Sorry guys, that was the cleverest title I could come up with for this post, which is basically going to be my first installment of the “what do I currently like about the world?” variety. I feel like I’ve had far too negative of a mindset lately, so I think this might also be a good exercise by encouraging me to acknowledge all of the awesomeness I’m exposed to on a regular basis.  So, without further ado, here are my Picks for this summer! (My “Nix” will be coming in a later post)

PICKS

1) 

 

What can I say about this wonderful website that hasn’t already been said by people more eloquent than myself? I know they say this about most major world cities, but I think it’s more true of Etsy: If you can’t find it here, it doesn’t exist. Not only does Etsy provide me with hours of mental stimulation, but it’s also been a very useful resource for birthday gifts, wedding accessories (Seriously, where else could you find a Darth Vader garter?), and retail therapy. Not only can you find the most awesomely creative stuff over there, but you know that, more than likely, your purchase is helping support a small-time artist, which is definitely better than giving that money to big stores like Walmart, in my opinion.

If you are already a fan of this website (as are most people who’ve ever visited it), then you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve somehow never heard of Etsy, please stop reading this blog right now and go check it out. It’s okay, take as long as you want. This will still be here whenever (IF ever) you get bored with Etsy.

2) 

 

This is another Pick that everyone needs to be familiar with, if you aren’t already. The Hunger Games is a trilogy of dystopian Young-Adult fiction books written by Suzanne Collins, the first of which is currently being made into a movie. Lest you assume “Twilight” when I say Young Adult (which many have, due to the plot’s peripheral love-triangle and the series’ crazy popularity), these books are much closer to Harry Potter, The Giver, and The Uglies (all of which are also awesome, and should be read immediately).

I don’t want to say too much about the plot, but I will say that Collins has created one of those not-so-implausible dystopian futures that says volumes about the way we as a current society operate and think. It’s one of those series that will not only entertain you, but will very much so make you think about the world around you. I wish I could say more, but to give any more details would be risking some major spoilers, so I’m just going to end by saying: READ THESE BOOKS.

 

3)

Let me begin this entry by disclaiming that I am a huge Lord of the Rings fan. I have read all of the books multiple times, I followed the production of every movie and have seen each of them more times than I care to admit, and I am beside myself with excitement for The Hobbit film being produced now.

That being said, Game of Thrones (GOT or, as the books are known, the A Song of Ice and Fire trilogy) is everything that Lord of the Rings should have been. I didn’t realize how much better Lord of the Rings could have been until I started watching GOT, at which point it hit me disappointingly hard. Not that there’s anything wrong with LOTR inherently; it gets a solid B+ in my book, while GOT just graduated top of its class and went to Harvard. Both series take place in a fully-developed mythical world that has its own history, mythology, and problems. Both series use a variety of characters from a variety of backgrounds to drive the multi-hero plot. And that’s really where the comparison ends.

GOT, at its essence, is a series about a multi-generational power struggle amongst the most powerful families in the kingdom of Westeros. George R.R. Martin, the author of the SOIAF trilogy, writes characters that cannot neatly be fit into boxes of “good” and “bad”, unlike Tolkien, whose heroes are so good and whose villains are so evil that there is no question of who is on what side (which is fine for Tolkien’s purposes, but I like my characters to be like real people, with some good and bad mixed in various amounts). Martin is also not afraid to kill off seemingly good or central characters to forward the plot, which makes his series read a lot more like an actual historical account in which no one is safe by virtue of their “goodness” or punished by virtue of their “badness”; Tolkien’s books, on the other hand, read more like an episode of 24, in which the heroes are always saved at the last minute by some deus-ex-machina. Martin takes the epic fantasy and turns it more into a highly entertaining historical account of a medieval power struggle, in which dragons are weapons of war and dwarfs are snarky misfits.  I’m crazy about this series (both the HBO miniseries and the books they’re based on) and for good reason.

4)
Last, but by no means least, is the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. In a summer where the news seems so depressing that I almost can’t stand it (the Oslo terrorist attack, the rise of extremism in America, our inability to raise the debt ceiling for some reason, the mere fact that Michelle Bachmann has a fighting chance at being the 2012 Republican presidential candidate, etc), The Daily Show provides the news in a way that intentionally makes you laugh. I say intentionally because I also laugh when I listen to pretty much anything that comes from FOX News, but difference is that they’re not trying to be funny. Jon Stewart also does a great job of watch-dogging the “mainstream media” (I’m looking at you FOX), and catching them in their own deliberate lies, omissions, or contradictions. I know many people who think that Stewart is just another liberal mouth-piece, but that’s really missing the mark. Stewart admits his own biases, and then proceeds to call it like he sees it, using video evidence to show how ridiculous actual news organizations can be. Does he selectively edit some videos to make a point? Maybe. But so does the MSM, and at least Stewart is honest about his intentions.

I should actually probably add The Colbert Report, The Onion, and Andy Borowitz’s blog to this entry, since they all serve the same purpose as TDS: giving me the news, and making me realize that I’m not the only one who thinks real news headlines are just a pun or two away from being hilariously depressing. Thank you, comedians, for being more honest and straightforward with me than most American media outlets these days (I’m not looking at you, NPR. You do a great job too.)

 

So there you have it- my favorite things of the summer. To wrap up, I think I’ll recognize the runner-ups (or is it runners-up?):

  • Parks and Recreation
  • Weight-Watchers ice cream bars
  • Tresemme hair products
  • Puppies
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