Friday, March 6, 2015

The gods must be weeping

Am feeling sorrow over the trashing of the 3000-year-old city of Nimrud in northern Iraq by crazy IS vandals determined to wreck everything that's not Islamic, even it it's vastly pre-Islamic. A while back, wandering around the LA County Museum of Art, I was amazed by a hall full of wonderful ancient Assyrian stone wall carvings.

At the time I thought how weird it was that such glorious old things should be mounted on Californian walls.

But now, what a good thing it is that museums around the world have such beauties as this eagle deity from Nimrud.

Such a peaceful sort of god, he seems to be too, despite his fearsome beak, plucking flowers with one hand and holding what looks like a lady's handbag with the other.

If he'd stayed at home he would probably now be smashed to gravel by barbarians's sledgehammers.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Old Opinion for the Old Herald

The internet's becoming a bit aged now. One problem of paddling in its waters for a long time is that you can forget things you started. Such as this blog... one of several I've started in the last 10 years.

Ironically, I was also asked recently by the New Zealand Herald to write a piece on the good and bad aspects of getting older. Given that I'm 69 (crikey!) I suppose I can expect to field such requests.

I'm writing a couple of other blogs now and so this one is a tad neglected - languishing for more than a year with no new posts. I was going to shut it down but I have no idea how the hell to do it. Something else I must get around to Googling!

So here, in a nod to my old blog, are my thoughts on being (kind of) old, given to the old Herald.

What's GOOD about being older now is that we can be so connected to the wider world, and there are so many fun ways to do that.

At 60 I could never have thought that at nearly 70 I'd be building websites, making videos to put on YouTube, putting books on Amazon, keeping up with Twitter feeds and planning to run online courses. For all the downsides of new technology there are exciting and wonderful fields to play in - and you can do it all from your own home.

If we're lucky to live long and have good health, we have more years than any previous generation for enjoying things we love, taking up new pursuits and, given spare cash, going to places our own grandparents could only dream of. Then there's food and wine.

For people who grew up on plain meat and over-cooked veg, with chicken chow mein as the only 'exotic' taste treat in town, today's cuisine options are wondrous. So are the medical advances now able to beat ailments that sent our ancestors to early graves.

What's BAD is that we may be the first generation of oldies to be technically outstripped by children - which makes it easy to feel dumb in the company of the young.

Actually, we are probably not the first. There must have been cocky young steam engineers in the Victorian age who sniggered at those who stuck to horse-and-carriage transport.

Today's older women also find themselves utter outcasts when it comes to style. Once, older dames had an elegance that teenagers yearned for. But that was before the word 'teenager' was invented. Now, women's magazines offering fashion advice to women of different decades invariably stop at 60, or even 50.

And when they do make an effort to profile stunning older women, out they come with the same over-used crew of Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon, Helen Mirren, Charlotte Rampling, Judi Dench at al, as if ageing actresses are the only women worth a glance. It's more like they'e the only ones whose pics are easy to find. Still, few of us everyday dowagers give a toss.

What is also tiresome is the expectation that older people must look sleek, deliriously happy and well-groomed at all times.

At least that's the impression you get from all the retirement-village ads.

In the romanticised 'golden years' photos, we apparently all want nothing more than to walk hand in hand on the beach at sunset, trim of tummy and light of heart. No one is bald. We all have our marbles. Our joints are well lubricated by a plethora of collagen-boosting pills. And if we need to wear nappies for grown-ups, then at least they're so well designed that nobody can tell.

It must be why all those research surveys on happiness invariably find that older people are the happiest demographic of all.

Image: auremar / 123RF Stock Photo

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The sound of caffeine

If, like me, you work at home a lot, you may be well acquainted with the urge to take your files or laptop to a café, because for some reason or other you can work better when there’s a bit of hustle and bustle going on. I always used to think I was just habituated to noise after spending a lifetime in noisy offices. But a new study says there's truth to the theory that a little buzz is an aid to creative work.
It seems that moderate noise, at about 70 decibels, enhances creativity. Note that word 'moderate' - if the hubbub is too loud then it's too distracting. But it's dead silence that can be the real killer of creativity. Now there's a solution, of sorts. If the silence in your home office is driving you mad you can go to a site called and press play to download a stream of muffled background chatter that's pretty similar to the noise that goes on in your favourite café.
Does it work? Well, I spent a curious few minutes there and the site’s had millions of page views. My experience was a bit mangled by slow connectivity; every now and again the flow of chatter went silent as my laptop went into buffering mode. And that was really distracting.
Also, what the sound track does not deliver is the spitting hiss of espresso machines, the constant banging noises from baristas dumping used coffee grounds, gales of giggles from teenage girls or the wails of crying babies. The sound track sounds like it's recorded in a very polite cafe where nobody raises a voice or lets out a guffaw. But then it’s projecting an ideal world, not real life.
Note that this theory only works for creative brainstorming. If you’re doing your taxes or studying calculus, and it’s focus that you need, then silence is still golden.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Enough inspiration already

Enough quotes already

It feels like my online life is being swamped with inspirational quotes. And every famous quote is now a little artwork – picture cards glowing with images of flowers and sunsets, of triumphant people on mountain tops with arms out-thrust, or in yoga poses on beaches. It's a sea of robed monks, twinkling fairies and fierce goddesses. 

They are overprinted with every wise thought ever expressed, being repeated so often that their impact is turning to mush.

You know what I mean...

  • The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
  • It’s never too late to be who you could have been.
  • Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.
  • The best way to predict the future is to become it.
  • Not until we are lost do we begin to find ourselves.
  • Be the change you want to see in the world.
  • Life isn’t a matter of milestones but of moments.
  • May you always do what you’re afraid to do.
  • The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.
  • What if you realized how powerful you are.
  • If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan but never the goal.

Do take care to remember these things next time you’re peeling spuds, changing nappies or sorting the sock drawer.

And if you're someone who's addicted to quotes, know that people who are crazy enough to keep on posting a host of quotes are those who never have time to follow their own advice.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Peta Mathias hits the stage

Famous foodie Pete Mathias keeps on expanding her repertoire. Stepping aside from running her luxury foodie tours to all sorts of exotic places, she's now doing her own stage show, combining cooking with storytelling, playing Agony Aunt and belting out some French songs. Here she is on my TV show, Let's Talk, explaining her new career move...

Friday, March 8, 2013

What the world needs now - King Lear

Such a long, golden summer here in Auckland, New Zealand. It's grim for farmers trying to cope with drought, but city folks are loving it. They're mostly loving it because there's so much on in the way of festivals and great events and all of it's happening under endless sunshine and clear skies. One of those attractions is Auckland University's outdoors Summer Shakespeare season This year it's King Lear, running all this month and directed by Lisa Harrow. She's a seasoned Shakespeare actress but this year, for the first time, she's tried her hand at directing. On my TV show, Let's Talk, she explained why King Lear - that ancient tragedy - is actually perfectly in tune with the times we're living in now. How is that? Here's a brief clip...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cruising with a purpose

So I've signed up for a cruise heading into balmy Pacific waters where the ship carves a course through blindingly blue sea and the sun beats down from dawn to dusk. The air is filled with laughter as cocktails are shaken, the salad bar is endlessly re-stocked and ice settles in glasses as the cruise director coos news of countless shipboard amusements over the PA. 

Massages, dance lessons, art auctions, cooking lessons, tai chi, wine tasting, yoga, shopping, facials... you can imagine the delights.  

Meanwhile, down in the bowels of the good ship Oosterdam, in a small windowless theatre, I'm settling in for another lecture with some fellow cruisers as we get stuck into a course called Fractal Evolution. 

The lecturers are Gregg Braden and Bruce Lipton, top authors in the stable of Hay House International, the giant American publishing company that specialises in what the book trade calls MBS - the mind, body spirit genre. 

Having published in that area myself, I was intrigued by the sound of what they were offering.  Here's the blurb that drew me in: "Faster than we can document it in the media or teach it in our textbooks, it’s clear that we’ve entered a new phase of life on planet Earth. From the unprecedented crises of broken economies and the realities of climate change, to the shrinking resources of food, fresh water and the renewed threat of World War, even the experts are reeling at the perfect storm that’s converging on our near-term horizon. With all of the uncertainties there’s one thing we can be sure of: the collapse of global systems leads to big changes in our personal lives. 

"In this compelling new program, visionary scientists and bestselling authors Gregg Braden and Bruce Lipton marry their expertise in science and technology with the intimate knowledge preserved by the world’s indigenous elders to answer the questions on everyone's mind: What does our changing world mean to us? And what can we do to ease the transition?"

How could I resist? Cruising's fine but mixing the indolence with some stimulating mind food sounded wonderful. Bring it on, I thought. 

I wish I could tell you I triumphed in the learning department. The boys were compelling, their messages profound, their stories pertinent, their passion undeniable.  We touched on a thousand Powerpointed matters:  the world's stark choice between destruction and transformation, the wonders of cell biology, Darwinism and how he got it wrong,  indigenous wisdom, global warming and the Antarctic ice core samples that prove it's not our fault, energy healing, epigenetics, the rise and fall of civilizations,  self-belief, ancient scrolls, the tree of life, the nature of physics, geomagnetic fields, reincarnation, Hopi prophecy and the power of community. And more. 

All of this poured out every day that we were at sea in between afternoon tea time and the cocktail hour. You know, that blob-out time of day. When you're on holiday, what really calls you at 3pm is napping.  

At the end of one afternoon I left with my head full to bursting, fled through the noisy dazzle of the casino and the happy-hour cheers from the bar and went outside to gulp in what I needed most – air...buckets of salty air, the setting sun's warmth and a view of limitless blue.

The disconnect between what we were learning and the happy, mindless, pleasure-seeking other life we were luxuriating in was too much. I went a bit nuts there for a while. 

My mood roller-coasted between high elation at being out on the ocean on a huge, gorgeous ship surrounded by huge minds, and deep gloom over my lack of scientific education and the scale of my own tiny life. Then, bless it, on some weird energetic level my body seemed to sympathise with my turmoil and went out in protest. Suddenly I had a sore throat, a snotty nose and could hardly breathe (what, in the tropics?!) and with huge relief was forced to lie down. 

I think next time I want my mind blown I'll do it on dry land in sensible clothes with a sharp pen and a posture of total attention and dedication. If I cruise again I'll absorb nothing more challenging than a cracking good novel and the menu of delicious spa treatments. Oh, and another of those Tequila Sunrises would hit the spot as well.  :)

PS I did actually learn a lot. And had a wonderfully good hot-stone massage. Thanks, Ann, star member of the Oosterdam's spa staff.