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28 Things You Might Not Have Known About The Royal Tenenbaums

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Like Eli Cash, you probably always wanted to be a Tenenbaum. Here are some facts that will help you fit right into this family of geniuses, on the 15th anniversary of its release.

1. THE PRIMARY STORY CAME OUT OF THE DIVORCE OF WES ANDERSON'S PARENTS.

Though it was partly inspired by real life, writer-director Wes Anderson admits on the film’s DVD commentary that the film itself ended up being very different from his own personal experience. Still, some small details remain, such as the fact that Ethel Tenenbaum is an archeologist, and so was Anderson’s mother. 

2. THE NAME "TENENBAUM" CAME FROM ANDERSON'S COLLEGE FRIEND.

Anderson's longtime friend, Brian Tenenbaum, appears as a paramedic in one of the film’s final scenes. Tenenbaum also appeared in Anderson’s previous films Bottle Rocket and Rushmore in similar background roles.

3. WES ANDERSON MAKES A CAMEO.

It's the filmmaker's hand that stamps the library card of the book at the beginning of the movie.

4. THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS IS THE THIRD MOVIE TO BE CO-WRITTEN BY ANDERSON AND OWEN WILSON.

Buena Vista Pictures

The other two were Bottle Rocket and Rushmore. The two writers would be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the movie. 

5. THE MOVIE'S TITLE CARD SCENE WAS INSPIRED BY ANOTHER FILM.

Anderson was inspired to include a title card scene featuring the actors and the characters they play after a similar scene in the 1934 film Death Takes a Holiday.  It was the first image for the movie Anderson had in his head.

6. THE MICE WEREN'T ACTUALLY SPOTTED.

Buena Vista Pictures

The spots on Chas Tenenbaum’s fictitious dalmatian mice were created by drawing dots with a sharpie on regular mice.

7. ANDERSON INTENDED MARGOT'S WOODEN FINGER FOR A CHARACTER IN ANOTHER ONE OF HIS FILMS.

Rushmore's Margaret Yang would have had the digit blown off in a science experiment, but it was scrapped and later included in this movie. 

8. THE ROLE OF ROYAL TENENBAUM WAS WRITTEN WITH GENE HACKMAN IN MIND.

But when Anderson approached Hackman to be in the movie, the actor declined because he’d have to work for scale and didn’t like the idea of having a part written exclusively for him. His agent eventually convinced him to take the part. It was well worth it; Hackman would go on to win a Golden Globe for Best Actor for his performance. 

9. HACKMAN WASN'T THE ONLY ACTOR TO HAVE A ROLE WRITTEN SPECIFICALLY FOR HIM.

Buena Vista Pictures

Anderson and co-screenwriter Wilson specifically wrote the role of Etheline for actress Anjelica Huston. She would go on to work with Anderson again in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

10. THE GO-KART SCENE WITH ROYAL, ARI, AND UZI WAS A NOD TO ANOTHER FILM.

The 1971 film The French Connection featured Hackman (who won the Academy Award for Best Actor for the role) and a legendary car chase sequence.

11. BEN STILLER WAS CAST AS CHAS TENENBAUM BECAUSE HE WAS AN EARLY FAN OF BOTTLE ROCKET.

Stiller liked Anderson's debut movie so much that he cast actor Owen Wilson, who played Dignan in Bottle Rocket, in The Cable Guy, which Stiller directed.

12. MARGOT AND RICHIE HIDING IN A MUSEUM OVERNIGHT WAS INSPIRED BY A CHILDREN'S BOOK.

In E.L. Konigsburg’s 1967 book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, two kids run away from home and stay at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The book was a favorite of Anderson’s as a child.

13. THE ACTOR WHO PLAYS YOUNG RICHIE HAS A FAMOUS DAD.

Buena Vista Pictures

Amedeo Turturro is the son of actor John Turturro

14. ANDERSON'S BROTHER CHIPPED IN TO HELP ON THE FILM.

Eric Chase Anderson is an illustrator; he created all of Young Richie’s drawings.

15. THE BB LODGED IN CHAS'S HAND IS BASED ON A REAL-LIFE INCIDENT.

Buena Vista Pictures

Owen Wilson shot his older brother Andrew in the hand with a BB gun when they were younger, and the hand with the BB in it shown in the movie is actually Andrew Wilson's. This isn’t his only appearance in the movie; he can also be seen as Margot’s biological Amish father and as the voice of one of the sports commentators who covers Richie’s tennis match meltdown (the other commentator’s voice is actually Wes Anderson). Wilson also played Future Man in Bottle Rocket and Coach Beck in Rushmore.

16. RICHIE'S FALCON, MORDECAI, WAS PLAYED BY THREE FALCONS AND A HAWK.

The falcons were used for close-up shots and the hawk was used for the longer flying scenes, like at the end of the film’s prologue. 

17. BILL MURRAY'S CHARACTER, RALEIGH ST. CLAIR, IS BASED ON NOTED NEUROLOGIST AND WRITER OLIVER SACKS.

Buena Vista Pictures

Anderson was a big fan of Sacks’s four-part documentary from 1998 called The Mind Traveler.

18. RALEIGH'S RESEARCH SUBJECT, DUDLEY, WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO BE PLAYED BY ANDERSON'S FRIEND AND ACTOR, WALLY WOLODARSKY.

But Wolodarsky dropped out in order to direct his own movie, Sorority Boys. Wolodarsky had previously appeared in Anderson’s movies as a wrestling referee in Rushmore, and would go on to appear as Brendan in The Darjeeling Limited, as the voice of Kylie in Fantastic Mr. Fox, and as M. Georges in The Grand Budapest Hotel.

To replace Wolodarsky, Anderson cast actor Stephen Lea Sheppard, who was recommended to him by Anderson’s friend and fellow director Judd Apatow. Sheppard was previously in Apatow’s TV show Freaks and Geeks.

19. ANDERSON WAS A BIG DANNY GLOVER FAN.

Buena Vista Pictures

The director cast the actor because he liked his performances in To Sleep with Anger, Beloved, and Witness. The name of Glover’s character, Henry Sherman, is the name of Wes Anderson’s old New York landlord, who wore blue suits similar to the ones Glover’s character wears in the movie.

20. GLOVER ISN'T THE ONLY LINK THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS HAS TO THE MOVIE WITNESS.

The line “I know you, a**hole!” that Royal screams at Eli Cash as he escapes from the house is the same exact line that Harrison Ford’s character says to Glover’s character in Witness. 

21. 111 ARCHER AVENUE ISN'T REAL, BUT THE TENENBAUMS' HOUSE IS.

It’s located at 144th Street and Convent Avenue in New York City. The production used both the exterior and the interior of the house for the movie (the only interior of the house in the movie that isn’t from the real-life location is the kitchen scene between Royal and Henry Sherman, which was shot in the house next door because it had windows). The production convinced the owner of the house, who had recently bought it in foreclosure, to delay moving in so they could renovate it as they needed. It's believed that the production paid the owner roughly the same amount the owner had paid to buy it, so the owner effectively got the house for free. 

22. THE LINDBERG PALACE HOTEL, WHERE ROYAL STAYS, ISN'T REAL EITHER.

Buena Vista Pictures

The location for the hotel was the actual exterior and lobby of the Waldorf Astoria in New York. The hotel only gave Anderson and the production two hours to get all of the shots they needed.

23. THOUGH THE MOVIE WAS SHOT IN NEW YORK, ANDERSON DIDN'T WANT TO INCLUDE ANY NYC LANDMARKS IN THE FILM.

During the scene where Pagoda meets Royal near the water, Anderson intentionally positioned the actor playing Pagoda (Kumar Pallana, who also appeared in Rushmore and The Darjeeling Limited) to stand directly in front of the Statue of Liberty.

24. ONE OF RICHIE'S LINES CAME FROM ANOTHER FILM.

Richie’s seemingly bizarre line “I’m going to kill myself tomorrow,” immediately before trying to take his own life, is actually a line Anderson took verbatim from director Louis Malle’s 1963 film Le feu follet (a.k.a. The Fire Within). Spoiler: In that film, the main character actually does kill himself the day after uttering the line. 

25. RICHIE AND MARGOT'S ROMANCE IS A REFERENCE TO A FRENCH FILM.

Buena Vista Pictures

The semi-incestuous subplot is Anderson’s nod to director Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1950 film Les enfants terribles about a similar relationship between an actual brother and sister. In Tenenbaums, of course, Margot is adopted.

26. THE MOVIE PARODIES AUTHOR CORMAC MCCARTHY.

The excerpt that Eli Cash reads from his book, Old Custer, is Anderson’s parody of the style and subject matter of writer Cormac McCarthy, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of books like No Country for Old Men, The Road, and Blood Meridian

27. CHAS WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO WEAR A BLACK ADIDAS TRACK SUIT EACH TIME HE WENT TO THE CEMETERY.

Buena Vista Pictures

But Ben Stiller thought it would be a funnier reveal if he only wore it at Royal’s funeral.

28. ONE OF THE FINAL SHOTS IN THE MOVIE WAS DONE IN A SINGLE TAKE.

The technically complex shot moves from person to person after Eli crashes his car at the wedding. The production did 20 takes of the shot; take 18 is the take included in the final movie. 

Additional Sources: Blu-ray special features; The Wes Anderson Collection.

Screenshots courtesy of Film-Grab.com and LeaveMetheWhite.com.

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10 Facts About Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian
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Marvel Entertainment

Nearly every sword-wielding fantasy hero from the 20th century owes a tip of their horned helmet to Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. Set in the fictional Hyborian Age, after the destruction of Atlantis but before our general recorded history, Conan's stories have depicted him as everything from a cunning thief to a noble king and all types of scoundrel in between. But beneath that blood-soaked sword and shield is a character that struck a nerve with generations of fantasy fans, spawning adaptations in comics, video games, movies, TV shows, and cartoons in the eight decades since he first appeared in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales. So thank Crom, because here are 10 facts about Conan the Barbarian.

1. THE FIRST OFFICIAL CONAN STORY WAS A KULL REWRITE.

Conan wasn’t the only barbarian on Robert E. Howard’s resume. In 1929, the writer created Kull the Conqueror, a more “introspective” brand of savage that gained enough interest to eventually find his way onto the big screen in 1997. The two characters share more than just a common creator and a general disdain for shirts, though: the first Conan story to get published, “The Phoenix on the Sword,” was actually a rewrite of an earlier rejected Kull tale titled “By This Axe I Rule!” For this new take on the plot, Howard introduced supernatural elements and more action. The end result was more suited to what Weird Tales wanted, and it became the foundation for future Conan tales.

2. BUT A “PROTO-CONAN” STORY PRECEDED IT.

A few months before Conan made his debut in Weird Tales, Howard wrote a story called "People of the Dark" for Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror about a man named John O’Brien who seemed to relive his past life as a brutish, black-haired warrior named … Conan of the reavers. Reave is a word from Old English meaning to raid or plunder, which is obviously in the same ballpark as barbarian. And in the story, there is also a reference to Crom, the fictional god of the Hyborian age that later became a staple of the Conan mythology. This isn't the barbarian as we know him, and it's certainly not an official Conan tale, but the early ideas were there.

3. ROBERT E. HOWARD NEVER INTENDED TO WRITE THESE STORIES IN ORDER.

Howard was meticulous in his world-building for Conan, which was highlighted by his 8600-word history on the Hyborian Age the character lived in. But the one area the creator had no interest in was linearity. Conan’s first story depicted him already as a king; subsequent stories, though, would shift back and forth, chronicling his early days as both a thief and a youthful adventurer.

There’s good reason for that, as Howard himself once explained: “In writing these yarns I've always felt less as creating them than as if I were simply chronicling his adventures as he told them to me. That's why they skip about so much, without following a regular order. The average adventurer, telling tales of a wild life at random, seldom follows any ordered plan, but narrates episodes widely separated by space and years, as they occur to him.”

4. THERE ARE NUMEROUS CONNECTIONS TO THE H.P. LOVECRAFT MYTHOS.

For fans of the pulp magazines of the early 20th century, one of the only names bigger than Robert E. Howard was H.P. Lovecraft. The two weren’t competitors, though—rather, they were close friends and correspondents. They’d often mail each other drafts of their stories, discuss the themes of their work, and generally talk shop. And as Lovecraft’s own mythology was growing, it seems like their work began to bleed together.

In “The Phoenix on the Sword,” Howard made reference to “vast shadowy outlines of the Nameless Old Ones,” which could be seen as a reference to the ancient, godlike “Old Ones” from the Lovecraft mythos. In the book The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, editor Patrice Louinet even wrote that Howard’s earlier draft for the story name-dropped Lovecraft’s actual Old Ones, most notably Cthulhu.

In Lovecraft’s “The Shadow of Time,” he describes a character named Crom-Ya as a “Cimmerian chieftain,” which is a reference to Conan's homeland and god. These examples just scratch the surface of names, places, and concepts that the duo’s work share. Whether you want to read it all as a fun homage or an early attempt at a shared universe is up to you.

5. SEVERAL OF HOWARD’S STORIES WERE REWRITTEN AS CONAN STORIES POSTHUMOUSLY.

Howard was only 30 when he died, so there aren’t as many completed Conan stories out in the world as you’d imagine—and there are even less that were finished and officially printed. Despite that, the character’s popularity has only grown since the 1930s, and publishers looked for a way to print more of Howard’s Conan decades after his death. Over the years, writers and editors have gone back into Howard’s manuscripts for unfinished tales to doctor up and rewrite for publication, like "The Snout in the Dark," which was a fragment that was reworked by writers Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp. There were also times when Howard’s non-Conan drafts were repurposed as Conan stories by publishers, including all of the stories in 1955's Tales of Conan collection from Gnome Press.

6. FRANK FRAZETTA’S CONAN PAINTINGS REGULARLY SELL FOR SEVEN FIGURES.

Chances are, the image of Conan you have in your head right now owes a lot to artist Frank Frazetta: His version of the famous barbarian—complete with rippling muscles, pulsating veins, and copious amounts of sword swinging—would come to define the character for generations. But the look that people most associate with Conan didn’t come about until the character’s stories were reprinted decades after Robert E. Howard’s death.

“In 1966, Lancer Books published new paperbacks of Robert E. Howard's Conan series and hired my grandfather to do the cover art,” Sara Frazetta, Frazetta's granddaughter owner and operator of Frazetta Girls, tells Mental Floss. You could argue that Frazetta’s powerful covers were what drew most people to Conan during the '60s and '70s, and in recent years the collector’s market seems to validate that opinion. In 2012, the original painting for his Lancer version of Conan the Conqueror sold at auction for $1,000,000. Later, his Conan the Destroyer went for $1.5 million.

Still, despite all of Frazetta’s accomplishments, his granddaughter said there was one thing he always wanted: “His only regret was that he wished Robert E. Howard was alive so he could have seen what he did with his character.”

7. CONAN’S FIRST MARVEL COMIC WAS ALMOST CANCELED AFTER SEVEN ISSUES.

The cover to Marvel's Conan the Barbarian #21
Marvel Entertainment

Conan’s origins as a pulp magazine hero made him a natural fit for the medium’s logical evolution: the comic book. And in 1970, the character got his first high-profile comic launch when Marvel’s Conan The Barbarian hit shelves, courtesy of writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith.

Though now it’s hailed as one of the company’s highlights from the ‘70s, the book was nearly canceled after a mere seven issues. The problem is that while the debut issue sold well, each of the next six dropped in sales, leading Marvel’s then editor-in-chief, Stan Lee, to pull the book from production after the seventh issue hit stands.

Thomas pled his case, and Lee agreed to give Conan one last shot. But this time instead of the book coming out every month, it would be every two months. The plan worked, and soon sales were again on the rise and the book would stay in publication until 1993, again as a monthly. This success gave way to the Savage Sword of Conan, an oversized black-and-white spinoff magazine from Marvel that was aimed at adult audiences. It, too, was met with immense success, lasting from 1974 to 1995.

8. OLIVER STONE WROTE A FOUR-HOUR, POST-APOCALYPTIC CONAN MOVIE.

John Milius’s 1982 Conan movie is a classic of the sword and sorcery genre, but its original script from Oliver Stone didn’t resemble the final product at all. In fact, it barely resembled anything related to Conan. Stone’s Conan would have been set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where the barbarian would do battle against a host of mutant pigs, insects, and hyenas. Not only that, but it would have also been just one part of a 12-film saga that would be modeled on the release schedule of the James Bond series.

The original producers were set to move ahead with Stone’s script with Stone co-directing alongside an up-and-coming special effects expert named Ridley Scott, but they were turned down by all of their prospects. With no co-director and a movie that would likely be too ambitious to ever actually get finished, they sold the rights to producer Dino De Laurentiis, who helped bring in Milius.

9. BARACK OBAMA IS A FAN (AND WAS TURNED INTO A BARBARIAN HIMSELF).

When President Barack Obama sent out a mass email in 2015 to the members of Organizing for Action, he was looking to get people to offer up stories about how they got involved within their community—their origin stories, if you will. In this mass email, the former Commander-in-Chief detailed his own origin, with a shout out to a certain barbarian:

“I grew up loving comic books. Back in the day, I was pretty into Conan the Barbarian and Spiderman.

Anyone who reads comics can tell you, every main character has an origin story—the fateful and usually unexpected sequence of events that made them who they are.”

This bit of trivia was first made public in 2008 in a Daily Telegraph article on 50 facts about the president. That led to Devil’s Due Publishing immortalizing the POTUS in the 2009 comic series Barack the Barbarian, which had him decked out in his signature loincloth doing battle against everyone from Sarah Palin to Dick Cheney.

10. J.R.R. TOLKIEN WAS ALSO A CONAN DEVOTEE.

The father of 20th century fantasy may always be J.R.R. Tolkien, but Howard is a close second in many fans' eyes. Though Tolkien’s work has found its way into more scholarly literary circles, Howard’s can sometimes get categorized as low-brow. Quality recognizes quality, however, and during a conversation with Tolkien, writer L. Sprague de Camp—who himself edited and touched-up numerous Conan stories—said The Lord of the Rings author admitted that he “rather liked” Howard’s Conan stories during a conversation with him. He didn’t expand upon it, nor was de Camp sure which Conan tale he actually read (though it was likely “Shadows in the Moonlight”), but the seal of approval from Tolkien himself goes a long way toward validation.

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15 Podcasts That Will Make You Feel Smarter
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It's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the podcast options out there, but narrowing down your choices to the titles that will teach you something while you listen is a good place to start. If you're interested in learning more about philosophy, science, linguistics, or history, here are podcasts to add to your queue.

1. THE HABITAT

The Habitat is the closest you can get to listening to a podcast recorded on Mars. At the start of the series, five strangers enter a dome in a remote part of Hawaii meant to simulate a future Mars habitat. Every part of their lives over the next year, from the food they eat to the spacesuits they wear when they step outside, is designed to mimic the conditions astronauts will face if they ever reach the red planet. The experiment was a way for NASA to test plans for a manned mission to Mars without leaving Earth. The podcast, which is produced by Gimlet media and hosted by science writer Lynn Levy, ends up unfolding like a season of the Real World with a science fiction twist.

2. STUFF YOU SHOULD KNOW

Can’t pick a topic to educate yourself on? Stuff You Should Know from How Stuff Works is the podcast for you. In past episodes, hosts Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark (both writers at How Stuff Works) have discussed narwhals, Frida Kahlo, LSD, Pompeii, hoarding, and Ponzi schemes. And with three episodes released a week, you won’t go long without learning about a new subject.

3. THE ALLUSIONIST

Language nerds will find a kindred spirit in Helen Zaltzman. In each episode of her Radiotopia podcast The Allusionist, the former student of Latin, French, and Old English guides listeners through the exciting world of linguistics. Past topics include swearing, small talk, and the differences between British and American English.

4. PHILOSOPHIZE THIS!

Listening to all of Philosophize This! is cheaper than taking a philosophy class—and likely more entertaining. In each episode, host Stephen West covers different thinkers and ideas from philosophy history in an approachable and informative way. The show proceeds in chronological order, starting with the pre-Socratic era and leading up most recently to Jacques Derrida.

5. MORE PERFECT

In 2016, Radiolab, one of the most popular and well-established educational podcasts out there, launched a show called More Perfect. Led by Radiolab host Jad Abumrad, each episode visits a different Supreme Court case or event that helped shape the highest court in the land. Because of that, the podcast ends up being about a lot more than just the Supreme Court, exploring topics like police brutality, gender equality, and free speech online.

6. SLOW BURN

The Watergate scandal was such a important chapter in American history that it has its own suffix—but when asked to summarize the events, many people may draw a blank. Slow Burn, a podcast from Slate, gives listeners a refresher. In eight episodes, host Leon Neyfakh tells the story of the Nixon’s demise as it unfolded, all while asking whether or not citizens would be able to recognize a Watergate-sized scandal if it happened today.

7. LETTERS FROM WAR

Instead of using a broad scope to examine World War II, the Washington Post podcast Letters From War focuses on hundreds of letters exchanged by four brothers fighting in the Pacific during the period. Living U.S. military veterans tell the sibling's story while reflecting on their own experiences with war.

8. LEVAR BURTON READS

Just because you’re a grown-up doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the soothing sound of LeVar Burton’s voice reading to you. The former host of Reading Rainbow now hosts LeVar Burton Reads, a podcast from Stitcher aimed at adults. In each episode, he picks a different piece of short fiction to narrate: Just settle into a comfortable spot and listen to him tell stories by authors like Haruki Murakami, Octavia Butler, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

9. BRAINS ON!

Brains On! is an educational podcast for young audiences, but adults have something to gain from listening as well. Every week, host Molly Bloom is joined by a new kid co-host who helps her explore a different topic. Tune in for answers to questions like "What makes paint stick?" and "How do animals breathe underwater?"

10. SCIENCE VS

There’s a lot of misinformation out there—if you’re determined to sort out fact from fiction, it can be hard to know where to start. The team of “friendly fact checkers” at the Science Vs podcast from Gimlet is here to help. GMOs, meditation, birth control, Bigfoot—these are just a few of the topics that are touched upon in the weekly show. The goal of each episode is to replace any preconceived notions you have with hard science.

11. FLASH FORWARD

No one knows for sure what the future holds, but Flash Forward lays out the more interesting possibilities. Some of the potential futures that host and producer Rose Eveleth explores are more probable than others (a future where no one knows which news sources to trust isn’t hard to imagine; one where space pirates drag a second moon into orbit perhaps is), but each one is built on real science.

12. HIDDEN BRAIN

What motivates the everyday choices we make? That’s the question Shankar Vedantam tries to answer on the NPR podcast Hidden Brain. The show looks at how various unconscious patterns shape our lives, like what we wear and who we choose to spend time with.

13. PART-TIME GENIUS

The fact that it’s hosted by Mental Floss founders Will Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur isn’t the only reason we love Part-Time Genius. The podcast from How Stuff Works wades into topics you didn’t know you were curious about, like the origins of Nickelodeon and the hidden secrets at the Vatican. Each episode will leave you feeling educated and entertained at the same time.

14. ASTRONOMY CAST

It’s a big universe out there—if you want to learn as much about it as possible, start with Astronomy Cast. Fraser Cain, publisher of the popular site Universe Today, and Dr. Pamela L. Gay, director of the virtual research facility CosmoQuest, host the podcast. They cover a wide range of topics, from the animals we’ve sent to orbit to the color of the universe.

15. SCIENCE OF HAPPINESS

The Science of Happiness podcast from PRI is here to improve your life, one 20-minute episode at a time. Science has proven that adopting certain practices, like mindfulness and gratitude, can make us happier—as does letting go of less unhealthy patterns like grudges and stressful thinking. With award-winning professor Dacher Keltner as your host, you can learn how to incorporate these science-backed strategies for happiness into your own life.

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