whilst struggling with a different kind of weight (and self esteem) issues. Rousey, in contrast, is a elite competitive athlete. Both women viewed food as such kind of violent sin that leads to a self destruction and a total obliteration of love in their live.

The book is a short and easy read, but tilts heavily on her downfall and in my opinion not quite enough on her recovery. I would have liked to read more about how she defeated or tamed those voices in her head. Nonetheless, in a superficial world where a severe condition such as an eating disorder can be dissed and mocked as a ‘first world problem’, it is incredibly brave of Portia de Rossi to write and publish such intimate details of her journey. 5 stars for courage.






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Book Reviews

Book Review: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

The Wind-Up Bird ChronicleThe Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“… I advised you long ago never to use your imagination. It can only cost you your life.”

It is difficult to use common words to describe this piece of art. I struggle to fathom the state of mind of any writer who is able to conjure up a tale like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. To describe the journey I took in reading this 600+ book was ‘magical’ or ‘bizarre’ feels woefully inadequate. It simply defies the pattern and formula of modern literature, in my opinion, in a poetic and graceful manner.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is told via the point of views of a stellar cast – the placid Toru Okada, a confused teenage girl and a war veteran who had witnessed unspeakable violence in a forgotten war. Their stories are interwoven into the encounters of another string of apparently unrelated but equally intriguing characters, including a pair of sisters named Malta and Creta with seemingly supernatural powers and a mother and son named after Indian spices who helps resolve spiritual problems for the rich and privileged women of Japan.

Personally I enjoyed the journey, even though I am unable to say if I took home any new moral values or scientific learnings from this book. I gave it five stars simply because the book had me hooked from start till end without any expectations of a sound ending or a believable plot. It was in a way, meditative to read this novel.

I do not think this book is for everyone. It must certainly be approached with the broadest of open minds and even then I’d expect many to be lost in the labyrinth of nothingness.

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Book Reviews

Book Review: Big Little Lies

Big Little LiesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2 ½ stars

If depression is the new accessory, this book has just turned domestic violence into a fashionable handbag.

The stars are given purely for the fast pace and suspense of the book. To be fair it kept me wanting to know more about each character as Liane Moriarty unpeels their stories. The ending is largely disappointing – too tidy, convenient and way more satisfying than the reality that usually prevails for the true casualties of domestic violence. This is a novel to read on a holiday by the beach, for an intellect wannabe hoping to utilise down time reading something informative.

The flavour of the year on Australian telly is men learning to respect women. To be more specific, white Australian suburban men learning to respect white Australian suburban women. Like the numerous government campaigns, Liane Moriarty probably thinks she is doing society a favour by exploring a serious subject in a light-hearted manner. I am all for that style of propaganda. However, it isn’t the message that she tries to deliver; it is what that is glaringly lacking in the message that I find disturbing. In this novel, only Caucasians exist in Australia as no other ethnic group was represented in the public school of suburbia Sydney. So often it is the marginalised women, the minority, the migrants or refugees with no family support that struggle to break out of the cycle of domestic violence. There is a complete absence of non Anglo-Saxons, not even a hint of colour in the homogenous cast of ‘Big Little Lies’.

There are constant referrals to the challenges in leaving a violent home, but none of the ‘victims’ seems to need to endure any hardship before the community magically comes together and pull them out of their fix. Everyone comes to terms with their flaws eventually and tries to seek amends and forgiveness. I live in Australia, but alas Ms Moriarty and I must live in very different countries indeed.

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Book Reviews Mental Health

Book Review: The Sinner

The SinnerThe Sinner by Petra Hammesfahr
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wish I can offer a higher rating. The book captivated me from the start. It discussed at great lengths two subjects that I am very interested in – Adverse Childhood Experiences and Brain Injury.

In my opinion Petra Hammesfahr did an excellent job in illustrating little by little, how a dysfunctional family albeit one with no physical or overt sexual violence can ruin a child’s life. Cora Bender struggles through her childhood with no pragmatic concept of social values or self worth. There are fragments of this book that reminds me of Stephen King’s Carrie, when a religious fanatic mother causes severe destruction to the life of her child in her bizarre endeavours to lead her offspring to a grossly misinformed path. I feel Cora Bender is reasonably convincing as a brain injury survivor. Her sporadic mood swings, random ramblings and her altered sense of reality compounds the already complex circumstances surrounding the story.

What infuriates me to no end is realism, or the lack of in Hammersfahr’s depiction of the police work and subsequent ‘happy ending’. Police Commissioner Rudolf Grovian is utterly unsold by an open and shut case; he rejects an otherwise straight forward case and delve deeply into the psychiatric condition of Cora Bender. When the DA, defence attorney even the state appointed (well-reputed) psychiatrist appears indifferent about the truth pertaining to Cora Bender’s mental condition, a police officer takes matter into his own hands and dedicates most of his resources to prove the innocence of a mentally ill woman who killed a man in front of dozens of witness. The only attempt by Hammesfahr to explain Grovian’s unnatural interest in Bender is the brief and flimsy description of Grovian’s relationship with his estranged daughter.

Overall, I feel like Hammesfahr is writing a Hollywood or Disney story about killers with mental health issues. These days when one randomly pins a psychiatric condition to the instigator of every inexplicable murder or mass killing, I resent greatly how this book simplifies and glorifies the real world treatment of many less attractive, older, angrier and hairier versions of Cora Bender.

So a man saves an otherwise helpless damsel in distress. She gets a chances to live happier ever after. I want my money back please.

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Book Reviews General Affairs

Book Review: An Innocent Man

The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small TownThe Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When television series such as Law and Order and Crime Scene Investigation runs for decades, it is evident that the general public enjoys the belief that law enforcement are a force for good, that they never give up until the truth is uncovered.

Unfortunately, the reality is too far from our imagination of such dedicated workers. In the end, everyone who works in the legal system are not only subjected to the human flaws of err, but also of denial, laziness and self interest.

“The Innocent Man” is misleading in the sense that the book wasn’t about a singular disaster but describes a series of catastrophic errors of the judicial system that resulted in not only wrongful convictions but often the execution of innocent people. I have been an ardent fan of John Grisham yet it is hard to believe that this non-fiction book of his is more surreal than most of his imagined stories. I applaud him not simply for his immense talent in turning a long and complex story into a page turner – I finished the book in 24 hours – Mr Grisham is clearly endeavouring to provide a complete picture of the good and bad side of law. In his other novel, “The Rogue Lawyer”, I noticed how he describes an over zealous group of trigger happy police, anxious to march into the home of a suspect with guns and cannons blazing. This was possibly inspired from an incident in “The Innocent Man” where a SWAT team returns from duty dejected as they missed an opportunity to showcase their prowess in the arrest of a high school science teacher with no violent history.

The Innocent Man is a terrible tale where no happy ending is possible. While no one likes to read about the lives wasted due to the inadequacy of a system we are expected to have faith in, I hope John Grisham will continue to deliver such powerful messages to anyone who cares to listen. The world is imperfect and no amount of disguise from Hollywood can change that.

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Book Review: The Martian

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall this is a great read – recommended. The idea is clever, the book is well researched – or at least for someone like me, a general reader with some scientific background but not quite a rocket scientist, I am sufficiently sold by the quality of the plot.

What I am most impressed is how thorough Weir’s research was. When he described the several Chinese characters in the book, he made sure that their names were written in the correct order – i.e. family name followed by given name. Many writers of European heritage, in my experience, seem to struggle to grasp that simple logic that deviates from the European norm. He even aptly named the Chinese probe to the sun Taiyang Shen (which means Sun God). I was however, perplexed when he seemed to have made a mistake in chapter 19 – the character Su Bin Bao was correctly addressed as Mr Su, yet he was also subsequently written as Su Bin. That is not common practise for a Chinese name to decidedly omit the last character of a 2-character given name.

Weir clearly tried hard to create a diverse environment for his plot. The Chinese, portrayed in a balanced of good and bad (more good) were not enemies of the state for a change. A woman commands the space mission and a Hindu man holds a high position in both NASA and the plot line of this novel. In saying that, he did suffer an occasional lapse, for example, he described Mark Watney ‘screaming like a little girl’. I’m sure when under server duress and pain, little boys scream pretty pathetically too. So why couldn’t Mark Watney who is of the male sex, scream like a little boy when he was terrified?

The rational, logical dissection of Watney’s various problems and how he overcame them was very interesting for the better part of the book. However, reading the detailed technical breakdown of each situation became a little dry towards the end, when all I want to know is how the plot moves on.

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Book Reviews

Book Review: Carrie

CarrieCarrie by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I finished this novel nearly 44 years to the day it was released, the first published novel of one of the most prolific and brilliant writer of the modern world. Stephen King was in his mid twenties when he wrote this novel, but he captivates immediately in the opening scene describing a 16 year old high school student in the midst of her menstruation. As usual, King’s power of observation is simply mesmerising.

Like many of his other books, Carrie is gripping because Stephen King captures human nature with such frightening accuracy. The most devastating aspect for me in this case, was how Carrie White stood no chance in society following a inhuman upbringing by a fanatic mother. Through the inner thoughts of many participants to the disasters Stephen King ingeniously reveals how a calamity of an epic proportion is not the deed of one enormous villain, but rather, a result of the actions of numerous individuals.

The book is short and straight to the point, written in a creative, non-traditional manner of criss crossing between reports and personal accounts. For a novel that is conceived nearly half a century ago, Stephen King styled this novel creatively with courage and confidence.

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Book Reviews Boxing

Review of book “The Murder of Sonny Liston”

The Murder of Sonny Liston: Las Vegas, Heroin, and HeavyweightsThe Murder of Sonny Liston: Las Vegas, Heroin, and Heavyweights by Shaun Assael
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sonny Liston is a fascinating character. He was born and raised in very difficult circumstances – abused, neglected and was almost invisible to the world – an irony for a child who grew up so large. He somehow managed to become one of the best fighter not simply for his generation but also regarded often as top boxer of all times. As a man he was full of flaws, but not without virtue. Yet most people only saw him as a junkie, womaniser and an illiterate angry black criminal. And so his death was duly ignored and dismissed by the public. His talent for boxing was just astonishing I often wondered what great heights he might have attained if things hadn’t been this rough for him at the start.

Shaun Assael painted a complete picture of his life through the eyes of everyone – those who used him, despised him, those who loved him and believed him, and those who simply understood him and put up with his terrible habits. The book was written in a true journalistic observational style, with little interceding personal opinions. He covered all grounds and explored as much as he could, exhausting every avenue of the mystery surrounding Liston’s death. Every concerns, no matter how sensitive or unsavoury was discussed. Tragically, there was little that can be done today with such an enormous time lapse.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was an easy read for a non-fiction with such a large cast of colourful characters, each playing a complicated role in that complex world where law enforcement and criminals were divided by a blurred line. It also shed some light on the beginnings of Las Vegas, with a few unexpected personalities such as Frank Sinatra – rather informative.

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