Archive for August 2012

On the strange fascinations of other people's schedules

Varwwwclientsclient1web2tmpphp6 Gb1ebFor as long as I can recall, I've been unreasonably fascinated by other people's daily schedules. It thrills me to learn, for instance, that Karl Lagerfeld always sleeps for exactly seven hours, no matter when he goes to bed; that he drinks only Diet Coke, and rarely exercises "because my doctor said it's not necessary". My bursting mental library of similar trivia includes, naturally, Churchill's daily 90-minute siesta, but also the fact that Paula Radcliffe is usually in bed by 10ish and that Will Self keeps a stove on his desk to brew "strange infusions" of tea while he writes. These days, I encounter such nuggets most frequently in media profiles of web entrepreneurs, presumably because they're our era's most envied role models. Thus I've discovered that Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey divides his week thematically: Tuesdays for product development, Wednesdays for marketing, etc. Maria Popova, who runs the popular Brainpicker account on Twitter, gets so much reading done by taking her Kindle to the gym. And Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, leaves the office at 5.30pm daily, for dinner with her children at 6pm. At any hour of the day, I can tell you what four or five famous people are probably doing, should you wish to know. Which, I appreciate, you maybe don't.

The psychology of morbid curiosity

Varwwwclientsclient1web2tmpphp Oz8tloMainly, I just wish I'd never encountered the website Serial Killers Ink, which showcases terrible artworks by the perpetrators of some truly terrible crimes. I don't like to think about the kind of person who'd pay, say, $175 for a portrait of Jennifer Love Hewitt by Elmer Wayne Henley, who is serving six life sentences for mass murders in Houston in the 70s, or $60 for a cartoon panda by a man with the soubriquet of "the internet's first serial killer". It's all very depressing. But I can't deny it: I kept clicking. The flicker of fascination was there.

Oliver Burkeman I'm a writer for The Guardian based in Brooklyn, New York. My new book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking explores the upsides of negativity, uncertainty, failure and imperfection. Each week in This Column Will Change Your Life I write about social psychology, self-help culture, productivity and the science of happiness, and make unprovoked attacks on The Secret.

I also blog about things for Guardian US and write a monthly column for Psychologies magazine. Hello.

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