The Biology of Joy
About five years ago a scientist discovered a link between left prefrontal-lobe activity and the sort of euphoria that people who meditate deeply have been known to experience. That lead to the discovery that joy is a physical state of the brain which can be deliberately induced. Furthermore, this physical state can affect the rest of the body. Yet the neurochemistry, the actual science of happiness, is not as understood as that of its opposite,depression. Two brain-imaging technologies have been used to map blood flow in active parts of the brain(magnetic resonance imaging-MRI) or to sense the electrical activity in the brain(electroencephalogram-EEG),both of which point to the left prefrontal cortex as the main location of joy.
The next question asked by scientists in the field is whether the prefrontal cortex causes the feeling of happiness, or if it just reflects the person's emotional state. Tests were done on babies less than a year old that measured left prefrontal activity and correlated it to their reaction to having their mothers leave the room. While some babies cried immediately, those with more left prefrontal activity didn't cry for some time. These results suggest that not only can the left prefrontal cortex cause some kinds of happiness, but also that people can be genetically predisposed to happiness.
Much more research has been done to find treatments and remedies for clinical depression, yet the opposite condition-happiness-has not been explored until relatively recently (probably because it doesn't require medical attention). Researchers have found hat psychologically happy people, for example, have up to 50% more antibodies than average as a response to flu vaccines. It has also been noticed that people who are happy,hopeful, optimistic and content, appear to be less at risk for such conditions as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, upper-respiratory infections and hypertension. For many years, the opposite was well known: that depression could make heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses worse. For the most part, it has been found that happy, optimistic people live longer and in better health. However, this may be because happy people tend to take better care of themselves.
Who was the Real William Shakespeare?
William Shakespeare(1564~1616)is probably the best known playwright of all time. Yet even today there is much controversy about this humble scribbler from Stratford-upon-Avon. Scholars suspect that other famous men might have written some or all of Shakespeare's 36 plays and 154 sonnets.
The most studied and famous of these suspects is Sir Francis Bacon(1561~1626), an essayist and poet. Scholars have found many references and similarities of subject matter between Bacon's essays and Shakespeare's plays. The most noted connection is between Bacon's knowledge of the law and Shakespeare's metaphorical use of legal terminology However, it is very obvious that Bacon's stilted verses are nothing like Shakespeare's Christopher Marlowe was perhaps most able to have written the Shakespeare plays, but he died at the age of 29 in 1593.(Shakespeare's last plays were written in about 1613).Marlowe and Shakespeare were about the same age, and Marlowe also wrote plays for London theaters, which were published after his death. A study of these plays would reveal that there is little similarity in style between the two playwrights of the sixteenth century.
Less well known is the suspicion that William Stanley, Sixth Earl of Derby(1561~1642),was the real William Shakespeare. The reasons for his claim have more to do with the coincidence that he traveled to many of the places mentioned in the plays. He was also an experienced seaman and had attended court, so he would have had such experiences to draw on for the plays. Stanley's family had an acting company which was disbanded a year after William Shakespeare died. However, Stanley left no poems or plays in his private papers when he died in 1642. There is just one more coincidence of interest. Shakespeare's play, A Midsummer . Night's Dream , was performed at Stanley's wedding .
The Impressionist Painters
What is most significant about the Impressionists painters of France in the late 19th century is that they began to reflect an interest in light and color in their works. They used many colors together to make one strong impression of a color. They were keen observers of nature and drew and painted landscapes and scenes of people in the parks and fields while at the location instead of closeted in a studio. Their works have the freshness of a sketch made at the moment. They also chose to paint their surroundings, their friends and families ordinary people in restaurants and dance halls, instead of classical or heroic figures. What they chose to record was their impressions of the everyday world they lived in.
In 1874, the Impressionists opened their first exhibition. It was at this exhibit of works by Monet, Pissaro, Renoir and Sisley that a critic from the Paris journal Le Charivari, Louis Leroy, first coined the term "impressionist". He was making an unflattering remark about Claude Monet's painting, Impression, Sunrise. Monet was perhaps the Impressionists' most diligent student of light and color. He painted the Rouen Cathedral several times, each time in a different light. Perhaps his most famous works were of his garden at Giverny. The huge canvases of his lily pond are remarkable in that they become more and more defined and powerful as you step further away from them. His works influenced the American artist Whistler.
Renoir and Degas who were less fascinated by landscape began to work in pastels as well as oils. They painted the people in their world, dancers, working women, their friends and families. Renoir is particularly well known for his portraits, especially those of his family.Degas is now famous for his paintings of ballet dancers. In their works you can see how brushstrokes are used to capture movement and texture. Degas also showed much interest in the Japanese woodblock prints, as can be seen in his use of flat areas of dark color for contrast in his compositions.
Laughter as Medical Treatment
Today I'm going to talk about a very different type of treatment-some would say-an unorthodox treatment.First let me ask you: why do you think doctors go on urging their patients to exercise regularly? Because it's good for them , of course . Even just a little exertion can increase heart rate , exercise the lungs and bring oxygen into their system. Sounds familiar? Well, what you probably don't know is that a good bout of laughter can do much the same for your body. Even if you don't have a joke to laugh at, and you don't really feel much like laughing, your body doesn't know the difference.
What is more, it can reduce the levels of stress hormones. One scientist tested his theory with comedy club patrons who agreed to have their blood taken before, during and after watching a comedy video. The results showed clearly that laughter did reduce the presence of such stress chemicals as cortisol, the main stress hormone. He then studied cardiac patients who either watched 30 minutes of comedy a day as part of their medical therapy, or only received medical care. The laughing group had lower blood pressure, lower levels of stress hormones and fewer repeat heart attacks. He referred to laughing as a form of internal jogging that gets the lungs to move and the blood to circulate.
There are actually some people who doubt that it is the laughter that is responsible for the healthy results. The question they raise is whether it is the laughing itself that affects people's health or the situations when the laughter occurs. What I mean is if you are laughing because you are with your good friends and favorite family members,maybe being with them is what makes you happy and feel healthier.
Whatever you think of this idea of laughter as medical treatment, let me tell you about one movement that is gaining popularity. A physician, a psychologist and a motivational speaker have developed therapeutic laughter groups, complete with a website for training certified laughter leaders who go to hospitals and nursing homes to bring patients together for laughing sessions. Anyway, I'm sure you will agree that laughter is a good way to ease tension and blow off steam, even if it doesn't solve your problems or cure you.
The Life of William Shakespeare
So how much is actually known about William , playwright , poet and actor ? He really was born in Stratford-upon-Avon-on April 23rd, 1564. It's on record there. His father John was a fairly prominent citizen who became bailiff or mayor and earned the right to have are and the right to have a cold of arms in 1596. His mother，Marry Arden，was from an old family and inherited a bit of land. In fact, the family was really upper middle class, So, despite a rumor that he only had a Grade 6 education, that meant that Shakespeare went to school to learn to read and write, and study Latin,classical history and basic math. That's where he would have heard the many Roman and Greek stories that he used in his plays.
The next record that still exists is our William's marriage to Ann Hathaway in 1582. She was the daughter of an old family friend, and some believe that she was 8 years older than him, although she actually outlived him by 7 years Anyway, they had a daughter Susanna and twins Hamnet and Judith. Alas, poor Hamnet died when he was only 11.There aren't any records to tell us what Shakespeare did for eight years before he appeared on the stage in London in 1590. There is some speculation that he became a soldier or a schoolmaster, and there is a story about that he looked after the horses of theatergoers before he became a writer and actor. Once he began his theatrical work, he found success and enough money to pay for the coat of arms. By 1594, he became an important member of the company of players called the Lord Chamberlain's Men. This group eventually acquired the Globe Theatre and the prosperous Shakespeare bought a new house in Stratford in 1597. Shakespeare was part owner of the theatre and enjoyed financial success from the plays he wrote. His first successful play, Venus and Adonis, was published in 1593.First Folio, a collection of all 36 plays he wrote, was published in 1623, after his death.
The First Moderns
The Impressionists are probably the best known group of artists of all time. There are very few countries where the influence of these remarkable painters has not reached. They lived and worked over one hundred years ago, yet touring exhibitions draw record crowds to study the original brushstrokes of a handful of men who dared to see the world differently and to capture that vision on canvas.
But the truth is the Impressionists were themselves influenced by the times they lived in. In the mid 1800s Japanese woodblock prints had become popular and the camera was invented. The established artists of the day still depicted classical scenes of religious stories, heroic deeds or important battles on large canvases in rich dark oil paints.Even the paintings created to make immortal the events and battles of the times followed the rules of composition, the techniques of smoothly applied paint covered with shiny varnish that had been the tradition of painters for hundreds of years.
Then came Edouard Manet's picture of fashionably dressed Parisian men picnicking in the park with half dressed and naked women , a composition that mocked the classical subjects of the establishment . Dejeuner sur I'herbe ( or Lunch on the Grass ) created a scandal , not only because of its subject , but also because of the sketchy brushwork and flattened spaces. The Salon des Refuses was opened to show works that did not meet with the approval of the official Salon that showed and promoted French art . And that is where the Impressionists were first exhibited in the loser's section.
But you see, the times were actually right for change in the art world. The classical subjects of traditional artists no longer seemed relevant in the age of the railway and the steamship. The smooth realistic depiction of objects and scenes was no longer.needed to record exactly what the artist saw-the camera and the art of photography could do that now. In fact, it was the invention of the camera which brought forth an inquiry into how the human eye sees, in particular, from the artists' point of view, how we see color. It was realized that color is in fact made up of many points of colored light. So the Impressionists used light and color to express a vision of their world and to capture it on canvas. These days Renoir's Friends By the River and Degas' Ballet Damers appear as prints on home walls,restaurant placements and doctor's waiting rooms all over the world .