Notes on Surviving the 21st Century

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If you are suffering from 21st century over load well don’t worry. It seems you’re not the only one. Not according to Matt Haig’s new book Notes On A Nervous Planet anyway, which is currently enjoying a stint on the best seller list. It appears that Haig, like many of us is also struggling with occupying a primitive body in a digital, super charged world. The book is in some ways a how to guide in surviving the modern world. How do we deal with so much change when we as human beings don’t really like change all that much? This is one of the many topics he attempts to tackle. Haig asks, “How can we live in a mad world, without ourselves going mad?”

Now I’m going to be honest, some of the facts in this book are frightening. Some might even bring on a panic attack, which is exactly the opposite of what Haig is trying to achieve. He is brutally honest about the effects of over exposure to social media, lack of sleep, a 24 hour news cycle and an ever increasing addiction to smart phones. So much so that on the second night of reading it I went to bed, too late of course and began feeling very anxious. I thought about all the terrible habits I’ve picked up that are slowly killing me and worse still I really enjoy most of them. I didn’t sleep very well that night. As a self confessed over thinker just like Haig, I began to over analyse these facts. Haig uses the Shakespeare quote very effectively here saying, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so”  Some of the scary facts that I obsessed over were about technology and the way in which we are using it to frighten the lives out of ourselves. He cites one very successful marketing book that says the best way to sell products to consumers is by using fear, doubt and uncertainty. The more unfulfilled we feel the more we buy and so the world keeps turning. Or so they would have us believe.

Perhaps the most depressing fact I discovered was that the CEO of Netflix believes his biggest competitor, is not other companies like Amazon or HBO but in fact sleep. Yes sleep is the thing they are trying to fight against. Comforting isn’t it?  Makes you begin to understand why so many are struggling with mental health problems and why as Haig points out, the whole world is in fact having a collective panic attack. Basically it’s that good old never enough feeling we’re all trying to fight. Never enough time, never enough things, never enough money. Surely the next click, the next purchase or box set will fix it but strangely enough it doesn’t. Panic breeds more panic so perhaps its time to slow down, breath and reboot. Or as Haig would say just “add a comma to your day”

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Thanks “Rosie”

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In 1940 a wartime industrial poster was displayed in Westinghouse Electric Corporation plant. The poster by Pittsburgh artist J. Howard Miller, shows a young woman, dressed in a blue work shirt and polka-dot bandanna. The woman is flexing her muscles and the caption reads “We Can Do It!”  The poster was originally created in order to deter absenteeism and strikes among employees during wartime. It was never really meant for public viewing.

Many men had gone off to fight in the war so woman were being called upon to step in and do their duty for their country.  They were suddenly expected to do work that had, up until that point been reserved entirely for men. Women were not generally thought to be strong enough for these types of jobs but in the absence of young men to do them the government had no choice but to recruit women to fill the roles instead. This propaganda campaign was very successful and woman applied in record numbers. More than 300,000 women worked in the U.S. aircraft industry for the first time. In addition to factory and industrial work some 350,000 women also joined the Armed Services.

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A photograph of Naomi Parker Fraley in 1942

The poster faded into obscurity until the 1980’s. The woman’s movement was making waves at the time and the poster, which had been rediscovered quickly became a powerful symbol for feminism. The woman in the poster was given the name Rosie the Riveter. The image became hugely popular and was printed on T-shirts, mugs etc. Even though the image was widely familiar the identity of the woman in the poster continued to be something of a mystery. Over the years many different woman claimed to be the iconic “Rosie”. There was even a wartime song of the same name by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb. For years a woman called Geraldine Hoff Doyle was believed to be the real Rosie the Riveter. However Dr. Kimble, who is an associate professor of communication and the arts at Seton Hall University in New Jersey wasn’t convinced. So he embarked on a six-year quest to find out her true identity. After many years he discovered that the lathe worker was in fact a woman called Naomi Parker Fraley.

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20 Years of Magic

 

 

 

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I couldn’t let the day pass without acknowledging this anniversary. I woke up this morning and discovered that 20 years ago today the first Harry Potter book Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone was published, on the 26th of June 1997. Apart from making me feel quite old this also made me feel very nostalgic. These books hold a lot of significance for me. They were the first book series, other than say Enid Blyton’s creations that I was really immersed in as a child. I remember distinctly when I first discovered the books. I was about 14 years old. We had been told to go to the library to do our homework because one of the teachers was out sick. So we trooped off to the library as instructed but instead of doing my homework I decided to peruse the shelves instead. I figured there must be something more interesting for me to do than homework and I was right! I remember looking at the cover and thinking I had heard one of the other students talking about this Harry Potter character, so I decided to give it a go. I started reading and that was it. From that day on I wanted to go to Hogwarts. Frankly it seemed much more interesting than my school ever did.

I’m not sure if it was that the films were following very close behind or the fact that technology was starting to gain ground at that point but the Harry Potter series seemed to take on a life of its own in terms of popularity and fandom. I think it was two books that were out before the movies began but after that it was a scramble to read the books before the movies came out and somebody spoiled it for you. Thank God the internet wasn’t as big of a deal or we would never have reached the end of each novel without finding out who JK Rowling had bumped off this time. (Lets face it in the end it became a bit of a blood bath) I think this race ended up being good for both the books and the movies. One seemed to feed off the other in a way. When you finished the book you had the movie to look forward to. Harry Potter seemed to encourage readers and movie goers a like. A generation of readers and movie buffs were born. Continue reading

The Art of Resilience

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We live in an age where we are constantly confronted by so much information. There is so much coming at us all day long.  Every few minutes there is another story, headline or tragedy popping up on our screens. Technology means information is so readily available, that we are trying to digest it all day long. It seems impossible to put that particular genie back in the bottle at this stage so what do we do?  How do we handle this information overload because it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon? Many of us do still want to keep up with what’s going on in the world but the amount of tragedy we hear about has most definitely increased. Some people view 2016 as the worst year so far in terms of bad news. There was of course the infamous 2016 election, Brexit, copious amounts of terrorist attacks and the loss of so many beloved icons. Again and again people seemed to turn to art as a way of coping with the awful events that were happening in the world. Every day, in spite of the horror people continued making or posting art in its many forms as a way to survive all the tragedy.

One such piece of art was a poem by Maggie Smith (no sorry Downton Abbey fans, not that one) called Good Bones. The poems popularity was sparked by two tragic events that took place last year. One was the Orlando nightclub shooting that killed 49 people and wounded 53 more and the other was the death of British Labour MP Jo Cox in November. These two tragic events led to a surge in the poems popularity. In the following days it was shared online thousands of times. Dozens of famous people like Charlotte Church and Caitlin Moran also posted it to their social media accounts which only served to increase its reach. Then came the results of the American election and it began popping up again. It seemed to capture the mood of more than one nation. Continue reading

The Age of Technology 

I recently did this piece with Woman’s Way so I thought I’d post it here for people to have  a look. If you are interested in learning to use computers check it out. It also gives you some tips if you are just getting started with technology and you feel a bit nervous. We all had to start somewhere. It’s never too late to learn a new skill! Age is just a number. Thank you to Michelle Newman the Editor for interviewing me. I hope you like it!

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