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June 24, 2008

George Carlin "did it" - a final goodbye

It’s impossible to fully characterize George Carlin’s influence on stand-up comedy. Some might say thay he created it. He will be missed. Here’s a well-penned tribute to George by Jerry in the New York Times:

I know George didn’t believe in heaven or hell. Like death, they were just more comedy premises. And it just makes me even sadder to think that when I reach my own end, whatever tumbling cataclysmic vortex of existence I’m spinning through, in that moment I will still have to think, “Carlin already did it.”

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Do you know Joy Nash?

Forget the Dove Natural commercials. This is the real deal. Every young woman I know should spend some time with Joy. This video tackles the problem of thinking up perfect responses to unflattering (mean) remarks about one’s body.

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June 12, 2008

Read: Words on pages can be powerful tools -- if used correctly

Wonderful essay/book-review by Jessa Crispin, found at The Smart Set

It starts when you’re in the first grade. All of a sudden, reading is no longer this exciting thing you just figured out how to do, it has become “good for you.” You’re given free books through a program that says Reading Is Fun-damental, way before any of your teachers will tell you what “fundamental” means. Soon after you’re bribed with a free pizza from Pizza Hut if you can finish five whole books. The message is clear: reading is not something you’re supposed to enjoy, it’s something that will make you a better person.

It continues on into adulthood. We’re given continuous updates on the state of reading in our country as if it were the unemployment rate. Orlando Bloom shows up on posters in libraries, holding a book that you’re slightly surprised to see is right side up. “Read!” he tells us. Read, and you can be as effeminate as he is. If you’re the type of person who enjoys reading — and not just enjoys it, but takes four books on a five-hour flight just in case you finish one and then your back up book isn’t as compelling as you thought it would be and the thought of not having reading material fills you with dread — all of this can be confusing. I would get a lot more reading done if you would stop yelling in my ear about how important reading is, thank you very much.

For all this talk about how reading is good for you, is it really? Can reading actually change you? Maryanne Wolf says yes, starting with when you first learn to read. In Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, she explains how the human brain did not evolve to develop a written language. Instead, the culture evolved to develop one, and the brain had to adapt certain areas previously used for vision, object recognition, and abstract thought. Different languages use different parts of the brain, depending on whether those languages are written in alphabet or logosyllabic form (such as Chinese).

“There are no genes specific only to reading… Unlike its component parts such as vision and speech, which are genetically organized, reading has no direct genetic program passing it on to future generations.” Every child has to rewire her little brain to figure out what Dick and Jane are up to this week. If they don’t learn to read and spend their lives illiterate, they will literally think differently than literate people do.

The more you read and the better you become at reading comprehension, the more of your brain becomes engaged in the act. Wolf calls this the “expert reading” level. When you read a text, your brain brings forth all related experiences from your life and from your reading history. As an expert reader, a more significant portion of your brain starts integrating that material into your thought processes.


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June 6, 2008

A quote for the weekend

One needs to be susceptible to spontaneous laughter, about everything and everybody, especially oneself. Even in the depths of sorrow, one must laugh. Joy and sorrow are not antithetical; they are complimentary. All of life is at once essentially tragic and essentially humorous.

Quote - Robert K. Greenleaf, Purpose and Laughter

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June 3, 2008

Fun, Food & Opa

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Growing up Greek-Canadian meant any significant event in your life was celebrated with food, music and family. Now that we’ve settled in our new home and have a huge garden, we’re carrying on this tradition by hosting our first (and what will become annual) mini Greek day on June 14.

And yes, there will be lamb.

And music.

And lots of food.

But most importantly, we’re opening up our home to our extended support network of friends, family and co-workers. You’ll be there too, won’t you?

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Read: Blogging - It's Good for You

Article published by Jessica Wapner, May 2008, Scientific American.

Self-medication may be the reason the blogosphere has taken off. Scientists (and writers) have long known about the therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. But besides serving as a stress-coping mechanism, expressive writing produces many physiological benefits. Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery. A study in the February issue of the Oncologist reports that cancer patients who engaged in expressive writing just before treatment felt markedly better, mentally and physically, as compared with patients who did not.

Scientists now hope to explore the neurological underpinnings at play, especially considering the explosion of blogs. According to Alice Flaherty, a neuroscientist at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, the placebo theory of suffering is one window through which to view blogging. As social creatures, humans have a range of pain-related behaviors, such as complaining, which acts as a “placebo for getting satisfied,” Flaherty says. Blogging about stressful experiences might work similarly.

Flaherty, who studies conditions such as hypergraphia (an uncontrollable urge to write) and writer’s block, also looks to disease models to explain the drive behind this mode of communication. For example, people with mania often talk too much. “We believe something in the brain’s limbic system is boosting their desire to communicate,” Flaherty explains. Located mainly in the midbrain, the limbic system controls our drives, whether they are related to food, sex, appetite, or problem solving. “You know that drives are involved [in blogging] because a lot of people do it compulsively,” Flaherty notes. Also, blogging might trigger dopamine release, similar to stimulants like music, running and looking at art.


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