The Etiquette of Giving and Receiving Gifts.

The holidays are fast approaching. For some of us it’s already here or has come and gone (Lookin’ at you, my Jewish friends– Happy Hanukkah!), bringing joy and comfort and yes, a whole metric fuckton of stress. Because while the day of Christmas and the week of Hanukkah are fairly stress-free (unless, of course, you’re entertaining a boatload of in-laws, in which case I’m sorry), the weeks leading up to it can be a big ball of hardship. You’ve got to spend heaps of money, you’ve got to go into millions of stores or browse websites for hours just to find the right gifts for the right people, and sometimes this turns into a whirlwind of panic and despair. Usually it ends up just fine. But the act of giving gifts — and sometimes receiving them — can often feel like a burden rather than a pleasant experience.

I happen to like giving gifts. I like finding them, browsing around to find the perfect present for friends and family members. Other people find it a lot more difficult — and I get it. I really do. But for me, it’s the first step of gift-giving that always causes me the most anxiety. That’s the part when you decide who exactly you ought to be getting things for in the first place. On the surface, it’s pretty obvious: sister, check. parents, check. But then you get outside of the immediate family, and that’s where you get stuck. Should you get something for all of your friends? Or just the ones you’ve known for ages? Should you get little things for some friends, and big things for others? But how do you decide who gets what? Is there some sort of rating scale, or a Quizilla quiz you can take to tell you which friends deserve better, bigger gifts than others? Or do you not get anything for anybody — make it even?

This is a question that plagues me practically every Christmas. With some friends it’s easy. If you’ve been exchanging presents every Christmas for the past four years, chances are you’re probably going to continue the tradition. Conversely if you’ve got a friend who you’ve never exchanged gifts with, it’s a good bet that things aren’t changing. But what about new friends? Or friends who between this Christmas and last Christmas upgraded from “friendly acquaintance” to “person I hang out with constantly?” That’s when things get a little tricky. If you don’t have a large group of friends and instead tend to chill with many people from a variety of different groups, you can’t do the secret santa cop-out, and if you do have a large group, it’s difficult to get a gift for one person and not for another. How can you justify spending twenty bucks on one girl and zero on another? It’s just not in good taste. Plus with a big group it’s always hard. What if you weren’t planning on getting gifts for anyone and then you see the perfect thing for one of your friends? Can you justify buying it for that person and then have nothing for your other friends? Not really. But then it’s hard to pass up such an awesome opportunity, so that means you’ve either got to suck it up and get something for everyone, or you’ve got to let the best present ever slip through your fingers.

And then, probably worst of all, you’ve got to deal with the obvious conundrum. If you get your friend a present, and she gets you nothing, you’ll feel bad because you got nothing, and she’ll feel guilty for not getting you anything — which is not the kind of warm, fuzzy feeling that you’re lead to believe gift-giving will induce. If this friend gets you something and you don’t know about it and therefore haven’t returned the favour, same thing. But then do you get little somethings just in the event that she might get you something? Or do you just cross your fingers, get nothing, and hope she’s on the same page? It’s stressful and pretty much there’s no right answer except flat-out asking if you’re exchanging gifts, which a lot of people don’t really prefer to do since gift-giving has this shocking implication that it’s supposed to be about the spirit of generosity blah blah blah and if you make it sound like you’re only going to buy shit for someone who also buys you shit, that is selfish and makes you a bad person.

But once you overcome that first obstacle, you’ve got to actually find gifts for these people. For some it’s easier than others. I happen to have a knack for finding good gifts. Sometimes it’ll take me a lot of time to find the right gift, and for some people it’s not always perfect, but I like to think that my gifts are thoughtful and at least show that I care about the person and that I pay attention to what they like and what they want. People who say gift-giving is hard — well, yeah, sure it is. But it’s not that hard. I mean it’d be difficult if you were buying for your great aunt who you’ve only met once and you’re pretty sure she hates everything and is allergic to twenty thousand things, but how hard is it to get something for your girlfriend or your best mate or your brother? All you need to do is examine the kinds of stuff they have in their room, think about all the stuff they’ve told you they liked over the past year or so, maybe even stalk ’em a little on Facebook if you’re not a hundred percent sure. All it takes to give a good — if not amazing — gift is a little dedication, a little perseverance, and a bit of creativity, which as human beings we should all have in spades. If you know your brother’s three favourite things are coffee, Star Wars, and board games, you could get him a mug shaped like Darth Vader’s helmet, or Star Wars Monopoly, or playing cards with Star Wars characters on them. You could get him any merchandise relating to the films. It might not be the craziest present in the world, but at least it’s something that shows you know him a little bit, and although it sounds really cliché, it really is the thought that counts when it comes to giving presents.

So this is why it blows my mind when people end up just giving cash or gift cards or other generic gifts for people for Christmas. Like, dude. You can come up with something more imaginative for your girlfriend than a gift certificate to iTunes. I’m okay with gift cards if they’re for something specific, or cash if it’s for a good reason (for example, this year I expect more money than actual gifts because I’m far from home and everyone wants to contribute to the “Let’s Help Kendra Travel” fund). If you know your sister is totally obsessed with AllSaints Spitalfield, and you know it’s a pricey place to shop, then yeah, a gift card is great. Especially because buying actual clothes for people is a tricky, tricky business. But to me, a gift card to a generic place like Amazon or iTunes or Barnes & Noble says one of the following: you don’t know them well, or you do and you just didn’t put much thought into what you were going to give them.

I don’t think gift cards are a bad addition to gifts. Like sure, slap a Starbucks gift card onto a gift of a travel mug. But as a whole gift? Nuh-uh. The only people who can get away with that are older relatives who have no idea what young people like these days, let alone what their grandchildren like these days.  And come on — you’ve got to know something about the person you’re getting the gift for. Although I could be wrong. The other day at work a guy came in looking for something for his girlfriend and our conversation went a little bit like this:

Me: Hi there! Looking for gifts?

Customer: Yes, for my girlfriend.

Me: Neat! Has she shopped here before? If so, what does she like to use?

Customer: I don’t know.

Me: What kind of scents is she into? Maybe that’ll help.

Customer: I don’t know.

Me: Okay … what colours does she like a lot?

Customer: I don’t know.

Me: Let’s try something else. Can you describe her to me in a few words? What’s she like?

You can guess what his response was. Do you want to be like this dude? A dude who can’t describe anything his girlfriend likes or does not like, or even what she looks like? DO YOU WANT TO BE THIS GUY? Because if you give your girlfriend an Amazon gift certificate for fifty bucks, I am pretty sure you will be this guy.

But there’s another side to the gift exchange that people rarely think about, and that’s the etiquette of receiving gifts. I’m not talking about writing thank you notes or any of that shit. Because, yeah, thank you notes (or phone calls or emails) are important, especially if you’re thanking someone who sent you a gift and therefore wasn’t around to see your reaction in person.  But the kind of etiquette I mean is the kind where you have just been given a gift and you are supposed to react politely and enthusiastically. I do understand that not every present is one that you’ve been dying for all your life — but the thing is that the person you’re getting a gift from has thought long and hard about what to get you, and even if it wasn’t the exactly perfect gift — remember, it really is the thought that counts.

If it’s not the present you were expecting or hoping for, it’s okay not to jump up and down with joy, give the giver a great big bear hug and parade your gift around for the world to see. But you should at least show some appreciation rather than making the giver feel like complete and utter crap. Because chances are that person spent a lot of time and effort trying to get you something they thought you’d truly enjoy, and they didn’t have to. They weren’t obligated to get you much of anything, frankly, because nobody is really obligated to give anyone gifts for Christmas except their immediate family members.  And yet some people think they’re not only entitled to receiving gifts, but they’re entitled to be selective about what gifts they actually get. And hey, if you wanted exactly what you asked for, maybe you should stop relying on gifts and go the fuck out and buy shit yourself.

Let me tell you a story of The Worst Gift Exchange Ever. I decided to get a gift for a friend one Christmas, and thought long and hard about what I would get. I considered a variety of different options — books, knickknacks, clothes, DVDs — but eventually decided that I wasn’t comfortable getting her things like that because she had so many and I knew that there were a few things she desperately needed, but that someone else was getting them for her. So I decided to give her a fake gift card, allowing me to take her to her favourite place and buying anything she wanted from there. Carte blanche. No limit.  Now, if someone took me to my favourite restaurant or store and allowed me to get anything I wanted, I’d be totally stoked. And I thought my friend would be too, considering how much she always complained about not having any money and never being able to afford what she wanted to get. “Well,” I thought. “I am a genius.”

But when I gave my friend the gift, the reaction I got was not “WOAH HOW EXCITING!” or even “Oh, nice, thank you.” It was, “I don’t want this — get me something else.”

I DON’T WANT THIS. GET ME SOMETHING ELSE. Are you for fucking real? I was so taken aback that I could barely speak or even process the information I’d been given. Not only had this person not liked the gift that I thought I’d done a fantastic job of choosing, but she’d said it right to my face without any thought as to how much I’d actually thought about it, and how much I really thought she’d love it. She didn’t thank me for the thought, and she certainly didn’t pretend to be happy. Instead she told me to get her something else, which made my gift giving spirit evaporate more quickly than a droplet of water in Death Valley. Newsflash, people: nobody likes to be told that they aren’t good enough, and nobody — not now, not ever — should be made to feel like complete and utter shit about giving someone a gift. Ever.

If you do get a gift that you’re not thrilled about, just go with the old adage of “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Thank the person, smile, and move on. It’s that easy. And if it’s a really disappointing gift — say you’ve been dating someone for five years and they just give you a brick for the holidays — then you can maybe ask about it. But when it’s something that clearly showed effort and thought, why make your friend feel terrible? Is it worth the potential strain on your friendship? Probably not. You can, however, bitch about really shitty gift giving and receiving experiences on your blog many months later.

If you’ve got a horror story relating to gift giving/receiving (Christmas or otherwise) please feel free to share in the comments, because let’s face it: you as readers should get a chance to bitch about shit, too.

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The Ten Worst Christmas Decorating Traditions

Tis the season to eat, drink & be merry. Tis the season for mistletoe, stockings, Christmas cookies, and decorations. Christmas decorations, on the whole, are amazing. They transform regular neighborhoods into beautiful sparkly tributes to the season. It’s really hard to be in poor spirits when looking at a house all gussied up and looking like a gingerbread house that’s been secured with twinkle lights instead of frosting. However, nothing throws a wet blanket on the Christmas fueled campfire in my soul like poorly selected, haphazardly utilized, tacky decorations. Sure, there’s a certain amount of over-the-top cheese that comes with the territory, but when done well, there is a certain type of cheese that reads as kind of magical this time of year. There’s a very fine line, though, between glitzy Christmas wonderland and looking like a drunk redneck took all of Las Vegas, threw it in a blender, drank it and spewed the resulting emanations all over your yard. Here’s a list of all the christmas decorations that make me want to spew.

10. Fake Snow
I hail from New England, which is famous for a few key things: Lobster, the Boston Tea Party, Autumn foliage and snow. Snow is a big part of Christmas in the Northeast, and anywhere else a certain distance from the equator. One night you go to sleep and all you have is cold and dreary, but when you wake up the entire world seems to be covered in pure white glitter. It’s…one of my favorite things about living in Massachusetts.  But snow isn’t always a walk in the park. We hardened New Englanders sacrifice for the privilege of such breathtaking beauty: we have to shovel, we have to drive enormous cars, we have to bundle up like the freakin Michelin man. We have to put up  with looking at what snow looks like after a few days on the ground, and that shit ain’t pretty. People in Florida, or Texas, or Hawaii, or Auckland think they have the right to grab some white fluffy insulation-looking crap, staple it to their mantelpiece and call it a day. No dice, bro. If you want a snowy winter wonderland, then you best come correct. Strap on your Uggs, layer up the North Face, and show up on the corner of Boylston and Tremont with wind chills of minus 30 degrees and see if you still want that “White Christmas.”

9. Elf on the Shelf
I feel like adding this very in vogue tradition to this list is going to make me a social pariah, but hear me out. I’m not against kids, or trying to perpetuate childlike wonder, especially around the holidays. I’m just having a lot of trouble grasping the concept of an elf that is there to spy on your children on santa’s behalf, especially when these elves get into all kinds of shenanigans. I mean who the fuck is this holier than though son of a bitch elf to judge my kids when he’s spilling flour on the floor or painting the dog’s fur or coloring on the walls or whatever the frick all those guys get into while the family has been sleeping. And by the family I mean everyone except the mom because she’s clearly up at three AM dipping a doll’s feet in chocolate making tiny footprints all over the walls or some shit. Not only that, but after the kids are delighted at the antics of the elf, the mom has to clean it up in such a discreet way that doesn’t give away the fact that this elf is clearly just a doll. how the hell are they managing that? “No honey, the elf doesn’t mind when i grab him by the ankles and huck him bodily into the washing machine.” “No honey, he won’t drown, Santa’s magic keeps his tiny lungs from filling with Snuggle detergent.” And what if the kids find him in the rubbermaid bins full of Christmas ornaments during the year? I feel like it’s just playing with fire here. Plus, it’s kind of like Alien/Monster movies. It’s always way scarier when you never actually get a good look at the creature–what’s in your mind is a million times scarier than what any makeup artist or cgi designing guy could come up with. I feel like it’s the same way with this. I want my future kids to be able to concoct their own ideas of what Santa’s workshop elves look like, and not have those dreams prematurely dashed. I’d much rather have them find out in some kind of horribly traumatizing way that Santa’s not real. That’s a real Christmas tradition!

8. Those Creepy As Carolling Dolls
I hate these things. So much. I have always hated them, unlike several things on this list which I’ve only started hating since I’ve become old, jaded, and bitter. I always thought they were the ugliest fucking things on the planet, even as a child. One of my grandmother’s friends collected them and always displayed dozens of the damn things, and I would always wrinkle my nose and silently judge because even as a child I could not see the artistic or sentimental value of dolls whose facial expressions look like someone very recently shoved something up their minuscule asses/they were getting ready to give each other blow jobs. These are probably also the only “classic” Christmas decoration that I hate. Apparently they have been around since the 1960s, and how they lasted this long. What’s worse, is each of these dolls costs around 70$. Seriously. And I imagine that’s only for new ones, not like classic or special or limited edition ones. That means to get a few carolers, because really, one is just pathetic, you’d need to drop about 280 bucks. Here’s an idea, buy your family some nice gifts instead, or spend that money on food for your dinner. Or better yet, but some non perverted decorations.

7. Anything Inflatable
I feel like it should go without saying that inflatable decorations fly in the face of good taste, but sadly this is not so. Year after year it seems like more and more of these damn things plague my eyeballs. They’re tacky and I hate them. They’re always malfunctioning too, flopping pathetically on the lawn in a puddle of terrible plastic. What is that stuff, anyway? It looks like the stuff 80s windsuits were made out of. Why anyone felt the need to bring that garbage back into the forefront of society is beyond me. I also can’t even imagine how much power they suck up through their ever whirring, noise pollution creating, crappy fan mechanisms. Some of these damn things are enormous, too, like someone shoved an air pump up Santa’s ass and used enough PSI to inflate the whole damn north pole. There’s also a certain amount of laziness to them. Throw up a few of these guys and suddenly you give the illusion of having “decorated.” This kind of brings me to my next pet peeve.

6. People who just throw Shit everywhere
These are the people who really play it fast and loose with the word “decrating.” These are also the people who stress for days about “entertaing” and then throw some Ritz crackers and a near-frozen rectangular prism of cracker barrel cheddar on a paper plate.  I really can’t understand why these people even bother decorating. It looks like crap, always. Crap is actually a bit generous of a term for what this looks like. It’s not festive; it’s not pretty. Why bother? Do you really think you’re fooling anyone? “Wow, I love the shabby chic approach to your Christmas light tangle!” said no one ever. These people need to just give up. Last february when you finally got around to taking your decorations down you were too lazy to roll the lights up nicely and now it’s time to pay the piper. If you can’t be bothered to spend 15 minutes untangling your twinkle light strands then I really don’t think you should inflict your laziness on the rest of your neighborhood.

5. “Hilarious” Decorations
Here’s another thing I don’t understand: prank or allegedly funny decorations. The one in the picture is one very specific example but there’s tons: crash landed Santas, mooning Santa butts, reindeer or snowman “poop” favors or kitchen props. It’s just in poor taste and really shouldn’t be funny to anyone. I love a crude joke as much as the next gal, believe you me, but some things are sacred. Christmas is meant to be a special sentimental time of year, and that gets obscured enough by present buying and commercialized BS, we don’t need to put any more nails in the coffin of sentimentality, people. Are we really so immature as a culture that we collectively need to use humor as a defense mechanism against sharing a nice holiday with our families? Heavy. Also, awkwardly violent decorations like the one featured above are really selfish in nature. Do the people that construct these affronts think about who has to look at them? Bare with me, because I know this is a cliche, But seriously, WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN? If I had small children who still tolerated me enough to let me drag them around town on freezing cold evenings to look at lights and decorations, I wouldn’t want them to have to look at some jack-ass’s idea of a hilarious joke like the one in the above picture. Not cool people, not cool.

4. Lights that Don’t Match At all
This is one of the most irksome practices of christmas decorating. Lights are strewn haphazardly, yet at the same time with some kind of deliberate purpose. These people are different from the people who don’t bother untangling their lights. The one better thing about these new Christmas crime perpetrators is  that they do get into the spirit of the holiday, and I won’t knock that. However, this type of  horrendous eye sore is equally offensive to anyone with taste. Lights should match. Period. I’m not saying they all have to be one color, but there should be some kind of color scheme, some rhyme or reason, some method to the madness. Most specifically, I hate when people use different types of multicolored strands. It looks so bad that I can’t understand why more people aren’t more embarrassed  If your drapes were neon plaid, and your couch was classic floral, people would think you’d gone out of your tree, yet for some reason when your door is rimmed in classic white, one of your bushes is blinking spasmodically enough to send the neighbor’s dog into an epileptic fit, and you have multicolored lights strung around your lamp post, and a DIFFERENT KIND of muliticolored lights on your walkway, everyone thinks you’re totally sane.  What kind of sense does that make?

3. People Who Indiscriminately Cover EVERYTHING with Lights
Similar to the above offenders, these jamokers are an enormous tumor to any street they happen to plague. Their entire property becomes a beacon, that, at the very least of my list of grievances, must waste an absolute fuckton of power. On top of that, they are a heinous eyesore. And not only that, but it demonstrates a complete lack of originality and original thought. Like, there is no personality to these fucking set ups, Like there was no opinion, no decision making whatsoever.  And I can’t even imagine how much all that shit costs to buy. Tackiness does not come cheap, and no, the irony of that is not lost on me. All these plastic snowmen, and spastic christmas lights that strobe in time to your Christmas carols cross many a pretty penny. These kinds of horrendous displays always make me physically wince as I walk down the street. It should not be almost as bright as daylight during the night time. It confuses the birds.

2. Plastic or Otherwise Tacky Nativity Scenes
Now, I’m all for really classic Christmas decorations, regardless of my personal religious affiliations. It is Christmas, after all (regardless of Jesus’s actual brithday and/or the celebration’s pagan roots). However, I really hate tacky looking Nativity scenes. I feel like it completely defeats the fucking purpose to have a chipped plastic jesus in your yard, looking like he has nothing but Satan in his eyes. Seriously, look at those eyes. They are dead inside. There is no Holy Spirit in there my friend. None. Also, there is something not right about inflateable or plastic jesuses. First of all, it’s creepy. Second of all, it’s just kind of…disrespectful. If you care enough about church and jesus to put his whole extended family onto your freakin front lawn, you should care enough that he doesn’t look like he’s been through the garbage disposal. He’s not jesus from the block, people.

1. Unnaturally Colored Christmas Trees
First of all, if you need me to explain why this is terrible, I hate you. But sadly, these items are still sold, so I feel I must. These are the epitome of trashy decorations. I understand if you don’t want to use a real tree, because it kind of bums me out to see all those dead trees lying on the side of the road after christmas (and by kind of bums me out I mean I actually cry when I see this); I’m not knocking the fake tree as a concept. But I really don’t understand where the decision to make trees into crazy colors came from. I mean, maybe I could make my peace with white or silver, because those are at LEAST christmas colors. Who the hell decided to start making them pink? Seriously. I want a name. I want a name so I can go to his house and paint other things in his life pink that have no business being that color. Like maybe his dog. Or his wife, and see how the fuck he likes it.

So there you have it folks, in case you needed another reason not to invite me over for the holidays: more shit I will criticize around your house.

Tumblr is a Cesspool.

There are a lot of different social networking and blogging sites at our fingertips now that the internet is a thing that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. There are three distinct kind of social networking and blogging platforms. The vast majority of people reading this post will know exactly what they are, but please, dear readers, bear with me. A blog — hosted on sites like WordPress, Blogspot, Livejournal, etc. — could be an open diary, a place for reviewing books or music or movies, or anything else you might want to do, like rant incessantly at readers for no good reason like we do. It’s an enormous window into the life and personality and psyche of the writer.

Then we’ve got stuff like Myspace and Facebook, which are much more superficial and more based in the social realm. When you go on Facebook, you don’t go on to make a point to the rest of the world. Your updates are meant for a select few people, and those people are your friends (or at least they are ostensibly your friends; their actual thoughts on you are rarely ever revealed unless the dreaded “defriending” occurs). You post your pictures, you write status updates about your day, hoping for comments about how pretty you look or how funny you are, and you measure your success not in hits on a page but on how many people like a status, how many people you friend, and how many people you interact with on a regular basis. And for those of us thousands of miles away from friends and family, things like Facebook allow you to keep in contact much more easily than letters or emails ever could. It’s an ongoing, interactive, semi-public scrapbook that in thirty years you can look back at and see what you were doing on what day, how you looked, and who you were friends with. The ultimate life diary.

Then there’s Twitter, the tiniest of them all. Want to let your friends (and random followers) know how hilarious it was when you saw a hot guy in the elevator and realised you were wearing a facemask because you were working and you’d forgotten to take it off? Just tweet it. If you can get your point across in 140 characters you can be an internet sensation. It’s not nearly as substantial as Facebook, but there’s humour involved, and it’s like reading all the headlines of the newspaper. You can glance through, get snippets of people’s personalities and find out about cool articles and music — just 140 characters at a time.

And then somewhere in there is Tumblr.

Tumblr is the bastard child of blogs and Twitter that was raised by Pinterest. It was told as a child, “Honey, you can be anything you want,” and Tumblr decided it wanted to be a a cesspool. I know many people out there love Tumblr to death and couldn’t bear to part with it, but I’ve got a couple of problems with it and we’re going to start with its purpose. It’s partly like a blog, but I’ve found that the original content on Tumblr is disproportionately outweighed by the amount of reblogged shit and memes. Reblogging, for those who aren’t familiar with the term, is when one user posts something — a photo, a quote, a long-winded rant about their ten least favourite songs in the world, you name it — and another reader, instead of liking the post or saving it in their favourites, presses a button that makes that user’s post appear on their page. It’s similar to retweeting on Twitter — and how fucking annoying is it when you get those spammers that constantly just retweet everything instead of posting anything interesting that they themselves wrote?

Granted, I’m sure that there are Tumblr users out there that don’t reblog shit constantly. But for the most part, it seems that people do this a lot. And if you follow a lot of Tumblrs that have similar themes (i.e. fanpages for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a lot of friends that happen to like the show) you can end up seeing the same .gif or quote or teensy blog post ten or fifteen times. So there’s a lot of repetition on Tumblr — a lot more so than on a blog or a social networking site. And there’s a lot less original content, too. Most people use it sort of as a bulletin board, where they post pictures they did not make, or memes they did not start. They post things that they think are funny or pretty or cool — much like one does on Pinterest — and then sometimes intersperse this with original thoughts. At least on Pinterest you know that everything one person posts is going to be pictures that they did not create. At least on Pinterest you know that a board dedicated to tattoos a user thinks is cool will actually include photographs of tattoos that person thinks is cool. On Tumblr, if you follow a dedicated fanpage to Sherlock, you will probably only find matter related to the show. But if you follow a girl whose blog is 85% Sherlock-related, you may also get unpleasant TMI posts about how she wants to fuck some cute boy up the butt or her self-involved posts about how ugly she feels (and then posts a picture of herself so the world can judge her). And with reblogging sometimes the credit for the original image or material gets lost in translation. Just because PrettyGirl123 posted that picture of a rose first doesn’t mean that PrettyGirl123 took the picture herself. And sometimes even if PrettyGirl123 did make that image herself, a couple of reblogs later and the credit has mysteriously vanished.

I believe that tumblr is the place that creativity goes to die. I believe that the advent of reblogging has started to keep people from posting things that are original. Why write your thoughts on why Cassandra Clare needs to stop getting all this attention when you can just reblog someone else’s post on the subject? On a lot of people’s Tumblrs, the number of reblogged posts grossly outnumbers the number of original posts, and I guess some people are okay with that, but generally when you’re following 30 blogs with the same aesthetic that may cover a lot of the same subjects, it just means that you’re viewing the same content repeatedly instead of seeing new things all the time.

This brings me to another part of why I hate Tumblr. Facebook, for example, may be a timesuck, but at least when you’re spending a lot of time on Facebook, you’re actually able to interact with friends. I will be the first to admit that I spend hours and hours of my time on Facebook a day — but I’m not constantly scrolling through it. I’ll check it once in a while, but mainly I stay logged into Facebook so that I can chat with my friends, some of whom are here in Auckland, and some of whom are nineteen hours behind me and nine thousand miles away. When people spend that much time on Tumblr, they are literally scrolling through post after post for hours. It is a black hole. Yes, sure, there is some worthwhile stuff on Tumblr. I know that. It is, however, insanely difficult to filter your feed on Tumblr, so in order to get to the gems you’ve got to wade through the virtual equivalent of sewage. I know people who spend literally five or six hours catching up on what happened on Tumblr while they were at work or school. “I’m tired,” they say, “I worked a lot and didn’t get much sleep last night, so I can’t come to [insert social engagement here].” You ask, “Why didn’t you sleep?” and they say, “Oh, I was looking at Tumblr until three.” I have heaps of friends that do this. And then when you chat with them again the next morning and you say, “Feeling rested now?” They say, “No, I went to bed kinda late. I was looking at Tumblr.”

WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU WERE LOOKING AT TUMBLR? You were so tired that you couldn’t hang out or stay up late but then you spent four more hours on Tumblr? Hey, when we were going to hang out, the night would’ve ended at eleven. You would’ve gone to bed early enough to wake up at seven and still feel pretty darn rested. But no. Instead you stayed in and you went to bed at three because you wanted to see all the stupid .gifs everyone posted and woke up at seven and then are still too damn tired to do anything. It drives me bonkers. It’s just the internet, people, stop taking it so damn fucking seriously. When your real life comes second to the shit that pops up on your Tumblr feed, maybe it’s time to re-examine your priorities. Just maybe.

If you have a Tumblr and you feel like maybe I’m missing out of the site’s finer qualities, please feel free to comment and defend your favourite website. Otherwise get the fuck off the internet and go do something real for once.

Ten things Televison Showrunners Need to Stop Doing, Immediately

I love television. This is no secret. Sometimes I find TV comforting in a way that real life could never be, and I always find myself thinking of “tv vs. IRL” possible outcomes for a situation. I usually use TV in a way that most people use music: I put it on while I study, or read, or clean, or cook. I watch TV right before bed. I love many kinds of television, from shows with critical acclaim (Dexter, Arrested Development), to classic sitcoms (Friends), to serious guilty pleasures (Glee, Gossip Girl).  The problem with all this, however, is that I have noticed a lot of things about television that, to me, pierce my brain like Gilbert Gottfried’s voice. Here are what I find to be the ten worst crimes perpetrated by even (and sometimes especially) the television show runners whom I have come to love. I have listed them from least to most annoying for your reading pleasure.

Boots

10. Selecting Wardrobe Pieces for Characters Way Too Poor to Afford Them

Miss Fabray is one of the most well-off characters in Glee, but she still goes to public school in a one-horse town in rural Ohio. These boots, spotted by the kind people over at Fashion of Glee, cost a cool 358 dollars. Many of the other characters like Rachel and Kurt (whose father owns a tire shop by the way) aren’t as upper-middle class as the Fabrays, and yet they wear equally expensive clothes. They never mention the clothes being pricey on the show, but fashion savvy viewers can spot a Marc Jacobs jacket or an Alexander McQueen scarf from a mile away. This is especially annoying on a show like Glee, where youngish girls emulate Rachel Berry and Quinn. In one episode  Rachel claims to shop at Kids ‘R’ Us. Last time I checked, they don’t tend sell Versace flats. I understand that TV is different from real life, but why do they have to dress them like that? Most of the shows guilty of this aren’t even about fashion. None of these characters would wear this stuff. It may seem trivial, but it’s details in props and set dressing that make a huge difference in production quality. Seriously, what is the fucking POINT of putting characters in designer couture fashions when the brands are not differentiated nor mentioned? It doesn’t make a lick of sense.

https://i2.wp.com/static.tvfanatic.com/images/gallery/dear-emily-and-richard-picture.jpg9. Choosing Actors For Flashbacks Who Look Nothing Like Their Current Selves
“Dear Emily and Richard” is one of my favorite episodes of Gilmore Girls, but that doesn’t stop me from cringing every time I watch these two talentless wastes of space portray young Lorelai and Christopher. Are you telling me, that out of the millions upon millions of young, desperate actors out there that Amy Palladino couldn’t have found a girl who doesn’t look fricking LATINA to play a famous character on national television? Seriously. This happens over and over again. Another noteable examle happens in Supernatural, when Dean and Sam revisit their previous high school. Something I’ve noticed: people’s entire skulls don’t normally change shape between age 18 and age 27. Los Angeles and New York are heavily populated with young people who would leap at the chance to be on national TV like dogs for a bone. How hard is it to hold up a picture of your star and glance back and forth a few times between the auditioning actor and the head shot? Also, why do they coach these younger actors to try to imitate the voices of their present-day selves? Why? It sounds so forced, and horrible, and awkward.  Newsflash: sometimes people talk differently when they are children.

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8. Fucking Up With Extremely Basic Props
If I were being extremely self-indulgent (even more self indulgent than I had to have been to co-create a blog where I bitch incessantly), this one would be number one on my list. I put it up here, however, because I feel like you might not notice it the first time around watching a show.  Still though, It bothers me like little else in this world, and some shows (Gilmore Girls: I’m looking at you) are so bad with it that sometimes I can’t even focus on the scene at hand. I’m talking about when women are walking around with purses that are flapping in the breeze because they are so obviously empty. I’m talking about to-go coffee cups that are also obviously empty. I don’t understand why they can’t just fill the cups with water or marbles or rocks I don’t care, but no one fucking waves their cups around like people do on television. I want everyone to picture their last trip to Starbucks. You just paid for your Venti Pumpkin Spice Latte, and you are now walking down the street, having a conversation with your friend. How are you holding that cup? Are you whipping it around while you gesticulate? Not unless you want 2nd degree burns all over your knuckles. Forget that, are you even holding it with one hand? Probably not at first. Do you tip it at a complete 90 degree angle when you take the first sip? FUCK NO. You squint into the little slit as if trying to use your eyeballs to determine if it is a safe drinking temperature. You then stick your tongue in the slit and inhale, getting a minuscule drop on your tongue.  It seems safe, so you take a teensy, delicate sip, tilting the cup so slowly it’s as if you’re trying to tip coffee into your mouth one molecule at a time. I’m not sure on the statistics here, but I feel like there should be enough people working on a fucking television set who have drunk coffee before that at least one of these lazy ass prop-making motherfuckers could coach the actors, or suggest filling the cups. Come on, people.

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7. Failing To Do  Basic Research About Your Settings Before Deciding to Set a Show There
Sometimes you can’t film a television show where it’s set. Some of my favorite shows, like Supernatural and Fringe, are very expensive to produce, and are thus filmed in not-so-desireable filming locales, like Canada. I understand this. I don’t expect the episode of Fringe that takes place in South Station that the set should actually be identical to South Station. I do expect, however, that before spending millions of dollars producing a televison show that people could do a  fucking google search. “What do people in Boston call the subway?” “How do you pronounce these crazy town names?” “Are these places anywhere near each other?” “Is that big fucking glass building in the middle of Boston where the FBI field office is located?” “Or better yet, what is that big fucking glass building even called?” Seriously. The  Hancock Tower is probably the most famous building in Boston and it is PRIVATELY OWNED. IT’S ALSO NOT CALLED THE FEDERAL BUILDING. Like seriously, wtf. In this day and age there is actually no excuse for this. Judging by the product placement/commercial break tie ins, I think every person who works on that set owns a Sprint Smart phone. Why do none of these people know how to use google?

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6. Having Characters Drive in Reckless Fashions While Having Conversations With Each Other
Okay, so the above picture might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I really don’t understand why directors don’t coach their actors to keep looking forward while talking to each other in the car. I know it’s Television and we have to suspend our disbelief, but let’s be real here. Seeley Booth from bones literally NEVER looks at the road. He is always deep in conversation with Bones, and his eyes only ever so rarely flick towards the windshield. I don’t think the scene would suffer that much from the characters being shot in profile. If anything, it allows for more challenging acting! No one could drive like this and live for very long, especially because most car scenes in shows like Bones are high speed emergency chases. Booth is careening around DC streets, racing towards a crime scene and not ONCE is he looking at the cars, small children, shrubberies and cafe tables he is no doubtedly swerving in and out of. Just once I would like this to be adressed. Just once, I would like someone on TV to accidentally crash their car, or smash into a woman pushing a stroller, while having a long, poignant conversation with the person riding shotgun.

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5. Letting Characters Spend Way More Money Than They Should, Especially When Money Problems are Often a Plot Point, and How Much They’ve Been Spending is Not
In this hilariously detailed Thought Catalog post, Stephanie Georgopulos guesstimates how much debt Carrie Bradshaw would have spent vs what she would have earned at the start of the show. SATC is probably the show that most famously does this, but my favorite show, Gilmore Girls, is pretty guilty too. Lorelai and Rory get takeout every night, eat at Luke’s diner once per day (and multiple times per episode), and many times they just leave the food, or throw it out. It’s not until season 4, when Lorelai is trying to get her Inn off the ground that she actually acknowledges this unhealthy spending.  Rachel Greene s also afflicted. It is part of her character to be really into shopping, but for the first two seasons she’s a waitress at a coffee house. All the friends eat out a lot, and obviously buy coffee and breakfast all the time at Central Perk. Occasionally Joey, Phoebe and Rachel discuss their money problems but it really doesn’t affect their spending habits at all. It’s really frustrating because no one could expect to live like the Friends, or the SATC ladies, or the Gilmore Girls without going completely flat ass broke, or tens of thousands of dollars in the hole.  A lot of these scenes are nothing but filler. It pisses me off mainly because I wish I could work a low paying job and afford to buy takeout almost every night, and shop whenever I want. It makes me bitter. And I hate being bitter; it’s bad for the complexion. IRL money is a bitch. 

http://tvrecappersanonymous.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/gossip-girl-bed.jpg4. Creating or Preventing Romantic Entanglements For the Sake of Dramatic Intrigue But Without a Ring of Emotional Truth
The “will they, won’t they” trope is a time honored television tradition. Some shows do it well: Ross & Rachel, JD & Elliot, Jim & Pam, to name a few. However, some shows keep their main love interests apart for basically no reason whatsoever for way longer than any two people interested in each other would stay apart in real life. Bones and Booth, for example, are probably the worst. They spent five years without either of them having a serious relationship, making up excuses and supposedly Bones wouldn’t risk it because “she was a scientist and didn’t gamble like that” WTF. Did that actually ring true to ANYONE? In one earlier episode, Booth holds off telling Bones about his feelings because he was afraid that if things didn’t work out, Bones would take a long time to get over it. WHAT. In what universe does anyone actually care about that? None. I’ve found that for the most part, people do the opposite. We are ultimately a very selfish species: we want something, then go for it. Period. Many of my breakups, and friends breakups have taught me that if nothing else. If I liked, nay, loved, a friend, and I knew beyond reasonable doubt that he or she loved me too, no way in hell would I wait SIX YEARS before broaching the subject.  It’s fucking exhausting as viewer. Similarly, when shows are near the end of thier shelf life, I think the staff writers get together and start pulling characters’ names out of a hat and pairing them up. “Hey, have we tried Rufus and Chuck Bass as a couple yet? No? Perfect. Let’s get cracking.” Yawn.

https://i2.wp.com/www.forensictechnology.com/Portals/71705/images/csi-miami--screenshot-5.jpg3. Creating Unnecessary Spin Offs
I really never understood the need for showrunners to make spin-offs that don’t atcually make any sense as spin offs. They introduce the cast in what is known as a “back door pilot,” as a way to get the “new” show going. It’s essentially the same show template but set in a different location, with a different cast, or with a slightly different format. Sometimes the shows are good, like SVU or criminal intent. Sometimes they’re terrible and get canceled in due course, like The Finder, and sometimes they last way too long like friggin Horatio Cane. I really don’t get why they can’t just make a new show. Even if it has a similar premise, it doesn’t actually make sense to frame it as a spin off. Whenever I see this, I feel like I’m being patronized. Like I’m too dumb to accept an entirely new show, so I have to be spoonfed the premise by a show I already like. It’s infuriating. The only other, and equally likely, explanation is that it is a shameless plug for ratings. For fuck’s sake, let your damn show speak for itself. I guarantee it’ll say a lot more.

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2. Fucking Up Their Own Continuity
I’m not talking about in one scene there’s a magazine on the table and the next shot it’s mysteriously gone. That’s understandable. I’m talking about showrunners forgetting important plot points and ret-conning them well after the fact. Many shows are very guilty of this, especially when they run on the longer end. This drives me ape shit. Do you know how much work goes into producing an episode of television? There are days, maybe even weeks, of writing the script. Then there are table reads, and then the actors have to memorize all the lines. Then there are dozens upon dozens of takes of every scene, and then of course there’s editing. Are you seriously fucking telling me that the writers of Gilmore Girls “forgot” that they established that Richard’s mother was dead in one of the first few episodes? Or that Rachel had supposedly never met Chandler before the pilot of Friends? Or that Rachel originally only had one sister, and later had two? Or that Spike’s age was changed multiple times throughout his tenure on Buffy? They seriously can’t take a quick glance at old scripts, or old reels? Really? They should keep a fricking bio cheat sheet on each of their main characters that they can take a look at from time to time. That should be some bitch intern’s job, to maintain a spreadsheet, or lie a time line graphic, of the basic events and facts of the world within the show. I think this’d be much more useful than getting coffee or sleeping with the producer.

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1. Create Plot-lines with A lot of Potential That End Up Going Nowhere
To me, there is nothing worse than this. In fact, I was considering doing an entire post about this, and still might. It infuriates me to no freaking end. As an addict of television, I have watched many of my favorite shows from beginning to end ad nauseum until I know them (clearly) much better than the creators ever did. The one downside to this is that I am repeatedly exposed to the things that could have been. Pictured above is WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALT from Lost. He is introduced as a potentially telekinetic wunderkind, and a lot (and I mean a L-O-T) of  screen time is devoted to developing his back story, and how he might have freaky weird powers. It is then NEVER ADDRESSED AGAIN. Lost is probably the worst offender of this phenomenon, at least that I can think of. I also never forgave them for neglecting to tell us why Aaron was so special, too. Another huge offender: Friends.  I maintain that Ross & Rachel was a perfect use of the will they/won’t they; however, Rachel and JOEY was one of the most disappointing realizations of a ‘ship in television histrory. With nearly two seasons of buildup to their amazing kiss in Barbados, Rachel and Joey remained a couple for TWO. EPISODES. wtf. They could have (should have) done so much more with this. Aniston and Le Blanc had amazing chemistry together, and they completely squandered it. Other bad ones: Spencer Reid’s drug addiction “story” on Criminal Minds, the ZFT group on Fringe, the Santa Muerte Killings on Dexter, and the ever so slightly less offensive Marty & Rory’s relationship on Gilmore Girls. I know that realistically, shows can’t really do everything during their time on the air, but really, why even broach the subject? Just to piss of your fans? That’s a great strategy.

And there you have it folks, a cool 3000 words proving beyond reasonable doubt that I seriously need to get out more.

10 Baby Naming Trends That Should Be Discontinued

Don’t worry, I’m not baby crazed or anything. But anyone who has known me for more than about a week knows that I am, for whatever reason, obsessed with names. Names for pets, names for babies, names for characters — it doesn’t matter. I keep a list of names that I like on my computer and I have a shockingly enormous collection of name books on my shelf at home.

When it comes to naming characters — because I am, after all, a fiction writer — nothing but the best will do. I spend hours picking out the most fitting name and won’t rest until it’s perfect. I’m sure I’ll do the same, if not to a more fanatical degree, should I ever have a pet of my own, or if I (god forbid) become a parent. But sometimes I feel other people don’t put in nearly enough thought into the names they give their children. As a huge name nerd, I have guilty pleasure names like Nero and Drusilla. Good names for characters. Bad names for children. Because remember — children are individuals themselves, and they grow up to be (gasp!) real people. And as bad as it is to be saddled with a boring-ass name, it’s definitely way worse to get a name like Dweezil or Pilot Inspektor or Peaches.

These are the trends that I hate the most for one reason or another in no particular order. It’s hard to rank the injustice

10. Giving your child a middle name … and then calling them by it.

I don’t know what the deal is with this. I don’t think I’ll ever really get it. Apparently it’s a thing that some Southern families do, maybe to differentiate two different family members named John, maybe for some other reason that I’m not exactly privy to. They’ll name a child John Robert … and instead of calling him John or  Johnny or even John Robert or J.R, they decide to call him Robert. And not only that — Robert then becomes this child’s given name for all intents and purposes. He might even be called Rob or Bobby. And the only time John comes up again is if his parents are really furious and he’s drawn on the walls or drunk all their good whiskey, and they yell “JOHN ROBERT SMITH, YOU GET YOUR LITTLE BUTT DOWN HERE.” So why is he not named Robert John? I can’t come up with any good reason for the confusion that’s definitely going to ensue in school when his teacher calls attendance and he has to explain to the entire class that he goes by Robert, not John, and that it’s his middle name. Why not just cut out all that tiresome explanation by just naming him Robert John? It’s just silly.

9.  Giving your child a “filler” middle name.

So let’s go the complete opposite route as above. I don’t understand why you would give your baby a first name that never gets used and a middle name that is used as a first name, but I also don’t understand why you’d even give someone a middle name if it doesn’t have any meaning to you. You can use the middle name slot to honour a family member or a friend, to put that really cool name in there that you’ve always loved, or to give your child the option of going by their middle name later on in life (in case your choice of first name wasn’t their cup of tea). I maintain that girls with the middle names Marie, Rose, and Ann were named by unimaginative parents, because you can use this name spot for anything you want. It can have meaning or it can be your opportunity to be creative and have fun without dooming your child to an embarrassing name situation for all eternity. So really — unless you have a great-aunt Marie or roses happen to be your favourite flower, leave the dull names at home. I personally take great pride in my “weird” middle name, though I know not everyone does. I like having a full name that nobody else in the world has. Because is it likely that there’s another Kendra Sidony Recht out there? Nope. It makes me feel like I truly am one of a kind. And I’m not saying you have to name your child Mary Prunella. But what about Mary Jacqueline, or Mary Sophia, or Mary Isabelle? Why does it always have to be Elizabeth, Claire, Rose, Ann, or Marie? And really, who wants to be one of four Sarah Anns or Emily Roses in their class? No one, that’s who.

8. Naming children after yourself, your spouse, or another friend or family member.

Many people might read this and get upset, because frankly, the reason most people name their children after other folks in their lives is to honour them. It’s a noble cause — I’m not bashing it. But as great as honouring family members or friends may be, is it necessary to have two (or more) people with the same name floating around in the same family? And unless it’s a name like Elizabeth that has a wide variety of nicknames (Liz, Beth, Betsy, Betty, Elle, Eliza, Libby, etc), confusion will be inevitable. But it’s more than confusion at stake. I feel that when people name their kids after themselves or another family member, they’re sort of robbing a child of his or her own identity. I know that sounds drastic, but hear me out: a name is a point of pride. It is the thing that is your own from the day you come into this world until the day you die. People remember you by this name, they define you by it, and if you happen to be Scott Junior — or heaven forbid Scott III — you instead get all these familial expectations pushed on you, whether your parents mean it or not. There is already a prescribed identity to the person or people carrying this name who have already lived and have already done many things, both good and bad. A “junior” starts off as a mini-me — and that’s the point, isn’t it? Thinking so highly of yourself that you name your child to honour … well, you? And with a junior or a III, there isn’t even the distinction of having your own middle name, which could at least help to set you apart. It’s especially bad when the poor thing is relegated to being called “junior” as a nickname. I mean … yikes. Look, guys, I get tradition — I understand that tradition, to many people, is a very important thing. But does it have to seep into naming practices like this? There are other ways to honour somebody. Off the top of my head I can think of quite a few. You can use a similar name, or a name with the same meaning, or choose that person’s birthstone or month or favourite flower or something else that’s in their interests. My mom hates her name, so it’s not like I’d ever saddle a child with it. But if I really wanted to honour her, maybe I’d call my daughter Cassandra, because it’s the name of a character in her favourite novel. Or maybe I’d let my mom choose a few names, and bring her into the naming conversation. That probably shows more love and respect than just choosing the name Barbara. So since you can honour people in fun and creative ways, is it really necessary to repeat names within a family? Especially because then you can avoid all the petty drama when Great Uncle Edgar finds out that he doesn’t get a baby named after him. Remember that no children want their parents’ heavy hopes and expectations weighing on them for all eternity, and they certainly shouldn’t have to be reminded of these lofty goals every time they hear their name called.

7. Naming your child the same name as another child in the family.

This kind of goes with the above quibble, but it’s less out of honour and more out of stupidity. At least, that’s what I get out of this sort of situation. I know that you may have a large extended family, and that you and your cousin might both adore the name Liam, but if your cousin uses Liam, do you really need to do it too? There are other fine names out there. There are, in fact, hundreds of thousands of them. Why must you decide to confuse your entire gaggle of friends and family by naming your child the same name as another child that you spend a lot of time with? Do you really need two cousin Liams? It’s especially weird if it’s not a family name. If it is, that’s not really my cup of tea but I can at least somewhat get behind the reasoning. But if it’s just a name two different people in the same family (or circle of close friends, even) just happen to like, you should probably let the person who has the child first (or at least announces their intention to use the name first) have the name. Because doesn’t everybody want their child to be special?

6. Names inspired by the place of conception.

Pro-tip here, parents: no kid wants to find out that his or her name’s meaning is the place in which you copulated. It doesn’t matter if the end result was little Brooklyn; it’s still sex, and it’s still probably not a thing your child wants to think about when finding out the origin of their name. I had this experience myself once when I was told — very tactlessly, I might add, over dinner — that my parents considered naming me Geneva. As in Switzerland. Let me tell you, there’s nothing that puts you off  a nice fancy dinner like the thought of your parental units doing it. And really — does any kid want to know that about their parents? Yes, of course intellectually we all know our parents had to do the deed otherwise we would not exist, but we don’t want to actually know any of the details. We like to keep it fuzzy, bleeped out like a censored rap song. And that’s just the good names that come out of this scenario. How else do you think we get names like Number 16 Bus Shelter? I’ll leave it to your imagination.

5. Names that put incredible expectations on children.

We’re talking, here, about names that confer a lot of meaning upon the child. It isn’t bad to give your child a name that means “wise” if you want him or her to be wise. But to actually name your child a virtue, particularly one that’s hard to follow, it could really backfire. I feel like sometimes by naming their daughter Chastity, parents are congratulating themselves on a job well done. “Brilliant,” says the mother, “Now she’ll have this constant reminder that SEX IS BAD.” Dad will agree. He’ll say, “She’ll be the most virtuous of them all.” Now, have you met any girls name Chastity? I haven’t, but I’ve got friends who have, and they all come to the same general consensus: all Chastitys are complete hoes. I feel like a name like that just begs to be rebelled against. Think about it. All her life, little Chastity has been told what her name means. She’s definitely been teased about it since the boys in middle school figured out the definition, and the girls probably all whispered behind her back, giggling that maybe Chastity isn’t living up to her name, or maybe that she’s a total prude like her name. And can anyone live up to it? Chastity has no choice but to either fully rebel and get the flak or go with it and still get teased. But it’s not just virtue names; there are names like Hercules and Beauty that nobody can live up to. Can a boy named Hercules really be that strong, that god-like, that attractive? What if Beauty’s just a homely little girl? It’s great if your kid can live up to names like this, but who are we kidding? It never works out quite the way you want it to.

4. “Youneek” Spellings.

I spell “unique” this way because sometimes it’s the only way to properly express the injustice being done to normal names everywhere. Every parent wants his or her child to be one of a kind, and they want their child’s name to reflect this. That’s nothing new. But there are heaps of interesting names that aren’t in the top 100 or even the top 1000 that you could use to make your baby stand out and not look like they went to a white trash convention in Appalachia. Instead of looking for these hidden gems, many parents decide that they want to name their child something very mundane, very run-of-the-mill, but because they feel there are too many little girls named Emily bopping around in their neighbourhood, they decide the best way to deal with this is to use the name but spell it Emmy-Lee or Emmaleigh. Newsflash, parents: it still sounds exactly the same, so your dumb kid is still going to be one of six Emilys in her class, plus it looks like you had an aneurysm while choosing her name. Is Katelynne really all that different from Caitlin? Doesn’t Jaxson look way stupider than Jackson?. And does anyone actually think the spelling Lyndsie looks cute? Really, guys, it’s not unique, you’ve just spelt it wrong. And imagine the confusion when the poor thing is trying to first write its name, or correct teachers at school! There’s also this brand new thing with the letter “y.” Everyone loves the letter “y.” I can’t tell you the reason, except for the fact that many new parents seem to believe that the letter “y” makes a different noise than it actually does. Trashy people like to stuff as many “ys” in their kid’s names as they can handle. Fynn. Jasmyne. Addisyn. Krystyna. THE LETTER DOESN’T SOUND LIKE THESE THINGS. USE OTHER VOWELS.  And hey, boy-names-on-girls lovers (we’ll be getting to that soon) — it doesn’t make a name more feminine when you replace other respectable vowels with their shabby cousin “y.”

3. Boys Names On Girls.

For a very long time, I’ve had a thing against boys names on girls. I’m aware that names like Lindsey and Jocelyn used to be boy names long ago, but I’ve made my peace with those. It’s inevitable that every now and again, over time, names will migrate from one sex to the other. But that isn’t the trend I’m talking about. I’m talking about the trend where parents feel that to be cool or edgy, they have to name their daughter Kennedy or Killian or Bryce. They do this to be unique and interesting. They see actresses like Blake Lively and they say “see, it worked for her!” But Blake Lively is beautiful and can pull off a masculine name. What if your daughter is a fugly as? What if she hates that her name is Maxwell? This is where feminine middle names come in, of course, because then if she’s Maxwell Louise, she can always go by Louise. And boys might think it’s cool, but they also might tease her incessantly for it. It’s a toss-up. Plus, you’ve got to gauge how popular this boy name is going to be. In Bergen County, New Jersey, you’d better bet that there will be about ten male Michaels per grade, so you probably shouldn’t name your little girl that. And can we talk about the repercussions of using boy names for girls? Because I’m pretty sure these days Madison and Riley and even Elliot are listed as unisex names. Hell, on babynames.com even James, a classic biblical name, is classified that way. Supporters of this trend will say that it’s a move towards equality, in which no name is gendered — but is that actually true? Nuh uh. The second a name moves from masculine territory to feminine territory, the boys lose another name. It may not be fair, but it works the same as when we judge men for wearing makeup but not women for wearing jeans. As soon as Ashley became a popular moniker for baby girls all across America, the name went out of vogue for boys. A boy named Laura would be beaten up every day in the schoolyard for the rest of his young life. The parents who think boy names fit girls well do not also believe the opposite, which makes it annoying and hypocritical, because then they are stealing names from the boys and giving them all to the girls — and once a name swaps sides, it doesn’t often swing back around.

 2. Themed family names.

Very few things are tackier than sibling sets with themes. Or shall I say overt themes, because some are clever. You can get away with some. You may not realise at first that a sibset named Juliet, Tamora, and Sebastian are all named after Shakespearean characters, but you’re sure as hell going to figure it out right away when they’re named Luna, Hermione, and Sirius. It’s too much. Way too cutesy. Don’t name all your girls after flowers, and certainly try to avoid things like having the same endings (i.e. Hunter, Jasper, Tyler). And while it may be cute and tempting to follow in the Kardashians’ footsteps, it’s probably not the brightest idea to name all your children starting with the same letter. Now, I should preface this by saying I’m not terribly bothered by siblings both having names with the same letter. My sister and I are Kendra and Kerry. However, this was incidental — it just happened that my parents liked the way the names sounded together as a set, and they really liked the name “Kerry” — so what if it started with the same letter as mine? But the problem arises when families set out to do a sibling set with just one letter. Let’s say it’s the letter O. They love Olivia for a girl and Otto and Owen for a boy — but then god forbid, what happens if they have another girl? They don’t care for Octavia or Ophelia or Opal, but they’re afraid to go against the pattern they’ve already set up for themselves. How can you have three children with O names and one without? See, now they’ve backed themselves into a corner and there’s not terribly much they can do about it aside from suck it up and scour the interwebs for an O name they don’t despise, or they break the pattern and little Amy is forever asking questions about why she is the one with the different name, and when you tell her it’s because she’s special, your little O crowd gets upset because then they aren’t special. Man, aren’t kids great.

1. Matchy Twin Names.

This is like above but worse. I feel as though some people think twins are the same person split into different bodies. But to be clear, a twin’s identity isn’t defined by the fact that he or she is a twin. They just happen to come out of the womb with another person who may or may not look exactly like them. They’re separate people. Not one person multiplied by two or divided in two, depending on the way you look at it. This misconception is going to plague your twins for the rest of their lives, so you probably might not want to give people any more fodder. Don’t give them names that rhyme, or names that are boy-girl variations of each other (like Luke and Lucy or Nicholas and Nicole). Don’t give them any names that might have the same nicknames, like that one MTV Teen Mom did with Aliannah and Aleeah — you can’t control what other people call them, so they could both end up as “Ali.”. Because come on, it’s confusing for everyone involved, including the twins. And you. Remember that you need to remember who is who, too. I sometimes think people forget that for approximately eighteen years, they will be calling their children to dinner, yelling at them for running into traffic, or asking them to do chores — all of which will require you to recall who got what name. And believe you me, no one likes getting called by the wrong name. Sometimes my dad calls me by my sister’s name by accident and I give him the stink eye. And sometimes he calls my sister Paul after his brother. No one really knows why. But that’s another story entirely.

I think the worst possible “matchy” sets, though, are the really strange ones, where people forget that their children are siblings. Some twins are called Adam and Eve. Or Edward and Bella. Or Romeo and Juliet. Please, readers, enlighten me. Why would you want to name your twin son and daughter after tragic lovers? Or any lovers for that matter? Isn’t it going to be very uncomfortable and weird when they realise the inspiration behind their names? It would give me the fucking creeps.

There are heaps more terrible trends out there, but I don’t have the time or energy to recount them all. There’s the “-Ayden” trend, in which half the names in the top one hundred are Brayden, Aiden, Caden, Jayden, et al. There’s the trend of naming kids word names like Apple and Story, and the the trend of putting random apostrophes into random spots in the name. There’s the trend of poor folks naming their children Bentley and Tiffany after things they could never afford in a million years, and the list goes on and on and on and on and on. And hey — if you happen to have children you’ve named with these trends, please feel free to bash me until the cows come home, because after all, enough people do this shit that I wrote a post to complain about it.

Why You Shouldn’t Hate Me For Being a “Grammar Nazi”

I take a lot of crap for liking my grammar to be clean and precise. A metric fuck-ton of crap. Many people tell me to lighten up, or shut up. Either way. Give or take a groan or colorful expletive, those are the most common reactions I get when I mention anything in the realm of grammar. Another classic all time favorite: severe eye rolling.

These reactions give me a heavy heart, because I feel as though I am oft misunderstood. I don’t prance around expecting everyone to constantly be aware of using “who” vs “whom” or even knowing what the subjunctive case is. And as much as I love them, I don’t expect everyone to know when to use a semicolon; the rules regarding these beauteous punctuation marks can be quite complicated. And, in fact, I myself am known to say “like” many a-time in casual conversation, correct syntax be damned.

In a text or a tweet, I accept that not everyone will properly punctuate, and I definitely don’t do so when I’m in a hurry, or angry, or half asleep or half tipsy. However, and this is an enormous however, I still think grammar is important. Casually scrolling through the facebook statuses present in my news feed, I am struck repeatedly in the eyeballs by one horrible travesty after another and I start to wonder, where does it stop?

Though I cringe every time “your” incorrectly replaces “you’re” on facebook, I usually don’t raise complaint. However, after sending and receiving hundreds of emails in the professional world, and proofreading many classmates’ papers during school, sometimes I want to throw up on my keyboard (Once, someone used a construction known commonly in the world of AIM as “action stars” in a legitimate draft for a class paper. *hits forehead with palm*).

I repeat my prior question: where does it stop? I know that language is constantly changing and evolving, and sure, no one uses the word “t’wixt” anymore, but still. When I read something that is clearly meant for public display, discussion and/or scrutiny—something more formal than a tweet or status update, like a blog post or email message—and it’s written in woefully poor grammar, I immediately undervalue the person’s point and opinion. And again, I mean to stress, I’m not talking about the occasional typo or comma splice. I am talking about a solid block of rambling text that suggests English as a second or perhaps even fifth language. As a writing major, I feel like I’m more aware of grammatical snafus than the average layperson, but you cantt tell me youdont notice when a person goes on and on withouta lick f even basic spellchcker or making sure he throw in a comma or 2 or maybe even if they was seperating there sentence into more than 1 and sometimes helping correct verbs and verb agreement to help your comprehension especially with a capitol that is RANDOM in the middle of a paragraph even they dont even seem to making a point that is a point to help.

Some people seriously write like this in one hundred percent serious scenarios. On and on and on they go. I have seen this type of writing everywhere from serious emails regarding highly interpersonal emotional issues, professional emails, job applications, or blog posts that have an ultimate goal of sounding quasi-professional, smart or deep. It doesn’t fall to natural intelligence, or college level education, or socio-economic class. It falls to pure, damn laziness. If you don’t care enough to spell check, why should I care enough to read your moronic drivel? These days every word processing program and nearly every browser has a basic spell check. Even if your natural spelling is abysmal, are you seriously so lazy that, before you hit the publish button, you can’t take a quick scan and right click on those words with red squiggles under them? Really? The only excuse for use of that type of language in anything except a text or facebook status—and maybe even then—is after some sort of very, very serious head injury. I can make an exception for children younger than the age of 14, but it’s kind of unclear as to why they would be drafting professional emails or college essays.

It doesn’t make you funny or cool when you don’t care about how you present yourself, it makes you seem like an idiot. I know plenty of smart people who simply don’t communicate well, but this goes beyond that. It goes beyond style, or opinion, or especially eloquent prose. It goes to the very heart of professionalism. If I were an employer and I got a cover letter busting at the seams with grammatical errors, I would throw it in the garbage. It really doesn’t take that much effort to give your letter, email, or blog post a once over. Read it out loud to yourself. Literally read it exactly as you have written it. I can guarantee that even the laziest, humanities hating-est among you could pick up on about 80% of your mistakes. Also, these days, we have this magical little thing called google, and taking about ten seconds to type “when to use a comma” or “when should I use who vs whom” will blow your frickin lazy-ass mind. Most of what I’m talking about doesn’t come down to knowledge of mechanics though, it comes down to not being bothered.
When I read garbage like this, it actually makes me see red. For several moments the other night, I went blind with rage when I saw a facebook status that was specifically insulting every person in the poster’s age group’s intelligence. And it was written in such a manner that it should have been written in crayon, or potentially finger paint. If you’re going to go around saying everyone is stupid except you, you damn sure better make sure that status is flawless. Adding to my horror are plenty of people who write like this and then proclaim that they want to teach school children. Teach them what? How to behave like lazy assholes? Well, mission accomplished. You could get a PHD in that, be called Professor McSackofShit and be qualified to teach AP classes in it.

Really though, I return once again to my main question: where does it stop? If you’re so damn lazy that you can’t even be bothered to ask a friend to give you a quick proofread, you really need to re-examine what kind of person you are. Have some pride, dammit. The structures of our languages are what make humanity great. It separates us from animals who can only communicate with twitches of antennae or grunts that only express the most basic needs and fears. If we lose all pretense of caring or structure in even instances like cover letters or school papers, what next? Is that really the foot we want to put forward? That we can’t even be bothered to try to express ourselves with even a modicum of correctness?

Reading a piece written like that is an emotional roller coaster for me, because at first I find it completely hilarious, and then I get angry, and then I pretty much just weep for the species. I’m not saying you have to be perfect; lord knows I’m not, and it would be foolish to expect anyone to live up to standards of grammatical perfection. I’m not saying you have to transform yourself into a walking Strunk & White, though if I ever came across a humanoid version of this book I would marry him or her on the spot. I’m not even saying you have to be especially knowledgeable on the subject. I’m just saying you should give your words, thoughts, opinions, and feelings the effort they deserve. I am (clearly) of the opinion that everyone has something of value to say, or to share, but if you’re going to go through the effort of sharing it, please reward the effort we all have to put into reading it.

As a very wise, and beautiful Australian woman once said, “Good grammar is the difference between knowing your shit, and knowing you’re shit.”

10 Songs That Make Me Want to Kill Myself

Obviously there is no shortage of bad music in the world. There are people who, like Paris Hilton, have no talent to speak of and can get away with making (or at least singing) less than stellar songs just based on their reputations and the fact that sometimes audiences are too stupid to understand that music is supposed to be an art. A lot of the drivel that’s out there certainly doesn’t live up to that name.

In the same way that I feel all people think they can write well just because they have a decent story in them, I also feel many people believe that making music is easy; that if they insert a couple of key lyrical concepts (mainly revolving around love) and a reasonably danceable beat, they’re golden. And being able to sing doesn’t make you good at making music. American Idol and The Voice have long since been the bane of my existence because it has nothing to do with the creative process of writing songs and feeling it from the heart. Instead, it’s pretty much glorified karaoke that gets the best or most popular (the latter of which has never been a great measurement of talent) singer a recording contract worth millions. And real artists get left in the dust.

That said, this is not a blog post about songs that I think are awful. That would take me probably ten years to write and would result in a book the size of the Oxford English Dictionary. This is a blog post about the songs that make me want to hurl myself out the window every time I hear them — and here they are from least heinous to most.

10. “Lucky” by Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat.

“Lucky” is everything a bad love song could possibly be. The lyrics manage to reach new astounding levels of insipid sappiness. It’s number ten on the list because it’s not quite as offensive as some of the others, but the lyrics actually make me want to puke. “Lucky to be in love with my best friend”? “Lucky we’re in love in every way”? My gag reflex just went haywire writing that. And that’s without having listened to the actual tune. The sparse instrumentals are reminiscent of a bad Jack Johnson song, and I really hate Jack Johnson. It’s the kind of song you might serenade your lover with on a ukelele if you hated them and wanted them to leave you. It’s the dopey surfer version of “Hey There Delilah.” And it probably doesn’t help that I think Colbie Caillat has a vocal style equivalent to Pac-Sun — a store, which for my friends on this side of the world, specialises in faux-surfer duds and is found almost exclusively in malls. She has a voice made for elevator music. And no one likes elevator music.

9. “American Boy” by Estelle featuring Kanye West

I can’t pinpoint exactly why I detest this song. I think it’s probably because the tune is just so grating. Estelle has the flimsiest voice ever, and although I generally really like Kanye, his rapping style in this song just went down the drain. It’s more singing along with the tune, which, if you remember from about two lines ago, is not good. It’s like a hip-hop easy listening song, and those two things should not mix. Not now, not ever. You will probably notice that in this list, there are a few recurring themes within the songs chosen. One of them is monotone vocals. Or at least vocalists that fluctuate between two or three notes like a retarded child playing a butchered rendition of chopsticks. “American Boy” is very guilty of doing this and it makes me die. Everywhere.

8. “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt

Oh god do I hate this song. It bothers me in the same way that “Lucky” bothers me, but worse. His voice disgusts me — it kind of sounds like the guy from Five for Fighting and a wild turkey mated and their unfortunate child started subscribing to the emo lifestyle. The video’s emo as fuck, too. He just strips awkwardly, looking all soulful and shit, and then jumps into the ocean because this beautiful girl doesn’t love him back. Get with the program, James Blunt, you’re not the only person who has wanted to date someone miles out of their league and has been spurned. This happens to me very frequently. But do I write bad songs and then strip and jump off a cliff? No. You know why? Because I’m not desperate. And Blunt sounds like a desperate guy, even though he’s famous and could easily snag a pretty lady if he wrote better music. Between his “soulful” caterwauling and inspired words, it’s no wonder he hasn’t got the girl. “My life is brilliant, my love is pure”? Sure, Blunt, we’ll be the judge of that.

7. “Fireflies” by Owl City.

Have you heard this guy’s voice? If you look up the term “whiny” in the dictionary, this asshole’s name would be the entire definition. Back in the day when emo groups were all the rage, Owl City may have fit in. He certainly sounds like someone’s been pounding him with a brick since he entered middle school. He was probably the kid who went home, cried about being bullied, and made “music” a la Ross Geller on his snazzy keyboard and computer. Every time he attempts to sing a vowel it’s like he’s trying to emulate a flock of Canadian Geese, both in timbre and volume, something not helped by the bad audio effects. And then we hear the tones he’s so carefully crafted into a song. It’s boring. He’s boring. And I swear to god he’s just a thirteen year old boy who did this instead of masturbating one day and he should have just stuck with the good old right hand. I could write a better song than this and I can’t write music for shit. I remember hearing this song once while skiing back home. I’d decided to take a rest because my legs were killing me. But Owl City’s wailing drove me from the beautiful cold bench to the slopes once more. And I preferred the ache in my legs heaps better than the brain aneurysm “Fireflies” would have soon caused me.

6. “Judas” by Lady Gaga

So I used to like Lady Gaga’s music a little bit back when it first came out. It wasn’t that it was anything that fresh; she borrows all of her material from Madonna and Bowie and Marilyn Manson, after all. But back in the day she wasn’t trying too hard. She just made danceable music that had weird lyrics. Then she got popular for her crazy antics and released Born This Way. This album itself isn’t exactly the most cohesive or coherent record that’s ever been made, but the track “Judas” takes the cake. First off, I’m sick of Lady Gaga’s “style” where she repeats vowels and then says her name. Like “Juda-a-a-a-as Gaga”. You know. That. I think the song started out okay — but then it just goes haywire after the first minute. “Judas” starts off like a dark rock song and then, without any warning, slips right into upbeat pop territory. Her little “oh oh oh ohs” in the background don’t seem to fit, either. And then have you heard around halfway through the song? If you haven’t, listen now — around 3:25 in this video. It’s like Gaga forgot what sort of song she was writing … again. I won’t even go into the fact that the instrumentals need some heavy work; they sound like that odd keyboard effect from way back in the day that made me think of a gorilla in a weird, synthesized jungle. Or a really bad fake bass riff. But then from that very weird departure into electro-land, she goes back to the pop song without any reasonable or logical transition. It’s as though she took all the scraps of melodies she recorded in studio, realised she needed one more song to flesh out the rest of her CD, and then hurriedly mixed and matched these little musical tidbits to create a bad song. Plus, can we just talk about how Lady Gaga is just totally trying to shock the general public? No one writes a song in which they state their undying love for Judas if they’re not gagging for attention.

5. “My Humps” by The Black Eyed Peas.

….There is really nothing good to say about this song. Honestly. Give me one good thing to say about it and I’ll punch you in the nose. Let’s start with the fact that I don’t like The Black Eyed Peas. They have no substance aside from singing about going to clubs and having sex and partying and whenever they do have a “deep” song, like “Where is the Love” (that was going to go on here, too, but I didn’t want to put two songs by the same artist on it. That would be cheap), it comes out as disingenuous. But while I really hate “Pump It” and “I Got a Feeling,” this song is leagues below their usual low standards in terms of maturity, lyrical sophistication, and melodic virtues. There is no acceptable lyric in this entire song. Not a single one. “What you gon do wit all that breast, all that breast inside that shirt?” is actually a line. No lie. And the most frequently repeated phrase in the entire track is “My humps,” followed closely by “My lump.” Not only are these horrendously unsexy terms for a lady’s parts, they’re completely nonsensical. And “milky milky cocoa puff”? Look, dude, we get it, you like sexytimes. Get over it. Plus, Fergie’s got a halfway decent voice (when she doesn’t sing notes that are way too high for her to hit), and to hear her just sing in the breathiest, whiniest voice known to man is somehow even almost as offensive as the rest of the song. There is no reasonable explanation for why this song was made or how it became so bloody popular, and I’d pay good money for it to disappear off the playlist of every bad bar mitzvah/wedding/sweet sixteen/prom DJ in America.

4. “Tear You Apart” by She Wants Revenge.

First of all, I want to preface this one by saying how damn much I wanted to like this song and band. The video is deliciously eerie, their style’s a hundred percent my aesthetic, and the background music’s got a lot of potential. But then the singer. Oh, the singer. Most people know that nothing will ruin a song for me like a bad vocalist, and the lead singer of She Wants Revenge is one of the worst I’ve ever heard. This asshole sings in a complete monotone but he doesn’t even manage to be dull. It’s like a cheese grater to the head. It’s like the worst rapper and the worst rock crooner came together and forgot how to do everything. Even when She Wants Revenge’s singer does attempt other notes they somehow — magically — sound the same as all the other notes. It would fuck with my dad’s ear, and he’s got perfect pitch.

3. “The Beautiful People” by Christina Aguilera

Holy fuck. Holy fuck. The first time I ever heard this song I was at work, minding my own business, probably restocking some bath bombs or something … and this song came on. My head snapped up in awe when I heard the intro. Was it possible that Lush was playing Marilyn Manson in store? And then all my hopes and dreams were shattered when I heard Christina Aguilera’s voice soaring over the stolen beat. Now, look, I like covers. I have no problem with people covering songs. I really don’t. But this isn’t a cover. This is a bastardization. It’s cruel and unusual punishment to the ear. Aguilera — or whoever wrote this, because it is from the film Burlesque — changed all the lyrics to the song except the words “the beautiful people,” undermined the entire meaning, and made it shallow. She took one of the most iconic drum sequences and put this bizarre tune over it. It’s totally incongruous — the lyrics, the music, everything about it. It just does not make any fucking sense and it makes me want to slit open my eyeballs with scissors, to borrow a phrase from my sister. Like where did they get the idea to put that set of notes with this drum beat? Tell me. I must know. And who is responsible for this mess? How did this happen? What did Marilyn Manson do to deserve this absolute destruction of his song? I mean, granted, “The Beautiful People” is one of my favourite songs by him, and probably one of my favourite songs of all time, and this is most likely why this track horrifies me so fucking much, but … it’s not just because I like the original. It’s because Christina Aguilera did not do a very good job covering it. Or, you know, making it listenable. Or anything. I need to stop ranting about this one now because I could actually go on forever about it, it makes me that furious. So, next!

2. “Friday” by Rebecca Black

Yeah, yeah, picking on Rebecca Black might be too easy. But this is a list of the songs that make me want to kill myself, and “Friday” is … dear lord. I can’t express how much I hate it. I know she didn’t write it and that annoying black dude did, and I don’t necessarily blame Rebecca Black for this travesty, but let’s call a spade a spade: this song is easily one of the most aggravating pieces of shit ever. There are too many elements to trash here, but let’s start with the words. There has never been anything more stupid written, except maybe all the other songs this same dude made happen in his artistic ability. The depth is astounding. “Which seat do I take” is a classic existential question that everybody faces. I know every time I get into Craig and Lil’s Waka, I’m paralysed for a moment about the implications of the seat that I take — how will this choice affect the rest of my life? And then the spell is broken because I realise that in my few seconds of indecision, Ali has already called shotgun and I’m relegated to the back. Again. But I digress. “Yesterday was Thursday. Today it is Friday. We we we we so excited … Tomorrow is Saturday and Sunday comes afterwards.” Really mind-blowing stuff there. But I guess aside from the stupid lyrics, there’s Black’s voice. I’ve heard she’s not actually half bad at singing, but this remains to be seen. The autotune on “Friday” is atrocious. And god, the way she actually says the title word is like an audio kick to the genitals. FRAWIIIIIIIIIIIDAAAAY. Just. Like. That.

1. “That’s Not My Name” by The Ting Tings.

The second this beat comes over the loudspeaker I want to run very, very far away. My brain shuts off. Or it tries to, but the horrible screeching of The Ting Ting’s lead singer permeates my brain and drills little tiny holes into it. Instead of singing — and the girl does know how to sing, as I’ve heard her on rare occasions actually hit some real notes — she yells like a cheerleader on crack. But the screeching … it haunts my dreams. It’s the Boylston Screech of music, and the Boylston Screech, for those non-Bostonians reading, sounds exactly like this:

And then there’s the clapping. Clapping plus high-pitched shouting equals more cheerleading. And who wants a song to sound like it belongs on the sidelines of a bad high school football game? Not me. I can’t stand anything put out by this band, but this song in particular is the one I’d describe as being my personal hell. In my version of hell, The Ting Tings are dancing around me, shouting this song over and over and over again until my skull explodes. Then my head reassembles and we go through the process again until the universe ends.