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Published: Thu, 19 Oct 2017 11:00:12 -0400


What Your Favorite Harry Potter Book Says About You

Thu, 19 Oct 2017 11:00:12 -0400

There’s nothing in the world that says as much about you as your favorite Harry Potter book. Not your Zodiac sign, not your Myers-Briggs personality type, not whether or not you pour your milk before your cereal. (If you pour you milk before your cereal, you’re a psychopath.) Whenever I am on a date, I ask “What’s your favorite Harry Potter book?” because that tells me everything I need to know. I know the preferred Harry Potter book of everyone in my life, and I am able to categorize accordingly. So that you, too, may walk this earth armed with knowledge, here is everything I know to be true of a person based on nothing more than which Potter tome they would save in a fire. [viralQuiz id=380]

Open Thread for October 19!

Thu, 19 Oct 2017 09:00:59 -0400

Auntie SparkNotes: How Do I Put a Cute Outfit Together?

Wed, 18 Oct 2017 14:33:31 -0400

Dear Auntie SparkNotes, I'm one of those people who LOVE wearing cargos and jumpers wherever because it feels nice and comfortable. I don't usually enjoy going out to the mall and buying clothes because I hate how loud and bright and smelly the place is. But of course, I'm practically an adult by now, and I know the importance of looking good while going out. The issue is that I apparently can't choose a good combo of clothes when going out. Every time I come down wearing an outfit I thought was nice, my mum immediately sends me up to change. This could go on three times in a row, and I'm frankly embarrassed by this, having my mum dress me up because I can't do it myself. It's not where I dress inappropriately (i.e., shorts and flipflops while going out to a dinner with friends). But where the pants and shirt don't suit each other? I don't really understand it. How do I know if something goes with another? I'll be honest with you, Sparkler: after many years of observation, Auntie SparkNotes has come to the conclusion that matching one article of clothing to another is a skill that some people are simply not equipped to perform. Ever. No matter how hard they try. (Hi, Dad. I love you!) Of course, that doesn't mean you're one of those people. I'm just saying, if you were, you're not alone—and just for the record, it's not that important. Short of dressing like an actual hobo, you have a lot of room to be unstylish before it has a negative impact on your life. That said, if you're missing the gene for intuitively understanding the difference between two non-matching blacks or which fabrics do and don't go with tweed, the best and simplest solution is to let other people do that work for you—which is to say, if you go to the mall, pick up a magazine, or scroll through the options on your favorite retailer's website, you'll find mannequins and/or models wearing pre-selected outfits made up of pieces that look good together. Or better yet, look up "capsule wardrobes" on Pinterest, pick the one you like best, and overhaul your entire closet in one fell swoop with ten versatile pieces that all go together in multiple combinations. It doesn't necessarily make for the most interesting or unique aesthetic, but it does virtually guarantee that you'll look nice—and if nothing else, it'll be a good stop-gap measure while you develop a better sense for choosing outfits yourself. That is, if choosing your outfits is actually a problem for you. Which is the other thing: It might not be. In fact, after rereading your letter, I'm much more struck by the fact that your mom is micromanaging your wardrobe in a way that is totally ridiculous and inappropriate for an adult (with a few extreme exceptions, e.g. you have a history of showing up to formal events without pants.) So while overhauling your closet with some expert help from the internet is a good start, it won't be enough if you don't also set some firm boundaries wherein you insist, from now on, on dressing yourself without input from Mom. Yes, it might be scary at first, and yes, you might end up leaving the house looking less than perfect (or even downright silly) a couple times—but this is a small price to pay for the basic, essential autonomy of getting to decide what to wear. Happy dressing. Got something to say? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at Want more info about how this column works? Check out the Auntie SparkNotes FAQ.

20 Literary First Date Ideas

Wed, 18 Oct 2017 11:00:21 -0400

So you’ve finally done it. You’ve made a genuine connection with another person, you’ve established a mutual interest, you’ve followed each other on Instagram and accidentally liked each other’s selfies from 2013. What comes next is the tricky part: going on an actual date. The reason this is so tricky is because every idea you will have is just rife with potential disaster. Dinner and a movie? The movie could be terrible. A hike? Too sweaty. A picnic? Be serious. What if a hawk swoops down and steals all the food, and then there’s a tornado? I rest my case. Instead, here are some tried-and-true cute date ideas from literature that are all but guaranteed to take your relationship to the next level. 1. Hit up the Netherfield county ball and refuse to dance with her. 2. Short on cash? A free and easy way to have fun together is to just murder the king of Scotland. 3. There’s nothing more romantic than telling him he must solve your father’s riddle if he ever wants to win the honor of your hand in marriage. 4. Do something silly, like turning all his friends into pigs. 5. Try and get a little culture in your lives. Invite her to see a play with you—one you’re hoping will prove, once and for all, that your uncle murdered your father. 6. Commit manslaughter and then flee the scene. 7. Take her out to lunch and tell her she’s a bad driver. 8. Consummate the relationship on the eve of your exile from Verona. 9. Make eyes at each other at your husband’s funeral. I’m talking literally flirting over the casket. Your (former) husband is dead, after all; surely he won’t mind. 10. Try paddle boarding, kayaking, or getting lost at sea for ten years. 11. Plan a fun weekend getaway. Flee from Athens together and get lost in a forest full of devious fairies. 12. Be spontaneous! Abruptly ask her to run away with you with no planning or forethought whatsoever. Use the word “phony” no less than twelve times. 13. Share your dreams with one another. Tell him about the one where he gets murdered at the Senate meeting. 14. Notice, one fine evening, that he is inexplicably on fire. Proceed to put him out. Guys like that. 15. Everyone likes surprises. Throw his favorite book into the fire and demand control of the family finances. 16. Do something nice for her, like rescuing her parents from a dragon that’s holding them hostage. 17. The Luxembourg Gardens are very romantic. Spy on her from afar, fall hopelessly in love, and decide her name is probably Ursula without ever actually speaking to her. 18. Fake your own death just to see what he does with this information. 19. Meet in the room above Mr. Charrington’s shop and try to forget the current political climate. 20. Walk around a quaint small town together. Climb atop the scaffold, imply that you had sex out of wedlock, and die of shame right there in front of everybody.

The Wedding Test

Wed, 18 Oct 2017 10:00:44 -0400

"It's your day, and never let ANYONE tell you otherwise." —Friedrich Nietzsche This quiz was originally published in June 2016 [viralQuiz id=74]

Blogging Animal Farm, Part 4

Wed, 18 Oct 2017 10:00:38 -0400

Welcome to the latest (and darkest) installment of blogging Animal Farm. You can catch up on Chapters 1-4 right here! Previously, on Animal Farm: Snowball gets voted off the island, Napoleon is being super sketch, and the windmill falls down. Chapter 7 I'm gonna be honest: this recap is not for the faint of heart; unless, deep in your heart, you like slaughter and fascism. Okay, let's go! "It was a bitter winter." That's how this barrel of laughs starts out. The animals start rebuilding the windmill, this time with thicker walls, even though it was definitely Snowball's fault that it fell down in the first place and not bad walls. The food supply is very low. They're eating chaff, pocket lint, and those weird powdery nuts that everybody leaves behind in trail mix. The working class—I mean, the animals—are starving, so the pigs announce that the hens will have to sell their eggs. The hens say: "....Nah." I mean, that was a big part of why they overthrew the humans! The pigs stop giving the hens rations. After five days, the poor hens give in—but nine of them have died. Meanwhile, the pigs tell everybody that Snowball has been sneaking onto the farm in the dead of night, breaking tools, stealing corn, spray painting 'U SUK' on the barn wall, etc. The cows even say that "Snowball crept into their stalls and milked them in their sleep," which, if you have ever been milked in your sleep, then you know that that is bad. Everything is Snowball's fault. Ev-er-y-thing. The pigs #mansplain Snowball to the others: Squealer: Actually, Snowball has been in league with Farmer Jones all along. He tried to make us lose the Battle of the Cowshed. He's not a hero. That's a common misconception. Animals: So, you're saying that even though we remember Snowball bravely leading the charge, in fact, Snowball tried to make us lose the battle, and Napoleon is the one who saved the day? But our brains are too small to remember? Squealer: Correct. Animals: Okay. It's a bit confusing, but if Napoleon says it, then it must be true. Besides, he has all those scary dogs—and humans? They are just the worst. via GIPHY Image credit: Deedle-Dee Productions A few days later, Napoleon assembles everybody in the barn. He announces that there are traitors among them—and pulls up four of the little pigs. The pigs, trembling, immediately confess to conspiring with Snowball, and the dogs rip their throats out. "Anybody else?" asks Snowball. More animals come up to confess—some hens, a goose, sheep, etc.—and each gets its throat ripped out. By the end, it looks like the stage after my last performance at the high school talent show: littered with corpses, the smell of blood hangs in the air, and everyone is terrified and weirdly ashamed. The animals slink out. They go up the hill all cuddle together, thinking and listening to Bon Iver's saddest hits. Boxer figures the solution is, like usual, to work harder. Clover, in her brain, is like, "This is not what we dreamed of. We longed for a society of equals, each working according to his capacity, without hunger, violence or enslavement. We didn't toil in order to be controlled by an oligarchy and watch our comrades be mercilessly torn to pieces." Out loud, she sings "Beasts of England"—but it ain't jaunty no mo'. All the animals sing the saddest karaoke ever. They sing the karaoke of the college freshman who has drank a bag of wine after getting dumped via text. Mournful. But as they sing, Squealer comes up and tells them that this song is banned. What? Why?! They were just getting to the chorus (again)! Squealer says that this song was for the anti-human revolution, but the revolution is finished, so they have a new song instead. The new song, however, is not as fun as 'Beasts of England.' The remix sucks. Chapter 8 The animals get back on windmill-buildin' duty[...]

Open Thread for October 18!

Wed, 18 Oct 2017 09:00:30 -0400

The Book Report: A Stranded Family Was Rescued by the Hogwarts Express

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 11:00:17 -0400

Welcome back to the Book Report, where we talk about all the (literary) news that’s fit to print. This week, a stranded family of six was rescued by the Hogwarts Express, To Kill a Mockingbird has been banned for approximately the billionth time, the mansion that inspired The Great Gatsby is for sale, and there's going to be a Netflix original Hamlet movie. LET’S DISCUSS. 10/16/17: Stranded Family Loses Their Canoe and Gets Rescued by the Hogwarts Express Imagine being lost in the middle of nowhere. Your canoe is gone, your four children are hungry, and you’re in the Scottish Highlands with no haggis in sight. You phone the police, and what do they send to retrieve you? A Jacobite train, the exact one used in the Harry Potter films. From now on, I don’t want to be rescued by anything that ISN’T the Hogwarts Express. “Ma’am, we’ve got choppers en route,” they will say. “Just leave me,” I’ll respond as I sigh deeply and succumb to the elements. 10/14/17: To Kill a Mockingbird Has Been Banned in a Missouri Classroom Last week, a school in Biloxi, Missouri removed To Kill a Mockingbird from its shelves after a student and his mom found the book too “uncomfortable” to read. Unfortunately, American history is uncomfortable. Since the kids were forced to stop reading midway through the novel, it looks like they’ll never get to the bit with the ham costume, which is, I think it’s fair to say, a bummer. 10/10/17: The Great Gatsby Mansion is on the Market Do you currently have $17 million lying around? Excellent. You can buy the Long Island mansion that inspired Gatsby’s house, and you can pay off my student loans to boot. This way, you get to live in the lap of luxury, and I get to continue living in my apartment and eating beans straight out of the can but without the added weight of crushing debt. We both win! Rumor has it that F. Scott Fitzgerald based this symbol of American decadence and decay (also known as Gatsby’s crib) on the home of Mary Harriman Rumsey, a railroad industry heiress and friend of Fitzgerald’s. If you, like me, have no earthly idea how big five acres could possibly be, I did the Googling for you. It’s roughly the size of four football fields, two city blocks, or, if you’re a time traveler from the Middle Ages, the amount of land that could be plowed in five days using a yoke of oxen. 10/16/17: A Modern-Day Hamlet Movie is (Hopefully) Coming to Netflix Netflix is purportedly sealing the deal as we speak. The idea was developed by writer Mike Lesslie (who also did a version of Macbeth in 2015 with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard) as well as actor Riz Ahmed, who is set to star as Hamlet. I can't begin to explain to you how excited I am about this. You'll remember Riz as the guy who played Bodhi in Rogue One. He also played Nasir in HBO's The Night Of, which, if you haven't seen it, SEE IT. I didn't realize I wanted this until yesterday. Now I'm convinced that I will never know peace until I see a modern-day Hamlet played by Riz Ahmed. NETFLIX, MAKE IT HAPPEN.  Looking for more book news? Click here!

10 Harry Potter Costumes You Don't Want to See This Halloween

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 10:00:54 -0400

It is a truth universally acknowledged that SparkLife is completely obsessed with Harry Potter. From fanfictitious Instagrams to backseat boggarting, there's very little in the Potterverse that doesn't delight us. But we must admit, there are limits to our adoration. For instance, the fact that they make actual Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans continues to be deeply upsetting. So while all manner of Harry Potter costumes will always be in style for Halloween (someone pls go as a Hipstergriff), here we present 10 that we really, really don't want to see...