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Sites to See (87 posts)
Rachel Chong has an interesting piece at co.EXIST about volunteerism, and the quandary of how to make it relevant to people. Chong points out that most volunteer opportunities involve things like painting houses and serving food, but these activities don't play to most American's professional skills. In other words, if you're an accountant, why not devote a few hours not to ladling soup but to offering pro bono accounting work for your local shelter? As Chong writes, "When volunteering doesn’t result in an impactful outcome, people volunteer halfheartedly or they don’t volunteer at all." Sharing your professional skills can not only be more helpful, will probably be more satisfying to you as well. Since MLK Day has been designated a national day of service, there's no time like now to start. Read Rachel Chong's piece to learn about how her organization, Catchafire, can help you to help others —their website can match you with pro bono opportunities that match your skill set in a manner of minutes.
Ways for Kids to Volunteer
How to Be a Hero in Hard Times
What Kind of Volunteer Are You?
There are many aspects of winter that I find uninspiring—the dark evenings, the hours spent wrestling kids into coats—but the phenomena of Ice Palaces is simply not one of them. How often, in our daily lives, do we get to visit such magical places, twinkling and sense-defying and straight out of fairy tales? As a graduate student in tooth-crackingly-cold Minnesota I used to visit the St Paul Winter Festival's Ice Palace and marvel at all the work that had been put into a structure that would exist for just a few weeks, like those ambitious World's Fair Exhibitions they used to make back when people had attention spans.
Of all the gorgeous pictures on the internet of incredible structures made of ice (and to be sure there are many!), I'm most moved by Brent Christensen's Silverthorne Ice Castle, a cavernous, surreal-looking place that looks as if it were constructed by an army of icy elves, or else appeared on its own in an enchanted forest. Apparently neither of these is true, and it was instead put together by Christensen, using, amazingly, only ice and water. Just look at these photos, and then think for a minute about how painstakingly this beautiful thing has been put together, how much work Christensen has put into it, all so that people can visit, feel enchanted, and then the whole thing can melt away like a mandala.
At least for the next few weeks. And so it goes in the world of New Year's Resolutions. Which is why I was so pleased to learn about the 50/50 challenge. The 50/50 challenge is the kind of year-long-commitment that actually sounds fun and enriching and—what!—like I might actually do.
The idea is to read 50 books and see 50 movies in 2012. (That's about one book and one movie a week, mathematicians.) You can sign up on the website, but don't be scared by words like "commit" and "rules." You don't have to know what you're going to read or watch. They don't even have to be "good." As the website says, "Go ahead, read Kardashian Konfidential, we won't tell."
Clicking on the photos enlarges them and offers a caption about the departed person. "I found out via Facebook that my first love died a premature death this summer at age 41," one caption reads. "I find it incredibly strange that he no longer exists, out there somewhere." Another photo is labelled, "My brother was always a ham. He was also an amazing protector and friend. Looking through pictures of our childhood, I was amazed at how nearly every picture had him with his arm around me supporting me. He truly taught me the meaning of love." And another: "This is how I would like to remember my sister Sandy, optimistic and mischievous at the same time...She was strong and brave up until the very end."
Viewing this gallery offers an irresistible peek in to the stories of others, and the format is thought-provoking. What one photograph would encapsulate my life? What moment in time would your loved ones remember most about life with you? What pose, what face, what mood would you most miss about the people you love? If you're not crying by now, maybe it's time to go slice some onions or something. At any rate, when you see your loved ones over the holidays, be sure to hug them tight, tell them you love them, and remember to take lots of photos.
You must see this photo gallery to believe it: The Lives They Loved, at the New York Times
Coping With Loss
The Digital Trail of the Dead
"You call that a tree?!" Sure, you could spend the holidays waging these all-too-familiar wars, or you could read this article and learn how to avoid common fights.
Must-see photographs: Santa sightings from all over.
A grandmother's hip-hop Hanukkah, and three other radio stories for the festival of lights.
How we should all spend our retirements: These senior citizens must be the most joyful flash mob ever.
The Life-Lifter: After losing two of her children in a car wreck, one Ohio woman pays it forward with an online charitable exchange that connects families in need of help.
If you're dreaming of a white Christmas, Google Chrome is here to help.
Friends, talk, and the "ruined table': Anna Wintour's moving tribute to Christopher Hitchens.
These amazing photos capture the hottest event in fashion. Rabbit fashion, that is.
A simple, hearty dinner to last all week, so that you can get on to planning the big holiday meal.
The Life-Lifter: It's just that time of year: A little boy's beloved teddy bear is lost and, as result of heroic efforts, found again.
In my current life, when I arrive at a museum and see a school bus lurking outside, I groan inwardly. And outwardly. The rowdy kids zooming through the exhibits, the teachers' futile attempts to control the herds. But if I try, I can still remember the unique thrill of being on a field trip myself. The magic of a day away from school, the dislocating experience of seeing your teachers out in the world as if they were normal people, the buzz of traveling in a huge group of peers. And maybe it is slightly possible that I was sort of a nerd (just kidding, impossible!), but I recall loving museums – the creepy, old–school taxidermy dioramas at the Field Museum in Chicago were my favorite – and the idea that the world was just brimming with exciting things to learn about. Dinosaurs! Space ships! Plus, a mini-McDonald’s in the museum basement!
So if you too are suffering from a bit of field trip
nostalgia, you’ll want to fill out your permission slip, grab a buddy, and take
Scholastic’s virtual field trip of New York City’s
Museum of Natural
History. The videos are hosted by Brian Selznick, the author of Wonderstruck
and The Invention of Hugo Cabret (the inspiration for the new Martin Scorsese
film Hugo). The very engaging Selznick narrates this series of short videos, offering behind-the-scenes looks at a few
of the museum’s most interesting exhibits. It's a little brain-break in the middle of a mind-numbing day.
Okay, so it’s meant to be for kids, but it works just as well for curious adults. And you don’t even have to ride a bus that kind of smells like feet to get there. Watch the videos on the Scholastic site.
I love a good mixtape. The mix cd my husband made for me when we first started dating is firmly lodged in my car's cd player (yeah, cds!), and I probably even have somewhere the actual tapes my best friend and I exchanged in high school, complete with collaged covers. I'm always happy to come across a great playlist, that newfangled cousin of the late, great mixtape. But what, I know we've all asked ourselves, would our favorite fictional characters listen to?
Flavorwire knows. Here, from the wish-I'd-thought-of-that files, are literary character mixtapes. Characters like Elizabeth Bennet, Captain Ahab, Nancy Drew, and The Little Prince are given their own playlists of songs that so perfectly capture their essences you just have to laugh, stream the songs, and pick up your well-worn paperbacks to read along. The song choices are spot-on, and you have to love commentary like, "We think a donkey who counts the days since anyone spoke to him would nod glumly along with the intro to this song." (That's Eeyore, loving "Comfortably Numb," by Pink Floyd)
And not to be completely nerdy (too late, I know), but it occurs to me that imagining playlists like this would be a great project for reading-averse students or even writers trying to flesh out a fictional character. Or someone who just really wants to commune with her inner Lady Macbeth. Or, you know, Tigger.
Read more about books:
Great short stories
The best winter reading
Is loneliness an infectious disease? One woman's plan to cure herself of loneliness, once and for all.
Hey girl. It's feminist Ryan Gosling. Prepare to giggle and forward.
"To dream of the impossible maybe..." A mysterious artist is gracing libraries with paper sculptures that have to be seen to be believed.
Sleep more, spend time with your friends, and other ways to invest your time wisely.
The Life-Lifter: Good news about... dental work. No, really: this charity provides free dental work in exchange for small acts of kindness.
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.