Posted in from the reading room on November 30, 2007|
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There’s a great post across in four hour week – a precis of Kurt Vonnegut’s last interview – it’s worth a read in full but these two answers really grabbed me –
Tell me the reasons you’ve been attracted to a life of creation, whether as a writer or an artist.
I’ve been drawing all my life, just as a hobby, without really having shows or anything. It’s just an agreeable thing to do, and I recommend it to everybody. I always say to people, practice an art, no matter how well or badly [you do it], because then you have the experience of becoming, and it makes your soul grow. That includes singing, dancing, writing, drawing, playing a musical instrument. One thing I hate about school committees today is that they cut arts programs out of the curriculum because they say the arts aren’t a way to make a living. Well, there are lots of things worth doing that are no way to make a living. [Laughs.] They are agreeable ways to make a more agreeable life.
In the process of your becoming, you’ve given the world much warmth and humor. That matters, doesn’t it?
I asked my son Mark what he thought life was all about, and he said, “We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.” I think that says it best. You can do that as a comedian, a writer, a painter, a musician. He’s a pediatrician. There are all kinds of ways we can help each other get through today. There are some things that help. Musicians really do it for me. I wish I were one, because they help a lot. They help us get through a couple hours.
I agree with these sentiments so much – we should all practice something creative – it makes our souls grow. And we are here to help each other get through this thing – a life spent without this motivation is a life lacking something in my opinion.
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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder it’s said, but maybe it’s not just in the eye? This study asked people to rate the attractiveness of others from photos along with short personality descriptions. They found that
individuals – both men and women – who exhibit positive traits, such as honesty and helpfulness, are perceived as better looking. Those who exhibit negative traits, such as unfairness and rudeness, appear to be less physically attractive to observers.
This reminded me of a study I read ages ago which got students to guesstimate the height of a lecturer who was introduced as either “Mr”, “Dr”, or “Professor”. There was a consistent increase in the perceived height of the lecturer when introduced as “Dr” over “Mr” and “Professor” over “Dr”.
It also brought to mind the effect of pupil size on perceived attractiveness. A study done using actors and actresses with sets of photos before and after having their pupils dilated showed that observers consistently rate the photos where the pupils are larger as being the more attractive.
So I guess there are many influences on our perceptions of the physical – personality traits, status and state of arousal. Are there others you are aware of?
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As I walked into the Place de l’Hotel de Ville, in Aix-en-Provence, last night, I could hear somebody speaking very loudly. Well, these days, there are always people around you using mobile phones. Mobile phone users fall into one of two camps. There are those who try to speak very quietly, maybe even holding a hand over their mouth while they mumble and whisper into their phone, but there are others who are a bit like old-fashioned town criers yelling their opinions and news so that everyone in a 500 yard radius hears exactly what they have to say. These latter seem to outnumber the former. So when I heard the loud declamation I assumed it was somebody on their mobile phone and didn’t think any more about it till the square gradually cleared and the voice continued loudly. It seemed to be coming from near the great tree.
But it wasn’t someone on their phone and it wasn’t even one of the people strolling past the tree. In fact, pretty much everyone walked on and the loud voice from the tree continued. I noticed a bike resting against the trunk of the tree and up above I saw a man.
Yep, there was a man, sitting in the branches of a tree and reading. Loudly. My first thought was that he was declaiming poetry. French is such a beautiful language to my ear that the assumption I’m hearing poetry is an easy one. But as I listened I realised it wasn’t poetry. He was reading the book out loud and it was a textbook. My French isn’t good enough to but he used the word “technic” a lot, and other words from economics and politics were scattered through the sentences. What was he doing? Studying? When I was at University, one year, a fellow student walked back and forth across the grass outside my window, textbook in hand, reading it out loud as he got it into his brain. By exam time that one student had created a deep trench! Not just a path, but a trench! Was that was this guy was doing? Getting the facts of the textbook into his head? Or was he trying to change the world with words? There’s a man walks around the streets of Carcassonne singing a song of his own making. He has sheaves of handwritten paper in his hands and walks round and round the streets of the old town singing his words at the top of his voice. You can hear his words about the ‘Carcassonais’ and ‘Cathars’ and several entirely private fantasies about places and people echoing down the narrow streets. I’m never sure what he’s doing either. Everyone just ignores him. As if he’s doing nothing unusual. And the man in the tree was the same. Nobody stopped to listen. Nobody called up ‘hey, what are you doing up there?’ (nope, I didn’t either!) Was he marking his territory with his words? Was he casting spells to change his world?
Isn’t reality strange? You couldn’t make it up!
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Aix en Provence is famous for its fountains, and at this time of year they add coloured lights to some of them. One of my favourites is this one where the colours are constantly changing.
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