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10 Ways Not to Land Your Dream Job

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Sure, you know how to write an assertive cover letter and you have a wardrobe of freshly pressed black and navy blue suits. But, just because you’re doing everything the manual tells you doesn’t mean you aren’t going to make a mistake in your job search. From my other life working in human resources, I give you the ten best mistakes applicants have made in pursuit of a job.

10. Want to include the fact that you taught an adult education course on photography on your resume? Don’t dub yourself “Adult Photography Instructor.”

Language matters. In the age of social media and Google, applicants should understand that lying on their resume isn’t an option. Just be sure you aren’t getting so creative with your wording that you make yourself sound more qualified for porn than a professional environment.

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The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part I

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

Dear Adam Bellow,

I’d like to congratulate you on building and launching Liberty Island. You’ve assembled an extraordinary team of writers — 25 so far profiled at PJ Lifestyle – with several of them beginning to contribute blog posts and freelance articles here. I’ll call them out, these are some really great writers and fascinating people: many thanks to Pierre Comtois, Jamie Wilson, Roy M. “Griff” Griffis, Michael Sheldon, Clay Waters, David Churchill Barrow, and  David S. Bernstein. And Karina Fabian too is about to make her debut shortly with a wonderful piece that I’m scheduling for tomorrow. Updated: don’t miss “10 Excuses For Why We Don’t Get More Done (And Why They Are Excuses).”

I can’t wait to get to know more of the Liberty Island writers and continue collaborations.

I appreciated your recent manifesto, “Let Your Right Brain Run Free,” at National Review and really only took mild issue with what seemed to me your overemphasis on the novel and pooh-poohing of film’s greater power to hypnotize viewers:

What about Hollywood? Many conservatives talk about the need to get into movie production. I agree this is very important, but it requires a massive investment of capital, and more to the point, I think people on the right are over-impressed with the power of film. To hear some conservatives talk you’d think movies were the Holy Grail, the golden passkey to the collective unconscious. This gets things precisely backwards. Sure, a successful Hollywood movie can have a major impact. But as a vehicle for political ideas and moral lessons, movies are simplistic and crude compared with the novels on which many are based.

Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis both produced big-budget movies that reached millions of people with what most of us would probably agree is a subtly conservative message. Yet both of these successful movie franchises ultimately pale in comparison with the impact of the books. Even at their best, movies are essentially cartoons and their effects are superficial and fleeting. Books engage the reader much more deeply, at a level of identification with the characters and plot that can instruct the soul and edify the mind. A hundred years from now, moreover, these classic books will still be read all over the world in dozens of languages when the films on which they are based are long forgotten or superseded by new forms of entertainment.

In short, conservatives should remember that mainstream popular culture is still largely driven by books. Fiction therefore is and will remain the beating heart of the new counterculture. This is not just my bias as a publisher. It is a practical reality — and a fortunate one for us, since there are hundreds if not thousands of conservative and libertarian writers out there today producing politically themed fiction. The conservative right brain has woken up from its enchanted sleep and it is thriving. Instead of banging on Hollywood’s front door, a better approach is to go in the back by publishing popular conservative fiction and then turning those books into films.

I will write novels someday. And I still enjoy reading good ones. Recently my wife pushed on me her newest obsession, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:

Here's the new book my wife has been obsessed with lately.... I'm going to try reading it. Americanah, a novel about a Nigerian #woman coming to #America. She says that it has a lot to say of value on the subjects of racial identity and cultures, which I am researching for my book.

The vivid narrative is a fictionalization of the author’s life and tells the story of a young Nigerian woman who immigrates to America and develops a career blogging about her discoveries among races and cultures. A wise excerpt from Page 273:

"What I've noticed being here is that many #English people are in awe of #America but also deeply resent it," Obinze said. Page 273 of #Americanah, a knock-you-on-your-ass great novel by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. #literature #culture #Africa #England #UnitedStates

The movie rights have, of course, been acquired, with Lupita Nyong’o and Brad Pitt starring. I can’t wait to see it.

So real life inspires blogging, blogging inspires a novel — the highlights of which are the blog posts in it — which in turn inspires a movie. I wonder how they’ll depict blogging in the film. Maybe they’ll update it and make her a vlogger on YouTube instead? Part of my wife’s enthusiasm for the novel was because the character was also part of the online “natural hair community,” black and mixed race women who share YouTube tutorials about methods for giving up straightening their hair with destructive chemicals and switching to natural styles and products instead. From page 13:

No wonder my wife loves the hero of this book so much. She's a #naturalhair #counterculture activist too. Page 13 of #Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, a Gen-Xer from Nigeria who is an astonishing writer. Almost done with first chapter. She also writes like my wife does with long, flowing sentences and wry observations...

My wife in her art has called them a counterculture:

My interdisciplinary work concentrates on the Ebony woman, Gen-X leaning Millennials, and our hair. Social media and video-based tutorials have influenced many Millennial women to embrace natural representations of their ethnic hair. These young women have become pioneers of the Millennial Natural Hair Movement, an expanding and informed counterculture responding to painful trends that date back to the early twentieth century.

Here’s an example of a video she made depicting the kinds of tips that circulate on YouTube amongst Natural Hair vloggers (she gave it an artsier spin):

I think this is an expression of the paradigm for today — that the various mediums of novels, film, and online media are blending back and forth together and the line between fiction and non-fiction blurs more too.

Recently when April and I made our move to South LA this summer in our packing and unpacking I had the opportunity to go through the DVD collection I’d accumulated over the last 15 years and assess the titles that still had the most value to me. As we’ve discussed and you know I’ve written about, so many of the movies and filmmakers that I once loved as a nihilistic postmodern college leftist I now regard with varying levels of disdain, disgust, and embarrassment.

But these are ones that I continue to regard with affection, that I still return to, and that I think can offer inspiration for your growing team of counterculture crusaders looking to change the world with their art. Some of them I’m a little bit more critical of than I once was, but they all still have some usefulness in some capacity or another…

(Note: this is a version 1.0 of this list, future editions will incorporate newly discovered films and suggestions from readers…)

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15 Tricks and Tips for Getting the Most Out of College

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

15. Everything you know about the social stratosphere is wrong…

College is nothing like high school. You understand this in theory, but have never experienced the kind of social freedom you will in college. There are no cliques. There is no lunch table. Welcome to the world of being an adult. For the first couple of weeks you’ll attend pre-arranged mixers, usually orientation events or annoying team-building activities your RA spent all summer training to lead. These awkward moments are helpful for one reason: Discovering who has a car. As a freshman, be aware that the parties you crash at frat houses aren’t for making friends, they’re for getting drunk and hooking up. You’ve been warned.

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‘Don’t Go to the Movies with Strangers’

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

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A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of reviewing Lisa de Pasquale’s memoir of life and love in Washington, DC, Finding Mr. Righteous.  Her honest, sometimes funny and sometimes heartbreaking tell-all about dating life in the conservative world struck a few chords with me, so I asked her some follow-up questions. Keep reading to find out how she’s dealt with people trying to figure out who’s in the book, the current status of her dating life, and the latest steps in her spiritual journey.

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5 Life and Relationship Lessons from Finding Mr. Righteous

Thursday, August 7th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

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Lesson #5: Everybody’s human. Very, very human.

I once heard a guy tell a story about a disastrous first date he went on. He was ultra-liberal, and didn’t realize the girl he’d asked out was a libertarian. They discovered their differences soon enough, and their debate was so fierce she left in tears. It didn’t end there, though; he followed up with links to articles and documentaries she had to see, to correct her point of view. She participated as well, sending him material from her own side. But it was clear there was no romantic possibility between the two of them — instead of finding love on a blind date, they found hate.

He asked, “What do you do? When you meet up with these DC vampires who are just dead set on destroying the world?”

I told him the first thing you do is stop denying their essential humanity by calling them monsters. Then, give them the benefit of the doubt by assuming they hold their views because they want to make the world a better place, too — or, at the very least, not because of some desire to burn it all down. I wish now I could have just given him a copy of Finding Mr. Righteous, the romantic memoir by conservative activist Lisa de Pasquale.

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8 Things I Learned Running a Ragnar with No Training

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

I was bored and restless the Wednesday I saw a friend post on Facebook that he knew a Ragnar Relay Race team that needed an extra member. That Friday, I was in a van full of camping equipment on my way into the mountains of West Virginia, wondering what the hell I’d just gotten myself into. I was about to break one of the cardinal rules my mother gave us in childhood: “If you can imagine William Shatner talking about it on Rescue 911, don’t do it.” My only comfort was that if I blogged about it, I might be able to write the trip off on my taxes as a business expense.

By Saturday night I had run 14.8 miles in three parts. I learned a lot about myself and bears that weekend. I also learned about the glory of human endurance, though I still haven’t learned exactly what foam rollers are for. And now, in the name of tax deductiblity, I will share those lessons with you.

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5 Ways to Avoid Dating Jerks

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg
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I’ve heard it plenty of times before: friends tell me all men are jerks and they just can’t seem to find and keep a good guy. Maybe part of it is fate, but a much bigger part is your picker — your internal sense of who’s a suitable companion for you. If more of my friends (and anyone else out there who bemoans the infestation of jerks in their dating lives) followed these simple rules right at the start of a relationship — in the choosing phase — they’d discover that the problem isn’t that all men are a**holes, but simply that too many of us choose to date someone who’s wrong for us for too long, making ourselves unavailable when the right guy comes along, and building resentment and bad feelings toward each other along the way. These rules go both ways — any man can (and should) follow them if he feels he often dates women who don’t behave well toward him. Since most appeals for advice on this subject that I’ve received have come from straight women, I’ve assigned gender pronouns accordingly — but the ideas are universally applicable. Check out these five mind-bogglingly simple steps to avoid your next dating disaster.

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10 Easy Ways to Make Your Apartment Look Grown-Up

Thursday, July 17th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

Millennials are growing up fast, but are their apartments? There’s a certain point in your life when you wake up and realize you don’t want your home to look like a college dorm anymore. But sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on exactly how to make a place look grown-up, while still retaining your unique sense of style. Having a grown-up looking place doesn’t mean you have to lose all of your own flair; there are a few general ideas that you can put your own twist on, whatever your taste. It all boils down to having an apartment where you can make people comfortable. Here are ten steps to get started.

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Want to Get Rich? Buy a Walgreens

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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I am reading a book by Tom Wheelwright called Tax-Free Wealth: How to Build Massive Wealth by Permanently Lowering Your Taxes (Rich Dad Advisors) and trying to figure out how to reduce taxes. Many of the strategies are a bit too complicated and risky for many people, including myself.

For example, in chapter nineteen on “The Magic of Real Estate,” the author suggests that you find a Walgreens to buy. You buy Walgreens property, they find the land, build the building, sell the land and building to the investor, and lease them back for 30 years. Okay, so now, you as the investor pay the mortgage. Then Walgreens sends you a check that you deposit in your account. “So you don’t have to do anything. You travel all over the world with the investment income for your Walgreen’s property til a ripe old age.”

The next paragraph goes into how one can use depreciation deductions to further shelter your taxes. All this “sounds” easy, right? Wrong, not to me anyway. You need accountants that are hard to get in touch with, constant documentation, and tax planning that sounds pretty complicated. In addition, I thought there was a depreciation recapture which means some of the money will have to be paid back at some point if you sell it. It sounds like a headache. And what if Walgreens goes bankrupt? What do you do then? Books like these always make it sound like nothing will go wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, the book is good, interesting and makes some good points about how to save on taxes but dealing with so many professionals, their costs and all of the accounting really sounds time consuming and if time is money, as the book mentions, aren’t you just trading one form of work for another?

If you have some simple tax saving strategies, please share them below (legal ones please!).

*****

cross-posted from Dr. Helen’s blog

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The Top 10 Tips for Surviving Summer Airline Travel

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

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Vacations can be wonderful experiences, but all too often they start out at an airport, which can be one of the most frustrating, uncomfortable, and stressful places on earth.  Here’s the top ten ways to make your airline travel a good experience.  Or at least not a nightmare.

10. Pack a small refreshment bag for the end of the flight.

Purchase the wisp toothbrushes that come with toothpaste already installed. Buy a packet of facial wipes. Take a last visit to the bathroom before landing to wash up, brush your teeth, comb your hair and prepare for your day. No matter how tired you are or how long the flight, the refreshment of a small amount of grooming helps energize you and get you ready to face your journey’s destination. Just avoid changing clothes. It never turns out well unless you’re David Spade in Tommy Boy

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10 Realities of Freelance Life

Thursday, June 26th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

As I’ve previously discussed, I recently made the transition to freelance work and I’m loving it. Many people have a romanticized view of freelance life, though, and there are a few hard realities I’ve encountered in my first few weeks that I thought I’d share with anyone considering taking the plunge.

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The Top 10 Movies Every Young Man Should Watch Before Dating

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

There’s a lot to learn before a young man enters the world of dating.  Here are the top 10 movies that have lessons that will educate him, help him, and get him ready to navigate the difficult world of dating.  Let’s start with number 10:

10. Starship Troopers

What? Did you expect The Notebook?  This movie about an alien invasion and battles between humans and bugs is nominally based on Robert A. Heinlein’s classic of the same name.

Why it’s important: The main character, Johnny Rico, is oblivious to Dizzy Flores, his fellow high school student.  She has a huge crush on him and eventually lands him by the oldest play in the book: proximity.  She sticks with him.  She’s at his side in the mud and blood of battle and when it comes time for him to decide between her and the gorgeous Carmen, his original love interest is far away and way out of the picture.  This is a movie with many flaws, but the singleminded pursuit of Rico by Dizzy Flores is worth examination.  Plus, of course, the battle scenes are epic.

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10 Ladies’ Room Rules That Will Keep Other Women from Hating You

Thursday, June 5th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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This one is for the girls. Not being completely familiar with the rules and regulations of trigger warnings, I’m a little hesitant about whether or not this is appropriate, but before I begin, let me just warn our male readers: continuing to read will rob you of your sense of awe about the mysterious and wondrous things that you think go on in the women’s restroom. Read at your own peril.

I’m attending some classes this week, which means I’m drinking copious amounts of coffee and therefore having to spend more time than I usually do in a public restroom frequented by other women — poised, professional-looking women who (by most measures) seem to have impeccable manners. But the minute I walk into the restroom I realize that women are the same wherever you go: It is a universal truth that women demonstrate appallingly uncouth behavior when they’re turned loose in public restrooms — especially when they are traveling in gaggles.

With that in mind I’d like to suggest a code of conduct for the ladies’ room — 10 Ladies’ Room Rules That Will Keep Other Women from Hating You.

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10 Surprisingly Unconventional Uses for Your Crock-Pot

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

While you likely already know that your crock-pot is fabulous for making mouth-watering stews, pot roasts, and soups, you might be surprised to learn just how wide a variety of concoctions you can create in your slow-cooker. Here are some surprising and unconventional uses for your crock-pot:

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1. Candles

A good quality, jar-sized candle at a specialty store can cost you close to $30. Fortunately, they’re not that difficult to make at home and they’re much less expensive than the store-bought varieties. By following a few easy steps you’ll enjoy homemade candles at a fraction of the price. Your friends and family will also appreciate your lovely scented gifts!

This is a great opportunity to get creative with glass jars you’ve recycled or found at thrift stores or yard sales. As long as the jars will fit in your crock-pot, you’re free to use your imaginate to create unique candles. In addition to the jars, you’ll need wax (renewable soy wax is slow-burning and soot free), essential oil or candle fragrance, candle coloring dye, and wicks. All of these supplies are available at craft stores or from online sources.

Instructions here.

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5 Things to Grab When You Hear the Tornado Sirens

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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‘Tis the season when those of us in the Midwest are serenaded by the tornado sirens on a weekly (if not daily) basis. Whether you head for shelter the minute the sirens go off or wait until you see the funnel cloud heading up your street, it’s important to think about what items you should grab on the way to safety. While you hopefully have emergency supplies like water, non-perishable food, self-powered flashlights and radio and a first aid kit in your basement or storm shelter, what other items will you need in the minutes and days immediately after your home is destroyed? What should you grab as you are heading for shelter?

Here are five things you can grab quickly and drop into a small bag as you’re running to safety — things you’ll be very glad to have in the event your home sustains significant damage:

1. Cell phone and charger

While most people will instinctively grab their cell phones on their way to the basement or shelter, it’s also important to grab your electric phone charger or, even better, a battery (or solar) operated charger. At the first sign of an impending storm, charge all of the family’s cell phones (and extra batteries if you have them) so you’ll be able to connect with first responders, other family members, and insurance companies in the event of a true emergency. If your home is damaged and you’re forced to relocate to a shelter or a hotel, you’ll likely have access to electricity, but chargers specific to your phone may not be available.

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5 Essential Hacks for Camping with Children

Saturday, May 10th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

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Camping season approaches, and spending time in the wilderness with your children is a joy but it can be a challenge too. Here are my five essential hacks for making sure the camping experience is a happy one for your family.

1) Bring Lots of Baby Wipes

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If your kids are out of diapers and you don’t think you need baby wipes any more, think again. Baby wipes aren’t just for diaper changes. The cooling, cleansing feel of a baby wipe makes all parts of a camping trip better. We pack three or four containers for each trip. In the morning, use baby wipes to clean faces and hands before breakfast. After breakfast, the tough wipes can clean out pots and pans so the food ends up in your trash bag and not on the ground near your campsite. Swish water in the pans after you’re done and they’re ready for the next meal. During the hot hours of the day, a baby wipe cools and refreshes the skin. At night, baby wipes clean sticky marshmallows off delicate fingers and faces. Which brings me to…

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What Are the 3 Different Kinds of Forgiveness?

Monday, May 5th, 2014 - by Prager University

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3 Tips for Falling Asleep at Night

Thursday, May 1st, 2014 - by P. David Hornik

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Getting to sleep at night has never been one of my talents. As a kid, fears kept me awake. As a teenager, I found the night the most intense time and didn’t understand why one was supposed to sleep during it. As an adult… if it wasn’t one thing that kept me awake at night, it was another.

Just recently I’ve been on a new regimen, and it’s actually working. There are three things I’ve been doing differently, and I’ve been sleeping with little or no trouble most nights. As for why I made these three changes, it did not come from any conscious decision but, apparently, from something on a subconscious level, some push for greater purity, a byproduct of which has been successful sleep.

I should add that if exercise is not one of the three things, it’s not because I don’t practice it but because I’ve already been practicing it for decades. I find it indispensable to decent mental and physical functioning. No, by itself it did not solve my sleep problem; but without it I wouldn’t have slept at all.

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The #1 Strategy for Happiness

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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“You need to have a good mood. Good family, good children, good work, and then you’ll be happy,” he added. “You need to be a sociable person. I love and respect all people. After what happened to me, I don’t only value my own life  more, but I deeply value the lives of all human beings. It’s very important to have good company and good friends. I view everything with optimism, it’s very  important.”

The observation seems simple enough, until you realize that they are the words of a Holocaust survivor. Over at Times of Israel, Margareta Ackerman details:

As a grandchild of a survivor, I’ve always had a  special interest in Holocaust studies. I have read many memoirs and attended  numerous classes on the subject. But, from the very first class in a small  Israeli school in the suburbs of Afula, to the courses I attended in a large  North American university — I had always felt that something I had learned from  my Grandfather was missing from these lectures.

For years, I had trouble pinning down that missing  piece. It frightens me that my grandfather’s gift may have been lost all  together: No one would have known that there once lived a man named Srulik  Ackerman, who challenged our understanding of human nature, and with that, could  bring hope in even the darkest of times.

…after just a few minutes with my Grandpa you  would see the mystery that had perplexed me for so many years. The first thing  that would strike you would be his wide, welcoming smile. Grandpa smiled and  laughed more than anyone I knew. He took every opportunity to tell jokes and  bring joy to others. Without a doubt, Grandpa was the happiest person that I had  ever met.

How was that possible? I spent two years writing his  memoir, hoping to discover his secret. But, even after the book was complete, I  still had no idea what gave him such unparalleled resilience.

So, I decided to ask him directly. “How do stay happy  on a daily basis?” I asked during one of our conversations.

Do yourself and your kids a favor: Get to know a Holocaust survivor so you, too, and your children can understand how a human being can survive and thrive in the face of death. There aren’t many survivors left, but there are countless resources through which you can interact with their thoughts and experiences. Tomorrow, the United States Holocaust Museum is sponsoring a Google+ Hangout with Holocaust survivors specifically geared towards school-aged children. Take advantage of this opportunity to get to know the real “secret” to happiness.

And don’t forget to thank them for sharing it.

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10 of Hannah Sternberg’s Greatest Hits

Sunday, April 27th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

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Editor’s Note: Hannah Sternberg is one of the most promising Millennial writers I’ve worked with over the years. Check out her debut novel Queens of All the Earth, an elegant, sensitive, coming of age story. (See my review here.) The roots of Hannah’s literary skills are evident in her lifelong reading and film consumptions and the deep thinking they’ve inspired. This assortment of 10 of her most popular and engaging articles show some of the ideas and influences that inform her fiction. I can’t wait for Hannah’s next novel and her future creative endeavors. Also check out the previous collections published this weekend: 10 of Walter Hudson’s Greatest Hits and 10 of Kathy Shaidle’s Greatest Hits.

 - Dave Swindle

1. October 1, 2011: Literary B-Sides: Five of the Most Under-Rated Books from Famous Authors

It’s time to get over the trauma of high school English class. These wonderful novels won’t bite.

2. February 6, 2012: Five Comic Books You’re Waiting, Wanting, Begging, Longing to See on TV

We’re tired of dreaming for a proper adaptation of Sandman.

3. January 21, 2013: I Hear You Like Bad Girls Too

A good girl takes Lana Del Rey’s relationship advice.

4. May 10, 2013: The Five Most Surprising Movie Adaptations

Screw the book, these were better.

5. May 5, 2013: Likes Long Walks on the Beach, and Porn Goddesses

What happens when husbands demand their wives meet the XXX-rated style in the bedroom?

6. May 15, 2013: Stop Expecting Your Friends to Show Common Decency

Flaky friends. No, they’re not great.

7. May 29, 2013: Advice for Grads: Stop Working So Darn Hard

Get over yourself, get a job, and stop caring so much about everything.

8. June 6, 2013: Four Childhood Activities You Should Never Give Up

Acting like a kid could make you happier, healthier, and smarter.

9. July 17, 2013: Bad Advice: Slaying Facebook Trolls

How to silence people who refuse to be defriended.

10. March 15, 2014: Five Secret Emotions Only E-Reader Addicts Understand

Diagnose your affliction; seek support in fellow sufferers.

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Were the Mayans Off by 2 Years?

Monday, March 17th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

Snow. Earthquakes. Political upheaval. Missing airplanes.

Do you need any more proof the end is near? I don’t — I just need to find my fireproof umbrella in the back of my coat closet.

My advice? Don’t be part of the screaming hordes. I know you want to be prepared, and there’s a lot of information out there for people who have their priorities straight: survival, and looking badass in a leather motorcycle jacket they tanned in their backyard. But I have a few lesser-known tips that could completely change your quality of life after the world economy collapses and the electrical grids go dark…

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How To Create Fantastic Covers For Your E-Books

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt

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Editor’s Note: This supplement to Sarah Hoyt’s Selling Your Writing In 13 Weeks series first ran during January and February of 2014. Independent authors and self-publishing entrepreneurs should also check out Sarah and Charlie Martin’s weekly Book Plug Friday series where they can submit their books for inclusion. 

Part 1: How to Judge Good Covers From Bad

Part 2: How to Create Your Covers Affordably

Part 3: The Tools You Need To Get Started

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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