Wednesday, 12 November 2008

tab, you're it!

Tabs that are open on my computer right this very second:

Alan Yentob’s Imagine – last night’s ‘Let there be light’ episode – on BBC iPlayer

hungryman’s inside-outing ‘Timesculpture’ ad for Toshiba

Gerald Cooper’s amazing talk about bees

Image search results for ‘Capitoline Wolf’

Karim Benzema’s Wikipedia entry

An overview of a previous episode of Imagine profiling Doris Lessing

Malcolm Gladwell’s look at the social life of paper

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

the art of happiness

I’ve been a bit obsessed by the question of how to be happy for a long time. So much of our happiness is down to our personal quirks, the vagaries of our days, whether the guy in the cafĂ© butters your bagel while it’s hot out of the toaster so it goes all deliciously melty, or waits for it to go cold and then thickly slathers cold grease over it. But it seems that the structures for improving happiness might actually be fairly quantifiable.

To some extent, a one-size-fits-all approach is still pretty effective. Physical activity is proven to improve emotional wellbeing, for example. So is feeling engaged within a community, be it colleagues, family, or fellow members of the Justin Vernon Appreciation Society.

But listening to Martin Seligman’s talk on TED last night, it got me thinking about how much of happiness is also knowing who we are, and skewing our lives in the directions we’re more or less built to go in. He talks about the Pleasurable Life, the Good Life, and the Meaningful Life, and though I’m totally mangling this, each of us is hardwired with certain skills to derive more happiness from one of these ways of living more than any other.

It made me realise I maybe just don’t know myself very well. Which is interesting, really…hi, nice to meet me! I sat down to take Seligman’s Signature Strengths questionnaire and the process of working out my answers was as interesting as the results. I think it’s cheating, but I had to enlist my housemate, Badam’s, help with some of them. Would friends say I can be arrogant? Um, Badam?

So 240 questions, 2 glasses of wine and the realisation that I am utterly unambitious later, I get to find out what my signature strengths are and it’s pretty much a longwinded way of saying surprise! YOU’RE A LIBRAN.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

when you sit right down in the middle of yourself you better have a comfortable chair

I'm terrified of getting old. I never thought I was. My thinking that was more to do with thinking that either (a) age just wasn't going to get its bony fingers around my taut young limbs, oh no, (b) it was so far away as to be laughable, or (c) if I did have to get older, I'd just do it better, more supple-ly, more decadently, more elegantly, more eccentrically than anyone else.


Having been told by a doctor that my stiff, painful knee was the result of a medical condition known as AGEING, and happening across the cruelest magnifying mirror on the planet and therefore meeting my crow's feet for real for the first time, it would appear that, oh shit, I'm not special. Not only will I really, truly have to get older, but it's already happening. Uh-oh.

So I'm taking lessons.

From the majestic Ms Maya Angelou (talking first about how proud she is to see a black man in the whitest of houses, but fro about 6:30, reciting 'Still I Rise' in that honeyed bass of hers that gives me goosebumps):

From the irrepressible hip cat that is Mr Oscar Brown Jr:

And from the inimitable Ed Rondthaler, the best looking, most electric 102 year old I've EVER seen.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

and all of a sudden, hope the United States has a new President. I can’t explain how excited I am, or even necessarily why. He’s black, and I’m effervescent with happiness about the most visible political force in the world having a black face, given the proportion of the world – and of US citizens – who see black faces in the mirror every single morning and yet have had to wait this long to see it reflected back to them from the political looking glass. He stood staunchly for women’s reproductive rights, and has a wife who isn’t going to be anyone’s shadow. That bodes well. He knows our oil days are and must be numbered, and is willing to be bold in finding solutions.

These could all be reasons I might have cast my vote for him, had I the chance.

But the main reason is just that he made it an election about hope. And enough people tilted their heads and listened and were lit up by his dogged hope to start a glow that’s gathered enough luminescence to banish the darkness of the past 8 years.

I could only ever vote for hope.

So now I want to know, how long will my homeland wait for its own black Prime Minister? Because as buoying as today’s world news is, a sad voice inside me thinks that may not be something I’ll ever live to see happen in Australia. People who weren’t bought and sold but enslaved anyway, people who cared for the land and all its inhabitants far better than its immigrants ever have.

But today’s all about the hope. I’m keeping my own small candle lit.

Monday, 3 November 2008


Gluttony - Gola
Originally uploaded by andrea francesco

Because I am a girl in need of a cattle prod, I have been scheming and formulating and signing up to things left, right and centre. I can consequently announce that I am threatening to actually make some goddamned progress on those resolutions.

To whit: I have rejoined the gym, and have resolved to get to yoga at least a couple of times a year week (oopsy. A genuine, and slightly telling, mistake...). My joints are creakier than Tin Man’s. I've been swimming again and revelling in the slick feeling of immersion. I have also resolved to take a week off the sauce.* And then maybe a bit more. I also have two apples on my desk. PROOF.

And I haven’t cried in the sandwich shop for at least a week. Possibly not that much of an achievement given my credit crunch-induced packed lunch regime. Shit. Still.

Most importantly, I’m going to give NaBloPoMo the kind of red hot go only a Lil’ Aussie Battler can. No more of this once a month business. Look out, internets.

*Possibly excluding Wednesday’s expedition to the Wild West (well, Shepherds Bush Empire) to see the Fleet Foxes when a quieting G&T may well be the only thing between me and a tussle with security after trying to hug Robin Pecknold.