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    I’m Single and Happy Because I Choose Joy

    We sat on the patio at a local eatery, enjoying the night air of another Georgia springtime as our waitress came with a second bottle of Malbec, surely meant to satisfy our pallets while also drawing out the rich body of our inner thoughts. Mary, an older woman in her sixties who had taken quite a liking to my roommate and me, sat across from us. She was a delightful woman, one whom both Elissa and I had come to love and appreciate. She offered us a different type of friendship, one characterized by laughter, wisdom, funny stories about our childhood Methodist minister (her husband), and quite often extensive wine drinking. Mary also has a bit of sass to her, so throw in a few expletives and you have Wednesday 1/2 priced wine nights. What more could a twenty-nine-year-old woman ask for?

    Mary was telling us of her grandson’s most recent attempt to hit on his preschool teacher, who, having taken the advice of Ed Sheeran, wrote his very first sentence that week in a note to said teacher, “I love the shape of you.” Well done, kid. Once our rolling laughter subsided and we refilled our glasses (because Lord knows we’d need more wine for the topic that was to follow), Mary turned the conversation in a different direction, one we had yet to discuss: men. Elissa and I are both single, which has offered us a number of opportunities we may otherwise never have had. I mean, can you really live in a canvas tent in Kenya with a husband and a 401k? Needless to say, our lives looked a bit different than what one might expect for women of our age, especially in the South. While our friends were preparing for baby number two, we were deciding what continent would host our next adventure.

    Overlooking the mountains of Peru. Who says you can’t be happy as a single woman?

    However, things were beginning to change. Elissa had recently joined the dating app rage, taking a step towards the possibility of settling down. You know, swipe right?( Or, so they hope). We swiped through a few gentlemen, “oohing” at some while giggling at the “uniqueness” of others. Finally, after ample swiping, Mary spoke as she often does, very directly, saying, “Your men are out there, I just know it.” We all agreed and swiped right on a bearded beauty for Elissa before I stepped out to use the ladies room. As I stood in the restroom, looking at my reflection in the mirror, my level of wine intake allowed my mind to go to a place it had never been before.

    “What if he’s NOT?”

    I hadn’t much thought about the possibility of living alone for the remainder of my life, though all of a sudden as I stood in the restroom my little plan for life (you know, that 401k we spoke of earlier, with an additional three kids, two car garage, and Mr. tall, dark, and handsome) came crashing to the ground. In an instant, I was faced with crushed hopes and an empty future. What the heck, Mary?! I sat, all doom and gloom for the rest of the night, wondering how I was going to break it to her as she was inviting herself to my someday wedding that I’m going to die alone. We said our goodbyes and Elissa and I walked home.

    The following day, my thoughts remained with me. Should I start developing plans, B, C, and D just in case? Clearly, I was going to need some backups. You know, something noble and purposeful, like living in a mud hut in the jungle and giving of my life to ensure the survival of nature’s most endangered beetle or something. Again, noble. As I was working on the start of Plan E, I stopped myself mid thought-train to South America’s endangered beetle population, one word burning in my mind: JOY.

    Joy. What about joy? If my life ends up not going in the direction I had initially imagined it would, was joy still my choice? Or better yet, was I going to allow a simple diversion from my expectations to dictate the level of satisfaction I experienced for my life? I studied the word, meditating on its definition and synonyms.

    Joy: a state of being incandescently happy; satisfied.

    You see, there is a significant difference between happiness and joy. If no difference, then why would joy be understood as the incandescent state of enduring happiness? In all senses of the word, happiness is but a temporary state of being, completely dependent on the circumstances and happenings around us. There is no anchoring or rooted piece to happiness. It is dictated simply by how things around you are going and whether they are to your liking.

    Joy is to be understood as a continual way of being, truly a way of living, encompassing the enduring perseverance of choosing happiness. Joy, rather than a temporary state of emotion, is intentionally chosen. It speaks to contentment, an inner settling of one’s spirit and soul to be completely satisfied with the life given to them. And if not satisfied, seeking to find the small things for which to be grateful and find joy in, ultimately leading one back to that state of satisfaction and settled inner peace. It is out of joy that life is fully lived, void of comparison and feelings of coming up short. Joy allows for our experience of life to be full and abundant, though the circumstances surrounding us may feel minuscule or not quite on par with how we had hoped life to go.

    During my graduate program in studying clinical mental health, we spent some time on the topic of joy. A professor had done a research study on joy, using the lives of women in their seventies to measure the influence of joy, or lack thereof. The women who reported having experienced the highest level of satisfaction in their lives all shared the same thought: they had sought joy in life’s hardship and trials, seeking to live beyond their circumstances in looking past the hurdles ahead of them to find joy in the little things, while still allowing themselves to feel the depths of grief. Each of them felt fully in the season they were in, though ultimately chose to pursue joy in the end. These women were healthier, reported lower levels of stress, better relationships, and less fatigue. They had chosen the route of forgiveness rather than bitterness, contentment rather than comparison, and community over isolation. All of them had weathered a number of life’s worst storms, having lost children and spouses, jobs, experienced difficult moves late in life, and even having suffered illnesses like breast cancer. Yet each of them had decided, even before hardship befell them and their families, that joy would be the choice they were going to make. Each found reasons to be thankful and satisfied amidst some of the worst seasons life could muster. Resiliency and perseverance were the results, growing joy within them as satisfaction, contentment and enduring happiness emerged.

    Truly, our lives will never stick to the blueprint plans we have for them. Rather, there will be detours and diversions, some of which are meant to lead us directly to the best chapters of our stories. In reflecting on my own story, I may not have that picturesque American dream life, but would I trade joy for disappointment at broken plans? No. I would much rather continue on my journey towards joy, embracing the unorthodox Southern life I lead as a single woman with a bit of a flower-child flair. Someday when I am old and gray, I hope that my own repertoire will consist of stories of joy and contentment, having fully lived the life I have been given, no matter what my path may look like. If my path looks like a mud hut in the jungle solely for the protection of endangered beetle species, then so be it! However, if it looks like a simple life with morning coffee, historical fiction novels, and the daily routine of gratitude, forgiveness, and contentment, then that works too.

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    Ryan Gosling Mocks Avatar’s Cliché Use of ‘Papyrus’ Font in Brilliant SNL Sketch

    This last weekend’s season premiere of Saturday Night Live was a night to remember. The iconic sketch comedy show produced some of its best bits seen in years. One of the night’s most memorable moments featured a video starring host Ryan Gosling as a distressed man named Steven (played by Gosling) and his inner struggle to understand why on earth the 2009 mega-hit blockbuster ‘Avatar’ chose to use the cliché Papyrus font for its logo.

    The film begins with Steven and his better half sleeping in the middle of the night. Steven suddenly arouses out of a night terror as the viewer begins to hear the man narrate his backstory, “It happened again. I thought it was behind me, but…the dreams came back.” Gosling’s character suddenly begins to have haunting flashbacks of his past experience with the ubiquitous film’s poor choice in cover art.

    In hopes of coping with the problem, he goes to see a therapist (played by the hilarious Kate McKinnon). He begins to unravel his vexation towards the film’s professional, Hollywood-paid graphic designer who somehow got away with flippantly putting together a logo with a font he didn’t even create, “He just highlighted ‘Avatar’, he clicked the dropdown menu and he just…randomly selected ‘Papyrus’ like a…like a thoughtless child just wandering by a garden just yanking leaves along the way.” Gosling had us rolling on the floor, as many of us knew all too well his character’s frustrations. Why would a movie with a quarter-billion dollar budget choose one of the most undesirable fonts known to man?

    If you’ve used a personal computer with a word processor in the past 30+ years, you most likely are familiar with the Papyrus font. Created in 1982 by graphic designer Chris Costello, the typeface was originally made to provide a framework for what a written font might have looked like in biblical times. The font had a surge in popularity during the new millennium. Public distaste for it (especially among graphic designers), however, has heavily increased in modern day contexts due to its predictable overuse in stereotypical settings such as visual software presentations and print advertisements. It’s hysterical that so many people still continue to use this font so regularly in contexts other than originally intended. While functional fonts like Times New Roman and Arial have stood the test of time (even if they’re not necessarily the “coolest” anymore) in numerous everyday settings, Papyrus was meant for a small, niche market—and even in that market it’s been overdone. It’s like taking a trip back to middle school all over again, when every 8th grader alive thought they were so cool if they used it in order to spice up their Powerpoint presentation on Egypt. It’s like, over time, we just settled for using this one specific font whenever we wanted to convey some “international”, “ancient” or “Middle Eastern” vibe. Nowadays, there are literally thousands of brand new, beautifully crafted typefaces for 2017 that would do wonders in its place—though some amusingly think otherwise.

    Later on in the SNL sketch, Steven’s friend tries to reason with him explaining that, although Papyrus might’ve been the starting point for the Avatar logo design, the graphic designer and his team clearly did some things to modify the font. Steven passionately rebuttals, “but whatever they did…it wasn’t enough!” He then describes how he’s always reminded of that graphic designer’s indecent decision whenever he sees Papyrus used in public, including hookah bars, Shakira merch and off-brand teas. Steven finally chooses to confront the graphic designer in person by stalking him at his residence. The scene ends with Gosling’s character standing outside of the designer’s house staring at him face to face through his window. He yells one last cry of injustice to expose the corrupt graphic designer’s shameful deeds, “I KNOW WHAT YOU DID!” The graphic designer triumphantly shuts the curtains into his home never to be found out. The parody subtly ends with the words, “papyrus” written in the other cliché font: Comic Sans. Truly brilliant.

    This skit was so funny, even Chris Costello, the creator of the Papyrus font, watched it and found it downright irresistible, calling it “…one of the best things I’ve seen.” Well done, Lorne Michaels. Well done.

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    3 Hours of Sleep vs. Pulling an All Nighter: The Night Owl’s Dillemma

    We’ve all been there. Maybe it’s insomnia, or maybe you’re just really close to finally achieving Prestige on Call of Duty. Whatever your reason may be, you haven’t been to sleep yet and you just realized that you have to be up in 3 or 4 hours. Should you try to get 3 hours of sleep, or should you just stay up all night? If you’ve found yourself pondering this classic night owl’s dilemma, chances are you’re going to be a sleep-deprived zombie tomorrow regardless of what you do, but if you’re able to get some sleep, you’ll be better off.

    You may feel and function better with a few hours of sleep than if you had gotten none at all. In fact, many people find that they can go one night on a few hours of sleep and still feel okay the next day. It also gives your brain a few hours to reset itself, which is better than nothing. Our brains are similar to computers. You’ll find your computer and even your smartphone needs to be rebooted every so often. The brain uses sleep as a time to store data as well as a time to rest and repair itself. So, next time you’re faced with getting 2 or 3 hours of sleep or voluntary sleep deprivation, here are some thoughts to sleep on.

    1. If you wake up at the right time in your sleep cycle, you’ll feel less tired.

    We naturally sleep in cycles. This means that if you wake up while in a deep stage of sleep, you’ll probably feel worse than if you hadn’t slept at all. A 15-20 minute nap can give you a bit of rest and should allow you to wake up before entering deep sleep. If you have more time to sleep, waking up after 1 1/2 hours or 3 hours of sleep should typically leave you feeling more rested than if you got 1 or 2 hours of sleep. This is because you’re taking advantage of your natural sleep cycle and waking up during what’s referred to as your REM (Rapid-Eye-Movement) cycle—the same cycle in which you dream. Sleeping for 1 to 2 hours will usually have you waking up out of a deep sleep and therefore feeling groggy and fatigued. So set your alarm and try to get some sleep already. There are even smartphone apps that actually claim to be able to wake you up at just the right time during your sleep cycle. Everybody’s a little different, though, and sleep cycles change with age, so you need to find what works for you.

    2. You can try an electro-sleep device.

    A Cerebral-Electrical Stimulator (CES) device is said to help you function well on very little sleep. It works by sending an electric current through your brain. It puts you into a deep sleep—which is far more restorative than a light sleep—by affecting your delta waves. This device can make a few hours worth of sleep feel like a full eight hours. Unfortunately, these are usually at least a few hundred dollars and they are not for everyone. As with anything that could affect your health and well-being, you should consult a medical professional before trying one.

    It probably sounds cooler than it looks… (Image © Warner Bros.)

    3. Maybe you’re a mutant and really don’t need much sleep.

    Ok, not even joking here. While not necessarily something you can choose, some people have an actual genetic mutation that allows them to function properly on less sleep than the average person (this, of course, is great for fighting crime at night while holding that day job).

    It’s estimated that 5% of the population has this genetic mutation. (And no, this is not the same as having adrenal fatigue—a serious adrenal gland issue that you can develop due to lack of sleep and your body producing too much adrenaline on a regular basis.)

    4. Pulling an all-nighter comes with plenty of things you don’t want.

    If you’re staying up to finish that important project that’s due tomorrow, then pulling an all-nighter may be your only option (perhaps time management is something you should work on to avoid this next time?) If you’re aiming to finally achieve Prestige on Call of Duty, you’d probably be better off catching a few zzz’s.

    Most normal people (a.k.a. non-mutants) need 8 hours of sleep a night to function optimally. If you get 6 hours of sleep or less, you’ll begin to feel the negative impact after a few days. You can also develop long-term health issues if you sleep less than 6 hours a night on a regular basis.

    Realistically, there aren’t really any pros to pulling an all-nighter. If you do, your emotions and decision-making abilities will be severely compromised until you are able to get some sleep. Bad decision making after a lack of sleep is believed to have played a part in everything from oil spills to nuclear reactor disasters. What if you don’t have an important job like that? Well, you’d like to at least make it to work the next day, right? If you’re planning on pulling an all-nighter and then driving, just don’t. Driving tired can actually be just as dangerous as driving drunk.

    On a smaller scale, this could translate into risky behaviors like gambling or drinking too much. You could find yourself getting upset because the barista got your coffee wrong (or maybe you just ordered it wrong because you were so tired?), or you may find yourself finally telling your boss what you think about him or her. Granted, this one comes with a perk—at least you’ll have plenty of time to sleep when you are unemployed. A sleepless night can also make it very difficult to remember things. This could be a good thing, depending on what you spent the night doing. It could also cause some problems when you forget that important meeting you had at work—perhaps the very reason for your all-nighter in the first place.

    Are you having trouble losing weight? It could be due to lack of sleep. Pulling an all-nighter can make you gain weight. When you are sleep deprived, your body produces more of a hormone that makes you hungry. You may also find yourself snacking in an effort to stay awake. Even one night of no sleep can increase your BMI.

    While not technically a positive thing, going a night without sleep can also get you “high”. Your brain’s pleasure circuits go into overdrive after an all-nighter, much the same as they would when you use a drug. This produces a sense of euphoria which can be very enjoyable. You might hate yourself halfway through the next day for staying up so late, but at least you’ll have enjoyed doing it.

    So what are you waiting for? Hit the hay and start counting those sheep.

    The morning will be here before you know it. What has been your worst all-nighter experience? Let us know in the comments below—unless you’re reading this at 3 AM and don’t want tonight to become one of those experiences. In that case, good night and sleep tight—a tight 3 hours, that is.

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    21 Emojis That Don’t Mean What You Think They Mean in Online Dating

    Emojis, love them or hate them, are here to stay. When used appropriately, they can add flavor to a conversation. When used inappropriately or in strange contexts, you can end up saying things that you don’t really mean, especially when it comes to online dating or dating in general. Have you ever wondered what it means when a guy or girl sends you an emoji that seems out of place? Wonder no more.

    Here are 21 emojis and what they mean in dating. Many of these see pretty regular use among newly dating couples and those meeting for the first time through online dating. What you think these emojis mean when you send them to your date can mean something entirely different to the person on the other end of the text or chat stream.

    21. The Infamous Smiling Turd Emoji

    Let’s just get this one out of the way, first and foremost. While it’s true that everybody poops, most people won’t think it’s funny if you send them a picture of a smiling turd. Perhaps you’re trying to break the ice. Maybe you want to see if your date has a sense of humor. Even so, bathroom humor usually isn’t the best type of humor to lead with.

    What you think it means: I’m fun, carefree, and down to earth.

    What your date thinks it means: This person is not for me.

    20. The Heartless Kissy Face Emoji

    Speaking of hearts, where is the heart in this awkward heartless kissy face emoji? That’s right, it’s not there. Instead, where a sweet kiss may have been intended, you find a strained kissing face instead. Um, no thank you.

    What you think it means: I like you but don’t want to move too fast and use the kissy face that’s blowing a heart kiss and scare you off.

    What your date thinks it means: OK, why did you just send me a constipated emoji?

    19. Lipstick Kiss Emoji

    You think your date will like this. It’s romantic, right? Kissing lipstick lips mean you’re ready to have a good time if the opportunity presents itself. Or, maybe you’re simply trying to be friendly. Perhaps you want him to know that you want a kiss at the end of the date. There are too many ways to read into this one and not all of them are good. Put on the brakes and think twice before puckering up over text.

    What you think it means: I like you.

    What your date thinks it means: Wait, how desperate is this person?

    18. Too Many Smiley Face Emojis

    A smiley face every now and again isn’t annoying, but one every other sentence is. You may think that you can’t portray a specific emotion through words and texts, but you can. You definitely can, so make more of an effort and type out what you want to say. Let’s see some creativity.

    What you think it means: I have a great personality!

    What your date thinks it means: They are probably cray cray in real life.

    17. Fruit and Vegetable Emojis

    Great, you want your dates to know that you eat healthy—that’s good… What’s not so cool is that you included fruits and vegetables in a texting conversation. Really? We just met. Let’s not talk about fruits and vegetables just yet.

    What you think it means: If I send this, she’ll be impressed and forget that dumb comment I just said.

    What your date thinks it means: Two immature messages in a row? Is this guy for real?

    16. Skull Emojis

    OK, so you’re into some gothic stuff. Don’t push the limits. Are you trying to see if your date is interested in skulls too? Are you a Raiders fan? Did you just watch Pirates of the Caribbean? For most people, skulls mean death, and most people are more focused on living.

    What you think it means: I am a rebel.

    What your date thinks it means: Did they run out of those emojis with yellow skin on their faces?

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    This ‘Planet Earth’ Style Narration of Millennial Male Dating Rituals Will Leave You Roaring With Laughter

    What would BBC’s Planet Earth be like if it documented the dating rituals of humans? Here, we have a fascinating specimen of Homo Sapiens, a single adult male found in his natural habitat by the poolside (of course). This PopMalt original video is sure to leave you laughing, especially if you’ve dated or observed those who date in the digital age of smart phones and social media.

    So, does this documentary ring true to your dating experiences?

    Let us know what you thought of this video in the comments section below! If you enjoyed this video, please share it! Here’s a link to the Facebook version as well.

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    This Hilarious Moms vs. Dads Video Will Make You Laugh Out Loud

    After recently becoming new parents, my wife and I realized that we each had very different child-raising methods at times. For example, I hated the smell of dirty diapers, while somehow she loved it (or at least it sure seemed that way considering how little she complained about it). It wasn’t long before we found ourselves with more material than we knew what to do with. We took the funniest things we had experienced and decided to do something useful with them. We made a short film, of course. We had a lot of fun with this and we hope you will too! If you’ve ever found yourself trying to raise a baby, our “Moms vs. Dads: Baby Edition” video is for you.

    So, parents, what did you think? Do any of these examples ring true for you or somebody you know? Are some of the things we depicted reversed in your situation? Let us know in the comments section below, and don’t forget to share this with others you know who will relate! If you enjoyed this video, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel and like us on Facebook .

    P.S. And by the way, in case you’re wondering, filming such a video with a small child was no easy task!

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    Will Smith Confirmed as Genie in Disney’s Live-Action Aladdin Remake

    It’s true. Will Smith has accepted the role of the wish-granting, fun-loving, quick-witted friend of Aladdin in Disney’s live action installment of the 1992 classic. It’ll be interesting to see how the star will look in a pony tail, chin-strap beard and gold bracelets (no word on whether or not Shaq or Sinbad were available for the role). Egyptian-Canadian actor Mena Massoud, who will be playing Tarek Kassar in the new Amazon TV series Jack Ryan, will fill the role of Aladdin, while the role of Jasmine will be played by Power Rangers actress Naomi Scott—who is of English-Indian heritage. The future looks bright for the two fresh-faced actors cast to represent the fictional Middle Eastern city of Agrabah. The Guy Ritchie directed film has not been given a release date yet.

    Will Smith (left), Mena Massoud (center), and Naomi Scott (right) are slated to star as Genie, Aladdin, and Jasmine, respectively in Disney’s live action remake of the 1992 classic film Aladdin.

    For some, this could be a bittersweet moment. Many adults who grew up with the beloved Disney Classic will, undoubtedly, look forward to viewing their favorite cartoon as a live action feature with real animals, real sand, and more. What may be hard to acknowledge, however, is the passing of the original Genie: The late Robin Williams. The big, blue puff of smoke had us dying with memorable quotes like, “Oi! Ten thousand years will give you such a crick in the neck!” And “Can we call you ‘Al’ or maybe just ‘Din’? Or how about ‘Laddie’?” Luckily, we have full faith in Will Smith to carry on the Genie legacy. The leading actor is as versatile as it gets! Let’s take a look into just how accomplished and adaptable the 48-year-old really is. After all, who better to freshen up Aladdin into Prince Ali than the memorable Fresh Prince himself.

    Will Smith Can Do Television

    In 1990, the Grammy Award-winning artist known as The Fresh Prince had already established himself in the music realm. The rapper-turned actor quickly demonstrated his multi-faceted nature when NBC’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” took off like a rocket. Monday night viewers everywhere fell in love with the weekly antics of Will Smith and his cousin Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro), as the two rode the magic carpet of bougie life. And, as his success on the hit TV show developed, it eventually paved the way for success on the silver screen as well.

    Will Smith Can Do Action Flicks

    The Fresh Prince was here to stay and had us laughing all the way. With action-comedy classics like Bad Boys, Men in Black, and Independence Day Will Smith continually proved himself to be a man’s man to put it lightly. If someone ever wondered, “Will these films ever cater to all of my death defying, vehicle crushing, building-detonating viewing needs?” Uh, yeah. We’ll just leave it at that. Best part was, the comedic nature of his performances had us rooting for his protagonist characters even more. Decades from now, fans will still be greeting “foreigners” with the classic—“Welcome to Earth!”

    Will Smith Can Do Thrillers

    Everyone remembers being on the edge of their seat in 2007’s I Am Legend, as Smith aka Dr. Robert Neville obliterated multitudes of mutant zombies and had us walking out of the theater like, “Mama?!” The spine tingling suspense that resulted made it seem like Alfred Hitchcock himself was about to pop out.

    Will Smith Can Do Drama

    You have movies. And then you have Oscar and Golden Globe Nominees. With moving biographical pieces like Concussion, Pursuit of Happyness and Ali, we know why Will Smith has earned multiple Best Actor nominations in his lifetime. Who could forget that heart-wrenching scene of Smith’s character Chris Gardner and his son in the bathroom of that metro station? If they wanted waterworks, they got it. It’s almost as if all the influential people of society just pre-reserved Will Smith to tell their stories for them. He does it flawlessly. Now, to The Academy: Give that man the Oscar he deserves!

    Will Smith Can Do Everything Else Too…

    Smith even showed us his softer side with 2004’s Shark Tale. His voice-over efforts for the blue streak cleaner wrasse fish named Oscar showed us that the actor who played ‘Hancock’ can also make entertainment that’s fun for the whole family.

    Well, there you have it, folks. He’s funny, he’s thought-provoking, and he’s even musical. And don’t worry, if we learned anything from Will Smith’s 2005 portrayal of Mr. Hitch in Hitch, it’s that he’s more than qualified to play the role of genie-turned-matchmaker. Aladdin’s gonna get the girl just fine. Remember, you might have friends, but “You ain’t never had a friend like Will!”

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    Taylor Grey Releases New Album ‘Space Case’ While Majoring in Neuroscience

    When you think of a Pop artist, what comes to mind? Someone who makes upbeat songs to dance to? Someone who’s very fashionable and image conscious? Many times it’s simply hard to relate to the big names we see in the public eye; their presence on platforms would seem unreachable to the average person. Then, there’s Taylor Grey, an up-and-coming recording artist whose catchy music, sweet personality and relatable life will give hope for what to expect from the modern day Pop artist.

    Grey, whose debut album Space Case dropped last month, worked with Executive Producer Josh Abraham—the same industry giant who produced Justin Bieber, Kelly Clarkson and Flo Rida. The album features an eclectic range of genres from Tropical House to Synth Pop to Folk. Its sizzling new single ‘Miami,’ featuring Spencer Kane, goes hard with a mid-tempo club vibe perfect for Summer 2017.

    While listening to this collection of songs you’ll notice that they’re slower. Not too slow; but slower. Grey attaches herself to a collection of artists such as Meghan Trainor and Kygo who have thankfully brought Pop back to the unhurried and groovier tempos of the 1990s and early 2000s. Listeners in the “more seasoned” millennial age bracket will also appreciate songs like “Impossible” which begins with a nostalgic, acoustic guitar intro reminiscent of a TLC or Destiny’s Child throwback.

    I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Taylor about songs that will inspire a whole new generation of young listeners. If that wasn’t enough, Taylor is also currently enrolled as a Sophomore at Stanford University. The multi-talented songstress opened up to us about music, life, and her unique fascination with the human brain.

    PopMalt: So, tell us about yourself! How old are you Taylor?

    Taylor: I’m twenty.

    PopMalt: You’re twenty years old?!

    Taylor: I know! I turned twenty a month ago and I had a whole crisis like, “What do I do now that I’m not a teenager? I’m officially an adult! Ahh!”

    PopMalt: Well, I feel like your life is seeming to [already] come into motion. Your music seems to be really taking off right now. So, I feel like your story is already writing itself?  

    Taylor: I hope so! Ha! It’s a good exciting time where I feel like a lot of things are starting to happen. It’s the summer, I’m off from school, my full attention is on this. It’s a lot of fun.

    Taylor just concluded her Basically Happy summer tour with fellow singer/songwriter Jacob Whitesides. Quite the unconventional summer job if I do say so myself! In the fall, she’ll be continuing her educational endeavors at Stanford, one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Her major? Neuroscience. Yes, neuroscience. When asked to elaborate, Taylor said of her major, “I promise it’s not [that] crazy—I’m not trying to become a brain surgeon or anything, but I really like the brain!”

    And, boy is she using her brain! In the microwave society we live in, it’s easy for a young musician to be tempted to cut certain corners in order to “make it big” in the music industry as soon as possible. Taylor, on the other hand, has decided to broaden her horizons by putting in the time at university while still holding on to her musical ambitions. Taylor acknowledges that, “It definitely works out for a lot of people to go the route of pursuing music, acting, the entertainment business, etc. without going to college; but I know a lot of people it doesn’t work out for too.” —A realistic, yet helpful perspective to give to other artists and creatives.

    Taylor has decided to broaden her horizons by putting in the time at university while still holding on to her musical ambitions. | Image courtesy Gray Hamner

    She elaborates on music and education by noting that the two were always, simultaneously, the biggest passions of her life; Growing up, she would regularly participate in school musicals, plays, and choirs while also excelling at general education courses. Today, as her career continues to advance in the music industry, she continues to stay faithful in finishing school. “I really wanted to stay in school even though it’s definitely a practice in patience and balance to be able to pursue music [as well]. I wanted to show people that, look, you can do education and also pursue your dream. Both things are very important in life.” Taylor mentions how, though neuroscience and music might seem unrelated, she’s still able to relate the two. By learning about the brain and understanding people from a scientific perspective she’s able to dig deeper into life situations such as navigating relationships.

    Taylor’s unassuming attitude towards her newfound fame on campus is refreshing as well. She recently was a guest at the Billboard Music Awards. “After I went to the Billboard Music Awards people would be like, ‘Wait. Do you sing?’ And, I’d be like, ‘Yeah!’ They’re like, ‘Are you famous?’ I’m like, ‘No, not really!” Her down-to-earthness is a virtue when others would long for people to wait on them hand and foot.

    PopMalt: Are people trying to get your autograph or things like that?

    Taylor: Nah…Ha! Especially in a school like that. There are so many talented people. Like, you’ll be sitting in class with the guy who created a way to screen for pancreatic cancer. You’ll be sitting next to someone who wrote a memoir at age 15. So, there’s just a lot of amazing people on campus and everyone is so humble. Everyone just does their own thing. Stanford’s a tough crowd, so I’ll know I’ve made it the day that someone on campus asks for my autograph! Haha!

    It’s not hard for us to imagine that Taylor! The California native also enlightened us about life on the shoreline, sea creatures and the Golden State Warriors.

    PopMalt: Are you from Stanford, California or from somewhere else?

    Taylor: Bay Area! Born and Raised!

    PopMalt: West Coast girl!

    Taylor: Yes! I can’t see myself anywhere else.

    PopMalt: Just curious—were you going for Golden State this year for The Finals?

    Taylor: Golden State Warriors all the way!

    PopMalt: Ha! I feel like it’d be very awkward if you were a Cavs fan in the Bay Area.

    Taylor: Even now that I’ve relocated to L.A. [for the summer], I don’t think I can be a Lakers fan. I’m gonna stay loyal! Haha!

    PopMalt: What do you like to do in your free time? Are you a beach girl? Do you surf?

    Taylor: In San Francisco, they have great white sharks and I was always too afraid to even try surfing!

    After chatting with Taylor further, it looks like she might be overcoming her fear of surfing very soon. She made it clear to us that she can no longer pass up the opportunity to ride the waves, seeing how beautiful it is in Sunny Los Angeles!

    We got a chance to dive into Taylor’s musical influences as well as the production of her album. She gives credit to her all-time favorite band, The Eagles, and how their California vibe has influenced her sound as well. From a songwriting standpoint, she admires Ed Sheeran, Lorde and especially John Mayer.

    PopMalt: The fact that you’re writing your own music, I think, it gives your fans that genuine quality.

    Taylor: Thank you! Songwriting has been a hobby of mine for so long. I didn’t even know when I was younger that I could turn it into a real life profession. That’s probably my favorite thing.

    And not only is Taylor good at songwriting—she also has good musical mentors. We got to unpack what it was like working with Josh Abraham, who helped produce Justin Bieber’s Purpose in 2015.

    Taylor: When I had my first meeting with him and he said, “Yeah! We’re gonna work together,” I was like, “Wait…me? For real?” It was surreal actually.

    PopMalt: What’s it like knowing that you have the same producer as these big name artists?

    Taylor: I literally still don’t believe it. It’s so cool. On the one hand, it feels very exciting and validating like, “Oh my gosh. Someone who’s worked with the pinnacle of talent and success in the music industry is willingly wanting to work with me?” The other half of me is still like, “I don’t really believe it.” It doesn’t even register ‘cause it’s so cool.

    Taylor Grey’s ‘Space Case’ Album Artwork

    Space Case is an electrifying, yet heartfelt album filled with intimate songs like ‘Never Woulda Letcha’, ‘Come Back’ and ‘Fallin’ featuring Brad Simpson. Some talk about love, while others express heartbreak—especially on my favorite song, ’Miles Away’. In the song, Grey seemingly confesses her frustration to a potential ex-boyfriend she once had who is now just a painful, passing memory after he decided to relocate. Taylor gave us an exclusive look into how the song was recorded:

    “We wrote and recorded that entire song in two hours. It was super, super quick. So, what you’re hearing on the song is a scratch vocal. It turned out well, so we were like, “Oh! Let’s just keep it!” I kind of like to keep it raw.” Two hours? Now that’s impressive.

    As we wrapped up, I finally got to unravel the meaning of the rad album cover and how it relates to Taylor’s favorite song on the album, Space Case, which is also the title track. The album cover represents a doodle; something a typical daydreamer like Walter Mitty might draw. A lot of dreamers have a hard time fitting into the norm; reason being, people around them not always understanding their unique aspirations. Taylor explains that she herself is a “space case astronaut” who is constantly dispatching into daydreaming orbit. She insists in the song, however, that she prefers it that way. Her wide-eyed fantasies allow her to create her own galaxy of unhindered imagination. The song is truly a dreamer’s anthem.

    I had a blast talking with the sweet and bubbly NorCal girl who just wants to be “relatable and approachable” when connecting with her fans—especially on social media outlets, where so many are constantly striving for that image of perfection. She admits that even she’s on the “journey of self-love” together with everyone else. We wish our best to Taylor and all of her Space Case Astronauts, as their ambitions launch them into a dreamer’s universe filled with endless possibilities.

    P.S. For all of you who read PopMalt regularly, you know that we ask all of our guests what their favorite drink is. Taylor’s favorite drink is Diet Coke™—the caffeine keeps her going during those late-night study sessions!

    Listen to Taylor’s latest album Space Case on Amazon, iTunes, etc. and make sure you leave a comment letting us know what you think of it! Be sure to check out her official website, as well as follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and SoundCloud.

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    How to Give Your Child a Unique, Celebrity-Ready Baby Name Their Peers Will Envy

    It’s the first day of first grade. The teacher pulls out a crisp, white sheet of paper listing all of the names of her new pupils. She begins reading from the list to a room full of eager little eyes, all focused intently on her, all ready to learn, excited for a year of possibilities.

    “Amber?” She calls out.

    Immediately, not one, not two, but three little hands shoot into the air.

    The teacher, frowning, looks back down at her sheet of paper and clarifies. “Amber B?”

    Two of the hands go down. The remaining little hand waves around in the air. A check mark is issued next to Amber B’s name. But for Amber D and Amber S, the damage has already been done. Their faces are red with embarrassment. The rest of the class, no doubt, is judging them silently. Clearly, the Ambers’ parents didn’t care enough to give their children a unique name. Clearly, they didn’t think this far into the future. And now, Amber B, Amber D, and Amber S are forced to be referred to by their last initials for the rest of the school year (and most likely every year after that).

    The teacher moves down the list of names.

    “Barrachuddis?” She calls out.

    One shy little hand inches its way into the air.

    The Ambers look at Barrachuddis longingly. Oh, what it must be like to have a parent that loves you enough to give you such a unique name that no one will ever share it! What it must be like to have a name so special that one’s gender can never be assumed just from looking at the name! Amber D (or maybe Amber S, it really doesn’t matter) scribbles on a piece of paper, pretending that she isn’t mortified by what she’s experienced and dreading the moment when the teacher calls out her name and she’ll have to raise her hand a second time. The teacher is pleased, of course, with Barrachuddis and makes a mental note to write his or her parents a note, later on, thanking them for the opportunity – nay, the privilege – to teach such a lovely creature. She might even give Barrachuddis a shiny new sticker to put on his or her backpack.

    Barrachuddis, a name for a baby who is sure to be successful at anything and everything in life.

    Later, the Ambers, despondent, rejected, and sticker-less, sit at a cafeteria table with some Michaels, a few Aarons, and sixteen Jennifers while Barrachuddis sits at a similar, but much better, table with his or her new friend, Fierosha. The Ambers will do fine in school, but they will not stand out. Their grades will be average. They will not come home sporting new stickers on their backpacks. They will likely work several years in food service to pay for their bachelor degrees while Barrachuddis and Fierosha effortlessly build multi-million dollar corporations selling organic hand soaps and cruelty-free leggings before they have graduated from high school.

    Does this scenario make you feel guilty? Sad? Well, it should. You may very well have destined your precious child to a lifetime of mediocrity simply by skimping in the naming department.  Unfortunately, for many children, it’s too late to go back and they will have to work much harder than their uniquely-named classmates in order to ever succeed in life. But if you are sitting there with a little bun floating around in your oven, waiting to be named, don’t fear. It is not too late for that little bun. We know what you’re saying to yourself: “How could I ever think of such a unique name all by myself? Surely I’m not that clever!” Surely you aren’t. Which is why we’ve written this article with the assistance of numerous naming experts, setting forth several fool-proof methods (that even you could understand!) to come up with a 100% one-of-a-kind name for your offspring. Now you, too, can give your child a name that will make them stand out from all those poor, unfortunate children with regular names. We’re looking at you, Susan.

    Baby Naming Method 1 – “The Produce Department”

    (Best For Beginner Namers)

    Appletta, a truly unique girl’s name that means “One who enjoys eating apples.”

    For this first method, we were inspired, of course, by Gwyneth Paltrow’s iconically-named baby, Apple. This method is perfect for those parents who are looking for a unique name but don’t want to spend a long time spelling out that name to friends and family. The method is simple: find a fruit or vegetable in the produce department and just go with it. Celery? Great. Artichoke? Perfect. Avocado? Sounds good to us! What’s a Rutabaga? The name of your firstborn, that’s what it is!

    Baby Name Expert Yoshanfalla-Dragonfruit Hines tells us “Giving your baby a name like Mango will make people think your baby is exotic, even if you live in the backwoods of Arkansas.” We couldn’t agree more. Yoshanfalla continues, “With this method, it’s important that parents realize they’re not limited to an actual produce department. I was inspired to name my fourth child Barbacoa after a particularly pleasant experience at Chipotle last year. And my daughter, Bimbo, was named when I was stuck in traffic behind a bread truck.”

    The goal of the Produce Department method is to find name inspiration in your everyday life, in places you never thought to seek inspiration from. New mom Linda W. of Boulder, Colorado, tells us she named her child Hamper after being inspired on a Target run one Wednesday afternoon.

    Baby Naming Method 2 – “The Drug Store”

    (Best For Beginner Namers)

    Name your daughter Ritaline and she is guaranteed to grow up to become a well-paid doctor.

    “This method is one of my best-kept secrets,” says Baby Name Consultant Portia Zofran-Florentis. “I used to watch those commercials for medications that came on during the Price is Right, and I would think to myself, “What a beautiful name that would be for a baby.” Portia, who went to school to become a veterinary assistant but now owns a lucrative business helping new parents name their babies, admits that most names she suggests to her clients actually come from various drug names. “I spend a lot of time in the pharmacy,” Portia states matter-of-factly.

    Some of her most-often suggested drug-inspired names include Allegra, Ambien, and Restasis. “It’s strangely satisfying watching the child you helped name walk across a graduation stage. Last year I watched three Valtrexes and a Zyrtec graduate with honors. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about anyone named Britney or Jason. They might have been there, but I probably fell asleep when their names were called.”

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    Danny Gokey On Life, Faith, and His New Single “The Comeback”

    I recently had the privilege of speaking with American Idol alumni Danny Gokey about life, faith, and his new single The Comeback. Danny first made his way into the hearts of American Idol fans in 2008 only one month after the tragic passing of his first wife, Sophia, who had encouraged him to enter the competition in the first place. After placing third, Danny has gone on to a successful music career, having produced five studio albums including Rise, which released January of this year. His hits include songs such as Tell Your Heart to Beat AgainHope in Front of Me, and Rise. 

    Through Danny’s music and through his charitable efforts (and his life in general), he has touched millions of lives. Despite the difficult hardships he has endured, he lives his life with incredible optimism. Speaking to this, Danny said “I had the opportunity to go and get bitter and get worse, which some people choose, but I’m just so thankful that I was able to, through my faith, choose a better route because it has really benefited me and benefited others. My music really has had that tone of hope and believing and faith that was birthed out of that [loss].”

    While many of Danny’s top songs address hardship, he doesn’t stop there. He brings listeners through to the other side of the hurt. “When I do shows and hear people say ‘Your story got me through this part of my life,’ that’s really, really encouraging. And so it puts a purpose to the pain that I went through as opposed to when we don’t have purpose for our pain—we kind of hide it and shove it in the closet of our lives and we don’t know how to process it. It really kind of rots on the inside of us, but when you find purpose through it and you’re determined to make good come out of something bad—and you see the fruit of it in other people’s lives, it really gives you a reason to live.”

    Danny’s message of faith and hope isn’t just something he says now that the grief of his wife’s passing is farther behind him, but something that he himself proclaimed even in his darkest hours. As fans of American Idol will remember, Danny sang Carry Underwood’s Jesus Take the Wheel during Country week on the show. He chose this song in particular because it resonated with what he was going through in his personal life at the time. In many ways, this song choice was a foreshadowing of the inspirational music he’d one day write and produce on his own. He said, “I just remember how that song resonated with me. It was something that I believe pushed my faith. Jesus is a huge part of my faith, so I was like, you know what, I’m going to sing something that’s true to me, something that is—really at this point of my life—that I know speaks to my heart. So when I sang it I got a really good response from so many people.”

    Danny Gokey, who performed Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel” on American Idol, said he chose the song because it resonated with him and where he was in life that week. | Photo credit Dominick Guillemot

    Danny’s story is one of heartbreak, success, and new beginnings—in more ways than one. When he was 25 years old, he found himself driving a semi truck for a living—a far stretch from his dream job as a professional musician. It was at this time that he admitted thinking “If I was going to make it in music, I would have made it already.” He wouldn’t find out until later, but he couldn’t have been more wrong. Convinced that music as a profession wasn’t in his future, he decided to make the best of his life by helping others. “I was involved in a church where we were taking money and we were helping homeless and helping families that didn’t have much. And I was like, ‘You know what? I’m gonna just dedicate my life investing into business and try to help people.’ And oddly enough, my story went a different way. My wife ended up passing away, and I tried out for American Idol. It was kind of like all my dreams I had of business, real estate, of helping people and doing music, all kind of came together. Out of American Idol, I started an organization called Sophia’s Heart which is helping homeless families, and I started investing in real estate. It’s kind of interesting to see how they all came together. I learned a lesson that even when we think our time is up, God has more plans for us than we think.”

    Sophia’s Heart was actually started with insurance money that was paid out to Danny after his wife’s passing. He said, “I took this check and said I can’t spend it on myself. I’m gonna start a nonprofit that’s gonna keep the legacy alive. We housed over two hundred homeless families on site at our location in Nashville and about five or six hundred kids in Milwaukee participated in our music and arts program. It was a pretty amazing feat to see how that little bit of money turned into helping so many people. We built an orphanage in Haiti, we built about twelve to fifteen wells in India and South America. It’s just really beautiful how good came out of it. Part of my dream was always to help people, and it was neat how I could kind of channel my pain to bring hope to other people.”

    Danny’s new single The Comeback touches not only on his own story, but the stories of so many others he’s been able to help through his mission in life. He wrote the song with two friends of his, one of whose daughter is dealing with one of the rarest diseases in the world—with medical expenses alone costing over $400,000 a year. Danny said of the single “It’s becoming an anthem for people who just need life to be different, and I’m absolutely loving it. I love how it came out. It’s just one of those songs that hopefully when people listen to it they just feel energized and inspired to keep fighting and not give up.”

    With so many negative voices in entertainment today, Danny has strategically purposed himself to be a voice of hope through not only his music, but in how he lives his own life. After talking with Danny, I can confirm he’s genuinely passionate about making a difference in the world. When asked about getting through dark times, Danny said “Sometimes people just settle to believe that there is no good and that, you know, ‘que sera, sera—what will be, will be.’ I only want to challenge people that there is more than what meets the eye. A big thing for me has always been my faith—one of the things in my life that’s important to me. Not everyone’s going to gravitate to this, and I don’t want to hit people over the head with this, but I think that’s where my faith has played such a big part. Because my faith allows me to believe that better is coming because there are hands in heaven that are doing things that I can’t see but are doing things in my favor. […] If they don’t want to believe that then I have to take a different way and say, ‘Well then you got to look inside yourself and believe there’s better inside yourself and not settle where you’re at.'”

    Danny and his wife Leyicet Paralta have two children together, four-year-old Daniel and two-year-old Victoria. They announced earlier this year that they are expecting their third child, but have chosen to wait until the child’s birth to learn the gender. “Yeah, it’s a secret still. We don’t know. We’re gonna wait,” Danny told us.

    Here at PopMalt, when we’re not serving up articles, we’re mixing up drinks. So, just for the fun of it, we like to ask our guests questions about drinks. I asked Danny what he’d order if he could have any drink in the world, right now. He said an organic iced vanilla latte would hit the spot. Not a bad choice, Danny!

    Check out Danny’s new single The Comeback below or on Amazon Music, iTunes, etc. You can also follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or on his website. If you’re like me and you’re loving those glasses he rocks, you’ll be glad to know that official Danny Gokey Eyewear can be purchased here. I hope you enjoyed The Comeback! Let us know what you think of it in the comments below.

     

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    CBS to Film “Survivor: United Airlines” on Random International Flight

    BREAKING—CBS and United Airlines have just announced a new season of Survivor that is sure to keep audiences on the edge of their seats—and contestants competing to keep theirs. It’s Survivor: United and it’s coming to a United Airlines flight near you.

    According to show producers, the 35th season of the hit reality show will take place on a random United Airlines flight in coming months, a departure from past seasons in which contestants were knowing participants.

    “People who regularly fly United are better prepared to be on this show than passengers of other airlines,” host Jeff Probst told reporters. “We’re excited to take Survivor to new heights while expounding upon the experiences United passengers are already accustomed to.”

    “It’s not just our passengers who are ready for this—we’ve been training for this moment our entire lives,” one of United’s security officers said. “Most of the guys here wanted to be WWE stars or something, but also really wanted to work for a major airline. With United, we get the best of both worlds and we don’t even have to deal with refs.”

    “Passengers will be kicked off the plane one by one,” United said in an interview. “We’ll provide parachutes, of course—that is unless our crew needs them for whatever reason.”

    All 16 episodes of Survivor: United are set to film in the coming months on a random 16-hour international flight. United stressed in a recent statement that all potential passengers of its flights in the coming months should check their cell phones, as only authorized video crew will be allowed to film. “What happens on United stays on United,” a spokesperson for the airline said, “We need to be sure this is a positive experience for everyone lucky enough to find themselves on that flight.”

    According to show producers, contestants will be offered more and more money until nobody else is willing to leave. Then, the final contestant will be publicly humiliated, beaten on video, and then given the opportunity to sue for their prize of a million dollars.

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    11 Unacceptable Uses For Facebook’s New Colorful Status Backgrounds

    If you use Facebook, you’ve no doubt noticed their new colorful status background options—meant to give a little extra pop to certain statuses. But is just any status worthy of such an honor, or should these be reserved only for a certain class of status? Just because you’re late to figuring out these colorful status backgrounds doesn’t mean you should overuse them to make up for lost time. Resist the urge, people. Most of the ways you want to use these are not only wrong, but completely unacceptable in a civilized society.

    The Request to Chill

    NO! Just no. You have to ask yourself before using this feature, “Would I frame this status on my wall?” If not, post it as a normal status, not as a motivational poster.

    The “What’s for Lunch” Status

    Ok, this shouldn’t even be posted on Facebook in any form. If it shouldn’t be on Facebook at all, should you post it as an epic status? Think about it.

    The Ranter

    Ok, let’s break this down. You’re not just texting and driving, you’re not even just Facebooking and driving, you are going all out with a colorful Facebook status and driving. Are you sure the driver who cut you off is the idiot here? Just saying…

    The Obligatory Goodnight Status

    No no no no NO! Facebook spends millions of dollars developing and rolling out this amazing feature for those with something meaningful to say and you’re using it to let everybody know you’re going to bed? If your mom wouldn’t hang it on her fridge, it doesn’t deserve a colorful background.

    The Direct Message to a Friend

    This is just wrong on so many levels. Again, I ask you. WOULD YOU FRAME THIS ON YOUR WALL?

    The Lost Phone PSA

    Alright, this one is an epidemic that’s been plaguing Facebook for some time. Ask yourself this question. Have you ever noticed one of your friends wasn’t posting statuses for a few days? Probably not. And even if you did notice, did you think anything of it? People who lose their phones are usually repeat offenders. Trust us, everybody knows you lost your phone, but nobody cares.

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