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Very Good Things

Recommendations on podcasts, movies, TV, books, recipes, restaurants, technology, travel, shopping and more. Things that make life more interesting or satisfying.

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Reading

Empathy Cards And Book

I love the idea behind this book There Is No Good Card For This: What to Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful and Unfair to People You Love. We’ve all been there and sadly the older you get, the more likely you’ll hear that crap stuff has happened to those you know and love. I doubt many of us can confidently say we’ve handled these moments with aplomb. One of the authors of the book also creates these brilliant empathy cards that are a sweet, honest and often much needed/appreciated way to tell someone you’re thinking of them and there for them when bad shit happens and you don’t quite know what to say. Like this ‘Infertility Judging‘ card or ‘Everything Happens‘ card. The creator, Emily McDowell, also has a range of cards you can send via Paperless Post to make it even easier.

Fight Like A Girl – Clementine Ford’s Debut Book

Clementine Ford‘s debut book Fight Like A Girl is personal, brave, honest and powerful. It’s described as “an essential manifesto for feminists new, old and soon-to-be, and exposes just how unequal the world continues to be for women. Crucially, it is a call to arms for all women to rediscover the fury that has been suppressed by a society that still considers feminism a threat. It will make you laugh, cry and scream… it will make you demand and fight for a world in which women have real equality and not merely the illusion of it.” I opted for the audio version (narrated by Ford) and found her voice so impactful in telling her story. A chapter in, I vowed to buy it for my daughter to gift to her when she’s old enough to read it but by the end, I felt it was an important read for everyone, regardless of gender. Watch her talk about it. Buy the book.

Hillbilly Elegy By J.D. Vance – A Memoir Of A Family and Culture In Crisis

Part memoir, part historical and social analysis, Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis – that of white working-class Americans. I’m borrowing words from Amy Chua given she sums this book up perfectly: “A beautifully and powerfully written memoir about the author’s journey from a troubled, addiction-torn Appalachian family to Yale Law School, Hillbilly Elegy is shocking, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, and hysterically funny. It’s also a profoundly important book, one that opens a window on a part of America usually hidden from view and offers genuine hope in the form of hard-hitting honesty.” Given Vance’s turbulent upbringing, it amazed me that he was able to write in a straight, honest (and at times very loving) way without ever being patronising or attempting to gain sympathy. Compelling reading. Read a reviewBuy the book.

Speak, Memory: A Story About Artificial Intelligence and Grief

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Roman Mazurenko and Eugenia Kuyda

A thought-provoking story about how a programmer used artificial intelligence (AI) to keep talking to her friend after his death. Speak, Memory asks whether AI can help to ease grief and ultimately, just because we can, does it mean we should? “Modern life all but ensures that we leave behind vast digital archives — text messages, photos, posts on social media — and we are only beginning to consider what role they should play in mourning. In the moment, we tend to view our text messages as ephemeral. But as Kuyda found after Mazurenko’s death, they can also be powerful tools for coping with loss. Maybe, she thought, this “digital estate” could form the building blocks for a new type of memorial.” It’s similar in concept to the Black Mirror episode Be Right Back’Read the full article here (around 10 minutes).

I Used to Be a Human Being – Confessions Of A Manic Information Addict

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Illustration by Kim Dong-kyu based on Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, by Caspar David Friedrich (1818)

Great article about our smartphone addiction and the impact it’s had on society. A lot of what Andrew Sullivan writes here I feel many of us are experiencing but not able to articulate as well. Love the thought that perhaps the only safe space we have left is the shower.  Also “We all understand the joys of our always-wired world — the connections, the validations, the laughs, the porn, the info. I don’t want to deny any of them here. But we are only beginning to get our minds around the costs, if we are even prepared to accept that there are costs. For the subtle snare of this new technology is that it lulls us into the belief that there are no downsides. It’s all just more of everything. Online life is simply layered on top of offline life… You are where your attention is. If you’re watching a football game with your son while also texting a friend, you’re not fully with your child — and he knows it. Truly being with another person means being experientially with them, picking up countless tiny signals from the eyes and voice and body language and context, and reacting, often unconsciously, to every nuance. These are our deepest social skills, which have been honed through the aeons. They are what make us distinctively human.” Time will tell if it hasn’t already… Read the full article here.

Moss & Fog – Beauty, Design, Smart Ideas

Who doesn’t like looking at beautiful things? Moss and Fog is a project by a creative guy, Ben. It grew out of his overwhelming desire to share cool and beautiful things he sees. He covers areas of design, science and nature that appeal to the eye and the brain. Like this crazy $150 Million Stair to Nowhere (pictured) that New York will be getting some time next year and this Perfectly Preserved Mid Century Home in Dallas and these Incredible Geometric Desserts. In his own words “Design/culture blogs are plentiful, but I think when well curated, they can be beautiful respites on the internet to get inspired and find new ideas.” Agree. Visit and sign up to Moss and Fog.

Liane Moriarty’s Books – Perfect Holiday Reads

I was introduced to Liane Moriarty‘s books by my Mum who is an avid reader and is always spot on at fulfilling my brief for an excellent holiday read. I’ve so far read Big Little Lies, The Husband’s Secret, The Hypnotist’s Love Story and What Alice Forgot. Liane is a master at tapping into middle class suburban Australia and tensions in ordinary families. She is the first Australian author to debut at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Big Little Lies will air on HBO next year and will star Reese Witherspoon,  Nicole Kidman, Alexander Skarsgard and Shailene Woodley. Truly Madly Guilty is her new book which is out later this month. Delve into any of her books if you’re wanting a well written and gripping read. I’d start with Big Little Lies. Buy her books.

Alain de Botton ‘On Love’ at the Sydney Opera House

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Image from http://www.sydneyoperahouse.com

I had the pleasure of watching a talk by Alain de Botton last night at the Sydney Opera House (big shout out to my sister for organising the tickets). He was there to discuss his new novel, “The Course of Love“. There were many revelations for me about being in a long-term relationship. I felt myself nodding to pretty much everything he said and immediately wanting to buy a ticket for my husband and friends (alas, he was only talking for two nights). It all made so much sense and I think most people in relationships could benefit from hearing his way of thinking. This excerpt from a recent piece he wrote for The New York Times sums up a key thought he has on long-term relationships: “The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement. Rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity that is the true marker of the “not overly wrong” person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.”  Certainly not the romantic idea we’ve long associated with love and marriage but definitely a more accurate one. Read more about Alain de Botton and his books and other ventures here and you can now watch the talk here (runs for around 70 min).

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