Titans and sex goddesses: on Tim Ferriss and Helen Gurley Brown

January 14, 2017 at 9:30 pm | Posted in Anti-ageing, depression, health, Living creatively, nutrition | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , ,

What do you have for breakfast? This is one of the questions that Tim Ferriss asks those he interviews in his Tools of Titans: the tactics, routines and habits of billionaires, icons, and world-class performers (Vermilion, 2016). Protein shakes are popular with many of these titans.

Tim Ferriss (See www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog ) is the best-selling American author of The Four-Hour Working Week: escape 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich (Crown, 2007) and other books and podcasts.

Tools of Titans is ‘a compendium of recipes for high performance’. Some of these ‘recipes’ are intriguing and some sensible. Some of them I do already and some I can’t wait to try. Continue Reading Titans and sex goddesses: on Tim Ferriss and Helen Gurley Brown…

Writing Ergonomics: Tips for a Healthy, Happy Writer

August 22, 2016 at 12:11 am | Posted in creativity, health, Living creatively, writers' habits, writers' health | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , ,

Don’t do what I do; do what I say…

It wasn’t as if I could plead ignorance. I’d done the Alexander Technique course on how to sit properly and how to iron out the kinks in my spine every day. I’d been told about the importance of taking a break every thirty minutes. I also knew about Feldenkrais and yoga and callanetics and swimming and walking and tai chi.

But I had a pressing deadline, and I forgot about all that. I was writing a commissioned book, that last one on the history of the Churchill Trust—and as often happens, the project grew organically into something much bigger than anyone had envisaged at the beginning, and I simply had to get it done on time.

So every day I’d wake early, make a café au lait, and sit at my desk and type. I wrote for hours, maybe had a bit of lunch, made some phone calls to people I’d interviewed, or emailed them to make sure I had their facts correct, and basically, I’d sit at my desk until it was time for dinner (or way past it).

I didn’t have weekends, I didn’t go to dance practice or out on Saturday nights, and the breaks I had were mostly flinging myself on the sofa with a glass of cabernet sauvignon to watch The Gruen Transfer or boxed sets of Masters of Sex or Borgen.

My back felt odd sometimes, but I did about two minutes of Sarah Key’s back blockexercises before dinner, hoping it would be fine. This went on for months and months until one Saturday morning I decided to have a really good scrub at the shower tiles (I’d say the grout between them dates from when the house was built: 1962). I got down and scrubbed, and when I tried to jump up and go back to my desk, I howled in agony. I was stuck.

Sitting—the occupational hazard for writers

I had to crawl to the telephone for help, which came quickly. My osteopath made a home visit. After solving the initial problem, she recommended taking a break every 30 minutes of sitting. Walk around the house. Run on the spot for 30 seconds. Walk around the house again.

After the second 30 minutes, walk around the house again, run on the spot 30 seconds, and lie on your tummy with arms out in front and kick your legs as if you’re swimming, for 10–30 seconds. Get up and walk around the house again.

It’s awfully hard to break every 30 minutes when the deeper we are into a piece of writing, the more we want to stay with it. However, there are programs you can install on your computer—try the free apps, AwarenessTime Out FreeBreaker and Big Stretch Reminder.

The Alexander Technique

‘You translate everything, whether physical or mental or spiritual, into muscular tension,’ wrote F. M. Alexander (1869-1955). The Alexander Technique gives people practical skills to gain a high standard of poise, muscular tone and breathing for general wellbeing, management and prevention of injury, and postural and ergonomic issues. Canberra practitioners, Michael Stenning and Léonie John, have a studio in O’Connor, and more information on the Alexander Technique can be found on their website.

Feldenkrais Method

I was explaining to a friend about what we did in a Feldenkrais class and she said, ‘It sounds like tiny yoga’. That’s a good summary. This method, after Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984), improves posture, flexibility, coordination, self-image and alleviates muscular tension and pain. It promotes awareness of the body and gives the ability to move with grace and elegance, precision and power. Google for Feldenkrais classes in your area.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi improves posture and coordination, and increases circulation and flexibility. The teachers of Canberra’s Tai Chi Academy claim that it will make you ‘feel relaxed, calm and connected with your inner peace.’ Courses and DVDs are readily available and the graceful movements are a refreshing counter to too much desk work.

Sarah Key

Australian physiotherapist Sarah Key’s books on the back are excellent, as is her The Body in Action (Allen & Unwin, 2006). They have simple exercises and illuminating images on how our bodies work, how they go wrong, and how to prevent and cure injury. Sarah Key demonstrates her easy exercises on You Tube.

Meditation

Thousands of peer-reviewed studies show that mindfulness enhances mental and physical wellbeing and reduces chronic pain. Meditation decreases stress, improves memory, quickens reaction times, improves stamina and improves the immune system.

Dr Danny Penman wrote Mindfulness for Creativity (Piatkus, 2015), which includes a meditation CD. You can find out more at www.franticworld.com/resources

**

PeninStudyFranzePenny Hanley has been a film critic, book reviewer, artists’ model, caterer’s assistant, and deck hand on a yacht. Then after a 20 year editing career, she became a freelance writer. She has had a novel and 20 short stories published. Books commissioned include Creative Lives: Personal Papers of Australian Artists and Writers (NLA, 2009) andInspiring Australians: The first fifty years of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (ASP, 2015). She has a PhD in Communications from the University of Canberra and a BA (Hons) in English Literature from the Australian National University. Penny loves books, cinema, travel and dancing the Argentine tango.

This blog was originally published on the ACT Writers Centre’s blog, CAPITAL LETTERS, 22 August 2016.

Continue Reading Writing Ergonomics: Tips for a Healthy, Happy Writer…

Psychic space and an unusual recipe for mitigating a cold

August 7, 2016 at 12:17 pm | Posted in Books, creativity, health, Living creatively, writers' habits | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , ,

When I was chosen to be a blogger in residence at the ACT Writers Centre I planned to supplement those once a month blogs with more frequent postings on this personal blog. But I’m going to have surgery soon (nothing serious) and I’ve been psyching myself up for that and doing all the things I wanted to do before being incapacitated for six weeks, and the weekly blogs I’d planned – even though I had a million ideas for them – just didn’t get written!

My interior life is rich and tumultuous, and I felt happy. For a writer it’s a matter of always learning – through both absorbing other people’s art and/or practising one’s own, and I’ve just been in a phase of drenching my brain with other people’s work while not doing much of my own, merely living in the present and appreciating the joy of others’ creative efforts and of nature – wet and wild as it’s been in this Canberra winter. My submitted novel MS went up a rung of the ladder towards acceptance to a place I was told very few MSS get to, so here’s hoping. Continue Reading Psychic space and an unusual recipe for mitigating a cold…

Eating real food: a quick comparison of cookbooks

January 4, 2016 at 2:12 am | Posted in Books, Cook books, food, health, nutrition, recipes, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

‘Gosh it’s easy to write a cookbook. Well, it’s easy if your primary role is “quality control”, and all the actual work is done by seasoned professionals and my slave-driven wife,’

writes David Gillespie in the Acknowledgements of his The Sweet Poison Quit Plan Cookbook (Melbourne, Viking, 2013, p. 199). He states that he ‘did practically nothing (other than eat pudding on a regular basis)’.

photo(2) copy

Having your (sugar-free) cake: two of David Gillespie’s books

David Gillespie presents the facts about serious and complex subjects (how sugar makes us fat and exhausted and gives us chronic diseases like diabetes Type 2 and certain cancers) simply and clearly. Equally clear are his reasons why we should avoid vegetable oils. The facetious self-deprecating humour in his Acknowledgements quoted above is typical of his style, and at other times the mental dexterity with which he expresses himself is highly amusing.

The highly unamusing fact is that food manufacturers well know how addictive (and cheap) sugar is, which means ever-escalating profits for them, so they are putting sugar in virtually everything on the supermarket shelves. It’s not just sweet things you need to avoid; it’s all the savoury things too. This means that if you do what Gillespie advises in his Eat Real Food (Viking, 2014), you will be okay. This book is written as simply and compellingly as all his others. The sugar-free recipes work well and taste good.

The David Gillespie recipes in all his books – see www.howmuchsugar.com – are more consistently better than the ones in Sarah Wilson’s books, which you can see on. www.sarahwilson.com Many of Sarah Wilson’s recipes taste good but some are dodgy. While they look good in the photographs the taste and texture don’t always live up to their food-styled, gorgeously photographed visual aesthetics. I have a hunch about this.

David Gillespie and his wife test their recipes under the severe conditions of catering for their six children, (a domestic kitchen in Brisbane catering for the palates of childhood, adolescence and the adults) while Sarah Wilson and her hip young Sydney-siders I Quit Sugar team, I’m willing to bet, have more money and more time and are more interested in creating quantity than quality so perhaps some recipes get a tick when they shouldn’t. That said, the Sarah Wilson ones that work (e.g., almond butter bark, I Quit Sugar, p.175) are wonderful, and it is of course a subjective thing, as you see with the positive and negative comments on her website about the same recipe.

David Permutter’s Grain Brain (NY, Little, Brown and Co., 2013, p. 291) contends that gluten is also a cause of today’s escalating rate of chronic disease. Haven’t we been eating grains for thousands of years? Yes, but the food manufacturers have engineered the grains to contain a much higher concentration of gluten than previously, to give their products longer shelf life. Permutter maintains that today’s low fat, high grain and other carbohydrate diet is the origin of headaches, insomnia, anxiety, autism, depression, epilepsy, schizophrenia, ADHA, inflammatory diseases like arthritis, and dementia.

Grain Brain: The surprising truth about wheat, carbs, and sugar – your brain’s silent killers contains evidence, recipes and case studies. You can get access to his latest research and recipes etc at www.DrPerlmutter.com

This book is a controversial best-seller. Many disagree with his theories. His research is not expressed nearly as clearly as David Gillespie’s. The website quackwatch.com disagrees with his findings and Alan Levinovitz ( www.nymag.com/scienceofus.2015.06problems-with-the-grain-brain-doctor.html presents a detailed critique of his research. The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that sugar (the fructose half) is the worst thing that has happened to our health in the last two or three generations.

An award-winning website about food and flavours is www.bizzylizzysgoodthings.com and it features Lizzy’s beautiful photography as well. She is an engaging writer and her recipes are well and truly tested, and they do work consistently well. Her recipes are not necessarily sugar-free or wheat-free, and neither are Jules Clancy’s – thestonesoup.com – but they are both healthy overall and quick, easy and reliable. My copy of Jules Clancy’s 5 Ingredients, 10 Minutes: Delicious, healthy recipes for tired and hungry cooks (Michael Joseph, 2013) is ingredient-spattered and book-marked all the way through – I use it when I’m tired and hungry or not – it really does take ten minutes and every recipe I’ve made is a winner.

 

Cheerfulness is an achievement: favourite books of 2015

December 28, 2015 at 9:48 pm | Posted in art, Books, capitalism, creativity, health | 2 Comments

The Guardian Weekly ‘Books of the Year’ (18-31 December this year) is where writers and critics present their favourite reads of the past year and it is a reliable guide to some great reading. You can also hear authors speak about their work on theguardian.com/books/series/books

Popular choices of ‘Books of the Year’ were Ali Smith’s short story collection Public Library, Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet and Colm Toibin’s Nora Webster. Kate Mosse recommends selected essays by women under thirty entitled I Call Myself A Feminist (Virago, 2015).

The uplifting website www.brainpickings.org also lists favourite books of the past year. The first is the late Oliver Sacks’ On the Move: A Life.

If The Guardian were to ask me, I’d recommend Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go (Sphere, 2014). The plot leaps into action from page one, gripping the reader until the end. After a tragedy, protagonist Jenna Gray leaves everything and moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast. The novel is written from the perspectives of several characters, in first, third and even second person. I don’t usually read crime novels except for the psychological thrillers of Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell’s nom de plume for her novels in that genre) but, like the Barbara Vine novels, I Let You Go has much more insight and psychological depth than your average crime novel.

Continue Reading Cheerfulness is an achievement: favourite books of 2015…

Lost in the corridors of time

December 22, 2013 at 2:03 am | Posted in arthritis, Books, health | Comments Off on Lost in the corridors of time
Tags: , , , ,

I’m back. Because finally I sent in my draft of Chapter 2 of the Churchill Trust book. I’d been working on it for ages, getting up at 5.00 am and writing before work and it was a hard one plus had been very busy at my other job, my real job, and the day I finished the chapter I was so tired that I came home from work and slept 14 hours in a row.

Now I am half-way through This Is Not the End of the Book (London, Vintage, 2012) which is a conversation between Umberto Eco and Jean-Claude Carrière. I’m not a big fan of Eco but I love Carrière, who is a really good screenwriter and writer. He writes about our loss of being in the present moment, a theme I often raise in these blogs – he travels a lot (and gets in different time zones) and gets ‘lost in the corridors of time’ – just in conversation poetic phrases run off his tongue. I love it so much I will borrow it for my title.

Titles are hard. That’s why so many people borrow them from other works, like the film Days of Wine and Roses – what a great title! Great film too, about alcoholism, with Lee Remmick and Jack Lemmon. The title comes from a not very good poem by Ernest Dowson that includes the very good line:

‘They are not long, the days of wine and roses’

Poignant. The feeling I get is of deep nostalgia. So sad. Nostalgia is not something I’ve had much experience with, luckily. I’ve known some people to be virtually crippled by it. I can barely imagine. (Just Googled Dowson and learnt that he died of alcoholism at 32!)

Carrière quotes a Bavarian comedian Karl Valentin: ‘In the past, even the future was better.’

Ha! He also says that the worst criticism of Jesus that Mani, a Christian heretic who founded Manichaeism, made was that Jesus didn’t write anything down.
And Eco says, ‘He did once, in the sand.’

And I thought: How does anyone know that? Maybe that scene is in the Bible, written by an eye-witness, an Apostle who saw Him writing some profundity in the sand. I also thought: Maybe writing was really hard for Jesus; maybe He was dyslexic.

Possibly a blasphemous thought. Ha.

Before I talk myself into more hot water, let me tell you what else made me so tired I slept for 14 hours straight: osteoarthritis. It’s exhausting. The Chinese say that the legs are the second heart. I interpret that to mean: pretty damn essential. Now I know the truth of this more than I ever wanted to know. To continue a conversation about that, to which previous blogs have been devoted, I’ve come to the end of my year of the A to Z of alternative therapies for it. Of all these, I wouldn’t say that any did no good. They all worked to some extent and all were good for other things and health in general. But I have three favourites: Acupuncture, the Infrared sauna, and Hanna Somatics (similar to the Feldenkrais method, which is also very, very good).

Acupuncture takes away the pain. But not immediately. After several weeks of weekly sessions it does, and does so for several months. Then you have to go back and do more weeks of weekly sessions. And it does nothing for flexibility.

The Sunlighten Infrared sauna is very effective too. Someone told me that Sunlighten is the best brand. I bought a solo one and this is also the cheapest. Sunlighten salesperson Peter Reynolds was knowledgeable about infrared saunas and very helpful over the phone and by email. When it was delivered, I used it for a fortnight or so once a day and felt improved. Then I went away for a fortnight and towards the end of the first week I was really in pain. When I got back I leapt into it immediately and did two 30 minute sessions a day and after a few days it got a lot better. From my experience it’s worth the investment. It’s good for pain relief and promotes healing and flexibility was a bit better too. Go to http://www.sunlighten.com.au or you can ring for free: 1800 786 544.

There is a great book by Martha Peterson called Move without Pain, about Hanna Somatics. It’s about muscle memory and full of easy exercises that straighten out our bodies. It’s wonderful, (and so is yoga of course). Move without Pain can be ordered from America, it’s not available in Australia. (New York, Sterling, 2011) The exercises in it are quick and easy and painless and will make very fast improvement in your life – since most of us sit too much, which is the cause of a lot of problems – I think I can make that generalisation safely. Peterson’s writing is a pleasure to read too, she has an appealing casual and clear style, which makes you feel she is with you, taking you through the exercises and that you are in good hands.

Now, have a great break, a peaceful Christmas and happy New Year. Have some days of wine and roses and enjoy them while they last.

It will be like doing a PhD in one year…

October 27, 2013 at 9:29 am | Posted in arthritis, creativity, health, Leslie Kenton | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , ,

It is very hard for me to narrow myself down to focus on only one thing. I have two jobs, I do Argentine tango dancing, I’m a film fanatic and I love theatre. I swim and do tai chi and yoga. And I always want to read as widely as I want.

This week in my spare time after work and after my second job (the commissioned book, of which more anon) I read Leslie Kenton’s Skin Revolution (London, Vermilion, 2003). Leslie Kenton is a gorgeous guru for health and beauty. She is a wonderful writer and I love her books.

She’s got a five day skin diet in this book – a lot like a paleo diet and not a lot unlike my normal diet – except no dairy and no coffee. Oh, and no alcohol. Yes, my skin does look better plus I lost a few pounds. Hardest thing of course was giving up my morning cafe au laits for green tea. But I did it! Yay!

She has these inspiring quotations in her books. One in this I liked was Á beautiful young person is an accident of nature. A beautiful old person is a work of art.’ I liked Louise Nevelson’s one too: Í never feel age … if you have creative work, you don’t have age or time.’ Wonderful words of wisdom; they make me feel so much better!

Leslie Kenton’s books are always inspiring plus she does extensive research. I was researching Infra Red saunas – meant to be good for arthritis – and she has a whole chapter on them in this book! She reckons they’re great too, and you really can trust her research. Sunlighten ones have had various recommendations. I bought one of those – will keep you posted.

So that book should really be the last one for quite some time not related to my commissioned book. The thing is, I must focus on one thing (besides my main job) or I won’t get this book written in time. And I do love it – it’s fascinating and worthwhile. But we’re rushing towards the end of the year and I’ll only have a bit of 2015. I won a Fellowship to write fiction at the Eleanor Dark Foundation, then there’s an interstate Conference on Arts and Health – my favourite part of my main job. Then we have a big work conference thing and then it’s virtually Christmas.

That means that 2014 for me will be like doing a PhD in one year. I will have to focus on only that one thing, and I’m happy to do it – it’s so interesting. But no more reading books on beauty on the side. I must read only on Churchill Fellows – well, that’s lucky because you could not get a wider variety of fields. Churchill Fellowships cover everything from health to glass blowing, zoology to hat-making, agriculture to baking. So it really suits me. Now I must stop this and do some more on it.

A kinder way to treat a potato

October 5, 2013 at 11:39 pm | Posted in Books, food, health, nutrition, recipes | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , ,

‘Don’t get your food from the same place your car does.’

This is the advice of writer Michael Pollan. American petrol stations make more money from food and cigarettes than from petrol. It’s very probably the same here in Australia. And the food is all ‘Highly process non-perishable snack foods and extravagantly sweetened soft drinks…’ Pollan writes that petrol stations ‘have become processed-corn stations: ethanol outside for your car and high-fructose corn syrup inside you.’ (In Defense of Food, 2008, p. 192)

I don’t know that Australia uses as many corn products as the US but the principle remains the same – petrol stations sell food that is very high in sugar and this is very bad for us. Very addictive too.So-o-o-o-o hard to give up.

I liked Pollan’s book a lot. His basic advice is this: ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’ It sounds a bit Zen. I love the simplicity of it. It doesn’t say anything about alcohol but grapes are food, are they not? You’re not supposed to have more than two glasses a day if you’re a woman. And the size of that glass is probably smaller than you imagine. Sadly.

Men can get away with a bit more than two glasses a day because they have bigger livers. A bit more though – not a lot more. I think it’s three glasses a day.

In Defense of Food is well written, informative and funny. I think people should read it because they need to know about the massive number of poisons and toxic chemicals in manufactured food today – and how this desperate situation came about. They can see the desperate consequences of it all around them: unhappy, sick, obese people everywhere and a national healthcare bill that is completely unsustainable.

Australia, like the US, has staggering levels of disease and ill health. Nearly 300 people in Australia are diagnosed with diabetes (Type 2) per day! With a population of only 22 million, that is awful. David Gillespie – http://www.sweetpoison.com.au – writes about this and has a similarly clear, witty style as Pollan. His books are a pleasure to read. A danger on public transport because you burst out laughing sometimes.

Pollan quotes Wendell Berry’s essay, ‘The Pleasures of Eating’ where he writes about monoculture and the increasingly vast size of farms. Of course this generates vast profits. ‘But as scale increases, diversity declines; as diversity declines, so does health; as health declines, the dependence on drugs and chemicals necessarily increases.’ (Pollan, p. 159)

And so, if we don’t want to be plagued by the ill health that makes us dependent on drugs and chemicals, Pollan advises to eat as many plants as possible – they all have different anti-oxidants and these help the body eliminate different kinds of toxins. The more toxins there are in the environment, the more plants we should be eating.

‘There are literally scores of studies demonstrating that a diet rich in vegetables and fruits reduces the risk of dying from all the Western diseases. In countries where people eat a pound [you know, that’s about half a kilo – Pen] or more of fruits and vegetables a day, the rate of cancer is half what it is in the United States. We also know that vegetarians are less susceptible to most of the Western diseases, and as a consequence live longer than the rest of us.’ (Pollan, p. 166)

‘A man of my spiritual intensity does not eat corpses.’ George Bernard Shaw said. When he was on his death bed – actually, he lived for years after that – he thought that his hearse should be drawn by all the animals he hadn’t eaten.

I’m not really a vegetarian. I just have never liked the taste of meat. I do like fish and chicken. When we lived in the bush (East Gippsland, Victoria) chicken used to be only for birthdays and Christmas. (Yes, they do run around the yard for a bit just after their head’s been chopped off. Ugh. But as kids we never felt Ugh.) On my father’s sheep farm, he’d cut the throat of a sheep and we’d live off that for a while. We lived on porridge in the morning (we had a cow) and mutton and mashed potatoes, mashed pumpkin and boiled peas. Oh, and bread. My mother made that as well as the butter and jam. (She even made the soap.) I always loved Fridays because we were Catholics and forbidden to eat meat on Fridays. To this day, decades after I could eat whatever I wanted when I wanted, Friday still has a great taste for me.

My older brother Bill told me that my father thought I was just being stubborn when I didn’t want to eat my meat and vegetables. So the last time I saw him, Bill was recalling when I was two, and our dad forcing me to eat my mutton, and I projectile-vomited all over him! From then on, I still had to eat it – there was nothing else and we lived in an extremely isolated place – but I could take my time to do it. This went on for years. I have memories of still being at the table at 10 o’clock at night; I wasn’t allowed down until I’d finished. Ugh.

No wonder I so enjoy eating now. And yes, I do eat mostly plants. No more mutton. No more mashed spuds and no more pumpkin. I know the latter two are plants but there are kinder ways to treat them. I still can’t stomach pumpkin (except in scones or the wonderful American invention of pumpkin pie) but the best potato recipe is Aussie food writer Jill Dupleix’s Crash Hot Potatoes. Ooooh, so good! And easy.This is how you do it:

16 small spuds or chats
Handful of thyme
Carraway seeds (or any herbs you have on hand, fresh or dried)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Parboil about 16 small spuds or chats. Put them on an oiled baking tray. Squash them flattish to about half-way through, with a potato masher. Then drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle thyme and caraway seeds – or whatever herbs you fancy – plus sea salt and ground pepper on them, and put them in the oven – 350 degrees, you know, average temp – for 20-30 minutes. Yum! They will emerge hot, crispy and aromatic.

Have with a green salad and some protein – meat, if you eat it, or grilled fish or chicken. Plus a glass (or two) of wine. The crash hot spuds are also very good cold the next day.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.