Yes, they are a day late this week. Apologies. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose sense of time and place has been completely destroyed by the festive season, especially the dreaded Christmas – New Year perineum, as somebody succinctly put it. I hope you’ve all enjoyed the holidays and are slowly settling back into your routines and regular eating/sleeping patterns. The Holiday Hangover really is a bitch, isn’t it? Anywho, onwards to the links which have had me tickled pink over the holidays.
- These Disney Princess Snapchats had me laughing out loud this week. Click here for the original Tumblr.
- And this crossover warmed my little geeky heart.
- This is an excellent idea: a yellow ribbon on your dog’s leash if it has problems socialising or is uncomfortable around other people.
- And here is a strange article about the corpses which lie throughout the London Underground Network.
- I love Chuck Wendig’s post on why hitting your children, even if you’re “just” spanking them, is a bad idea.
- Here is another terrible, terrible idea: David Cameron’s internet porn filter. Think Big Brother was just a thing of fiction? Think again.
- Have a look at Brain Pickings’ tribute to Tolkein on his birthday.
- I love this fashion blog with a twist: it breaks the stereotype that Muslim women in hijab are invisible creatures with no style.
- I’ve no idea why this made me laugh as much as it did, but hey ho.
- Paul Dacre: he editor of the infamous newspaper who insisted Labour leader Ed Milliband’s father hated Britain. Do he and his paper hate liberal Britain and, after having to defend his methods last year, how long will he last in power?
- Somebody’s actually conducted a study to suss out whether any time travellers are using social media sites. Hint: they aren’t.
- Have you pre-ordered your Sherlock mug yet?
- Fallacy Man is my hero.
- I love these 7 reasons to love yourself just as you are.
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[Ta' Xbiex, Malta; August 2013]
Dear 2013: You were quite rubbish and I’ll be really happy to bid you farewell tonight. From frustrated unemployment to medical emergencies, you really hammered in those nails nice and hard. You’ve brought sadness, death, misplacement and a whole bunch of wtf. But sitting around wallowing in emotional debris has never helped anyone, so I’m choosing to honour the positive things I’ve taken from the year that needs to sod off now.
Typical of me to start with this, but I read lots of books this year. Lots of them. Still a little short of my 52-book-a-year goal, but lots nonetheless. 2013 was the year I really rekindled my little bookworm brain and started reading regularly again for the first time since I graduated from university five years ago: as much as I loved doing my English degree, reading/memorising/critiquing that many books and poems in such a short span of time kind of takes it out of you. I’m glad to finally be back on track.
My BFF with the awesome hair, Hannah, went travelling at the end of last year for six months. Selfishly, I was overjoyed when she came back. She flew to see me in London before she went home and then, when I had to go back to Malta over the summer, I was once again (selfishly) happy that she was there to keep me afloat. I had been dreading the move, but it turned out not to be too bad (mainly because we spent most of it scoffing ice cream, ranting about things like a couple of teenagers, swimming, and sprawled out under the air conditioning in my room watching TV shows and films).
It was a good year for entertainment. First, I pretty much camped out on the set of Sherlock back in March when Season 3 Episode 1 (‘The Empty Hearse’, which airs tomorrow evening on BBC One!) was being filmed in front of Barts Hospital. That was weird and wonderful and I won’t give anything away because I’m not an awful person. This year, we also had a fantastic third season of Game of Thrones, a hilarious second season of Girls, and a brilliant final season of Breaking Bad, along with terrifying offerings from The Walking Dead and the conclusion of How I Met Your Mother. Not to mention Broadchurch, the last season of the (sadly cancelled) Whitechapel, the excellent Ripper Street, and shows I’ve yet to sink my teeth into, including Orange is the New Black, Homeland, and House of Cards.
On the theme of entertainment, 2013 was a great year for cinema, with a really good mix of indie movies and blockbusters, like Star Trek: Into Darkness, Mud, Pacific Rim, Frances Ha, Blue Jasmine, Despicable Me 2, The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug, Nebraska, Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Kill Your Darlings, Gravity, Les Mis, About Time, and Philomena, Silver Linings Playbook, Filth, Blue is the Warmest Colour, Cloud Atlas… as well as some staggering disappointments. *Side-eyes at Luhrmann’s Gatsby*
I’m thankful for the few months I got to work in journalism again, and feel blessed to be able to meet so many interesting people and hear their stories through my work. It is always incredible when somebody trusts you to do justice to a chapter of their life. I am also content with the new skills I have learnt this year through courses and internships, and for the greatest perk of my current job: restaurant reviewing, which strikes envy in many.
This year, I took a course in screen acting and I filmed my showreel (at the world-famous Pinewood Studios, no less) and have been to see a number of fantastic plays, musicals & ballet on London stages, including Coriolanus, One Man Two Guv’nors, The Mousetrap, The Rite of Spring, From Here to Eternity, and – of course – my favourite, The Drowned Man (five times).
I didn’t get to do lots of travelling this year, mainly because most of my flight money was spent on tickets to/from Malta and on a short holiday to catch up with old friends in Dublin. I did, however, get to see a new city – Berlin. Brief as it was, we had a really good time there, partying in derelict buildings with locals, seeing the sights, and getting lost on trains. I hope to be able to do lots more travelling in 2014 (Argentina! Morocco!)
2013 taught me to enjoy small pleasures, to make the most of them even when the walls are crumbling. Family, friends, passions – those are the foundations, and if they’re intact then you can just about cling on, even though life’s taken the shape of a huge-ass wrecking ball, complete with a twerking Miley Cyrus astride it.
Ugh. Twerking. Can we forget about that nightmare and banish it to the depths of obscure history? Thanks.
Happy New Year, everyone. Hope 2014 is way, way better for all of us.
Eight days to go till Season 3 and there is a new Sherlock mini episode which is basically 7 whole minutes of feels and this smug smile and wink right here.
Christmas has come early. Also featuring: Anderson’s beard.
- A timely, articulate blog post on MaltaToday in response to the Auxiliary Bishop of Malta implying that being raised by gay parents would scar a child for life. This post asks: what about those of us who had a homophobic, misogynist, self-immolating upbringing & substandard education as a result of a strong Catholic hold on the country?
- Seven writers admit they were wrong: why changing your mind is not a sign of weakness.
- This is quite possibly the best post Buzzfeed has ever published: How the media will report the apocalypse.
- A touching article on what we talk about when we talk about loss.
- Interesting New Statesman article on why the cult of hard work is counter-productive.
- I laughed out loud at these ‘agonising’ middle class problems.
- I discovered a Maltese vlogger, and he’s SO funny. Go! Subscribe! Do it!
- This is amazing: Man decorates basement with $10 of Sharpie.
- Asking writers to write for free is NOT okay. It’s not ‘exposure’ or ‘a stepping stone’; it’s unpaid work. Stop it.
- I need to adopt some of these delightful Victorian phrases.
- I’ll admit to liking ‘Love Actually’ but this review of it is the funniest thing I’ve read all week, and so spot on.
- And finally, to get the creative juices flowing: 33 unusual ways to be a better writer.
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I don’t believe that intelligence is a thing reserved only for an elite percentage of people. I think that reasoning is either an excuse intended to justify ignorance, or a genuinely-held belief which only serves as a wall between a person and their potential. True, some people are luckier than others, in that they have been able to go to university, or they have had somebody take them under their wing and teach them. But the truth is, the human mind is wired to learn, and in an age where information is free, it is a sin not to quench its thirst for knowledge. Here are 8 ways to be smarter.
1. Read more
Read more. Not just that – read better. Read closely. Read between the lines. Take notes. Don’t be afraid to make notes in the margins of your books. Read outside your preferred genre. Read fiction. Read non-fiction. Read about things you’d never even known existed. Read books. Read journals. Read newspapers. Read newspapers you’d never be caught dead reading. Understand why you disagree with them. Read websites. That information is yours for the taking, so bloody well take it.
2. Learn a new language
I am a firm believer that every child should be brought up bilingual. The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis suggests that a person’s language shapes the way in which they view reality, and a new study is backing up this claim. If this is true, then English speakers experience their world in a very different way to, say, French speakers, or Japanese speakers. Multilingualism equips you with different sets of syntax and vocabulary and helps you gain a more holistic view of your reality. It also opens up more opportunities for travel and work. Like most Maltese children, I was brought up speaking English, Maltese and Italian. I learnt French at school. Now, I have gone back to study Spanish. It’s really not all that hard to start learning a new language; it’s quite a fun process. Choose a language, find an evening class, and get started. Worst case scenario: you end up knowing a few phrases in a new language and making a few new friends from class.
3. Analyse your opinions
I am not suggesting one should be self-conscious to the point of neurosis, but it is a good idea to analyse your thoughts and feelings, especially when they are strong ones. Say you are having a discussion with your friends about any topic – politics, healthcare, gender, football – and you have a strong reaction against a statement made by a friend. Ask yourself why that is, why you feel that why, what has caused you to arrive to that conclusion. What’s more, once you have formed an opinion, complement it and strengthen it by reading up on it – read the arguments agreeing with you, and those in disagreement too, which brings me to…
4. Learn how to argue properly
Don’t fall into the trap of raising your voice or speaking over other people. It’s annoying, and it’s not productive. I refuse to argue with people who raise their voices and interrupt me, because I know I can never get anywhere with them. Instead, take the time to listen, reiterate what your partner is saying, and then present your opinion. Arguing is not just about getting your own point across. If you want to do that, write a blog. Arguing is about reaching compromise. And if somebody you are arguing with is shouting, leave the room. Nobody can argue with a closed door.
Know what’s worse than somebody who unnecessarily raises their voice? Somebody who mumbles. It’s important to articulate properly when you speak, to make sure people can understand you. Sure, maybe your friends and family are used to you, but that potential employer isn’t, right? Articulating makes you seem more confident, which in turn allows people to have more confidence in you.
6. Be cynical
Reasonably cynical, of course. What I mean is: don’t believe everything you read; don’t believe everything you are told. If you hear something which sounds unbelievable, it probably is. Do your own research. Don’t rely on soundbites. Don’t be gullible and fall for the old “my sister’s friend’s colleague’s uncle’s driver’s son said…”. Nothing is completely true unless you have evidence of that truth. Contextualise. Assume most things are speculation until they have been proven.
7. Work on your memory
It’s easy to let your memory waste away when we have the technology to record every single moment and thought available at our fingertips. But learning a few memory techniques will show you that, like everything else, memory is not something you either ‘have’ or ‘don’t have’; rather, it’s something that must be exercised. Perhaps it comes naturally to some people and less so to others, but then so do mathematics, sport, music and art. Doesn’t mean that sense cannot be trained.
8. Realise you aren’t really THAT smart
It’s like Socrates, that great genius and philosopher, once said: “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing”. There is the temptation to take the leap from intelligence to snobbery, and that temptation is strong. Don’t fall for it. It might give you some twisted sense of approbation to think yourself superior to somebody who doesn’t know as much as you know about art/music/history/literature/whatever, but the likelihood is that person possesses knowledge or experience of something you may never even have heard of.