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The Oscar-nominated movies you’ll actually want to watch again

With the 91st Academy Awards set for Sunday, you have some tough choices. And yeesh, eight best picture nominees? That’s a lot of screen time.

So, we asked the Daily Dot’s newsroom: Of the acclaimed favorites poised to win Oscars, which one would you actually want to watch again? Prestige films can be a tedious and joyless experience, after all, and these are the films we can’t wait to stream with a fervor usually reserved for season 3 of The Office.

Even if something here was nominated as a documentary, foreign, or animated film, we’d still rather watch it again than, say, actual best picturenominees likeGreen Book and Bohemian Rhapsody. Here’s what the gang came back with.

Oscars 2019: The best pictures

The Favourite

With 10 nominations, The Favourite is tied with Roma as the most popular movie at the Oscars. It’s also a surprisingly offbeat choice: A historical movie with a dark sense of humor and an all-female love triangle at its heart, with none of the genre tropes you usually expect from period dramas. Starring Olivia Colman as the 18th century Queen Anne and Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz as her two warring love-interests, it’s become a cult hit thanks to its sensitive yet bitchily hilarious tone. Director Yorgos Lanthimos is known for making weird, often violent movies like The Lobster and Killing of a Sacred Deer, and this is his first truly mainstream hit. Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Fox Searchlight/YouTube

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a nearly perfect film (and its a travesty it isnt nominated for best picture). Each shot is packed with details, just about everything in the script gets paid off by the end of the movie, and the animation itself is unlike anything weve ever seen before; it really feels like a physical comic book come to life. Sony Animation had an even bigger task at hand with the film. It not only had to win over longtime fans and animation skeptics but also convince burnt out moviegoers that this was an essential story to tell.

With Into the Spider-Verse, Sony did that and more. By focusing the story on Miles Morales, the Black-Latinx Brooklyn teenager who takes on the mantle, it gave us an exhilarating and hilarious film that rewards on multiple rewatches. The introduction of its motley crewwhich included Gwen Stacy, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Ham, Peni Parker, and a schlubby middle-aged Peter Parkermade us want to spend more time with all of them. And in the midst of the films often beautiful chaos, it contained a refreshing story with an even greater message: anyone can wear the mask. Nothing encompasses that more than Miles leap of faith.

Even if it doesnt win the animated feature Oscar, the films legacy is already shaping up: Miles Morales is going to change lives. Michelle Jaworski

Sony Pictures Entertainment/YouTube

This foreign language nominee is up against , another movie about unconventional families. But Hirokazu Kore-edas Shoplifters relies less on memory and reconstructing the past, and it lives in a totally different world. We meet the family at the heart of the film in present-day Tokyo and see patriarch Osamu (Lily Franky) and son Shota (Jyo Kairi) in their first choreographed act of petty theft. Kore-eda toggles between showing the family as a whole, living in a cramped house with no privacy, and as individuals enduring mindless, demeaning jobs. When they take in a girl whos been abused by her mother, the family dynamic changes but not in a negative way. Shoplifters shows a group of people thrown together, doing the one thing they know how to do to get by, which makes the second act even more devastating. Audra Schroeder

Magnolia Pictures/YouTube

Roma

Alfonso Cuarns Oscar contender is indulgent. But the Mexican director earned every frame. Based on his childhood as an upper-middle-class kid in 1970s Mexico City, the movie recreates vivid memories with stunning detail. I went to kindergarten in Mexico City during the 80s, and hearing vendors near Chapultepec park sell balloons and miniature toy skeletons was an overwhelming thing to feel again, even streaming at home on Netflix. But the film isnt some love letter to one type of persons experience like Richard Linklaters Boyhood, its about the shared trauma of a nation. One with a perpetual chip on its shoulder. You learn that even in the affluent Roma neighborhood, the people who talk about the NFL and buy Fords that dont fit in the garage to feel like theyve arrived at something in society are just filling voids. Romas hero is the woman who struggles most, carries everyone elses emotional labor with unsinkable resolution, and deals. Ramon Ramirez

Netflix/YouTube

Bao

Nobody knows how to tug at heartstrings like the artists and animators at Pixar. For decades, their touching animated shorts have brought countless moviegoers to tears over seemingly mundane moments and objects: a love story between umbrellas, a lonely volcano, a terrified baby bird, a stork struggling at his day job. But with Bao, director Domee Shi manages to traverse the entire narrative arc of a mother/son relationship from birth to adulthood, introducing unconditional love, rejection, and humor in turn to take the audience on an intense emotional journeyall without saying a word. Maybe its because I married into a close-knit family, or maybe its because my love language is food, but this one gets me every time, no matter what. Next time you watch, bring the mouthwatering bao recipe to life in a less literal way by making your own dumplings, courtesy of the movie menu maestro, Binging With Babish. Monica Riese

YouTube Movies/YouTube

BlacKkKlansman

You can argue over the accuracy and political implications of Spike Lees BlacKkKlansman all you want, but neither changes the fact that its an exhilarating crime comedy/drama that gleefully indicts our modern sociopolitical climate. John David Washington stars as Ron Stallworth, the first Black detective at the Colorado Springs Police Department in the 1970s. Washington gives Stallworth a certain lackadaisical detachment thats amusingly at odds with the gravity of his mission: to infiltrate and expose a local Ku Klux Klan chapter. A strong supporting castincluding Adam Driver as the wiry Detective Philip “Flip” Zimmerman and Topher Grace as a bumbling David Dukeoffers some welcome comic relief. But you wont be laughing when BlacKkKlansman makes a 180-degree tonal shift in its final minutes, lest viewers forget how little this country has actually evolved on the racial front. Bryan Rolli

Movieclips Trailers/YouTube

Black Panther

Black Panther was released in February 2018a whole year ago. Usually, when a movie is released early in the year, everyone forgets about it by the time the Oscars are announced. But Black Panther was the highest-grossing film of the year. And people are still talking about it. Director Ryan Coogler gave us a Marvel film that felt different than anything wed seen before in the superhero genre. The titular hero, played by Chadwick Boseman, is kind and sensitive and not threatened by the multiple strong women characters who are constantly saving his life. The villain, Erik Killmonger (played by Michael B. Jordan), is a complex character and not just a plot device. And the visuals of the fictional African country Wakanda are stunning. At the end of the year, we also got Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Somehow, two of the best films of the year were based on Marvel comic book characters. Tiffany Kelly

Marvel/YouTube

A Star Is Born

A Star Is Born is my second choice mainly because I didnt think anyone else on staff would select it. Someone has to stand up for Ally! Before I saw the remake, I saw all the memes that people made from screengrabs of the trailer. So it was impossible to go into the movie with a clear mind. But the memes didnt prepare me for a movie where Bradley Cooper pees on himself onstage during an awards ceremony. Or for Lady Gagaperforming a catchy song about butts on SNL. Really, this movie has everything. “Shallow” will never leave my head, and Ive accepted that fact. TK

Warner Bros./YouTube

Vice

In some ways, Adam McKays Dick Cheney biopic lives up to the promise of its initial trailers. Frequent method actor Christian Bale gives arguably his most transformative performance to date as the drawling, potbellied Cheney, while Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell combine humor and heft in their turns as Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush, respectively. But the clearly conservative-baiting film often plays like a rote origin story, checking all the requisite biopic boxes while skimping on the drama. The funny moments feel shoehorned into a glacial plot, while the narrative framework hints at a big reveal that lands with a thud. Cheneys illustrious political career warrants a movie that will critically evaluate his heinous actions. Vice is content to simply point and laugh. BR

Movieclips Trailers/YouTube

RBG

If you saw On the Basis of Sex but were disappointed by the films singular focus on Ruth Bader Ginsburgs early career, consider supplementing with a rewatch of RBG. This documentary, directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, includes interviews from family, fans, and Gloria Friggin Steinem and manages to be both broader and deeper than the fictionalized Hollywood account that came out the same year. Even in its dutiful documentation, though, its clear that RBG is ultimately a film for Ginsburgs fans: The deeply humanizing portrait includes a tour of her collars and a confirmation of her internet-famous workout routine, plus a little hint of the typically austere womans sharp sense of humor (and terrible reputation in the kitchen). As half the nation breathes a sigh of relief upon seeing Ginsburg return to the Supreme Court after lung cancer surgery earlier this year, its the perfect time to rally the fan club with RBG. MR

Magnolia/YouTube

First Reformed

Paul Schraders First Reformed is only nominated for best original screenplay, which feels like a minor sinSchraders direction and Ethan Hawkes performance made for one of the most transcendent, haunting movie experiences of 2018. First Reformed makes Bohemian Rhapsody look like Scooby Doo: The Movie. Perhaps it transcends Oscars. Hawkes portrayal of quietly self-destructive upstate New York pastor Ernst Toller anchors the film and his growing crisis of faith seeps into its empty spaces. Its slow cinema about decay and collapse that is both environmental and spiritual. But Schrader makes sure he leaves you with images you cant forget, like Toller and a young pregnant widow named Mary (a subdued Amanda Seyfried) levitating like a mirror into Andrei Tarkovskys universe. New details reveal themselves after repeated viewingsright up until that bonkers ending. AS

A24/YouTube

Cold War

So much of Cold War, which is inspired by the relationship between director Pawe Pawlikowskis parents, is about what we dont see. Spanning over the course of 15 years in post-war Poland and across Europe, were given glimpses into the lives of Wiktor and Zula, a musician and a promising young singer respectively, as a touring ensemble first brings them together. Their love affair soon follows, and despite any kind distance, betrayal, volatile disdain, and even homesickness that plagues them over the years, their magnetic attraction for one another and the kinds of music that shapes their lives always brings them back together. But in the gaps between Wiktor and Zulas reunions, your imagination quickly begins to spin the lives they lived apart from one another.

The backdrop of the Soviet Unions rule is a constant shadow, one that corrupts and influences aspects of their artistry, drives them apart and back together, and takes them away from their homeland (yet calls them back home). Its intoxicating and hypnotic, even when following their hearts brings them nothing but misery, and you cant look away. Its more intimate moments are just as vital as the larger setpieces, which is in part due to Pawlikowski, who received a directing Oscar nomination for Cold War. (Its also up for cinematography and foreign language film.) And the way Cold War is told, both through how its filmed and its formation through music, hold your attention from the start and doesnt let go. MJ

Amazon Studios/YouTube

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Despite having three big nominations (actress, supporting actor, and adapted screenplay), Can You Ever Forgive Me? still feels like an underdog. Starring Melissa McCarthy as a down-on-her-luck writer who turns to forgery, it’s a subtly funny and insightful drama with none of the flashiness of typical Oscar-bait biopics. It’s also one of the few nominees from a female director, a detail that attracted the attention of Oscar pundits because Marielle Heller was mostly shut out of awards season. Meanwhile, controversial choices like Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody sailed through. Fortunately, Can You Ever Forgive Me? will have a long shelf-life regardless, thanks to its memorably charming performances and authentic portrayal of two gay loners living in early ’90s New York. I’m rooting for Richard E. Grant to get that supporting actor statuette. He’s been one of the most entertaining people on this season’s awards circuit.GBW

Fox Searchlight/YouTube

Read more: https://www.dailydot.com/upstream/best-oscars-movies-2019/

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Home improvement platform Houzz lays off 180, reportedly gears up for public listing

Houzz has built a $4 billion business on the back of a platform and marketplace that lets you plan and execute home improvement projects. But as the startup gears up for its next phase of growth, it is also going through some growing pains. TechCrunch has learned and confirmed the company this month laid off around 110 people in the U.K. and Germany, along with an additional 70 in its U.S. home market in Q4 of last year.

“We restructured our international marketplace workforce, primarily in our U.K. and Berlin offices, so that we can double down on the areas that will have the greatest impact for Houzz,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. “It’s always difficult to go through a restructure at growth stages given the impact on people’s lives. We value and appreciate all of our employees and will do everything we can to retain them. We are introducing as many new opportunities as possible in other parts of the business so that those affected can apply and transition to other positions. For those who will leave Houzz, we are offering a separation package and providing any help we can as they look for a new opportunity. Houzz’s business is strong and we continue to hire and scale teams across our international and U.S. offices.”

Houzz has 1,800 employees, meaning that these two tranches of layoffs account for approximately 10 percent of the company. The spokesperson added that Houzz has been hiring in Q4 in other areas — some 300 people in all — although she did not specify in which department or region.

Houzz is also not providing much information about which departments have been impacted by the layoffs or what happens next, but details posted on social media point to at least one entire international department getting eliminated.

“Purchased items from you in the UK. For the second time one of my orders was canceled. I emailed your offices + tried to call only to find the phone had been disconnected. I tweeted yesterday & rcv’d a message that all staff had been made redundant,” one customer noted on Twitter.

A source hints to us there could be more layoffs coming, as the company looks to get into the black ahead of a potential IPO.

“The company aims to slash costs in order to be profitable before going public,” the source said.

Starting out as an online community for people redecorating their homes and looking for inspiration and a place to share their ideas — it was co-founded by real-life partners Adi Tatarko (CEO) and Alon Cohen (president) as they were remodeling their own house — Houzz has over the years raised more than $600 million from an illustrious group of investors that include DST Global, GGV, Kleiner Perkins, NEA, Sequoia and more. The aim: to build out a much larger and ambitious marketplace to target an industry — home improvement — that’s estimated to be worth well in excess of $1 trillion in North America and Europe alone.

Today, you can buy furniture, decorative items, bathroom and kitchen units and more across some 65 different product areas. Professionals and would-be customers also use the platform to connect with each other; millions of consumers and more than 1 million professionals currently use Houzz.

Over the last several years, the company has also expanded internationally, made acquisitions and launched new technology to fill out that vision. That’s included buying IvyMark to develop a bigger offering for interior designers, and building out an AR-based service, among other moves.

All that rapid growth and development, however, seems to have come with some challenges as Houzz attempted to make the transition from startup to more mature, large business.

Reviews on Glassdoor posted by ex-employees in recent weeks (see here and here) point to issues at the company with how management communicates with staff, the lack of a coherent and consistent strategy and other operational challenges that can come with building a business with a number of different facets over a relatively crunched period of time.

“The company has fought on many fronts over the last few years — editorial, community, marketplace, visualization software, paid local marketing,” our source notes. “All promising projects but requiring years of incubation and continued investment.”

Houzz has never commented on IPO plans, but last May it hired Richard Wong from LinkedIn as its CFO. Some took this as a signal of its longer-term intentions to go public.

Companies as diverse as Amazon, Pinterest and Wayfair all compete in one form or another with Houzz, and with its most recent valuation at the $4 billion mark, the question is how Houzz proceeds with its next stage of growth.

A sea of money raised by VCs and PE firms has led to a number of companies in turn raising large, late-stage funding rounds — extending the private life for many a startup.

But on the other hand, a recent run of strong IPOs has also laid the groundwork for more companies to opt for public market exits.

Both of these, as well as a potential acquisition, could all be options for Houzz. In any case, they are all options that could be pushing the company to reassess its cost base and strategy.

We’ll update this story as we learn more. For those impacted by the news, we hope you land on your feet.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/01/29/houzz-layoffs/

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11 Things You Should Know About Noah Centineo, The Heartthrob Starring In The Perfect Date

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Cataloged in TV + Movies

11 Things You Should Know About Noah Centineo, The Heartthrob Starring In ‘The Perfect Date’

The Perfect Date is going to be your favorite romcom of the year!

Noah Centineo, who everyone fell for while watching, is set to star in a new Netflix romantic comedy. He will play Brooks Rattigan, who tries to earn money for college by creating a dating app where women can borrow him as a fake boyfriend. This forces him to play different characters each date night, which makes him question his own identity.

While you are waiting for Netflix to drop , here are a few things you should know about your newest crush, Noah Centineo:

1. The famous pocket scene in  was improvised by Noah. It was an adorable move he used to pull on his ex-girlfriend. However, his favorite scene in the film was the kitchen scene where the couple opened up about their family history.

2. Even though Noah is a well-known star now, he got into acting on accident. He was asked to audition for an agency and wasn’t initially interested, but he eventually got talked into going through with the idea.

3. Noah’s biggest dealbreaker is when a woman does not take care of herself — whether that is mentally, emotionally, or hygienically. He also isn’t a fan of passive aggressiveness. He wants to settle down with someone who is honest, someone who communicates how she feels without making him guess.

4. Noah is in such good shape because he played soccer when he was younger. He currently hikes, meditates, does yoga, and works out. He has also stayed sober since his 21st birthday after partying a little too hard as a teenager.

5. Noah’s first few roles were aired on the Disney Channel. He appeared on and . He also appeared in the music video for sung by Camila Cabello.

6. Noah has a scar on his lower face because he was attacked by a Mastiff when he was six-years-old. The dog ripped a hole in him until his teeth and gums were visible. However, it hasn’t changed his feelings about animals. He still loves big dogs!

7. Noah believes a ‘perfect date’ is when two people are able to have a comfortable, flowing conversation. This is why he prefers face-to-face time, or at least phone calls or video calls, to talking to girls through text.

8. Noah is a Taurus. He was born on May 9, 1996 in Miami, Florida. He grew up nearby on Boynton Beach with his parents and older sister, Taylor.

9. Even someone as handsome, talented, and intelligent as Noah has been catfished before. He developed a relationship with a girl over Instagram and eventually realized she wasn’t who she claimed she was.

10. Even though Noah is known for starring in cute romantic comedies, his favorite one to watch is .

11. Camila Mendes, from Riverdale, and Laura Marano, from Ladybird, are going to star alongside Noah in — but this is not his first time working with Laura. They showed their chemistry when he played her first ever love interest in 

Image Credit: Netflix

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Read more: https://thoughtcatalog.com/january-nelson/2019/02/the-perfect-date

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Stay Single Until You Find Someone Who Actually Makes You Orgasm

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Cataloged in NSFW / Sex

Stay Single Until You Find Someone Who Actually Makes You Orgasm

Stay single until you find someone who knows what they are doing in the bedroom. Someone who understands the way a female body works. Someone who spreads foreplay out throughout the day with flirtatious texts and back massages instead of assuming you will immediately get off with the help of a random dick pic and a quick peck on the neck.

Stay single until you find someone you sleep with because you to sleep with them. Not because you feel like it’s your obligation as his girlfriend. Not because you are worried he will leave you if you turn him down. Not because you feel guilty about saying no for the third time in a row.

Stay single until you find someone who stops making sex feel like a chore.

You shouldn’t have to fake excitement when he puts his hands on you. You shouldn’t have to sneak glances at the clock, waiting for him to roll off you. You shouldn’t have to touch yourself when he leaves the room because he didn’t get the job done and you have to finish where he left off.

Stay single until you find someone who cares about your experience in the bedroom as much as their own. Someone who will pay attention to your moans. Someone who will notice when you stiffen up. Someone who will learn the way you like to be touched. Someone who will make sure you cum before it’s their turn.

Stay single until you find someone who actually makes you orgasm — because if they are selfish in the bedroom, they are probably going to be selfish in the rest of your relationship. 

You don’t want to settle for a guy who skips showers and refuses to manscape even though he expects you to be bare from the neck down. You don’t want to settle for a guy who refuses to eat you out but expects you to go down on him every single day.

Your relationship is supposed to be 50-50. If he expects you to do the bulk of the effort in the bedroom, who knows what he’ll expect you to do in the kitchen and workplace.

Stay single until you find someone who is serious about keeping the relationship equal. Someone who believes your pleasure is as important as their pleasure. Someone who is not going to rest until you are fully satisfied. 

Stay single until you find someone who gets you excited about ripping off your clothes as soon as you are alone in a room together. Someone who puts you in a frisky mood and follows through on their dirty little promises. Someone who you want to have sex with again immediately after it ends.

Stay single until you find someone who actually makes you orgasm.

Sex is not the important thing in a relationship — but it is definitely important. Don’t settle for less than you deserve inside outside of the bedroom. Hold out for someone who gives you what you need. 

Image Credit: God & Man

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Read more: https://thoughtcatalog.com/holly-riordan/2019/02/stay-single-until-you-find-someone-who-actually-makes-you-orgasm

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How a giant cabbage eventually helped this girl feed hundreds of thousands of people.

The average cabbage weighs between one and eight pounds. In 2008, a nine-year-old girl grew a cabbage so large it could have come from a fairy tale about enchanted vegetables.

Photo by Clint McKoy on Unsplash

Katie Stagliano never meant to grow a cabbage that would’ve made a fairy godmother proud. She was just a third-grader bringing home a school project that was meant to inspire her green thumb.

She tended to the cabbage every day. And every day, the tiny seedling she’d planted got bigger. It quickly surpassed one pound, then two, and then 30. By the time the cabbage finally hit maturity, it weighed 40 pounds.

What to do with a behemoth cabbage? Once harvested, Katie decided to donate it to a local soup kitchen where it would feed more than 275 people.

Turns out the cabbage really was magical. It inspired Katie’s love of gardening and — more importantly — her desire to give back.

Photo courtesy of Katie Stagliano, General Mills.

Seeing how much of an impact one cabbage got Katie thinking. At only nine years old, she realized how important it was for everyone to have access to fresh and healthy food. At the same time, it was clear that not everyone had such access. The statistics, in fact, are sobering: one in eight people go hungry in America each year. That’s 40 million people, 12 million of which are children.

That clinched it for Katie. Before her age reached double digits, she’d made it her mission to end hunger in America.

While it started from a gargantuan cabbage, Katie’s nonprofit that she leads today has grown bigger than any cabbage ever could. General Mills is a big part of that.

Photo courtesy of  Katie Stagliano, General Mills.

Katie’s Krops started with one garden and a few volunteers. Today, the organization boasts over 100 gardens all over the country. Katie’s Krops provides the volunteers who run them with small grants to help those gardens flourish and yield plentiful produce for the food insecure.

In California, a young man named Joey has provided Shepherd’s Gate, a women’s shelter, with the only fresh fruit and vegetables the shelter gets.

In Ohio, the students at West Carrollton High School are growing fruits and vegetables for more than 450 homeless people right on campus. It was the first time many of the students had ever learned about agriculture.

Thanks to this incredible chain of agricultural efforts, in 2018, Katie’s Krops donated 38,342 pounds of produce across America.

Photo courtesy of  Katie Stagliano, General Mills.

In 2018, Katie was the winner of General Mills’ first-ever Feeding Better Futures scholar program. The contest, which was designed to give today’s youth a chance to make an impact on how we, as a society, fight hunger, reduce food waste and grow food more sustainably. It perpetuates General Mills’ decades-long commitment to both philanthropy and making sure that all people, everywhere, have enough to eat and love what they’re eating.

Katie was awarded $50,000 to continue developing her organization so she can feed even more people. She was mentored by industry experts and presented her project at The Aspen Ideas festival.

And business is still booming. Volunteers have given more than 1,000 hours to ensure the success of Katie’s flagship garden in South Carolina. The produce grown their goes has been donated to food banks and cancer centers. Food is also given directly to families and individuals in need and used for Katie’s Krops Dinners — regularly scheduled events where anyone in need can eat a free, hot meal in the company of their community. Volunteers also prepare care packages, distribute books, toys, school supplies, and clothing to those in need.

Katie doesn’t think anyone is too young or too small to make a big difference. She doesn’t see obstacles — only opportunities. That’s the way that General Mills looks at the problem of world hunger, too. It can be overcome with passion, empathy, and innovation.

Are you ready to take on the fight against hunger? The world’s waiting for your ideas.

If Katie’s story has inspired you, then it’s time to take action. If you’re between the ages of 13 and 21, now is your chance to be a part of keeping future generations fed. Submit your creative ideas for ending hunger to General Mills by February 26th, 2019, and you could win $50,000, life-changing mentorship from industry leaders, and an even bigger platform through which to share your ideas for change. Two additional finalists will receive $10,000 to kickstart their projects. The deadline is quickly approaching, so now’s the time to get cracking on your entry!

Solving global issues like hunger takes innovation. It requires us to work together. Katie’s ending hunger one vegetable garden at a time. How will you make a difference?

To learn more about Katie’s story, check out this video:

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/how-a-giant-cabbage-eventually-helped-this-girl-feed-hundreds-of-thousands-of-people

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Snugglefest was the Valentine’s Day party you wish you’d gone to

A lonely guy pretended to get stood up on a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner at Outback, wasted hours of a well-meaning but clueless server’s night, and went home with a free meal. Outback even offered him another free meal — provided he bring a real date. 

27-year-old Stephen Bosner spent Feb. 14 on a mission: To bring home a free steak. He made a reservation for two at America’s favorite Australian-ish fast casual steakhouse, donned a suit jacket, and packed some tissue paper into plastic bag as a makeshift “gift.” He walked in, dateless, and told the host that the 10-minute wait was fine because
“she said she was running a bit late anyway.”

But his date didn’t exist — Bosner was doing it all for a bit. He spent the night live tweeting the date that never was, documenting the reactions of his waiter and the Valentine’s Day revelers around him.

He started with a beer for himself and a glass of Chardonnay for his phantom girlfriend. He left classic “let me know when you’re on your way” voicemail as the waiter walked by. He picked through one loaf of starter bread, and then didn’t even bother to slice the second, choosing to stuff the sad loaf directly into his mouth.

Still parked at the table 15 minutes before the kitchen closed, Bosner chugged his date’s wine straight from the decanter as his waiter walked by. 

“I’ve never seen someone scoop glassware as smoothly as he took the untouched glass and empty decanter from the table,” Bosner tweeted. “Every single person within eye range has glanced at me at some point during the evening.”

Naming his date’s untouched silverware “Katherine,” Bosner pretended to call his wayward girlfriend loudly enough for everyone at the bar. 

“I take it you’re probably not gonna make it so …” he trailed off in the fake voicemail, adding enough of a pause for his audience to hear the sounds of people actually having good dates. “I guess I’ll talk to you later. Hope everything’s OK, hope nothing bad happened.”

It’s pathetic and hilarious, but a major dick move. Bosner made the waitstaff stay past their shift so he could forlornly stare at his steak 25 minutes past closing time. He started crying and ate dropped mac and cheese off the floor, eventually garnering enough sympathy for a nearby couple to pay for his meal for him. 

When the waiter came to clear the table, he tried to offer words of wisdom “like a father telling his son that Grandma died.” 

“Take care of yourself,” the concerned waiter told Bosner, clearly pitying the grifter. “Don’t let them get you down.”

To pay it forward, he left the waiter a $20 and donated $50 to the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Otherwise,” he told the Washington Post  “I’m going to have some real bad karma coming my way.” 

Once the thread went viral, Outback even reached out and offered to cover his next date. 

But some Twitter users didn’t find it funny at all, and  criticized Bosner for wasting the server’s time. In addition to keeping the staff late, the server could have made well over $20 in tips by turning the table to other paying customers. Instead, he had to awkwardly deal with a fake sad dude, who used his empathy for a Twitter joke. 

According to Vice, scamming his way into a free meal was better than Bosner’s original Valentine’s Day plans. 

“I figured, why not? It was better than sitting at home watching The Office again,” he explained. 

While the thread is funny to read, maybe don’t be a jerk to people who work in the service industry. 

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/guy-pretends-to-get-stood-up-valentines-day-outback-date/

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These skeleton-like sculptures look remarkably alive

Image: Getty Images

Good morning, everyone. Apparently we’re mad about towels. 

Scrolling through Twitter on Monday, you might have seen a feed full of people arguing over the amount of towels you’re supposed to own. The Great Towel Debate started when Twitter user @Advil asked followers to settle an argument between him and his girlfriend. 

“We have zero frame of reference on the appropriate amount of towels in a household of two,” he tweeted. 

People understandably had hot takes, but the hottest of them all was from Huffington Post writer Yashar Ali, who claimed that couples should “own a minimum” of 50 total towels. 50! Where do you even store that many towels?

Ali added that couples should own “preferably more.”

He also clarified the difference between a bath sheet and a bath towel, which rightfully blew people’s minds. 

It was only a matter of time before people starting passive aggressively tweeting about towels. 

Even the dictionary weighed in. 

And searches for “bath sheet” spiked on Google. 

“As a couple, you should own a minimum of …” became a brief meme. 

Looks like everyone has an opinion on towels. 

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/twitter-towels-as-a-couple-you-should-own-a-minimum-of/

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Everyone Thought Maddie Was Dead, But I Finally Know The Truth

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Cataloged in Creepy / Fiction

Everyone Thought Maddie Was Dead, But I Finally Know The Truth



I awoke in a rented bed screaming to the growing dawn. It was morning again. I sat up and rubbed my face, trying to drive away the memories that invaded my night. No such luck. Just like the others, this memory was here to stay.

Maddie was a murderer, a 14-year-old burgeoning serial killer. I didn’t have all the facts in front of me yet, but as far as I knew she was grooming me for the same. Her plan failed, thankfully. I still didn’t know what happened to her after that night, or why I didn’t remember any of this until returning to the town where it all happened. I felt sick. My mind was a jumble of terrible images and unanswerable questions.

Eventually I stumbled down the stairs and into the kitchen to make a pot of coffee I didn’t particularly want to drink. My day had to start eventually, and it was something to do. I measured the water, doled out the grounds into the filter, and started the machine. A simple procedure that did little to take my mind off of things.

While I waited for the coffee to brew I sat at the kitchen island staring off into the middle distance in a sort of daze. What was I supposed to do? Should I report it to the police? How could I explain what I didn’t fully understand myself? Should I just leave?

That was an attractive option, except the job that brought me here was incomplete and I didn’t handle that sort of failure very well. It was supposed to be a simple, uncomplicated assignment with a generous paycheck at the end. Still, I probably had enough reference photos to finish the job at home. Probably. I wasn’t so sure I could stand to look at another barn for the foreseeable future.

As the coffee machine gurgled the cobwebs slowly cleared from my brain and for the first time I became aware that something did not seem right in the house. The atmosphere had changed, and for no reason I could quite pinpoint, I began to feel afraid. Not alone. I couldn’t say why.

Grabbing a knife from the kitchen door that I was in no way prepared to use, I patrolled the ground floor for anything that seemed awry. Both doors were locked and I could detect no sign of a forced entry. The windows were locked as well, and none of them were broken Nothing was missing, I saw no muddy footprints or bloody hand prints. Nothing sinister at all to report. It was strange.

I decided I was just feeling paranoid from a night of bad dreams and returned to the kitchen for my coffee and a bagel. That’s when I saw it. There, on the counter, a newspaper. I kept plenty of them around for light reading and to use as drop cloths, but of course those were all new ones. The newspaper that sat on the counter was yellow with age, practically ancient. I glanced around, grimacing. Someone left it here, but why?

Having once again forgotten my coffee, I snatched up the paper and scanned it for the secrets it held. It was a local paper, The Belleville Republican. The date was October 25th, 1992. That was the year I turned five. We would have moved away by then, but just barely.

I didn’t have to scan for long to find what I was looking for, it was the banner headline. It read as follows:

The Ghoul of Belleville Has Been Caught!

Below this was a photo of several grim policemen hauling a filthy and bewildered-looking man out of a farmhouse. I stared at the man for several minutes, but he evoked no memories, fair or foul. A complete stranger. Still, the connection seemed obvious. I read the attached article.

BELLEVILLE – Last night, at 7:14 P.M. police apprehended Eric James Gunderson, a derelict. Gunderson has been named as a suspect in connection with the murder of three boys, aged five to eight. The town was shaken to its core last Thursday after a thorough search of the town of Belleville and the surrounding countryside resulted in police bloodhounds finally locating the body of the three youths. All three were buried in shallow graves in the dirt floor of an abandoned barn just off Country Road 3356. Adding to the horror and the tragedy was the news that all three bodies showed evidence of having been partially consumed postmortem. All three bodies also showed evidence of torture before finally succumbing to their injuries. The so-called Ghoul of Belleville had apparently lured all three children to the site, as the murder weapons themselves seemed to be improvised from readily available farming implements. A vocal public outcry quickly followed by concerned parents and outraged citizens of Belleville and the surrounding townships, demanding police find and apprehend this fiendish murderer before he could kill again. A curfew was hastily instated and for the past week the familiar sight of children playing unattended in the streets and forests seemed to be a thing of the past. Thankfully, an anonymous tip led police to an abandoned farmhouse not far from the site of the murders, where transient Gunderson had apparently been squatting for an unknown period of time. Found in his effects was a pair of underwear identified as belonging to one of the slain children. Under questioning, Gunderson denied any prior knowledge of the murders and could not account for his possession of the garment. However, a background check on Gunderson revealed, among many charges of vagrancy and public intoxication, a child abuse charge from fifteen years prior. The victim was his own son, now estranged and living with his mother in Tuscon, AZ. The Belleville Police have issued the following statement: (Continued on page six)

I opened the paper to find the rest of the article, but this proved unnecessary. The real message, the one I was meant to find, fell out of the paper and onto the floor. I snatched it from the tile and found it addressed simply to Johnny. I unfolded it and read the message within.

Dear Johnny,

Hey kiddo. It’s good to see you again, even if you haven’t seen me yet. Hehe. I’ve missed you all these years, and I wanted you to know I don’t blame you for what happened. Let us start fresh. “The Ghoul of Belleville!” Pretty cool nickname, huh? I don’t have one these days, nicknames are for the careless and I move around too much for that. But I’ve been keeping tabs on my baby brother, and when I found out you were coming back to Belleville, I knew I had to come back too. Do you remember everything yet? I know how tirelessly mom, dad, and their shrink have worked to erase me from your memory. Fuck them! I think it’s time for a reunion of the old club, don’t you? You still haven’t been properly initiated yet, and what sort of example is that for a Vice President to set? Come on down to the clubhouse, whenever you’re ready. Oh, and kiddo? Don’t get any funny ideas about bringing company along. I’d hate for this one to have to die without you.

Love, Maddie (your imaginary friend! haha)

I let the note fall to the floor at my feet and sat there for a long time, wondering just what I was supposed to do. I had no doubt someone like Maddie would find a way to make me take the fall for her crimes, even with this note that was essentially a signed confession. Maddie had been all but erased from history, living off the grid for decades. My parents, damn them, helped her along with their revisionist history. She was the proverbial one armed man.

As far as the townspeople knew, I was the only weirdo wandering through the backwoods and spending an awful lot of time in and around barns. Any crimes she committed could be pinned on me as easily as her first murders were pinned on poor Gunderson. I stepped into her noose without even knowing it. She didn’t have to tell me that “this one” was another child, my initiation the taking of the poor child’s life.

If I ignored her note she would find me, and probably hurt other people in the process. If I came with the cops she would kill the boy and disappear. As far as the cops would know, I was leading them to my own signed confession.

I didn’t hold any illusions that if I met with her I could reason with her. Her note made it sound like she had been very busy over the years, and nothing I could say to her could convince her to turn herself in to the authorities. I had to stop her somehow, but for the life of me I had no idea how I was going to do it.

It was the afternoon before I gathered the will to face her. On the kitchen counter I left Maddie’s note, the weathered newspaper, and a note of my own. In it, I explained everything as well as I could in what I considered to be the very likely event of my own demise. I could only hope that it would be enough for the authorities to find and capture her before she could kill again.

I came unarmed, without so much as a kitchen knife to protect me. I felt naked without it, but I knew in my heart that the child’s odds were better if I came to Maddie without aggression. She had much more experience with deadly weapons in any case, I was hopelessly outmatched.

The precise location of our “club house” still eluded me, but my extensive exploration of the countryside aided me somewhat, along with the clue of the country road given by the newspaper article. With the help of satellite imagery provided by the internet I was able to narrow the location of the barn down to a few strong candidates. I only hoped I would find the right one before she grew impatient.

Even with all of my admittedly lackluster detective work the search was slow going. The first barn I tried had burned to the ground sometime in the period between the satellite photography and now. Only a few charred timbers remained. I wasted the better part of an hour hiking to the location, and each moment ticked by felt like a moment closer to doom.

I ran back to the car and drove to the next location as quickly as I dared. Occasionally I passed motorists, farmers and other locals who likely recognized my vehicle. Surely the child was missed by now, and I couldn’t afford to attract attention to myself. I glanced at my watch and swore. If I didn’t find her soon I would be forced to face her after dark.

The idea of Maddie’s growing blood lust was never far from my mind. How long could a creature like her restrain her murderous impulses? Her cannibalistic impulses? I had no idea. I could only hope that whatever she wanted from me was enough to stay her hand.

The second barn still stood, but I knew on sight that it was a dead end as well. It sparked no feeling from me, no dreadful recollection. I checked inside to be sure, and found it empty save for a few birds nesting in the rafters. They screeched and fled, leaving behind a gentle snowfall of discarded feathers. More time wasted.

Somehow I knew the third candidate would prove to be my final destination. I knew it as soon as I stepped out of the car and into the woods beyond the road. The path was still there, as Maddie knew I would find it. She tied a rag of cloth around a tree branch all those years ago, and though it was surely rotted away in the span of decades, another had taken its place. The trail was overgrown but I could still see the ghost of it. The woods seemed impossibly dark in the waning light. I stepped in, flashlight in hand.

As I trudged through the undergrowth flashes of memories came flooding back to me. I remembered the innocent time when I had not an inkling of Maddie’s darker side. I remembered my first and greatest friend, the person I idolized. The person who always had time for her baby brother. The person who always showed me kindness, taught me how to read, and encouraged my earliest creative efforts. She was there for me in ways my own parents never matched.

I remembered the formation of the club, a place just for us where she promised to teach me all secrets older children knew and adults forbade. All of it given under the pretext of guiding my path to a brilliant future and untold success. I did all she asked, wishing only to see her smile. That strange smile I loved so well. I did as she bade even when it frightened me.

Soon her tutelage began to grow strange and terrible. Though my love for her burned as brightly as ever, I began to fear her as well. I began to fear her lessons and fear what I understood adulthood to represent. When I finally failed her test I saw a side of her previously unsuspected. I saw her rage. I saw her seize the head of a squalling lamb and snap it with a terrible roar. The next time I obeyed. The cat. The rock. How close did I come in the end to becoming just like her?

I switched the flashlight on, the light failing enough to make progress difficult through the trees and the brush. I felt eyes on me from all around, and told myself this was just paranoia. Every step was an act of will. Somewhere out there in the growing darkness I could feel the barn, our clubhouse. I could feel its pull. It was close.

Finally I could see the shape of it looming through the thinning forest. High up in the hayloft I thought I could see a faint glow. This was it. I could not turn back, I didn’t dare. Somehow I knew she knew I had arrived. I stepped into the clearing, into the barnyard. The door stood open a crack, inviting.

Muscle memory guided me through the twists and turns of decay. I ignored the paths of dead ends and switchbacks created both by the carelessness of those that left them and the ones created by Maddie herself when she was little more than a child. This time was so much easier than in my last, terrible dream. The panic of that night was replaced by a strange calm, and I had my flashlight to guide me away from the teeth and the traps.

“Johnny!” A voice called out from the darkness.

I froze, my heart pounding and prickles of fear riding up and down my flesh. It was her, it was Maddie.

“I’m so glad you made it, I was starting to worry you wouldn’t come! Do you remember everything yet? Well, never mind, I’ll help you fill in the blanks when you get here! We have plenty of time to talk.”

I didn’t answer, I couldn’t. After a time I forced myself forward again. The flashlight’s beam created grotesque shadows from the strange machinery. Ghoulish faces leaped up and lunged at me, razor claws swiped at my face and I could almost hear the cruel laughter of these phantasms. I tried to ignore them. The real monster lay ahead. I was close.

“I missed you so much, Johnny!” She called.

I could almost believe her kind tone. A ghost of the love I once felt for her welled up unbidden from somewhere deep within. I still did not dare believe I could get through to her. Not much farther, now.

“It’s been so lonely all these years, but I never stopped thinking of you. You’re my best friend, Johnny. I want to share everything with you. We still can!”

I turned another corner, walls constructed of bales of barbed wire. An image grew in my head of the the castle of Sleeping Beauty, and the terrible thorny bramble that sprung up around it. Another of Maddie’s stories. I always imagined her as the princess, imprisoned in her own mind as much as the magically fortified castle. The idea that I was her prince gave unpleasant connotations in my grown mind.

Through the narrow path in the thorns I saw the ladder to the hayloft. The entrance to the castle. In this fairy tale it was the wicked witch waiting above. Beyond the ladder was the rare open patch of dirt floor where sacrifices were made and tiny bodies were buried. I clambered up the ladder to my waiting destiny.

Her hand seized my own as I groped at the wooden platform of the hayloft. I gasped and nearly fell to the jagged mess below. Instead she hauled me up to relatively solid ground. It was nearly a miracle the wood had not rotted away. I still didn’t trust it any more than my present company. I scrambled as far away from her as the limited space would allow.

As my thudding heart slowed with excruciating slowness, I became aware that we were alone in the loft. There was no child. Maddie, allowing me my space, nodded sympathetically from the opposite side. An electric lantern glowed dimly beside her, illuminating her makeshift camp. A bedroll and a stash of canned food I recognized as having come from my own pantry.

“The kid?” I asked, able to speak at last.

Maddie smiled. “It’s just you and me, little brother. I’m sorry, I didn’t want to deceive you like all the others. I just wanted to make sure we would have this time alone, and I couldn’t have the police interrupt us. You understand, don’t you?”

“What do you want?” I asked.

“I told you, kiddo,” She replied, “I just want to talk about old times. I really wasn’t going to hurt you that night, truly. I never wanted to hurt you, and I understood you weren’t ready yet. It was just like the lamb, remember? You were scared then, but soon enough you were ready for that. I was so proud of you when you crushed that cat’s skull. I could tell, you loved it. The power! But it’s nothing compared to a human life. God!”

“I didn’t!” I cried, “I didn’t love it. It was sickening! I wish I never did it, I wish I could have forgotten it forever.”

“You loved it.” Maddie said, emphatically. “I think you know that, too. I saw your painting, saw the look on your face. You put it there, it was just like that night. It was gorgeous, Johnny. I always knew you had talent. It’s a gift, a gift from God, and this is the same, it really is! If I just had a little more time with you I could have taught you to understand that to destroy is just as beautiful, just as joyous as to create!”

“No…” I moaned, but something inside me could see the truth in her words. I could remember that terrible, terrible joy. As loathsome as it was, as unspeakable, some spark of it shone in a space my waking mind had locked away. But I wasn’t like her! So what if I felt anticipation well up against the fear when we led that boy to the clubhouse? In the end I turned away from destruction, denied her teachings. I ran away and embraced creation.

“I know, kiddo.” She smiled, “It was too soon. I was careless, like I said. A little restraint would have made all the difference, but your big sister hadn’t learned yet to control her… urges. That’s why I didn’t blame you.”

“For telling them everything?” I asked, “For telling mom about the animals, and the boy? The clubhouse?”

“Mom already knew,” Maddie told me. “Or at least she suspected. She suspected me, at least. I’m not sure how, exactly. Mothers have a way about them, so I’m given to understand. She knew, do you understand? She knew, and she looked the other way. Tacit permission, as far as I was concerned. Not that I gave a shit what she or dad thought. They sure as hell never cared what I did. Not after you were born. I don’t blame you for that either. I’m just saying, neither of them would deal with a problem, they were content to ignore it until it grew out of control. Or to run away from it, leaving it all alone.”

“What happened after that night? After I told them?” I asked. I suddenly remembered standing in a darkened hallway and listening to a screaming fight between the three of them. “You came back.”

“Yeah, that’s right. I had to tell them I forced you to do all those things, I couldn’t let you take the fall. I tried to explain why I did the things I did, I hoped they could understand. They couldn’t, or wouldn’t. Hell, I guess I hardly understood why I did it either, just that it felt good to do. Like nothing else, not sex, not drugs. Nothing compared. I never even felt alive, or else I felt like nothing else in the world was real. Nothing compared to the feeling I got when I took a life, when I tasted the flesh. God!”

“What did they say?” I asked, “What did they do?”

“What did they do?” She repeated, “They screamed, they yelled, they gnashed their teeth and quailed at their own poor fortune. They told me I was sick, that I needed help. They wanted me to stop. I would rather die. To stop is to die. I couldn’t. I ran. They didn’t try to stop me. They called the police and reported me a runaway. When enough time passed and I didn’t come back for them, I was declared dead. They took you away as soon as they could.”

“Surely there would be a record of your death, though, right?” I asked, perplexed, “I should have found it online.”

“Oh that’s easy. There probably is a record somewhere, no matter how hard I tried to cover my tracks and no matter how much our parents tried to hide the truth. That’s why they changed their name. Yours too.”

“Of course,” I muttered. It was so simple, I should have thought of it.

“The rest,” She told me, “as far as I know, is simple programming. You were so young, so pliable. I don’t know the particulars of it, of course, but they got some shrink to fill your head with bullshit and… and fucking gaslighted you into thinking I never existed and that all of those times we had together were nothing but nightmares and daydreams! They really did a number on you, little brother. God, I wish I had killed them too. I still could, I know where they are.”

I was dumbstruck, but it all made sense. Even as recently as a few weeks ago my mother was still up to those tricks. Still turning a blind eye. I could hate her for that, but I still didn’t want her to die.

“Maddie, maybe mom and dad were not the best parents, but you can’t kill them! Please, please, you’ve got to stop! You have no right!”

Maddie just stared back at me, eyes cold and mouth set. My stomach dropped a few floors and my brain pulsed with static, the onset of panic. I knew that look from years ago. From the first test. The lamb. Rage was coming.

“NO RIGHT?!” She bellowed, the tendons in her neck standing in stark relief. For the first time I noticed the ripple of muscle beneath her skin, like a mixed martial arts fighter. She must have spent years training her body into a machine every bit as powerful and awesome as the hulks that rusted below us. She advanced on me, and I tried to shrink back into the wall. I suddenly wish I had brought a gun.

“NO RIGHT!? Who decides what is right, brother? Was it right for those bastards to turn their back on me, to take you away and fill your head with lies? I’m the only one who ever told you the truth, and you take THEIR SIDE!?”

She roared and leapt at me. Somehow I rolled away in time. The ancient boards creaked menacingly with her impact. The window gaped open at my back, a short wall the only thing separating me from hanging out into the open air.

“Stop! Maddie, please!” I begged, “Stop, let’s talk about this!”

“Too late, kiddo.” She said, stalking toward me. Again I tried to scramble away, but there was nowhere to go. “I wanted to talk, but you turned on me! Just like the others, you son of a bitch!”

In a fluid motion she leaped at me again, drawing a knife from a sheath at her hip. I wasn’t fast enough this time, the blade drew blood from my left arm, searing pain. The bloodied knife shone blackly in the moonlight. The impact shook the rotted boards again, and they felt terribly close to collapse. I sprung away, but she was ready.

I begged her again and again to stop, but the sight of my blood only intensified her fury. She swiped the blade back and forth as I backpedaled and sidestepped desperately and with limited success. I was bleeding now from several wounds in my chest and arms. Some were shallow, some felt horribly deep. I was going to die.

Finally sick of her cat and mouse game, Maddie charged at me and tackled me to the ground. She rose the gory knife high to deliver a killing blow when the floorboards finally gave way.

It felt like we fell forever.

I fell badly on my arm and felt it snap, and I screamed with a pain never before suspected. Somewhere through this agonized haze I could hear Maddie scream as well. I looked, and saw her bleeding from wounds of her own. Nails and shards of wood pierced her side where she landed. No mortal wounds, but as a gestalt it was more than enough to keep her busy for a minute.

I gritted my teeth and prepared to move. To escape. I half crawled, half lurched toward the bramble forest bleeding in a thousand places. I held my shattered arm with the one still whole, and focused all my energy on not blacking out. One step. Another. Another.

A hand seized my foot and a banshee shrieked from somewhere behind me. I fell to the ground trying and failing to protect my arm. Blackness crowded around my vision, I was going to die.

“Nuh-uh, kiddo. We’re not done here yet,” The Minotaur snarled. Her eyes shone in the failing light of the lantern, which landed somewhere nearby. Something else shone. I wasn’t sure what, the blackness was crowding in too deep. It was close. I reached. She crawled up my prone body. My arm sang a spirited symphony of outrage.

The Wicked Witch was on top of me, straddled my sides. She stared into my eyes but I saw no life there. Only death. She bared her teeth at me. They seemed terribly sharp. My neck was terribly exposed. My hand found the shining thing it sought. I swung the shining thing at Maddie with all of my remaining strength. There was more of it then I thought.

The Maddie-Thing shrieked again and clawed at its neck. Something had sprouted there, protruding from the base where neck met shoulder. She rolled off of me, still screaming. In the dim light I could see the shining thing was her knife. Somehow I found the strength to rise and crawl to her. Her screams had stopped by the time I reached her.

I looked down at my sister, her face growing peaceful. Rage had subsided at last. She looked up at me and smiled, tears welling in her eyes. I loved it when she smiled at me. Somehow I forgot about the pain, forgot about dying. I wanted to tell her something, but I didn’t know what it was.

She had something to tell me too, and she did know what it was. She said, “Oh kiddo. Am I your first?”

Then Maddie died.

I don’t remember much about the rest of that night. I somehow managed to call 911, and I somehow managed to direct them to that remote barn. Maybe they tracked my cell phone, I don’t know. All I can say for certain is that I eventually woke up in a hospital.

The police had the predictable onslaught of questions for me, though they were kind enough to wait until I was lucid enough to answer them. I answered their questions as honestly as possible, including admitting that I killed my sister. They seemed to accept my self defense plea, though I suppose I won’t know for certain until it goes to trial.

I heard from Lisa before I heard from mom or dad. She called me in the hospital with her own onslaught of questions. Thankfully, as per usual, she did not require answers to most of them. After determining that I was going to survive my injuries, it was back to business for her. She assured me that she would handle the benefactors, however I decided to move forward with the project.

Mom and dad did eventually call, but I couldn’t answer either of them. I wasn’t ready for the conversation we had coming.

When I finally had time to think about all that had happened, the story that began when I was just four years old, I was at a loss for how to feel. She was a monster. A psychopath, a murderer, and a cannibal. She tried to make me like herself. She was my sister. I loved her. I wanted to be just like her.

I don’t know what the future holds for me, but my past is clearer than it’s ever been.

I remember everything.

I remember Maddie.

Read more: https://thoughtcatalog.com/jeremy-alderman/2019/02/everyone-thought-maddie-was-dead-but-i-finally-know-the-truth

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Kitchen magic…

Read more: https://imgur.com/gallery/YoUsxmo

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House hunting apps make me want to gouge out my millennial eyes


This interface will destroy me.
Image: john keeble/Getty Images

When I turned 33-years-old, I decided it was time for me to become a “real adult” and do things real adults do — eat meals at a table, learn what a stock is, and maybe even buy a house.

The former goals were what I could foreseeably accomplish, the latter was what I wanted most of all. All of my high school classmates did it, even the ones who couldn’t tell the difference between Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr. As someone who has plenty of unresolved adolescent psychodrama, I refused to accept defeat.

So I downloaded multiple housing apps and did what I knew best: I swiped.

Swipe right to fail

There are dozens of real estate apps — Zillow, Trulia, StreetEasy, and Realtor.com to name a few — but there are infinite ways these apps have managed to consume every free moment of my time and every available neuron of my brain. I started off my house hunt by casually swiping “just to see what was out there,” before the apps became a soul-mutilating obsession.

I swiped before work, during lunch, and at all mealtimes. I swiped on my way up elevators and down escalators and on each and every one of my commutes. Books? Why read books on the train? Friends? Why talk to friends in real life? I was working on building my future, I was swiping damnit. 

After all, swiping had served me well in my twenties: swiping got me my girlfriend (on Tinder), my apartment (on Naked Apartments), my therapist (on ZocDoc), and hundreds of followers on Twitter, just by liking the right poisonous trash. 

There was nothing I could do, there was no way I could stop myself: Securing a house was the last milestone I needed to reach so I could secure my financial future and one-up all my frenemies on Facebook with photos of my newly polished softwood kitchen floors.

I just couldn’t swipe my way to a house, though. Housing prices were astronomically higher than my extremely dumb 20-year-old brain ever imagined. Even as I lowered my standards — a studio apartment for me, my girlfriend, and our future two kids, or a “fixer upper home” that included a collapsed toilet full of cat hair — it all felt painfully out of reach.

It became increasingly clear that I couldn’t afford anything I needed. If I wanted a home, I’d have to leave the city entirely and find a new career. I’d have to give up on having more than one child or find a way to monetize the cute one. To be fair, things could change for me and the millions of people in my generation in the exact same financial position. 

There’s plenty of housing apps but not enough housing

By now, the statistics about home ownership are familiar and exhausting. Home ownership for millennials is low: a full eight percent lower than Gen-Xers and baby boomers’ rates when they were at the same age. By this point, we should have 3.4 million more homeowners than we currently do.

For communities of color, these numbers are even smaller. Black home ownership has dropped far more dramatically than other comparably sized demographic since 2000, according to the Urban Institute.

Sure, in some parts of the country, home prices have been dropping. Yet home purchases have decreased as mortgage rates have gone up. Real estate brokerage firm Redfin recently found that the supply of homes middle-class families can buy has declined by 86 percent in 49 different metropolitan areas. 

86 Percent.  

The reasons for this crisis are well-documented, including spiraling inequality, flat wages, decreased housing supply, and rising school debt. In the case of the black community, you can add on decades of gerrymandering, subprime mortgage lending, and racial bias. 

It’s not like millennials have much of a choice about where they live, either. Many millennials move to urban centers where housing prices are highest because that’s where the best career opportunities are. If you’re queer, or trans, or a person of color, moving to rural or suburban areas where housing prices are often lowest isn’t always the best option. You need to move to diverse cities, where you can find other people just like you.

I would love to make a living as a writer who works out of her beautiful rustic queer commune in Northern California. Alas, I cannot.

In the cities, the dream of homeownership is even more distant. If I were to rely on only my and my partner’s salary alone, it would take us 45 years to buy a two bedroom apartment in New York. I would be eighty years old by the time I made my first down payment. My flesh will be falling off my face. My uterus will look like a California raisin. Even then, I won’t be able to write that check unless housing prices stay constant which, lol. 

The future is bleak for most of us. None of it stops us from swiping. 

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Swiping Help

Despite all of this crushing economic data working against me, I still haven’t deleted these apps. I love to pretend that with just the right amount of scrimping and saving and relatives dying, I’ll be able to secure a two bedroom apartment within an hour radius of my job. I also do love the swiping. 

To be clear: iI the economic environment  does change, home ownership is theoretically possible for me, which it isn’t for most people my age. That makes it an absolute privilege. Until that day comes, however, I’ll be window shopping on the internet, ooh-ing and aah-ing over granite countertops and stainless steel appliances and — because I live in New York — closets. 

Apps are designed to keep you clicking. Housing apps are built to make you desire. There are photos that you feel forced to swipe through, descriptions and data you feel compelled to analyze. Thanks to Trulia, Zillow, and StreetEasy, I can now picture myself in a 12′ x 25′ living room with an antique pocket door and an oversized window that overlooks a tree, not a rat den. 

I just can’t do much besides imagining. The apps won’t save me. Forgive me if I don’t stop hoping that one day, they will. 

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/house-hunting-apps-make-me-feel-awful/

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Amazon Live is the retailers latest effort to take on QVC with live-streamed video

Amazon is taking on QVC with the launch of Amazon Live, which features live-streamed video shows from Amazon talent as well as those from brands that broadcast their own live streams through a new app, Amazon Live Creator. On the live shows, hosts talk about and demonstrate products available for sale on Amazon, much like they do on QVC. Beneath that sits a carousel where shoppers can browse product details and make purchases.

More than one video streams on Amazon Live at the same time, so shoppers can tune to the one that most interests them.

For example, Amazon Live is currently streaming a Valentine’s Day Gift Shop show, a cooking-focused show (In the Kitchen with @EdenEats) and Back to Business Live, which is showing off products aimed at daycare centers and schools.

You can tap on the different videos to change streams, scroll down to watch recordings of those videos that were recently live or view which live shows are coming up next.

On the web, the live-streaming site is available at Amazon.com/Live, but it’s not listed yet in Amazon’s main navigation menus so it remains hard to find. On mobile, there’s now a section labeled “Amazon Live” that’s appearing on both the iOS and Android app’s main navigation menu as of a recent app update.

We’ve confirmed the page Amazon.com/Live is newly added, though this is not the first time Amazon has offered live streams.

The retailer has dabbled in live streaming in the past, with mixed results.

Two years ago, it pulled the plug on its short-lived effort, Style Code Live, which also offered a QVC-like home shopping experience. The live show featured hosts with TV and broadcast backgrounds, and brought in experts to talk about beauty and style tips.

But Style Code Live focused only on fashion and beauty.

Amazon Live, on the other hand, covers all sorts of products, ranging from smart home to games to toys to kitchen items to home goods to electronics to kitchen items and much more. It’s also positioned differently. Instead of being a single live video show featuring only Amazon talent and guests, live streaming is something Amazon is opening up to brands that want to reach a wider audience and get their products discovered.

Above: Amazon Live hosts – according to LinkedIn, they are not Amazon employees

You may have seen some of these live-streamed videos from brands in the past.

On Prime Day 2017 and again in 2018, Amazon aired live video streams promoting some of the Prime Day deals. These videos were produced by the brands, very much like some you’ll now find on Amazon Live.

The company has also aired live-streamed content on its Today’s Deals page, and has allowed brands to stream to their product pages, their Store and on Amazon.com/Live before today.

Amazon now aims to make it easier for brands to participate on Amazon Live, too.

On a website detailing Amazon Live, Amazon touts how live-streaming video can drive sales, allow a brand to interact with their customers in real time — including through chat during the live stream — and reach more shoppers. One early tester, card game maker “Watch Ya’ Mouth,” is quoted saying that live streaming had helped to increase daily visits to its product detail page by 5x and “significantly grew our sales.”

The informational site also points brands to Amazon’s new app for live streaming, Amazon Live Creator.

Available only on iOS, the app allows a brand to stream its video content directly to Amazon.com on desktop, mobile and within the Amazon mobile app. The app supports streaming directly from the smartphone itself or through an encoder using a professional camera.

It also includes built-in analytics so brands can determine how well their stream performed, including things like how much of their budget they’ve spent on “boosting” (a way to pay to reach more shoppers), total views, unmuted views and other metrics.

According to data from Sensor Tower, Amazon Live Creator was released yesterday, on February 7, 2019, and is currently unranked on the App Store. It has no reviews, but has a five-star rating.

Currently, the live-streaming feature is open to U.S. Professional Sellers registered in the Amazon Brand Registry, Amazon’s website says, and live streaming from China and Hong Kong is not supported.

Amazon has been interested in live streaming for some time. The company patented its idea around live video shopping last year and was spotted hiring for its Amazon Live efforts before that.

However, Amazon had claimed at the time that its live-stream shopping experiences were “not new.”

That’s true, given that live streams that would sometimes appear around big sales, like Prime Day, for instance. But Amazon has promoted its live video directly to online shoppers since Style Code Live.

This week’s launch of the Amazon Live app for brands and Amazon’s move to create a dedicated link to the Amazon Live streams on its mobile app indicates that live video is becoming a much bigger effort for the retailer, despite its attempt to shoo this away as “old news.”

This increased focus on live video also comes at a time when Instagram is being rumored to be working on a standalone shopping app, and is heavily pushing its creator-focused IGTV product into users’ home feeds. QVC itself just announced its new identity, plans to venture deeper into e-commerce, and shoppable video app. And, of course, YouTube has capitalized on how both live and pre-recorded video demos from brands and influencers can help to sell products like makeup, electronics, toys and more.

Amazon formallydeclined to comment.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/02/08/amazon-live-is-the-retailers-latest-effort-to-take-on-qvc-with-live-streamed-video/

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Why Americans love the Great British Bake Off

Image copyright Love Productions

It’s the most British of shows, yet this world of Victoria sponges and Bakewell tarts has Americans transfixed. What’s the recipe for its success in the US?

It was a Bedfordshire clanger that did it.

Laura Sampson was in her farmhouse in rural Alaska, watching the Great British Bake Off (known as the Great British Baking Show), when the hosts unveiled the contestants’ latest task. It was a stuffed suet pastry – half-savoury, half-sweet – a recipe long forgotten by almost everyone in the UK and certainly unknown on the other side of the Atlantic.

“For some reason, that was the bake that got me worked up. I wanted to be in the tent,” she says. “That’s when I decided to start my own bake-a-long.”

Since September, Laura has been running a Facebook group for fans of the series based in the US.

“The Official Steamed School Pudding Thread!” is a sample post in the group, which now has more than 200 members. Laura gives tips on converting measurements in the show to the US equivalents, and then posts a weekly challenge, allowing fans across the country to come back with pictures of their creations.

At first she thought about sourcing a big prize, but then she realised this was not in keeping with the ethos. What Americans often praise about the show is the lack of cut-throat competition or monetary incentives.

As the LA Times once wrote: “Contestants never say things like ‘I didn’t come here to make friends.’ There are no irritating product placements and – perhaps most incomprehensibly to American audiences – no material riches to be won.”

Incredulously, it continued: “That’s right: The winner of The Great British Baking Show wins a title and an engraved cake stand, and that’s it.”

A tricky start

The show’s introduction into American life has not been straightforward. First, the name had to change, because the Pilsbury company have trademarked “bake off”. It was also shown out of sequence, via the PBS network.

And then there was the controversy of the third series of the American version – called The Great American Baking Show and running on ABC – when host Johnny Iuzzini was accused of sexual harassment and the series was pulled midway through its run. Nobody saw winner New York lawyer Vallery Lomas take her prize and she has recently been calling on the channel to air the missing episodes.

To attempt to reboot the American version, Spice Girl Emma Bunton took over as host at the end of last year, but it is the original show that has got the most attention.

In August, it was acquired by Netflix, bringing it to an even wider audience, which has been bingeing it over the winter months.

Many US viewers have said that they decompress watching the show, and they like that it is the antithesis of the nation’s fraught politics.

Laura says her baking group is a politics-free zone. “That was the biggest surprise for me. After the first round I felt I had truly found a place on social media that was kind,” she says.

Lisa Gorski, a federally-employed microbiologist from San Francisco, can also relate. She has been baking recipes from the show while off work during the government shutdown. “I’ve been so inspired by the show that I’ve just been using my time off in the kitchen to try new things,” she says. “It is a total escape.”‘

And if you really want a sense of how people are finding solace in the show, look to former UN Human Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. Last year, he gave the most unexpected twist to a hard news story, when he told Reuters that the Great British Bake Off was his release after dealing with world horrors.

“This man pulls out a soufflé just before the competition ends and the thing collapses,” he said, recalling an episode. “I burst into tears and I couldn’t stop.”

“I watch them all,” says Charles Skinner, a government auditor and drag racer from Maryland, who is a member of the Facebook bake-along group. “The Great British Bake Off, the Great American Baking Show, Zumbo’s Just Desserts [an Australian desserts competition].”

He likes the American version, but not as much. “It’s less technical. You wouldn’t get a bread lion,” he says. And he was a big fan of Mary Berry, who presented the original BBC run of the show. “I would love to meet her. She seems so witty.”

Image copyright Charles Skinner
Image caption Charles Skinner has been inspired by the bread week challenges; this is his cinnamon star bread

He has expanded his own kitchen repertoire through the show. “I live in a remote area and I never know if what I am making is turning out right, so that’s why I like watching the judges’ reactions.” And that’s why he joined the Facebook group.

Chrystina Cappello, an engineer from Philadelphia, also wanted to try out the show’s recipes alongside others, and she decided to create her own “baking tent” atmosphere by running themed parties.

She started getting a group of friends together – those who bake and those who want to judge. “There was a score card, and the judges would deliberate and talk about why each item deserved its score in each of the categories: level of difficulty, originality, presentation, and taste,” she says.

She says it was the camaraderie of the show that won her over. “The producers focus on the moments that the team are working together – when someone helps someone take something out of a pan, when someone has a suggestion on how to fix something, or just gives a much-needed hug. It’s endearing, and it’s exactly what the world needs right now – more feel-good television.”

The original presenters – Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins – are often credited with helping set the tone of the show. They reportedly stormed off set during the first series, accusing a producer of trying to manufacture X-Factor-style drama when a contestant was reduced to tears over a personal issue.

No one ever cried again,” Perkins told the Telegraph. “Maybe they cry because their soufflé collapsed, but nobody’s crying because someone’s going ‘Does this mean a lot about your grandmother?'”

Image copyright Chrystina Cappello
Image caption Entries for “cake week” at Chrystina Cappello’s Bake Off party

The Great British Baking Show is now part of US culture. The New York Times has run a translation guide. “Stodgy is bad, scrummy is good, gutted is bad,” it explained.

Saturday Night Live has spoofed it; The Late Late Show has broadcast its staff bake-off; The Daily Show has used it to explain Brexit, calling it the Great British Break-Off.

The hosts and contestants are becoming household names.

Great British Bake Off contestant Val Stones is a regular visitor to the US, but says she started to get recognised a lot more this year, after the show went up on Netflix.

The retired headteacher from Doncaster has had fans approach her while doing a charity fun run in New Jersey, during a wine tasting in New York State and at a Waffle House in Memphis, among other places.

Image copyright Love Productions
Image caption Val Stones on the 2016 series of The Great British Bake Off

“My husband says that as we walk through places, such as Tennessee and Kentucky, folk would give me a second glance on hearing my distinct voice, but then think they were wrong,” she told the BBC. Lots of people start the conversation with “Do I know you? Do you live on my street?”.

And it is that neighbourly familiarity combined with an across-the-pond sweetness – which even the British find unusual – that has made it so popular.

The New York-based Fansided website recently summed up the appeal of the “cheerful little series” following a spat of difficult news worldwide.

“Nobody shared their views on Brexit or gave their opinion on Theresa May. Hardly anyone even mentioned personal hardships […] All that outside noise, is left where it belongs – outside,” it wrote.

“The Great British Baking Show,” it concluded, has become “the perfect set of arms to run into”.

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-46846771

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