Lonely Men, Lonely Women


There are more people on Earth than ever before, so it’s natural that there are more lonely people on Earth than ever before.

It’s really an impossible statement to make, whether people are more or less lonely than in the past. Still, there’s a lot of talk about it because people like impossible statements. The world will end in 2012. I am the second coming of Christ. I am the Messiah. I’m just gonna have a few chips and then I’m gonna put the bag back in the pantry. Impossible statements like these are fun to make, and really give life a shake.

I’d like to give life a shake and make a few impossible statements about loneliness and gender. Cutting to the core, I’m going to tell you gendered behavior makes it so men have more of one type of friend and one type of loneliness and women have more of the other. I’m going to make an earnest request that all people should have both types of friends and minimize both types of loneliness.

Before all that, I’ve picked some cherries for you that demonstrate that there’s a narrative about loneliness that I’m building off of. Over nine million British adults are always or often lonely. 35 percent of (presumably British) men feel lonely at least once a week. The British have appointed a minister for loneliness to square the whole thing out, which seems terribly British of them.

Cigna, one of the feared giants of the American health insurance landscape, tell us Americans can also feel lonely. Nearly 50 percent of the Americans they surveyed sometimes or always feel lonely. We Americans are lonely too, but we aren’t going to appoint a minister to deal with it. We’re going to settle it like individuals and sabotage one another until we have to respond to each other with one to several thousand radical acts of violence.

There are, if you are one of those odd people that comprehends faces better than numbers, plenty of articles that take snapshots of the lonely person, giving them the voyeuristic respect adults give zoo animals. The focus of these articles often turn to friends, in particular, the adult male friendship. Many adult men struggle to find real, deep, meaningful friendships that will last a long time or can be picked up after long droughts.

This is a surprise to me because this is a problem I don’t have.

It may seem like I’m bragging – that’s because I am. I understand bragging isn’t a pretty thing to do, but I’ll celebrate my victories so life doesn’t feel like it’s all defeats. Plus, I’m not bragging just to brag, I’m bragging to talk about how important deep friendships are and how we build them.

In fact, last week I was sustained by deep friendships. Creatively, I was stymied all week. I spent the week fearing writing much more than actually writing. When you’re working part-time and taking on less money with the deliberate goal to write, this feels like a solid failure – because it is a solid failure. During the week, three different long-lasting friendships from different points of life pushed me out of feeling like a waste of space.

A college friend got me working on a podcast, and editing it actively gave me a creative, productive break from main projects. A childhood friend and I shared jokes and exchanged music and art we found. I got a keyboard to monkey around on and he gave me helpful advice on how to get started with a new instrument. I got the basis for this whole damn article by spending five hours talking with a friend I’ve had since ninth grade.

Without friends, I don’t know if I would’ve done a damn thing with the week and I can’t imagine the emotional lows I would’ve reached. It wasn’t like this week was an outlier or exception, either. I’ve had depressive episodes. I came into the stressful world of bisexuality rough and rollicked. I tumbled through queerness while working emotionally draining jobs and living off of small paychecks. I’ve gotten the shit beat out of me by adulthood. Plenty of people can live through this, but if I didn’t have a cast of close friends, I don’t think I would’ve.

So, celebrating the success that’s kept me kicking, I’ve been digging into this “friendship” business. To truly dig at the ideas, you’ve gotta start with the words.

What is lonely? What is friend?

 

Lonely is a lot of things to a lot of people, but it isn’t being alone. Being alone could even be “alone time,” which is a good thing in this culture where the word “introvert” is used as a cudgel to beat things to death.

Merriam-webster calls loneliness, “being without company” or “cut off from others.” That is generally accurate but not deeply accurate.

Lonely is, deeply speaking, feeling a want for call-and-response but feeling the call part won’t work. Maybe the call will echo into a void and disappear. Maybe there isn’t enough mental strength to make a call in the first place. Maybe there is so much mental movement that any call made would feel strange, desperate, totally alien to the flesh-things that cohabitate your space and all responses would be negative. Lonely is reaching out and not touching anything. It’s fucking terrifying. It’s a thing you can feel lightly or heavily, with a part of yourself or with your whole self.

Friend is a general thing. For most people, it is a wide, messy word that hides an even wider, messier spectrum. There are many different kinds of friends and there’s been a lot of ink spilled on defining the kinds and labeling the parts that put them at their point on the friend spectrum. Even the ends of the friend spectrum vary. For some, one end is “close” and the other is “distant.” For others, the ends are “deep” and “shallow” or “everyday” and “infrequent” or “supportive” and “challenging.”

Friend is so deep a thing that you can drown in it. So, here is what’s at the surface of it for me:

Inside the immense pool of friend, I see two clear distinctions in buds and besties. You may have fished more distinctions out of the pool of friend – I have too. I don’t doubt they’re there and as real as the ones I’ve found. Right now, it’s best to keep things honed to a binary, since we Americans have great trouble thinking outside of one.

Anyways, buds are people I meet for activities, clubs, careers, and interests. Buds are bound together through actions of some sort – games, sports, faith, yelling. Like with friends, buds can be good or best or close or whatever else. Buds can be run into or invited in. Buds can light up your room and your night and can mean a lot. Buds can become besties or stay buds, as besties can become buds or stay besties. A friend could be both at once. All things in life are fluid until proven otherwise.

Besties, on the other hand, come together over feelings. Besties bond over talks that stir up from wells of emotion. Besties hash out things like identity, sexuality, romance, politics, religion, and much more. Besties can have boundaries and don’t need to rip their souls out and share them at every interaction, but what’s important is that they can usually do this with each other on the drop of a dime. If one bestie is really struggling, they can expect to call out to another and get a response – maybe not immediately, but somewhat soon.

Now we’ve circled back to lonely. See, buds are great but they won’t stop lonely. Buds can’t be guaranteed to respond to a call because the call is an action and they might not feel like playing a game, or going running, or hopping in bed with you (there are fuck buddies, but a fuck bestie is just a significant other). Besties can respond to that call. Friends that you might not have talked to in months could still qualify as besties, and friends you see every week could be buds. I have both.

There are besties I have brought deep shit to after months, maybe even a year of silence, and they take it in stride. There have been other times I’ve done that and not gotten a response, letting me know that person may not be a bestie anymore. That’s not a bad thing, and not even on them as much as it could be on me, it just is what it is. There are buds I’ve bonded past action with and become besties with, too.

“But bro,” a loud, perpetually flexing voice in my head says, “why’d you have to use a girly mouth sound like bestie? Why not a strong, masculine term like Punch Brethren?” Because everything is gendered, including loneliness.

Men have buds. Women have besties.

 

I was raised by a wild pack of women, and also my dad. I learned a lot from both parties.

In education and development, there’s a simple idea called modeling. Your actions set a model for children, which the child then builds a version of for themselves. I model how to say a word, the child builds the word along that model. My sisters model how to build a friendship, I build a friendship along that model.

I grew up with both the masculine and feminine models – the bud and bestie – put right in front of me. Without thinking, I’ve modeled both and it’s been why my social life has stayed solid. Growing up, I felt no shame calling up a bestie or getting called by one just to talk. This idea of talking just to talk gets coded feminine for whatever reason. It ‘s an idea at the core of being a bestie because, through course of long conversation, deep feelings will be broached.

In my house, I regularly saw these kinds of long conversations. My sisters had them over the phone with friends and in-person with each other, and my mom had them with her own friends and coworkers. I am lucky that I consider all of my sisters besties. I’m both lucky and unlucky that they weren’t the type to let me disengage totally from the feminine as a young boy would like to. I was unlucky in that they did terrible things to my hair. I was lucky in that I learned valuable lessons about friendship. The end result was that I came away not feeling so uncomfortable with feelings that I couldn’t express them to friends and get those besties.

Here is where I don’t undersell my dad and masculinity. There is toxicity to masculinity, but one thing it gets right is community through hobby. I saw my dad move through several communities centered around sports, religion, yelling, and more. This was hugely important to me. I have valued memories of watching the Pacers and of chanting at the Gohonzon in a community center full of old Japanese people. Both of these things carried into my adult life and formed up parts of my identity. I’m not a Buddhist, but it’s still the basis of a lot of my morality; I’m still a Pacers fan, and it’s also the basis of a lot of my morality. My dad had a lot of buds, which helped me learn how to make them myself and find new corners of the world to squirrel into.

Let me try and dodge some hot water here and say that these gendered dynamics aren’t set in stone. They can reverse and change, and they do. They also do not mean that men couldn’t do something emotionally available like social work and women couldn’t do something like lead communities. Men and women do both things, yet, search your culture and ask yourself, which gender gets stereotyped as community leaders and which gender gets stereotyped as community supporters?

The gentleman lonely and the lady lonely

 

The fact that men and women have these gendered differences in how friendships form also means that they have differences in how they feel lonely. Men tend to have more buds and women tend to have more besties. The terrible truth is, you need both. It takes a village to raise an adult… or something like that.

I’ve given besties a lot of props, so now I have to tear them down. Besties are great, and while I do think they’re better for deep loneliness than buds, they aren’t always what a person needs. There will be times where you might not realize you’re lonely, or where a bestie can’t be called on, or where a distracting, fun activity is better for loneliness than a deep talk. This is where buds come in.

That board game night, that video game session, that dungeons and dragons group are all things where socialization happens but, pleasantly, it isn’t about anybody. It’s about the activity and so it’s about everybody. This can be super socially cohesive. Anthropologists study games at length and discuss them plenty because of that social weight they carry. Think about every human you know. Getting even five of those fuckers to come into a room and not think primarily about themselves for hours at a time is an actual accomplishment. Actions and activities do that. Buds do that.

There is so much more to be said for buds beyond that. Buds surprise you, showing sudden depth or skill or virtue through a game or activity. Buds don’t need you to be emotionally available like besties. Buds let you express things totally unattached to emotions, feelings, and maybe even the core of yourself, letting you blossom into all sorts of wild nonsense. These kinds of circles can, despite often being deliberately less deep, be fertile ground for growing an entirely new part of an identity.

So, the lady lonely often comes from lacking this. I’ve known it to happen to friends and family and I’ve seen it in discourse. If you’ve been on Tumblr, there are a lot of posts defending what are essentially bud building zones for women. Posts step up to defend fandoms, fanart, K pop, Harry Potter, and traditionally feminine things like makeup or biddy-hoards at bars (yes, I know bro-hoards exist and are just as obnoxious). This is women pushing for spaces where they can have buds, and that’s important because a lot of traditional bud-zones are masculine. Sports, comics, video games, and so on are all coded masculine and women have written at length about their troubles earning respect in these spaces.

It’s really gonna put a damper on your quest for a bud if you’re constantly fighting for equality and respect while inside the bud-zone. Your buds might involuntarily become besties through that because difficult conversations are forced, and you’re actually a little bit disappointed because a bud would’ve been nice. Being bisexual, I partially understand the feeling.

Women often have those important besties that keep them afloat but they don’t as often have simple communities to access where they can get some hassle-free buds. Studies won’t indicate women as lonely as often as they will men, but I do think a lady lonely exists. I’ve seen women in my life have to look and work harder for hobbies and to get buds. My sisters would often wonder why sometimes my friends and I could just sit and play the same or different video games near each other, rarely talking, not having been taught the bud dynamic.

I’ve also seen women I know lose friends more quickly because the bestie dynamic can be more fragile and prone to explosion than the bud dynamic. If someone stops coming to trivia, you may miss them but you probably won’t blow up on them. If someone violates your trust by revealing a deep thing you told them, or by taking that deep anxiety you revealed and crapping all over it, or by putting too much emotional stress on you, then there may be an explosion.

There are so many jokes of two women being furious at each other and petty for years and two men reconciling immediately. In my eyes, some of this comes from that dynamic where women are raised expecting besties and men are raised expecting buds. It’s not that big a deal if a bud is frustrating, but it can be a really big deal if a bestie is. I think there’s an expectation for women to be vulnerable and emotionally available all the time, and that’s bad for breeding buds, and out and out bad in general.

Men have the exact reverse expectation, expected to be invulnerable and emotionally controlled most of the time – bad for breeding besties and out and out bad in general.

The gentleman lonely may be less wide, but it is deeper. I don’t think men are as fenced in by their loneliness, being able to reach out and to find social clubs and communities and not worrying much about drama or problems in them. Yet, the problem for a lot of men is this is a shallow pool. How would your pool partner, your dungeon master, or your basketball buddies feel at you opening up about money problems? Or about depression? Or about how so many dreams feature the same the gnarled, bone-white figure approaching you and how each dream, it gets closer and closer, and how you are at once so afraid and so excited for it to reach you; for it to undo what it has come to undo and leave you in peace; for even if it undoes you by your every fiber, there must be peace in the undoing; there must be a peace that you don’t have now and will never have while you wait for it to reach you.

The deeper stuff might be off-limits, or it might not be, but it’s not comfortable enough to everyone involved to feel worth expressing. It’s more fun to just drink and play pool. Growing up, I was taught that emotions, anxieties, and the Pale Walker Named Dread were all things you talked about. A lot of men don’t have that same experience and can have trouble creating relationships that go to that deeper level.

We talk about the gentleman lonely more because we see it as more dangerous. To lay out as flat as possible, the lonely, nervous man is the potential shooter – in America, anyways. The world over, they’re still potential perpetrators of other crimes or violence. I don’t think people view the lonely woman in the same light. Instead, people see her as a potential victim, probably of the potential crime the lonely man would do. They also might see her as undesirable, or in some way deficient.

A lot of this, on either side, isn’t real. Lonely people are much more depressed and self-destructive than dangerous or undeserving. It’s all too easy to write off lonely people as deserving of it and unfit to socialize. Men feel this pressure intensely since they’re identified as dangers, not in danger. The gentleman lonely can dig at the roots of the self, tearing at identity and confidence, putting lonely men in a downward spiral where anxiety ramps up, confidence collapses, and socializing becomes harder.

I’ve fallen into this spiral before. Whenever I socialized I felt like shit, like I wasn’t totally me, and like it was a wonder why anyone hung out with me at all. I could openly tell friends about this struggle, and hearing that they had my back, that I was still who I thought I was, helped me pull out of the spiral. It’s not so hard to confide in a bestie, but it is tough to walk up to a bud and say, “I had the dream again. This time the Pale Walker Named Dread was so close that I could see the lines tracing its face like rivers cutting gorges into valleys.” My buds can draw me away from these thoughts for a bit, or remind me of my social value, but only my besties really bring me out of them.

A lot of men need a significant other to be the bestie, which is part of why men freak out so damn much about the idea of not having one. It’s part of why incels exist. When someone says and does things as embarrassing as incels do, it’s out of no small desperation and a pretty small sense of self. I’d put money down on the fact that plenty of incels have a few buddies, but besties are rarer. The language, the training, the modeling, all of it isn’t there for plenty of men and so the deeper things remain hidden. The gentleman lonely can be a steady force saddled right on the shoulders wearing downward, pushing and pushing towards the dirt. For men, loneliness is a deep well that they can fall into. They can pull themselves out with distractions but they could fall back into the well the very next day.

Non-binary finale

 

We’ve looked at lady lonely, looked at gentleman lonely, so what about non-binary lonely? I’m fairly genderqueer. I’ve been diagnosed by a licensed psychiatrist with gender dysphoria. I’ve known and spoken with plenty of transgender and genderqueer people. I’ve messed with my pronouns in the right environments. I rarely talk about this because I’m a teacher and I want to appear as an upstanding young man, and because I feel reluctant to claim a lot of identities when it seems like no one is having any fun with any of them. Gender is not the cross I’ll die on, if I can help it, but I’d be remiss not to hit on the non-binary element when it’s important.

I don’t think the uterus or balls push someone as hard in the direction of bud or bestie as upbringing, societal expectations, and pure personality do. If you’re a fanatic for wider communities and for hobbies and doing things in groups, then I bet you’ll get a lot of buds. If you’re all about long, deep conversations for the sake of it, then likely you’ll get besties. In my experience of the non-binary world, it varies based on personality first, gender identity second.

Gay or lesbian people will have more buds or besties based on preference too. I think being LGBT+ pushes a person towards besties since besties better help you survive against the heavy emotional damage that can come from queerness. That said, in adulthood, there is so much community in the LGBT+ world that a person can reorient towards buds.

I favor the middle, walking the surprisingly large line of androgyny in between, and lean lightly towards getting besties. Given the weird, often depressing interplay between creativity and queerness, I need besties more. If I didn’t have so much to hash out, I think I’d be much closer to the middle because they scratch different itches.

When you get a bunch of comfortable buds around, beautifully absurd things happen. Grown folk pretend to be dwarves, elves, gnomes, and orcs. People scream so loud for the tall man to dunk the dark orange ball through the bright orange rim. Friends get hot around the ears over plastic pieces on wooden boards, betraying and allying with one another. The world is at its weirdest and most mystifying when you’ve got a bunch of upright, linguistic simians in a room spitting threats and alliances at each other over a set of dice or a bowl of chips.

Yet, once the dust settles around an event, it’s lost to me. The conversations about life with my best friends stay with me for weeks or me, pulling me up as dark thoughts drag me down. To me, it becomes a balance. I need both for different things and if I were allowed to, I’d seek a complete equilibrium. I think most people, given the tools, stripped away of the coding, stripped away of the shame, would seek something close to an equilibrium.

Yes, there are some people who naturally make buds, not besties, and vice-versa. I’ve met both types. Still, there are more I’ve met that are much closer to the middle, wanting to have both much more than they show.

Right now, we’re hashing out the toxicity inside gender identities that have rapidly become too absurd to ignore. Gendered behaviors are at once so far removed from the environments that (maybe) provoked them and so intensely reinforced by marketing messages wanting to sell shades that are pinker than pink and bluer than blue, that they’re past the boiling point and mostly steam by now. Because of that, I see a lot more tendencies to tear down than to celebrate – as much in myself as in others. It can be healthy to tear down, but if you’re not careful, you lose some things you may need later.

If there’s something I’d celebrate from my masculinity, it’s bringing people together to do something with the day. Fuck it, let’s let Monday’s problems sit inside Monday and let’s spend Sunday screaming at people we don’t know, who also can’t hear us. Let’s bond, let’s surprise each other, let’s build on each other.

If there’s something I’d celebrate from my femininity, it’s being there for someone on their worst day, talking over the hardest parts of the world with them. Hell yeah, let’s talk about how wild a ride life is and maybe cry a bit while we’re at it. Let’s see what feelings look like on the faces of other people, let’s feel what they do to our own faces, let’s build each other up.

If there’s something I’d argue, it’s that these don’t need to be separated. You don’t have to pick one and you never had to. In fact, it’s probably better you didn’t. Redefining gender shouldn’t be loss alone, it should also be gain. Men aren’t from Mars, women aren’t from Venus, we’re all earthlings similarly awful at cohabitation. We might as well start learning from each other and, who knows? Maybe we’ll get better at living with each other too.

~Austin R Ryan

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March Reads


Here is everything I’ve written in March 2018. Boy was it a busy month. I got on my music writing grind and covered a lot of releases I’d been anticipating for a while. I even got to do a song premiere, which was pretty nifty.

Many slow songs suck, but they don’t have to

I struggle with a lot of slow songs and slower genres but as I’ve listened to more music I’ve found it’s not slow music as much as it is music that doesn’t do much, whether that’s not having any dynamics or movement, not adding in new instruments, or not building up and breaking down. So I wrote about what I think makes a good slow song.

Carpenter Brut’s “Leather Teeth” is a rad soundtrack to an imaginary ’80’s movie

Carpenter Brut is one of Synthwave’s greats so naturally, I had to review his newest album “Leather Teeth”. It’s a short and fun romp that really does sound like it should go with some classic 80’s shlock. It’s cheesy, over the top, and pretty delightful though it goes a bit too wild at points.

Screaming Females does a touch too much on “All At Once”

In this review, I got to take on a bigger name in rock in form of “Screaming Females”. Overall, the album was good, being both catchy and inventive with regularity. The guitar and vocals on the album were worth listening to for sure but I felt the album went on for too much and could’ve been seriously slimmed down.

“In a Poem Unlimited” or how to make good political art

Political art can often go awry and read as ham-fisted or poorly done yet when it’s done well it can be so poignant. Meg Remy/US Girls made absolutely masterful political art in form of “In a Poem Unlimited” – a seriously incredible album that shows and doesn’t tell you about the damage of so many political forces Remy does not agree with.

Premiere: Ben de la Cour “Company Town”

My first song premiere! I wrote about more political art in form of Ben de la Cour’s “Company Town” – a song that surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. De la Cour made a tasteful and thoughtful song about the genuine plight a lot of small-time American farmers and dying American towns face. It’s a classic country – think Johnny Cash or Steve Earle – tune that does its job well.

“Hope World” sounds beautiful when it floats and underwhelming when it doesn’t

Back to k-pop! J-hope, a member of one of k-pop’s biggest bands in form of BTS, released a solo album. I felt that there were some standout moments where J-hope showed his skill and his genuine ability to make catchy songs that had an incredible sense of aesthetic that captured his influences well but that the album faltered when it went away from that aesthetic into standard and dull rap tracks.

“Where Owls Know My Name” contains masterpieces and mediocrity

A long overdue metal review of one of my favorite technical death metal bands, Rivers of Nihil. Their new album was a wild ride, with some truly incredible and awesome tracks that felt like masterpieces of the genre and others that felt boring. The first half did very well and the second half left me wishing it was more like the first.

Kubbi creates a diverse electronic forest on “Taiga”

I reviewed an electronic, chiptune and video game inspired album that left me ultimately very pleased. Despite some isses of cohesion and flow when the album tried to mash together very different styles, I felt this one of the better atmospheric and general electronic albums I’d heard in a while. It was inventive and took on risks in meshing different sub-genres that most electronic artists don’t try to do and don’t do nearly as gracefully and subtly.

Fun Jack White is back

Jack White’s new album “Boarding House Reach” brought me back to the days when his music felt fun to me. Jack White’s solo projects seemed lackluster and totally lacking the bite of his old White Stripes and even Raconteurs albums. I was so refreshed by his newest album that I wrote a piece talking about how fun Jack White’s music can be and how the Fun Jack White had returned.

Snail’s House gets mellow with “Snö”

Snail’s House is a super prolific Japanese artist that makes electronic music styled around anime and kawaii (cute) culture. While I think many peers in his genre make lazy music, Snail’s House usually puts out a good effort. His new album definitely had good effort behind it and used great real-world samples and sounds to make a serene winter wonderland.

~Austin R. Ryan

February Reads


My March just got a little bit busy and my mind got a little flighty but I didn’t forget the reads posts. Here’s all I’ve done for February 2018. I’m gonna put up the March Reads a little after this and try to be more on top of things come April.

Khruangbin brings the mellow funk with “Con Todo El Mundo”

I reviewed Khruangbin’s newest album. Khruangbin is a band like you’ve never heard that makes a unique sound using elements from things you’ve probably heard, like funk and 60’s psychedelic music. Their new album, “Con Todo El Mundo”, has a nice blend of mellow and funky but falters when it mellows out too much.

Rhye masters a smooth and sensual style with “Blood”

Rhye’s new album “Blood” is long-awaited and masterfully crafted. It’s emotive, sensual, and interesting throughout mostly due to very smart compositions that build in fluid and complex ways. The album lulls too much at times but mostly sticks to its strengths well.

AWOLNATION hits and misses with “Here Come the Runts”

A rare negative review of mine. AWOLNATION is a pretty bipolar band in general for me and this album was no different. There were tracks I really enjoyed and felt had a White Stripes or The Hives-esque energy to them – fun, short, and driven by a distinct lead rhythm. Yet, more tracks than not were mediocre and phoned-in.

With “Little Dark Age” MGMT makes an album where every song fits

Reviewing “Little Dark Age” was like taking a trip through a distorted version of 80’s pop. Thing is, parts of 80’s pop aren’t that great and MGMT takes those on as well. “Little Dark Age” has the underwhelming ballads of the 80’s as well as its super fun synth melodies. Overall, it’s a super consistent and fun album with a few standout songs.

London brings together its best young jazz bands in “We Out Here”

One of the better compilation albums I’ve heard, “We Out Here” captures the sounds of many of London’s best young jazz bands. The bands all made unique songs for the album so there’s a pleasant cohesion to the album that compilations usually lack. The album blends together very well and because of the distinct sounds each band has it’s an album that stays remarkably fresh.

BoA shows she still has her K-Pop chops with “One Shot, Two Shot”

I reviewed BoA’s new album “One Shot, Two Shot” and felt that it was a very solid k-pop album. It had a few really strong songs and pretty much no bad ones though it didn’t necessarily wow me as a whole product.

BoA’s new music video has a refreshingly real take on age

I enjoyed BoA’s new music video more than her album. Many k-pop videos focus on youth and making stars look young to a point where it knocks me out of the music. BoA, a 30-year-old musician, acts and looks more her age in her video for “One Shot, Two Shot” and I absolutely loved seeing an older pop star not made to look like she was 18.

“Marbled” is a thoughtful and strong labor of love

“Marbled” was one of my favorite albums I reviewed in 2018. Abhi The Nomad is an indie hip-hop artist with some serious soul and groove, capable of creating great bars that convey some seriously deep sentiment about family, depression, and life in general. While there are times where Abhi gets overly sentimental, the album should get most people moving and thinking.

~Austin R Ryan

January Reads


I’m unconscionably late but I’m still gonna drop everything I’ve written and publicly published (under my name) in December here! The links are the titles and the titles are the links. Check them out if you like. I’d certainly like it if you did!

Ma-Te Lin leads Taiwanese trip-hop with their new album “嗨!又相遇了 HI! MATELIN

A review of a new album from one of my favorite Taiwanese bands. It’s a great electronic album that’s a bit more fun and bouncy than their norm.

King Gizzard’s “Gumboot Soup” is fine but forgettable

A review of the last of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s 2017 albums, “Gumboot Soup.” It’s a solid album and something you’ll probably like if you’re a fan of the band but it lacked cohesion and felt ultimately forgettable to me.

N.E.R.D. doesn’t miss a beat with “No_One Ever Really Dies”

I reviewed N.E.R.D.’s new self-titled album and loved it! It felt like a total return to form and a very fun and unique pop record.

The Neighbourhood plays it a little too safe with “To Imagine”

Yet another review! The Neighbourhood put out a new EP that I felt played it a bit too safe and didn’t lean hard enough into their unique ideas.

DEAN captures social media melancholy with “Instagram”

Finally, a non-review article. I broke down Korean R&B artist DEAN’s music video and song “Instagram”. I loved this track and this music video and felt it was the perfect example of how to deliver a strong slow-song and how to nail that unique feeling of social media melancholy.

~Austin R Ryan

December Reads


I’m gonna drop everything I’ve written and publicly published (under my name) in December here! The links are the titles and the titles are the links. Check them out if you like. I’d certainly like it if you did!

Review: Snail’s House’s “Alien☆Pop”

A review of electronic artist Snail House’s EP “Alien☆Pop.” It’s a fun EP that delivers on what you expect from Snail’s House but not much more.

Hyuna (현아) releases a new, surprisingly clever single and music video

A look at the clever subtext of a new video from K-Pop Idol Hyuna, which takes on the somewhat illusory body goals of K-Pop idols.

President Trump wins the latest round in the travel ban fight

A news article on an injunction to allow President Trump’s travel ban to go into effect while the courts decide on it.

The Dear Hunter’s “All Is As All Should Be” rewards fans in the best way

A review of the December The Dear Hunter EP. It’s a great tribute to fans done in a unique way that only a band as creative as The Dear Hunter could have thought of.

Why you should listen to (and watch) Louie Zong: King of the short and sweet

A dive into the animation and music of Louie Zong, a master of short and sweet media with a wonderfully colorful and cute aesthetic.

Grime godfather Wiley drops a new single, “Bar”

A simple and short report and review on Grime legend Wiley’s new track “Bar.”

Democrat Doug Jones pulls off a shocking win in Alabama

A news and analysis article on Doug Jones’s victory over Roy Moore in Alabama that explains why the victory is historic and how it happened.

MGMT makes a beautiful nightmare aesthetic for “When You Die”

An exploration of MGMT’s absolutely gorgeous and haunting music video for their new single “When You Die.”

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is enjoyable but not good

A review of “The Last Jedi” that explains in detail the movie’s worldbuilding and plot failings that make it a mediocre film even if it is a fun film to watch.

Thanks for reading! This month was a fun one where I got to explore some of my favorite artists’ works, got to write about some of the best music videos I’ve seen in a while, and wrote my first movie review. Happy 2018.

~Austin R Ryan

November Reads


I’m gonna drop everything I’ve written and publicly published (under my name) in November here! The links are the titles and the titles are the links. Check them out if you like. I’d certainly like it if you did!

Why you should listen to Wang Wen: Mainland China’s premier post-rock 

A deep dive into the music of Wang Wen, one of China’s oldest and most accomplished post-rock bands.

Dan Terminus’s “Automated Refrains” is a step into a new synthwave world

A review of Dan Terminus’s new album Automated Refrains. It’s a synthwave epic that creates its own world and story using lighter tones than is normal for the genre.

“Montage” shows a mix of effort from Block B 

A review of K-Pop act Block B’s new mini-album Montage. Montage is entertaining, fun, and breaks new ground in most spots but it has some disappointingly uncreative slow jams.

Australia votes a strong “yes” in same-sex marriage referendum 

A short news article on Australia’s referendum on gay marriage. In it, I touch on some demographics behind the referendum vote and what it means politically.

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard creates a psych-rock fantasy land in “Polygondwanaland”

A review of King Gizz’s 4th album of 2015, Polygondwanaland. It’s a progressive rock styled epic that knows what it’s doing and nails it.

“Perfect Velvet” is Red Velvet at their most and least interesting 

A review of Red Velvet’s bipolar new album. This album has some of the best girl-group songs in K-Pop, but also some of the staidest and least interesting ones too.

Thanks for reading and sorry for the silence!

~Austin R. Ryan

Melodic Mongolian Folk Metal


Metal’s made a name for itself representing the heyday of Norse raiders but the genre’s heavy riffing love goes above and beyond Scandinavia. If your culture has a violent voice buried deep in its past or present, some entrepreneurial metal heads will exhume it up and slap it into an album. Results vary in terms of quality. Recently an excellent subgenre has popped up from the sparse grassroots of the East Asian steppes. Welcome to the fold Mongolian Folk Metal.

Mongolia’s rich roots of conquest and epic raiding of sedentary societies makes it an amazing target for Metal’s Asian storytellers. Pair the slams of a double bass drum and the aggression of snarling guitars with a loud vocalist and you have a method prime to tell stories of plunder and societies torn asunder. It’s no wonder that Metal made its way to Mongolia!

If you want a good glimpse into the novel subgenre, then look first to Ego Fall, Seven Treasures, and Tengger Cavalry. These bands all come from China’s Inner Mongolia province. It aptly raises some eyebrows that the big names in Mongolian Metal come from China. It is hard to tell how big a touching point is it to the musicians. Does talk of appropriation abound, or is that a creative crisis unique to western art? The bands that have a presence outside the strange sheltered Chinese internet stress their Mongolian origin. Tengger Cavalry even speaks up about the things they see battering traditional Mongolian culture in China.

Tengger Cavalry politics

Accepting Mongolian heritage does not negate a Chinese aspect either. For the state and many people living in it, to be Chinese only means to be a citizen of China. One can be Han Chinese (the ethnic majority) or Mongolian Chinese or Tibetan Chinese. The Chinese state includes all ethnicities into one Chinese “family.” In a way America does the same with all its unlikely immigrants. America tries to bind with the hot water of a melting pot and China tries to bind with the blood of kinship. In the end the resident, immigrant, and artist chooses whether to accept that stamp of nationality, put heritage above it, or settle down in the middle ground between the two extremes.

Ego Fall is probably the most identifiably Han Chinese band among the trio, with songs full of Mandarin vocals. However, they still build their sound around Mongolian folk music and metal more than anything else. Ego Fall stands tall as the elder statesmen of this budding subgenre, having played the longest and produced the most of any of the three bands.

Pinning down Ego Fall’s sound in one category is a tough task. Some songs like “Legend,” and many others off their album Inner M constantly employ Mongolian traits such as the recognizable overtone throat singing as well as the incredibly bouncy twang of the horse-head fiddle. “The Horn Starts” also features whole verses of Mongolian throat singing matched with heavy guitar riffs.

In Spirit of Mongolia Ego Fall buck the folk trend and root themselves more firmly in heavy metal territory, with deep screeching vocals and damn near heavy everything. Songs like “The Rule in Troubled Times” create an odd take on a traditional folksy style of beat by recreating it with synthesizers. Other songs like “Iron Horseshoe” break from metal to return to Mongolian folk styling paired up electronically to sound a lot like hard rock.

Ego Fall keeps things interesting between every song by making it hard to guess what they’ll do next. That wildness can also make it harder to fall in love with the band due to some of its stranger shifts. If they settle into a groove you love, you’ll never know how long they’ll stay there. Furthermore, electric guitars dominate Ego Fall’s instrumentation, so when the folksy Mongolian elements fall out their music sounds a bit stale.

Nine Treasures sticks to a more consistent style and sometimes sounds more parts hard rock than metal. The singer fluctuates between rhythmic talking and deep throat singing, but never losing grip of his characteristic low, growling vocals. Like Ego Fall, Nine Treasures relies a lot on strings, but more those of folk instruments than guitars. “Sonsii” demonstrates how Nine Treasures songs play a bit like ACDC style rock anthems with lots of rising and falling action set to simple but powerful melodies. While their style can sometimes want for more, they do a great job of making songs that fit the image of hordes of horsemen galloping across endless grassy plains and incorporating folk instruments in a way that makes the Mongolian folk element more than a quick gimmick.

If Ego Fall sits like a great khan on this genre, then Tengger Cavalry is the true challenger rising up to take the kingdom. Tengger Cavalry formed in 2010 and has since hit the studio hard. The band instantly opened with an EP, then in 2011 produced their first full album, signed with an international label in 2012 to get the album out to western audiences, and then made two more albums by 2014. Their newest album came storming in less than a month ago.

Led by a man named Nature Ganganbaigal (Tianran Zhang), this band of all Mongolian artists does not have a weak song. Each album takes on a different sound that still stays identifiably Tengger. Folk instruments ride wild side by side super heavy pulsating double bass drum beats and distorted guitars.

Songs like “Hymn of The Wolf” and “Hero” blend in Mongolian elements so well that you could have sworn Metal was meant to have them. Other songs like “Legend On Horseback” rely much more on the folk elements. The violent reverb of electronic distortion becomes scenic background noise to the folk instruments, until the guitar solos take the song back over. “The Wolf Ritual” pits the stretched and sonorous sounds of traditional strings against the choppy and heavy blare of electric guitar. Old and new battle it out in a duel of string solos that evolves throughout the song until both styles blend seamlessly together for the finale.

In every song, Tengger’s exceptional mixing puts the band over the edge. Ganganbaigal worked extensively as a soundtrack composer, and his ability shows in the way he mixes the sounds of each song. The folk instruments never get drowned out, but they never sound artificially loud. For such a young act Tengger’s almost unbelievable sound quality sets a bar for Metal as a whole. Every note resonates. What’s more, they release albums almost annually and just put out their newest work Blood Sacrifice Shaman, which measures up easily with the rest of Tengger Cavalry’s discography.

For those inclined to the clean and craftily composed, ride into battle with Tengger’s curated sound ringing through your ears. If you love anthem rock, ally with Nine Treasures. For those obsessed with the distortive elements of Metal, follow the Ego Fall horde. If you can, check out all three! One day they may stand as legends in an even more fleshed out subgenre. In some distant dawn, these sweeping steppe melodies may run over the rest of the world! Tengger Cavalry has already taken the first step with international releases and lighthearted social media pages.

tengger-cavalry-cuties

~Austin R Ryan

P.S. – If you are interested in hearing more Mongolian music with excellent mixing and sound, see Nature Ganganbaigal’s recently made label, Khulug Music. If you are interested in learning about all sorts of excellent music check out WVAU – the site that originally published this piece and many better ones!

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.

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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.

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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]