Timehop and the Cyclical Nature of Human Existence

Timehop’s logo is a cute little dinosaur, but don’t be fooled: this app can be dangerous.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Minnesota State Fair and decided to make what seemed a pithy and novel observation.

While I sat under those banners and waited for my friend to meet me, I opened Timehop and discovered that I’d said essentially the exact same thing, on Facebook, five years ago.

What differentiates Timehop from the memory dump you encounter on a #ThrowBackThursday is its precision. Timehop doesn’t necessarily take you back to an adorable moment in your childhood or a photogenically wacky beach day with your friends—it takes you back in intervals of exactly one year. Whatever you shared on social media exactly one year ago, two years ago, three years ago, and so on is presented to you in a reverse chronological scroll with a little cartoon of the Timehop dinosaur re-enacting a historical event. (This stirred up a bit of controversy on the anniversary of Princess Diana’s death.)

If you open the app every day, that means, you file through your past experiences in a constant shuffle in which the past versions of yourself are always experiencing the same season of the year, and reminding you how they did so in echoes of reduced detail—go back a couple of years and Instagram disappears, go back a few years and Twitter disappears, go back before you joined Facebook and everything’s a mystery.

What’s most struck me is that, even though you tend to feel like your life in previous years was totally different than your life is now, in fact a lot of things remain the same, and you tend to react to them similarly even as seemingly definitive aspects of your life—where you work, where you live, who you’re dating—change. I imagine myself being wheeled into my last Minnesota State Fair circa 2064—after eight marriages, a stint as the president of a small island nation, and three decades as a pro basketball coach—and looking up at those banners with a chuckle. “That’s so Minnesotan,” I’ll croak. “Hang on, I’ve gotta share this via the networked brain chip connected to my optical nerve!”

Social media posts are directed outwards, but Timehop demonstrates that in years to come, your posts might find their most avid audience: yourself. We’re all pretty used to checking our posts after, say, a party (did I say anything stupid? oh my God, I did that?), but until Timehop came along, I wasn’t accustomed to looking one, two, and three years back. Social media haters’ go-to zinger is, “Why would anyone care what you ate for lunch?” Give those haters the chance to see what they ate for lunch one year ago today, though, and just see if they pass it up.

For some, it might be slightly alarming to discover just how many digital tracks you’re leaving almost every day of your life. For example, a year ago today, Timehop finds seven tweets I posted (including one chatty tweet directed at a Twitter account I now, after changing jobs, manage), two Instagram pics (Sir Simon Rattle: always with the turtlenecks), two Foursquare checkins (but who was I eating doughnuts with?), and one Facebook update (posting my review of Cher Lloyd in Minneapolis).

I’m someone who’s always been disappointed at my own inability to journal, though: I wish I had a day-by-day journal of my study abroad semester, but “Why would I write something for just myself to read?” I thought at the time. “I’ll remember what happened, right?” I’m glad, then, that things like Timehop exist to scour our personal online archives to help us remember our own pasts, so as to help us not repeat our mistakes—or, at least, to help us not repeat our jokes.

Jay Gabler

(Source: thetangential.com)

The 20 Best Things About September

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First bonfires of the season.

You get the fall color without having to rake any leaves.

Tangy chill cuts the summer heat but doesn’t actually make the air cold.

Pumpkin spice lattes and Octoberfest beers are rolled out.

Excuse to buy yourself new school supplies, whether or not you’re in school.

Excuse to gloat about being finished with school, if you’re finished with school.

All the new seasons start.

Touring bands get back to playing shows that aren’t gargantuan festivals.

Beyoncé’s birthday, September 4.

All the fall preview issues come out.

You start to feel slightly less bummed about sitting indoors all day.

More birthday parties, fewer weddings.

You can stop coating yourself in a rubbery layer of sunblock every day, and you can let your beach bod go.

Grocery store shelves are moved so the forklifts can roll in with small mountains of Halloween candy.

Rolled-up car windows mean fewer people hear you singing along to “Mambo No. 5.”

It’s time to unpack the sweaters and flannel pajama pants.

You can bike somewhere without arriving soaked in sweat.

Cider.

International Talk Like a Pirate Day, September 19.

Proximity of Christmas becomes palpable.

Jay Gabler

(Source: thetangential.com)

Ten inherently funny technologies

Segways. Like many technologies on this list, the Segway has had a surprisingly long career as a goofy gadget. When it debuted in 2001, it seemed like a wildly expensive solution to a problem that didn’t exist: how can we walk without actually moving our legs? It immediately became a punchline, but then, as the years went by, the joke just kept getting better: Segways started persistently appearing in inherently funny situations. Mall cops ride them. Tourists ride them like ducks in a row. When Jimi Heselden, owner of Segway, Inc., died in 2010 after riding a Segway off a cliff, the personal transportation device’s first decade of ridiculous existence was capped in macabre fashion.

Meat tenderizers. A.K.A. the vicious-looking toothed hammers our grandmothers pull from their kitchen drawers at schnitzel time.

E-cigarettes. Except for the fact that young children have died by drinking e-cigarette fluid (a danger that the New York Times editorial board has embarked upon an oddly extended crusade to eliminate), everything about e-cigs is funny. First, the fact that they work like stage cigarettes, so that everyone who smokes them looks like they should be wearing pancake makeup and reciting dialogue from Shaw. Then there’s the fact that people who smoke them seem to universally hate being seen with them—let’s be honest, real smoking has never stopped looking cool, so people who turn to e-cigs seem to feel like they’ve made a Faustian bargain where they’ve saved their lives but lost their souls. Finally, there’s the name: e-cigs. The “e” preface is associated with all the least fun aspects of the information age: e-mail, e-commerce, e-tickets. An iCig would be even worse, though, because you know who would be smoking it? Bono.

Blimps. The blimp is the mascot of air transportation. With whatever genuine utility they might have had now eclipsed by helicopters and drones, blimps are pretty much just good for blimping around looking blimpy. Even funnier—though in a darker way—are blimps’ more serious-minded cousins, the zeppelins.

21st-century razors. Inspiration for the most prophetic Onion headline of all time, “Fuck Everything, We’re Doing Five Blades.” Having reached the limit of meaningful technological innovation in blades that scrape across your body to remove hair—and having gendered its razors to the point of absurdity—Gillette has moved to incorporating virtually meaningless features like “FlexBall technology,” a “microcomb,” a “lubrastrip,” and “re-engineered blades.” Though 927 online reviewers give 4.49 out of 5.00 to the Fusion® ProGlide®, I’ll personally stick with my Fusion® Power. How can a razor be the best a man can get™ without battery-powered Micropulses?

Velcro. Like a lot of inherently funny technologies, velcro seems like something Jules Verne might have envisioned, but that we haven’t actually figured out how to really make, so we kind of half-ass it. It’s like, okay, we don’t know how to make actual self-sealing clothing fasteners, so how about if we just take a patch of little loops of string and then take a patch of little hooks and smash them together? Probably a lot of the hooks will catch on the little loops, and that will be good enough. Yeah, the loops will eventually tear, and the hooks will accumulate other crap, and we’ll just have these useless patches on jackets and shoes that we can only close because, knowing the velcro would fail, the designer additionally added zippers and/or laces to—but for like the first few days, it’ll be great.

Whammy bars. In 1935, Doc Kauffman patented the Kauffman Vibrola, the first vibrato system for guitar, thus ensuring that ambitious soloists for decades to come would sound incredibly fierce while looking like they’re jiggling a toilet handle.

Microsoft products. Apple had the first graphical user interface, and Microsoft has never quite managed to pull Windows off as smoothly as Apple does. Windows releases are delayed, they’re buggy, they’re virus-prone. They want a song about starting a computer, so they pay the Rolling Stones an infinite amount of money to use “Start Me Up.” Microsoft products are built to be punchlines, and that doesn’t just go for Windows: it also goes for products like MSN Messenger, which answered AOL’s yellow running mascot with two round blue figures—having only little heads and fat bodies without feature or limbs—cozied up to each other. On Windows phones, the variable-size icons just make it look like you’re showing off. (“Look, I have e-mail!”) And then there was Zune.

iPads. This is where Apple inspires its own guffaws: first for the name, which still seems poorly considered, and then for the fact that these tablets show up in all the dorkiest places. Whereas it was the coolest people you knew who had the first iPhones, and it’s the talk-show host with the Roots for his house band who conspicuously plants a MacBook on his desk, it’s your mom who takes her iPad to the Paul McCartney concert to take photos with it. You also see iPads in museums that think the best way to interact with 21st century visitors is to put the exhibit labels on screens instead of placards and at coffee shops that sustainably source the wood for their handcrafted tablet cradles, then check you out on Square with suggested tip levels of 20%, 30%, and 40%. When Justin Timberlake showed up noodling around on an iPad in his “Suit & Tie” video, sexy immediately went back to wherever he’d originally brought it from.

VCRs. Some might struggle with their DVRs the way they once did with their VHS machines, but the DVR will never be the magnificent standing joke that was the VCR, a once-expensive appliance that would sit front and center in the living room for decades, flashing 12:00 again and again as a testament to their owners’ incompetence.

Jay Gabler

(Source: thetangential.com)

What Meatloaf Won’t Do for Love (And Why It’s Creepy)

Any time a drunk moron is sloshing a bottle of Bud Lite around while gesticulating wildly at a karaoke bar, s/he is probably doing so because they’re five minutes into a diatribe that goes something like this:

Meatloaf is like, he’s like, he’d do ANYTHING for love, anything. He’d run right into hell and back, he’d probably stop at White Castle on the way over and grab you some sliders, he’s like SUPER into love. But he’s like, he’s like, I won’t do that. WHAT IS THAT, MEATLOAF?! WHAT WON’T YOU DO FOR LOVE?!? HAHAHAHAaaaaaaaaaah*burp*

And then, if there’s any justice in the universe (there isn’t), they would slowly slide off their stool, topple onto the ground, and just stay curled up there until bar close. Because while it’s true that Meatloaf sort of beats the “I would do anything for love” horse well past its expiration, he’s also pretty explicit about what hewon’t do for love, too. You just have to listen to the lyrics. Or don’t, actually, because once you do you realize Meatloaf’s argument is a) tautological and completely inane, and b) slimy as hell. Let’s break this down:

And I would do anything for love

I’d run right into hell and back

I would do anything for love

I’d never lie to you and that’s a fact

The English teacher in me wants to chuck a dry erase marker at his face for starting a sentence with a conjunction. I’m equally incensed that the second thing in his list of things he would do for love is actually a negative.

“I would do anything for love,” Meatloaf says, his long locks blowing in the breeze as he looks deep into your eyes. “And among the things I would do is definitely not ever lie to you.”

“Wait, so you wouldn’t not lie?”

“No, that’s a double negative. I’m saying I would never lie.”

“So, lying is something you would NOT do for love.”

“Well yeah, but I mean, I haven’t gotten to that part of the verse yet, so NOT lying is something I would do for love. It’s something I’m doing right now. For the purposes of loving. I love you, is my point. And that’s a fact.”

As the song continues to paint for us the glorious tableau that is getting wooed by Meatloaf, presumably on a mountaintop or in the back seat of his 1975 Chrysler Cordoba (on the assumption that Paradise By the Dashboard Light and I’d Do Anything For Love are canon in the continuum that spans Bat out of Hell I and II), we suddenly realize he’s touching her. Eew. Stop it. And here we have reached part 1 in the 4 part series: Things Meatloaf Won’t Do For Love (Creeper Edition).

But I’ll never forget the way you feel right now,

Oh no, no way

And I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that

No, I won’t do that

Vinyl records collectors

(This is how he’s touching you.)

How exactly do I feel right now, Meats? What are some adjectives you’d use to describe this sensory experience you’re apparently so inclined to keep etched on your brain for all eternity? Would you describe me as, I don’t know, “fleshy”? “tender”? “ripe”? If any of your adjectives are also words I would use when talking about a steak dinner, I’m gonna go ahead and nope outta this back seat and call you never.

But ok ok ok, maybe it’s a nice sentiment. Of all the things Meatloaf would do for love, which apparently includes everything from getting a root canal to slowly sawing off his own foot, one of the things he WON’T do is forget how your bodacious bod feels right at this moment. I guess that’s sweet or something. But let’s move on.

Some days it don’t come easy

Some days it don’t come hard

Some days it don’t come at all, and these are the days that never end

Some nights you’re breathing fire

Some nights you’re carved in ice

Some nights you’re like nothing I’ve ever seen before or will again

Mr. Loaf clearly doesn’t think loving you is a cakewalk, missy. Read all the icky innuendo you want into the idea of it “coming,” what he’s really trying to say is…nah, nevermind. I was gonna interpret something about the difficulties of committed relationships and not seeing eye to eye, but there’s no way the man who wrote the lyric “‘cause we were barely seventeen and we were barely dressed” meant anything other than a six-line ejaculation joke with this one.

M. Loaf really doubles down on his commitment to do LITERALLY anything for love by invoking the cosmos itself.

As long as the planets are turning

As long as the stars are burning

As long dreams are coming true

You’d better believe it

We get it. Not even the heat death of the universe could curb your love. If the sun went supernova tomorrow, engulfed planet earth, killed all lifeforms on it in a fiery detonation of monumental proportions, and left the charred husk of the planet a burning lifeless hellscape, Meatloaf would have hopped the last ship out of orbit and – denying all known laws of space, time, and general and special relativity – zoomed well past the speed of light into the neighboring galaxy cluster and carried on alone in the darkness of space just so he could continue to love. (His is a devotion far beyond that of Kevin Cronin, who merely denies himself sleep in order to keep on lovin’ you. Jesus Cronin, it’s like you don’t even CARE ABOUT ME AT ALL.)

Where was I. Oh right, so here’s where it becomes clear that this entire song, perhaps even this entire album, was one huge ploy to get Meatloaf laid.

You’d better believe it, that I would do

Anything for love

And I’ll be there until the final act

I would do anything for love, and I’ll take a vow and seal a pact

But I’ll never forgive myself if we don’t go all the way, tonight

I would do anything for love

Oh, I would do anything for love

Oh, I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that

No, I won’t do that

Displaying a level of poetic acuity any fifteen year old boy would envy, Meatloaf would never forgive himself if he didn’t boink you like pronto. Right now. Yeah yeah yeah I meant what I said I would do anything for love blah blah blah pacts and seals and outer space and you got fantasies? I’ll cater to ‘em. You sick of boring? I’ll un-borify whatever. You sick of this god forsaken town? Pshh me too, let’s blow this popcicle stand. Just PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE WILL YOU HAVE SEX WITH ME BEFORE THE SUN RISES. I AM LIKE A SEX GREMLIN EXCEPT IF I DON’T GET FED AFTER MIDNIGHT I TURN INTO A HORRIBLE MONSTER. THIS IS REALLY FOR YOUR OWN GOOD YOU KNOW.

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(Perhaps a monster just like this one.)

Oooooh, Meats. Meats meats meats. Honey, bubby, you wacky meshuga. Let me get this straight. Of all the things you’d do for love, forgiving yourself for not having sex tonight isn’t one of them? Am I, like, integral to this equation? Or could you sex anybody and still leave your (questionable) moral integrity intact? I’m honestly having trouble parsing the syntax of “I would do anything for love except forgive myself for not having sex with you.” My head hurts.

It gets structurally worse.

I would do anything for love, and there’ll never be no turning back

But I’ll never do it better than I do it with you. So long, so long

I would do anything for love

So first of all fuck you and your double negative. Looks like you’re gonna be doin’ aaaaaaaall SORTS of turnin’ back, Meatloaf, because there’ll never be NO turnin’ back, right?! BAM! You just got ENGLISHED! In your FACE! And apparently, for the sake of love, Meatloaf also promises to never improve upon his sexual performance for any future potential partners. You own full rights to The Very Best of Gettin’ It On With Meatloaf: Volumes 1 and 2. He could do it better, the ability is there, but he won’t. He refuses. It’s not happening. For love.

He’ll also, for what it’s worth, never stop dreaming of you every night of his life, no way. But given the ludicrousness of every claim Meatloaf made prior to that, I think it’s probably safe to take that one with a grain of salt. But take comfort, Woman in Song. I know you have your concerns:

I know the territory, I’ve been around

It’ll all turn to dust and we’ll all fall down

Sooner or later you’ll be screwing around

Nope, wrong. YOU ARE SO WRONG HAHA YOU DUMMY. Meatloaf also won’t do that. So…good news! You get all of his clingy sex-crazed metaphor-abusing lunacy to yourself! Forever! HOORAY!

-Katie Sisneros actually has mad love for Meatloaf.

Thoughts I had while hungover at Walmart

Are there really only two entrances to this vast parking lot? That seems like a small number of entrances. Who decides these things?

It’s cute how this elderly couple are joking and laughing with each other. They’re just so happy to be walking into Walmart together.

Walmart sure is trusting with their bags of peat moss—they just leave them laying out here in the parking lot. Is there someone whose job it is to watch for people stealing peat moss? How would they even know whether it was stealing?

I think on the way home I want to listen to some Steve Winwood—Back in the High Life. That’s such a yuppie album. Maybe what I really want is just to listen to some yuppie music. When I’m done shopping, I’ll sit in the parking lot and make a Spotify playlist.

It’s cute how all these little Spider-Man bikes are chained together. I’d better Instagram this.

Wow, there’s seriously a sign here reminding people to check and make sure they haven’t left any kids in the car.

I wonder why this guy is hanging out here in his power scooter with his dog. Must be waiting for someone.

Was it some employee’s idea to put this display together, or was a manager like, “Hey, Crystal, can you make a giant Cookie Monster head out of two blue kiddie swimming pools and two styrofoam balls, then put those bundles of sale-priced paper towels in Cookie Monster’s mouth?”

There’s a hair salon here. Maybe I should get a haircut, just for fun. There are no sinks there, though. It would be more fun if I could get a haircut with a shampoo.

Rechargeable batteries: worth it?

I must be in Princeton. These shirts that say “PRINCETON Minnesota” are kind of funny. If I Instagram this, can I make an Ivy League joke in the caption without sounding like a total asshole to anyone who knows I went to Harvard? Probably not.

There’s as much body wash here as there is shampoo. Does basically everyone use body wash? Is it weird that I don’t?

I want a Little Tree for my car. I just want one, so I’m going to buy one.

The scent I like best here is pine tree, but I kinda want to save that scent for Christmas. I wonder if this cotton candy one would be good. Would it be weird if I had a cotton-candy-scented Little Tree hanging from my rearview mirror?

Actually, it’s not so much that I want a Little Tree as that I want food.

I think I want veggies and dip.

There is not one single light veggie dip here. All of them are full-calorie, full-fat. Do Walmart customers seriously just not want light veggie dip, ever? I feel like Target would definitely have light veggie dip.

I wish there was a medium-size veggie-and-dip platter. There’s just these little snacky ones and these huge party platters. I wish there was, like, a veggies-and-dip-as-a-meal size.

I guess I’ll just get this chicken caesar wrap.

Why are wraps always cut in half at an angle? I guess so you have a little shelf to keep the filling from falling out.

Why are the only two picnic tables on Walmart’s property sitting exactly underneath the giant Walmart sign? I feel like these must be for employees on break, since if you wanted customers to use them you’d put them by the front door. If you don’t want customers to use them, though, don’t you want them to be inconspicuous? Under the sign, they’re neither inconspicuous or convenient. It’s just weird.

Jesus Christ, this is a good wrap.

While I eat, I’ll Google “yuppie music” to get some ideas for the playlist.

How long have I been sitting here making this playlist? About an hour, I guess. Better head home now.

Is this Tears For Fears playing first on shuffle? NICE. Today is gonna rule…as soon as this hangover lifts.

Jay Gabler

(Source: thetangential.com)

The revenge of Col. Pickering? Revisiting “My Fair Lady”

My memories of My Fair Lady were of an exuberant show that propelled me, at age 17, breathlessly through senior spring: Kelly Pavlak dancing all night, Mike Marier swinging on lamp-posts, Jon Richter getting dressed for the ball and Amy O’Gorman for the races—and me, as Col. Pickering, jumping on an armchair during “The Rain in Spain” to win five dollars from Kelly’s dad in a bet. All this happened while, it seemed, 12 grades’ worth of students looked up in awe at us: grown and sophisticated, ready to take on the world beyond our little Catholic school in St. Paul.

When I recently saw My Fair Lady at the Guthrie Theater—my first time seeing the show since high school—I was surprised at how bleak it actually is. The transcendent songs are all there, but they have layers of cynicism and irony that were largely lost to me as a bright-eyed teen attending a high school where traditional gender roles were seen as what God intended. At St. Agnes, a lot of Higgins’s misogyny—cartoonishly exaggerated even by mid-century standards—played as simply Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.

In high school, I’d also never been in a relationship—even a teenage fling—and so the dynamics of resentment and manipulation that play out in the musical taken from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion were as foreign to me as the drunkenness I’d tried to ape when I played Tevya hitting the samovar in an earlier high school show. As a teenager, I saw the daringly ambiguous, almost anticlimactic, closing scene of My Fair Lady as simply a happy ending. Now, the whole show seems not so much misogynist as outright misanthropist: the virtuous are punished, and the wicked are rewarded.

I was cast as Pickering, I assumed, because I was a confident actor who couldn’t carry a tune. (I had to argue for the right to actually sing during “The Rain in Spain,” my character’s one song, instead of lip-synching.) That probably explains it as far as the casting director was concerned, but watching Pickering from the outside, I saw how uncanny my casting as the doddering linguist was. Pickering’s was the role I played with girls and women in real life for years: always the friend, always the protector and supporter, never the lover.

In the musical, Pickering is removed from the romantic equation simply by being an old man—but his character’s impotence is about more than a lack of Viagra. Though he’s a little insensitive at times, he’s a paragon of gentlemanly virtue in comparison to the musical’s other two characters: the cruel Higgins and Eliza’s philandering dad.

Eliza says as much to Higgins’s mother: “I should never have known how ladies and gentlemen behave if it hadn’t been for Col. Pickering. He showed me that he felt and thought about me as if I were something better than a common flower girl. You see, Mrs. Higgins, the difference between a lady and a flower girl isn’t how she behaves, but how she is treated. I’ll always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl and always will. I’ll always be a lady to Col. Pickering, because he always treats me as a lady and always will.”

In a cunning twist by the playwright, though, the most savage tirade against the mistreatment of women comes from Higgins himself, who’s perversely convinced that the meek Freddy—Eliza’s besotted suitor—will turn into an abusive monster once Eliza’s married him. In other words, cautions Higgins, men are dangerously manipulative. Professor, heal thyself.

And yet, who gets the girl in the end? Spoiler: it’s not Col. Pickering.

Eventually, in my own life, I did enter the romantic fray, and I’m now in a happy relationship. It’s tempting to think of my life story as Pickering’s revenge: to think that I’ve remained the guy whose yearbook is adorned with bubbly cursive reading, “Stay sweet!”

I certainly don’t think I’ve turned into an asshole, but what makes My Fair Ladyfeel far less comfortable than most musicals is the suggestion that everyone thinks of himself as the Nice Guy. We don’t meet any of Pickering’s lovers, but it’s easy to imagine a Higgins-like scene playing out back in Pickering’s office in colonial India, with a woman (or man) storming off into the arms of a South Asian Freddie after tiring of this mustachioed scholar who thinks he knows everything.

My Fair Lady is one of the most beloved musicals of all time, but it’s also a kind of poison pill. Is that why the world continues to love it—as Eliza continues to love the condescending, charismatic Higgins? Or do we love My Fair Lady because of Pickering: the character who gives us an out, who can convince us that Shaw, Lerner, and Loewe knew how true ladies and gentlemen behave? Is Pickering a wimp—or a wink?

As for me, I don’t know if I’m still a Pickering…or if I ever really was. I do hope, though, that I still know enough to sing a song when it’s given to me—and to jump on the furniture a little bit while I’m at it.

Jay Gabler

Santa Welcomes His Elves Back From Summer Vacation

Ho, ho, ho! No, I’m not talking about you, Twinkles, though we all saw your Instagrams from Ibiza. Just so you know, it wasn’t me who reported them. Speaking of Ibiza, I’m glad all of you showed more restraint around Orlando Bloom than Justin Bieber did; I know there are a lot of hard feelings about the characterization of your people in those movies.

Anyway, welcome back! I know you’re all excited to get your departments ramped up to full production so there won’t be any little boys or girls left disappointed on Christmas morning. As we discussed this spring, there will need to be more than the usual number of reassignments based on shifting toy demand, but I want to speak directly and forcefully to the rumors of layoffs that have been going around.

Let me be clear: there will be no layoffs this Christmas. Yes, we need to tighten the belt—not literally, ho, ho!—in some areas, but data at this point indicate that the super-rich girls and boys have continued to be very, very good this year, and we’ll be at full capacity producing all the toys those little angels deserve.

I’d also like to share an update on the global-warming situation. As you can see, we’re not swimming yet, and we’re on track to have a relatively solid summer—at least, we’re not going to have a new record low in terms of sea ice extent here at the pole. So it’s business as usual for this year, but I assure you that we are moving forward on our ten-year plan. It’s still unclear where funding for our move to the South Pole is going to come from, though we all had a good chuckle at that Kickstarter video Hermey and Yukon Cornelius made. My best guess at this point is that we’re going to be looking at some sort of sponsored content, since we’ve pretty much maxed out our endorsement income capacity.

We have confirmed that mail sent to us at the North Pole will be forwarded after the move, so for most little boys and girls the transition should be invisible and seamless. Now, I don’t want to hear about anyone breathing a word of this plan to Babar. I know you’ve all grown fond of him, but we can’t just have anthropomorphic elephants dropping in here whenever they damn well please.

Well, that just about wraps it up for me. Before I turn it over to the foreman to lead your first elf-song practice of the season, I do just have a few specific notes. Um, let’s see…oh, yes. Keurig is moving towards DRM for this year’s machines, so don’t forget to drop those chips in the K-cups, or we’ll have a lot of under-caffeinated moms, and no one wants that.

I also want to remind you that zombie and vampire dolls are one of our leading fads this year, so we’re going to be getting a lot of requests along those lines. I know this has the potential to bring back some painful memories of the year Christmas was hijacked by Halloween Town, and I want to remind you that counseling is always available if you need it; see your foreman for details on that.

Finally, I don’t want to limit anyone’s freedom of expression—despite the fact that media portrayals have given everyone the impression I’m running some kind of fascist dictatorship up here—but I do want to say that the “Donner Party” meme that’s been going around is hurtful and offensive to one of my most valued reindeer and his family, and I stand behind his calls for you to all just cut that out.

All righty, then! Let’s get off to work with a spring in our step and joy in our hearts, and sing our elf songs so loudly that when the radio asks, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, the answer is heck yeah! Everyone, now: a one and a two and a…

Jay Gabler

(Source: thetangential.com)

Your First 10 Days with a Puppy

1. Day One: Getting the Puppy

The minutes leading up to picking up your puppy are some of the slowest in your life. Every car you see on the road is a potential competitor who might get your puppy before you. You have been calling the whole day “puppy day” and the day before “puppy eve.” The puppy looks like the dog you fell for on Petfinder, but doesn’t just want to cuddle like you imagined. It bites you and splashes you and pulls your hair with its teeth and you wonder if it is possessed. “That’s just how puppies are. Let’s do it.” “Ok.” The puppy calms down once it enters the big bad world with you and you feel like it might be ok.

2. Day Two: Living with the Puppy

A sense of fear sets in. Have you made a mistake? Your visions of dog whispering the puppy into doing backflips on command and puppy high-fiving go out the door. The dog is training you using the very effective tools of pee, poop and loud barking. You mourn your sense of autonomy that is suddenly gone. You must now care for something else before addressing your own needs, for probably about 14 years.

3. Day Three: Love

You realize the people who say puppies are training for having a baby meant something more than “They’re both cute things that are super silly and a big commitment.” Having a puppy is actually really hard and you have mad respect for people with kids. You see how your partner would be as a parent. Do they do half the work? Do they set the rules and boundaries while you’re the spoiler? You notice they tell the puppy they love it already. You have to reassert frequently that you love one another just as much as the dog.

4. Day Four: Bonding

You know dogs are supposed to like their crates cuz they are like their dens, but it makes you feel like a huge meanie every time you put the puppy in there and listen to her cry. You picture her having nightmares that you’ll lock her outside or bring her back to the shelter and she’ll feel abandoned again. Your dog becomes a canvas for your own dramatic emotions. She’ll start following you from room to room and sleeping under your feet. She’ll wake up and follow you into the kitchen and fall asleep at your feet while you’re just standing there. You’ll realize getting her was a good idea, and you’re gonna be ok.

5. Day Five: Being Popular

Everyone likes you when you have a puppy. You feel almost as popular as you did when you fainted at a wedding and everyone wanted to talk to you at the reception. A couple people don’t like dogs and will avoid you. That’s ok. You stop wearing headphones on walks cuz the dog walks up to anyone and everyone. The cool shiba inu and his cool parents. The accordion guy with a case out for money. They all want to talk about your favorite subject, your dog, so you’re game to meet them. You really do meet your neighbors. Are you extroverted now?

6. Day Six: Training

You wonder if you can train your puppy to spend most of the day on the couch cuddling, watching T.V. and never barking. You realize you are hoping it will turn into a cat. You think about your childhood pets a lot, and realize your mom and dad did a ton of work you didn’t notice because you didn’t help with it at all. You start training your dog to sit and she seems to like it. You also start to notice her “tells.” Before she poops outside, she runs back and forth in a manic way, probably to make herself need to poop under the pressure from your watchful gaze.

7. Day Seven: Help!

You accept any and all help from other people. It takes a village to raise a dog. You find yourself plopping her in a half stranger’s arms to headbutt and wiggle while you clean up her poop. You’ve never been so excited about poop before. When she poops outside instead of on the rug, you and your partner will practically want to pop open a bottle of champagne. You feel good when her poop is really solid and not green, like you are doing ok. Someone starts teaching your dog to high-five and you realize you had no idea what dog training actually looks like.

8. Day Eight: Leaving

You start to feel ok leaving her alone in her kennel. It’s oddly liberating to not be around your dog for a couple hours. You understand why parents like going to work 9-5 and not having to clean up vomit and poop for a brief period.

9. Day Nine: A New Thing Everyday

You realize puppies learn something new everyday. A day’s lesson might be “belly rubs are great” or “I like dog beds” or “I can go up some stairs now” or “I can now jump on your couch and smash my head through the blinds and bark at the neighbors.” Is your dog getting too smart?

10. Day Ten: High-Five

You teach your dog to high-five. You feel like Cesar Millan. She looks so cute high-fiving you almost forgive her for peeing on your brand new bed, going after your plant immediately upon waking and covering your arms and legs with bites. To be fair, she later pees on her own bed, which angers you but kind of feels like her saying “I’m giving myself a taste of my own medicine!” You feel sort of guilty that your pictures of her on social media only show the cute side and leave out the constant rug pooping and scratching. As she farts while headbanging with your shoe in her mouth, you realize you’re both just weirdos. You start thinking … would I ever want another dog?

-Becky Lang is trying to be 100% honest about the experience of having a puppy. You can follow her dog on Instagram if you’re into that.

Photos of Josie by the delightful Leslie Plesser

“The Giver”: A complex, nuanced movie about how fascism is bad and kissing is good

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As we heard repeatedly in the interminable and awkward red-carpet simulcast leading up to the national premiere of The Giver, the filmmakers were most eager to please Lois Lowry, the author of the 1993 young adult novel that serves as the movie’s basis. If Lowry in fact gave her approval to the finished film, it must have been in part because she was sick of two decades’ worth of adolescents complaining about the novel’s famously ambiguous ending. The film ties that up in a neat bow, so if you’ve been wondering whether the story really has a happy ending…well, now you can finally find out.

The red-carpet interviews also involved a lot of discussion of the movie’s 18-year incubation period, and numerous questions as to why it took so long. We didn’t really get an answer, but one good answer would be that the producers—including Jeff Bridges, who stars as the eponymous Giver, a role he originally envisioned for his late father Lloyd—simply had to wait for a teen dystopia craze such as the one in which we now find ourselves. When The Hunger Games clicked, any remaining doubt as to the viability of The Giver must have quickly dissipated.

Director Phillip Noyce (Patriot GamesRabbit-Proof Fence) and production designer Ed Verreaux (Raiders of the Lost ArkE.T.) nod towards classic 70s sci-fi dystopia with a set that looks like a THX-1138 theme park. In this tightly-ordered and gleaming white Community (pesky stains, like emotions, having been scientifically eliminated), suspended on a plateau above a sea of permanent and weirdly low-hanging clouds, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) and his friends come of age and are assigned their adult roles. Jonas’s turns out to involve a lot of quality time with the Giver: the one Community member who’s allowed to live outside the norms, to remember how crappy things were before order was imposed and to pass that knowledge on to his young Receiver.

The Giver, though, remembers the good things as well as the bad things that those of us IRL 21st century dwellers get to (and have to) experience every day, setting up the poignant dilemma that’s at the heart of Lowry’s story: should Jonas try to bring the world back to the days of war and sex, or should he allow society to remain in a situation that’s safe but so unimaginative that it takes generations for someone to figure out that a giant cafeteria tray can be surfed down a giant slide that’s immediately adjacent to it and exactly the required width?

It’s a potent story that’s loaded with meaty metaphors (mountains, an apple, a water feature), and the screenplay by Michael Mitnick and Robert B. Weide seems to be based not so much on Lowry’s novel as on a really boring teacher’s classroom talking points about it. In the Giver’s memories, “good” looks like a cotton commercial and “bad (but important)” looks like Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” video. What might have been a distinctive look and identity for the film ultimately becomes something you might find framed at IKEA, and every time there’s a danger of an interesting thought being provoked, it’s quickly tamped down with dialogue or imagery that clarifies exactly what uninteresting thoughts we’re meant to be thinking.

(There’s also a racial theme that’s uncomfortable in the way that it tries to have its cake and eat it too. People of color, virtually absent from the Community, are omnipresent in the Giver’s memories, where they’re seen looking radiantly joyous in settings that highlight their ethnicity—and yet the bottom line is, we’re watching a movie where all the meaningful characters, heroes and villains, are white. What’s the message here? I mean, I know what the Cliffs Notes say—but what’s really the message?)

The fundamental flaw with this Giver is that it’s a tidy little film that’s ostensibly about embracing life’s messy reality. As it nears its climax, the music and the tempo tell us that Jonas is nearing a moment of great risk and profound insight, but we’re well aware that he really isn’t. Neither these characters nor the movie they’re in take any real chances, or leave us with any more knowledge about the nature of human experience than we could get by reading a randomly-chosen Hallmark greeting card.

Jay Gabler

(Source: thetangential.com)