“I’ll have what she’s having.”

Have we no minds or imaginations anymore?!? I’m not one to talk — I’ve been suffering from a major lack of ideas of what to write about lately. I find it a little ironic that this is what I came up with.

But if anyone can respect a good movie or song reference, it’s me. A ton of my type of humor relies on pop culture references. But there’s a fine line between a witty reference or an inventive use of “sampling,” and becoming a mindless pop culture spewing drone.

Two birds with one stone: A Futurama reference and an illustration depicting mindless drones

Summer has long been known as the season of the sequel at the movie theater. And with the list of sequels getting longer each season, the lack of original movies becomes pretty apparent. If you’ve clamored to 12 a.m. sneak preview showings to see Transformers 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Hangover 2, and already are the proud owner of tickets to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II, you’re not alone. (I haven’t seen the first two, but I admit, I enjoyed The Hangover 2 … Even more than the original, which stressed me out a lot. Yeah, that’s how neurotic I am.)

But at least movie sequels make it obvious what the original is they’re referencing. Sampling is a practice that’s becoming increasingly popular in mainstream music. I’m not knocking it — It can be a real art. I think it’s usually a great way for an artist to repurpose a song that inspired them and make it their own. The thing I have beef with is when songs I liked months or years ago are sampled and the resulting song becomes more popular. Top 40 lovers know every word to the new song, but in my experience, an alarming amount have no idea that there was an original song behind it.

If you like any of the songs on the left, you may want to have a listen to the songs on the right. Click the links to hear the songs.

“The Show Goes On” by Lupe Fiasco ——- “Float On” by Modest Mouse (I recently heard a local DJ try to credit the original song, but mis-identified the band as Muse. It took all I had not to call in to the radio station and start screeching.)

“Paper Planes” by M.I.A. ——- “Straight to Hell” by The Clash – My dad is a fan of The Clash and would play them a lot when I was younger, which is probably the reason I like “Paper Planes” so much. “It ain’t Coca-Cola, it’s rice.

“Whatcha Say” by Jason Derulo —— “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap (If you have some trouble recognizing it, skip to 2:51 in the video)

“Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys ——- “Love on a Two Way Street” by The Moments

“S & M” by Rihanna ——- “Let’s Go to Bed” by The Cure (As you may know, I already discussed my thoughts on “S & M.” The song not the — uh … practice.)

Is the practice of sampling and referencing burrowing its way into everyday life? I can almost never get through a conversation without making or hearing a reference to something. I know I do it all the time. Is that okay?

Well, Houston, we may have a problem. It seems what we have here is a failure to communicate. Then again, perhaps frankly, my dears, we shouldn’t give a damn. After all, if all we do is make sequels, sample songs, and quote movies in conversations, our brains will have so much more room for activities. Maybe we can’t handle the truth that we’re just running out of original thoughts. Maybe the sun will come out tomorrow, and we’ll think up some stuff on our own for a change. Until then, hasta la vista, baby.

I’ll be back.

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Super Sweet 16…and Pregnant

There are few shows I find myself hopelessly addicted to, which is good because I only get like 10 channels. But, there are a few reasons I miss cable. One of them is my fascination with pregnant teenagers.  I can’t miss an episode of Teen Mom or 16 and Pregnant.

When 16 and Pregnant first came out, I thought to myself, They have enough pregnant teenagers willing to put their pregnancy on TV to make a whole series out of this? As I’ve now learned, there’s no shortage of teens who find themselves preggo and proud enough to be on MTV, and that’s a good thing:  What else would I do on a Tuesday night at 9?

The recipe for every episode of 16 and Pregnant is almost always the same:

  • Teen gets pregnant. Oops.

"Oh, crap."

  • Teen tells boyfriend, who:
    A. Runs away screaming
    B. Sticks around until the kid is born, and then runs away screaming or
    C. Asks her to marry him, at least attempting to make an honest woman out of her. (This usually ends catastrophically.)

Like this episode, which ended with this guy speeding away in a fit of rage with his twin infants in the back seat of his car, leaving his baby mama on the side of a busy road in the rain ...

  • Teen tells parents, who either:
    A. Freak out and disown her or
    B. Support her
  • Teen has kid
  • Teen realizes raising kid is harder than she thought
  • Show usually ends in tears

In this case, because Father of the Year ended their relationship via text message, calling her a "stretch-marked b****" and asking where he could "sign off" responsibility for their "mistake."

Teen Mom basically picks up where 16 & Pregnant leaves off, illustrating the way the young moms’ lives haven’t gotten any easier.

The shows are intended to be a form of birth control, providing a raw perspective into the unglamorous life of a teenaged mother. But many of the girls’ lives seem anything but unglamorous since their launch to celebrity status, featured on entertainment TV shows and in magazines. I can’t walk down an aisle in the grocery store without seeing headlines like “TEEN MOM’S PREGNANCY SHOCKER” and “SEE TEEN MOMS IN BIKINIS” (which, if I didn’t know better, might prevent me from opening the magazine).

Monsters, strange men, and felons! Oh, my!

As if we don’t get enough of drama-filled pregnancies between the tabloids and TV, each of the Teen Moms has countless Facebook fan pages, some official, and some … hardly. Hey, you go, girls. I’ll admit I’m a fan of them — I couldn’t do what they’re doing even in my early 20s. But these pages have grown to several thousands of fans who swarm every post the teen moms write with hundreds of comments, which usually turn into in virtual fan catfights. Meow.

The teen moms act annoyed with the amount of prying these fans are doing online, constantly sending them messages asking them to confirm or deny rumors they see in the tabloids. (And I hate to say it, but it kind of makes me think, Come on, you’re sorta asking for it.) In any case, the fame must not seem too bad, since others are jumping on the bandwagon.

In a recent incident, Jordan Ward, who was featured on the first episode of this season’s 16 and Pregnant, has just announced she’s pregnant with her and her husband’s second child … at 18. And her husband was just deployed with some branch of the military — or maybe he’s just gone for training. It’s hard to know for sure because she recently took down her official Facebook fan page that declared what she was doing every second of the day. (The link above is to her identical twin sister’s Facebook fan page … All of these things contributing to my point.)

Chelsea Houska, a South Dakota teen featured on 16 and Pregnant and later Teen Mom 2, battled baby daddy drama with the very public help of her friend and roommate Megan Nelson. (Who, by the way, gets the award for Friend of the Year. The 18 year-old not only lived with Chelsea and her baby, she helped out regularly, even occasionally giving up her weekends to babysit.)

Fans apparently enjoyed Megan on the show so much that they prompted her to create a Facebook fan page. Megan must have really caught baby fever living with Chelsea and her daughter because, not long after her rise to “fame,” it came out that Megan is pregnant herself. Her page now has over 23,000 fans, who clamor for every detail of her pregnancy, from the sex of the baby, to the name ideas, to details about the baby shower and where she is registered.

Megan’s dad now even has a Facebook page with over 1,000 fans, as well as other “randoms” who may or may not have appeared on the show for like 10 seconds. Some teen moms and fans have even set up fan pages for their babies.

But the really troubling thing is when average high school girls get pregnant and create fan pages for themselves. Since I first noticed this happening last fall, the teens have refrained from labeling them “fan pages,” making the fame whores a little harder to spot. (This was probably due to the blatant ridicule they endured by others on their public pages. I wish I had taken a screen shot.) A few girls placed themselves on the 16 and Pregnant Facebook page before the season started, tricking fans who thought these girls would be featured on the show into becoming fans of their personal pages.

Because that's what finding out you're pregnant when you're 16 looks like. OMG so fun!

Since then, teen mom “fan pages” have developed a semblance of a community support forum rather than a place to gain fame. Even Megan Nelson’s page now includes a disclaimer in the info section declaring that her page is NOT a fan page. (Although it used to proclaim it was in the page’s title.)

Of course, there are still countless pregnant teens who sneakily seek the kind of attention MTV’s teen moms are getting, like this couple who posts every detail about their pregnancy on their page, and frequently comments on the pages of the girls featured on MTV to gain traffic.

The fact that teen parents have a way to come together and support one another online is fabulous. And I’m not saying MTV is causing the teen birth rate to explode. (It’s actually doing the opposite.) I’m merely observing with surprise that a general air of “Meh, oh well,” has gradually increased toward the phenomenon of publicizing teen pregnancy. When I was in high school, people treated the few pregnant girls like they were diagnosed with a terminal illness — and that was only 3 years ago. But after 16 and Pregnant, girls in the situation can think, She did it. So can I. Still, I’m both loving and hating that the show has made teen pregnancy seem a little less scary. Especially since the days when this was preached:

Ahhhh!

Oh, Gary.

I wanted this not to be true. I really did.

Oh, yes. It's Gary time.

Don’t ask how I stumbled upon this. I don’t even know. Maybe it came from trying to find when the next season of Teen Mom starts (with the original people). It starts July 5, by the way. But, alas, it’s Gary time.

If you’re a Teen Mom fan, or live with/date someone who is, you may remember Gary as the victim of domestic violence at the hands of Amber Portwood on the original season of 16 & Pregnant and Teen Mom. Amber was recently in the news for dodging a 2-year jail sentence for the aforementioned domestic battery. Instead of jail, she’s been ordered to get her high school diploma, get some therapy, and set up a college fund with at least $10,000 for her daughter, Leah. Since when does our legal system allow stuff like that?

Best. Screen shot. Ever.

And then I find this Gary thing … I honestly did serious digging because I thought there was no way Gary’s official Facebook fan page would be selling shirts with his face on them. But, lo and behold, it appears to be him, saying it’s “ran [sic] in conjunction with Gary Shirley from MTV’s Teen Mom” and “therefore … is the sole official Facebook page.”

So he’s peddling t-shirts with his face on them. I’m not sure whether Gary and Amber are currently “on again” or “off again,” but at least Gary’s heart seems to be in the right place — His Facebook page declares that portion of the sale from each one of Gary’s shirts goes directly to their daughter, Leah. I guess if you’re going to whore out your face on a t-shirt, you might as well put some of the profits toward your kid.

For $20, all this could be yours.

Hello, Gypsies!

"Vaarry niiiice!"

So, I stumbled upon the sneak peek episodes of an upcoming series on TLC called “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.” I honestly expected to watch about 10 minutes, because the preview reminded me of “Toddlers and Tiaras,” which chronicles the life of miniature pageant divas. If you’ve ever seen an episode, you know how appalling this insight into their lives is, since they’ll eventually be the future of America. But, I digress.

Cue the theme music from "Psycho"

“My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” didn’t make me fear for the future of American culture and society. I actually found myself completely engrossed, mainly because I — like most people — know nothing about modern Gypsy culture. To be honest, I had no idea Gypsies still exist. Probably because their lifestyle is intentionally kept extremely secretive. But I found their way of life so interesting and strangely contradictory that, instead of changing the channel during the first commercial, I watched straight through the second episode to a full hour.

Both of these might actually be brides -- Anything's possible for the Gypsies.

The show started in the UK, where a large population of Gypsies continues to reside. Called “Big Fat Gypsy Weddings” in its original British version, the show caught the interest of over 9 million viewers. The pilot episodes that premiered tonight on TLC featured Gypsies from the UK, but a little pop up appeared at the bottom of the screen asking, “Are you a member of the US Gypsy or traveller community?” and offering a website where you could sign up for the show. (The terms “Gypsy” and “traveller” seemed to be used interchangeably on the show — I’m not sure if different subcultures have different preferences. I mean to be PC. For the sense of ease, I use the term “Gypsies.”) I’m really interested to see what turns up in the US, since in my bubble of North Dakota, I’m completely naive to the fact that cultures like this exist.

The shows I saw both featured one bride and one young girl preparing for her first communion — the second most important milestone in a gypsy girl’s life. (Her wedding is the most important, often planned by Gypsy girls since they’re able to talk. Religion is a staple of Gypsy culture — It seems most are Catholic.) For these girls, the bigger and more over-the-top these events are, the better. Donning dresses that oftentimes outweigh the wearer, the Gypsies ensure they’re the center of attention on their big day.

This girl was actually a non-Gypsy marrying into the traveller lifestyle. She was assured hers was the biggest dress the designer had ever created.

Another unique thing about Gypsy culture is the average age they tie the knot. Most girls begin looking for a husband by age 14 or 15 and are married by 17. Teens often get dolled up and attend other Gypsies’ weddings in hopes of finding a future husband. From the time they can toddle, Gypsy girls are raised strictly to be housewives — It’s unacceptable in Gypsy culture for a women to go into the workforce, placing even more emphasis on the need to marry early.

Gypsy women’s emphasis on capturing the center of attention through their looks isn’t saved exclusively for their weddings. Going out on the weekends, these young girls definitely portray a much older image. They generally wear short shorts or skirts and cropped tops — even at age 7 or 8. Special occasions are another story. The picture below features a bride-to-be at her bachelorette party. Her mother and friends were all dressed similarly, supporting her on her last night as a single girl.

No, she's not the entertainment at the bachelor party -- She's the bachelorette.

Despite the reputation their clothing style might give them, Gypsy girls have extremely strict morals. They are closely sheltered by their parents and families — Dating is a strict process. Any kind of physical interaction before marriage would cause the girl to be viewed as “scandalized.” (Which is probably another reason for the early marriages)

Another element that stands in strict contrast to Gypsies’ emphasis on looking their best is their home life. They’ve generally moved away from the traditionally nomadic lifestyle they’re known for, but retain the potential to be mobile, shunning stationary houses in favor of trailers.

The bride in the pink dress featured in one of the earlier pictures goes "house hunting" with her fiance.

In light of my low expectations from the commercials, I’m proud that I can safely say I didn’t spend another mindless hour in front of the TV losing brain cells and faith in humanity. Although “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” undeniably has “big fat” entertainment level and shock value, it’s also worth a watch for its educational insight in to a subculture that may otherwise have gone unnoticed. Ten million British viewers can’t be wrong.

Stoop kid’s afraid to leave his stoop. Maybe Jamie Lynn should have tried that.

Stoop Kid: A Hey Arnold! classic

Ah, yes. Nothing can soothe the savage college student like a little piece of nostalgia. Chances are, if your interest was piqued by that sentence, you’re a 90s kid, or the parent of one. And you know it came from an episode of Hey Arnold! You grew up on Nickelodeon at its prime. Who can forget shows like Doug, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Rocko’s Modern Life (my personal favorite — I own every episode ever made on DVD), and the ultimate classic, Rugrats (which — OMG — still has a maintained webpage on Nickelodeon’s site). Netflix one of these shows in a room full of 18-20somethings and we’re mesmerized in front of the boob tube with our mouths open, likely regressing to the same position we took while watching TV as kids.

The cartoon case of Doug

After engaging in the aforementioned activity not long ago, I couldn’t help but think about the striking difference between the episode of the always-wholesome Hey Arnold! I’d just watched and the shows my little sister, who’s 10, watches on a daily basis. Hey Arnold! and similar shows almost always incorporated some sort of life lesson into its silliness. Looking back, these messages held through into my adult years — In fact, everyday events sometimes still prompt me to reminisce about some TV show I used to watch as a kid. Whether it’s Rocko’s Modern Life’s satirical commentary on, well, modern life, or CatDog’s message of universal acceptance of those who are different.

I’ll admit, I’m a cartoon-lover. So, every time I visit home and am sharing the living room with my sister, I can’t help but get sucked in to whatever show she’s watching. Only, they’re hardly ever cartoons anymore. She went through a Zoey 101 phase a few years ago, until her favorite show was cancelled due to the star, Jamie Lynn Spears’s, teenage pregnancy. What a great role model for a then-5 year-old.

Don't make it sound too good, Jamie Lynn.

Then, she was addicted to Hannah Montana.

Hannah Montana was apparently the wholesome alter-ego.

Yeah, my point exactly.

Aside from most of these shows being mind-numbingly vomit-inducing, the demographics they appeal to are completely inappropriate. Shows like Hannah Montana and Zoey 101 deal with pre-teen issues, like shopping and makeup and dating boys. But the main age group these shows appeal to is 8-10 year-olds, and it definitely shows. My sister comes home from school with stories about her friends putting on makeup to go to movies with boys. They’re fourth-graders.

As if it isn’t bad enough that my little sister is singing along to the radio about “boys trying to touch her junk,” she’s got her role models, who are only 6-8 years older than her, getting knocked up and dancing on poles.

I’ve tried to turn my sister on to the cartoons I grew up with but, alas, she finds them boring. So much for that mode of sisterly bonding. I find she tries to have more things in common with me than I would ever expect of my 10 year-old sister. At age 10, I was still playing with Barbies and stuffed animals. While it’s fun to have a sister to talk with about painting nails and clothes shopping, it makes me a little sad that she’s growing up so much faster than I ever expected.

Super Sweet 16…and Pregnant

There are few shows I find myself hopelessly addicted to, which is good because I only get like 10 channels. But, there are a few reasons I miss cable. One of them is my fascination with pregnant teenagers.  I can’t miss an episode of Teen Mom or 16 and Pregnant.

When 16 and Pregnant first came out, I thought to myself, They have enough pregnant teenagers willing to put their pregnancy on TV to make a whole series out of this? As I’ve now learned, there’s no shortage of teens who find themselves preggo and proud enough to be on MTV, and that’s a good thing:  What else would I do on a Tuesday night at 9?

The recipe for every episode of 16 and Pregnant is almost always the same:

  • Teen gets pregnant. Oops.

"Oh, crap."

  • Teen tells boyfriend, who:
    A. Runs away screaming
    B. Sticks around until the kid is born, and then runs away screaming or
    C. Asks her to marry him, at least attempting to make an honest woman out of her. (This usually ends catastrophically.)

Like this episode, which ended with this guy speeding away in a fit of rage with his twin infants in the back seat of his car, leaving his baby mama on the side of a busy road in the rain ...

  • Teen tells parents, who either:
    A. Freak out and disown her or
    B. Support her
  • Teen has kid
  • Teen realizes raising kid is harder than she thought
  • Show usually ends in tears

In this case, because Father of the Year ended their relationship via text message, calling her a "stretch-marked b****" and asking where he could "sign off" responsibility for their "mistake."

Teen Mom basically picks up where 16 & Pregnant leaves off, illustrating the way the young moms’ lives haven’t gotten any easier.

The shows are intended to be a form of birth control, providing a raw perspective into the unglamorous life of a teenaged mother. But many of the girls’ lives seem anything but unglamorous since their launch to celebrity status, featured on entertainment TV shows and in magazines. I can’t walk down an aisle in the grocery store without seeing headlines like “TEEN MOM’S PREGNANCY SHOCKER” and “SEE TEEN MOMS IN BIKINIS” (which, if I didn’t know better, might prevent me from opening the magazine).

Monsters, strange men, and felons! Oh, my!

As if we don’t get enough of drama-filled pregnancies between the tabloids and TV, each of the Teen Moms has countless Facebook fan pages, some official, and some … hardly. Hey, you go, girls. I’ll admit I’m a fan of them — I couldn’t do what they’re doing even in my early 20s. But these pages have grown to several thousands of fans who swarm every post the teen moms write with hundreds of comments, which usually turn into in virtual fan catfights. Meow.

The teen moms act annoyed with the amount of prying these fans are doing online, constantly sending them messages asking them to confirm or deny rumors they see in the tabloids. (And I hate to say it, but it kind of makes me think, Come on, you’re sorta asking for it.) In any case, the fame must not seem too bad, since others are jumping on the bandwagon.

Screenshot from Jordan Ward's fan page. Jordan was featured on the first episode of this season's 16 and Pregnant, and recently announced she's pregnant again with her second child at 18.

Chelsea Houska, a South Dakota teen featured on 16 and Pregnant and later Teen Mom 2, battled baby daddy drama with the very public help of her friend and roommate Megan Nelson. (Who, by the way, gets the award for Friend of the Year. The 18 year-old not only lived with Chelsea and her baby, she helped out regularly, even occasionally giving up her weekends to babysit.)

Fans apparently enjoyed Megan on the show so much that they prompted her to create a Facebook fan page. Megan must have really caught baby fever living with Chelsea and her daughter because, not long after her rise to “fame,” it came out that Megan is pregnant herself. Her page now has over 23,000 fans, who clamor for every detail of her pregnancy, from the sex of the baby, to the name ideas, to details about the baby shower and where she is registered.

Megan’s dad now even has a Facebook page with over 1,000 fans, as well as other “randoms” who may or may not have appeared on the show for like 10 seconds. Some teen moms and fans have even set up fan pages for their babies.

But the really troubling thing is when average high school girls get pregnant and create fan pages for themselves. Since I first noticed this happening last fall, the teens have refrained from labeling them “fan pages,” making the fame whores a little harder to spot. (This was probably due to the blatant ridicule they endured by others on their public pages. I wish I had taken a screen shot.) A few girls placed themselves on the 16 and Pregnant Facebook page before the season started, tricking fans who thought these girls would be featured on the show into becoming fans of their personal pages.

Because that's what finding out you're pregnant when you're 16 looks like. OMG so fun!

Since then, teen mom “fan pages” have developed a semblance of a community support forum rather than a place to gain fame. Even Megan Nelson’s page now includes a disclaimer in the info section declaring that her page is NOT a fan page. (Although it used to proclaim it was in the page’s title.)

Of course, there are still countless pregnant teens who sneakily seek the kind of attention MTV’s teen moms are getting, like this couple who posts every detail about their pregnancy on their page, and frequently comments on the pages of the girls featured on MTV to gain traffic.

The fact that teen parents have a way to come together and support one another online is fabulous. And I’m not saying MTV is causing the teen birth rate to explode. (It’s actually doing the opposite.) I’m merely observing with surprise that a general air of “Meh, oh well,” has gradually increased toward the phenomenon of publicizing teen pregnancy. When I was in high school, people treated the few pregnant girls like they were diagnosed with a terminal illness — and that was only 3 years ago. But after 16 and Pregnant, girls in the situation can think, She did it. So can I. Still, I’m both loving and hating that the show has made teen pregnancy seem a little less scary. Especially since the days when this was preached:

Ahhhh!