The Best Worst: Commercials

There were plenty of delightful commercials this year, some so good that we don’t fast forward through them. Who didn’t love VW’s Tiny Darth Vader? Heartless troglodytes, that’s who. But I’ll leave judging the best among them to The Clio Awards.

Instead, let’s talk about the worst commercials. The kind that make people write angry letters. The kind that make you want to go back to an agrarian society simply so you’ll never again be exposed to such dreck.

These products are not inherently annoying. I am not including, for instance, the Alvin and the Chipmunks movie advertisements, because it is in their nature to be deeply irritating. I’m also not including any Old Navy commercials because the task of picking which is worst among them was stressing me out. (Seriously. How are they so consistently terrible?!)

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My dad has apparently gotten himself obsessed with The Big Bang Theory (the TV show, not the cosmological model.)

We sat and watched a few episodes together, and my dad chuckled to himself, “I guess there really are people out there like that, huh?”

Oh dad. If ever you have a son-in-law, there’s a damn good chance you’ll see for yourself.

Sigh. At least I know myself.

Everywhere, they are wisest

Is there any story more beautiful than The Gift of the Magi? (Probably, “yes,” you are thinking, because literature is subjective!)

Many friends associate that story with me, because few things make me laugh so consistently as off-kilter Gift of the Magi references. In particular, saying “that’s just like The Gift of the Magi!” in reference to a situation that is imperfectly related to the plot. To explain why it slays me so would be impossible, but I am delighted that my friends seem to enjoy tickling that particular funny bone.

But I also love the story genuinely, without humor or a shred of irony. It strikes me as one of the truest love stories ever written, the daily joys and sacrifices that come with loving another person for life after the credits have usually rolled on the more dramatic romances.

I don’t know if I connect with The Gift of the Magi because I so enjoy gift-giving, or if perhaps I adore gift-giving so much because the story resonated so deeply with me.

I have an odd relationship with materialism. I know that presents do not equal love, yet I sometimes express my affection through gifts. I believe that money does not buy happiness, but gifts do make people happy. I like things, but I like people more.

Ultimately, beyond the reptile brain appreciation of stuff (which I’m not hating on. I love stuff) I think what makes people happy about receiving presents is knowing that there is emotion attached to the object. The giver expends resources (time, thought, money, creativity) like the ingredients of a spell to imbue this thing with some magic, the power to symbolize love, affection, desire, gratitude.

Gift giving makes me happy because in spending my time, money, and energy finding the right gift, I am able to reflect on the people in my life. It gives me a concrete reason to think about the things that make them unique, experiences we have shared, and how they have impacted my life. It is impossible not to feel lucky after that.

And of course, there’s a game to it. There is a certain selfish pride in being clever, the puzzle of each person on my list. I’m going to go ahead and brag: I’m good at the game. If Santa retires, I’d apply for the job and at least get a second interview.

Materialism can run rampant, certainly. If all of the stuff and things were gone, ultimately, the people would still join hands and sing “Dah Who Doraze.” I believe that. I think even the Black Friday tramplers at Walmart are simply caught up in something ugly, but at heart are just trying to express something good. The pressure of gift giving is the dark side of a beautiful practice. If Della cut her hair off because she thought she had to, it wouldn’t be so poignant. I know your love for me does not depend on receiving this thing. I know that if there was nothing in my hand to offer, or (heaven forbid) the wrong thing, I would still be loved. And that is what makes giving all the more golden.

“And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.” 

Merry Christmas, friends. May you all be so wise.



Your Moment of Squee: Polamalu Press Conference

It may be a recurring theme on this blog (it certainly is in my life) that I think Troy Polamalu (Steelers’ Strong Safety, for any non-Pittsburghers) is dreamy. Aside from the fact that he’s easy on the eyes, the combination of vicious warrior on the field and zealous do-gooder off of it makes me swoon a little.

Another recurring theme of blog and life is that I am temporarily incapacitated by excessive adorability.

Given the facts, I probably should have strapped in before watching this video. You’ve been warned.


The Best Worst: Ear Worm

One of the best things about December (and there are many, it’s a great month) is the flurry of countdowns and best-ofs leading up to the new year. Expect to see a lot of that here.

I get songs stuck in my head like, well, I’ve just spent 15 minutes trying to come up with a metaphor that would suitably describe both the frequency and tenacity that songs stick in my head, without success. It’s a lot, just trust me. I have a library of snippets in my head, but pop culture is always adding to it.

The Best Worst Song To Have Stuck In Your Head Of 2011?

Tonight, Tonight by Hot Chelle Rae

It is insidious. I actually woke up humming it this morning (yes, as a few lucky souls have noted, I sort of hum in my sleep sometimes.) It is catchy, yet grating. I turn up my nose to it and bop my head at the same time. And there’s just a glimmer of misogyny for flavor. Of course, my iTunes would be awfully Ani-heavy if I only listened to music that had zero misogynistic undertones.

Having watched this video a number of times (for RESEARCH!), I’m wondering if Trouty Mouth is actually in this band, or just an actor in the video. I’m not wondering it enough to google it, but I’m curious.

Let’s hear it for the boycott

Donuts were provided for a meeting I attended at the Foundation recently, which is always a nice way to start a morning. The one I nibbled was pretty tasty, and I wondered where they’d come from, as the to-go containers in which they arrived were unmarked.

When the head of the Foundation entered, someone offered him a pastry. He took one and asked “where did we get these?”

Peace, Love, and Little Donuts,” the admin who planned the meeting returned.

My stomach dropped.

“Mmm. I don’t think we should buy anything from there anymore,” Mr. Executive said, with a tightness to his voice. When questioned, he explained that Peace, Love, and Little Donuts supports offensive politics. Continue reading