TIME psychology

This Is the Quickest Way to Become an Expert Negotiator

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Be nice.

We often associate negotiation with being tough or manipulative. While there are certainly situations where that’s the case, a great deal of the recent research says we can improve our results by thinking more about making friends than waging war.

A great deal of what it takes to influence others, gain their compliance and lead successful negotiations is just good advice on how to be a decent person.

Could you be taken advantage of? Yes, but in the long run a good reputation pays off. And if you find that being nice isn’t working, then there is always the darker side of negotiation technique.

For more on how to be a better negotiator, from the former lead international hostage for the FBI, click here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME psychology

Humor Can Improve Your Life: 5 Secrets Backed By Research

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Join over 195,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Related posts:

How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Humor

Political Correctness Is Not Ruining Stand-Up Comedy

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xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

Feedback and constructive criticism are what help comedians and the art form to grow

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Jerry Seinfeld is the latest comedian to insist that political correctness is ruining stand-up comedy, but I contend that people with this mentality are the ones doing more harm to the art form because they’re trying to shut down criticism.

When I started stand-up comedy, I was very outspoken against this so-called “PC culture.” I’d go onstage, say the most offensive things I can think of, and then get angry at the crowd for not laughing.

“This is a comedy show!” I’d yell. “Get a sense of humor!”

Not once was it ever my responsibility to be funnier.

My philosophy at the time was simple: “Say whatever you want, and people who get offended are always wrong.” I’d go on tirades about SJWs (Social Justice Warriors), a pejorative term to describe people who engage in arguments about social justice on the Internet, and I’d rant about how people getting offended were ruining my right to say whatever I wanted. I’d scream and accuse everybody else of being emotional while claiming that I was the only calm one in the room. (By the end of these discussions, my blood pressure rose more than anybody else’s.)

I realized years later that by engaging in online arguments about the “holy sanctity of comedy,” I was actually acting like an SJW myself, and my “cause” was gallows humor. I felt like the only real truth in life was the ability to tell offensive jokes without repercussions. But I never owned my emotions. I was the one shouting about how little I cared when it was obvious that I very much did.

Since I was so angry, I couldn’t take criticism, and this was very harmful to my comedy. Feedback and constructive criticism are what help comedians and the art form to grow. With stand-up comedy, the comedian receives feedback right away. If an audience doesn’t laugh, it could be due to a number of factors: the venue wasn’t right for comedy; the comedian wasn’t a right fit for the room; the joke isn’t finished yet; the joke itself isn’t funny; or the audience simply didn’t find the comedian funny. Ideally, this is when the editing process would take place, like figuring out a puzzle. “What went wrong with this joke? Why did this punchline not work? Did I deliver it correctly? Maybe this crowd didn’t like it but I should try it somewhere else?”

The worst reaction a comedian can have is lashing out at an audience for not laughing. Even though it can be frustrating and hurtful when an audience doesn’t laugh, it’s not their job to laugh at your jokes; it’s your job to make them laugh. Whenever I see comedians lashing out at an audience, I’m reminded of how ego-driven and angry my comedy used to be. I automatically assumed they didn’t laugh because they were “oversensitive” and “too PC.”

Shouting into a microphone with the sole intent of being carelessly “edgy” is not art. It’s stroking your own ego to feel powerful, and some audiences have had enough.

I know lots of comedy fans who are just yearning for something new and different, and they’re tired of hearing the same old clichés and stereotypes. There are only so many times you can hear jokes about black people stealing, Asians’ inability to drive, and heteronormative dating jokes where “women do this but men do that” before it gets exhausting, boring, and unfunny. These comedy fans are generally progressive-leaning, and they’re oftentimes unfairly accused of being humorless.

Many progressives love Inside Amy Schumer, a show that is not “PC” at all, and more liberal-leaning websites are constantly posting articles about what a genius Louis CK is. A few of these liberal comedy fans may take some jokes too personally, but to brush this entire group as humorless and PC is dishonest and lazy.

Just because some comedy fans want something new doesn’t mean that other pre-existing kinds of comedy are going to disappear. There is room for everyone! There are spaces for politically incorrect comedy, clean comedy, liberal comedy, conservative comedy (although let’s be honest, Bill O’Reilly probably isn’t the greatest stand-up in the world), club comedy, and alternative comedy. This is a good thing! Having a diverse variety of comedy styles and hearing different perspectives means that the spectrum of comedy is continuously getting broader, and this opens opportunities to explore even more topics that haven’t yet been talked about. Many of these new spaces opened up due to criticisms of old comedy tropes, and there was a demand for something different. Comedy is better than it’s ever been because so many people have voices now.

This fear that there is no more room for politically incorrect comedy is just untrue. This year, The Comedy Central Roast of Justin Bieber had several comedians tell jokes about Bill Cosby, Ferguson, and 9/11. Louis CK released Live at the Comedy Store where he uses the N-word on several occasions. Chris Rock did a monologue on SNL about the World Trade Center and the Boston Marathon bombing (on network television!). Amy Schumer produced a sketch on her show about a football team that couldn’t grasp the foreign concept of “no raping.”

None of these topics are “politically correct,” yet the comedians that produced this provocative material still have careers. These jokes are still being aired on NBC and Comedy Central. If anything, the publicity actually helped the comedians gain even more visibility.

The main problem with people who complain about political correctness is that they’re thinking lazily. I’ve voiced my disdain for hacky stereotypical jokes about trans people (and I have a vested interest in this since I am transgender), and some people have angrily asked me, “Oh, are you not allowed to make fun of transgender people anymore?”

I never said that. I’m just curious about how hard the comedian worked on the joke.

Last year, I heard Dave Chappelle tell three different iterations of the same joke about transgender people, and it evolved every time. The first iteration was that he refused to gender trans people correctly because he didn’t feel like he had to participate in somebody else’s self-identification; the second iteration was Chappelle reluctantly agreeing to gender trans people correctly because he wanted to be more accepting, but he was still confused about trans people’s body parts; in the third iteration, Chappelle completely scraps the entire first part of the original joke, genders all trans people in his story correctly, learns more about the LGBT community, and jokes about almost getting into a fight with a trans woman at a club.

The final iteration was by far the funniest with the most receptive audience reaction; it was the most complete and well thought-out version of the joke and it still pushed boundaries. It wasn’t “PC.” He listened to the feedback and kept working on the joke. Dave Chappelle did NOT get upset at people for either disliking the joke or getting offended.

In fact, here’s what he had to say on Inside the Actor’s Studio regarding a woman who was offended by a sketch from Chappelle’s Show: “There was a lady from Texas who called Comedy Central damn near 100 times. She was furious with me. I wasn’t mad at her for being mad at me. I was like, ‘Okay, that’s good.’ It’s not good that she’s mad at me, but she’s entitled to her opinion. And maybe she’s right, I don’t know, I just thought it was funny and that’s why I did it… people I love tell me I go too far sometimes. Maybe I went too far, but I did it. And plus, the only way you know where the line is is to cross it, and I think about what it’s like if nobody is crossing the line? You just wanna be on the right side of history, and sometimes what’s going on in the immediate present is not as important as the long-term. The truth is permanent, and everything else falls by the wayside.”

If I’m making stand-up comedy sound like too much work, that’s because art is supposed to take hard work. Otherwise, comedy would just be egomaniacs screaming into microphones hitting any and every target without regard to anybody else’s feelings and then getting upset the second someone hits them back. That hardly seems fair, because stand-up comedians shouldn’t be immune to criticism, and stand-up comedians are not above the art of stand-up comedy.

Robin Tran wrote this article for xoJane

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME viral

Read a Sixth-Grader’s Handwritten Apology for Making a Prank 911 Call

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Savannah Chatham Police

He's still grounded, though

A remorseful young troublemaker wrote an apology note and read it aloud to emergency dispatchers after he mad a prank call to 911 on a dare from his friends.

“I am writing an apology letter for what I did last night,” the unnamed sixth-grader wrote. “Last night I called and said ‘dezz nuts.'”

The kid wrote “dezz nuts,” but may have actually said “deez nuts” in the prank call.

“I know there will be consequences, and I will not complain about them,” he wrote. “I am sorry for what I did and I hope you can forgive me.” He wrote that he made the call because his friends dared him to do it.

His parents made him write the note and read it aloud to the on-duty emergency communications staff at Savannah-Chatham 911 center. Emergency dispatchers were so impressed that they accepted his apology and then gave him and his family a tour of their office.

He’s still grounded, though.

 

TIME Culture

The Dark Origins of 11 Classic Nursery Rhymes

The origins of 'Jack and Jill' aren’t as clean-cut as you imagined

In the canon of great horror writing, Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley tend to dominate the craft. But Mother Goose isn’t too far behind. Yes, that fictional grande dame of kiddie poems has got a bit of a dark streak, as evidenced by the unexpectedly sinister theories surrounding the origins of these 11 well-known nursery rhymes.

  • 1. Baa, Baa, Black Sheep (1731)

    Though most scholars agree that “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” is about the Great Custom, a tax on wool that was introduced in 1275, its use of the color black and the word “master” led some to wonder whether there was a racial message at its center. Its political correctness was called into question yet again in the latter part of the 20th century, with some schools banning it from being repeated in classrooms, and others simply switching out the word “black” for something deemed less offensive. In 2011, news.com.au reported on the proliferation of “Baa, Baa Rainbow Sheep” as an alternative.

  • 2. Goosey Goosey Gander (1784)

    It’s hard to imagine that any rhyme with the phrase “goosey goosey” in its title could be described as anything but feel good. But it’s actually a tale of religious persecution, during the days when Catholic priests would hide themselves in order to say their Latin-based prayers, a major no-no at the time—not even in the privacy of one’s own home. In the original version, the narrator comes upon an old man “who wouldn’t say his prayers. So I took him by his left leg. And threw him down the stairs.” Ouch!

  • 3. Jack and Jill (1765)

    Admit it, you fooled around with the lyrics to “Jack and Jill” a bit yourself when you were younger, turning what you thought was an innocent poem into something a little bit naughty. But its origins aren’t as clean-cut as you probably imagined. One of the most common theories surrounding the story’s origin is that it’s about France’s Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, who were both found guilty of treason and subsequently beheaded. The only problem is that those events occurred nearly 30 years after “Jack and Jill” was first written. The more likely possibility is that it’s an account of King Charles I’s attempt to reform the tax on liquid measures. When Parliament rejected his suggestion, he instead made sure that the volume was reduced on half- and quarter-pints, known as jacks and gills, respectively.

  • 4. London Bridge Is Falling Down (1744)

    In 2006, Fergie got saucy with some of this classic kid tune’s lyrics. But the original song wasn’t much better. Depending on whom you ask, “London Bridge is Falling Down” could be about a 1014 Viking attack, child sacrifice, or the normal deterioration of an old bridge. But the most popular theory seems to be that first one. More specifically: the alleged destruction of London Bridge at the hands of Olaf II of Norway some time in the early 1000s. (“Alleged” because some historians don’t believe that attack ever took place.) The song’s popularity around the world is often cited as further proof that it was the Vikings who created it, believing that they brought the tune to the many places they traveled. Oh, and that whole child sacrifice thing? That’s an idea that is also often debated (there’s no archaeological evidence to support it), but the theory goes that in order to keep London Bridge upright, its builders believed that it must be built on a foundation of human sacrifice, and that those same humans—mostly children—would help to watch over the bridge and maintain its sturdiness. Which we’re pretty sure isn’t a practice they teach you in architecture school.

  • 5. Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary (1744)

    “Contrary” is one way to describe a murderous psychopath. This popular English nursery rhyme, which reads like a solicitation for gardening advice, is actually a recounting of the homicidal nature of Queen Mary I of England, a.k.a. Bloody Mary. A fierce believer in Catholicism, her reign as queen—from 1553 to 1558—was marked by the execution of hundreds of Protestants. (Silver bells and cockle shells are torture devices, not garden accouterments.)

  • 6. Three Blind Mice (1805)

    “Three Blind Mice” is supposedly yet another ode to Bloody Mary’s reign, with the trio in question believed to be a group of Protestant bishops—Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Radley, and The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer—who (unsuccessfully) conspired to overthrow the queen and were burned at the stake for their heresy. Critics suggest that the blindness in the title refers to their religious beliefs.

  • 7. Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo

    No, there’s nothing particularly inflammatory about the lines “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo, Catch a tiger by his toe.” But there is when you consider that the word “tiger” is a relatively new development in this counting rhyme, as a replacement for the n-word. Even with the lyrical switch-out, any reference to the poem still has the ability to offend. In 2004, two passengers sued Southwest Airlines was for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress, following an incident where a flight attendant used the rhyme in a humorous fashion during takeoff when she told passengers: “Eeny meeny miny mo, Please sit down it’s time to go.” (The court sided with the airline.)

  • 8. Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1840)

    “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” is often sung as part of a children’s game. According to historian R. S. Duncan, a former governor of England’s Wakefield Prison, the song originated with that 420-year-old institution’s female prisoners, who were exercised around a mulberry tree. Which is probably not the connotation your six-year-old self had in mind.

  • 9. Rock-a-Bye Baby (1765)

    One interpretation of this famous lullaby is that it is about the son of King James II of England and Mary of Modena. It is widely believed that the boy was not their son at all, but a child who was brought into the birthing room and passed off as their own in order to ensure a Roman Catholic heir to the throne.

  • 10. Ring Around the Rosie (1881)

    Considering that some of today’s classic nursery rhymes are more than two centuries old, there are often several theories surrounding their origins—and not a lot of sound proof about which argument is correct. But of all the alleged nursery rhyme backstories, “Ring Around the Rosie” is probably the most infamous. Though its lyrics and even its title have gone through some changes over the years, the most popular contention is that the sing-songy verse refers to the 1665 Great Plague of London.“The rosie” is the rash that covered the afflicted, the smell from which they attempted to cover up with “a pocket full of posies.” The plague killed nearly 15 percent of the country’s population, which makes the final verse—“Ashes! Ashes! We all fall down”—rather self-explanatory.

    But Snopes labels this reading false, and quotes folklorist Philip Hiscock with a more likely suggestion: That the nursery rhyme probably has its origins “in the religious ban on dancing among many Protestants in the nineteenth century, in Britain as well as here in North America. Adolescents found a way around the dancing ban with what was called in the United States the ‘play-party.’ Play-parties consisted of ring games which differed from square dances only in their name and their lack of musical accompaniment. They were hugely popular, and younger children got into the act, too.”

  • 11. Old Mother Hubbard (1805)

    To many, “Old Mother Hubbard” is not a mother at all—nor a woman. The poem is speculated to have been written as a mockery of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, whose refusal to grant an annulment to King Henry VIII, so that he could marry Anne Boleyn, led to his political downfall.

    This article originally appeared on Mental Floss.

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TIME Books

30 of the Best Parents in Literature

Atticus Finch ranks at the top as one of the great heroes and parents of American literature

It’s hard to find good parents in fiction. A lot of books deal either with the lack of a parent or a parent’s complete unsuitability for the role. But there are a few good ones out there, parents who make you think, “Gee, I wish my parents were like that.” Behold: Parents (or parental types) we wish were ours—or that we wish we could be.

  • 1. Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird

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    HarperLuxe 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee

    The widowed father of Jem and Scout, Atticus Finch is one of the great heroes of American literature. Steering his young children along the path of moral rectitude is hard in the Jim Crow South, and when Atticus, a lawyer, unsuccessfully defends an innocent black man from charges that he raped a white woman, it becomes even more difficult. But his own belief in rightness, morality, and good, even in the face of an unfair world, is communicated to his kids—and to the world. His impact on the legal profession, especially in the South, was also profound: The Atticus Finch Society, part of the Alabama Law Foundation, was founded to serve the legal needs of the poor and named after a fictional lawyer who “epitomizes the type of professional, and person, lawyers strive to be.”

  • 2. and 3. Alex and Kate Murry from A Wrinkle in Time

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    Time Quintet 'A Wrinkle in Time' by Madeleine L'Engle

    Tesseracts are real, and Meg and Charles Murry’s scientist father has disappeared into one—and it’s up to these two brilliant but socially awkward children to save him. When it was published in 1962, A Wrinkle in Time was a sci-fi gift to all those nerdy kids out there for whom Star Trek hadn’t yet been invented. And the Murry parents—beautiful and smart microbiologist Kate and tesseract physicist Alex—made being scientists seem so cool. Who wouldn’t want parents like that?

  • 4. and 5. The Weasleys from Harry Potter Series

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    Scholastic 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' by J.K. Rowling

    Harry Potter wanted them to adopt him—and we wouldn’t mind either. Though Harry was already remarkably well-adjusted for a child who’d been forced to sleep in a spider-filled cupboard under the stairs, his friendship with the Weasleys showed him what a loving family really looked like. Mom Molly was kind, fiercely protective of her children—her battle with Bellatrix Lestrange in the final book was immensely satisfying—and knitted a mean jumper. Dad Arthur was slightly bumbling, loved Muggle stuff, and was still a kid at heart. Best of all, they loved each other as much as they loved their children.

  • 6. Marmee from Little Women

    little-women-cover
    Penguin Books Australia 'Little Women' by Louisa May Alcott

    Marmee is the glue that holds the Little Women together through the Civil War and their father’s long absence. Kind and charitable, she’s their moral compass, their comfort in troubled times. Without her, the four girls—Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth—are lost.

  • 7. and 8. Mr. and Mrs. Little from Stuart Little

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    Harper & Row 'Stuart Little' by E.B. White

    Interspecies procreation is typically cause for concern, but not for Mr. and Mrs. Little. When their son, Stuart, was born a mouse, the kind (though perhaps a bit dense) Littles treated him just like any other member of the family. A member of the family who had a long tail, whiskers, slept in a cigarette box and could climb up lamp cords.

  • 9. and 10. Ma and Pa Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie

    little-house-prairie-cover
    HarperCollins 'Little House on the Prairie' by Laura Ingalls Wilder

    Though Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories of growing up in the Indian Territory, now Kansas, in the mid- to late-19th century are actually autobiographical, the books tend to be found in the children’s fiction part of the bookstore, so they make the list. Pa was a true pioneer with a serious case of wanderlust: He could build a house by hand and skin a rabbit, but still remained a gentleman, kind, courteous and upstanding. Ma Ingalls, a true pioneer wife, instructed her children to treat others with care.

  • 11. and 12. Mr. and Mrs. Quimby from Ramona Series

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    HarperCollins 'The Complete Ramona Collection' by Beverly Cleary

    Ramona Quimby, age 8, is a bit of a handful. Her imagination—and she’s got lots of it—often gets her into situations, like the time she went to school with her pajamas under her clothes because she was pretending to be a fireman. Or the time she put her doll in the oven. Or the time she squeezed an entire tube of toothpaste into the sink.

    Her parents, Bob and Dorothy, meanwhile, are real parents, who have to deal with real things like quitting smoking, having children young, getting laid off, and 8-year-olds who accidentally dye themselves blue. And they even get in fights, like real parents do. But throughout it all, they manage to remain patient and affectionate with their children; they’re not perfect, but they’re pretty good.

  • 13. – 16. Baloo the Bear, Bagheera the Black Panther, and the Wolves from The Jungle Book

    jungle-book-cover
    Dover Publications 'The Jungle Book' by Rudyard Kipling

    After they save him from becoming tiger Shere Khan’s meal, Father Wolf and Mother Wolf raise the hairless man-cub Mowgli as one of their own. But it’s up to Baloo the sleepy bear and Bagheera the panther to teach the boy the Law of the Jungle—thereby becoming the coolest godparents in the world.

  • 17. and 18. The Gilbreths from Cheaper by the Dozen

    cheaper-by-the-dozen-cover
    Crowell Co 'Cheaper By the Dozen' by Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

    So, the Gilbreths were actual people, not fiction, and this charming book, published in 1948, is a biography written by their children. But—and we mean this as a compliment—the parents are so lovely as to almost seem made up. Frank Gilbreth and his wife, Lillian, are world-famous efficiency experts whose studies in time and motion changed the way people worked. If Frank had his way, they would have also changed the way people raised children, especially after their incredible fecundity produced 12 kids. Having an even dozen children meant that the Gilbreths could apply some of their expertise in their Montclair, New Jersey, home. Hilarity ensues, as does an overwhelming sense of warmth and happiness.

    The two children wrote a follow up book, Belles on Their Toes, recounting what happened after Frank’s death in 1924, which left Lillian with a house full of children, the youngest just 2 years old, and a business to run. Mother Lillian managed to keep it all together, with good humor and warmth, and the book manages to stay away from the maudlin.

  • 19. and 20. The Cuthberts from Anne of Green Gables

    anne-green-gables-cover
    Random House Children's Books 'Anne of Green Gables' by L.M. Montgomery

    In L.M. Montgomery’s series about the red-haired orphan Anne Shirley, the Cuthberts are a brother and sister who, living together alone on their Prince Edward Island farm with no prospective children, decide they need to take in an orphan to help out with the work. They’d wanted a boy; they got Anne—spirited, imaginative, dramatic Anne. The two grow to love and care for her deeply in different ways: Where Matthew quietly encourages Anne’s flights of fancy and frivolity, Marilla offers a steely structure and hidden warmth. Matthew’s death from a heart attack at the end of Anne of Green Gables, the first book in the series, is eye-wateringly tragic, but Anne’s devotion to stern Marilla is a testament to the strength of their relationship.

  • 21. and 22. Caractacus and Mimsie Pott from Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car

    chitty-chitty-bang-bang-cover
    Candlewick 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' by Ian Fleming

    To be clear: this is not the Disney film Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang featuring Dick Van Dyke (although having most any character Dick Van Dyke has ever played as a father would be pretty great, from Rob Petrie to Bert to Mark Sloan). In Ian Fleming’s 1964 children’s book, Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang: The Magical Car, there are two Potts, mother Mimsie and father Caractacus, a Royal Navy Commander and crack-pot inventor who comes across the magnificent car with a rich inner life of its own. Potts is a fun dad, one who tells his children, “Never say ‘no’ to adventures. Always say ‘yes,’ otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.” When their twin 8-year-old boy and girl are kidnapped by gangsters with a dastardly plan to rob a Parisian chocolate shop, the Potts and their loyal car set off to rescue them. International intrigue and gadgetized cars are pure vintage Fleming, but the love between an adventurous father and his children speaks to the Bond author’s softer side—he wrote the book for his own son, Caspar, but died before seeing it in print.

  • 23. Carson Drew from The Nancy Drew Mystery Series

    nancy-drew-mystery
    Grosset & Dunlap 'The Secret of the Old Clock' by Carolyn Keene

    Nancy Drew, the great girl detective, wouldn’t have been quite so successful if it hadn’t been for both the encouragement and neglect of her father, important River Heights lawyer Carson Drew. The elder Drew’s attitude towards his daughter changed as the book series continued, possibly due in part to changing parental attitudes—leaving your 16-year-old daughter to her own devices while you’re away on business is the kind of thing that seemed like a good idea before Facebook and hashtag parties. But throughout, he remained a supporter of his sleuth daughter, encouraging her exploits, helping her figure out clues, and even relying on her when he needed help himself.

  • 24. and 25. Ben Moore and Cillian Boyd from The Knife of Never Letting Go, Chaos Walking Series

    the-knife-of-never-letting-go-cover
    Candlewick 'The Knife of Never Letting Go' by Patrick Ness

    Raising a child right is hard enough; raising him right when everything around you is so incredibly wrong is even more difficult. In Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first in the masterful Chaos Walking trilogy, Todd Hewitt, nearly 13, is the last boy in Prentisstown, a damned settlement on a new world where the women and half the men were killed nearly a decade before. The remaining men are afflicted with “the Noise”—the constant cacophony of the thoughts of almost every living thing around. Ben Moore and Cillian Boyd are Todd’s adoptive parents, who took him in when his own were killed. But since then, while they’ve raised him, loved him, literally listened to every thought in his head, and instilled in him a sense of morality, they’ve been secretly plotting his escape … even though it almost surely means their own deaths.

  • 26. Sam Gribley’s Dad from My Side of the Mountain

    my-side-mountain-cover
    Puffin Books 'My Side of the Mountain' by Jean Craighead George

    Talk about free-range parenting. When Sam Gribley gets tired of living in his large family’s overcrowded New York apartment, he does what any self-sufficient 12-year-old would do: Teaches himself wilderness survival from a book he found in the public library and sells magazine subscriptions until he can afford a bus ticket to the Catskills, where he plans to live off the land at his family’s abandoned farm. And his dad lets him. No, really. But what could have become a tale of terrible parental irresponsibility is, in fact, a story of one boy’s self-reliance and passion for nature and the parent who trusted him enough to let him dive off the grid. In the end, Dad Gribley, inspired by Sam, decides that living in the city is no place for a family and moves the entire brood up to the abandoned farm. Fresh air for all!

  • 27. Mame Dennis from Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade

    auntie_mame
    Broadway Books 'Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade' by Patrick Dennis

    The flamboyant, eccentric, wonderful Auntie Mame of the 1955 book of the same title is absolutely the kind of accidental parent we’d love to have. In 1928, 10-year-old Patrick Dennis becomes the ward of his father’s unflappable flapper sister, Mame Dennis, after his parents’ deaths. Hers is a boozy, glamorous world populated by artists, poets, and bohemians that, to conventional types at least, would hardly seem suitable for a little boy. Yet Mame carves out a place for Patrick—involving a truly avant garde nude elementary school, among other things—and their tender relationship endures Mame’s scandalous society and wild whims, her rich husband who fell off the Matterhorn, and even Patrick’s atrocious fiancé.

    The book was a sort of quasi-fictional memoir and “Patrick Dennis” was the pseudonym of the enormously witty Edward Everett Tanner III, who based Mame on his own aunt, the self-described “ultimate Greenwich Village eccentric” Marion Tanner. Tanner’s own life was no less a study in eccentricity: He was an ambulance driver in World War II, wrote numerous best-selling books under pseudonyms, led, as his Random House biography says, “a double life as a bisexual man and a conventional husband and father,” and was a character of some renown in New York’s bohemian scene until financial ruin led him to spend the last years of his life as a butler in Palm Beach.

  • 28. Katie Nolan from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

    a-tree-grows-in-brooklyn-cover
    Harper 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' by Betty Smith

    In Betty Smith’s 1943 coming of age novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, protagonist Francie’s favorite parent, the parent who seems to get her, isn’t her mother, Katie; it’s her creative, sentimental father, Johnny. But after Johnny’s alcoholism consumes him, making it virtually impossible for him to hold a job, it’s Katie who keeps the family afloat. Katie’s grit and determination that her children should have a better life than she had is the kind of tough love that gives Francie the tools she’ll need to survive.

  • 29. Mrs. Frisby from Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

    mrs-frisby-rats-nimh-cover
    Aladdin 'Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh' by Robert C. O'Brien

    Sometimes being a parent is about doing things that absolutely terrify you for the good of your children. Mrs. Frisby, heroine of Robert O’Brien’s 1971 children’s book about the wonder and horror of scientific experimentation, is kind, sweet, and, when it comes down to it, tough as nails. Though the titular “rats of NIMH” had the benefit of laboratory experimentation that made them super smart and super strong (although possessing a somewhat questionable moral compass), Mrs. Frisby is just a regular field mouse. Still, it’s her bravery – drugging a cat! – and selflessness that saves her family and the rats themselves. Hats off to you, Mrs. F.!

  • 30. The Man from The Road

    the-road-cover
    Vintage Books 'The Road' by Cormac McCarthy

    Like much of his work, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is grim. Really, really grim. But the post-apocalyptic travelogue is also a testament to the love between a father, the unnamed man, and his son. The Man is the kind of parent we’d like to have in the aftermath of some cataclysmic world event. We just desperately hope we wouldn’t ever need him.

    For the most interesting parenting stores of the week, sign up here for TIME’s free weekly parenting newsletter.

    This article originally appeared on Mental Floss.

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9 Sounds That No One Can Explain

Have you heard these sounds before?

Everyone has a favorite Wikipedia rabbit hole. Mine is “List of Unexplained Sounds.” I can’t remember how I first made my way to the page, but its array of sonic mysteries has shown me that while space is incredible, our planet is its own frontier of intrigue and unexplainable phenomena.

  • 1. Upsweep

    Upsweep is an unidentified sound that’s existed at least since the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory began recording SOSUS—an underwater sound surveillance system with listening stations around the world—in 1991. The sound “consists of a long train of narrow-band upsweeping sounds of several seconds duration each.” The source location is difficult to identify, but it’s in the Pacific, around the halfway point between Australia and South America. Upsweep changes with the seasons, becoming loudest in spring and autumn, though it isn’t clear why. The leading theory is that it’s related to volcanic activity.

  • 2. The Whistle

    The Whistle was recorded on July 7, 1997, and only one hydrophone—the underwater microphones used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—picked it up. The location is unknown and limited information has made it difficult to speculate on the source.

  • 3. Bloop

    Bloop is the big kahuna in unexplained sounds. In 1997 (a big year for auditory ocean mysteries), an extremely powerful, ultra-low-frequency sound was detected at various listening stations thousands of miles apart and traced to somewhere west of the southern tip of South America. The sound only lasted about a minute and and was heard repeatedly over the summer, but not since. Bloop is generally believed to be the sound of a massive icequake, but scientists haven’t totally ruled out the possibility that the sound originated from something “organic.”

    That’s where things get eerie. If an animal was the source of Bloop, it would have to be larger than a blue whale. The most fanciful of all theories stems from the fact that Bloop’s location is somewhat close to author H.P. Lovecraft’s fictional sunken city of R’lyeh, where the creature known as Cthulhu lies “dead but dreaming.” Cthulhu can best be described as part man, dragon, and octopus, which seems as likely a source as any for the ocean’s greatest aural anomaly.

  • 4. Julia

    Julia was recorded on March 1, 1999, lasted for roughly 15 seconds, and was loud enough to be heard by the entire Equatorial Pacific Ocean hydrophone array. An Antarctic iceberg run aground is the leading suspect for its source.

  • 5. Slow Down

    Slow Down was first recorded on May 19, 1997 and is also credited to an iceberg running aground, though some people insist it might be a giant squid. The sound, lasting about 7 minutes, gradually decreases in frequency, hence the name “slow down.” Like Upsweep, the sound has been heard periodically since it was initially detected.

  • 6. The Hum

    The Hum has been recorded on several occasions, mostly during the last 50 years or so. In these cases, there have been reports of a relentless and troubling low-frequency humming noise that can only heard by a certain portion of the population. It’s difficult to pinpoint when instances of the Hum began, but it’s been well-documented since the 1970s, and since then, cases have popped up all over the world—from Ontario, Canada to Taos, New Mexico to Bristol, England to Largs, Scotland and Auckland, New Zealand.

    In most instances, the affected group only makes up around two percent of the population, but for those individuals, the Hum is largely inescapable and impossible to track. Those affected report never having heard noises before, and say the Hum is generally heard indoors and becomes louder at night. It’s also most common in rural and suburban areas and among people between age 55 and 70.

    Scientists have long investigated the cause of the drone, occasionally tracing it to industrial equipment emitting particular frequencies. For the most part, though, the sound has left the world completely puzzled. The list of other possible culprits is long and wide-ranging—wireless communication devices, power or gas lines, electromagnetic radiation, radio waves, or earth tremors are all suspects. Because the Hum appears and disappears and because the cause may vary from case to case, the phenomenon still baffles researchers. At this point, a few things are clear: The Hum is real and likely a byproduct of 21st-century living.

  • 7. Skyquakes

    Skyquakes, or unexplained sonic booms, have been heard around the world for the last 200 years or so, usually near bodies of water. These headscratchers have been reported on the Ganges in India, the East Coast and inland Finger Lakes of the U.S., near the North Sea, as well as in Australia, Japan, and Italy. The sound—which has been described as mimicking massive thunder or cannon fire—has been chalked up to everything from meteors entering the atmosphere to gas escaping from vents in the Earth’s surface (or the gas exploding after being trapped underwater as a result of biological decay) to earthquakes, military aircraft, underwater caves collapsing, and even a possible byproduct of solar and/or earth magnetic activity.

  • 8. UVB-76

    UVB-76, also known as “The Buzzer,” has been showing up on shortwave radios for decades. It broadcasts at 4625 kHz and after repeated buzzing noises, a voice occasionally reads numbers and names in Russian. The source and purpose has never been determined.

  • 9. 52-Hertz Whale

    This animal, also known as the loneliest whale in the world, calls at a highly unusual 52-hertz, well above the normal frequency. Scientists have been listening to 52-Hertz for decades, and recently, filmmakers raised $400,000 on Kickstarter to seek the mammal out. It should be noted that the fundraiser reached its goal through the help of Leonardo DiCaprio, another mysterious beast.

    This article originally appeared on Mental Floss.

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11 Smells That Are Slowly Disappearing

Remember how those magic markers smelled?

Nothing can trigger a memory so unexpectedly as an aroma. Clove oil immediately transports you to the dentist’s office. Crayola crayons take you back to elementary school. But some fragrances are being phased out of existence thanks to technology and safety regulations. How many of these do you miss?

  • 1. Spirit Duplicators

    In 1960s and ’70s-era classrooms, it was an olfactory treat whenever the teacher passed out fresh-off-the-machine purple print “ditto” sheets to the class. Virtually every student immediately held the page to his face and inhaled deeply. There was something so pleasing about the aroma that emanated from the printing fluid—a 50/50 mix of methanol and isopropanol. The sole company that still manufactures ditto fluid in the U.S. only sells a few thousand gallons per year these days, as opposed to the over 100,000 gallons they delivered during the 1970s.

  • 2. Burning Leaves

    A common indicator that autumn was winding down and winter would soon be here was the crisp air filled with the smell of burning leaves. The breeze had a bite to it by the time October rolled around and the ground was sometimes coated with a fine layer of frost, but the smoke from the pile of leaves everyone on the block seemed to burn somehow smelled warm and comforting.

    Pollution concerns caused municipalities in the U.S. to enact open burning bans beginning in the 1980s, and today residents are encouraged to either rake and bag their leaves or use them for mulch. Of course, compost piles do have their own aroma, but it’s not particularly enticing.

  • 3. Diesel Exhaust

    City buses and semi-trucks don’t smell quite like they used to when they accelerate on a cold morning. There are a lot of folks that actually enjoyed the old school smell of the black exhaust these vehicles used to belch. But reductions in the sulfur content of diesel fuel along with selective catalytic reduction gives today’s diesel burners more of a cat urine-y type of aroma.

  • 4. Freshly-Opened Polaroid Film

    Polaroid ceased production of their instant film in 2008. The foil packs used to produce a sweetish chemical-y odor when they were first torn open. It was, in fact, the official “smell” of photography for a lot of kids whose first camera was a Polaroid Swinger.

  • 5. Magic Markers

    The classic glass bottle-bodied Magic Marker was first marketed in 1952, and until the early 1990s, the ink formula included a mixture of Toluene and Xylene, two solvents which not only had a distinctive and not unpleasant odor, but which also contained intoxicating properties when inhaled. Today’s permanent markers get their color from less fragrant alcohol-based inks.

  • 6. Bubble Gum Cards

    Topps stopped including a stick of stiff, hard-to-chew bubble gum in their trading cards several years ago when more collectors than kids were buying the product and complaining about the gum sticking to and ruining the bottom card in the pack. So kids today are getting mint-condition cards for their money, but they’re missing out on that distinctive bubble gum smell that wafted from the package when it was opened (and from the cards when they were brand new).

  • 7. Cap Guns

    Even if you didn’t have a toy gun handy, it was easy enough to “shoot off” caps by striking them with a hammer or even a rock. The gunpowder/sulfur smell of an exploded cap is another aroma that immediately propels many minds to summer days spent playing cops and robbers.

  • 8. (Old) New Car Smell

    That aroma we smell today upon delivery of a brand new set of wheels is very different from the new car smell of 30 or so years ago. A lot of that smell comes from off-gassing synthetic materials, plastics and chemical additives that are used in modern vehicles. In 1960, the average American-made car contained 22 pounds of plastics; in 2012, that quantity had increased to 250 pounds. And there’s also matter of the flame retardants and antimicrobials that are now added to the carpeting and upholstery for additional “safety” (even though some of the fumes have been proven toxic).

  • 9. Vacuum Tube Electronics

    Old TVs and radios that were filled with tubes instead of transistors emitted a “warm” or hot engine smell as they heated up. If you weren’t particularly fastidious with the feather duster, a fine layer of dust would accumulate on the equipment inside and add a slight burning aroma to the mix. The old movie and film projectors used in schools had a similar smell once the light bulb inside had been burning for a while.

  • 10. Telephone Book

    Thanks to Google, very few people let their fingers walk through the Yellow Pages anymore when they’re searching for a telephone number or address. Years ago, almost every home and office had a small stack of thick telephone directories (for example, in the Metro Detroit area there were separate books for Detroit, East Area, North Oakland County, and Downriver) that were referred to regularly once Ma Bell started charging for Directory Assistance calls. The inexpensive pulp paper plus the ink and glue in the binding gave the giant tomes a much mustier, paper-y odor than a standard paperback novel.

  • 11. Chalk Dust

    Much like cafeteria food and library paste, chalk dust simply smelled like school. With so many classrooms using whiteboards, chalkboard ledges with piles of white powder on them are becoming extinct.

    This article originally appeared on Mental Floss.

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Obituary: The Death of Hope for a Female Late-Night Host

Nell Scovell is writing the 'Lean In' movie for Sony Pictures, based on the book she co-wrote with Sheryl Sandberg.

DEATH NOTICE

Hope for a female late-night talk show host on a major network passed away peacefully on Monday, March 30th, 2015, surrounded by stand-ups, bloggers and assorted sidekicks. Hope was born on October 9, 1986, when The Late Show with Joan Rivers premiered on FOX. Promising but brief engagements to Wanda Sykes and Whitney Cummings ended awkwardly. A loving relationship with Chelsea Handler lasted seven years.

Hope struggled during her short life, gaining a foothold in sketch comedy and sitcoms, but fell to her death while trying to make the leap to late night, comically bouncing off an awning before landing in the street, where she was run over by a Duesenberg driven by a man racing to a denim shirt sale. Hope was an avid observer of everyday life and looked forward to reflecting the experiences of the entire population.

Funeral services will take place in the hearts of aspiring female comedy performers and writers on April Fools’ Day. Internment will last twenty years, or another generation of turnover. Special thanks to the caring staff of UCB and Apatow Productions. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Survivors include several brothers named Jimmy, and two sisters, Hope for a female President and Hope for equal pay.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Religion

Lena Dunham’s Not an Anti-Semite, She’s Just Clueless

Lena Dunham
JB Lacroix—WireImage/Getty Images Lena Dunham at the Dolby Theatre on March 8, 2015 in Hollywood.

Mark Oppenheimer writes the biweekly “Beliefs” column for The New York Times and is editor-at-large for Tablet. He also reports for The Atlantic, The Nation, This American Life, and elsewhere.

Lena Dunham's portrayals of Jews, in her show and in her New Yorker piece, trade in the stalest of stereotypes

Lena Dunham suddenly finds herself an enemy of her people. This week, the creator and star of HBO’s Girls, who is Jewish, wrote a humor piece in The New Yorker called “Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz.” It begins: “Do the following statements refer to (a) my dog or (b) my Jewish boyfriend?” and offers, to test one’s dog-or-Jew acumen, statements like, “doesn’t tip,” “has hair all over his body, like most males who share his background,” and “comes from a culture in which mothers focus every ounce of their attention on their offspring.”

Cheap? Hairy? Over-mothered? Is it a dog, or is it a Jew?

The Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish anti-bigotry watchdog group, said in a statement Friday that the “piece is particularly troubling because it evokes memories of the ‘No Jews or Dogs Allowed’ signs from our own early history in this country, and also because, in a much more sinister way, many in the Muslim world today hatefully refer to Jews as ‘dogs.’”

Now, I am not as sensitive as the Anti-Defamation League, to put it mildly. Not only do I not usually complain about Jews making Jews look bad, I’m often the one being so accused. Just last year, I wrote a magazine piece about Jews who travel all the way from Jerusalem to the Jersey shore just to knock on doors begging for money. A few months earlier, I’d narrated a This American Life story about a rabbi accused of kidnapping husbands who refuse to give their wives divorces. If you have dirty Jewish laundry, I’ll air it.

So I am inclined to stand in solidarity with any fellow MOT (member of the tribe) who comes under fire for being bad for the Jews. But I confess that, in this case, I find myself aligned with the censors, the stuffed shirts, the killjoys. I think that Dunham’s piece fails, for a number of reasons.

To begin, it’s just not very funny. Of course, no harm in that. What makes the unfunniness of “Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz” seem extra tasteless is how dated its humor is. It relies on stereotypes — the cheap Jew, the smothering Jewish mother — that were current almost half a century ago, back when Jews faced much more anti-Semitism. Dunham may be a hip auteur in her 20s, but in this humor piece she’s working with material from the era when some country clubs were still restricted.

It was also, of course, the material of the great Jewish writer Philip Roth, who gave us the castrating Jewish mother and eager-to-please son in 1969’s Portnoy’s Complaint, for which many feminists still haven’t forgiven him. But Roth is a genius, and genius buys you a lot of leeway with stereotypes. And Dunham’s less inspired humor recycles not only Roth’s caricature of women but also his equally damning portrayal of Jewish men. Other items on Dunham’s quiz include “he has asthma,” he “expects to be waited on hand and foot by the women in his life,” and he “has a sensitive stomach and has to take two Dramamine before entering any moving vehicle.” In other words, he’s weak and effete, with a poor constitution. That’s part Portnoy and part his constipated father, who was forever sitting on the toilet trying to squeeze something out.

What’s interesting, and a bit sad, is that Dunham seems not to know that these aren’t really live stereotypes anymore. I suppose there are still some people who think of Jews as cheap, but pampered and neurotic? How many in the Girls demographic, Jew or Gentile, really live with those cultural tropes? Jews have largely dropped those particular items of baggage: Who’s shocked to see a Jew shooting hoops on the playgrounds of Brooklyn? The one element of that old Jewish portraiture that still seems relevant is the smothering parenting, but now it’s all parents who do that.

Dunham seems to expect some latitude with this humor piece because she is, after all, a Jewish writer. David Remnick, The New Yorker’s editor, said as much in a statement defending Dunham: “The Jewish-comic tradition is rich with the mockery of, and playing with, stereotypes,” he wrote. “Has Mr. Foxman” — head of the Anti-Defamation League — “never heard Lenny Bruce or Larry David or Sarah Silverman or read Portnoy’s Complaint? Lena Dunham is a comic voice working in that vein.”

Except that Dunham is not working in that vein. Those are all comics who identified as obvious Jews and had built much of their humor around their Judaism. Dunham’s mother is Jewish, which makes her as Jewish as Moses, according to Jewish law. But she has never worked well with Judaism in her humor. The character she plays on Girls is a WASP from the Midwest. In fact, the only regular Jewish character on the show Dunham created is Shoshanna, a shallow, coddled materialist who fits snugly into a Jewish American Princess stereotype that I thought had been blessedly retired. The great actor Zosia Mamet imbues Shoshanna with as much humanity as she can, but it’s hard not to wonder why the only reasonably ethnic character on Girls — in contemporary Brooklyn, no less — is the Jewish girl from a 1970s-era JAP joke.

As it happens, the Girls season finale, last Sunday, featured two other Jewish men: an Orthodox man with a newborn baby, who walks through one of the last shots of the episode — a distant, Orientalized other — and Laird, father to the baby about to be born to Hannah’s ex’s sister. As Laird’s laboring girlfriend, committed to a home birth, looks as if she might need to go to the hospital, Laird panics and melts down. Hannah’s friend Jessa, improvising the role of doula, tells Laird sternly, “I need you, and she needs you, to be a man right now.” Laird starts to cry and wails, “But I’m not a man! I’m a Jewish recovering junkie and I weigh 135 pounds!”

That’s Jewish humor in Lena Dunham’s world.

Contrast that with Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, who in their shows presented a wide range of Jewish types — religious and not, lovable or loathsome. Or with Sarah Silverman, who like Dunham also jokes about hirsuteness, in interviews and in one concert movie, but turns the joke on her own Jewish body, not on an outdated stock character of a boyfriend who also happens to be cheap and asthmatic.

Is Dunham an anti-Semite? Of course not. She is just a young artist with shaky judgment and no real feel for the tradition of Jewish humor in which her editor, presiding over America’s most storied magazine, suggests she is working. And this whole episode has the salutary effect, I like to think, of folding Dunham more closely into the tradition of Jewish writers: sooner or later, if we’re doing our job, we all get called bad for the Jews.

Read next: Jewish Group Objects to Lena Dunham’s ‘Dog or Jewish Boyfriend’ Story

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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