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

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.

As I’m sure is typical among the kids today, I first heard about Sting’s new album The Last Ship when I caught the music being performed on PBS. I was immediately intrigued. Not only does the music fall into the very specific sub-genre of Songs About Ships Being Built and On the Water that I love*, it also, as I discovered after buying the album, seemed to be a sequel to The Soul Cages. Which, truth be told, is the last of Sting’s previous solo albums that I was interested in; everything after it, though skillful, was a bit too committedly Adult Contemporary for my tastes. It was nice, then, with The Last Ship, to hear Sting return, if obliquely, to some of the more interesting diversions of his youth. Or perhaps it is simply that, in the intervening years, I have become more of an adult. Which, while there are a lot of things about aging that I disagree with, that I am now a contemporary of Sting’s is an unrestrained positive.

Either way, when I  legally purchased the cd, again following in the footsteps of today’s kids, I discovered that The Last Ship was not just a concept album but was also the basis of the stage show. Which was a little exciting, even though I am not generally a fan of the theatre. Primarily because embracing it would mean having to leave my house, but also because it tends to be expensive. It also takes a lot more planning than staying in, or even a trip to the grocery store, which requires a list. Too, what comes to Boston seems primarily to the Lion King, which I did not care for as a movie; or The Book of Mormon, which always has discounted tickets available so it seems like a good idea, until I remember that it’s probably going to be incredibly smug, and then I lose interest.

The Last Ship, though, does not suffer from being either of those things, and so, despite my aversion to the thea-tah, I decided to see it. Fortunately, because I am an overwhelmingly lazy person,I did not act on that decision for quite a while, a delay which allowed me, when I finally got around to purchasing the tickets, to see the show with Sting himself in the cast. And so it was that I took a bus to New York last weekend (as opposed to a plane to Chicago several months ago, as originally planned) to see my peer, Mr. Gordon Sumner, fret and strut his weary hour upon the stage. Oh, and also sing.

And the man can sing. Not that, at this point in time, anyone needs me to point that out. He actually opens the show, singing the very first line of “Island of Souls,” which was delightful and unexpected; when I read that he had joined the cast, it said that he was taking a rather small part. I don’t know if that reviewer, being a more experienced theatre-goer, has different definitions of “small” and “large” than I do, or if perhaps Sting had changed roles since that article was printed, but the show was basically the two leads, and then Sting. So I got an unexpected abundance of Sting in matinee, and that was unequivocally great.

So the show starts off on a high note (pun unintended but not regretted), and throughout, the music is quite good. I was familiar with most of the songs from the album, but I still appreciated the novelty of seeing them fleshed out with perhaps a bit more of the stories that inspired them. “The Night the Pugilist Learned How to Dance,” already a favorite, was especially well-served by the context of the play, and vice versa; while “August Winds” was just so lovely as sung by a woman whose first love has finally returned that I actually payed attention to all the lyrics instead of just the chorus.

There were also a few original numbers included in the production. Far and away, the best of these featured the aforementioned woman. The first, “If You Ever See Me Talking to a Sailor” was a fiery rebuke to her returned first love about why she’ll never trust a seaman; the second was the lovely “What Say You, Meg?”, sung to her, which succeeded as an earnest and heartfelt declaration despite being sung by someone with an almost complete lack of charisma. Although, as the third leg in the central love triangle, and the sensible option at that, perhaps that was a deliberate actorly choice.

Despite it still being stuck in my head almost a week later, “What Say You, Meg?” points up the major, and considerable, problem with The Last Ship, which is that the story itself is just not very good. Tonally, it was a bit all over the place: many of the scenes played like they were straight out of the British sitcoms that I’ve also seen on PBS (I swear this blog is not sponsored by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting), and though they were actually quite funny – Sting himself lands a very good punchline as the head of the shipbuilding crew who has serious seasickness – the play itself is not a comedy, making these scenes seem jarring when juxtaposed with those of the young man who ran away from his abusive father, or the woman he left behind and returned to, who has maybe not entirely moved on with her life.

I understand not wanting to make an overwhelmingly bleak show. The album, according to the liner notes (which I finally read after returning from New York and before I started writing this, so: just about a week ago) was an attempt to portray a more balanced view of the shipbuilding life than in The Soul Cages, an attempt to capture the joy and successes in many people’s lives, even if those things were absent from the Sumner family itself. And while that effort comes across very well on the album, I think the play suffers from trying to integrate too many disparate stories into one cohesive telling. In my mind, the play would have worked much better as whatever would be the theater-equivalent of a series of stand-alone short stories. The son who ran away and then returned 15 years later can have his story, but make it separate from the father who teaches his teen-aged son to dance; and maybe allow someone who had not been absent for 15 years to speak at the priest’s funeral. Not just because the kid who ran away still returned as a bit of a brat, but because, if you want to present a picture of life in an industrial town – a dying industrial town, at that – show us more about the people who actually live there, instead of focusing on the one who’s just passing through.

That being said, I am very glad that I saw the show, even if it is now closed. There were a lot of very impressive things about the staging of the production – which I feel like sounds like faint praise, to say that the sets were impressive after busting on the story – and maybe people who see more shows would not be as impressed as I at the use of lighting to make it seem that the last ship they build actually sails into the sea. The songs were very good, and the cast – even those with both a first and last name – are obviously very talented. Mostly, though, I’m very glad that, after all this time, I’ve found some new music from a(n slightly) old(er) favorite. It’s comforting to know that, even as we both mature, Sting and I can still find things to talk about.


*I tried really hard to make a reference to my wheelhouse here, but it just couldn’t work. Please don’t think I cast aside a nautical pun on purpose; I would never do that.

Unlike Oola, my previous cat Mokie was very easily affectionate. Mokie had lived in several different homes before finally finding her way to me; one might assume that the likely response to being passed around so often would be for a cat to become standoffish, and I assume one would assume this because it is, in fact, the assumption I made. Which is why I was surprised when, at bedtime on her very first night with me, Mokie comfortably curled herself at the foot of the bed, right by my feet.

This, as I said, was unexpected. Certainly, Mokie was obligated to spend the night in the room with me, as that’s where her litter box and food were, but I had anticipated an apparently unnecessary need for privacy on her part and purchased a small cat bed, placed as far from my bed as possible. I kept the cat bed for several months, thinking that it might be nice for Mokie to have options, but she made it quite clear that she had no interest in a small and cozy cat bed when there was a big-girl bed she could sleep on. And when I say “made it clear,” I of course mean that she peed on the cat bed and I had to throw it out.

Mokie never peed on the big-girl bed, although it was her preferred place to cough up hairballs, which is another story for another time, although I may have perhaps already shared that one at a previous time? Regardless. Mokie slept on the bed with me from the outset, which I thought was very sweet. In her gently needy way, Mokie would be persistently close by, but she wasn’t so needy that she needed to be any more than close by.

Or so I thought. Because, what I eventually realized was that Mokie was only sleeping down on the end of the bed because she didn’t quite know me yet. And I discovered this when, after several months together, Mokie began making her way up the bed in the evening and sleeping on the pillow. The same pillow I was sleeping on! She stretched out right above my head, a furry, affectionate hat keeping my head warm in the winter months.

This, clearly, was something special. Not only was there now trust between myself and Mokie – trust, I should make clear, I had no idea wasn’t there before – but, even while closing the distance between, Mokie still managed to sleep in such a way that my own physical presence was completely unimpeded. Increased affection, without increasing demand; surely, of what one could expect from a cat, this was the apex.

But it wasn’t, as I discovered several months later when Mokie began wriggling her way under the blankets. Her true goal all along, it turns out, was to curl up in a little furry gray ball right next to my stomach. The business of sleeping by my head or my feet, both of which had seemed like such achievements and ends in and of themselves, turned out to be nothing more than pit stops along her way; now that we had been together for almost a year, Mokie could finally trust me enough to put herself in a position where we were close but not touching, yet carried a risk that I might crush her if I rolled over during the night.

From that perspective, I felt a little silly for thinking that Mokie’s initial presence on the bed had meant anything at all. And, even if I’d actually preferred it when she slept on my pillow (so warm and out of the way!), I understood that this, at last, meant that Mokie felt at home. Which is really what counted.

Oola, of course, is different. Because it’s winter, Oola will now sleep on the bed. Unlike Mokie, she will actually plant herself right on top of my legs. But, also unlike Mokie, she will stay decidedly on top of the blankets, regardless of how much I encourage her underwise. Which, honestly, is okay – I do like to wake up and discover a kitten sleeping on me – but, especially when it’s cold outside, I think it would be great if she were comfortable coming under the blankets, at least for warmth. And also for affection.

But that’s not the kind of kitten Oola is. Which, as previously mentioned, is something people tend to find sad, that an utterly untrusting Mokie offered just about the same level of affection as an Oola who trusts no one but me, but, as previously mentioned, those people are weak and their cats are probably terrible. What I realized early on with Oola is that you have to play the long game. A game, as I learned from Mokie, that is a persistent campaign of affection, gentle correction, and reward, and that only one of us needs to realize is being played. A game in which, today, I came from yoga to discover I scored a major point from my opponent :

Sleeping kitten. Still fierce.

Sleeping kitten. Still fierce.

That’s right – Oola is now sleeping on my pillow. Sure, I’m not in the bed, but I’m still counting it as a victory. Peace in our time, and, more importantly, one day Oola under the covers. Today, we’re one step closer.


I’ve always considered it poor form to brag about things that don’t make me look stupid. Probably this stems in part from the same natural humility that leads me to write about myself online in the hopes that strangers will read it and adore me. However, I also like to believe that another root of my tremendous self-deprecation lies in a firm, and completely well-grounded, belief in my own competence; because I am a capable and intelligent person, expected, in addition to poor form, seems uninteresting to me, and, more importantly, seems like it would be uninteresting to you. Which is why, then, instead of a stream of unending mundanities, I try to share only the truly exceptional, such as the occasional profoundly stupid things I’ve said or done (which, interestingly enough, are very often related to transportation).

This, I’ve learned over the years, is not a guiding principal for how everyone operates. Indeed, it seems that there are many people for whom the everyday is a constant source of amazement, and a potential source of wonder and inspiration for others. And while I would be the first to agree that the very basic fact of existence is, perhaps, the most remarkable thing that could possibly have happened, I would also be quick to point out that the basic details of that existence are not so remarkable that they must be constantly remarked upon. Which is, of course, what I am in the very process of pointing out.

Despite the at least two episodes of Frontline and multitude of articles detailing how they’re just the worst, this behavior is not limited to the young people of today. If commercials are any indication of societal mores, and they obviously are, this behavior – at least, in the workplace; did I mention that’s what we’re discussing? – can be traced back to no later than the year 2000.

(I’m going to be honest here – this next part would be a lot more effective if I’d been able to find a video of the commercial I’m about to discuss online. Alas, despite this failure, the blog must go on, particularly since the stats on this site show that very few of you actually follow the links I painstakingly cultivate for your entertainment. Regardless: please trust me that this commercial did indeed exist, and also happened to be very funny. )

Inspired by the tidal wave of Dilbert’s success, marketing executives believed, if but for a moment, that the most effective way to sell soup was through trenchant workplace commentary. This spot, lost to both internet and history, revealed the many techniques that the coworker who appears utterly overwhelmed and far too busy to have any lunch other than soup you can drink directly from the can employs to convince everyone of that state of busy-ness, when, in actuality, said coworker who is always carrying a folder and responding to your statements louder and in the form of a question has very little to do.

There were a lot of really good things about this commercial, not the least of which was that, although no one had to actually work with this particular buffoon, anyone who’s ever had any job, anywhere, has worked with that guy. However, to make the commercial at least moderately successful in its profit-driven efforts, the coworker who would be irritating in real life had to be likeable; to achieve this end, the character of the coworker had to undergo two key changes: 1. He never actually says what he’s working on; and 2. He knows that he’s completely full of it.

It’s possible those two points are actually related; after all, someone who knows how full of hot air they are would, theoretically, at least, be unlikely to provide substantial detail of the efforts that in turns out they’re not actually involved in. But I say “theoretical” because, to date, I have found no evidence of this person existing in the workplace. On the contrary, what I have encountered manifests in one of two ways: abundant details about nothing, or – as mentioned at the outset, when this whole mess got started – a self-administered pat on the back or expression of amazement that work was done in the workplace.

As is probably self-explanatory, the abundant detailer will provide unnecessarily detail about everything they do. This often presents as a running commentary, as though to themselves, of all the things they have to do in the day, “all of the things” being, literally, all of the things. Such activities as going to their office, and carrying this upstairs will be listed separately despite the redundancy that their office is upstairs, and thus anyone could have intuited that by carrying that upstairs, they would be going to their office. While most things are of equal weight, the utmost importance is, obviously, given to somehow working in the walk they’ve got to find time for, although I’m sure that if they could manage without sounding ridiculous even to themselves to mention their need to breathe while speaking, that would shoot right to the top of the list.

What never, ever get mentions, however, is anything substantially related to work.  I suppose, if one were feeling generous, one could assume that the speaker believes it is implied that they will also be doing the tasks for which they are being paid, and that the litany of the mechanics of their day is simply to demonstrate how much other stuff they have to do, on top of the mountain of work they’re obviously doing. But, as we all know, the internet is no place for generosity, and so I call bullshit on that idea, that I myself just suggested, because if a person is genuinely believes their excruciating minutia of their own life to be fascinating, they probably have neither the time nor the mental energy to devote to anything else.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have the person who finds the simple fact of doing work at their job to be astounding. Rather than an endless stream of tasks, this person will not only find it remarkable that they were called upon to perform a work-related task, but will also express a great deal of amazement that they managed to accomplish it. And, in some cases, this might very well be justified. There are certainly jobs where heroics are called for on a regular basis. And while some of these heroics might very well take place in an office type setting, it’s very difficult to take someone who emerges from a 90-minute meeting wherein they sat in front of a computer and discussed the layout of 1 individual web page that has zero life-altering implications for anyone anywhere in the world proclaiming that they were just working so hard seriously.

Which, I suppose, again, if one were to be generous, perhaps these things are challenging to these people. Perhaps a competency baseline can be located at different levels, and it should take a long time to write up a summary of a 10-minute interaction. In fact, you’d think I’d be on board with that example, what with this particular entry, which granted, is a summary of multiple interactions, took several days of writing, and several days of breaks, to complete.

I am not on board with that.  Which is what makes these people unbearable in real life, as they do regularly expect accolades for their accomplishments, unlike our charming fellow in the soup commercials who just wants to get through the day without anyone noticing that he’s doing nothing. Worse though, is that, as in the soup commercial, it seems like it works. And that is the trenchant workplace commentary no one expected.

As I believe I’ve mentioned before, not every topic I think about writing about makes it into this blog. Usually, it’s because I’m just lazy and never get around to writing about something, but there are other reasons – or, as some might call them, excuses –  for why a topic will be cut. Of these “reasons”, the most common is that, although I’ve come up with a killer punchline, I can not for the life of me gracefully reverse-engineer the rest of the joke; other times, I’ll actually start writing something, only to realize that it’s not actually all that interesting; other other times I’ll start writing something only to realize that the contortions I’d have to go through to get to the ostensible point would render the whole thing unreadable (that’s the Romantic in me, what with my reach exceeding my grasp); sometimes, I briefly think that I shouldn’t get too complainy about things; and then finally, we come back to lazy and are confronted with all the posts I just never got around to writing.

As we greet the new year, I could resolve that I will, this year, definitely blog about all of these topics. And not just these topics, but any new topics that should occur to me. After all, what is a resolution for, if not to be broken? Instead, I decided to start the new year off with a favorite old stand-by – the list – and just present, all at once, and in no particular order, those topics that I really thought I had something to say about, but did not, and why it originally occurred to me.

Ready? Here goes:

True Detective : this show is so good, but the best way to watch it is the binge. Otherwise, you may use the time between episodes to come up with crazy and ridiculous theories, forgetting that True Detective takes place in the world, and then be disappointed to learn that Carcoza is not some mystical revelation but simply the name bad men gave to the place where they did bad things, when you should be utterly creeped out by exactly how bad those men were. Other points that would have been made : McConnaissance? Yes. Absolutely. But don’t overlook Woody Harrelson; his role is less showy, but I think it’s actually the more difficult of the two, since he has to get you on his side while being utterly oblivious to his own many failings. Plus, his joy at seeing his family in the final episode will completely break your heart. Also, big ups to the director for letting us know exactly how awful things were without ever showing us, and to the writers for turning the simple word “flowers” into something again unseen but unquestionably terrible, as well as for tricking everyone into thinking this show was a murder investigation when it really was just a chess game to get Rust and Marty back together.

True Detective, season two : I am excited, but I have concerns. Primarily casting-wise. Taylor Kitsch, please don’t get stuck in a Rust-lite role. Yes,  Texas forever, but not Riggins forever, even though we’ll always love Tim Riggins. We want more for you, is what I’m saying. I’m equally concerned about the chemistry among the rest of the cast. Plus, if it’s set in California, does that mean no more investigating the Tuttles? Expectations are high, but, as with Serial‘s looming second season, they may be impossible to meet.

Serial, season two : Seriously, what could be as compelling as Season 1? I worry. Also, what should I listen to, podcast-wise, before season 2, to keep myself occupied?

Mail “kimp” : the only reason this is funny is because “chimp” is such an easy word to recognize. However, in finding the “kimp” pronunciation funny, we’re all agreeing that “mail chimp” is a perfectly logical juxtaposition of words. It is not.

Rumpelstiltskin : Rumpelstiltskin should not be considered the bad guy in that story. Bartering for a baby aside, all he really is is a skilled, independent craftsman who expects to be compensated fairly for deploying his skill to benefit another, and who probably should have learned that, when you want to keep something a secret, maybe don’t write it into a song that you sing while dancing around a campfire, no matter how deserted you believe the woods to be. Also, is it really a happy ending that a woman who traded away her baby for a chance to marry the king gets to keep it? Particularly considering that the king the child’s father is so stupid that he believes a woman can spin straw into gold, and yet she comes from a family of laborers rather than nobility? And that the grandfather of the child is a greedy, grasping liar? Why is the child necessarily worse off with Rumpelstiltskin, again?

Things everyone seems to love on the internet that I do not : Oh my god, I hate The Oatmeal so much you guys! I’m not even going to link to it, it’s that terrible. People seem to think it’s funny, and I tried to, I swear, but it’s not funny; it’s mean-spirited mediocrity wrapped up in bright colors and oversized text. There is nothing even remotely paradoxical about a different species eschewing foods that we enjoy, there are zero good reasons to punch a dolphin, and if you engage the services of a sex worker, stick to the terms you agreed upon, you asshole. I can not at all understand why wonderful, intelligent people like this horrible, hateful site. It’s the Two and a Half Men of websites.

Other things I don’t like about the internet include : Patton Oswalt, Joss Whedon, Louis C.K; – Stop quoting these 3 yabbos all the time; other people say things that matter sometimes, you know? Especially about feminism – there must be a well-spoken funny lady somewhere who could provide some quotable perspective on feminism, right? And yet all I ever see are these 3 guys. Also, Benedict Cumberbatch, who, to be fair, does seem like a very charming individual, but the obsessive mania that he inspires is a little too much to take.

Star Wars, Dr. Who, and Nerd Culture : the widespread acceptability of nerd culture can probably be traced directly back to Star Wars prequels, the first of which (The Phantom Menace) was released in 1999. Because those movies are terrible, and universally recognized as such by even the most ardent of Star Wars fans, they put said fans in the position of being able to bust on the franchise even while liking it; it wasn’t uncool to like Star Wars, as long as you could still make fun of the prequels – those were the real nerds! Which doesn’t actually hurt anyone, because nobody liked the prequels. Although, I should confess that I did cry at Revenge of the Sith, which I saw in the theater; the montage where the Jedi get slaughtered was very effective.

Similarly, the relaunch of Dr. Who, which took place in 2005. I’ve never actually watched a full episode of Dr. Who, which I imagine to be just unbearably whimsical, but I did have to suffer through my brother watching the original series in the 70s and 80s. To me, this is what Dr. Who looks like, or this; intelligent, probably easily befuddled, a little old-fashioned even at the time – kind of like a British Indiana Jones, if Indiana Jones were a professor of theoretical archaeology who never left the safety of the university and always wore a sweater.

And then along comes 2005, and suddenly Dr. Who is this guys, who I can only imagine was free for the role because the new James Bond went to Daniel Craig. The new Dr. Who has clearly never worn a sweater in his life, much less a scarf covered in question marks, because that would be a liability in all of the bar fights he probably gets into. Subsequent doctors were this guy, who at least looks smart and not like a bruiser, but is also very cute and someone I would make out with, hard; this fellow here, who is not my cup of tea but I imagine appeals to the same sort who like the aforementioned Mr. Cumberbatch; and finally, this guy, who is at least appropriately old and could conceivably wear a sweater or scarf or any other garment knitted with question marks for warmth, but is again someone I would make out with, although this time more gently so as not snap his surely brittle bones. And, while I know that there have always been posters of Dr. Who for people to hang on their dorm room walls, I don’t imagine that they were ever supposed to be pin-ups; my understanding is that’s what the companion is for.

Anyway, the point of this was going to be that, while equal-opportunity ogling is always appreciated, as a people, we haven’t actually embraced nerd culture, we’ve appropriated it

Working life – I actually do still plan to go into a great detail on this topic. Primarily, though, the big lesson of this year is that having a boss who has no regard for their staff, be they a piece of garbage so devoted to cheating on his girlfriend (now wife, the lucky lady) that he thinks it charming to disregard when a woman says no, or just a garden-variety crazy person who must have been good at something to have failed upward to the level of Director yet shows no sign of understanding anything, is terrible under any circumstances. Co-workers everywhere, too, be crazy.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 186 other followers

The Cambridge Room

Historic tidbits, facts, and notes of interest on Cambridge, Massachusetts brought to you by the Cambridge Public Library's Archivist.


My Life in Pacific Standard Time

Everything's JOK

Just another WordPress.com site

TPN meets FOG

Swirling about in the fog of the SF Bay Area and my head


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 186 other followers