Dirty Sonnet: Romantic Love


I am taking a break from the travel blog for a bit. In place of another entry, here’s a poem. It is a small part of larger poem I am still working on. It is a little twist I have put on the Petrarchan Sonnet. The poem is free verse, with no set rhythm or meter. The rhyme scheme stays the same until the ending rhyme, which I replace with a little limerick. I call it a dirty sonnet! Though, someone has probably already done it and named it differently. Take a look, maybe there’s something you like.

Lust can water desire higher and higher
If two sweet pieces gel well enough
Then wrenching legs away is what’s truly rough
Heat needs friction from emotion rubbed right into fire
Electricity comes after the sparks of odd crossed wire
So much heat and electricity, like housing for a turtledove
And the warm bodies wrapped in conversation feels like love
Yet if that romantic property burns, a piece of you lights the pyre

Fear of falling becomes a calling card
Either in or out, bodies hit the hard ground
Trying to keep the quilt together leaves it marred
Everyone will wonder if the original was ever around
Push and Pull were lovers two
Everywhere they went, together they flew
Until Pull pushed too hard at love and Push ran off with Shove
Pull married Tug, ask Pull of Push or Shove, and she’ll say, “who?”

~Austin R Ryan

Tibet: Kumbum Monastery Part 2


At last we entered the final area, a little square enclosed by different buildings. Each one was somewhat squat, no more than one or two stories tall, with grey shingles. Everything looked almost stylized to the imagination of an Eastern temple. Out there in the cold near all the monks in red, it all felt very real regardless. The monks eyed us and we them, standing as strangers barred by language from a straight connection. Even if we had the tongue to tie our two groups together it would have been an entirely higher level of courage to break the ice. It was nothing particular about Tibetan monks. In the majority of temples we went to the monks did their own thing and let everyone else do theirs.

The tour guide told us to sheath our cameras at this point. In a certain area we could take pictures of monks, buildings, whatever else. Inside buildings and deeper within the monastery, they disallowed photography. I felt somewhat glad for it. Pictures help with capturing and keeping a moment but not necessarily for enjoying it. It is a tricky tradeoff where I remember less of what I could not take a camera to, but absorbed more of it at the time. At this point we entered the Grand Golden Tile Hall. Here and in the Potala Palace we got cut off from our cameras and it made the dimly light and sublimely colored Tibetan tapestries come alive.

You can see the gold tiles of the hall we would soon enter.
You can see the gold tiles of the hall we would soon enter.

The bright and glaring sunlight made its exit and only gentle lamplight wore on our eyes now. The intricacy of the tapestries and the cloth covering the hallways was so intense that it felt overwhelming to try and take it all in at once. All the complex interweaving patterns created a sense of what the world’s cosmological phenomenon might look like. Pockets of well-organized tomes stood not far off either, sparking off endless thoughts on what they contained. Wild parts of my mind flirted with ill formed ideas of tantric secrets, but it was more likely the scrolls contained sutras and religious history.

Eventually we came to the large golden statue of Tsongkhapa himself, the man whose spiritual deeds sparked such grandeur. The golden statue itself was beautiful and awe inspiring in its own right, but the atmosphere meant everything here. A church inspires with ceilings that stretch on endlessly high, and cavernous expanses allowing all a seat. Kumbum felt small, but personal. The hallways were spacious enough, but crowded with so many banners and colors showered in dark light that in some way it felt packed and expansive at the same time. In this area we saw more monks and visitors giving offerings and sitting before the statue of Tsongkhapa. The holiness of the area radiated in a way I can only imagine Notre Dame or the Sistine Chapel or the Hagia Sophia might.

A dear friend I had made on the trip remarked to me how incredible the experience felt to him. He called it one of the most intense experiences he had. I had to agree, and felt good doing so since I heavily pumped up Kumbum to him while we explored Xining. I try to keep a healthy balance between cynicism and romanticism, to not to get swept up into breaking things down into nothing or building them up so they become everything.

Never forget to look up!
Never forget to look up!

Yet, Kumbum deserved respect and absolutely should radiate holiness and awe even by objective standards. Kumbum is one of the oldest religious institutions in Tibet and second in importance only to Lhasa. It should inspire in the way Notre Dame might. Centuries of tribute and donation from a mostly poor peoples, centuries of elite support, centuries of a good section of many people’s resources funneled into this site.

The result was sublime. As we loaded back on the bus, I felt enlightened by an understanding of how so many people could give so much of what little they had to a venture that never paid them back materially. Grandeur and awe incite such a flood of emotions that they become a payment all their own. As I reflect, it is not so unlike the sky scraping buildings of New York or the terrifying obelisk we dedicate to George Washington.

Nation means nothing on its own, and neither does Capitalism, but seeing all that steel and all that marble help me admonish these ideas. The abstraction springs to life in form of the finest construction people can manage. Incredible skylines remind us of how far we have come. Named after businesses, they make remarks on what might have got us there, or at least paid for the construction. Marble monuments that seat Lincoln like Zeus in a hallowed hall solidifies America into a material realm. In Tibet the grandeur of golden Tsongkhapa does not seem so different, bringing to life an abstract idea of this man become sacred symbol.

The thought makes me feel so close to so many far places but so grounded in my home. I could understand the motives and sentiments of almost any monument, but the true meaning is different. My fingers might grasp at the meaning of monuments, but I wondered how much I could ever close in on it without living in the society that made them. I still wonder if I can only properly feel the full cultural pull of the National Mall.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tibet: Visting Kumbum Monastery Part 1


Before boarding the train to Lhasa and the Tibetan Autonomous Region proper, we had to see Kumbum Monastery. Kumbum provided the first real glimpse into the traditional Tibetan culture and religion that all of us had heard so much about.

Few places matter more to the Yellow Hat or Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism than Kumbum Monastery. Voices in media often speak of Tibet as one entity held tight by one faith. The reality has a few more grits to sort through. Tibet once had heavier pagan or shamanistic beliefs but these seriously started to lose prominence when one of Tibet’s great dynastic kings, Songtsen Ghampo took over. Songtsen was no small talent, quickly taking control of much of the Tibetan plateau and patronizing the region’s early Buddhism. Eventually he would even rout the forces of the Tang Dynasty.

Later on the Bon faith would arise in contrast of Buddhism, though it could never get quite as hard a hold. Tibetan Buddhists themselves could not quite agree on everything and splintered into several sects that rose and fall. The Dalai Lamas and the Gelug School now iconic across all the world started up in the 14th century with Tsongkhapa and a small town outside Xining that would become Kumbum Monastery.

Standing outside Kumbum
Standing outside Kumbum

Our bus wheeled up to the outer wall of Kumbum early in the day, just as it opened. We had all layered up but the cold winter morning could cut through any number of layers. The whole place was quiet except for us shivering and chattering. For a while everyone just stood outside, waiting for a signal from our guide to head in.

An eager salesman with a plucky grin spotted us. He had the reigns of a shaggy white pony in his hands and offered rides for anyone willing to pay. None of us were much pliable to the offer, though. As tourists we likely disappointed, not buying from the stands of handcrafted goods outside or opting in on pony rides. Most of us were saving up for Lhasa, a place bubbling with commerce and worship.

Doing business
Doing business

Aside from our group Kumbum did not have so wide an audience this early in the morning. A Tibetan woman and her kid came walking in with us and there were a few other folks scattered about. I do not doubt that, come a little later time, the place would get a bit more active. Still, Kumbum was a monastery slightly removed from the really big population center, so it may never have had so many worshipers as monks.

The sparseness of the monastery added to it anyways, at least for a visitor from far off. Generic holiness as I knew it always had this idea of solitude surrounding it. Generic holiness shows itself in form of a person alone in a church atoning, like in the movies. Yet if there was anything that the Yonghegong monastery in Beijing and my sometimes unstable routine of bible study taught me, it’s that faith and religion come alive when people come together underneath it. The people make the faith as much faith makes the people. That dialogue with an idea of something holy or unworldly good was always what gripped me.

Two people headed in to the monastery
Two people headed in to the monastery

Still, Kumbum easily shined through the biting morning cold and everything else that kept attendance away did not mean much. The monastery gradually wove upward into the side of slightly sloping mountain. The sharp red, gold and greens burst to life in the sunlight and from that moment I could feel myself romanticizing everything. I fought against that urge. I love the romantic but it can really run against you if you really want to grip something.

Red arches welcomed us into the monastic compound. Our long linger in the cold came to an end with a row of white stupas topped with colorful spirals at their tops and intricate colored patterns at the bottom. Each stupa represented a different part of the Buddha, Shakyamuni’s life and teachings. The sun shined down and the tour guide led us further in. First we visited a few rooms on the outside of the complex, shrines to various religious figures. We could not take pictures inside and unfortunately my memory cannot hold all the specific images. Still, the colors in all the temples, the deep reds and oranges stitched into so much incredible quilt work, and the glimmering gold of mighty statues has not left me. Rather, the colors just bleed into a mess of mixed images that won’t separate for all my pulling at them.

neatly lined up stupas
neatly lined up stupas
A closer look at the stupas
A closer look at the stupas

We walked through the thick and brilliantly colored cloth that covered the thresholds of some of the shrines and dropped small donations as we went. Sometimes we got shawls in payment for a donation. They feel thin to the hand and would not combat the cold, but they have beautiful color and decoration. They came with a meaning too, red for passion and love, orange for prosperity, and so on. Even with the meaning attached the shawls reminded me that I was as strange as a person could be to this place, separated by layers of culture thicker than a thousand of these shawls.

The tour guide showed us complex statues made from Yak butter, and important offer given to Tibetan temples and monasteries, before we walked off the beaten path to somewhere deeper in. Along the route we ran across some monks making their way into the main complex where we would soon be. They worse Nikes and eagerly eyed their smart phones.

So much color!
So much color!

It might seem a sharp contrast, but Buddhism and Capitalism do not often clash so much. Even before capitalism ever came about, any religious order needed money and resource to stay alive. Often those resources had to come from the surrounding towns, the monks and abbots too busy with holy scripture, prayer or meditation to manage all on their own. So monks in many places lived as a privileged class funded through heavy donation.

My father never pushed Buddhism very hard on any of us, but he had demystified it for me. Buddha does not wipe away the little terrors people feel. Even monks stay human, eating human food, finding human shelter, at least until the accounts say they burst into clouds of lotus flowers. Like any religion Buddhism could coexist alongside anything from something as small as smartphones or as sinister as fanatical violence. I was glad to see monks in Nike’s as another reminder to not fetishize faith.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tibet: Starting Off in Xining


Nothing gets people so riled up as a chance to see Tibet. That plateau has been talked up higher than it lies above sea level. Our group of exchange students hardly proved exempt from the pull of the mystical plateau. Beijing University offered us a few travel lines, but so many opted for the line with Tibet in it that all but two of the lines had to be cancelled for lack of travelers. Most of my peers desired to see Tibet above all else, and signed up without knowing much of the other sites along the way. I could not blame them, the chance to see Tibet proper does not present itself often.

In the end we all piled into the Tibet travel line anyways, heading off to learn about Buddhism. I like to say that even if it did not include Tibet I would have picked it to explore one of the religions I was raised with. To this day I am not sure if I was speaking true or trying to diminish my shallowness. Either way, it did not matter. Almost every site on the list I knew and wanted to see, from the old capitals of Luoyang and Xian to the temples on the Tibetan plateau to the sacred peaks and historical cities of Sichuan.

Our first glimpse of Tibetan Buddhism came after we landed in a small city called Xining, the capital of a far off province called Qinghai. At first glance it did not seem Tibetan but it no doubt was a part of the plateau and influenced by a mesh of cultures, including Tibetan and Han Chinese. Trade between Han, Mongolian, Turkic and Tibetan empires allowed Xining to flourish. It rose up right on the edge of what the Chinese call Qinghai and the Tibetans call Amdo, two names for a similarly assigned space. However, we came to Xining for a nearby monastery more than the city itself.

Still, the city had a significance worth exploring. At the intersection of several cultures, Xining’s probably seen a lot of every sort of people. Mongolians, Tibetans, Muslims and Chinese all played a part in its history. Now it stands as the largest city on the Tibetan plateau. None of that translates into its skyline or across its urban sprawl.

Landing in the Xining airport.
Landing in the Xining airport.

Large though it may be for the plateau it is a small city on China’s scales. Of all the places I had been in China none felt as empty and spacious as Xining. To be fair to Xining, we did not stay there for very long and only went exploring on one quiet night.

Besides, Xining had a very special charm all its own. Few places felt quite as honestly human as Xining. This is a city with more work than pomp. The city lacked the grand skyline of China’s megacities and it could not sprawl out endlessly like Beijing does. Rather, it exists and only ever existed as the simple and practical version of itself, not reaching out to be a Big Apple or even a Second City. Xining did not feel dressed up, a rarity for a country rediscovering the clothing of State Capitalism and Confucianism.

Despite my all too natural reluctance to go out, I ended up heading out after dark to explore the town with a group of friends. We struck a path along a street next to an empty canal and walked a short while before stopping at corner store. A young man stood half asleep at a slightly dilapidated chrome counter. He welcomed us in and bade us to buy whatever we liked, though he spent much more energy welcoming in a white cat. I could not blame him; the cat seemed much more interesting.

A large part of China’s spirit – as I saw it – manifested in bottles of water and cats. The people there could not do without either. The tap water in China is undrinkable even for the iron-stomached, making bottled water a constant. Office places had several 32 packs of plastic water bottles stacked atop coolers. Campus stores sold big bottles with handles. On the street a vendor stood at the ready with one as well. Restaurants served steaming hot water in part to ensure customers of its secure quality, and partly out of traditions I only half understand that call for hot drinks

The cats paint a cheerier picture. Stray cats are a fixture along the streets of Beijing and Xining. People leave little piles of kibble for the cats to eat and let the felines come and go. The small office where we met at Beijing University even had a cat all its own, affectionately named Xiao Bai (小白) meaning “Little White.” It came in for food but sometimes stuck around for company.

It had little legs so I called it lil' legs
A stray cat I met in Lhasa.

We got our bottles of water and had the man up front ring us up. He was fairly friendly and pretty tired. He tossed up three fingers to indicate the price, then dropped a word I did not know. Spotting the confusion, he smiled and cut back to the Beijing dialect, common speech. China’s tongues do not just divide at Cantonese and Mandarin but at the boundaries of every province. Dialects can differ right down to the county line, sometimes so steeply separate that they could be languages all their own. All across the country most people can speak Beijing dialect at least like a second language.

After that we ambled onward for a while, realizing that few places outside of that corner store and some McDonald’s were still open. We thought everyone was asleep until we came upon a super poppy tune emanating from a distant plaza. A bunch of senior citizens had gathered at a nice and open place to do some nighttime group dancing. They quickly invited us over, curving hands and mouthing “Lai 来! Lai 来! Lai 来!” So for a while we did a little group dancing in a foreign plaza. Some older women helped show me the ropes and by the end I was deep in the formation trying hard to stay in step. My compatriots pulled me out of the group and we went on walking.

Past that point we did not have so much to see. Before we knew it we had stumbled upon another plaza, this one even more massive and filled with some strange sculptures we did not understand. After some loitering a nearby McDonald’s called our name, mostly by merit of being open when everything else was closed.

The magic of marketing has made McDonald’s and other fast food brands a middle and upper class treat in China. The menus feature American style foods often with a Chinese twist, featuring fried chicken with a Sichuan sauce and a curry chicken plate served with fries. One of the biggest culture clashes I have ever had was over a pizza hut in Chengdu, where I ate a freshly made pan pizza underneath glinting chandeliers while watching well-dressed businessmen chat at a nearby table. Though this McDonald’s proved pretty interesting too.

I got another bottle of water to have when I woke up next morning and sat at a table a slight way away from a middle aged Chinese woman sowing something nice and colorful. At first nothing seemed amiss. Gradually a tragedy etched into her expressions and she started to sob and heave quietly in the corner. There we were, foreigners in one of the furthest parts of a strange land all alone on the second floor of a McDonald’s save some workers and a woman crying into a quilt.

The moment struck me as I felt simultaneously very far and incredibly close to her. My language skills could not grapple with her troubles and my social skills would not have been up to the task either. Still, I was one of the few witnesses to a breakdown, one of the warm bodies nearest to some unfortunate thing that had brooded until it spilled over. No travel guide in the universe could have explained to me how to handle the situation.

Stories started to swirl around in my mind, trying to understand what might have happened. A friend of mine and I started to speak carefully in English. We wondered openly what to do, but also what this woman’s tale was. Had she lost a child recently, went for a night time walk and ended up knitting and sobbing? Was she just distressed at things at home or homeless entirely? There was no way to know even though we tried to figure it out. The most respectable thing to do may have been to stay silent or talk about other things. Perhaps we should have lent a hand despite language barriers. We should have tried to do better by her. We should not have given into curiosity, but if we were not weak to exploratory impulses we may never have ended up in China.

After that we just walked back and relaxed at the hotel. It was a very human city and it gave me plenty to think about even if not much happened while I was there. The bell would call for us very early next morning and we’d end up hastily eating a bare-bones breakfast before going to Kumbum Monastery. The tale will continue next week with the monastery. I will leave a few photos as a bit of a teaser.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

~Austin R Ryan

Facebook Sticker Store Tier List


Facebook is not a social media site, it is a battlefield. Socialization is not a fun diversion, it is a competition that you must win at every stage of your life until you are number one, the Caesar Augustus etching the name of your foes onto the proscription list. Perhaps you feel frightened to stride straight into the forum and slap down the stickers that will rile up your rowdy allies into seating you in the Senate. Well no worries friend, I am here to guide you with a comprehensive Facebook sticker/emoji set tier list! All I ask is that when you are on the very tip top of the ladder you look back down to me and say, “yes you did me a mighty kindness, I will pull your name from the list silently in the night even if you have wronged my allies.”

How does this list work? I have split all the emoji sets I could find into 6 tiers, the top tiers appearing first and the worst tiers appearing last. This way the tiers go from high as heaven to low as hell. Where will you place yourself? The ranking itself is a strict science! I consult the top Meme Scientists about my lists and they all say my lists are A-Okay. Do not ask me for the contact information of the Meme Scientists or I will ban you.

The ranking works off of three primary categories: depth of responses, art style, and true meme spirit. Depth of responses indicates how many emotions and situations the sticker set can cover. It is very important that you are ready for absolutely anything anyone can throw at you, so the sticker sets must have much depth as to speak on nearly every worldly issue and maybe some otherworldly ones too. Art style simply alludes to how striking, unique, and well-crafted the art of the stickers are. True meme spirit truly escapes all human touch. One cannot simply speak of it or even think of it. True meme spirit comes when memes master propriety with divinity, when stickers walk the path but leave no footsteps, when the emojis clap but stir not a sound, when they do all with dankness.

This list cannot explain life’s mysteries, like why it is called the Facebook Sticker Store when everything in it is free? Why doesn’t the Sticker Store have a search function? Why do the sticker sets seem completely randomly sorted? This list may not answer these questions, but it will guide you straight to the top.

God of Memes Tier:
Power Rangers, Sports Talk, Sinister Oyster, Business Fish, HamCat, MiM+, Tuzki+


Mememaster General Tier:

Text Talk, MiM, Hamilton, Regular Show, Bun, Pusheen, Mr. Baldy & Friends, Cece, The Dam Keeper, Banana, Skullington, Tuzki, Blue Cat, NuaNia , Beast, Oakley, Chumbak, Biscuit, Unchi & Rollie, Mikey

Chase the Horizon to Danker Memes Tier:
Napoli, Hatch, Baach, Dia de los Muertoons, Yes We Code, Boo and Buddy, Dance Party, Masked Wrestler Q, Bee & Pupppycat, Eagle & Snake, Say Thanks, Sugar Cubs, Yuttari Dragon, Hello Kitty, Mockingjay Part 1, Kinokoko, Yarukizero, Piyomaru, The Expendables 3, Prickly Pear, Stella Supernova, U.S. Soccer, Dweores, Facebook Foxes, Gumball, Mostropi, Bigs and Yeti, Anooki, Pandadog & Friends, Despicable Me 2

MehMeh Tier:
Adventure Time, Meep, Super Tiny, Friendship, Love is in the Air and other emotion based sets, The Pixar Pack, Hacker Girl, Hacker Boy, Hacker anything else, Naughty Foods, Carnival, Meow Town, Rose, Tigerbell, Nyanchi, Paul Frank, First Mate, Happy Go Lucky, Soccer!, Ref, Opi, Sunny Eggy,Ya-Ya, Free Birds, Koko, Snoopy’s Moods, Cut the Rope, Kukuxumusu, Candy Crush, Plum

Memehell Tier:
Tanuki, Lunar New Year, Mugsy In Love, Biscuit in Love, Taz, Shaun the Sheep, Snoopy’s Harvest, Mango, Home for the Holidays, Wide Eyes, Part Fowls, Momo, Soccer Scarves, Ruby, On the Move, Pride, Cutie Pets, LEGO Minifigures, Likes, Fat Rabbit Farm,

Father, Forgive Them, For They Do Not Know Not What They Are Memeing Tier:
Year of the Horse, Finch, Bigli Migli, 1600 Pandas Tour 1 and 2, Waddles Winter, The Boxtrolls, Heromals, Peabody & Sherman

Lets get started! (Via a pretty interesting examination of the emoji from Rhizome</a )
Lets get started! (Via a pretty interesting examination of the emoji from Rhizome)

Further Explanation:

God of Memes Tier:

Sports Talk:
Imagine the number one supreme sports fan, the True Sports. For me this being is loud like the trumpets at a thousand jazz festivals yet speaking in a strange ancient language of furious airhorns and Darude Sandstorm and Alternative Rock and Gary Glitter and arcane gesticulation. This being has much flesh, seas of very shaky flesh, but absolutely no shirt for the colors and numbers of the being’s most admired sportsmen must adorn its multitudinous form. The true sports fan knows no other team as rival for all teams other than the home team cause this being great rage. Its mighty jowls quake, emitting the blast of airhorns like so many blasts of bees and the spray of nacho cheese like fiery geisers and bits of chips like molten rock at the mention of any team aside the one it favors.

The fan is the alpha and the omega, the yeller of praise and the thrower of batteries, the author of defenses and death threats, the starter of parades and riots. Some may call it male or female, but I believe it genderless with only the team’s decal brandishing the light of suns, the light and heat that gives galaxies life, where gentalia would be. Can you picture the Sports, the True Sports? The True Sports uses Sports Talk for sure. It loves this emoji set, and so do I. It covers a lot of bases and emotions and has a pleasant art style! The True Sports coddles this emoji set as it were a child, for it sees in the images the faint traces of itself, so I too adore it.

Power Rangers:
This emoji set has everything you could want. It covers the basic emotions with ease, it reaches out to the more complex topics and responses too. Power Rangers will give you an answer to any question or comment a friend can dish out so that ultimately you can triumph over them in conversation as the Power Rangers triumph over evildoers. The art in the set is pretty nice too and comes together in a style that surprisingly pleases the eye and captures the goofiness that a Power Ranger based emoji set should have. Besides all that, the Make My Monsters Grow emoji is the unstoppable hero facebook deserves and needs.

MiM+, Tuzki+:
I do not understand how the hell a designer sorts emojis and what limitations they face, but clearly the will of heaven mandates that some sets must be divided. When most sets divide it’s to create a themed “X in love” kind of thing that just looks plain awful. How many different saccharine, heart based emojis do you need? MiM and Tuzki do not phone in their extra emojis as they easily could, they go the extra mile to make every set great. Any MiM and Tuzki set can stand on its own, but if you took them all together you’d be set to meme your friends freshly straight up to your deathbed. Once there, your friends would remember how heartily you memed and come to your funeral and weep copiously. Your funeral would have much screaming and your ancestors would be very proud.

Sinister Oyster, Business Fish, Ham Cat:
These three all forge unique sets of emojis that can speak to most situations that you would need to reply to. They have wonky and fun art styles that will impress your friends into saying, “wow I bet this friend of mine reads the New Yorker sometimes and does not spend their entire weekend on children’s cartoon based playbuzz quizzes” silently to themselves as they communicate to you.

Mememaster General Tier:

Text Talk:
When I first saw Text Talk my mind flooded with violent visions of high school. Then I started to use Text Talk, and it actually covers most bases you’d need in facebook conversations. What’s even better, it embraces what it is with just a tiny touch of irony, overdoing everything with huge bubble letters and polka dots and strange nearly neon colors that occur more in Mountain Dew factories than nature. Overall it’s pretty damn fantastic because it captures the spirit behind the stereotypical valley girl who gleefully abuses texting abbreviations until indeed the neon and the polka dots stick to her words. This girl does not really exist, we have manufactured her as a lesson to strike fear into those who overmeme, and to limit humanity’s hubris so that memes may take our languages and senses but never our souls.

Cece:
What a fun set this one is! Cece has much life and spirit painted with an interesting and fun art style. Cece can apply to many interactions that you may need to respond to. If perhaps you work in a casual office environment you can respond to your boss using a Cece sticker and your boss will say, “What a spark plug it is that works here! They have much spunk and this is good for our profits, I will give them many promotions so they will hopefully stay here.” If your work environment is perhaps more formal, do not send emojis to your boss unless maybe it is businessfish.

Banana:
This fun and pleasant gorilla will impress many of your friends. However it may offend some of your friends that have been mauled by wild, rampaging gorillas that have escaped from the zoo so please be considerate! I am sick of these phantom pains…

Bun:
A fun and bouncy bunny that makes many ugly faces. The scrunchy bunny is the best. The scrunchy bunny is too good. It describes much of the strange twisting awkwardness found in every corner of modern systems doing their best to manage hordes of very frustrated people. No other bun can live up to the scrunchy bun so why bother to do anything with this emoji set than spam the scrunchy bun?

Behold the glory!
Scrunchy bun

Mr. Baldy:
I like Mr. Baldy’s strange, fleshy head and the weird discolored monsters that haunt him in the merriest of ways. Good art, good depth of responses, strong emoji set all around!

The Dam Keeper:
What this emoji set lacks in depth of responses it makes up for in unique and interesting art style. No emoji set is quite like this one. However, it is not clear why it is called the dam keeper. There are no images of dams. What kind of place makes a pig in charge of a dam? Would this not be the job of a beaver? Apparently a short film inspired these images but knowing this does not ease the burden on my mind. Why do we have emoji sets based on short, critically acclaimed, animated films? Have we gone too far? These questions plague my dreams.

MiM and Tuzki:
What excellent memeing can be done just with these two sets! Tuzki and Mim contain truly fun moving images to impress your friends and make them say such things as “wow” and “tubular” and “haha yes I do find this quite funny enough to make me laugh out loud.” The original sets alone lack the depth of responses to carry you through literally every foreseeable interaction. If you lust to meme like a heavenly being than you must incorporate their additional sets as well.

Blue Cat:
Truly one of the most baffling image sets on the internet. Does this belong in meme hell or meme heaven? The art is basic and the eyes are soulless, but at times it is so indulgent in glossy and overdone effects that it seems a poignant parody of itself. Besides that it has so much raw content that you could probably respond to damn near anything with just the one image set. Ultimately Blue Cat is strange and may give you sleepless nights, but if you harness its potentially maligned energies you may be able to wreak havoc on those around you.

Pusheen:
The classic meme cat bounces jubilantly up and down on Facebook. It shares with you its mirthful, pudgy body. Use that body to express emotion to your friends, but just remember that while this meme has aged well, it is aged and will surprise few people.

Pusheen (via @pusheen)
Pusheen (via @pusheen)

Chase the Horizon to Danker Memes Tier:

Masked Wrestler Q:
it pains me to put the masked wrestler so low, for there are few that use this set more than I. However I have to admit that it lacks the raw content, the sheer number of relevant emojis to set you up or success in every interaction. At times this emoji set will leave you woefully undermanned, but the emotions it can express it expresses very well and with the vigor of a masked wrestler.

Yes We Code:
One of the few sets to really rock the vintage signage style to full effect. It can answer most of your friends’ responses in a creative and clever way, very solid overall though perhaps not explosive enough to wow anyone. Perhaps if you travel heavily in computer science and web design circles this image set will prove very relevant to your life and become more than memes, but in fact a fast friend for you.

Say Thanks:
If you are looking for emojis to express your love for hallmark card style greetings then this is the set for you. Even though the style is super corny and sometimes a bit too goofy, I really gotta give it to this set. It thought of just about every way to say thank you and put them all into an emoji set. Godspeed you thankful bastards!

Boo and Buddy:
This lil’ pup nearly ended up in meme hell, but as I employed these small poofy animals in daily conversation I truly was wowed by its utility. The set covers most of your emotional bases, and does so with the flippant irony that can be read into this small fluffy animal with squiggly lines drawn on its face.

U.S. Soccer:
A surprisingly complete set of emojis. It will do you well and stand loyally by you but it may not impress your associates. It is a fine set, but a simple set. Ultimately Sport Talk outshines it, but if you reject any Sport but European Ball Kick then maybe this is the set for you. I, for one, will stick with Sport Talk since it includes American Diamond Ball Toss, Ice Stick Combat, Advanced Statistics Wood Bat Ball Hit and even Old Man Pebble Strike.

Napoli, Hatch, Baach, etc:
These kind of emojis have solid art styles that distinguish them and bring out the fun expressions of the animals that should represent the equally fun expressions behind the words you type. They have a pretty wide range of emotions and events. Overall, they are fine, but sets like Hamilton, Business Fish and Hamcat do the same but with more distinct art styles that bring such fun to your expressions that your friends may even feel disappointed when speaking with you in real life for you lack the strong body language of business fish.

Dance Party:
I would put this in the MehMeh tier because there’s only so much these animated dances can express, but I really like the headbang one and the twerk one.

(Party all night with these funky dancers! Courtesy of the  FB stickers blog)
Party all night with these funky dancers! (Courtesy of the FB stickers blog)

MehMeh Tier:

Adventure Time:
I too love and worship the vibrant colors of the TV as it plays this my favorite cartoon show. However, these emojis have not the zest and personality of their original medium. Sure, your friends will laugh heartily when you drop that weird Lemongrab emoji, and how they might delight in seeing the Jake-Finn fist pound, but the static pictures of the cast come with few words. This set alone will not carry you through the treacherous waters of Facebook socializing.

Hacker whatever:
If you talk with a lot of very old people on facebook they may find these emojis very impressive, but then they will definitely ask you for help closing internet explorer. Then what will you do? Talk your way out of it with hacker girl stickers? Fat chance.

The Pixar Pack:
You tried, Pixar, but did you really try hard? Yes these are your characters but they do little as to relate themselves to my emotion. How am I supposed to express the raw fury that wells up inside me when something tiny goes wrong during my interaction with a piece of technology or when I face one of the many bureaucracies that subtly rule my existence? I have no room to truly feel if I use this set of stickers and so I must cast them aside. Good job on the movies though! Those are great.

Friendship and other emotion based sets:
Facebook amalgamates the stickers that express similar things like love or friendship in form of one great sticker conglomerate. I won’t deny it; you will command an almost sickening mastery over certain narrow situations with these stickers. However if you use only the love set or the friendship set you’ll end up unprepared for expressing something as simple as feeling hungry for eating too little and then immediately after feeling bloated for eating too much. If you use many of them in tandem, as to cover all your bases, you will be like the person bringing grocery store brownies to the party. Ultimately everyone’s fine with it, but something you made yourself has more heart.

Soccer!:
These stickers have a pretty rad and unique art style. They look like logos come to life to duel the players themselves in European Ball Kick. Perhaps when they win the big European Ball Kick against a team of the best Ball Kickers from all of the world’s countries we will learn their true motivations. Until then, no doubt their goals will remain murky to us. Regardless of all that, these stickers can only help you express ways in which you kick the European Checker Ball so it’s only alright.

Memehell Tier:

Tanuki, no thank you! (Courtesy of Sticker Social.)
Tanuki, no thank you! (Courtesy of Sticker Social.)

Tanuki:
Get this weaboo nonsense out of my face.

Soccer Scarves:
The emojis don’t look that bad, and I like how raucous the jumping faces of these European Ball Kick fans look. However, these scarves can’t possibly serve that much purpose. Why would you need a visual representation of a howling, scarf wielding fan from every country with a world cup team? This seems copious.

Shaun the Sheep:
We all like Wallace and Gromit and whatever Claymation masterpieces the directors of it make, but let’s not push it. This is too much. This is decadent and we do not need it. Even if we did need it, the jarring images of this emoji set do no honor to Shaun the Sheep.

Lunar New Year:
The art is pretty cool, and it acknowledged the proper zodiac animal. Yet, I cannot imagine that this emoji set has much use outside of actually talking about the Lunar New Year. If you find yourself having many conversations over the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival or zodiac signs than maybe this is for you. Otherwise there are probably better emoji sets out there.

Mugsy in love, Biscuit in love:
Biscuit and Mugsy did not need these extra emoji sets, the originals were fine. These emojis will not shame your family, but your friends may reasonably ask you why you need to have 15 different dog emojis to express romantic inclination and will you honestly have a proper response ready for them, outside of spamming scrunchy bun?

Father, Forgive Them, For They Do Not Know Not What They Are Memeing Tier:

The Boxtrolls:
I do not know what these disgusting mammals are supposed to be. I do not understand them and I do not like them. Please do not send them to your friends.

Year of the Horse:
What the hell are you doing still using this? Do you want bad fortune to come upon your house and hearth? Do not tempt fate, it is a wily snake and the grass and you cannot will it into your basket. Switch to a goat/sheep related emoji set before it is too late for you.

1600 Pandas Tour 2:
I do not think that the first set could do much to justify the second. These stickers try to profit off of the ageless panda-monium sweeping the world, but staring into the bizarrely pupil-less eyes of these strange sticker, you can see they have no soul. They lack any sort of interesting design or expression. Their shaky borders make it seem like they could vibrate out of existence at any moment. Judging by their soulless eyes, they would take your humanity with them as they disappeared.

Finch:
This set looks like those smiley advertisements on old flashplayer websites with amusing animated shorts. When I accidentally moused over those ads they said “HELLO???” in a loud and jarring way. Those ads frustrated me to no end and so does Finch. At best this set is a poor man’s Meep and everything in the sticker store is free, so don’t settle.

Bigli Migli:
What a confounding thing Bigli Migli is. Why does every emoji relate to love? Why do none of them have mouths, making them look bland and expressionless? Why are their bodies and heads lumpy, shapeless white forms? Who named these things Bigli and Migli? You will find none of these answers starting into the empty face of Bigli Migli. You will only find suffering, very bland and quiet suffering.

Peabody & Sherman:
This emoji set appears next to the idiomatic dictionary’s definition of “phoning it in.”

[If it isn’t clear by now, this article is satire. These rankings are mostly arbitrary, written in jest, and whatever stickers you use are probably fine. Social media is not a battlefield where the most epic of memers triumph. At least not yet…

Happy April Fool’s Day!
~Austin R Ryan]