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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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…
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
‘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.
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
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…
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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…
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.
While it’s not as famous as Edward Scissorhands or The Nightmare Before Christmas, Ed 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?
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.
Most folks first became aware of Dr. Benjamin Carson when he dared to speak out against Obamacare in front of the architect himself at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013. I had the privilege of meeting Ben Carson about 20 years earlier when my mother handed me his book Think Big. At the time, I was an above-average student who struggled in the public school environment. Despite being intellectually acceptable (but economically unqualified) for entrance into a prestigious private school, my own public institution refused to allow me to skip a grade because they felt I’d suffer socially.
As if being the #1 nerd in the room qualified me to be crowned Prom Queen.
An outcast, I’d spend most of my time feigning illness or sick with stress, looking for a reason – any reason – to get out of going to school. I knew my mother was right; I couldn’t run away forever. But, I didn’t have a reason to care enough to face my battles. What I needed then is what so many young people need now: A perspective greater than their own. They need to learn how to Think Big.
And so my mother encouraged me to encounter the story of Ben Carson, a young African American boy from the projects who rose out of the ghetto mindset by seeking a perspective greater than his own:
“I am convinced that knowledge is power – to overcome the past, to change our own situations, to fight new obstacles, to make better decisions.”
Carson’s illiterate mother required her 2 sons to turn into her 2 book reports a week. This practice turned Carson into a habitual reader, classical music listener, and Jeopardy! aficionado. His love of learning and imaginative fascination with science developed into the desire to become a neurosurgeon:
First, we cannot overload the human brain. This divinely created brain has fourteen billion cells. If used to the maximum, this human computer inside our heads could contain all the knowledge of humanity from the beginning of the world to the present and still have room left over. Second, not only can we not overload our brain – we also know that our brain retains everything. I often use saying that “The brain acquires everything that we encounter.”
Now, this is a cover that will work for today’s Amazon KDP and frankly, all online sites, and also for Create Space printing. (Yes, I need to tweak that tag line, and there’s too much white showing around the space under his arm, but that’s blendable.)
However, the standards weren’t always so high, and the covers I (and others) put up when KDP was young are borderline offensive to the eye now. Which probably explains why so few of my old stories that are up there sell.
So, we’ll take one — The Blood of Dreams — because I’ve never liked it, and also because I happened to see it the other day and find it offensive.
The Blood of Dreams is a vampire short story set in post-Soviet Russia. It was published in The Secret History of Vampires, where the conceit was you had to use and historic figure. (I was invited to contribute and had to come up with something.) The rights have reverted to me. So I put it out, I think over a year ago. And this is what the cover looks like:
Is this the most horrible cover I have out there? Not even close. And that’s me, and my covers were never the MOST horrible ones out there. (They were pretty close, though.) However, seriously, no one could mistake that for a professional cover, either. Let me count the ways:
It’s two photoshopped together (not convincingly) photos. The lettering work is Times New Roman, I think. It’s not even centered. And it doesn’t in any way signal genre.
In fact, if you considered this as a traditionally published book, you’d expect it to be “my experiences escaping the East in the eighties” or something.
So, let’s give this much abused story a new look, shall we?
So, first I go to Morguefile and let my fingers do the walking (if I can find something in morgue file I don’t need to pay for it. So I’d like to at least get the background in morgue file.) My first search term is Russia. I’m looking for something (like that background) identifiable as “Russian.”
This is the photo I decided on:
It’s by fmfm166 at morguefile.
While I’m running it by Filter Forge, I’m going to look for a photo of a woman. Last resort, I’ll go to Dreamstime.com but the problem is that this limits how much I can show you. (I.e. picture of a woman pre-manipulation is right out, and in fact, I shouldn’t show you anything but the finished cover. It’s a license thing.) Look, the story involves a woman and vampires, and Moscow and Lenin and Stalin. I could, I grant you, use a drawing of Lenin or Stalin, but a woman on the cover will sell better.
If I go to dreamstime I won’t be able to put the raw picture here, because dreamstime is a specific license, though. I will put the transformed picture of the background, and then the full cover. But meanwhile let me look other places.
Success. Wikimedia commons has a photo of a painting by Ferdinand Keller which, since he died in 1922 is fair game. It’s a highly dystopic looking painting, so perfect. (It is by the way, photographed by Hampel Auctions.)
Since the image is an oil and in a certain style, it restricts what I can do with the background, too.