Archive for the ‘READINGS’ Category

Martin, George R. R.. A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1) (pp.3-4).

“The camp is two miles farther on, over that ridge, hard beside a stream,” Will said. “I got close as I dared. There’s eight of them, men and women both. No children I could see. They put up a lean-to against the rock. The snow’s pretty well covered it now, but I could still make it out. No fire burning, but the firepit was still plain as day. No one moving. I watched a long time. No living man ever lay so still.” “Did you see any blood?” “Well, no,” Will admitted. “Did you see any weapons?” “Some swords, a few bows. One man had an axe. Heavy-looking, double-bladed, a cruel piece of iron. It was on the ground beside him, right by his hand.”

“Did you make note of the position of the bodies?” Will shrugged. “A couple are sitting up against the rock. Most of them on the ground. Fallen, like.” “Or sleeping,” Royce suggested. “Fallen,” Will insisted. “There’s one woman up an ironwood, half-hid in the branches. A far-eyes.” He smiled thinly. “I took care she never saw me. When I got closer, I saw that she wasn’t moving neither.” Despite himself, he shivered. “You have a chill?” Royce asked. “Some,” Will muttered. “The wind, m’lord.” The young knight turned back to his grizzled man-at-arms. Frost-fallen leaves whispered past them, and Royce’s destrier moved restlessly. “What do you think might have killed these men, Gared?” Ser Waymar asked casually. He adjusted the drape of his long sable cloak. “It was the cold,” Gared said with iron certainty. “I saw men freeze last winter, and the one before, when I was half a boy. Everyone talks about snows forty foot deep, and how the ice wind comes howling out of the north, but the real enemy is the cold. It steals up on you quieter than Will, and at first you shiver and your teeth chatter and you stamp your feet and dream of mulled wine and nice hot fires. It burns, it does. Nothing burns like the cold. But only for a while.

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Martin, George R. R.. A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1) (pp.2-3). 

Will shared his unease. He had been four years on the Wall. The first time he had been sent beyond, all the old stories had come rushing back, and his bowels had turned to water. He had laughed about it afterward. He was a veteran of a hundred rangings by now, and the endless dark wilderness that the southron called the haunted forest had no more terrors for him. Until tonight. Something was different tonight. There was an edge to this darkness that made his hackles rise. Nine days they had been riding, north and northwest and then north again, farther and farther from the Wall, hard on the track of a band of wildling raiders. Each day had been worse than the day that had come before it. Today was the worst of all. A cold wind was blowing out of the north, and it made the trees rustle like living things. All day, Will had felt as though something were watching him, something cold and implacable that loved him not. Gared had felt it too. Will wanted nothing so much as to ride hellbent for the safety of the Wall, but that was not a feeling to share with your commander. Especially not a commander like this one. Ser Waymar Royce was the youngest son of an ancient house with too many heirs. He was a handsome youth of eighteen, grey-eyed and graceful and slender as a knife. Mounted on his huge black destrier, the knight towered above Will and Gared on their smaller garrons. He wore black leather boots, black woolen pants, black moleskin gloves, and a fine supple coat of gleaming black ringmail over layers of black wool and boiled leather. Ser Waymar had been a Sworn Brother of the Night’s Watch for less than half a year, but no one could say he had not prepared for his vocation. At least insofar as his wardrobe was concerned. His cloak was his crowning glory; sable, thick and black and soft as sin. “Bet he killed them all himself, he did,” Gared told the barracks over wine, “twisted their little heads off, our mighty warrior.” They had all shared the laugh. It is hard to take orders from a man you laughed at in your cups, Will reflected as he sat shivering atop his garron. Gared must have felt the same. “Mormont said as we should track them, and we did,” Gared said. “They’re dead. They shan’t trouble us no more. There’s hard riding before us. I don’t like this weather. If it snows, we could be a fortnight getting back, and snow’s the best we can hope for. Ever seen an ice storm, my lord?” The lordling seemed not to hear him. He studied the deepening twilight in that half-bored, half-distracted way he had. Will had ridden with the knight long enough to understand that it was best not to interrupt him when he looked like that. “Tell me again what you saw, Will. All the details. Leave nothing out.” Will had been a hunter before he joined the Night’s Watch. Well, a poacher in truth. Mallister freeriders had caught him red-handed in the Mallisters’ own woods, skinning one of the Mallisters’ own bucks, and it had been a choice of putting on the black or losing a hand. No one could move through the woods as silent as Will, and it had not taken the black brothers long to discover his talent.

 

 

Martin, George R. R.. A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1) (p.1).

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PROLOGUE “We should start back,” Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them. “The wildlings are dead.” “Do the dead frighten you?” Ser Waymar Royce asked with just the hint of a smile. Gared did not rise to the bait. He was an old man, past fifty, and he had seen the lordlings come and go. “Dead is dead,” he said. “We have no business with the dead.”

“Are they dead?” Royce asked softly. “What proof have we?” “Will saw them,” Gared said. “If he says they are dead, that’s proof enough for me.” Will had known they would drag him into the quarrel sooner or later. He wished it had been later rather than sooner. “My mother told me that dead men sing no songs,” he put in. “My wet nurse said the same thing, Will,” Royce replied. “Never believe anything you hear at a woman’s tit. There are things to be learned even from the dead.” His voice echoed, too loud in the twilit forest. “We have a long ride before us,” Gared pointed out. “Eight days, maybe nine. And night is falling.” Ser Waymar Royce glanced at the sky with disinterest. “It does that every day about this time. Are you unmanned by the dark, Gared?” Will could see the tightness around Gared’s mouth, the barely suppressed anger in his eyes under the thick black hood of his cloak. Gared had spent forty years in the Night’s Watch, man and boy, and he was not accustomed to being made light of. Yet it was more than that. Under the wounded pride, Will could sense something else in the older man. You could taste it; a nervous tension that came perilously close to fear.

 

(BY JESSICA STILLMAN @ENTRYLEVELREBEL)

You know that people love a good story, but have you ever thought about why? Neuroscience offers intriguing answers.

Whether you’re trying to maintain an audience’s attention, sell your product, interest an interviewer, or pitch a journalist, great storytelling is key. The ability to spin a yarn that captivates others can have magical effects for your company and career. No wonder there’s no shortage of advice out there on how to do just that. But even if you completely master story structure and delivery one essential question remains: why?

It’s clear that human beings are wired to love a great story, but what exactly makes a well-told tale so irresistible? Why are tense stories of human struggle and triumph the most appealing to people of diverse backgrounds? Why do we find sensory details like the smell of a location or a character’s exact carriage and demeanor so compelling?

Neuroscience is starting to unravel the answer to these intriguing questions, peering into the human brain to figure out just what’s going on in our heads when we sit riveted in a darkened movie theater or hang onto every word of an expert speaker? The key, apparently, seems to be our capacity for empathy.

Engagement…

As behavioral psychologist Susan Weinschenk explained on her blog recently (via a great personal story, of course), by putting us in their protagonists’ shoes, stories manage to engage more of the brain than straight recitations of facts or dry arguments, leading to more arousal and interest.

“Let’s say you are listening to me give a presentation on the global economy. I’m not telling a story, but giving you facts and figures. If we had you hooked up to an fMRI machine we would see that your auditory cortex is active, as you’re listening, as well as Wernicke’s area of the brain where words are processed,” she explains. Now imagine the same information cloaked in the trappings of a great story, “a story about a family in South America that is being affected by changes in the global economy–a story about the father going to work in a foreign country to earn enough for the family, and the mother having to drive 100 kilometers for health care.”

“What’s going on in your brain now?” she asks. “The Wernicke’s area would be active again, as well as the same auditory or visual cortices, but now there’s more activity. We would see many other parts of your brain light up. If, in my story, I described the sharp smell of the pine forest high in the Andes where this family lives, the olfactory areas of your brain would be active too, as though you were smelling the forest. If I described the mother driving over rutted muddy roads, with the vehicle careening from side to side, your motor cortex would be lighting up as though you were driving on a bumpy road.”

As Weinschenk witnessed herself when addressing a reluctant group of corporate trainees, this extra brain arousal translates to greater interest and engagement from the audience.

… and empathy

But stories aren’t just an effective tool because they’re inherently interesting, according to another recent post by Paul J. Zak, the founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, on the HBR Blog Network. Stories also have a remarkable ability to spur empathy and cooperation (which is what you want if you’re pitching your business, of course). The key to this profound benefit of stories? A hormone called oxytocin.

“Oxytocin is produced when we are trusted or shown a kindness, and it motivates cooperation with others. It does this by enhancing the sense of empathy,” Zak explains in the post. “Recently my lab wondered if we could ‘hack’ the oxytocin system to motivate people to engage in cooperative behaviors. To do this, we tested if narratives shot on video, rather than face-to-face interactions, would cause the brain to make oxytocin. By taking blood draws before and after the narrative, we found that character-driven stories do consistently cause oxytocin synthesis. Further, the amount of oxytocin released by the brain predicted how much people were willing to help others.”

Good stories, in other words, nudge people to pay attention, empathize, and cooperate, and that’s very relevant in business. “Character-driven stories with emotional content result in a better understanding of the key points a speaker wishes to make and enable better recall of these points,” Zak says, advising every speaker to start off with a “compelling, human-scale story.” Illustrate your customers’ pain for your people with a well-told story and you’re likely to boost their empathy–and motivation.

A bit of biology, it turns out, can be a pretty handy thing for a busy business owner to know.

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‘Summer summer summer time!’ The summer sunshine has officially arrived. Holidays are booked and festival tickets are in the post (we hope), but apart from basking in the heat devouring a few tons of ice-cream, what else do you have planned? Here’s some of the summer highlights you can look forward to…

JUNE

Until June 28: Forks at the ready for Urban Food Festival on Shoreditch High Street.

Until December 14: A collection of children’s portraits with their favourite things at Toy Stories.

Until September 7: Major exhibition dedicated to British Folk Art at Tate Britain.

June 11-August 17: An array of works at this year’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2014.

June 11-September 26: Performance, film and food at More London Free Festival, The Scoop at More London.

June 12-15: Peruse work from over 100 galleries at the Affordable Art Fair 2014.

June 12-July 13: Get behind your country for the World Cup.

June 12-August 12: Journey through the science of mental health at Mind Maps: Stories from Psychology, Science Museum.

June 12 – July 5: Talks, book signings and celebrities at the Foyles Grand Opening Festival.

June 12: It’s No Sweat Sports Day for adults at Queen of Hoxton.

June 13 – Aug 25: Portraits and installations at Return of the Rudeboy at Somerset House.

June 13: ‘Belle‘, a great new period drama opens in cinemas.

June 13 – July 25: Be a night owl and stay up late for London Zoo Lates.

June 13- 15: Modern and contemporary Latin American, Spanish and Portuguese art at Pinta London 2014, Earls Court.

June 14: Lots of nudity at the World Naked Bike Ride.

June 14: Loads of pooches and their owners get together for a massive walk at Dogs Unite for Guide Dogs.

June 14: One-day music festival Bushstock, various locations.

June 14: Soldiers, guns and fighter jets at Trooping the Colour: The Queen’s Birthday Parade.

June 14-  15: Open Garden Squares Weekend sees around 200 private gardens open their gates to the public.

June14 – 15: Nibble your way along a tapas crawl at Rioja Tapas Fantasticas at Potters Field Park.

June 15: Mark Refugee week and explore the history of a tiny East London home at 19 Princelet Street Open Days.

June 18 – 21: Outdoor food festival Taste of London is back at Regent’s Park.

June 20 – 22: Workshops, talks and unusual plants at Grow London.

June 20 – 22: It’s craft beer heaven at Summer Brew Fest at Space Studios, London Fields.

June 20 – September 26: Street Feast arrives in Lewisham at Model Market.

June 20: It’s sleepover time at Dino Snores for Grown Ups, Natural History Museum.

June 21: Cycling fun and mountain bike coaching at Lambeth Bike Festival, Brockwell Park.

June 23 – July 6: Strawberries and champagne at the ready for the Wimbledon Championships.

June 24 – July 14: Comedy circus and cabaret in a giant Bowler Hat at Paternoster Square.

June 25 – 30: Epic music festival Glastonbury is at Worthy Farm.

June 25: Alfresco three course feast at pop-up Funthyme at the Farm, Spitalfields City Farm.

June 26: Royal Observatory Greenwich will be screening some classics at Sci-Fi Movie Night.

June 27: ‘Chef, starring Scarlett Johansson and Jon Favreau lands in cinemas.

June 27 – 30: Paintings prints, photography and film explore how a Bridge can affect our view of a city, Museum of London Docklands.

June 28: Pride in London Parade starts at Baker Street and ends up at Trafalgar Square.

June28: Visit The De Morgan Centre before it closes today.

June 28: Holi-inspired Festival of Colours brings bands, DJs and plenty of coloured powder to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

JULY

July 3 – Sept 14: Immersive exhibition Digital Revolution explores digital art, music, film, video games and more at the Barbican Centre.

July 5: House of Illustration opens.

July 5: 3D printed guns and primark jeans at Rapid Response Collection, V&A.

July 10 – 20: Somerset House Summer Series gigs begins!

July 11 – 19: Big name comedians perform at the Balham Comedy Festival.

July 12 – October 4: Free coaching and games at Croquet East in Victoria Park.

July 12: Themed sporting events at The Chap Olympiad, Bedford Square, Bloomsbury.

July 12 – 14: Clipper Round the World Race finishes and all the boats arrive in St Katherine Docks.

July 12 – 13: Regent Street is traffic free for the Big Dance Weekend.

July 18 – Sept 13: Orchestras and classical performers head to the Royal Albert Hall for The BBC Proms.

Jul 19: Music festival Lovebox is back at Victoria Park.

July 19: Imperial War Museum reopens, Elephant & castle.

July 19: Break the Guiness World Record for the number of people dressed as Sherlock Holmes at University College of London.

July 25: ‘Jupiter Ascending‘, a new sci-fi from the directors of ‘The Matrix’ opens in cinemas.

July 25- 27: Get a Japanese culture fix at Hyper Japan, Earl’s Court.

July 26 – 27: Two-day festival Walthamstow Garden Party provides music, dancing art trails, food and craft beer.

July 26 – Feb 1: The history of protest at Disobedient Objects, V&A.

AUGUST

August 1: Bradley Cooper-starring blockbuster ’Guardians of the Galaxy’ arrives in cinemas.

August 2: Celebrate Eid Festival with food and performance in Trafalgar Square.

August 2: Smother your mates with human-friendly paint at Holi One Wembley Park. 

August 5 – November 11: An installation of 888,246 ceramic poppies at the Tower of London World War I Centenary Commemoration.

August 7 – 10: Outdoor theatre, music, horse riding and arts at Wilderness festival, Cornbury Park.

August 7 – 20: Watch a movie on the lawn at Film4 Summer Screen, Somerset House.

August 9 – 10: Saddle up and load up on carbs for Ride London.

August 22: Sand, beach huts and ice cream vans at Camden Beach.

August 22: It’s sleepover time at Dino Snore for Grown Ups, Natural History Museum.

August 24 – 25: Dense crowds and vibrant celebrations at Notting Hill Carnival.

August 26: Kate Bush comes to Hammersmith Apollo.

August 30: In The Woods music festival will take place in a secret location just outside London.