I Have So Many Questions About This L.L. Bean Catalog Cover

I love L.L. Bean fall catalogs. There’s something cozy about them.

The fall catalog I received this week, however, gets worse the longer I look at it:

The L.L. Bean catalog cover I'm analyzing.
A truck is parked on a dirt road next to a field. The field is bordered by woods. A man stands in the back of the truck, holding an armload of firewood. A woman stands on the ground beside the truck, holding a crate of apples. Both people are smiling.


First: Why is everything so CLEAN??

I’m not talking about the clothes. It’s a clothing ad. I expect the clothes to be clean. I’m talking about everything else.

The truck bed is spotless. That split wood looks like it’s been run through some kind of industrial wood dishwasher. And there is no way in Jonathan Chapman’s personal hell those apples just came straight off a tree.

I mean, let’s talk about these logs.

One of my major fall chores is splitting, hauling, and stacking firewood. I do a lot of splitting, hauling, and stacking firewood this time of year. Between my house, my parents’, and my in-laws’, it is not unusual for me to handle ten to twelve cords a year.

(A cord is 128 cubic feet of wood, or a pile four feet high, four feet wide, and eight feet long. A rick or “face cord” is one third of a cord, or the amount of wood that fits in the back of a 1984 Chevy S-10 pickup (no cap). The More You Know.)

In other words, I know split firewood. And I do not trust this firewood.

Real firewood – something this dude had actually split and needed to haul home – would be dirty. That stuff is covered with bugs and half-shredded bark and actual dirt. Hence, the truck tailgate and bed would also be full of dirt – not to mention dents from all the times you just threw your wood in there instead of placing it in a gentle, geometrically pleasing pile like this one.

Also, there is no way anyone would load up an entire truck to haul three armfuls of firewood. This is enough wood for nothing. You can’t even roast a good marshmallow on this wood. This is three hours, tops, and that’s only if he soaks it with the garden hose before putting it in the wood stove.

This isn’t firewood. This is “rustic decor” from a Williams-Sonoma catalog. Each of those logs was personally hummed into existence by Gwyneth Paltrow herself and costs $200. This wood is-


What the hell is that?

Is that…a hatchet?

Am I supposed to believe that L.L. Bean Man split all this firewood with a hatchet??

Hatchets are not for splitting wood. They’re for felling small trees (large ones if you are poor or desperate) and breaking down kindling so it’ll actually fit in your stove. To split wood by hand, you need a splitting maul.

A splitting maul has a longer handle and a heavier head. It’s a two-handed instrument. This thing? Not a two-handed instrument.

Nobody in the history of humankind split firewood that prettily with a goddamned hand axe.

(In fact, I’d bet an L.L. Bean catalog that firewood – if it is firewood – was split by machine. I have split firewood that prettily by hand, but I usually don’t.)

While we’re talking about things on this way too clean truck tailgate, let’s talk about these apples:

That is not an apple crate.

That is a wine crate.

I’m sure you’re wondering now “Why does it matter? What’s the difference? It’s a rustic crate. Big cottagecore vibes. Just seeing it is turning me into a pumpkin spice latte.”

Apple crates don’t have full sides. They have slats with rather large gaps between.

The purpose of the gaps is to allow air flow among the apples, which reduces your chances of rot. The slat-and-gap design also reduces the number of places in which the sides of your crate touch the apples – locations rot begins (especially since apple crates are almost always damp for some reason).

This crate is stifling those apples. She’ll be lucky to get them home.

Also, it weighs twice as much as an ordinary apple crate, and an ordinary apple crate when full weighs about 30 pounds.

It gets worse, though. Of course it does.

I’m really not sure which disturbs me more here: That she’s hauling sixty pounds of apples in a wine case, or that I have no idea where she got them.

There’s not an apple tree in sight. I mean, look at this. Do you see an apple tree?

No, you don’t. Because there isn’t one.

Apple trees have a distinctive shape and color, especially in fall. Not one of these trees is an apple tree. The tree right above her head isn’t even deciduous!

And even if one of these trees were an apple tree, it wouldn’t produce apples like the ones in that crate. An apple tree growing at the edge of a clearing, at the height of these trees, has gone feral. It’s not producing fruit at all – or if it is, it’s small and sour, not obviously hybrid like whatever is in that crate.

This means that not only did this woman just haul 60 pounds of apple and crate to this truck, she did it from quite a distance away, while L.L. Bean Man here hung out in his truck and played with sticks.

No wonder she’s smiling. It’s that or kill him.

I’m still buying that hoodie, though.

Buy me a pumpkin spice latte so I can go split real wood with real tools.

I Took Advice From a Unicorn for a Month and It Was Surprisingly Un-Magical

My eleven-year-old niece is obsessed with unicorns. For Christmas 2019, she gave me this:

photo of box for
(Pictured: A rainbow box with a white unicorn and the words “Advice From A Unicorn: 2020 Daily Deskpad Calendar.” The bottom text reads “You’re dope, don’t forget that.”

I appreciated the thought – especially since I suspect this is one of those “I got you a thing based on how excited I would have been to get it” gifts, and my niece would have been very excited indeed to receive this calendar.

Also, I thought, I’m down for some glitter-pooping life wisdom.

It’s been a month, and while I am still pooping, there is…less glitter than one might think. Here are the unicorn’s greatest hits (and misses) for January.


When I first opened the calendar, my plan was to save the pages and give them to my niece. I don’t need the extra note paper, and I knew she’d get a kick out of seeing what the unicorn’s advice actually was.

That plan developed a crack on the very first day:

January 1: “How about you kick-off 2020, by getting over anything that held you back last year, you just don’t need that kind of baggage.”

Me: It’s not terrible advice. But getting over my instarage at the THREE punctuation errors in this sentence might be detrimental to my job. You know, because knowing how to use a comma isn’t exactly “baggage” for a writer.

Did I want to give my niece a calendar that nobody actually edited? I didn’t have enough data yet. I’d have to wait and see.

January 2: “Choose a mantra. Repeat it, daily, duh. My mantra is [fill in the blank].”

Me: Is this cultural appropriation? Wait, is this one of those magical entrapment type things? Is “Is this cultural appropriation?” my mantra now? Wait, should “Is this cultural appropriation?” be my mantra? Or is that too 2017?

I knew I didn’t want to have to explain to my niece what a mantra is. Maybe this plan wasn’t such a good one.

January 3: “Tribe, crew, squad, doesn’t matter what you call them, just make sure you have them.”

Me: “Is this cultural appropriation?” is definitely my mantra for 2020.

Also, yikes on handing this thing wholesale to my niece.

January 7: “Create practical steps to achieving your goals.”

Me: *rubs forehead* Look, if blogging has taught me anything over the past ten years, it’s that literally everyone know this is how you achieve a goal. What people don’t know is how to create those steps. 

New Idea, thanks to a brief run of not completely terrible advice: Make a collage out of the not-completely-terrible advice pages and give that to my niece next Christmas.

January 10: “Tell the devil not today, bruh.”

Me: Does he listen if you call him “bruh”?

Also, am I going to get enough not-terrible advice out of this thing to fill a 16×20 canvas?

January 15: “Real recognizes real.”

Me: This isn’t advice.

I can’t make a collage out of the unicorn advice if the unicorn advice isn’t even advice, unicorn.

January 20: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ – Martin Luther King Jr.”

Me: This one is actually not terrible. I would have chosen a different quote, though. Like “I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate.”

This one goes in the “save for niece” pile, though.

January 23: “You fine AF boo, own it.”

Me: This calendar feels like it was compiled by white Boomers attempting to sound relevant to Millennials because the people they think are Millennials are actually Gen Z, which isn’t even the generation that is Into unicorns right now.

Also, if this calendar keeps calling me “boo,” we’re going to have a problem.

January 27: “Cake may actually be a cure-all. Get you some, boo.”

Me: Did…did the unicorn just Marie Antoinette me?

January 28: “If it doesn’t come out in the wash, it comes out in the rinse.”


A month ago I was wondering how to explain the concept of a mantra to my niece. Seems like small potatoes compared to explaining…gaaah WHAT DOES IT EVEN MEAN

January 31: “One month down, how are those resolutions looking?”

Me: I haven’t actually murdered any unicorns for using comma splices yet, so that’s something.

I’ll also be getting my niece a Bundt cake.

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“Happy Birthday” is the Worst Song Ever Written

Folks, there’s something I need to get off my chest.

It’s “Happy Birthday.”


Think about it. If you were writing a song that all kinds of people would be obligated to sing several times a year, regardless of their background in music, wouldn’t you pick something that was, say, easy to sing? Something with notes and intervals that were easy to hear and mimic?

Well, we didn’t get that. We got this monstrosity.

Here’s why “Happy Birthday” is absolutely the worst song ever written.


First of all, it doesn’t start on do. Try to write this thing down, or accompany it on piano or guitar, based on what you think you know about simple children’s melodies every freaking person in the Western world has known for a century and GET READY FOR THE ACCIDENTALS BECAUSE HOLY CRAP THEY’RE EVERYWHERE.

So the first note: crap.

The second note: also crap. Sol-la is one of the hardest intervals to sing in tune. You can fake your way through “Happy,” but “Birth” is always going to sound like your dog just died. Always.

“Day” is back to sol, but hold onto your cheap paper hat, because “to” jumps all the way up to “do,” and then “you” lands on “ti.” Wanna know what the other hardest interval to sing in tune is? SURPRISE IT’S RIGHT HERE.

We’re four words in and this song is already a nightmare. Not least because the shape of that line puts the emphasis not on any word that ACTUALLY MATTERS. What’s the most important thing about this event? Not happy, birthday, or you. Oh no. It’s TO.

Oh good, at least the lyrics repeat! But wait…


You think it’s going to. You even get a second try at that crappy sol-la interval. But instead of going back up to “do,” you need to push even higher, to “re.” I hope you practiced your sixths haha just kidding of course you didn’t.

Again, the most important thing in this song, according to the melody, is that it is TO someone. Who they are or what day it is or what kind of day you wish them to have is irrelevant nonsense.


Quick: Name a song that forces you to jump an octave and that is easy to sing. You can’t. But you’re about to do it anyway, because the next leap between “birth” and “day” is one.

Why is this melody so unsingable? Ah well, it’s not like anyone will ever need to sing this in public OH WAIT.

Next up is do-la-do, an absolutely astounding set of intervals. It’s definitely not just close enough to do-sol-do, THE ONE EVERYONE CAN ACTUALLY HEAR, to royally mess with everyone’s feeble attempt to sing it. You can’t even remember who you’re singing to at this point anyway, so mumbling their name wildly out of pitch is for the best.

Also, you are now mumbling a tenth lower than you were forced to sing earlier. Sure. Fine. Whatever. 1000 years of Western music went home drunk four measures ago.

And the chord structure. Dear God, the chord structure.

I’ll accept I-V-V-I, which are the first two lines. Uninspired, but at least it sounds okay.

Then we skip to IV, which is a nice way to indicate that something new is going on. Okay.

But then. BUT THEN.

I. We’re back on I. But it’s not just any I; it’s do-fa-la, not do-mi-sol. And it lasts only two beats before we’re back to IV, aka fa-la-ti.

I would accept this in a normal song, but “Happy Birthday” is not a normal song. It’s a toxic hellbeast bent on making every human with a functioning set of vocal chords sing out of tune. TWO BEATS ON THE ROOT AIN’T GONNA CUT IT.

Now, normal chord structures for simple songs repeat. Does this one? OF COURSE NOT. Have two beats of IV, then V, then I. You haven’t seen this pattern before or since!


The only good thing – I repeat, the ONLY good thing – about this song is that it resolves on do, in a nice solid I chord, allowing everyone present to clap heartily that this overrated vocal nightmare has finally ended.

Birthday songs are terrible; birthday coffee is awesome.