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“I just don’t want to disgrace the peacock”: How to become an NBC Page

February 5, 2016
NBC Page

Back in May, I graduated from a small, liberal arts school in Norton, Massachusetts with a dual-degree in English and Film & New Media and began hunting for a job in the television industry. I started out slow, applying to about two or three jobs a week and calmly reassuring myself that yes, it was normal to be unemployed a week out of college, or two, or five. When I didn’t hear back from anyone, I upped the application count, churning out a cover letter or two a day in the hopes that someone, anyone would extend an offer and allow me to put my degree to good use. As my desperation levels began to rise, I began to apply to jobs that were out of my league professionally, positions so high up on my “dream jobs” totem pole, they were obscured by the clouds.

This is how I ended up applying to the NBC Page Program. The NBC Page Program is an entry-level, career development program intended to shape its candidates into leaders of the media world. The 12-month “fellowship” allows participants to rotate between various departments at NBC Universal, from business to consumer marketing to creative development, in order to help them explore their interests and gain hands-on experience in the professional world.

There are plenty of other blog posts detailing the Page Program’s highly competitive application process but in talking to past Pages, the procedure seems to have dramatically shifted this year as a result of the program’s changing requirements. With this in mind, let’s take a look at how it all went down.

Stage 1: The Digital Application

The first step in the application process is just that: a process. The lengthy online application starts with the basics — employment history, education stats, references, etc. — before moving onto the real “meaty” part of the process: the essay questions. The realization that there was not one, not two, but three required essay questions in this application marked the beginning of me underestimating how serious NBC Universal is about who they employ and how they employ them. (I would not make this mistake in the future.) Ultimately, this stage functions as more of a screening process to weed out those who are legitimately qualified for the program from those who watched 30 Rock once and decided it would be cool to be Kenneth Parcell.

Tips for this stage:

  • Set aside at least a day or two for this application. You should be treating these essay questions like, well, essays and putting in the same degree of effort that you would if you were writing a paper for one of your college classes.
  • Write out all of your answers in a separate word document. The webpage likes to time out every 20 minutes, forcing you to start the application over from the beginning. It’s painful. Don’t ignore this tip. You’ve been warned.

When should you expect to hear back?: 2-4 weeks

Stage 2: The Online Video Interview

I don’t know if I’d call this stage an “interview” so much as “an awkward Skype conversation with yourself.” For this part, candidates were asked to log on to a program called “Take the Interview,” where they would sit in front of their webcam and respond to questions that would pop up on screen in 60 seconds or less. The easiest way to describe it is “a Skype interview without the interviewer.” Considering the number of people that apply to the program, I can’t blame really blame NBC for including this wholly unnatural step. Typically, you’re given a few days to complete this process, which only takes about an hour from the time you start it. Once you finish recording your answers, you do get the chance for one or two “redos” but take note: if you decide to redo your interview, you must redo the entire interview, you can’t just pick and choose which questions you want to have a do-over on.

Tips for this section:

  • Take the interview once through as a “practice” so you can get a feel for the questions and get comfortable with the program. Then, during your “redo,” you’ll feel and sound more natural and you can be better versed in your answers.
  • Cover your face on the screen. In my experience, it’s always distracting to watch yourself talk on camera and you’ll end up spending more time fretting over how your hair looks instead of how well you’re answering the questions.

When should you expect to hear back?: 2 weeks

Stage 3: The Panel Interview

When you hear about the NBCUniversal interview process, this is probably the first thing that comes to mind. The (infamous) Panel interview consists of five parts, that I will roughly outline in order to avoid being called out for revealing confidential interview information:

1) The Panel

As you might expect, the Panel interview kicks off with a panel portion. All of the candidates (there are usually 5-7 other prospective Pages) sit on one side of a long table facing a long line of program coordinators on the other side. One of the board members will present a question which the candidates are then required to answer in turn. Once they reach the end of the line, they present a new question, this time at the other end of the table. Rinse and repeat about 4 or 5 times. When it’s over, the board members leave the room and the group is divided into smaller clusters and directed to their next “station.”

2) The One-on-One

Or, rather, the “two-on-one.” For this, you are called into a room with one or two of the program coordinators from the Panel interview. While the setup for this one will be familiar to most people, it’s by no means easy. I got the feeling that this stage was meant to test how each candidate functioned under pressure, as many of the questions involved elaborating on story details and coming up with quick retorts without messing up your story. Be prepared for rapid follow-up questions and make sure you know your past work experiences inside and out.

3) The Writing Exercise

And you thought you’d never have to do a timed writing test ever again… For the writing exercise, we given a prompt and asked to answer it in 20 minutes or less. If you’re a fast typist, you’ll have no problem with this step.

4) The Industry Discussion

The night before the interview, the candidates received an email containing an article that we were required to read and “be prepared to discuss” by the following morning. After the Writing Exercise, I was guided to a small room filled with two different program coordinators and two of the other candidates, where we were to discuss the article and some of its overarching ideas. For those of you that hail from small liberal arts colleges where 90 percent of your in-class activities involve group discussions, this part will be a breeze.

5) The 2-Minute Presentation

As an introvert-masquerading-as-an-extrovert, I agonized over this section for the three weeks leading up to the interview. At the end of this four-hour process, all of the candidates were called back into the Panel room and asked to make a 2-minute presentation about their past work experiences, how those experiences would make them a good fit for NBC and, most importantly, why they were specifically interested in the Page Program. Visuals were strongly encouraged. By which I mean, bring a visual. It doesn’t have to be over-the-top, but bring or do something that will help cement your image in the board members’ minds. One girl in my group used her interest in fashion as a metaphor for her skills and brought in a series of different outfits that she’d worn over the years, ending with a nod to the Page Program’s iconic grey uniform. Another girl created an anagram for her name that went through each of her best qualities. I created a magazine about my past work experiences and tied it into my love for storytelling and how that led me to TV. No matter what you do, it’s important to find something that ties together a passion of yours with your interest in the program. They want to see who you are as a person and how you represent yourself.

Tips for this section:

  • Get to know the other candidates. You may be tempted to view the other interviewees as enemies because they’re all vying for your job but remember: these people are all in the same position as you. Recently graduated, nervously unemployed, and excited about the opportunities ahead of them. Treat them as your coworkers instead of your rivals (because that’s likely who they’ll be to you one day). When you walk into the 2-minute presentation, you’ll be glad you mingled with the other applicants because it’s much easier to present a visual to a group of friends than a group of strangers.
  • Prepare! In the three weeks leading up to the interview, I created two sets of notecards: one for NBC Universal facts and one filled with personal questions and stories about past work experiences. The latter is more important than the former, though knowing the history of NBC can definitely give you an edge during the interview process.
  • Reach out to experienced Pages. Before heading into the interview, contact some past Pages and see what their experiences were like. It can give you a better grasp on the process and put you more at ease before you embark on this journey.

When can you expect to hear back: 2 weeks, by phone or email

So there you have it. To all the prospective Pages out there: I hope this post was helpful in soothing your pre-interview anxieties. Or maybe it just scared you more, in which case, I’m very sorry. I tried my best.

If Rom-Coms Were Made for Feminists

October 21, 2015

Find the original post on my Mogul profile.
“You complete me.” It’s a phrase that’s been uttered into handkerchiefs and Ben & Jerry’s pints hundreds of times by teens and mothers alike, but one that also possesses troubling implications about modern romance. I’m not referring to the surprisingly large percent of the population who foster a love for Tom Cruise, though that is indeed troubling. I’m talking about the suggestion that many classic rom-coms imply that a woman’s happiness is dependent upon her love for a man, that she is not complete unless she is spooning on Friday night with someone of the opposite gender. In fact, rom-coms are pretty terrible at reflecting feminist views all around. What if we could fix that? What if romantic-comedies were designed with modern, independent ladies in mind?

men who have feelings and are okay with it

pretty in whatever color I want

you've got male privledge

pretty independent woman

there's something about male patriarchy

i don't need you but i want you

you complement me

Big thanks to Linnea Ryan and Allie Kerper, among others, for providing the inspiration for this post.

The People You Meet On Buses

August 23, 2015
Megabus

For reasons I cannot explain in fear of alienating half of the people reading this, I’ve taken a lot of bus rides over the past few months, more bus rides than you’ll probably ever take in your entire life. What might feel like a massive inconvenience to most people has been an unexpected gift for me.

For four months, I lived in an apartment in NYC that costs more than ­all of rubies on the Crown Jewel combined. Crammed into a two-bedroom house with two other girls, each with their own established routines and friend groups that know the walls of this urban cave better than I do, I learned not to expect privacy. That costs extra in the city. During the day, I could curl up in a coffee shop or a bookstore but when night rolled around, people started to question the quiet girl who had spent 10 hours sitting in the corner, plugging away at her keyboard. When their eyes screamed “You’ve had enough of this place,” I was forced to retreat to my shared bedroom in midtown, with its paper thin walls and its 24-hour television chatter that’s always set to a volume more appropriate for nursing homes. I’d type in the deskless, semi-silence of the bedroom, trying to drown out the Empire soundtrack seeping through the door crack with my analytical thoughts on “The Rise of Franchises, Volume 3.”

Buses were my reprieve. Little havens of silence on wheels, buses are filled with people too exhausted at the thought of a four-hour trip to even consider speaking. A woman with a very important call once attempted to speak on such a trip, only to be reprimanded by the driver on multiple occasions over the intercom, like a young mom trying to punish her child through public humiliation causing not only the child but also everyone around him to shift in their seats and wish away their vicarious discomfort. In other words, they are perfect for working, and I welcome them as much as I welcome unannounced free samples or unseasonably warm days in March. Despite the expectation of these “chatter-free” zones, there are some individuals that challenge the system and force me into conversation, overlooking (sometimes intentionally, sometimes inadvertently) the aura of unapproachability that I try so desperately to give off.

A few weeks ago, I boarded my usual bus on Sunday afternoon and plopped down in a seat nearest to the door, in case the bus driver’s reckless maneuvering finally put me in the position of needing a quick escape. (These thoughts become commonplace after the third or fourth trip when you realize the bus crash statistics are working against you.) The Sunday bus is never packed. I like to think it’s because New York scared most of the tourists away with its high prices and eccentricity by the previous afternoon, but realistically, I know that a weekend trip to the city in the middle of winter is not an appealing idea to most people. Once the Rockefeller tree is gone, the only attractions in Manhattan are clumsy ice skaters and metro performers.

There are three unspoken rules that exist on bus rides as far as I’m concerned: Don’t be disruptive, don’t eat any stinky food and don’t buddy up with a stranger unless every two-person seat has been checked for potential openings. I don’t want to be bumping knees with you unless you’ve exhausted all other options first. I mean, I know we’re going on a trip together but we still hardly know each other, respect my emotional boundaries, please.

Pushing my headphones deeper into my eardrums, I bundled up by the window and prepared to stare distantly out the glass for the next few hours. A woman shuffled onto the bus, squeezing her puffy coat through the doorway while trying to properly perch her bag on her jacket’s marshmallow shoulder pads. After making the long journey from the curb to the bus, the woman, whose attempt to inhale the entire bus’s oxygen supply had left her red in the face, took a quick look down the row of empty chairs before pointing at my backpack’s seat. “Um…here?” She poked the seat with her finger, half-smiling, half on the verge of bursting a lung, and as I moved my bag aside, I watched my anti-social plans disappear in a puff of smoke.

Silently lamenting the loss of my peaceful bus ride, I pressed my face closer to the window in the hope that I would merge with the glass and live out the rest of my days touring the countryside as a Megabus window. The woman beside me regained her breath just long enough to pick up her cell phone and make a phone call, breaking rule number one before the bus had even pulled away from the station. In the break between iPod songs, I caught parts of her frustrated conversation and realized, far too late, my impending involvement.

“What time this bus?” she said with the confidence of a person who thinks they’re asking a fully-constructed question.

“2pm.”

“What time?”

“The bus leaves this station at 10am and arrives in Boston at 2pm,” I replied in my best flight attendant voice, hoping its sheer cheeriness would placate her curiosity and release me to my comfortable traveling daze.

“Now?” she persisted.

“It’s 9:50. We’re leaving here in 10 minutes.”

“Here.” She handed me the phone and turned back to her purse, adopting a look of nonchalance that said “Could you just figure it out?” Did I have a choice?

“Hello?”

“I’m so sorry. She does this a lot.” I recognized the exasperated tone of a daughter who, from the sound of it, had probably been through this routine one too many times. After quickly explaining the bus schedule and receiving a shower of thank yous, I passed the phone back to my seatmate who spewed a few more gibberish words before tossing the phone back into her pocketbook.

I should’ve known when I put that phone up to my ear that I was tacitly agreeing to a four-hour friendship with this woman, that my tiny display of kindness would open up the conversation floodgates, but the angel on my shoulder clouded my judgment. My only viable option was to fake my own death or, at the very least, a sudden sleep attack that rendered me a useless travel companion but her determination to break my steely, anti-social exterior beat me to the punch.

“My daughter,” she said, pointing to the phone.

“She sounded nice!” My small talk ineptitude went over her head.

“She has baby. Two month. Look, look!” Rummaging through her bag, she pulled out her phone once more, scrolling through her photo album until she found her prize.

“Boy,” she said, pointing to a photo of a small child, unsurprisingly covered in an orange residue that once used to be his dinner. The woman flipped through the photos, giggling her way through each bathtub and naptime snapshot until she stumbled onto a picture of a squash.

“That’s not baby. That’s squash. We’re done now.” I was starting to feel bad for the phone who made yet another journey into the woman’s bag.

Our conversation progressed through the typical topics (work, school, “are you married with kids yet”), like two timid college roommates meeting each other for the first time or two people standing in line at the DMV who had been suffering together for far too long to be ignoring each other’s presence.

She told me how she had run a bodega in the city for ten years with her husband on the Lower East Side until it got shut down due to poor business. She told me how all of her kids had moved away, one to Long Island, another to California, another to Sweden (her home country), and how she never got to see her grandkids anymore. She told me other things but my mind had drifted to images of the baby and the squash and lingered there.

Maybe this is why I didn’t notice her violate rule number two and pull out a bag of chocolate-covered rice cakes halfway through our conversation or why I kept accepting samples of her snack, despite everything my mother told me about food and strangers. Logic told me that poisoning a girl on a four-hour bus ride when the group of roudy college students across the aisle were actively watching this grandmotherly force-feeding routine didn’t make sense. Plus, the woman could hardly carry her bag onto the bus. The likelihood of her being able to lug my body over her shoulder and walk through South Station was improbable. I stashed the last few pieces away, though, for evidence. Just in case.

With the bus station in sight, she started questioning what I did for work, secretly wondering why a 21-year-old girl was traveling alone to a small city with nothing but a backpack and an empty coffee cup, I’m sure.

“I’m hoping to get into television but I’m still working on it,” I mustered.

“My nephew. He works in TV in Sweden. You work for him!”

Part of me wanted to say yes to mystery TV producer in Sweden. After hearing so much about the importance of networking in the TV industry, it seemed like a sign, and maybe I would meet some cute Swedish boy and we’d get married and I’d tell the story about the serendipitous encounter with the woman on the Megabus, and she’d come up and give a speech in broken-English about how I’d become like another daughter to her, and everyone would cry, including your uncle’s friend who says he doesn’t know how to cry, which would make the moment that much more touching, and I’d promise her that I’d never move away like her kids did even though deep down, I knew I would because the city is a terrible place for a family, and she’d recognize my lie but appreciate it nonetheless because it’s the thought that counts.

I wrote my email and name down in the notes section of her phone and packed up my stuff as we pulled into the lot. She wobbled down the aisle and off the bus, glancing back at me every few second to ensure that I hadn’t escaped out the emergency window or hid away in the bathroom. We grabbed our bags and headed for the pick-up station, her clinging to my arm, me wondering if I’d unofficially adopted this woman as my pseudo-grandmother and should be preparing some sort of explanation for my family.

We walked through the glass doors out into the pick-up area, searching the streets for any idling drivers. As her pseudo-granddaughter, I accepted the phone that was handed to me without explanation and listened for that familiar voice on the other end.

“Hey! I’m on the corner in white. Do you see me?”

Turning towards the road, I saw a middle-aged woman standing across the street give a hesitant wave and we both laughed in relief as I pointed her out to my bus companion. I returned the phone to my friend, who promptly threw it back into her bag and pulled me in for that European double-cheek kiss that made the introvert in me squirm.

With a smile and a “have a good life,” she was gone. I watched her waddle across the street and embrace her daughter, who gave me one last “thank you” wave before guiding her mother to the car. I never heard from her again, not because she hated me (I hope) but because I’m certain that she forgot how to open the Notes app the second I handed it back to her. (Either that or she’s disappointed that the poison failed to kill me.) I returned home a few hours behind on homework but a few decades ahead on life as the image of the woman’s ruined bodega and scattered family buried itself deeper into my mind.

Did my plans to sit blissfully against the window during my five-hour bus ride pan out the way I thought they would? No. Did my bus buddy break all three of my unspoken traveller rules? Definitely. Would I do it again? Absolutely. A glimpse into the life of a stranger is worth a million bus rides.

Image via Flickr.

Meanest One-Star Book Reviews on Goodreads

January 12, 2015

The Internet is a dangerous place, especially for writers. Just when you think you’ve produced a high-quality piece of writing, you can be sure an online reviewer will show up to put you back in your place. But don’t fret. All writers receive negative criticism at some point in their life, even if the piece they’ve created is original and well-crafted. Take a look at these one-star book reviews from Goodreads if you don’t believe me:

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me – Mindy Kaling

1) Jialan – I’d like to coin a new word called “Kaling,” that describes an intelligent but deeply superficial (or is it superficially deep?) young woman who might attain real talent if her own vanity didn’t get in the way. Her book is lazy (much of it composed of lists of trite and unfunny observations), and dashes the reader’s hopes by offering glimpses of warmth and insight only to veer back into appalling self-absorption.

2) Terri – I… I tried. I tried to read this book. I guess I was hoping that a comedy writer would be, you know, funny. About the time she got into filling us all in on her tough years, you know, those years when you’ve just graduated from an elite and expensive private college and you’re just not sure how you’re going to make it to the big-time but then you DO, I quit making an effort to read the book and started trying to leave it behind places. I tried to leave it in three hotels and at my dad’s house, where it was found and carefully returned to me each time. “I don’t want that book,” I said. “I don’t want it either,” everyone returning it to me said.

The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

3) Shayne – Holden Caulfield is a punk-ass bitch. He doesn’t “embody cynical adolescence.” He embodies that dude you went to high school with, that was a dick to the study hall monitor for no reason, and liked to wipe his boogers on the bathroom wall while he peed in the urinal. I’d let Alex from A Clockwork Orange babysit my daughter before I’d spend a single minute with this over-hyped, chickenshit boy or the over-hyped, cherished-by-douches book with him as its star.
Skip this book. Just TELL people you read it. Here’s all you need to know: Holden says “goddam” a lot, gets kicked out of school, and wears a coonskin hat. Period. You’ll get by on that. Spend your time reading something worthwhile.

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

4) Zeek – Halfway through and I don’t even care anymore. I’ll read the synopsis for the rest. If I want to read about shiftless rich people and their drunken machinations, I’ll read the Hollywood Reporter or TMZ.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling

5) Gabrielle – Pathetic. Really pathetic. Harry Potter is more of a Mary-Sue than Eragon. More than Nancy Drew. More than the worst of fanfiction I’ve seen […]
Harry wasn’t any excuse for a hero. He did nothing, he just sat around and things happened to him. End of story. His fame was inherited, his fortune was inherited, he lived with his relations and allowed them to bully him, and couldn’t even manage to read his own mail. His wonderful skills were not worked at and studied for years but picked up instantly, and he bet the bad guys by electrocuting them with his infamous zapper skin […] This is a dangerous book. It made me consider both suicide and mass homicide, and it is definitely not suitable for children.

Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

6) Jason – Ayn Rand makes my eyes hurt. She does this, not by the length of her six-hundred-thousand word diatribe, but rather by the frequency with which she causes me to roll them.

7) Rob – If you’re into sprawling, barely coherent, I-are-mighty anti-Communist rants, then this is for you. I suppose in our moments of weakness, we can look to Ayn Rand’s philosophy to bring out our inner-super-humans. Except that really it’s just a polarized response to Marx and Lenin (whom I have found equally unpalatable). What’s that? You want me to separate the aesthetic elements from the philosophy? Sure thing. This book reads like an instruction manual for drawing right angles.

8) Nick – Have you ever wondered what an author spending 565,223* words describing an empty cork board would produce? This would be the result**.
* According to Amazon.
** Also applicable to her other brick, ‘The Fountainhead.’

9) Books Ring Mah Bells – Atlas shrugged and so did I.

Bossypants – Tina Fey

10) Bert – Those two stars you see above? That’s me being generous. Very generous. I changed my mind, one star is more than enough […] Far too often this book feels like Tina Fey dumped a manuscript on a publisher’s desk and said “this will do” and no one dared to point out “well, not exactly…” In fact, I repeatedly had the impression she wrote the book against her will, as if it was some kind of contractual obligation.I don’t get why she bothered to write a book about herself, when she clearly doesn’t want to reveal anything — which she inevitably does anyway, even though those things are masked by feeble punchlines and meandering anecdotes.Biggest disappointments are the pages where she answers online criticism (pointless and sad) and those where she recounts her imitations of Sarah Palin (preposterously self-important).

Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace

11) Oren – I want to give it zero stars. This book is a giant pile of pretentious drivel. With a thousand pages and hundreds of endnotes (endnotes dammit! you need two bookmarks for this shit!) it’s a book full of promises that are never delivered. By the end it feels like a practical joke has been perpetrated on you and the appropriate response is to punch the author in the face. Seriously, it would be a mild response. I feel that assaulting him blows to the head with a copy of the book would be considered a justifiable attack.

12) William – I must be missing something. Each page is like hand-to-hand combat. Extremely hard to digest. Like a meal of twigs and berries, might be good for you, but you want to push it aside nevertheless.

The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

13) Jeannette – The Mysterious Case of the Shrinking Rating!
Oh, kiddies. I don’t know where to start in describing my experience of this enormous hunk of enormousness. I came within less than 200 pages of finishing it, but I cannot go on.
A brief (and crabby) synopsis of my experience with this book:
First 200 pages = This is outrageously excellent! Five stars for sure.
Next 200 pages = Getting really sick of Theo and Boris and substance abuse. Four stars, but only if it improves soon.
Next 170+ pages = Drudgery. Author has written herself into a corner but trudges doggedly on. Three stars, dropping to two stars, and finally 1.5 stars because I cannot force myself to finish. The days go by, I’m reading 8 or 10 pages a day at most. I hate the characters, hate the book, and come to hate the author because she took 10 years to write a book and wants us to take another 10 years to read it.

Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

14) Robert – Dickens is a jerk. Nobody likes his stuff, they’re just afraid to say it because he’s supposed to be classy. The man got paid by the word for crying out loud. Imagine if I got paid to write marching band drill by the dot. I would write a page for every four counts of music. What would I produce? A ridiculous tomb that nobody will ever get through and if they ever did it would be way too hard and too much work. And of course if you actually did it you would have to say that I was wonderful, otherwise, you’d look like an idiot. Like when you buy a new car and somebody asks if you are happy with it; nobody says “no, I just spend 30 grand on a pile of crap”. Thus concludes my critique on Dickens. Those of you young enough can feel free to plagiarize it for you college essays.

15) Chickens McShiterson – Once upon a time, there was a lumberjack named Paul. Paul and his crew worked in the Pacific Northwest in some of the most lush forests in America. Paul’s job was to run a chainsaw, and it was arduous work filled with long hours and danger. Paul loved his job and took great pride in knowing that his work helped provide lumber for homes, heating systems, and occasionally, the manufacture of books. Of this last facet, Paul was particularly proud because he was a voracious reader who took literature seriously- a love instilled in him by his high school English teachers. After one particularly strenuous day, in which Paul and his crew labored to fulfill an order for pulping for a book manufacturer, Paul ventured to ask his boss if he happened to know what book was going to be produced with the wood they had chopped down.
“Why, yes I do, Paul,” said the book manufacturer, much to Paul’s surprise. “Says here that this wood will be pulped to make a hundred thousand copies of Great Expectations.
Distraught, nay, overwhelmed with immediate grief for his part in the massacre of dozens, if not hundreds of trees for the production of THE WORST BOOK IN THE HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, Paul immediately revved the motor of his chainsaw and promptly cut his own head off.
The End.

Twilight – Stephanie Meyer

16) Kira – The caveman/cavewoman mentality between both parties is absolutely painful. As painful as the throb of purple prose encased between these heinously far-apart covers, and the dreadful fragments and inconsistent style of Meyer’s writing. It’s ludicrous, really. This book is not a book. It is a really, really long Facebook status. It’s a little gimmick that’s gotten out of hand.
Who remembers the absolutely awful “Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them” fad? That’s kind of what Twilight is like. A really fucked-up piece of sexist rubbish that spiraled into a phenomenon when really it belongs in the garbage can where no one will ever look at it ever again, ever […] No. I’d rather read the back of a cereal box than this book. I’d rather read the ingredients of my shampoo than slog through this again. It would be far less offensive and morally damaging, not to mention infuriating. I believe I aged ten years during my first failed attempt at wading through the Twilight quicksand.

17) TK421 – I would not even wipe my ass with this book for fear it (my ass) would get shittier.

War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

18) Phil Villareal – Reading this was utter misery from end to end. This is in a class with Moby-Dick and A Tale of Two Cities, among the least readable, universally lauded classics that normal people read only out of sheer hatred and determination.
Tolstoy is like a kindergartener talking about his day. He has a keen eye and feel for detail, but no ability to distinguish between what is relevant and compelling and what isn’t.

Catch-22 – Joseph Heller

19) ChucklestheScot – Worst book I’ve ever had the misfortune to pick up. My dad warned me that this book was lower on the evolution scale than a wet turd, but I thought I’d try it anyway. I hated this with every fibre in my body and with any luck the book will just crawl away and die.
The characters were obnoxious, moronic gits who I hoped would all die at the hands of Jason Vorhees very soon and there was no way I’d ever connect with that idiot who was meant to be our beloved hero. The dialogue was incomprehensible crap that was pointless and baffling, and you are left wondering what the hell they are gibbering about and why each scene was even written! What the hell is the purpose in talking complete shite page after page with no meaning or sense to it??? I couldn’t see the point in the story at all and it was with a sense of joy that I threw the book into the bag marked ‘charity shop’-then I found myself wondering what the poor charity shop had ever done to me to deserve receiving that book…How the hell this ever became a classic is a complete mystery to me. A classic piece of excrement perhaps.

The Shining – Stephen King

20) Sologdin – Custodial staff of one-percenter resort commits grave breaches of employment agreement, including fraternization, by failing to keep grounds free and clear of supernatural deterioration.

Not all of these books are “classic” or even good. I tried to show a range of different types of stories to prove that anyone, no matter how good (or bad) of a writer they are, can receive negative criticism. Don’t take it personally. People are mean sometimes.

What’s Your Idiosyncrasy?

August 17, 2014

In John Green’s novel Looking for Alaska, the protagonist, Pudge, attempts to win over his new floormates by offering them a fun fact about himself: “Um, I know a lot of people’s last words.” As a fan (and a constant critic) of young adult novels, I immediately picked out this detail and classified it as unrealistic. I believed Pudge could perfectly recite the last words of over a dozen people as much as I believe non-religious TV characters can identify Bible passages when presented with some cryptic riddle or fake messiah. The brain is capable of a lot of things, but memorizing the entire Bible in case someone needs an emergency Jesus consult is not one of them. As much as I appreciated the clever tie-in to Alaska’s accident and Pudge’s labyrinth assignment, I was still not convinced that anyone could seriously have a talent or quirk as random as “dying declarations.”

That is, until I discovered my own.

A few months ago, I was sitting at a restaurant with my family discussing Taylor Swift’s dating history when I pointed out something I thought was common knowledge:

Me: Did you know she’s 5’10”? Harry Styles was only 5’11” meaning she probably had to wear flats like, all the time. Otherwise, she’d be taller. But maybe it’s not actually a problem, because Taylor Lautner was only 5’9″.

Unbeknownst to me, my dinner party had stopped listening around the second sentence. Once I had finished name-dropping celebrities and their proximity to the earth, I leaned back and waited for the group to compliment me on my well-constructed argument. Instead, I got this:

Mom: Why do you know how tall these people are? Why do you know that?

The tone she was using was not exactly disgust. It was the kind of tone you’d here from someone who’s just endured a 3-hour long lecture on the psychological effects of emoticons or the real reason why cats purr. Her question had the undertone of blasphemy, not because she was particularly offended by my height statistics but because she was dumbfounded that anyone could think such information was important enough to remember for more than 5 seconds. She was confused but also intrigued, the way you might feel after seeing someone leave the gym not looking like the life had been drained out of them.

Mom: …how tall is Ryan Seacrest?

Me: He always looks pretty short on TV but he’s actually like 5’8″. But you know who’s really short? Danny Devito. He’s 4’11”. He doesn’t even have a growth defect or anything, he’s just short.

Mom: Hayden Panettiere?

Me: 5’0″ exactly. Her boyfriend is 6’6″. I don’t really understand how that works.

Mom: Mmhmm…

If you were wondering what 5’0″ and 6’6″ looks like side by side.

Before I could even realize what was happening, my mom was throwing her nervous look around the table to see if anyone else had caught my extraordinary display of weirdness. It was at that moment that I understood Pudge’s idiosyncrasy, his unnatural fascination with dying last words. It was not something that he developed intentionally. (I mean, I doubt anyone sits in their room and thinks “You know what I’m missing? An extensive knowledge of dying last words. Let’s work on that.”) No, the obsession simply collected in his mind, probably gradually, without his knowledge, until it had created a permanent settlement in his brain that was too hard to evict. Likewise, I had mentally recorded celebrity heights, not for any scientific reason (Was there a correlation between height and Taylor Swift’s romantic feelings? Not that I could tell.) but because some nerdy particle in my brain decided that it wanted to hold onto that information for future use. Then that one particle recruited other particles and before I even knew it, there was an entire department in my subconscious dedicated to the subject. (I’d attempt to shut the whole operation down but its members are too powerful. Anything that can survive the brain purge that happens before a big test or research paper cannot be defeated in one day, by one person.)

And so, I ask you: what’s your “thing”? What useless string of information do you secretly indulge in or hold onto for family dinner outings? Think hard. It might be hiding somewhere in your brain, behind biblical quotes and song lyrics from your favorite childhood hits.

30 Honest Facebook Relationship Statuses

May 31, 2014

1) Looking for Someone To Be the Other Half of My Couples Halloween Costume

2) Looking for Someone To Fix Everything I Break (Sinks, Cars, Laws, etc.)

3) Looking for Someone, Literally Anyone, So My Parents Will Stop Questioning My Relationship Status and/or Sexual Orientation

4) Looking for Someone To Feed Me Compliments (Or At Least Chinese Food)

5) Looking for Someone To Take Sickeningly Cute Photobooth Selfies With

6) Looking for A Chauffeur A Car Lover

7) Looking for Someone To Shatter My Future Cat Lady Fears

8) Looking for a Platonic Cuddle Buddy

9) Looking for Someone to Spoil Me

10) Looking for Someone to Spoil

11) Looking for An Exotic Prince

12) Looking for Someone Who Would Make Cute Babies

13) Looking for Someone Who May Get Famous

14) Looking for a Cat

15) Looking for Someone to Drag to Boring Events

16) Looking for Channing Tatum’s Abs

17) In a Relationship with a Guy I Made Out with Who Got Clingy and Decided He Wanted Something More

18) In a Relationship Until the End of the Summer

19) In a Relationship Until I Start College

20) In a Relationship Until Leonardo Dicaprio Returns My Calls

21) In a Relationship for the Sake of Not Being Alone

22) In a Relationship with My Body Pillow

23) In a Relationship With Someone Mediocre Because Why Not?

24) Single (But Ready to Mingle)

25) Single Unless Approached By Creepy Guys In Clubs

26) Single (But Secretly Dating a Russian Model My Parents Would Disapprove Of)

27) Single and Pretending I’m Okay with It Because I’m a “Strong, Independent Woman Who Don’t Need No Man”

28) Single Until My Ex Comes Running Back

29) Single But Open to Booty Calls

30) Hopeless and Awkward and Desperate for Love!

 

If English Majors Had A Theme Park

May 8, 2014

There are a lot of things in life that I simply don’t understand. Like, why do some people find mustaches attractive? And, more significantly, why is there a theme park dedicated to a chocolate company and not one for English majors? Considering the popularity of Universal’s Harry Potter world, it seems like the next logical step. But what would an English major amusement park look like? What would it even involve? I have some theories.

List of Attractions:

The Holden Caulfield Carousel: Featuring seats shaped like flying ducks and hunting hats, young parkgoers would enjoy this ride’s slow and uneventful pace. Adults, on the other hand, would grow annoyed with the use of profane rants instead of music and leave the ride feeling generally crummy.

– The Five-Paragraph-Essay Drop of Doom: Shooting up at over 55 miles per hour, the “Drop of Doom” gives thrill-seekers a chance to perfect their writing and their screaming! After strapping in, guests will be shot to the “Introduction” at the top of the tower and gradually bounce between body paragraphs until descending back down to the ground floor, or, the Conclusion.

– The Edgar Allan Poe Haunted Mansion: Though the raven theme establishes a perfectly scary atmosphere, the depressing poetry intermissions make this attraction the place where happiness goes to die.

– The James Joyce Train Ride: Everyone talks up this ride despite the fact that it is always too long and anti-climactic. Just when you think it’s about to be exciting, the conductor announces a cryptic, semi-philosophical quote over the speakers and makes you question whether or not you understood half of what you just experienced.

– The Supertramp Sky Rail: With cabins made of old buses, the Alexander Supertramp Sky Rail would give crowds a stunning overhead view of the entire park. If the ride’s 100-foot-high cables are too daunting, passengers can also enjoy a series of Thoreau inscriptions and nearly illegible journal entries provided in the Chris McCandless Park Guidebook. Burnt dollar bills are also included as a bonus souvenir.

– Hamlet’s “Spinning Spirit” Ride: This mini-attraction, which admits guests to a castle-themed hatch and spins them at a mind-boggling velocity, often causes hallucinations and sometimes, death, just like Hamlet himself!

– Willy Wonka’s Psychedelic Boat Ride: Creating an entire building out of chocolate can be a bit costly, so this theme park has the next best thing: a tunnel boat ride just like the one in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, minus the gravity-defying vessel and the group of annoying children. Actually, scratch that second part. Annoying children are still included. It is a theme park, after all.

– The “Star-Crossed Lovers” Roller Coaster: On the outside, this twisty, fast-paced wooden beast looks like the park’s most exciting attraction but loyal guests will tell you the coaster starts too suddenly, moves too fast, and often comes close to ending in a fiery wreck. The conductor’s miscommunication with the park’s supervisor will ultimately cause the coaster’s cars to go flying off the track, ending in a lawsuit that gets the park shut down and unites the community in mourning.

– The Hemingway: Dedicated to literature’s favorite lush, The Hemingway provides adults with a place to go while they’re kids are off enjoying the park’s numerous attractions. With old typewriters and alcohol bottles lining the walls, it’s a nice haven for those who can’t handle the intensity of thrill rides.

The GrammAHHH Water Park Subdivision: Contrary to popular belief, the GrammAHHH Water Park was not made only for overly-excited Bostonians. This subdivision aims to educate and entertain guests through everyone’s favorite subject: grammar. Starting with the Punctuation Pyramid, which features an 80 foot high, Egyptian-themed water-slide decorated with punctuation marks, the attractions in the GrammAHHH Water Park leave little to be desired. For folks looking for a bit more action, the Run-On Rapids and the Verb Tense Teacups provide hours of entertainment for the whole family. And if you’re looking for something more relaxing at the end of the day, the English Major park has you covered: the Stream of Consciousness Lazy River brings guests right back to the entrance so they may leave or start their theme park journey all over again. Or, so it goes.

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