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something to think about (357 posts)
Yesterday, the New York Times profiled a project being run by the Scholar's Lab at the University of Virginia. Kelly Johnston, a geographic information systems specialist, created a series of maps that used Census Data to calculate the Jeffersonian ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The "life" map was made by color-coding areas of the country according to their life expectancy at birth statistics (the south, unfortunately, faired poorly in this area). The "liberty" map was made by color-coding areas according to their incarceration rates (not so free: Nevada, Texas, the panhandle of Florida and Colorado) The "pursuit of happiness" map, however, was based on "the ratio of arts, entertainment, and recreation establishments to the total population."
The Times suggested that low population numbers of Wyoming and Montana skewed their high happiness levels. But speaking without any authority whatsoever, I find the whole criteria a bit fishy. Arts, recreation and entertainment (ie: paintings, skiing, and a matinee showing of Planet of the Apes)? Yes, these things make us happy, but what about people who don't like those activities? Surely, these folks pursue happiness too.
After doing zero research and obtaining not a single Phd, I deeply believe that the only truly accurate measure of national happiness is...drumroll...ice cream. Have you ever met a person who didn't smile at a double-dip in a waffle cone with sprinkles? Even raw food people like it. And vegans, if it's sorbet. And people who slam the door on children shaking little boxes of change for UNICEF.
A map of the country's ice-cream parlors, ice-cream trucks, and restaurants serving the frozen dairy delicacy might give us a much clearer view of just how assiduously the nation is pursuing happiness. Then again, if people are eating ice cream, they may not have to pursue anything—they're already happy.
My toddler has a blue fabric banner that hangs on the wall at home. On the banner is a little bear with a blank face. Below him are little pockets, containing all the different faces you can stick on the blank one: the sad face, the happy face, the silly face, the sick face, the angry face. This is supposed to teach my son about emotions (as if life doesn’t do that already). However, one face is missing: the movie-sad face.
A good movie-sad, as we all know, is totally different than a regular sad—in that you get all that sorrow and grief without having to actually lose or break up with anybody. Movie-sadness will stay with you over time,too, causing you to cry openly, should you remember a certain scene while spacing out a work or should you hear the theme song by accident (The Way We Were? Love Story? Anybody? Everybody?)
A few weeks ago, Scientific American reported on the film clip most used during psychology experiments to inspire tears. The winner...drumrolll...is the final scene in the The Champ. Even thinking about this scene makes me want to cry. I can hear Ricky’s scraped little voice, see an earlier image of his dad carrying a stuffed animal that he won for Ricky at carnival but was unable to give him because of some tragic plot twist that now escapes me since 30 years have passed since I’ve seen the film.
The doctors in charge of selecting the scenes say that finding the right scene is tough: “Some film scenes were rejected because they elicited a mixture of emotions, maybe anger and sadness from a scene depicting an act of injustice, or disgust and amusement from a bathroom comedy gag. The psychologists wanted to be able to produce one predominant, intense emotion [sadness] at a time."
Perhaps they need some help from a woman with absolutely no qualifications save for the ability to weep madly into box of popcorn slathered in butter-flavored oil byproducts.
Monday is too stressful. Wednesday is already hump day. But Tuesday is "you" day: a day when you have the energy to do—or plan—something fresh and unexpected that might just turn your whole week around.
Indulge in a sweet summer campfire classic. How to cook up a totally new kind of chocolate-marshamallow-graham-cracker sandwich tomorrow, National S'mores Day.
Get a little closer to a Great White than your TV screen. Shark Week is over; learn how to swim with sharks ...which, by the way, you don't want to do.
Impress babies, priests and bosses by curtailing your cursing. How to make a life-boosting change by cleaning up your language (except when you're hurt).
Get ready—mentally and logistically—to declutter your home and life this Saturday, Garage Sale Day. How to throw a fast, freeing yard sale with expert advice from Peter Walsh.
Check email. Get the new window screens. Pay the $10 co-pay for the emergency room trip last spring. Members' night at the museum (take kids?). Milk, milk, milk.
Mental lint. It drifts around in our brains—all those tiny bits of thought fluff that get in the way of our focusing on the stuff that really matters. How can we reduce these endless, minor to-dos and worries—or even, one day, get rid of them? We asked top productivity experts to give us their 9 most effective strategies.
When the hilarious, heart-warming book Unlikely Friendships came out this month—documenting a rhino and a goat that were best buddies, as well as an orangutan and a tiger cub—we were instantly reminded of very human "odd couples" we've observed at restaurants, befriended on vacation or even been in ourselves. For example, the Cheetah and the Anatolian Shepherd.
The Animal Version: "The dog—calm, loveable, adaptable—helps the cheetah relax and accept unfamiliar situations."
The Human Version: She's the head of a massive real-estate company. He's a carpenter who dabbles in guitar. During dinner at a restaurant, she gets upset about their table and asks the hostess to move them. When it's time to order, she gets the tacos without tortillas and the salad with extra, extra, extra ripe avocado. Then she requests three lemon slices in her water. Meanwhile, he sits there, humming a random tune and playing with his fork.
When her water arrives with two lemon slices, she openly fumes. He smiles very politely at the waiter but asks for the third one, plus gives her his slice from his glass. By now, you might be thinking, "This guy spends his life running around after this woman, cleaning up after her demands. He's the nice one but...maybe kind of a wimp?" Then the tacos arrive with tortillas. A look of outrage and panic crosses the woman's face. She opens her mouth, just as he pats her hand—tenderly but firmly. She shuts her mouth and smiles at him, as if nobody else exists. There it is: the comfort of being reminded that somebody knows who you are...and who you want to be.
The big decade birthdays are confusing to all of us. When you're turning 30, 40, 50, 60, or up are you supposed to throw a huge bash and embrace the moment with joy? Or are you supposed to throw a huge bash and pretend you're embracing the moment with joy? Or are you supposed to slink off into the night with a good friend and a bottle of champagne? There are my questions. My last milestone birthday went a little dimly. Slinking off is never as much fun as you want it to be.
Thankfully, one spunky woman at the outer edge of 49 has given me a completely new view on how to celebrate the next 0-birthday. Quite frankly, I'm not sure if it's her or her cause that is more inspiring. But I'm definitely going to to tune in to see if she shaves her head to celebrate!
My mismatched set of flutes--born when a friend organized a small birthday gathering--has grown over the years, and the best part is that it actually gets a fair amount of use. It doesn't sit in a display case, but in one of my kitchen cabinets. I break the glasses out every time we're drinking bubbly (which isn't only on New Year's Eve). And, you can find champagne flutes anywhere, from Ireland to your local dollar store. They are are my version of snow globes, available at any and all tourist traps, though they don't get dusty. They're akin to a snow globe you can use.
Sarabeth Levine, who runs the New York and Florida bakery and restaurant Sarabeth's, would agree that collections can be practical: Levine collects cookie jars (they must have stable lids and be light enough that they're easy to lift). Former American Heritage editor Richard Snow collects plates from New York City restaurants he used to go to with his dad when he was a child, prowling eBay for items like a butter dish from the Horn & Hardart automat. "Most antiques, you have to take care of," Snow wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal. "[But] my family eats off [the plates] every night."
Here's the thing. If it were just about practicality, we'd buy the champagne flutes/cookie jar/dinner plates we needed and get on with life. But when there's more to it: the attachment I feel when I take a sip from the very glass that held prosecco as I listened to my sister's speech on my wedding day. That's a feeling a display case of fancy antiques just can't match.
Debbie Reynolds' Hollywood Treasures
Break Free from the Collectibles Cluttering Your Home
How to Start Collecting Art
Daughter's perspective: I'm all grown up—down to the age spot on my forehead—and still, I act like a child around my mother.
Mom's perspective: She's all grown up—and still, she doesn't understand what I tried to do as a parent and (gulp) a person.
How can the two of you get around all the murk and misunderstandings of the past and start a new relationship? This week, one woman gives it a shot with her own personal to-change list called: 12 Things I'm Too Stubborn To Tell My Mother.
Back when I was a little girl in day camp, we used to wrap long strands of multicolored yarn around crossed popsicle sticks. Our counselors called these "god's eyes." I never understood that name. It seemed to me that the craft ought to be called "your counselors are bored teenagers who care very little about art projects."
Thirty years later, I've been tracking the much celebrated Life in A Day film, which opens in theaters this week. Life in Day presents a multi-faceted perspective on the world—created with videos submitted by people across the globe who shot images of their lives on July 24, 2010.
Meanwhile, Good Media recently reported on a very similar project called One Day on Earth. For this film, people from every country on the planet simultaneously captured aspects their lives on October 10, 2010. (You can pre-order it online, or sign up to make your own film on the next upcoming shoot on November 11, 2011.)
I thought back to childhood and that then-mysterious yarn-denoting phrase. I still have no idea what it means in terms of crafts, but in terms of these two films, God's eye is the ideal moniker, because both documentaries let us experience the astonishing, infinite variety of lives being lived all over the planet—as well as reflect the beauty of our own.
Take a step back from the situation, the saying goes, and things will be better. As with most sayings, we tend to ignore the idea. Now, however, is the time to search the attic for any dusty plaques or grandma-looking needlepoint pillows bearing that message.
This month, researchers at the Emotion Regulation and Self-Control lab at the University of Michigan revealed that a change in perspective can lead to newfound wisdom. "In a nutshell," said assistant professor Ethan Kross, "People often experience difficulty making decisions when it comes to intensely meaningful situations."
Giving yourself some psychological distance, his team discovered, can help you think—and understand—in deeper ways. How was that distance achieved? By asking people to visualize their futures as if they were a fly on the wall—so that they could see themselves.
For example, if you couldn't find a job, thinking about your having a job in the future—as say, a software programer—might lead to a less-charged, bigger-picture understanding of your present life, one takes into account the rough economy and your lack technical skills...instead just of how hard you're trying or how tired you are or how frustrated. Voila! Your tired, frustrated, non-technical self now has a potential avenue to explore: taking a computer class.