Tired writer is tired.

I’ve got nothing, guys. Seriously nothing for the blog this week. My brain, that bastard, has taken off for parts unknown, gone looking for food like a stray cat. I’ve done stuff this week that I could tell you about. I read the newest Stephen King book. I watched a bunch of great movies. I had about five existential crises. But none of it seems worth writing about. Right at the moment, anyway. I’m sure I’ll get around to some of it soon. I hope so.

I’m tired. Being tired makes everything feel either A) equally dire or B) equally meaningless and what’s the fucking point? I have been sleeping better, which seems important. But I can’t rally any enthusiasm for the things I know I should be stoked about. I haven’t created anything I love in quite some time. I spend each day going through the motions, waiting for it to be over. When I laugh it feels fake.

We’ve reached the oversharing portion of our program. I apologize. Boundaries, man. I think some of my filters have broken down.

You know that Damien Rice song “Grey Room”? It’s been stuck in my head for days and days and it’s starting to feel more like an accurate description of my life. Speaking of which, this is how tired I am. An actual item from my ongoing list of possible blog topics:

Ways in which I do not ever want to be described, even though they’re accurate-

  • A plaid wearer
  • A She Wants Revenge fan
  • Mustachioed
  • A farmer
  • That girl who always talks about [insert geeky whatever blah blah here].
  • Makes good spaghetti
  • Tries so hard
  • Average
  • Angry

Boring, boring, boring, all of it. I heard somewhere recently, maybe on a podcast, that people who are more self-confident or in positions of power will refer to themselves less in written communication than other people. Interesting, that, and counter-intuitive. I talk about myself all the damn time. Click on that tag that says “me talking about myself again” and about fifty posts come up. Well, not that many, but a lot. Perhaps it’s because I have mostly myself for company. I don’t know.

I found a snippet that should have gone in my last post (but was in the wrong notebook – seriously, what the fuck? Clearly I’m falling apart) about our relationships to objects. It’s a big part of the character’s day-to-day life in that book, and I think it’s completely different for people who are isolated in some way than it is for regular people. Look at hoarders or recluses, for example. Their possessions are their expressions of self, largely because they’re not getting any societal pressure or feedback. They are bound by their lack of boundaries. Somehow when we’re alone (or even just lonely) we stray from the norm. Which is not to say that normal should be anyone’s goal, but there’s healthy-but-weird and then there’s pathological. Somewhere around “why am I surrounded by fifty years’ worth of newspapers and probably some dead things?”. I suppose what I’m saying is that my lack of human contact is making me feel like it will be difficult to reestablish human contact. I talk to my dogs more than I talk to other people. Hell, I talk to my coffee pot more than I talk to other people. He’s a surly motherfucker.

I’m getting twitchier. I’m nervous all the time. My writing is suffering because I spend so much time talking to myself. And, just as we are all our own worst critics, we’re also all our own bad influence. We validate our bad behavior, especially if no one else keeps us in check. What’s that dumb self-help mantra? “Character is who you are when no one’s watching.” I think I got that in a fortune cookie once. It’s pretty terrifying.


Blurgh. I need therapy. Sorry for unloading on you guys. I maybe shouldn’t have even posted this one. Well, there’s always the delete button. I’m sure I’ll be better soon. It’s just winter. The rain is getting to me. I’ll white-knuckle my way through. I always get there. And I’m doing stuff that helps. I haven’t had a drink in a week. Egg nog is helping. Star Trek is helping. Remembering to breathe and eat and shower is helping, even if I have to write myself notes to accomplish them. I promise I look crazier from the outside. Probably. That’s not really reassuring, though.

So, onward and upward. On to new things. I’ll be back next week with something of substance, provided this rainstorm doesn’t wash us all down the mountain. I think it’s hilarious that the worst rain to hit Humboldt County in a decade is being called the Pineapple Express Storm (if you don’t get that joke, go look it up). Meanwhile, I’m stuck in a bubble over here so feel free to send me things that I should read/watch/listen to/write about. Input is always appreciated. Input! Number Five is alive! (Again, go look it up, whippersnappers.)

Holiday feelgoods have been postponed due to technical difficulties.

Urgh. So, two weeks ago, I promised I would tide you over with a delightful blog during Serial’s week off. Meanwhile, some horrible gremlin moved into my IP address and made my router think that my website is not a thing. Snake in the grass bastards, those computer gremlins. I broke a blog promise, but it was not my fault. It was the opposite of my fault. But it’s fixed, thanks to my web guru Luther. Everybody say “Thanks, Luther!” And now I give you last week’s blog, which has been rendered completely irrelevant by the ravages of time. I’ll put up this week’s blog tomorrow so as to make it up to your sweet, sweet faces. Hugs.

Consuming tiny dinosaurs never gets old.

Hey, it’s Thanksgiving! Hooray! My second favorite holiday. And, really, that’s only because it’s cold out and there aren’t any explosions. Clearly I just like to stuff food down my neck and hang out. It’s my nature. To all my non-American friends – I wish you a fantastic nationalistic, gluttony-oriented, made-up holiday of your choice, whenever that may be, as well as a wonderful Thursday. For what it’s worth.

Can I tell you something a little embarrassing? When I started this blog, I honestly gave zero thought to the fact that it would fall on Thanksgiving. The embarrassing bit is that it took me until my third year to realize that it would happen every time. The derpiest of derps. I feel like I may run out of things to say at some point. But not today! Oh, no. I can still prattle on about food and family and the importance of gratitude. And, of course, I have more than a few rants about the capitalist scumfuckery of Black Friday and how we can all do our individual parts to make the whole holiday season less awful. It’s only money and stress that make it awful, guys. Remove the money and most of the stress goes away and we’re all left, once again, just stuffing food down our necks and hanging out. See? Sometimes I’m right by accident. Love that.

A friend put something up on Facebook this week about how many posts he’d seen from people bitching about having to spend the holidays with their families. It made me really sad. Don’t get me wrong, I get it. It can be stressful, especially if your family is prone to sniping at each other or drinking to avoid sniping at each other. But still, don’t say you “have to” hang out with your family, like it’s an undue obligation. You don’t have to go. If you honestly hate each other, I say skip it. But remember that some people don’t have any family. Or their family isn’t around for some reason. Some people are in the military. Some in prison. Some dead. So maybe don’t complain about getting to spend time with folks who love you. We don’t all get to. I miss mine terribly, even if they are crazy people. All of them. I mean, seriously, completely bonkers. A basket of banana sandwiches. For real. I wish I could do this squishy holiday stuff with them. Strange, the things that get you in the feels when you’re least expecting it. Stupid Facebook.

Anyway. Grownup Thanksgiving is weird. I’m having quite a bit of host anxiety, but I’m sure that will mellow out once the cooking stress sets in. I feel like it’s largely related to there being no chance for a couchnap and football after dinner. Argh, grownup responsibility. Ick. Also, I don’t have the sort of house and accoutrements to go all Martha Stewart on the thing, and even if I could that’s really not my style. Like, even a little. And I don’t have kids, so it seems selfish somehow to drag the family from all over the country to my shack in the forest. Doesn’t make any sense. So we do it up with friends, peasant feast style. Super fun, but different from those comfy family fests of yore.

For example, we slaughtered our own turkeys this year. Well, not our own per se. We didn’t raise them, The Husband’s best friend raised them. But we helped kill and clean them and The Husband is playing roastmaster. Holy crap, can that man cook a fowl. Anything with feathers had best beware. I don’t remember ever having killed our turkey ourselves when I was a kid. It’s not out of the range of possibility, but if it happened I’ve forgotten about it. I like it. Not in a blood-and-guts, serial killer kind of way, obviously, but watching them walk around and have a nice last meal of bugs and grass, petting them on the head, and being able to look them in the eye and say thank you before they got strung up. Lovely. Way better than getting that anonymous, plastic-wrapped one from the store that’s already been turned into faceless meat.

Isn’t it weird how we still celebrate with a feast? We either use a feast to create an event, or we tack a feast on to an existing event. There’s something really primal about eating with a group of people. The stuff of life, that: Come in out of the cold. Have some food. Have water and wine. Maybe make a baby or two. Anything can happen at a feast. It seems like such an old-fashioned tradition. Like, medieval. When I use the word, I see long, firelit rooms full of rustic tables, with lords wearing fur and eating some sort of joint of meat off the bone. Which is, frankly, not terribly dissimilar to my own Thanksgiving. But the cover of Southern Living it ain’t. So why are they still the same thing? What is it about our monkey nature that makes us instinctively demand peace around the dinner table? There’s something profound there, I just can’t quite ferret it out.

It’s been a weird year, and a particularly rough fall for me. I think I need this shindig more than I expected I would, hosting stress included. Some good cheer, some yummy food, some friends and family, some wine. I’m thankful for them all. It’s going to be great. I will probably burn something. It’s usually the green beans. Not sure why that happens. Every damn time. Anyway, go stuff some food down your neck and hang out with people. What are you even doing here? And if you’re shopping tomorrow, as always, please obey Wheaton’s Law. We’ve built this holiday monster, we can disassemble it with kindness.

UPDATE, from post-Thanksgiving Vanessa:

I did not burn the green beans. Because someone else cooked the green beans. Crisis averted!

My brain is an idiot.

Occasionally I have a brilliant idea. Very occasionally these days, honestly. And I tend to tell people about these great ideas and then never proceed to the doing part of the process. Apparently brains think that positive, encouraging reactions from other people and actual accomplishment are the same thing. Oh, you rascal and your dopamine. So wily. The problem with (sometimes) having excellent ideas is that I also have terrible ones, and often I can’t tell them apart. This is a constant source of confusion. My personal brain responds equally enthusiastically, regardless of the quality of whatever batshit thing just clanged through it. Like a fat kid who has no idea how awful Necco wafers are, but is still screaming happy to get a thing that is allegedly candy.

Sorry, fat kids, for using you in my insensitive analogy. But we all agree that Necco wafers are fucking gross. Even I wouldn’t eat them when I was a fat kid.

Hey, wait. I was a fat kid. I can make all the fat kid jokes I want.

I hereby retract my apology.

Anyway. Bad ideas. My brain doesn’t care if my ideas are bad, with the obvious exception of monkey behavior like sticking my hand in a fire or something. The initial rush, that moment of “hey! I thought of a thing!” seems to have no connection at all to the You’re a Bloody Moron center (pardon all my scientific jargon here, folks). I have to work out all those circuits later, on my own, with logic. It’s exhausting.

And having bad ideas really isn’t so bad on its own. What sucks, and I think it’s happening more and more just here lately, is the emotional rollercoaster of having what appears, on the surface, to be a fantastic idea, getting really stoked about it, only to be crushed later when I realize that it might have been the dumbest thought ever. For example, in my ongoing existential crisis, I have come to the conclusion that it would be best if I went ahead and applied to graduate school.

I have decided this about fifty times. And it’s not going to happen. Here’s why:

My Brain: Hey! Let’s go to grad school!

Me: We’ve talked about this. We don’t need to go to grad school.

Brain: Sure, yeah, but everything’s different now.

Me: It’s really not. We moved and we’re bored. That’s it.

Brain: Okay, but, literature is the only thing you’re good at and you’re not getting to exercise those skills. You should just go ahead and devote your life to academia because you’re going to fail at everything else you ever try.

Me: Little harsh there, buddy.

Brain: We could become a professor! Really make a difference in some kid’s life.

Me: Kids are idiots. And I can do that sort of thing, plus a lot of other cool shit, with a bookstore. It’s all part of the plan.

Brain: You know that it’s absurd to think that you can run a successful business in this economy, especially after ebooks. And god knows how this Amazon/Hachette thing is going to play out. You’re probably walking into a buzzsaw. Just give it up.

Me: I will not!

Brain: Even if you never use it, wouldn’t it be nice to say that you have a graduate degree?

Me: Not worth the money.

Brain: You could be Doctor Howe, and you could say “I teach. I’m a teacher.” It’s so noble.

Me: You’re not even listening to me, are you?

Brain: And your mom will be all proud and she can finally put another graduation photo on the wall, since you haven’t really done anything at all in a decade and you don’t have any kids yet to make her happy.

Uterus: Hey, you guys leave me out of this.

Me: But I have a whole plan…

Brain: And you won’t be that one friend everyone talks about like, “Oh, it’s such a shame. She had such potential. Didn’t she used to be a writer?”

Me: No one says that…

Brain: Sure they don’t. And wouldn’t it just be easier to go back to school? Rather than risk putting everything into a business that might close? Since, let’s face it, you don’t really have a backup plan for your life at all or any other goals to speak of or really any marketable skills and if this bookstore thing falls through you’ll be a broken, hollowed out shell of a person?

Me: Do we have any beer?

Brain: Let’s just look at programs in cities we could live in.

Me: Let’s drink eight beers first.

Brain: Agreed.

Me: But wait a second. I wasn’t even that great a student, and it’s been ten years since I was in school. I don’t know if academia is a good fit for us anymore. This doesn’t make any sense.

Brain: Oooh, look, this one has a philosophy of science fiction course.

Me: What? Really? That’s awesome. Huh.

Brain: Yesssssss…

Me: You seem to think this will fix all of our problems.

Brain: It will. I promise. You’ll see. You’re wasting your life out here in the sticks. Your precious youth.

Me: Oh, fuck off. This is one of those horrible ideas that looks like a good one on the outside. Why do I keep falling for that?

Brain: I don’t know. Surely you would have learned by now.

Me: Right?

Brain: Beer?

Me: Yeah, thanks.

Brain: Necco wafer?

Me: You’re a monster.

Aaaaaaand, scene.

So, this happens like once or twice a week. I’m so sick of it. Beyond sick. It’s not always grad school. Sometimes it’s a teaching license or piano lessons or learning how to work on engines or going back on the psych meds or quitting my life to go live in London or squirting heroin into my eyeballs. The point is that I think of it, get excited about it, then talk myself down and get sad. I should just stick to the plan. The plan is solid. I never get sad when I think about the plan. Except for that whole failing miserably, empty husk thing. But that has to be a risk I’m willing to take.

It has to be.

Doesn’t it?

It’ll be worth it to have tried.

Won’t it?

Do I have a point with this post? I guess not, now that I’m in the thick of it. Follow your dreams something something blah blah blah. The pursuit of happiness is an inalienable American right schmoo schmoo merpy derp. I think I just wanted to write out that conversation with my brain. He’s a bitch and I’m tired of his nonsense. On the other hand, if I have any friends out there who are animators, I think Conversations with My Brain would make an excellent cartoon. Like the Awkward Yeti only drunker and angrier. We should do a thing.

What a great idea! Maybe! Let me think about it…

The triumphant return of Rantypants McGee.

I’ve been away. I’m back now, feeling much more human, for the moment. I don’t think I realized how much I needed this trip. I’ve got no further plans to leave the face of the planet anytime soon, though, so your bloggening needs can all be accommodated.

I wanted to write a bunch of posts before I left and post them while I was away. But I was brainfried and didn’t write them. And I don’t travel with a computer anyway, so the logistics weren’t great on my part there.

And then I figured it would be okay because I’d come home with all kinds of interesting and blogworthy things to say, full of energy and writery juices. Not so much. I am, miraculously, fairly angst-free at the moment, and my best work seems to be born of friction.

But I learned a lot on these adventures, so I thought I could just make a list of those things, both epiphanic and mundane. You people love a good list. It’s like you’re reading my mind. However, somewhere between #1 (guava flesh will make you constipated but the skin is a laxative) and #15 (the story about pulling over at two AM to take pictures of a church sign in South Carolina that read “Close our borders. Even Heaven has a gate”) it all started to feel bloated and selfish, like those torturous evenings of looking at someone’s vacation photos. Only way more verbose.

So I decided to take a breather and unpack, clear my head. From the Tetris-like depths of my bag I unearthed a tiny notebook that I had honestly forgotten about, and found a drunken scrawled mess that I forgot I wrote. It’s weird and it feels like kind of a downer, but I like it so I thought I’d put it up here. Also, apparently, drunk me likes to add 90s music playlists to her writing. She’s so clever. Here goes:

That one moment, or: culture shock.

I’m riding down a two-lane backroad with three other humans. I’m not quite drunk. I’m smoking. All four windows are down. Something metal is playing on the radio and we’re going very fast. It’s warm. It’s raining. I’m laughing. My arm is hanging out the window and a lightning bug slams into it and dies a hopeful, wonderful, laughter-filled death. Suddenly I look around and wonder what year it is. These are my friends, this is the right road, this is the appropriate beer, the right Volkswagen. But wrong model, wrong guns, wrong cigarettes, wrong album, wrong combination of couples. The song changes. I’m tired. I’m older. I can’t live from awesome moment to awesome moment anymore. I have a husband and bills to pay and places to be. Dogs to pet. Snuggles to receive. Plans to make. A life to build, so they tell me. I want to cry, to quiver for the girl with all that potential, not so very very long ago. The one who loved warm nights and fast cars and cute boys and cute girls and loud music and cheap wine. She was fun and I miss her. Lots of people miss her. Sometimes I think about her and I wonder where she went, what she’s doing, if she died, who the fuck this person is who took her place. Imposter, poser, usurper. On the other hand, maybe she wasn’t good enough to live in the first place. Perhaps she was a figment all along. Some retroactive construction of my adult imagination, a defense mechanism created to justify later bad decisions. I don’t believe in regret. I believe wholeheartedly in wasted and missed opportunities, just not the mourning of them. Our eyeballs are in the fronts of our heads for a reason. Keep looking forward because forward is all we have. Thus it has always been and thus it shall always be, amen. No amount of Nine Inch Nails and fast cars on beautiful backroads will ever change that. No reason to be sad about it. Just accept that it’s been twenty-five years and Trent Reznor has a kid and two Oscars and the march of time is massive and terrifying and unstoppable. It is not chaos. Let it wash over you like rain. Roll the windows down. Breathe smoke. Laugh. Hold your friend’s hand and tell him you’re glad he’s alive. Take a whole summer night and enjoy it from beginning to end. Your time is precious. Measure it in lightning bugs. Measure it in rock songs. Measure it in winding roads. But measure it. Don’t just let it go by unnoticed. Please, please, please. Measure it…


An ellipsis only has three periods. Always. Seriously.

Last week I posted a long and ranty and semi-political diatribe about food. It is currently siting in the number three spot on the list of all-time most-read posts (after this one and this one). Thanks, you guys, for continuing to read my stuff even when it seems like I’ve gone off the rails. Especially when it seems like I’ve gone off the rails, I suppose. It’s why I keep doing this, despite all the many, many times I’ve wanted to stop. Giving up is always the easier path, and I’m going against my nature each time I don’t choose it. Thank you, thank you, thank you. A special thanks to those of you who have chosen to share my work with others at some point. That’s the biggest compliment I could receive, honestly.

However. It does have a downside. Last week, a friend shared my ranty food piece on her Facebook page. She’d never shared a link to my blog before, so I was touched. A friend of hers (who, for the record, I do not know) commented on it thusly: “Hmmmmm…..this geek has WAY too much time on her hands….” Well. That’s a thing you could say. But why? Putting aside the fact that it’s patently untrue, it doesn’t mean anything. It certainly doesn’t speak to the subject matter or the quality of my writing in that piece. She could have given an actual opinion like “this is boring” or “I do not care about this at all” or “what a piece of shit,” and I would have been happier. Saying I have too much time on my hands is basically saying that I should have found a better use for said time, right? Better how? More in line with her personal interests? More in line with whatever it is people who live in normal civilization do in their free time, with their access to amenities and activities? Apparently working really hard on a piece I quite liked about an issue that means a lot to me was a waste of time. Who knew?

I spent two whole days resisting the urge to comment back. Since I don’t know her, and our mutual friend is someone I care about and didn’t want to offend, I struggled with this demon kneejerk snark reaction that will surely be my downfall someday. I fought that motherfucker hard. But seeing as how taking the high road comes even less naturally to me than taking the more difficult path, I decided to blog about it instead. Because if I’m going to burn someone down, I’m going to do it on my turf. Verbosely. And with vigor.

Insert malignant stare and steepled villain fingers here.


Dear Semi-anonymous Facebook Commenter:

I sincerely appreciate your reading a post on my blog last week. It means a lot to me to know that I’m acquiring new readership. Moreover, I’m glad to see that you provided me with some feedback. After all, art is defined by the boundaries of criticism and I welcome every opportunity to hear what people have to say about my work. I would like to congratulate you (if you haven’t done so already) on so immediately having such keen insight not only into the issues I addressed in that one particular piece, but also into my lifestyle. I do have too much time on my hands. Wallowing around in my golden pool full of money only eats up a small portion of my day, and I find myself having to wile away the hours by staring blankly into space, pondering life’s deeper meaning and speculating on human nature. Such pesky distractions. And a plight that you are most certainly aware of, having taken up some of your own copious free time to formulate your thoughtful and articulate critique of my writing. Tell me, how big is your golden pool full of money? I’m sure, with the Golden Pool Full of Money community being so small, that we would have much to discuss. And so much time in which to discuss it! I would also be interested to hear your further pithy deconstructions of the modern written word. It is up to us who are blessed with the luxury of too much time to maintain the critical standards of art, obviously, since the time requirements for free thinking are far too much for the common man. Their having to slave away brainlessly like they do saddens me, it truly does. Perhaps I will see more of your clear and very helpful commentary on future blog posts.

Lovingly yours,

Vanessa Howe

I feel so much better now, you guys. Yes, yes, that was petty and childish. But cathartic. And fun.

Look, I can take criticism. I’m not saying that people won’t or shouldn’t have negative reactions to some of the stuff I write. If everyone loved everything I wrote, I’d be a rock star novelist by now, right? I’m not, and the odds aren’t good I ever will be. Meanwhile, I’m pretty tough, and I know which comments to hang onto and which to ignore, what is useful and what I should let roll off me. Criticism is vital, or else we get lost in our own little world. No one can create in a vacuum. Furthermore, we as consumers need criticism; it’s often how we dig through the murk of an over-saturated media establishment to find the new thing we might want to try. But if you’re going to provide commentary, actually provide it. Have an opinion and a real point of view. I’m not one of those Pollyanna people with their “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” philosophy. If you don’t like a thing, say you don’t like it. It would be too much for me to ask for polite, cogent discourse, but don’t just say something, anything, to fill space. That’s like carving “Billy Bob wuz here” on a picnic table or a tree. It’s almost masturbatory, just acknowledging your own presence and not actually contributing anything to the conversation at hand. I think this is a huge problem in the culture we’ve created online, given the anonymity that commenters hide behind (*cough*fuckingcowards*coughcough*). The comment threads on the whole internet sound like one long nightmarish episode of Beavis and Butthead and I’m starting to feel like there is no escape.

Anyway. I just had to get that off my chest. I don’t know why it got to me so badly. As always, please direct all your rage and indignation to my comments section.


1000 words

You guys have spoiled me. In the “spoiled brat” sense of the word, not like rotten food. It’s good, I think, but I hadn’t really noticed the extent of it until this week. I’m trying to submit a piece to a small literary magazine in New York. I haven’t submitted anything for publication since 2005 or so, when my writing style was completely different and I still wrote loads of (bad) fiction. Not surprisingly, none of these pieces ever saw the light of day. That’s probably for the best. Whenever I think of those being on record, I remember that Neil Gaiman’s first book was about Duran Duran. Mortifying.

I stressed and stressed for a couple of weeks about this one story I want to tell, turning it over and over in my head to try to find a way in. It’s a simple story that takes all of thirty seconds to say out loud, but I had a thousand words to play with and a bigger point to make. For whatever reason, and I really don’t understand this at all, it was like I had a Lego in my mouth. You remember what that feels like? All poky and clicking against your teeth and you want to bite down on it but you know you shouldn’t? This project felt like that.

Yeah, I know. But this is what it’s like inside my brain, all fucked up analogies and circus music all the time.

So anyway. I think I had accidentally worked myself back into that old headspace from when I was getting rejections all the time. Finally I sat myself down and said, “Listen, whinypants, this is only a thousand words. You write twice that every week and you do it well. Just write it like you’re writing a blog post. Go. Do.” And I did. It went fine. I told the story, told it my way, and I hit send. Crisis averted. Although there were some bigger ideas and comparisons I didn’t quite get to, but that’s because I ramble. So when I got an email back from the editor, I wasn’t terribly concerned because I felt good about the draft I had sent her.

She said that I took so many side roads from the story that it was hard to even find the story, and that it seemed like I was trying too hard to be funny. Now, that sounds harsh when you haven’t read the thing she was talking about, but it’s completely true. I assure you, she made all the cuts I would have made myself. It was good editing and she’s a lovely lady. My story was still all there, cleaner and tidier than it had been.


I wrote it like I write here, for you guys. I spoke directly to the reader and I used my normal voice. Those of you who know me in real life know that I write like I talk. Except that in meatspace I talk with my hands. A lot. That’s because I have a kind of annoyingly nasal monotone, which is actually because I had a little stutter as a kid.

See? Sidetracks, left and right.

But I’m comfortable writing like this, writing to you, at you. The real question is: am I too comfortable? And really, does it matter? I write about things I think are interesting or important. Most of these I would have or have had actual conversations about, so my conversational style makes sense here. I’m not being held up to anyone else’s standards here. That’s good. I can be open and honest and say things that I have to stand by. I’ve learned to find a way into every story, every opinion. Writing for you has never once felt like I have a Lego in my mouth (there’s the start of a shitty love poem if ever have I heard one).

What is all this writery anxiety, then? Am I just uncomfortable with branching out? It’s not the input of others. I’ve always taken constructive criticism well. I couldn’t have gotten my degree without that particular skill. Maybe my little blog bubble has just gotten so cushy and safe that it’s hard to switch gears anymore. Maybe I shouldn’t have to switch gears at all. I feel good here. I’m proud of (most of) my work. I look at some of the nonfiction writers I admire and one thing they all have in common is their unflinching dedication to being themselves, to writing in a style that suits what they have to say. And while I’m sure they keep a private side of themselves out of their published work, I still feel like I understand their voices. I’m quite confident I could sit down and listen to metal albums with Chuck Klosterman or have wine slushies with Jenny Lawson and navigate those conversations appropriately.

I won’t let this shake me up. I’ll continue to be honest here and maintain my comfort level without becoming complacent, but I’ve got to compartmentalize. It’s the other writing that needs work. I have to realize that those readers won’t be coming to that piece with two years of backlogged snark under their belts. It’s worth the effort, worth stretching my muscles in new and exciting ways, worth trying to learn something.

But one thing’s for sure, dammit. I am funny.


Watch your mouth.

When I was a little kid I believed in magic. Not tooth fairy/birthday wish/taking Communion magic, but for really real magic. For example, I was terrified to talk to myself when no one else was around because I was convinced that I would step in a specific place or make a specific set of motions with my hands while saying a specific group of words and unwittingly open up a portal to another dimension and no one would ever know what had happened to me or that they needed to locate a warlock to help get me back. On the other hand, I was perfectly happy to talk to myself while in the company of others. All the time. Maybe not my best decision ever. Also, as if your image of me as a weird child who talked to herself weren’t enough, I had a pretty large and varied group of imaginary friends. Yup, sure did. But I never gave any of them names, because what if there’s a real person with that name? And what if I fuck up their life by having my adventures with their invisible doppelganger? And then what if I meet them by chance one day or, horror of horrors, they’re really mad and hunt me down? And I have inadvertently started some kind of global paranormal war with my mind? With my words? Not worth it. So I gave all the imaginary friends numbers and became a writer. Seemed like the simplest solution, really.

Because, you see, words are magic. They’re the closest thing to real magic that we have, besides those things that we know science can prove but we haven’t figured out how to figure them out yet. So words and dark matter, I guess, are the closest things we have to real magic. You know that old “sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me” thing that we tell to children to keep them civil on the playground? That little nursery rhyme is absolute, unmitigated bullshit. But it works, for just a second, between the ages when they first learn to be mean to each other and around the time they start middle school, that singsongy nonsense works like a charm, doesn’t it? Gives them just enough confidence to let a little name calling roll off their backs before they become crippled by hormones and angst. Magic! Like a protective spell. Which I suppose is one of the most important parts of parenting magic, teaching them to build some armor on their own.

But a useful lie is still a lie. Words absolutely can hurt us, and do. And not even mean or nasty words. Not only hateful or pointed words. Who was it? Was it Carlin? I think it might have been Carlin who said “There are no bad words, only bad intentions.” I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate. I think that there are words used with bad intent, absolutely, but some of the most painful words are the ones used with no thought whatsoever. The ones whose meanings either escape us or have been so clouded by time or misuse that we don’t even think about what they refer to anymore. These words tend to not feel icky because we’re so used to them. Or they feel icky, or taboo, or just plain wrong, but we can’t put our finger on why. So we toss them off as a part of normal conversation, with no bad feelings or ill will towards anyone, and not directed necessarily at anyone but the person to whom we are speaking. The point is that because we’ve stopped thinking about the origins of words, we don’t think about the groups of people they refer to as real people. They are merely adjectives. The ubiquity of disregard is what’s insidious.

And I’m not necessarily talking about slurs or name calling or even outright bigotry here, although those are the obvious examples. (And now you’re making a list in your head of the things you say every day. Good. Keep doing that.) No, what I’m talking about is careful word choice in general. Precise magic. Let’s take as an example a word I grossly overuse: just. “Just” is a handy little word. He can be a “just man” or it can be a “just cause.” As an indication of quality or quantity of actions: you could “just hang out” or have “just one more.” But used indelicately, “just” can be really negative. I’m “just a blogger,” therefore I’m not a real writer. Or my best friends are “just high school teachers,” implying that their profession is not important, or that somehow their opinions are worth less than someone with more flashy title. Someone’s mom is “just a housewife,” meaning that she doesn’t have a paying job, even though housewifery and motherhood are full-time and damn difficult occupations. He’s “just a kid,” so let’s excuse his bad behavior because kids aren’t people. Or in your own defense: “I just kissed her, honey; nothing happened.” (That one’s just an oxymoron, idiot. You’re busted. Deal with it.)

On a larger scale, we also use more overgeneralizations in everyday conversation than I’m comfortable with. I catch myself doing it all the time and I have to backpedal and qualify what I’m saying. It’s terribly time consuming. But I hear/see things like “All Republicans are assholes” (untrue), or “all Christians are dumb” (patently untrue), or “all English majors are doomed to unemployment” (this one is only a little left of center, actually). What drives me nuts about these sorts of statements is that when we say them we have a particular example in mind, and it’s usually the most visual or vocal or loudmouthed extreme that there is. If we were judging all Christians by the Phelps family, yes, we would conclude that they’re raging fucking morons. Or if we were measuring all Republicans by the state of Arizona, sure, they seem like assholes. But that’s incomplete, imprecise, and potentially offensive to the regular folks who are being lumped in with lunatics because the lunatics are all that the media feels they need to cover. This extends further than language, though, these overgeneralizations. There’s something about our psychology that loves a false dichotomy, that relies heavily on synecdoche. Take runway model A and compare her to normal adult human woman B (who is probably an overweight American in stretch pants). These are your only options, and you have to look one way or the other. Pick an avatar.

And words are grossly misused left and fucking right. I know that the argument over “literally” is kind of played out, but that one sticks in my craw. No, bitch, your head did not “literally explode.” Your head metaphorically exploded, which is the exact opposite of what you said, and the opposite of what I wish to see happen. When people use “literally” incorrectly, my first instinct is to stop listening to what they’re saying so I can immediately tell them why they’re wrong, which in turn makes me look like a pedantic asshole. I’m actually fine with that. I’ll take one for the team. Oh, and “ironically” crawls all over me, as well. When you go to a place because you think it’s dumb or buy a thing specifically so you can make fun of it with your friends or wear a shirt with a thing you don’t like on it, you aren’t being “ironic.” You’re doing those things “sarcastically.” And the fact that we’re substituting the word “irony” for “sarcasm” or “cynicism” is somehow supposed to make us feel better, I think. More intellectual, maybe, and less like apathetic dicks who can take no joy from things without tearing them apart. Alanis Morissette really screwed us as a generation, didn’t she? None of the stuff in that song would be considered ironic as much as unfortunate, or badly timed. But I suppose “I Have Shitty Timing and That’s Why Everything in My Life Goes Horribly Wrong” doesn’t exactly make for a marketable single title.

There’s a little piece in Louis C.K.’s special Hilarious when he rants a bit about how people talk nowadays. There are a lot of “blaaaaah, bluuuurgh” pukey noises in it, so I can’t really quote it here. Unfortunate, that onomatopoeia. But basically he says that we don’t give a shit about what we’re saying anymore. Word-like noises simply fall out of our heads, uncontrolled and without any forethought. It’s a good point, but consider the source. Comedians are mutants with highly evolved linguistic instincts and keen ears for bad word choice. Maybe this bothers me so much because I’m a writer (well, just a blogger, really). I don’t think it’s necessarily as important to your average joeschmoe guy, who has spellcheck and autocorrect and predictive texting on his side. (Which, for the record, does not solve your there/their/they’re problem, joeschmoe guy. These are not interchangeable. Not even a little bit.) We’ve gotten to the point where to be barely understood is all that is asked of us. Recently I noticed that a friend on Facebook asked another friend to lunch thusly: “have u 8?” Now, I understand that sentence, and you probably do, too. But it bothers me. It doesn’t bother me that we abbreviate in a 140-character society. It bothers me that we think this level of unintelligible gibberish is acceptable outside of texts and tweets, as a substitute for articulate adult discourse. It bothers me that people may not even notice, that they think that this is just how people speak. It’s like we’re devolving and soon we’ll just be grunting at each other while we grow cyborg parts to hold our smartphones, communicating with pictures of what we want for dinner and selfies that emphasize our boobs. Hopefully I’ll be dead by then. Sweet jebus, let me be dead by then.

Meanwhile, think carefully about the words you use. There is no magic word. They are all magic words. You may now commence to gleefully picking apart every word choice I’ve made in this post. Proceed.

In which I go on and on again…

I don’t know if anyone noticed, but I didn’t post a blog last week. My apologies. I got a bad cold and was stumbling around in a dextromethorphan haze for a few days. Always a good time. Here’s something they won’t tell you on the box but totally should: Never mix NyQuil and DayQuil. See? I’m looking out for you guys.

So it came blog day and I was still really foggy, trying to put some coherent thoughts together about all the crap I watched while trying not to die on my couch. And I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Instead, I took the week off to get my head straight and try to write something really great. Something meaningful and well-crafted. Something with heart and with purpose. Something I could be proud of, that might stand out from the normal brain drippings you find here week after fucking week.

And there was just…nothing. A whole lot of nothing.

Too much pressure maybe? My brain retreated like a skittish cat under a bed. The thing just gave up. Or, perhaps, I’m intellectually understimulated and I can’t think of anything to say because everything feels the same and therefore nothing matters anymore. Which is probably the case, but is a somewhat disturbing proposition. I decided to embrace my mindless state and flung myself headlong into a Star Trek marathon. And lo! The gods of science fiction did bestow upon me worthy brainfood. Because they are good and merciful and love us.

In season two of the Original Series, there’s an episode called “Who Mourns for Adonis?” Brief rundown: the Enterprise gets trapped in orbit around a planet by the cheesy giant cartoon hand of an alien claiming to be the god Apollo (cue the space race reference from 1967, and any number of Stargate references). A landing party is sent to the surface to negotiate the ship’s release. This faux Apollo feeds on the adulation of lesser beings and demands that they stay and worship him in exchange for his providing them with paradise forever (cue Jitterbug Perfume reference). Furthermore, he’s very keen on having a more…intimate sort of worship from the lovely Lt. Carolyn Palamas, Enterprise’s resident historian/anthropologist/archaeologist. She falls in love with him and wants to stay on the planet (because clearly a heteronormative monogamous relationship is a better option than a successful career as a space-hopping scientist, right sixties America?). Not to spoiler anything for you, but they use her against Apollo, smash his tacky temple with phasers, and save the day, etc, etc. Because Kirk’s there, so they have to win. Obviously. You ever think that the crew on Next Generation got into so much nasty trouble because Picard never went down with a landing party? Just something to ponder for your next Kirk-versus-Picard debate.

I bring this up (and made you suffer through my hamfisted summary) because there’s a Kirktastic monologue in the middle of this episode that very well may have renewed my faith in myself as a writer about pop culture. In exactly sixty-one seconds. Impressive. And because I know almost none of you will click on that link, I’ve taken the liberty of typing out the whole motherfucker for you here. So there.

KIRK: Give me your hand. Your hand. [Lt. Palamas takes his hand.] Now feel that. Human flesh against human flesh. We’re the same. We share the same history, the same heritage, the same lives. We’re tied together beyond any untying. Man or woman, it makes no difference. We’re human. We couldn’t escape from each other even if we wanted to. That’s how you do it, Lieutenant. By remembering who and what you are. A bit of flesh and blood afloat in a universe without end. The only thing that’s truly yours is the rest of humanity. That’s where our duty lies. Do you understand me?

And she does understand. Putting aside any weird sexist shit that Trek may have perpetrated in those early years, this is definitely a case of the young lady being a standup Starfleet officer and saving the asses of a bunch of guys who, frankly, didn’t stand a chance without her. Good for her, although if I deconstructed this episode to much, I’d probably find more to bitch about than to praise. Anyway, not the point. The point is that while that little snippet of wonderful might seem trite or heavy-handed (of course it’s trite and heavy-handed! It’s Star Trek!), it kind of reminded me why I love scifi. It’s not the cool aliens and the awesome ships and the fun explosions. That stuff’s all just gravy. No, I like scifi because all scifi, at its core, is about people being the best that they can possibly be. Technology, exploration, ingenuity, compassion, diplomacy, cooperation – these are some of the things that challenge us to be better people (or humanoid aliens, whatever, fine), and they’re absolutely necessary to good scifi, in some combination.

“But Vanessa, scifi is just meaningless genre entertainment and you’re dumb for thinking it’s so deep and important.”

First of all, fuck you, hypothetical critic voice from my head’s darker and more dangerous regions. You don’t get a vote here, not today. I’m well aware that it’s entertainment, yes, but it is far from meaningless. Wouldn’t it be great if we could end hunger and homelessness and eliminate greed by using replicator technology in a non-corporate-fuckery kind of way? I say we’ll be there within a couple hundred years, building on the current 3D printer. What about cell phones and tablets? Star Trek did it fifty years ago and now we carry that shit around every day. We have fucking ion drives, y’all! We could conceivably even be warp capable soon, if the government would stop funding wars instead of the space program. We just need to get our priorities straight, put people ahead of money. And if we got out there into the vasty depths, armed with science and a spirit of open-minded curiosity, maybe we’d realize we’re not alone and that would slap us into shape. We’re small, yes, but we’re not insignificant. We’re not weak. We can do so much, and we can do it better. And not just in space, you know. Disease, hunger, climate change – we just have to throw science at that shit until something works. Or diplomacy or policy change, something, any innovative idea. My point is that science fiction is a way to get into people’s heads at a formative age, inspire them to think and to learn and to solve problems, and maybe one day they’ll change the world. We just have to tell them that they can.

I know it seems like I’m getting worked up over nothing. I’ve been in a very “what’s the fucking point?” place lately. I get excited about something and immediately tell myself that it doesn’t make any difference. And that simply isn’t true. It’s not healthy. Scifi or fantasy or books or music or whatever – at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if it’s important in the greater scheme of things. It’s important to me. These are the things that shape the way we all think, about the world, about art, about our relationships, about ourselves and what we stand for. What we fight for. What we teach our children to fight for.

So I’m not going to listen to that impish little voice in my head that says a thing I like is dumb or isn’t worth writing about. And I’m certainly not going to listen to that bullshit coming out of anybody else’s head, either. It has exactly zero impact on other people’s lives that I like the things I like. How is it a detriment to anyone’s existence if I squee like a silly fangirl about something they don’t enjoy? It’s not. There’s no way it could be. And while I enjoy a lively debate, I see absolutely no merit in tearing each other down over our fandoms. That’s just a waste of time. And time is short, friends. Painfully, horrifyingly short. Let’s use it to gather up the things we love, feed on them, and try to make something good that someone else can feed on. What else are we here for?

Everything old is new again…

Stephen King turned 66 this year. And while I’m aware that fifty is the new thirty, homeboy has some van-smashing-related health issues and I worry about his general well-being. So every time he releases a new book I hope with all the fangirl hopefulness I can muster that it’s good enough to be the one that he goes out on. Morbid? Perhaps, but he is a horror writer, so I feel like morbidity rather comes with the territory. Also, I had a scare a few years back when he said he was retiring after his next book. Which was Lisey’s Story. Which was about a famous writer dying. Which was tremendously uncool. Don’t do us like that, Steve! I really thought something was wrong with him.

But his new book, Doctor Sleep, was pretty great. Not earth-shattering, but solid. Definitely one that I’d be fine with if it were his last. It’s a sequel to The Shining. Brief rundown: Danny, the little boy, is a grownup now who has fallen into the loving arms of alcoholism to escape both his memories and his abilities. After spending most of his life stumbling from town to town and fuckup to fuckup he settles in a small New Hampshire village and gets sober. Almost immediately he is contacted telepathically by a young girl with a shine much stronger than his own. Problem is, a group of psychic vampires who feed on people with all sorts of abilities are hunting this girl because of the magnitude of her power. And a hearty chase ensues! With bonus psychic battle shenanigans!

I’m going to assume that for the purposes of this discussion I don’t need to remind anyone of the plot of The Shining. It’s a touchstone of American horror and we all know it, but let me be clear that the movie and the book are drastically different in a couple of ways that are important to this new book. In the novel, the hotel blew up because of a malfunctioning boiler. It adds a ticking clock element to the whole story that was missing in the movie. Also, I think Kubrick made the Overlook a character unto itself, a malevolent force whose goal was to bring out the evil it saw in Jack Torrance. He was food for the beast. But in the book, he fights against it and seems to be a genuinely good guy who’s battling things within himself rather than the hotel’s evil outside influence. Absorption of evil, rather than excretion of it, is a key plot point in Doctor Sleep. The place where the hotel used to stand is very powerful for the weird band of horrible psychic soul suckers and is an analogy for their way of life. King’s approach seems to be more autobiographical and an integral part of his intricate storytelling, whereas Kubrick’s is much simpler and more suited to his visual horror medium.

All of that aside, what I think is most interesting about Doctor Sleep is King’s portrayal of alcoholism, versus how he dealt with it in The Shining. He has a wealth of hindsight at his disposal now. While Danny is dealing with his disease in the present, the author has a very “you’ll get through this” attitude that was absent in The Shining, when King was in the throes of recovery himself. Even in the scenes with the worst bits, he seems to use more gentle language. In The Shining it was all rage and crashing consonants and jarring descriptions. This ties in, also, to Danny’s two most important relationships in the book: his AA sponsor and the young psychic girl, Abra. The AA sponsor is reminiscent of, but fundamentally different from, his earlier relationship with Dick Halloran, the old cook who taught him about his abilities in the first book. He abandoned that connection and that friend when he took up drinking full-time. He learned from those mistakes and is trying to rectify them with both of these new teacher-student relationships. And his Mr. Miagi-type teaching-the-grasshoppah-about-her-powers kind of dynamic with the kid is really very poignant, if a bit heavy handed. It’s the ninth step, in a way, for Danny and for Stephen King.

I should really stop comparing and contrasting sequels to their predecessors. It’s a bad habit. Why can’t I just enjoy a continuation of a good story? The thing about sequels is that you either love them or you hate them. What’s interesting here is how much King’s style has changed over the years. The Shining was his third novel. Doctor Sleep is his fifty-sixth. Not only does he have thirty-five years of personal growth (getting sober, raising children, almost dying, becoming a bazillionaire and an integral part of the Western literary and cultural canon), but he’s also got a whole fictional universe or three to draw on and tie into his work. And boy, does old Steve love a good inside joke. He references at least four of his own books (by my count), one of Joe Hill’s (who is his son, just FYI), and – completely randomly – an off-the-cuff reference to Thomas Harris’s Silence of the Lambs. Also, because one of the main characters is a tween girl he gives brief mention to Twilight and a bunch of other things she would be into, most of which I will admit that I’m too old to understand. The dude is a brilliant weaver of completely disparate storylines and universes. As well as a keen observer of pop culture. Badass. Genius.

So, yeah. As always, the new Stephen King is totally worth the read. And if you haven’t read The Shining, what the fuck is wrong with you? Get on it. It’s a classic. Even if you’ve seen Kubrick’s brilliant film, you should still read the book. It’s apples and oranges, for real. Oh, and, there’s a weird documentary about the movie that I recently watched. Room 237. It’s on ye olde Netflix and is great, if a little wacky and conspiracy theory-tastic. So check that out, maybe. And then mash all these things together in your brain and let them stew for a while and try to untangle them into some sort of sense-making sentence blob. You’ll end up with a blog post that makes little sense and has no cohesion whatsoever, like this one. Good times.

Making the world weirder, one click at a time.

So, I’ve been extra crazy busy for the past month, as you’re probably aware. And this is how I arrived at my current state of brain mush, what with the lack of time for books and movies and food and sleep. I decided to steal a fun trick from Chuck Wendig and Jenny Lawson and go through my blog analytics, examining what whacked-out shit gets people from their normal lives to my site. To be fair, both Lawson and Wendig’s lists are way funnier than mine. I think they have weirder fans than I. Which is really saying something. Roughly ninety-eight percent of my search terms were some variation on “where can I get a cardigan like Bernadette from Big Bang Theory?” (the short answer: fucking anywhere, seriously). But some of them were fantastic. And because I love you, I’m going to share some of my favorites. And because I’ve got brain mush and everything has to be super organized or I can’t think straight, I’ve divided them into categories. It’s really better for all of us in the long run if everyone agrees to embrace my OCD. Just cuddle the disorder. Three times. And four on Tuesdays.

Urm. Anyway. Category the first: Weird (read: brilliant!) combinations of things I’d like to see exist in real life. Let’s make these happen, people.

Jad Abumrad Piers Anthony – I see an Incarnations of Immortality Symphony in our future. There’s no possible way that would end badly.

Felicia Day Patrick Rothfuss – She simply must play Auri in the movie version of The Name of the Wind. Yes. Yes yes yes.

Kurt Cobain Ray Bradbury – Seeing as how they’re both dead (sad face), I’m going to be forced to write a short film where some guy wanders through a land of former awesome people and receives their wisdom from the other side. Damn it, one more project idea I just gave away for free.

David Foster Wallace Clive Barker – My vote? A dark and kinky Barker-ized movie version of Infinite Jest.

Star Trek John Cusack – I don’t know who he would play, but I’m sure J.J. Abrams could absolutely find a place in the next movie for a handsomely brooding Starfleet somebody with a great sense of humor and fantastic hair. Because you always need at least one of those on a spaceship, right?

Patton Oswalt Nine Inch Nails – Oswalt is so metal and so witty, I’m confident that if he wanted to make an album the industrial strains and screams of Reznor’s work would be a fitting backdrop.

Category the second: Pure hilarity. These don’t make sense, for the most part, but I love them for one reason or another.

What’s the difference between a scumfuck and a crusty? – To my understanding, scumfucks and crusties are incomparable. Apples and oranges. A scumfuck is someone who maliciously meddles in other people’s lives, or who turn any fears, needs, or shortcomings against others for their own gains. Think people who scam or rob or cheat or climb to great heights on the backs of smaller folk. Contrarily, a crusty is just a street kid, usually of a dirty punkish hitchhiker persuasion. Which is not to say that a crusty can’t be a scumfuck, obviously, but one is behavior and one is more of a fashion and/or lifestyle choice. Now you know.

Ridiculousness cardigan – I’d like to think that this is a superpower cardigan, which I could don and then all my ridiculousness would immediately become un-awkward and charming. One can dream.

Torturing the people that own our asses – For the record, I hope whoever did this search was talking about something other than actual physical harm. Because that search would just be “how to torture,” wouldn’t it? But I also hope that they found a clever and sneaky way to retaliate against whoever owns their asses, like in Office Space. Or Fight Club.

Made up holidays for old people – Because there are so many? And what does “old people” mean in this context? Old in age, like grandparents? Or old in a historical way, like George Washington? Doesn’t matter. All holidays are made up. So I guess that answers that.

Y’all know I was just fu king with y’all – I feel like this one might be an internet thing that I missed. I’ve been away. But it’s still funny that it got someone to my site, typo and all.

What does spawn mean? – Urgh. So, you googled it as a question, and then instead of clicking on anything that had the word “definition” attached to it, you somehow thought it would be more effective to come to my blog where I (completely inappropriately) refer to other people’s children as “spawn.” Let us hope you’re better at context clues and reading comprehension than you are at using search engines, my friend.

Stephen King get to the point – This one’s fair. Mr. King, while verbose, does always get to the point eventually, though. Worth it. Wait it out.

Category the third: a bit sad. These made my tummy hurt a little.

Reply back think about me – Either someone is looking for advice on relationship-related texting (in entirely the wrong place, by the way – but seriously, don’t send that text, dude), or, in what may be the best thing that ever happened on the internet, a robot is trying to figure out how to sound more human. And they turned to my blog. I win everything. The second option makes me feel less sad.

Social anxiety at comic con – I know nothing about this subject. Social anxiety, sure, but not specifically at Comic Con. And anxiety can be crippling on a normal day. I can’t imagine how bad it would be at such a gathering. I hope they found whatever advice they needed to enjoy their Con experience.

Survive broken heart overanalytical – Weirdly, this search took the searcher to my Big Bang Theory post. If your heart is broken, guys, sitcoms are not the answer! I guarantee it.

Category the fourth: The utterly inexplicable. Seriously, what the fuck?

Never poke your cousin if you can’t find your cardigan – I concur wholeheartedly with this statement. I have a lot of cousins. A lot. And one of the few solid pieces of advice I can give in this life is: don’t poke them. Not for any reason. Do not poke the cousin. Consider the possibly stolen cardigan a loss and back away slowly.

Fuck cancer in Chinese – I love that this happened. Because fuck cancer, indeed. My only hopes are that the patient survived, and that the Chinese symbols are not intended for a tattoo. Because tacky. Or retro, I suppose. Which is also tacky.

Explanation cardigans control humans blood money – This is yet another opportunity for me to jump up and down and scream about how punctuation should be allowed in search engines. Because “explanation: cardigans control humans’ blood, money” is completely different from “explanation cardigans, control humans, blood money.” Is the idea to control humans through their blood while wearing a cardigan? Or to use cardigans to control human blood for fun and profit? Or to explain political strife in countries where murder is for hire through tracking the proliferation of delightful wooly sweaters? None of these seem likely, so punctuation would be essential. I rest my case. You hear me talking, Google?

And now that most search engines are making searches anonymous, we won’t get to have fun explorations into the minds of internet users anymore. What a strange moment in time it was, right? Esoteric, true, but a good source of giggles for all of us who were here and paying attention. Like a great bar tucked away in a back alley that suddenly closes and you have that Breakfast Club experience, you know? But without the freeze-frame jumping into the sunset. Because that’s just ridiculous.