|Get the best of Oprah.com in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletters!|
Amy Shearn (558 posts)
"I harnessed my complaining energy and used it to create a really good life." How a "venting fast" can lift your spirits.
The mustaches are cute, but this is by far the most moving tribute to "Movember" we've ever seen.
The Life-Lifter: High-school football players, plus orange socks, equals one of several ways to make the world a better place. Thank you, Random Acts of Kindness Club.
A new book suggests that, awfully enough, my husband might be onto something. Can objects tell a story, or even the history of the world? This is the conceit behind the British bestseller called, accurately enough, A History of the World in 100 Objects, now out in the United States. The book's author, Neil MacGregor, is the director of the British Museum (where all the objects in the book currently live), and he recently spoke to Jeffery Brown at PBS News Hour about the selection of objects and what stories they tell, One of the objects they discussed was one of the oldest tools in existence, a 2-million-year-old stone chipped into a sharp edge that MacGregor said is the "kind of tool that lets us all leave Africa and live everywhere, because this lets you strip the meat off the animals to get more protein, break the bones to get the marrow...This is what lets us...become us."
From here, they discuss objects as diverse as the Rosetta Stone and a solar-powered lamp, each of which has implicit in it an entire story about a certain time and place. As MacGregor puts it, "a single object lets you explore a world that you want to know about....a thing lets you journey immediately into another world. And it's a thing made by somebody like you with hands like yours, a mind like yours. And you're on a journey of poetic imagination to a place that you could never reach otherwise."
This got me thinking about the objects with which we surround ourselves. It's that old "alien archaeologists" scenario (that's an old scenario, right?)—essentially, what is the story the aliens would construct about my life based on the objects in my home? It's the toaster oven we use to make our toast; it's the dog bed we picked out and purchased for the mutt that lives in our house. As MacGregor puts it, "if you take one object and go into it in-depth, then you learn a lot about the people that made it, why they made it, the world it was for, and what it is to be a person needing objects and making objects." It could be that my husband has a point, that our things tell the story of our world. (Which is why I'm still throwing out that old dial-up modem.)
For more, including a video of the interview and a photo essay, check out PBS NewsHour's Art Beat blog.
Let go of an object without letting go of memories.
6 everyday objects that can save your life.
That's right. For here is a little present for anyone who ever stuck a comic book inside a science textbook and now regrets missing the lesson: astrobiology graphic novels, brought to you by NASA. Issue #2 of Astrobiology has just been released (you can download the PDF or get the mobile app), and its focus is the history of our exploration of Mars.
It looks pretty, is full of slick illustrations, and contains a lot of good information, so that even I can now say things in casual conversations that will make me seem smart, such as, "Well, you know it was the images returned from NASA’s Mariner 4 mission in 1965 that finally put to rest speculations about the famous 'irrigation canals' on Mars so popular in the 1800s," and, "Of course, NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, launching in late 2011 will bring us closer to determining if there was ever life on Mars," at which point I can perhaps sing a bit of David Bowie's "Life on Mars." Or maybe not that last part. I don't know, I'm feeling awfully inspired.
Download the graphic novel here, and keep checking the Astrobiology blog for Issue #3.
More scientific fun:
Want to be an astronaut?
Meet 3 science rock stars.
Brilliant teens' science fair projects.
Keep the traditions you love and scrap the ones you don't—and more solutions to holiday stress.
Surprisingly powerful, only a little scary: Photographs of modern-day Annie Oakleys.
A (beautiful) way to understand your own style: this illustrator draws her outfit, every day.
Be sure to get the number one super hot educational toy this season! It's...wooden blocks. Well, that was easy. Now as to the reason why....
The Life-Lifter: Homeless kids become photo-journalists, and learn to picture their dreams.
So says Jessica Rogers, the 18 inch tall, 14-year-old swimmer who hopes to take home the 2012 Paralympic gold. And I for one believe her. This girl is amazing. First of all, will you look at her arm muscles? She is buff. Jessica was born with Caudal Regression Syndrome, which means she has no lower spine and extremely small legs. Jessica also engages in a grueling training schedule, waking up at 3:30 every morning before school to prepare for the Paralympics, according to the Daily Mail. As she told the Mail, "When I'm swimming, I feel free."
Her mother, who adopted her when she was a baby, calls Jessica, "a typical teenager," and told the Mail that she's "incredibly determined. But she sees herself as the same as everyone else." And she is. Except that she's a much, much better swimmer. And she doesn't seem to spend any time feeling sorry for herself: "I don't think I'm special—I was born like this and just get on with life. Everyone is different in their own way." We have to disagree: Jessica seems pretty special to us.
Learn more about Jessica's charity for other kids born with Caudal Regression Syndrome and see an amazing video of her swimming, at the Huffington Post.
Every Monday, we're rounding up the things, small and big, that make us stop and think. Today, we're inspired by...
"There are no limits. There are absolutely no limits and I started to dream big again.”
-The Biggest Loser winner Ali Vincent on losing over half her body weight.
"It's great that you get to go out and actually save someone’s life, hopefully, or at least make a difference to someone, you know. When you know that they’re in trouble, you do everything you can to get there."
-Prince William, who helped to rescue two stranded sailors this weekend, on working with the Royal Air Force's Search and Rescue Force.
"It's not like it's hard to be decent and respectful and well
A breathtaking performance by an aerialist who makes circus performers look like wimps.
How to save time and be more creative. Step one: stop beating yourself up for not being productive in the past.
Music that will make the whole family happy. (Yes, the Muppets are involved.)
Fight holiday stress with pandas, soccer, and Mr. T.
The Life-Lifter: An animal shelter is saved with the help of $26 donations... and a 26-toed cat.
My what were what? I looked. "Oh. Ohhhhh." She directed me to a bike shop and proceeded to fill up the stroller tires. "Free air," she said, as if imparting some sort of runic wisdom. We continued on, and suddenly the whole world seemed lighter, easier, friendlier. I could have sworn the sun came out from behind the clouds. The stroller wasn't such a burden! It skimmed across the sidewalk like a water skipper on the surface of an alpine pond. I didn't quite start singing something from "The Sound of Music," but I could have, that's how completely my worldview had shifted.
It occurs to me that this is something of a metaphor for life. It's not even that we make things more difficult than they need to be, but that we don't question whether or not they need to be difficult.
We assume that if something is hard we just have to deal. So I've been applying the flat tire test to everything that comes my way that seems difficult, and, surprise surprise, it's helping. Thanksgiving loomed, filling me with dread. Why? I usually love Thanksgiving! When I thought about it, I realized I just felt overwhelmed by the idea of hosting and all that went with it, but worried that if I begged off our friends would think I was lazy and lame. And you know what? I asked them if they would mind hosting, they agreed with alacrity, and sent out an email with a suggested menu. Free air! Once I pinpointed the problem and simplified our plans for fun, my energy returned. Free air!
As the holiday season envelops us with its many demands, I think of what a wise woman—ok, my mother—likes to say: Just because something's good doesn't mean it doesn't cause anxiety. What's subtly, almost invisibly, keeping your energy down, your spirits low? Can you apply some "free air," so to speak, and lighten your own load?
When your biggest roadblock is...you.
Is it you or your life that's the problem?
That's why I'm glad to have come across these 17 Ways to Persuade People. The advice is meant for people in marketing, but I think it applies to the rest of us too, whether our intended audience is the PTA board or a group of coworkers or a toddler who doesn't believe in eating food.
The whole article offers some great ideas, but here were the tips I thought were most interesting:
"Emphasizing the positive can be more persuasive than pointing out the negative." This seems to apply to pretty much every arena of life. So less, "You putting on your shoes and then taking them off and them putting them on again is making us so late," and more, "I bet you could put on those shoes even faster!"
"Story beats data." Yes, I know this already. Cautionary tales about a little girl who refuses to bathe until trees start growing out of the dirt on her skin have been much more successful than saying, for example, "People have to bathe."
"If something happens often enough, you will eventually be persuaded." Which is why I keep putting those things called vegetables on my kid's dinner plate!
Whatever you plan to use your new found powers for, read the whole article for the secrets of persuasion, including the fascinating phenomenon called "The Sullivan Nod."
Read more on getting your point across:
Dr Phil's Rules for Talking and Listening
What Oprah knows for sure about communicating
The single woman's guide to celebrating Thanksgiving.
Sandwiches that go way beyond PBJ.
You've heard of slow food, but what about slow music? The world's longest concert turns 10.
Scientist develop the lightest material ever, and then take the most amazing photograph of it.
The Life-Lifter: Three years after a horrifying chimp attack, this woman has a face—and the hopes for a normal life—again.