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Hannah Sternberg

Hannah Sternberg's first novel, Queens of All the Earth, is available on Amazon, BN.com, and bookstores near you.
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The Spritz App: Now You Can Waste Time, Even Faster

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

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Like all passionate readers, I sometimes feel anxious about the number of books I’ll never be able to read. A single lifetime is just a blip when you consider all the delicious literature out there, waiting to be consumed.

That was the first thing I thought of, after my mild horror subsided, when I heard about the new hyper-speed-reading app Spritz. Spritz promises reading speeds of over 500 words per minute; at its fastest, it can allow users to read the Bible cover to cover in 13 hours.

Why the mild horror? Well, it’s another byproduct of being a passionate reader: I’m torn between the desire to read as many books as possible, and the pleasure of lingering in each one. There’s no lingering in the magic of a scene at 500 words per minute.

This Atlantic article makes a great point that the app’s greatest utility may be sifting through the pages and pages of online articles many people feel socially and professionally obligated to read. If your goal is to be able to say you read it, that’s fine. Maybe eventually we’ll evolve to be able to comprehend at that speed, as well.

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A Book About Fairies… That Boys Will Love Too

Friday, March 7th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

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This week, I cheated. I know I promised you guys last week that I’d start a blog series on adventure books for young boys, to encourage reading — and for men and women of all ages who yearn for an old-fashioned swashbuckling yarn. I went through my bookshelves and pulled out some classics, to kick things off. And then, instead of reading any of those selections, I got pulled into a fantasy tale set in fairyland, published by Harlequin Teen.

The good news is, I think your boys should read it, too.

I know there aren’t a lot of teen boys who would want to be caught reading a Harlequin book, especially one featuring pixies and fairy magic and sparkling gowns. But in both the land of fairies and real life, appearances can be deceiving, and Julie Kagawa’s The Iron King has enough adventure, action, gore, surprise twists, creepy creatures, and sly humor to keep girls and boys alike rapt for hours. I haven’t finished a book in two days in a long, long time, but The Iron King made me feel resentful of any time I had to spend not reading it until I managed to turn the last page.

Protagonist Meghan Chase is an average high schooler and a bit of a tomboy. But her humdrum life is overturned when fairies exchange her little brother, Ethan, for a changeling — a vicious monster who has assumed Ethan’s features, if not his sweet personality. That night, she also learns that her best friend Robbie is actually Robin Goodfellow — more commonly known as Puck, the mischievous fairy from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Puck leads Meghan into the land of the fairies, where she seeks her little brother and in the process becomes embroiled in the political schemings of the Summer and Winter Courts. She and her companions encounter a stunning array of creatures along the way, from ogres and goblins to dryads and satyrs.

Author Julie Kagawa has a prodigious imagination and a knack for clever action and suspense scenes that reminds me of The Princess Bride, another seemingly “girly” tale that has captured the imaginations of thousands of young boys. The Iron King hits all the right notes that I listen for in an adventure tale: fast-paced action scenes, cleverly choreographed; wry banter between friends and enemies alike; a diverse host of companions and foes, with entertaining quirks and foibles; a journey through a variety of landscapes; and a good mix of physical challenges for the heroes, and mental ones, such as riddles and bargains.

If you, or your boys, loved The Princess Bride, tales of Robin Hood, or The Hobbit, Kagawa’s The Iron King will hit the spot.

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5 Reasons I Don’t Want to Travel Back in Time

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

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Pretty much every nerd and misfit, sometime during adolescence, wishes he could travel to a time and place where he’d fit in. Maybe it was an entirely separate fantasy world, like Narnia; maybe it was a secret world-within-our-world, like Hogwarts; or maybe it was a fantastic, steampunk version of the past.

I lived in those fantasies as a teen so much so that I remember stretches of my high school years more for the stories my friends and I concocted than for anything else that happened in the real world. That yearning came to life in Bulfinch, my second novel (due to be released this summer), in which a medieval knight and his monk chronicler travel through time into the attic study of a modern-day scholar.

But as my roommate and I spent this week’s snow day watching Pride and Prejudice (1995), I realized I might finally have grown out of my wish to live in the past — at least, the realistic past. All I seemed to notice were the things I wouldn’t have been able to stand about Lizzie’s world. Here are the top five reasons I’m thoroughly, solidly glad to be living right now:

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Why Ed Wood is the Most Discouraging Movie Ever

Friday, February 28th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

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While it’s not as famous as Edward Scissorhands or The Nightmare Before ChristmasEd Wood is an early film by Tim Burton beloved by many fans. Its quirks abound: it’s shot in black and white, using camera angles and lighting techniques to tip the hat to classic movies; Johnny Depp appears in drag and talks about parachuting into Normandy wearing women’s underclothes; and Bill Murray, Martin Landau, and Vincent D’Onofrio all give memorable performances as Hollywood legends Bunny Breckinridge, Bela Legosi, and Orson Welles.

Ed Wood tells the true story of its eponymous hero, known as one of the worst filmmakers of Hollywood’s golden age. Ed Wood’s most famous creation was Plan 9 from Outer Space, which came back into the public consciousness when it was lambasted on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Burton crafts an entertaining and heartbreaking film in which you find yourself cheering for Ed despite his obvious incompetence and total lack of self-awareness. The final scenes depicting the making of Plan 9 play out triumphantly despite their absurdity — you’re only reminded that the rest of the world isn’t on Ed’s side when the cast and crew arrive at the premiere and get booed out of the theater. That’s when the cold, heavy truth settles on you, as the end titles roll: Ed Wood was irreversibly, passionately devoted to his art, and he completely sucked at it.

A friend and I watched Ed Wood together once when we were in college. Afterward, we laughed nervously and looked at each other and said, “I’m not Ed Wood, am I?”

I was going into the arts; my friend was then a pre-med student, and this spring will graduate from medical school. But we were both haunted by the same fear, after that movie: am I absolutely terrible at the thing I love doing, and everyone around me is just too nice to say so?

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Bring Back the Intermission

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

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Movies are getting longer and longer, especially in two categories: epic sci-fi/fantasy, and Big Serious Films. At the very least, audiences can start to feel like they’re getting their $18′s worth, at least in volume, if not always quality, of material.

This isn’t the first wave of super-long movies, though. The epics of the ’50s and ’60s could put our super-long movies to shame. But there’s a big difference between Avatar and Ben Hur: the latter had an intermission.

I was watching Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) this weekend, and as usual, TCM charmingly played the intermission and entr’acte music with the original title screens, demonstrating their commitment to showing films as close to whole as possible. As I used the intermission for the same purpose that decades of theater goers before me have — to make a quick pit stop — I realized that the intermission wasn’t such a silly anachronism after all. In fact, it was a sign of respect.

People just aren’t comfortable sitting for three or more hours straight (at least, I hope not). We need to get up, stretch our legs, hit the restroom, get another glass of water. Movie intermissions are a win-win: audiences get to take a quick break without missing anything, and theater-owners have an extra opportunity to push more popcorn and soda on them.

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5 Adventure Books for Reading-Reluctant Boys

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

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Recent research has demonstrated that young boys are falling behind girls in reading comprehension and that part of the problem may be that they are less enthusiastic recreational readers. There are lots of theories on why this is, and how to correct it, but one of the most common solutions is simply to provide more reading material targeted specifically to boys. Of course, that’s a political-correctness minefield (after all, if we “gender” things like adventure and science, are we now excluding girls from those things?). But the way I see it, there are also plenty of young girls who also crave traditionally “boyish” reading material who are also left adrift in search of their next adventure fix, so everyone wins if more of that material is produced or brought to light.

I was one such girl — as a middle schooler I loved few things more than Indiana Jones, The Mummy, and the swashbuckling tales of C. S. Forester. As a grown-up, I often feel nostalgic for those yarns as I slog through the drier, more nihilistic literary offerings that will supposedly enhance my mind. So, for the next few months, I’m going to review some forgotten gems of adventure fiction. If you have a reluctant reader, maybe curling up with him (or her) and one of these books will inspire the same love of reading that I found in my first fictional adventures. Here’s a list of classics to kick it off.

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Winter Isn’t Going

Thursday, February 13th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

I’m going to the grocery store tonight, not to prepare for the upcoming snowpocalypse but just because I haven’t been to the grocery store in weeks and my dinner choices have been getting pretty grim.

Okay, and maybe to pick up a few things in case the power and/or roads go out. But darker than the skies outside are the moods of my friends and coworkers. We’re all tired of the inconveniences of missed work, closed schools, dangerous sidewalks and roads, and worse — loss of power or water or a shortage of food. Those are all very serious concerns, but you know what we could all grouch a lot less about? How cold it is. How long this winter feels. (It’s only February, people! That’s still technically winter!) How the weather is practically a personal affront – how dare the weather be bad?!

CARNAGE!

CARNAGE!

When’s the last time your grouchiness managed to stop a winter storm from overtaking your city?

I’m sick of people being sick of winter. It’s not my favorite season, and I grew up in Vermont, where winter lasted from October through April. But I discovered, through extensive testing, that the cold feels a lot less awful when you stop moaning about it (or at least try to cut back). And since you’re stuck in this winter anyway, why not focus on the enjoyable moments?

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Andrew Bird’s Flights of Fancy

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

The first poet I fell in love with was E. E. Cummings. In elementary school we read his poems about springtime and childhood. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered his poems about love and sex, mortality, war, and much more. There aren’t many recent poets who have captured my imagination like E. E. Cummings does. Part of the problem is the difficulty of finding good contemporary poetry — fewer and fewer magazines carry it, and only a few specialty publishers collect it into books. I haven’t tried very hard to look for it, though, because my new favorite poets are working somewhere else entirely — the stage of a local music venue.

My new favorite poet is Andrew Bird. I’ve been following him for five years now. If you’ve heard of him, it’s probably been as a violinist and alternative musician.

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Bird’s lyrics roam from ancient civilizations to a whimsical post-apocalyptic paradise. Some of his songs hint at a story that ended just before he started singing; others sound just like Bird is enjoying playing with words, the way an abstract artist explores form and color. Like the poems of E. E. Cummings, Bird’s lyrics spring to life when the listener learns to focus less on meaning and more on atmosphere.

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Andrew Bird is one of those rare artists who doesn’t just write music — he creates worlds. But despite his lyric-writing ability, I have wonder if calling him a poet fully sums him up. If I only read his lyrics, I might have been reminded of E. E. Cummings but I wouldn’t have been swept away in quite the same way. The music is part of the poetry. He builds delicate castles with piccolo and rhyme — the sum is greater than the parts. I can’t call him a poet because he’s more than that.

So, my hunt for great contemporary poetry is still frustrated. But I can’t say Andrew Bird has let me down.

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Play It Yourself: Tabs and Lyrics

Tenuousness

Scythian Empire

A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left 

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Green Up, Chill Out

Monday, February 10th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

This week’s gardening music:

For Part 1 of this gardening series, sprouting seeds, click here.

When I was searching for seeds on Amazon, I noticed that the same companies that offered the highest-rated herb variety packs also sold “survival garden” seed packages. These packs contain a selection of hardy vegetables that provide a range of important nutrients, the perfect addition to your survival bunker. Of course, they aren’t much help if you don’t know how to grow them.

A simple herb garden won’t sustain you in case of a global disaster, but it is a good way to learn basic gardening skills. Most common herbs go easy on the gardener — Mediterranean herbs like thyme and oregano don’t require a lot of water, so a day or two of forgetting your new calling won’t kill them. Woody herbs like lavender and rosemary are difficult to start from seed, but once they’re well-established they’re extremely hardy. Leafy herbs like basil take minimal tending — just put them in a sunny spot and they’ll fill your garden or kitchen with beautiful fragrance even when you’re not cooking.

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Careerzillas Are Bad for Women

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

You know that article that’s been going around, about how we should stop throwing bridal showers and baby showers, and throw more parties to celebrate women when they get promotions, travel somewhere cool, or pass an educational milestone?

If you’re asking “which one?” it’s because that seems to be all the internet can talk about lately: the Non-Traditional Female Achievement Shower, or how women should be celebrated more often for all the stuff they do before getting married and starting a family.

The argument is, roughly, that women have been feted for centuries for getting married and having babies, but if we want to encourage female achievement, we should throw women Promotion Showers and New Job Parties instead. One blogger even argues she should get a party for backpacking across Asia.

This is in the name of equality (because, as you know, men have been getting special parties all along). Oh, you haven’t recently attended a party to celebrate the fact that one of your male friends completed a backpacking trip? Maybe because that’s not a thing. Okay, it is a thing, and that thing is called a “welcome home party,” and I’m only going to throw you one if I haven’t seen you in, like, five years. I’ve successfully returned from vacation many times without mourning the lack of a party to greet me.

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If Fatherhood Falls in a Forest…

Monday, February 3rd, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

TheParisReviewFatherhood has been undergoing a dramatic redefinition in recent years, amply covered by journalists, scientists, and sitcoms. That’s why the Tweet I saw today (“Do fathers make good writers? Do writers make good fathers?“) was clickbait I eagerly lapped up.

The article I wound up reading, “The Pram in the Hall,” revealed more about its author, Shane Jones, than it did about writing or parenthood. Jones is admittedly image-obsessed, and that’s evident when he spends most of this article talking not about the unique challenges parenthood poses to writing, but about the challenges it poses to his carefully cultivated personal and professional image.

He writes, “In our culture, fatherhood means baggy khakis and cars with side-impact airbags—it’s something of a joke.”

I don’t see how that’s something of a joke — I just see a comfortable man in a safe car. And people in the book world aren’t known for their glamorous good looks and fashion sense, either, so I’m not sure how any of that is a threat to his career. Have you been to a publishing trade show lately? Clint and Stacey would have a heart attack.

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I Love that J. K. Rowling Wants to Break Up Ron and Hermione

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

Harry Potter fans were outraged this weekend to learn that author J. K. Rowling regrets pairing up Harry’s buddies Ron and Hermione. She told readers that she stuck with the pairing because it was part of the plan all along, but looking back at how the characters evolved, she realized that Ron and Hermoine might not be the best for each other’s long-term happiness.

I love this news.

For an author, having two characters end up in a mismatched or potentially unhappy romance shouldn’t have to be a cause for regret. After all, fiction would be very dull if every character made the right choices and loved the right people. In fact, many authors gleefully torture their characters for their bad decisions, or just for plain fun (I’m looking at you, George R. R. Martin). Making bad things happen to your characters is necessary to advance an interesting story, no matter how painful writing those things might be for the author. And they can make for a deliciously addictive tale (I’m still looking at you, George R. R. Martin).

But I like how, despite that, J. K. Rowling still wants the best for her characters. She admitted that Ron probably wouldn’t be able to make Hermione happy. I don’t think that’s the credibility issue she says it is (people wind up in mismatched, unhappy pairings all the time in real life) but I do think it’s refreshing that she seems to care about whether her characters will wind up happy.

It reminds me of Stranger Than Fiction, the movie in which an author’s fictional creation fights to defend himself from the author’s plans to kill him at the end of her novel. More recently, Cabin in the Woods seemed to be Joss Whedon telling horror-movie creators, “How would you feel if the horrible things you did to your characters happened to you?” Both movies imply, at least a little, that some creators are getting tired of stories that treat characters like props to make The Author’s Big Point, or objects that exist to titillate.

Why is this important? Because audiences do want to engage with characters as if they were real. And when creators dehumanize characters, that attitude gets carried away from the theater or reading chair, and contributes to the dehumanization of people in real life. The more callous we become about the unhappiness inflicted on characters, the more callous we become about real people’s unhappiness.

Thank you, J. K. Rowling, for caring so much about your characters, even when it lets down a few fans. Treating characters like real people can introduce some much-needed positivity into a pretty nihilistic arts landscape.

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Music for My Dad’s Guitar

Friday, January 31st, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

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This Christmas, my brother and I were stumped. My gift ideas for our dad had fallen through, and I’d run out of gardening stuff to give him. (He’s the kind of guy who only really needs a trowel and a bucket — and after feeling clever, giving him a wrap-around-the-bucket trowel carrier last year, I realized I’d exhausted the only possibility in that field.)

But then I saw my dad pick up the guitar I’d brought home with me, and realized that he remembered more from when he played 30 years ago, than I’d learned in nine months of studious* practicing. My brother and I impulsively bought him a guitar just before the holiday overtook us.

Now my dad has added a songbook of classics and is asking me to send him tabs for more current songs that he could play along with me when I visit home. My parents often remind me I’m their conduit to the hottest new music, while I try hard to pick PG-50 tunes for them.

So, I’m opening the field. So far, I’ve sent him the tab for “Mountain Sound” by of Monsters and Men. If you read my gardening post yesterday, you know of Monsters and Men is my jam this week.

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Meanwhile, I’ve been practicing my left-hand agility with the introduction to Muse’s “Plug-In Baby,” which sounds like a baroque practice piece when played on an acoustic guitar.

What are your recommendations for good beginner’s rock songs on an unplugged guitar?

 

*I apply a very generous definition of “studious” here.

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How Not to Turn Into The Shining This Winter

Thursday, January 30th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

Tonight’s Gardening Music:

It’s just about the time of year I start to get the desperate, painful feeling that I’ll never see a green growing thing again. The Polar Vortex isn’t doing much to help my cabin fever — I used to get through long winters in Vermont by imagining that somewhere in the continental US (a limit that made the place seem more geographically accessible) it was warm. Now I live below the Mason-Dixon line, my postage stamp front yard is covered in snow, and I heard it was freezing in Florida. Get me out of here.

My roommate and fellow contributor Becky Graebner has been tackling her cabin fever by cooking her way through Ina Garten and documenting it here. I thought I’d contribute some fresh herbs to her cause by pursuing one of my favorite hobbies, gardening. I’m fighting the Polar Vortex Blues by getting a head start on my annual kitchen garden. Follow me, step-by-step, in the coming weeks as I provide garden tips and inspiration — and let me know what you’re planning on growing this season!

Day One: No Gear, No Fear

I got my seeds today.

I know that for a lot of people, a big part of the pleasure of a hobby is acquiring all the paraphernalia — just talk to an amateur photographer and you’ll probably spend more time discussing accessories, upgrades, and programs than you will the actual photographs. But my usual approach to new hobbies (or the restart of old ones) is to keep it simple, and let the results guide my acquisition of more gear.

So tonight, I have three glasses of water and three packets of seeds.

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‘The Way God Intended It’

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg
Union Station

I was standing, sleepily, at the counter of a coffeeshop in Union Station, waiting for the barista to remember I’d ordered a drink, when I overheard the woman behind me order hers:

“I’ll have a small latte.”

“What kind of milk?”

“Whole milk.” Pause. Muttered, half to herself: “The way God intended it.”

Maybe I was just cranky — it was my first day heading back to the office after a week out with the flu — but I had to fight the urge to say to her, “Just like God intended that sheep’s wool to be spun, woven, and dyed into your pretty pink plaid coat?”

I had little doubt it was a real wool coat. She looked like someone who would curl her lip at the thought of synthetic fabric touching her skin.

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Bad Advice: Abandon the Hot Mess?

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013 - by Hannah Sternberg

Submit your questions to PJMBadAdvice@gmail.com or leave a question in the comments section, and I’ll answer it in Bad Advice!

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Dear Bad Advice,

My friend is a hot mess. We’ve been friends for a long time, and she wasn’t always like this, so I kept hoping it was just a phase, and waiting for her to emerge from the other side. But this has been going on for over a year now. Basically, she just creates drama. She goes out with a bunch of new friends who gossip about each other all the time, so whenever we hang out she just barrages me with endless stories about who’s which girl’s enemy now, and who cheated with who’s boyfriend, and all this other stuff that’s just stupid. And she’s gotten into this pattern where she’ll see a guy for a couple of weeks, and then pull away and go on and on about how clingy and annoying he is for still pursuing her; or, if the opposite happens, she’ll turn it into this huge drama about how she’s going to get him back. I don’t think she even knows any of these guys enough to care as much as she sounds like she does. She doesn’t want to do any of the stuff we used to do together, like go to the movies, and I think it’s because there isn’t enough gossipping and backstabbing in it. I miss her as a friend, though, and she wasn’t always like this — she used to be sweet and fun to be with and non-dramatic. I don’t know where all this came from and I don’t know how to tell her to try and straighten it all out. I just want her to know I think her decisions are destructive and I’m worried about her as a friend.

- Drama Disinfectant

This is going to sound like bad advice, but if you don’t want drama, you don’t want to be with this friend.

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Bad Advice for Autistic Dating

Thursday, August 8th, 2013 - by Hannah Sternberg

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From The Atlantic this week:

The aspects of autism that can make everyday life challenging—reading social cues, understanding another’s perspectives, making small talk and exchanging niceties—can be seriously magnified when it comes to dating. Though the American Psychiatric Association defines autism as a spectrum disorder—some people do not speak at all and have disabilities that make traditional relationships (let alone romantic ones) largely unfeasible, but there are also many who are on the “high-functioning” end and do have a clear desire for dating and romance. …

Certain characteristics associated with the autism spectrum inherently go against typical dating norms. For example, while a “neuro-typical” person might think a bar is great place for a first date, it could be one of the worst spots for someone on the spectrum. Dorsey Massey, a social worker who helps run dating and social programs for adults with various intellectual disabilities, explained, “If it’s a loud, crowded place, an individual on the spectrum may be uncomfortable or distracted.” Sensory issues may also make certain lights and noises especially unpleasant.

Confession: I’m fascinated with the unique lives and challenges of people with Asperger’s autism spectrum disorders. I’m drawn to articles like this one because one of the characters in the adventure YA novel I’m working on right now shows Aspergian traits. He falls in love with a princess, and must endure all sorts of upsetting and routine-destroying adventures. To try and understand and portray how he would interact with his princess and other adventure companions, I’ve read a lot of articles and books about dating advice for people with Asperger’s Syndrome (which according to the APA doesn’t exist anymore, but that’s a different blog post). I love Penelope Trunk’s ruthlessly honest writing about her life with Asperger’s. And I love how people with Asperger’s have gained new mainstream attention (and widespread acceptance) through portrayals in shows like The Big Bang Theory (Sheldon Cooper) and Community (Abed Nadir).

So, what’s wrong with this article? It doesn’t really delve into the challenges that are very thoroughly specific to relationship-seekers with Asperger’s. In fact, most of the challenges the article describes just sound like the foibles anyone puts up with when dating. I don’t doubt that people with Asperger’s suffer them to a higher degree, and possibly have less wiggle room to adapt their personal outlook to overcome them. I just think that: 1) There could have been a much more in-depth article written about the truly unique dating challenges that only people with Asperger’s face; and 2) an article like this perpetuates the myth that anyone who experiences the challenges it describes, when dating, is “weird” and very different from the rest of the dating masses, and that they’re doing it all wrong.

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Bad Advice for Ghost Sharks

Thursday, August 1st, 2013 - by Hannah Sternberg

Submit your questions to PJMBadAdvice@gmail.com or leave a question in the comments section, and I’ll answer it in Bad Advice!

Every week, in addition to my Wednesday Bad Advice column featuring questions from you, the readers, I’ll be doing a Thursday advice column for fictional characters, celebrities, and anyone else who didn’t ask for it. If you have suggestions for characters or celebrities you’d like me to give Bad Advice to, send them to the email address above!

Dear Bad Advice,

I’m hungry. Hungry all the time. Hungry for REVENGE.

Don’t really have a problem with it. Just thought you should know.

- Ghost Shark

This is going to sound like bad advice, but maybe it’s time to do something for you.

Anger is natural. Obsession is unhealthy. When you hunt down your enemies and kill them in ingenious and hilarious ways, you’re serving a memory, a grudge — you’re letting your (after)life be determined by what someone else did to you, not the choices you make for yourself. And what you think of as an epic quest for justice might seem…well, kind of silly to other people.

Ghost Shark, we’ve all been there. We’ve all fantasized about springing out of a bucket and eating our least favorite people alive. Okay, all people are your least favorite people, but I’m sure you have a few whom you especially find tasty dislike. Go ahead and feel your anger — let it run through you. But don’t start making decisions based on your dislike of someone else. That’s letting the humans control you just as much as they did when that one guy killed you the first time.

Ghost Shark, I can’t change you. Actually, I kind of don’t want to because you’re the fodder for some of my favorite memes right now, and without you I might start going to the weird part of reddit again to find something as funny. But just, you know, think about you for a second. Your options are limitless — do you really want to spend your sharky afterlife confined to buckets and slip-n-slides just for the sake of a cheap kill? Wouldn’t you prefer the freedom of the open sea? They sky’s the limit (when it’s raining you have some leeway on that, too). Go on a rampage of self-actualization.

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Bad Advice: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Crisis

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013 - by Hannah Sternberg

Submit your questions to PJMBadAdvice@gmail.com or leave a question in the comments section, and I’ll answer it in Bad Advice!

Source: Shutterstock

Dear Bad Advice,

I don’t know what to say. Nothing specifically is going wrong in my life, but I just don’t feel like it is where I want it to be. I’m only in my twenties, so I know I’m just getting started, but I can’t shake the feeling that I should be doing better. I have an okay job, a good group of friends, and an alright place, but I can’t stop thinking about the things I want: an even better job, a nicer apartment all to myself, more glamorous experiences. I feel like I’m stuck in spin cycle and I’m not getting any closer to the things I want, though. I still get help from my parents, and my job’s going nowhere and I’m not even sure if that’s what I want to do anymore, or what else I could do. Is there any way out?

-Quarter Life Crisis

I get this kind of question a lot from my friends. I’m no stranger to the quarter-life crisis; after all, while trying to think of the best way to write this column, I was looking at Game of Thrones embroidery and wondering if I was ever going to be as productive as I wish or as incredibly talented and skilled as the woman who created those costumes. Obviously I’d be a lot more productive if I weren’t spending hours on Buzzfeed whenever I got exhausted or discouraged, but that’s the sneaky part of the quarter-life crisis: I actually did write this column, and I will wake up tomorrow and keep doing things to pursue my goals (however long that might take) despite all my supposed time-wasting, but I won’t feel accomplished. Because life isn’t school, and those of us who were lucky enough to stay in school full-time until the age of 21 or 22 or even later have spent our entire conscious lives seeing goals as things that can be accomplished in a semester, and we get frustrated with anything with a longer lead time. We think that you have to crunch to get anything done, like studying for an exam; but life doesn’t have a lot of exams, and a lot of it is spent simply working slowly but steadily toward something that doesn’t have a handy pre-affixed date, like graduation.

This is going to sound like bad advice, but your quarter-life crisis isn’t a crisis. It’s just life.

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Bad Advice for the Royal Baby

Thursday, July 25th, 2013 - by Hannah Sternberg

Submit your questions to PJMBadAdvice@gmail.com or leave a question in the comments section, and I’ll answer it in Bad Advice!

Every week, in addition to my Wednesday Bad Advice column featuring questions from you, the readers, I’ll be doing a Thursday advice column for fictional characters, celebrities, and anyone else who didn’t ask for it. If you have suggestions for characters or celebrities you’d like me to give Bad Advice to, send them to the email address above!

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Dear Bad Advice,

I’ve only just entered this world and I’m already a celebrity. There’s not much I can do about it because it’s in my blood. How should I deal with the attention?

- Royal Growing Pains

This is going to sound like bad advice, but let your freak flag fly.

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Bad Advice: It’s Okay If Your Friends Date Losers

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 - by Hannah Sternberg

Submit your questions to PJMBadAdvice@gmail.com or leave a question in the comments section, and I’ll answer it in Bad Advice!

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Dear Bad Advice,

This is more of a general question than a specific one. I seem to have a bunch of female friends who only date losers. They’re nice, normal, non-dramatic girls themselves who deserve a lot better, but they seem to get into these relationships, over and over, with guys who are just lazy, inconsiderate, commitment-phobic, or lacking social skill. They’re not abusive guys; they’re just not as good as I know my friends could get, or deserve. I don’t know why my female friends keep going out with them, and keep putting up with those guys long after it should be obvious they’re losers. I’ve tried telling them they should do better for themselves, but they get angry or dismissive or they just ignore my advice. It doesn’t do anything to dispel the idea that “good guys always finish last.” How do I get them to realize they could do so much better?

- Protective Friend

This is going to sound like bad advice, but just let your friends date losers.

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Bad Advice for Rolling Stone

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 - by Hannah Sternberg
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Jim Morrison

Why the heck is Rolling Stone writing a cover story about Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? Short answer: to make money.

On its face it’s a self-defeating tactic, since their controversial cover, portraying Tsarvaev as a glamorous figure in a shot compared by some to famous pictures of Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison, has managed to get the issue boycotted by CVS, Walgreens, and several other major retailers. Somehow I think Rolling Stone will muddle through, though. One of the benefits of doing something massively controversial is that a lot of people will pay attention to you, write about you, and link back to you. (Like this post.)

So instead of talking about the cover story, which is due to get ample attention on its own, I wanted to look at Rolling Stone‘s defense of it:

The cover story we are publishing this week falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone‘s long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day.

This is going to sound like bad advice, but Rolling Stone: no one reads you for “serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day.” They read you because they like rock and roll, and they like being cool.

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Bad Advice: Slaying Facebook Trolls

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013 - by Hannah Sternberg

Submit your questions to PJMBadAdvice@gmail.com or leave a question in the comments section, and I’ll answer it in Bad Advice!

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Dear Bad Advice,

Recently I cleared out my Facebook friends list. It was getting out of control and I wasn’t seeing updates from people I cared about, because my newsfeed was so clogged up with people I haven’t seen in years and don’t really care about. The weird thing is, even though Facebook doesn’t notify you when you’ve been deleted by someone (at least, as far as I’m aware) a surprising number of the people I’d removed from my friends list noticed, and sent me angry or surprised messages asking me why I’d removed them! I barely interact with these people on FB or away from it, and I have no idea how they managed to notice so quickly, or why they seem to care so much. Any advice on how to respond to them?

- Tired of Facebook Fiends

This is going to sound like bad advice, but sometimes you just have to give someone the cold shoulder.

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Bad Advice for Hobbitses

Thursday, July 11th, 2013 - by Hannah Sternberg

Submit your questions to PJMBadAdvice@gmail.com or leave a question in the comments section, and I’ll answer it in Bad Advice!

Every week, in addition to my Wednesday Bad Advice column featuring questions from you, the readers, I’ll be doing a Thursday advice column for fictional characters, celebrities, and anyone else who didn’t ask for it. If you have suggestions for characters or celebrities you’d like me to give Bad Advice to, send them to the email address above!

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Dear Bad Advice,

I just joined a venture with an industrious, but quirky, group of people I barely know. They’re all from a very different culture than mine, much more confrontational and crude. On top of that, they even look a little different from me, so I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb. A lot of them don’t like me, even though they asked me to join them for my special skills, and all of them push me around and make fun of me a lot. I’m sick of it and I wish I could just go home and be comfortable again. But a part of me also longs to complete this adventure and prove myself. I just don’t know if I can do it. Help!

- Lagging Baggins

This is going to sound like bad advice, but stop trying to fit in.

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