I just saw the trailer for the movie adaptation of Llyod Jones’ 2006 novel, Mr. Pip. The film starring Hugh Laurie of House fame will be released in October. Yes, trailers are supposed to whet the moviegoer’s appetite. You never know what the final product will look like. But I was very moved by what I saw. First, there’s the premise: The story of a young girl in the autonomous region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea who encounters violence and literature all at once. Violence comes in the form of civil war and harrowing loss. Literature and hope for the future come together in her teacher, the lone Westerner on the island, Mr. Watts, who introduces her to Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. The girl ends up deeply identifying with the orphan Pip, one of Dickens’ finest creations. Read the rest of this entry →
The glass half full is the healthier option. This may seem self-evident to optimistic people, but now science is confirming that the resilient type is not just better able to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, she’s also probably in better shape. So it looks like the happiness industry has found its best ally – health.
A study by the Harvard School of Public Health links improved positive states of mind with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. The detrimental health consequences of negative emotions such as depression have long been known. But the absence of negativity isn’t the same thing as the presence of positivity according to the HSPH research.
New research is also showing that positive emotions are the best way to deal with negative experiences. This somewhat goes against the Freudian grain that says stress needs an exit valve, and that once released the mind can reset in equilibrium. It turns out that living your life in a positive frame of mind and being resilient are connected. Read the rest of this entry →
China is the Asian giant that everyone worries is starting to topple over. It doesn’t take a subscriber to “sky is falling” sites like Zero Hedge to see this. Even when China is in the news for its innovation, it can’t seem to catch a break. Witness the recent report about a Chinese genetics firm planning on going all Gattaca and harvesting a crop of genius babies. The media response was naturally one of being collectively aghast at Brave New World experimentalism. But China is much more complex than the standard storyline can account for. A place to go to appreciate the nuance is the Asia Society.
The ongoing debate there over Chinese economic doldrums and what to do about it just got a lot more interesting. The bullish Yale professor and former chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, Stephen Roach, listed a five point plan for Chinese economic reform that he thinks will be adopted. Read the rest of this entry →
Empowering more women as a means of enabling greater economic prosperity and social gains across the board is so obvious on many levels. Anything that self-evident can lull us into a complacent mood. When news comes along that moves the dial again, we really ought to perk up our ears. I’m especially fond of the contrast approach.
First, the glass ceiling. Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, “Lean In” is in my pile of to-reads. That’s just indicative of the mountain of great books sitting on my desk. The Facebook COO was already an iconic touchstone for corporate feminism before entering the ranks of celebrity authors. Now any water cooler conversation on gender (in)equality in the workplace has to refer to her book. Too few women, she writes, are at the top levels of power – be it business or government – in spite of a massive generational leap in education. Economic data brilliantly presented by The Wall Street Journal’s David Wessel backs up her claim. Read the rest of this entry →
Everywhere I look in the mainstream press lately, green issues are increasingly dominating our political and social landscape – philanthropists too, are seeing the necessity and bigger picture of focusing their time and energies in this direction. CNN has been running interesting online reportage about the environment, covering issues like the positive advancements in solar energy, nuclear fusion and now the plight of the world’s oceans. It’s timely that a lengthy piece written by famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau’s grandson, Philippe Cousteau, has appeared and the message is very simple: the oceans, and us as a result, are in peril. This comes at a time when international fishing waters and restrictions are being ratified and government quotas are under constant scrutiny. But, what is nice about the article is its non-proselytizing tone and the simple encouragement, through facts, of our interconnectivity.
“Despite the challenges our ocean faces, I believe it’s time to recapture the sense of wonder and inspiration my grandfather and father felt when they gazed on its surface. In fact, the ocean can and should be a source of hope and solutions for a brighter future,” Read the rest of this entry →
Chinese President Xi Jinping has been a busy leader since taking office recently. Trips to Russia and Africa are just the beginning of his new PR-savvy attempts to change with the current climate. It’s also interesting to see that whilst Jinping is embracing this more modern drive, India was in the news with its leaders directly reaching out to voters via social media platforms, taking questions on Twitter and with live YouTube feeds. Clearly the Arab Spring has taught these gentlemen something: “if you can’t beat ‘em, work with ‘em.”
So it is with this idea that a seemingly innocuous piece appeared on the BBC website recently, trumpeting the fact that China is now the second biggest movie market in the world, displacing Japan. The reason for this shift is simply that the authorities have relaxed restrictions on the number of foreign films allowed to be screened, and the amount of revenue foreigners are able to collect from the distribution. This may seem like noting special, and of course the movies allowed into the country won’t get past the censors, so nothing subversive. Read the rest of this entry →
As one of the world’s most prominent philanthropists, Bill Gates is always interesting to listen to when he begins to ruminate on such lofty topics as the “future of education.” And it’s no surprise that this technological pioneer is keen to present new, challenging ideas to the preexisting ones of how we learn. Gates has been fundamental in helping many areas of Africa become Internet adapted, and he sees students, unsurprisingly, using more technology to achieve their academic ambitions in the future.
In a candid interview with CNN Money recently, Gates said that the days of classrooms are numbered, “If you want the very best lectures, if you want the cost efficiency, you have to break down and say, ‘you know, let’s take someone else’s material.’” Online education could potentially mean the best lecturers are available to everyone – in theory. Imagine being privy to top MIT or Oxford academics teaching rural students across the world. He sees a new paradigm of ‘personalized’ education sweeping the world, cutting costs of universities and the problem of classroom congestion.
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Former UK foreign secretary and brother of Labour party leader Ed Miliband, David Miliband is leading the charge on saving the world’s oceans. It’s encouraging to see the proactive, heartfelt stance being taken in a bid to raise awareness for the plight of the high seas – as over fishing, sea-floor mining and “rogue engineering” are threatening the planet and making, according to Miliband, the recent financial crisis look like child’s play. The new organization, which Miliband will lead in a non-profit capacity, is called the Global Ocean Commission, and will “try to fashion practical solutions that are an environmental win and an economic win, and with a commission which is avowedly across north-south, east-west, rich-poor divides.” This commission’s aim is to help preserve and regulate the high seas, long been an outlaw frontier due to human being’s inability to reach and navigate the deeper waters – but, the last twenty years have seen an unprecedented encroachment on marine life. Read the rest of this entry →