Elizabeth Spiers

journalist & digital media expert

On Spanking (And Not the Fun Kind)

The New Republic has an interview with a child psychology expert about the damage inflicted by corporeal punishment.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I grew up in a home and an environment where corporal punishment was the norm and not the exception. Because the Adrian Peterson story is so high-profile, I think there’s a big conversation about how the African American community views corporal punishment, but as the Washington Post notes, “Most races spank their children, especially Southern whites who are fundamentalist Christians.”

My parents are Southern white fundamentalist Christians, and we grew up in a working class community where nearly everyone else was a fundamentalist Christian and about 65% of the population was white. I don’t think I can recall a single person I knew who didn’t get spanked as a kid. I also went to school for twelve years at a tiny segregation academy* that was not parochial, but still had teachers who felt comfortable reading Bible stories in class and taught Creationism as a competing theory to evolution. There were 32 kids in my graduating class and no black students. Corporal punishment was doled out as a response to any sort of misbehavior and the principal would even spank 16 and 17 year old guys who were on the football team.

So spanking was part of life–at school, at home and throughout the community. I got spanked and slapped across the face as a kid, and so did my brothers. And the fact that my parents did this made them no different from anybody else’s parents.

That said, I can tell you right now that if or when I have them**, I will never hit my kids. I don’t believe in it morally, philosophically–and I don’t believe it works.

My moral stance is simple: violence is not acceptable, except in self-defense. If you can get an assault charge for slapping an adult, the only way to justify doing it to a child is to argue that children are not fully human and deserving of the same rights. Which is, on some level, what many people believe, whether they choose to put it in those terms or not. But people who are Christian fundamentalists are never going to buy a moral argument because it’s too easy to assemble some literalist reading of Old Testament lore to justify the convenient notion that children are second-class citizens and property of a sort.

So while I don’t think it will necessarily persuade anyone I grew up with, I want to address the efficacy point. One of the reasons why corporal punishment is so prevalent is because people really think it works. Enough spankings and bad behavior stops. And sometimes, it does with small children, but not because the children in question have re-evaluated their moral calculus with regard to bad behavior. If it curbs or induces any sort of behavior, it’s simply because the child is afraid of being hit in response. That’s not character-building, and it does not teach respect. It only teaches fear and response, something that all animals with a working autonomic nervous system can understand, but which has nothing to do with right and wrong.

For me, it had that fear-inducing effect, up to the point where I was mentally and emotionally developed enough to expect that if an adult did something on my behalf, or to me, they should be able to provide a good reason for it. And I wanted to know what those reasons were very, very early. As in pre-school early. Very often in our household, those questions were verboten. And the older I got, the more questions I had. Why can’t I do this? What is the point of this? Why this and not that? “Because I said so” was my mom’s favorite phrase and if I asked again, it was not uncommon to get a slap in the face as a response. The question itself was ‘disrespectful”, that the answer was none of my business, and so on. I think the intended effect was to make me stop asking the questions altogether, which didn’t work. My mom also did this, typically, in a moment of exhaustion and frustration, usually with things that had nothing to do with me. She would get very distraught and upset, and I didn’t understand it because I just wanted a reason, and so I would stand there like some sort of tiny Alabamian Dr. Spock protesting quietly that what was happening was not logical. In retrospect, it was probably deeply irritating to her, but I still don’t think it warranted a palm to the side of the cranium.

As a result, especially in elementary school and my teen years, those kind of exchanges made me feel like the adult in the relationship, the one who was staying calm and being reasonable. And I began to suspect that the questions were verboten because she didn’t have an answer. (Thankfully, that sort of discipline never worked on me because a natural distrust of “I said so” authority and willingness to ask verboten questions are pretty much necessary qualities for journalists.) I also think part of the culture where I grew up made it difficult for adults to just say “I don’t know” in response to anything.

When I got a spanking it was still usually for something that was perceived as “talking back”, which is notable for the fact that I was generally a very quiet kid and didn’t do a lot of talking. But even then, I had a lot of strong opinions. My brothers got spankings for more conventional infractions. My dad did most of the paddle-to-the-rear spanking, usually beginning with a big This Is Going to Hurt Me More Than It Hurts You speech. (Offers to trade places out of consideration for Dad’s feelings were never accepted.) If that did any damage, I think it’s that for years I had a sort of Pavlovian response to anything that induced shame–and not just guilt-induced shame, either–a physical tensing up as if waiting for a spanking. If you train a child to have an animal response to a certain stimulus, sometimes those neurological wires get crossed. I wouldn’t just have that response when I fucked up, I’d also get it when someone had humiliated me through no fault of my own, when I felt shame for any reason (including bodily/sexual shame). Sometimes I still have that response, and at 37 years old, it’s just not healthy.

It’s not debilitating either, so I’m not going to suggest that I’m woefully and irrevocably damaged by my parents’ use of corporal punishment. I am not.

But do I think that sort of discipline made me a better, more productive person? No. I was a pretty well-behaved kid to start with–straight A student, generally obedient to my parents, not a rebellious child. Inasmuch as my parents are responsible for that–and they were, to a large extent–they shaped it via conversation and creating models for me with their own hard work and ethical examples. They taught me empathy by teaching me to be considerate of other people and trying to do that themselves in every day life. There is not a single thing that I learned to do right because someone threatened to hit me if I didn’t do it.

So it annoys me when I see people trying to make the case that corporal punishment made them a better person. The best case is that maybe it did, but frankly, they have no way of knowing that, because there’s no alternative experience to compare it to. The worst case is that it absolutely didn’t, and they suffered for it in ways they’re unaware of. For me, I can point to very concrete negative effects that went well beyond my childhood.

As Philip Larkin wrote,

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats…

Generally speaking, I don’t think my mum and dad fucked me up very much. Waaaay below average on the fucking up your kids continuum. (They were great! Five stars! Would totally be their kid again!) They were good, committed parents who worked their asses off for us and sacrificed their own needs constantly to ensure that we were taken care of and happy. And I am quite sure that I will fuck up my own kids (if or when I have them) in all sorts of new and innovative ways they would never even think about.

But, there is this: I will never hit them.

*If you don’t know what a seg academy is, read this. The short answer is that they’re cheap private schools that were created in the 60s to accommodate working class white people who didn’t want their kids to go to integrated schools. Most of them have been technically integrated now, including the one I went to, but I don’t think the environments are exactly welcoming to non-white people. I had some very positive experiences while I was there, and some great teachers–and I plan to write about that at some point, too–but I don’t see any point in whitewashing the bigotries.

** Yes, I do realize there are probably a million things I’d vow never to do as a parent–including “because I said so’s”, no babysitting with Disney movies, no refined sugar, blah blah blah. This is different.

screencrack

I think I just gave myself a tiny glass splinter attempting to use the phone anyway. According to my former nightlife reporter at the Observer['s ability to manufacture faux-trend pieces], this is some sort of badge of coolness. But I’d rather not be cool and have a screen that I don’t have to get a Tetanus shot to use.

I’m sending out my [now more quarterly than monthly]** newsletter tomorrow. If you have job listings you’d like me to distribute, please email them to espiers@gmail by end of day today.

** or every six months, maybe. At some point it will probably devolve into an annual email newsletter–perhaps around Christmas, with family photos and updates about how the plants are doing. If they live that long.

Self vs. Narrator *

Old Skool Blogger (TM) Jason Kottke has a post up about Internet fame, or fame in an Internet subculture, something he relates to because “Many moons ago, I was ‘subculturally important’ in the small pond of web designers, personal publishers, and bloggers that rose from the ashes of the dot com bust.”

He writes:

I realized fairly early on that me and the Jason Kottke who published online were actually two separate people…or to use Danskin’s formulation, they were a person and a concept. (When you try to explain this to people, BTW, they think you’re a fucking narcissistic crazy person for talking about yourself in the third person. But you’re not actually talking about yourself…you’re talking about a concept the audience has created. Those who think of you as a concept particularly hate this sort of behavior.)

The person-as-concept idea is a powerful one. People ascribe all sorts of crazy stuff to you without knowing anything about the context of your actual life.

This is something that happens with everyone who writes because the narrator and the self are two different things even when we try to use the former to intentionally articulate the desires and thoughts of the latter. But Jason’s post reminded me of something that former Flavorwire Deputy Ed Tyler Coates (crediting where credit is due) once described to me as his personal 80/20 theory, which is that everything you know about a person from his or her writing and various online artifacts is representative of maybe 20% of who they are, and the other 80% is probably not reflected at all. (I think he also hypothesized that the 20% of the asshole-ish things you write will be viewed as 80% of who you are, or something like that. Which is also probably true.)

I was thinking of that when I was writing about Shanley Kane for Matter, and trying to work out what percentage of Twitter Shanley had overlap with real life Shanley. I also thought about it when I decided to start blogging again here, because personal blogging is more reflective of real life me than most of the writing I do, and generally speaking, I like the distance that you can create as a writer between the self and the narrator.

I think I first saw the utility of that when I was writing Gawker because the narrator was consciously not me; it was a persona that was shooting spitballs at powerful people in New York and making insider-y jokes about how those power structures worked. It’s worth mentioning that Gawker didn’t have bylines at the time, so if you even knew I was the writer it was probably because you read about Gawker on another site or in the press somewhere. Was there some overlap? Sure. Both the Gawker persona and Real Life Me (TM) have a healthy distrust of authority and a penchant for a certain kind of mischief-making. And I have a certain sense of humor that was reflected in the posts, and you’d see it here, but the Gawker persona was also an un-self-aware snobby New Yorker that skewered New Yorker provinciality by exhibiting it. I can be un-self aware and probably snobby, too. But let’s face it: I’m from a town in Alabama that has a population of 4,000 and while I’d like to think I’m reasonably cultured, before I started writing Gawker, I thought Tina Brown was an MTV VJ, and if I knew where all of the power elites were lunching it’s only because I asked a lot of people and went to see for myself. (I later realized that this was called “reporting”.) And I didn’t move to New York in 1999 because I thought it was the only place that mattered. I moved to New York for the banal and uninteresting reason that I wanted to live in a large city and there was a job here at a tiny upstart social network that I found appealing.

Another variation on Jason’s “person-as-concept”: one of my closest friends writes a parody Twitter account of me, @wise_spiers. This person actually knows me incredibly well, and it takes both my best and worst qualities and blows them up into a funny and often-cringeworthy version of me. Sometimes it’s so spot-on that I’m not sure the people following it realize it’s parody, which results in unintentional hilarity. One tech entrepreneur I know suggested, and then practically demanded, that I get Twitter to shut down the account because it was “damaging to my personal brand.”** I went to the account to find that @wise_spiers had been Tweeting at the entrepreneur unflatteringly and the real concern was that it was damaging the entrepreneur’s personal brand. I relayed this, laughing, to the author, who immediately Tweeted the following:

Screen shot 2014-09-17 at 11.25.34 AM

 

The account has the added benefit (to everyone else) of keeping me humble. There have been times where I read it and think, “Jesus, do I really sound that oblivious/pompous/emotionally stunted?” And, well, yeah; sometimes I do.

I also mention all of this because I like meeting writers I admire in real life, and actually find it really enjoyable when they’re not what I expected from their writing. (Some people find this disappointing, and actually get angry about it. The writer was not as nice as they thought, smart as they thought, tall as they thought, etc., and failure to reflect those things in the writing is viewed as some sort of lie of omission.) I also have a few friends I knew before they became writers and it’s also interesting to see them differently on the page. I think it’s easier if you write in public to differentiate between the narrator and the writer, or to at least remind yourself that the 20% you’re seeing of the person is probably not the whole picture.

* Lindsay Robertson, who I’d love see blogging again, mentioned the other night that one of the advantages of personal blogging is that it must be refreshing to be able to write a headline without thinking about SEO. It is! And it feels subversive in the smallest, saddest possible way. So I’m going to write SEO UNFRIENDLY headlines here. Because I can.

** If I were materially concerned about my personal brand, I’d have made very different career decisions. And I wouldn’t have posted James Bond fan fiction last week.

 

 

How to Apply for a Writing Job

I’ve written variations of this post before, but I think it’s worth reiterating. I’m almost perpetually hiring for something, and right now I have a few staff writer positions open and it kind of amazes me that in this kind of media market people don’t educate themselves about how to properly apply for a job. One of the positions is entry level, and I’m a little more forgiving with those because I think most of the mistakes come from a place of naiveté, but if you’ve got over a decade of experience in anything, there’s really no excuse. But with regard to writing jobs, in particular:

1.) You need a cover letter. Do not skip this. If I were hiring an engineer, I’d probably let you just walk me through something you’ve built and I wouldn’t necessarily expect you to articulate yourself perfectly on paper (though I’d be impressed if you did). But you are applying to be a writer, so I want to see your writing–and as much of it as possible. Skipping the writing part of the application does not look good for you, particularly when the job description notes that the cover letter is mandatory. It makes it look like you don’t actually enjoy writing, and/or are unable or unwilling to follow directions. I know cover letters are time-consuming, but if you can’t bother to spend the ten minutes to write me a cover letter, I can’t bother to spend the half an hour it’ll take to interview you.

2.) Read the publication you ostensibly want to work for. I know what you’re thinking: OH MY GOD, WHO DOESN’T DO THAT? Half of the candidates I bring in. Not kidding. We don’t cover food, fashion or quantum physics, which you’d know if you read the site/newspaper/magazine. You don’t have to read five years of archives, but if you walk into an interview or indicate in the cover letter that you have no idea what the publication is about, you’re basically telegraphing to me that you don’t care about this particular job; you just need a job, any job! And I’m sympathetic to that, but I’m probably not going to hire you when I have ten other candidates who also need a job (any job!) and know the site/newspaper/magazine inside and out.

3.) I might ask you for story ideas during or after an interview. This is not because I want to steal your story ideas. It’s because I want to understand what you think is appropriate for the site/newspaper/magazine and get some insight into your idea generation process. Story generation is part of the job. Frankly, if you pitch me a story that’s original and mind-blowingly good, I’ll probably be happy to assign it to you as a freelancer because it’s another good way to get a handle on your writing and reporting abilities.

4.) I will ask you if you have a blog or zine or something you’ve created yourself that showcases your writing ability. This is not because I have a history that involves professional blogging and I just love me some blogs. And it’s not because I really want to know about where you stand on Beyonce, your thoughts on the situation in Syria, or because I’m really curious about the plants you bought in Bay Ridge last weekend. It’s because I want to see your raw copy, unedited. Or self-edited, which is more to the point. I learned this the hard way after hiring one too many people with beautiful clips who’d been fully re-written by their editors and couldn’t produce decent copy on their own. (On the upside, it made me want to hire their editors.) So if you have a blog, you might want to clean it up a bit–some light dusting and vacuuming, at least.

5.) Be reasonable about follow up. Meaning don’t email me half an hour after you submitted to ask if I got your resume. Unless you’re submitting to an actual HR person, keep in mind that the hiring manager probably has responsibilities beyond hiring and is trying to fit interviews in between necessary meetings, the work required by their primary job and dealing with day to day exigencies. If you don’t hear back in a week, it’s reasonable to send an email.

 

Plant Life

I spent part of the weekend setting up my office in the new place, and thought it would be a little more pleasant with some plants, which according to The Guardian, make people more productive at work. They are also reportedly nice to look at.

Or so I hear. I wouldn’t know because I have the opposite of a green thumb. Every plant I touch shrivels and dies within weeks. I once even killed a cactus. (This probably does not bode well for any children I might have. I will inevitably over-water them, or expose them to too much sunlight.)

But I decided to give it a go anyway, and Googled my way to Indoor / Outdoor Gardener, a self-described “hydroponics store” in Bay Ridge. The first category listed on their website is “pots” but it’s not (as far as I can tell) that kind of hydroponics store. The owner, Helena, started the store with her husband in the mid-70s when they were both studying for PhDs in Linguistics and teaching. Academia didn’t work out, but I imagine Helena was a good teacher because I got some fairly detailed lessons on the finer points of plant care.

Below is a “money tree.” To my eternal disappointment, it does not grow money, but is quite lovely to look at, and I predict will increase my productivity by 0.00032%.

plant1

Helena had me feel the difference between the new leaves and the old ones. “Does this look like it needs watering to you?” I erred on the side of guessing that if it did need watering, Helena would have  already watered it. “No?” I ventured. “Right!” she said.  Apparently, these things only need watering every few weeks.  Helena said that if it looked like shit in three weeks, I should bring it back for rehabbing, “and I’ll tell you what you’re doing WRONG.”

I also got a tiny succulent garden:

plant2

You have to be a complete moron to kill a succulent garden. (Which doesn’t rule me out, plant-wise.) These things need water every six weeks. Or as Helena puts it, fluffing up the fern, “when these things get wrinkly.”

“Does it look like it needs watering now?” Helena asks.

“No?” I guess.

“Right!” she says. “Bring it back in three weeks if it’s looking bad.”

I think she’s fully expecting to see me again in three weeks.

Who Is Kinja For?

Joel Johnson just Tweeted out a post with that title written by Nick Denton. (The URL reads who-kinja-for-1633989295/+nick, and my first reaction was, “question asked–and answered!”)

According to the post, Nick thinks the target Kinja user is the indie blogger:

Our primary target is the independent blogger, the archetype of the modern media curator — represented in our own company by Foxtrot Alpha and Paleofuture, for instance, and outside by independents such as Maria Popova or John Gruber. For the archetype, look back to the Elizabeth Spiers and Pete Rojas of 12 years ago — who made their own careers and left us with Gawker and Gizmodo, the support pillars for this business. We are building the platform we needed then!

He goes on to argue that Kinja offers indie bloggers scale and ego gratification in the form of a healthy, active comment section. Okay, maybe not healthy, but definitely active.

I do think there’s some value in that, but personally I wouldn’t use Kinja for the same reasons I don’t use Medium for personal blogging: I think it’s important to have a unique URL that’s not a subdomain (for search, branding, etc) and I can’t control the look and feel on Kinja. Not that the look and feel here is so impressive right now, but I want the option to redesign it and give it a custom look that I like. Also: no analytics on Kinja. I’m too much of a data junkie to live without that.

And for me at least, scale isn’t that important. I’m not trying to turn elizabethspiers.com into a viable media product.

But I’m willing to be persuaded. If someone wants to tell me why I should use Kinja, on Kinja, you can do it here.

Happy 9/11 to You

Today is my husband’s birthday. (When people ask, he likes to give them the date and then ominously intone, “never forget.”) Here he is pictured with his birthday gift from my dad and stepmom–an apron that says, “Jotham’s in charge… of the grill”, which is made all the more hilarious by the fact that we do not own a grill. That said, he’s a far better chef than I am and is generally in charge of the stove, all of the kitchen implements and nearly everything we eat. jgrill

 

On September 11th in 2001, he was in Chicago working for the Chicago Sun-Times and I was in New York, living on 14th street and working for a hedge fund guy as an equity analyst. My boss was involved in a merger that was supposed to close on the 11th and I was supposed to be in Long Island at the company that was being acquired, wrapping up due diligence with the CFO. I got on the LIRR and by the time I got off, the second plane had his the WTC. The CFO’s younger brother worked at Cantor Fitzgerald and I spent the next couple of days staying with one of the company’s execs because the LIRR wasn’t running back to the city yet, scouring message boards and making phone calls, looking for some possible good news. (In the immediate aftermath, we all hoped that some outlier situation had landed the CFO’s brother elsewhere and he just couldn’t get in touch, but I think we all knew that wasn’t the case.)

When I got back to my apartment, everything was covered in a thick layer of dust and there was an awful acrid smell that’s still unforgettable. But–and this probably sounds strange to anyone who wasn’t here–the next few weeks weren’t so bad.  Everyone was devastated, but the city felt more like a real community to me than it had before, or has since. Strangers would walk up to you on the street and want to talk. Everyone was very sensitive to the needs of everyone else. It seemed obvious that New York would survive what had happened, and so would we.

Then we all went back to being asshole New Yorkers. Everything was normal again.

So 9/11 has a few different connotations for me, but many of them are actually positive–starting with birthday celebrations for someone I love.

Meditation

I had dinner last night with Early Blogger (TM) Lockhart Steele, and one of the topics that came up–besides Early Blogging (TM)–was meditation. I’ve been meditating for about a year and a half, and mostly to help with focus and stress management.

I generally run away from anything that seems really New Age-y or smells like religion, which is a bit of a hangover from growing up in a conservative Christian community. There are no supernatural elements in mindfulness meditation, but it still connotes a certain type of mysticism for a lot of people, which makes it a bit of a difficult sell to people who think of themselves as skeptics, hyper-rationalists, etc.

Like me. But what ultimately convinced me was the science behind it. (Here’s a pretty good intro explanation of how it affects neural pathways.)

I try to meditate for at least 10 minutes a day, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but I find that it makes a material difference. It’s easier for me to identify when I’m getting distracted and refocus because that’s what you’re doing constantly during the process of meditation.

If you’re new to it, or need some guidance, I’d suggest downloading Headspace, which does a good job of walking through the process and has some built-in mechanisms for making it a habit.

 

This Will Probably Break the Blog…

I’m getting some complaints that there’s not enough bad writing here. Or maybe it’s just not bad enough. In an attempt to remedy that, I’m publishing two pages of JAMES BOND FAN FICTION**:

There was no mistake: James Bond was hungover, and worse, he was flying commercial.  Both experiences always proved to be painful, but on this particular morning, their assault on Mr. Bond’s senses, sanity and general fortitude seemed overly vicious. It was his own damn fault, of course.  The barman—”mixologist?”—didn’t know what a Vesper was, and James had given up instructing him when he discovered there was no Plymouth gin, only some variety of organic crypto-gin produced in Northern California. So inevitably, it was Scotch for the Scot, even though he knew he’d pay for it dearly the next morning.  And as he stood in line between a group of cheerleaders from Iowa wearing velour tracksuits and carrying pillows and a young couple from Brooklyn with a colickly baby and the largest stroller he’d ever seen, he knew he was.

The flight was another casualty of MI5 cutbacks. No more chartered jets with beautiful blond Estonian stewardesses, a.k.a., airline attendants. Not even a decent sports car with an agency-modified engine and automatic weapons. These days he went to Hertz to pick up his rented Prius and if he was lucky, stayed at a hotel posh enough to have mini-bars in the rooms. M reminded him with increasingly regularity that he was lucky to have a job at all given the way the crisis in Greece had ravaged the English economy, and he largely ignored it, preferring instead to imagine himself ravaging beautiful Grecians under the pretense of serving God and Queen. But he was fairly certain that in the long run, he’d be too old and the agency would be too cheap and he would eventually be replaced by a drone the size of a turkey and an iPhone app.

James’s condition did not improve when he was seated in economy next to a rather large man in a Green Bay Packers sweatshirt, who would be occupying a good quarter of his own seat for the duration of the flight, having egregiously overspilled the boundaries of the one for which he paid. James looked wistfully up the aisle at the business class section and remembered that flight so many years ago—Luftansa first-class, 1976 Krug Grande Cuvée, and a blond stewardess (but probably not Estonian) straddling him in the bathroom.

As he tried to focus on the exact shape of her breasts in his memory, his phone rang. It was the agency doctor with his medical report. Chlamydia. Again. Somehow this never happened forty years ago when he was shagging women named Pussy or Kissy or whatever described their best features or well-honed sexual capacities.

To be fair, there were many things that never happened forty years ago. Retirees from South Florida didn’t wear sweatpants to high-end casinos. The head of the agency didn’t menstruate.  The head of the agency didn’t call him a washed-up old shit when he mentioned that fact.  And he was certainly never forced into a child-sized seat in coach next to a bloated American whale of a man who insisted on peering behind him at the Sikh passenger two rows behind them and insinuating that the man in question might be a terrorist, which was what was happening now.

Before James could stop him, the whale pressed the button for an attendant who promptly arrived in a unisex pantsuit, the bottom half of which James noted would present extra impediments to removal, should the opportunity arise.  The whale leaned across him and jabbed a fat finger in the direction of the Sikh man and whispered that he’d been acting suspicious.

Certainly in the last forty years the most fearsome villains had changed—they didn’t have extraordinarily well-appointed compounds where they would treat you to an eight-course meal before they tried to kill you and were rarely if ever German. But his decades of experience in the intelligence services and carefully-honed powers of deduction told James that an elderly Sikh man en route to Cleveland and reading a copy of Twighlight presented no threat.

** I’ve been doing Writer’s Studio workshops off and on for the last couple of years, and this was actually the product of an exercise wherein you have a close third-person narrator and the main character is a “well-known character from fiction or film.”  In workshop this is “an exercise in close third person.” In the rest of the world, it is plain old FAN FICTION. I did another one that involved Patrick Bateman working for a startup, but I don’t know where I put that one.

Also: this is not the worst of the bad (but admittedly fun) writing. THERE IS MORE.