TED talk: Isabel Allende on Passion

Why you should listen to her:

As a novelist and memoirist, Isabel Allende writes of passionate lives, including her own. Born into a Chilean family with political ties, she went into exile in the United States in the 1970s — an event that, she believes, created her as a writer. Her voice blends sweeping narrative with touches of magical realism; her stories are romantic, in the very best sense of the word. Her novels include The House of the Spirits, Eva Luna and The Stories of Eva Luna, and her latest, Ines of My Soul and La Suma de los Dias (The Sum of Our Days). And don’t forget her adventure trilogy for young readers — City of the Beasts, Kingdom of the Golden Dragon and Forest of the Pygmies.

As a memoirist, she has written about her vision of her lost Chile, in My Invented Country, and movingly tells the story of her life to her own daughter, in Paula. Her book Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses memorably linked two sections of the bookstore that don’t see much crossover: Erotica and Cookbooks. Just as vital is her community work: The Isabel Allende Foundation works with nonprofits in the SF Bay Area and Chile to empower and protect women and girls — understanding that empowering women is the only true route to social and economic justice.

“Allende can spin a funny, sensual yarn, but she can also use her narrative skills to remind us that parallel to our placid and comfortable existence is another, invisible universe, one where poverty, misery and torture are all too real.”

Patricia Hart, The Nation

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Where the Hell is Matt?

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The Longest Way

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Great wall of China

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TED talk: Thandie Newton – Embracing otherness, embracing myself

Why you should listen to her:

Filmgoers first encountered Thandie Newton in the 1991 film Flirting, a tender and skin-crawlingly honest film about young love and budding identity. In her career since then, she’s brought that same intimate touch even to big Hollywood films (she was the moral center of Mission: Impossible II, for instance, and the quiet heart of the head-banging 2012), while maintaining a strong sideline in art films, like the acclaimed Crash and last year’s adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s For colored girls …

Born in England, her mother is Zimbabwean, and Newton is active in nonprofit work across the African continent. In 2008, she visited Mali for a campaign to bring clean water to six African nations, and as a V Day board member, Newton visited the Congo earlier this year to raise awareness of the chronic issue of sexual violence toward women and girls.

“Thandie Newton can boast that rarest of combinations – leading-actress looks with a character-actress CV.”

Telegraph

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TED talk: Barry Schwartz – The Paradox of Choice (How the modern world can lead to confusion)

Why you should listen to him:

In his 2004 book The Paradox of Choice , Barry Schwartz tackles one of the great mysteries of modern life: Why is it that societies of great abundance — where individuals are offered more freedom and choice (personal, professional, material) than ever before — are now witnessing a near-epidemic of depression? Conventional wisdom tells us that greater choice is for the greater good, but Schwartz argues the opposite: He makes a compelling case that the abundance of choice in today’s western world is actually making us miserable.

Infinite choice is paralyzing, Schwartz argues, and exhausting to the human psyche. It leads us to set unreasonably high expectations, question our choices before we even make them and blame our failures entirely on ourselves. His relatable examples, from consumer products (jeans, TVs, salad dressings) to lifestyle choices (where to live, what job to take, who and when to marry), underscore this central point: Too much choice undermines happiness.

Schwartz’s previous research has addressed morality, decision-making and the varied inter-relationships between science and society. Before Paradox he published The Costs of Living, which traces the impact of free-market thinking on the explosion of consumerism — and the effect of the new capitalism on social and cultural institutions that once operated above the market, such as medicine, sports, and the law.

Both books level serious criticism of modern western society, illuminating the under-reported psychological plagues of our time. But they also offer concrete ideas on addressing the problems, from a personal and societal level.

“Whether choosing a health-care plan, choosing a college class or even buying a pair of jeans, Schwartz shows that a bewildering array of choices floods our exhausted brains, ultimately restricting instead of freeing us.”

Publisher’s Weekly

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Food for thought

There are some really interesting statistics here.  Have a look.

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