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


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


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


Wouldn’t It Be Nice If We Were Older: On “Candidly Nicole”

The Simple Life was on during some of my more formative years: I was 12 when it started and 16 when it ended. I’d like to say I watched it because “it’s just what was on,” but I remember being mesmerized by the friendship between Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton: nothing mattered to either of them besides themselves and each other. (Nicole was my favorite. I got the feeling she was more fun—even though, as the less famous of the two, she often came across as a sidekick.) Other people in the world—family, friends, the strangers of Middle America they were put on TV to make fun of—were just there to entertain them, and in turn, to entertain me. Sanasa sanasa sanasa.

Cut to 2014: I’m in my early 20s, and Paris in Nicole are in their early 30s. Paris is doing what a lot of people would have expected her to do: she’s still making a ton of money, and every so often, she releases a pop single. I’m doing what you’d expect, too: still sitting here, watching them. Nicole Richie has gone through the most obvious transformations: she’s sharpened her style and become the creative director of her own fashion brand (House of Harlow 1960), she’s gotten married to Joel Madden, she’s had two kids. And now she stands, confident and relaxed, in front of a blank wall on her new VH1 show, delivering her truth with impeccable comic timing: “I’m really responsible,” she says. “I haven’t gotten any DUI’s since Obama got elected.”

"There’s reality, and there’s scripted, and then there’s this gray in between, and there’s a lot of shows that are in that gray area," Richie told USA Today. “This show is kind of one of them.” Each episode of Candidly Nicole follows her tumbling down the rabbit holes of various trends and vanities to the point of absurdity—she gets black-rimmed glasses to become a more mature chaperone for her sister Sofia Richie’s party (to which she invites a bunch of other “chaperones” (and they all get trashed), she adopts chickens in an attempt to stop the other moms at school from thinking she’s a “desperate club rat” (before blowing the moms off when they finally invite her to things), she catfishes a man on behalf of her single friend (“I love you,” she whispers in his ear before her friend even gets to meet him). It’s like Portlandia for Los Angeles. Just trade out the rock ‘n’ roll cameos for Kelly Oxford and Moshe Kasher, who have joined Richie at a gay chicken farm and Warby Parker, respectively.

Some of my favorite parts of Candidly Nicole are the not-so-sly references to Nicole’s younger self. In one episode, Nicole and her father Lionel Richie reminisce about her past, laughing and teasing. I have no memory of seeing Lionel on The Simple Life, but in Candidly Nicole he’s a co-star, teaching Nicole how to parallel park with the help of a cardboard cutout of himself as a younger man. Lionel even agrees to let Nicole chaperone 16-year-old Sofia’s party. (“I need to make sure my sister behaves herself,” Nicole says off screen. “I don’t want her turning into some wild party girl with a reality show.”) Laying down the law for Sofia, Nicole rattles off the rules: “No drinking, no smoking, no doing drugs, no spin the bottle. No naked jump roping. No orgy hula hooping.” Sofia, ever the perfect foil, responds with a flat “This sounds like you’re having flashbacks or something.” 

I’m happy Nicole Richie is back on my TV, and even happier that she’s in the spotlight on her own terms. She’s a mini Larry David in harem pants, doling out opinions, calling shots, and making scenes at the grocery store. Profiling her in Paper Magazine, her best friend Sofia praised her for making adulthood look “fun and not at all scary.” Richie said, “My idea of being a grown-up was living behind a white picket fence and changing who you were—getting a bob and wearing beige. But I found freedom through my brand and being myself and being able to do it my way.” Loves it.

- Sarah Harper

An Open Letter to My Belly Fat

Hey there, buddy. You’re probably wondering why I asked you here today. Two reasons: 1) We need to talk. 2) You’re physically attached to my person; wherever I go, you go. You didn’t have much say in the matter.

So listen. You and I have been chummy for a while. Why, I even remember when we got acquainted! My close friends Pizza Rolls and Mt. Dew threw a party that lasted for pretty much the entirety of high school and college. Pizza Rolls, sweaty and breathing heavily, introduced us. “Katie, this is Belly Fat! Belly Fat, Katie. Y’all are gonna be tight as fuck, whether you like it or not.” Mt. Dew hollered at us from the kitchen. “DUUUUDE, Belly Fat is my BROOOOO!!” Then he did a sick kickback on his skateboard or something.

Point is, we go way back, you and me. But I think it’s time we reevaluate our relationship a little. I realize that the legal parameters of squatting rights aren’t a specialty of mine, and it’s perfectly possible that your having chilled at my middle section for the better part of ten years probably gives you some rights as a legal tenant. But that doesn’t mean you have my permission to invite your friends, Muffin Top, Fat Roll, and Chunky McWaistChubbers O’FlopFlops. They showed up around my 27th birthday and have refused to leave since.

Granted, it’s not like I’ve worked real hard to get them to go away. Case in point, the following is a transcript from the last time I voluntarily went to the gym:

Hhhhnnnnnnnnnnnnnng. No. No no no no no no no. Ooooow. OOOOOOOWCH. Ooooooowie it hurts whyyyyyyy why am I doing this to myself this is abuse! This is self-abuse! Someone should call Adult Protective Services on me on my behalf! I didn’t emerge at the back end of millions of years of human evolution to have to TAKE CARE OF MYSELF and WATCH WHAT I EAT and CONTROL MY PORTIONS like some sort of…well actually I guess those are pretty unique to humans but WHATEVER STILL I FUCKING HATE THIS WHYYYYYY.

And that’s before I’ve even left the house.

You’re like this weird conjoined twin that nobody else claims to notice but who screams in my ear pretty much constantly, just to remind me you’re there. HELLO HI. YES, HELLO. YOUR BELLY HERE. JUST SAYIN’ HI, LIKE USUAL. HOW ARE YOUR PANTS FITTING THESE DAYS, NOT GREAT? HAHAHAHAHA YEAH I KNOW. SORRY JUST A BIT OF BELLY HUMOR, DON’T MIND ME I’LL JUST BE HERE FOREVER BECAUSE YOU’RE A LAZY BASTARD.

On the one hand, I want to just learn to own you. I want to learn to accept the fact that I’m a woman in her late 20s who loves lovesloves eating food and also it’s pretty normal for fat to just start to show up in that area in anticipation of future fetuses that may never happen, like prepping a five star hotel room years in advance for guests who might not show up. On the other hand, I’ve sort of let you consume my life and sometimes I’ll just stare at you in the mirror after I get out of the shower and try to imagine which fruit I most resemble. I don’t have the hips to be a pear, I’m not round enough to be an apple, and my hair’s not pokey enough to be a pineapple. I’m more like a skinny mango. I cannot but marvel at how disproportionate you are to the rest of my person; long legs, thin arms, small boobs, slender neck…I have as logical of body proportions as Spongebob Squarepants.

The one force keeping me from coming to terms with you is every single other person in my life. “Nooooo, you don’t have a fat belly! That’s ridiculous!” they say, unconvincingly, as my stomach brushes their arm while we have casual conversation. “But you’re so skinny!” they argue (which is mostly true), ignoring the mound atop which I am gingerly resting my plate of chicken wings while I tear into them like I’m a velociraptor and they’re some terrified children trying to hide from me in the kitchen. I SEE YOU, TERRIFIED CHILD. IN THE REFLECTION OF THAT CHROME CUPBOARD. THIS IS WHAT YOUR GRANDFATHER GETS FOR PLAYING GOD.

My point is, I’m not trying to be self-deprecating here. I mean, I’ve got a pretty level sense of self-awareness. I am fucking awesome at quoting The Emperor’s New Groove. I can say the alphabet backwards as quickly as I can say it forward. I can belch on command. The fact that I’m aware of my built-in flotation device doesn’t mean I have some misplaced body dysmorphic issues, it means I know my body. Telling me I’m wrong, or I’m seeing things, or I’m exaggerating, means you think the way I see myself isn’t as important as the way others see me. But it is, because I’m the only person whose opinion matters. Sometimes I just wanna hug my middle and whisperit’s ok, baby. I see you. I know you’re real like it’s my own personal chubby unicorn.

I’m not even really sure what I’m getting at. Just think of it like this: you’re dead weight like a 30 year old kid who won’t move out of the house. I love you, you’re a part of me, and I’ve probably put more time and energy into cultivating you than I have into any one of my college degrees. So I’m just gonna need you to decide for yourself that it’s time to go, because I don’t have the heart to ask.  And by “I don’t have the heart” I mean “I’m a lazy bastard” in case I hadn’t already made that abundantly clear.

XOXO, your host body,

-Katie Sisneros‘s mother freely admits she has a poochy belly, which Katie appreciates.

“Very Good Girls”: The Quiz


Very Good Girls is about two girls who find their lifelong friendship tested during the summer before college. It stars:

a. Sophie Turner and Hailee Steinfeld
b. Abigail Breslin and Sasha Pieterse
c. Dove Cameron and Zendaya
d. Dakota Fanning and a 25-year-old Olsen sister

The two girls are trying to:

a. Start a non-profit
b. Make enough money that they don’t have to work freshman year and can concentrate on their studies
c. Troll B-list celebrities on Twitter
d. Lose their virginity

In the movie’s opening scene, just for fun the two girls decide to:

a. Re-watch the entire run of Gossip Girl
b. Get drunk at a baby-sitting job
c. Plant the stems and buds from the bottom of a bag of pot and see if anything grows
d. Get naked

Take the rest of the quiz

Manly vs. Not-Manly in The Sopranos’ Universe


Telling your male friends you love them.

Hugging and kissing your male friends.

Having a feminine nickname like Chrissy or Pussy.

Working around strippers without paying them much attention.

Having a Goomah (girlfriend).

Getting out of prison and getting back on your feet.


Being depressed.

Going down on women.

Seeing a therapist, especially if it’s a woman.

Killing a stripper.

Beating a woman (before she’s your wife).

Being a rat.

Betting over your head.

-Becky Lang just started watching this/adoring it now that it’s on Amazon Prime

Your Lana Del Rey Problem


Lana Del Rey’s new album Ultraviolence is excellent. With songs like “Fucked My Way Up to the Top” and “Money Power Glory,” she lays down insane critiques of society while stopping to coo gently for the men who are still caught up looking at her lips.

It’s no surprise that her album is good. Her last album was too. She’s a killer songwriter but more than anything she’s a master at creating tension between the tone and content of her songs.

In one of her first big singles, “Video Games,” she sings, “I’m in his favorite sun dress/Watching me get undressed/Take that body downtown/I say, You the bestest./Lean in for a big kiss/Put his favorite perfume on/Go play a video game.” The lyrics make it sound like a love song, an ode to this man who she tries so hard to please. But her voice is bored as hell. She hates this guy. All he wants to do is play video games.

In “Money Power Glory,” she sings, “I want money, power and glory/I want money and all your power, all your glory/Hallelujah, I wanna take you for all that you got/Hallelujah, I’m gonna take them for all that they got.” If you don’t listen to the lyrics, it sounds like any other moody pop song. Her voice is breathy and ultra-feminine, even sweet. But then when you listen to what she’s saying, you’re like holy shit. It’s like she wrote a song in the voice of Muammar Gaddafi. Not your typical pop fare.

And then you realize, for just a minute, how weird it is to think of a woman wanting money, power and glory. Cuz, historically at least, that’s a man thing.

If you sit with Lana for awhile, you’re going to see some critiques of men, all delivered with lyrical complexity and whipped cream and a cherry on top. There’s something so interesting to me about this long-haired, gorgeous vixen sitting there critiquing men by playing dress up. Meanwhile men aren’t listening much to her because they are saying things like this about her:

-She’s so inauthentic. Her name is actually Lizzy Grant. As if half of pop stars don’t have stage names.

-She can’t sing. Crap maybe she’ll never make it to round 2 on The Voice!

-She’s shallow. Get back to your Iggy Azalea.

-She probably doesn’t write her own songs.

That’s the one that kills me most. If you listen to her songs, each one has a very distinct LDR stamp, because she writes songs like no one else. They’re all super lyrical — on Born to Die she was practically rapping she had so much to say. She slows it down on Ultraviolence, but only so she can play with repetition in new, interesting ways.

Plus you can just look at Wikipedia and see that she’s the first writer on all of her songs. She’s not just waiting around for the next song that Rihanna rejects from Skylar Grey.

It’s just tough for people to believe women can be both hot and smart, even in this day and age.

But if you’re a man and you don’t like Lana Del Rey, that’s ok. Just consider that maybe her music isn’t necessarily for you. I know it might be confusing because she’s pretty and has big lips. But her music is moody and dives deep into what being a woman is like. I don’t expect my boyfriend to drive around all summer spinning her album, thinking about all the complexities of romantic relationships and power dynamics of sexism.  That’s ok!

But chill out before you troll on this particular female artist. She is different/weird/bold/risky and definitely sticking around. And that’s good.

-Becky Lang