porcelainandporcupines

Jurassic World has gotten some mixed reviews, and rightfully so: some really annoying shit happens before the dinosaurs show up and start eating people. Why anyone would think a child running away from a dinosaur would be more dramatic if said child were sad about his parents impending divorce is beyond me; in a movie like this, the bulk of the drama should be coming from the dinosaurs. And, to be fair, once they show up, everyone you’d hope does actually get killed, so I still give it a thumbs up. But, if you want to make a dinosaur movie but feel like you need something more than a child narrowly escaping the literal jaws of death, here are a few divorce alternatives for upping the drama:

1.Make it Class Trip day at Jurassic World!
More kids makes more suspense. Plus, the teacher could get eaten; since the only real hero who dies in the current Jurassic World is a brontosaurus, this would add a few actual stakes to the story while also allowing the shy and quiet transfer student in the class to step up and shepherd the rest of the class to safety with his or her heretofore unknown leadership skills.

2. Make the older sibling a teenaged girl!
If we’ve learned anything in the past three years, it’s that all you need to avert the apocalypse is a spunky brunette teenaged girl. (Okay, there’s a boy in that last poster, but he’s very attractive, so I’ll allow it.) Imagine how effective she’s be if, instead of being from an impoverished district and having only her own cunning to help her survive, she had actual high tech weapons at her disposal! Dinosaurs running amok? Easy peasey lemon squeezy. WHICH BOY IS SHE GOING TO TAKE TO THE PROM?

3. Have the parents actually be divorced!
What better place for a weekend dad to take his estranged and slightly resentful children to assure them that they’ll always be a family? Nothing brings together broken families like dinosaurs. Plus, in the sequel, we can watch them go to family therapy to deal with the trauma of having been hunted by dinosaurs, as well as the survivor’s guilt of having seen so many others perish. Not to mention the lawsuit as the mother sues for sole custody after the father so recklessly endangered her children. Good times.

4. Have the siblings be identical twins!
Okay, this one is not quite as fully fleshed out as the others – which, in fairness, set a pretty high bar. But there must be a way for a movie whose entire premise is cloning genetic material to incorporate identical twins: they’re nature’s clones! Plus, they could do that thing where it looks like they’re standing next to each other, but it turns out one of them is actually just a reflection of the other. But which one? The dinosaur would never figure it out! Or would she?

I believe I went on record not too long ago as in favor of the chaos and temporary societal breakdown that tend to accompany your larger winter storms; however, in light of this particular winter, in which storm followed storm followed storm, I’d like to amend my previous support to make it fully clear that my enjoyment stems from the temporary nature of the suspension of civility, of knowing that, no matter how dark it is, day will follow. This past winter, with its seemingly endless snowfall, which, last I checked, was still not entirely melted, proved too much even for my hardy constitution, which can’t help but rise to a challenge it knows it can win, and instead of taking joy in the conquering of elements, I too reached a point where I found myself to be conquered by them.

It happened toward the end of February. Prior to that I had also been not enjoying the mercurial turn of events so much, but I did recognize that I was getting through the season relatively unscathed. Yes, my evening commute was twice as long as it should have been, but I boarded the bus early enough in its run that it never passed me without picking up; I didn’t have to connect to another bus, or pick up children, or get to a second job. All I had to do was get to my house, put on pajamas and have the kitten stretch out over my legs, and it turns out that I can all of that just as easily at 6pm as I can at 5pm.

Despite my relatively easy travels, I did notice, on those days when traffic was too backed up and it wasn’t actively snowing or terribly windy, how much more sense it makes to be able to walk home rather than drive. Certainly, exposure to the elements is not my favorite thing, and I have in the past noticed with some dispirit how foot traffic is often reduced to single file in the snow, as all who follow fill only the footsteps of the first intrepid soul to pass that way, rather than attempt to widen the narrow trail that has been broken. Dispirit, and lack of charity, for I do the very same thing.

But, the extreme conditions of this terrible winter turned this inconvenience into a most unlikely source of camaraderie, a first as the usual brutish claiming of right-of-way was replaced by a delicate consideration of the rights and needs of fellow travelers. Instead of just brushing past one another as we would when the entire width of the sidewalk was at our feet, pedestrians seemed to be stepping aside whenever possible – sometimes even when the approaching fellow was as many as 5 houses away! – with a wry smile that acknowledged we were all in this together. In return, we received genuine thanks from the person given the right of way. On the rare occasions that I had to venture more than a few blocks out of doors, I felt not just my usual elation at conquering the elements (or at least putting up a very noble fight), but a sense of community and kinship that tends to be missing when my primary interest in my fellow pedestrians is finding out if they’re saying something stupid.

However the pleasures of foot traffic were enhanced by the inclement weather, the inclementness, as stated, was such that, more often than not, I eschewed that fellowship newly found for the exasperating inconvenience of a bus that provided me nearly door-to-door service from my home to work, and then eventually back again.

Before I go any further in my story, I want to state clearly that the MBTA and all employed by such have my 100% support and admiration for the way they operated this past winter. The underfunding chickens would have come home to roost eventually, and I believe the agency dealt with their premature arrival with determination and genuine effort to do the best they could, to keep operations running to the degree that would best serve riders while still minding the safety of their drivers. Yes: sometimes, that best service was a massive inconvenience, as I will go on to illustrate shortly; but, overall, I believe, in facing a spectacular challenge, the T did an admirable job. It’s just that, in lionizing David, we often forget that Goliath killed a LOT of people before being hit by that slingshot. [In case this tortured analogy is not clear, Goliath is the winter, and the T was slain. And, as is the case in any story, Charlie Baker is a jerk.]

So! Like I said – generally, I was unperturbed by the extreme weather and traffic conditions of the winter. Until early one morning, when I was packing up my lunch for the day and happened to notice that my sweet kitten, the incomparable Oola Belle, had gotten a little bit of pee on the floor outside the litter box. Usually she’s neater about that sort of thing, but of far greater concern than having to clean up a little bit of cat pee – which is actually barely a concern at all – was that this particular bit of cat pee was bright pink. Which is of very great concern indeed because, if you don’t have a cat or any experience with their urine, I will tell you that pink means blood. And no matter the season, you do not want to discover that your kitten is peeing blood.

At this point, I will remind that all of this happened several months ago, and Oola Belle is now 100% recovered. And, though I am happy every day that my kitten remains in good health and good spirits, on the morning of said discovery, I was not happy at all. In fact, I was quite upset. Blood in urine is not good for anyone’s kitten, but it’s particularly a problem for my kitten because she’s mine and I love her the most. In addition to which, Oola had had this problem before, and it turned out to be a chronic condition, for which she now eats a special prescription food. And though I appreciate the symmetry, pointed out by my pal Derbs, that I would happen to end up with a pet that, like me, needs a special diet because of her malfunctioning innards, the reappearance of blood meant that the special diet in this case was failing, that her condition was getting worse, and that I was going to lose my lovingly fractious kitten after only 4 years together.

Again, it didn’t actually mean any of that. But it’s hard, at 6:50 in the morning, after weeks of unrelenting darkness and cold, to think of anything but the worst, so it was in this frame of mind that I headed out to the bus stop. A few minutes late, since I had to stop to wipe up the blood of my dying kitten (not dying), give her kisses on her sweet little head for probably the last time (not even close to the last time – in fact, I kissed her sweet little face this morning! She pretended like she didn’t care, but I was undeterred by her lack of interest), and trucked my way through 7 feet of snow, to arrive at the stop just as the bus was, technically speaking, pulling away from the curb, but since there was still so much snow in the road, it was actually impossible to tell where the sidewalk ended and the road began.

Missing the bus would mean waiting 20+ minutes for the next one, that + being an entirely unpredictable variable due to the inclement conditions previously mentioned; alternately, I could continue to trudge through 7 feet of snow to the next nearest bus route, a mile in the cold to be dropped off so far from my destination that I’d have to trudge even further just to arrive at a place that I loathe. Not to mention that my cat was (totally not) dying, and I’d have to spend the rest of my life with(out) her. There was a lot riding on my catching the bus, is what I’m saying, although I would not have put it so drolly at the time.

So I began the nearly impossible task of running through the narrow rut of unevenly packed snow to catch the bus before if fully pulled away. And, for a moment, luck was on my side; I got to the bus, and knocked on the closed doors. The driver turned his head. We made eye contact, my eyes undoubtedly filled with a mix of gratitude at his impending kindness, and despair at my impending loss. And then, firmly, he shook his head. “No.”

I will point out that, in the time it took him to shake his head, and make the accompanying hand gesture that I should step away from the bus, that he could just as easily have opened the doors to let me board. Or he could have done that when he still wasn’t driving away and I said “Can you open the door?” Probably not nicely; I mean, my cat was (not) dying, and I was for some reason about to miss the bus even though it was right in front of me; that sort of stress really comes through in my voice. And I knew that the driver had a schedule to keep to, even though he had no hope whatsoever of keeping it. But he also had the option to let me on the bus; the option, and the ability. The graciousness of pedestrians, which I had come to expect, did not extend to drivers. Given the opportunity to help, he chose not to. And I, as would any reasonable person faced with the frustration of an unreasonable asshole who doesn’t even care that your cat is (totally not even) dying, screamed loud and profane, and, helpless to do otherwise, lashed out and punched the bus.

Immediately, I regretted this. I mean, instantaneously. Which is difficult to convey in writing; but the moment for you, between reading “bus” and “immediately”, brief though it surely was, did not exist between my fist hitting the bus and my realizing what a dumb fucking thing that was to do. It hurt. So. MUCH. Like, to a degree I would not have thought possible. Which is not to say that I’ve ever spent any time imagining what it would be like to punch a bus, but if I had, I’m sure I would have thought that I’d do at least a little bit of damage to the vehicle. It was shocking to realize how wrong I was, especially about something I’d never even believed to begin with.

Had I been less occupied with the stunning pain that had, somewhat amazingly, completely defused my anger, I might have taken a moment to note that the bus proved to be as unyielding as its driver. Instead, fully occupied, I could only notice that the immediacy of the pain had been paired with a simultaneous swelling and purpling of my knuckles. Not for the first time, I thought how smart I’ve always been to wear cheap jewelry as the ring on my swollen and no longer flexible finger was adjustable and could be removed easily, intact, and with a minimum of pain.

The rest of my commute was uneventful – I trudged through the snow, in the way of my elders, and eventually arrived at work. I made an appointment with the vet, who didn’t seem alarmed by Oola’s condition, which made me think she may not have been dying after all (she wasn’t!). And the next day, on the way to the vet, I discovered that, when you’re lugging a pet carrier through the snow, everyone will cede the right of way to you.

A new trend that I’m not a particular fan of, or potentially a well-established trend that I’ve only just begun to encounter and am not a particular fan of, is for the cost of a ticket to a book-reading by a celebrity to include a copy of the book. I’m not opposed to the selling of books per se, nor even to the inflated cost of a ticket to these particular readings; however, just because I’m interested in hearing what a particular actor I enjoy has to say about things doesn’t necessarily mean that I need to own a copy of their book. Especially if they’ve written a children’s book. While I do want to hear what successful people can share about their creative process, so that I can know specifically what I should be doing when I’m not doing it, I don’t want my bookshelf to look like I read nothing but celebrity memoirs. Which is why, in addition to generally avoiding celebrity book events, I also never invite anyone over to my house.

Last week, though, I bit the bullet and bought a ticket to see Nick Offerman read from his new book at the Wilbur mostly, I think, because I just found out on Wednesday that he was reading on Friday and the pressure of last-minute decision-making overrode my natural aversions. The event was interesting; Mr. Offerman is an engaging speaker with an interesting perspective and a laugh as ridiculous as it is divine.

After the reading, Mr. Offerman opened the floor to questions, and was met immediately not with questions but with a single word, shouted again and again by the audience: mustache. It wasn’t entirely a surprise; when he first took the stage, his face seemed empty without the iconic Ron Swanson mustache. I was taken aback to see his face so naked, and though initially I mourned the loss of Ron Swanson from the world, I was quickly won over by the similarly staunch and intelligent, though infinitely more ribald, Mr. Offerman.

In response to the audience, Mr. Offerman explained that he, a character actor, would be unable to play a new character if people only ever saw him as Ron Swanson. Thus, as beloved as the mustache may have been, it must now belong to the ages. As much as much sense as that makes, though, that we should learn to draw a distinction between the man and the character he portrayed, it does call into question the photo used for the cover of the book, which, now that I can tell the difference, is much more Ron Swanson than Nick Offerman.

As I said, I’m not opposed to the selling of books, and at this particular point, Ron Swanson will probably move more product than Nick Offerman. And probably, too, the cover was shot while the final season of Parks & Recreation was filming. But still; while I would never have cause to question Nick Offerman’s integrity (seriously: you should hear him talk about how much he loves his wife), I just wish he had used a picture of himself.

After the Q&A, there was to be a book signing. And though I enjoyed the idea of telling the erstwhile Ron Swanson that I am a librarian, the theater was so ill-prepared to organize the audience into a formation that would allow any single person to get his or her book signed while also not being an unbelievable fire hazard, that I decided my best course of action would be to head home.

And because last Friday felt like summer, unlike the deep autumn in which we find ourselves lo these several days later, I decided to walk. I know; I’m a damn hero over here. A hero who sees no reason to spend $2.10 to go two stops on the Red Line. Thrift is a virtue, I understand, and virtue is its own reward. Which makes it all the more amazing that on this walk I received the greatest possible gift when I found myself slightly alongside a couple engaging in perhaps the most awkward romantic banter in history. The topic, obviously, was mailboxes.

It may seem, especially when inebriated, which I desperately hope this couple was, that the mailbox presents no end of possibilities for romantic conversation. I mean, when you have key players like “box,” “slot,” “sign for delivery,” and “insufficient postage” doing the heavy lifting for you, the wit practically writes itself. And yet, despite this cornucopia of material, this fair woman, who hopefully was drunk, lost her grip on the topic in a terrible way but tried desperately to keep up with it by announcing that isn’t it so weird that no one ever steals from mailboxes?

As a practical person not generally given to romance, I would probably not have been swept up in her desperate whimsy and instead replied that it’s not, because they do. In fact, it’s a federal offense to mess with someone’s mail, and it probably wouldn’t carry a five-year penalty if no one ever did it. Which would have been unfortunate, as I believe pointing out that the drunken person trying so hard to impress you that they’ll say something unbelievably stupid just said something unbelievably stupid is what the kids call a mood killer.

On the other hand, though, sometimes a topic is so egregious that such a killing would be a mercy. Because even though her young man tried valiantly to engage, or at least not to dash the conversation altogether, it did not get better. On the contrary, it got so much worse that it was thrilling. Desperate to course correct, the woman announced that they just don’t HAVE mailboxes where she’s from.

I didn’t fully hear the rest of what said for two reasons. The first was that, when presented with an intellectual puzzle, I need to make an attempt to solve it, however feeble. Where could a person be from that doesn’t have mailboxes? The most obvious answer is another planet, and this young woman was some sort of intergalactic spy. Which is encouraging to think of, that at least this particular alien race is so poor at fitting in amongst us that any possible invasion would have to be several years away.

However, their conversation continued and turned to the delivery of packages – because they were talking on their DATE about PACKAGES; and not in the sexy way. I assume, while I was marveling, it was put forth that, though the mailbox itself is impervious to theft, not every delivery will fit within said box and must then be left completely unguarded on a person’s porch, tempting any thief who might pass by with its vulnerability,causing her to reveal that on her home planet, packages are simply left with neighbors. Which means she lives in a place without mailboxes, but people are always home during the day. So, alien home world, or, just as likely, trailer park.

The main distraction, though, was that I am, like, 1 billion percent sure that I know guy who was on this amazingly awkward date. A former co-worker, I believe, with whom I was not particularly friends with but knew a number of people who thought well of him. By which I of course mean thought he was cute.

I have to say, here in the honesty of the internet, that I did not see it. Which, as with other things that are particularly beloved that I don’t get, I chose not to comment on. Not out of preservation in this case, but simply because I am very much in favor of finding people attractive, in general; that I may not agree in a specific case is irrelevant to the larger cause, which is one that I think should be celebrated in all its forms.

So my relationship with this gentleman is tenuous; we know each other well enough to recognize and say hello, but not well enough for us ever to laughingly reminisce about that time I saw him on a date with an alien female who wouldn’t stop talking about mailboxes, and he was gamely trying to go along with it. It’s not a memory he and I will share, which is sad, because it is one I will treasure forever.

You may have noticed over the years that I am not a person who likes a lot of things. I have definitely noticed over the years that people often do not take kindly to my disliking something that they do enjoy. In an attempt to lessen any potential ire of these sensitive people, I have over the years developed a two-pronged approach to disliking things:

  1. Rather than implying that any particular thing is of poor quality, I instead frame my dislike in terms of my own reaction; i.e. “I didn’t like that,” instead of “That was TERRIBLE;”
  2. If the thing in question seems to be particularly beloved despite my own negative reaction to its unimpeachable quality, I just don’t bring it up.

Prong number two is why I never mentioned that I kind of hate The Incredibles.

I should clarify – I don’t hate The Incredibles. It’s fun movie, it presented a fresh take on both animation and the superhero genre that made both a little more grown up, and it brought attention to the very real dangers a cape poses to crime-fighters, attention that was, unlike the chapter in my 10th grade health textbook on the hazards of platform shoes, intentionally funny.

So I enjoyed The Incredibles. I applauded along with the rest of the theater when it ended, and I even voluntarily watched it a second time at a friend’s house, deliberately selecting it over other available dvds. And both times, though, while enjoying it, there were little things, minor, certainly, but constantly niggling at the back of my head that there was something, maybe, just a touch anti-intellectual about the film. Nothing to get all het up about, for sure, but still – something wasn’t entirely right with me.

And then I read this review of Tomorrowland, that mentions that Brad Bird, behind both T-land and The Incredibles, is a devotee of Ayn Rand, and suddenly I understood that, at least in this case, the problem isn’t actually me.

My understanding of the Randian philosophy is by no means thorough, as far as I can tell it’s basically the same philosophy of a frustrated high school mean girl who doesn’t understand why she’s not more popular since she’s clearly so much smarter, prettier, and just plain better than everyone else. And even though I’m sure I’m missing some of the nuances I can absolutely see how that would appeal to a certain segment of the population who constantly find themselves thwarted by their own inability to succeed entirely on their own merit or to motivate others to act on their clearly superior behalf.

In The Incredibles this comes across less high school than juvenile, as young Dash laments that everyone being special means that no one is. It’s smart of the movie to give this line to the youngest character capable of speech, since it is exactly the kind of thing you might hear from a four year-old who hates the new baby because now he won’t be the center of attention anymore.

But The Incredibles doesn’t dismiss this as the baseless and bratty whining it is; instead, it doubles down by having Syndrome, the bad guy, reveal that this is exactly his dastardly plan – to make everyday fools just as powerful as the Supers, to make everyone special so that no one will be.

I don’t want to dwell on the fact that this, in addition to being kind of a weird message for a children’s movie, is utter horseshit, both because you already know that and because I have another point to make. But I do think we should take a moment to acknowledge that this is utter horseshit. Because it is. Talent and ability are not zero-sum games; if I were a funny, talented writer, that wouldn’t preclude anyone else from being either funny or talented or both. And I’m sure that most people accepted this as merely a critique of the everybody-gets-a-trophy culture of the mid-aughts, I find the implication that some people are inherently less than other people offensive, in order, as a Jewish person, as a woman, and, somewhat surprisingly, as a vegetarian.

But what really troubles me about this message is that Syndrome – and, let me just say how irritating it is that none of these characters have actual names, although I’m sure it’s part of a deeper commentary on identity; but anyway: Syndrome’s ability to create these gadgets that will give everyone powers should actually be pretty impressive. It demonstrates innovative thinking, impressive skill, and probably years of dedicated study. Sure, he’s turned these talents toward the dark side, a phrase the movie really should have coined, but the real dastardly part of his plan is not that he’s willing to actually murder people (who, sure, are cartoons) in order to make himself appear the hero, but that he’s going to share his amazing gizmos with the world, that his technology will benefit others.

And I should admit that I probably know only slightly more about comic books and superheroes than I do about Ayn Rand; I watched Amazing Spiderman and the Superfriends or Justice League or some other cartoon as a kid with my brother, who was a big fan of comics, but back in the ’80s when it really wasn’t cool; and I’ve seen some of the movie adaptations of this millennia, although I tapped out when they started to be overrun by bombast because, for real: they’re grown-ups in costumes! Let’s not take ourselves too seriously.

So, what I know about comics is they have very much a love-hate relationship with technology: Batman has the Batcave and Batmobile and a Batbelt filled with Batgadgets to help him defeat his similarly geared-up foes; and, whereas technology saved Tony Stark’s life and made him Iron Man, it also lead to whatever The Dude and Mickey Rourke’s characters wanted in the first two movies. Even the Hulk, who’s is literally turned into a monster by exposure to gamma rays (maybe that was Godzilla?) still manages to find a way to use his enhanced strength to help people. The technology itself is neutral; it’s the application of that technology that makes it good or evil. But there’s really no good technology in The Incredibles: the supers have their powers, and the bad guys have gadgets. In the world of The Incredibles, Iron Man would be a villain, and Buzz Lightyear would never have gotten to fly because he’s just a toy.

Finally, let’s consider that the little boy who becomes Syndrome becomes Syndrome because, it is heavily implied, he is repeatedly blown-off by Mr. Incredible. I can’t find a clip to link to, so maybe I’m not remembering 100% correctly, but as I recall, Mr. Incredible is not, as you might expect of a hero, concerned for the safety of the young child who is in a dangerous situation and only wants to help; instead, he is exasperated by the nuisance posed by this little pretender, emphasis on little because, again, he is just a child. Sure, Future Syndrome should have had access to some other positive reinforcement that being rejected by his hero wouldn’t necessarily lead to a life of utter villainy. And sure, again, this was primarily viewed as a reaction against the coddling of young children, which can only lead to confidence for those with ridiculous dreams, which we, as a society, must stand firm against. And sure, Mr. Incredible was in kind of a hurry to get to his own wedding. But you know what? If the entire world calls you Mr. Incredible, and they’re not being ironic, you don’t get to be a dick to children.

Also? It probably has nothing to do with the influence of Ayn Rand, but Jack-Jack’s power doesn’t make any sense.

Our consideration of Amy’s place in popular culture continues as we compare a high achieving, buttoned up, by the book cop, with a high achieving, buttoned up neuroscientist who would undoubtedly be by the book if that were expected in her field. Only one Amy can reign supreme; will it be Brooklyn 99’s Amy Santiago, or The Big Bang Theory’s Amy Farrah Fowler?

Who has the better name?
Each woman spells her name correctly, so we have to look to their full names to make a verdict. Amy Farrah Fowler is often referred to by all 3 of her names. Not because she is being reprimanded by an angry parent, but because it’s an aspect of her formal, uptight nature; it is both proper and polite, not to mention accurate, upon making an acquaintance to inform them of your full name; that will help them differentiate you from any other Amy’s they might happen to know. Other, less precise characters, refer to her simply as Amy.

Amy Santiago has a job where camaraderie between partners is strengthened by calling each by their last name. No matter how she might introduce herself, when she goes by only one name, it’s Santiago.

Winner: Amy Farrah Fowler

Who has the better job?
Well, it’s a difficult time to argue in favor of a cop, even one on tv. To its credit, Brooklyn 99 has addressed the inequality and discrimination in police departments from its premier, when we learn that the new captain had not previously been given his own command despite an overwhelming competence and capability, because he is both black and gay. It’s unusual, and maybe even bold, for oppression to be the foundation of a comedy, but the show handles it deftly, making it clear that, while there is still quite a long way to go, the many good and decent people on the squad will ultimately prevail. But, you know, funny.

Neuroscientist, on the other hand, is not a career currently causing a lot of controversy. It does, though, take years of study. And, while there are any number of research careers that could show off a character’s smarts, Mayim Bialik, who portrays Amy Farrah Fowler, is herself a neuroscientist, and it is her real-life achievement that molded the path of her characters. That is pretty impressive.

Verdict: Both careers, at their core, have a goal of improving people’s lives, either through solving crimes or improving our understanding of our own physiology. But, while there may come a day when little kids play Neuroscientist and Blood-borne Pathogen instead of Cops and Robbers, that day is not today.

Winner: Amy Santiago

Who has the better fashion sense?
As an intellectual, Amy Farrah Fowler does not have much interest in fashion. Amy Farrah Fowler Her clothing tends to be comfortable, practical, and probably inherited from an elderly relative. She favors long sleeves, sweater vests, and skirts, topping it all off with sensible shoes. It’s neither fashionable nor flattering, but it does look comfortable.

As a cop, Amy Santiago’s style could best described as efficient: crisp button down shirts, fitted pantsuits. No-nonsense apparel that conceals her firearm but does not restrict her movement when chasing down a perp. Which is why, even though we’ve never seen them, I assume her shoes are practical. Amy Santiago

Verdict
Neither Amy is particularly aware of fashion, nor, apart from that time Santiago wore the same outfit as Boyle, is either particularly bothered by it. With style removed from consideration, we have to look to comfort for our decision, and I would frankly rather wear a sweater and skirt than a pantsuit any day. Plus, only one Amy has a tiara, and the guts to wear it in public.

Winner:Amy Farrah Fowler

Who has the better boyfriend?
While acknowledging that neither of these women is nor should be defined by her romantic relationships, let’s take a look at the Amyses’ romantic prospects.

In Sheldon Cooper, Amy Farrah Fowler has arguably one of the worst boyfriends on tv. On the plus side, he is scrupulous of keeping to the terms of their formal relationship agreement. And he did buy her that tiara. However, on the negative, he is immature, selfish, and not really interested in any sort of physical contact with anyone, much less an icky girl. His relationship with Amy did begin as one of intellectual compatibility, and then added a romantic element only because he was jealous of the attention she was getting from other men. Though their relationship has hit a number of milestones – including going to prom (despite being grown-ups), holding hands (again, as grown-ups), and an exchange of ‘I-love-you’s’ – Sheldon, oddly enough, falls into the role of television bad boy, in that he’s able to swoop in and deliver on the big moments, even as he leaves Amy hanging on the day-to-day. He’s like the worst possible combination of Jordan Catalano and Brian Krakow.

(Note to self, potential future blog topic: Brian Krakow; kind of terrible?)

While Sheldon is definitively kind of terrible, the romantic prospects of Amy Santiago are not much better. For 2 seasons she’s been half of a “will-they/won’t-they” couple with Jake Perralta who is basically a child’s idea of what an adult is, rather than an actual adult. As an example, he tosses all his mail into his bathtub unopened, rather than pay his bills, recycle, or bathe. He also had to have it pointed out that his competitiveness with Amy was based on his crush on her, and his honest confession of his feelings immediately preceded going undercover for several months, where he wouldn’t have to deal with the consequences, either positive or negative. On the plus side, he is a very capable detective.

Verdict: If we were choosing between order and chaos, Sheldon would be the clear winner: he’s unlikely to forget a birthday or anniversary, and, unlike Jake, has already set out the long road of becoming an appropriate boyfriend for Amy. But, all things considered, Jake’s road is shorter.

Winner: Amy Santiago

Who is more accomplished within her field?
Years of study have paid off for Amy Farrah Fowler, as she seems very well established as a neuroscientist: she’s had numerous studies published, she’s well-enough-liked by her peers to be invited to weddings, she’s been a guest researcher at other laboratories, and she always has a new study under way, even if the seriousness of her research is often undercut by the monkeyshines of, well, monkeys. Oh, monkeys.

Amy Santiago, too, is no slouch. She’s a dedicated detective of an elite squad known as. . . nope, hold on: wrong show.

She is a dedicated detective, though, with a high clearance rate on her cases. She has clear aspirations to be captain herself someday, and she does not allow the high esteem she has for her (very reluctant) mentor Captain Holt prevent her from addressing errors in his work.

Verdict: Santiago has already been recognized as having the better job (way up there at the top; have you forgotten already?), but is she better at it? Although both are amazingly competent women, Amy Farrah Fowler is further along in her career than Santiago, and so, in this case, although it’s very, very close, the victory must be hers.

Winner: Amy Farrah Fowler

Final Verdict
It’s tempting to say that we, the Amyses in the audience, are the winners of this contest, for having two such powerful representatives of the qualities that define us: both women are intelligent, capable, efficient, and uptight in the best possible way. They strive for goals they have the capacity and willingness to achieve. They’re reliable and forthright, and put up with minimal nonsense. Truly, it’s a wonderful time to admire a woman named Amy on television.

But, in any contest, there can be only one winner. Of the two, Santiago is the more competitive, while Amy Farrah Fowler is often just happy to finally be a part of a group. Which, honestly, are both good Amy qualities. But this is a competition, and so the one with the wider competitive streak wins.

Winner: Amy Santiago

It’s the showdown between the ubiquitous ’70s country crossover hit versus an indie acoustic ’90s song that you’ve never in your life heard! Which Am(ie)(y) will end up being amazing?

The contenders: “Amie” by Pure Prairie League, and “Amy” by Baby Flamehead (which I would have linked to, but the song doesn’t appear to be anywhere on the internet).

Which song has the better title?

Points off for spelling, Pure Prairie League.
Winner: Amy

Which band has the better name?

Although everyone can sing the song, or at least the chorus, of “Amie”, few of you could probably have named the band without having to look it up. Such is the inevitable the fate of a one-hit wonder, but it’s not like Pure Prairie League just rolls off the tongue.

Additionally, while I’m sure it was intended as a perfectly innocent if slightly nonsensical name back in the day – equivalent to today’s “Florida-Georgia Line,” or “Blake Shelton” – 40 years later there’s something about the name that, while I can’t quite elaborate why, strikes me as vaguely racist, in much the same way that always made me avoid the “Boston Cleansing” laundromat even though it was closest to my house.

Baby Flamehead, on the other hand, is a band I only discovered because of their name, as my friends and I would occasionally buy albums (which is what we called cassettes) by bands we’d never heard of, based only on their names. Sometimes this worked – Voice of the Beehive remains a peppy delight, even to this day; other times it didn’t go so well – you will always be terrible, Lolita Pop.

In addition to an interesting name (which is potentially a reference to something? I always assumed Flamehead was another way of saying Arsonist; I may have always watched too many crime shows), Baby Flamehead’s album had a nun on the cover. You may not know this, but Jewish kids, raised in a Jewish neighborhood, with no idea what the world is like outside their Jewish enclave, find nuns hysterical. Throw in a song with my name, and there was no way I wasn’t going to buy this album.

Winner: Amy

Which song had the greater cultural impact?

“Amie” reached number 27 on the Billboard charts, and can even today be sung by everyone who had any awareness of their surroundings in the ’70s. Which I know because, at one point or another, all of them have sung it to me; people don’t realize how hard it is to get in on the ground floor with the name-based references. You didn’t need to click on that link up there to remember how at least the chorus goes, but I bet you were surprised to find out that the song has a couple of verses, too.

On the other hand “Amy,” as I mentioned above, doesn’t seem to be available anywhere on the internet; the band doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page, let alone the song. I’m pretty sure the only people who’ve ever heard it are me, Scott and Stacey, who were with me at the Sam Goody when I bought the album; the members of Baby Flamehead; and possibly their significant others, although I suppose if there were any bad break-ups in there, the others would have made an effort to forget the songs of their exes first thing.

Winner: Amie

Which song presents a more lyrically positive image of Amie/Amy?

Let’s start with “Amie.” As you know, the chorus goes like this:

Amie, what you wanna do?
I think I could stay with you
for a while, maybe longer if I do.

First, though I know that this song was not written about me, having had it sung to me so many times (which we will get to), it’s a little difficult not to interpret it a little personally. Additionally, having heard it so many times, it’s a little difficult not to notice that this is not exactly a flattering sentiment; in essence, you’re weighing the possibility of spending an indeterminate amount of time with me, and even though “for a while, maybe longer,” is certainly more realistic than songs that might promise eternity or span the universe, it’s hard for a girl to get swept up in the notion that she might do for now. Also, she might not; who can say?

As I said, there are also verses to this song, but let’s skip them since no one remembers them anyway, to get to the end the song, which repeats this:

I keep falling in and out of love with you.

Um, thanks? That’s like the Neanderthal to a compliment’s Homo Sapien: people tend to mix them up even though they having nothing at all in common, and one of them literally died out because they sucked so bad.

“Amy,” starts out on a seemingly positive note – Amy is very smart, very pretty, all of the boys like Amy. As we listened in the car on the way home from Sam Goody, Scott commented from the driver’s seat “Oh, this sounds nice!”

To which I, in the back seat, thought “…. No. It doesn’t.” But I didn’t say it, because sometimes you don’t want to be the only one who knows something, and in this particular instance, I didn’t want to be right. But then the chorus kicked in, and I was, because this happened:

Amy can make a sunny day gray.
Amy can make everyone in the whole room leave.
Nobody likes you.
Nobody likes you.
Nobody likes you.

Oh, Baby Flamehead; you’ll never get invited to the Lilith Fair with that attitude.*

Verdict: Ooof, you guys; this is a doozy. On the one hand, Pure Prairie League clearly does not think that Amie is the worst person in the world; on the other, Baby Flamehead is maybe painfully direct, but at least they’re not playing any kind of mind games with Amy. Of course, Baby Flamehead, as their name suggests, is somewhat adolescent in their belief that because they don’t like Amy no one possibly could, and also their habit of leaving any room she enters. Whereas Pure Prairie League is at least willing to engage in a dialogue with Amie, and recognizes that she has the power to determine what she wants to do.

Winner: Amie

Which song would I rather hear again?

It probably helps that Amy was not a popular song; it could be a fun in-joke with friends, without becoming a song that people would immediately break into upon meeting me, despite the inappropriate content. Which is what happened with Amie. And, while it probably would have been upsetting in high school to have to deal with people singing how nobody liked me, it was definitely creepy, as a six year-old, to have strangers singing me a love song, however lacking in romance it might have been.

And though there was undoubtedly nothing at all untoward intended, it was so uncomfortable to stand there with a wan smile on my face, trying to appreciate the 100th rendition of a song I didn’t like, not anymore, while all other action in the room ground to a halt so everyone else could watch it happen. Sometimes I’d be sitting, sometimes everyone else would join in the song, but constant was the feeling of “Oh, not this again,” every time it started, followed by a strained agreeability for that absolutely unique and not at all awkward experience, so thank you.

Winner: Amy

Final verdict

This is a classic David and Goliath battle. On the one hand, there’s a power hit from the ’70s that, even if it was never followed up by another, has enough staying power that I actually heard it this morning while I was in a coffeehouse writing this. (Really – that happened). On the other hand, there’s a song that you’ve never heard, and apparently can’t even if you wanted to do, and is thus impossible to measure on its own merits.

But, of course, Goliath always loses the battle. Not, in this case, because he underestimated the little guy, but because he underestimated his own strength. The crushing popularity of that song was enough to not only ensure that I would never like it, but occasionally make me wonder if I had only been born a few years later, after the height of Amie’s popularity, the prospect of people talking to me wouldn’t fill me with dread and exhaustion.

Winner: Amy

*Right – I totally forgot that you haven’t heard this song, and are therefore unaware that it’s sung by a very earnest female. But it was, and that’s why the Lilith Fair joke is funny.

To pass the days while suffering from the flu this winter, I decided to catch up on the show Scandal. Currently in its fourth season, I’d previously stayed away from the show because it seemed like the kind of show that revels in its own intensity, such as which might manifest as a constant stream of shocking twists. And though I am comfortably a person who enjoys  filling my leisure time with television, it turns out I do not enjoy the narrative whiplash that comes from regularly being blown away from my perch at the very edge of my seat; it’s stressful, and, not to put too fine a point on it, if I wanted stress, I wouldn’t spend so much time watching tv.

But then I happened to catch the very first episode of Scandal one night, and even though it was obvious from the very beginning that it would one day be overtaken by its love for its own voice, it was equally clear exactly why the show had become such a hit. Certainly, Quinn’s first day on the job might have been a better audience introduction to this world if Quinn weren’t such nitwit, but the central scandal of the hour and the beginning of the season-long story were briskly told, and the twists came organically enough to make you want to see how things will unfold, rather than roll your eyes at their ludicrousness. All in all, the 8-episode first season is a perfectly serviceable procedural, with just enough momentum of the ongoing story scattered in among the cases of the week.

What surprising, then, is how quickly everything falls apart at the end of the season, when we discover that “Quinn” is actually an alias, a secret identity somehow constructed to hide something terrible from her past. And, while it may seem that I’m picking on Quinn, and I could, fairly, because she’s terrible, the problem isn’t so much which character they chose to focus on, rather, it’s that they chose to focus on a regular character at all. With one plot-twist, the show demonstrated a pretty surprising lack of understanding that the audience should not care about any of these characters beyond their ability to fix convoluted problems.

Because, it doesn’t take much in the way of close inspection to see that just about all of the characters on this show are pretty terrible. Quinn goes from skittish nitwit with a secret past to forcing a unofficial government security agency to make her an agent, not because she wants to help anyone, but because she gets a rush out of torturing people. A shadowy security agency that she knows of from when they initially had to force Huck into torturing people by threatening his family, and then eventually spat him out after breaking him mentally, via process that Jake – who has killed a number of people, one them slowly so it wouldn’t look like the work of a professional – also underwent, yet he somehow still manages have conversations and maintain eye contact, rather than breathlessly gawping like a stranded bass that gets 5 o’clock shadow by noon.

It seems unfair to lump Abby in with this murderer’s row simply for being a pill, but my god the woman is unpleasant. Quinn may have killed a man while dressed in a very unflattering outfit that included fishnet stockings, but Abby gleefully calls a woman a whore for having casual sex with a variety of partners in the first episode and does not miss an opportunity as the series continues to revel in another woman’s failings. She’s a grown-up version of a high school mean girl, except one who has simply aged, rather than matured.

Abby, however shrill, does not have a monopoly on lacking maturity. On the contrary, the central romantic relationship of the show, that between Olivia and Fitz, seems like what you’d get if Chuck and Blair from Gossip Girl somehow ended up in the White House. I imagine the show views O. and F. more as Romeo and Juliette, star-crossed lovers destined for tragedy, kept apart not because of bad blood between their houses but because he’s the married President of the United States and she is not his wife. But whether it’s Romeo and Juliette or Chuck and Blair – who were both expert schemers in addition to being star-crossed, which probably accounts for their outlasting their Shakespearean counterparts – the point remains that endless romantic hurdles keeping lovers apart really only makes sense in a story about teenagers, because part of being an adult should mean being able to figure that shit out.

However, the worst part about Fitz & Olivia’s relationship is not the general immaturity of it, but that every one of their romantic encounters – and I mean literally every single one – begins with her saying No and him overriding her. This may not have been so noticeable when viewing an episode one at a time, with a week or sometimes longer between episodes. But one after another after another, it’s unavoidable. And it’s upsetting, to say the least.

Yet, somehow, despite all of these terrible characters, I’m still watching the show. In fact, I’ve gone through 3 and 1/2 episodes while writing this (which is, again, to point out how very long a time it takes me to write one of these things; you’d think that, with all the effort, they’d be a little better), and even though I haven’t enjoyed them, per se, I do plan to keep watching.

Part of that is to see if the ship can be righted, if the show can return to its Season 1 strengths. I think it can, actually. Because, although the characters are primarily terrible, the real problem is that the show is asking us to like them. Mellie, Fitz’s wife, is an ambitious harpy, standing in the way of Fitz and Olivia’s happiness, who wants to be president herself someday and will bravely weather any adversity to achieve her goal, and she is far and away the most likeable character on the show because we’re not supposed to like her. Unlike the other characters – such as her husband, the president, who smothered a Supreme Court Justice because he found out she’d fixed the election that got him the White House and he was so angry no one believed he could have won honestly, but she only had a few months left to live anyway because of cancer – her flaws are not justified; we’re not supposed to overlook them. We’re not being asked to root for Mellie, to ignore the costs of her victory, in part because she almost never wins, but mostly because she’s not a hero.

Scandal needs to stop thinking any of its characters are white hats, and also stop using the term “white hats”; never has a show been more unwilling to kill its darlings. Bring back the, you know, scandals, that the regulars have to fix, rather than having only plots that revolve around covering up their own shady doings. Additionally, recognize that interpersonal drama can only be interesting for so long with a finite cast of characters, and settle the Fitz and Olivia drama once and for all, be it a break-up, a divorce, an abdication of office, an alien abduction, or whatever; it’s time to get off the pot on that particular point.

Finally, the show needs to replace Harrison. I 100% applaud the decision to cut ties with an actor who has numerous arrests for domestic violence, but the character was the only one who remained untouched by all of the drama that surrounded him. Maybe that would have changed if he’d remained on the show for longer; regardless, a character who enjoys his work, who is unburdened by a traumatic past, who has never killed anyone or taken joy in another’s problems, and is a sharp dresser in every situation is what this show needs. Ironically, Harrison was really the only good guy the show had; well, David Rosen has always been a good guy, I guess, but he’s been a dupe too many times. Harrison was the good guy who always came out on top (except when he finally got killed, that is), and the show needs that. The audience needs someone to root for, and we need to be able to root for someone who wins. Right now, we barely have either.

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