Kevin Lankes: Godzilla's Secret History

Kevin Lankes: Godzilla's Secret History 2014-04-22

Godzilla is a multicultural icon. If there was a Coca-Cola commercial featuring monsters that sung the national anthem, he'd be singing his part in a mixture of English and Japanese. He's been terrorizing Tokyo for longer than Disneyland has been around. Over the span of 60 years, he's battled Earthlings, space monsters and robots, spawned offspring and chased Matthew Broderick, all while belting out the most iconic roar in film history. He's appeared in 28 Japanese films, a 1998 American film and an upcoming 2014 reboot, countless comic books, novels, video games and TV. That's an astounding feat of sustainability. The daikaiju has nestled in our hearts (and nightmares) carving out a permanent place in the annals of entertainment lore. But even more astounding is Godzilla's secret past. Where did Godzilla come from, and why? In anticipation of Godzilla 2014 hitting theaters May 16 (directed by Gareth Edwards, and starring Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen and Ken Watanabe), here's a brief guide to the monster's origin story. The truth may actually blow your mind.

Godzilla is the original radioactive superhero -- or antihero, in this case. The reptilian giant was born out of a genre of Japanese film called Hibakusha Cinema, developed in the unique cultural climate of post-war Japan. At the time, there were several prominent factors at the forefront of popular thought, a brief examination of which makes it easy to see what exactly led to the monster's development. The first, and most influential, was the fear of radiation and the potential long-term effects of the atomic bombings. Godzilla first appeared in the 1954 film, Gojira, directed by Honda Ishiro. Charlotte Eubanks, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Japanese at The Pennsylvania State University, elaborated on the widespread cultural anxiety at the time of the film's release:

During the U.S.-led occupation, which lasted until 1952, there was a moratorium on any press coverage dealing with the atomic aftermath in any in-depth way. The thinking was that too much attention to the atomic bombings would derail democratization efforts and would undermine U.S. authority, particularly since the U.S. had already begun using Japanese territory as a base from which to launch bombing raids on Vietnam. With the end of the occupation, some activists and journalists started to deal directly with the atomic bombings, but they were not getting much traction. People were more interested in trying to rebuild. But then there was a real game-changer. The U.S. conducted a nuclear test over the Bikini atoll and a Japanese fishing ship, the Lucky Dragon, its crew, and all their fish were exposed to the fallout radiation. When this hit the newspapers, it ignited an enormous scare, as people throughout the country feared that they had been exposed to nuclear radiation through consuming tainted fish. That was in March 1954, shortly before the release of Gojira, the opening scene of which features a fishing crew exposed to an unexplained, destructive flash of light. So, when that hit the big screens, it touched a real nerve with the Japanese public.

The short-term effects of radiation were already clearly visible in the individuals who had survived the blasts but had not been spared from the effects of radiation poisoning. This unfortunate group would become known as Hibakusha, which translates colloquially to "bomb-affected person." Hibakusha expressed a range of symptoms relative to their exposure. Some of them died shortly after the bombings from severe radiation sickness. Others of them developed radiation burn scars, along with a host of other symptoms that went undiagnosed and unexplored due to social prejudices. They would live ostracised lives, shunned by mainstream society. Even now, Hibakusha remain a taboo, and avoidance is the unofficial national policy. The fact that Godzilla is a giant Hibakusha should not go unnoticed. He's a reminder of the destructive power of radiation, and the transformative properties of the atomic bomb's devastation.

Stephen D. Sullivan, author of Daikaiju Attack (a giant monster novel) and numerous other books and comics, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, has this to say about the creature's origin:

Godzilla, both the character and the film, are a reflection on the Japanese experience at the end of World War II: destruction beyond imagining, and a lurking sense that "We brought this on ourselves" somehow, even without meaning to. In the film we see both the guilt, the feeling that the punishment perhaps outweighs the sin, and the striving for redemption, all of which are typical for such stories. In some ways, there's a similar arc in the origin of Spider-Man: radioactive accidental origin, great power used without regard for consequence (personal profit for Spidey), punishment out of proportion (the death of Uncle Ben), and eventual redemption as a hero.

Humanity has long had a twisted fascination spawning from deep-seated fears of a destructive monster, one so great as to annihilate whole societies indiscriminately. The Hindu religion expressed this idea in the form of the god Shiva, who is the destroyer of the self, of negative aspects of an individual, and ultimately of the Universe. In popular literature, the concept is commonly associated with the fiction of Lovecraft and his Cthulu mythos. Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, famously recited a line from the Bhagavad Gita uttered by Krishna, an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu (himself a creator and destroyer). Upon witnessing the destructive power of the bomb, Oppenheimer paraphrased the deity: "Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds." The religious climate of Japan owes a great deal to its forerunners in Buddhism -- India and China -- who, in turn, owe a great deal to Hindu teachings. In some cases, Hindu pantheons have been completely adopted by Buddhist sects, ensuring the propagation of certain concepts into future generations of practitioners. Godzilla could very well represent one such concept, in the form of a destructive and indiscriminate deity born of Hindu philosophy and adopted into Buddhist thought.

The final piece of the creature's origin story is an all-too familiar tale in the modern age. It's the story of human progress. Nature vs. Technology. What happens when man, through its incessant meddling, makes that long-awaited mistake that ultimately brings the Earth to its knees? Bringing our own species to the brink of extinction has long been a favorite subject of science fiction stories, and Godzilla is a prime example. Technology either awoke the monster from its slumbers deep beneath the ocean or outright created it. We know that, at the very least, Godzilla's exposure to radiation increased his destructive power; the blue flame he spews is known as his "atomic blast." And the creature rejuvenates his powers by sopping up the electromagnetic fields harnessed by crashing through electrical lines and power stations.

Says Eubanks:

The basic premise of Gojira, the original 1954 version, is that nuclear testing in the Pacific has awakened a terrible dinosaur which, in its wrath, is bent on destroying Tokyo. But, as Barak Kushner and others have noted, the film isn't so much about destruction as it is about fear. Look at any screen shot of the movie, and pretty much every single person wears an expression of utter terror. This is true whether you're talking about the scene where the radio reporter is declaiming into his microphone right up to the moment when the monster crushes him, or you're talking about quieter scenes with the scientist in his lab.

Godzilla is many things, a product of the environment that created him. In our haste to make action-adventure blockbusters, we shouldn't forget the tangible sorrow that follows in the creature's wake. He is a symbol of destruction, prejudice and arrogance. In post-war Japan, Godzilla was a symbol of the side-effects of international conflict. A punishment brought on by the senseless brutality demonstrated through an abuse of technological progress. In the decades since his creature, Godzilla has become invariably changed.

Says Sullivan:

It almost seems inevitable, though, that bad guys we love become good guys. I think that maybe, as fans, we tire of rooting for 'bad,' and, sensing that, the storytellers tend to drift toward making their creations more likable. So, eventually, Godzilla no longer stomps cities (except when under control by evil aliens), and, instead, fights the enemies of mankind in wide open spaces in the mountains of Japan, or even on another planet. I guess turning from anti-hero to hero is the price of popularity. And don't we all love a good redemption story?

Godzilla 2014 releases May 16. It isn't entirely clear how the upcoming movie will portray the scaly lizard, but from the marketing materials, it looks like they're gunning for a return to Godzilla's atomic origins. I only hope that the movie also showcases the gritty and unavoidable truths that led to the real-life formation of the monster.

Kerry Kennedy: Faith In Action: Spending Holy Week At Zamni Beni Haitian Child

Kerry Kennedy: Faith In Action: Spending Holy Week At Zamni Beni Haitian Children's Home 2014-04-22


Dear Cara and Mariah,

Happy Easter!!

It's been pretty hectic the last few weeks, and I'm very happy that Easter is here, with daffodils and forsythia in bloom, lilacs on the way, and chocolate finally allowed after 40 days of abstinence (though I had enough truffles this morning to make up for all of Lent).

Along with your cousin Kyra, and RFK Center Leadership Council members, staff, and friends, Michaela and I were supposed to build a school in Mexico, but with all the violence there it seemed imprudent, so we headed instead to Haiti (the Mexican school is being built by more experienced hands and will be completed in a few weeks.) As it turned out, I can't think of a more appropriate place to spend Holy Week, as the resurrection was on display everywhere we went.

I first went to Haiti in 1979. I've gone back every few years since. My most recent visit was three and a half years ago, on the six-month anniversary of the earthquake. Port au Prince was a sea of tents, rubble and frenzied activity. I remember thinking that none of these people have jobs, yet everywhere I went people were shoveling, building, hauling, selling, or walking somewhere with determination. When I asked Nancy Dornsinville how people who had lost everyone they loved and everything they had did not give in to despair, she said there was so much death and destruction, those who were spared believed God must have had a special purpose for their survival.

Port au Prince is the physical manifestation of that divine purpose. The city is bustling. The haunting remains of the Presidential Palace have given way to open green space, the rubble that engulfed the city is gone from the major byways, and though a housing shortage persists and too many remain in tents four years later, the capital appears to be lively, amazingly green, full of commotion, in short, a rebirth.

We went to Haiti to work at Zamni Beni, a home for children in need run by RFK Human Rights Award Laureate Loune Viaud as part of Partners in Health. Some people think ZB is an orphanage, because the parents of the 64 kids there will never be coming to fetch them. But the kids are not up for adoption. This is actually their home, they introduce themselves with the last name Beni (Bonjour, je m'apelle Peterson Beni, je m'apelle Samuel Beni, je m'apelle Marcus Beni, etc.) They care for, and fight with and for one another; when they come home after school, and eventually after college or for Christmas or weddings, this is where they will come.

I asked Loune how it started. On January 12, 2010, Loune attended a meeting of people involved in Haiti's public health system, to devise a five-year plan to help her country recover from four hurricanes -- Fay, Gustav, Hannah, and Ike -- that had wiped away much of the infrastructure upon which the country depended. The impact of the storms on the countryside was overwhelming. Ninety-eight percent of Haiti's tree cover had been deforested, setting the stage for widespread floods that displaced 8 percent of its population and leveled 70 percent of its crops. At the time, it was the costliest natural disaster in Haiti's history, a crushing financial blow for the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere.

Seated at the head of the conference table, the prime minister addressed the group when, without warning, the earth cracked open and swallowed whole the entire wall behind him. When the rumbling stopped, Loune and her best friend, Nancy Dorsinville, crawled out from beneath the conference table and ran into the street to confront the Armageddon around them. Six months earlier, President Clinton had been named U. N. special envoy to Haiti. He, in turn, hired Nancy, a native of Haiti who graduated from Barnard College and held an MA from Harvard School of Public Health, a world renowned leader in women's health who teaches at Harvard, to run the U.N. program. As co-leader of Partners in Health, the group Paul Farmer created which helps the government of Haiti runs its national health system, Loune's first instinct was to head to the General Hospital, the largest hospital in all of Haiti.

When Loune and Nancy arrived, the hospital grounds were littered with bodies, many dead, others writhing in agony. Amid the chaos they found 38 kids, newborns to teenagers, abandoned at the Central Hospital upon birth or when resources disintegrated, all physically and mentally challenged, emaciated, and near death, mostly four to a crib.

"The hospital's director asked me to take the children and I said 'Yes.'" Loune didn't ask how she could do it or where they would live or who would pay for it all. When I asked her how she thought she could do it, she just looked to Heaven and said, "I thought 'He will find a way.'"

That is faith in action.

Since then, Loune has added 26 more to her brood. The latest is Micah, dropped at the Hospital on Easter Sunday a few years ago, blind, starved, and on death's door. Today she is thriving -- impish, fun, and lively, Micah recites the entirety of the 23rd psalm at daily chapel -- a gift of resurrection.


Loune's is an active household, on a small farm on the outskirts of Port au Prince. We ate breakfast with the kids each morning at 5 a.m. (sometimes I admit to being late), then read books, did calisthenics, went to the prayer service at the chapel, played wheelchair keep-away, danced, solved puzzles, ate lunch, played soccer, watched a Bible film, drew pictures, jumped in the blow-up pools, took a walk past the income-generating tilapia farm, hen house, and restaurant, ate dinner, played Uno or checkers with the teenagers, and finally collapsed into bed.

One day Matt Linder came to show Loune our Health eVillages app, which brings up to date medical information to clinicians in developing countries. Actress, comedienne, and RFK Leadership Council member Diane Neal used the app to remove stitches from my hand, declaring on camera, "If I can do it, a nurse can do it." I may be scarred for life...

Our days were pretty hectic. But the kids were delightful, funny, and a total inspiration. Every member of TiJoe's family perished in the rubble of his home during the earthquake. He spent four days beneath the wreckage, crying for help. When he arrived at Loune's door, he didn't speak. Then, for days, he only repeated "I'm dead. I'm dead. I'm dead." Today, TiJoe is 11. He loves soccer and is a fierce competitor. Michaela spent hours showing him games on her laptop and practicing English with him -- his third language after Creole and French.

When the Bureau of Social Services discovered that a contingent of U.N. soldiers, deployed to Haiti to keep the peace, had kidnapped Roudy and were raping him nightly as a sex slave, they brought the boy to Loune. At 15, Roudy's shaved head makes his egg-shaped skull distinct atop his fireplug build. He is always at the side of sweet and pretty Nephtalie, whose wheelchair he glides across the stone yard and up and down the steps. He has an easy smile and is quietly helpful, distributing books when it's time to read and sitting with Patrick, deaf and mute, at every meal.

At eight years old, Wendy, olive skinned with piercing green eyes, watched his father take a stick and beat his mother to death. A few years later, his best friend died of gunshot wounds. Orphaned, despondent, homeless, lost, and defiant, he came to Loune's door. Wendy Beni is now 18, in 9th grade, goes to school every day, helps his brothers and sisters eat meals and play sports, and is determined to finish high school and become a master carpenter.

Carl is four. With two club feet, he cannot walk, but that does not slow him down. While other kids saunter, he glides across the ground on his hands, dragging his legs. With massive upper body strength he climbs onto the benches, and nothing makes him happier than twirling around on one of several tire swings. He will not be denied on the soccer field, and whacks the ball with his entire lower body, sending the orb spinning towards the goal. Next month, he will travel to Toronto, where volunteer doctors will perform a series of operations they believe will allow him to walk for the first time.

Every day at Zamni Beni we went to the chapel. The kids sang and I prayed beneath the images of the Haitian Jesus and the Haitian Mary, no blond hair and blue eyes here, but reflections instead of the saintly people around me. Children, women and a scattering of men, who have endured unspeakable violence and anguish, loss and horror, agony -- biblical in force and nature -- and have responded with unbounded love.

Redemption. Resurrection. Faith.

I leave Haiti with these gifts in abundance.

All holy days, no matter the religion with which they are associated, contain lessons for all humanity. Easter is rebirth. Haiti, and specifically Zamni Beni, is the embodiment of that. The lessons of resurrection transcend chocolate bunnies or labels of denomination.

When asked how she endured so much loss, Great Grandma Rose used to say, "After the storm, the birds sing. Why shouldn't we?"

The birds are singing in Zamni Beni.

With Easter love, Momma

Wendy Abrams, Jayni Chase, Gail Evertz, Annabel Lee Hogg, Dick Iannuzzi, Matt Linder, and Diane Neal joined Kyra Kennedy, Michaela Kennedy Cuomo, and me on the delegation.

Soraya Chemaly: Why Female Nudity Isn't Obscene, But Is Threatening To A Sexis

Soraya Chemaly: Why Female Nudity Isn't Obscene, But Is Threatening To A Sexist Status Quo 2014-04-22


The newest issue of HipMama magazine features a photograph of artist Ana Alvarez-Errecald standing, topless, holding her baby. He's wearing a Spiderman costume and she is wearing the mask. The child is breastfeeding at one of her breasts and holding his hand over the other. After distributors expressed concern about having the magazine on US newsstands, HipMama was forced to publish not one, but two, covers: a "family-friendly" one that ensured it would be sold on newsstands and in supermarkets in which her bared breast is hidden by a large red dot and another, mailed to subscribers, in which her child's hand on her breast will be apparent. Alvarez-Errecald's most prominent earlier work, a diptych titled "The Birth of My Daughter," is also being published in the magazine. Trust me, that piece will not be appearing on magazine covers anytime soon.

The cover image has been removed on Facebook as obscene and the artists' Facebook page was, erroneously or not, unpublished.  It cataloged her work, which included other images of bare breasts and had more than 2,000 followers, now lost to her.

In the wake of last year's #FBrape campaign, I have been in regular touch with Facebook on the topic of "the nipple problem."  People often contact me to ask for help when Facebook moderators, sometimes misinterpreting their own guidelines, remove content in which nipples aren't even apparent, but where content related to reproductive health, pregnancy, labor, childbirth or, as in this case, breastfeeding are removed. In each instance, Facebook, which is grappling with these issues every day, has sought to rectify the problem as quickly as possible. Nipples, however, remain taboo with ass-backwards, sexist results like this: Nude and Naked Desi Girls, which has no breasts-not-in-the-service-of-the-male-gaze scary nipples, makes the obscenity cut.

While a lot of attention is paid to Facebook's oddly puerile, fundamentalist belt approach, I know from working with them that they are putting a lot of time and effort into understanding these ideas and addressing content removal biases. However, the company, a virtual country of 1 billion people, really just reflects mainstream US values the way that the Motion Picture Association of America, the Parents Television Council and the Federal Communications Commission do. For example, the PTC loudly criticized Miley Cyrus' "lewd" MTV Awards performance for its sexual explicitness, but didn't have a word regarding the rape apology of her co-performer's "Blurred Lines" song or either of their appropriations of African American music and culture. Their norms incorporate discriminatory standards every day. They are not interested in women's autonomy or freedom of speech.

These agencies, and social media company policies, like many city statutes and public ordinances, privilege male-dominant heterosexuality, conflate women's bodies with indecency and sex (a bad thing compared, for example, to allowable rampant violence), and insist that those bodies (and sex) be held in reserve, distributed and consumed according to patriarchal rules.  These rules, and the obsessions that drive them, promote billion-dollar "good girls gone wild" industries and an Internet fueled by gonzo porn, which have little to do with women's autonomy.

Many people, seem confounded by expressions of female nudity that are not sexual -- because, of course, isn't male titillation the whole point of women's nakedness?

Why is exposing the world to non-sexualized female nudity important? The real question about female nudity isn't why anyone would want to show or see women's breasts if they're not titillating.  The real question is about who has the right to say what they're for, where and when they can be seen and by whom. That's about power.

1.  Women too often are used to embody and reflect male power, honor and shame.  It's not good for us.  Our bodies, and the bodies of people who are gender fluid and non-binary conforming, are sites of moral judgment in ways most men's are not, especially in public and in protest. Some of us experience our bodies, in particular our nudity, as objects of repression, oppression and powerlessness. Representing them as no one's but our own, counter to prevailing representations, is important.

2. Female public nudity is usually treated as a moral offense, a cause for concern and discussion, but it's rarely allowed to be a source of non-sexual female power.  Male nudity is an entirely different thing.  When your average (straight) man is seen nude or semi-nude, it's often considered humorous, as in frat boys streaking.  Or it's a sign of virility and athleticism.  When it's not, for example, the jarring images of the torture of Iraqi men in Abu Ghraib, men -- vulnerable, humiliated and in pain -- are feminized by their nakedness.

3. Female nudity is not just about sexualization, it's about maintaining social hierarchies, like those of race and class.  Non-idealized female bodies used autonomously undermine a continuous narrative about body-based sex and race differences. When our cultural production is singularly focused on hyper-gendered, racialized and sexualized representations of nudity, it is easier to maintain racist and sexist ideas -- and nude female bodies outside socially approved, sexualized contexts challenge those.

The cultural regulation of female nudity and portrayals of sexuality is also a powerful way in which women's bodies are used to pit us against one another and to reinforce hierarchies among men. Dark bodies, especially women's, have always been available for public consumption: sale, rape, breeding, medical experimentation and more and the staying power of racist and sexist mythologies about white women and black men, rape and sex, are evident every day.  When women take ownership of the circumstances of their own nudity, they can defy others' attempts to place them within these hierarchies.

4. Female public nakedness as protest or social commentary is not new and is critical, expressive and censored speech.  Lady Godiva is far from the only woman to use her nudity to achieve political ends. Barbara Sutton's excellent recounting of her experiences with naked protests in Brazil is chock-full of historical and analytical insights.  Women have regularly used their nakedness to protest corruption and exploitation that go along with colonialism.  It's among the most important reasons why Femen's (topless) neocolonial narrative is offensive.  Prior to Tunisia's Amina Sboui's topless protest (after which she was arrested, subjected to a virginity test and fled), Egyptian activist Aalia Magda (also in exile) posted pictures of herself naked to protest Shariah law and censorship. Last January, hundreds of women in the Niger Delta marched half-naked in protests against Shell Oil Company practices in their community.  This was a repeat of earlier and similar protests.  These were peaceful, unlike last month's in Argentina when an estimated 7,000 women stormed a cathedral defended by 1,500 rosary-bearing Catholic men. They fought, spat, yelled, spray-painted people and were accused, without a shred of irony, of gender-based violence against Catholic men. Many of these women were topless.

Nudity is also an enduring and essential part of the social critique of women artists.  Most recently Young Jean Lee's widely acclaimed experimental screenplay, UNTITLED FEMINIST SHOW, featured six nude women performers. The works of Lorna Simpson, Judy Chicago, Ana Medieta, Carolee Schneemann, Yoko Ono, Marina Abramovic, Hanna Wilke and so many others speak to identity, race, sex and class, using women's naked bodies to do it.  For years Alvarez Errecald's work has incorporated her naked body in order to demystify birth and motherhood and wrest its imagery from religious institutions that infuse ideas about women's bodies with shame and evil.  While graphic images of birth are not everyone's cup of tea, they are important and meaningful in a world where pregnancy and childbirth remain cloaked in dangerous silence and where legislation of female reproduction remains firmly in the thrall of religious men secure in their detached from reality.  When newspapers, movie theaters, cable and TV news, online media and social media refuse to show female nudity as part of female-directed political protest or artistic statement they deny them equal freedom of expression. When they do this while proliferating grossly objectifying alternatives, they silence them doubly.

5.  It's not just that women have the right not to be sex objects, but also that we have the right to dismantle a discriminatory canon. In her 1977 essay "What's Wrong With Images of Women?" art historian Griselda Pollock described a global, commercial, patriarchal visual culture that uses women's bodies symbolically and makes it impossible for us to use our own bodies effectively in challenging that culture.  It's a symptom of women's position in the world that the efficacy of using our nudity to protest is tenuous.  Again, take Femen.  Set aside their execution and bizarre provenance and focus on two things: a) their use of naked female bodies to express aggression and rage, and b) the fact that they appear to meet the requirements of Western, increasingly global, ideals of beauty. They are thin, young, tall, topless and almost all white. In Louise Pennington's words, they pass the patriarchal fuckability test.   And so media eat them up. The same media that every day make choices about what not to show: models protesting racism in their industry; angry, anti-Catholic feminist crowds;  peaceful, determined, old Nigerian women.   That's not Femen's fault.  They certainly aren't the ones making media decisions about what makes the news. Did they use this bias? Should women?  Femen is exactly why many feminists doubt that female nudity can ever be an effective tool of activism.   However, each controversy that erupts allows us to think about how our own bodies and their "place" are used to undermine our intent and desires.

6. Self-defined public female nudity is a challenge to capitalism and its uses of women as products, props, assets and distributable resources. Nothing on Earth is used to drive sales and profits and display male wealth and status like women's, often naked and semi-naked, bodies.  If you are thinking women make choices and are complicit, show contempt for other women because they are women -- well, of course some of them do. That is a defining feature of misogyny. Until we have equal access to resources, and are not subject to constant predation, this is a no-brainer. In the meantime, when women refuse to sexualize themselves and use their bodies to challenge powerful interests that profit from that sexualization, the words we should use aren't  "lewd" and "obscene"; they're "threatening" and "destabilizing."

I was alerted to Alvarez Errecald by Laura Dodsworth, a photographer and founder of an art and social project called bare reality. Like the documentary Free the Nipple and other movements addressing control of women's bodies and expression, this project is dedicated to positively altering the relationship between how women experience life and media depictions of the same. It's easy to trivialize their efforts, but that would be a serious mistake.

We all know that the prohibitions on women's nipples have nothing to do with women's nipples, but everything to do with control. Women who use public nudity for social commentary, art and protest are myth-busting along many dimensions: active, not passive; strong not vulnerable; together, not isolated; public, not private; and, usually, angry, not alluring. The threat that female toplessness and self-articulated nudity poses is culturally defined and can be culturally redefined so that people recognize that the offense to morality is misogyny, not nudity.

Portions of this article first appeared in An online version remains in the Salon archives. Reprinted with permission.

Mike Hanski: Want To Be A Better Writer? Read More.

Mike Hanski: Want To Be A Better Writer? Read More. 2014-04-22

"It usually helps me write by reading -- somehow the reading gear in your head turns the writing gear." -Steven Wright

Reading is fashionable. Again. It's cool. We bet you all can find many statements about how good and useful reading is, how much it can influence a person and his way of thinking, and how awesome it is to sit on your cozy sofa, reading your favorite book and diving (not literally of course) into this imaginary and so wonderful world...

And all such statements are true, actually. Many famous writers, singers, politicians, and even movie characters prove the fact of reading's great influence on people's mind: if you take a look at their bookshelves, you'll definitely be surprised. (Check out the infographic at the end of this post.)

"If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that." -Stephen King

These words of the "Great Master" and famous American essayist can hardly be objected, taking into account his writing skills and his books' importance for several generations of readers from different countries. Does it mean you should read a lot if you want to write like a professional? The answer to this question is quite predictable: yes, you should.

No good writing is possible without reading. Any proof needed? No problem.

How Reading Influences Your Writing

Being a writer, you'll probably agree with the fact that the art of writing is nearly impossible to teach. It is impossible to finish some courses on creative writing or graduate from some university with a diploma of "a professional writer." Do you consider it possible? We have bad news for you then.

Writing is a skill. But this skill is very complicated, because it can't be got by simple learning of grammar rules, punctuation marks, and different writing techniques. Certainly, you should know how to write correctly, but only reading can help you achieve greatness. How?

It helps you find inspiration It lets you gain new knowledge It helps you learn your genre better It provides you with wider vocabulary for your own works It makes you understand the language better It helps you learn from real gurus of writing It helps you reveal the secrets of this job in practice

Can you imagine a musician who does not listen to music himself? The same question can be asked about writing. Every author writes for readers; no grammar rules and writing techniques will help you understand your reader if you do not read yourself.

Enjoy what you read. It is difficult and mostly impossible to write something really good if you did not experience anything good that had been written already. Being a writer yourself, you have an ace in your sleeve: you can read a book with an eye for writing, though you do not even realize it.

Everything you learn as a reader, you can use as a writer afterward. But even if becoming the second Ray Bradbury is not your plan, it is not a reason to forget about reading and consider it useless at once.

How reading influences your study

Want it or not, but you have to read much during your study at school or university. Have you ever considered reading War and Peace the worst curse and nightmare of your student life? You do not even imagine how wrong you were.

Numerous scientific research studies prove the positive impact of reading on pupils and students' minds: the more you read at school, the better your vocabulary and cognitive skills become; reading helps kids define who they are, as it connects them to the rest of the whole world; moreover, books can infinitely expand your general view of this world...

Any more reasons for reading in school and college needed?

Reading widens a vocabulary, broadens a kid's mind, helps him understand the world better Kids who read at home become more prepared for school Reading allows students to use new text models for their successful academic writing It deepens their knowledge of a subject itself It helps students remember grammar rules even without learning them

Poor reading skills can lead to a person's social exclusion. According to the Basic Skills Agency's study, pupils who are functionally illiterate at 16 (the age they usually leave school) consider school a simple waste of time and become most likely unemployed by the age of 30, as they do not believe anything they do can have a real effect on their lives.

But it would be a big mistake to consider reading only a tool for gaining literacy because it influences our physical and psychological condition as well. Do you want to know how? Keep reading!

How reading influences you in general

Science confirms that reading has a positive influence on your brain: blood flows to it, improving brain's functioning and connectivity; moreover, it has been proved that this functioning improves for days! So, read books -- and you will help your brain function better.

Other positive impacts of reading include:

overcoming stress keeping brain in shape while you are getting old decreasing chances to have Alzheimer's disease increase in empathy cultivating a so-called theory of mind, when you "read" thoughts and feelings of people broadening of imagination finding a source of inspiration

Do not ignore reading because it really makes our lives easier. It helps us understand all feelings and events, it makes us better, it teaches us to respect people, it broadens our minds, and it opens our hearts to everything new.

Read everything you like, everything that's relevant to your feelings now, everything you believe in. Let a book open your mind and help you feel love toward the world around you. As Ernest Hemingway said, "There is no friend as loyal as a book." So, maybe it's high time to find your best friend among a fabulous kaleidoscope of writing masterpieces?

You are what you read -- bookshelves of famous people

Mike Hanski is a content strategist for businesses in various industries and an occasional musician. Check out his blog where he writes about college life and feel free to contact him on Google+.

Bill Moyers: Government = Protection Racket For The 1 Percent

Bill Moyers: Government = Protection Racket For The 1 Percent 2014-04-22

The evidence of income inequality just keeps mounting. According to "Working for the Few," a recent briefing paper from Oxfam, "In the US, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer."

2014-04-22-econInequality_wealth.pngOur now infamous one percent own more than 35 percent of the nation's wealth. Meanwhile, the bottom 40 percent of the country is in debt. Just this past Tuesday, the 15th of April -- Tax Day -- the AFL-CIO reported that last year the chief executive officers of 350 top American corporations were paid 331 times more money than the average US worker. Those executives made an average of $11.7 million dollars compared to the average worker who earned $35,239 dollars.

As that analysis circulated on Tax Day, the economic analyst Robert Reich reminded us that in addition to getting the largest percent of total national income in nearly a century, many in the one percent are paying a lower federal tax rate than a lot of people in the middle class. You may remember that an obliging Congress, of both parties, allows high rollers of finance the privilege of "carried interest," a tax rate below that of their secretaries and clerks.

And at state and local levels, while the poorest fifth of Americans pay an average tax rate of over 11 percent, the richest one percent of the country pay -- are you ready for this? -- half that rate. Now, neither Nature nor Nature's God drew up our tax codes; that's the work of legislators -- politicians -- and it's one way they have, as Chief Justice John Roberts might put it, of expressing gratitude to their donors: "Oh, Mr. Adelson, we so appreciate your generosity that we cut your estate taxes so you can give $8 billion as a tax-free payment to your heirs, even though down the road the public will have to put up $2.8 billion to compensate for the loss in tax revenue."

All of which makes truly repugnant the argument, heard so often from courtiers of the rich, that inequality doesn't matter. Of course it matters. Inequality is what has turned Washington into a protection racket for the one percent. It buys all those goodies from government: Tax breaks. Tax havens (which allow corporations and the rich to park their money in a no-tax zone). Loopholes. Favors like carried interest. And so on. As Paul Krugman writes in his New York Review of Books essay on Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century, "We now know both that the United States has a much more unequal distribution of income than other advanced countries and that much of this difference in outcomes can be attributed directly to government action."

Recently, researchers at Connecticut's Trinity College ploughed through the data and concluded that the US Senate is responsive to the policy preferences of the rich, ignoring the poor. And now there's that big study coming out in the fall from scholars at Princeton and Northwestern universities, based on data collected between 1981 and 2002. Their conclusion: "America's claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened... The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy." Instead, policy tends "to tilt towards the wishes of corporations and business and professional associations."

Last month, Matea Gold of The Washington Post reported on a pair of political science graduate students who released a study confirming that money does equal access in Washington. Joshua Kalla and David Broockman drafted two form letters asking 191 members of Congress for a meeting to discuss a certain piece of legislation. One email said "active political donors" would be present; the second email said only that a group of "local constituents" would be at the meeting.

One guess as to which emails got the most response. Yes, more than five times as many legislators or their chiefs of staff offered to set up meetings with active donors than with local constituents. Why is it not corruption when the selling of access to our public officials upends the very core of representative government? When money talks and you have none, how can you believe in democracy?

Sad, that it's come to this. The drift toward oligarchy that Thomas Piketty describes in his formidable new book on capital has become a mad dash. It will overrun us, unless we stop it.

Jochen Zeitz: Earth Day 2015 Should Focus On Tomorrow's Bottom Line

Jochen Zeitz: Earth Day 2015 Should Focus On Tomorrow's Bottom Line 2014-04-22

Happy 44th birthday, Earth Day. This year’s theme, championed by as many as a billion people worldwide, is ‘Green Cities.’ That is timely at a moment when we are becoming an urban species. But underlying the Earth Day agenda is a growing sense that tomorrow’s economies -- and tomorrow’s capitalism -- must be very different. So how about focusing Earth Day 2015 on tomorrow’s bottom line?

Anyone who was there knows that the world was a very different place when the first Earth Day launched on April 22, 1970. Business people were more likely to be the target of public outrage than engaged in the task of working out how our cities and economies could shift onto more sustainable trajectories. The chemical industry was under siege for its role in the production of weapons like napalm and Agent Orange.

Still, despite the ongoing horrors in Vietnam, hope was abroad. When we talked to the first Earth Day’s organizer, Denis Hayes, he recalled being much more optimistic in 1970 about the potential for radical change then than he is today. “In the United States,” he told us, “an aroused citizenry had recently scored huge victories over entrenched interests in civil rights and turned a President out of office over an unwise, unjust war. I thought the various battles facing environmentalism -- over pesticides, monocultures, air and water pollution, endangered species, freeways slashing through inner-city neighborhoods, and so on -- would be fairly easily won.”

But paradigms take a couple of generations to shift, partly because those infected by the old paradigm need to retire or die, as do many of those they taught or influenced. Over 50 years into a paradigm shift whose dawn was heralded by people like Rachel Carson, the fact that business CEOs and other leaders are now coming together to create new change platforms like The B Team signals that, at last, we may be breaking through into a new era.

Peter Bakker, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, is among leaders who understand that we’re no longer simply talking about citizenship, responsibility and accountability. Business now must address the increasingly urgent need for system change. “It’s a big job and it will take time,” he told us. “But it’s the inevitable way. Either we throw away capitalism and start again, or we transform capitalism.”

Such people are well placed to see how everything in today’s world is now connected -- and connecting in new ways -- with profound implications for all of us, but particularly those locked into the status quo. Now, in a trend heralded by the natural capitalism movement, the spotlight is beginning to shift from scientists, activists and CEOs to accountants.

The world’s bean counters are not natural revolutionaries, but corporate accounting and reporting are evolving toward new ways of calculating the true costs of corporate operations -- and the true value corporations create. The focus is expanding from traditional physical and financial forms of capital, to new forms, among them the intellectual, institutional, human, social, cultural and natural varieties.

Coincidentally, 2014 also marks the twentieth birthday of the triple bottom line, which helped launch a wave of other accounting concepts, including the double bottom line, blended value and shared value. As we converge these different strands of accounting and valuation, tomorrow’s bottom line will evolve from a monocular perspective on value to something more complex, able to detect, value and track multi-dimensional forms of wealth creation.

Natural capital will be at the epicentre of this revolution -- as underscored by the pioneering work of former DeutscheBank managing director Pavan Sukhdev in his UN-backed inquiry into The Economics of Economics and Biodiversity (TEEB). For those wanting to know more, we also highly recommend the Natural Capital Hub. And take a look at the Glasa Awards this week, celebrating natural capital accounting.

When PUMA and its parent company Kering, working with PwC and Trucost, developed and published the first ever Environmental Profit & Loss (EP&L) account in 2011, PUMA reported that the environmental cost of its operations throughout its supply chain was €145 million for 2010. The E P&L has since been refined and improved by Kering to implement E P&L analysis’ across its Luxury and Sport & Lifestyle brands, to publish a Group E P&L in 2016.

Inevitably, pricing nature will uncover costs that companies would prefer to keep hidden. As nature’s needs become visible, businesses will be landed with stranded assets. On the other side of the coin, some argue that it is unethical to place monetary valuations on nature, which should be considered priceless. But in market economies, priceless doesn’t figure. So The B Team is committed to exploring how all of this will shape the future of the bottom line. Keep track of -- and contribute to -- our work here.

Jochen Zeitz is Co-Founder and Co-Chair of The B Team, Director of Kering and former Chairman and CEO of PUMA, where he conceived and pioneered Environmental Profit & Loss accounting. His new book, "The Breakthrough Challenge: 10 Ways to Connect Today’s Profits With Tomorrow’s Bottom Line," co-written with Volans Executive Chairman John Elkington, will be published by Jossey-Bass in September.

Malcolm Boyd: How Can We Adjust To New Hard Times?

Malcolm Boyd: How Can We Adjust To New Hard Times? 2014-04-22

The surge in middle-aged people moving in with their parents reflects the grim reality that has taken hold in the aftermath of the Great Recession, according to an April 21 report in the Los Angeles Times. The survey underscores that older people are quietly moving in with their parents at twice the rate of their younger counterparts. So let's face it: life for average people isn't getting easier. As a matter of fact, it's enormously complicated. Aging itself requires far more skill than it did. It's not an easy process at all. Aging, of course, includes dying. Some people fear death to a staggering degree. Others are angered by it. (What's it all about? Why must we bother with it?) Still others make peace with it. My mother Beatrice was one of the latter. After she contracted pneumonia in the convalescent hospital where she stayed, I was told that the end was near. I observed the acceptance, serenity and inner peace that she developed before my eyes. Beatrice's behavior in the dying process reminded me of words written by the existential psychotherapist Irvin D. Yalom: "The last gift a parent can give to children is to teach them, through example, how to face death with equanimity." Mother did that, gracefully and simply, and I shall always be grateful. She died just ten days before her 99th birthday. My mother was born in 1898 and her life came close to spanning the 20th century. During the influenza epidemic of 1918, she nursed Navajo Indian children who were ill, then dug graves and buried the dead in the parched earth under a desert sun. Hers was a long life of service. At age 70, she began volunteer teaching at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. One young patient asked her, "You're old, aren't you?" "Yes, I am," she replied. "That's good," he said. "Then I can talk to you." When death came, my mother opened her arms to it. Grateful for life, she accepted death as an act of faith. I remember my first experience with death. I was a young boy. Grandpa lay at home in a big mahogany bed, surrounded by the members of his immediate family. Everyone knew he was dying. Grandma sat next to him, crying softly and holding his hand. I was thinking that Grandpa wouldn't be able to take me for walks in the woods any more or hold me on his knee. We were pals and I'd miss him terribly. Then I heard his heavy breathing stop. Suddenly I realized he had lost the gigantic spark of life that had always animated him in such a special way. I invite you to share with me the ways death has touched your own life. When? How? Did death occur violently in an accident? Quietly at home in bed -- or in a hospital? Alone or with friends? Was it expected or a surprise? How did you respond to it? I welcome your real-life stories, with your reactions of fear or hope, anxiety or peace. Following death, life goes on. Our task is to move forward with life, summoning all our courage and energy. Yet a reader writes to me: "Death took away 29 years of my happiness. I've got to keep on living, but I don't know how. Death scares me because it's such a terrible closure. Please tell me what to do. I need help in living." The worst way to live is to fear living. The worst way to die is to fear dying. Let joy come into your life. Stay open to others. Confront fears. Opt for service instead of selfishness. Learn to forgive. Relinquish hatred. Practice loving. Let the new day come as a carrier of hope.

Jack Healey: Twisting Honor, Twisting Human Rights: America And Torture

Jack Healey: Twisting Honor, Twisting Human Rights: America And Torture 2014-04-22

There was a time when the American public demanded something like consequences for leadership failures that transgressed ethical and moral lines. The Watergate scandal brought down the Nixon presidency, but the sense in the country was that it was an indictment of failed policies ranging from Kissinger's brutal wars in Southeast Asia to the roughshod trampling of public opinion that was really what brought him down. In the Reagan era, there was a massive loss of confidence in the aftermath of the Iran-Contra Scandal and there were extensive and publicly televised hearings on this issue. Now? Now the Bush presidency involved running riot over international agreements and the very foundations of the United States and virtually nothing happened. Could things be worse? Yes. The Obama presidency has seen these policies continued or extended with both implicit and explicit statements that there would not be any pursuit of justice against those who offended it so deeply.

It is not enough to note that the Obama administration has continued many policies that were initiated under his predecessor, George W. Bush. It is not enough to note with horror the response given by then Press Secretary Robert Gibbs as he tartly dismisses a reporter's concerns of the extrajudicial and extraterritorial murder of an American citizen and a minor (though given Gibbs' rather crass post-White House business acumen, maybe he'll re-spin this too in the future). Let us not get caught up in the problems of indefinite detentions without charge in Guantanamo. Let us not worry ourselves overly much with the problems of drone attacks and the ethics of videogame pilots in air-conditioned trailers outside of Las Vegas unleashing the full might of the American military against wedding parties on the other side of the globe. Let us rather focus on what may be the most shameful problem of all: torture.

The word torture comes from the Latin torquere, meaning "to twist." It is a word that is shorthand for acts and behaviors beyond the moral limits of acceptability. It has been treated as such since the founding of the United States with the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, itself derived from the English Bill of Rights of 1689. The history of agreeing that certain punishments and treatments were such an affront to humankind that they should not be permitted ever has been one of not only declaiming treatments and punishments carried out by other state or nonstate actors, but of restricting and monitoring the powers and behaviors of our very own country. Currently, the Congress and presidency have decided to just stop caring about being monitored or restricted.

When Senator Dianne Feinstein broke from the ranks and decried the use of torture by the United States, the reaction against her was fast, furious, and, with sad predictability, featured gendered ad hominem attacks. The CIA will not go gently into greater oversight and accountability within the government, as no secret agency ever has. But Senator Feinstein's statement was harrowing, brave, clear, and essential. The revelations of the partial release of the Senate report on torture are harrowing, but a full release of the information and subsequent accountability are absolutely essential. Stand against torture. Stand with Feinstein. There are many in the Senate and outside who already support the need to make the report public, but your voice is needed to stand with them to make it happen.

As we watch Easter, a holiday celebrating redemption, and Passover, a holiday celebrating liberation, recede into the past of 2014, let us recall that redemption and liberation are hard to come by if you're held in indefinite detention in Guantanamo or, perhaps worse, a black site, and subjected to various forms of either explicitly sanctioned torture or those which are explicitly prohibited and thus carried out by other jurisdictions/nations with (barely) plausible deniability. What of their redemption? What of their liberation? And what of ours? If we as a nation, if we as human beings, are prepared to continue to ignore the full weight of accountability then we are accepting a blot on our history with full self-aware agreement, a stain that will never be removed. The most widely publicized "newly approved" torture technique was waterboarding, a practice so heinous that even the late hawk Christopher Hitchens found it impossible to permit. But it is hardly the only one, and the use of torture has corrupted outwards, with deceptions and denials permeating the CIA and many of its implicit channels of power.

There was a time when this was a blot created and blamed on the Bush administration. That history was amply and explicitly called out in a recent piece by Steve Coll, which ended with a call: "Can the American people at last have the facts about the Bush administration's embrace of torture as national policy, carried out in their name?" The Obama administration has become actively complicit in sheltering the torturers and so has almost the entirety of both House and Senate. The question of whether or not to allow torture should be answered with a resounding no. The idea of having zero accountability for the architects and implementers of torture is equally unacceptable. Make no mistake. This is not a sideshow issue. This is one of the central human rights issues in the United States. We urge you to contact your elected officials in House and Senate (see on how to do this or for how to do this) and tell them not to stand for it. We urge you to refrain from giving donations to ANY candidate for any political office who will not take an unequivocal stand against torture and for the full release of information and for immediate hearings to be held. This is about the core of human rights and it can not wait. Call Senator Feinstein's office and thank her for her work and her stand and announce that you stand with her. Never give a pass to torture. Never forget the victims of torture. Never again is an ideal that needs to be remembered again and again.

Sarah Thomas: An Open Letter Regarding The Open Letter

Sarah Thomas: An Open Letter Regarding The Open Letter 2014-04-22

I hope that you are reading, furious writers of the open letter, because I want to thank you.

In today's crass, tweet-fueled world, there is something exquisite about this throwback to communication of yesteryear. The letter is a literary form that has been nearly extinct in favor of dashing off a quick email or a transient text. You, epistolary artisans, are resurrecting a high art.

Who is your inspiration? Is it Georgia O'Keefe, whose impassioned addresses to Alfred Steiglitz made your peony blush? Is it the young Ernest Hemingway, who inspires the bloodthirsty misogynist in you? Or F. Scott Fitzgerald (do you also write blind drunk)?

None of you named a writer of the modern "open letter," did you? You know, the author of one published in the annals of the New York Post online or even the Hollywood Reporter? Of course you didn't. "Open letters," in their current incarnation, barely resemble letters written from one human being to another, conveying something with discretion and cleverness. Not all open letters are made equal, of course (this is the part where I address my naysayers, to silence any one who might topple my soapbox), and there are brilliant historical precedents like Emile Zola's "J'accuse." Unfortunately, these exceptions are largely in the rear view mirror.

You see, this is actually a critique of the trend of the open letter, in all of its asinine inescapability. #Sorrynotsorry, dear reader -- it's the nature of the open letter to trick you into reading it.

If you feel like your attention is being abused, relax, this is a convention of the open letter. Remember Dylan Farrow implicating her readers by asking us what our favorite Woody Allen movie was before revealing a truly harrowing story of child abuse at the director's hands? Or Mackenzie Dawson's 'A Working Mother's Open Letter to Gwyneth Paltrow,' which began by sardonically telling the titular actress "I really enjoyed your recent comments to E! about how easy an office job is for parents, compared to the grueling circumstances of being on a movie set." Spoiler alert: the rest of the letter was markedly less fawning.

"Hey," you may say (but of course, I can't hear you, because an open letter isn't really "open" to your input, reader), "how dare you attack writers with concerns as serious as abuse or child rearing in a pithy format such as this?" And I say: "Precisely." It is an entirely inappropriate forum for issues of such gravity, which would be much better addressed in an op-ed, a blog, the front page of the Times (aim high), or even a letter to Dear Prudence, genuinely seeking counsel. It isn't that these open letter writers should be ashamed of their plights, but they have chosen an inherently disingenuous form that jeopardizes the content.

Is the announced object of the open letter ever the true intended audience? You see, the open letter is a slippery vehicle -- it's rarely what it seems. They may appear to be direct addresses, but they are often vehicles for "regular" citizens -- such as myself -- to access (or accuse) people of some celebrity.

Christina McDowell addresses her "Open Letter to the Makers of The Wolf of Wall Street, and the Wolf Himself," detailing an excruciating family ordeal at the hands of her corrupt banker father, to the "Kings of Hollywood." I applaud McDowell's content if not her form. Dawson's letter, however, a narrative of relentless commutes and unaffordable child care, is all too familiar to many women, but her frustrations play second fiddle to her purported goal: vilifying Paltrow.

Perhaps the lowest form of the open letter is that typified by a lover of Dwayne Wade's addressing Gabrielle Union, his then fiancé, detailing their sex life and featuring especially repugnant gems like "he makes me feel so comfortable on your side of the bed." Ouch. Double-ouch that it was probably read by Union's grandmother, co-workers, and dry cleaners.

The pain of these letter writers is real, and it is sloppily spilled over the Internet for all of our gawking pleasure.

Now that I've got your attention: I'd like to thank Daniel Jones for all of my painstakingly crafted "Modern Love" submissions that have gone unpublished; I'd like to give a shout out to Kendrick Lamar for writing my ex's favorite soundtrack by which to bang other women; I'd like to advise Beyonce to get fat or old already, because for God's sake, you have been fueling my physical insecurities for at least ten years. Cormac McCarthy: stop making me a terrible writer by proxy! Kanye and Kim: stop making my checking account ever-inadequate! And finally, to my late grandpa: resurrect yourself and acknowledge that I have exceeded your expectations and become a functional adult.

See, dear reader? Wasn't that pleasant? What are very real, legitimate, human problems worth exploring become at best passive aggressive salves for our own pain and at worst hysterical caricatures contributing to the internet epidemic of "dumbing down" complex social problems. Open letters offer the false promise of a dialogue that could better be had in a town hall meeting or even a Reddit open source. But responses are usually from anonymous commenters that have great potential to further the writer's injury. And responses from the "intended," like Woody Allen's comeback to his estranged daughter, create a conversation with all of the grace and privacy of Jerry Springer's stage (with a tasteful jazz soundtrack).

Open letters should be short, so I will close. But there must be a plea, a boycott, a call to arms for the invisible audience that I assume is left asking: "What now, Sarah?" If you must rectify a wrong, I ask you to do something revolutionary, and write the intended reader an actual, physical letter. Put your words -- which deserve a far better home -- on the page, and mail it to the intended. If your grievances demand a larger audience, then elect not to hide behind this popular form that whiffs of self-aggrandization. Instead, I propose a new form, the Angry Yawp, ideally available in audio form, in the grand tradition of the town crier: "Hear Ye, Hear Ye, this is important, and every single last one of you better listen."

As my grandpa used to say, "Just don't piss on me and tell me it's raining."

Respectfully yours,


Wray Herbert: Not Enough Basketballs? The Too-much-talent Effect

Wray Herbert: Not Enough Basketballs? The Too-much-talent Effect 2014-04-22

The NBA playoffs are underway, and the Miami Heat are the odds-on favorite to "three-peat." If they do -- or if they don't, for that matter -- the outcome will fuel an enduring debate about how best to build a sports franchise. Back in 2010, the Heat opted to wager hundreds of millions of dollars on the Big 3 -- signing superstars LeBron James and Chris Bosh on top of pricey local favorite Dwayne Wade. James boastfully predicted a Heat dynasty, while cynics chanted a more skeptical mantra: "Not enough basketballs" for those super egos.

Is there such a thing as having too much talent? This is the perennial question facing the owners of big-time sports franchises -- not to mention the managers and coaches and players and fans. Does adding more and more talent add up to ever better team performance?

Surprisingly, this question has never been studied in a rigorous, scientific way -- until now. A team of psychological scientists -- headed up by Adam Galinsky of Columbia University and Roderick Swaab of INSEAD -- decided to explore the possibility of a too-much-talent effect--the notion that at some point adding one more superstar actually becomes detrimental to the team. They reasoned that internal jostling for team dominance would eventually undermine the coordination needed for team performance. They ran a series of experiments to test this idea, including one that focused on the NBA.

Galinsky and Swaab looked at the regular season play of all NBA teams over a decade, from 2002 to 2012. They computed individual talent, and team talent, by using the so-called Estimated Wins Added, or EWA, formula, which estimates the victories that any given player adds over and above what a replacement player would contribute. They had access to comprehensive play-by-play data from all the games, which they examined to tally team coordination -- an amalgam of total assists, field goal percentage, and defensive rebounds. Team performance was simply winning percentage at the end of each season.

Then they crunched all the data together, with interesting results. Increasing talent was linked to better team performance -- but only to a point. After that critical point, the benefit of more talent decreased and eventually turned negative. What's more, it was clearly the diminished team coordination that hurt performance. That is, too much star talent undermined the selflessness that leads to team excellence. Or as sports analysts say, not enough basketballs.

But what about soccer balls? Perhaps there is something unique about American hoops that lends itself to the too-much-talent effect. To rule this out, the scientists ran a similar study of international soccer, using data from FIFA. They assessed talent in a somewhat different way, but basically it was the same study concept. And they came up with the same result: Simply stacking a team with the best talent in the game -- this strategy only gets a team so far. Then it turns sour.

Okay, but here's the really interesting part. Recall the scientists' prediction that the too-much-talent effect would only emerge when individual jockeying harmed team coordination. But what if interdependence were not so critical to a team's success--in baseball, for example? Obviously baseball players have to coordinate a lot on the field, but game outcomes have much more to do with individual performances than they do in basketball and soccer. That's why it has been called "an individual sport masquerading as a team sport." So Galinsky and Swaab ran yet another analysis, this one of talent and team performance using MLB data. And as expected, they got a different result: Accumulating talent did not hurt team performance at the ballpark. There is no too-much-talent effect at work in America's national pastime.

So all this data, reported in detail in an article to appear in the journal Psychological Science, document the predicted effect and explain why it occurs. But despite this, as the scientists show in a final study, people believe the opposite. They intuitively believe that their favorite team will get better by piling on more and more top talent.

Just ask Miami Heat fans. Even a lackluster regular season has not diminished their hope and faith in a dynasty yet to come. And who knows -- maybe they will win another. But contract options are looming, and it's the owners who soon will have to decide if it's worth that big price tag to keep the Big 3 intact for years to come.

Ravé Mehta: Stem Contest Inspires Kids To Invent Our Future

Ravé Mehta: Stem Contest Inspires Kids To Invent Our Future 2014-04-22


"The progressive development of man is vitally dependent on invention. It is the most important product of his creative brain. Its ultimate purpose is the complete mastery of mind over the material world, the harnessing of the forces of nature to human needs." -- Nikola Tesla, Inventor

The act of creating something is one of the most empowering states a human can experience. Unfortunately, our education system doesn't promote this simple notion and instead focuses on testing our kids on their ability to memorize information and facts, a significant amount of which is rendered inaccurate, obsolete or irrelevant by the time they leave school and enter the workforce. Aside from the basic skills kids learn in school such as reading, writing, and math, the important life skills, such as learning how to conceive and create something of value, is completely overlooked.

However, there is hope!

I recently had the honor of speaking at NASA's Johnson Space Center and what I saw was incredible!

A space pump inspired by parasites that minimizes the need for electro-mechanical parts so we can send a man to Mars. A new compound that can absorb oil at over 200 times its own weight to help clean up oceanic oil spills significantly faster and cheaper than current methods. A bionic hand that allows amputees to reclaim normal hand and finger functionality. A device for water collection that condenses clean water directly out of the atmosphere to be used for farming, drinking and cooling.

However, none of these inventions are from NASA. These products are conceived and developed by high school kids from around the world who compete in the Conrad Foundation's annual Spirit of Innovation Challenge (SOIC).


Every year, over 1,000 high school kids from 72 countries and all 50 states submit to the Conrad Foundation their ideas, inventions and solutions to real-world problems in one of four categories - aviation and aerospace, cyber-technology and security, energy and environment, and health and nutrition. The SOIC committee narrows the submissions from over 500 teams down to 20 teams who will compete in a Shark Tank style STEM competition for kids. These final 20 teams come to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston to do their venture pitch to a panel of highly credentialed judges ranging from NASA scientists and engineers to successful businessmen and entrepreneurs. This year the winning teams (one for each category) walked away with $47,500 in awards along with access to mentors, potential clients, and other resources to help them commercialize their product or idea, including access to a portion of NASA's patent portfolio.


What happens when kids are inspired and encouraged to exercise their ideas and creativity to solve real world problems?

Innovation from teams like PuzzleBot who created an online security program that replaces CAPTCHAs with picture puzzles that are faster to validate and web bot hack resistant. Team XC Walking Watts, developed a shoe that can store the piezo-electric energy derived from walking so you can charge your phone or other device while on the go. The Green Barriers team created the HydroBucket that allows trees to grow in harsh vegetation-deprived areas to help fight off the effects of global warming and desertification in regions like Africa.

However, these teams didn't stop just with their product idea or prototype. I was one of the judges for the energy and environment category, and these kids came in with a full market analysis, go-to market strategy and in some cases a source and use of funds comparable to any proper venture pitch. We asked one team, who were all high school juniors, what they would do if their final prototype was successful. They responded they would take a gap year after high school to focus on taking their idea to market. Now that's passion!


The Conrad Foundation was founded in 2008 by Nancy Conrad in honor of her late husband Charles "Pete" Conrad, commander for the Apollo 12 mission and the third man to walk on the moon. The STEM entrepreneurship contest was inspired by Pete's personal story who failed out of 11th grade due to dyslexia, which was not recognized or understood at the time. However, Pete's mother did not give up on him and found a school headmaster that would take him on and teach him through a systems learning approach. Pete did so well that he graduated from high school, and was admitted to Princeton University with a full Navy ROTC scholarship. After graduating from Princeton with his B.S. in aeronautical engineering, Pete was immediately commissioned to the Navy where he later became a naval aviator and fighter pilot, and ultimately a NASA astronaut. After many years of risky space exploration, Pete turned his talents and experience towards entrepreneurship and founded four companies devoted to the commercialization of space travel.

Pete's ideals to inspire and empower kids to invent and innovate still lives on today through the foundation. Previous winners have garnered significant support and recognition such as Daniel and Issac who obtained two patents for their invention and were recognized by the Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Another team duo, Mikayla and Shannon, created a nutritional bar for astronauts which flew on the Space Shuttle STS-134 flight and was profiled by Fox News, CNN, and MTV Geek. They were later commissioned as student spokeswomen for Texas Instrument. Another team developed the ULTRApod Water Filter and began manufacturing their prototype after attending the 2012 USA Science and Engineering Festival as guests of Lockheed Martin.


Conrad Foundation is one of several high-profile STEM competitions focused on encouraging high school kids to think differently. A couple years ago, I met Jack Andraka who was a 15 year old high school sophomore when he won the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for developing a new diagnostic test for early detection of pancreatic cancer, the very disease Steve Jobs passed away from. Jack's testing approach is 90 percent accurate and also 168 times faster, 400 times more sensitive, and 27,000 times cheaper (3 cents per dipstick) than previous testing methods.

However, even the most revolutionary ideas are not enough on their own. There are big leaps that must take place to take these ideas and inventions to market and gain market acceptance and ultimately become financially solvent. As Nikola Tesla discovered in his epic journey to bring electricity to the world, the technical problems were relatively easy to resolve. The bigger hurdles were timing, competition, politics, finance, customer acquisition, team chemistry, relationships, greed, ego, fear, envy, public perception, expectations and all things human. Yet as every successful entrepreneur learns, we never get it completely right on the first try. Entrepreneurship is an on-going iterative learning process and the sooner one starts, the more they learn and the better their chances to create viable solutions that can gain wide-spread market adoption. The kids in these high school STEM contests are between the ages of 13 and 18 years, so they're off to a really good start.


How can we apply this approach to our education system and engage millions of kids to think differently and truly foster a culture of inventors and innovators?

To start, we must restructure our current high school educational approach to reflect how the real-world operates. Instead of vertical subjects, the curriculum should be reorganized into civilization based themes such as Energy, Environment, Food, Water, Health, Communication, Education, Transportation, Finance, Government, Infrastructure and other important societal systems. Each theme could be developed into a nine-week quarter with a set of over-arching humanity serving goals and limitations the sector is facing. During this time the students would form teams and learn about the subjects relevant to the theme such as its history, science, technology, law, governmental policies, finance, politics, international relations, economics, and more. In this process, each team can divide the workload to do a deeper dive into the subjects so they can teach each other faster than a single subject teacher could teach a class. Then the teams would identify problems for which they would develop innovative solutions. These solutions would then be presented in class initially and the best ideas and presentations would be presented to the entire school, so other students can learn from their approach thus setting a higher bar. This could also be expanded to the region, state and nation through some sort of competitive evaluation process with real financial awards, incentives and scholarships.

There are significant benefits to this theme-centric approach. First, our kids would transform their learned information into actual knowledge by applying it towards tangible goals, instead of turning themselves into a human database of useless facts with no practical application. By practicing how to think through and create solutions to real-world issues, the kids would learn how to be resourceful and feel more empowered to make a difference in the world. This would result in higher student engagement and our kids would gain a much deeper understanding of what they enjoy and want to focus on after school. Most importantly, our kids would have an immediate value contribution to society with real-world economic impact thus generating a significantly better return on our educational tax dollars.

As our governments, banking systems and industrial complexes continue to confound our future by exploiting our energy, environment, health, food supply, water, education, finance, transportation and other societal systems, our only hope to save and evolve humanity is for our future generations to clean up our backwash. If we can develop a better system to engage, empower and enable our children to innovate faster than our world systems decay, then our kids could not only save our world, they could reinvent our future!

Jamie Lee Curtis: Happy Mother Earth Day?

Jamie Lee Curtis: Happy Mother Earth Day? 2014-04-22

Would you do this to your own mother?

Would you starve her, ravage her, drill her, strip her, pollute her, poison her, frack her, crowd her, pave her, drain her, extract her, constrain her, imprison her?

We call her our Mother earth for a reason.

She is the source. The only source; and once we deplete the source we can never get her back.

Read a little. Watch and listen.

In our house we are watching Cosmos as well as The Dust Bowl, Ken Burn's and Dayton Duncan's brilliant three-part series on the greatest ecological disaster in this country that I, naively, thought was a dusty drought.

It was man-made, because of our attention to profits over planning.

It was somewhat reclaimed, thanks to FDR, and yet it is prophesied that the seeming stability the center of our great land now feels is borrowed time, draining the aquifers and slowly sipping and siphoning away the water we will need to sustain it and us.

Water. Ahhhh water. Read Cadillac Desert. Read Dirt. Watch the documentary Dirt.

We are deluded with our dumb phones. We are so falsely dependent on technology that we are blunted into a false spring.

Wake up!

Snap to.

They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.

Make Earth Day like your Birthday.

Same attention, different presents. These don't come wrapped. These come from the ground up and they will sustain you and me way beyond our little life spans.

Rip out your lawns, put in solar, grey water system your home, teach your children that every drop we drink and use is borrowed and bought and our credit is running out.

Treat your mother with kindness today and make some choice to help her. Something. Turn off the tap as you brush your teeth. Something.



Jordan Schultz: The Indiana Pacers' Last Chance For The Championship

Jordan Schultz: The Indiana Pacers' Last Chance For The Championship 2014-04-22

With every Indiana miss, every questionable coaching decision or substitution by Frank Vogel and every lackluster defensive possession, the concern mounts. The Pacers, after posting a miserable 11-13 second-half record, have seen their top-ranked defense surrender 103.2 points per 100 possessions -- compared to 96.8 for the season -- over the past six weeks. But even after falling to sub-500 Atlanta in Game 1 (which the statistics do not reflect), the Eastern Conference's top seed shouldn't panic. Instead, making the necessary adjustments will prove crucial for the 40-year-old Vogel to avoid disaster.

roy hibbert

The first step is to force-feed All-Star center Roy Hibbert (pictured above) in the paint and see if he can't finally get his engine started again. Hibbert scored a mere 8 points in Game 1, most of which came after the outcome had been decided. The Pacers have struggled throughout the season to score in the half-court, but Hibbert is both a skilled scorer and passer from the block. The Hawks (or any opponent really), will look to counter with double-teams, but only when he shows effectiveness, which has hardly been the case over the past six games, where the 25-year-old has missed 30 of 37 shot attempts.

Vogel can overload the opposite side of the floor and allow his two best players -- Hibbert and Paul George -- to play a two-man game. Such a philosophy has been successful and yet, abandoned far too long since March. Hibbert must look to be more aggressive and show that he can score, because it will in turn force the defense to be honest. The Pacers were inexcusably outscored by 11 points with him on the floor during Game 1. What is even more surprising is the lack of defensive prowess they have displayed, but if Hibbert is feeling good about his offensive game, perhaps it will extend to the other side of the floor. When a team feels like it can't score, defensive effort -- even for a battle-tested team like Indiana -- can become difficult to muster.

From a defensive standpoint, one of the marquee ways that Atlanta and the rest of the league wants to attack Indiana is by spreading the floor and mitigating the size advantage with a rim protector like Hibbert. This proves especially effective with big men who can stretch and make perimeter shots, which Atlanta has in spades with All-Star Paul Millsap and Pero Antic. Vogel, to his credit, prefers to dictate the terms of his lineup. "There's risk in being who you're not," he told ESPN. "I'm not saying it's not necessary [to make changes]. I'm not saying it's something we won't do."

frank vogel

Removing Hibbert from the lineup entirely would be a mistake, but cutting his minutes and working around him would not. Chris Copeland was signed in the offseason to be a four-man spreading the floor, but Vogel has kept him in the doghouse ever since. And George, for all his greatness, has not been the same player since the break. The 23-year-old has seen dips in his shooting percentage, scoring and overall efficiency, but continues to be the focal point of the offense. George is a terrific player but he's a jump-shooter, and when jump-shooters go cold, defenses feast.

Vogel needs to reduce Hibbert's minutes to the extent that he remains fresh and the Pacers can matchup with Atlanta's quicker lineups. But when he is on the floor, post-touches for the 7-footer are extremely important. Indiana's seemingly faded title chances depend on it.

Email me at or ask me questions about anything sports-related at @Schultz_Report and follow me on Instagram @Schultz_Report. Also, be sure and catch my NBC Sports Radio show, Kup and Schultz, which airs Sunday mornings from 9-12 ET, right here.

Angelina Chapin: Stop Telling Women To "man Up" At Work 2014-04-22

When the Ottawa Citizen asked me to be a columnist, my first response was pride. My second response, after the adrenalin wore off, was complete and utter insecurity.

I sat across from a male friend at brunch, picked sadly at some smoked salmon and asked "why me?" There were smarter people more qualified to opine. He sympathized but couldn't relate. He'd never questioned his intelligence.

We were the spitting image of the gender stereotype du jour: women are less confident than men and that's holding them back in the workplace.

The TVO host Steve Paikin said as much in a recent blog post about how female guests won't come on his show. The Atlantic just ran a long piece titled The Confidence Gap, in which the authors remind us that because of self-doubt, women make less money, receive fewer promotions and rarely land top roles. The message is clear: grow a pair, or enjoy your crappy view from the bottom rungs.

I'm glad we're having this talk. It is no good that insecurity and anxiety are the reins holding back a woman at work. But I'm tired of being told the key to success is to change. Man up. Woman down. Instead, corporations could join the 21st century and see "female qualities" as virtues.

Biology isn't going to change. The jury is out as to whether our brains' physical differences account for gendered behaviour (she has great social skills, he's good with directions), but with hormones there is no debate. Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of the Atlantic article, explain how estrogen supports the part of a woman's noggin that encourages "bonding and connection, while discouraging conflict and risk taking ..." Testosterone, meanwhile, is the fuel to confidence's fire, and men have about 10 times as much of it as women do. (Of course there are exceptions to these stereotypes).

The workplace is still a man's world. The oft-cited characteristics of employees who rise to the top like perfectly cooked ravioli are confidence and fearlessness. So women try their best to squeeze into an unnatural mould. UK telecommunications firm O2 recently found that 42 per cent of senior women take on male qualities to be successful, according to their colleagues.

Obviously, some jobs call for certain personality types. You probably shouldn't go into sales if you prefer computers to people. You're not the management type if you hate making decisions. But alpha-male qualities are still the gold standard across most industries, despite the fact that women make up almost 50 per cent of the Canadian workforce.

It's time we update the kind of behaviour that is really best for the workplace.

Paikin wrote that some women decline to appear on The Agenda if they aren't experts on a topic. So? The last thing we need is more people pretending to be knowledgeable on topics they know nothing about. That's what the Internet is for.

Shari Graydon, the founder of a non-profit that encourages women to speak publicly, has an anecdote about how sexes respond to the spotlight. On the day Pope John Paul II died, she was walking in Montreal with her husband when a reporter asked her for comment. Graydon declined. Her husband, on the other hand, said "It's a very sad day for Catholics everywhere." While she uses the memory as a reminder that women should speak up, I think it's a reminder that you shouldn't speak to hear your own voice.

Charles Darwin said "Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge." And it's been scientifically proven. Unless you're trying to build a career as a commentator, shutting up when you have nothing valuable to contribute is something men should do more.

While the impulse to be the centre of attention may help build a personal brand, it creates an unpleasant work environment. I spoke with one female political commentator and strategist who described sitting around a table with men while working on a campaign. They can be so overpowering that she often shuts up. In her words: "It ends up being a dick-waving contest."

Confidence is good, but it can also be extremely alienating. The traditional corporate structure encourages people to act like robots -- emotions will only get in the way of making the hard decisions necessary to grow the bottom line. But the best bosses and colleagues I've had show emotional range.

Why does the audience love when actors on SNL break down laughing? It shows they are human. For many of us, the corporate world is a straitjacket we don't fit into and a boss or colleague who shows vulnerability is a relief.

When I had to negotiate my salary, my female boss and I spent a few minutes lamenting the awkwardness of playing hardball with each other -- and then we got down to it. Maybe women would be better at asking for more money if the process wasn't so unnecessarily intimidating. And maybe fields like politics and science would be more appealing.

Insecurity is wrongly viewed as a workplace weakness. My self-doubt has made me better at my job. It has rarely stopped me from pursuing a scary opportunity. I'm eager to fill the many gaps in my knowledge, a losing game of Whac-A-Mole. I'm industrious because I know there are many competent and hungry people who could do my job.

Admitting that doesn't make me feel weak, it makes me feel motivated. Imagine an economy based on curiosity and hard work rather than aggression and ego.

That's something I could feel confident about.


*This article previously appeared in the Ottawa Citizen.

Emily Kaye Lazzaro: 6 Things I Learned From Having 3 Miscarriages

Emily Kaye Lazzaro: 6 Things I Learned From Having 3 Miscarriages 2014-04-22

1. Fairness Is A Fallacy.

When you're very young or if nothing bad has ever happened to you, it seems like life should be fair. This is not true! In the words of everyone's dad, life isn't fair.

Facebook pregnancy announcements used to send me into a day-long depression, usually revolving around the idea that so-and-so got pregnant without any sort of struggle at all and they didn't deserve it. I had gone through the first trimester three times and had nothing to show for it and I deserved to be making Facebook pregnancy announcements. I'd never made it to that mythical twelfth week and these women had made it there without breaking a sweat and how dare they.

But everybody is entitled to their particular joy the same way everybody is entitled to their particular pain, irrespective of my personal life experience. Also, "fair" is not a thing. Or, it is a thing, but not the way I thought. The true, valuable concerns of fairness have less to do with entitlement and more to do with institutionalized racism and sexism and the history of marginalization and how to solve those problems as a modern, thoughtful society. That's something worth worrying about. But me not having a baby THE INSTANT I WANT ONE is not about fairness. It's not about anything. It is what it is.

And, truth be told, do you know what's unfair? That I met my husband, who is great, when I was 22 and I only had to waste time dating, like, three or four horrible a**holes. You know what else is unfair? That I was born in a comfortably upper-middle class family and was afforded every opportunity. That I'm white and straight. That is unfair. Get your head out of your butt, me.

2. The Worst Thing You Can Imagine Will Happen.

Last winter, my beloved, floppy, snuggly cat died. Two weeks later I had a miscarriage. Two weeks after that, my grandfather died. After all that, I thought it was over. It wasn't. There were two more losses coming. One day soon I would pick up a very small dead human from the toilet and hold it in my hand before screaming and dropping it and flushing it away. That was probably the worst thing. So far.

SORRY THAT WAS REALLY GRAPHIC, but that's the thing about this. Imagine the worst thing. The worst thing is not going to be cute. Life/the human body is a disgusting, scary place. And I'm sorry, I'm so genuinely sorry for you, but the worst thing is going to happen. Because eventually everybody you love will die. You will die. It's horrible.

I'm really sorry! But look, real talk: the sun is going to explode someday and everything we've ever known will be over. BUT DON'T DESPAIR! Short of the sun exploding, the worst thing you can imagine happens someday. And what do you do? Maybe you think you can't go on or you won't make it. But then you do go on, you do make it. Because what are the other options? Die of a broken heart? Nope, Disney, that's not a thing.

3. I Have No Control.

I'm really into controlling stuff. How napkins are folded, the position of pillows on the couch, the 90 degree angles of papers on my desk, etc. Sometimes I laugh about the things I used to get upset about. My husband sometimes makes the bed in a way I perceive to be lazy. We have had actual fights about this. That's hilarious! I am such a control freak that I would see the bed he made, become infuriated, remake said bed, and then Gchat him about it at work. "Why do you even bother making the bed? The way you make the bed is a slap in the face to me." Hahahahahahaha. What?! I had no idea.

So imagine the shock to my system when I couldn't control an iota of what was happening inside my body. When humans die inside you, through no fault of your own, you have to stop thinking you have any sort of ability to dictate any outcome.

I tried very hard to have healthy pregnancies. I did everything right, but it didn't work out. But it doesn't matter what I do. I'm not in control of it. I am just along for the ride and it's up to the randomness of the universe (or God, if you want) to decide. You know, like the AA serenity prayer. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Just let it go. I haven't seen Frozen, but every time I hear the song I make it about miscarriages. I make most things about miscarriages now. But that song is clearly not about miscarriages. It's about being gay.

4. I Love Drugs.

A few years ago, I watched The Business of Being Born on Netflix because I am a 29-year-old, middle class American woman. That movie convinced me, before I even thought about getting pregnant, that I wanted to have a beautiful, painful, un-medicated home birth when the time came. That gorgeous woman in the beginning, in a brightly colored top, just standing in her birthing pool in her living room, silently reaching down below her and pulling her baby out of her body, I mean come on. I wanted that!

That changed, though, for me, after having three ugly, painful, un-medicated home miscarriages. Now I am 100 percent about the drugs. I am 100 percent about hospitals and machines and professionals. If I could be an inpatient for the entirety of every pregnancy I ever go through for the rest of my life, I would. Numb me. I have no more illusions. Nothing about that pain is beautiful.

Mind, if I ever do have a baby, I'm sure it will be beautiful. But I will still probably want drugs. Life is too short to choose pain. (Also, note to Billy, I reserve the right to decide that I don't want drugs at a later date because I am forgetful. You may be blamed for this. Look out!) 5. I Am Invincible.

Every time it happened, we thought we would cease to be. Billy and I grieved differently -- I tended to go faster and dirtier, and he took longer and his sadness would come out sideways sometimes, confusing both of us. But, every time, after about six weeks, we would be back to ourselves. I would start running again. Billy would want to see friends. We would be OK.

A month or two later, we would talk about it and decide to try again. Every time, we decided to try again. Why did we do that? Hadn't we had enough? Well, yes and no. After a few weeks, you wake up and realize that you're not dead. And not only are you not dead, but you don't even feel that bad anymore. You're different now, but you're OK. It didn't kill you. It didn't really make you stronger, either. It just didn't kill you.

So I guess I've come to the conclusion that worrying is unnecessary and not useful to me anymore. In the end, worry or not, the only thing that can kill you is the thing that kills you. Up until then, you're invincible.

6. Everything Is A Miracle.

Miscarriages are very physically painful, in addition to the obvious emotional strain. So after a miscarriage was over I would have these moments of realizing that I wasn't in any physical pain, and it felt like a miracle.

And, actually, lots of things feel like miracles now. These things include, but are not limited to: bagels, the ocean, sleep, a really funny joke, fire, that an apple came right off the tree tasting like that, spring finally happening, rice pudding, that I saw a guy practicing ballroom dancing moves on his walk home from work, really solid high fives, dogs, that all of us are breathing and our hearts are beating and we've been alive this long.

It is very amazing that we are all alive! We made it through our mothers' pregnancies with us, we were born into the world, we didn't die of SIDS, and now we're all sitting at our computers, reading these words, blood pumping through our veins, against incredibly bad odds. How amazing is that?!

Also, I'm pregnant. Due October 20, 2014. We're probably going to spoil the sh*t out of this kid because it's a F*CKING MIRACLE.


This post originally appeared on

@media only screen and (min-width : 500px) {.ethanmobile { display: none; }}

Like Us On Facebook | Follow Us On Twitter | Contact HuffPost Parents