Tag Archives: rant

Tracy McConnell, We Hardly Knew Ye

WARNING: I will spoil the endings of How I Met Your Mother, Dexter, Veronica Mars, The X-Files, The Office, Seinfeld, Friends, Breaking Bad, and Six Feet Under in this post.

So I was one of many people outraged at the How I Met Your Mother finale- let me rant for a minute.

The writers went with an ending that would have been satisfying in Season 2, but didn’t fit in at all with what the show had built up to. After all that, the mother (Tracy) was basically just a sidenote in the story of how Ted and Robin got together after all- even after the entire show lead us to believe in Barney and Robin as a couple and that Ted would get his happy ending. And I guess he did, but in the end he only was with Tracy for eleven years. They hit us over the head so many times with how Ted had to get over Robin before he met the mother- but this ending made me think he never got over Robin at all, and worse, maybe he was pining for her the whole time he was with Tracy. And it kind of cheapened his relationships with both women. Also, I really liked Tracy herself, and Cristin Milioti was great in this role. (I think she may have been too good—she was adorable and likeable without being Mary Sue-ish and seemed perfect for Ted, so people may have ended up rooting for her more than the writers intended.) So I wanted to know so much about her that we never found out- like, what exactly was she doing to try to end poverty? Why was that her passion? What was her book about? Where was she from? What was her family like? How did Max die? How did she die, for that matter (I mean, we know she was sick, but they glossed over her death so quickly that we never got any details)? Having kids before getting married seems very…un-Ted-like to me, too. I didn’t like how Ted and Tracy’s wedding eventually happened.

I feel like Robin really got the shaft, too. I mean, I’m sure she loved her work and all the travel she was doing, but it was literally what cost her her husband and friends for several years. Who did she even talk to during all that time she was estranged from the group? Patrice? I hope she made new friends or dated someone else or…something.

And then there’s Barney. I wondered, going into this season, if Barney and Robin would actually get married. Eventually it became clear that they would, and the show had really gotten us to invest and believe in the idea of them as a couple- so it pisses me off that they got divorced only three years later. They made such a big deal of him finally growing up and settling down with Robin- and the second they divorce, he just reverts back to being an immature slut, until he knocks some girl up and his daughter magically changes his life. The whole thing just pisses me off. I read some speculation that maybe “Number Thirty-One” will be the main character on How I Met Your Dad, which makes sense, but I hate that he referred to his daughter’s mother only as “Number Thirty-One.” Not to mention—what did Lily end up doing after she got back from Italy besides having a third kid whose name and sex we never learn?

It got me thinking, though, about how to end a show. There are other series finales that have gotten me almost as mad as HIMYM’s did, but there have also been some great ones. So here’s a look at the best and the worst of series finales:

Dexter

There are a handful of people who did like the HIMYM finale (my mother is among them), but absolutely no one liked the Dexter finale. I didn’t for a minute buy into his rekindling of his relationship with Hannah after she tried to kill Deb, so I hated how the show tried to get us to believe that she was his one true love. And then when Deb dies and Dexter decides that he’s caused people too much pain, his solution is to…cause even more pain by faking his own death and going off somewhere to be a silent lumberjack? Which is especially nonsensical because he no longer had the urge to kill? UGH. This finale made me wonder why I wasted so much time watching the show.

The X-Files

Another terrible ending. I’ve blocked out a lot of the specifics, but basically, at the end everyone was miserable and the world really was going to end in 2012. And the Smoking Man finally died for real. The movie that came out several years later didn’t do much to redeem it, either.

Veronica Mars

But this recent movie, thankfully, did redeem the series finale. To be fair, it was bad largely because it was written as a season and not series finale, but there were still things that bothered me about it—namely that Veronica’s actions over something that wasn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of things and where the damage had already been done ended up getting her father in trouble. Like I said, though, the movie was so good it undid the unsatisfying series finale.

Seinfeld

At the time I hated this finale, as did most people, but it’s actually grown on me since then. Seinfeldwas not a show that dealt with feelings or happy endings, but aside from “nothing,” it was about four hilarious but still really horrible people. So putting them in jail for, basically, years of being awful was kind of fitting.

The Office

This was one show that went on way too long, and I didn’t watch the last two or three seasons. However, I’m really glad I tuned in for the finale. They’d announced that Steve Carell wouldn’t be coming back, but I was really glad when he did, even if it was only for five minutes (presumably so he wouldn’t take the focus off everyone else) in which we learn that Michael finally has kids like he always wanted. Dwight and Angela get married in a predictably weird ceremony at the beet farm. Jim and Pam start a new life in Austin. Kelly and Ryan return to hook up again, and abandon Ryan’s baby in the process. Stanley retires. Creed gets arrested for…whatever he’s done in the past. And Andy utters this oddly poignant bit of wisdom: “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” The other great quote was the last line, which came from Pam and basically summed up the whole show: “There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?”

Breaking Bad

This show was never going to have a happy ending, but it pulled off a pretty satisfying one. Aside from a few lingering questions (i.e. how does one get ricin into a sealed-up stevia packet? And how, exactly, did Walt poison Brock?), they resolved everything, killed all the bad guys, and had Walt tie up all his loose ends before dying. Best of all, Jesse Pinkman lives! We last see him driving away laughing ecstatically, and I hope he found a new life somewhere else. But the moment of the finale that really stands out to me is Walt’s final meeting with Skyler. When she wearily says, “If I have to hear you say one more time that you did it for the family…” he surprises her, and us, by finally admitting, “I did it for me.” And strangely, it feels like the nicest thing he could say—probably because it’s the truth.

Friends

My memories of this finale are a bit tainted—I watched it with a bunch of friends in college, but as it happened, two of my friends who’d been dating went through a rather dramatic breakup that night, so that’s actually what I think of first when I remember this finale. But while this episode, on its own, isn’t one of the show’s best, it does wrap things up pretty nicely—Rachel gets off the plane and she and Ross are back together at last, Chandler and Monica end up adopting two babies instead of one after their birth mother realizes during labor that she’s having twins, and Joey…got his own short-lived show soon afterwards. In the end, they leave the big purple apartment behind and go get coffee.

Sex and the City
After the show ended, there were two movies- the first of which was fun at first watch but didn’t hold up upon rewatch and the second of which was just awful. If you forget about those, though, the last episode of Sex and the City was actually pretty great. For that matter, the whole last season was- SatC is that rare show where the ultimate season was its best one. Samantha is finally in real love, Charlotte gets a baby, Miranda is married with a kid and committed to her new family (even Steve’s ailing mom), and Carrie and Big (ugh) end up together, and his name is John. It worked, everyone was happy at the end, and they should have just left it here.

Six Feet Under

It’s weird that this is my favorite TV finale because the show overall is a bit of a mixed bag for me. It was about a family who ran a funeral home, and someone died in the cold open of each episode, often in a very strange way. (My near-death by falling vodka bottle would have fit right in on this show.) It starred Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose, and Rachel Griffiths, and the acting was superb. I wish I could say the same for the characters, who frequently became annoying. Peter Krause’s character, Nate, was awesome in Season 1, while his girlfriend Brenda (Griffiths), was not, and I thought Nate was way too good for Brenda. Well, by the last season, Nate had become unbearably obnoxious and selfish while Brenda had made strides toward redeeming herself, and by the end of the show I thought Brenda was too good for Nate. On the other hand, Federico, the one non-family employee of the funeral home, started off obnoxious and just got more and more so as the show went on. Michael C. Hall’s character, David, and his long-term boyfriend Keith were a couple you rooted for, but they had multiple variations on the same fight throughout the whole show. Season 4 had a really dumb plotline where David was kidnapped. Sometimes the fantasy sequences were overdone and got confusing. And I feel like whenever the writers got stuck for ideas, they pulled a character and a drug out of a hat and dedicated a subplot to seeing fill-in-the-blank character high on fill-in-the-blank drug. Seriously, way too much reliance on drugs as plot points.

And yet— the finale was excellent. It resurrected the touching moments that sometimes penetrated the weirdness and, fittingly, wrapped things up in the most final of ways—by flashing forward to the deaths of each of the main characters during a montage to Sia’s “Breathe Me.” It sounds morbid, but it was very fitting and left absolutely nothing unresolved. And rather than beginning the episode with a death, as all other episodes did, this one began with a birth—that of Nate and Brenda’s daughter Willa.

How Not to Be a Snob

I feel like lately, I see more and more people copping to being some kind of “snob.” Music snobs. Beer snobs. Wine snobs. Book snobs. TV snobs. Food snobs. Fitness snobs. And the thing is, they don’t even say it in an embarrassed, yeah-I-know-I-shouldn’t kind of way. They’re proud to be snobs. They are proud to look down on others.

So it’s time to make something clear here.

It’s okay to have likes and dislikes. It’s okay to have opinions.

It is not okay to be a snob. Ever. For any reason.

This is especially relevant now that Aaron Fucking Sorkin has come out with a new show that’s been blasted for using the same kind of snobbery that pissed me off so much when he tried it with Studio 60. As usual, if you don’t like it, you’re too stupid to get it—or, despite being  a reporter for a major newspaper, you’re a silly “Internet girl.” The fact that so many people defend what he says and does is what makes posts like this necessary.

So how do you know if you’re a snob or just expressing your opinion? It’s pretty easy. Let’s have a brief primer on what kinds of snobs there are and the things they say:

The Music Snob

One of the most infuriating kinds. You know those people—the ones who look down on you as a person if you like that overplayed pop song or that indie band who went too mainstream. The ones who consider pensive indie rock or less-mainstream classic rock the only music that matters. The ones who will tell you how wrong you are for listening to what you’re listening to. And 90% of the time, music snobs are people with no musical talent themselves. But they’re so good at listening, you guys! Their ears are so discriminating!

What it’s okay to say: “I actually don’t really like them. That one song gets on my nerves.”

“I did like them, but now they’re starting to annoy me.”

 

What it’s not okay to say: “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand how anyone can listen to them.”

“See, this is what you shouldbe listening to.”

*eye roll* “Is this [non-snobby band]? Really?”

 

The Beer Snob

Here’s the thing: beer is inherently something not snobby. It’s the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world. Historically, it’s been a drink for the masses, for the common man. Some people don’t like it, but most people who aren’t teetotalers have tried it at some point.

So of course people felt like they had to invent reasons to feel superior for drinking beer. Microbrews! Craft beer! Light beer sucks! You’re an idiot for drinking Miller and Bud!

And the worst part is, they consume their pretentious obscure brew so fucking slowly, because they want to savor it and not, of course, because it actually tastes like crap, that it’s going to be awhile before they get so drunk they forget to keep putting up the snobby charade.

What it’s okay to say: “I don’t really like that beer…it tastes too watered-down to me.”

“Have you ever tried this? I’ve been getting into craft beer lately.”

What it’s not okay to say:  “I don’t know how you can drink that. You don’t think it tastes like shit?”

“Oh, come on. Don’t they have any good beer?”

The Wine Snob

This kind of snob has been around longer than the beer snob, and thankfully, it’s less culturally acceptable among people my age. You know exactly who these people are—people who, like the characters in Sideways, swirl the wine around in their glasses, stick their noses in to smell it before tasting, and go into monologues about the quality of the wine until people’s eyes glaze over. Save it for the country club dinner, dude.

What it’s okay to say: “I’ve been getting into wine tasting lately. It’s really interesting!”

 

What it’s not okay to say: Pretty much anything else. No one cares.

The Book Snob

Here’s where I should make something clear: there is a difference between snarking on something you don’t like and snarking on the people who enjoy that thing. On the TV front, I used to be a big fan of Television Without Pity, and on the book front, there’s nothing wrong with making fun of a particularly cringeworthy book. A few years ago, the Twilight series was the snark of choice, and now it seems like every other post on my Google Reader is about how much Fifty Shades of Gray sucks—Lorraine’sposts are especially funny. (For the record, I have never read Twilight or Fifty Shades of Gray and don’t plan to.)

What’s not okay is making fun of the people who read those books—stereotyping them, insulting their intelligence—or telling people that they shouldn’t read it, like Joel Stein did with young adult books. I’ve seen a lot of photos begging people not to read Fifty Shades of Gray. But my feeling about this, which I’ve expressed before, is that at least they’re reading something—in an age when books have never been more threatened, why would you want to discourage people from reading?

What it’s okay to say: “Oh, my God, [plot point or badly written phrase] is so ridiculous.”

What it’s not okay to say: “Don’t listen to her—she’s just some idiot who likes Twilight.”

The TV Snob

This is an unusual one because it has nothing to do with what the snob likes and everything to do with what the snob dislikes: reality TV, Two and a Half Men, and sometimes just TV in general. It’s funny—people don’t generally get snobby about watching critically acclaimed shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, etc., but certain people will make sure to let you know what they think of you watching American Idol or Jersey Shore. I don’t think they realize that most people aren’t actually taking their reality shows that seriously. And if you’re one of those people who uses that tone to inform people that you don’t watch TV…um, kindly shut the fuck up. Contrary to what you may think, this makes you less interesting, not more.

 

What it’s okay to say: “I actually don’t have a TV. I just decided there were other things I’d rather spend my money on than cable.”

“I don’t really like reality shows. They’re all so staged.”

 

What it’s not okay to say: “Um, I don’t watch TV.”

“Um, I don’t watchreality shows.”

“You actually like that show?”

 

The Food Snob

There are about a million varieties of this one. There are the snobs who won’t eat in chain restaurants. The snobs who don’t eat junk food and make sure to let you know what they think of people who do. The snobs wholook down on you for eating meat. The snobs who look down on you for not eating organic. The snobs who look down on you for eating the healthy diet that you’re not forcing on anyone else.

Who really cares? This is a why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along kind of thing. You eat what you like, I’ll eat what I like, if we’re eating together we’ll figure out together what works for us. It’s really quite simple.

What it’s okay to say: “I don’t really like that restaurant. What about this one instead?”

“I’ve been trying to eat healthier—I found some really great organic recipes!”

What it’s not okay to say: “That is not food. How can you eat that?”

“You like Domino’s? Have you never had any other kind of pizza before?” (Side note: a friend of a friend actually said this to me once, and I kind of wanted to smack him.)

 

The Fitness Snob

So you work out. Great! You should be working out! You’re an inspiration to us all! But for the love of God, we do not need to hear about how much you work out and how we should all be doing it, too. Not everybody likes yoga or running or strength training. And those of us who do aren’t necessarily willing to run five miles at 6AM every day and then work out again at night. (So that I don’t sound bitter, I need to clarify that I’ve run two half marathons and am not averse to working out, just to hearing about how much other people do.) If someone asks you for workout tips, you give them—otherwise, you say nothing.

 

What it’s okay to say: “I’m really getting into running lately. It’s kind of addictive!”

“I’m really liking yoga. I feel great after I do it.”

What it’s not okay to say: “Oh, I feel so great after running five miles before work, like I do every day. Have you been working out lately?”

“The world would be a better place if everyone did yoga.” (I’ve mentioned this before, but someone actually said this to me at a party once.)

The Snobby Snob

Most people know better than to be this kind of snob, but some people have managed to surprise me. I had a roommate who went to Cornell and, like Andy on The Office, mentioned it every two seconds. His family had money and in his mind, anyone who didn’t come from a liberal, educated, East Coast background was probably stupid. The 2008 Democratic National Convention happened not long after I moved in, and when we watched this guy speak, after his great mention of how “we need a president who puts Barney Smith before Smith Barney,” my roommate said, “There’s no way he came up with that line himself.”

Yeah. I’m not even going to give examples of what to say and what not to say because, frankly, everyone should already know that.

I’m sure there are plenty of other kinds of snobs I haven’t mentioned. What other kinds of snobby things do people say that they shouldn’t?

Shut Up, Joel Stein

After I read this article, I swear I could literally feel my blood pressure rising. No, it’s not a life-or-death issue, but I cannot remember the last time an opinion piece pissed me off so much.

At least most people who read that article had the same reaction I did. Gina wrote a great post recently about the backlash to YA lit. Well, now it’s time for mine.

First of all, here’s the obvious observation: you can’t intelligently comment on a book you haven’t actually read. So because a book is labeled as appropriate for teenagers (which, mind you, is a distinction that the publisher and not the author makes and is often determined solely by the age of the protagonist), you won’t even try to find out if it is, indeed, something that adults shouldn’t read? If you don’t think you’d like a book, don’t read it. I don’t think I’d like the Twilight books, so I haven’t read them. But I can’t actually tell people I don’t recommend them because, as I said, I HAVEN’T READ THEM.

Second—you won’t read a book that you think doesn’t require enough “brain power.” Really? REALLY? THAT’S why you read fiction? If you were talking about nonfiction, you might have a point. If I want to learn about something, I’d certainly rather do so from a book aimed at adults rather than one you’d find in the nonfiction section of an elementary school library.

But why do you read fiction? Joel Stein, are you seriously telling me that you read fiction because you want to learn? Not to be entertained? Not to marvel at the author’s ability to construct a beautiful description, make a keen observation, or imagine a dialogue you can hear clearly in your mind? Not to see a reflection of your own life, or that of someone you know?

In the 2010 edition of The Best American Short Stories, edited by Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo (who happens to write fiction for adults that I thoroughly enjoy), Russo recounted a story about attending a reading with Isaac Bashevis Singer in which a student asked him what the purpose of literature was. Mr. Singer was adamant in his views on this subject: “To entertain and to instruct.” That sounds about right to me, and frankly, I’m inclined to believe a man who won the Nobel Prize in literature over a man who has written one memoir on “a stupid quest for masculinity.” (Low blow? So is banishing Harry Potter and The Hunger Games to the realm of tween girls, Mr. Stein.)

It’s possible that there’s no young adult literature will meet the standards of those who require “Pynchonesque turns of phrase” and “issues of identity, self-justification and anomie” from their literature, subjective though those qualifications are. But if you think that you won’t learn anything from young adult or children’s literature, you’ve either never read any YA books or you’ve only read bad ones. Lois Lowry’s The Giver, which I first read when I was ten, creates an incredibly complex dystopian world which, even as an adult, makes me reflect on the concepts of freedom of choice and an individual’s role in a successful society.  John Green’s Looking for Alaska, which I just read recently, drew me in with its narrative format, complex characters, and questions about how well we can ever really know the people we care about. The seven Harry Potter books are full of characters I could write term papers on and say so much about discrimination, corruption, and injustice in both its fictional world and the world we live in. Bette Green’s Summer of My German Soldier tells a unique World War II story with a take on themes of prejudice unlike anything I’ve seen in adult fiction.

And that’s just how those books instructed.  I could go on forever about how they entertained, which Mr. Singer notably included first.

Do you really want me to give more examples? To be totally honest, I think that the best of young adult literature is better than a lot of adult literature. Sometimes authors of adult fiction are too busy admiring their MFAs, disposing of adverbs, and sucking up to people more famous than they to remember the “entertain” part of the purpose of literature. And trying too hard to be different or edgy, as many authors of adult fiction do, usually backfires. Authors need to get the memo that infusing your novel with lots o’sex, drugs, and rock and roll is not original, often not very interesting, and has not been “edgy” for several decades. And if you’re writing fiction because you have a Message that you want to Convey, chances are that it’s as obvious as the gratuitous capital letters in this sentence. Christiana Krump introduced me to this awesome video by Ron Charles, the Washington Post’s book critic, where he critiques Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. While I did like that book overall, I had a lot of the same issues with it that he did.

And anyway—in this day and age, when, according to a 2007 survey, one out of four people do not read books at all and the people who do read only polish off about four per year (trust me, the miserable offerings on online dating sites confirm this), do you really want to shame people for what they read? Think about it. No matter what people read—if it’s fiction, nonfiction, YA, Pulitzer Prize winners, romance novels, mysteries, Harry Potter, Twilight, The Da Vinci Code, or anything else—they are keeping books alive in an age when books have never been more threatened. If you don’t agree with someone’s taste, so the fuck what? I don’t like rap music, but I’m not going to tell people they shouldn’t listen to it.

Not to mention the message it sends to kids when you impress on them that certain tastes are “correct.” Did you ever think, Mr. Stein, that some kids, rather than being embarrassed upon seeing their parents reading a book aimed at children or teenagers, might become excited to read that book themselves? With American students’ reading scores being as dismal as they are, encouraging kids to read is never, ever a bad thing, and one of the best ways to do it is by demonstrating enthusiasm about reading. Through work, several of my colleagues and I participate in a mentoring program called Everybody Wins in which we go to a Boston elementary school once a week to read to a kid in second, third, or fourth grade. It’s a program I really believe in because it shows students how reading can be fun rather than something they “have” to do for school. It makes me really happy to see how enthusiastic the fourth-grader I mentor is to come to our reading sessions, and even happier to hear her talk about the books she’s read on her own at home. Recently, she wanted to read a book on Greek mythology because she’d learned about Greek gods from the Percy Jackson series, which she’d read outside of school. She wanted to read that book because it was fun, not to learn something—but she ended up learning something anyway.

When I started writing this post, I was angry at you, Joel Stein. But now I just feel bad for you. I hope the snobbish standards you’re so determined to hold books up to are worth missing out on so many intelligent, entertaining, wonderful books that happen to be stored in a section of the bookstore that you think you’re too good for.

Dear Weather,

STOP IT. It is January 7th, and there is NO WAY that it should be as warm as it is today.

I WANT SNOW! This is Boston in January, and that is far from too much to ask. How is it that last year, when I was training for the half-marathon, we got something like six and a half feet of snow but this year there is not one flake of snow on the ground? The only snow we’ve gotten was over Halloween weekend, which was enough to knock out power lines all over New England but not enough to stick.

I am dying to go skiing on real snow. I want to see how lovely the bike path near my house looks when the trees on it are covered in white. I want to walk around at night as snow falls on very still, quiet streets that have not yet been disturbed by snowplows and sanders. I want to see how beautiful the snow looks when it hasn’t been marred by dirt and footprints. I want to flop down and make a snow angel. I want to go skating at Frog Pond (something I say I’ll do every year and never manage to do) surrounded by snow in the Common. I want to have an excuse to stay in sweats all day and read an entire novel with a big cup of hot chocolate. I want a season where it’s better to stay in than to go out and to hang inside with friends, watching movies or playing board games. I want to see for myself how cute Juno is when outside in the snow (Yaaeey! The ground is all weird! I’m a dog!).

See, I love the seasons. It’s why I never, ever want to live anywhere where it’s warm all year long. Excuse my cliched descriptions, but I love the flowers and blossoms coming out in the spring, and I love spring rain. I love reading outside, going to the beach, and walking around in flip flops and skirts in the summer. I love autumn leaves, the change to a more comfortable temperature, apples, pumpkins.

And yes, I love winter, too, for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned. Sadly, winter is currently MIA. I don’t know if it’s global warming or La Nina or what, but in any case…you better get your act together, weather. Or else I’ll…well, sadly, there’s not too much that a human can threaten the weather with. But if there was, I totally would.

Way too warmly yours,

Katie

Smoking Rant

Sometimes I think that if I could press a button that would wipe every smoker off the face of the earth, I’d do it.* Sure, there are a few of them I’d miss, but it would be worth it to be able to walk down the street and not have to smell and/or breathe in other people’s cigarette smoke.

I need to get across here the depth of my hatred of cigarettes. I have ranted here before about texting, obnoxious people on the T, and Arrested Development. But I would willingly travel the length of the T surrounded by obnoxious people, text until my fingers cramped, and watch the entire series of Arrested Development in one sitting if it meant that I’d never have to endure another person smoking ever again.

This is not because I don’t want people who smoke to die. It’s purely for selfish reasons. The smell of cigarettes makes me physically sick. I get headaches and stomachaches from secondhand smoke. If someone who just smoked a cigarette sits next to me, even that smell can make me sick.

But here’s the thing: even though smoking in restaurants, bars, and just about any place of business is illegal in Massachusetts, secondhand smoke is really fucking hard for me to avoid. Since I don’t have a car, I spend a lot of time walking around, and so many people walk down the sidewalks smoking and sending waves of smoke backwards. Or pause on the sidewalk next to a building to smoke. I am training for another half-marathon right now, and I cannot tell you how many times cigarette smoke has interrupted my runs.

Why on Earth is this considered okay? Yes, I know, it’s an addiction, it’s hard to quit, there are worse things that people could be doing, blah blah blah fishcakes. You know what? I DON’T CARE. Cigarette smoking is the only addiction that other people are forced to smell while minding their own business in public places. At least people who do hard drugs have the courtesy to indulge their habits in private.

And that’s not the only way that smokers ruin other people’s lives. I know three separate people, living in three separate houses, who lost their homes due to fires caused by other people’s cigarettes. I’m angry just writing about it.

No matter how hard I try, I cannot have any sympathy at all for anyone who forces other people to breathe in their cigarette smoke. If you smoke, you do it where no one who doesn’t want to smell it has to. Period. I don’t care if those places are hard to find. They should be. The alternative is quitting, not smoking where other people have to smell it.

Also, I just don’t understand it. Aside from the smoke, the physical act of smoking grosses me out, too. You are inhaling smoke into your lungs. I know that once you start you can get addicted, but…why would you ever want to try it to begin with? Just what is the appeal of inhaling smoke?

I’m also kind of amazed at how many people around here smoke. This is Boston, a city full of well-educated people who shop at farmer’s markets and do yoga and are obsessed with awareness of all kinds of issues. How are so many of them dumb enough to smoke?

And the only thing worse than a smoker is a self-righteous smoker. Googling “smokers’ rights” turns up more than 14 million hits. Um, I’m sorry, smokers’ rights? SMOKERS’ RIGHTS? Newsflash, assholes: YOU HAVE NO RIGHTS AND YOU SHOULDN’T. There is nothing written in the Constitution or the law of common sense that says that you should be able to smoke wherever you want. The rest of us, though? We most definitely have the right to be able to breathe the air in our own communities.

Oh, what’s that? Have I pissed some of you smokers off with this post? GOOD. You’ve pissed me off. But until I’ve forced you to breathe in chemicals that make you physically ill, all because you had the audacity to walk down your own street, I can’t say we’re even.

*I thought I’d made this clear, but of course I don’t ACTUALLY want to wipe smokers off the face of the earth. I was being facetious. But I do want smokers to stop making me sick when I walk down the street, and I do genuinely mean every other word of this post.

Pushing My Buttons

I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time now because I want to get it out there in hopes that someone out there agrees with me. I have literally not met one person around my age who does.

I hate texting. Almost as much as I hate Arrested Development.

Texting is fine if you have something quick to say (“I just got here. Where are you?” or “What time do you want to meet?”) but it baffles me how people can have extended conversations through text messaging. It’s just so slow—it could take five minutes to say something through texting when it would take thirty seconds on the phone. I thought that once I got my new phone I’d like texting more, but no such luck.

But I’m not so sure I want to like it, anyway. I just want the rest of the world not to like it so much, for many reasons.

First of all, I hate the way there’s no clear way to end the conversation. When you’re on the phone, you say, “Well, I have to go take a shower/do laundry/go to bed,” say goodbye, and hang up. When you text, sometimes one person thinks the conversation is over when the other doesn’t. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people freak out because someone (usually a romantic interest) didn’t text them back. Um, maybe they thought the conversation was over? Or maybe they just got sick of texting and didn’t feel like responding? Also, like with instant messaging, it’s really hard to communicate tone of voice, so you might end up misunderstanding something someone texts. There are no clear rules on texting etiquette, so it’s easy to misinterpret someone’s texts, or lack of texts.

And speaking of etiquette, why do people think it’s okay to sit there and text while talking to you? I get so annoyed when I’m at dinner with friends or at a party and someone is texting while trying to have a conversation with me. Seriously? I’m not worth your full attention because you have something to say to someone else that can’t wait until you’re done talking to me to my face? Just because I can’t hear what you’re saying doesn’t make it any less rude. I know that we’ve become a generation of multitaskers who have to do everything at the same time, which is part of the appeal of texting, but just because you can text while doing something else doesn’t always mean you should.

I find it profoundly depressing that teenagers today (look at me—twenty-six and already talking about “kids today”) text more often than they make calls. What’s going to happen when they get out into the business world? At work, I know that there are some conversations you have through email and some you have on the phone, and a lot of times it’s easier to get things done via phone. You just need to hear people’s voices sometimes. How will today’s teenagers know how to interact with people on the phone for work if they can’t even call their friends now?

I know that a lot of people feel awkward on the phone sometimes—I do sometimes, too—but do they really feel awkward talking to their friends? Don’t they ever miss the sound of their friends’ voices, especially friends who live far away? I know I do. Are people today really so busy that they can’t set aside the time to talk to people?

Is there really not anyone else who feels this way? I don’t like sounding like a cranky old person, but this is one thing that just gets on my nerves like nothing else.

Call Me Elaine

I write a lot here about TV shows I like. Now, I’m going to write about one that everyone seems to like except me.

Remember that episode of Seinfeld when Elaine found herself dumped and fired, all because she didn’t like The English Patient?

Well, I haven’t been dumped or fired, but the reactions I’ve gotten to my declarations of hate for this show have been priceless. I’ve gotten all the cliché signs of shock: loud gasps, jaw drops, disbelieving stares, and “Really?” There are probably more coming when people read my next sentence.

I hate Arrested Development.

And I do mean hate. Not “couldn’t get into it,” not “okay but not my thing.” I strongly dislike the show.

I think I’ve given it a fair chance. I’ve seen the first three episodes (so I’m familiar with the characters, the premise of the show, etc.), the second season premiere, the second season episode “Meat the Veals,” and possibly another episode at some point that I can’t recall.

But I do not enjoy the show. I don’t find it funny, for one thing. I understand the jokes, but they don’t make me laugh. Occasionally, there’s a good line or plot twist (I will give you that “There’s always money in the banana stand!” was pretty funny), but they’re few and far between.

More importantly, I don’t like the characters—any of them. If they were characters in a movie, they might be tolerable, but I find them all too annoying to want to follow their progress across three seasons. There’s an element of believability with them that’s missing, I think—not one character on the show seems anything like a real person, and nothing that happens seems anything like real life. I think the best comedy is rooted in truth, which is what differentiates this show from shows like The Office. Characters like Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute can do outrageous and, yes, annoying things, but there are things about them, and all the other characters, that you can recognize in people you know, and characteristics that make them relatable and likeable. And everyone knows someone like Jim or Pam or any of the other characters on The Office. But do you know anyone like Buster or Tobias? I don’t. Can you identify with any of the characters on Arrested Development? I can’t.

Other reasons for not liking it: George Michael having a crush on his cousin Maeby grossed me out. Too much of the humor is slapstick. And I think most people have an actor who irritates them for some inexplicable reason, and for me, that actor is Jason Bateman. I don’t know why—something about him just bugs me.

What bugs me even more, though, is the attitude Arrested Development fans have toward anyone who disagrees with them. Recently, I Googled, with quotation marks, “don’t like Arrested Development,” and it only turned up four page of hits. Most of them were things like, “The only people that don’t like Arrested Development are the people too stupid to understand it,” and “Funny how the people that don’t like Arrested Development type like 12 year-olds, and the people that do have the English language down pretty well.”

Funny how those people, who apparently think I’m stupid, don’t know that they should have said, “The only people who don’t like Arrested Development…”

From talking to people who like the show, both on and offline, that attitude seems to be the rule rather than the exception. You don’t like Arrested Development; therefore, you’re too stupid to “get it.”

But what I really don’t get is where this attitude comes from. Is it just because the show was canceled so early? Is it really that hard for people to understand that someone might not like it? Believe it or not, I know what it’s like to love a show that no one’s watching. A few years ago, I liked the extremely low-rated Six Degrees, and lately, I’ve become a bit of an evangelist for Damages, which has Emmys and a lot of critical acclaim, but not great ratings. But I realize, even as I encourage others to watch them, that neither of those shows will appeal to everyone. I’ve never needed to make myself feel superior to the people who didn’t watch a show I liked and led to it being canceled. But apparently, most Arrested Development fans do. It’s a show that intelligent, educated people are “supposed” to like, the way that you’re “supposed” to like indie music and foreign films. And the really funny thing about that idea is that, from what I’ve seen of it, the show relies pretty heavily on dumb slapstick gags that a five-year-old could understand.

Like any kind of cultural snobbery, this attitude pisses me off. It’s the same reason Aaron Sorkin’s attitude about Studio 60 provoked such a strong reaction in me, and the same reason I’m so bothered by music snobs.

But there have to be other people out there who hate Arrested Development as much as I do. After all, there weren’t enough people watching it to keep it on the air longer than three seasons. If any of them stumble across my blog, I beg of you—come out of hiding! I’m here to tell you that it is okay not to like this show, which is probably a new thing for you to hear. Despite what fans of the show may make you think, you are not stupid and neither am I!

And maybe, once you find me, we can figure out what the equivalent of Elaine’s, “Quit telling your stupid story about the stupid desert and just die already!” would be for Arrested Development.

Along With Death and Taxes…

…we can always depend on drama when it comes to commencement speakers at Catholic colleges.

To warn you, this is going to be a rant. It bothered me three years ago and it bothers me now.

My sister Caroline is graduating from BC in a few weeks. I don’t know who her graduation speaker will be yet, only that it won’t be President Obama, who was her freshman convocation speaker (this was in the fall of 2005, when he hadn’t yet announced whether he’d run for president—way to go, BC!). Instead, Obama will be speaking at Notre Dame, a school that any BC football fan is not too fond of.

So, that was an unfortunate choice on his part, but not as unfortunate as the reaction that’s coming from some people at ND. People are calling it a scandal—a scandal!—that Obama was asked to speak and to receive an honorary degree. Mary Ann Glendon is even turning down the award she was going to receive because of it. Why? Because Obama supports abortion rights, to which the Catholic Church is staunchly opposed.

I’m not at all surprised by this. I suspect the culture wars are present on every college campus, but there’s an extra layer added to the arguments when you’re at a Catholic school. At BC, people would always try to validate their opinions by claiming that the Catholic Church was on their side. On the left, people would bring out that argument to try to convince the administration to disinvite Raytheon from the career fair or to ban military recruiters at school. On the right, people would cry Catholic in their arguments against The Vagina Monologues on campus and the gay-straight alliance.

And it’s all such bullshit. If you’re going to invite a politician to speak at a graduation at a Catholic college, I can guarantee you that there’s not one politician whose positions align completely with that of the Catholic Church. The Church is opposed to abortion and stem-cell research, sure, but it’s also opposed to the death penalty and the war in Iraq. Find me one politician who’s against all those things.

“But Katie,” some of you are probably thinking, “you only feel this way because you’re a Democrat and an Obama supporter. Would you object to a Republican speaking at a graduation?”

Funny you should ask, because I wouldn’t, and I didn’t. Three years ago at BC, my commencement speaker was Condoleezza Rice. While I personally don’t like her and don’t agree with her politics, I was excited when I heard she’d be our speaker. I thought it was an honor to have the Secretary of State give our commencement address, and regardless of my views on Rice’s politics, I do think she’s articulate and a good public speaker. And when she did speak, her speech was well-written, well-delivered, and completely devoid of politics.

BC is not a particularly liberal school, but I was astounded at the reaction from a good portion of my graduating class. Protests were held, petitions circulated, armbands that read “Not in My Name” were worn, and backs were turned when Rice received her honorary degree. People tossed around phrases like “not representative of Jesuit ideals” and “against Catholic values.” Outside the school, 200 protesters shouted and held up signs saying things like, “BC Supports Lies and Torture.” There was even a plane flying overhead with a banner that read, “Your war brings dishonor.”

I’m uncomfortable with displays like that for a simpler reason than opposition to this position or that position. People certainly have the right to protest, freedom of speech, yea First Amendment, blah blah blah fishcakes. But common decency tells me that there’s a time and a place for protesting and making statements, and honestly, I just think that protesting anything at a graduation is incredibly rude. This is the thing that a lot of people lose sight of: there would not be a commencement address if there were not a large group of people receiving bachelor’s and advanced degrees. No one is there specifically to hear the speech or see someone receive an honorary degree. They’re there to honor the people who have completed years of studies and earned degrees. I always took it for granted that I’d get at least a bachelor’s degree, and nearly everyone I know has completed college, but according to this recent study, only 29% of US adults can say that, and only about 9% have graduate or professional degrees. Even if it might not seem that way if it’s something you’ve always expected, graduating from college or grad school is a major accomplishment. The commencement speaker might receive an honorary degree, but the people a commencement ceremony really honors are the ones with their names on the diplomas. It seems a shame to let politics and religion get in the way of that.

So to the class of 2009 at Notre Dame: congratulations on graduating, and on snagging Obama as your speaker. Regardless of your political views, I hope you enjoy the speech, since I think even his most zealous opponents would admit that he’s a great public speaker. I should warn you, though, that my graduation started hours later than it was scheduled due to the very tight security we all had to go through, so I don’t envy you that. Also, your football team still sucks.

And to whoever is choosing the speaker for Caroline’s graduation, I really hope you pick an interesting person whose presence is not a matter of national security.

Going Up…But Not That Far

There are certain things that become less socially acceptable after you graduate from college. Sleeping late. Going out on Thursday nights. Going to The Kells on any night (especially Wednesday). But, I’ve recently discovered, one of the biggest college taboos somehow becomes more acceptable once you enter the working world.

When did it become okay to take the elevator to the second floor?

Now, obviously I’m not talking about the elderly, people with disabilities, or people carrying something heavy. But 99% of the time, those are not the people taking the elevator to the second floor. Those people have absolutely no excuse other than laziness.

The thing is, in college, if you took the elevator to the second floor, you would not be able to talk to anyone else in that elevator ever again. If looks could kill, you’d be mutilated by the eyes of every person going to a higher floor. People might even make some snide comment if they were having a particularly bad day.

And it wasn’t just the second floor that was off-limits. So was the third floor, and my friend who lived on the fourth floor of an eight-story building used to fret about whether it was okay for her to take the elevator. You couldn’t take the elevator from, say, the third floor to the fifth floor, either. It was a terrible breach of etiquette, not much different from stealing someone’s parking spot or dumping their laundry on the floor. We were college students, and we may have procrastinated on homework, gone to Mary Ann’s instead of studying, and decided sleep was unnecessary, but we were going to get back to our dorm rooms fast, dammit, and no lazy person was going to stand in our way!

But the people in my office who need to get to the second floor don’t seem to remember that.

This morning, I got into the elevator with another woman, and after I pushed the button for the fifth floor, I watched in dismay as she pushed the button closest to 1. She let out a yawn, then looked at me and said, “I’m sorry…still tired.”

Yeah. Because your yawning is the worst thing you just subjected me to.

Local Politics Rant

I don’t often discuss politics in my blog, but this is one local issue that I can’t get off my mind lately, so excuse me while I vent.

I grew up in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, which is about forty-five minutes north of Boston. One of the reasons my parents chose to live there was because of its good school system, and I agree that for the most part, I had a great experience in the Chelmsford public schools. I had some amazing teachers, and I feel that I was so well-prepared for college that college actually seemed easy to me. I majored in English, and none of the English classes I took at BC were as rigorous as the English classes I took at Chelmsford High. I had a terrific calculus teacher who made things so easy to understand that I wondered why anyone thought calculus was hard. I had some wonderful teachers in elementary school and middle school, too, and some of my fondest memories of high school involve extracurriculars: swim team, musical theater, treble choir, yearbook, etc.

I don’t live in Chelmsford anymore, so I don’t really follow the local news there, but this week, I read in the Globe that voters had failed to approve a property tax override that would have prevented several budget cuts. I was sad to hear that, but I had to give the voters the benefit of the doubt, since I’ve never had to pay property taxes myself. Nobody likes tax increases, and I thought that if the override had failed so decisively (3 to 2), it must have been a significant increase.

Then I found out more facts about it. Because this override failed, an elementary school will have to be closed permanently, when the schools are already getting overcrowded. Students will have to be redistricted yet again. There’ll be a $200 bus fee per child, when previously, buses were completely covered. Student activity fees will be significantly increased, which means that some kids might not be able to afford to participate in the extracurriculars I was involved in. 35 school employees will be laid off. A fire station will be closed permanently. Police officers and firefighters will be laid off. Libraries will have to cut their hours.

These are not small things. These are life-changing, property-value-diminishing, educational-quality-decreasing, threat-to-public-safety changes. The people of Chelmsford decided, through the democratic process, that several people should lose their jobs, residents should be more vulnerable to crime, homes should be more likely to be destroyed by fire, and that the town should no longer have a high-quality, enviable school system that makes people want to raise a family there. That override must have been for a hell of a lot of money, I thought.

Then I found out exactly how much. This document explains that the taxes on a home valued $370,000, which is slightly above the town average, would increase by about $200 a year.

Whoa.

Back up there.

$200 a year? $200 a year! Not a month! A year. A YEAR! $200! Not $2,000. $200! Two zeroes! Two!

Now, you all know that I have no money. The first word of my blog title is “struggling.” I recently joined a Facebook group called “I work in publishing and I’m underpaid.” Taking a vacation is a dream of mine, and God only knows when I’ll be able to afford a house. But when I can, I will most definitely be willing to spend $200 a year to help schools and town services. I’d be willing to pay that now, for God’s sake, as little money as I have!

I just don’t understand this way of thinking at all. Not wanting a tax increase when you don’t know where your tax dollars are going is one thing, but how can you see these very specific things that are going to be cut and think, “Oh, we don’t need good schools! Screw the fire department and police, I’ll take the risk and save myself $200 a year!” I get that a lot of the people voting against it are senior citizens on fixed incomes, but most of them had children in the school system in the past. How can they look at the kids in their neighborhood and feel okay about decreasing the quality of their education so that they can save $200 a year? How are that many people so selfish?

The last override in town happened seventeen years ago. I actually vaguely remember it—I was in first grade, and my parents, along with many, many others, had a bumper sticker on their car and a sign on their lawn urging people to vote yes. I was only six and had no idea what taxes were, but I remember thinking, “Well, of course people should support the schools. Why wouldn’t you?”

Seventeen years later, my thinking hasn’t changed at all. Maybe someday I’ll look back at this and think, “Oh, you stupid, idealistic twenty-three-year-old. You have no idea how the world works,” but I really don’t think so. Last year, Chelmsford was named the 21st-best place to live in America by Money magazine. Somehow, I doubt that it will happen again. And I used to think that once I was married with kids, I’d like to live there and have my kids go through the Chelmsford public schools. Unless something major changes between now and then, that’s most definitely not an option anymore.

I believe strongly in public school education. In college, I was amazed to meet so many people who had gone to private schools, since I barely knew anyone who did growing up, and I’ve never quite understood the school choice position because it doesn’t address the problem of how to fix failing schools. Education is a right, not a privilege, and the people of Chelmsford, who, according to the PowerPoint presentation on this page, spend $2,000 less per student than the state average, aren’t asking for anything extravagant. They just want a school system in the town they live in with good teachers, small class sizes, available transportation, and affordable extracurriculars. I thought most people in Chelmsford felt the same way.

But apparently, by a 3 to 2 margin, they don’t.