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Design tricks to make your home happier! Pick only six colours, ditch the toaster

This may sound strange coming from someone who edited ELLE Decoration magazine for 13 years, but I don’t care what colour you paint your walls or which wallpaper you choose.

What I do care about, though, is that you love it — in other words, that your home makes you feel relaxed and happy. The good news is that even according to Instagram, ‘Designing for Happiness’ is one of this year’s top interiors trends.

Finally we’ve seen the light! Out goes decorating in the ‘colour of the year’ and in comes designing your home for pleasure, not bragging rights.

This has never been more important. Thanks to the pandemic, many of us have spent the past two years largely at home. We are also in the middle of what has been dubbed ‘the Age of Anxiety’. For all our technology, we are at heart primal, emotional beings, and we need to feel safe and protected to be happy.

In short, a happy home is a healthy home. So, from tossing out your toaster to revamping your lighting, here’s my quick-start guide to achieving a happy, healthy home.

Key to creating a happy home is the palette ¿ the mix of materials, finishes and colours you choose to surround yourself with (file photo)

Key to creating a happy home is the palette — the mix of materials, finishes and colours you choose to surround yourself with (file photo)

COLOURS OF HAPPINESS WITHIN THE HOME

Key to creating a happy home is the palette — the mix of materials, finishes and colours you choose to surround yourself with.

Scientists at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, in Melbourne, found that the colour you paint a room can make you feel calm, upbeat or sad. My golden rule is to choose six core colours to use throughout your whole home.

Use tones of these for walls and upholstery, then choose two accent colours — more impactful shades that you use sparingly or for small accessories. The result will feel harmonious without being limiting in terms of design.

BUY YOURSELF BEAUTIFUL BASICS

If the ‘touch points’ — those smaller, essential components of your home, from door handles to knives — are too small, uncomfortable or inadequate, they will be a daily annoyance.

Find designs that feel good in your hand, and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them. They are the one thing I’d recommend you splash out on. Quality knobs, light switches, taps and handles can be expensive, though, so replace old ones gradually as your budget permits.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ADDED TEXTURE

Stroking an animal or enjoying a hug triggers the production of oxytocin, the love hormone. A real mix of textures to touch at home is therefore vital for our wellbeing.

Stroking an animal or enjoying a hug triggers the production of oxytocin, the love hormone. A real mix of textures to touch at home is therefore vital for our wellbeing (file photo)

Stroking an animal or enjoying a hug triggers the production of oxytocin, the love hormone. A real mix of textures to touch at home is therefore vital for our wellbeing (file photo)

After all, why have identical flat cotton cushions on your sofa when you could have linen, wool, knits and sheepskin? You can never have too many cushions — they should be squishy and comfortable, not immaculately karate-chopped in the middle like a fortune cookie.

Don’t forget earthy textures, too — things like sisal, rattan, plywood and cork. These are incredibly grounding because they connect you directly to the natural world. Finally, tiles. Never consign them only to the kitchen or bathroom.

OPEN WINDOWS EXTRA WIDE

Daylight boosts serotonin, our happy hormone, so it’s essential to get as much natural light inside as possible. My favourite trick is to fit extra-wide curtain rails, so open drapes stand completely clear of the glass.

If you’re having curtains made, make sure you request this, as it’s not standard practice.

This is particularly important in small rooms, so you focus on the view out. And clean your windows! It’s such a simple thing to do, but can let in 50 per cent more light.

Daylight boosts serotonin, our happy hormone, so it¿s essential to get as much natural light inside as possible (file photo)

Daylight boosts serotonin, our happy hormone, so it’s essential to get as much natural light inside as possible (file photo)

CREATE A LIGHT PLAN TO WIND DOWN

Alongside natural light, artificial lighting can have a huge impact on our health — so much so that designers have now started exploring the concept of circadian lighting, which follows our natural sleep/wake cycles in tone and brightness.

Such systems are still in their infancy, but there are other ways to work with your body clock. Simply follow the light outside — as it gets dark, turn off overhead lights and use smaller table lamps to help your body wind down.

SLING OUT YOUR KITCHEN GADGETS

Research from UCLA in the U.S. has found that cluttered and disorganised homes raise our levels of stress hormones (file photo)

Research from UCLA in the U.S. has found that cluttered and disorganised homes raise our levels of stress hormones (file photo)

Clutter is the arch-enemy of calm. Research from UCLA in the U.S. has found that cluttered and disorganised homes raise our levels of stress hormones.

Nowhere is this truer than in the kitchen. To work out what you really use, empty all your cupboards of cooking utensils and equipment. Stack it together and for the next ten days, select only what you need from this pile, then put those items back into your empty cupboards after use.

Crucially, when you go to make your next meal, choose only from what has been replaced into those cupboards.

Look at what is left out at the end of this period and ask yourself how much of it you really need to keep.

TOSS AWAY THAT ‘TOXIC’ TOASTER

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), indoor air should have no more than 25 micrograms of fine particulates (toxic particles) per cubic metre ¿ yet the average toaster emits 300-400, and burnt toast propels this up to 3,000-4,000. That¿s more than 150 times the WHO limit (file photo)

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), indoor air should have no more than 25 micrograms of fine particulates (toxic particles) per cubic metre — yet the average toaster emits 300-400, and burnt toast propels this up to 3,000-4,000. That’s more than 150 times the WHO limit (file photo)

This may sound controversial, but if you have a grill in your oven, ditch your toaster.

Why? Because according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), indoor air should have no more than 25 micrograms of fine particulates (toxic particles) per cubic metre — yet the average toaster emits 300-400, and burnt toast propels this up to 3,000-4,000. That’s more than 150 times the WHO limit!

Paraffin wax-based scented candles are also on the banned list. Paraffin wax is a by-product of the petroleum industry and breathing in the fumes is allegedly as bad for you as second-hand cigarette smoke.

For a cleaner burn, choose candles with cotton or paper wicks, that are made from beeswax or GM-free soy wax and scented using only pure natural essential oils.

INDULGE IN LEAFY GREENS

Luckily, houseplants are veritable air-cleaning ninjas. NASA research shows they can remove up to 87 per cent of air toxins within 24 hours.

Try introducing an areca palm, or a snake plant (aka mother-in-law’s tongue), which releases oxygen and absorbs carbon dioxide during the night, making it ideal for bedrooms.

And if you’re hopeless at keeping real plants alive, don’t worry – research shows that just looking at images of foliage lowers your blood pressure. So paper a wall with leafy green wallpaper instead.

Try introducing an areca palm, or a snake plant (aka mother-in-law¿s tongue), which releases oxygen and absorbs carbon dioxide during the night, making it ideal for bedrooms (file photo)

Try introducing an areca palm, or a snake plant (aka mother-in-law’s tongue), which releases oxygen and absorbs carbon dioxide during the night, making it ideal for bedrooms (file photo)

GET RID OF THE PLAYROOM

Nothing is sadder than pristine children’s rooms decorated in the same style as the rest of the adult home.

Kids need to express themselves — let them choose the wall colours (often bright), pin all their pictures up (often wonky) and display treasured items.

Similarly, ditch the playroom — separating children’s spaces from ‘grown-up’ areas denies them their rightful place at the heart of the family.

By all means factor in good-looking storage to collect everything up at the end of the day, though.

USE YOUR BEST CHINA EVERY DAY

Keeping ‘best’ sets of cutlery or crockery for ‘special occasions’ when you have guests implies you don’t deserve to use them.

This is a subtle dig that goes right to the core of self-esteem. Start dining like a champ off that fine porcelain every day — every moment can be a ‘special occasion’ if you let it.

Michelle’s book, Happy Inside: How To Harness The Power Of Home For Health And Happiness, (Ebury, £20) is out now.

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Culture

‘Mrs. Doubtfire’: The highlights Of Robin Williams’ Role That defined His Artistic Greatness

The highlights Of Robin Williams’ Role That defined His Artistic Greatness

The Voice Of EU | One of the most versatile comedian and actor Robin Williams left an indelible mark on an entire generation throughout the 1990s, evoking both laughter and tears. His portrayal of a strict yet endearing housekeeper in the hit film “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993) resonated deeply with audiences worldwide, propelling it to resounding success across global boundaries.

Señora Doubtfire Robin Williams
Robin Williams in a scene from ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ (1993). Archive Photos (20th Century-Fox / Getty Images)

Williams played the role, despite the adversities and addictions that plagued his life at the time, by putting aside the devised script and becoming a master of improvisation during the filming of the movie, which brought in more than €400 million.

In the year of its release it was only outdone by Jurassic Park (€1 billion). This is what its director, also an avowed admirer of the American actor, explained on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Mrs. Doubtfire’s debut on the big screen: “It took me three months to rewrite the script. I sent it to Robin and he said he loved it.” After Williams’ suicide in 2014, in an interview for Business Insider magazine, Chris Columbus unveils details that were buried 30 years ago.

“Four and a half hours, maybe five,” is the time in which, according to the director, Robin Williams was able to play Mrs. Doubtfire, a characterization for which the film earned the Oscar for Best Makeup. The actor was not comfortable in portraying his role: a father who disguises himself as a housekeeper in order to spend more time with his children after a bitter divorce. For him, it presented a challenge. “We never could shoot two consecutive days of Robin as Mrs. Doubtfire. It was a punishing day for him, so always the next day, we would shoot him as Daniel (the father),” the director of the film reveals three decades after its release.

Comedy is acting out optimism.” — Robin Williams

In between the laughs and moments that are etched in the minds of many, Columbus describes the challenge of keeping actors such as Pierce Brosnan and Sally Field, who played leading roles in the film, from breaking away from the script of their characters while Williams was at his most unrestrainedly creative.

Indeed, according to the director, his boundless energy even created situations where the script supervisor could not keep up, resulting in unrepeatable and spontaneous takes. “None of us knew what he was going to say when he got going and so I wanted a camera on the other actors to get their reactions.” Most of the sequences in the film, and specifically all of those featuring Williams, were the result of an incredible amount of improvisation from the American comedian. “If it were today, we would never end. But back then, we were shooting film so once we were out of film in the camera, we would say to Robin, ‘We’re out of film.’ That happened on several occasions,” recalls Columbus.

“Hey boss, the way I like to work, if you’re up for it, is I’ll give you three or four scripted takes, and then let’s play.” This was the actor’s first warning to the director of Mrs. Doubtfire. Robin Williams was a significant figure in Chris Columbus’ life, and he still is to this day. Not only because he was responsible for his move to San Francisco, the actor didn’t want to shoot anywhere else, but due to his ability to make people laugh and cry at the same time. “Williams wanted the film to be shot there because he was living in San Francisco with his wife, Marsha, and their children. Thanks to him I fell in love with the city that has become my home,” he explains.

“You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.” — Robin Williams

The director also reminisced about some memorable scenes that contributed to the film’s status as a cinematic masterpiece, as perceived by many. However, what stood out the most was his innate ability to improvise: “The entire restaurant sequence was remarkable. When Robin, portraying Mrs. Doubtfire, accidentally loses his teeth in his drink, you can see the joy on Robin’s face; he’s almost smirking to himself for coming up with that.” Following the success of the Mrs. Doubtfire premiere, the production team is currently exploring ways to honor Williams and his portrayal in the film, although no definitive plans have been made yet. “There are approximately 972 boxes of footage stored in a warehouse somewhere in California. There’s something truly special and enchanting about his performances, and I believe it would be exciting to delve deeper into it.”

Despite initial reservations about creating a sequel, the notion of a new spin-off gained traction shortly before the actor’s tragic passing on August 11, 2014, at his residence in Paradise Bay, California. “Robin’s only concern was: ‘Boss, do I have to spend as much time in the suit this time around?’ The physical toll of portraying Doubtfire was immense for Robin; it felt like running a marathon every day,” the director recounts. Following a brief meeting at the actor’s home, and a simple handshake, Chris Columbus began outlining the script mere days before the unfortunate event. “During the rewrite, we contemplated reducing the role of Doubtfire. However, Robin’s untimely demise extinguished any hopes of a sequel,” he laments. Although not spearheaded by its creator, Mrs. Doubtfire has found new life as a stage musical. “What set him apart as a performer is that there was no one like Robin Williams before him, and there will never be anyone like him again. He was truly one-of-a-kind,” reflects the actor’s superior.

Mrs. DoubtfireRobin Williams and Matthew Lawrence in a scene from ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ (1993).

In addition to the director, another Mrs. Doubtfire star who later spoke of Robin Williams’ brilliance was Matthew Lawrence, who played Daniel’s son. Lawrence was just a teenager in the film, which also gave a debut to his co-star Mara Wilson, the unforgettable Matilda. One day Lawrence went to Robin’s dressing room and did not expect what he was told: “‘Stay away from drugs, particularly cocaine.’ He was being serious and told me: ‘You know when you come to my trailer and you see me like that?’ He’s like, ‘That’s the reason why. And now I’m fighting for the rest of my life because I spent 10 years doing something very stupid every day. Do not do it.’ I stayed away from it because of him”, Lawrence recalled in an interview with People magazine in March 2022.

The lesser-known chapter of Williams’ life, while unrelated to his demise, shed light on the inner struggles of a comedian committed to bringing joy to others yet grappling with profound personal sorrow. “As charismatic as he appeared on screen, I’d often visit him in his trailer for chats, he was tormented. It was truly agonizing for him. He didn’t conceal it. He confided in me about his battles with addiction,” the actor concluded.


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Congratulations, Privacy Just Took A Great Leap Out the Window!

Your Data Is Being Used Without Your Permission And Knowledge

The Voice Of EU | In the heart of technological innovation, the collision between intellectual property rights and the development of cutting-edge AI technologies has sparked a significant legal battle. The New York Times has taken legal action against OpenAI and Microsoft, filing a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court. This legal maneuver aims to address concerns surrounding the unauthorized use of the Times’ content for the training of AI models, alleging copyright infringements that could potentially result in billions of dollars in damages.

READ: HOW YOUR DATA IS BEING USED TO TRAIN A.I.

This legal tussle underlines the escalating tension between technological advancements and the protection of intellectual property. The crux of the lawsuit revolves around OpenAI and Microsoft allegedly utilizing the Times’ proprietary content to advance their own AI technology, directly competing with the publication’s services. The lawsuit suggests that this unauthorized utilization threatens the Times’ ability to offer its distinctive service and impacts its AI innovation, creating a competitive landscape that challenges the publication’s proprietary content.

Amidst the growing digital landscape, media organizations like the Times are confronting a myriad of challenges. The migration of readers to online platforms has significantly impacted traditional media, and the advent of artificial intelligence technology has added another layer of complexity. The legal dispute brings to the forefront the contentious practice of AI companies scraping copyrighted information from online sources, including articles from media organizations, to train their generative AI chatbots. This strategy has attracted substantial investments, rapidly transforming the AI landscape.

Exhibit presented by the New York Times’ legal team of ChatGPT replicating a article after being prompted

The lawsuit highlights instances where OpenAI’s technology, specifically GPT-4, replicated significant portions of Times articles, including in-depth investigative reports. These outputs, alleged by the Times to contain verbatim excerpts from their content, raise concerns about the ethical and legal boundaries of using copyrighted material for AI model training without proper authorization or compensation.

The legal action taken by the Times follows attempts to engage in discussions with Microsoft and OpenAI, aiming to address concerns about the use of its intellectual property. Despite these efforts, negotiations failed to reach a resolution that would ensure fair compensation for the use of the Times’ content while promoting responsible AI development that benefits society.

In the midst of this legal battle, the broader questions surrounding the responsible and ethical utilization of copyrighted material in advancing technological innovations come to the forefront.

The dispute between the Times, OpenAI, and Microsoft serves as a significant case study in navigating the intricate intersection of technological progress and safeguarding intellectual property rights in the digital age.


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Conflicted History: ‘Oppenheimer’ And Its Impact On Los Alamos And New Mexico Downwinders

‘Oppenheimer’ And Its Impact On Los Alamos And New Mexico Downwinders

The Voice Of EU | In the highly anticipated blockbuster movie, “Oppenheimer,” the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man behind the first atomic bomb, is portrayed as a riveting tale of triumph and tragedy.

As the film takes center stage, it also brings to light the often-overlooked impacts on a community living downwind from the top-secret Manhattan Project testing site in southern New Mexico.

A Forgotten Legacy

While the film industry and critics praise “Oppenheimer,” a sense of frustration prevails among the residents of New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin, who continue to grapple with the consequences of the Manhattan Project. Tina Cordova, a cancer survivor and founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, expresses their feelings, stating, “They invaded our lives and our lands and then they left,” referring to the scientists and military personnel who conducted secret experiments over 200 miles away from their community.

The Consortium, alongside organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists, has been striving to raise awareness about the impact of the Manhattan Project on New Mexico’s population. Advocates emphasize the necessity of acknowledging the human cost of the Trinity Test, the first atomic blast, and other nuclear weapons activities that have affected countless lives in the state.

The Ongoing Struggle for Recognition

As film enthusiasts celebrate the drama and brilliance of “Oppenheimer,” New Mexico downwinders feel overlooked by both the U.S. government and movie producers. The federal government’s compensation program for radiation exposure still does not include these affected individuals. The government’s selection of the remote and flat Trinity Test Site, without warning residents in the surrounding areas, further added to the controversy.

Living off the land, the rural population in the Tularosa Basin had no idea that the fine ash settling on their homes and fields was a result of the world’s first atomic explosion.

The government initially attempted to cover up the incident, attributing the bright light and rumble to an explosion at a munitions dump. It was only after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Japan weeks later that New Mexico residents realized the magnitude of what they had witnessed.

Tracing the Fallout

According to the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, large amounts of radiation were released into the atmosphere during the Trinity Test, with fallout descending over a vast area. Some of the fallout reached as far as the Atlantic Ocean, but the greatest concentration settled approximately 30 miles from the test site.

Now I Am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.

J. Robert Oppenheimer

The consequences of this catastrophic event have affected generations of New Mexicans, who still await recognition and justice for the harm caused by nuclear weapons.

A Tale of Contrasts: Los Alamos and the Legacy of Oppenheimer

As the film’s spotlight shines on the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a contrasting narrative unfolds in Los Alamos, more than 200 miles north of the Tularosa Basin. Los Alamos stands as a symbol of Oppenheimer’s legacy, housing one of the nation’s premier national laboratories and boasting the highest percentage of people with doctorate degrees in the U.S.

Oppenheimer’s influence is evident throughout Los Alamos, with a street bearing his name and an IPA named in his honor at a local brewery. The city embraces its scientific legacy, showcasing his handwritten notes and ID card in a museum exhibit. Los Alamos National Laboratory employees played a significant role in the film, contributing as extras and engaging in enlightening discussions during breaks.

The “Oppenheimer” Movie

Director Christopher Nolan’s perspective on the Trinity Test and its profound impact is evident in his approach to “Oppenheimer.” He has described the event as an extraordinary moment in human history and expressed his desire to immerse the audience in the pivotal moment when the button was pushed. Nolan’s dedication to bringing historical accuracy and emotional depth to the screen is evident as he draws inspiration from Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

For Nolan, Oppenheimer’s story is a potent blend of dreams and nightmares, capturing the complexity and consequences of the Manhattan Project. As the film reaches global audiences, it also offers a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the downwinders in New Mexico, whose lives were forever altered by the legacy of nuclear weapons testing.

The Oppenheimer Festival and Beyond

Los Alamos is determined to use the Oppenheimer Festival as an opportunity to educate visitors about the true stories behind the film’s events. The county’s “Project Oppenheimer” initiative, launched in early 2023, encompasses forums, documentaries, art installations, and exhibits that delve into the scientific contributions of the laboratory and the social implications of the Manhattan Project.

A special area during the festival will facilitate discussions about the movie, fostering a deeper understanding of the community’s history. The county aims to continue revisiting and discussing the legacy of the Manhattan Project, ensuring that the impact of this pivotal moment in history is never forgotten.

As “Oppenheimer” takes audiences on an emotional journey, it serves as a reminder that every historical event carries with it complex and multifaceted implications. The movie may celebrate the scientific achievements of the past, but it also illuminates the urgent need to recognize and address the human cost that persists to this day.


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