The Number One Problem with Viral Content

Meet Jordan Spencer. In October 2013, National Geographic published this portrait of her in their 125th Anniversary Photo Issue as part of a photo series titled “The Changing Face of America.” She’s an 18-year-old from Grand Prarie, TX. She self-IDs as “black/biracial,” but when she defines herself on the census, she selects “black.”

Jordan Spencer

She is not a composite created in Photoshop. She is not a projection of what we as a society will look like in 2050. She is a living, breathing person of mixed race, one of many chosen to highlight how our nation’s many millions of mixed-race people identify themselves, both in their own lives and on official government documentation in a world where the paperwork hasn’t quite met up with the reality that we aren’t all easily boxed into black and white racial definitions.

But you wouldn’t know it, based on how her photo is being used on the internet. After the issue first came out in October, it took barely any time at all before her picture was going around on Tumblr, captioned with “National Geographic says this is what we’ll look like in 2050.” Before long, the claim that Jordan’s face was somehow a projection of what we would look like a mere 36 years from now had gone viral. It’s still going around–you may have seen it on sites like PolicyMic or The Higher Learning (I will not be linking to their clickbaity nonsense). Some of them are at least making the distinction that Jordan isn’t photoshopped, but they’re all peddling the same lie: that National Geographic declared her a projection of what we’ll look like in 2050.

First of all, 2050 is 36 years from now. Society will look exactly the way it looks right now. Change of the kind that “this is what we’ll look like in X year” implies isn’t something that happens overnight, or even in one generation. 36 years from now we will all look just like we do right now.

But more importantly, the actual National Geographic article in question says absolutely nothing about “we’ll all look like X in Y amount of years.” The only time a date in the future is even mentioned is when they make the point that the United States will likely be a racial plurality by 2060–meaning whites will not be the majority. It makes no predictions about our genetics, merely states what is already fact: this country is a cultural melting pot, and people of all races are taking the opportunity to come here, changing its overall demographics. The photos in the series are all of people of mixed race, tagged with their name, location, how they ID themselves, and how they would ID themselves on the census. None of them are projections. None of them are photoshopped composites.

And they certainly aren’t sensationalist clickbait. Content aggregators like Upworthy, PolicyMic, even Huffington Post, make their money taking the studies of others and shorthanding them, often poorly. The true content of the study is lost in sensationalist spin designed not to inform the reader, but to collect as many hits as possible to drive up ad revenue. What’s worse, actual journalists are losing jobs left and right because news organizations want to get around paying people properly for the work they do, leaving a gap that is getting filled with those willing to do it for little to no money at all, and use all the shortcuts being popularized by content aggregators in the process. The quality of reporting is diminishing and the amount of misinformation that is being disseminated every day is growing. This is merely one example in a trend that should be alarming anyone who values truth in reporting.

We are all now faced with a constant blare of information coming at us from all angles. The importance of research and fact checking for yourself is now greater than ever. It has always been the mark of a well-rounded person to look at multiple sources, but now it is imperative that you know not only how to check multiple sources, but that you know how to make sure you know how to dig down to the primary sources. The internet is both wonderful and terrible: you have access to as much information as you can want (and then some), but you have to be sharp as a tack to know that you’re not being duped. Constant vigilance.

Read the National Geographic piece here.

Christmas Songs to Sing Along To

There are so many variations of the best Christmas songs, but depending on how the artist chooses to perform it, they can slide out of contention for a sing-along. For example, I can’t stand singing along with Christina Aguilera’s Christmas songs. She doesn’t seem to be able to hold a note, choosing instead to do a lot of overembellished runs that are impossible to pinpoint and, at least to me, not fun to listen to. Other things that might knock a rendition out of contention is being out of my range or just plain boring. These are my top three singalong renditions.

1. Sarah McLachlan and the Barenaked Ladies, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings”

2. Celtic Woman, “Little Drummer Boy”

3. Rajaton, Heinillä Härkien Kaukalon

Merry Christmas Eve Eve!

It’s December! Aah!

It’s the most! Wonderful! Tiiiime… of the year! Yep, it’s December, and that means it’s time for Christmas carols! All month long! It’s great!

Every year I have this lofty idea that I’m going to do a daily Christmas song on my blog and every year I fail miserably at it. The idea pops into my head somewhere around September, and then occasionally pops up again until suddenly I’m well into the first week of December going, “Oh, right. I said I’d do that this year.”

Well, obviously I failed again. But I’ve decided that I’m not going to let that stop me. I’m still going to talk about my favorite Christmas carols. I’ll just do it in installments, rather than as a daily post thing, because let’s be real, I’m never going to update this thing on a daily basis. I don’t have that kind of blogging in me anymore. Occasional, that’s my gig.

Anyway, I love Christmas songs. They’re my favorite thing, after salmon nigiri and puppies. My absolute favorite Christmas song to ever exist is “O Holy Night.” But there’s a catch: because it’s my favorite, I’m weirdly particular about which versions I like. “Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices” has to be perfect or else the version is sub-par and I won’t want to hear it (and will then go scrambling for a good version to soothe my saddened ears with). Lucky for us, there’s someone walking this planet who has recorded a version so perfect that I’m relatively certain he’s actually superhuman, bestowed upon us by benevolent creatures who wished us well.

Ladies and gentlemen, Josh Groban’s version of “O Holy Night.”

You’re welcome.

Earworms!

Everyone has songs that have a habit of worming their way into their heads and not letting go. For me, there are a good handful of them that just burrow deep down and hang on. All it can take is just a single musical phrase and I’m stuck for a week.

These are the worst offenders.

1. “Africa,” by TotoIt’s the waily quality of the chorus, I think. I’m pretty sure that’s what does it. But even hearing the first few beats of the song will get the whole thing on loop in my head for a good long while.

The Final Countdown

I’ve made a huge mistake.

2. “The Final Countdown,” by EuropeThis is entirely the fault of Arrested Development. I also made it worse for myself by setting this song as my ringtone for a good two or three year stretch. Now I hear it even when it’s not playing anywhere, like a Cylon. If I’m a Cylon, this is the song that’s awakening me to the reality of my Cylonitude. This phenomenon of hearing “The Final Countdown” even when it’s not playing is most prominent at DraconCon every year, which I attribute to the fact that the constant din of nerdery has just done something absolutely bonkers to my brain and this is something I’m going to have to deal with for the rest of time.

Especially if I’m going to wake up in goo on a resurrection ship every time I die.

3. “I Get Around,” by the Beach BoysThis one. THIS ONE. I can listen to this on infinite loop. I love everything about this song. Every little thing about it. If I hear it once I hear it a million times in my head afterward. That’s OK. I’m OK with that.

4. “The Internet is for Porn,” from Avenue QThis song just cracks me up. This one gets triggered if anyone talks about “The Internet” for too long near me. I always start up with “The internet is really, really great…” and then I’m lost. Earworm city.

5. The Intro to HBO’s Game of ThronesThere are a lot of good TV show intros, but this is the only one that follows me into my dreams. It’s crazy.

6. “No Diggity,” by BlackstreetI do not know why, but this song is hands-down the most successful earworm of all earworms in the history of things that earworm me. If someone puts another song into my head, it eventually morphs into No Diggity. It’s very weird.

What songs earworm you? Is there something stuck in your head right now?

 

Top Ten Unusual Names in Fiction

Top Ten TuesdayThis week’s Top Ten Tuesday immediately grabbed my attention. As someone with an unusual name, I have always loved to see others with unusual names in literature — especially if they have to suffer the same nonsense I have had to suffer with regard to my name in my life. These things run the gamut from mispronunciations to insensitive remarks regarding its origin to kinder things like compliments and positive questions about its etymology. As a person who spent a long time grappling with having a “weird” name before coming to accept it, this is definitely a topic that is close to my heart.

Also, as far as Top Ten Tuesday lists go, it’s an easier one to compile. Less chance to babble!

1. Hermione Granger, from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I particularly felt for her when Krum kept mispronouncing her name. My life! My feelings!

2. Lyra Belacqua (Lyra Silvertongue), from Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. Runner up from this series is Iorek Byrnison, the Panserbjørn, which means “freaking badass armored polar bear” (seriously, read these books).

3. Daenerys Targaryen, from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Honestly, any of Dany’s relatives could be on this list, because I like all of their names — Viserys, Rhaegar, Aegon… but Daenerys is definitely my favorite of the Targaryen names.

4. Peeta Mellark, from the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. Mostly because he’s a baker, and I always wonder if Suzanne Collins intended the pita bread puns or not.

5. Vasilisa Dragomir, from Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy books. Another series full of wacky names, but this one’s my favorite, because Dragomir. Roll those R’s and tell me that doesn’t sound amazing.

6. Persis Blake, from Diana Peterfreund’s Across a Star-Swept Sea, which I have to admit I haven’t even read yet, but the name already has me captivated. You have to expect some unique name love from someone named Peterfreund.

7. Mortimer Folchart, from Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart. Known as Mo. Everyone in this series has awesome names. See also Dustfinger, Gwin, Basta, Cockerell, Farid, Mortola…

8. Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim’s Daughter Longstocking. Come on. You knew she’d be on this list. I grew up with Astrid Lindgren’s books! I’ve got a whole whack of her books in Finnish in here somewhere.

9. Peregrin Took. All the names in Lord of the Rings are fantastic, but Pippin’s is my favorite to say out loud. Peregrin Took! So much fun!

10. Amalthea, from The Last Unicorn. It’s such a pretty name! A beautiful name for a beautiful creature.

What are your favorites? Or alternately, do you have a strange name as well? Tell me about learning to handle the power of your awesome name!

Top Ten Books I Was “Forced” to Read

Top Ten TuesdayIt’s Top Ten Tuesday again at the Broke and the Bookish, and this week’s topic is Top Ten Books I Was Forced to Read, whether by teachers, friends, other blogs, reviews, and so on. I considered splitting this to be five that I loved and five that I did not love, but then I realized that my “I didn’t love these” list would pretty much have been the required reading from my undergraduate WWI literature class, so I nixed that idea. The interesting thing is that a lot of the books I read as an adult are recommended to me in one way or another, whether by friends or family, so probably a good 70-80% of the books I read were “forced” upon me in some way. Which makes this list easy, but also means I’m using “forced” to read in a pretty loose way — pretty much any book that came with an emphatic recommendation by someone is fair game.

These are not in any particular order. Let’s begin:

bitten1. Bitten, by Kelley Armstrong. This book came to me twice. The first time, I didn’t read it — my friend Amy gave me a beat-up paperback copy during one of her shelf purges, saying she thought I’d enjoy it. It sat on my shelf for ages. And then a few years later, my friend Candace told me about this book series that she absolutely loved called Women of the Otherworld, by Kelley Armstrong. The title of the book pinged me when she mentioned it. I was sure I had a copy. So I went looking, and there was the beat up old paperback that Amy had given me so many years earlier. I absolutely devoured it, and the seven books following it. There are more books than that in the series, but unfortunately the thing I like about the series — each book showcases a different woman in Armstrong’s world — became a hangup for me. I cannot stand the protagonist of book eight, so at book eight I remain stuck. But Elena, the protagonist of Bitten, remains one of my absolute favorites to read about. I’m actually entertaining a re-read of this entire series, to see if getting it all fresh in my mind would allow me to plow through book eight and keep going.

Rampant2. Rampant, by Diana Peterfreund. One day while I was neck-deep in required reading for my masters’ comps, my roommate Sarah stopped me as I was walking in the front door, shoved a book in my hands, and said, “You have to read this. Right now.” That book was Rampant, which has a deceptively silly-sounding premise: it’s about killer unicorns and the girls that fight them. And it’s good. I actually stopped my MA comps work and sat down and read the book from cover to cover in one evening without putting it down. It was awesome. It has a sequel, Ascendant, that I finally have a copy of, and is in my TBR pile, beneath about six million other books I’ve picked up in the last year or two. And while the series is currently on hold, Diana has emphatically said at multiple DragonCons that she is not done writing in that universe, so whenever she comes back to it, I will be happy to read more!

Native Son3. Native Son, by Richard Wright. This was required reading for one of my courses in Newcastle the year I studied abroad. This book is one of the most powerful books I have ever read. It tackles race in America in the 1940s in such a brutally honest way. School assignments have never been the place where I have found literature that resonates with me because of the way you are forced to come in and out of the story to do your homework, but this book sat with me for a very, very long time after I read it. This book is a must-read for those of you who haven’t had the chance yet to read it.

Blood and Chocolate4. Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause. When Amy gave me her beat up old copy of Bitten, she also gave me a well-loved copy of Blood and Chocolate. Some of you may remember that there was a movie made of this book. That movie was terrible. That movie took this book and spat all over it. If you only ever saw the movie, you need to pick this book up and wash that mess from your mind (except the Hugh Dancy part. You can keep Hugh Dancy in your head if you want). This book I actually re-read as soon as I finished it, which is a very rare thing for me to do. Usually a book has to say “Harry Potter” on it for that to happen.

Harry Potter5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling. Speaking of Harry Potter… so when Harry Potter started becoming really popular, I was already in high school. I was one of those people that dismissed it as a children’s book, something I was too old to read. And then one day when I was cleaning my room, I got a phone call from Amy (yep, the same one that gave me Bitten and Blood and Chocolate). She started reading to me. She was reading me Harry Potter over the phone, insisting that I listen to her, and that I was missing out. She was right. Years and years later, I can’t imagine a world where I’d never read these books. J.K. Rowling is an inspiration and a role model. I’m sure I would have been swept up in Pottermania eventually, considering the way it spread like wildfire, but I have Amy to thank for getting me in at the beginning of the storm and before all the spoilers got everywhere.

Heir to the Empire6. Heir to the Empire, by Timothy Zahn. This is Sarah’s fault. Sarah, for those who have never met her, is the biggest Star Wars fan on the planet (go ahead, challenge her, she will school you and I will enjoy watching it). When she found out that I had not read any of the Star Wars EU books (ok, I had read a couple, I do have seven of them on my shelf and I have read all seven of those), she flailed around like a madwoman (yes, she did, don’t let her tell you otherwise), and shoved some books at me. Those books were the Thrawn Trilogy, which begins, of course, with Heir to the Empire. Those books were amazing. Everyone who gives a crap about Star Wars should read those books.

Diary of a Young Girl7. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank. My mom gave me this one when she thought I was old enough to start reading about the Holocaust. The copy I have now is the same beat-up old hardcover copy that she gave me all those years ago. I don’t think I had to read it for school, that part I can’t remember, but the thing I know for a fact is that this book lit a fire deep within me that still burns strong and bright, and that fire is a deep desire to know and understand everything I can about WWII and the Holocaust. I majored in it. I have a masters degree in it. I will never, ever understand why the Nazis did the things they did. There’s no knowing the reason, because it’s rooted in hatred and insanity. But I now have a deep understanding and knowledge of the history surrounding it, and I hope that with learning and studying this, and sharing my knowledge of it with others, that I am helping in even a small way to keep such a tragedy from ever happening again. Anne’s diary did what her father hoped it would do, at least for this particular bookish historian.

Game of Thrones8. A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin. When the HBO adaptation of this series was announced, I thought it sounded pretty cool, and I said so to a coworker of mine, Rob. He immediately told me to go out and get the book and read it before I watched anything. I didn’t listen to him — I watched nine episodes and promptly freaked out, as all other HBO watchers who hadn’t read the books did. Rob laughed at me, one of those “I told you so” laughs, and told me to go and freaking get the books before anything else like that happened. So I did. And I flew through them. Now I’m caught up, and I really glad I am, but also really grumpy about the wait times between new books by GRRM! Now I know what all those Robert Jordan fans were grumbling about.

Little Women9. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. This was another book my mom made me read. I remember when she gave me the copy I have now (which is really, really beat up), my first thought was, “Yessss! A HUGE BOOK!” You know all those people that grumble about reading something that’s “too long”? I was the kid that thought, “The bigger, the better.” It’s why The Stand was one of my first Stephen Kings, which… maybe should not have happened when it did, but hey. I turned out OK. In any case, I read this book when I was very small, and now when I look back I still have very negative feelings toward stupid Amy March, who burned Jo’s manuscripts and then later in life took her dating leftovers. Stupid Laurie. Stupid Amy. The funny thing is, I also liked Dr. Bhaer, so I don’t know why I get so grumpy with Laurie for farming through the March sisters until one stuck. Wait, no, that’s exactly my problem. Anyway, I think it’s time for an adult-perspective reread on this one, I’d be interested to see if my reactions to these characters is different now that I’m older. I bet I still cry for Meg, though.

The Golden Compass10. The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman. I hadn’t even heard of these books until I went to Newcastle to study abroad. The first semester, I packed way too light in the way of books and movies with which to entertain myself in my downtime, so I very quickly tired of reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix over and over again and asked my fellow study abroad students for recommendations. Both Sarah and our friend Amanda told me to read this book. One of them even loaned me their copy. I was halfway through the second book in the series, The Subtle Knife, on my way home from the program, and the poor little lady next to me had no idea what was wrong with me when I burst into upset, sobby tears at a very emotional part of the story. I’m a crier, but very few books have gotten sobs like those out of me (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the only other example I can come up with). This whole book series is amazing. They attempted to make movies out of them, but for fear of the religion-related content in the books offending viewers of one creed or another, they totally chickened out on adapting them properly. Here’s hoping that someday we get a faithful live action rendition of these books, or that they leave them alone for good. They are amazing, and deserve something better than the mess Hollywood gave us last time they tried.

Wow, that got long! I look forward to seeing everyone else’s top tens!

What is a blog without a name, really?

I’ve been blogging for a few years now without this blog having a name — I hadn’t come up with anything I liked well enough to attach to it, and while I had a few ideas, nothing really stuck.

Until today. Well, ok, that’s a lie. I’ve been considering it for a long time now, and after weeks of considering it without any dissent from the many trolls and gnomes that live in my head, I decided it was time to slap the name on the blog and have it done with.

So here we are: the golden bell.

Let me tell you how I came up with it. It shouldn’t surprise any of you, really. I was re-reading The Last Unicorn.

Unicorn and Butterfly

No, no. Listen! Don’t listen to me, listen!

The butterfly in The Last Unicorn is one of the first characters you meet, and he’s a mess of pop culture references and quotations. But one of his lines has always stood out to me. The unicorn challenges him to say her name, if he knows it, and his response is, “Your name is a golden bell hung in my heart. I would break my body to pieces to call you once by your name.”

I’d also imagine “The Golden Bell” would be a fantastic name for a tavern. Now that’s a thought that’s going to stick.

Well, You’re Going the Wrong Way

Molly GrueWhen I was very, very young, movies came in cardboard boxes and plastic shell cases. Every time you got to the end of one, you had to rewind it to get it to play again. They often warped and had weird sound, depending on if you’d treated it well or not, or if it had been watched one too many times. Over time, the cardboard boxes faded and peeled, the plastic shell cases got dented and warped, and the labels came off the films themselves. It was the way we showed our love: the least damaged boxes, the least warped tapes, were the ones we watched the least amount of times. If a tape was in the absolute worst shape, it was someone’s favorite.

The most beat-up VHS tape, the most watched film in our household, was The Last Unicorn, based on a book written by the inimitable Peter S. Beagle. The box was red, and the cover art was the Red Bull chasing the Unicorn. On the back was an offer for a unicorn plushie if you sent in proof of purchase, which we never did, because cutting up the box was a sacrilege of its own kind. Besides, by the time I was old enough to notice that and want the plushie, the offer had probably expired.

As long as I can remember, The Last Unicorn has been my go-to movie when I’m sick or upset. It’s the movie that makes me feel better when I’m down, it’s the story that fills the holes in my heart when they appear. The book and the movie have been favorites of mine as long as I’ve been able to understand media in its varying forms. I gave copies of the book to my bridal party as gifts, as a thank you for being part of one of the most important days of my life: “I love this book, and I would like for you to love it as much as I do.”

This past weekend at DragonCon, I had the great privilege of seeing my favorite movie with commentary from the author himself. I got to the ballroom ten minutes early — I would have been there earlier, but the traffic at DragonCon has been particularly dense the last few years. When I got there, the ballroom was already almost full. I walked in just behind Peter Beagle. I took a seat near the back, thinking that if I got to the scene where Molly first sees the Unicorn, my favorite scene in just about any book I have ever read, and had to run to the bathroom to compose myself –

Molly Grue

OK, let me take a moment to explain. When Molly meets the Unicorn, she breaks my heart into tiny, tiny pieces. Every single time I read it, every single time I watch it, I cry. Sometimes I can hold it together, sometimes I can’t — there’s no telling. She is so raw, so human, and so real. Here stands a woman in front of the embodiment of all her childhood hopes and dreams, the things that her life never let her have, and she shouts at it. She screams at the Unicorn, “How dare you come to me now, when I am this?” She waited, and waited, to see a unicorn as all young maids do, and she never got it. She never saw one. And then when she finally had the opportunity, she was old, and felt that her best years were behind her. She was mad. 

For me, Molly Grue is the access point for this story. She’s the character you relate to; her life has been hard, she has had to find her way through on her own, and then after years and years, she finally gets that thing she’d hoped for as a kid. She gets to meet a unicorn. The older I get, the more Molly Grue I feel. I always found her to be the character I cleaved to as a reader, but as I get older, that just becomes more and more true.

And she’s mad. She yells at the Unicorn, she cries at the Unicorn. She lets all of her feelings out, and the Unicorn just takes it. She just looks at Molly and says, “I am here now.” And just like that, Molly forgives her, and joins her on her quest. She just had to get it out. She couldn’t keep it in, she had to throw it at someone. For all her life she’d waited for a Unicorn, and it didn’t come until she thought it was well past time. But once she got it out, she was done. From there she became the protector, the mother figure, to the human Amalthea, after Schmendrick turned the Unicorn into a mortal and exposed her to the same pain and anguish that is humanity, that Molly had lived for so long. Molly understood Amalthea’s pain immediately, understood what it meant that she had become human. Molly is the glue that held that ragtag group of people together. Molly is the key to the success of the entire quest.

So in that ballroom, waiting for the movie to start, I thought to myself, “I need an exit, in case Molly and the Unicorn hits me too hard. And it did. It hit me really hard. But in the moment I found myself not wanting to get up. I didn’t want to miss anything, not even a small little remark. Because in that moment that we met Molly Grue, Peter S. Beagle said to a full ballroom of his fans, “I don’t know where I found Molly Grue. She was a gift. I didn’t deserve her.”

Guys, I cried so hard. But I just wiped it up with the sleeves of my nerdy, nerdy t-shirt, because beautiful nuggets of information like that one are too good to pass up. Molly Grue is a gift. She is a gift that I didn’t even know I was receiving until years after I unwrapped her. I look back and I honestly cannot remember my life without Molly Grue. And I am so, so okay with that. Of all the panels I have attended in the near decade that I have attended DragonCon, that was the most rewarding, and I will remember it for as long as I live.

Thank you, Peter Beagle. Thank you forever and always.

The Problems with Women’s Pants

Recently, I had both pairs of my trusty old American Eagle skinny jeans tear down the edge of the back pocket all the way down into the thigh on the leg. Within days of each other. I bought them together, I suppose it’s only fitting they died together. In any case, it was time to go to the store and do one of the things I hate doing most: buy new pants.

Lint Pocket

This pocket is for lint.

I went to Old Navy. There, I went looking for the Rock Stars Jeans, because I have one pair in black that I love — they’re stretchy, skinny jeans that fit sort of like leggings, but with way less of a “I want to get away with wearing pajamas and gym clothes to work” vibe to them. I didn’t see them immediately, so I went to the wall of other cuts. They all have stupid names. “The Diva.” “The Sweetheart.” “The Flirt.” As if the pants you’re wearing have anything to do with your personality. I’d really love it if they’d just strip away all the gimmicky marketry and tell me the dimensions of the damn jeans, but hey. We’re ladies, we apparently can’t buy things if we’re not pandered to with some gentle softening of the truth that we come in different shapes and sizes, right? Urgh.

Anyway, turns out I’m the shape they pander to with “The Diva.” OK. Fine. I had to read the wall to find this out, by the way, because the tags they slap on the individual pants don’t tell you. I almost resigned myself to buying a few pairs of these things, but I’d really wanted the Rock Stars. They’re stretchier, and softer, and I just like them better. I hadn’t seen them on the way in, though, so when leaving the dressing room, I asked the attendant if they still had them or if they’d been a limited thing.

Turns out they were just kept separate from the rest of the jeans for some inexplicable reason. So I put the Divas back and headed over. No colors! Boo. They had them in white, grey, and about five different shades of blue. I picked up grey, the darkest blue, and the second-darkest blue. I picked them up all in the same size. You would imagine they’d fit the same way, right?

Wrong! The darkest blue ones fit perfectly. Like a glove. Best fit ever. I was super happy. Then I put on the other blue ones, just to be sure, because they’re lady pants and you never know. Boy, was I glad I did that. Snug. Not so bad that I thought buying a size up would be worth it, but snug anyway. Maybe they’ll stretch a bit once I’ve worn them a few times. The grey ones? At least a full size smaller. Did I pick up the wrong size? Surely I picked up the wrong size! Nope. Same size as the blue ones.

This is the next issue I have with women’s pants. Can we just get a sizing system like the men have? Seriously. Measure the inseam, measure the waist, maybe provide the adjustments those pandery-named jeans styles have, but with waist/inseam measurements instead of arbitrary numbers? And come on, can you not size the pants after you dye them and make sure the numbers on the tags actually have some sort of consistency to them? I swear depending on the style and store, I’m wearing anything between a 12 and an 18. That’s just stupid.

And while we’re talking about women’s pants issues, can we talk about pockets? Why the hell don’t women get pockets in their gym clothes!? I have three pairs of beat up old Converse sweatpants I bought when I was in grad school that are absolutely falling apart and I refuse to throw them away because they are the only comfortable sweatpants I’ve ever owned that also had functioning pockets on them. And I’m not talking about those itty-bitty decorative condom-sized pockets they put on cutesy pajama pants now and then, I’m talking about full-sized pockets you can actually fit phones and keys into. It’s like they think women don’t carry things when they go out for a run or something. And that’s not even getting into fancy slacks. It’s like slanty hip-accentuating stuff-expelling pockets are the only thing fancy slacks designers bother putting in. Or those back pocket strips that aren’t actually pockets, just a slit made to look like the top of a pocket with a button on it. I’m pretty sure those were invented just to make us mad (mission accomplished).

It’s like there aren’t any women involved in the pants designing process at all. Geez.

Dad: The Lego Killer

My siblings and I used to have an incredible Lego collection. We had classic bricks, Forestmen, the King’s Mountain Fortress, the list goes on and on. The whole collection fit, when we cleaned it up, into a bucket that also fit multiple small children in it. Maybe a three foot tall bucket that could double as a beer cooler for a fourth of July party.

Anyway, this collection was epic. And it was never in its bucket.

There is a room in the basement of my parents’ house that we still sometimes call the “playroom” out of habit, despite the fact the only playing that goes on down there these days is the kind of playing that happens on an XBox 360 or the kind where you have two 120-pound dogs wrestling together in front of you while you try to hear the dialogue in Skyrim. It’s more of a TV room these days, but it used to be the playroom. That was where we could be found if we weren’t hiding out in our rooms or being forced to play in the oppressively hot sun, because back then your parents would shove you out the door saying, “Go play,” and not let you back inside until dinnertime.

He also likes to get up in your space.

The playroom’s current resident. He certainly does like to play, no doubt about that…

The playroom was, for the most part, our domain. We were responsible for cleaning it up if there was a house party coming or if mom decided she wanted to make us do some chores. For the most part, we were left alone, and the old couches down there would be upended to serve as walls for a fort that we’d build out of cushions and end tables, propped up against the bookshelves with books strategically maneuvered out of the way onto other shelves to create floor-level shelf passages. If we weren’t building forts with them, we’d drag the cushions to the bottom of the stairs so we could pretend to fly, jumping from the landing to the cushioned floor below. It was our Dreamatorium — we could do whatever we wanted down there. We could be valiant knights, we could be futuristic space-travellers, we could be pain-in-the-ass brats fighting over a remote because one of us wanted to watch Sailor Moon and another wanted to watch the Simpsons. But every now and then, mom or dad would come downstairs and admonish us, because inevitably there were things on the floor that needed to be put away.

The thing is, you can step on a cushion and be fine. You can step on papers and be fine. You can even step on a book and be fine, though you’ll give the kid that left that book on the floor a mighty earful (books were rarely left on the floor).

But put your tender, bare foot upon a Lego?

We all know that pain. We all fear that pain. And our father, King of the Household and Decider of our Well-Being, did not like the pain of stepping on a Lego even a little bit. In fact, he did not like that pain so much that he came downstairs, stepped upon a Lego, and told us that if we didn’t pick the damned things up there would be hell to pay.

The problem was, he didn’t define “hell to pay,” so we thought… maybe another earful? Perhaps no ice cream on a night that we were accustomed to having ice cream (not on School Nights). We had no idea, and as children, we also had attention spans like fruit flies. Dad’s admonishment probably went out our ears as soon as we came up with a new game to play. The Legos remained strewn across the floor.

What happened next is only truly known to dad. The facts are these: one day, we went to school. When we left the house, our glorious collection of Legos was right where we’d left it: all over the floor and surfaces of the basement playroom, either in fully-constructed castle set glory, in partially-constructed imaginary civilization, or freestanding pieces, ready to spike you in the foot when you least expect it.

When we came home, the Legos were gone.

All of them.

Guys, if you have kids, and your kids have some kind of toy that they’re attached to — maybe a stuffed animal named Binky, or a train set they’ve played with for the full first half of their lives, or an epic Lego set that you have undoubtedly sunk far more money into than you’re willing to admit… your kids are never going to forget if you destroy it. Ever. My siblings and I are well into our 20s (I’m pushing 30!) and we still talk about The Day That Daddy Killed Our Lego Collection (we’ve been told he went into the basement with a rake — a garden rake – and collected them all). We were devastated, and we were haunted by the few pieces that he missed in his Lego Scourge. To this day, when I pass a Legoland, my first thought is about the day dad took the Legos, not about how awesome they are. And they are awesome.

And we were never able to replace them. Lego sets are expensive, after all, and the memory of a set that epic only makes a single Lego collection seem puny and unappealing. We moved on to other toys, but we never forgot. And I’d wager that’s right around when we stopped leaving things on the floor downstairs, so I guess it was a win for my parents. But at what cost?