Long time readers will know that I’ve written about podcasts before on a couple of occasions (and even attempted to host my own podcast for a little while, which, unfortunately, fell by the wayside), but today I want to focus on one in particular that is a bit different from some of the other podcasts I’ve talked about. Actually, that might be putting it mildly…
Most of the other podcasts I’ve mentioned before, such as This American Life and Get Up On This, are juggernauts in the podcasting world. This particular podcast does happen to be based on a juggernaut, namely The Simpsons, but is more like an indie production than a blockbuster.
Worst Episode Ever is a podcast “for people who love The Simpsons, by people who love The Simpsons, about how much [the hosts] hate The Simpsons.” Don’t take that the wrong way though, both Dan Mulhall and Jack Picone, the hosts, are diehard fans of The Simpsons. You’ll routinely hear them quote obscure jokes off the top of their head and Dan Mulhall himself even hosts a Simpsons trivia night at a bar in New York. The idea behind the podcast is to watch a “post-classic” episode (usually meaning something beyond season 8 or so) and then have an in-depth discussion about it before running it through their HIPPO grading system to place it in their list, the list being the ultimate goal of the podcast: to find the worst episode of The Simpsons ever.
So, I’m a diehard Simpsons fan too. Who knows how many times I’ve watched (and will continue to watch) episodes from season 2 to 8, and my friends have definitely heard me on a couple of occasions say “oh, this is like that moment in The Simpsons where…” However, before this podcast, I hadn’t watched the show in years, because, quite frankly, it’s a shell of its former self. I don’t think you can even compare the two anymore and I kind of hate the later seasons for being so bad, so, admittedly, there’s a bit of fun to be had hearing them tear into a particularly awful episode.
However, Worst Episode Ever, contrary to its name, isn’t actually a podcast of negativity. The hosts, along with any guests they might have that week, go into each episode trying to give it the benefit of the doubt. Better yet, their criticism isn’t limited to just saying something sucked. They actually try to understand why they disliked something, going to great lengths at times to discuss issues. Sometimes, they’ll posit a theory in one episode and then expand upon it in consecutive episodes. Jack Picone is himself a screenwriter, so he also tends to understand the inner mechanisms at work.
So far, so good, right? Well, it gets even better (though it might depend on who you ask…). Worst Episode Ever is ostensibly a podcast about The Simpsons, but it’s also a podcast filled with random characters and tangents that the hosts follow at their whim. A simple slip of the tongue with mispronouncing a word might lead to the creation of a cult-favorite character who appears throughout the rest of the show, examples include Groophic, Hemus, and Freet (more on them soon). Occasionally, Dan and Jack will even tell stories about their own childhoods or personal lives that are sometimes related to the episode they’re discussing and sometimes not so much… But they’re always hilarious.
This leads into one of the best things I can say about this podcast: Dan and Jack are relatable. They were just a couple of dudes living in New York who decided to create a podcast about The Simpsons and they’ve never lost that sense of being humble. They’re easy to reach on Twitter or Reddit, if you want to say something to them, and they’re also genuinely fond of their fans.
If you’re interested in checking them out, and I highly recommend you do, you can find their podcast through any regular podcasting app as well as through weepodcast.com. They’ve also recently started a Patreon page so you can help support them with a monthly donation. Finally, if you have no interest in the Simpsons (and have still made it this far), they also have a 90s themed podcast called 90s Percentile that’s had a lot of great guests on it, including Laura Jane Grace, a previous subject in one of my own articles.
Jack and Dan just recently released their 100th episode of Worst Episode Ever (congrats, guys!) and a lot has happened during those 100 episodes: episodes have been ranked; theories have been made; trends have been observed; and characters have been created. As a starter’s guide for all of you, I’ve created a brief glossary of some of the more important terms you’ll need if you decide to hop in from where they are now (though I suggest going back and listening from the start).
Worst Episode Ever Glossary for Newbies
- Groophic: Originated from a mispronunciation of “graphic,” Groophic started off as a Muzzy-like creature lecturing kids on remembering to wear their bike helmets before transitioning into a conspiracy-theory believing creature who still occasionally lectures kids on remembering to wear their bike helmets.
- Hemus: A hillbilly prospector who started life by ending every sentence with “It’s me, Hemus!” Sadly, he doesn’t do that as much anymore… But is a cult favorite nevertheless.
- Freet: The introduction of Freet was something that Jack was definitely not amused by and it also gave-way to their new rule of each character needing to have three characteristics in order to be a fully-fleshed out character. Here are Freet’s: he likes to collect stamps; he’s never been in love, but he’s putting himself out there; and he enjoys cryptograms.
- Lala: A term for lawyers that only lawyers are allowed to use. Dan himself is a lawyer, but Jack uses the term sometimes, much to Dan’s chagrin.
- Little Ghost Girl: A little ghost girl who was eaten by Groophic and sounds like Werner Herzog.
- The Bus Stop: Where all of their characters hang out. As they wait for the bus to get home, they’ll occasionally pop in and join the podcast for a bit. The bus never seems to arrive so that stop is pretty crowded by now.
- HIPPO: The official ranking system. It has four categories, which are humor, integrity, production, and originality. Each gets a grade from 0 to 5 though humor and integrity are given more weight than production and originality. In the very early days of the podcast, the hosts used to simply add each episode to their list based on their gut feeling, but about 15 episodes in, they started using this system.
My friends and family know that early mornings and I have never been in cahoots. In some circles it’s even my unfortunate claim to fame: “Oh, you’re that Inka, the one who threw a punch at someone for trying to wake you up. Yeah, I’ve heard about you”. For the record, it’s been 10 years, it only happened once, and I missed. So put down the sticks people, that horse is mulch by now.
Grossly exaggerated stories aside, I truly have always hated early mornings. I don’t feel grumpy per se, although I have been told I look like I’m ready to murder, I’m just slow to start—like an old PC. I don’t think I’ve ever woken up naturally with the sunrise. And I’ve always had a strong distaste for those inspirational morning quotes: “the morning is full of possibilities” and all that crap. The whole day is full of possibilities if you ask me. Silly morning-person propaganda, I thought.
University is a paradise for slow starters, such as myself. During my first semester, I made the mistake of enrolling in a linguistics course, which ran at 8:30 am on Fridays. Mostly I remember having a stiff neck all spring from sleeping sitting up. I rectified the situation by planning my schedule so that I never had to be up and about before noon. Ah, bliss!
However, during the past year, my optimal, late-riser schedule went topsy-turvy. I began a teacher-training program, which meant that most weekdays I had to either be attending classes or teaching them by 8 o’clock. It was my Everest.
In the beginning it was a twisted form of torture, I’m not going to lie. Even with a dangerously high coffee dosage, I felt—and probably looked like—the living dead, dragging my cumbrous feet from point A to point B, dazed and unaware of my surroundings. And I was constantly finding myself in the toilet, due to the unlawful amounts of coffee I was consuming. Torture, I tell you! I was miserable and much more adamant in my hatred of early mornings than I’d ever been.
As the year has progressed, however, strange things have begun to happen. First, my body stopped resisting the new rhythm of life, and then my attitude began to shift as well. I’ve come to relish the way my senses are attuned to the morning and the routines I’ve adopted: the softness of woolen socks as I slip them on and tiptoe downstairs to make coffee; the familiar drip and gurgle accompanied by the rich aroma of a fresh brew as it falls in the pot; dark winter mornings, eating breakfast in the candlelight; or in the spring, watching the sun put on a splendid color display as it climbs lazily across the horizon.
The stillness, the serenity.
I’m a long way from becoming the person who jumps straight out of bed into running shoes. I doubt I’ll ever be that person. But I will admit: I was wrong about early mornings. They are okay–dare I say–even enjoyable, as long as they contain coffee and solitude.
Cleanliness is next to godliness is an ancient aphorism I suddenly bumped into whilst minding my own business on the magical world of the Internet. It prompted me to question the very nature of housekeeping, which until recent times has seemed to me a package of chores one simply has to deal with. Still, since my social life has greatly been revitalised by the fabled uni experience, I’ve come to see all sorts of households over these past few years – and the states of those households have varied quite considerably. And I wonder, why do I find myself surprised by this?
I grew up with two brothers, both of whom can be said to have subscribed to an unquestionably messy way of life in their youth. I cannot state with honesty that I was any better – I certainly never had any aspirations to become a godly, or even a cleanly person. As a child, I distinctively remember complaining to my mother about having to perform a weekly cleaning of the room I shared with my dear brother.
Well, the complaining was of no use. Her trump-card for overruling any argument I ever made was expressing the possibility of the President of Finland coming over for a sudden visit. It would be far too embarrassing to present the household in that current state for the head of state, so cleaning was absolutely necessary, she reasoned. To a child this made perfect sense, although, at times, I must’ve questioned the validity of her rhetoric.
Like most every other boy, my brother and I eventually discovered the seemingly flawless strategy of relocating various objects that lay on the floor under our beds. Out of sight, out of mind – right? Alas, our mother, ever-vigilant, always made sure to check beneath the beds, rendering our genius stratagem obsolete. Eventually, we got a large wooden trunk from our father as a gift; with the trunk came a certain household truce. Unneeded belongings swiftly found their way into the trunk – and lo, the floor beneath the beds could be vacuumed once again! The actual purpose of said trunk still remains unknown to me, to this very day – in any case: thanks, dad.
As time goes by, boys become men. However, their habits do not always change. My brothers never grew unaccustomed to their gleeful neglect towards maintaining order. As teenagers, we used to joke about the second law of thermodynamics applying to housekeeping; in view of this, cleaning became redundant. Still, after moving out, I feel as though housekeeping suddenly became a way for me to express myself.
Moving out and starting studies at the university was a game changer in many ways. I no longer had to do things just because someone else told me to or expected them of me; the world was finally my oyster. Well, the flat, anyway: a whole new world of possibilities, contained in just some fifty five square metres.
But like ever-so-often, with the opportunities came the responsibilities – while I was out on a night of heavy drinking with new-found friends, the flat collected dust. As I crawled home, I neglected the dishes, the laundry, and the general disorder. And all of these things had the audacity to remain there when I woke up! Even worse, sometimes they seemed more disorderly than the night before! Yet, I have to admit: this was no conspiracy against me, but the comeuppance I deserved.
And so, just like that, housekeeping became something I had to allot time to – just like any other activity. However, with all the deadlines and stress modern university education provides to a student of English, housekeeping also became a convenient way to take my mind off of things. Somewhat unexpectedly, I gained insight into this during a session of Literature Tutorial. Our wonderful instructor, Nely Keinänen, offhandedly asked the class whether we felt an urge to take care of household chores before taking on any writing process. Whilst the question was seemingly nonchalant, I raised my hand, to my amazement, along with most of the class. This is when the realisation hit me: these people all face, more or less, the same experience I do in housekeeping; yet, few students seem to pay it the respect or attention it is due to.
How can we accomplish this, then? Those of you who have had the (dis)pleasure of ever having me visit your home must surely have noticed that I have a tendency to praise an orderly household or any cool decorative objects housed therein. I, personally, rarely admit any visitors to my flat, but those that have visited have likewise commented on the tidiness – I firmly believe these are not just empty words of politeness, but genuine gestures of good-will; as such, they must warm the hearts of the recipients.
My fellow students and human beings, it is imperative that you pay attention to your surroundings and do not feel prohibited by any social code to make such pleasant remarks, embarrassing as they might seem. Men in particular seem to have difficulties in doing so: whenever I visit a male friend for an evening of casual beer-gulping, the state of the household is rarely discussed. Of course, if your fellow student’s flat is in disarray, it might be a difficult task to find something positive to say about it. Also, let us not forget that there are arguments to be made for healthy messiness, too.
To continue on the topic of disarray, I have conversed with a student friend of mine who lives in a flat arranged to him by the great HOAS. I’ve known this particular friend for some year and a half now, and only once (he ardently claims otherwise – I do not believe him) has he cleaned his apartment. I find it truly baffling.
One time after a night of drinking, with me sleeping over, I engaged him in a conversation about the plight of his place. I questioned whether he felt that his living situation, due to it being a HOAS flat, felt temporary, therefore leading to his neglect of what I deem proper housekeeping. I cannot recall his exact answer – to paraphrase, he must’ve bitten his thumb at me.
Still, I wish he’d clean up the pad, even if the President isn’t coming around any time soon.
This November right before father’s day one of Finland’s best-known dad-joke comedians published a humor book, “Stanin Ääntämisopas”, that seemed to have the corny humor category especially in mind. Author Stan Saanila is well known in the Finnish media for his part in many humor shows, such as the popular satirical news-show ”Uutisvuoto”. Saanila created a guide for pronouncing Finnish using words, slang and sounds that are familiar (and pronounceable!) to speakers of English.
The project started last June, when Saanila posted a series of tweets on how to pronounce the names of the Helsinki metro stations. The tweets went viral and I also remember laughing at the best ones and groaning at the worst ones, faithful to the dad joke category. After publishing tweets on all the stations along the Helsinki line and also the new stations that are (possibly!) opening along the Espoo line sometime in the near-distant future, the tweets ended and Saanila’s pronunciation jokes were forgotten for the time being. Five months later Saanila debuted as an author with a broader and wider collection of “pronunciation guides” for all manner of Finnish names, places and things.
As Saanila describes in the introduction to his book, the purpose is not so much to give a proper guide for pronouncing Finnish words for non-speakers, but to give Finnish speakers a laugh and a glimpse of what Finnish may sound like to those who do not speak the language. As such the book includes both fantastic examples that get very close to the original Finnish pronunciation, such as “Coke… Owl. Ah?” (try saying it fast) for Kokkola or Meets a man too for Metsämänty, but also many that are much harder to decipher. Some work well in a British accent, taking for example A car for Akaa, but sound completely different (and sometimes quite bizzare) in an American pronunciation, possibly explaining why it is near impossible for Americans to learn Finnish. Most of the pronunciations that Saanila creates would hardly stand up to linguistic scrutiny, but give a good laugh. (On a side (linguistic) note, hyphenating some combinations for clarity might have been a good idea: B. Virtanen as Bea-ver Tannin).
Saanila’s idea of using already existing words or sounds from English to give a rough idea of Finnish pronunciation is intriguing and quite clever. While doing business with foreigners at a retail company I spent some time working for, we often tried to teach customers Kiitos after a successful sale. The easiest way of getting even close to the real pronunciation was to teach our customers to say key-toss. Not only is the combination of familiar words easier to remember, but also easier to pronounce than a word you haven’t ever heard or seen before. The parting words of Saanila’s book thus particularly warmed my heart. Tack! Kiitos! Key toss!
Besides thanking us in Swedish, Saanila’s Finnish-Swedish background is also visible in another way in his book. Amicable rivalry with fellow Finnish-Swedish stand-up comedian André Wickström or André Weak stream as Saanila has him “translated” has gained Wickström a spot in one of illustrator Klaus Suhonen’s cartoons with his pants down and his “weak stream” flowing. As illustrations Suhonen has cleverly drawn the very literal meanings of Saanila’s translations. Examples include Aleksis kivi as A Lexus Kiwi or Pekka Puupää as Peek-a-boo-Bach.
Saanila is known for being a very quick-witted comedian and his heartwarming introduction made me laugh out loud. His anecdote of giggling to himself on the metro platform when he realized Siilitie could be pronounced as “silly tea” was for me the highlight of the book. I could easily picture Saanila standing on the platform laughing out loud, while the rest of the passengers wondered whether he had all his wits about him. I was left longing for more similar content from Saanila in the rest of the book, as the collection of lists does not stand on its own as well. As it is, the book now functions best as a fun guessing game: “hey what place is “hell-singing eel, you piss-toe”, guess! ”. As one reader tweeted to Saanila, the book can also function as bathroom entertainment. The book’s raunchy piss and poo humor may also fit the bathroom scene better than other books, but as a guessing game the exaggerated and harder to guess examples that were included to fill the book and complete the lists are perfect brain-teasers as they are already much further removed from the originals,
Saanila has spent a huge amount of time coming up with so many pronunciation guides, but the book is somehow left hollow, as there is nothing to tie the different lists together. Nevertheless Saanila certainly proves his craft as a top comedian and his lists can be perused time and time again for a good laugh.
You know how everyone has that one defining experience or key quality in themselves that they use to break the ice or start conversations? For me, it is the fact that I lived abroad when I was a kid – hence it is only appropriate that this is the topic of my first BTSB article. My childhood consisted of being practically mute in second grade because I was thrown in a school not knowing a word of English, me and my siblings drove an ATV around our house because that’s just what kids did, and we conscientiously carried baby frogs from a swimming pool back to the pond where they came from. I’ve said the words “no, Finland doesn’t have polar bears” about a dozen hundred times and friends’ birthday parties were actually massive barbeques. We took a car to a school located 300 metres away and our burglar alarm went off almost weekly. I’m a third culture kid, nice to meet you.
A third culture kid is someone who has been raised wholly or partially in a culture which is not that of their parents. My family lived in South Africa for three years and in Canada for a year when I was in primary school. In retrospect, I guess four years doesn’t seem like that long of a time, but to this day, I feel like those years have impacted me the most. Moving from country to country, I always saw my family as a special little case among others. I didn’t overanalyse anything then (as I do today), but I acknowledged the unusualness of our situation. We were aliens in an unfamiliar world – we weren’t them, but we very much tried to be. Being Finnish abroad was sometimes just plain cool: we could speak our secret language in public places and we proudly educated our peers on Finnish traditions in school projects (“we invented saunas and Father Christmas resides in Rovaniemi”). Nevertheless, over everything hung the same sense of dislocation – the knowledge that we were different.
A brilliant description of this is as follows: “a third culture kid builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any”, as described by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken in their book Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing up Among Worlds. If this wasn’t the truest thing ever. Growing up, I never felt like I had the right to call myself South African, even less so Canadian. I was Finnish, but I didn’t even know the culture or country, not really. Summer vacations spent at our grandparents’ summer cottage in Finland didn’t give that accurate of an image of our home country. In some sense, I lived in the “bubble” of my family all the time. And as it is, I lived day to day with the knowledge that any moment my parents could sit us down and tell us we were leaving again. Yes, this kind of uncertainness may sound terribly tragic. But in all honesty, it wasn’t. I just kind of rolled with it, and it was ok.
I’m not going to get too psychological in this article, but I definitely think that living abroad as a child changes you. Personally, I would be way different, had I lived all my childhood in one place. I’ve grown a sort of tough skin and learnt to handle things very independently. After all, I was thrown in the deep end in almost everything I did, from learning a language and the ways of a country I had barely heard of before moving there. The fact that I had to constantly leave behind friends may have something to do with it too. The oldest friends I have are my siblings, the golden human beings who hung on there with me all those years. Now, I did have friends in every school I went, but as harsh as it sounds, I was subconsciously always prepared to leave them and take off again with the knowledge that chances were, I would never see them again. Yup, that does sound harsh. It probably wasn’t the healthiest habit, but I think it made things easier. Facebook friends forever though, right?
Despite everything, I loved being a nomad. By default, children experience everything more vividly and strongly, and not only that, I got to live outside of predetermined frames. I didn’t necessarily belong, but I knew I could try my limits fearlessly, whilst dissecting a culture through the eyes of a child, and developing a love towards curiosity. I love how I’ve experienced unusual things: I was once bitten by a meerkat, we’ve had monkeys steal food from our kitchen, and our school had actual houses (I was in “Pegasus”), which was just about the coolest thing ever.
I took long for me to internalize the fact that after moving to Finland, we weren’t moving again. However, since then, Helsinki has become my home and I can finally say with some confidence that I have a culture. The familiar senses of longing after change and new scenery, chronic wanderlust et cetera, they still exist. Quite recently I had to make the choice of where I wanted to study. My older sister and brother both went to universities abroad, which they probably have our third culture kid genes to thank for, and it was an intriguing option for me too. I liked the thought of a new beginning in a whole new country.
However, beyond all of this I came to understand how important it had become for me to have someplace to return. A safety net, something to come back to if all else fails. Family nearby and a human-sized city that I’ve learned to love. Starting my studies at the University of Helsinki was one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. I think that it all boils down to the fact that I have something here that I want to hold on to. I don’t know if it’s the renowned roots everyone’s talking about, the simple fact that I am Finnish or something else altogether, but for now, I just want to stay. Know this place, know who I am in it, and feel so comfortable with myself here that I can always return home.
I don’t really have any ground-breaking epiphany or insightful remark to conclude this article. I feel like I just needed to think about this out loud. After all, it is something that defines me. One thing I am sure of however, is that I am eternally grateful for my culturally ambiguous roots, a childhood that I can look back at and feel proud of. Because this little “suitcase baby” conquered the world at the age of seven, ready to take on anything.
Halloween is one of the most commercialized days of the year, so it comes as no surprise that a lot of marketing of various products goes together with it. An astounding amount of all sorts of costumes are available for people young and old who want to enjoy the scariest day of the year. On Halloween you can be anything from a traditional vampire or zombie to a sexy Ebola nurse. Some costumes are scary, some are funny and some are downright inappropriate. But the question is who decides what is inappropriate?
Costumes are a huge part of Halloween and they are available in many places. Costume store sales spike at the end of October and so do the costume sales on websites such as Amazon and Ebay. A big part of selling costumes is, of course, the marketing of them. Specifically the marketing of costumes towards women raises a lot of questions about inappropriate costumes. Most costumes for women start with the title ‘sexy’ whereas the costumes targeted towards men seem to be more realistic and ‘appropriate’ in a more traditional meaning of the word.
For example, I and my co-author Miya decided to do some good old fashioned journalistic investigating and went to amazon.uk to take a look at the first ten costumes available for women. We typed in Halloween costumes for women and were not surprised by the results. Over half of the costumes available were short skirts with corsets, no matter what the theme or character: Alice in Wonderland, Skeleton, Day of the Dead, Nurse, and my personal favorite –Sexy Santa. We then searched for costumes for men. Every single costume that came up in the first page was a full suit costume and was actually scary –well, minus the flasher Granny costume… The point is, the majority of costumes marketed towards women could be considered as ‘slutty’, whatever that is. Most of these costumes also lack the detail and good quality that their male counterpart costumes seem to have.
Now, we would never suggest that a revealing costume is not okay, but there are many people, men and women alike, who talk about things like ‘Halloween hoes’ and ‘Halloween sluts’. Come the last weekend of October, Instagram and Facebook feeds fill with pictures of girls posing in groups, wearing matching risqué costumes. This year, Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad seemed to be the go-to costume choice of about every third girl at any given party. Is it because dressing provocatively gets attention and likes on Instagram or do girls, like Cindy Lauper puts it, just want to have fun?
The problem that women face is the double standards when it comes to Halloween costumes. The outfits that are marketed towards us are short and fitting, even when we want to dress up as a pumpkin, which is anything but short and fitting. What is a slutty pumpkin anyway? Still, we get criticized for buying and wearing these costumes. And why? After all, it takes a lot of self-confidence to wear a more revealing costume.
The point is the message is conflicting and can be applied to all days, not just Halloween. The general image of a woman the media puts out is definitely sexy, but society expects women to be innocent and modest at the same time. In terms of Halloween costumes we’re being offered the ‘Sexy Angel’ costume but also simultaneously expected to look like a Catholic nun.
‘Sexy’ as a concept is also a bit difficult to define, because it represents so many different things for different people, and ‘slutty’ on the other hand has a negative stigma to it, but necessarily shouldn’t. It’s a word that gets tossed around on daily bases like ‘happy’ or ‘thank you’ but is not as clear in meaning as the examples offered above. For most women, I believe, it’s not about impressing others with revealing clothes or beautiful make-up or even that perfect slutty pumpkin outfit that you rocked on Halloween, but it’s about self-confidence and positive self-image.
In the end, a costume is really just a mask for one day. Whatever costume you choose it´s a way to take on a different identity or express yourself in a different way. Everyone chooses a costume for a reason – maybe it´s funny or you want to dress up as a movie character you love or you want to be unrecognizable behind a scary mask. Or maybe you want to wear something sexy that you wouldn´t usually get the chance to wear. Obviously not all clothing is appropriate for every occasion, but on Halloween, almost anything goes.
To quote Mean Girls, the most iconic teen movie of the 00´s, ¨In Girl World, Halloween is the one day a year when a girl can dress up like a total slut and no other girls can say anything else about it.¨ In the movie, Halloween is shown as a type of free pass, a day exempt from the social rules that apply other days of the year. Why not make all days like Halloween and let girls wear what they want whenever they want, revealing or not? In the name of fairness, however, we support more revealing Halloween costumes for men too and hope not to see any sexy clowns this year.
This article was co-authored by Danielle Amorim and Miya Ison