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Hear My Plea, and Book 19: Skin Game

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I have a problem.

Recently, I have noticed that no fantasy novel or series involving magic can be published without being constantly compared to Harry Potter. Reviews do this. Readers do this. Everyone. Does. This.

“The next Harry Potter!” “Harry Potter for grownups!” “If you liked Harry Potter, you’ll love this!” “If Hermione Granger had done x and y!”

I would like to ask that we, as a society, can please stop. Not every book about magic is like Harry Potter.

Nothing is like Harry Potter.

And I can hear people in the background arguing. “Well, obviously every book is different, if you were expecting something exactly like Harry Potter you should probably just go re-read Harry Potter! The point is that it gives you an idea of what to expect!”

And the problem with that argument is that it does give me an idea of what to expect. Unfortunately, what it tells me to expect is pretty much unattainable perfection.

I know there are people out there who will argue with me. I know this because, in the last year, two completely different people have commented to me that the Harry Potter series is, and I quote, “horribly written.” This causes me pain. I’m sure you think I’m joking, but I’m not. I have a kind of visceral reaction to negative comments about Harry Potter. I usually have to take a deep breath and then calmly explain that, though perhaps it’s not your favorite style of writing, you’re expressing a subjective opinion as if it’s an objective fact, and that’s simply not the case. In fact, I’m going to take it a step further: If your opinion is that they’re not your style, that’s okay, you’re allowed to have that opinion. If your opinion, however, is that they’re horribly written, you’re wrong. And I look at these people, whom I otherwise respect, and I think: “How would you feel if I found your favorite professional in the field that you have studied and learned a whole lot about in the past eight of so years and told you that they were horrible at it?” Like, you don’t see me walking up to Neil DeGrasse Tyson and saying, “I mean, I tried to like the original Cosmos, but Carl Sagan was just a horrible scientist.”

I realize this is an extreme example, but I just can’t help but feel like, well…

Anyway, I realize I have gotten horribly sidetracked by my feeling that I have been personally insulted when someone thinks good ol’ JK is a bad writer. That really wasn’t my point.

My point is this: When you compare something to Harry Potter, it sets the bar ridiculously high.

Let’s talk about the layers of Harry Potter for a minute.

The first layer of Harry Potter is the story. The boy who lived. The young wizard whose destiny it was to destroy Voldemort and his two best friends as they go through school and grow up. It’s a wonderful story, but by itself, it’s nothing special.

The second layer of Harry Potter is the meaning behind the story. Sure, it’s about a boy wizard, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about love and friendship, courage and acceptance. It’s about standing up for what’s right despite seemingly overwhelming odds that you will fail. It’s about believing that the world can be better, and that if you work together, you can make that happen. And that is fantastic. But again, it’s nothing special. Lots of books have similar themes.

The third layer of Harry Potter is the world it’s set in. From the very beginning, you’ve got a clearly defined Muggle world that makes sense. And that’s the most important thing about good fantasy, I believe: The realistic elements have to actually be realistic. If we, the readers, don’t believe the real world part of the story, how are we supposed to believe the fantasy world? The minute we think “there’s no way that would ever happen,” our suspension of disbelief falls apart. The Wizarding world works, too: There are rules, and throughout the series, magic follows the rules. Now, I couldn’t clearly explain the rules to you, but that’s not the important part. The important part is that magic can’t do everything, because if it could, then there would be no point in writing a story. For example, let’s talk about the time turner in Prisoner of Azkaban. I’ve seen this picture a lot recently:

And while it’s kind of funny, it’s not accurate. Saving Buckbeak didn’t reawaken the dead. You think you hear Buckbeak dying, but once they go back with the Time Turner, you see what was actually happening. Buckbeak never died to begin with. In fact, if they hadn’t used the Time Turner to go back and save Buckbeak, that would have been changing the past, because they had already done it. It follows the rules. Lily and James, on the other hand, actually did die. They couldn’t do anything about it. And why would they? It’s awful, but their deaths brought about the boy who would ultimately defeat Voldemort. If they hadn’t died, Voldemort could have reigned forever. Does that sound like a good plan to you? But, yes, other books have good world building in them.

Layer four of Harry Potter is the characters. Every single character, even the fairly minor ones, have distinct personalities. They all have different ways of speaking. They have detailed, rich backstories. They’re three-dimensional. If you read the Harry Potter books and don’t relate strongly to at least one character, well, I’ll be shocked. And if you reread them a few years later, you’re sure to find someone else who makes more sense to you this time around. There are no good guys who are just good, and no bad guys who are just bad. Every character will surprise you at times. However, I can’t say that this is the first book with amazing depth of characters.

The fifth layer of Harry Potter is, of course, the writing. This is, if you hadn’t figured it out by now, the most important part to me. It doesn’t have to be to everyone, but it is to me. JK has a very simple and straightforward (and, well, British) style. She clearly doesn’t write with a giant thesaurus sitting on her desk next to her. The language isn’t flowery; why should it be? It is, however, detailed and precise. She doesn’t leave a single word out of place in seven books. I had this fear after I finished my Creative Writing degree: I’d gone back and re-read some books I’d loved in the past and found that there were now things that really bothered me. There was always a little piece of my brain getting ready to sit down with the author and workshop their book. So, for a while, I was nervous about picking up the Harry Potter series again. I was worried that these books, which were such a huge part of my childhood and my life, would fall apart under my newly critical eye. And I picked them up and started reading and I was immediately whisked off to Number 4, Privet Drive, and the writing was perfect. I started looking for something, anything, that I would change, that I thought was too much, or that I didn’t feel I knew enough about. I found nothing. In seven books, nothing.

The Harry Potter books aren’t the only books out there that are masterfully written. However, very, very few books are as well written as Harry Potter.

And as for books that have stories as good, meaning as important, worlds as well-built, characters as well developed, and writing as amazing… well, let’s just say I believe there’s a reason JK was richer than the Queen for a while. You know, before she gave so much of her money to charity.

So when you compare a book to Harry Potter, you’re setting me up for disappointment. If you say, “This is a really good book!” then I’ll read it and I’ll enjoy it and I’ll be fun. If you say, “This is a lot of fun!” then I’ll read it and have slightly lower expectations of the writing and I’ll just let myself enjoy the story and I’ll be fine. But if you say, “This is like Harry Potter!” then everything that isn’t perfect about it is going to feel, to me, like a punch in the face.

For these reasons, I almost didn’t finish the first book of the Dresden Files.

Book 19: Skin Game (Book 15 of The Dresden Files)

You may have guessed from the above rant and plea that, when I first started reading these books, I was told they were like Harry Potter.

These books are not like Harry Potter. These books are gritty and kind of pulpy Chicago detective stories. The detective is a wizard, and his cases tend to be otherworldly. The fact that his name is Harry does not make the books like Harry Potter. If anything, they’re sort of like Supernatural. I suppose, if you really wanted to, you could say that they’re kind of like if someone who wasn’t JK Rowling wrote some stories about if Harry Potter were an American and never went to Hogwarts and had to learn magic in other ways and went on to be a detective in Chicago solving supernatural mysteries and it’s just a lot of fun and doesn’t quite have the substance that Harry Potter has but they are nonetheless super fun and exciting books (with bonus nerdy references), then, well, it’d be kind of accurate, but why bother when “gritty Chicago wizard detective” works just fine?

Over the course of 15 books, Jim Butcher’s writing has improved dramatically. (More than 15–he wrote a whole other series somewhere in there, too.) In the beginning, I had the opinion that they were pretty poorly written, but they were fun stories. I kept going because I forced myself to ignore the voice in my head saying, “They said this was like Harry Potter.” And I’m very glad I did. When Butcher wrote the first book, it was a reaction against a writing teacher he had who kept giving him advice he thought was bad. He finally went home and wrote a book following all the rules she’d set out and brought it in to show her how bad her rules were. She read it and told him to publish it. (Note: I got this story from Wikipedia. It might be wrong.) So, at this point, he wasn’t taking it seriously. It’s clear, as the series continues, that he begins to take his creation seriously. He puts a lot more care into the later books, and the endings of the past few have surprised me. He still has habits I don’t love–if anyone can find an instance where Harry says “Fuego!” and doesn’t snarl, I will give them five dollars.

So, they’re not books that you read for the masterful writing, and that’s okay. They’re books that you read for a fun story and pretty decent writing. In that, they are incredibly successful.

I can’t think of a book off the top of my head that has made me laugh as much as these do. Harry Dresden has a great sense of humor and some ridiculous antics. Jim Butcher is a huge nerd, too–I’m spotted a Sherlock reference, a Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog reference, and I’m fairly certain a Buffy reference, though that one was quite subtle so I can’t be sure. There are always Star Wars references, too, and I’m sure there are some that I just don’t notice. They’re extremely fun to read.

Minor spoilers ahead–nothing you wouldn’t read on the back of the book!

Now, if you’re a fan of the Dresden Files, you may have noticed the multiples of 5 pattern: Books 5, 10, and 15 have to do with a race of creatures called the Denarians and their leader, Nicodemus. The Denarians are weird and kind of difficult to explain. Basically, there are a whole bunch of fallen angels who were at some point trapped in coins, called Denarii, from ancient Rome. If a human touches one of the coins, that fallen angel has a path into their head. From there, the angel–the Denarian–can convince the human to pick up the Denarius and work with them. The Denarian now has control over the human, and they become extremely powerful. And, of course, because they’re evil angels, they also have some monstrous shape that they can transform into.

The Denarians are not my favorite bad guys in the Dresden Files series. I have a kind of hard time wrapping my head around them. I’m not quite sure what their rules are.

However, in Skin Game, Dresden is forced to team up with them. And I love when the good guy has to work with the bad guys. It always makes for an interesting story and, in this case, a whole lot of sass.

I really enjoyed the dynamic in this book, and I think it helped me to get Nicodemus a bit more. He’s much more developed at the end of this book than he has been in the past, where he seemed a little like an evil dude who had no reason to exist other than to be as evil as possible. But as Harry and Nicodemus work together to pull off a major heist, you learn a lot more about both of them.

MAJOR SPOILERS

LIKE I’M ABOUT TO RUIN THE ENDING

SERIOUSLY IF YOU HAVEN’T READ AND WANT TO STOP HERE

Okay, you were warned. I’m assuming that I’m good to say whatever I want now.

Were other people completely blindsided by Harry having hired Grey to be on his side from the very beginning? I’ll be honest: I always feel a little cheated when I get to the end of the book and there’s something very important that the POV character did that we didn’t hear about. I felt, right away, like I had to go back and re-read the entire book now that I knew what had really been going on. I think it would have made more sense if Mab and Vadderung had maybe collaborated to hire Grey and Dresden hadn’t known about it. However, if you’ve got to leave something out like that, Butcher did it pretty well. I didn’t see it coming at all.

I’ve wanted Murphy to pick up one of the Swords for a long time. I didn’t quite understand what would happen if she did it for the wrong reason; despite the fact that we’re told pretty clearly that it would destroy the sword, I remembered Harry picking it up once and using it wrong and it being fine afterward. I’d felt for a while like Murphy had this awesome card that she just failed to play, and why? Well, I get it now. The sword breaks and is lost. EXCEPT. Except it’s not! I hate to make a Harry Potter reference after my long rant up there, but holy Neville Longbottom, Batman! Let me tell you, my pre-book-discussion discussion up there, the one that is about how mad it makes me when people tell me something’s like Harry Potter, was almost about fandom as religion, and how when we really love something, we can’t help but believe in it, and what would be so wrong about embracing that? I sometimes tell people I’m a Whovian when they ask about my religion, and it’s usually joking, but I’m really only half joking. I’m saying, “You know, I don’t really want to talk about religion right now/with you…But I totally believe in the Doctor.” But I was a little worried that it was too much of a spoiler for the Lightsaber of Faith. Go, Butters. (Also: Did anyone else watch Psych? Because I can never keep Butters and Woody straight in my head.)

Overall, I loved the ending. It fit the story and set up some great questions about what’s going to happen next. I’m already really excited about book 16, though I’m sure I’ll have to wait a while for it.

OKAY I’M DONE WITH THE SPOILERS

So, what do you guys think? Have you read the book? Don’t post spoilers in the comments, because I know I have friends who haven’t read it yet, but let me know what you thought! (You know, cryptically.)

Coming Soon…

 20. Lexicon by Max Barry
21. London Falling by Paul Cornell
22. Neuromancer by William Gibson
23. Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau
24. The Cuckoo’s Calling by “Robert Galbraith” a.k.a. J.K. Rowling
25. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
26. Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
27. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
28. Deus Irae by Philip K. Dick and Roger Zelazny
29. The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
30. The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker
31. The Alchemyst: Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Book 1 by Michael Scott
32. Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood

Lastly, re: the Harry Potter discussion up there. How do people feel about that? What books have you read that you just can’t compare things to? And what’s the most important part of the book to you? Are other people generally all about the writing, or do normal people focus more on other aspects? I’d love to know!

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What the fuck, Halloween?

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Last night was my first-ever time handing out candy to trick-or-treaters from my own place. Sure, I’d been the one giving kids candy from my mom’s house before, but there was something different about it this time. I wasn’t the girl handing out candy in place of her mom anymore. That made a difference, and I cared.

Mike bought a ton of candy. To be specific, he bought 11 bags of candy. I put aside any multiples and poured everything into a 8-quart stockpot. With two bags of candy missing, it was still overflowing. Awesome, I thought. There’ll be tons of leftovers. Of course, I didn’t want it to all end up being leftovers, so when our first trick-or-treaters didn’t show up until 45 minutes into the time slot, I started giving out fistfuls of candy. See, Mike tends to get excited and buy tons of candy or baked goods or ice cream or what have you and then completely forget and I become responsible for eating all of it. I didn’t want to eat 11 bags of candy. I didn’t want to get diabetes because I was stingy with the kids. However, the kids then started pouring in, and by the end I was almost out and giving out two pieces. Maybe small handfuls next year, Rachael.

At the end of the night, it became clear that my expectations had been too high. I realize now that I shouldn’t have had expectations at all.

Did you, as a kid, hate those houses that made you say “Trick-or-Treat!” to get candy? I didn’t hate it, but I never liked it. I was shy and felt dumb threatening to play a trick on people who didn’t give me candy when, really, I’d just walk to the next house that had the bucket out with the ‘take one’ sign and take a whole handful. (How much do I love that commercial with the little “I can’t read” girl? So much.) But when hordes of children started showing up at my door and staring at me expectantly without so much as a “Hi!” or a “Please!” or a “Happy Halloween!” I understood. I mean, I at least always greeted people. So I became one of those people who makes the kids say “Trick or treat!” before giving them candy. Whatever. That’s not even the point.

The point is this one girl. She ran up to my door with her sister close behind her. When I opened with the pot o’ candy balanced on my hip, she reached up and pulled it down. She didn’t say a word. I was too blown away to hold it back from her. So she runs up to the door, grabs the pot o’ candy out of my hand, takes one piece of candy, and runs off. What the fuck? Okay, one bratty kid. I wonder if her sister told her about the handful I gave her for not sucking.

The parents were the worst, though. Despite the fact that I had a lighted jack-o-lantern at the end of my porch, strings of Christmas lights lit up all along the railing, lights in the house on, and the porch light on, they wouldn’t let their kids approach my door unless they could see me waiting to give out candy. I was doing homework. I had to relocate to the chair in the corner of our entryway so that they could see me if they looked. One mom didn’t look and told her kid, “I don’t see anyone there, but if you want to go knock on the door and see if they’re giving out candy, you can.” Try to imagine the bitchy, skeptical tone of her voice, as if her kid was crazy for seeing a clearly decorated porch and thinking she could get candy from me. Isn’t the point of Halloween to go door-to-door and knock and ask for candy? Should I really have to leave the door open for two hours when it’s fucking cold out just because you don’t want to waste a few steps to see if I have candy when I clearly do? The rule as I always knew it was that if there was a light by the door, the house was giving out candy. Porch light’s on? Cool. We didn’t need decorations.

Who the fuck would put out a Jack-o-lantern and not give out candy?

At one point, a whole bunch of kids approached me in rapid succession. It seemed like five siblings from one family and two from another. They all said trick-or-treat, most of them without needing prompting, and they all got handfuls of candy. Then they all ran back to their parents (or possibly chaperones; I forgot that some kids go with their friends and their parents stay home). When they were out of sight, I could still hear the parents talking loudly to each other. One said something that sounded kind of worried about the candy her kids were getting–I wasn’t sure if it was the sheer amount of it or the fear that it was poisoned.

Another replied. “Oh, there are candy buyback programs.”
“Really?”
“Yeah, there are a couple places in town where you can go and they’ll buy all the Halloween candy from you.”
“That’s great! Where?”

What. The. Fuck. Seriously. That’s all I can say. No wonder kids are such brats–their parents aren’t even letting them keep the candy! Do they even get the money? And how much? At the end of the night, does each kid even have 5 dollars worth of candy? I feel completely ripped off. Do they even realize that Mike and I spent money on this? Would they throw a birthday party for their kids and then give away all the presents people bought?

Are parents treating this as a holiday to parade their kids around in costumes that the kids probably don’t even like? I’m reminded of women who buy tiny dogs and use them as accessories. Oh, look, I’m going to carry him around in my purse with this cute plaid jacket! People will love it! No, they won’t. We don’t want to see kids who don’t give a shit about the candy we’re giving them because you’re just going to sell it back for way less than they think it’s worth. I wouldn’t want to walk around for two hours in the freezing cold in a weather-inappropriate costume and knock on a bunch of strangers’ doors for nothing, either.

There used to be this house that I went to when I was little, sort of diagonally across the street from mine. The woman who lived there gave out candy, but she also invited everyone in. There was always plenty of mulled cider to warm us up from the cold, fresh cookies to enjoy, and I think there were caramel apples a few times. I loved going to that house. Maybe that is an unrealistic dream now, or maybe you’d at least have to live in a neighborhood where everyone knows you for anyone to come in. But the fact that Halloween paranoia has extended to not even keeping the candy is such bullshit.

Everything sacred about Halloween as a kids’ holiday is gone. There’s no knocking on doors, no visiting with neighbors, no saying “trick or treat,” no keeping your candy. All we’re left with, it seems, is awful parenting and the I’m a sexy candy corn movement.

Well clearly, I’m pissed about Halloween. What holiday traditions have you seen completely destroyed as you grew up?

Things That Are Not Rape

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Dear Douchebags of the World,

I understand that you’re upset about the Netflix price increase. I don’t really understand why, because I’m pretty sure you can still order and stream unlimited shows and DVDs for the pretty damn small amount of money you pay if you take into consideration how much it would cost for you to buy all those things or rent them from Blockbuster, but I get that you are upset.

See, Buzzfeed was kind enough to show me just how upset you are. Don’t you love how being an asshole on Twitter once makes you an asshole everywhere forever?

I feel the need to point out a few specific tweets from Buzzfeed’s list, just so anyone reading this can get an idea of how people are reacting:

@TravisTeachMe: Dear Netflix, I got your email. We trusted you and now you are trying to rape us.

@ctjay14: Dear Netflix, the next time you decide to rape your customers could you at least use KY first?

@Ugo_Lord: Dear Netflix, I get raped when I pay for gas, raped when I buy a plane ticket, & now you want to rape me too. Enough already. #Netflix

Because of both these responses and other things I have heard people say, I feel it has become necessary to point a few things out.

THINGS THAT ARE NOT RAPE:

  • A small price increase in a service that hasn’t had a price increase since it started operating in 1997 but has drastically expanded the scope of what they do
  • Gas prices
  • Textbook prices
  • That test you didn’t study for and failed
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Rebecca Black’s “Friday”
  • Heavy courseloads in college
  • Your Thesis committee
  • New Google features that you don’t know how to use
  • Spam in your inbox
  • Your alarm clock
  • Traffic
  • Your mother-in-law’s cooking
  • The distance you have to travel to get to the nearest Starbucks
  • The lack of express check-outs at your local Target
  • Ads on your favorite website
  • A webcomic creator changing their update schedule/going on hiatus/having a guest week
  • A broken air conditioner

THINGS THAT ARE RAPE:

  • Another person or group of people engaging you in sexual activity despite your lack of consent

Yeah. That’s it.

So, Douchebags of the World, next time you find something frustrating, upsetting, or mildly inconvenient, remember this list before you open your fucking mouth.

Sincerely,
Rachael

P.S. Thankfully, some people have managed to retain a bit of common sense through this debacle:

@halfdaytoday: When I read about Netflix’s $5 price increase, I was so shocked I spit my $6 latte out over the $400 iPhone I pay $90 a month for.

What do you think, guys? Did I miss anything important?

I don’t WANT a damn clock!

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Okay, so this may be a little uncalled for as I am not married or even engaged yet, but someone needs to say something.

(That “yet” there makes me look awfully optimistic, huh? I’ll be optimistic about this. I promise I’ll make it up to you somehow.)

If you’re here and you don’t read The Bloggess, you’re probably going to be at least a little confused, but all you really need to know is that she recently declared that giant metal chickens are the traditional 15th wedding anniversary gift. I can’t argue with her there. I would love a giant metal chicken.

Someone awesome went on Wikipedia to change their list of traditional gifts, and Jenny-the-Bloggess managed to get a screencap and post it before the Gods of Wikipedia changed it back to what they think it’s supposed to be. (Does anyone else feel like Wikipedia is the first step toward living in The Matrix?)

From Jenny-the-Bloggess's Flickr pool, despite the fact that Flickr has apparently done everything in their power to make it really fucking hard for me to grab the image URL.

I looked at this and was happy that someone was awesome enough to change it, but then I got curious. I mean, I’ve heard of traditional anniversary gifts, but I didn’t really know what any of them were. I’d heard it used to be paper for the first anniversary, and I always thought, well, paper is a fucking shitty present, so I’m glad they changed that one.

To a CLOCK? Okay. See, the thing with paper is that while it makes a shitty present, it will get used. I will write things down on it. I will make grocery lists or draw pictures or write stories or make paper airplanes or those fortune teller things. Most paper products? Same thing. Shitty present, but hey, it’s useful. It’s handy to have around. I’m not sure what form the paper is was supposed to be in, but whatever it was, I imagine people got good use out of it.

Clocks, though. See, I use clocks, too. I have one on my cell phone, which is usually charged and goes mostly everywhere with me, so I can always check the time. There is also one on the microwave, and on the stove, and Mike has an alarm clock, and I have an iHome which shows the time. The DVR is also kind enough to display the time, so I know when a show that I’ll watch eventually will start recording. I use clocks. It can be helpful to know what time it is. The thing is.

The thing is.

I’m surrounded by clocks. I don’t need another one. Nobody needs another one. I don’t need a watch because I can check my phone, or the GPS that lives in my purse, or the iPod that lives in my purse. I have three options in a bag that I carry everywhere with me alone. And if all three are out of batteries, I can look at the wall of whatever social institution I’m in, or look at the clock in my car, or safely assume that I’ll soon drive by one of those places that has a big glowing clock LED display outside. I can ask a fucking stranger what time it is. And then, in my home, there isn’t a single room that doesn’t have a glowing clock display that keeps me from forgetting what time it is. I don’t even have to check. It’s just there, seared into my brain. Which leads me to the important thing here.

The only reason I can think of to buy a clock is for ornamental purposes. Decoration. There are plenty of awesome decorative clocks out there.

You could get a gorgeous oversized Howard Miller wall clock, which probably costs an absurd amount of money.

You could get a ThinkGeek Science clock. It also comes in Math.

You could even get a novelty Marmite clock from Etsy!

You might be wondering what my point is here, and I promise I have one.

My point is that, when it comes to clocks, you have two options: practical ones you already have, or decorative ones that you don’t. And nobody wants a new practical alarm clock for an anniversary.

And, women out there: are you really okay with letting your husband make any single decoration decision that does not stay entirely within his ManCave all on his own, and have it be a gift to you?

No?

I didn’t think so. Maybe it’d be a present to him. “Honey, for our anniversary, I’m going to let you buy whatever hideous clock you think is funny and hang it in our living room where all our guests will notice that it doesn’t match the decor at all.”

I mean, look at that list. Who the hell made it up? Did someone really decide that electrical appliances are a good anniversary gift? Maybe from the wife, but most of the list seems to indicate that these are gifts from husband to wife. And if this list is something that you really need to follow, the only anniversaries I’m really looking forward to are 7 and, of course, 15.

Fuck yeah, #7.

P.S. Via links that I tried to put in the captions aren’t working for some reason, but if you click any picture it’ll take you to where I found it and, in most cases, where you can buy it.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

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I mentioned that we moved, but I don’t think I was very specific. We moved from Massachusetts to New Hampshire. People in Massachusetts like to spread rumors about how awful everything in New Hampshire is, but I think that’s just because if everyone knew how cool it was up here there would be no one left in Massachusetts.

The candy shop at the mall sells little bottle-shaped chocolates that are filled with whiskey.

The first thing I saw when we walked into our new local Wal-Mart to get a rod-thing for the toilet-paper-holder-thing because the previous tenants took that with them and seriously who the hell takes that was a rack of what I’m pretty sure were alcoholic Capri Suns. Like, mixed drinks in a bag inviting you to stab a straw into them and drink them.

One of the times I came up here to paint, I saw a school bus pulling out of the state liquor store.

Maybe this “booze is everywhere” thing isn’t quite as novel and exciting to people who aren’t from Massachusetts, but I’m used to having to go to a liquor store to get anything remotely booze-like. A few grocery stores have liquor sections, but that’s about it. This is so…freeing.

So anyway, when we were on that Wal-Mart trip trying to find the thing that makes our toilet paper holder actually hold toilet paper, we discovered a giant wine section. It was confusing. I mean, we must have looked like tourists, except we were at Wal-Mart and I’m pretty sure tourists don’t go to Wal-Mart, but we were just sorta standing there staring like they can do that here? So after a few minutes, we decided to get a cheap bottle of wine (Barefoot Zinfandel, yum) to break in the new wine glasses.

Mike’s (former) roommate got him wine glasses as a graduation present because he had seen, too many times, the results of our guests bringing a bottle of wine with them and us being like oh, we don’t have wine glasses, do you want a small or large glass? They are really nice glasses. They do the whole sing-when-you-rub-your-finger-on-the-edge thing and everything. Mike left the wine glasses in their packaging to decrease the chances of us breaking them during the move, and when I organized our kitchen, I left them in the smaller packaging to decrease the chances that we broke one of them when we were going for a glass for juice.

When we got home, Mike got one of the boxes-of-two-wine-glasses out and washed them. He dried them. We sat down for dinner and ate our meals and each had a glass of wine. The whole time, I’m sitting there like don’t break it Rachael this is a nice thing DON’T FUCKING BREAK IT. We even had a brief conversation in which we agreed that the glasses were a nice gift and possibly even too nice for us because we’re fucking clumsy. Anyway. We made it through the meal. We both finished our wine. I did the dishes. I left the wine glasses off to the side so I wouldn’t break them while washing something else. Finally, it was time to wash the wine glasses.

Oh god, I was terrified. They were so thin and delicate-feeling. I imagine it’s similar to how it must feel to carry a really old person with brittle bones, except I had to shove a brand-new sponge inside them (and brand-new sponges are way firmer than old, worn out sponges) and not break them.

I didn’t break them.

I was so proud of myself every single moment that I was touching one of the glasses and it didn’t break. All, yes, you have NOT fucked this up yet! Keep it up! You have GOT this! So when I got through washing them successfully and put them on the little glass-holder things on the drainer, I was cheering myself. I cheered for myself as I walked back to our room and sat down on my computer and did the stuff I needed to do for my online summer class.

A few hours later, I hear footsteps upstairs. The guy upstairs isn’t loud and doesn’t stomp around like an elephant like the people upstairs from Mike’s old place. It’s pretty nice. I didn’t think much of his walking around or anything, because it didn’t seem like something that would keep me up or disturb my lack of migraine.

I didn’t think anything of it until I heard a tinkling crash from the kitchen.

What the fuck.

The drying rack apparently can’t hold top-heavy glasses if there’s any movement anywhere. I’ll keep that in mind for next time.

Until then, this is why we can’t have nice things.

You’ve seen “How to Train Your Dragon,” right? If not, you should. It’s excellent. But I’m really sad that I can’t find a clip of Hiccup saying, “But you just gestured to all of me!” Because we’d use that all the time. “DAMMIT, THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS.” “But you just gestured to all of me!” And that goes both ways. Mike and I are why we can’t have nice things.

Next time, I’m getting the Capri Sun things.

Fashion, what were you thinking? I could do better than this bullshit.

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Dear Fashion,

Before I begin, I want to explain that I am in the process of moving and realizing that I don’t have nearly enough shit packed right now to be moving on Tuesday and I still need to paint the apartment and go to Mike’s graduation. I’m sure you understand that this puts quite a bit of stress on me, so I might be slightly more critical here than is entirely necessary because, you see, stress makes me hate everything. But I think that, even without the stress, I would still think the following items are fucking stupid.

Item 1

Fendi, I know you’re a high-profile designer and an expert in your field, but even experts can fuck up big time. The above dress is an example of that. I like that you’re trying to appeal to a new and exciting demographic. I do. I hate when I look in a store and realize that there is nothing sold there that anyone who is not a 19 year old female trying to sneak into a bar would wear–there should be some versatility in design, appeal to all ages and walks of life. However, the Amish do not shop online. They also do not use things that would allow them to get to your stores or stores that sold your things, so even if this is available in stores somewhere, it is unlike that its target demographic will have access to it. As a matter of face, I am pretty sure they sew their own clothing and do not have $2,570.00 to spend on something one of their 10-year-olds can make.

Item 2

Juicy, you have baffled everyone except teenage girls since the day you first came into existence. Do you realize that when people who aren’t teenage girls see the word “Juicy” on someone’s ass, they are more likely to wonder what kind of juice an ass produces and be very disgusted at the results? (If you’re thinking it’s just me, it’s not. I did a survey once.) This, though, confuses me even more. It’s a watch. In fact, it’s a watch made of plastic. I think I remember getting something very similar to this watch in a box of cereal when I was young. Why, then, do you think it’s okay to charge $195.00 for it? It might be worth a dollar.

Item 3

I have to hand it to you, BCBGirls. At first, I looked at this shoe and thought, why the fuck would anyone make or wear a shoe that looks like it was inspired by someone puking on a fishing net? I was hell of confused there for a few minutes. Eventually, though, it dawned on me: these are the perfect shoes to wear to a party where you just know someone is going to puke on your feet. I imagine that plenty of college girls out there would pay the almost-reasonable $98.00 price tag in order to have something that looked the same after one of “those nights.”

Item 4

What happened to you, Urban Outfitters? You used to be cool! But in recent years, you’ve made yourself into a place that is filled with dirty hipsters looking for clothes that they won’t admit are made for dirty hipsters. While $32.00 would normally not be too extravagant for a t-shirt that I really liked (a little expensive, yes, but doable), I’m definitely not going to spend that much on something that I can’t even donate to the Salvation Army after I realize how stupid it is. In fact, if I gave this shirt to a young homeless woman who needed clothing, I’d probably spend the next month paranoid that she was going to come stab me for being such a bitch.

Item 5

Moschino, I don’t even know where to begin with this. I understand that stripes are “in” right now. I understand that shirts with clever sayings on them are “in” as well. Normally, I would think combining the two would be a bad idea–it’s giving me a headache to look at this thing. If you have to put words on skinny stripes, though, these ones make sense. But what’s up with that elipses there? You’re implying something, right? You’re implying: BITCH! Do you really want your customers implicitly calling everyone who reads their t-shirt a bitch? More importantly, though. I love t-shirts. The best part about them is that they are made with t-shirt material. In fact, I try to avoid clothing that isn’t made of t-shirt material (it’s called “Jersey” I guess but that makes me think of Jersey Shore and then I need to cry) whenever possible–it’s just more comfortable. So why the fuck did you make this shirt out of silk? A dry-clean only t-shirt? Have you lost your fucking mind? Wait–I shouldn’t be asking you that. You’re charging $630.00 for a god damn t-shirt.

Well, designers, I hope we’ve all learned some important lessons here. There’s a reason these things have been marked down to clearance prices and emailed to me in Shop It To Me form and I’ve explained it. Next time you want to make a piece of clothing, maybe run it by your brain first.

Love,
Rachael

UPDATE: P.S., Mike looked up the “polyamide” material that the Amish dress is made of. Turns out? It’s a fancy name for fucking nylon. I’m calling your bluff, Fendi. We’re not buying your dress OR your bullshit.

Horrible Medical Advice of the Week: Get That Cough Checked Out

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This horrible medical advice is brought to you by the people I’ve heard actually give this advice many, many times.

“Oh, that cough sounds awful. How long have you had it? More than three days? You should definitely go see a nurse practitioner about that. You should always see nurse practitioners, because they can do everything a doctor can do and they’re more willing to make appointments with you. So hurry up and call your doctor’s office or health center to see someone about your cough.”

This was almost always followed up, a few days later, by this: “Did you see the NP? Great. Oh, it’s probably just a cough but they gave you antibiotics just in case? Good. That’s important. You’re taking care of yourself.”

Okay, so that was the horrible medical advice, and now I’m going to rant about explain why this is horrible medical advice, so I suppose I’m actually giving you good medical advice (note: see disclaimer at bottom of post), and I apologize for that but it infuriates me to no fucking end when people with no fucking clue about medicine give advice as if they have a fucking clue.

1: You have a cough. Do you have any other symptoms? Are you coughing up nasty shit? Are you unable to breathe because of the coughing? Do you hear weird rattling or fluidy sounds when you cough? If the answer to all of these questions is no, you probably have…A COLD. Don’t go to the doctor for a fucking cold unless your immune system is horrible or you’ve developed some sort of infection. If your other symptoms are sneezing and a runny nose, then it’s definitely a cold and you’re wasting your doctor’s time. Your doctor could be spending that time doing something important, like doing necessary check-ups with someone with a chronic illness or giving me migraine medication.

2: Nurse practitioners can’t do everything a doctor does. In fact, that’s exactly why they are “more willing” to see you. It’s not that they’re more willing, it’s that everyone fucking knows that when you go to the doctor you should go to the doctor. (No, not The Doctor, though I’m sure he could help if you needed it.) So they have more time because people don’t want to book their time as much. Nurse practitioners can do many things and they’re a valuable asset to most doctors’ offices, but a lot of the time, if there’s anything complicated or not very, very basic, they actually just call the doctor in for a consult. So then if you go in with a cough you’re wasting the NP’s time by being there with a cough and the doctor’s time if the NP thinks it might be something. I do love NPs. Don’t get me wrong. But they don’t go through four years of med school and then 3-8 years of residency to learn to do what they’re doing.

3: Health centers. I’m referring here to college health centers, where usually your only option is an NP and one that is barely qualified for the job, otherwise they would be working at a hospital or doctor’s office. College health centers are bullshit. If you’re in college and can possibly find a real doctor to go to, do it.

4: Antibiotics for a cough is the dumbest fucking thing ever. If you follow this advice and your doctor or NP prescribes you antibiotics “just in case it’s not just a cold,” find a different doctor or NP. You know those super-bacteria that are resistant to tons of antibiotics that everyone is afraid of? It’s shit like this that creates those bacteria. If you get antibiotics every fucking time you have a cough, you’re going to develop some fucking awesome bacteria that will kick most antibiotics’ asses and probably eventually end up in the ER because you got a damn papercut and it got infected by the stupid bacteria that you grew and nothing will treat it. You’re not taking care of yourself at all.

5: If someone gives you medical advice, ask them where they learned whatever advice they’re giving you. Things like “Oh, I read it in a magazine” or “They actually did a study” are not valid responses. (Also, if anyone tells you that chicken soup actually has medical benefits, tell them to shut the fuck up. All it will do is hydrate you a little and get you some nutrients, and even that only happens if it’s the good, home-made kind with lots of vegetables and no chemicals.) If the person is a medical professional or says something like “my doctor told me this” or “my boyfriend is a medical student and complains about patients who do this all the time because they’re essentially killing everyone” then their advice might be worth at least thinking about. If you’re not sure, call your doctor and ask if you should come in. Chances are, if you call your doctor and say “I’ve had this cough for a few days and someone recommended I make an appointment, do you think I should?” your doctor will probably tell you “No fucking way.” Well, something like that. If it’s something you wouldn’t normally go to the doctor about, make that “should I make an appointment” call before the “I’d like to schedule an appointment, please” call. You’ll save a lot of time and possibly also money and lives.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional; just a person who is surrounded by people who are medical professionals or are very close to being medical professionals. This advice reflects things they have told me but is not actually official medical advice. Thank you.

 

(Also: I’m now on Bloglovin’ and they’re requiring that I put this in a post: Follow my blog with bloglovin)