1. Follow Friday Needs Your Help Please and Thank You

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    We’re a week away from the big night premiere night at Newport Beach Film Festival, and we need your help. Even if you can’t make it. Even if you hate movies. Even if you hate me. Odds are good you like somebody involved with this film. Do it for them. I know you’re sitting there with your laptop, watching baseball, thinking “Erin this is dumb I can’t help what are you even saying.” BUT YOU CAN. Imma spell it out for you, step by step:

    STEP ONE:

    Go to: 

    http://newportbeach.festivalgenius.com/2013/films/followfridaythefilm_newportbeach2014_newportbeach2014

    This is the Festival Genius site for Follow Friday the Film’s screenings at the Newport Beach Film Festival. Just clicking on the link adds to our page views. THANK YOU! Now that you’re there, you may as well help us even more by:

    STEP TWO:

    Adding us to your Festival Genius calendar. Yes, this means registering for Festival Genius. It’s fast, easy and you can opt out of emails. But calendar adds are the fastest way for us to get to the top of the festival buzz page. WE MUST BE THE BEST. To add us to your calendar, click on Buy Tickets:image

    At this point, you’ll register for an account. Won’t take more than a minute or two. Once you’ve registered, and come back to our film page, click on Buy Tickets again and scroll down:

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    You’ll see the dates for our two screenings. Add them both! Go for broke! This costs you nothing and will help us out!

    STEP THREE:

    Buy some tickets! Okay I kind of tricked you there. But if you can make it, we’d love to see you. If not, we’ve had multiple people offer to buy tickets for people in the LA area who can’t afford to go! You all know an actor down here, and even if you don’t, the rest of us know plenty. If you’d like to sponsor a ticket or tickets, please purchase through the Festival Genius web site, then email me at erinmariefaulk@gmail.com. I’ll find them a home, and thank you profusely. If you’re in the LA area and would love a night out but can’t swing the ticket price, email me. We got you.

    STEP FOUR:

    If you’re a friend or family member who’s been lucky enough to see a private screening of the film (even if it’s one of the many rough cuts), please feel free to rate it on the Festival Genius site, and/or leave a comment.image

    We appreciate your help, can’t thank you enough, and totes promise to remember the little people in our Oscar acceptance speeches. Thanks you guys.

  2. The Oscars? I got you.

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    The Oscars are this weekend, and if you’re like me, you have that one friend who puts a lot of effort into their Oscar party and makes you fill out a ballot with predictions and gives out prizes and gives you a lot of side eye every time you say “oh I didn’t see that one.”
    Well don’t you worry. I’m here to help. I’ve got insightful predictions, fun facts about the nominees, and intelligent things to drop in the conversation. You’re going to be the best actor at that Oscars party.
    Disclaimer: I have watched 1.5 of the Best Picture nominees, have no insider information regarding the Academy, and am a terrible source for information regarding the Oscars.
    Fun Fact: This is only the fifth time the Academy has had more than five best picture nominees! There are nine this year, same as last year
    Smart Thing To Say: “You know, expanding the Best Picture category was supposed to diversify the nominee field, but the 44 major award categories are still spread among the same 12 films. I mean, that’s the worst spread in 30 years!”
    And the Nominees Are:
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    Which one is that?: It’s the one with all the big hair.

    What’s it about?: I didn’t see it, but I think it’s mostly about the 70’s. That seems to be the main point.

    But will it win? No.

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    Which one is that?: It’s the one where Tom Hanks fights off the Somali pirates with a Boston accent.

    What’s it about?: Just start chanting USA and you’ll be fine. 

    But will it win? No.

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    Which one is that?: It’s the one with skinny Matthew McConaughey.

    What’s it about?: It’s about an AIDS patient named Ron Woodruff who smuggled pharmaceuticals not approved by the FDA into the US and sold them to other AIDS patients, providing hope and alleviating symptoms.

    But will it win? Probably.

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    Which one is that?: It’s the one that looks like that fake film that Julia Roberts’ character in Notting Hill stars in.  

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    What’s it about?: I didn’t see it, but I think it’s about space.

    But will it win? Maybe.

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    Which one is that?: It’s the one by Spike Jonze.

    Which one is Spike Jonze again? 

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    What’s it about?: It’s about a guy in the future who writes love letters for other people and falls in love with an OS that has Scarlett Johansson’s voice.

    But will it win? No.

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    Which one is that?: I seriously have no fucking clue.

    What’s it about?: If anyone asks you what you thought of this film, ask them if you can grab them a beer. Then run away to the kitchen. 

    But will it win? Um, I don’t know. No.

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    Which one is that?: wait what

    What’s it about?: Um can I grab you a beer. 

    But will it win? No way in hell.

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    Which one is that?: It’s the one with the white people on the posters in Italy.

    What’s it about?: It’s about a free-born man who was kidnapped in DC and spent…12 years as a slave. 

    But will it win? Maybe.

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    Which one is that?: It’s the one where DiCaprio worked with Scorsese. No the other one. No the other one. No the other one. Never mind.

    What’s it about?: It’s about some asshole trader who lost $200 million for his investors. He went to jail for 22 months and is now rich and a motivational speaker, because that’s life. 

    But will it win? Nope.

    Okay, look, we don’t have time to delve into all the other categories, so here’s the Cliff’s Notes:

    Things to Casually Drop Into the Conversation:

    • "Did you know White Men Can’t Jump was one of Stanley Kubrick’s favorite films?”
    • "Did you know that DiCaprio was snorting crushed B vitamins in Wolf of Wall Street?”
    • "Did you know that Cate Blanchett shares an email address with her husband?"

    Things to Say When You Don’t Know What People are Talking About:

    • "The Academy is always just so political, you know?"
    • "No host will ever live up to Billy Crystal circa 1992. Man, those were the days."
    • "Jennifer Lawrence, amirite?"

    Oscar parties can be scary, but keep this in mind. When all else fails, your go-to line is: “Hey, can I grab you a beer?”

    They’ll like you. They’ll really like you.

    Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  3. the team picks you

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    My last blog post was about how I became a football fan, and it got me thinking about how we become fans. I figured my story was a bit outside the norm, but I knew there had to be some other good stories out there. My friend Kelli said hey, someone should write about that!

    So here we are.

    I asked people on Twitter to email me the story of how they became a fan of their NFL team. Quite a few people responded to the tweet with comments like “isn’t it just going to be where they grew up?” And guess what? It’s not that simple. I asked the question “How did you pick your team?” The answers were amazing.

    Several people told me they started watching football because of work. Spike, whose stepfather essentially turned his back on football when the Colts left Baltimore, became a Ravens fan when he worked in the city government: 

         ”In 2005 I got a job with Martin O’Malley’s Mayoral office. Every Monday started with football and Ravens talk. I started watching, even though I used to disdain football, I found myself loving the game. The Ravens represented everything about Baltimore.”

    Katie never watched football growing up, but her first job as a secretary included running the office football pool, obviously:

         "My first job was as secretary to the Controller of a small company. And one of his things was running the weekly football pool. So that became my job. Since I was watching football every week to score the participants - and gambling - I wanted a team rather than just rooting for whichever team I bet on to cover the spread. My younger brother was a huge Jets fan, so I adopted them.”

    Sean was 18 when his supervisor at work, a slightly racist, skirt-chasing middle-aged man, convinced him to become a Jets fan:

         ”There were posters all over the break room and he told me they were losers, that they hadn’t been good in 30 years and were probably never going to be good. At 18 this seemed like a good decision because it seemed like a thankless task - rooting for a team that hadn’t won, had nothing to brag about, and wouldn’t ever have anything to brag about. I’m 28 now and not much has changed.”

    Others told me a more personal story. Jim, for example, went to Rice and lived with a couple of football players. Through them, he met defensive nose guard Rodrigo Barnes. Barnes was a great football player, a multi-black belt martial artist, and the kind of guy who made friends everywhere he went. When he was drafted in the last round by the Dallas Cowboys, Jim knew who he’d be cheering for:

         "When a personal friend is on an NFL team – well, there’s no choice involved."

    Nick’s story is one of my favorites. He became a Patriots fan because of a girl. He’d watched American football in the UK, but didn’t have a team - until he met a “strange American girl.” This girl had once been a cheerleader at Boston University, and when a fellow cheerleader, who happened to cheer for the Patriots, was injured, Nick’s strange American girl had stepped in for her. When you want to impress a former NFL cheerleader (even just a stand-in), you pick her team:

         "All things considered, since I didn’t have a team, that seemed like the obvious (and for sake of maintaining the relationship, only) choice. Almost a decade later, married for most of it and expecting a baby Pats’ fan in about 10 weeks, here we are! The irony of an Englishman supporting the NE Patriots is, of course, not lost on me.”

    Lots of people did claim that geography made the decision for them, although, even those fans admit that family had a lot to do with it as well. Eric’s family were the first white settlers in Seattle; when Seattle got an NFL team, there was really no other choice:

         ”I was 5 when they first started as a team. I don’t remember football before then. We’d watch almost every game as a kid because they were local. They weren’t great, but they were ours. I don’t remember my dad ever telling me what his favorite team was before the Seahawks. They were always our team.”

    Sue admits that geography played a role in her choice of team, but her love of the fans’ attitude toward football and life is what kept her loyal: 

         "From the ages of 7 to 17 I was in Saints Country. Spending your formative years near a football team means that they sort of seep into your subconscious. Even though those were the ‘Aints years (paper bags, etc.) the city of New Orleans bore it all with a joie de vivre."

    And Nancy told me her role as a Broncos fan was determined before birth:

         ”My parents were from Nebraska (my mom) and Iowa (my dad), which are huge football states with no pro teams. They moved to Denver a year before I was born in 1970 and the rest is history.  Football is like religion to me and the affinity I feel for my beloved Broncos is that strong.”

    Nancy’s mother would always tell the story of how when Nancy was a toddler, she’d ask Nancy “Where’s the football?” Nancy would walk on over to the TV, and point right at it, even if it was under a pile a players. Nancy’s mom passed away in 2011, and her father passed away last May - this is her first season without either of them, but I’m pretty sure they’d be proud of their Broncos this season.

    Jorge also inherited his team from his father. And who knew that the Steelers were so popular in Mexico?

          “My whole family is from Mexico, including me. When my dad grew up in the 70s, the Steelers were the most popular team there. He’s been a fan since the Steel Curtain and watched them win 4 Super Bowls. When we moved to the US 10 years ago I decided to start watching football. I live in Chicago but I went with the Steelers like my dad, and was lucky enough to see them win SB XL, the first complete season I watched.”

    My absolute favorite response came from Eric S:

         "When I was five my cousin gave me a bunch of football cards. He gave me more Chicago Bears than any other team. Since then the Bears have been my team. I live in Los Angeles."

    No matter what path you took to your team, you have this story. Almost like how couples tell the story of how they met, the story of how you picked your team is something you tell, and retell, until it’s maybe more mythology than fact, but the feeling is the same. It’s part of who you are, and where you came from. And it doesn’t feel so much like a choice as it feels like fate. Jim put it well when he wrote, “I suggest that team allegiance is not a matter over which we exercise free will.” 

    I asked people to tell me how they picked their NFL team, but I’m pretty sure I asked the wrong question. I should have asked, “How did your team pick you?” Because that’s how being a fan feels. Like an inevitability. It’s kismet. You and your team. They may (will) break your heart, but in the end, your team is your soulmate. How great is it that they found you?

  4. #footballwitherin

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    National identity is a funny thing. We talk about it a lot when bad things happen - 9/11, the shootings in Aurora and Sandy Hook, Hurricane Katrina. Something happens that shakes us not just as individuals, but as a larger community. As a nation. It seems like we talk about national identity less when it involves the positive things that bring us together. No offense, but this might be because it’s often used as a political and commercial tool by people who think we all love watching Duck Dynasty and drinking Bud Light and driving Chevy trucks and shooting guns. (If you’re not American, we don’t all do these things. Well, I mean, I’ve never watched Duck Dynasty.) 

    There are some things that just make you feel American. In a good way, not in an ugh I wish we would stop bombing people and polluting the environment and making life harder for poor people sort of way. The good things are what keeps this ragtag nation of differing opinions and varied backgrounds from going off the rails. Things like apple pie, and Law and Order SVU marathons, and that summer when everyone and their dog made a Call Me Maybe video. THIS IS WHAT BRINGS US TOGETHER, AMERICA. 

    This, and also football.

    Whether you’re a die-hard fan, or a player, or someone who watches the Super Bowl for the commercials, or that person that says I only watch “real” football because that’s cooler than saying you watch soccer, football is an inescapable part of American life. Not that I didn’t try my best to escape it for almost 30 years. Until last year, I had never watched a football game. It was on in the background during holidays, and I told my parents I was going to high school football games a few times (sorry mom and dad), but I didn’t get the rules, and didn’t understand the attraction. It’s a bunch of guys hitting each other. Meh.

    So when everyone in my Twitter feed started counting down to the start of the football season, I thought oh great. I’m going to have to read all these tweets about football and everyone will have this thing to talk about and I’ll be totally on the outside and I HATE that and there’s nothing to do about…except…what if I just decided to become a football fan? I mean, what if I just decided to do that?

    So I did. I told everyone on Twitter I needed a team. (As it turns out, if you ask what LA’s football team is, everyone finds it endlessly entertaining. Feel free to read up on that here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_National_Football_League_in_Los_Angeles)

    With no football team in Los Angeles and no NFL fans in my family, I told everyone I was a free agent.

    And the bidding began. 

    Some people thought I should be a Rams fan because of the LA history, and some people thought I should be a Raiders fan because I don’t know those people hate me I guess. Other people thought I should pick the Seahawks because my family lives in Washington State, and everyone in Chicago thought I should be a Bears fan because everyone in Chicago thinks everything in Chicago is the best all the time. There was a half-hearted vote for the Chargers, and several people who wanted me for the Cowboys, until the outcry from the rest of the nation made it clear that could not happen. (America’s team lol)

    In the end, I signed with the Green Bay Packers. In the early years of the NFL, small-town teams were the norm. Now, the Packers are it. They are the oldest NFL franchise in continuous operation in the same location with the same name. They have more league championships than any other team, and they are the only non-profit, community-owned major league pro sports team in the US. (Plus Packers fans are called Cheeseheads and also Aaron Rodgers is the greatest quarterback in the NFL.)

    Packers fans are the best of all the fans. This was clear from that first day when they passionately lobbied for me to join their ranks. Without ever having watched an NFL game, I decided publicly to become a Packers fan for life. (I do what I want.)

    It’s honestly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

    I spent last season watching football with Twitter. I had my laptop out at bars, and on my living room couch. I bought a Packers hat. I was often confused, but there was always someone on Twitter to explain the play that had just happened, or the call the refs had just made. (btw, I still don’t understand pass interference, it seems really arbitrary) Nataliya, a friend from Twitter, gifted me an online course called How to Watch American Football (it was priceless - check it out here: http://storify.com/erinscafe/how-to-watch-an-american-football-game). I suffered my first playoffs loss, and thus my first football heartbreak. I hosted a Super Bowl party. And more than anything else, I joined the conversation. I finally got the jokes and the gifs and the headlines. I knew what people were talking about Monday morning. I knew the words to the Sunday Night Football song. I drank all the beers. I reached peak American.

    This season, I became that person counting down to the first kickoff. I became convinced that if I wasn’t watching the Packers game with my hat and my special football t-shirt on, we would lose. In week 9, I missed the start of the game and was inundated with tweets telling me my quarterback was broken. I mourned. I watched him come back in week 17 to beat the Bears. I rejoiced. And just when I thought I couldn’t love football and its fans any more, I got the opportunity of a lifetime.

    A Twitter friend in Wisconsin had an extra ticket to the playoff game against the Niners at Lambeau Field, and asked if I wanted to go. (I know you were probably joking @laduper, but never joke around about football on Twitter.) @tedder42 offered to get me a plane ticket with his airline miles, @hammad_26 got me a bus ticket to Madison, @laduper offered her couch, and a slew of people actually sent me money to buy warm clothes so I wouldn’t freeze to death (thank you Eileen, Daryn, Paul, Aimee, Megan, Katie, Virgil and Michael). A friend of a friend got me VIP field passes for the game, to watch warm-ups (thanks Anna and Pat). In less than two hours, football fans literally gave me my first live football game. Because more people wanted to chip in, I pointed my Twitter followers to a fundraiser for the MACC Fund for childhood cancer research (thanks @N0tAaronRodgers), and so many people jumped on the chance to donate. I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of kindness and generosity, but all of this this still blew me away. (Hey, look - you can still donate! http://teammaccfund.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/mobileDonorPledge.asp?ievent=426280&lis=1&kntae426280=4BFB6C6871754C5D934016C9BD59C07D&supId=372629944&team=0&scWidth=320&extSiteType=)

    They predicted the game would be one of the coldest on record. I live in Los Angeles for many reasons, but mainly because I hate the cold. I was completely unprepared. I was visiting a friend in Idaho, so I raced to the local outdoors store and told the salesclerk that I needed pretty much everything. It felt like Pretty Woman, except after we were done I looked like a marshmallow. I had long underwear and ski pants and a coat and gloves and mittens and a half balaclava (which I still don’t know how to pronounce). The clerk came up with an assortment of hand warmers and I said “I’ll take them all.” 48 hours later, I was on a plane.

    I wore my Packers hat for the journey. I got good-natured shit from the Niners fans, and fervent support from the Seahawks fans, and made friends with an older gentleman who was headed to Lambeau Field for his first time as well. Born and raised in Wisconsin, he was attending his first home game with his grown son, who was a Niners fan. When we had to switch planes before takeoff due to a mechanical problem, he grabbed my arm and said “This is my daughter, she’s pre-boarding with me.”

    To say that Ice Bowl II was one of the greatest experiences of my life would be an understatement. To be at Lambeau Field, in the middle of a sell-out crowd of more than 70,000 people who couldn’t care less about the cold was nothing short of magical. Everywhere I walked, people high-fived me, and yelled “Go Pack Go!” Everyone was tailgating in the neighborhoods surrounding the stadium and in the parking lot of the stadium. It was euphoric. At kickoff, the temperature was 5 degrees (-10 with wind chill), but you never would have known it. We were all too excited about football to care.

    Okay, once the sun went down we started to care a little. My beer froze before I could drink it. Flasks came out. Facemasks went up. I lost all feeling in my toes. I had hand warmers crammed in the back pockets of my pants, and down my shirt, and in my boots. In front of me, a woman’s eyes were watering because of the wind, and the tears were frozen on her eyelashes.

    You guys, it was cold.

    And we lost.

    My mom asked me later if it was devastating. And I said absolutely not. It was football. Sure, it’ll break your heart more often than not. But dear god, it’s worth it.

    I’m certainly no football expert, but I do know this: football brings us together. I can walk into any bar in this country and find someone to talk football with. Every football fan knows what it’s like to see their team win, and to see their team lose. Some more than others (sorry, Washington fans). We’ve all stood in front of the TV, because the score’s too close to remain seated. We’ve all been mocked by our friends when our team was down, and tried to catch glimpses of the game while walking through an airport. And it’s oddly comforting to know we have that in common.

    It’s not too late to jump on the bandwagon. I promise, it’s worth the effort. Football fans are funny, and smart, and sure, assholes sometimes. There’s plenty of serious talk about how to make the game safer, and what happens with money raised for charity. But it’s a great game. And it’s part of our national identity, whether you like it or not. I mean, I’m not saying you’re not a good American if you don’t like football. I’m just saying you clearly haven’t given it a chance. (Also if this changes your mind, let me tell you why you should be a Packers fan.)

    God bless America.

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  5. haters gonna hate

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    This weekend, a story I told on Twitter almost six months ago was published on a few web sites. If you haven’t read it, the story was about the time I went looking for Matt Damon while I was studying in Morocco. I tweeted it because a friend asked for a story, and I’d had a few beers, and, well, that’s the whole thing. A friend asked and I’d had a few beers.

    I have absolutely no idea how it became a thing six months later, but I woke up one day with a thousand new Twitter followers and a lot of mentions of Matt Damon. I also had a few texts and tweets from concerned friends who had read the comments on Jezebel and Gawker and were worried about my feelings. From what they tell me, there were quite a few comments that were less than flattering.

    First of all, I am so grateful that I have people in my life who rush to my defense when the internet tries to put me down. Truly. But this whole episode made me realize that Twitter has taught me a life lesson I should maybe share with others. Listen up, because if this is new information, it’s gonna change your life.

    Never read the comments.

    No, really. NEVER READ THE COMMENTS.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s important to hear from people who have different points of view. Constructive criticism is essential to any artistic or intellectual endeavor. But let’s be real. Comments on the internet are the opposite of constructive criticism. They’re the ‘ring and run’ of virtual social interaction. They are THE WORST.

    Imagine, if you will, a cocktail party. Someone you’ve never met is telling an anecdote; an amusing, but essentially superficial, humorous tale of the time they almost met a celebrity. Everyone is laughing politely, and sipping their respective adult beverage. Some people think this party guest is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Others think oh my GOD, is this story over. The storyteller delivers the punchline, and most people laugh politely. Except for one person. ONE person, who stands up and says, “That was the dumbest story I’ve ever heard and you are a fucking moron.” 

    THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is your average internet commenter. The person who lacks the social fluency to gauge the relative importance of your discourse, and respond in an appropriate manner. In essence, the asshole.

    I tweeted a story about looking for Matt Damon. From what friends have told me, the comments have ranged from “check your privilege” to “you’re a fucking liar.” I’d like to say that I just don’t care, but I guess that’s not 100% true. Nobody likes being called out. I’m not immune to that. But to be completely honest, I don’t really have a lot of feelings. This is a joke among my friends, but it’s true. I don’t have a lot of feelings. So I’m not going to say this for myself, but I will say it for everyone else out there who maybe needs to hear it one more time.

    You are not the dumbest thing on the internet.

    I mean, think about that. There is literally no point in time in which you are the dumbest thing on the internet. Have you seen the internet? YOU ARE NOT THE DUMBEST THING ON THE INTERNET. That will always be true. Statistically, in your lifetime, that will always be true. There will always be someone dumber than you on the internet. Geraldo Rivera tweeted a half-naked selfie last night. I mean, ffs, YOU ARE NOT THE DUMBEST THING ON THE INTERNET.

    Remember that the next time you think about saying something. You are not the dumbest thing on the internet. No matter what anyone else says - and trust me, people will say things - you just aren’t. You may not have the best story to tell, or the smartest take on whatever breaking news is currently breaking, but you’re not the biggest idiot out there either. Ann Coulter is still spouting nonsense. Glenn Beck has a radio show. You’re allowed to say something that isn’t the most thought-provoking thing this generation has ever read. You can just tell a semi-drunken story about a thing that happened a few years ago. You really, truly, can.

    All of us have that voice inside our head that tells us we’re not good enough. That what we have to say is stupid, and not worth listening to. That we’re insignificant, and ineloquent, and essentially a waste of space. And that’s plenty. I mean, for god’s sake, we don’t need anyone else driving those points home. So when someone you don’t know comes out of nowhere with an opinion about what you have to say, or how you’re choosing to live your life - take a step back and think. That person took the time to register with that web site and create a profile. They made a password, and handed over an email address. They probably falsified a date of birth and zip code. Just so they could tell you they think your story is stupid. I mean, think about that. That is some seriously misused free time.

    I don’t read the comments. Not about anything I post, and not about anything I read. There’s a time and a place for measured, thought-provoking dissension. The comments section on a Gawker post is not that time or place. Not because the shit I tweeted one night in February is just that awesome; but because anyone who takes the time to tell me it’s really not is kind of a dick. And that’s all there is to say. 

    Don’t read the comments. Anyone who says nasty things in them is essentially the guy the rest of us are staring at, wondering who invited them to the party. We got your back. Do your thing, say your piece, and odds are pretty good that you’re not remotely the dumbest thing we’ve seen all day.

    I mean, two million people watched the premiere of Sharknado.

    You got this.

  6. what’s in a name?

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    You know how some people are completely anal retentive about their name? Like, if you spell Sarah with an h, but it’s actually Sara without an h and they totally lose their shit? Or how other people let someone continue to call them by the wrong name past the point when it’s socially acceptable to correct them? 

    I’m in that latter group of people.

    I honestly just don’t care. My name is Erin Faulk. It’s a pretty good name, except for when people don’t pronounce the l. That gets awkward, mostly for them. But other than that, I can’t complain. St. Patrick’s Day always feels like it belongs to me a little. And I don’t mind hearing the occasional “Faulk you.” My middle name is Marie, which is kind of boring, I guess. But better than Louise, which is what my parents wanted it to be until they realized my initials would be ELF.

    People think that because I don’t have the same last name as Adam, I didn’t change it when we got married. That is incorrect. I did change it. I was 20, and getting married, and everybody said “But what about your kids? Don’t you want the same last name as your kids?”

    Looking back, it’s hard to understand how that argument made any sense to anyone ever. Are these hypothetical children too stupid to know who their mother is unless they share a name? After birthing said hypothetical children, would I not feel any attachment to them unless we had the same last name? Also, did you know that you can name kids whatever you want when they’re born? (Except for dirty words and stuff - that’s illegal in some places). My hypothetical offspring could have my last name, how does that sound, I’m the one who GREW THEM IN MY BODY.

    Most importantly, I’ve been married for ten years and this issue has yet to come up because the children are still hypothetical. So I changed my name back.

    Which is not as easy as you might think.

    Changing it the first time wasn’t so bad. Show the marriage certificate at the Social Security office, boom. New driver’s license, boom. New Erin. Changing back was a circus. I actually had to pay money to get my name back. My name, which is the first thing ever given to me as a little tiny human; my name that was mine for 20 years. And I had to pay with cash or check. 

    I had to sit in a courtroom filled with other people who wanted to change their names, and watch them stand before the judge, one by one, and explain why. There was a judge, and his actual job that day was to be like, yeah, okay, that seems like a good reason to change your name. Aside from the one kid getting adopted, everyone’s reason was divorce - I had no less than three women ask me “How long were you married?” and I said “Oh, I still am,” which got me the stink eye, and a row of chairs all to myself.

    When my name was finally called (which seems kind of mean, since they knew for a fact I was there because I didn’t want people to call me that anymore), I walked on up and stood before the judge.

    "What is your legal name?"

    "Erin Marie Critchlow."

    "And what would you like to change it to?"

    "Erin Marie Faulk."

    "It says here the reason is marriage: is Faulk your husband’s name?"

    "No, it’s my maiden name."

    "I see. You’re getting divorced?"

    "No."

    "…"

    "I still want to be married, I just want my name back."

    "Why?"

    "Because it’s mine. I want it back."

    "Why did you change it then?"

    "I don’t know, I felt like it."

    "But not anymore?"

    "No, now I want my real name back."

    "Well…uh, okay then."

    My argument won him over. I had to swear that I wasn’t trying to avoid debt or outstanding warrants, and then the judge approved it and I paid my money with a check that no longer had my legal name on it and walked out the door. Then I had to go to the Social Security office and show them the document, and then the bank, and then my university, and then my health insurance company and my credit card companies and my cell phone company. Plus, they printed it in the local paper, because everyone has a right to know I changed my name, which led to numerous people telling my parents they were so sorry my marriage didn’t work out. The good news is, I think Erin Critchlow still had some unpaid fines at Blockbuster. Don’t tell the judge about that one.

    But I got my name back. Because it’s a pretty good name. Now when I fill out forms, I have an alias that has to be listed. Which is kind of cool, like Critchlow was my spy name. I don’t think having my name back has caused much confusion (except for every elderly relative on both sides who send a birthday card to Mrs. Adam Critchlow every year - I’ll tell you right now, that person never did exist). People know Adam and I are married, and if they think we’re not, I could not care less. My hypothetical children are pretty smart, so I think they’ll continue to be well-adjusted and hypothetical. And some people still call me Erin Critchlow, which I respond to the same way I respond to Erin Faulk, e faulk, Erin Scafe, Erin’s Cafe, Anne, Ingrid, and yes last week I let someone call me Sarah for like an hour. Or Sara. Whatever.

    Feel free to call me whatever you want. In the words of my late grandfather, Earl “Scotty” Douglas Swall, “Just don’t call me late for dinner.”

    (J/k, have you met me? I’m always late for dinner.)

  7. everyone’s a little bit sexist

    Today President Obama called Kamala Harris, Attorney General of the State of California, the “best-looking attorney general.”

    Cue indignation.

    Let’s set aside the fact that Obama was probably right. (No seriously, if he’s talking CA State Attorneys General, Harris wins. Tirey L. Ford is a close second. http://oag.ca.gov/history )

    But nobody’s upset that Obama called a good-looking woman good-looking. What’s got everyone’s panties in a twist is the casual sexism the statement implies. That women should be pretty and men should be strong. The same sort of casual sexism implicit in the phrase don’t get your panties in a twist, am I right?

    I don’t believe the President intended to offend the women of the world, but sure. It was a thoughtlessly shitty thing to say. What absolutely blows my mind is that anyone feels confident in calling the man out on it. Casting the first stone takes a lot of self-confidence, no? 

    So gentlemen, before you rush to defend our honor, which annoys the ever-living fuck out of a lot of us, please make sure that you have never committed any of the following acts of benevolent sexism.

    • Held the door open and announced “Ladies first!” as if having female parts is the equivalent of permanently calling shotgun.
    • Told anyone “I would never hit a woman.” How about don’t hit people smaller than you? Or maybe just don’t hit people?
    • Said anything like “women should be treated like princesses” or some such bullshit. Some women should be treated like horrible people because they are, in fact, horrible people. Or, if you’re nicer than I am, you could treat all the men you know like princesses too.
    • Called a man’s wife his “better half.” *eye roll accompanied by jack-off hand motion*
    • Insisted on carrying something for a woman even when it’s ridiculously light and she’s managing just fine without your clearly superior muscles. 
    • Spent a holiday with your family and assumed that the women would make the dinner while you drank a beer and watched football.
    • Watched Titanic and thought “I would never have gotten on to a boat until EVERY woman had been saved.”
    • Said someone throws like a girl, or hits like a girl, or screams like a girl. Pretty much insert anything before the phrase like a girl.
    • Described someone as a strong woman, or a powerful woman, as if that possibility isn’t contained in the word woman already. Can you even imagine if you said that about your male friends? “I just love how he he didn’t take any shit from them. He’s such a strong man.”

    Have you done any of these things? I mean, honestly? Because every guy I know has. And I still like them. I might roll my eyes occasionally, but being condescended to is nothing new. And the vast majority of you don’t even mean it. Guess what? We get it. It’s how you were raised. It’s how I was raised too. It doesn’t mean it’s ideal; it just means it takes a little effort to undo those years of assuming we need your help, or your money, or even your praise. 

    Does this make it awkward for you to tell us we’re pretty? Yeah, kind of. And I really can’t be bothered to care that much about it. That’s what happens when you try to fix shit that’s been wrong for thousands of years. So let’s make a deal: men, you try your best to recognize that not all compliments come across as such. In exchange, we’ll forgive you for trying to score political points by placing us on a pedestal.

  8. Twitter in More Than 140 Characters

    @itstheannmarie is writing a paper about Twitter and parody, and asked if I would answer some questions. (Obviously, I am a leading thinker in the fields of funny and Twitter. Or more likely, Ann-Marie wants an excuse to tweet and call it research.) Either way, these answers were longer and less funny than I intended. But when I put this much time into writing something (like, 30 minutes), I make you guys read it too. You’re welcome.

    Ann-Marie!

     

    Love the idea for your paper. I’m obviously a bit biased, but I think Twitter is an endlessly fascinating topic. I’m gathering my own thoughts about Twitter as we finish the film, so forgive me for being long-winded; you usually only have to deal with me in 140-character bursts.
    1. do you like twitter parody? parody of twitter?
    I love parody accounts. Parody, like satire, pokes fun at what makes us human. At its best, it exposes our weaknesses, and instead of making us ashamed, it makes us feel like we’re all part of one big, not-so-dissimilar, screwed up human family. 
    Dan Sinker, who wrote the @mayoremanuel account, told me “I don’t know what the first account was on Twitter, but the second one was probably a parody of the first one.” It’s human nature. Twitter is the perfect medium for receiving genuine news and information, while simultaneously witnessing our natural, snarky, hilarious response. We can’t help ourselves.
    I also think parody has become more and more important as extremism has become a larger part of our culture. Poe’s Law says that without a clear indication of the author’s intent, it’s impossible to distinguish genuine extremism from a parody of that viewpoint. We have to keep pushing parody farther to illuminate the absurdity, and sometimes danger, of extreme beliefs.
    Parodies of Twitter? Absolutely. If you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re missing the whole point.
    2. do you consider yourself “funny?”
    I should probably say no, of course not, but screw that. I’ve spent 30 years trying to make people laugh. I certainly don’t consider myself funny all the time, or even as often as I’d like to be. I’m not remotely the funniest person I know, but I’m not the least funny either. Sometimes I make people laugh. And that is pretty much the best thing in the world.
    3. what do you think of the state of parody on Twitter? do you follow any?
    I do follow parody accounts. There isn’t one that I’m really into at the moment, but I have no doubt a good one will pop up soon. There are certainly more bad parody accounts than there have ever been before (see these tweets about that: http://storify.com/benhjacobs/your-parody-account-is-bad-and-you-should-feel-bad), but when someone nails it, it’s perfection. Some of my favorites: @mayoremanuel, @gingrichideas, @kimjongnumberun, @nottildaswinton
    4. why is Twitter important to you?
    Twitter is important to me for two reasons: first, it removes the barrier of geography from communication. Like the telegram, or telephone, or cell phone, or internet, Twitter has made the world smaller; but even better, it’s made communication instantaneous AND public. You can talk to people anywhere in real time. 
    It’s taken shared cultural experiences to a new level. Rather than talking to your coworkers about The Bachelor the next morning at work, you can talk to other people watching it, WHILE you’re watching it. Plus, you get to pick the people based on what they’re saying, not whether or not they happen to work in the cubicle next to you. Twitter isn’t just the new water cooler; it’s a way better water cooler. Like, a water cooler shaped like a bar where all your friends hang out and they have a million microbrews on tap. Or, you know, whatever you’re into.
    The second reason is that it’s democratizing. Twitter is like the TV show The Voice. We’re all sitting there in our chairs, with our backs to the people who are tweeting, and it lets us block out all the noise. We don’t judge them based on their physical features, or the clothes they’re wearing, or their accent. We get an unfiltered look at what they have to say. And everyone gets an equal shot to say something worthwhile.
    Twitter is content-based; if you produce good content, people will pay attention. That’s what most companies miss on Twitter. They try to sell something, rather than provide something people are interested in hearing. Some of my favorite people to follow on Twitter live in the middle of nowhere. They don’t have fancy jobs, or resumes. But they’re smart and funny and people like what they have to say. That’s all it takes.
    5. storify? thoughts?
    Storify is brilliant. End of story.
    6. how did you get good at telling stories on Twitter? (especially in responding in real time with people)
    I was going to say that I don’t really tell a lot of stories on Twitter, but I guess that’s not true. To me, everything is a story. Whether it’s the saga of me learning the rules of football, or my current campaign to be the next Pope, it’s all a story. It’s meant to be engaging and funny. It’s anecdotal; 3/4 real life, 1/4 an exaggeration of real life to highlight the best/most ridiculous parts.
    Storytelling is storytelling; being good at it comes from practice, and from enjoying it. To me, Twitter is like sitting in a room full of your friends. So I tell a story exactly the way I would to a room full of my friends. 
    What most people miss about Twitter is that it’s a conversation. When you tell a story to a group of your friends, they’re going to ask questions, and throw in comments, and maybe get up to grab a beer. I could tell the exact same story a day later, to different friends, and it would be totally different.
    7. do you enjoy the 140-character constraints?
    The character limit is what makes Twitter work. There’s a time and place for longer content (see my answers here; sorry, I had a lot to say). But with Twitter, you get a concentration of ideas and humor. Shakespeare wrote “Brevity is the soul of wit.” 140-characters is the perfect length for a witty remark. If you look at some of the best quotes from Mark Twain, Phyllis Diller, or Oscar Wilde, they all fit into a tweet. A good one-liner is a beautiful thing.
    Austin Kleon said “art is subtraction.” You carve and carve and carve away until you have only what you need to say what you want to say. Less is more. I think a good tweet is a piece of art.
    8. have you been #FF?
    I’ve used the hashtag #FF, and had other people use it to recommend me. But my favorite thing on Twitter is the tacit #FF. When someone you respect on Twitter retweets someone because they’re funny, and then you follow that person. 
    9. what kind of people did you interview for #FFthefilm?
    Anyone I could find. I interviewed MMA fighters, and NFL player, teachers, comedians, social media consultants, journalists, accountants, start-up entrepreneurs, politicians, writers, actors, a guy in a hot dog suit. All because someone told me to follow them on Twitter. 
    The thing you start to realize is that we all generally want the same things. We want to be healthy, we want to laugh, we want what’s best for the people we love. We disagree about how to get the things we want, but Twitter’s good for those conversations too. People are people. Except for #teamfollowback, those people are kind of weird.
    Okay. Sorry this is so long. I was going to answer every question in 140 characters or less, but that was harder. Good luck on your paper; feel free to cite me as the world’s preeminent Twitter expert. Or you can just say I’m the Pope.
    See you on Twitter.
  9. A Lot to Earn

           image

    I turned 30 this weekend. I’ve known it was coming for a while (math is hard, but not that hard). Still, it surprised me a bit. I’ve never been nervous about turning 30. In fact, I’ve always suspected I’ll be much better at my 30’s than I was at my 20’s. (Considering I haven’t managed to take a shower today, I may have to reassess.) But for better or worse, it’s here. 30. 3-0. 

    Not gonna lie, it feels the same.

    I mean, obviously, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and change doesn’t happen overnight, and age is just a number, and other awful idioms. But it seriously feels just the same. Except for that number. That three makes a difference. Not because it makes me grown-up (it doesn’t), even though I used to think it would (I really did), but because it makes me think. 30. Maybe I am growing up, because that number makes me feel so utterly and enthusiastically grateful for those years. I have no clue how I got this lucky.

    Did you know Biggie Smalls was 24 years old when he died? 24. I’ve had 6 more years of life than that, and they’ve been crazy full. Tupac was 25. Kurt Cobain and Janis Joplin both died when they were 27. Buddy Holly was 22. 

    Clearly, the morbid point I am making is twofold: thank god I didn’t become a musician, because that doesn’t seem to end well; and every year we get to experience on this insane planet is a freaking gift from the universe that not everybody gets, and very few of us earn.

    And along with those years have come an embarrassing number of other gifts. 

    A Brief Sample of the Incredible Gifts 30 Birthdays Have Brought Me:

    • My body still works. It takes direction well. I don’t always direct it, and it could stand to go on some more runs (especially since I signed up for the LA Marathon, like an idiot), but I can’t complain. It gets the job done, and then some.
    • My passport is full of stamps. Plus, I had to get the extra pages, and those are full of stamps, too. I’ve traveled across this gorgeous country more than once. I’ve driven to Alaska. Btw, it looks a whole lot closer on maps. I’ve lived in Alabama and Tennessee and Austria and Washington and Utah and Saudi Arabia and Idaho and Morocco and now I wake up every day in a place where the streets are lined with palm trees.
    • I got to be there for my best friend’s wedding this year. Even better than that, I have multiple best friends, and I’ve been to a lot of best friend weddings. They’re beautiful, and everyone who wants one should be able to have one. That’s happening, and it’s happening now, and it never ceases to amaze me.
    • I have family. I have so much family. I have both my parents, and I know that’s no small thing. I have sisters and cousins and in-laws and grandparents and aunts and uncles and third cousins. I have a nephew and three nieces. They are these incredible tiny people who have crazy thoughts in their tiny people heads that make me laugh and want to be a better person all at the same time. I have a three-year-old brother, and yes, I know that’s weird, and yes, he’s amazing.
    • I have friends. Good lord, do I have friends. I still have friends from middle school. I have friends from high school and college. I have friends from work and from traveling, friends from volunteering and friends I met through other friends and decided to keep. I have Twitter friends. Like, a LOT of Twitter friends. I have friends who feed me, and let me crash on their couch, and plan birthday adventures for me, and put up with my inability to stick to the plan/schedule. I’m pretty sure I have friends who would help me hide a body, as long as I had a fairly good reason.
    • I have an Adam. He’s a lot of good things, but most importantly, he’s patient. The more I learn about myself, the more grateful I am for that. He’s been around for over a third of my life, and I hope he’s there for all the rest, because life’s more fun when he’s around. 

    Looking back, it’s been a jam-packed 30 years. Looking forward…well, a friend recently reminded me of that part in Saving Private Ryan - which is a great film and if you don’t agree you should probably never admit that to anyone - that part where *SPOILER ALERT* Tom Hanks is dying, and he grabs Matt Damon’s jacket, leans in close to his ear and says “Earn this. Earn it.” And I really hope I get 60 or so more years. I’ve got a lot to earn.

  10. an open answer to an open letter

    My friend asked on Facebook why anyone would vote for Obama, because she truly does not understand. I like her, and I happen to have voted for Obama, so I decided to write a serious answer.

    K,

    I know you don’t mean to offend - and I’m certainly not offended. I think it’s crazy that so many people truly don’t understand why more than half the country supported Obama, but I’m guessing part of that comes from where you live and who you talk to. Utah went for Romney by over two-thirds, I think. 

    I think one of the biggest blind spots conservatives had in this election was marriage equality. I know a LOT of people who turned out to vote on a civil rights issue. I think there are people who don’t feel like they understand the economic issues, even people who don’t understand the differences between views on healthcare, or defense, or any of number of things, but who feel completely confident in their assessment that rights are rights and fair is fair. 

    In states where marriage equality has passed, little has changed in the lives of hetero couples. It’s not the big scary thing it was 10 years ago. Voters have rapidly changed their minds on this issue, and young voters, who turned out in record numbers again, are fiercely supportive of marriage equality.

    For a lot of people, even people who feel that same-sex relationships are immoral, this is simply a civil rights issue. The courts are reinforcing this belief. And most importantly, the single greatest factor in your support for marriage equality is having an LGBT person as a close friend or family member. It’s one thing to say that in general, you don’t think gay marriage is right; it’s another to tell someone you know that they shouldn’t be able to make critical medical decisions for their life partner, or provide health benefits for the person they have chosen to spend their life with. And it’s another thing entirely to say you think the other issues in this election are more important than somebody’s rights.

    To a lot of people, when the Republican Party’s platform snubbed LGBT Americans, voting for Romney became the equivalent of voting against basic civil rights. The Democrats doubled down on that, and their inclusion of marriage equality in the party platform became a huge benefit for them.

    On top of that, the general Republican strategy seemed one of exclusion: ignore the people that didn’t agree, and instead focus on energizing voters who shared their ideals. It was a huge flaw in their campaign strategy. Gallup overestimated the number of White voters by 6% - a huge margin. They ignored issues important to Non-White voters: the Dream Act, Obamacare, and let’s be honest, food stamps. Poor Americans are overwhelmingly Non-White. In the US Census, less than 10 percent of White Americans live below the poverty line; that number is near 30 percent for Hispanic and Black Americans. These Americans are also traditionally underrepresented in elections, and the Obama campaign reached out to and registered record numbers.

    To top it off, the world increasingly favors universal healthcare, and demonizing Obamacare was, I think, a GOP misstep. We spend twice what other first world nations spend on healthcare, while still managing to have millions uninsured. When Americans hear that citizens of Canada and Australia and the UK don’t have to be afraid to walk into an ER and ask for care, it very quickly makes up a lot of minds. I am uninsured, and have a single basic medication that costs me $98 a month. With insurance, it costs $7. That’s a frustrating gap, especially considering I am essentially uninsurable due to preexisting conditions.

    Add to that the fact that the recent rape gaffes made a huge impression on female voters. I think they were stupid, overblown mistakes, BUT I also don’t think the GOP correctly assessed the impact it had on female voters - 52% of the electorate this time around. It showed that the Republican Party endorsed candidates out of touch with voters and unsympathetic to women’s issues. 

    While I am personally pro-life, I tend to vote pro-choice because the right has somehow managed to make this an issue about women choosing “convenience” over life, rather than the difficult choices that have gone into every abortion I’ve ever known about. It is remarkable that a party with such a solid claim to respect for life has managed to let the narrative become negative, rather than uplifting. This respect for life is also undermined in the eyes of voters by the insistent GOP support of the death penalty, which I find mind-boggling. We don’t tend to like our country to be compared to Yemen, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, etc.

    I think the biggest problem of all was a general feeling that the GOP viewed a large number of Americans with contempt and disdain. And as someone on the left who doesn’t go to church, I’m going to tell you right now that even Democrats have read Matthew 25:40. Compassion is no longer a word conservatives like to use; it seems they place more importance on fighting entitlement, even at the expense of the truly needy. 

    Romney’s 47% comment hit home with people because it feels as if the Republican Party doesn’t care about half the country. The overwhelming feeling among Democrats is that Republicans don’t like Mexicans, or poor people, or women who work or people who recycle. I don’t think it’s 100% true, but I will tell you that I have been met with enough personal contempt from conservatives that it isn’t 100% not true. I’m not big on feelings, so this isn’t generally what influences my vote, but the vitriol of many right-wing pundits is devastating for the future of the Republican Party. Somehow, the GOP thought fighting “Hope” with “Don’t be an idiot” was a winning campaign strategy. I think it’s always a harder battle to get people to fight against something than for something. The Republican Party used to be incredibly patriotic; this election cycle, they seemed to be defensively so.

    You’ll notice I didn’t mention economics. This was a factor in my voting, and far and away the thing voters claimed most influenced their voting choices. But I believe numbers can lie. I think a lot of people were satisfied with the explanation that Obama wanted to tax rich people and Romney didn’t. I think that accounted for some votes. 

    But more importantly, the country is doing better than it was 4 years ago. You can say it’s not doing as well as it should be, and I think everyone will agree. I think Democrats will also jump too quickly to blame Congress (which deserves a decent amount of blame.) But things are better. This is not the apocalyptic future predicted by some conservatives four years ago, and that makes it pretty hard to believe we’ll finally get around to that apocalyptic future in another four years. 

    Jobs are historically created faster under Democrats. In the latter part of Bush’s second term, the US economy was losing an average of 417,000 jobs a month. In the latter part of Obama’s first term, we’ve gained an average of 155,000 jobs a month. Is it good enough? No. But it’s a hell of a lot better than where we were four years ago. And I don’t think it was actually the most important factor that influenced voters once they stepped into a polling booth.

    I think you know this entire post is out of character for me. I don’t mind talking politics, but I hate doing it on Facebook. I’m also much more likely to crack a joke, or post a funny picture than to get up on a soapbox. But you’ve said you truly wanted to know why people voted for Obama, and I like you. I think you deserve a straight answer. People voted for Obama because nobody likes to show up to a party that they weren’t invited to. Republicans failed to build bridges, they failed to change minds, and they failed to win the election.

    And I hope to god they try to do those things in the next four years. A Democrat in the White House and Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate sounds like a dream come true for half the country, and in some ways I’m sure it would be. But opposition in government is important, if for no other reason than to prevent laziness and complacency. Governing should be hard, it should be time-consuming, and it should require compromise. If it doesn’t, you’re doing it wrong. 

    You ask why so many people voted for Obama? Because he gave them reasons to. The Republican Party focused on giving Americans reasons to not vote for Obama. It’s a subtle, and important difference. Pro tip: in four years, try inviting people to the party.