Ahad, 10 November 2013

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Migrating To Australia: Good Meh?


FOR potential emigrants who believe the grass is greener on the other side, the Soong brothers are here to prove that moving across borders is not exactly a bed of roses.

I recall devoting my Saturday afternoon to a seminar on immigration to Australia by a notable agency in Kuala Lumpur recently. I was not alone. Accompanied by close to over 30 other hopefuls, I paid close attention to the schematics and systems for successful immigrant visa application to the Land Down Under.

Motivated by a plethora of reasons, the other applicants and I were unified by one overarching factor: the possibility of a better life. "Better", being the problematic keyword.

Having this book handed to me just two days after the seminar turned out to be somewhat of a blessing in disguise. I was intrigued by the promising proclamations made on the back cover of the book indicating that the book offered a variety of noteworthy discussions and anecdotal accounts as opposed to the common one-size-fits-all instruction manual, as most immigration seminars tend to be.

Written by Ken and Michael Soong who continued their higher education in Australia and eventually emigrated to Melbourne, this book is a collection their thoughts and discussions regarding immigrant life Down Under.

As Australia is not all kangaroos and koala bears, the Soong brothers attempt to encourage readers to look beyond the postcard perfect idea of uprooting to the country through their bittersweet experiential accounts.

In the first half of the book, the duo take an educated stab at busting the common myths of living in Western society, such as Western society being more open-minded and tolerant towards multiculturalism, the depth of Western family and societal values, as well as the age old question, is Australia really the land of opportunities?

The second half of the book addresses the challenges a Malaysian would face in attempting to assimilate into Australian society, the conveniences of welfare state plans and principles, as well as employment and social issues.

Offering insight on starting a business, choosing a suburb to reside in and successful career growth in Australia, the chapters also comprise illustrative case studies of Malaysian immigrants living in Australian cities.

However, given that the Soong brothers are based in Melbourne, most of the tips and examples given are heavily focused around their particular residential city.

Although they cite various case studies to cover other locations, the book does not provide sufficient insight on other Aussie states to be considered truly holistic.

I admit I had to flip to the front cover twice to check if the title was actually Migrating To Melbourne rather than Migrating To Australia. Being specific is key, yet one should also be wary of being too narrow.

Though the intended audience for this book is stated to be all Malaysians, further reading gave me a strong vibe that this is more for potential Malaysian Chinese emigrants.

As the content comes from the personal perspectives and preferences of the Soong brothers who are Malaysian Chinese, you may need to make an effort to look past topics such as the deterioration of Mandarin, Chinese restaurant businesses, and the experiences of Malaysian Chinese immigrant families in order to relate objectively to the practical pointers provided.

The 144-page book also provides tips on how to overcome the difficulties of finding a job, choosing the right suburb to live in, when you should buy property, how to start a business, and driving in Australia.

Written within a rather academic, essay-like structure, complete with an elaborate bibliography, the book is sectioned for quick and easy reading.

As one reaches the final pages of the book, the question of whether to emigrate or not to emigrate is left to the reader to contemplate.

Despite the Soong brothers' reiteration that this decision is being solely left to the reader and they do not want to exert any influence, one cannot help but feel slightly prodded into the "yes, let's emigrate" camp after reaching the end of the book – which is natural, I suppose, as it is after all designed to help people seeking opportunities away from their birth place.

Of course, like all great journeys, each chapter in this book is designed to make one chuckle and gasp a little while pondering their great step forward. Or should I say, across.

Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy


BRIDGET Jones – one of the most beloved characters in modern literature – is baaack!

Should we be amused ... or very, very afraid?

Well, for those who loved her, there's still a bit of the old Bridget to love in this third instalment. That's the v.g. (very good, for those who don't speak Bridget) news.

The bad news is, like most sequels, it suffers from the law of diminishing returns. For me, though it has a few laugh-out-loud moments, this outing is less enjoyable than the first two.

For the uninitiated, Bridget Jones's Diary made its debut way back in 1996. Its author Helen Fielding and her potty-mouthed, diary-keeping, calorie-counting heroine practically invented chick lit. Thirty-something Bridget became the poster girl for a generation, inventing terms such as smug marrieds, singletons and emotional f***wits.

I really dug the first book. I even liked the 1998 sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason, although the plot – which finds Bridget in a Thai prison – veered from plausibility.

Both books were so successful, they were made into v.g. movies starring Renee Zellweger (as the title character), Colin Firth and Hugh Grant.

Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy has received a mixed reception from critics since its release last month. Reviews range from lukewarm to downright hostile. ("You're not dead yet, but you might as well be," sniffed one reviewer. Ouch.)

The novel drew particular ire from longtime fans after it was revealed that Bridget's love interest, Mark Darcy, had died several years before Mad began. At 51, Bridget is now a widow and mother of two.

Set in contemporary London, the book has Bridget negotiating a new phase in her life, including the challenges of maintaining sex appeal as the years roll by, and the nightmares of drunken texting, skinny jeans, total lack of Twitter followers and televisions that need 90 buttons and three remotes to simply turn on.

So, where is the character growth, you ask? At 51, shouldn't Bridget learn from past mistakes and be less foolish than her 30-something phase?

It doesn't help that her life is populated by well-meaning but seemingly immature friends. They pitch in with matchmaking and fashion advice ("You can't rely on your arse in jeans at our age.").

In one scene, Bridget and gang enter a dimly lit nightspot, and she has a panic attack, yelling "I'm too old!" "So?" retorts one of her buddies. "It's practically pitch black."

Bridget's obsession about her age, weight and sex life (or rather, the lack of one) is resolved when she meets a 29-year-old hottie. His name is Roxster, and boy oh boy, is he dreamy ... and there is a second suitor in the wings, one that's more age-appropriate.

Other pressing questions that Bridget faces in this book are:

What do you do when your girlfriend's 60th birthday party is the same day as your boyfriend's 30th?

Is it better to die of Botox or die of loneliness because you're so wrinkly?

Is it wrong to lie about your age at online dating sites?

Is it morally wrong to have a blow-dry when one of your children has head lice? (The head lice bit becomes an annoying running joke.)

Is it normal to be too vain to put on your reading glasses when checking your toy boy for head lice?

Does the Dalai Lama actually tweet or is that his assistant?

Is it normal to get fewer followers the more you tweet? (OK, I for one find Bridget's attempts at acquiring Twitter followers hilarious. After visiting her doctor, she blurts out, "Will you follow me on Twitter?")

Throughout Mad, Bridget faithfully chronicles her stumbles through the challenges of loss, single motherhood, technology, and rediscovering her sexuality in – Warning! Bad, outdated phrase approaching! – middle age.

If you're a Bridget fan, this is a timely read, as it is interspersed with touching, funny moments.

If you're not ... well, there's always the inevitable movie adaptation.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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