S-s-s-singin’ that blah, blah, blah

So, there I was, mindlessly singing along to the radio on my mundane, road construction-filled drive from one job to another, when I realized: “What the heck am I singing?”
A. Top 40.
B. A song I don’t necessarily like but, nonetheless, know all the words to.
C. Idiotic lyrics.
D. All of the above.

Guilty. And I've given up caring who sees me.

D., of course. Unless it’s the LSAT or my nutrition class, where they throw in options like “A and C only,” or pose questions like “Which could be, but need not be, true,” just to make you second-guess yourself.

But, really, as someone who oftentimes likes songs solely for their lyrics, I felt like I was betraying myself. When I really think about how little a song contributes lyrically and how much depends on a catchy tune or the name of the person singing, it kind of makes me want to just turn off the radio.

Metal has nothing to do with the Top 40 pop music I'm discussing, but this was too good.

Not to be all pretentious and obnoxious. I’ll listen to Top 40 radio as much as the next guy. But we don’t always pay attention to the lyrics; that’s the beauty of music — if the tune is catchy, it doesn’t really matter how stupid the words that go along with it are.  But once you start to think about them (if you’re like me, at least), you realize how much you would make fun of the lyrics if, say, a local band (or someone like Rebecca Black, whose song I will not even include in this post because it’s glaringly obvious) were singing them.

This is the advertisement for an actual band. It came from MySpace, so it has to be true.

Allow me to illustrate:

“Right There” by Nicole Scherzinger featuring 50 Cent
Would we love it if 50 Cent didn’t proclaim, “It’s just another one / Another number one,” at the beginning of the song? Probably, because the radio tells us to.
Here are some gems:
“Me like the way that you hold my body / Me like the way that you touch my body / Me like the way that you kiss my / Yeah yeah yeah me like it.”

See, it’s a little different when you see it in writing. Come on, Nicole, use your big girl words!

 

“Look at Me Now” by Chris Brown
Gems:
“Better cuff your chick if you with her / I can get her / And she accidentally slip and fall on my d*** / Oops, I said on my d*** / I ain’t really mean to say on my d*** / But since we’re talking about my d*** / All of you haters say hi to it / I’m done.”

Um … so are we supposed to be impressed when we “look at you now,” because I literally giggled at how ridiculous those lines are when I read them for the first time. I had no idea he was saying that, probably because I’ve only ever heard the radio edit.

 

“What’s my Name” by Rihanna featuring Drake
I feel like Rihanna’s gotten a lot of play on my blog. I really don’t dislike her music, she just gives me a lot of things to write about.
Gems:
“The square root of 69 is eight-something, right? / ‘Cause I’ve been tryna work it out, oh.”

Is that supposed to be a pickup line? Smooth …

“I can get you through a mighty long day / Soon as you go, the text that I write is gon’ say / Oh na na, what’s my name? / Oh na na, what’s my name? / Oh na na, what’s my name? / What’s my name? / What’s my name?”

You know how I would feel if I got a text message like that. Most people would probably be like, uh, what the heck? That’s obnoxious.

 

“Peacock” by Katy Perry
Heard this one on the radio for the first time yesterday. It provides some lovely new inappropriate lyrics for small children nationwide to unwittingly belt out. Katy Perry pesters some guy the whole song to let her see his “peacock,” and then this is her reaction:
“Oh my God, no exaggeration / Boy, all this time was worth the waiting / I just shed a tear / I am so unprepared / You’ve got the finest architecture / End of the rainbow looking treasure / Such a sight for me to see / And it’s all for me.”

1. Why are there so many shlong songs lately? Can we sing about something substantial please? Plus, the day I hear my 10 year-old sister singing, “Are you brave enough to let me see your peacock? / Don’t be a chicken, boy, stop acting like a beeyotch,” I say I’ll drop over dead, but I’ll probably just blog furiously about it again. If I don’t even realize how often I’m senselessly singing about wieners and random girls’ luscious booties in the club, how are they supposed to?
2. Is shedding a tear a good reaction? That seems a little over-the-top.

 

“I Know You Want Me” by Pit Bull
This song has to contain one of my favorite ridiculous lines ever:

“Mami got an a** like a donkey with a monkey that looks like King Kong.”

Uh, is that a good thing? This line was brought to my attention by this video segment from The Current news channel a few years ago.

And this screenshot from it always runs through my head when I hear that line:

And Sergio saying, "Oh, yeah. That's hot." Or whatever he says with it. The video's worth watching just for that clip.

(I realize I didn’t embed the actual video. It was disabled by request. 😦 Mer.)

 

“The Call” by the Backstreet Boys
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a BSB fan and, yes, it’s a guilty pleasure. “The Call” is the tale of how the Backstreet Boys cheated on their apparently collective girlfriend and made up a lie to her about it over a cell phone conversation. My friend Jessie and I share feelings on how awesomely terrible the lyrics to this song are. Pretty sure we sang karaoke to this song at our high school graduation party … And that probably won’t be the last time.
Gems:
Chorus: “Listen baby I’m sorry / Just wanna tell you don’t worry / I will be late, don’t stay up and wait for me / I’ll say again you’re dropping out / My battery is low / Just so you know we’re going to a place nearby / Gotta go.” (Yes, I recited these lines from memory.)

 

“Summer Girls” by LFO
It’s not new. It’s rarely on the radio anymore. But it takes the award for the song with the worst lyrics ever. (Well, maybe now it ties with “Friday.”) But “Summer Girls” moves completely into the realm of “so bad, it’s good.”

The way they jump completely from one subject to another for the sake of rhyme and rhythm alone is hilarious. If you looked up none of the other lyrics, this one is worth clicking the link for solely because it’s so bad it’s funny. (It’s okay, I still know all the words to it from when nine year old Kaitlin found it on her “Totally Hits” CD and listened to it on her boombox while playing Barbies. Yeah. Either it’s that old, or I’m that young. Whichever way you want to look at it.

Gems:
–The chorus, of course: “New Kids on the Block had a bunch of hits / Chinese food makes me sick / And I think it’s fly when girls stop by for the summer / For the summer / I like girls who wear Abercrombie and Fitch / I’d take her if I had one wish / But she’s been gone since that summer / Since that summer.”
–“You’re the best girl that I ever did see / The great Larry Byrd: jersey 33 / When you take a sip you buzz like a hornet / Willy Shakespeare wrote a whole bunch of sonnets.”

 

Next time you find yourself mumbling that catchy song you don’t really care much about, aside from the fact that it’s on the radio every 20 minutes, listen to the words you’re actually mumbling. It’s pretty good for a laugh and a hopeless head-shaking at the demise of lyrical quality in pop music.

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Can’t get enough over-analysis?

I’m going to assume you know about my neurotic tendency to over-analyze things. Rest assured that it doesn’t stop at text messages. As many readers commented on the texting article, any kind of communication that’s not face-to-face opens up the opportunity for misinterpretation. And I’m well aware. I planned to write this post before the texting one exploded, but I figured I had to wait a while, so it wouldn’t look like I was just trying to re-do that.

I LOVE this. So me.

I think the only form of technological communication I over-analyze more than texting is interactions on Facebook. Facebook presents the opportunity for so many more subtle, silent “body language” stand-ins, causing me, at least, to analyze my creeping to the max.

I’m guilty of contributing. I often have cryptic statuses, straight from the depths of my latest favorite obscure indie folk song. But I would never put up a cryptic lyric status unless it related in some way to what I was feeling that day, or my current life situation. There’s always a “hint hint” factor in hopes that whomever or whatever it’s directed toward over-analyzes.

Okay, so this one's not from an obscure song ("Flake" by Jack Johnson) but it's been a while since I had a cryptic status and this was the most recent.

If anyone ever gets the reference, though, they don’t tell me. I always make sure to say something if I sense an underlying reason for someone’s quoted status. Sometimes the person is like, “Wow, you got that? That’s totally what I meant!” But, most of the time, they either don’t respond (To me, that’s Facebook lingo for, “You’re totally over-analyzing, but I’m not enough of a jerk to call you out in front of the world of Facebook and make you look stupid”), or they call me out in front of the world of Facebook and make me look stupid.

This girl got called out. But she was totally asking for it.

On my inaugural creep of a new Facebook friend, if I find they have 400 profile pictures and 396 of them are MySpace-style self portraits in the mirror making the duck face, I judge. I don’t know if that’s entirely out of the ordinary — I think it’s safe to say most people will get the impression that user is pretty self-absorbed and really likes the way they look. Maybe that’s just general analysis.

Why? You're fooling no one. Your cheekbones don't look like that unless you're making that face all the time ... which I guess some people are.

While we’re on the topic of profile pictures, there’s always the “hidden meanings” in them, as well. If you’re in a relationship with someone, it’s not uncommon to set your profile picture as the two of you as a happy couple. But God help you the second you change it to a picture of, say, just yourself, or you and some friends. People will start wondering if maybe you’re mad at each other. Rumors will fly that you’re having relationship problems. Maybe one of you is cheating. It’s ridiculous, I know. But, believe me, I’ve seen it happen.

I try to limit my Facebook friends to people I actually interact with in real life (or used to and want to stay in touch with). But leave it to the one thing you don’t want that random acquaintance to see, and they’ll comment on it.

That always makes me wonder just how much of my personal stuff they’re actually creeping on. I like to imagine that only the people I have in mind when I post things see said posts but, of course, that’s not the case on Facebook. It’s times like those I wish Google+ would just catch on already, with their Circles. After worrying which things Random Acquaintance could have possibly seen in the past, I usually end up placing them on my no-no list in my privacy settings … for a little while, at least.

This was likely a hack, but if it wasn't ... Well, then I guess you're asking for it by posting it on Facebook.

Say it’s your birthday. (“It’s my birthday, too, yeah!“) Everyone and their mother will wish you a happy one on your Wall (literally). And if you have a close Facebook friend who doesn’t (which I would define as someone you know in person and interact with on Facebook a lot), it’s on.

See, your birthday is the one time of the year people will creep out of the shadows and post on your Wall. Even if I agree 100% with a post of someone I never talk to on Facebook, I’d feel like a creep if I commented on it. We’ve all got to admit, there are some people we’re friends with solely to “silently” creep on. But that inhibition dissolves on someone’s birthday, where you’re almost obligated to write on their Wall, or else you’ll look like a jerk. I admit, I still hold it against at least a certain person who I know purposefully didn’t acknowledge my Facebook birthday. It’s ridiculous, I know. But it’s like a virtual slap in the face.

I always try to avoid statuses asking if “anyone” wants to do something. (Although, I did, out of desperation, ask who was up for sushi last week because I was craving it and Chris isn’t a fan of the raw fish. It led nowhere. I never got my sushi.) These statuses are traps: Either no one will comment on it, making you feel like a loser who has no friends, or all those Random Acquaintances from before will comment on it, leaving you in an awkward situation.


The “liking” option is sometimes dangerous, too. “Liking” something is usually a way of saying, “I agree casually.” Unless you write something about how bad your day sucks and someone “likes” it with no explanation.  (A suitable explanation could be: “‘Liked’ only because I agree — Not because of your situation!”) Or unless it’s one of those “Bobby went from being “In a Relationship” to “Single” notifications. Those are always fun for attracting the wrong kind of attention. The only other acceptable case for a “mean like” is if you’re good enough friends with the “liker” that you know they’re just messing with you. An unexplained “like” on a depressing status is like kicking someone when they’re down, and is grounds for unfriending.

This is boyfriend Chris, so I know he's messing with me.

On the topic of “liking,” “liking” one’s own status is almost never okay. It says: “I don’t know how to use Facebook,” or, “I’m that much of a loser.” Exceptions, of course, apply in the case of intentional situational humor.

Acknowledged, rendering it situational humor.

Then, there’s the lingering friend request. You request to be someone’s friend, and they don’t accept or deny, but they just never confirm either way. This is a polite way of getting around things. You don’t want to feel mean and deny them, but you really don’t need them creeping on you. So you just let the request linger there in Friend Request Purgatory. I admit, I currently have over 20 of these — People I haven’t talked to since eighth grade who request to be friends with me, people I have never met in my life that come here for oilfield work and see I’m from North Dakota, and people I’ve unfriended because everything they post makes me want to vomit who just don’t get the hint and keep trying to re-friend me.

Straight from my page

I thought I was crazy with my over-analysis of texting, but with the responses I got, I know I can’t be alone here, too. Or maybe I can. Feel free to let me know if I just need to take an extra dose of my happy pills with this one.

Hey, I’ve never been 21 before.

Not so long ago, I turned 21. And I’ve been “using my power,” as I call it, almost every chance I get, even if it’s just to browse the liquor store and not buy anything (which, I’m sure, looks kinda sketchy) or to go into a 21+ bar and grill with no intention of getting drunk. But I still have yet to get the hang of the whole bar thing. Or the inherent … comfortableness everyone has with one another at bars. I make plenty of noob mistakes.

Little turtle = Kaitlin. Big turtle = Everyone else at the bar

First of all, in general, I have no idea what to order. I’m not going to pretend I was some pristine being and never touched a drop of alcohol until I was 21, but really, dorm drinking (and sometimes even house party drinking) is very different than drinking socially for pleasure. Dorm drinking usually consisted of the cheapest crap someone could smuggle into the dorms mixed with whatever soda was still left in the vending machine in the hallway. Sometimes ice, if you were classy. It usually tasted roughly like rubbing alcohol and Sprite/Coke/Mountain Dew. Badass.

A.K.A. Rubbing alcohol.

I couldn’t wait to step up to the bar, lean against it all smooth-like, and order a drink. On my birthday, most people ordered drinks for me and funneled them down my throat. So when I stepped up to the bar later in the evening for my suave moment, free birthday drink voucher in hand,  I  had a mini panic attack when I realized I had no idea what to order. It was the time of night when I was getting sleepy … “Can I get a vodka Red Bull, please?”

Something like that ... In my dreams. I'm never that smooth.

Fail. I now realize that if I had a free drink, I should have gotten something expensive and delicious that I’m too cheap to buy myself. But I had no idea what that would be at the time.

"Bring me two pina coladas. One for each hand ..."

So, I’m cheap. I go where the specials are. Except how the heck am I supposed to know what the “wells” or “rails” that are on special are? I don’t want to look like the noob that just turned 21 and ask. (Even though they can see my birthday on my ID, I guess. I still have my pride!) So, of course, I Google it and find out the terms are interchangeable, and they basically just mean a simple drink made with cheap alcohol. Back to the dorms it is!

I’ve also come to realize that normal social boundaries are all demolished when it gets to be about 11:30 p.m. at a bar. That personal space bubble that usually floats around everyone? Gone.  Popped. It usually makes me uncomfortable when people I just meet hug me or hold my hand or tell me they love me and we’re going to be best friends forever or demand to get a picture with me as I come out of a bathroom stall because I’m a blonde. Not at a bar. At a bar, that’s perfectly acceptable. (Although, I would be really interested to see that picture I took with the girl in the bathroom. Maybe someday.)

Speaking of bathrooms, not too long ago, a girl sat next to me at a bar that smelled like that nauseating smell when someone leaves a nasty surprise in the bathroom and tries to cover it up with sickeningly sweet vanilla air freshener. Normally, I would have had to get up and leave, but eventually I became immune to the smell because we started talking and decided we would make pretty good friends. I would have probably passed out from the gaggish scent of girl that smelled like bathroom poo cover-up in real life, but in bar life, I not only remained conscious, but discovered that she was quite a nice person. Aw, yay for learning life lessons in a bar.


But all sentimentality aside, I can now see how people end up going home with companions they would never normally end up with after a night out.

"Explainthisimage.com" is right. I don't even know how they got this picture.

I still have a ton to learn about being 21. A ton. Like how to deal with creeps that won’t stop pestering you to play beer pong just so you can be “arm candy” for other creeps. And what to order — I’m definitely in a rut with my drinks of choice so far: Long Islands, Jeremiah Weed and lemonades (current fave), and vodka cranberries. (Apparently vodka cranberries are old lady drinks? Psh, don’t judge. They’re delicious.)

Any suggestions? Teach me, oh wise ones.

“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.

Things North Dakotans Like

I never realized how marketable an upbringing from North Dakota can be. Until very recently, I thought that my whole life, no matter where I go, I’d be plagued with having to say, “I’m from North Dakota,” and getting the looks of disbelief and the 20 questions:

“So it does exist!”

“Oh, so you’re from Canada?”

“Oh my gosh! Say “roof” again! Haha! Now say “flag” or “bag.” Haha!” (I still don’t hear that I say “flag” and words that rhyme with it weirdly.)

“What’s it like to live without electricity?”

Or just plain:
“Oh wow, you’re far from home.”

We exist!

I got my first taste of the world outside the Midwest when I was 16 — I took a 36 hour bus trip to Atlanta, GA, for the National Catholic Youth Conference. (Mhm. Go ahead.) I got all of the questions I mentioned earlier and more. I was honestly really embarrassed by it. I even began working on reducing my “Nort’ Dakohhtan” accent. (By the way, I’m fascinated that link exists.) I distinctly remember starting to dream about living in New York City (but I wasn’t opposed to the idea of any big city outside of the Midwest) at age 8. At age 16, I still thought I’d have to get rid of all traces of my roots (pronounced rhyming with “foot,” the way it should be) to make it anywhere else.

But now, I totally embrace my background. Sure, I still can’t wait to move somewhere “big” and see what the world has to offer me. But come on, what’s a better conversation starter anywhere else in the country than telling someone you’re from North Dakota? My boyfriend is originally from the East coast (first Pennsylvania, then Maryland, now his family is living in Virginia) and on my first visit to his family’s house, his mom used my background to our advantage. During the long wait for a table at a restaurant, she mentioned I had come all the way from North Dakota to visit. Here’s something I’ve learned: People who are not from North Dakota are generally fascinated to meet someone who is. It’s like we’re mythical creatures or something. We talked with the hostess briefly about what the state is like, and I answered her questions about it. It may have just been that the conversation made time pass more quickly, but it seemed we were seated shortly after.

Ha. Ha.

This wasn’t the only time something like this has happened. I recently learned that a North Dakota background is not a bad thing to bring up when applying to universities or jobs out of state. So, in an effort to bridge the gap between the “North Dakota doesn’t exist” jokes (Very funny. Can we be any more unoriginal?) and the roughly 640,000 North Dakotans who feel like the rest of the country wouldn’t care if we didn’t exist, here are a few things you can bring up on either side of the issue to get the conversation started.

Things North Dakotans Like:

  1. We like talking about North Dakota.Especially in places where North Dakota is nonexistent in the minds of the residents. The first time I ever saw the ocean, I was 19. I was wading and splashing and getting knocked over by waves alongside little kids at the beach. I was silently competing with a five year-old to dig sand fiddlers from the shoreline. Nearby sunbathers must have thought I was just a weirdo, but if I had yelled out, “It’s ok, I’m from North Dakota!” all would have been understood. Striking up conversations with vendors on the boardwalk, it seemed they thought I was from another planet, but in a good way. They had a lot to ask about and say when they found out where I was from.
    Oh, yes. There’s documentation of my first experience with the ocean. Notice the little boy effortlessly bobbing in the waves in the background. Ugh.
  2. Our cuisine. You may not have realized North Dakota has a cuisine. I didn’t fully realize this either until I was having a conversation with a few professors of mine.
    Hotdish: We like hotdish. (You may know this as a “casserole” in other parts of the country.) Hotdish is funny and delicious simultaneously. Even the word alone can provoke giggles. There is, however, a strong divide between those who support corn in their hotdish and those who despise it. Peas, however, are almost always taboo.

    Gooey tater-totty goodness

    Pie: North Dakotans have an appreciation for a good slice of pie. We often make pies out of ingredients that sound like they’re made up: juneberries, chokecherries, rhubarb, buffalo berries, and crab apples, to name a few. (Fun fact: The chokecherry is North Dakota’s state fruit, thanks to some kids from Williston, ND.)
    “Ethnic” Food: Ethnic for us is German and Norwegian. Some desserts we like are krumkake (kroom-cacka – kind of like the cone part of an ice cream cone), lefse (potato flatbread smothered with butter and sugar), and my personal favorite, kuchen (koo-kin – the German word for cake — There are a lot of varieties, but the link shows one closest to my Grandma’s neighbor’s secret recipe, which is to die for).

    We’ve also been known to love knoefla soup, (nef-la, not ka-na-ful-la, as I’ve sometimes heard it pronounced) a creamy potato soup with dumplings.

    A controversial part of North Dakotan cuisine is lutefisk — Cod soaked in lye for several days until it becomes gelatinous in texture. Williston, ND’s, First Lutheran Church holds one of the largest lutefisk dinners in the country every February. (I’ve never been one to partake.)

    Melts in your mouth?

  3. Nice weather. And talking about the weather every day, good or bad, for that matter. Don’t assume that just because we live here we all love arctic temperatures. The summer is just so hot and full of storms that it distracts us from how terrible the winters are. Then it starts snowing again in October, and we wonder why we live here. But we also take pride in our hardiness.

    This is what we do for entertainment at UND -- It's on several graduation bucket lists.

  4. County fairs: We don’t have amusement parks around here. (Can you imagine why, with our winters?) I think the closest one is either Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America or Valleyfair in Shakopee, MN, which are both anywhere from 4-12 hours away, depending on where in North Dakota you live. So, as kids, we lived for the county fair in the summer. I can’t believe I ever trusted the rides they put up, sprayed puke off of, and took down in the course of 3 or 4 days, but it was something my friends and I looked forward to all year. I think parents like them, too, because it gives their kids something to do in the summer besides sit in front of the TV and drive them crazy.

    Attractions at the fair I attended yearly growing up

  5. Hunting and fishing: Kind of a given. The weekend of deer season opener especially is a statewide holiday. The school system used to plan “fall breaks” around it, so kids would have an extra day to go hunting. Kids in North Dakota have been around guns since they’re small. (My younger brother would tag along on hunts when he was 4 or 5.) Yet, there’s never been a school shooting in the state. Kids here are raised to respect the danger of firearms.

    My boyfriend, Chris, my dad, and my brother, Tanner, with my dad's buck this past season. (The sun was in their eyes -- Not the most flattering picture.)

Bringing up any of these things will ensure an enriching conversation between North Dakotans and non-North Dakotans. I’m sure there are countless more things we North Dakotans like, and maybe I’ll talk about those later on, but this will do for now. Anything particular you’d add?

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.