Jan 31, 2013

It's A Cruel, Cruel, World

Just got back from a trip to Disneyland with the fam. We're a weird bunch, and as one might expect after a long day of rides, deliciousness and exhaustion, we get a bit...silly. The "It's A Small World" ride is down for annual maintenance, but that didn't stop us from ruminating on its general impact to our frequent Disney trips.

And then - as we so often do - we decided to give the song a makeover. Cummins family style.

This is what we came up with:

It's a cruel, cruel, world
It's world of drama, a world of pain
And a world of zombies who'll eat your brain
Though the earth must abide, it goes on when we've died
It's a cruel, cruel world
It's a world of scum and a world of crud
And there's probably vampires who vant your blood
Though its not a full moon, we must sing you this tune
It's a cruel, cruel, world
It's a cruel world after all
It's a cruel world after all
It's a cruel world after all
It's a cruel cruel world
It's a world of murder and of despair
There's a good chance that we'll lose all our hair
Though we still have the sun, it might fry everyone
It's a cruel, cruel, world
It's a world of business with no good sense
It's a world with no grass on both sides of the fence
Though between you and me on this thing we'll agree
It's a cruel, cruel world
(Repeat chorus)
It's a world of terror without any fear
It's a world of anger, a world of fear
Though I'm not naming names, they'll all go down in flames
It's a cruel, cruel world
It's a world of bigots, a world of dumb
As the rest of us all gradually grow numb
Thus we all do decline til the end of all time
It's a cruel, cruel, world

Jan 21, 2013

The Platinum Rule

Just wanted to drop out a short comment or two about a clever concept I heard the other day - about upgrading the notion of the Golden Rule (for those who never went to sunday school, it's the "Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You" one) to a Platinum Rule "Treat Others The Way They Would Like To Be Treated."

It's a subtle difference, between treating them as you'd like to be treated and how they'd like to be treated, and puts the onus of interpersonal comprehension squarely on our own shoulders.

Here's an example:

When I'm writing, I like to be left alone. Pretty much functional if not one single person interrupts my flow, and, barring aforementioned interruptions, I can spend a qualified successful day just on my lonesome, working on whatever project may have happened across my scope.

However, even though my lovely and loving wife fully supports my writing processes, she's much happier if I take some time out to, say, make lunch for everyone, walk the dogs, or do a brief spot of cleaning. Even though simply being allowed to focus on writing (also referred to as "buying my wife a swimming pool") is the way I would like to be treated, I can't do the same reflectively - - that leads to unhappiness, and as any married person will tell you, if your spouse is unhappy, you are unhappy. You just don't know it yet.

Thus, to have a truly successful writing day, I can't simply treat my family the way I want to be treated, I have to treat them the way THEY want to be treated. Then, as it turns out, they leave me as much time as I need to write, and in the end we're all happy.

Anyway, there you have it. The Platinum Rule. We'll now return to your browsing of cute cat memes and debates about American politics, already in progress.

Jan 7, 2013

Life Skills

Found this great article over on the Huffington Post, and wanted to save some of it here, mostly just so I'd have a place to refresh my brain in case they archive the page there.

It's about life skills that simply must be mastered - they say "before the age of 40", but I don't believe it's ever too late to start learning new tricks. So here are a few of my favorites:

How To Spot A Good Opportunity
"A lot of people ask me how I knew 'Mad Men' or 'Breaking Bad' would make great TV. I knew because when I read those scripts, I felt something. I didn't do any market testing or focus groups -- I just asked myself, 'Would I want to watch this?' When you're weighing an opportunity, make the question that simple: 'Do I really want this, or am I doing it for the money or the prestige or because I think I should?' It can't just be about those things. It has to make you feel good, too. And by the way, if opportunities aren't knocking, you can make your own. When I was looking for work several years ago, I took everyone I knew in New York, where I'd just moved, to dinner or drinks or tea. I explained that I was open to anything. Six months later, one of those dinner dates called about a possible job at AMC. If I hadn't put myself out there, that never would have happened."
-- Christina Wayne former senior VP at AMC, current president of Cineflix Studios, and an executive producer of the new BBC America series "Copper"

How To Not Sweat The Small Stuff
"The thing that's grand about spending your time thinking about the universe is that it makes you feel insignificant. I don't mean that in a bad way. If you understand that we've now discovered entire solar systems that contain planets similar to Earth -- and that those are just the ones we know about, since most of the stars we've looked at are within about 300 light-years of Earth and the distance to the center of our galaxy is nearly 100 times that -- then you realize that the laundry you've left undone and the dumb thing you said yesterday are about as significant as slime mold."
-- Alyssa Goodman, professor of astronomy, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

How To Let Go Of Anger
"Anger is like a storm rising up from the bottom of your consciousness. When you feel it coming, turn your focus to your breath. Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body. Then look at, or think of, the person triggering this emotion: With mindfulness, you can see that she is unhappy, that she is suffering. You can see her wrong perceptions. You can see that she is not beautiful when she says things that are unkind. You can also see that you don't want to be like her. You'll feel motivated by a desire to say or do something nice -- to help the other person suffer less. This means compassionate energy has been born in your heart. And when compassion appears, anger is deleted."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk and author of Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

How To Buy Great Wine

  • "See if an expensive wine's producer also makes a value bottle -- it's likely to be crafted with the same care.

  • Serve wine with food from its region. For pasta, look to an Italian bottle. For paella, go Spanish.

  • If all else fails, try Malbec from Argentina, Merlot from France, Pinot Grigio from Northern Italy, and Chardonnay from Australia. Pinot Noir pairs with almost anything. And you can't go wrong with bubbly."
-- Sheri Sauter Morano, Institute of Masters of Wine

How To Know When To Quit
"After my first book was published in 2000, I spent two and a half years writing a novel. But it never felt right. I didn't even name it -- it was the poor, misshapen beast child I kept hidden under my bed. Then I showed it to my agent. 'None of the things you do well are in evidence here,' she said. I was devastated, then relieved: I had failed, and now I could stop. If you don't feel a shiver of excitement or fear, if there's no emotional risk involved, let it go. You can't discount how hard it will be to leave your bad marriage or stop writing your bad book, but if you're unhappy, nothing can get better as long as the status quo stays the status quo."
-- Elissa Schappell, author of Blueprints for Building Better Girls

How To Listen Better
"Start by doing everything you can to fire up the 'mirror neurons' in your brain, which mimic what others are experiencing. You can subtly imitate the other person's posture, even match the pace and depth of their breathing. Your words can also mirror what the other person is telling you. For example, you might say, 'What I'm hearing is that it distresses you when your husband wears his tiara in public' or 'Wow, I can tell just from your voice that you're under serious pressure.' Don't add advice or commentary -- just reflect. If you simply must add something, ask the speaker to disconfirm what you say. In other words, ask to be told where you're mistaken -- and mean it. 'I'm thinking it's not so much that you're embarrassed as that you want a tiara of your own -- am I wrong about that?' Do not ask to be told that you're right; it turns a listening ear into a bid for authority, and no one will want to talk to you then."
-- Martha Beck, O's resident life coach and author of Finding Your Way in a Wild New World