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For all the chatter about the formulaic sameness of Hollywood movies, no genre in recent years has been more thematically rigid than the computer-animated children's movie. These films have been infected with what might be called the magic-feather syndrome. As with the titular character in Walt Disney's 1943 animated feature Dumbo, these movies revolve around anthropomorphized outcasts who must overcome the restrictions of their societies or even species to realize their impossible dreams. Almost uniformly, the protagonists' primary liability, such as Dumbo's giant ears, eventually turns into their greatest strength.But first the characters must relinquish the crutch of the magic feather--or, more generally, surmount their biggest fears--and believe that their greatness comes from within.Examples from the past decade abound: a fat panda hopes to become a Kung Fu master (Kung Fu Panda); a sewer-dwelling rat dreams of becoming a French chef (Ratatouille); an 8-bit villain yearns to be a video-game hero (Wreck-It Ralph); an unscary monster pursues a career as a top-notch scarer (Monsters University). In the past month alone, two films with identical, paint-by-numbers plots--Turbo and Planes--have been released by separate studios, underlining the extent to which the magic-feather syndrome has infiltrated children's entertainment.In DreamWorks' Turbo, the eponymous protagonist, a common garden snail, toils in a tomato patch during the day and dreams of racing glory at night. His older brother Chet, a safety supervisor in the snail colony, has little patience for his sibling's fantasies. "The sooner you accept the miserableness of your existence, the happier you'll be," Chet advises. "Dreamers eventually have to wake up."Shortly thereafter, Turbo accidentally ingests large quantities of nitrous oxide and somehow gains exceptional racing capabilities. Through complicated plot machinations that involve a taco stand in Van Nuys, a quintet of sassy racing snails, and an arrogant French-Canadian racecar driver, Turbo qualifies for the Indianapolis 500. After a rocky start, Turbo surges to the lead in the last lap only to suffer a terrible crash that obstructs the other drivers and neutralizes Turbo's racing powers. Mere feet from the finish line, Turbo withdraws into his shell, uncertain that he has the inner strength to succeed. Now fully invested in his brother's quest, Chet yells at him: "It is in you! It's always been in you! ... My little brother never gives up. That's the best thing about you." Newly inspired, Turbo inches across the finish line, fulfilling his self-actualizing journey and proving that one needn't be human nor drive a car to win the country's most prestigious auto race.Disney's Planes almost perfectly mirrors the plot and pacing of Turbo. In this feature, Dusty Crophopper, an unsatisfied crop-duster, yearns to break free from his workaday existence and compete in the famed Wings Around the Globe race. His skeptical friend Dottie tries to convince Dusty that "you are not built to race; you are built to dust crops." But Dusty remains determined to achieve his far-fetched goal, arguing that "I'm just trying to prove maybe, just maybe, I can do more than I was built for."After finishing last in the race's first two legs, Dusty briefly takes over the lead before crashing into the Pacific Ocean during a violent storm. Damaged and discouraged, Dusty nearly drops out before the race's concluding leg. But Dottie restores his faith by reversing her initial doubts: "You're not a crop-duster. You're a racer, and now the whole world knows it." Rejuvenated, Dusty overcomes his doubts--not to mention his oft-stated fear of heights--and triumphs in the race's final seconds. Hammering home the movie's already unambiguous message, a doting fan at the finish line tells Dusty that he's "an inspiration for all of us who want to do more than we were built for."It's probably no coincidence that the supremacy of the magic-feather syndrome in children's movies overlaps with the so-called "cult of self-esteem." The restless protagonists of these films never have to wake up to the reality that crop-dusters simply can't fly faster than sleek racing aircraft. Instead, it's the naysaying authority figures who need to be enlightened about the importance of never giving up on your dreams, no matter how irrational, improbable, or disruptive to the larger community. As Jean Twenge, the controversial cultural critic of America's supposed narcissism epidemic, argues in her bestselling book Generation Me, younger generations "simply take it for granted that we should all feel good about ourselves, we are all special, and we all deserve to follow our dreams."Following one's dreams necessarily entails the pursuit of the extraordinary in these films. The protagonists sneer at the mundane, repetitive work performed by their unimaginative peers. Dusty abhors the smell of fertilizer and whines to his flying coach that he's "been flying day after day over these same fields for years." Similarly, Turbo performs his duties in the garden poorly, and his insubordination eventually gets him and Chet fired. Their attitudes are all part of an ethos that privileges self-fulfillment over the communal good.In addition to disparaging routine labor, these films discount the hard work that enables individuals to reach the top of their professions. Turbo and Dusty don't need to hone their craft for years in minor-league circuits like their racing peers presumably did. It's enough for them simply to show up with no experience at the world's most competitive races, dig deep within themselves, and out-believe their opponents. They are, in many ways, the perfect role models for a generation weaned on instant gratification.The magic-feather syndrome has so thoroughly penetrated animated features that it's difficult to imagine a film that doesn't incorporate at least some of its tropes. Perhaps, you might be tempted to argue, kids movies have to be this way. But that's easily debunked--just look at Pixar's roster, which features a number of magic-feather narratives but also includes stories largely about family, friendship, and growing older.Perhaps the best counterpoint--and the best example of just how much things have changed--can be found in Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts. In the comic strip, Schulz ridiculed the notion that individuals are likely to succeed merely because they believe in themselves. Every year Charlie Brown convinces himself that he is finally going to kick Lucy's football, and each time she snatches it away at the last second. In a 1968 interview with Psychology Today, Schulz implied that his characters pick on Charlie Brown because he is too much of a dreamer: "I think they are justified sometimes in their treatment of him. Charlie Brown is too vulnerable. He is full of hope and misdirected faith." Failure, unrequited love, and self-doubt are the norms in Peanuts, and nowhere is this better represented than in Schulz's first feature-length film, A Boy Named Charlie Brown.Released in 1969, A Boy Named Charlie Brown turns the clichés of the magic-feather syndrome inside-out. It opens with Charlie Brown suffering through a string of failures: His kite crashes to the ground, his baseball team loses its 99th consecutive game, and even his toy sailboat sinks to the bottom of the bathtub. "I just can't seem to do anything right," he laments to himself. On his way to school, Lucy, Violet, and Patty taunt him with a heartless song: "You never do anything right / You never put anything in its place / No wonder everyone calls you / Failure-face." Sensing Charlie Brown's despair, Linus, his lone confidant, advises him that he's "going to have to win at something--something that will restore your lost self-confidence."Determined to prove himself, Charlie Brown enters the school spelling bee and emerges victorious. By winning he becomes the area representative for the National Elimination Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. Before his departure he confides to Linus, "There's a good chance that instead of being a hero I'll make a bigger fool of myself than ever." Somewhat unhelpfully, Linus responds, "Don't be discouraged, Charlie Brown. You have nothing to lose. You'll either be a hero or a goat."Up to this point, A Boy Named Charlie Brown has largely followed a familiar pattern: The protagonist defies his doubters, improbably qualifies for a major competition, and now needs only to channel his inner strength to triumph. It wouldn't be a stretch to assume that Lucy will soon disavow her initial skepticism and tell Charlie Brown at a crucial point in the competition that he's always had what it takes to win.But that's not what happens. Instead, Charlie Brown survives to the final round (his words include unconfident, disastrous, and incompetent), and then carelessly misspells the word "beagle" while his dog Snoopy points at himself from the front row. Afterward, Charlie Brown, Linus, and Snoopy depart the theater in silence. When they're dropped off at the bus station that night, the streets are empty. "I guess nobody realized that we were returning," Linus remarks. The movie then spends an excruciating amount of time on Charlie Brown wordlessly unpacking, changing into his pajamas, and slipping beneath the covers, his eyes glazed with utter defeat.When Charlie Brown doesn't show up for school that next day, Linus stops by his house. Still in bed with the shades pulled down, Charlie Brown tells Linus that he's never going to attempt anything again. Rather than trying again to build up Charlie Brown's self-esteem, Linus waxes philosophical: "Well, I can understand how you feel. You worked hard studying for the spelling bee, and I suppose you feel you let everyone down and you made a fool out of yourself and everything. But did you notice something, Charlie Brown?...The world didn't come to an end."After mulling over this comment, Charlie Brown gets out of bed and ventures outside. None of his companions pay much attention to him as he strolls by. In the distance, he spots Lucy playing with a football. Just when it seems that Charlie Brown might be able to redeem himself with a small punt, Lucy pulls the football away from him, and the movie concludes with Charlie Brown flat on his back, grimacing at the camera.A Boy Named Charlie Brown might come across now as harsh and unforgiving--especially to audiences that aren't familiar with the comic strip's cruel undercurrents--but its lessons are more enduring than those from movies where characters fulfill their impossible dreams. Charlie Brown learns through Linus's tough-love speech that failure, no matter how painful, is not permanent, and that the best means of withstanding it is simply to show up the next day to school with the fortitude to try again. Losing also forces Charlie Brown to come to terms with his own limitations. He can't rely on a miraculous victory to rescue him from his tormented childhood. He followed his dream, it didn't pan out, and he ends up more or less where he started, only a little more experienced and presumably with a little more respect from his peers. They may no longer be able to refer to him as "failure-face," but Lucy still yanks away the football when he becomes too hopeful. It's incremental, rather than life-altering, progress.Contemporary animated films would never emulate the tough life lessons of A Boy Named Charlie Brown, but they'd do well to reintroduce the twin notions of failure and humility. In a movie like Planes, it should be good enough for a modest crop-duster just to qualify for the Wings Around the Globe race. After all, the mere fact that Dusty is participating in this televised competition more than justifies his lofty aspirations. Besides, having Dusty win on his first outing gives young audiences the false impression that the road to self-actualization isn't arduous and littered with speed bumps. His defeat wouldn't need to be as crushing as Charlie Brown's, but it might be humbling for Dusty to lose to a decorated, equally determined opponent and learn that life still goes on, even without a wholly happy ending.It took nearly 43 years before Schulz allowed Charlie Brown to slug a game-winning homerun, which is a long time for a cartoon character to hold tight to his dreams. There should be time enough for a more experienced Dusty to realize his ambitions in subsequent films. After all, the only thing more common than the magic-feather syndrome in contemporary animated features is the inevitability of a sequel.
"Failure, unrequited love, and self-doubt are the norms in Peanuts...Brown learns through Linus's tough-love speech that failure, no matter how painful, is not permanent, and that the best means of withstanding it is simply to show up the next day to school with the fortitude to try again."
The end of one year and the beginning of another is always a time for reflection, and for many people a time to make New Year’s resolutions about things that they want to change, improve, or accomplish during the upcoming year.
alt-J's debut album, An Awesome Wave, is available now on iTunes: http://smarturl.it/AnAwesomeWave
For more of alt-J check out: http://www.altjband.com
So artistic. I like haunting tune. Below is one definition of the word: tessellate. ~ V.B.
"In computer graphics, the term "tessellation" is used to describe the organization of information needed to render to give the appearance of the surfaces of realistic three-dimensional objects.
In the real world, a tessellation is a tiling made of physical materials such as cemented ceramic squares or hexagons. Such tilings may be decorative patterns, or may have functions such as providing durable and water-resistant pavement, floor or wall coverings. Historically, tessellations were used in Ancient Rome and in Islamic art such as in the decorative tiling of the Alhambra palace. In the twentieth century, the work of M. C. Escher often made use of tessellations for artistic effect. Tessellations are sometimes employed for decorative effect in quilting. Tessellations form a class of patterns in nature, for example in the arrays of hexagonal cells found in honeycombs."
A young mommy with style! Check out her slideshow of wearable everyday looks on the Chinese Laundry FB site: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152022557298010.1073741843.79714213009&type=1&__rev=1023695
Kristin Cav's Chinese Laundry shoes: http://bit.ly/1akUFJ6
Love her looks. She has a great sense of style.
By Peter J. Henning
At the sentencing hearing for Kareem Serageldin, a former senior executive at Credit Suisse, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the Federal District Court in Manhattan pointedly asked why someone in such a position would engage in misconduct. As DealBook reported, the judge asked, “Why do so many good people do bad things?”That is the conundrum of many white-collar crime cases: successful business people act in ways that put careers and personal fortunes at risk for seemingly modest gains, and sometimes the misconduct benefits their company but themselves only indirectly.Mr. Serageldin was the global head of the structured credit group at Credit Suisse, responsible for overseeing its subprime mortgage securities portfolio. He was indicted in February 2012 for inflating the value of bonds held by the bank to cover up losses as the collapse in the housing market hit in late 2007.As seen in other recent cases, there were recorded telephone conversations in which Mr. Serageldin and other defendants discussed keeping the prices high to protect their positions in the hope that the housing market would turn around. When internal inquiries into the valuations were made, the defendants did their best to cover up what they had done, a losing battle that led the bank to disclose the mismarking in February 2008.Judge Hellerstein imposed a 30-month prison term, a punishment below the recommended sentence for the violation. In explaining the reason for the reduction, the judge noted that Mr. Serageldin’s conduct “was a small piece of an overall evil climate inside that bank and many other banks.” Credit Suisse disagreed with that characterization, noting that regulators had highlighted the isolated nature of the wrongdoing.Of course, even if the judge was correct, a corporate culture that puts pressure on employees to cut corners to make their targets is not an excuse for criminal conduct. Was this a case in which the moral compass simply went awry when a person was put in a stressful situation?If the misconduct is just an aberration, then that may support the proposition that crimes by these types of individuals really cannot be deterred because they have convinced themselves that the conduct is not “really” wrong, or at least they will be able to make things right at the end of the next quarter. If you do not believe you are doing anything illegal, then there is no fear of punishment.Perhaps misconduct by some groups can be ascribed to the belief that so long as everyone else seems to be doing something, it cannot actually be wrong. Continuing investigations into global banks’ manipulation of the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, as well as foreign currency exchange rates are replete with examples of traders exchanging information and boasting of their ability to artificially raise or lower a benchmark rate. These are not isolated instances, but part of a pattern of conduct over months and even years. So it cannot be chalked up to the heat of the moment.What is so puzzling about people who have led otherwise good lives is that they are unlikely to have engaged in the misconduct if it is presented to them in stark terms. Ask a Wall Street trader, for example, whether he or she would trade on material nonpublic information received from a corporate insider, and the answer from most would be “no” — at least if there was a reasonable chance of being caught.But under pressure to produce profits for a hedge fund or a bank, traders are often on the lookout for an “edge” on the market that can slowly take them closer to crossing the line into illegality. Add to that the vagueness of the insider trading laws in determining when information is “material,” and it can be easy to cross into illegality without necessarily noticing it.The current trial of Michael S. Steinberg, a former senior portfolio manager at SAC Capital Advisors, puts the firm’s culture on display and raises the question about how far traders are willing to go for that edge on information. A former SAC analyst, Jon Horvath, is expected to testify about how he obtained inside information and passed it along to Mr. Steinberg, claiming they both knew it had been improperly obtained. But in the fast-paced environment of securities trading, do those buying and selling pause to ask whether they have come close to the line, or maybe even crossed it?Perhaps the most inexplicable insider trading case involves Rajat K. Gupta, formerly head of global consulting firm McKinsey & Company and a former director of Goldman Sachs who was convicted of tipping Raj Rajaratnam, the founder of the Galleon Group hedge fund, about impending developments at Goldman. He is appealing the conviction, and a separate order in a civil enforcement action brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission permanently barring him from serving as a director or officer of a public company.Mr. Gupta did not make any money from his actions, and before sentencing, his lawyers argued that the conduct represented an “utter aberration.” In imposing a two-year prison sentence, Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the Federal District Court in Manhattan said he had “never encountered a defendant whose prior history suggests such an extraordinary devotion, not only to humanity writ large, but also to individual human beings in their times of need.”When looking at Mr. Gupta’s case, Judge Hellerstein’s question about why such a good person would do bad things looks to be unanswerable.That does not mean that good people should avoid punishment just because they have lead otherwise exemplary lives. But it does raise questions about how much punishment is appropriate for someone who has lost so much, and about how to ensure that people do not cave in to the pressure to engage in misconduct.As Judge Hellerstein pointed out in sentencing Mr. Serageldin, “Each person has to look within himself and ask himself what is right, what is wrong.” White-collar crime cases too often involve defendants who never seem to have asked such questions.Peter J. Henning, a professor at Wayne State University Law School, is the author of “The Prosecution and Defense of Public Corruption: The Law & Legal Strategies.” Twitter: @peterjhenning
Brain scientists in recent years have discovered a number of surprising ways that the brain influences our overall health, as well as how our behavior influences the health of our brain. And unlike in the days of old — when scientists believed the brain was “fixed” after childhood, only to start an inexorable decline in the middle to later years — today, research is showing that the brain is perfectly capable of changing, healing and “rewiring” itself to an unexpected degree.It turns out that the age of your brain may be a lesser influence on its structure than what you do with it. Pursuits that require intense mental focus, like language learning, “switch on” the nucleus basalis, the control mechanism for neuroplasticity.In short, neuroplasticity means you have some control over your cranial fitness. While brain function naturally deteriorates somewhat as you age (though not nearly as much as you might think), various strategic approaches can create new neural pathways and strengthen existing ones as long as you live. What’s more, these efforts to build a better brain can deliver lasting rewards for your overall health.Here are just a few of neuroscience’s most empowering recent discoveries.Your Thoughts Affect Your GenesWe tend to think of our genetic heritage as a fait accompli. At our conception, our parents handed down whatever genetic legacy they inherited — genes for baldness, tallness, disease or whatever — and now we’re left playing the hand of DNA we were dealt. But, in fact, our genes are open to being influenced throughout our lifetime, both by what we do and by what we think, feel and believe.The new and growing field of “epigenetics” studies extra-cellular factors that influence genetic expression. While you may have heard that genes can be influenced by diet and exercise, many researchers are now exploring the ways that thoughts, feelings and beliefs can exert the same epigenetic effect. It turns out that the chemicals catalyzed by our mental activity can interact with our genes in a powerful way. Much like the impacts of diet, exercise and environmental toxins, various thought patterns have been shown to turn certain genes “on” or “off.”The ResearchIn his book The Genie in Your Genes (Elite Books, 2009), researcher Dawson Church, PhD, explains the relationship between thought and belief patterns and the expression of healing- or disease-related genes. “Your body reads your mind,” Church says. “Science is discovering that while we may have a fixed set of genes in our chromosomes, which of those genes is active has a great deal to do with our subjective experiences, and how we process them.”
One recent study conducted at Ohio University demonstrates vividly the effect of mental stress on healing. Researchers gave married couples small suction blisters on their skin, after which they were instructed to discuss either a neutral topic or a topic of dispute for half an hour. Researchers then monitored the production of three wound-repair proteins in the subjects’ bodies for the next several weeks, and found that the blisters healed 40 percent slower in those who’d had especially sarcastic, argumentative conversations than those who’d had neutral ones.Church explains how this works. The body sends a protein signal to activate the genes associated with wound healing, and those activated genes then code blank stem cells to create new skin cells to seal the wound. But when the body’s energy is being “sucked up” by the production of stress biochemicals like cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine, like it is during a nasty fight, the signal to your wound-healing genes is significantly weaker, and the repair process slows way down. By contrast, when the body is not preparing for a perceived threat, its energy stores remain readily available for healing missions.Why It Matters to YouJust about every body comes equipped with the genetic material it needs to deal optimally with the physical challenges of daily life, and the degree to which you can maintain your mental equilibrium has a real impact on your body’s ability to access those genetic resources. While habits of mind can be challenging to break, deliberate activities like meditation (see the following studies) can help you refashion your neural pathways to support less reactive thought patterns.Chronic Stress Can Prematurely Age Your Brain“There’s always going to be stress in the environment,” says Howard Fillit, MD, clinical professor of geriatrics and medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine and executive director of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation. “But what’s damaging is the distress we feel internally in response to it.”
Fillit’s distinction points to the bodywide reaction our bodies experience when we routinely respond to stress by going into fight-or-flight mode. In our brains, the stress response can cause memory and other aspects of cognition to become impaired, which is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and accelerated memory loss with aging. One thing that can happen is you can start feeling a lot older, mentally, than you are.“Patients come in complaining of faulty memory and wonder if they’re beginning to get Alzheimer’s,” says Roberta Lee, MD, vice-chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center and author of The Superstress Solution (Random House, 2010). “Their workups and MRI scans look normal. In the interview, I ask them about their lifestyle and almost invariably they have compounded stress.”The ResearchStudies at the University of California–San Francisco have shown that repeated instances of the stress response (and their accompanying floods of cortisol) can cause shrinkage of the hippocampus — a key part of the brain’s limbic system vital to both stress regulation and long-term memory. Call it the downside of neuroplasticity.Why It Matters to YouAside from the obvious — no one wants his or her brain to age faster than it’s already going to — this research matters because it suggests that you have some influence over the rate of your own cognitive change.
To protect the brain from cortisol-related premature aging, Lee suggests building stress disruptors into your regular routine: “A five-minute period in the middle of every day during which you do absolutely nothing — nothing! — can help a lot, especially if you are consistent about it,” she says.Her other recommendations include eating breakfast every day — complex carbohydrates (whole grains, veggies) and some protein. “Breakfast helps your metabolism feel like it won’t be stressed — caught up in a starvation-gluttony pattern,” she explains.And when anxiety does strike, a good way to initiate the relaxation response is her “four-five breath” routine: breathing in through the nose to a count of four, then out through the mouth to a count of five. “Repeat it four times and you’ll feel the relaxation,” she says. “Best of all, do the four breaths twice daily, at the beginning and end of the day.”Meditation Rewires Your BrainMeditation and other forms of relaxation and mindfulness not only change your immediate state of mind (and, correspondingly, your biochemical stress level and gene expression), they also can alter the very structure of your brain. Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, PhD, cofounder of the San Francisco–based Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, has extensively studied the effect of meditation on the brain, with a particular focus on how neuroplasticity allows for permanent changes for the better in your gray matter.The Research“Of all the mental trainings — affirmations, psychotherapy, positive thinking, yoga — the one that has been far and away the most studied, in terms of effects on the brain, is meditation,” Hanson says. Some of the most prominent research has come from the collaboration between French-born Buddhist monk and author Matthieu Ricard and University of Wisconsin–Madison neuroscientist Richard Davidson, PhD. Their studies have shown that a high ratio of activity in the left prefrontal areas of the brain can mark either a fleeting positive mood or a more ingrained positive outlook.Brain-imaging tests have shown that Ricard and other veteran Buddhist meditators demonstrate initial heightened activity in this region, along with a rapid ability to recover from negative responses brought on by frightening images shown to them by researchers. This suggests that their long-term meditation practice has helped build brains that are able to not just enjoy but sustain a sense of positive well-being, even in stressful moments.Why It Matters to You“Stimulating areas of the brain that handle positive emotions strengthens those neural networks, just as working muscles strengthens them,” Hanson says, repeating one of the basic premises of neuroplasticity. The inverse is also true, he explains: “If you routinely think about things that make you feel mad or wounded, you are sensitizing and strengthening the amygdala, which is primed to respond to negative experiences. So it will become more reactive, and you will get more upset more easily in the future.”By contrast, meditative practices stimulate the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain’s outermost layer that controls attention (this is how meditation can lead to greater mindfulness, Hanson explains), as well as the insula, which controls interoception — the internal awareness of one’s own body. “Being in tune with your body via interoception keeps you from damaging it when you exercise,” Hanson says, “as well as building that pleasant, simple sense of being ‘in your body.’” Another plus of a strong insula is an increased sensitivity to “gut feelings” and intuitions and greater empathy with others.
Perhaps best of all, meditation develops the circuitry in the left prefrontal cortex, where the unruffled monks showed so much activity. “That’s an area that dampens negative emotion, so you don’t get so rattled by anger or fear, shame or sorrow,” Hanson says.“Deciding to be mindful can alter your brain so that being mindful is easier and more natural,” he explains. “In other words, you can use your mind to change your brain to affect your mind.”Your Brain Learns By DoingThe mirror neuron system is the name for those regions of the brain with synapses that fire whether you’re actually doing or merely watching an action — as long as you’ve done it previously. Doing an action lays down neural connections that fire again when you watch the same action. This accounts for the connection you feel when viewing a sport you’ve played, or why you wince when you see someone else get hurt.The ResearchGiacomo Rizzolatti and his colleagues in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Parma in Italy first noted the mirror effect while studying the brains of macaque monkeys. When a monkey was watching one of the researchers pick up a peanut, the same neurons fired as if the monkey — likely a seasoned peanut gatherer — had picked up the nut itself. The researchers labeled these specific cells “mirror neurons.” In the human brain, entire regions light up in response to a familiar action; this endows us with a full-fledged mirror system.Why It Matters to YouThe existence of the mirror system helps explain why learning a new skill is easier if you try doing it early in life. This includes doing it clumsily, rather than hanging back watching your instructor or a video until you think you “have it.” Watching before you try means that you will probably see very little; watching after you try will engage the mirror system, increasing your brain’s power to “get it.”As London-based neuroscientist Daniel Glaser, PhD, puts it, “When you look at something you have done before, you are actually using more of your brain to see it, so there’s a richer information flow. Until you started playing tennis, you couldn’t see the difference between a good topspin stroke and a bad one; after a few weeks of practice, when your coach demonstrates the stroke, you really get it visually. And you can thank the mirror system for that.”
The mirror system is also what endows you with the empathic ability to feel the pain or joy of others, based on what you register on their faces. “When we see someone else suffering or in pain, mirror neurons help us to read her or his facial expression and actually make us feel the suffering or the pain of the other person,” writes UCLA neurologist Marco Iacoboni, MD, PhD, in his book, Mirroring People (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008). “These moments, I will argue, are the foundation of empathy.”Growing Older Can Make You SmarterFor some time, the prevailing view of a brain at midlife was that it’s “simply a young brain slowly closing down,” observes Barbara Strauch. But she notes that recent research has shown that middle age is actually a kind of cranial prime time, with a few comedic twists thrown in for fun.“Researchers have found that — despite some bad habits — the brain is at its peak in those years. As it helps us navigate through our lives, the middle-age brain cuts through the muddle to find solutions, knows whom and what to ignore, when to zig and when to zag,” she writes. “It stays cool. It adjusts.”The ResearchBrain scientists used to be convinced that the main “driver” of brain aging was loss of neurons — brain-cell death. But new scanning technology has shown that most brains maintain most of their neurons over time. And, while some aspects of the aging process do involve losses — to memory, to reaction time — there are also some net gains, including a neat trick researchers call “bilateralization,” which involves using both the brain’s right and left hemispheres at once.
Strauch cites a University of Toronto study from the 1990s, soon after scanning technology became available, that measured the comparative ability of young and middle-age research subjects to match faces with names. The expected outcome was that older subjects would do worse at the task, but not only were they just as competent as younger subjects, PET scans revealed that, in addition to the brain circuits used by the younger crowd, the older subjects also tapped into the brain’s powerful prefrontal cortex. As some of their circuits weakened, they compensated by using other parts of the brain.
Ultimately, this means the effects of age caused them to use — and strengthen — more of their brains, not less.Why It Matters to YouGene Cohen, MD, PhD, who directs the Center on Aging, Health and Humanities at George Washington University Medical Center, notes that this ability to use more of your cognitive reserves strengthens your problem-solving ability as you enter the middle years, and it makes you more capable of comfortably negotiating contradictory thoughts and emotions. “This neural integration makes it easier to reconcile our thoughts with our feelings,” he wrote in “The Myth of the Midlife Crisis” (Newsweek, Jan. 16, 2006). Like meditation, the middle-age tendency toward bilateralization seems to promote your ability to stay cool under pressure.There are things you can do to amplify this increased strength. “Our brains are built to roll with the punches,” Strauch writes, “and better — or more carefully cared for — brains roll best.” Studies show multiple ways to build long-term brain health: from healthy eating, exercise and conscious relaxation to active social bonds, challenging work and continuing education. Good advice, it would seem, for a brain at any age.A Teenage Brain is Wired DifferentlyWhile it was once thought that the brain’s architecture was basically set by age five or six, New York Times medical science and health editor Barbara Strauch explains her book The Primal Teen: What the New Discoveries About the Teenage Brain Tell Us About Our Kids (Anchor, 2003), new research shows that the teen brain is “still very much a work in progress, a giant construction project. Millions of connections are being hooked up; millions more are swept away. Neurochemicals wash over the teenage brain, giving it a new paint job, a new look, a new chance at life.”The neurochemical dopamine floods the teen brain, increasing alertness, sensitivity, movement, and the capacity to feel intense pleasure; it’s a recipe for risk-taking. And, as anyone who has tried to rouse a sleepy teen should appreciate, brain chemicals that help set sleep patterns go through major shifts.
Knowing about these brain gyrations in young people can help parents be a little more patient and tolerant—and they offer some opportunities too. As Jay Giedd told PBS’s Frontline, “If a teen is doing music or sports or academics [during this period of brain change and consolidation], those are the cells and connections that will be hardwired. If they’re lying on the couch or playing video games or MTV, those are the cells and connections that are going to survive.”
Patrick Bateman will take a slice out of television soon. FX is developing an American Psycho series that will follow the killer decades after the movie took place. The series will feature Bateman in his 50s, and he remains as dangerous as ever in a contemporary setting, reports Deadline. The show's creators plan to add intrigue to injury with the introduction of a protégé for Bateman who will conduct a sadistic social experiment.The series is currently in development and will be written by Stefan Jaworski. No word yet on who will be cast as the dangerously charismatic Bateman (originally played by Christian Bale) or his new protégé.Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/american-psycho-series-coming-to-fx-20130910#ixzz2lV0Q3iQu
"New drama will follow Patrick Bateman and new mentee"
[Mike]We're all looking,That's what she saidFor someone to share our thought's,For someone to share our bed's[Both]But if you find someoneThat doesn't try to change youAnd if you find someoneThat doesn't have to blame youAnd you find someoneYou don't need to explain to,You've found the one you love[Kate]We're all searching,that's all I knowFor someone to keep us warm,When the rain soaks through our clothes[Both]But if you find a hand to holdWhen the night comes,To be there when your oldAnd you're frightenedIf you find someoneThat loves you with a love song,You've found the one you love[Mike]So hold it near,'Cause love it comes so quicklyAnd then it goesAnd be careful my dear[Both]'Cause the very thing that makes youWill be the thing that breaks you,You knowOh, and if you find someoneThat doesn't undermind youIf you find someoneThat doesn't drag behind youIf you find someoneThat loves you just like I do,You've found the one you love
Beautiful duet featuring Kate Miller Heidke.
Everybody wants what feels good. Everyone wants to live a care-free, happy and easy life, to fall in love and have amazing sex and relationships, to look perfect and make money and be popular and well-respected and admired and a total baller to the point that people part like the Red Sea when you walk into the room.Everybody wants that -- it's easy to want that.If I ask you, "What do you want out of life?" and you say something like, "I want to be happy and have a great family and a job I like," it's so ubiquitous that it doesn't even mean anything.Everyone wants that. So what's the point?What's more interesting to me is what pain do you want? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives end up.Everybody wants to have an amazing job and financial independence -- but not everyone is willing to suffer through 60-hour work weeks, long commutes, obnoxious paperwork, to navigate arbitrary corporate hierarchies and the blasé confines of an infinite cubicle hell. People want to be rich without the risk, with the delayed gratification necessary to accumulate wealth.Everybody wants to have great sex and an awesome relationship -- but not everyone is willing to go through the tough communication, the awkward silences, the hurt feelings and the emotional psychodrama to get there. And so they settle. They settle and wonder "What if?" for years and years and until the question morphs from "What if?" into "What for?" And when the lawyers go home and the alimony check is in the mail they say, "What was it all for?" If not for their lowered standards and expectations for themselves 20 years prior, then what for?Because happiness requires struggle. You can only avoid pain for so long before it comes roaring back to life.At the core of all human behavior, the good feelings we all want are more or less the same. Therefore what we get out of life is not determined by the good feelings we desire but by what bad feelings we're willing to sustain."Nothing good in life comes easy," we've been told that a hundred times before. The good things in life we accomplish are defined by where we enjoy the suffering, where we enjoy the struggle.People want an amazing physique. But you don't end up with one unless you legitimately love the pain and physical stress that comes with living inside a gym for hour upon hour, unless you love calculating and calibrating the food you eat, planning your life out in tiny plate-sized portions.People want to start their own business or become financially independent. But you don't end up a successful entrepreneur unless you find a way to love the risk, the uncertainty, the repeated failures, and working insane hours on something you have no idea whether will be successful or not. Some people are wired for that sort of pain, and those are the ones who succeed.People want a boyfriend or girlfriend. But you don't end up attracting amazing people without loving the emotional turbulence that comes with weathering rejections, building the sexual tension that never gets released, and staring blankly at a phone that never rings. It's part of the game of love. You can't win if you don't play.What determines your success is "What pain do you want to sustain?"I wrote in an article last week that I've always loved the idea of being a surfer, yet I've never made consistent effort to surf regularly. Truth is: I don't enjoy the pain that comes with paddling until my arms go numb and having water shot up my nose repeatedly. It's not for me. The cost outweighs the benefit. And that's fine.On the other hand, I am willing to live out of a suitcase for months on end, to stammer around in a foreign language for hours with people who speak no English to try and buy a cell phone, to get lost in new cities over and over and over again. Because that's the sort of pain and stress I enjoy sustaining. That's where my passion lies, not just in the pleasures, but in the stress and pain.There's a lot of self development advice out there that says, "You've just got to want it enough!"That's only partly true. Everybody wants something. And everybody wants something badly enough. They just aren't being honest with themselves about what they actually want that bad.If you want the benefits of something in life, you have to also want the costs. If you want the six pack, you have to want the sweat, the soreness, the early mornings, and the hunger pangs. If you want the yacht, you have to also want the late nights, the risky business moves, and the possibility of pissing off a person or ten.If you find yourself wanting something month after month, year after year, yet nothing happens and you never come any closer to it, then maybe what you actually want is a fantasy, an idealization, an image and a false promise. Maybe you don't actually want it at all.So I ask you, "How are you willing to suffer?"Because you have to choose something. You can't have a pain-free life. It can't all be roses and unicorns.Choose how you are willing to suffer.Because that's the hard question that matters. Pleasure is an easy question. And pretty much all of us have the same answer.The more interesting question is the pain. What is the pain that you want to sustain?Because that answer will actually get you somewhere. It's the question that can change your life. It's what makes me me and you you. It's what defines us and separates us and ultimately brings us together.So what's it going to be?
It’s hard to remember life before the rise of the professional blowout—a cultural beauty phenomenon dedicated to banishing bad hair days with the whir of a tiny wind machine and a steady stream of heat. Emerging as a thriving subindustry over the past decade, the 30-minute salon service saved time; it steeled nerves; it stretched the days between shampoos; it even inspired a legion of little factories (otherwise known as blowout bars) devoted to fine-tuning every step of the process. Along the way, it experienced relatively little competition—until recently. Chalk it up to the influence of Game of Thrones or the effect of Jennifer Lawrence’s signature unraveling Hunger Games hairstyle: From a quick look around, the braid is making a bid for dominance as the new beauty universal.Perhaps it all goes back to a few years ago, when designer Alexander Wang sent models down his spring 2010 runway with the kind of sporty, wispy side braid more commonly seen after field hockey practice. It seemed like an invitation for a new kind of plait, one that could yield chic results in amateur hands. (The endless catalogue of YouTube and Pinterest tutorials that followed certainly helped.) Since then, the easy braid has gradually become an everyday staple, spotted regularly on everyone from model Miranda Kerr to actress Lake Bell. Red carpet iterations, like Diane Kruger’s plaited chignon and singer Grimes’s double-braided ponytail, have proven equally versatile. Entrepreneur and social fixture Dalia Oberlander loves her signature evening fishtail for its “playful, subtle take on beauty and femininity,” but there may be something more to it than that. Like the blowout, the braid boasts a certain even-better-the-next-day quality, slowly devolving from something studied into an appealingly flyaway look over time. Vogue Social Editor Chloe Malle drops in regularly to New York City’s John Barrett salon—where, yes, there is a full-fledged braid bar—before big events, and frequently wears her plaited, slept-in updo into the office the next day. “I like the way it looks, the romance, the softness and imperfectness,” Malle says of its lived-in “Heidi gets glam” quality. And, quite possibly, the fact that it comes with a built-in extra hour of sleep.
Culture change is a bear. The conventional wisdom is that it takes years to change a culture, defined as the assumed beliefs and norms that govern “the way we do things around here.” And few organizations explicitly use culture as a way to drive business performance, or even believe it could make sense to do so. The logic usually works the other way — make specific changes in processes, and then hope that, gradually, the culture will change.Yet some leading organizations are turning this conventional wisdom on its head. Consider Trane, the $8 billion subsidiary of Ingersoll Rand that provides heating, ventilating, air conditioning and building management systems. By focusing first on changing their culture, Trane has been driving results — and quickly.Jason Bingham, a vice president at Trane North America and author of Cultureship: The ACBs of Business Leadership, told me the basics of how it works. Trane uses a combination of a culture survey and an employee engagement survey to assess the current state of their culture. This assessment forms the basis of a conversation about the culture they want. First, they identify areas of strength, such as customer focus, and areas for development, such as teamwork. The aimed-for future culture includes three essential elements: Vision: where the organization wants to go together Mission: what they do together Guiding behavioral principles: how they expect all associates to behaveThere must be a clear connection between the target culture and the overarching strategy of the company. With a clear understanding of the target culture and behaviors, leaders can then consciously and more effectively influence employees with their behavior and by how they “ARM” (Allow, Reward, and Model) the targeted behaviors of associates. The survey process also identifies specific offices that are leading the pack as well as those which are falling short with regard to culture. Interestingly, Trane has observed a very strong correlation between a healthy and effective culture along these basic lines, and better business results. (Unfortunately, the reverse correlation is just as strong.)For example, one sales office had the lowest score in the engagement survey for all of North America. A new leader was named whose number one goal was to improve the office’s culture. He and his HR business partner analyzed the engagement data and defined the target culture they wanted. For instance, they decided it was imperative that people talk directly to each other about issues rather than behind each other’s backs. They called this behavior “direct with Respect.” To get people to adopt this behavior, they launched training for associates, demonstrated the behaviors themselves as leaders, and spent time training emerging leaders. The leaders made sure that the team heard from them directly before ever hearing news through the grapevine. When leaders saw or heard of one of their associates being direct with respect, they recognized the behavior with a thank you, and those who were not being “direct with respect” were asked to do so next time. As teams improved their behavior, internal politics were reduced, and interactions with customers were less confused.Once associates started taking ownership of their culture, they started thinking about how they could improve their work, rather than just doing their work. The district started a “fix-it” event that allowed associates to identify “quick wins” and major opportunities to improve work. Then the associates were empowered to implement the changes that were approved. Some examples of quick wins: reducing the number of system passwords in the parts department from eight to one; providing laptops for on-call parts support so they could check inventory from home; and an open calls report for better allocation of hours. The work improvements increased productivity substantially as measured by increases in operating income.Rather than waiting a year for the next cultural assessment to measure progress, they took a “cultural pulse survey” six months after launching the office turnaround. The dramatic improvement in engagement surprised everyone, and it showed up in a significant reduction in attrition (people leaving the company), from 12 percent to 6 percent. The behavior changes were visible to customers, too. A customer called the district manager and asked, “What is going on over there? There is something very cool about what you are doing because I see it in how your team is serving me.” And the changes showed up in business performance: that year the office had one of the highest increases in bottom-line profit relative to revenue growth. Overall, they grew market share by two points on some products without any new products or features.Intrigued? Try running an experiment to see if you can change your own culture. Trane’s leadership team in North America got started by simply having a culture discussion in every meeting. At first, that discussion had a lot of listeners. As the leaders began to feel more comfortable and confident talking about culture, they engaged. By the third meeting, the leaders started creating plans to drive a winning culture and using the culture development process. By using this process, Trane North America grew year-over-year operating income by over 20 percent, without any new products or services and very limited market growth.Leaders and managers typically don’t think of cultural change as a lever for achieving breakthrough business results. What Trane has achieved shows that they should think again.
Two-thirds of Americans believe people can’t be trusted.So says a recent AP/GfK study. When this survey was first conducted in 1972, half of Americans felt that people were trustworthy. The current numbers, showing Americans believe only one third of people are trustworthy, are the lowest trust rating in the survey’s history.Globally, trust takes a beating, as well. The Edelman Trust Barometer 2013 data shows a global trust score of 57 on a 100 point scale.This trust deficit is repairable – over time, one person at a time.You can choose to eliminate behaviors that erode trust between you and those you live with and work with – and demonstrate behaviors that build trust.Consider using these trust building behaviors in every interaction:Be Civil.This is the most powerful of the trust building behaviors in this list. Treat others kindly, even if they’re treating you or others unkindly. Look people in the eye. Debate ideas while honoring the person. Say, “Thank you.” Say, “I’m sorry.” Honor others’ efforts as well as their accomplishments. Act on the belief that everyone is doing the best they can under present circumstances.I often get push back when I propose civility. “What about people who call you names, who say you’re stupid, who belittle you with every breath?” We interact with challenging folks sometimes. I believe in others’ rights to their own opinion but choose to insulate myself from those who act out, who must make others look bad for them to feel good. I can’t fix them – it’s not my job to fix them. And, I can be consistently civil to them while I disengage from them.Do What You Say You Will Do.Choose to be responsible and accountable for what you’ve promised to do or to deliver. Demonstrate commitment to your commitments! Make promises intentionally and clearly, and follow through on your promises. You can control only what you can control, AND, you can communicate progress or possible issues proactively. If plans go awry and you’re at risk for missing a commitment, inform all key players as soon as possible. Map out a plan to deliver, then keep that promise.Expect the Best and Give the Benefit of the Doubt.We create self-fulfilling prophesies in our world all the time, for better or worse. If I believe, for example, that my step-daughter will not do her chores on the day we’re hosting a big party, I’ll be on the lookout for her doing anything except what I think she should be doing. And, I’ll call her out on it. (This is a completely hypothetical scenario, of course. NOT. I did this more than once, years ago.) Create positive self-fulfilling prophesies! Set people up for success when giving them a goal or task. Clearly outline the standard that’s needed for that goal, then ask what they need to meet that target. If a milestone is missed, don’t assume this person “has it out for you.” Simply check in, verify the milestone, and ask for an update.What do you think? How do you “keep it civil” with family, work colleagues, community members, and even strangers? In what ways do you keep your commitment to your commitments?
Set goals, tasks, and deadlines. Clarify expectations. Trust and verify.
The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you know why.Unfortunately for some people, that second day never occurs. For lucky people, though, the second day—the day you know why—is often described as a personal epiphany. The most successful people have a clear idea of who they are, and a conviction about where they want to end up. They then work backwards to develop the milestones they need to hit along the way.The epiphany moment, despite the excitement the realization can arouse, isn’t a gong-ringing moment. It intriguingly is frequently characterized by a sense of calm. Once you know the course you have set, everything else is a function of that goal.For the past decade or so, I have been accumulating lessons from many remarkable people, including Senator Bill Bradley, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and self-made construction magnate Linda Alvarado whose stories I tell in my new book Be Luckier in Life. There is surprisingly little analytical rigor brought to the study of luck. As I undertook the process of studying the underlying traits and characteristics that have consistently created luck for the most successful people, I began to realize there is a pattern—even a method—to the seeming randomness of luck. Among the lessons in the book, the luckiest people: Don’t simply “communicate” with others, but find ways to authentically connect with others. Use the right toolkit of people skills, conceptual skills, judgement and character that helps them succeed in finding new opportunities and re-framing setbacks to their advantage. Swing for the fences when a big, fat pitch of opportunity comes their way. Know when to lighten up and maintain perspective.The “luckiest” of people literally create their own luck by behaving in ways that makes them open to new possibilities and new people. These traits and behaviors are alluring, and this allure itself leads to new opportunities, which in their abundance, provide an ever-more powerful and complex system of chances for success. It’s a virtuous circle where lucky behavior begets ever more luck. Howard Schultz, CEO of the Starbucks coffee empire, remembers quite clearly his professional epiphany. It happened in Milan, Italy nearly 30 years ago. “The Italians had turned the drinking of coffee into a symphony, and it felt right,” he recalls. “I felt the unexpressed demand for romance and community.” Back at home in America, Starbucks, then selling only coffee beans, mostly by mail, “was playing in the same hall, but without a string section.” And though it took many years to convince others to see what he saw then, he reminds people seeking to create more luck to stay the course. “Vision is what they call it when others can’t see what you can,” says Schultz. One person who reflects many of the best opportunity-creating behaviors is former presidential candidate Senator Bill Bradley. His accomplishment and achievement span so many ﬁelds that it’s hard to tell what’s most important to him. All-American basketball star at Princeton, Rhodes scholar, Olympic gold medalist, NBA champion on the New York Knicks, US senator, presidential candidate—Bill Bradley seems to have bounced from achievement to achievement, across career after career. Look deeper, though, and you see that Bradley’s record of success all hangs together around a central belief : he was put on this planet to play a role in “big reform, and helping people where they live their lives” in such areas as education, health care and tax reform, he says. This theme has been a constant in his life, from the leadership he showed on the basketball court through his 18 years on the ﬂoor of the US Senate where he played a commanding role in legislation that removed 13 million children from poverty, expanded opportunities for education for millions more, and lowered and simpliﬁed taxes for every American. Bill describes this sense of purpose as coming from within, not from external impulses and uses words that tellingly imply that ﬁnding his destiny was a ﬂuid and natural process, not one fraught with conﬂict and tension. “I believe in discipline. I believe in hard work leading to accomplishment. But I am talking on the deeper, spiritual, interpersonal, emotional level, of living every day to the fullest extent possible, with the joy that comes only from being in a state of unity (within) yourself. Having your external world and your internal world be joined—as opposed to separated,” he says. Perhaps the biggest setback of Bill’s career—the time when he was most “out” of his zone—was losing the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000. Bill recounts a dream he had not long afterward. In the dream, a giant is crossing a river but he suddenly begins to stumble as he realizes that he is being eaten alive by piranhas below the water’s surface. He won’t make it across the river. Just then, a boat appears, and the giant is magically shrunk to a size that allows him to ﬂee the piranhas by climbing into the boat and sailing away to safety. “That dream helped me go on with my life after the inﬂation of running for the presidency,” says Bradley. “To save your humanity you have to shrink from the inﬂation of that feeling of running for president, and then you save yourself.” Today, as a successful investment banker in New York, Bradley is continuing to rack up new achievements, directing companies and advising entrepreneurs. “I’m associating myself with ideas that have a chance of changing the world if they are successful,” he says. “You have to live your life not to the drumbeat of other people’s expectations, but to the drumbeat of your inner self,” he adds.
Earlier this year we met photogenic Harlow the Weimaraner and his fellow canine buddy Sage. Now, the duo have welcomed a new addition to their dog party—Indi…
Right now, the Internet is exploding with recipes for heirloom corn pudding and “How to irritate Gran-Gran by putting an inexplicable Asian spin on your turkey.” But what about those of us who can’t really cook? We called up Jessica Seinfeld—wife of Jerry, purveyor of unpretentious recipes, and author of the new The Can’t Cook Book—and asked her to walk us through Thanksgiving for DummiesI’m not sure who, exactly, is in charge of the purse strings behind cable television programming these days, but if it were me, the door I’d be knocking on says Seinfeld on it. The catch is that it’s not Jerry I’d be after. In fact, if Jerry answered the door, I’d hand him a check made out to Jessica, ask him to pass it along to her, and let her fill in the zeros. In case you’re not up on Jerry’s love life, his wife (and the mother of their three kids) is an ex-Vermonter turned hard-charging and highly attitudinal New Yorker. Her social circle includes Jay Z, Gee P (Gwyneth Paltrow), and Jay G (Jake Gyllenhall). She is a lightning rod for miniature Internet controversies and a magnet for the jealous eye-daggers of people who love to hate pretty girls with money. She can also bake her ass off and tell a mean joke—plus you could call her show “The Real Wife of Jerry Seinfeld,” which would be funny. Anyway, Seinfeld recently released her third best-selling cook book, The Can’t Cook Book, which is for wives and moms whose kitchen skills top out at Pop Tarts. It’s also for dudes who speak fluent kale as long as they're at restaurants, but never learned to preheat an oven for themselves. And at this point, total kitchen cluelessness is becoming a little embarrassing and isolating, as even our alpha friends now follow food as closely as they tune in to the latest with Derrick Rose’s knee or breaking news from Emily Ratajkowski’s Instagram.So, because we believe the best way to give thanks is to participate, we asked Jessica to break down how we can safely take part in the cooking-est week of the year without dropping a sweet potato stink bomb on the family dinner table. ···Okay, Jessica! It’s Thanksgiving Week in America. What are one or two dishes from your new book that people like me who can’t cook for shit can safely try this year?I would start with the sweet potato coins and the string beans with almonds.That’s good, because I know I need to leave the cornerstone stuff to the pros. I shouldn’t volunteer to bring the pumpkin pie when I don’t know the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon, right? Just do string beans.Yeah. Although I do have My First Turkey on my website. That could be good. Or you know what? You could be the Potato Man. If you do the smashed potatoes from the book and the sweet potato coins, you can be Potato Man.Mashed potatoes are pretty fundamental, though. I think I will feel safer if I stick to just doing the dishes.No, no. You’ll kill it.I always do the dishes, no matter whose house it is. I’ve noticed that it’s a really effective way to get invited back.Shut up. I said to my husband last night, “I cook, I clean up. Could I have gotten some help anywhere in this deal?”Just love and children, I guess?I do get a lot of love and children. I’ve got a pretty nice life, so I can’t complain. But I feel like I spend four hours in the kitchen. Think about it: If you grocery shop, prep, make dinner, and clean up, that’s like a full time job. Plus, planning what you’re going to eat and dealing with people saying, “This isn’t what I wanted.”Okay here’s what I like about your book: Men like me who can’t cook are starting to feel left out around our male friends who cook like crazy.Is that true?Yeah. My friends are into ribs and grilling and the usual man shit but also like complicated quinoa this and sprouted whatever-whatever salad that…I think it must have something to do with these great male celebrity chefs that have put the man back in cooking. Some of the great artists in the kitchen—the Jacques Pepins, the Mario Batalis—are dudes. Mario Batali put the dude into cooking. For this book though, my muse is my husband. Who is incompetent—those are his terms, by the way, “incompetent” and “moronic.” I based every recipe on how to cook if you’re starting with complete incompetence. I assumed no knowledge. A droid can pick this up and cook something.That’s good because if a guy like me picks up a recipe, by the time he gets to “mince four cloves of garlic” he might be lost.Can you hold on a second? [To someone else] Hey, can you take these muffins out of the oven for me?Wait, there are actually muffins happening as we speak?There are muffins happening right now.What kind?Blueberry.I’m definitely not ready to bake, but what about prepared foods? I feel like for starter cooks like myself it’s better if we don’t cook exactly but just kinda combine things.Did you see the “Quickies” in the back of my book?I did. Avocado toast. Open-faced ricotta and tomato sandwich.For me, this is Jerry Seinfeld personified. He’s just not interested enough in food to start cooking.But he is interested in having lunch.Yes, but he lives with me, so he doesn’t have to feed himself—he gets fed. But if, god forbid, I drop dead, he could feed himself through the back of the book. The Quickies.Jerry Seinfeld is capable of mushing some avocado onto a piece of toast with the back of a fork.Yeah, he can survive.Can I get your thoughts on my chicken salad recipe?Sure.I buy a whole rotisserie chicken from somewhere not scary and pull off all the meat. I cut up some celery, add Duke’s mayo, maybe a little bit of Sriracha, stir it all together with a fork, and I’m done. See? Prepared food. No cooking, but lots of good ways to feed yourself.Now that it’s winter, you could throw an apple in there. How often do you do that?Three times a year, probably? I basically make chicken salad because I don't have the confidence to put things over heat.How about using the oven?That’s even scarier because I can’t see what’s happening in there. In a pan I know what’s going on because I can see it.That’s really sweet. You’re scared to send it into oblivion in the oven.Right. You close the door, and god only knows what’s going to happen.Okay, but what is going to happen?That’s a good point. I guess stuff is just gonna get hot.I say this all the time: You have embarrassed yourself in far worse ways in your life.On a daily basis.On a daily basis! Every day I embarrass myself in some way. For me, if it’s just food it’s so much less acute. If all I screw up is food on a given day, it’s a gift.You know, I just got married and I made a deal with my wife: I have to cook for us once a week. But I haven’t put it into effect and I’m feeling super-guilty. So what recipe in your book is the one that looks and tastes way more impressive than it really is?Do you guys eat pasta? Then make the freaking clams. Make the slammin’ pasta with clams.Nice. Don’t clams announce when they’re done all by themselves? They open up for you so you know they're ready?Yep. Six to eight minutes.Beginners are scared of seafood, though.Just go for it. I will Skype so hard with you on that. Make the pasta, throw it all into a pot, cover it, six to eight minutes, done.One thing you’re known for is being a great host—bringing wide-ranging people together. How do you make exactly the right guest list? I need tips.I’m pretty strict about it. I pay attention to how people would click together. And I don’t let a lot of stragglers in. Sometimes people will say, “Can I bring these three other friends?” And I say no. It might be that other guests won’t gel with those people and that can really kill the vibe. So you have to pay attention to who’s coming and what they do for a living, where they’re from. I spend time thinking about each person, and who they’d want to sit next to, and what’s going on in their life. And if somebody’s bringing a date I ask questions about the date: What is he into? What is he like? And then I’m strict about it. I stick to my guns about my guest list. And I spend a lot of time on seating people.Read More http://www.gq.com/life/food/201311/jessica-seinfeld-thanksgiving-dinner-cooking-advice#ixzz2luIiGXfk
"Jerry Seinfeld’s wife and the author of The Can’t Cook Book teaches us Thanksgiving recipes even an idiot could do."
Get Gwen Stefani's casual cool style by shopping her Stella McCartney Beckett bag!
Stylish pregnant mom with baby no. 3!
My recent post on power made the case that a relentless pursuit of power is the wrong mindset for anyone who wants to succeed in business – or, more importantly, in life.The post generated some lively discussion in the LinkedIn comments, and colleagues of mine from Stanford and in the business community weighed in, too. Plenty agreed, a few didn’t.In particular, people wanted to know what to do if, having climbed halfway up the corporate ladder, you find that everyone around you is still playing a ruthless power game. After all, it’s one thing to encounter a power-hungry pathology among aggressive young coworkers looking to prove themselves. But what happens when you get past all that, only to find yourself surrounded by seasoned executives who see their own “path to power” leading right through your office?If that's the case, should you ignore them and go about your business, hoping they’ll go away? Should you have faith that the people making decisions that could affect you will see through others’ power ploys?The short answer is no. If you feel people are gunning for you, you shouldn’t be naïve or passive. That doesn’t mean you should go on a brutal counter-offensive. Instead, my advice is to remain confident and smart, and to continue doing what you’re best at, as best you can. As threatening as power-mongers might initially look when taking aim at you, they’re susceptible to overextending themselves. If you keep your feet on the ground, you should be able to survive any assaults. If, however, you find yourself constantly defending your own turf, that may be a signal to look for better career alternatives (see point #4 below).If you’re drawn into conflict, the following notions may help keep your career on the right track, and your head in the right place:1. Appreciate that there’s no shortcut to the finish line. Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire — world-class athletes all – achieved great feats. But they all have huge asterisks next to their names because they pursued their goals so relentlessly that they broke the rules. Unfortunately for them, it’s neither the Tour de France wins nor the home runs that people will remember – it’s the betrayal of trust. In business, we need only look to the sad examples of Jeff Skilling at Enron or Bernie Madoff and his Ponzi scheme to find a similar power-driven dynamic that ended not in triumph, but in lasting disgrace.2. Think of competence as your “suit of armor.” Those most vulnerable to attack by the power-hungry are those who are either complacent or have failed to hone their skills to deliver world-class results. There’s nothing like performance – that is, doing what you say you will in the time frame allotted with the resources provided – to secure yourself against anyone thinking to win favor by grandstanding, politics or power grabs.3. Build with quiet confidence. A Linkedin commenter, Georgina Popescu, made an excellent point on my earlier post: “Only those who are genuinely confident and profoundly authentic can exercise real power,” she wrote. “The really powerful people exercise their magic so smoothly that they do not need pompous presentations or lots of acronyms on their business cards. The name, a handshake and a straightforward look will do just fine.” Simple but profound: knowing that you are where you are because of who you are and what you’ve achieved should allow you to maintain the equanimity that will see you through assaults by those pretending to your position. As Georgina has discovered, if you’re really capable, it’ll take more than office politics and posturing to knock you out.4. Think about a change of venue. If your company has become a battlefield for flagrant power players, it could be a sign of a larger problem: that the business is in trouble – or that it will be. Crisis has a way of elevating those who seize any opportunity to advance. It’s important to know when it’s time to leave a power-at-any-cost war zone so you don’t become a casualty, and lose a fight that will affect your career and your life.5. See entrepreneurship as an option. It’s never been easier to start a company. Ending up in the crosshairs of power-hungry competitors at work might represent the impetus to take a chance on yourself. You’d be mistaken to think there’s not real competition in the marketplace and that power won’t be a feature of life outside the walls of your enterprise, but you may be happier striking out on your own. So, consider leaving organizational power struggles behind to find a better use of your energy and time.Power is complicated. Without some power, it's difficult to achieve personal or organizational objectives. But organizations trading in power politics can be crushing places to work. And co-workers grabbing credit at every turn can make work a drag. So if you’re in a place that allows the ruthless to show disrespect, the insecure to take credit, or the savagely ambitious to take the joy and meaning out of work, seize the only power that really matters: control over your attitudes, your values and the quality of the work that you do.****
I think we are all aware when someone is blatantly rude or hostile to us. However, I have found more and more in the workplace, and in society as a whole, that people have become so immune to bad behavior we no longer recognize it for what it is.Incivility has become more about the small nuances and gestures that we often brush off as not important. I facilitate training for my organization, and in one of my classes a few years ago I had one of THOSE students. You know the type… questions you on every little thing you say, thinks she knows the material better than you do. Well, she didn’t, and after a couple of interruptions to enlighten us with her incorrect HR “laws,” I politely asked her to please hold her questions and comments until after class and I would be glad to speak with her in private. She did hush up from that point on; however, she got pouty and refused to interact in the activities. That’s okay, because I just kept smiling and rocking out my training. To be honest, I don’t think she really was trying to be rude; she truly thought she had important things to say. And I had probably embarrassed her, though that wasn’t my intent. Her timing was off… as was her information. We have all experienced these little encounters with someone who is too wrapped in themselves to consider their actions.“Well, that is just Ruth; she’s always busy with her iPhone, she gets a lot of calls and emails you know.” “I’m sure Cathy didn’t mean to bump into me in the hallway, she would have said something, but her mind was just on all those projects she has due.”When we begin to let those little things slide, we begin to lose the good manners that should be a hallmark of professionalism at work. One instance is likely not cause for alarm with your co-workers, however, when they are the norm of everyday exchanges there’s an issue. Oftentimes, it’s when these small instances become piled up over time that the hurtful effects of colleagues’ poor manners are felt.Not sure what I am talking about? Here are some examples: Use of a cell phone during a meeting, be it checking emails or texting Making light of others’ accomplishments or contributions “Huh?” or simply not listening Obvious disgust or irritation when asked for help Using more than their share of department resources, leaving nothing for others Blacklisting other colleagues by not inviting them to team meetings they should obviously be a part of Sending short, snippy emails or voicemail messages Not cleaning up after oneself, whether it be the break room, copy room or bathroomChristine Pearson and Christine Prath offer good tips in their book, The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility Is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It, however, let’s be honest, you don’t read blogs like this to be told “Hey go check out this great book” (though it is a great book!). You want those tips now! Well, why didn’t you just ask nicely? See where I’m going here?When we lose the small niceties with each other, we see a breakdown of the team and a breakdown of the organization as a whole if left unchecked. I know you know what I’m talking about. Personality conflicts creep in and before you know it those little gestures have blown up all over your office and you are putting out fires like a seasoned firefighter.It may seem that the list above is not really a big deal. However, if our behavior with one another is less than civil, how about our behavior with our customers and guests? Do we turn on the charm with them or are we cold in those interactions as well?So, take a look around… is that incivility I see? Where is it coming from? Have you caught it in the beginning stages or is this an advanced critical case? And don’t tell me it’s just your line-level workers causing problems in this area. I would be willing to bet that some in your C-suite are guilty as charged. If incivility is an issue in your workplace, I suggest your upper management take a look in the mirror first, then work on a change of culture that starts from the top down. Instill values of good internal and external service. Instill values of integrity, honesty and ethical behavior with all colleagues and customers or guests. Walk the walk and talk the talk, right? When you build this kind of culture in the workplace, you will reap the rewards. You will see a change in your employees and your co-workers. You may even see a change in yourself.The big payoff? Improved communication, improved management/employee relations, and improved teamwork. And when these things improve, so will your bottom line. Employees who are more engaged with the company culture and enjoy their work environment are more apt to provide consistent, quality service to all of your customers or guests. Stopping incivility in its tracks will work from the inside out to improve your company – try it and see!
The issue of incivility in the workplace starts from the top down. Bad behavior should not be emulated nor should it be tolerated. Certain basic rules of engagement are necessary, especially in the workplace. It trully is and inside job. ~V.B.
"Instill values of good internal and external service. Instill values of integrity, honesty and ethical behavior with all colleagues and customers or guests. Walk the walk and talk the talk, right? When you build this kind of culture in the workplace, you will reap the rewards. You will see a change in your employees and your co-workers."
Passenger - Let Her Go, from the album All the Little Lights. My first lyrics video. Hope you enjoy it! Made entirely in Adobe Premiere Pro CS6. ------------...
Beautiful song on a rainy day. <3
Derek Mattison is a self-proclaimed "tailoring whore" but with the launch of his eponymous brand Mattison, the designer is pimping out his personal obsession by offering guys a line of expertly crafted, razor sharp suits. The hallmark of the brand's slim silhouette is a skinny lapel that, when rendered in traditional menswear fabrications, looks like the sartorial love child of a 50s IBM employee and a cooler-than-you Parisian art director — forward-thinking and classic at the same time. We caught up with the designer on the eve of his first store opening in L.A. (coming later this month) to find out more about his armhole fixation, why the most expensive suits out there aren't always the best, and what every guy should keep in mind when shopping for some new tailored goods.GQ: When did you first become obsessed with tailoring?
Derek Mattison: It's hard to say but I think it goes back to around 2004 or 2005 when I bought my first Tom Ford suit. At the time I was mostly wearing designer labels like Dior, Jil Sander and Band of Outsiders but when I put on a Tom Ford it felt like making sweet, sweet love. Unfortunately I looked like I should be selling derivatives or trading currencies, and I wanted to gouge my eyes out, so I attempted to make it look like an old Heidi Slimane jacket by shortening the length, taking in the sleeve width, and thinning out the lapel. All in I think it was about a $7,000 lesson in balance, proportion and limits.GQ: How did that love of tailoring grow into you wanting to start your own brand?
Mattison: I think a lot of the strong tailored goods brands don't make very wearable everyday clothing. When I look at brands like Kiton, Brioni, and even Tom Ford I think wow, this stuff feels great and is made really well, but you look fucking ridiculous wearing a Kiton three-piece to lunch on a Tuesday if you're not closing a mega merger. On the flip side, I feel like a lot of designer brands don't construct their garments as well as they should for the prices they charge. I get nauseous when I see a brand charging over $2k for a jacket and they use fusing. What I'm trying to do is merge my love of quality tailoring with a minimalist designer sensibility, a wearable color palette, and the real world. And yes, that real world includes denim.GQ: What has been the most challenging aspect of getting Mattison off the ground? The most rewarding?
Mattison: Deciding to name your brand your own name comes with pressure and responsibility to yourself. I liked the challenge of not being able to hide behind a fictitious brand name so that I'd have to personally endorse every product and stand behind it 100%. To me that meant doing things my way and making things without compromise. Every garment we make I will look at and ask two questions "would I buy this" and "is this made really well"? If the answer is no to either question then it'll never be on the shelf — It's as simple as that. Unfortunately not everyone has my same take on quality and getting through this first production has been a humbling experience. However, at the end of the day I honestly feel like we're putting out some really beautiful product and I'm proud that my name is on the label.GQ: What was the process like developing the signature silhouette for Mattison?
Mattison: Before I got into the details I spent a lot of time on the fit. In the past when I was buying off the rack one of the first things I would do is lift the armhole. It creates a slimmer silhouette in the body and it feels more elegant when you put the jacket on. Next came the sleeve and body length and I feel like I ended up on the longer side of short. My suit jackets are short, not Thom Browne short, but short enough for you to realize that it's no longer the 90s. The slim, high-waisted trouser was just in response to the ill-fitting trousers that most brands paired with their suit jackets. Now I know that you can tailor pants but once you start changing the taper and fussing with pants too much in the seat it throws off the balance. And if you think you can trust your tailor to get it right, you're wrong. I'm only willing to trust a tailor as far as I can throw him. Watch what happens if you start the taper too much above the knee. You'll hate yourself. I wanted to have a pant fit that was tailored slim without being obnoxiously designer so that it only fits 90 lb androgynous hipster boys.GQ: And the lapels?
Mattison: The really thin lapel width was an evolution. I started making lapels thinner and thinner and the smaller they became I felt the jackets became more wearable in a casual environment. Eventually I made some prototypes with lapels that were too thin (it's definitely possible) and I ended up sticking with the smallest lapel before it became laughably small.GQ: What is your favorite piece from the collection?
Mattison: Wool stretch jersey single breast blazer. It's a pair of pajamas reincarnated as a meticulously tailored blazer. Honorable mention goes to my charcoal raw denim.GQ: What do you feel separates Mattison from the other offerings in the menswear marketplace?
Mattison: It's completely wearable everyday clothing. A lot of high-end lines have too many pieces that are only for the fashion forward or they're a little too precious so they just sit in your closet. Everything in my line is made with the intention that it can be worn to work and directly to the bar - b/c that's what I do. I never understood "go out clothes". So you wear crap to work and then you go home and change and put on your "good clothes"? That's backward logic, homey.GQ: What's the one thing every guy should remember when shopping for a suit?
Mattison: I'd give these three pieces of advice: 1) Don't think of it as a suit. Think of it as a tool that can be used to help you become a very successful scoundrel. You can deal heroin, but if you have on a well-tailored suit you look like management. 2) If you don't have many jackets in the collection stick to simple greys, blacks, and navys without patterns or stripes. I know you may have your eye on that burgundy velvet blazer over at Louis Vuitton, but you're only going to wear it to two holiday parties before it's played out and noticeable as last year's Louis. 3) Wear it for fuck's sake. Wear it with a tie to your cousin's Bar Mitzvah. Wear it with a t-shirt, denim and Jordans to the car wash. Wear it on the plane when you visit your family back in Minnesota. Over time the jacket will form more and more to your body making it truly yours.GQ: What's next for the Mattison brand?
Mattison: Currently we've got a lot in the works. Our flagship is opening this month in Los Angeles and we're just putting the finishing touches on the next two lines, which I'm really excited about. A couple new denim fits and finishes, an additional silhouette to the blazer collection, knitwear, shoes, new outerwear. I'm just getting warmed up.Read More http://www.gq.com/style/blogs/the-gq-eye/2012/11/the.html#ixzz2lDEOI7cS
A well made and tailored suit makes all the diffirence.
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