Tag Archives: writing

This is Your Brain on One Month of Constant Gratitude (via Success)

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Success — Confession: Before this assignment, I’d never even considered keeping a gratitude journal. I imagined parchment and elf-crystals and perfumed writing chambers where the air is 75 percent mulberry incense, and purple-haired millennials talk an awful lot about chakras.

Gratitude is also an example of what humans call feelings, and I have spent an awful lot of energy trying to avoid those. But as it happens, what makes me a lousy human also leaves me pretty well-qualified to gauge the effects of a gratitude journal—a tally of thanks I kept throughout December to see whether the gurus and positive psychologists are right about its uplifting power.

Science has fallen over itself proving how gratitude makes you not only a warmer person but a healthier one. “Previous research has linked gratitude to improved mental health, lower levels of anxiety and improved sleep,” says Blaire Morgan, Ph.D., a research fellow at the University of Birmingham in England. “Our own research has demonstrated a strong link between gratitude and three different measures of well-being: satisfaction with life, subjective happiness and positive affect.”

Here’s what happened after a month of relentless gratitude. 

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No one is safe from the Sexy Halloween Costume movement. Not even you, Canada.

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Pictured: Mountie (Non-Sexy Variety)

McClatchy/Tribune – I am not a very good-looking woman, which I think is the primary reason I’m having trouble coming up with a decent Halloween costume this year. (It’s also the main reason I kept getting turned down for sororities, not that I’m still bitter about that, stupid Zeta Tau Alpha, I hate you so much.)

Indeed, if you have visited any costume stores lately, you might have noticed that they look less like costume stores and more like places that Britney Spears might shop, if she could stay sober long enough to park the car. Costume stores these days feature an irrationally large percentage of rack space devoted entirely to Sexy versions of average things: Sexy Nurse, Sexy Doctor, Sexy Soccer Player, Naughty Navigator, Sexy Mountie, Support Our Troops Sexy Adult (really), Sexy Wilma Flintstone (I can send you the link to these if you want). One newsroom staffer reported stumbling across a costume for a Sexy Cab Driver, which is, of course, something that has never happened in the history of the human experience. (However, if it does happen, I suggest immediately that we cancel Halloween and institute National I Found A Sexy Cab Driver Day, which we could commemorate by briefly increasing the national speed limit to 200 mph and growing splendid beards.)

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• Ministry – Every Day Is Halloween

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I can’t help but notice that no one is fleeing in terror from the hairy crazy ants

GateHouse— Before the hairy crazy ants came, everything was going pretty well: Ohio State was losing, the AL East was being proficiently escorted out of the playoffs, I dropped a 98-point monster on my friend Matt in Words With Friends (“QUAILS” — holla!) Michelle Bachmann’s candidacy was fading into that permafrost netherworld and the only people still paying attention were lunatic nonagenarians from Iowa. Oh, and get this I FIXED A TOILET, by myself, USING TOOLS, sort of, and it stayed fixed until the next day when it was clearly still broken, but man, that was a deeply satisfying 12 hours.

And then, with everything swimming along swimmingly, I learned that the South — one of America’s largest, most buttery regions — was being invaded by hairy crazy ants.

This is their actual name: “hairy crazy ants.” This is their actual name because coming up with any other name for them would be pointless; you could call them “formicidae inferi” or “streptococcus abugslifei” or “Stuart” and it wouldn’t matter because everyone would just say “SWEET CHILD OF HOSANNA WHAT ARE THESE HAIRY CRAZY ANTS DOING IN MY SCRAMBLED EGGS?” (Or I guess I should say “WHAT ARE THEY DOING ALL OVER MY NASCAR FUNNEL CAKES AND TAYLOR SWIFT MUDFLAPS” because, again, American South. On the plus side if they’re invading the South and least this isn’t one of those plagues sent to wipe out gay people trying to get married.)

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In which two minor home-repair projects end with the now-traditional spraying of some blood

Go ahead. Just stick your hand in there. Get that lemon. Stop being such a crybaby.

GateHouse — Things I have learned over the July 4 holiday break, which I mostly dedicated to doing various Household Chores, because if I know anything it’s how to rock the face right off of a three-day weekend.

Guess what happens when you use your index finger to quickly crease a sheet of sandpaper because you’re an idiot? If your answer included the words “hopping around the backyard like someone replaced your shoes with screaming balls of flame” and/or the phrase “geysers of blood,” you would be largely correct.

The high probability of geysers of blood is usually the main reason I stay award from woodworking, as well as most major home repair projects, Arkansas and Wimbledon, and I have to be honest that I was not expecting such a delightful fiesta of gore to quite so directly emerge from the currently useless object where my index finger used to be — and yes, if you are wondering, it smarts like the dickens every time I type a word with any of these annoying mid-keyboard letters in it, so pretty soon you may start to notice my sentences getting pretty low on Js, Hs, Us and Ys.

The sandpapering was being done, incidentally, on the bottom of a closet door, which needed to be shortened up just a touch to get over a bump in the floor where the hardwood is uneven or the ground is settling or the undead residents of mass Indian burial ground on which my home sits are starting to get restless. Needless to say, the sandpapering not only didn’t work, but in the midst of my getting it to not-work, I managed to misplace the metal piece inside the structure of the door itself. I hear it rattling in there. I think it’s staying in there to avoid being bled on.

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The Weiner Test For The Professional Copy Editor

What?

GateHouse — There isn’t much glory in being a newspaper copy editor and/or page designer these days. The hours are miserable: You almost always work nights, clocking in at 3 or 4 p.m. and blinkingly re-emerging into the real world around midnight to do your grocery shopping or coping-mechanism drinking — and that’s only if you’re one of the deliriously lucky schmucks who works only on one section and that section is not sports, where you sit alone in a desolate newsroom, accompanied only by the disembodied whirrrrr of deserted aging computers, waiting for the close of a crucial June game involving the Arizona Diamondbacks. If you misplace a comma, or leave a participle dangling someplace it shouldn’t be dangling, someone with a fierce, weirdly passionate grip on the thrilling world of grammar will send you a snarky email, grump about you publicly and probably invent a nickname that’ll stick with you for years. And even if all your modifiers are situated in their appropriate latitudes, chances are solid that you’ll soon see your pay cut, be furloughed or impolitely directed to relocate to a centralized editing mothership in a town the newspaper isn’t in. To enjoy these honors you’re paid almost enough to, if the markets hold, retire at the age of Yoda.

And yet, people do this job! People sign up to do this job, and people go into stomach-churning volumes of student loan debt to do this job! And that is because they are a singular kind of person, a dark kind of person, the kind of person who takes a position for criminally low pay because there might be, on a ghostly, distant evening in the future, a chance that they’ll spend their days writing Weiner headlines for money, and nothing can take that away from them.

Now, if there’s anything left to be done with this Weiner thing I can’t think of it, except of course for that clause. I just don’t know how many other ways to handle this Weiner business, and yes, promise, really done now. Which is good, because I can’t imagine what else anyone could possibly squeeze out of Weiner.

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If your chemistry textbook was published in Comic Sans, you’d still remember covalent bonding

Pictured: Fonts that freakish super-geniuses use, but go ahead and stick with Garamond, dummy.

GateHouse — You probably don’t need to be reminded of this, but I have a lot in common with Kanye West. We share a taste for red leather suits, we have many of the same ex-girlfriends and we once both released albums called “Late Registration” with anthropomorphic-bear-mascot cover art, which was awkward, but he and I joke about it now, usually while throwing wads of $100 bills into the air and driving around at 8 mph.

Kanye and I first bonded over our two shared passions: pink vertical-slat sunglasses and fonts. “Sometimes I get emotional over fonts,” Kanye tweeted last summer, and it’s like he was peering into my soul. As someone who grew up with early Macintosh computers — and thus not having to worry about squandering quality brain-juice on such decisions as “Is he thinking breaking ball here?” or “Six girlfriends, one Homecoming, whom do I select?” — I found myself very early thinking things like, “Why don’t people use Palatino more IT IS SO CLASSY!” and “I know San Francisco is supposed to be fun but this pro wrestling fanzine is supposed to look PROFESSIONAL.”

Fonts, as you probably already know if you’re still reading for some reason, are of great importance. They convey ideas, they offer sly, subliminal insights into the minds of their designers and they can be very helpful in making harsh, uninformed early opinions about people you don’t know (i.e., “Oh, this resume’s header is in Impact?” Why not just print it dot matrix?” one might think, which among font people is a CRUSHING BURN.) I have personally been involved in conference calls in which full-grown adults spent 30 minutes debating the relative merits of Bold vs. Semi-Bold. Dozens were bloodied.

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Choc-Ola returns, and not a moment too soon

GateHouse — When you see the phrase “Indiana entrepreneurs re-launch” at the beginning of a sentence and you are from Indiana, a few thoughts rocket immediately through the parts of your brain not dedicated to inventing increasingly desperate excuses for why IU hasn’t won a championship since ’87:

  • “Mellencamp’s giant robot will soon rise!”
  • “There must have been tremendous increases in the production of rickety hoops which can be attached to barns.”
  • “Whatever it is, Peyton Manning is shooting a commercial for it in the morning.”
  • “Automated Mitch Daniels-hitting device”

Ha! I kid Indiana because I love Indiana, except its stupid approach to time zones, which is such that when my cousin asked me last week what time it was in my current location I CACKLED WITH GLEE FOR TEN MINUTES because that’s literally the first time the question has swung that way in 35 years. I’m still cackling. I think I’ll take a small cackle break right now. Ha HO! Oh, it feels so good to laugh when you’ve spent 12 years calling people at incorrect times for interviews, such as that one time I woke up “Weird Al” Yankovic’s baby. Still feel bad about that.

But though I love Indiana as a state, frankly many of their exports have left something to be desired, and yes, I’m looking at you, Babyface. You and Choc-Ola, an old chocolate-based beverage that’s being relaunched by two Indianapolis-based entrepreneurs, Dan Iaria and Joe Wolfla, the latter of whom said “It’s the greatest-tasting chocolate milk you’ve ever had.” The GREATEST-TASTING. Brave words, Wolfla; rare is the man who messes with Hershey and survives.

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Carolina Chocolate Drops – Knockin’

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What to do if, hypothetically, your big-shot Rapture was a huge disastrous flop

GateHouse — IMPORTANT RAPTURE PREFACE: When you’re making snarky jokes about the end of the world with your 7-year-old and his friends, it is important to ASSURE THEM THAT IT IS NOT ACTUALLY HAPPENING, because first and second-graders are WAY less plugged into the notion of hilarious dark sarcasm than us adults. Have you ever seen the look on the face of a second-grader who’s just spent a day at the beach until 5:15 p.m., and then hears that the world is ending at 6? It is the most heartbreaking thing ever.

Actually, it’s the runner-up. More heartbreaking are the boulder-dumb pudding-brains who subscribe to the overcaffeinated blustering of a crazypants octogenarian on AM radio, people whose places in the world, whether by dumb luck or a series of incredibly questionable decisions, grew so suffocating that their best option became hoping for a planet-cleansing fireball. And sure, in that case your “rapture” is actually “justify the fundamental lousiness of your life by assigning yourself some sort of self-assigned supernatural superiority,” but in any event, WHOA super-depressing right?

My apologies in advance for beating a dead apocalypse, and I think we can agree that if there’s a rapture joke that hasn’t been made yet it exists only in an undiscovered dimension, but try to imagine preparing — literally preparing, doubtlessly, devoutly — for the Actual End Of Days, and then waking up at 8:23 a.m. Sunday to find the world spinning normally, life proceeding in its well-carved patterns, everything pretty much free of devastating earthquakes and horsemen.

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Mose Allison – Ever Since The World Ended

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Comma police, arrest this man, or, Diary of a Serial Comma

GateHouse — There are a lot of incredibly easy ways to anger people who write for a living: plagiarize their work, create a website of links to their stuff and call it “The Huffington Post” or present them a pie chart illustrating their 20-year income projection, then overlay that with a pie chart illustrating same for whoever the shortstop is on the fourth-place Chicago Cubs.

But if you really want to stick it to a writer, if you really want to jab the proverbial pen in his unproverbial eye (it stings more if it’s unproverbial), say something on Twitter about the serial comma. (For those of you who grew up, say, playing sports, that’s the last comma in a series. It is also known as the Oxford comma, and is frequently beaten up by the other, cooler commas.)

This is what I did last week, very offhandedly, almost unhandedly, after receiving a relatively minor but highly accurate correction from a friend in New York City who primarily plays “jazz music” when he’s not finding himself unusually moved by the grammatical misgivings of dimwit quote-fingers humor writers in states that contain very little jazz at all. 

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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_i1xk07o4g]

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On the Heritage, and why grown men play golf wearing silly clown pants

"Purple plaid, check. Lets go seize this day."

Hilton Head Monthly — I should start by saying that with apologies to both my mom and Jim Furyk, I’ve never really been into golf.

This is for one extremely simple, profound reason: I am terrible at golf. I am terrible at it in grave, hideous fashion. I am terrible at it in ways that make it so you can actually watch my 7-year-old lose respect for me in real time, in ways that should be sung about by Tom Waits, in ways that if our culture somehow celebrated the appearance of playing golf as though you’re being repeatedly jabbed in the brain with an electric toothbrush, I would be totally winning.

It’s not, I should make clear, for lack of trying. Once, at a driving range, I literally hit a ball that ended up — and I’m still not entirely sure how the physics worked on this — beneath my car, which was interesting, since the car was about 30 feet away, and also behind me. On the depressingly infrequent occasions when I managed to orient the ball in the direction I was facing already, it would most often fly in a reasonably straight line for about 20 feet, then stop dead, make an inexplicable right turn and promptly careen into whatever was off to the right: forest, batting cage, birthday party, pile of angry alligators, whatever.

But here’s my other thing with golf, and, again, I’m an outsider, so please correct me if I’m wrong: Average pinheads like me can attend, say, a baseball game. We can go see basketball in street clothes. But I’m not sure I can ever adapt to golf’s established, tradition-filled world based almost entirely — and I apologize if this sounds discriminatory — on my taste in pants.

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James Brown – Hot Pants

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