Ichabod the Optimistic Canine features in a rarely-updated comic and yet even the brief archive of his adventures may contain more optimism than you can handle.
Or so say researchers in a new study in the February 9 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Here's their paper's abstract: "Using human evaluation of 100,000 words spread across 24 corpora in 10 languages diverse in origin and culture, we present evidence of a deep imprint of human sociality in language, observing that (i) the words of natural human language possess a universal positivity bias, (ii) the estimated emotional content of words is consistent between languages under translation, and (iii) this positivity bias is strongly independent of frequency of word use. Alongside these general regularities, we describe interlanguage variations in the emotional spectrum of languages that allow us to rank corpora. We also show how our word evaluations can be used to construct physical-like instruments for both real-time and offline measurement of the emotional content of large-scale texts." And here are descriptions of the research in Science Daily and the LA Times.
Matter's list of 39 bit-sized items of texts and graphics why 2015 won't suck includes such gems as an comic "On Optimisim" and other reasons "why 2015 will be less terrible than 2014, which was garbage."
Ramez Naam says that 2014 Was a Good Year: Better Than You Remember.
It's not all bad news. People are living longer, we're winning the fight against malaria, worldwide poverty is down, and eight more reasons for hope in the coming year.
The Blip: What if everything we've come to think of as American is predicated on a freak coincidence of economic history? And what if that coincidence has run its course?
31 charts that show improving long term trends. Same charts, but with titles that will destroy your faith in humanity.
Over at Make Blog, Sean Ragan has after years of search dug up a copy of the Rockwell International Integrated Space Plan from 1989. It's now scanned and downloadable for your enjoyment.
Stephanie Coontz: The M.R.S. and the Ph.D. "Is this really the fate facing educated heterosexual women: either no marriage at all or a marriage with more housework and less sex? Nonsense. That may have been the case in the past, but no longer. For a woman seeking a satisfying relationship as well as a secure economic future, there has never been a better time to be or become highly educated... The most important predictor of marital happiness for a woman is not how much she looks up to her husband but how sensitive he is to her emotional cues and how willing he is to share the housework and child-care. And those traits are often easier to find in a low-key guy than a powerhouse." [more inside]
"Princeless" is a new comic book in the self-rescuing princesses genre (more page previews here and here) - perhaps a younger-audience example of women kicking back against comic-book sexism? (previously on MeFi - wik, alsø wik, alsø alsø wik)
One reason optimists retain a positive outlook even in the face of evidence to the contrary has been discovered, say researchers. [more inside]
"Incompatibility between our big aspirations and the reality of life is bound to disappoint unless we learn to be a bit more gloomy, says Alain de Botton."
Before there were yuppies, there were uppies—the term Up With People members use to refer to themselves. Most Americans over the age of 35 are vaguely familiar with Up With People, as its cast members have sung to more than 20 million people worldwide, and at the height of the ensemble’s fame it provided the halftime entertainment at four Super Bowls (1976, 1980, ’82, ’86). But many are unaware of the group’s cultish utopian ideology, its political connectedness, and how it was funded by corporate America, part of a deliberate propaganda effort to discredit liberal counterculture in the 1960s and ’70s. In the documentary Smile ’Til It Hurts: The Up With People Story (Storey Vision), writer-director-producer Lee Storey provides a thorough, balanced look at the organization’s history, demonstrating “what can happen when ideology, money and groupthink converge to co-opt youthful idealism.” [more inside]
Few books written in the 18th Century are better known or more read today than Candide, Voltaire's great satire of optimism. The New York Public Library's Candide exhibition has many delights, including Rockwell Kent's famous illustrations. Many other artists have illustrated Candide, and many of those images can be seen in the University Library of Trier's Candide image database. If your eyes are tired, you can also download an audiobook of Candide for free from LibriVox, or you can listen to a lecture on Candide [iTunes] by Stanford professor Martin Evans. Adam Gopnik explains how Candide fits in Voltaire's life and what it can teach us today. And don't miss this old post about Leonard Bernstein's Candide operetta.
GivesMeHope (RSS), a site for those "completely exhausted by the negativity of the mainstream media." Modeled after their polar opposite, Fuck My Life, the site serves as a source for sometimes glurgy, but much more often touching, 350-character stories that can serve to remind that "the world is a fine place and worth fighting for." The Top 10, as voted by readers, are enough to melt hearts of stone. Oh, and The Office's Dwight thinks it's "awesome". [more inside]
Maybe the world isn't as good as this (more on that), but there's still ... good news, everyone! [more inside]
Why are our kids so sad? Positive psychology (previously) and our friends at Pepperidge Farm thinks its all a matter of fishful thinking. [more inside]
Positive Psychology: Can psychology break away from its obsessive focus on the negative? Four decades after Abraham Maslow popularized the search for self-actualization, academics are bringing scientific vigor to our search for the fulfilled life. Evolutionary biologist Nancy Etcoff believes that our Hedonic Set Point can be raised. George Vaillant is less concerned with happiness than with the Neurobiology of Spirituality and Joy. Daniel Gilbert studies prospection, our search for happiness, and our ability to recover from tragedy. Meanwhile, Tal Ben-Shahar teaches the most popular class at Harvard, Psychology 1504: Positive Psychology (includes links to syllabus, reading list, powerpoints, and realvideo of full class lectures).
What are you optimistic about? Why? The Edge Annual Question — 2007. "The nearly 160 responses to this year's Edge Question span topics such as string theory, intelligence, population growth, cancer, climate and much much more. Contributing their optimistic visions are a who's who of interesting and important world-class thinkers."
...our Martha, always formidable, always moving forward. I'm glad I didn't have to go to prison to learn what "Wall Dog" is.
Those OLD states are totally 2004. I should wait until Thursday, but: If you're fed up with the idea of living in America OR Canada, consider moving to The State of Jefferson, a county on the Cali/Oregon border with big dreams and a kickass flag. Of course, they haven't seceded yet, but when they do, it's only going to be a matter of time before we can all live in the utopian Republic of Cascadia, where, as Jefferson residents, we'll run on Metric Time and help strengthen Cascadia's southern border against Californian incursions.
And hey! Public radio!
And hey! Public radio!
Change This - We're betting that a significant portion of the population wants to hear thoughtful, rational, constructive arguments about important issues. We're certain that the best of these manifestos will spread, hand to hand, person to person, until these manifestos have reached a critical mass and actually changed the tone and substance of our debate.
Weltschmertz got you down? "For the workers, the takeover has always been about achieving a living wage. The results have exceeded this goal. Once overheads have been met, wages are divided equally between all the workers: monthly pay now stands at 450 pesos..." This, and other stories of triumph are the focus of New Internationalist Magazine. A little bit of brightness to keep you going when it seems like everything is wrong.