You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

January 10, 2012 § 5 Comments

I’m one of those people — you know the type, people who pick out grammar and spelling errors constantly. In ads, signs, published writing, other people’s speech. Mostly I keep these observations to myself, since I have enough other qualities to explain why I’m single, but every once in a while, an error comes up again and again until I find myself spontaneously shouting in an aisle of Safeway. Alone.

No, this time I’m not talking about the need to use possessives with gerunds, or who vs. whom (though I read an interview with Rachel McAdams in Glamour a week or so ago, and she continually used whom correctly and now I have incredible respect for her — I may put too much emphasis on people’s ability to speak properly as evidence of their character worth).

I’m talking about the word “ironic.” Nathan Fillion knows what I’m talking about.

Rick Castle: Thank you.

Kate Beckett: For what?

Rick Castle: For using “irony” correctly. Ever since that Alanis Morissette song, people use it when they actually mean “coincidence.” It drives me nuts!

People call things “ironic” all the time, usually when something unexpected or coincidental happens. Identifying irony sounds both smart and flip, and in our “I’m too cool to care” society, saying “That’s ironic” in a droll tone works just as well as heavy-lidded eyes or a cigarette for getting you cool points. Most of the things people claim as “ironic,” however, aren’t. Really aren’t. There are several kinds of irony, but the kind that’s driving Castle crazy is situational irony. Other types include verbal irony, which constitutes saying the opposite of what you mean (similar to sarcasm) and dramatic irony (also called tragic irony), in which the audience of a play/book/movie knows something the character doesn’t, as in, “Romeo! Don’t kill yourself! Juliet’s just pretending to be dead. Oh — he drank the poison. Whoops.”

Situational irony occurs when something that happens is the exact opposite of what you expect. This reversal, in which expectations are upset, is important. If Sally refuses to go in the ocean because she’s afraid of getting killed by a shark, then gets mauled by a seagull on the beach and dies from those injuries, that would be irony. A variation on this kind of irony occurs when an action has the opposite effect it is meant to have. Let’s say I decide that I’m going to improve my health by eating better and, to this end, eat an (antioxidant-rich!) pomegranate, only it turns out I’m allergic to pomegranate and I die. That would be ironic. (Also, if a story involves someone dying, apparently I’m more likely to find it ironic.)

Also ironic: the fact that in a post about the misuse of “irony” as a term, I will probably make some mistake as to explaining it and misuse the term myself. F#&$ing Muphry’s Law.  (That’s right, Muphry’s, not Murphy’s. Check it out.)

Sometimes irony is mean.

The world is full of ironic things — but it’s even more full of non-ironic things.

It’s like rain on your wedding day

It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid

It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take

We can mostly blame Alanis Morissette for Americans’ current complete misunderstanding of what irony means. Her 1995 single “Ironic” lists a series of situations while intermittently interjecting the refrain, “Isn’t it ironic? Don’t ya think?” For anyone who’s been listening to the lyrics, the answer is a resounding “No”.

Rain on your wedding day? Bad luck.

A free ride when you’ve already paid? Bad timing.

Good advice that you just didn’t take? Bad decision-making.

Calling a song “Ironic” and then filling the lyrics with things that aren’t ironic? Now that’s irony.

Still, in case you’re still having difficulty distinguishing between coincidence and the literary term used in conversation more than any other (don’t worry, denouement, I love you, even if other people think you sound like a sneeze), let’s look at an example of a situation that is not, I repeat not ironic. When I was a teenager, I did a lot of musical theater, which led to my having very colorful friends.

I wish.

One night, a bunch of us were hanging out at my house, just sitting around (or more accurately, sitting on each other — theater people aren’t known for their physical boundaries, and hormone-drenched teenagers even less so). There was talk about watching a movie. My friend D had some bootleg DVDs from China that his aunt, a flight attendant on international routes, had procured for him, including the first Pirates of the Caribbean and Finding Nemo. This was summer 2003 and both of these movies had only just come out in theaters and were definitely not available on legitimate DVD.

We elected to watch Pirates. The Pirates DVD, however, looked like an eight-year-old had videotaped the screen in a movie theater with his cell phone (well, this was 2003, so I guess it couldn’t have been a cell phone camera, but you catch my drift).

Every time I see this image at a theater, I think, "Why is David Boreanaz in a movie theater with a hand cam?"

Having determined not to watch what appeared to be a grainy postmodern art piece about the alienating effect of mainstream entertainment, we replaced the Pirates DVD with Finding Nemo and then proceeded to ignore the movie entirely.

In the midst of a pillow fight/loud argument/spontaneous a cappella Grease sing-along, our choreographer (who, in an instance of homophonic glory, was named Corey) showed up with her boyfriend, whom we hadn’t previously met. Corey was older than the rest of us, post-collegiate, probably 22 or 23, and her boyfriend was even older than her — i.e. a real adult with, we were about to learn, a job.

They walk in, look at us, then look at the TV. Corey says, “This is my boyfriend, ____. He works for Pixar.” We’re watching a bootleg Pixar movie and someone from Pixar shows up in my living room? Now I’m afraid I’m going to have a Truman Show moment when I realize that my life is a sitcom.

Was this situation unfortunate? Yes. Was it unexpected? You bet your ass. Was it ironic? No. What was ironic was the fact that Mr. Pixar didn’t give a shit about our pirated movie (not to be confused with our Pirates movie).

Cheeky bastard.

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I Like to Win!

December 3, 2011 § 4 Comments

You know what they say: Success is the best revenge. And since all my peers were bitches to me growing up, I’m looking for success up the yin-yang. Thanks for helping me attain my goals, allenavw and Russ and Sam from Reasonably Ludicrous!

What I am talking about? This week I was honored with two different blog awards. There are blog awards? That’s a thing? I’m new to this whole blogging thing, so I’m learning by doing (like with alligator wrestling. No?)

Apparently the applicable blog etiquette is of the pay-it-forward variety. In the words of Miss Manners, “Whilst wearing ivory silk gloves — white is permissible in summer, black only at night — sitting with your back at a ninety degree angle from your upper leg area, craft the cyber equivalent of a delicate white lace and mint-colored cardstock thank you card. Then, presuming you have not soiled your gloves, necessitating the procurement of a replacement pair, create awards for other bloggers of elevated status.” She’s really adapted to the internet age well.

So thank you, Russ and Sam. Reasonably Ludicrous is a top-notch blog with hilarious stories from Russ and nifty drawings from Sam that sometimes include dinosaurs! Russ and I went to college together, and I can verify that he’s also pretty hilarious in person. There’s been some insinuation that my sexy personage may have had a slight influence on this award choice, so I’ll accept this award the way I accept all drinks/gifts/attention from male-type people: by smiling and then running away like mad. I have a lot of romantic success.

This one time I was biking and saw this guy I was interested in, at which point I biked straight into a bush. True story.

As for Allena (is your name actually Allena?) from allenavw, you’ve expressed your love of Bones and confided the fact that you have the majority of Friends episodes memorized (an accomplishment we share), so I pretty much think you’re the bees’ knees so far. You noted in your award that you just recently just got into my blog — well so did I! My baby blog is less than a month old. I’m getting really excited for when it learns to sit up by itself.

Russ and Sam’s 7×7 award contains an homage to In-n-Out Burger (a 7×7 is not the same as a 7 and 7, which is not my favorite drink) which desperately makes me miss California. . And yes, East Coasters, I’ve had Five Guys. It’s not as good. The fries are sub-par and where are the milkshakes?! Also, Five Guys is only open until like 9 pm – wtf?

You can get a burger like this, with seven patties and seven slices of cheese. And by some miracle, California has one of the lowest obesity rankings in the country.

I’m supposed to answer the following seven questions, which mostly seems like forcing you all to participate in one of those god-awful email chain letters from 2002, so I’ll be quick and painless. Like a firing squad.

1. Most beautiful post – My latest post has a lot of pictures of puppies. Also, attractive men. But mostly puppies.

2. Most popular post – Probably New Study Confirms Leggings Are Not Pants . Everyone loves fake science! Just ask Rick Santorum – he’s a Creationist!

3. Most controversial post – I actually seem to be pissing off way fewer people than I expected, so tomorrow look forward to a post entitled “Gay, Black, Figure Skater Jesus.”

4. Most helpful post – On Naming and On Naming, Part 2. I do it for the children.

5. Most surprisingly successful post – To come!

6. Most underrated post – I accidentally typed, “underratted.” Few to none of my posts have rats in them, which is good, because those little creepers are murderers. Ask 14th-century Europe.

7. Most pride-worthy post – I’m going to write one that solves the conflict in the Middle East using laughter. Actually, they mostly don’t speak English, so probably not.

Bored yet? Push through it!

Graphics courtesy of Reasonably Ludicrous. I'd love to be able to draw. I mean, other than models (at least stick figures are good for something! Zing!)

This award prompts me to tell you 9.89 things about myself.

1. I had red cowboy boots as a little girl. Just like Ted Mosby.

2. I once met Emily Deschanel, and in my extreme joy and desire to shake her hand knocked her Blackberry out of her hand. I make super first impressions. Luckily, she was very nice — once she got over being terrified.

3. I was watching a band play at a club in Dublin with some friends, one of whom really likes to touch people’s hair when she gets tipsy. She kept talking about how she wanted to touch the lead singer’s hair, so when the band finished playing, I jumped up onstage, walked up to him, stuck my mouth against his ear, and said, “You played a great set. My friend really wants to touch your hair.” He somehow did not run away screaming and actually did let her touch his hair. Then he touched her hair. It was magical for everyone. Alcohol may or may not have been involved.

4. I saw the new Twilight movie opening weekend. Alcohol may or may not have been involved. That film had the special effects budget of a Geico commercial. Whilst watching a Geico commercial, never do I think, “Woah! There’s a real gecko talking to that man!” Breaking Dawn had a CGI demon-baby that apparently hadn’t had enough time gestating inside the computer-womb. Also, they appeared to have borrowed the wolves from Balto.

5. I hate cilantro, as I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee. (No, actually I like you).

6. I had a dwarf hamster as a kid. Her name was Sweetie and when I put her in the tiny bathtub in my dollhouse, I swear to Nutella she’d wash herself.

7. She also died on my eighth birthday. During my birthday party.

8. For years, I seriously intended to name my future son Lysander. Sandy for short. So the naming post is partially addressed to ten-year-old me.

9. I named my car. He is a boy car.

9.89. This one time I got kicked out of Disneyland because…

Oops, all out of space!

Now for the pay-it-forward part of this interminable post.

1. GoFugYourself.com – The only place to go for sarcastic appraisals of celebrity fashion rife with cultural references from the ’90s. Pretty much my favorite blog of all time.

2. textsfrombennett.tumblr.com – My best friend sent me this the other day; it’s fraking hilarious. Text conversations with a 17-year-old white boy named Bennett who seems to think he’s an inner city African American living in a rap video from the early 00s.

3. ASofterWorld.com – A sort of arty comic, infused with black humor and more than a pinch of philosophical thought.

That is all! Go forth and make the world a more hilarious place. Like Bennett.

Michele Bachmann to Release “My GOP Nominee Barbie”

November 24, 2011 § 2 Comments

Conscience sold separately.

In conjunction with the release of her memoir, GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann will also be selling, in partnership with Mattel, Inc., a Barbie doll modeled on her person. The “My GOP Nominee Barbie” comes complete with tasteful blazer, pearls, and corndog accessories.

Bachmann’s campaign manager, Keith Nahigian, acknowledged the marketing symmetry, stating, “I thought it was a brilliant idea to put an image of the Barbie doll rather than of Michele herself on the cover of the memoir. Republicans love the free market, and what better way to remind them of Michele’s commitment to America and to capitalism than with a blatant attempt to sell them something – in addition to the book they just bought?”

Feminist bloggers and journalists have criticized the concept that the only female candidate must be reduced to her physicality, also noting that making a Barbie doll in her image highlights the fake-seeming aspects of Bachmann’s actual appearance, such as her airbrushed makeup and apparently plastic hair.

“Bachmann’s presentation of her body has never been progressive,” writes Amy Gobsmack of thiscannotbehappening.com, “but on the cover of her book, the proportions of her body are obviously off. Her waist should not be the same width as her head.”

A similar critique was brought against Ralph Lauren in 2009 for its airbrushed advertising images, one in particular of model Fillippa Hamilton.

Ralph Lauren apologized for distorting the model’s body from it’s normal state.

Nahigian notes that the Michele Bachmann Barbie, however, is a different situation entirely. “Barbies have been distorting societal expectations of female beauty with their unrealistic proportions since they first came out in 1959,” he commented.”We at the Bachmann campaign are simply taking advantage of existing desires within society – a purely capitalist impulse!”

Additionally, Nahigian confided, the Bachmann campaign is hoping to win points with parents, especially mothers.

“We want to get at the children,” he noted, “so that they can convince their parents to vote Michele. Additionally, the Republicans want to get at future voters as early as possible.”

In response to the “My GOP Nominee Barbie,” the Romney campaign is considering debuting a “My Mitt Styling Head” along the lines of Mattel’s existing “Barbie Totally Hair Styling Head.”

The Gingrich campaign briefly considered a Newt Gingrich Mr. Potato Head, but decided one would be superfluous.

The Demon in Your Child’s Toy Box

November 15, 2011 § 6 Comments

Today I found myself in Target, wandering the children’s toys section out of a sense of curiosity mixed with masochism. Since it was almost 10 pm, the aisles were empty, which made me spectacularly aware of just how many toys have motion sensors nowadays. Apparently it’s a lot. As soon as I watched past the end of an aisle, little stuffed dogs started to bark and whine at me. When I turned down the aisle to check out the source of this noise, I prompted a whole menagerie to welcome/berate me with their various sounds, like a tiny, creepy zoo. As I walked, I set off trucks, musical toys, and dolls; it was like walking down the freezer aisle late at night, watching the lights come on in the wave of my motion, only auditory and startling.

Amongst a variety of odd and disturbing toys, however, (were toys this creepy when I was growing up? I mean, we had trolls and stuff, but Bratz dolls take it to a whole new level…) I was especially bothered by one that may seem tame compared to the dominatrix dolls and army tanks with real war sound effects.

Sock monkeys. I hate sock monkeys. I think they’re terrifying.

Just look at those soulless eyes.

I have felt this way since the first time I saw one. Their mouths look like giant gaping gashes across the front of their tiny, drugged-up faces. Their eyes are too far apart, making them look glazed over in a permanent unsettling stare. I know, I know that the eyes are just buttons and that these littles guys are meant to be funny and cuddly and squishy and I WANT TO KILL THEM ALL.

Apparently sock monkeys were originated in the 1890s as an easy way to create a homemade stuffed animal; people filled leftover socks or other fabric (shirt arms, etc.) to make inexpensive toys. Creative and cost-efficient! And ecological!

In 1932, however, the Nelson Knitting company became making their trademark red-heel socks, which became popular for sock monkeys since they provided a ready-made mouth. Still, I’m willing to say that the monkeys’ inherent terrifying nature did not necessarily begin here; it wasn’t until the ’50s that the Nelson Knitting company acquired a patent to the sock monkey pattern and began including one with every pair of socks, prompting the creation of a sock monkey army (!). Still, people were at least making these soulless creatures themselves, hopefully as a nice (if satanic) bonding experience with their kids. Conversely, in 1992, Fox River Mills bought the Nelson Knitting Company and began to produce the shit out of pre-made sock monkey products.

Now sock monkeys no longer had a droopy eye because Sally was bad at sewing buttons, or one arm longer than the other because Timmy forgot to measure before he cut the fabric. Now, all sock monkeys had standardized, uniform, coked-out eyes and conveyor belt, factory-produced mouth wounds. HELL IS EMPTY AND ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE!!

You can't tell me this doesn't look like the hallucination of someone on mushrooms who after this vision will NEVER DO DRUGS AGAIN.

And Fox River Moloch didn’t stop at tiny stuffed animals that come out of the toy box to stare at you while you’re sleeping. They started slapping demon monkey faces on everything. There are sock monkey backpacks:

Sock monkey footy pajamas:

Sock monkey slippers (I saw these today at Target – in the women’s lingerie section! I was not prepared for the horror! At least in the toy area you know to brace yourself!):

THEY'RE EATING YOU FROM THE FEET UP!!

If you want to scare the living hell out of me, this is an easy way:

That is an adult-size sock monkey costume, which means that it creates a human size sock monkey. Excuse me while I go barricade myself in my bedroom with a hack-saw. Thank god Halloween is over for this year.

I know some people like sock monkeys. I know some people think they’re cute, and have sock monkey hats and sock monkey pencil cases. I know you think I’m overreacting because sock monkeys are at the best adorable and at the worst harmless, but THAT’S WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO THINK. While you’re giving them googly eyes, they’re sucking your soul out through your eye sockets.

In terms of demonic toys, I’d say that sock monkeys are our greatest threat, second only to Furbies. (I can’t even think about Furbies or I’ll have a nervous breakdown, so we’ll save that for another time.)

Sock monkeys: innocent stuffed toys or agents of Satan? I’ll give you a hint – which one do you think would require human sacrifices?

Oh my gods, they've eaten her head and both her hands! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!

Adventures in Thrifting

November 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’ve come to love thrift stores. Sometimes, in the midst of size 24 muumuus and club wear from the ’80s, you find a London Fog trench coat, or a cute gray Members Only jacket, or a t-shirt with a skeleton hand on it (all of this has been in my latest few hauls – I like skeletons, all right?). Of course, sometimes you don’t find anything and just end up spending an hour sorting through polyester monstrosities that have already been worn by strangers.

Still, you never know what you’ll find. On a recent trip to the Salvation Army, I came across the following jackpots.

Having problems in your monogamous relationship because you feel the need to sow your wild oats? Invest in a specially designed Wild Oats Storage Device:

Domesticated oats should be stored separately.

Think that $6.20 is outrageously expensive for a 64-pack of brand-name crayons? Get them gently used for only $1.50:

Okay, vigorously used.

Though I think thrift stores can be a treasure trove, I understand that not everyone likes them. Then again, some people like them for the wrong reasons. “Ooo, a thrift store! Because each item is separate, and thus not catalogued in some computer system, there’s no way to keep track of how much each thing is supposed to cost! I can just switch the price-tags around and presto! This $15 jacket is now $2! Hurrah for me!” Careful there, Stealy McLoose-Morals, Big Brother is watching you:

Petity larceny: not to be confused with "petty larceny."

So, if you’re going to venture into the wilds of thrift shops, be careful not to ruin your life. Similarly, if you’re going to venture into the wilds of heterosexual sex (wild oats container not doing it for you?), be careful not to ruin your life. Use protection, kiddies. Though I suggest you buy your condoms somewhere other than the thrift store – this is not a case where a spin in the washing machine makes “gently used” like new.

Vanity Plates: A Tramp Stamp for Your Car

November 9, 2011 § 6 Comments

I am a new resident of Charlottesville, Virginia, and I have become aware of an epidemic in this town – an epidemic of personalized license plates. I don’t intend to be hyperbolic when I say that, in my estimation, one in every ten cars here has a vanity plate.

While technically not as dangerous as other widespread diseases, such as cholera or the bubonic plague, precautions should still be taken against it. Safe sex practices can prevent against the transmission of HIV, but they cannot prevent against vanity-plate-itis. Before you know it, you could turn out to be dating a guy with this plastered over the ass of his car:

As a native Californian, this specific plate rankles me because Californians don’t usually emblazon their douchebaggery on their license plates; they let you figure it out from their driving.

In Charlottesville, however, vanity plates are displayed proudly, often surrounded  by any number of bumper stickers or window decals.

Personalized license plates present several potential problems:

1) I can’t read it. Is that a zero or an “o”? When do I pronounce the numbers for the sound and when are they just numbers? Sometimes a vanity plate just seems like a purposeful jumble of unrelated letters and numbers, and when I spend a minute and a half at a light without figuring out what it is supposed to say, I will inevitably become pissed off. And we Californians channel this kind of aggression into driving – and into yelling profanity while driving – which does not help me in my attempt to adapt to Virginian driving practices, which are the automobile equivalent of that lovey-dovey couple saying, “You hang up first.” “No, you hang up first! Teehee!” I’m constantly pleasantly surprised by how polite drivers are here, though after the red Taurus in front of me lets pedestrians cross the street for upwards of three minutes, my surprise becomes less delighted.

2) I can read it but I have no idea what it means. I walk the two miles from my place to the UVA campus most days of the week (I like walking), and I always see a parked blue pickup with a license plate reading “KID 05.” You are the fifth kid in your family? You graduated from high school/college/plumbers’ academy in 2005? While your vanity plate may have significance for you, it means squat to me. In everyday life, language is a communicative medium, and since the people most exposed to vanity plates are strangers, I think they should be decipherable to the average person. Otherwise, all the letters and/or numbers translate to is annoyance.

3. I can read it and understand it. But it’s superfluous. You don’t need a license plate reading “LEX RYDE” to let everyone know you drive a Lexus. We already know. Because you’re driving a Lexus.

4. I can read it and understand it. But I still don’t care. I simply don’t understand the need to turn your car into a permanent sign communicating your occupation/field (“ER MED” and “UVA FISIX” are two I’ve seen recently, though I’ve come across quite a few that reference medicine), family composition (“FAB 4SUM”), or general likes/dislikes (I saw “F5 TRN80” this morning; F5 is apparently the highest/most dangerous classification of tornado on the Fujita scale, one of three accepted scales for ranking hurricanes. Okay…)

Now, these are the problems vanity plates provide for me, random driver on the road, reading the sentiment you found so important that you needed to say it everyday, to every person with the use of their eyes, which, to be fair, seems to be only around 90% of drivers.

Let’s consider the problem this personalized plate creates for you, the vanity-plate-haver: it makes you memorable. “But, that’s all that I wanted! To make sure all strangers know and remember that I am a ‘CWBYS-FN!'” since the big football helmet sticker and lone star flags flapping out your windows didn’t do a good enough job.

Sometimes, though, as a driver, you don’t want to be remembered. You cut somebody off in traffic. You make an illegal left-hand turn. You accidentally scratch someone else’s car in the parking lot and just want to drive away and leave it. I’m not condoning any of these actions, but if, per se, one were to engage in such illegal and/or frowned upon actions, one wouldn’t want every person witnessing them to be able to say to the cops, “Oh yeah, I remember the license plate!” – which they will if it reads, “BBR4EVR” (I have not seen this license plate and I pray to god/dess/whatever that no such Beiber license plates exist).

Vanity plates are the tramp stamps of cars. Like a lower-back tattoo of a flower, a sun, or some tribal-ish scrolls, a personalized license plate tells strangers something about you, yes, but not something good.

Please, do the rest of the world a favor and just say no to personalized license plates. They’re called vanity plates for a reason; the thing they communicate first and foremost is their owners’ sense of self-importance.

Can this kind of egotism ever be excused? My best friend once saw a BMW with a plate that read “CAPTLST.” That plate is acceptable. Why? That man is being a douchebag on purpose.

Also, on my walk to campus one day recently, I came across this license plate:

This one is either the pinnacle of irony or a case of significance going so high over someone’s head, it’s at the height of a Southwest airplane (Fly Southwest! Your first checked bag is free!).

Not as obnoxious, by far, as vanity plates themselves, themed license plates offered by the state (showing a whale, a national park, etc. and often donating a portion of their proceeds to the cause championed on the plate) can also be a bit much, especially when a “Kids First” plate is surrounded by bumper stickers reading, “Life begins at conception!” and “GUNS SAVE LIVES!” (I saw that second one on an SUV whose bumper stickers had more text than Herman Cain thinks bills should have.)

This seems like the correct moment for me to admit that I am very tempted to connect the preponderance of vanity plates in Charlottesville with the fact that Virginia is home to many more conservatives than I am used to, but anyone who’s taken a basic social science class knows that correlation does not equal causation, so I will simply note that Charlottesville seems to have a lot of both personalized license plates and conservatives. Also, bagels. There are a shit-ton of bagel places here.

All that said, the one license plate I feel moved to defend can be found below. Using the annoying personalization option to comment on the annoying themed license plate option? I can get behind that.

Apparently the Virginia DMV has revoked this plate. See here for the disappointing details: http://www.popfi.com/2011/01/06/virginia-bans-pro-cannibalism-license-plate/

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