After Pancake Tuesday (also known as Shrove Tuesday) and the excesses of the Mardi Gras/ Carnival (you can click here for some amazing photos of the parade in New Orleans, as colourful and vibrant as ever despite the cold rainy weather ) here comes Lent. Lent is the period of 40 days that leads up to Easter and that commemorates for Christians the time Jesus spent in the desert fasting and avoiding temptation from the devil.
In order to honor his sacrifice, Christians emulate him by giving up something they like during this period. These days it has become a more mundane celebration and many non-Christians use it as an opportunity to test their willpower and even compete against co-workers, relatives or friends over their self-control while quitting chocolate, carbs or Twitter, among other first world addictions.
Whether you want to pay your particular homage to Jesus, or you just want to prove to your friends that you can outdo them by not swearing or quitting booze, these 40 days are a good opportunity to put yourself to the test. What’s more, you will find more encouragement and motivation at a time when a lot of people are giving things up (and probably feeling rather edgy). After all, misery loves company.
Next Sunday night the 86th Oscars ceremony will take place at the Dolby Theatre in LA. Millions of people all around the world will be watching and many of us will be betting on the winners, discussing dresses on the red carpet and arguing over who’s the best presenter. In its many years of history these awards have given us lots of stories and anecdotes. Some of them are funny, some are touching, some of them are shocking, other just downright surreal. The one thing that no one can deny is that it never fails to surprise us, even if it’s just for a brilliant acceptance speech, a spontaneous gesture of one of the attendants or a musical number gone wrong.
The Guardian has put together a list of some of the best moments in the history of the awards, including some really emotional speeches such as Tom Hanks’s for ‘Philadelphia’ or John Wayne’s last appearance. The list also includes some bizarre anecdotes, such as the the streaker that interrupted the ceremony in 1974, or the almost legendary story of German actor Emil Janning, who allegedly saved his life at the end of World War II by showing his statuette to baffled American soldiers in a just defeated Berlin. In fact, his Oscar was the first ever given and one of the last awards for the disappearing silent film industry.
Who do you think will give us the best moment of this year’s edition? It is very difficult to pick a memorable award winner, so we will go for last year’s best actress award winner Jennifer Lawrence, who gave us some of the best moments (don’t miss her encounter with Jack Nicholson in The Guardian’s list!)
What is life but sharing good times with friends? Nowadays, social media is so powerful that we think that instagram, twitter or facebook are the best ways to stay in touch with friends. If they are on the other side of the world…maybe. But what if they are sitting right next to you? Do you really need to use a smartphone to communicate with your friends? Or is it better just to put down your phone,and have a laugh, engage in face to face conversation, and, of course…some drinks! Brazil beer brand Polar has this crazy idea that we should enjoy each other’s company at the bar instead of staring at our phones.
How would you feel about your cell phone being nullified?
There is another world-famous company that has invented a device to encourage people to look beyond new technology limits, and instead to enjoy the everyday life pleasures (the sunset, a meal with friends…) that we miss while playing with our phones walking down the street or even at home with our family. Don’t let social media get in the way of the real life. Allow yourself some space social media free and I promise you will feel relieved.
Why don’t you try switching your phone off just for a day?
Put down: to push or pull down.
Stare (at) : to look or gaze fixedly.
Device: a machine or tool used for a specific task.
Do you think you could live without technology? Or are you a social media addict?
Looking at the list of Best Picture nominees, it’s easy to see that Hollywood has opted for films based on true stories of real people. And, while it is fun to sit back and enjoy a film, it’s also important to remember that “based on true events” doesn’t mean you are watching a documentary. Most cinema is still fiction and should be taken as such. Scriptwriters and directors take lots of liberties with stories in order to make them fit into a 2-hour part of your afternoon or evening. After all- do we really believe the version of Shakespeare played by Joseph Fiennes? He was funny and warm, but also a bit of a conman and a bungler. And no Scot I know believes the William Wallace character was just like Mel Gibson was in Braveheart. Sometimes stories are completely commandeered- like in U-571, which was based on the true story of a British destroyer which captured a German submarine and it’s code machine, but Hollywood changed it to an American sub triumphing over the Germans!
If you are interested in finding out the real story behind the films up for the Oscar this year, look no further than The Washington Post. They have set up a post called Truth Teller. They use the original trailers for the films, and superimpose the facts of the story in short, easy-to-read comments. Maybe some of the truths will take you by surprise.
Well, if you’re reading this, you might be procrastinating. Maybe should be hard at work, or you could be avoiding housework at home, or perhaps you are pretending to study English.. We all procrastinate at some point in our lives, after all it’s so much easier to give in and go on facebook or play another round of Candy Crush than it is to finish that really tedious assignment you are meant to be doing. Even doing the washing-up or filing your emails might suddenly seem the most appealing of activities when all you have ahead of you is a long session of work and very little motivation.
The explanation for this very common feeling is something that some scientists call ‘temporal discounting’. The root of the problem is that we tend to have a distorted perception of the rewards we are going to obtain from a given effort or task. Most times this is directly related to the time remaining until we get the ‘reward’ from performing that activity. For instance, the satisfaction we get from watching that youtube video or leaving our desk to get a quick snack comes faster and because it is so immediate we prioritize it over staying focused on writing an assignment that is due in a couple of days, since the reward of completing the assignment seems so far away down the line that it feels a bit unreal and less important. Probably in 36 hours’ time, as your deadline comes closer and more difficult to avoid, you won’t be feeling the same way about your assignment and it will suddenly become your number one priority (very likely over basic needs such as eating or sleeping when you arrive to the twilight zone called ‘the night before’).
Not everybody is as bad at estimating the real value of their time but this is painfully true for many of us when faced with unattractive tasks such as coursework, cleaning or sorting out paperwork and, what is worse, this malady can become chronic. Research has shown that the whole idea of working better under pressure is more of a myth than a reality and the levels of stress you reach prior to completing the task and the high dissatisfaction rates after finishing it at the last minute make procrastinating a very bad choice.
So do you think you are a slacker?
Luckily there are ways to fight procrastination and strategies you can use to finish those tedious tasks on time and as stress-free as possible. The guys of asapSCIENCE have some very interesting advice on exactly how to do this and if you like it you can also watch some of their “sciency” (sometimes bizarre) videos on their youtube channel.
Procrastinate (v): to put off or defer (an action) until a later time; to delay.
Distorted- from the verb ‘distort’: contort; deform a shape or sound or, in the case of something more abstract as for example a fact or motive, to alter or misrepresent.
Reward (n): profit, satisfaction we get from doing or achieving something.
Slacker (n): a person who evades work or duty.
Twilight zone: a situation or conceptual area that is characterized by being undefined, intermediate, or mysterious. The hours previous to an important deadline are definitely a scary time.