My life in 10 objects

Have you heard BBC Radio’s The History of the World in 100 Objects?

I’m addicted!

It’s based on 100 objects in the enormous collection of the British Museum, and I’ve so far heard the fascinating backstories of a Mayan lintel, an Anglo-Saxon helmet and a Korean roof tile; you can download all of them from the link above.

If you’re as much a fan of history, global culture and design as I am, you’ll love it.

This series also made me wonder which 10 objects might somehow sum up my life so far, and how they have shaped or reflected my own history. These are not the only ones, certainly, but each reveals a facet of my character and what matters most to me in life..


Olympic badges from Tokyo

My father went to Japan to make several documentaries and brought me back some cloth badges from the Olympics. I was only seven, but seeing them made concepts like foreign travel, Japan and the Olympics alluringly real to me. It also piqued my  insatiable curiosity about the rest of the world — the hallmark of the rest of my life, really. (I still haven’t made it to an Olympics or to Japan though.)


My Canadian passport

I was maybe seven or eight when I first recall using my own passport, and my first solo trip I remember was flying from Toronto to Antigua. I love being able to move freely between countries.


Two bears and a bunny

And yes, I still have them…photo of two of them above! The bunny was a gift from my maternal grandmother one Easter and his battered remnants are in the back of my closet. He was so stitched and repaired by the end he was practically transparent. He saw me through some tough times as an only child with no sibs to commiserate with.

The tiny bear is perfectly pocket-sized and kept me lucid and sane through yet another boarding school church service. The larger white bear looks a lot like (!?) my paternal grandmother. Don’t ask me how. He just does. He’s been all over the world with me, even in recent years, and is a very good travel companion. I imagine he has much amused TSA agents and chambermaids.


Acoustic guitar

I attended summer camp in northern Ontario and every Sunday we put on a talent show that anyone brave enough to step onto the stage — in front of the whole (all girls) camp — was welcome to try. Thanks to my guitar and some crazy self-confidence, I did it often and sang songs I’d written. The welcome I received taught me to not be so scared to try new things or in front of a crowd.


Pentax SLR camera

Loaned to me by a friend of my father who knew I had a budding and passionate interest in photography. I sold three color images of the city — one of our garage! — to Toronto Calendar magazine, a monthly — while still in high school for $300, a fortune in 1975 and still a pile ‘o dough. Discovering so young that my work had some commercial value gave me the courage to start freelancing as a (self-taught) shooter and I sold a photo to Time Canada when I was still in college.


Carte de sejour

This little pink piece of cardboard, the official French document allowing me the legal right to live there for a while, was my ticket to the best year of my life, on a journalism fellowship based in Paris. I spent eight months living, learning and traveling on their dime (or franc!) and studied with 27 peers, all of us aged 25 to 35, from 19 countries, from Japan to Brazil to New Zealand. I’m still in touch with a few of them. That year taught me the true meaning of one of my favorite words — se debrouiller (to be resourceful, to figure it out on your own.)


Green card

As the then unmarried child of an American citizen, my mother, I was able to apply for, and get, a “green card”, also known as an alien registration card.  I am a registered alien. That card gives me the legal right to live and work (although not vote) in the U.S.


Softball glove

I started playing softball with a local group of fellow suburbanites, men and women ages 18 to 70-something, which includes a cantor, several psychiatrists, college professors, an orthopedic surgeon, a pastry chef and a retired ironworker. These people know me better than almost anyone here in New York. I usually play second base and can hit to the outfield.

I love having an activity that’s outdoors, social, athletic, fun, builds skills and is competitive enough to be energizing but mellow enough to be enjoyable.

Here’s my New York Times essay about my gang.


A pink and orange polka-dot apron

I love to cook and to entertain and a big, pretty apron is a must! I bought this one, in such deliciously French colors, at one of my favorite Paris stores, BHV. If you visit Paris, check it out.

If you were to select a few items that could explain your life to those who don’t know you personally, what would they be and why?

What Rhymes With 'Fill 'Er Up?' Britain's First Service Station Gets Its Own Musical

He stopped by, too....Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Fifty years ago, Watford Gap became Britain’s first 24-hour service station. It sits on the M1, a 193-mile highway now seen as the dividing line between north and south England. It became a popular late-night spot for touring musicians like Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, who ate there.

Now, there’s a musical celebrating it, involving local amateur singers and local BBC Radio.

Toby Friedner, Assistant Editor, BBC Northampton, says: “Who needs Carousel when you’ve got Watford Gap – The Musical! This is the biggest and most exciting project that BBC Northampton has been involved in for years.

“We hope thousands of local people will join us in supporting it with their memories of Watford Gap and their involvement in the musical itself. This unique project will celebrate what has become an iconic place in the county, in a creative and exciting way.”

Kind of makes you appreciate Cinnabon in a whole new way…

It's J-Day: Where Are the Jedi Knights of Journalism?

Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (right) and Padawan O...
Image via Wikipedia

Walt’s gone. Peter Jennings is gone. Tim Russert, too.

Across the country in the past two years, 12,000 journalists — many of them savvy veterans who actually knew how to do their jobs really well, so expensive at the peak of their career that their salaries were half that of a beginning law associate — are also gone, many of them likely forever, fired from newspapers and magazines and wire services and television and radio.

Some of them are here at T/S. Some are freelancing, writing books, teaching, doing PR. A fortunate few have found other full-time jobs in journalism. Many have left the field for good.

Who among them, staff or freelance, are our Jedi Knights? Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz talks here about who in the business we might still trust…

Is there anyone, past or present, that journalists in any medium still look to for inspiration, guidance, some signpost of how it’s done well and still needs to be? I read, listen and watch every day for work I think excellent, whether in its originality, wit, depth, analysis, and hope you, if you’re a working journalist, do too. For me, it can be as simple as a beautifully-written turn of phrase in a book I’m reading for pleasure, like the new “Bright Young People”, a history of jazz age Londoners by British biographer D. J. Taylor, who referred to one man’s career “that existed largely in the subjunctive.” Loved that.

I polled a number of my colleagues for some of their favorites… Continue reading “It's J-Day: Where Are the Jedi Knights of Journalism?”