“Vegan. Vegan. Vegan. They were all friends.” – Ellie, with husband Andy
Ignore the the Italian subtitles, unless you want this to be even funnier.
“Vegan. Vegan. Vegan. They were all friends.” – Ellie, with husband Andy
Earlier this week the New York Times told us of the happy reunion of a 23 year old woman with her birth parents from whom she had been kidnapped before she was a month old.
Growing up, Carlina White never felt like her mother really seemed like what a true mother should be, which at first (and yes, I am going to hell) sounds all “oh quit being so dramatic, Carlina.” I used to have the same thought when I was 9 and my parents wouldn’t let me have a second pack of gushers after dinner. But Carlina, unlike me, never let the feeling go, and just recently she managed to FIND her birth parents ONLINE after discovering an image of herself as an INFANT on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website. WHAT.
Being a total sucker for these kinds of stories, I was underwhelmed by the level of detail the article provided.
How did her abductive mother treat her growing up? What are the motivations to abduct in the first place if you don’t treat your new daughter well?? Ooh OOH what was THE ABDUCTOR’S childhood like??? And what, exactly, happened ‘around Carlina’s 16th birthday’ that started to really tip her off????”
WHERE IS MY LIFETIME/ABC FAMILY MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE? (Oh wait, here.)
In all seriousness, the topic of child abduction is the horrifying and morbidly fascinating type of thing that people can never get enough of. Such a violation of the natural order, these stories are always devoured by the public and the press.
But abduction tales like Carlina’s are particuarly fascinating. (And so much more palatable than those tragic later-in-life abductions, too often involving tales of sexual abuse and brain washing.) Because, despite the whole illegal-abduction-of-a-human being factor, these abductions go on to look and feel exactly like an adoption. We read about these stories and can’t help but ask ourselves, wait, what if… I were secretly adopted*????
I read The Face on the Milk Carton probably a dozen times in my youth (and once, again during a particularly dull Could-Time-Be-Progressing-Any-More-Slowly Winter Break in college). So there’s Janey: being 15, just doin’ her own thing in the school cafeteria, when she sees (spoiler alert) HER OWN PICTURE on the side of a milk carton! This is prime story telling fodder! But particularly so, I believe, for adolescents. It’s a no-brainer why stories like these are dog-eared favorites in 4th grade classrooms everywhere.
We are told Carlina “long had suspicions about her past.” While we are told that Carlina was treated poorly growing up (which I’m guessing means more than Withheld Gushers), the questions listed that Carlina was asking herself over the years are questions many of us asked while growing up: Do I relate to my family? Do I really BELONG here? Anywhere?
Struggling to establish a personal identity against the backdrop of so many conflicting influences can be one of the hardest parts of growing up. Reconciling what your parents expect, what the cool kids are doing, what your friends are doing, what TRL (sorry, let me be more current… the Kardashians?) and pop culture are telling you is the norm is a daunting task for anyone, particularly young girls. We can’t help but fantasize about some scenario that would reconcile everything, would make this super challenging process easier.
Clearly I could not be happier for Carlina. And perhaps we’ll find out more about what sort of a woman dressed up as a nurse, said kind words to Carlina’s mother, and then stole her infant only to raise the child unhappily. But probably, we won’t. And it’s not our business to, either. We have ABC Family to fulfill those kinds of needs, right Francesca?
But what I am most happy for and impressed by was Carlina’s ability to not let those scary questions she asked herself growing up to hold her back in the end. To do what she did (never second-guess her instincts, reach out to strangers, completely uproot her life, presumably change her name back, right?) took guts. If Carlina can do all that, it should make all of us believe in ourselves and our right to stand up for ourselves a little more. I guess now I have no excuse not to at least stand up for myself when some douchebag gets all up on ALL MY PERSONAL SPACE on the CTA. Yeah, my life is really hard.
*Speaking of me going to hell, for a year in elementary school I had convinced all my close friends that I, the lone redhead in a family of brunettes, was, in fact, adopted. Yeah. I love you, Mom & Dad!
This title is totally false, btw.
(Pictures of) Snow (in Black and White)
Fulton Fish Market, New York, 1946, by Harold Roth [Monroe Gallery of Photography]
This guy has a great NPR voice, and found some pretty pictures.
Blizzard of ’96, what what: 11 Biggest Blizzards In New York [Buzzfeed]
And just in case you didn’t get enough, on January 11, 2011, there was snow in 49 of the 50 states. CNN explains that “We’re all feeling a little ‘snowed in’ this winter.” Yuk yuk yuk.
This collection features many industrial design visionaries whose names the public doesn’t know, like Frederick Hurten Rhead who created the highly collectable and often copied Fiesta ware.
Postal Service Honors Americans Who Left A Stamp On Design [NPR]
For other stuff about brilliant designers, read this review of a new book about the Eameses.
3. New York (subways) are a place for beautiful people. Check them out, if you haven’t already been caught staring in real life, like I probably have.
4. This guy is adorable, if paranoid for good reason. When I was growing up, my upstairs neighbors’ climbed to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge before the gates on it were super reinforced. It seemed a lot easier than this.
5. This weeks offerings from Design Milk include edible Jelloware cups, beautiful geometric woven rugs, and really nice woodworked sculptures that do double-duty as furniture.
1. The Onion‘s fake sports news show Onion Sports Dome debuted on Comedy Central, and they poke excellent fun at the redundancies of sports broadcasting.
2. Spain’s Basque “separatists”, the revolutionary group Eta, declared that they would stop the violence, but explained that they would continue their “indefatigable struggle” for a “truly democratic situation in the Basque Country”. The Spanish government has responded that until they are disbanded, their call for a truce would not be taken seirously. See, not all Basques are bad…or something: Spain’s Basque separatists Eta call ‘permanent truce’ [BBC]
3. If you click on the link, you will see an actual picture of the family and friends of murdered Portuguese journalist Carlos Castro into the New York City subway, as he requested. I totally feel him.
4. A story that hits home for some of us: Mark Wahlberg says he quit smoking weed because of his kids:
“I stopped smoking weed for my kids. One day, we were driving and you could smell it from somewhere. My daughter asked what the smell was so I told her it was a skunk. Then she said, ‘Sometimes Daddy smells like that!’ to me and my wife. So I knew I had quit.”
People Who Do Art
1. Bob Dylan has signed onto a six-book deal with his published Simon & Schuster. One book will be based on his Sirius/XM radio show Theme Time Radio Hour (listen to it! Especially the episode of about “Time”, where he plays “60 Minute Man” by Billy Ward and the Dominoes). On the response to his first book Chronicles: Volume 1 (read it!) he told Jonathan Lethem for Rolling Stone that “The reviews of this book, some of ’em almost made me cry – in a good way. I’d never felt that from a music critic, ever….Most people who write about music, they have no idea what it feels like to play it. But with the book I wrote, I thought, ‘The people who are writing reviews of this book, man, they know what the hell they’re talking about.’ It spoils you.”
“60 Minute Man” — Billy Ward and the Dominoes
3. Sissy Spacek is going to write a memoir. Also, her daughter is really talented and I would watch I’m Reed Fish, of course on Netflix Instant, for this scene:
4. Joss Stone is kind of a ditz and never wears shoes, but she’s smart sometimes:
I wish I knew how I felt about Glee. I haven’t missed an episode since the series’ inception on Hulu, yet I wouldn’t consider myself a “fan.” I find plenty to cringe at week to week—like Mr. Schue kissing Coach Bieste for no particularly good reason—yet I couldn’t stop grinning during the mash-up of “Umbrella” and “Singing in the Rain.” That little earworm was so cheerful it actually worked to lift my mood. I listened to it at least once a day for a week after the episode aired.
I’m not the only one who feels conflicted about the show. On an episode of this season’s The Office, one of the characters threw a Glee-watching party at his apartment. While sharing her opinions about the show, Kelly (Mindy Kaling) raised issue with the rampant plot holes and inconsistent characters, citing specific examples and quoting episode titles, and finally calling Glee “irresponsible.” It’s funny because she couldn’t have possibly had leveraged these specific, detailed critiques without having watched the show obsessively. She’s a very particular kind of “Gleek” who happens to hate everything about Glee. I’m very much the same way.
The A.V. Club’s Todd VanDerWeff reviews Glee for their TV Club, and has pointed out several times that the show has three principal writers, who trade off episodes to scribe. This has led him to the “Three Glees Theory,” which is that these three writers have three different opinions of what the show should be, which results in a confused and overall schizophrenic tone. VanDerWeff’s theory is catching heat in the critical world, and it has definitely influenced how I experience Glee. Really, I’m judging Glee by a different metric than I would normally use for TV shows: it’s all about the writing. I’m more acutely aware of the tone of an episode of Glee than I am for The Office because Glee’s is so much more likely to change unexpectedly. It isn’t the “good” or “exciting” kind of unexpected, either—it’s just downright confusing. Mr. Schue’s character has alternated from “inspiring educator” to “senseless dick” so many times that it not only affects the tone of an episode, but the entire purpose of the show. Is Glee about the kids or is it about Mr. Schue? Is it carefree entertainment where the plot is less important than the peppy songs, or is it an after-school special meant to teach us about tolerance? These abrupt shifts grate on my nerves and I wonder why I continue to watch.
Yet, it can be argued that Glee is easily a much better show than a lot of the other programs on television today. It stacks up snappier production values and acting than any daytime soap, and manages to choreograph and rehearse at least three songs per episode to boot, which is not an insignificant task to accomplish. Yet, none of this matters to me because I’ll still feel betrayed by a preachy episode for no sudden reason.
Why are the standards are so high? How can I feel “betrayed” by a TV show that has no clue who I am? I would say that the medium in which the program is delivered has a great effect on this. Because I only watch television streamed over the internet on my computer, I’m automatically weeding out things I would not watch (Hulu’s insipid commercials being the one exception). This shallows the pool of comparison against any other TV show because I’m only watching shows I want to watch. So when I watch Glee, I’m not comparing it to Two and a Half Men or Dancing with the Stars. I’m comparing it to Arrested Development, to 30 Rock, to Community, to The Venture Brothers, and to all my favorite shows. I’m sure I wouldn’t watch Glee at all if it didn’t have moments that stack up against these titans. I’ve also found that the more time that’s passed since I’ve seen a show tends to lionize it in my opinion: I only recently rewatched all of Arrested Development, and I was surprised to find that it wasn’t as flawless as I had thought. I had forgotten about the jokes that didn’t land so well, and had only remembered the funniest bits. How can any program measure up to that kind of pressure week after week?
At the end of the day, Glee doesn’t owe me anything. Clearly the show has proven to be enormously successful and popular as is, as the cast’s grubby little hands clutch Golden Globe after Golden Globe. Yet I can’t help wishing that the show will rise to the challenge of being quality television in addition to being good entertainment. While I see the great in the show that everybody loves, it’s still not perfect, and I want it to succeed at being perfect so bad. I still want those grin-worthy, glamorously overproduced moments because they’re so unlike anything else when it comes to TV. Rachel Berry’s teeth are so sparkly when she belts “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” they’re like diamonds. But when I am given these diamonds encased in a cheap pewter ring of broad clichés and endless, unrealistic fake-pregnancy plotlines, it feels like being socked in the gut.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing
in the family of things.
– Mary Oliver
Much love to Amulya for this one.
I am oft plagued by the question of why, seven years down the line, people still sit through Grey’s Anatomy each week. Like many others, I bowed out when brain tumor-ridden Izzy Stevens began to have regular sex with her dead fiancé’s ghost. While these encounters were (thankfully) clearly masturbatory as opposed to necrophillic, the plotline was drawn out for an excruciatingly long time, to the extent that I wondered whether the writers had found their decision to kill off adorably-dimpled Denny Duquette premature, and were attempting to rectify it. They clearly had a thing for Jeffrey Dean Morgan, after all. They’d brought him back once before in Meredith’s dream sequence in the third season (which occurred while, in a not at all implausible chain of events, she spent forty-five minutes submerged in frigid Puget Sound waters attempting to voluntarily drown herself, only to fully recover emotionally and physically by the following week), along with that really adorable bomb squad guy who was unfortunately blown up in the second season by a bazooka hidden in that patient’s body cavity. Sad times.
Many would agree that in its first couple seasons, Grey’s Anatomy was a well-written drama with enough digressional dialogue and irrelevant conversation to make you believe that these beautiful doctors bore some resemblance to real people. Sure, Seattle Grace somehow managed to attract every single out-of-ordinary medical case in America (pregnant man, boulder-sized tumor, penis fish, broken penis, bitten off penis). But the show struck a good balance between humor and drama, with enough medical jargon thrown in to confuse yet satisfy the average viewer.
As the show hit its stride, Shonda Rhimes could have made the decision to keep Grey’s Anatomy finely tuned, with succinct and believable plotlines that may have not made it infinitely sustainable, but would have let it bow out of primetime after 100 episodes or so, ready for syndication and with some semblance of dignity. Instead, however implicitly, she chose the soap opera route. Everyone began to sleep with one another. Everyone broke up; everyone got back together. Everyone was held at gunpoint at one point or another. George died. Izzy, with a 5% chance of surviving her cancer, made a miraculous recovery. In true soap opera fashion, the resilient doctors of Seattle Grace survived many a scarring incident with only an episode or two of mourning, before returning entirely to normal. The show went from “believable enough,” to “never-in-a-million-years-would-a-doctor-say-screw-the-DNR unrealistic.” And because of that, Grey’s could easily last another ten seasons (if the entire cast doesn’t quit by then. The drama behind the scenes is juicy enough to be its own show).
But even if Grey’s were to be cancelled, it’s doubtful Rhimes would falter. She has two other shows on the air: Private Practice (I bowed out when Violet unwillingly had her baby cut out of her womb), and the recently-premiered Off the Map. Off the Map, which deals with beautiful people saving lives through Doctors Without Borders, is essentially a delightful mash-up of Grey’s Anatomy and LOST, so of course I had to check it out.
The only real difference I could discern between Grey’s and Off the Map is that, in the latter, the doctors are grimier and less professional. Now we get to goggle at a troubled rebellious doctor with a mysterious past instead of troubled uptight doctor with a mysterious past. (For more wild differences between the two shows, check out this handy NYMag chart Kate sent me.)
So what exactly is it about Shonda Rhimes that makes her shows so addicting? By the time you watch her third television foray, her formula becomes somewhat predictable.
In the pilot episode, every major character will have some sort of monologue about why they’re here, starting over in [insert new environment of your choice.] The usefulness of the monologue is two-fold. Firstly, it serves as a great hook. The number one reason TV shows fail is that people don’t want to invest in the characters. Monologues are wonderfully contrived ways to make you suddenly emotionally invest in and empathize with this fictional person whom you have little to nothing in common with. And secondly, it’s a wonderful casting and audition tool. When cute, untroubled Tommy Fuller pours his heart out to a non-English speaking South American man (we aren’t told what country we’re in. I’m not even sure the doctors know themselves) about his slacker, unfulfilled past in order to convince the man to let him treat his wife, that’s most likely the speech that got Zach Gilford the part. (Well earned? Meh.)
In all of Rhimes’ shows, the medical cases somehow serve as convenient metaphors to the doctor’s own personal lives (What purpose would these sick people serve did their illnesses not neatly parallel our favorite characters’ personal strife?) Unfortunately, metaphors are not so consistent and naturally-occurring in real life. (At least, they aren’t in mine). In all her shows, the characters give long-winded, eloquent and uninterrupted monologues, free of a single “um” or “uh.” Unfortunately, in the real world, we aren’t born with the ability to pontificate naturally at any time (at least, I wasn’t.) But then again, television is not like the real world. If it were, it would not be nearly as exciting. Shonda Rhimes does what she does well. She has a successful formula for creating largely unrealistic, but relatable on some base level, characters that keep us tuning in week to week. It doesn’t hurt that they’re all beautiful, either.