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10 Ways ’90s Pop Culture Destroyed the American Male

Monday, July 14th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

10. If guys didn’t look like heroin-addicted street dwellers…

Before committing suicide, musician Kurt Cobain copyrighted the grunge look that came to define Gen-X/millennial crossovers in the ’90s. A reaction to the preppie style made famous by ’80s yuppies, grunge involved a level of disheveled that transcended even the dirtiest of ’60s hippie looks. Grunge trademarks included wrinkled, untucked clothing complemented by greasy, knotted hair and an expression best defined as heroin chic. The style depicted an “I don’t care” attitude that took punk’s anti-authoritarian attitude to a darker, more disengaged level. Grunge became the look of resigned defeat among American males.

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13 Jewish Women Who Changed the World

Sunday, June 29th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

13. Bess Myerson

Recognizing a woman who appears to have parlayed her Miss America recognition into a minor-league acting gig may not seem logical, until you realize that Bess Myerson, the first Jewish Miss America, paved an uphill path for diversity in the pageant circuit. She was told by one Miss America exec that she ought to change her name to something “more gentile” and refused. Pageant sponsors refused to hire her as a spokeswoman and certain sites with racial restrictions refused to have her visit as Miss America. This was of no consequence to Miss Myerson, who was the first Miss America to win an academic scholarship. The racism she confronted was motivation for a lifetime’s work with organizations like the ADL, NAACP, and Urban League. She would go on to co-found The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York and make boundless contributions to the city’s art community. Along with becoming a television personality, Myerson received several presidential appointments in the 1960s and ’70s and would receive two honorary doctorates.

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Matt Walsh Demonstrates Why Christians Need Biblical Feminism

Sunday, May 4th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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In an entry titled, “Christian women: feminism is not your friend” published on his popular Matt Walsh Blog in April, the conservative Christian commentator concluded that Christian “women (and men)” needed to stop identifying with feminism because the movement is essentially all about abortion.

Embracing the stereotypical liberal definition of feminism as a movement dedicated to starting and waging the War on Women, Walsh discussed the feminist fight for equality:

This is a pretty convincing indication that feminism has, at the very least, outlived its good. There is nothing surprising about that, because feminism, unlike Christianity, is a human construct. It’s an ideology. It’s a political theory. It’s a label. It is not eternal, it is not perfect (there’s the understatement of the decade), and it is not indispensable.

Feminism, like ‘liberalism,’ like ‘conservativism,’ like the Republican Party, like the Democrat Party, is a finite thing that exists and serves a certain purpose in a certain set of circumstances. When the times change, and the circumstances change, it will either die or its purpose will change.

Walsh then dug into medieval history, noting that women were given “equal standing” in certain English trade guilds in the Middle Ages, contrary to the following:

“The fact that guilds seldom permitted women to become masters did in the end relegate them to the least-skilled and certainly least-remunerative aspects of the trade”. This statement shows that the fact that women were not openly admitted to the professional guilds led to the downfall of the woman’s status as a worker during this time period. Since “[m]ale masters displayed no eagerness to train young women, and with few or no women recognized as masters, the guilds did contribute to the narrowing opportunity for women”.

Along with neglecting these facts, Walsh also did not note that neither the Christian Church, nor political leaders who identified with Christianity, demanded that equal professional or political rights be given to women (let alone non-Christians) on either side of the Atlantic.

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HBO Green Lights Men & Capitalism

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Warning: Not Safe for Work (profanity)

In his new HBO series Silicon Valley, Mike Judge turns his cutting sarcasm on the wunderkind of Silicon Valley, issuing awesome commentary on 21st century masculinity.

Thomas Middleditch portrays Richard Hendricks, a developer who creates a miracle algorithm with revolutionary file compression capabilities. He is the anti-Don Draper: a skinny, nervous twenty-something dressed in cargo pants and a hoodie; Hendricks is the lost member of the Big Bang Theory click. He lives with two other computer geeks in “the incubator,” a house owned by the overtly obnoxious yet humorous Erlich Bachmann (hysterically portrayed by T.J. Miller), whose app, Aviato, has turned him into one of the many tech venture capitalists in Palo Alto. 

Hendricks turns down a 10 million dollar offer from his tech guru boss Gavin Belson, owner of the fictional Google-ripoff “Hooli,” who is anxious to purchase the miracle algorithm. Instead, Hendricks elects to accept eccentric investor Peter Gregory’s offer of $200,000 for 5% of his start-up company, Pied Piper. It’s the best argument for capitalism and small business being made on television today. In electing to start his own business instead of running with the cash, Hendricks inspires his fellow nerds and is forced into maturity. Within the first three episodes he transitions from panic attacks to developing a business plan and entering his first series of negotiations.

With his 1999 hit Office Space, Judge issued a powerful statement about the death of masculinity in the corporate world. With Silicon Valley, his declaration is refined into a statement about how the free market can be used to empower men — primarily nerdy white guys and the Asians who hang with them. In the first episode, Hendricks declares:

Look guys, for thousands of years, guys like us have gotten the sh*t kicked out of us. But now, for the first time, we are living in an era where we can be in charge and build empires. We could be the Vikings of our day.

Judge also takes sharp jabs at the men who propagate corporate culture. Hooli’s Gavin Belson is a “global”-minded laughable yuppie with a Messiah complex who is “committed to social justice” and keeps a “guru” around to remind him how wonderful and unique he is. “If we can make your audio and video files smaller, we can make cancer smaller,” he proclaims as he races to compete with Pied Piper’s formidable nerds.

It will be interesting to see how women are treated within the show. In episode 3, Bachmann (who wears a shirt that reads “I know H.T.M.L.: How To Meet Ladies”) orders up an exotic dancer as a “gift” to reward the Pied Piper crew. The guys retreat to the kitchen, anxious to avoid an awkward scene. The one guy who she manages to trap declares his love for her, and is later found hanging out at the dancer’s home… playing video games with her children.

The series is peppered with Judge’s raunchy humor, but unlike Family Guy it is relatively sparse and works to advance instead of interrupt the story. The Big Bang Theory may have ushered in the era of the nerd, but Silicon Valley is taking America’s love affair with geeky guys and masculinity to a newer, deeper, and much-needed level of respect.

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The Rise of the Robot Employee

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

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President Obama’s new initiative is a higher minimum wage, and if he is successful the result will not be higher-paid employees heading off to work every day. Instead their jobs will be filled by an entirely new sort of worker: Robots.

Robots, unlike humans, don’t require pay or sick time or vacations. If they break they’re thrown out and recycled. Robots are expensive, but the threat of a higher minimum wage is now making a robotic worker more cost-effective than hiring a real person.

Across Japan the noodle-making chefs are now made of metal, and when you order a Big Mac at a MacDonald’s in Europe you do it by touch screen. A company called Momentum Machines in southern California has developed a robot that cranks out 400 perfectly-prepared burgers every hour. (Note: Robots do not sneeze. Ever. Think about that for a bit.)

Where is this going? Are we heading for a future where slinky femme fatale robots plot the destruction of mankind while wearing the perfect red dress?

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The Girls Season Finale: Second-Guessing Steinem Feminists

Friday, March 28th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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If there’s one refreshing thing to be said of the season finale of Girls, it’s that Lena Dunham is not a stereotypical feminist after all.

The series finale of Girls opens with Hannah bumping into Adam’s looney sister who is now living with her equally nutty downstairs neighbor, Laird. Newly returned from a hippie commune, the pair are expecting their first child. Hannah asks and is granted permission to touch Caroline’s womb, which she does so with an expression of both doubt and awe. In the next scene, Hannah walks into her own apartment and she touches her own womb in absent-minded contemplation. She is then quickly distracted by an acceptance letter to graduate school in Iowa.

In her typical selfish fashion, Hannah presents her grad school acceptance to Adam minutes before his Broadway premiere. If it wasn’t so sweetly presented you’d think it was a vengeful move. Consequently, Adam feels that his performance has been thrown off. As a result, their relationship goes into full meltdown at the stage door after the show. Adam is outraged that Hannah presented her success to him before he went live: “Why can’t anything ever be easy with you?” he questions angrily.

The well played plot point mirrored Shoshanna’s own struggle at Ray’s rejection. “If memory serves, you’re the one who jettisoned me a while ago,” Ray comments before Shoshanna interjects, ”I want you back,” explaining, “I made a mistake…this entire year of freedom was just f-ing stupid…you make me want to be the best version of myself, and I just want to pretend that I was never not your girlfriend before.” “You pushed me forward in a lot of ways and I’m eternally grateful for that,” Ray explains before finishing with, “but right now, we’re in two different places with very, very, very different goals.”

In the post-episode commentary, Dunham focused on the idea that “relationships aren’t easy,” but the full impact is smarter than that: The episode that begins with the announcement of a pregnancy ends with Hannah’s excited expectations for what Iowa may bring. Embracing second wave feminist legacy, Dunham’s pregnancy metaphor introduces the next battle in the Children versus Career war, questioning the point of male/female sexual relationships.

Rupert Holmes once penned a beautiful line regarding two characters parting in the series Remember WENN: “This is what happens to love when people are in love.” Love is more than a sexual high, a status symbol, or a comfort zone. Love is required work, firstly on the part of one’s self. In their me-driven environment, second wave feminists created the idea that a romantic relationship, not unlike a commune, is nothing more than the temporal cohabitation of two individuals with shared interests. That ideology gave birth to the “Selfie Generation” of which Hannah Horvath is Queen.

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You Can’t Wish Away the Fertility Gap

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

Jill Knapp begs us to “Please Stop Asking Me When I’m Going to Have Children.”

Being that I am still a newly-wed and have just moved to a new city, I am in no rush to have a kid. This is an unacceptable answer to a lot of people. The constant reminders that your clock is ticking and that you don’t want to be confused for your child’s grandparents when they grow up are not making us move any faster. Having children is a big responsibility.

What Jill doesn’t understand is that her fertility is not subject to whim or wishful thinking. Her chances of getting pregnant decline rapidly after 30. By age 40, less than 5 out of every 100 women will be successful at conception. When the Jills of this world decide they want children at 36 or 38 or 42, they enter a long, often fruitless quest for safe pregnancy and childbirth.

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Men achieve fertility at 12 years old and can father children all the way to 96. Women have a narrow fertility window of around 16 to 40. That’s a fertility gap of up to fifty years!

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You Want to Work for a Company Run Like This

Friday, March 14th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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I never thought the day would come when I got genuinely excited about business management. I do not own a business. Nor am I a manager. Be that as it may, I can’t stop thinking about the potential applications of something called “lean management.”

Have you ever trained in a new hire? If so, perhaps you’ve watched as their initial eagerness and exuberance fade into doldrum and routine upon their learning “how things are done around here.” Perhaps you advised:

No, you’re working too hard….

No, we don’t do it like that….

No, that’s not your job….

Listen, if you expect things to make sense, you’re just going to end up frustrated and disappointed. Go with the flow.

I must confess to having dispensed such advice on more than one occasion. Deep down, I have always resented it. Responding to the muted exuberance of a new hire, I recall my own lost exuberance and ask:

Why don’t things make sense around here? Why doesn’t it pay to work harder? Shouldn’t processes be as efficient as possible?

Meh, that’s above my pay grade. It’s for the managers to worry about. I’m just here for the paycheck.

Organizational structure and management style enable such fatalism and contribute to an inefficient and even antagonistic workforce. When initiative and innovation go unrewarded and even punished, the game becomes doing just enough in just the right way to stay below the radar.

Concisely introduced in the above video, lean management presents an alternative to the modern management style employed in most organizations. Instead of managerial authority, lean management concerns itself with managerial responsibility. Instead of judging performance by results, lean management judges performance by process, recognizing that properly performed processes will deliver intended results. Instead of coming up with an authoritative plan, lean management conducts experiments in a kind of scientific process utilizing feedback to constantly adjust the plan. Instead of making decisions in sterile conference rooms looking at data without context, lean management gets its hands dirty inspecting the value-creation process and asking workers about their work. Speaker Jim Womack outlines these points in greater detail in the video below.

You can begin to imagine what it might be like to work in an organization managed in this way. Exuberance and enthusiasm would suddenly become welcome and profoundly relevant. You would be encouraged to offer feedback and solicit experimental changes to processes. Your job would be safe when innovation fails, because it would be generally understood that experiments are experiments. When innovation worked, you would be rewarded and fulfilled.

The quirky genius of lean management is that it’s not even clever. It’s just the recognition of objective reality and the application of the scientific method to the craft of management. Things are what they are. Processes work how they work. And we ought to adjust our plans accordingly. It’s stupid brilliant.

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Our Bodies, Our Only Sense of Self

Thursday, March 13th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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The MSM’s latest fetish, college girls-turned-porn stars for tuition money, smacks of the rotten legacy of second-wave feminism’s “our bodies, our selves” mantra. Take the story of Belle Knox, a Duke University fresh-girl forced to do porn for the tuition money. While her sleaze-bag of an agent attempts to milk her 15 minutes with stories of a poor girl turned out by multimillionaire parents (a story she later changed when chatting with Piers Morgan), Belle Knox views herself as anything but a victim.

The 18-year-old appeared on front pages across the globe and sat down with Piers Morgan for a CNN interview using only her stage name and claiming that she was not ashamed of what she was doing and, in fact, felt ‘empowered’ by her career.

I’m not being exploited. I love what I’m doing and I’m safe,’ insists the women’s studies major.

Women’s studies major. Good thing she’s in porn, considering her future career choices at this point don’t rise far above McDonald’s worker (and we all know how poorly they’re paid). Seriously, though, paying for your women’s studies degree by doing porn? Has anyone stopped being sucked in by the rich-girl lifestyle to consider that glaring irony? Or the fact that her women’s studies major has justified her career choice?

She told her student newspaper in an interview last week: ‘My entire life, I have, along with millions of other girls, been told that sex is a degrading and shameful act. When I was five-years-old and beginning to discover the wonders of my body, my mother, completely horrified, told me that if I masturbated, my vagina would fall off.

‘The most striking view I was indoctrinated with was that sex is something women “have,” but that they shouldn’t “give it away” too soon -– as though there’s only so much sex in any one woman, and sex is something she does for a man that necessarily requires losing something of herself, and so she should be really careful who she “gives” it to.’

The vapid meanderings of Belle Knox illustrate the very scary impact of the second-wave feminist notion that our bodies really are our selves. Beyond our physicality, we have nothing left, no brain, no feeling, to “lose” or invest in a sexual encounter.

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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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The New Morality: Crying Over Served Cake

Thursday, February 27th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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In this day and age, why would you be stupid enough to use your religious beliefs as an excuse to deny someone services?

There are plenty of ways to avoid entering into a business transaction without having to appear discriminatory at all. When I worked for a private repair shop and encountered a client who seemed to be more trouble than they were worth for whatever reason, we used to simply say, “I am sorry, but we cannot provide service.” If people questioned why (which they did, very often and with plenty of attitude), we just kept repeating the same phrase: “I’m sorry, we cannot provide the service.” No one interpreted us as being discriminatory, or went as far as attempting legal action. We were simply annoying, so they moved onto a business that was willing to enter into the transaction. No harm, no foul.

That is the beauty of the free market: You have choices. If a bakery simply said “I am sorry, we can’t provide that service,” and left it at that, a gay couple denied service might interpret the owner’s choice as being discriminatory, but they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on in court. You can’t sue based on an inference. Progressives, however, rely on the courts to push their agenda because Big Government is their god. So the minute you breathe a hint of something that could be misconstrued as an opportunity for a lawsuit, they gain home-court advantage.

By simply saying, “I am sorry, we can’t provide that service,” you may be opening yourself up to some annoying picketing and internet memes, but what’s the worst that will do? Throw you in the same court as Chick fil-A? We all know how well that protest worked out. The bottom line is, you’re letting the free market decide your fate, not the courts.

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Student Survival Tactic: Think Big

Thursday, February 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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.”

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4 Ways Being a Sorority Girl Prepared Me for the Real World

Saturday, February 15th, 2014 - by Becky Graebner

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in October of 2013. It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists of 2013. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months…

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I was what every freshman girl in college was: new, bright-eyed, and looking for friends.  Although my campus was small (2,100 people total), I wanted to find my niche.  I decided to go through the sorority-recruitment process in order to meet other girls on campus and, hopefully, find a home away from home.  Although recruitment season usually indicates long days, sleepless nights, and over-caffeinated, stressed-out girls, this process does teach life lessons–such as how to be strong in an interview or a good conversationalist.

I know this last sentence sounds preposterous. How could going through the process of recruitment or “rush” to join a “house” of women on a college campus prepare anyone for life? Or a job interview? Or how to carry on a conversation?

Hear me out.

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HBO’s Girls Get a Much-Needed Dose of Reality

Thursday, February 13th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
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Hannah Horvath has a “What am I doing with my life?” moment common in corporate bathrooms the world-over.

It took 3.5 seasons, but finally I found something culturally relevant in Girls.

The latest episode, Free Snacks raised barely a blip in the world of Girls criticism, most likely because it played more like a Woody Allen movie than your typical Girls episode rife with awkward sex and lunatic meltdowns. In fact, for the first time ever the few sex scenes featured in this episode were actually relevant to character exposition and development. I’ve thoroughly criticized Dunham for being a sacrificial goddess on the altar of pop culture, but this episode has left me hoping that perhaps Lena Dunham isn’t that kind of girl after all.

The episode opens with Hannah quitting her job at Ray’s coffee shop to become an advertorial writer at GQ. Thrilled after her first day’s success, she arrives home to find that Adam walked out of another audition because he didn’t like the direction he was given. The moment foreshadows the following day, when Hannah is confronted by the fact that her co-workers, who are more accomplished writers than she, turned their backs on their “spiritually fulfilling” writing for corporate jobs with steady salaries, health benefits and perks. Hannah’s nervous breakdown moment is priceless: Dunking her head under the bathroom sink, she walks her wet head into her boss’s office, responding to the compliment “you remind me a lot of myself,” with “I quit.”

When her boss doesn’t fight for her to stay on, Hannah rethinks her decision and asks to stay on. By this point, her boss brushes her off: “Email me when you make a decision.” Later that evening Hannah arrives home to find out that Adam, who stuck to his guns, crushed an audition and is one step closer to fulfilling his career dreams. Now it’s Hannah who has compromised herself for her dreams. “I’m going to write for 3 hours every night, no matter what,” she explains to Adam before passing out on the couch, exhausted.

No meltdowns. No emotional crises. No meandering self-obsession. And Hannah managed to convey a range of emotion without once getting naked. She also confronted a totally relevant issue that every 20-something college graduate is forced to face: The earth-shattering compromise of career dreams with economic realities. This theme resonates with Hannah, who realizes that the joy in paying her bills may come at the price of her personal writing aspirations. Yet, it is also relevant to Shoshanna in an emotional sense when she begins to believe that her ideal mate is a whim to be sacrificed at the altar of “relationship”.

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Fifth Beatle Brian Epstein’s Unsung Revolution

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Gay at a time when homosexuality was a felony and Jewish in an era of “polite” antisemitism, one Liverpool lad broke into entertainment management at a time when the Anglo Lords in London ruled the biz. 50 years later the music world is only beginning to acknowledge that there’d be no Beatles without their manager, Brian Epstein.

This past weekend, Vivek Tiwary, the Gen-X producer that brought Green Day’s American Idiot to Broadway, spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at The Fest for Beatles Fans about his mission to bring Epstein’s little known story to life via a critically acclaimed graphic novel, The Fifth Beatlereleased by Dark Horse Comics.

What I unearthed after much difficult research (there is a paltry amount of information readily available on Brian, which is part of why I want to bring his story to the world) was not just an inspirational business story and a blueprint for what I wanted to accomplish with my career, but also a very human story, as summarized above. It’s a story I could relate to—and wanted to relate to—on so many levels. Brian became my “historical mentor”, if you will. A person from whose history I’ve tried to learn from—both what to do and what NOT to do. Brian was certainly a flawed and imperfect hero, but a hero all the same.

Tiwary has drawn inspiration from Epstein’s trailblazing ingenuity, citing that without Epstein’s persistence, Ed Sullivan never would have brought The Beatles to America. “People scoffed when I brought Sean Combs to Broadway in A Raisin in the Sun because they didn’t believe that Broadway attracted a black audience. I told them that was ridiculous; if we gave them a product they wanted, they would come.” Like Epstein decades before, Tiwary’s was a winning gamble.

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Getting Healthy In 13 Weeks

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt
You have to know when to leave them wanting more.

You have to know when to leave them wanting more.

In Which The Writer Takes A Curtain Bow.

You’ve probably noticed a marked lack of updates on the getting healthy in thirteen weeks post.  At least I hope you did, because otherwise I’m going to go in the backyard and eat worms.

Okay, let’s suppose you did notice I was gone (“How can we miss you, if you just won’t go away?) and were wondering where this series had gone.

First let me explain how things have been going: we’re three weeks in.  I’ve lost six pounds, slept better and not gotten sick.  The last is a bit of an achievement.

I’ve cut down on carbs, except for today (there’s a long story behind that, but let’s just say today was a bad day.  Tomorrow is not defined by today and I’ll get back on that horse.)  I’ve taken a walk every day that’s been at least 20 at a time I can walk (unfortunately, that’s about 3 days in the last three weeks.)  I have tried to do stuff around the house that can be considered “exercise.”  This has not included formal exercise, more’s the pity.  And I’ve done exactly zero relaxing/fun activities, though I’ve tried to persuade one of my best friends that doing covers actually falls under that category.  It does, I think, or at least it “pulls from the same side” and is fun – sort of – because I’m learning so much new stuff.  It’s not exactly or fully relaxing though, because it’s stuff that must be done.

And here we come upon the purpose of this post.

I’ve mentioned before that when my husband and I were first married, we were so ridiculously, so profoundly broke that we couldn’t make a budget.  Whenever we made a budget we always came to the same conclusion “there’s no way we can survive this month.”

But we always sort of did.  Because one month when we’d hit rock bottom, had an empty fridge and $5 in the bank, they had a sale on chicken in the nearby supermarket.  We bought two chickens, roasted them, and lived on chicken for a week.  Another time Dan’s company had a party, and he brought back enough sandwiches to last us for two weeks.  (They’d seriously overbought food.)  Another time the store I worked for threw away a whole bunch of candles and knick knacks while clearing a back storage room.  So, I told Dan to drive around back, and we had a garage sale, which allowed us to replenish food AND (very important and how you know we were newly weds) toothpaste until the next pay check.

So we coasted from pay check to pay check, dependent on miracles, until we started making a little more, and we could survive without these harrowing incidents.  Then we budgeted, but it was so tight that if we had to buy saline solution one week, it threw us off.

Anyway, I’ve jokingly said that’s how tightly budgeted I am on time.  This is part of the whole “Taming the workmonster” thing with Charlie.

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To Be a Winner In Life You Must Take Risks

Saturday, February 1st, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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I am reading a new book by Tom Panaggio entitled The Risk Advantage: Embracing the Entrepreneur’s Unexpected Edge. Panaggio is and entrepreneur and was a race car driver who:

… has learned that you cannot avoid risk if you want to be a winner. In The Risk Advantage, Panaggio tells the story of how he and his business partners built two thriving companies: Direct Mail Express (which now employs more than 400 people and is a leading direct marketing company) and Response Mail Express (which was eventually sold to equity fund Huron Capital Partners). The book is designed as a guide for those who are contemplating an entrepreneurial pursuit, are already engaged in building a business, or are currently working for someone else and want to inject their entrepreneurial ideas and attitude.

As I read through the book about the rewards of taking risks in building a business, one point jumped out at me. The author says that risk must be embraced in order to be successful; yet people are afraid of risk. “Risk means having to face an uncertain outcome.”

In terms of the differences between men and women, what does this mean? If women are more risk averse in business, they will be less successful. In our risk averse society, where everyone must be covered from cradle to grave and have the hand of a “benevolent” government guiding them, what does this mean for the entrepreneurial spirit? Add to this the punishing taxes and regulations on small business and it is a recipe for less economic growth.

Will men become more risk averse as time goes on due to the social conditioning that risk is bad? Or, even if willing to take business risks, will men decide it is not worth the trouble due to the restraints of the government? Or will they become more risk-takers by going to the underground economy and staying below the radar? I suspect that the latter option will become more popular for men while women will flock to safer jobs and opportunities funded by the government.

****

Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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Men: Act Like a Lady if You Want to Get a Job

Sunday, January 12th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

menwork

It’s the economy, stupid.

So says Rachel Burger, who believes that the current economy is to blame for the demise of masculinity, not those darned feminists:

The reality is that the economy–that men themselves created–is far more to blame for the sorry state of American men. The Internet Age, along with global trade and the mass outsourcing of low-skill labor has brought forth in the West a people-based and knowledge-based economy which emphasizes social intelligence. Young women are now outpacing men across the board, from education to employment, and men should take a hint. If men want to pursue their roles as providers and achievers, they’re going to have to woman up.

It’s not the girls’ fault. “After all, it was men who invented the Internet, who created and sold mass-produced computers, who shipped jobs overseas and who even fashioned social media.” Thanks, Mark Zuckerberg.

Burger’s is a thinly veiled response to Camille Paglia’s praise of the “modern economy as a male epic” published last month in Time. Unlike Paglia, Burger comes to the table lacking an understanding of the relationship between economy and gender. With a millennial’s narrow perspective on American history, Burger manages great insight into the post-dot-com world of social intelligence-based tech companies while completely skipping over the debacle of NAFTA with the grossly prejudicial term “low-skill labor.”

In that primordial decade known as the ’90s, America’s manual labor industry was eviscerated by the North American Free Trade Agreement. Seventeen years after the agreement was signed, studies showed a loss of 682,900 American jobs, 60% of which were lost in the manufacturing industry. That doesn’t include the jobs that would be necessary without the imports from NAFTA — a whopping 1.47 million. Those jobs, and the financial boost that would’ve come with them, sure would’ve come in handy in 2008 when, as a result of the recession, the U.S. lost 2.6 million jobs. Mexico, the nation that continues to profit from NAFTA, does not defame nor downplay the benefits of so-called “low-skill labor.”

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How To Write A Proposal

Saturday, January 11th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt
You want to write a novel?  For me?

You want to write a novel? For me?

If you’re going to go through traditional publishing (which might still be feasible at times) or even if you’re submitting to one of the new micro presses, there will come a time, after you’ve done a pitch for the book or after you met an editor at a convention, or even after you sent in a query asking if they wanted to see your idea, where someone will say, “Sure, send me a proposal and three chapters.”

There was a time when these words struck terror in me.  This is because I had clue zero how one wrote “a proposal” or a synopsis, or any of that stuff.  (Technically the “proposal” is three chapters and a synopsis, but half the time the editor asks for a “proposal and three chapters.”  Don’t stress, she really means a synopsis.  Well, sort of. Calm down, all will be revealed.)

Then while I was sitting at a writer’s group meeting, I told the lady next to me I had no idea how to do this, and she sketched it for me in the back of an envelope.  This was not QUITE all that was needed.  The subtleties of the different types of proposal and developing the art of a “selling” proposal took a little longer.

I can’t in a single article propose to teach you all the details of writing a selling proposal, but I can perhaps help you along.

First, remember that a proposal/synopsis is a selling tool.  Unless you’re asked to do a chapter by chapter synopsis, don’t do that.  I thought that was the only form of proposal for the longest time, but if you read a proposal that is written that way, your eyes quickly glaze over.  Yes, it might be a complete picture of your plot, but a book is more than a plot.  First, the person must know why they would care about what your characters are doing.  This is often a mistake of newbie writers, too, when you ask “tell me about your novel.”  They don’t give us what is neat about their novel, or the overarching reason I should care, but (using Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice because even if you haven’t read it – philistine! – you can look up the plot or watch a mini-series – but not the movie, because it sucks) they’ll tell you something like this,

“There’s this family, and they have all these girls see, and then there’s this assembly in town, and then the older one meets this guy and he’s rich and they like each other, but then the younger one meets his friend who is even richer, but he’s all like stuck up and proud.”

A chapter by chapter synopsis is often like that, but at greater length and even more boring.

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Taming the Workmonster

Saturday, January 11th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
This is Charlie's mind with a new idea!

This is Charlie’s mind with a new idea!

Hi, everyone. My name is Charlie, and I’m not a workaholic. Honest. I mean, I do tend to get up at 6AM and find myself sitting in bed at 10PM thinking I should be writing something more before I go to sleep, and I have been known to get stubborn about a programming problem and work 30 hours straight, but I can give it up anytime, really.

Okay, yes, I am being a little facetious and before anyone gets their drawers in a monkey’s-fist with six inches of square chain sinnet, I’m not making fun of alcoholics or addicts or anyone else who’s been helped by 12 Step programs; I’m making fun of myself. But with a point: I do tend to overwork.

What I am is a creative. I am continually assailed by ideas, things I want to write, build, paint, or create. My observation of creatives is that they live in one of two states: they are either driven, or they’re blocked. Being blocked is horrible (and a topic for another time, but let me say if you are blocked, go out right now and read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande.) Being driven is fun — you’re doing something you love and you’re excited and you don’t want to stop.

However…

A running complaint that Sarah and I share is that while it’s great doing this, it also has its limits. Sarah knows she’s hit her limit when she gets some horrible respiratory bug or sinus infection. I know it when I get depressed, irascible (yes, even more irascible) and end up spending two days in bed, sleeping or playing computer solitaire.

I have a second issue with this. I tend to be what Barbara Sher calls a scanner — not my favorite word for it, since I’m a Cordwainer Smith fan, so maybe you could say “hummingbird” or “butterfly”. (Where does a 6′ 3″ 265 pound butterfly land? Anywhere he damn wants.) In any case, in a lot of ways I’m motivated by learning new things and rewarded by that first skin-prickling hit of a cool new idea, but tend to go “lookit, a squirrel” off after the next idea when it hits.

So Sarah and I have decided to collaborate on a new 13 week experiment in managing two competing desires:

  • being optimally productive
  • without sacrificing health and sanity. Or at least health.

We’ll be writing about this weekly (he said, typing carefully) in the form of a colloquy or conversation.


Let’s look at the issue again. I have, at last count, about 27 bazillion projects I’d like to do — fiction, nonfiction, computer programs, spec scripts for TV and movies, and I’m tied into a startup company — plus I’d like to make time for painting and drawing and I’m intent on getting a little more exercise and at least occasionally actually leaving the house.

I’ve experimented with David Allen’s Getting Things Done method, and while I see a lot of appeal in it, it’s directed more toward people who want to get things done in a limited time. When I do GTD, I end up with unlimited things. The GTD books seem mostly directed to people with limited time to want to do more; I see my problem as seeing things through to “done” and limiting my time.

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Selling Your Writing in 13 Weeks, Week 13: Bringing It All Together

Saturday, January 4th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt
Take notes.  There will be a quiz... only not by me.

Take notes. There will be a quiz… only not by me.

No, this is not actually the last posting, since I still owe you a post on covers and a – long delayed – post on proposals (to traditional publishing houses.)

I do apologize for the delays on those, but I was doing my very best not to die through what might have been the worst health-season I’ve had in a long time.

But, for now, this is my post trying to bring together everything I tried to cover on selling your book in thirteen weeks.  Sort of a summarized version of the entire thing with easy bullet points.  A “selling your writing in thirteen weeks for people who only discovered the series halfway through and are having trouble finding the previous posts (as I did when I tried to direct someone to them.)

So, as briefly as I can make it, here is your “lessons learned” recap.  Get our your number two pencil and a notebook.  There will be a test.  (Actually there will, but not administered by me, but by the world/publishing.  Though my way isn’t the only way and though things change constantly, this will get you some ways towards actually successfully publishing, in whichever mode you choose.)

First –  Traditional or Indie? How should you publish? (For the purpose of this article, indie refers to self publishing or publishing through a micro company in which you have a controlling interest.)

I know the decision I made for me, but I can’t make it for you. Depending on the field you’re working in, the book you’re working on, and your own personal preference, the answer could vary.

If you are writing the sort of book that will need a big-publisher sendoff to do well, and you’re fairly sure that you can get it, then by all means go with a traditional publisher.

If on the other hand you are writing what the publishers would consider a midlist book – your typical genre book: a romance in the style of those already out, or a cozy mystery, a quest fantasy, or a space opera – and you have the resources to self-promote, and you know or can learn your way around a cover you’re probably better off self-publishing/indie publishing.

The truth is that the traditional publishers have been taking resources away from the midlist for some years now, and now are less inclined than ever to spend promotion dollars on “this is also an enjoyable book.”  Also, some of the contracts being written don’t “guarantee” paper publication.

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I Agree With Camille Paglia on This Kind of Family Planning for Teens

Monday, December 30th, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard

BN-AX505_winter_DV_20131227185352

Camille Paglia gave a wide-ranging interview to the Wall Street Journal last week, covering everything from diminished respect for the military to radical feminism as a threat to all of Western civilization. Paglia, a liberal feminist and lesbian who voted for Obama and excels at destroying sacred cows, said that “our culture doesn’t allow women to know how to be womanly” and falsely promises them that they can “have it all.”

Paglia also broached a topic that’s not discussed nearly enough, even in conservative circles. Saying that sex education classes focus too much on mechanics, she said that girls should be taught to consider how vocational decisions they make as teens can impact their futures:

I want every 14-year-old girl . . . to be told: You better start thinking what do you want in life. If you just want a career and no children you don’t have much to worry about. If, however, you are thinking you’d like to have children some day you should start thinking about when do you want to have them. Early or late? To have them early means you are going to make a career sacrifice, but you’re going to have more energy and less risks. Both the pros and the cons should be presented.

In our “have it all” culture, young people — young women in particular — are told to go to college, have a career, and then, perhaps somewhere way off in the future,  get married and have kids. But no one really explains to young women about the requisite costs and trade-offs along the way. If a girl thinks she would like to have a family and children some day, it’s essential for her to consider how and when that might happen and whether that goal conflicts with other plans she has for her future. Despite the stereotypes fed to us by Hollywood, for most families, babies do not just pop out into designer 5-bedroom homes with live-in nannies. A 17-year-old girl may not want to think about such mundane things as child care when she is dreaming about a glamorous career as a CSI investigator, but better to consider them at age 17 than to have reality come crashing in later when she has less flexibility to make career-related decisions. Unfortunately, this kind of “family planning” is not only absent from most sex education classes, but it’s also rarely mentioned in career and vocational planning for teens. 

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3 Reasons to Get Addicted to Call the Midwife

Sunday, December 29th, 2013 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

YouTube Preview Image

Haven’t yet caught an episode of the BBC/PBS smash hit series Call the Midwife? Here are three reasons from writer/producer Heidi Thomas why you need to watch this groundbreaking feminist masterpiece:

3. Call the Midwife provides female role models who embrace professionalism, not porn.

“I remember an RAF Careers Officer coming to my school and telling us about the wonderful work we could do in the RAF… as catering assistants! We were furious to hear we would never be allowed to be pilots. Now every profession a girl would wish to consider is open to her.

But I think the Spice Girl, Girl Power thing veered a lot of young women off course, because it was about investing your self-worth in your physical persona, sexuality and “attitude”. I love the idea that we have put the notion of professional women right up there in front of a new generation of TV watchers.”

2. Call the Midwife is the antidote to bad girl TV.

“One of the things they enjoy the most is playing women who are actually nice to each other. Because as young attractive actresses, they are often only offered parts where women are in opposition to one another, where they are catty, or bitchy or quarrelling over the same man.

“They love the idea of women living together in a supportive community dedicated to their professions and to the service of other women, which brings us back round to your thesis about Call The Midwife as a feminist piece.”

1. Even the boys in your house will become addicted to this show about midwives, nuns and babies.

“One interesting thing we learnt, from a breakdown of our audience figures, is that numerically, more men were watching Call The Midwife than Top Gear…”.

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Know When to Hold It

Saturday, December 21st, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
You're in it for the long haul.  Time your game.

You’re in it for the long haul. Time your game.

Selling Your Writing In 13 Weeks, Week 11

I’m not recommending any of you give up on indie publishing because you think you hold a bad hand.  This is more a matter of “you’ve got to learn to pace it.”

Look, when I was young, before I got married, I used to run. I was about to say I used to run marathons, but I only ran a few formal ones. Mostly what I did was go for a good run to shake out the stress (as I was going to college, tutoring, writing, and had an active social life, there was a time interning in a newspaper and… well… things got stressful.  Oh, yeah, also I was politically involved.)  But I ran long distances.  I sucked as a sprinter, but I was really good long distance, even in competition, because I knew how to pace myself. I wasn’t that fast over any stretch of road, but I kept going and going and going so that as other people fell (panting) by the wayside, I would be one of the first if not the first across the finish line.

Writing indie is not a sprint – it’s a marathon.

One of my friends who is an indie writer and doing fairly well is accruing her own cluster of “starting out writers looking for advice.”  This is normal. This way of publishing is so new that each of us that goes a little way out of the starting gate will become a “guru” in no time.  It reminds me a lot of computer programing back in the eighties (my husband was a programmer at the time) or even of aviation in World War I or – further back – of “established settlers” in the West.

What all of these have in common is that they are fast-changing landscapes filled with adventure and peril (of a sort.  No.  Really.  No one is going to shoot you for publishing indie.  I hope.  But you can make a fool of yourself very easily.)

And in all of these the space between “newbie” and old man is incredibly short.  If you’ve been around the scene for even a little while, you become one of the “old, trusted ones.”

My friend Cedar Sanderson – two books out, a lot of mistakes made, a lot learned, and her second book selling shockingly well – found herself the guru of a small, starting out group.

Because I’ve been her mentor for about 11 years (during most of which she wasn’t writing, but dealing with life issues – but wanting to write eventually) she comes to me when she doesn’t know QUITE what to do.

One of the problems she brought me was one of her own fledglings, who is just starting out, and who – with a few short stories out – intends to make a living out of this in a couple of years.

She didn’t know how to explain to him that while this can happen, it’s not the most likely way for things to shake out.  (I didn’t either.  I mean, I can say things, but if people aren’t going to believe me…)

So, for those of you who are willing to believe me, before you get the idea that indie publishing (or any publishing) is the fast way to fame and fortune: writing is a business.  More importantly, writing is a craft and a profession.

We all know rich lawyers, rich doctors, rich artists, for that matter (well, I know a few who are very well off.)  However, no one sane has ever made a life plan that consists of the following: week one – graduate law school.  Week two – get a million dollar check.

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