For the terms sapphic and lesbian, we owe Sappho, the first famous lesbian (predating even Eleanor Roosevelt). An aristocrat who lived on the Greek island of Lesbos during the sixth century B.C., Sappho wrote poetry about her passion for young women. And lucky for her, she was also a renowned arts and culture teacher for girls who drew eager young female students from all over the region. Plato dubbed Sappho “the tenth Muse” for her writings. In the Middle Ages, the church was less generous, branding her a whore and burning her poems.
How much advice can you distill down to seven words?
As it turns out, seven words is a surprisingly catchy way to deliver a message. Just ask writer Michael Pollan, whose book “In Defense of Food” is debuting at No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list this weekend. (Read my recent interview with him here.) The popularity of the book is due in no small part to Mr. Pollan’s catchy seven-word edict: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
My colleague Dwight Garner, over at the Paper Cuts blog, notes the slogan has a “haiku-like resonance” and offers his own versions of 2-3-2 word sequences. My favorite, “Have sex. Really quite often. With humans.” (For the rest, click here.)
The readers did not disappoint.
We heard advice about food:
Eat pie. Very good pie. Not often. (#350)
Get exercise. Frequent and regular. With sweat. (#103)
There was romance:
Think deeply. Live with relish. Marry Carolyn. (#19)
(I checked, and the author is planning to marry Carolyn in April.)
Advice for relationships:
Accept him. Or dump him. Relationship fixed. (#277)
And many pleas to call your mother:
Call Mom. Let her talk. Don’t argue. (#845)
Readers gave us fashion advice:
Wear clothes. Not too many. Mostly spandex. (#138)
And financial advice:
Earn ten. Only spend nine. Happy one. (#66)
Some posters expressed frustration that so many readers didn’t seem to understand the contest instructions:
Follow directions. Two-three-two. Not whatever. (#131)
Others mocked the whole concept:
Spend time. On useful things. Not this. (#321)
There was pandering, which we encourage:
Stay informed. Read the Times. Every day. (#159)
And there were helpful driving tips:
Drive safely. Use turn signal. Not finger. (#432)
Know thyself. But not completely. Need surprises. (#176)
Finally, some entries scared us a little:
Go outside. Watch neighbor shower. Post photos. (#327)
With so much great wisdom out there, how could we possibly choose a winner? Well, we didn’t. We chose six. Five honorable mentions will receive a farmers’ market tote bag with the original “Eat food…” mantra and book cover…
I picked number six, because if there’s anything better than seven-word wisdom, it’s seven-word wisdom from a seven-year-old, and I’m a sucker for little kids. So the first tote bag goes to Emma, age 7 1/2, for:
Be nice. Love your mom. And dad. (#795)
And the top five winners are:
5th place: Read Pollan. Take his advice. With salt. (#31)
4th place: Make promises. Don’t break them. Find loopholes. (#554)
3rd place: Seek wisdom. Think for yourself. Avoid maxims. (#356)
2nd place: Enter contests. Don’t ignore rules. Try again. (#81)
And the 1st-place prize goes to reader A.K., whose post (#33) not only managed to challenge Mr. Pollan’s original edict but also made us laugh:
Paul Newman, one of the last of the great 20th-century movie stars, died Friday at his home in Westport, Conn. He was 83.
The cause was cancer, said Jeff Sanderson of Chasen & Company, Mr. Newman’s publicist.
If Marlon Brando and James Dean defined the defiant American male as a sullen rebel, Paul Newman recreated him as a likable renegade, a strikingly handsome figure of animal high spirits and blue-eyed candor whose magnetism was almost impossible to resist, whether the character was Hud, Cool Hand Luke or Butch Cassidy.
If you were told to clear your desk of personal belongings and leave the building, like staff at the UK headquarters of Lehman Brothers, what would you take?
Photos of the kids, spare ties, trainers, mugs - a cuddly toy? What was in the cardboard boxes being clutched by stunned staff as they left the London offices of the bankrupt US investment bank Lehman Brothers?.
The bank’s 5,000-strong workforce turned up on Monday only to be told they were to clear their desks of personal items and go home. Images of the newly out-of-work carrying their possessions were beamed around the world
Let’s say you have a typical life and try to live it in the healthiest way. You might allocate your 24-hour weekday this way:
Sleep: 8 hours
Exercise: 1 hour
Work: 8 hours
Eating: 2 hours (leisurely)
Hygiene: 1 hour
Travel: 1 (Commute, errands)
That leaves you three hours for family time, sex, shopping, food preparation, chores, household repair, volunteering in the school, and so on. If you have a dentist appointment, or your talkative relative calls, or American Idol has a two-hour special, you’re tapped out.
It’s a challenge to live a happy life if you aren’t giving enough attention to all of those categories, yet doing so is nearly impossible.
One time management strategy is to be independently wealthy, freeing up eight hours a day. But that option isn’t available to many. And apparently it isn’t fulfilling because most rich people continue to work full schedules.
Another strategy is to ignore the fact that you are slowly killing yourself by not sleeping and exercising enough. That frees up several hours a day. The only downside is that you get fat and die.
A third path is to work less than you could, live economically, enjoy each day as it comes, and try not to think about living on cat food when you retire.
Which strategy have you picked?
And here’s one comment
In NY the 9-5 work day is a pure myth. You’re lucky escaping after 10-12 hours and not having to work on the weekends. I opt for the 12 hour work day with no lunch break, 2 hours of exercise to un-do 12 hours sitting in a cubicle, 3 hour commute because I can not afford to live in Manhattan and must live in Brooklyn. Luckily, I live with my parents reducing my will to live … That gives me about 5 hours of sleep, a half hour to masturbate (given my lack of social time, a necessity) and a half hour to cleanse and repeat with one hour of time left over to sit depressed and cry.
“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”—