Archive for the ‘Things & Totems’ Category

The world sings for you

October 7, 2008

Nine out of ten doctors agree … upbeat music makes you happy.

The doctor has spoken.

The doctor has spoken.

A few years ago I was reading a book by one of the early mind-body experts, Dr. Andrew Weil. I think of him as my personal Harvard-Medical-School-trained shamanic Santa Claus. Tucked somewhere in the book was a list of steps to a healthier life, and one of his recommendations was listening to upbeat world music. Hmm, I thought … since I’m allergic to penicillin, I might as well give happy music a try.

This advice came at a time after my divorce when I had moved by myself to a part of the country where I knew not one person. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me that this might be difficult and isolating until I was already there. Suddenly I had hives that no doctor could stop. My apartment was temporarily overrun with cockroaches, courtesy of a neighbor who set off a bug bomb and left town. When the 17-year cicadas (aka locusts, in colloquial terms) started hatching that same week, I seriously thought the ten plagues of Moses were raining down upon my head.

I was doing plenty of traditional soul-searching, but I figured a little background music couldn’t hurt. The concept makes sense anyway – we make better decisions and come to a clearer understanding when we feel at ease. A contented perspective makes us more receptive and draws in more positivity. Some say “like attracts like,” some call it “the law of attraction” and some say we reap what we sow. However you want to say it, it’s true. We generate more for ourselves of whatever vibes we’re putting out there into our spinning blue planet.

And as metaphysicians have been telling us for years, positive thoughts don’t work in a vacuum – to really improve our situation, we have to put some emotional heft behind those cognitive bursts of ours. We align the heart and mind. Or as my inner mathematician is always going around scribbling:

The Charm-o-Matic happy formula: positive thought + positive emotion = good.

A happy dance is inevitable.

A happy dance is inevitable.

If only I had majored in physics instead of English, I could astound you further. So as overly simplistic as it sounds, listen to happy music.

If you aren’t already into world music, the Putumayo dance albums are a great place to start. “Baila – A Latin Dance Party” is my current favorite. Or look for artists such as Amadou & Mariam, Ozomatli, Yerba Buena, Balkan Beat Box, Mexican Institute of Sound and El Gran Silencio.

Free options: If your budget doesn’t have room for new music & you don’t already own some world tunes, just give your local library a try. Also, you can listen to the Putumayo World Music Hour for free online. Or subscribe to the free KCRW Top Tune podcast. It’s a fresh song every day, and while not all of the songs meet the Happy Meter on the Charm-o-Matic, plenty do. Plus, you’ll stay up with the legendary Morning Becomes Eclectic playlist.

So take it from someone who had hives and cockroaches and locusts all at once and felt all alone in the cold, cruel world: Music helps. Play some in the morning when you’re getting ready. Play some in the evening when you’re doing the dishes. Play some in the afternoon when you feel like sticking a fork in your eye.

Latin Dance Party, $15
Library, internet radio & podcast, free

My paper friends

October 6, 2008

Diamonds are okay, but as far as I’m concerned, a notebook is a girl’s best friend.

Looks French, feels French

Looks French, feels French

In fact, notebooks and memo pads are the only things I collect. I think my fixation is two-fold. First, a beautiful notebook satisfies a craving for good design in an inexpensive, practical way. In fact, you can carry them around with you, which is more than I can say for ceramic owls.

Second, opening a notebook to a fresh page at any given moment somehow feels like waking up each day to a new beginning. (Or rather, the way each morning would feel if my life were the Broadway musical it was meant to be. Singing before tooth-brushing, I always say.)

My favorite notebooks are invariably from Japan and France, and these lovelies are my current obsession. They’re made in Seattle by Laughing Elephant, but they look like something you could have picked up the last time you wandered around Paris. These have an unusual weight as well. I’ve never smoked, but they remind me of elegantly slim cigarettes. Not that I’ve been putting them in my mouth or anything.

All the designs are reminiscent of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements. The Nouveau-looking ones have flowing, organic lines of plants and a goddess-looking woman. Since the whole idea of Art Nouveau was to bring art into everyday life, a notebook seems like the perfection expression of an ideal to me.

And the Deco styles don’t just bring back the machine-age look of the 1920’s. When the movement emerged, the streamlined designs were meant to evoke geometric shapes from Aztec, Egypt and other ancient civilizations. Double the history, double the fun. Today, they look modern.

And hey, they’re just four bucks each. That’s art for the charming masses.

French notebooks, $3.95